By Guy LeCharles Gonzalez, Chief Executive Optimist, Digital Book World
A cynic is not merely one who reads bitter lessons from the past, he is one who is prematurely disappointed in the future.
—Sidney J. Harris, Journalist (1917–1986)
2010 has been a tumultuous year in the publishing industry, and while there’s no shortage of doom-saying pundits eager to sign its death certificate, there’s actually plenty to be excited about.
Back in August, I asked a number of colleagues why they were optimistic about books, and their responses turned into one of our most popular posts ever, so I decided to do it again, this time asking for something they were specifically excited about here at the end of 2010.
Here’s how they responded:
“I’m excited about the future of publishing for several reasons, the most significant of which is that publishers are, by and large, out of hand-wringing mode and are into action mode. Most have now engaged in some sort of reflection on what their specific value is in the community of books and readers. Most have realized that they are now as much merchandizers as they are marketers, and that they need to bring value directly to readers in a way they haven’t had to before. Their strategies are becoming more clear, and how each publisher pursues their own particular strategy will be very exciting to watch (and support)! I believe, that the pursuit of these new strategies will beget a whole ration of new ideas that will propel us into a new era of publishing, that even the most visionary among us has yet to see!”
—Fran Toolan, Chief Igniter, Firebrand
“I’m really excited about the scope and reach of transmedia (especially as I’m just back from TEDx Transmedia in Geneva and have spoken to lots of entertainment industry people who are just beginning to ‘click’ with it)! So, I continue to be extremely excited about the current evolution of storytelling, in ways that transcend platform and genre. When choreographed elegantly and with relevance, transmedia will extend story far beyond, and outside of, the book. Transmedia storytelling has the possibility to put the reader into the story and I’m hopeful that over the next 12 months we will begin to see transmedia novels organically written from a new breed of writer for this new breed of reader and publisher! The union of a publisher’s vision, a reader’s imagination and a transmedia writer’s craft will be explosive and revolutionary, but may require publishers to loosen their collars a little and nurture media partnerships with other entertainment industries!”
—Alison Norrington, Transmedia producer & writer
“I hesitate to use the word transmedia but I’m excited about the fact that creators and publishers have more and more opportunities to communicate ideas, stimulate thought and debate, and fulfill wishes using a range of techniques. We are no longer limited by format but can see ourselves as facilitators in the relationships between creators and consumers; and the other exciting thing is that those relationships can now be more two-way than ever before.”
—Rebecca Smart, Managing Director, Osprey Publishing/Shire
“I think the thing that makes me most optimistic at this point is the fact that I see publishers of all shapes and sizes finally doing more than paying lip service to change. Only twelve or eighteen months ago (with a few exceptions) there was considerably more talk than action and most of the action was in the nature of attempting to replicate or overlay traditional workflows and business models with their digital counterparts. What I see and feel now is the realization that, for most, simply retooling old models, forms and processes isn’t enough and I see them moving toward real change. Some will work, some won’t… but I think at least the wheels are turning toward fundamental change in a positive way.”
—Don Linn, former owner/CEO of Consortium Book Sales & Distribution
“I’m excited about how, two years after StartwithXML, publishers are finally re-aligning their production/composition processes for print and digital instead of running them on two parallel tracks. I’m excited that both ebooks (which you HAVE to buy online) and the inexorable migration to online shopping even for print books is forcing publishers to confront their metadata issues as an SEO strategy. So I’m thrilled to be an utter geek.”
—Laura Dawson, Content Chief, Firebrand
“I’m excited about the iPad. Love it or hate it, people are now seriously looking at tablet computers as a great source of portable entertainment, and ereaders are a huge part of that drive. It seems like more people around me are reading than ever before.”
—Eddy Webb, World of Darkness Developer, White Wolf Publishing
“I’m just excited to ship, man! Ship books, ship code. All talk and no work makes Dick a dull boy…”
—Richard Nash, Founder, Cursor
“I’m chuffed over the fact that as bad as things are in Library Land, I’m still encountering young bloods who love the profession, are kicking its ass artfully into the 21st century, and are chipping away toward their MLIS degrees, money be damned. Some say ebooks will sink libraries; I say the committed pros and parapros, in tandem with their publishing supporters, will find a way to extend access to all readers.”
—Heather McCormack, Book Review Editor, Library Journal
“I’m really excited about the next generation of publishing leaders who I see reaching and rising, with passion, vigor, intrigue and enthusiasm. These digital natives are facing the anachronistic issues of the book industry with fresh eyes, and from a different perspective. Top on my list of people to watch are Iris Blasi, Colleen O’Connell, Marny Smith, Marian Schembari, Ryan Chapman, and Ami Greko.”
—Debbie Stier, Director of Digital Marketing, HarperCollins
“I’m thrilled to see the growth of OpenSky, an e-commerce platform that’s all about sharing more of what you love. Authors can use this service seamlessly with their own site or social networking efforts. It’s one of the best tools I’ve seen to help authors build a sustainable business model that doesn’t rely on publishers or book sales.”
—Jane Friedman, former Publisher of Writer’s Digest
Can I double the pleasure? I’m flipped out about two books. Peepo Choo vol. 1 (Vertical Inc.), the first book in new manga series by Felipe Smith, a fabulous talent and one of very few Americans (and likely the only American/West Indian/Argentinian) working as a mangaka in the Japanese manga industry. It’s a hilarious, sex-charged farce about mutual cultural misapprehension when an American otaku gets to see the real Japan. And Adam Hines’ Duncan the Wonder Dog (AdHouse Books), his first published work, is a mindblowing graphic novel masterwork about a world where animals are in communication (and in conflict) with humans over their treatment.
—Calvin Reid, Senior News Editor, Publishers Weekly / Co-editor, PW Comics Week
I’ll add my own two cents to this to say I’m excited by some of the new transmedia-centric business models that are popping up, including the announcements of Macmillan Films and Random House’s partnership with Hammer Films, and Scott Walker’s idea of Participatory Entertainment and the proof of concept he’s building in Runes of Gallidon.
Unlike Philip Roth, I don’t believe the book is in competition with the screen, but that the two are converging and the publishers who see that convergence as an opportunity to tell better, more engaging stories are the ones who will succeed in the digital age.
What about you? How do you answer the question: “What’s exciting you in publishing right now?”
Interested in learning more about using transmedia storytelling and cross-media strategies? Join us at StoryWorld, the only major gathering of industry leaders, decision makers, and transmedia specialists, to explore new business models, innovative partnerships, and fresh revenue streams.