Minneapolis Convention Center | April 9, 2015

Episode 93: New Trends in Literary Publishing

(Deena Drewis, Jon Fine, Jeffrey Lependorf, Fiona McCrae, Kevin Nguyen, Nathan Rostron) Get the latest on the greatest issues facing literary publishing from a panel of individuals shaping the industry.

Published Date: September 2, 2015


Speaker 1 (00:00:02):

Welcome to the A W P podcast series. This event was recorded at the 2015 A W P conference in Minneapolis. The recording features Dina Drews, John Fine, Jeffrey Lor, Fiona McCrae, Kevin Wine, and Nathan Roan. You will now hear Jeffrey Lor, executive director of the Council of Literary Magazines and presses provide introductions.

Speaker 2 (00:00:33):

So raise your hands. Who here sometimes feels like a paper bag blowing through the wind? You're all here for Katie Perry Poetics, right?

Speaker 2 (00:00:43):

No, that's not true at all. Welcome to New Trends in publishing a panel we do every year. We being no longer the council, but now the community of Ledor magazines and presses. I'm Jeffrey Lor, the executive director of C L M P. Very quickly, we've been around since 1967 serving small publishers of literature, lit mags, small presses, chatbook, zines, online, you name it, all the folks making the connections between literary writers and literary readers. It's always a lot of fun to do this panel. We invite different folks on and we hear about some new things happening. I think as we hear though, when we say new trends, but it really should just say trends because particularly these days, some of the newest things are also old things come back to Grace us, so we'll hear about that as well. Let's meet our panel. I'm not going to read bios because I refuse to do that. I'm going to ask every panel member, we'll just start with Nathan to self introduced and the rule is tell us who you are and very quickly what you do in no more than two breaths.

Speaker 3 (00:01:48):

Two breaths.

Speaker 2 (00:01:49):

Yes, Nathan.

Speaker 3 (00:01:54):

I am Nathan Rostron, director of Marketing at Restless Books, which is a new indie publisher of international literature based in Brooklyn.

Speaker 2 (00:02:05):

Thank you. We're going to hear from John F and I shall say that John Fine's C P's newest board member. That's better.

Speaker 4 (00:02:11):

Yeah, that's fine. Thank you. Which it's really an honor and thanks everybody for coming out. My name is John Fine. Up until a couple of months ago, I was head of author and publishing relations for Amazon, and in that role sort of working on all kinds of communication, giving grants, helping support the literary and writing community generally. And before that I was head of legal at kana, so I've been in publishing for about 15 years on a couple of different interesting sides of what some will call the divide, but I actually think it's just great opportunities for everyone. So looking forward to talking

Speaker 2 (00:02:44):

About. Yeah, so it'll be fun hearing from John now. We'll see if anything's different. Maybe not really. I do want to say a word though. It just reminds me since I have a board member on the panel here, there's so many great literary organizations here in the Twin Cities and it's really nice to see that so many board members of those orgs have come along here too. So let's Bravo board members. Yeah, let's just continue moving along. Dina.

Speaker 5 (00:03:09):

Oh boy. My name's Dina Drews and I am the editor and founder of Novella. It's an independent press dedicated to novellas. We've helped launch the careers of writers like Emma Raub Eden, Le Paki, and Daniel Torre, who all had very, very successful novels come out after publishing their novellas with Nola. And we are based in Los Angeles.

Speaker 6 (00:03:33):

My name's Kevin Ween. I'm the editorial director of Oyster, which is a streaming service for books, and I also edit the Oyster Review, which is our literary magazine.

Speaker 2 (00:03:44):

Thank you. And Fiona,

Speaker 7 (00:03:48):

That's my name. Fiona McRae, the publisher and director of Grey Wolf Press. We published about 30, 32 books a year of fiction, creative nonfiction and poetry. We just published Citizen by Claudia Rankin and Empathy Exams by Leslie Jameson and on Immunity by Libbys that have been doing well and we're based here in Minneapolis.

Speaker 2 (00:04:13):

And I should also add, because I don't think Fiona would say this herself, but Fiona and Grey Wolff were awarded at our annual gala, the first ever prize for exceptional acts of literary publishing. There's an official name for it, I've forgotten it, but that's what it was for the Golden Chon. The Golden Chon, of course, I forgot the Golden Chon, which is not gracing a space here in Minneapolis somewhere. Okay. Thank you all for being here. I'm just curious, who in the audience is a publisher or editor? Cool. I know the answer to this one. Who's a writer? Terrific. Who is here purely as a reader?

