With so much commercial hype about how to publish a book, I was delighted to come across an article by Jim Barnes titled "Publisher Up!" in Independent Publisher (Volume 8 - Number 7).

Preceding the article is an excerpt from an essay by Jonathan Karp, editor-in-chief of Twelve, an imprint of Warner Books. The essay was published in the Washington Post (June 29):

"The barriers to entry in the book business get lower each year. There are thousands of independent publishers and even more self-publishers. These players will soon have the same access to readers as major publishers do, once digital distribution and print-on-demand technology enter the mainstream.

"When that happens, publishers will lose their greatest competitive advantage: the ability to distribute books widely and effectively.

"Those who publish generic books for expedient purposes will face new competitors. Like the music companies, some of those publishers may shrink or die.

"Many categories of books will be subsumed by digital media. Reference publishing has already migrated online. Practical nonfiction will be next, winding up on Web sites that can easily update and disseminate visual and textual information.

"Readers of old-fashioned genre fiction will die off, and the next generation will have so many different entertainment options that it's hard to envision the same level of loyalty to brand-name formula fiction coming off the conveyor belt every year. The novelists who are truly novel will thrive; the rest will struggle.

"Consequently, publishers will be forced to invest in works of quality to maintain their niche. These books will be the one product that only they can deliver better than anyone else.

"Those same corporate executives who dictate annual returns may begin to proclaim the virtues of research and development, the great engine of growth for business. For publishers, R&D means giving authors the resources to write the best books--works that will last, because the lasting books will, ultimately, be where the money is."

Quality books with lasting value

Publishers will be forced to invest in works of quality to maintain their niche. These books will be the one product that only they can deliver better than anyone else.

At last! One cry amidst the multitude for quality publishing Thank you, Jonathan Karp.

My own company, Dandelion Books, was built on the same foundation: quality books for readers who want and expect the best. There will always be a place for pulp fiction and disposable books, just as there will always be comic book readers and pop culture fans. Not everyone has to like Picasso--or Bela Bartok--or John Ashbery.

Dandelion fashioned its image after one of my favorite former publishing houses, Grove Press. Barney Rosset, its founder and editor-in-chief, has been cited as "the greatest American publisher of the twentieth century and the most influential cultural figure that you haven’t heard of. Under Rosset, Grove Press and Evergreen Review fought decisive battles, including many before the state and federal supreme courts, defeated legal censorship, and opened American life to new and dangerous currents of freedom. But Rosset’s public fight against hypocrisy and injustice is inextricable from his tumultuous personal life: the same unyeilding, quixotic, restless energy that upended centuries of law brought Rosset perilously close to destruction." --Double O Film

Grove Press was avant garde publishing at its best. If the truth hurts, it can also set you free.

Although Rosset never gave a fig about being politically correct, Karp may have to be more careful; his imprint is still tied to a corporate parent. Yet even if the jury is still out when it comes to risk-taking, clearly he is betting on the future. These days it is more than enough to make a commitment to bring forth books that have lasting value.

Every title that Dandelion has published falls into that category... even those books that were censored, burned or banned (or perhaps more so, for exactly that reason).

And now, the "Publisher Up!" article

Writes Jim Barnes: "...now that we've put away our beach toys and the new sales season begins, it's going to be EVEN HARDER to break through and acheive marketing and sales success. As Jonathan Karp states above, success in publishing is a game of chance, and the odds keep getting longer as more players join the game.

"...visit (Karp's) website of his publishing imprint 12, and read his mission statement explaining how they'll publish no more than one book a month, 'by authors who have a unique perspective and compelling authority.' He adds this wise statement: 'To sell the book is only the beginning of our mission. To build avid audiences of readers who are enriched by these works--that is our ultimate purpose.'

"This issue's lead article spotlights the like-minded Colorado independent publisher, Fulcrum, and how they nabbed acclaimed author Laura Pedersen from the New York houses to top their fall list. 'The big publishers have become more 'accounting model' driven, and have also focused less on editorial engagement," says Fulcrum's publisher Sam Scinta. "We have been able to attract several authors who have published with the bigger houses because of how we do our business.'

"Scinta goes on to explain how Fulcrum supports books and authors for the long haul and builds strong author-editor relationships. Pedersen notes that during four years and four novels with a Random House imprint, she worked with five different editors and five different publicists. 'The typical editor-writer Manhattan lunch became somewhat of a bad blind date since I knew we’d probably never meet again, even if according to the zodiac we were both air signs,' she says.

"Publishers like Karp and Scinta are trying to change this way of doing business and bring back the decency and dignity of books and publishing. I subtitled this issue 'PUBLISHER UP!' as a nod to Western publishing and because I attended a rodeo over Labor Day weekend. (Cowboy Up! means, of course: when the going gets tough, work harder and smarter.)

"I think it's our hope for the future not only of publishing, but for society, that we as authors and publishers assure that the book regains its status and America becomes an avid book culture once again. We need to get beyond the noise of advertiser-dominated mass communication and back to the thoughtful exchange of ideas that books provide. The 'dumbing-down' of America has to stop, and literacy plays a big part. Disposable books have a place, but we owe ourselves much more."

Hooray for Jim Barnes! Hooray for Karp and Scinta!

Author's Bio: 

Carol Adler, MFA’s first ghost-written book listing her name as co-editor, Why Am I Still Addicted? A Holistic Approach to Recovery, was endorsed by Deepak Chopra, M.D., and published by McGraw-Hill. Other publications include three novels, four books of poetry, and well over 200 poems in literary journals. She has ghostwritten over 40 non-fiction and fiction works for a number of professionals in the education, health care and human potential industries.

Carol is President of Dandelion Books, LLC of Tempe, Arizona; a full service publishing company. She is also President and CEO of Dandelion Enterprises, Inc., Write to Publish for Profit and President of the International Arts & Media Foundation, a non-profit subsidiary of Dandelion Enterprises, Inc.

Her business experience includes co-ownership of a Palm Beach, FL public relations company and executive management positions in two U.S. rejuvenation and mind/body wellness corporations, for which she founded publishing divisions.

Carol has served as editor of several poetry and literary magazines. Her career experience includes extensive teaching of college-level creative and business writing, and conducting of writing workshops in prisons, libraries, elementary, junior and high schools, and senior citizen centers.

Additional Resources on Publishing can be found at:

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Carol Adler, The Official Guide to Publishing