Project Domino Project Update

A few days ago Seth Godin posted an update on Project Domino. In just seven months since the project was announced the small team has “published four books. We now have more than 250,000 copies in circulation across the four titles, and every one of them hit the Top 10 list (either hardcover, Kindle or both) on Amazon.” While I can’t speak to the details of Seth’s deal with Amazon, it is a safe assumption that it is structured in a very different way than publishing’s standard 15% royalty.

What is interesting to reflect on here, is how this project has faired versus agent Andrew Wylie’s own publishing venture, called Odyssey Editions. As you’ll recall, Mr. Wylie said his new company would focus on older titles whose digital rights are not owned by traditional publishers. Odyssey Editions flopped when Random House said that it would stop doing business with Mr. Wylie’s agency.

So, what was the difference? Obvious, for sure, but important nonetheless. Seth Godin could care less if he does business with Random House, or any other large publishing house. But Andrew Wylie’s future business depends on it.

Taking this a step further, wasn’t Seth Godin worried that Barnes & Noble would treat him the same way that Random treated Wylie? Perhaps, but in the end it’s Seth’s marketing power that causes him not to care. Seth’s customers will find Seth, wherever Seth tells them to.

For the big publishers to continue to matter they’ve got to prove that marketing is their core competency. Agents are going to continue to be wrapped up for some time, but if big authors (who publishing helped to create in the first place) continue to discover that they can go it alone, publishers are going to have a serious problem on their hands.

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Tired Plots

I am exhausted by old plots. From the New York Times Book Review today:
“Childhood friends in their mid-thirties find themselves at the crossroads of live and love. A vacation on the shore of North Carolina’s Outer Banks seems to be just what they need. But when an unexpected guest arrives, they all begin to question everything they thought they knew. Sometimes, when you need a change in your life, the tide just happens to pull you in the right direction.”

Perhaps I’m jaded by too many years in publishing (already… and it has not been all that many), but this and other selected summer reads are just too much over played. Too much of the same.

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Random House Builds Digital Capabilities: Acquires Smashing Ideas

As reported by eBookNewser, and others, this week Random House acquired digital media development firm Smashing Ideas.

Looking around the rest of the publishing industry, most of the other big six are connected to larger digital entities in some way. Simon & Schuster to CBS Interactive. Hyperion to ABC Digital and Disney Digital Books. Harper Collins to News Corp Digital Media.

My first set of questions surrounds what is the real relationship that these publishing house have with these digital resources? Weekly calls? Monthly meetings? Do the digital media employees at publishing houses have a concrete connection to these other resources? For strategic planning? For consulting work? Market analysis?

Recently Hyperion released the “eBook only” version of “A Modern Fairy Tale” and ABC News released a video enhanced version of the same material. It is a strategic advantage to have a simultaneous, but separate release? How did the two companies work together? How could they work together better?

My second set of questions surround, would it be more advantageous for these publishing houses (or their parent companies!) to acquire some digital publishing start ups? Vook? Ruckus Media? Open Road? Auryn Inc.? Moving Tales, Inc.? Loud Crow Interactive? (Note, this is a long, long list…)

Most of these potential acquisition targets are run by former publishing industry leaders. Why would they want to rejoin the bureaucracy they successfully already left? Or what, besides an exit, would digital media entrepreneurs gain?

Lots of questions to think about…

More on Smashing Ideas:

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Vertical Integration in Publishing – Pushing Both Ways

Two major announcements this week indicated vertical integration pushes in publishing.

Amazon has much more seriously gone into the publishing business and launched its fourth imprint, Montlake Romance. From Jeff Belle: “Romance is one of our biggest and fastest growing categories, particularly among Kindle customers, so we can’t wait to make The Other Guy’s Bride and other compelling titles available to romance fans around the world. We also know our customers enjoy genre fiction of all kinds, so we are busy building publishing businesses that will focus on additional genres as well.”

Meanwhile three leading trade publishers – Simon & Schuster, Penguin Group USA and Hachette Book Group – have formed a joint venture to sell books, Bookish.com. As detailed by the New York Times, “There’s a frustration with book consumers that there’s no one-stop shopping when it comes to information about books and authors,” said Carolyn Reidy, the president and chief executive of Simon & Schuster. “We need to try to recreate the discovery of new books that currently happens in the physical environment, but which we don’t believe is currently happening online.”

The question is, who is better positioned to win in the other’s space? Are publishers better booksellers or are booksellers better publishers? Who comes in with a better strategic position?

One way to look at this is, which way is the talent going? Clearly I’m biased, but looking at movement on the street talent is flowing out of traditional publishers and towards new ventures and retailers. Just one example of talent headed out. Another.

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“There is no sin except stupidity.” – Oscar Wilde

Pure genius.




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Disintermediation in Publishing

Late last week Crain’s New York reported on Amazon’s further entrance into the publishing space with a bid for Amanda Hocking’s new novel.

“To beef up its offer, Amazon brought in Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, which would have published the print editions of Ms. Hocking’s books, according to insiders … St. Martin’s Press ended up winning the auction, paying $2 million for the series of four novels, but Amazon actually made the highest offer of the six bidders, according to insiders.”

Industry insider Mike Shatzkin points out that Amazon does not have traditional book store distribution, but in reality that is not a big blocker. Any bookstore would take Amanda Hocking – even if it was Amazon doing the selling in.

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Bookmaking the Old Fashioned Way

This video is mind blowing knowing how eBooks are made today…

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Autography Lets Authors Sign eBooks Digitally

Continued innovation in publishing. Digital continues to mimic capabilities in the physical world.

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Digital Dominos

Yup, they are coming tumbling down. But books are not going away. Libraries will forever be a staple of the community. They are just going to be a little bit different.

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Favorite Video of the Week – March 1, 2011

And what else could it be? The Banned iPad2 Video Promo.

Am I going to get one? No. Not a big enough of an upgrade for me. I already have an iPad and an iPad1. iPad2 is very cool, but I don’t need a combination at the time.

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