Speaker 8 (00:04:52):


Speaker 2 (00:04:52):

Yay. Okay, fantastic. Okay, so there's a lot going on. We had in the past few years a rapid period of change in publishing, particularly related to digital things. Now I think when we talk about marketing in publishing, we probably begin by assuming we're talking about entirely or it's certainly including social media, something that didn't exist not that long ago at all. When we talk about publishing, we can't assume that it means something physical or something digital. It might mean both. It might mean either one. A lot has changed that rate of change. We can all talk about this and argue about it, but that rate of change perhaps has slowed down a little bit. And what's really cool about that is that I think there was assumptions before that new things were replacing old things. And to put it in the most general way so we can get the panel in talking about it, what in fact has happened, I'm sure everyone will agree, is that we've added new things to old things so that now we have more ways to make things public, which is what publishing means and more ways to engage and create connections between authors and writers.

Speaker 2 (00:06:00):

I think a lot of the new trends right now have to do with reaching readers directly. So we'll chat about that and other new ways for publishers and the authors that they published to engage with those readers in ways that were really not possible before or certainly didn't happen so frequently and certainly not in larger conglomerate publishing. So in no particular order, I'll start with you Nathan, since we started with you before. I'm going to ask you a question to talk about how things started, but then also what's happening now with your change, which is interesting in regard to what I just said because if I'm not wrong, rest was supposed founded as a digital only publisher and now I believe you're calling yourself a digital first publisher because you have now entered into the realm of print books the newfangled realm of Codex is.

Speaker 2 (00:06:45):

And so what I'm curious about is what led to that decision. And then also I'll let you do a little pitch. So you have a particularly wonderful novel out right now in print and digital and if you have even data yet because it's not out all that long, but I'm curious to hear how the print sales and the digital sales fantastic. So maybe given, if you don't mind sharing some numbers, how the digital sales and the print sales might be comparing and what that means for your whole business model, which was started as a digital only publisher.

Speaker 3 (00:07:13):

It's been really interesting. We've actually added old things to new things we're innovating by going to old school. Restless started as Jeffrey said, as eBooks only. And what became clear over the course of trying really hard, not very successfully to sell these eBooks was that we were limiting our audience. The people who love the sort of books we publish, which are works of art works in translation, our book lovers, and they like to hold the book. They discover a book in bookstores, even among those readers who are ebook readers, often they are reading reviews. eBooks do not get reviewed. In fact, the only digital exclusive that the New York Times has ever reviewed was Karen Russell's novella as Sleep Donation, which is a great book. And we just found that we weren't able to reach our audience because they weren't discovering the book in reviews, they weren't discovering the book in bookstores in a really limited word of mouth. We threw really fun events with incredible authors and there was nothing to sell because an ebook, there's nothing there in a way. So we still have ebook readers to answer that part of the question, but I guess they're a subset of the print readership. What was interesting when Restless started, it was right when Adi, his books was going right when Byliner was big and both of those two shops have shuttered. I think if Restless had not gone into print, we would've gone the same way.

Speaker 2 (00:08:53):

So I'm going to ask, open the question up to everyone before I ask more pointed direct questions to everyone because right here is a really interesting question that might be one of timing, which is to say it wasn't that long ago that we talked about paperbacks not getting reviewed and the importance of having things in hardcover and there being paperback publishers who then started doing hardcovers, going backwards in a sense just to appear on certain radar. And now we're talking about digital only publishers moving into print for various reasons, one of them being to exist in a certain sense. So I'm just curious if other folks have an opinion, do we think that it's just too early and that there'll be many, many more or many digital only publishers going forward? Or do you think that this does suggest that objects have a value that will never go away and things may go that direction or both? Anybody?

Speaker 7 (00:09:47):

I think in general that everybody is finding that the physical component has a role even where people are buying their books on the internet, they're seeing them physically first. And I was thinking when you said that about the books weren't there when Nathan said that if you bought a record or a CD or a podcast or whatever, you never expected to have the orchestra in your room. So you are already buying a substitute, so you're buying a substitute for the substitute. But there's something very primary I think, around a book. So I think even if the reviews come in, you're still stuck with the discoverability in the bookstore factor. So I think it's hard to envision a world where the physical doesn't play some role in some way.

