This is the first in a list of posts about innovative independent presses. In the book world, many speak of the “disruption” and transformation which trade publishing is experiencing. But by remaining dedicated to quality literature, taking risks on offbeat debuts, and increasingly engaging with reader communities (on social media, blogs & Goodreads), many independent presses are ahead of the curve in terms of innovation:
Nouvella takes a very unique approach. Each book release starts with a LAUNCH week, when readers can buy the first 200 “shares” of a book. These early supporters receive limited-edition, hand-signed copy of the novella, a letter from the author, and an e-book version. Afterwards, print and ebooks are sold on the website and in stores. I love this combination of bundling limited editions with ebooks, as well as the approach of releasing one book at a time – that way, each book has a chance to shine, and as a reader I don’t miss out on any new releases from my favorite presses. And it’s more fun to support a book than “preordering”.
Publerati is a “socially responsible digital publishing”company which releases ebooks without DRM. Their model is interesting for many reasons: a publisher of literary fiction, Publerati still sells its ebooks for a mere $2.99. The organization advocates for fair author payment, which is why it only only takes 10 % of the book revenue. Another portion of the proceeds goes towards helping fund Worldreader, an organization which makes free ebooks and ereaders available in Africa – they also work with many local and regional presses. A quick look at Worldreader’s long list of partners is encouraging, but raises the question: why don’t more publishers donate ebooks?
Unbound funds its books through crowdfunding and aims to involve readers and reward them for recommending books. This project gives me limitless hope about what publishers can do to contribute to book culture. Yes, the cute little sketches on their Website don’t hurt, but what Unbound does best is connect readers and writers. When you subscribe to an author’s project you get access to their “shed”, get regular updates on the book’s progress, you even get £1 credit for each time you successfully recommend a book to a friend. They release ebooks and print simultaneously, and they also distribute to bookstores, but the heart of their endeavor is the interaction between author, reader and fellow fans.
Book tip: “As I Died Lying” is a fascinating Unbound project which 15 writers are working on together. Each writer composes the voice of a different character (a la Faulkner’s polyphonic original). I’m interested to watch the book develop, see ideas cross-pollinate, and hope that all of the coordination snuff out the spark of inspiration. But wait, they’ve already written half the book!
Coming up: Roaming bookstores, ebook clubs, free PDF books and what book subscriptions have in common with sushi.