- Created on Friday, 24 February 2012 10:02
There are ideas and then THERE ARE IDEAS. Clearly, not all ideas are created equal. I have been struggling with the whole self-publish vs traditional publish quandary for a long time now and have been procrastinating, horribly, because it occurs to me that both paradigms are fundamentally flawed and I don't want to commit just yet to either. Traditional publishing models are something akin to VC start-ups where publishers hope to align their understanding of what they believe the market has an appetite for with content they will feel will fill that gap. Risks abound on both sides of the fence; the opportunity cost the authors incur by investing huge amounts of time into creating untested content, which possibly no one will buy, is huge. The advances on royalties, the act of creating book-runs, tours, promotions and advertising all eat into money that should, by rights, go to the authors and editors.
The other problem with traditional authoring, for want of a better word, is it's usually done in a hole. It is almost cliché to think of writers disappearing from the world, a retreat to the cabin at the lake, while they pound away on their now metaphorical typewriters creating reams of pages or digital content. The end goal is the belief that, at the end of numerous rounds of content revision, they will have something polished, something worthwhile, something worth buying, and something marketable. Then, and especially for new authors, there begins the process of submission, of getting agents on board, of somehow being the manuscript to stand out on desks groaning under the weight of the slush pile backlog. This is often the most disheartening time for authors, there has been so much emotional investment into polishing what you thought was a gem; to find out it's actually a Dorodango can be soul-destroying.
I’ve been doing a lot of reading about Lean Publishing, the concept that books are released into the wild as they are written. Communities spring up around content and the author gets a voice, the ability to communicate with an audience and to test that there is a market for the content they're creating. The whole concept hinges on real-time feedback about what is working in the book and what is not. If no fish bite, if you exhaust a social strategy to drum up interest, then perhaps you’re working on a Dorodango and you could better spend your time on something else.
Coming from a technology background, especially one that utilises lean (or agile) development methodologies, the synthesis of this type of thinking in an industry groaning under the weight of it own flailing decade-old ideologies is tremendously exciting. This morning an idea arrived in my head of how to create the tools to guide authors through this process, how to allow them to create a voice in a world awash with digital noise, and to have at the end of the process a tested end-product that already has a social voice and a place in the market. It took me about an hour to get it get it all down in my notebook and I think I managed to capture most of it. Now I just need the time or the seed capital to see it through. Perhaps I could get this to fly through Kickstarter.