Everyone knows the doom and gloom stories. Publishers are facing the apocalypse. Amazon is the Antichrist.
After working in the music industry for 10 years, most recently running Lily Cooper’s (formerly Allen) record label ITNO, I've been through this 'end of the world' panic before. But I bring you good tidings.
Yes, adjustments need to be made, but just as some independent record labels are thriving (XL, Kitsune, Black Butter), the truth is it’s never been a more exciting time to be in publishing. With great change, comes great opportunity. That's why my brother and I have set up Inside The Dog Press (“Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read” – Groucho Marx). We are publishing our first novel, Jasper Gibson’s A Bright Moon for Fools—a rip-roaring Venezuelan adventure—bearing three lessons I have learned from the dark days of the music industry very much in mind.
Of course there are huge differences between the two worlds, but both are essentially about the same thing: the business of culture. It also helps that Jasper shares our philosophy; as co-owner of Britain’s leading comedy website, The Poke, and the man who helped launch the Nick Clegg apology autotune remix, we are working with someone whose business is engaging with the audience.
UNDERSTANDING. There’s a new audience out there. Let’s start with the much-maligned illegal downloader. They don’t want to pay. OK, but what are they useful for? Promotion. They want things first. If they are getting it and they are shouting about it, ultimately that’s a good thing for your book. Our e-files will be steadfastly DRM-free; we believe in the art we put out there; if someone takes the time to read it, then they will talk about it. Similarly, we trust the audience; there are sufficient folk who appreciate a good book enough to pay for it.
OWNERSHIP. The problem with big labels and big publishers is that the majority of the people who work there draw a salary and that’s where the emotional investment ends. Everyone involved in the project should ideally have a vested interest in its success and ultimately that means breaking up the pie. Work out a profit-share.
BEAUTY. Just as you concentrate on the illegal downloader at one end of the scale, so must you take care of the collector at the other. People will always want beautiful things to have on their shelves. Record labels that have concentrated on high-quality physical albums with great design and sleevenotes have bloomed. Jasper always raved about Soundway Record’s lead designer, Lewis Heriz, and we are delighted with the artwork that he’s come up with.
We like 17th-century marbling, So we commissioned a hand-marbled replica and then got Lewis to drop narrative elements from the book into the endpapers. They are tricky but very satisfying to spot! The end product is something you’d want to own. Beauty creates word of mouth, which creates sales.
Ultimately these all boil down to LOVE for the book. We were so excited about A Bright Moon For Fools, we wanted to get into publishing just to see it come to life in the best way possible. Will we fall flat on our faces? More than once, no doubt, but from our perspective it’s never been a better time to get going in this business. We’re looking forward to seeing you all out there.
A Bright Moon For Fools by Jasper Gibson is published by Inside the Dog Press on 3rd May, £14.99, hardback, ISBN 9780957468108; Kindle ISBN 9780957468122; e-book ISBN 9780957468115, £7.77.
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