Speaker 4 (00:10:41):

Agreed. Yeah, I've always been asked over the years, I remember when will print die. I remember getting this question five years ago in Frankfurt and feeling very strongly that it won't ever die. And in fact, I guess I don't think about it as print versus digital. You have a story to tell if you're a writer or if you're a publisher, you have a bunch of stories to tell and you want those stories to find their audiences as technology has reduced some of the costs involved in these various ways of delivering content, whether it's digital or short run printing or audio, which now is really growing I think maybe less so on the literary side, but in general we're seeing a real growth as these tools become sort of democratized. Really the goal in my mind is I want this story to be in whatever form any audience member might like. I mean sort of an aspirational goal. Every book, gosh, I'm going to do the Amazon spiel, every book in every format, in every language available really easily. And that is the best way I think to build this sort of relationship with the reader because you serving the reader, the reader saying, Hey, I want to listen to this way or read it this way. And the technology has enabled that. I think in many ways I'm not saying it's easy.

Speaker 2 (00:12:01):

And one thing that certainly we might talk about a bit as well is cross-platform reading. I'm just curious from the audience who here reads the same book in more than one format a lot. Me too. I routinely buy print book and download the ebook and then also read bits of it on my phone when I'm in lines

Speaker 4 (00:12:17):

And the audio book now frankly you can switch back and forth, it's awesome and not lose your place between audio and print.

Speaker 2 (00:12:24):

So to move maybe entirely digital text into something a little different, back to the digital realm a bit. But so Kevin, you're not a publisher per se. Oyster is a, well you are as far as the editorial part, but in general the primary activity of oyster is a conduit. So lemme just tell folks about it a little bit and maybe if you can give us some idea of numbers.

Speaker 6 (00:12:47):

Yeah, so I guess usually the shorthand people say about Oyster is that it's the Netflix for books. I kind of think that Netflix is the oyster for movies,

Speaker 6 (00:12:58):

So we're digital only and we're platform. And sometimes you'll tell me like, well I only read and print, why should I sign up for Oyster? And I'm just like, you shouldn't just not for you and it doesn't have to be for everyone. And I just sort of think, I'm not sure why the conversation is always around this, especially the idea that print will die out or digital take over or if digital's a trend. I don't know why these two things and I think we're actually seeing them co-exist pretty well in the past year especially. So what was your question?

Speaker 2 (00:13:27):

Well, I'm going to ask more questions that other folks may have, but I have, so obviously you're providing access there all kinds of rights issues. So are you getting those rights to provide access to the Digital Books publisher by publisher or is it by distributor?

Speaker 6 (00:13:41):

It depends. In a lot of cases it's by publisher and when we can, it's by distributor. That's a really great way to sign up a lot of independent publishers, which is very important to us. I do think there's often this misconception I do when people say the Netflix of books instead of the Spotify for books because just the way our model works in terms of payment is very different from Spotify. The way Spotify does it is you pay $10 a month, they apportion off this certain amount of that and that gets evenly distributed across artists and that's why artists are really getting cut out of Spotify with us. Every time you read past a certain part a book, it triggers a sale. So it's just like you sold as a publisher, it's just like you sold that book on Amazon. And so I think that's a really great model because it works very well for publishers. It works very well for authors and for readers. We've kind of eliminated this friction. You can read as many books as you want in a month and you can read done if you want and it's kind of all the same to

Speaker 2 (00:14:34):

Us. And do you define digitally reading a book as clicking on it or does one have to consume some portion of it?

Speaker 6 (00:14:43):

It actually depends on the deal we have with each specific publisher, but it's not very much of the book, so it's a little bit more than opening the book it's way before finishing the book.

Speaker 2 (00:14:53):

So it is much like buying a physical book. One presumably reads a bit of it, but they may or may not finish the whole book having bought it

Speaker 6 (00:14:59):

And you don't have that. I think one nice thing, I think what we like to do is there will always be advantages to a physical object Fiona said, but there are also advantages to a digital object and in a way I think we can all relate to this that to be red pile just like it piles up on your nightstand and it just stares at you guiltily before you go to sleep and when it's all on your phone and you don't sort of have this in your head, you're not opening a book on Oyster and thinking, oh, I paid X amount of dollars for this book, I really need to finish it. It never feels like homework. So in a way that's sort of the reading experience we want to go to. We want it to be really easy for people to find great books also to put them down and pick up something new if they want to as well.

