HarperStudios Closing

Goodbye, HarperStudios. I was pulling for you!

Damn!   Sorry to hear this news.  The experimental imprint of HarperCollins that I was sure would pave the way for more publishing companies duplicating their platform is going away.  HarperStudios is the brainchild of Bob Miller, and he guided the imprint from day one until March 17 of this year when he took the position of Group Publisher with Workman Publishing.

HarperStudios was a bit of a revolutionary platform because Miller cut the size of advances and paid his authors higher royalties.  To me it made sense.  You get paid for performance.  In an industry that is struggling to survive the onslaught of technological advances and competing mediums, reducing the publisher’s risk would seem to be the smart thing to do.  Miller was also able to successfully get rid of the ridiculous returnable program retailers currently have with every other publisher.

Apparently, HarperStudios couldn’t survive without Mr. Miller.  In my opinion, that sucks out loud!  I have no idea what the company did in profits or losses, but I’ve go to think that it couldn’t have done worse than a lot of fledgling imprints.  The imprint was championed by the former HarperCollins CEO Jane Friedman.  I’m guessing that was a major obstacle for Miller.

BTW – I wonder what happened to Gary Vaynerchuk’s 10 book 7 figure deal with HaperStudios.

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Christopher Walken Voicemail on Marketing Books

Time to make a fool out of myself!  This a little game I like to play. What if Christopher Walken published my book? It makes no sense, and my Walken impression sucks, but what are you going to do? It’s strangely therapeutic. Spend any amount of time talking like Christopher Walken, and suddenly you feel like you can do anything. Plus, he actually came up with a great marketing idea. “Ring Tones!”

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How Can a First time Novelist Sell 1 Million Books? (Text Version)

Even bad fiction is art!

(Text version of video)

It is a question I am asked frequently by someone who has no concept of the true nature of publishing.  Selling a million copies of a novel is extremely difficult.  Can it be done?  Yes. I’m not here to discourage you and tell you to give up on the idea.  It is indeed possible to sell a million copies of your novel, just as it’s possible to make a hole-in-one in golf.  But unlike a hole-in-one, it takes more than persistence, practice and luck to sell a million books.  It takes a cultural shift.

What you have to understand is that novels are a form of art.  Some are more worthy of that label than others, but even bad art is art.  Successful art, art that becomes part of the water cooler conversation, has to be either loved or hated.   You cannot sell a million copies of a book that does not ignite some sort of passion in the reader.  Passion creates cultural shifts.  Cultural shifts are waves of behavioral changes that make art not just popular, but so popular it becomes common.

If you want to sell a million copies of your novel, all you have to do is rewire culture.  Easy, right? Here’s the rub.  In large part, readers don’t buy books, they buy authors.  In order to give yourself the greatest opportunity to make your book a cultural phenomenon, the author has to become a cultural phenomenon first.

Your personal brand has to ignite the same kind of passion you expect your art to ignite.  That’s where web 2.0 and your online persona come in. This medium – blogging, social media, web videos, etc. – this is where the reader in 2010 and beyond is going to get to know you.  This is where the cultural shift begins.

Your personal brand has to be bold, be consistent, and be authentic.  And as the builder of your personal brand, you have to carry on in the face of self-doubt and outside ridicule. Not everyone is going to connect with you.  Accept it.  Embrace it. Move on.  Not everyone who connects with you is going to buy your book, but they will do something more important.  They will spread the word about your personal brand.  Over time more and more people will be exposed to you and your book, and – we’re back to the golf analogy – with persistence, practice and luck – the cultural shift will take place, and you will sell a million copies of your book.  By the way, for those of you who are disappointed to still see luck as part of the equation, I happen to believe that luck is when preparation meets opportunity, so you can make your own luck.

Remember, your book won’t sell a million copies.  You will sell a million copies of your book.

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New Improved Submission Process – Now It’s Even Easier to Give Me a Publishing Deal!

So, I figured out why it’s been so hard to get a publishing deal. Obviously, I’ve been making it really hard on all the publishing houses by having my agent do all that submitting and schmoozing stuff.  That’s no fun and way too much work.  So, I’ve decided to make it much easier on everyone.  Here is a handy-dandy “Publishing Deal” button.  Just press it and make your best offer.  Man, I should have thought of this sooner. 

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Robert Miller – A Publisher Who Gets It!

Publishing Savior

Publishing Savior

I’m highly overdue on a geeky publishing post.  I’m constantly tracking the industry and trying to figure out why they continually give me the finger.  It usually leads me to post something off-putting and bitter, so I’ve avoided them altogether.   But surprise, surprise, I’ve found something positive to post.  Read on!

I have been a fan of Robert Miller’s ever since he started the HarperStudios imprint.  He’s created a mainstream publisher that follows an unconventional structure to get books to market.  He avoids the huge advances, gives the author a 50% take of the profits, has convinced retailers to forgo a liberal return policy that cripples most startup publishing houses, and relies heavily on the author’s existing online platform to build a durable marketing strategy.  In short, the guy get’s it.  He’s created something that was virtually unheard of before now, a nimble company that continually experiments with publishing models in order to keep pace with technology.

Here’s an excerpt of a recent article he wrote for Publishing Perspectives:

I don’t think that this solution goes far enough. I believe that publishers and authors should be equal partners, sharing profits fifty-fifty, as we are doing in all of our deals at HarperStudio. The author brings their creative work to this partnership, and their commitment to do everything in their power to help their book succeed. The publisher brings their financial risk (under our model, the publisher puts up the publishing costs, including the advance to the author, from which the author can decide to help the marketing effort if they’d like, or not), their passion for the project, and their staff time (we don’t charge any overhead to the profit split; the authors don’t charge for their time spent marketing the book either).

This financial structure requires both parties to think responsibly about costs, since both parties will be charged for those costs at the end of the day. The result is that the relationship is much less adversarial.

The question each day is, “What should we be doing for this book?” not “What have you done for me lately?” It feels healthier to me.

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Booktacts – The future of books

Booktacts - The book you can wear!

Booktacts - The book you can wear!

As an author and son of an ophthalmologist, I have been tinkering with a new invention in my basement that will revolutionize books, the booktacts. Basically, they are contacts fitted with wireless hyper radio wideband receivers that display text in ocular space. Yes, you read right, books you can wear. The booktacts can download any pdf or pcr file from any website. What’s more, you can control download functions and simple commands like highlighting and “send to printer” with a series of simple blink commands. I am coding them so they won’t download any Stephenie Meyer’s books because honestly, I am super jealous of her and really don’t want to give her access to another bestseller list.

In addition to being high tech, environmentally friendly, fabulously avant-garde readers, they are totally fashionable. They come in a variety of colors and can even be designed with team logos, obnoxious inspirational quotes, and slogans like “If you’re reading this, you’re way too close to my face.” I’m even working on mood booktacts. They change color depending on your mood while reading. Reading horror? They turn blood red. Reading a finance book? They turn money green. Reading erotica? They grow six inches.

I am not a scientist or a computer guy or an engineering-type person, and I don’t even have a basement, so the development stage has been really slow going, but I have tested a few prototypes on rats, and let’s just say, except for the blindness and brain damage, they work perfectly. I expect to start testing on humans as soon as I buy some duct tape and ether…. I mean as soon as my grant money comes in so I can pay a few test suckers…. subjects.

BTW – Tim O’Reilly claims to have come up with a revolutionary idea that will change books. You can read his article, Reinventing the Book in the Age of the Web, but it isn’t even close to being as cool as the Booktacts.

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