Monday, April 19, 2010

Now a blogger

Here's my first post.

Two ways to look at publishing these days:  Either it's circling the drain or this is a very, very exciting time in its history.

Do you just hate the breathless way the latter notion is always uttered?  Me too, but I think I'm going with it. For one thing, Big Pub has too much invested to let it die.  Granted, they've been slow to make the changes the digital age demands, but eventually they'll adjust, and we'll still have books to read, different as they might look. The interim, though, is a great time for e-guerrillas to hit the streets.

And so, very slowly and painfully, I'm attempting to get my boots on the ground.  Pretty soon now I plan to be an actual publisher of electronic books. What a  terrifying metamorphosis. Me, a mid-career writer (check out www.juliesmithauthor.com ) attempting such a thing! Such hubris.  But such an adventure. My heart speeds up as I type. Can I pull this thing off?

I don't want to publish merely good books, I want many of them to be special books, books you can  only publish electronically, because they'd either be impossible to publish conventionally--as in video-enhanced books--or impractical, like maybe too short or too long; or too expensive. My hubris knows no bounds! And the same is true of my terror.

It wasn't so scary when the project first began, but I had a partner then. The problem is, one day she woke up sane.

Thinking back, I'm going to date the beginning  of all this to my birthday, when my husband gave me a Kindle. I bragged to my friend Chris, and she had quite a little rejoinder: It seemed her husband had given her one a month earlier. She was already in love. It's one thing to know about technology, but quite another to actually experience its potential. (Whoa. Don't go away--this is not a Kindle ad. I can't wait to get an Ipad.) What I mean is, both of us suddenly got it that e-books are here to stay, and that that could be a good thing. We hadn't thought if it as good before. But suddenly it occurred to us simultaneously that lamenting the demise of print books won't change anything, though who says they're dead? I'm still buying way too many. What may be dying is Publishing As It's Always Been. But then again that's been true for about twenty years, since the conglomerates took over just about every major house in New York.

Everyone we know in New York seems in a swamp of despair right now-- the daily word is that more and more people are being laid off, publishers aren't buying books from even well established authors, and the sky is falling faster than Icelandic ash. So here's what we thought: Let's do what we wish they were doing. Be innovative; be nimble; find news ways to publish books. And so one crazy day, we decided to just do it-- start our own e-publishing company. That's the adventure I want to chronicle in this blog.

That was about November and Chris dropped out as a managing partner a month ago (though she remains as an adviser), but  in that short time we've gotten a  terrific amount of enthusiastic help and actually acquired some books. Really good books, but more about that later. We can't sell them till we have a proper website and right now we have only what I thought was a beta site, but our intern Mack says is really more of an alpha thing. I didn't even know that term!

Meanwhile, I'm on a learning curve that's got me gasping for breath.