Speaker 2 (00:15:38):

Yeah, it seems like a great

Speaker 4 (00:15:39):

Way to introduce new authors to spur sampling and

Speaker 2 (00:15:42):

Experi. Yeah. I'm curious if, I don't know if there may not be any data, but if there is any data on people using Oyster in a way that some people use independent booksellers, which is to sample things and then sometimes buy them elsewhere. So do you find that people maybe reading lots, just little bits of lots of things and then if you know or don't going off and buying a physical coffee

Speaker 6 (00:16:01):

Or not? There's a stat we throw around a lot that I really like. It's like usually people start about five books before they commit to one. I think it's kind a great experience, especially if you're the kind of reader that really wants to sample and so that's a statistic we're really proud of and we also, the difference between say us and some of our competitors is that everything in our app is very strongly editorially curated and I think that's really important and in a way we don't do things like co-op publishers can't pay us for marketing, so every book really stands on its own and just in terms of quality, I mean that's a big challenge for independent publishers. You just can't afford that placement on the front table at Barnes and Noble on Oyster. Your books have equal shot being featured and I just think when people see certain books and they start certain books and they 'em, they finish them, I think it's really

Speaker 2 (00:16:48):

Exciting. Great, thanks and well I think we'll move into the general giant topic of discovery in a bit, but I want to bring Dina in because you are a novella publisher, so here's another something very new doing something very old kind of publishing, but it's newfangled in a way, so we just talk about how it came about and what it means to be a novella publisher.

Speaker 5 (00:17:09):

Well, it came about, we've been around, it'll be four years in May. I had been working for Flatman Crooked, which was a sort of indie literary magazine in Sacramento and we decided we wanted to do single author titles but we didn't want to compete on the level of the novel. So we thought why don't we do novellas? It's a great format for discovering emerging writers because you get to spend a little more time with them than in a short story and it's not quite the investment of a novel. So it turned out really well. We did a couple before Flatman Crooked folded and then I decided I wanted to stick with it, but I just have always thought it's sort of a funny thing that novella's and short story collections too have always just been like, no, we don't do it. No editors want them because they're hard to sell.

Speaker 5 (00:17:54):

But I just have always felt that that's sort of a weird thing that's just sort of carried on through the years and just everyone believes it without there really being a reason to because literary fiction's already a niche market. I think readers desire above all curation and they want to find editors and publishers that they like and trust and with the right passion behind it, you can sell almost a work of any length really. I don't think that these parameters are necessarily like the novellas don't sell is necessarily a real thing. I mean you look at of Mice and Men and the Pearl and Breakfast at Tiffany's, there's just so many examples throughout history that it doesn't make sense to think that novellas don't sell or no one wants to read

Speaker 2 (00:18:38):

Nice for someone to read a novella and not feel like they've bought a novel and been cheated right

Speaker 5 (00:18:42):

From pages. The thing is novellas are almost always exactly as long as they should be because no one in their right mind sits down the right one.

Speaker 2 (00:18:50):

Yeah. Just to stay with you for a moment, you have a cool thing you've done I think would be great for people to hear about, which is sell shares.

Speaker 5 (00:18:57):

So the idea Nola started as really a platform to highlight emerging authors and to serve as a stepping stone between them being relatively unknown. They publish the novella and then the novella helps them sell novels, which has really, really worked. So for launch week, the day the book comes out for a week, we sell shares that you can buy to invest in the author's career and it's 20 to $25. You get a signed copy of the book and they hand write you a thank you note and you get a copy of an ebook, which actually just to bring it back to what we were talking about just a second ago, we gave the option so you can buy an ebook for your Kindle or your iPad or your Nook or you can choose to not take an ebook and about half the buyers opted to not take an ebook file even though it was free. So it's just interesting. I mean that all sort of plays in, but yeah, the idea is that you invest at this very early level and you have this small well-designed book that is going to be this marker of a very early point in the author's career and then they go on to, for Eden for example, she hit number three on the New York Times bestsellers list this year with her novel California, which is just, it's very cool for the people that had the novella way back when five years ago.

