Profiles in Publishing #2: Ron Hogan, The Tao Redux and Channel V Books
Profiles in Publishing is a continuing investigation into the brave new world of publishing at JS Media Blog by Judy Sandra. PIP will be a series of articles and interviews about methods and movers, reporting on who is exploring, who is inhabiting and who is succeeding in the new publishing landscape.
For the past few years, I have had the good fortune to be acquainted with author, blogger and e-marketing consultant Ron Hogan. Ron is possibly the best informed online expert in the book world, having been one of the creators of the literary Internet by launching Beatrice.com in 1995. Beatrice.com was originally a portal for interviews with prominent authors and later became a leading book review blog. It is probably the most established ongoing book blog on the Internet.
In the past, Ron has been a category editor for Amazon.com, a freelance writer in the book world, and a driving force at Mediabistro.com’s book blog Galleycat.com, which he revamped and where for four years he edited and wrote about the book business. He left Galleycat.com to work in corporate publishing as the e-marketing director for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Ron is currently an e-marketing consultant for authors, small publishers and bookstores.
I caught up with Ron last week for his take on the state of book marketing for established and new authors and the phenomenon of alternative book publishing and his new publisher Channel V Books.
Ron on Book Marketing
JS: One trend I had been noticing lately is that a number of mid-list, established writers have been taking back their publishing and either becoming small, independent publishers or just self-publishing POD authors, succeeding on their platform of an established audience for their work. What’s happening with the back-list these days?
RH: I see a lot of untapped opportunities in the back-list, but if the traditional houses don’t take advantage of those opportunities authors will have to rise to the occasion.
JS: As more mid-list established authors are breaking away from big houses, which put all their energy and money behind what I call the “blockbuster model”, what will be the fate of these kinds of authors?
RH: I see three possibilities for the mid-list writer:
1. As larger houses continue to pursue the ‘blockbuster model’, they will reduce the opportunity to work the mid-list. We’ve already seen cases where authors have been dumped and gone over to smaller presses, for example Matthew Sharpe (Jamestown, The Sleeping Father). Independent presses will rise to the occasion.
2. Established authors can self-publish on their own, as in the case of J.A. Konrath (Origin, The List). Because Konrath already has a large built-in audience and author platform, this model works for him. But it’s hard for a new author to come out of nowhere and be that successful, and it’s a lot of work.
3. We are seeing the rise of publishers who are e-books first. That is going to be more and more of an option. With the prices of e-readers dropping and as the e-book market increases, there will be more opportunities with publishers who deal exclusively in e-books to cultivate really good books.
JS: Marketing is time-consuming work, and as a writer you must keep writing as well. Sometimes it’s just not possible to be all things at once; there are only 24 hours in a day. What advice would you give to authors about getting some outside help for marketing and promotion?
RH: If you’re a writer, you’re a small business. One aspect of that business is the writing, but you should be aware of the other aspects of being a small business person, including marketing and publicity. Hiring someone for your marketing or publicity is no different than hiring someone to build your office or do your plumbing. Yes, you could do those things yourself, but there is no shame in hiring a professional builder. Why should it be any different for your marketing?
JS: You have recently moved into consulting for authors and booksellers. How will you be helping people in the book profession now?
RH: I want to specialize in is helping people do the things that are necessary for people to promote themselves but that are sometimes difficult, and I would show them how to do that effectively themselves. But there are a lot of areas that are labor intensive, where I would be more than happy to say that I know specialists that I can refer you to.
JS: In what way do you think hiring a professional or consultant is different than trying to go it totally on your own?
RH: There are certain aspects of book marketing and promotion in which a professional perspective can be very beneficial. Professionals have certain contacts in the industry, a history of expertise and experience in the field.
Ron and Channel V Books
Ron’s former e-book Getting Right With Tao: A Contemporary Spin on the Tao Te Ching was downloaded 100,000 times before being recently published by the new alternative publisher Channel V books, and is now available in paperback and Kindle versions.
I chatted with Gretel Going, partner/founder of Channel V Books, to learn more about her new book publishing venture:
Channel V Books arose out of the marketing and pr company Channel V Media [founded by partners Gretel Going and Kate Fleming], which works with business thought leaders and other industry experts to create and expand their individual or company platforms. Many of Channel V Media’s clients’ natural next step, following the establishment and growth of their platforms, was often to go out and seek a book deal from a traditional publishing house. Channel V Media would then launch PR and marketing campaigns to promote the book in order to earn back their advance. CVM ultimately realized that all they weren’t doing for these clients was publishing their books
Calling themselves “a new publishing model for a new media climate,” Channel V Books eliminates the middlemen by acting as an in-house POD and wholesale book producer and distributor for their clients. The client now assumes all the risk, but also receives a considerably higher percentage of the profits, up to 50% of the wholesale book price, which helps them recoup their upfront investments and even profit. CVB also covers all the book production services of editing, design, management and promotion plus distribution and fulfillment.
Says Ms. Going: “More and more, we’ve opened the doors to non-clients like Ron Hogan, who have great existing platforms and are just looking for a more streamlined approach to book publishing—something that eliminates the hassle of self publishing yet offers more freedom and flexibility than the big houses. A year and a half wait on a book with time-sensitive subject matter, for instance, is just not an option for most authors—especially those trying to position themselves in front of a conversation. Publishing models that don’t cater to peoples’need for a quick turnaround or take advantage of existing technology to eliminate other problems that can make traditional and self- publishing painful are eventually going to lose a lot of interest. Since Ron is an online junkie like us, he needed something to cater to the way he works (in real time, and fast!). And because we like authors with great platforms and stories, he was obviously a perfect author for us.”
JS: Ron, how do companies like Channel V Books impact the major publishers, the publishing industry?
RH: There are definitely openings for people to try and publish books in these kinds of innovative ways, and I believe that we’re going to see a lot more of them.
JS: Do you see this kind of new publishing alternative as a trend?
RH: Yes, I do. There will be a lot of entrepreneurial people launching small publishing companies catering to niche markets.
Ron Hogan is also the author of The Stewardess Is Flying the Plane, a visual tribute to ’70s Hollywood and was a contributor to the New York Times bestseller Not Quite What I Was Planning and the critical anthology Secrets of the Lost Symbol. Interviews from Beatrice.com have been republished in Conversations with Kazuo Ishiguro and Conversations with Bharati Mukherjee.
Ron can be found at www.ronhogan.net and www.beatrice.com.