NOTES FROM THE FRONT – The Digital Book Revolution and The Author
The Winds of Change
The world of book publishing changed forever in 2009. The New York legacy publishers suffered a serious economic setback as their antiquated book publishing and distribution business models imploded at the very moment the Digital Book Revolution began to gain traction. Since then, powerful market forces have disrupted the old ways of book publishing and significant financial headwinds from declining sales and crushing corporate debt have forced the traditional publishers to fire editorial staff, reduce the number of titles they publish, shutter hallowed imprints, merge high overhead operations, reduce author advances and royalty percentages, and look to authors to share marketing costs.
Further challenging the traditional publishing model is competition to bookstores from the online distribution of books via the computer and portable devices like the Kindle, the iPhone, the iPad, the Kindle Fire and other tablets, aggressive deflationary discounting by internet retailers that redefines the real price of the book, expansion of internet retailers into publishing, the bankruptcy of newspapers and the reduction or elimination of time-honored Book Sections, the closing of Borders, and a concurrent rise of mountains of free content delivered by the high speed broadband internet. These factors have combined to accelerate a tectonic shift in how books will be published, distributed, and marketed in the future.
For the author, veteran or debut, these events offer a sober reality check of an industry in chaos and of the diminishing opportunities to be published in the way of days gone by.
The Democratization of Distribution
Moreover, with the evolution of digital book technology and global internet distribution, authors have become empowered to publish their own work via digital book platforms and print-on-demand. And, because the act of publishing is now relatively easy, the availability of books on the internet will resemble the “big bang” as the sheer quantity of digital books available will grow at an overwhelming pace in a great democratization of distribution.
The Dawn of A New Age
Given the dynamics of this new age, authors are faced with significant and increasing challenges in their drive to have their works published and most importantly read. Those who choose the traditional route of submission to legacy publishers will find that fewer and fewer deals get done as the economics of the publishing business force mergers among the majors. Even veteran authors with fine track records are being frozen out because of dwindling publisher resources and reductions in the number of titles published. Of those deals that do happen, fewer authors will have the benefit of significant marketing support as risk/reward calculations become more critical to publishers and authors are looked upon to spend their own funds for promotion without any increase in royalty percentages. No longer will legacy publishers have the luxury of losing money on nine out of every ten titles.
On the other hand, for authors who cannot make a deal with the legacy publishers, their only remaining choices are to find boutique publishers with few resources, put the manuscript in a drawer or self-publish and accept the economic risks and the marketing challenges to be noticed in the avalanche of new digital book content flooding the market. It is indeed the beginning of a new era for authors and the path they choose will have significant consequences to their professional futures.
And this is exactly where the Stay Thirsty Publishing story begins.
Writing the Rules in The Digital Book Revolution
In the darkest days of the global economic contraction in 2009, Stay Thirsty Media, Inc., a global news and entertainment company, embarked on a path to create a digital book publishing division. Amidst the collapse of the New York book publishing and distribution business models, Stay Thirsty Media reached out to veteran authors with a new concept. By combining the traditional vetting process in the selection of books, the technological advances in digital book publishing and distribution, and Stay Thirsty Media’s global reach to over 180 countries, the beginnings of a true Digital Book Revolution began to take shape. With one acclaimed, award-winning author, our first imprint, Stay Thirsty Press, was launched in late March of 2009. Over the ensuing months, by carefully selecting other authors, each notable in their own career, and by rewriting the traditional publishing deal, Stay Thirsty Press began to set new publishing standards for the Digital Book Revolution.
The Birth of New Opportunities
As the summer of 2009 drew to a close, it became apparent that another group of writers was ready to join the Digital Book Revolution. In order to properly delineate this new group from the veteran authors, a second imprint, Schiller & Wells, Ltd., was created and charged with finding debut or emerging writers who deserved to be published.
With both Stay Thirsty Press and Schiller & Wells, Ltd. in place, Stay Thirsty Media moved both imprints under one umbrella and renamed its book publishing division Stay Thirsty Publishing.
At the close of 2012, the Schiller & Wells, Ltd. imprint was retired. In early 2013 a new imprint, Sulivan & Stokes, was formed with the specific mission to discover and nurture the next generation of great writers. Named for two crew members of the Beagle that carried Darwin on his historic voyage, this new imprint is dedicated to discovering outstanding writers at the beginning of their writing careers.
But there is one more very important element to the Digital Book Revolution that sets Stay Thirsty Publishing apart from the rest - it is our special relationship with our parent company. Stay Thirsty Media, Inc. is a recognized global news and entertainment company that publishes staythirsty.com, an internet magazine seen in over 180 countries with links from thousands of websites, news organizations, news aggregators, and blogs. Because of this special relationship, Stay Thirsty Publishing is able to work with the staff of Stay Thirsty Media on feature stories, interviews, news stories and news updates, byline columns, and publicity outreach efforts that can shine a spotlight on the books we publish and help our authors become part of the global conversation. In the new digital world, being published is no longer enough because without being noticed, a book will be as visible as a needle in a haystack.
The Dawn of Digital Book Philanthropy
And yet, we also believe that just being in the digital book publishing business is not enough. From discussions with some of our authors, the idea of digital book philanthropy was born. In order to give back, to shoulder our social responsibility, and to focus attention on worthy causes, we have begun to partner in certain circumstances with nonprofit organizations that are important to our authors. In these instances, the authors, the literary agent, and the publisher have combined to donate 50 cents from the sale of every digital copy of the particular book to the relevant nonprofit organization.
To us, working together with authors to support causes that are meaningful in their lives is an honor. Although not appropriate for every author or every book, where relevant it highlights the dawn of a new era of social responsibility and philanthropy that publishers should welcome. Content will always be king, but helping to foster a better world gives us a chance, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, to be touched “by the better angels of our nature.”
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