Speaker 2 (00:20:08):

I'm sorry, I love this idea of investing as a reader, as a consumer. I think you did that right?

Speaker 9 (00:20:16):

Didn't you have, wasn't

Speaker 2 (00:20:18):

That a model that you developed? Yeah, well no, actually I'm going to give credit to something else that maybe we stole it from. There's an organization, I think they're here in the Twin Cities. Someone can yell I'm right or wrong, A Springboard for the arts. They're here, right? Yeah, and they're great. Okay. They do something, they do a C Ss a, which for many of us means community shared agriculture. You buy a farm share, I have one, they're great. They do a c s a community shared art where individuals can buy a share as if you were getting vegetables for the summer, but they commissioned a bunch of artists to make art. It may or may not happen like a farm may or may not produce vegetables depending on the weather and everyone investing a share shows up at the end at a kind of farm stand with vegetables too.

Speaker 2 (00:20:58):

They're farmers and the artist and they pick up their share of their box of art at the end, whatever it was produced. But I think people love this idea of participating as a community in a group investments. That's a really nice model. Thanks for sharing that. Fiona, lemme throw a question to you. You're primarily a print publisher, you also do produce eBooks and you might just for factoids sake, after I actually ask my question, just give us an idea of what percentage of your sales, roughly, roughly are reading as a publisher founded that as what we might call traditional small press literary publisher. Given what's happened digitally these days, and it might just be in the realm of marketing or events even. What do you feel that you're doing differently now that you did say 10 years ago that really has changed even though overall you may still feel like you're doing things in a traditional way if there is something? Yeah,

Speaker 7 (00:21:49):

I think we feel that we're in a yes and or both and situation. I think I was looking at Leslie there on Numbers Queen that are ebook sales, that sort of between 10 and 15%. And we are finding on the whole that books that sell well, physical books that sell well have high ebook sales. So books that do well, do well, books do well.

Speaker 2 (00:22:15):

Right. I'm going to ask you a question that just for the folks who may not know this, I think it'll be true in the way that it is true for most others. Do any of your ebook sales, are any of them larger than the parallel print

Speaker 7 (00:22:26):

Book? Not yet. And there's surprises, like we did a book called Geeks Sublime, which was by the novelist Vikram Chandra about his career as a coder doing computer programming and so on. And that has had very low ebook sales and we thought that the Silicon Valley, all these sort of, I think we could still imagine that there are sort of people out there just being all geeky and living in the internet.

Speaker 4 (00:22:55):

Listen, romance is still probably the bestselling ebook genre and if you had told me that when we launched Kindle nine years ago, I would've been shocked. But it's the style of reading that really makes the difference. That is

Speaker 2 (00:23:09):

It. And also maybe do you think that those folks needed a vacation from tech? Well,

Speaker 7 (00:23:13):

Maybe that's right. And when going round sometimes into colleges and what have you, a lot of the young people say that they prefer print. And it's some older people I'm talking to where they're bookshelves, they're sagging and they're like, give it to me on the Kindle. It's sort of one of our most enthusiastic Kindle readers is our 80 plus old board member who loves it. She doesn't want to sit in bed with a great big heavy book. Anyhow, then in terms of 10 years ago, definitely it's changed in terms of marketing the social media and catering to the website and all those kinds of things. And we've been saying that board members are here. And when I was new at Grey Wolf, the board used to tell me who the audience was for Grey Wolf books and I would say, well, we don't really know, but you sometimes see them at a W P.

Speaker 7 (00:24:07):

But other than that, we didn't have much to go on. But now we've got, I think it's over 250,000 Twitter followers. We've got thousands of Facebook friends and they can give us feedback and you can also sort of track the industry. The publicist sends out a physical galley to somebody who reviews in a physical review and they tweet about it, just got empathy exams and then they just got Argonauts and they could see something building. And I think in a sort of interesting way, the younger generation are getting to know each other in a way that they couldn't when they were based in Minneapolis before. And the first time I went to b e a with my young publicist expecting that I would be introducing her to people in the industry, people kept coming up to her on her first, b e a, flinging their arms around her and then they would chat on for five minutes and they knew each other online.

