Kevin Kelly reports on his blog about an experimental book publishing model. In this model you first sell a required amount of (hard cover) books (in this specific case 200), enough to cover for the costs of the print run, after which the book is made available online for free as a downloadable PDF. Actually this is just a variant of the delayed Open Access model, in which after a certain embargo time the books or journals are made Open Access. What I like however about the example Kelly mentions of the New Liberal Arts book, a Snarkmarket/Revelator Press collaboration, is how they combine this delayed Open Access model with a community support or maecenas model. Stressing the importance of patronage they state on their website:
“We’ll post a PDF online, free for everyone—but only after we sell this run of 200 real, physical objects. So think of it this way: You’re not just buying a thought-provoking, take-it-to-the-coffee-shop book for yourself. You’re buying access for everybody. You’re a patron of the new liberal arts!”
Of course, as Kelly also says, you need an audience big enough to be able to offer both a print run and on online edition. And here’s where word of mouth marketing comes in handy. And it definitely worked in this case where the print edition sold out in less than eight hours, as the website again states:
“New Liberal Arts, a Snarkmarket/Revelator Press collaboration, is the beginning of an attempt to describe topics, disciplines, and methods of inquiry essential to any 21st century education. Ranging from “attention economics” to “video literacy,” New Liberal Arts is a glimpse into the course catalog of an idiosyncratic new school—a liberal arts college 2.0 New Liberal Arts went on sale on July 7 in a limited edition of 200 copies at Snarkmarket. The initial print run sold out in less than 8 hours.”
Revelator press, which publishes e-chapbooks for the masses, maintains another business model, where they put their books online for free, hoping they will gather enough response and attention to be able to sell print editions. Probably a saver model to use where there is a lack of an audience from the start, and even a small print run of 200 copies can already be a huge financial failure. Maybe POD, as its quality is improving enormously at the moment, could offer some more possibilities for similar presses. Revelator Press has an excellent Q& A section where they explain their choice for a free model. I love it so I have added it underneath. Also be sure to take a look at there beautiful designed e-chapbooks consisting of poetry, drama and short stories. I for example loved this one: Nine Poems by Gavin Graig.
A: e-chapbooks for the masses.
Q: What the hell does that mean?
A: I’ll level with you. We know some people. These people write. Good stuff. It’s really hard to get things published (yeah, I know, cry me a river), so we’re going to put some of this stuff out there. Free.
A: Sure, the first one is always free.
Q: What’s the catch?
A: No catch. We’re betting that you’ll like it, and you’ll come back to read more.
Q: So this is like one of those record club things, where you’ll start mailing me stuff I don’t want, and charge me if I don’t return it?
A: Nope. We’re not in it for the money. We want to get people talking, and maybe if enough people get talking, or the right people in the right places, then maybe you’ll see some of these people in Poetry, or The New Yorker, or on the new release table in your local bookstore. You can buy stuff then.
Q: Real publication? You think these people are that good?
A: Who am I, Harold Bloom? These people are good writers. Read them. Tell them what you like and don’t like.
Q: Tell them? This thing is interactive?
A: This is a blog, isn’t it? Join the 21st century.
Q: How do I keep up?
A: Subscribe to our rss feed (http://revelatorpress.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default). You can keep an eye on the discussion there, and we’ll post original work, in PDF form, every four to six weeks or so.
Q: Anything else?
A: Yeah. Tell your friends.