Saturday, October 24, 2009

That was the week that was

September 13, 2009

This week brought much appreciated attention to our launch. In a substantial article in Publishers Weekly, Karen Springen reported on our business model and discussed it with veteran industry player and observer, Richard Curtis. Curtis' comments were insightful, albeit, to my mind, skeptical. In particular, he said “namelos is open to Joe Blow, and the way it appears is that Joe Blow will be financing the development of these packages. The reading fee can be a sore point in the author community.” Yes, Joe and Jane Blow are welcome to submit to namelos and their work will get our full and undivided attention. No, I only wish the $200 income from evaluations would finance our development. And, yes, the reading fee is a sore point. I speak to the issue of why we charge for this service more fully here. I can only add that the people who have received evaluations from namelos overwhelmingly have felt they received value for their money.

But fair enough, skepticism is reasonable. Digital publishing is the new frontier and it's risky out here, as others are finding. Most notably, in a surprise announcement Quartet Press, which launched a few weeks ago and planned to publish romance digitally, pulled the plug this week. Kassia Krozser, one of the partners explains some of what they learned in "How I spent my summer vacation." Her “pain points” are illuminating.

As it happens, I, too, spent my summer vacation—actually most of the past year—the same way and, admittedly, the view from where I'm sitting is "through a glass, darkly." However, I recognize it as the same view I had when I started Front Street fifteen years ago, and I find it no more or less daunting now than then.

Many friends out there—authors and illustrators and publishers—are cheering us on. Thank you all. We will forge ahead.

To reiterate what I've already said, the old model is crumbling. The gatekeepers are still the major publishers, the so-called "Big Six", but the walls are coming down. Think of the ancient gates scattered around the centers of old Italian cities. They are lovely … and abandoned. Publishing is not there, yet, but publishers are struggling to come up with new models to accommodate the changing economic, technological, and competitive environment. namelos is our best shot.

And, so, we are stocking our shelves. Within the next few weeks we expect to have all of the books up in the three primary ebook formats—.epub, .mobi, and .pdf. If someone needs another format, let us know, and we'll convert the file. This fall we will publish our first three original titles, Pod by Stephen Wallenfels, Departure Time by Truus Matti, and Ramiro: Boy Soldier by Ineke Holtwijk. These books will be available in hardcover, paperback, and ebook formats. Finally, by the end of the month we expect to have our development site up and running with a few good books to show interested parties.

My intention is to post comments here on Sunday nights. I'll close each one with a question for you. I'm looking for an independent bookseller who will talk with me about ways that we can do business together. The old model doesn't work for us, and ours will be difficult for you. But we need to work together and namelos is open to any fair and reasonable arrangement. So, please, if you are or if you know a bookseller who is interested in tackling the nitty gritty of electronic and print-on-demand publishing, please contact me.

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