Speaker 7 (00:25:04):

So that's just this interesting upside that it's the wake, it's not designed for that, and I just think it's the way that in which print and social media or whatever go together. So I remember in the past, so I came from England, British publishing to American publishing, and in England you could sort of generate a bestseller in three days because something would be covered in the Sunday Times. The Guardian, the this and the that in one household would read all those things and I would come here and it'd be like, oh great, the Chicago Tribune doesn't go beyond Chicago. Whereas now you can get that and you can have this second life going. I mean, not that everybody's lining up for Gray Wolf reviews, but you just have a sense that you can get more mileage out of something that's happened in one place. So the way that it's breaking out

Speaker 2 (00:25:59):

Geography, not only this idea of viral, but I think you spoke to something that really is very, very new that for really the first time, other than a few in-person events, publishers can actually really know who their readers are. That as much as you're putting information out there through social media, you're getting information back. There's a lot of ready for the picking free data available to you to actually know what kind of folks are responding to your books, who may not always be the folks that you thought you were publishing to. I just communicating with each other.

Speaker 4 (00:26:30):

I was just going to say, I think however much more information publishers have today, they still don't have a lot of the information they want. I think that's one thing I've heard many times over the years, mainly

Speaker 7 (00:26:44):

Because somebody said recently on one of these conferences about digital stuff that just because you already bought a book in a certain doesn't actually mean you will a again. Right. So that

Speaker 4 (00:26:55):

Absolutely. Oh, absolutely. But in terms of just being able to, I mean no that this person loves this author, you don't necessarily know that if they buy it at a store or No, that's still a challenge I think.

Speaker 2 (00:27:08):

Yeah, and also the reason why someone reads a book cannot simply be known by the fact that they purchased it

Speaker 7 (00:27:15):

Or vice

Speaker 4 (00:27:16):

Versa. The fact that they purchased it doesn't mean they read it.

Speaker 2 (00:27:19):


Speaker 7 (00:27:22):

I think there really is a community out there now and you can have a feeling of community that wasn't there before.

Speaker 2 (00:27:28):

That's really, I

Speaker 7 (00:27:29):

Like as an older person and I really see the younger people thriving in that,

Speaker 2 (00:27:33):

But there've been some interesting bounces back and forth. I have another hat. I run small press distribution, which is the one remaining nonprofit literary book distributor in the country. We only right now, we had entered the ebook market, we got out of it, we probably will go back in at some point, but we only distribute print entirely, and our sales were up 23% last year, which is crazy. It suggests that for certain kinds of books, and these are, let's call them high literary books, poetry, very literary books, cultural studies work in translation. There seems to be this tremendous interest in reading holding objects. By the same time, we have crazy growth in some areas in digital books, and as you said, there are assumptions about say romance readers being, we might assume that they would not be so newfangled if they,

Speaker 4 (00:28:17):

Well, just when you think about it, it makes perfect sense in hindsight, like so many things, the type of person who reads romances is a rabid voracious reader, sci-fi mysteries as well, lots of series. They finish a book at 11:00 PM and they want to start a new one immediately, and digital delivery makes that very easy. I do think literary fiction and nonfiction readers have a different relationship to the way in which they read, and I think that's reflected in the way they buy. I do want his comment and pick up on something Fiona said, I have gotten to travel everywhere around the world speaking to authors over the last six or seven years, and I really want to underscore this sense of community, this sense of optimism that I think is engaging authors in particular storytellers in particular, everywhere I go, there are plenty of challenges obviously, but this sense of opportunity, and by the way, with the opportunity comes an incredible amount of work and effort.

Speaker 4 (00:29:15):

It's not easy, but there's this sense of opportunity, this sense of I can do this and there are people who are helping me who at conferences like this, I mean most of the time speaking for Amazon, I'd be surrounded by people after a session and be like, how do I do this? How do I do that? There is no better person to tell you that than the person sitting next to you probably just did it. And that sense of community has really grown. So it is sort of an interesting almost, not oxymoronic, but contrarian, that as technology has grown, this sense of community that is not just technologically driven but very personally driven has grown. And it also reflects, I think the more technology comes into this space, which to me is just about enabling storytellers. That's the great thing about technology, at least what we've done so far, the more you need to human, I want to use the word curation, but I want to use it in a very expansive, discoverability, text curation as opposed to as well as mapping all kinds of ways of finding things. Richard Nash has some very interesting ideas about this. If you see him around over the weekend, talk to him and then ask somebody to explain what he just said. That's what I always have to do. They're very interesting ideas and to me, that's the next great opportunity and that sense of opportunity. It's not a challenge anymore. I'm feeling, and I'm not a publisher, but I'm feeling this sense, wow, this stuff is enabling things, whatever they might

