You would be forgiven for thinking in these hard-pressed times that anyone starting a new commercial publishing venture must be on something stronger and more refreshing than tea or coffee. The current economic challenges to the publishing industry have been covered here and in many other places, ad nauseam, so you will be glad to know for a change we won’t be going down that much-travelled road. But yes, there are new publishing ventures at the moment, in spite of the current climate which suggests if you have a business of any sort, no matter how strong your core client lists are – it is still time to batten down the hatches for a long dry summer.
Colin Robinson and John Oakes didn’t feel this way and back in April we covered their new publishing venture OR Books which is set to be launched shortly. Their basic premise is to stick to modest print runs, viral marketing, print on demand production and ebooks to help increase the capital they have available to market each title – they are talking in the ballpark of $50 – 75k, and even recession aside, for a small publisher, that is impressive. Only yesterday someone emailed me about the OR Books article and suggested I was being a little cynical and harsh on these new ventures. Perhaps I was, but it is borne out of a genuine concern for all involved — as much as I wish any new publisher or author service well – these things have a knack of going belly-up after a year or two and leave many disgruntled authors in their wake. There is nothing worse than a well-meaning publisher to take on authors, rally a decent initial salvo into the world of independent publishing, only to fall flat on their faces, looking undignified, with their new business model stretched to the point it is in tatters. Outside their windows, a mob of desperate authors gather to try and regain their books publishing rights so they can move on from the sorry mess.
I said at the start of this piece that the natural thought is to assume new publishing ventures do not happen at times like these. Well, actually, nothing could be further from the truth, that is, if you follow the logic through. There are a lot of publishing personnel at the moment kicking stones in the morning on their long walks with the dog in the park. You can only feed the ducks so much and pretty soon the kids and grandkids get sick of the sight of you calling round for a bun and a chat even when you bring the buns!
Yes, we might have cast cursory slights at those out-of-work editors and marketers when they toiled away in publishing houses beyond the burly shoulders of their gatekeepers, but the fact is many editors and founders of small press publishers started out at large commercial houses, beavering away with trays of tea until they earned their studs and were allowed to tackle the slush piles of manuscripts. They earned and got their wings before they flew. Some went on to start literary agencies, PR marketing companies, a few grew old and retired to the seaside to stoke long-haired pussy cats and dream of the day they opened a manuscript on their desk and saw the name Hemmingway, Heaney, Patterson or King. Others, when they feel the hobnail boot of the recession kick them out of their established publishing nests, pause for a moment and contemplate the shower of rain upon them, smell the aroma of the side street gutter, dust themselves off and start afresh. Rediscovered passion married with a sharp inventive mind and the love of books, just for the sake of books sometimes does that to a fellow or a gal.
This promotional snippet is doing the rounds at the moment. Featuring Colin Robinson and John Oakes who will soon be launching OR Books, billed as an 'alternative publisher'. Like many who have viewed and hosted this promotional video on their websites, I'm all for alternatives to traditional publishing, whether that is out and out Self Publishing by an author, Subsidized Publishing or Partnership Publishing. All these forms of publishing ventures and paths utilize print-on-demand digital technology for the most part, and what is more, they have being doing it for more than ten years.
So, I'm not sure what Robinson and Oakes feel is 'new' about their publishing entity beyond perhaps not charging authors to have their books published. Their publishing model seems closest to an Ebook publisher who choose the much in-demand titles to issue paper editions of books.
Without further ado...here's Colin and John...
The above website doesn't give away too much, does it?
Here is a further review of OR Books as of July 2009 with a few more detailed snippets.