Sunday, January 17, 2010

namelos annual report: a toe-hold on the lunatic fringe

We launched namelos a year ago on Inauguration Day, and we're still here. I consider this a resounding success. I promised to be forthcoming about how things are going—in the spirit of transparency and in service to the publishing community, which has been enormously supportive and encouraging. So here goes.

In the first phase of our launch we announced our "services" division, designed to help authors and artists by offering a substantial (average length: 1500 words), objective editorial evaluation in a timely manner (two weeks) for a modest price ($200). This generated some controversy and skepticism and still does. Be that as it may, we provided evaluations for 77 clients in 2009. I know of only two who felt our services were unsatisfactory, and most have expressed great satisfaction. I find this approval level acceptable. Of these 77 clients, 10 have engaged our ongoing, higher level editorial services. I find this conversion percentage acceptable. Half of our higher-level clients have agents and several have publishers. They have come to us for our editorial expertise, which pleases me. Our growth is driven by word-of-mouth. It is slow and that suits us just fine.

In September, we initiated the second phase of our launch, consisting of three new divisions.

Our ebook store went live, stocked with ebook editions of approximately 80 titles—the entire Front Street list of fiction and poetry—that we licensed from Boyds Mills Press. Moreover, we are actively seeking and acquiring rights to titles that have gone out of print and are republishing them in both print and ebook formats. I am especially pleased to be republishing Carolyn Coman's first novel, Tell Me Everything, that I originally published at FSG in 1993. The conversion process from print to electronic formats has proven interesting but we survived it and most of our titles went live on Amazon on Christmas Eve. At this point the titles are also live with Ingram and are posted in partnership with Google. We are systematically loading the books into a wide array of ebook venues. And, mirabile dictu, we are even selling books from our website as well. I want to emphacize that we (i.e. namelos and the authors) make much more money from sales on the namelos site than through other on-line stores, so if you are interested in acquiring any of our ebooks, please buy them here.

We launched our publishing program launched with Pod by Stephen Wallenfels, the first volume of a science-fiction trilogy. The first review is in: 11-year-old Robert declared it the best book he has ever read. The official publication date is April 1 (the same day I launched Front Street in 1994) but the book is available now from our website. We are breaking from the traditional publishing model by offering our books simultaneously in hardcover, paperback, and ebook formats. Pod is out with all the major reviewers (who need more lead time than Robert) and we are orchestrating the distribution of materials to the rest of the review media over the next two months. I'm very excited about the book and expect good things for it. Just this week I've sent contracts off for four new books: The Forbidden Land by Betty Levin, The Sundown Rule by Wendy Townsend, The Punk Ethic by Timothy Decker, and No Name Baby by Nancy Bo Flood. In addition we have three books in the pipeline from our long-time Dutch partner, Lemniscaat: Departure Time by Truus Matti, Ramiro, Child Soldier by Ineke Holtwijk, and It's a Wonderful Life by Jesse Goossens. We are seeing more and more exciting projects coming our way.

The third division we launched is our "development" program. Our business model does not allow us to publish full-color picture books at this time, but we love to work on them. So, very, very selectivey, we have entered into agreements to develop and attempt to place some picture books with publishing partners. To date we're working on only three new projects. This year we were able to place Carolyn Coman and Rob Shepperson's The Memory Bank with Arthur Levine at Scholastic, and Donna Diamond's The Shadow with Joan Powers at Candlewick. We've also successfully introduced three authors to agents who have taken on their representation.

All well and good, you say, but what about the money? I'm not prepared to release our financials (and probably won't go quite that far, even in service to the community) but I will say that we've recovered the cash invested in launching the company, paid all our bills including fees to contributing members of our consortium, and there's enough left over to invest in the next phase of our growth.

So, there you have it. I'll close the report by saying that I haven't been this excited or challenged by publishing since my time as an editorial assistant at FSG in the late 70's and the launch of Front Street in the early 90's. We are publishing at the most elementary and fundamental level—finding authors, editing books, and bringing them to the public, and using all the skills we've acquired over decades. We are learning new things on a daily, almost hourly basis. Our authors are excited by our partnership and by the opportunities we see in the evolving publishing world. This is what publishing is all about. We're making a few good books and, maybe, just maybe, we'll make some money at it.

Thank you for your interest and support. Please, stay tuned.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I look forward to your comments and I reserve the option not to make them public.