Speaker 2 (00:30:45):

Be. There is a story that has a double edged and the double edges opportunity and challenge between what I think is fair to call a slow motion art form reading literature. It's probably closer to weaving than break dancing. And yet we have all this technology that allows things to happen instantaneously. So there's an interesting, there's both opportunities and challenges between something very slow and something very fast and how do they work together

Speaker 4 (00:31:11):

Well and the whole market reflects that. I mean, the great thing about Amazon, frankly, I think just talking to smaller publishers is now your books are reaching many, many more people than you've ever reached before, ever could reach before. The downside is this incredible dependency that has built up in terms of Amazon as a place where books are sold. And so another example of the double-edged sword,

Speaker 2 (00:31:35):

I easily have a million more questions, but I think I'd like to open it up to the audience so we can have other conversations going. Who has a question? Let's go way, way up there and try to shout it out and I'll repeat it. Yes. Red,

Speaker 10 (00:31:52):

I'm going to know, know about multimedia. Are any of you doing with President River? They have multimedia anthologies and things that incorporate,

Speaker 2 (00:32:04):

We have a general question about if anyone has been moving into the area of multimedia, whether that be I guess an enhanced eBooks or combinations of moving image and text.

Speaker 4 (00:32:17):

I worked at Brilliance Audio a few years back when Amazon took them on and we started to look at ways to bring the full multimedia package and we did some interesting experiments. What I found mostly, and this is nothing new, right? Think about Voyager CD ROMs back in the nineties, which didn't really find an audience. That's the key thing. Multimedia for the sake of multimedia is not going to be effective. You have to figure out a way to integrate it. And that really goes back to how do you, as an author, and I hate, I'm not an author, so I'm not really qualified to say this, but in my mind when I think about this, some people start, okay, I'm going to write this book. Other people, I want to share this story. And starting from that point, I think will more naturally bring in these elements.

Speaker 2 (00:33:08):

Anyone else?

Speaker 5 (00:33:11):

John brought up, well, sorry. Karen Russell's sleep donation, which out Addis books put out, I think it's been about a year now, but it was just an ebook, but they built this beautiful website platform that was really interactive. That's been one of the best, I think most successful examples I've seen where they're incorporating sort of multimedia aspects. I think it's still up if you want to check it out, but they did a really wonderful job. It was an ebook only release of a novella, and that was sort of how they interpreted selling that form, which it's really well done. If

Speaker 4 (00:33:43):

The other way to think about it is some folks take different parts of their stories and tell them in different media. There's a great program at Wafford University every summer called Shared Worlds, which brings high school students together with fiction, mainly fantasy and sci-fi. They're not writing books. What they're doing actually is creating the worlds in which those books or movies or video games will function. It's really cool to see this stuff developing

Speaker 2 (00:34:11):

And I think we'll see, I'm with John that I think a lot of it has to do with, is it driven by an author creating a work in multimedia for multimedia, or is it that multimedia is being used as essentially a marketing tool or another way to have access to a book? Those are very different things.

Speaker 7 (00:34:25):

It's something that we ask ourselves at Gray of all the time, where's this going in an editorial way? And we would like to be able to fund that or publish that or something. But so far we haven't. But we've had a couple of projects like Anda Monson who had something which lived on his computing, and you could go and experience the book in a different way, and then something was licensed from Adderall Diaries. But then we've got things like Mark DOT's infernal, which is very, he knows him. It's very wordy, very physical, but it's reflective. It's got gobbledygook computer language, and it could only be written in the digital age. And then I think it is got bells and whistles in type format. And then I think another thing that we're seeing, which I think is tied to the digital wave, is that our books are getting more physical, that the authors are wanting more pictures and this kind of thing. I think they want the existence of the physical thing to be from if it was just digital.

Speaker 2 (00:35:42):

We had a question right in here.

