So as you no doubt can tell from my lack of posts I'm REALLY REALLY busy with some projects I'm trying to get out for X-mas buying. But posts elsewhere on the web is making me weigh in on something.
I've found myself in the unique position of defending traditional publishing lately. Mainly because of the absolutely wonderful job that Orbit has done rolling out my husband's Riyria Revelations books. I'll admit I expected the worst (too many war-weary veterans whispered in my ear to tell me to "be afraid...be very very afraid"), but my pleasure is not just a matter of them jumping over a low expectation bar. They are smart, savvy, hardworking and I'm such a perfectionist that I'm usually very critical so if I say they are doing "things right" they are exceptional.
I do want to circle back to what they have done someday as there are things I've learned from them that other authors can benefit from but that's for another day.
The real reason I'm here has to do with a comment made by Barry Eisler on Joe's Blog. He asked...
"If there's a better way than Amazon to reform New York’s previously unassailable quasi-monopoly and all the suboptimal business practices the monopoly has enabled, what is it?"And later went on to say
"But if you accept my "Suboptimal New York business practices are the result of a lack of competition" premise, then what I'd like to hear is your solution for getting New York to improve."
Well since I run a publishing company and I have a MUCH different model than any of the others I would like to address Barry's Question.
The problem with the current model is not one of of "lack of competition" it is because it is based on a "venture-capital" model. I talked about this a bit in my previous post but let me explain further.
In venture capital the "investor" is taking a HUGE risk. They are putting a great deal of money on the line and know that there is a pretty good chance that they will lose some or all of it. They usually will do several projects expecting some percentage to fail and will take a large cut on the ones that succeed to help offset. I don't begrudge the "bigger cut" after all he who bears the greatest risk should get the greatest reward.
Personally, from a business perspective I believe in a partnership model. Both parties invest something (sometimes it's money, sometimes it's time) and they each bring their talents, intelligence, experience to try apply these attributes to make the project as successful as possible. If they are good at what they do - there is profit and they both win. If not, there is failure and they each share the pain.
In the "old book business" with no ebooks, brick and mortar stores, large print runs, high advances, warehousing fees the only system available was venture-capital. But in the "new book business" we have print-on-demand and ebooks and companies, like mine, are being run out of people's homes rather than high priced New York offices. (I think many people working in those offfice would prefer to telecommute rather than brave the traffic/subway but that's another story).
Each book I put out from Ridan costs me a ton in "sweat equity" (my time, intelligence, and experience) but very little in out of pocket money (Create Space setup fees, ISBN purchase). Covers are done by my husband, editing and formatting by myself, interns, and relatively inexpensive freelancers. A Ridan book is profitable after just a few sales. And from that point out it's all "gravy" as it were.
Ridan pays higher than average royalty fees. The standard contract is a 70/30 share (70% to author 30% to Ridan) since I consider the author has more "sweat equity" put into the project than I will.
I don't "lock in" my authors. They can leave anytime they want...because I don't have that big capital investment this is possible. My thought process is if they like what I'm doing - they'll stay and not begrudge me my cut. If they don't then they have every right to find a better way to go. Could I put in a lot of work just to have someone leave and then I'm left with nothing? Sure...but it's a risk I'm willing to take. And so far no author has ever left Ridan so it is a moot point.
I don't offer advances. This would seem like a negative from the author's perspective but if I did then I would have to change the split % and force them to stay with me until the advance is paid back - it breaks the model so I don't do it.
Ridan's model is good for me, good for the authors, and ultimately good for readers as I can bring in new talent with little fear of failure. I can also bring back their favorite out of print titles such as Joe Haldeman's Forever War or A.C. Crispin's Starbridge series because of the large width of virtual shelf space.
So there you have it - my solution to how to save publishing. If more presses adopted such a model I think it would benefit all parties involved.
What do you think?