Speaker 10 (00:35:46):

So you talked about the percentage of eBooks. I'm also curious about where print get sold. So are they getting sold more often through online, more often through Inbook stores? How

Speaker 2 (00:36:00):

Is that? That's a great, I want to repeat the question. That's a really important one, and I think there are definitely some changes. Now, we've talked a bit about ebook percentages compared to print, but speaking just of print books right now, have you noticed changes or just talk about even with a new one through what venues those books are reaching readers, whether it's directly from your website, is it more events, is it through online booksellers? Is it more through Indie booksellers? Is it through other kinds of sellers, museum gift shots, anything else, carts, book buses, anything else that's possible?

Speaker 3 (00:36:32):

What's really interesting and kind of strange to me as we move into print is how it seems like there are more opportunities for us to connect directly with individual people than at a bigger place. My first job in publishing was at Little Brown and Company and there was a separate marketing department who did a brilliant job at a very high level, but because that level was so high, they weren't necessarily, nobody from Little Brown was in a bookstore talking to a bookseller. It was sales reps who did an amazing job at that. And my mentor in this arena is a guy named Jeff Waxman, who started out as the marketing director of other press, and he has sort of decided to change his job to bookstore liaison, and he spends most of his time on the road talking to booksellers. And it's amazing the difference when someone in a bookstore whose job it is to sell books, if they've had a conversation with someone about a book, they're more likely to pass that conversation on.

Speaker 3 (00:37:41):

That's one of the great things about reading is how community-based it is in that way. In terms of venues where we sell, it's interesting. So our first book is a autobiographical novel by the film director Alejandro Hoki. And the very first bookstore that ordered it is this bookstore in Brooklyn called Catland, which is Brooklyn's premier metaphysical bookshop. So you can go there and you can buy books of spells and our first print book. So it's been kind of cool to find those as everybody's been talking about. There's a real sense of community, but for us, especially when we're doing books and translation, we do want to reach that big community of readers, but there are always smaller communities to tap into. Our next books are going to be Cuban science fiction, so now we have to go find the people who are going to be

Speaker 2 (00:38:38):

Into that Latino unicorn stores. Yes,

Speaker 3 (00:38:41):

Exactly. Anyone has any tips? Lemme know.

Speaker 2 (00:38:44):

I've been known to say that reading is a group activity, accomplish one person at a time, but a lot of the new ways that we are reaching readers is creating lots of little groups of people who can interact sometimes. Actually, really,

Speaker 4 (00:38:57):

There's a weekly event in Seattle at the Sorento Hotel, a monthly event that people just sit and read in the hotel lobby or in the hotel bar.

Speaker 2 (00:39:07):

Yeah, it's also

Speaker 4 (00:39:09):

I should have led with the Manhattan Point.

Speaker 2 (00:39:12):

Yeah, actually reading together is a trend that I've been noticing at a number of events, people reading quietly in a shared space, which is a powerful, wonderful thing. Much like seeing a movie with a group of people is different than watching a movie on your phone or if it is for you. Does anyone still going to see movies anymore? Any more comments on how people are reaching books?

Speaker 5 (00:39:37):

One thing, especially I think as an independent publisher, developing relationships with the booksellers at independent bookstores is I think one of the most valuable things you can do because you become mutual fans. Obviously as a publisher you admire independent bookstores so much, but when a bookstore staff member picks a title for a staff pick, that's a huge thing for a book because they're physically selling to customers and talking to customers over and over again how much they like something. And it does wonders just for getting the word out there. And it again goes back to this idea of community and just sort of this mutual appreciation of the whole ecosystem. But yeah, if there are publishers out there, talk to your local booksellers because they're going to be your best friends.

Speaker 2 (00:40:26):

I say increasingly I find myself having conversations with people about books where we talk about them as intimate objects and what it means to share a book, that there's something very personal about it and there's great power in sharing a book with someone else. Do we have another question? Yeah,

Speaker 11 (00:40:41):

I just like more information about how to develop relationships.

Speaker 2 (00:40:46):

So the question is, how does a publisher go about developing relationships with an independent bookseller? Anyone want to comment on that?

Speaker 5 (00:40:53):

Just physically go into the store and talk to them and ask Scalable,

Speaker 11 (00:40:58):

By the way,

Speaker 2 (00:40:59):

It's the same as developing relationships with any other human being. Go talk to them,

Speaker 11 (00:41:04):


Speaker 2 (00:41:06):

No's. Actually, it's an excellent question because when you move beyond the very local, how do you do it really is your question.


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