When envious eyes aren't smiling: #FutureChat recap

Image - iStockphoto: PatterPhoto
Image – iStockphoto: PatterPhoto

‘Beware blanket dismissal.’

All endeavors need innovators in this changing environment. #BabyBathwater

Ron Martinez’ cautionary comments arrived on the #FutureChat hashtag after our weekly live session had closed on Friday. But his point is a good one. To put together his tweets in sequence;

Empathize a moment. Innovators are Promethean: may bring a benefit, but most end up as bird food. Some prone to hyperbole, because investors want to know there’s a big transformational story. The hard work — and personal risk — of delivering value asks only your open mind and forbearance.

There’s a good point here, of course. No doubt start-ups trying to capture funding feel pressured to promise the sun, the moon, and a couple of asteroids if not planets. Sure.

Ron Martinez

Martinez knows something about innovation and investment in the publishing space. He’s the founder and c.e.o. of Aerbook, based in San Francisco, and he’s managed to hang on with that start-up for some five years: After the announcement that HarperCollins was working with Aerbook on a pilot programme offering previews of top-selling books to web and social network users, Martinez wrote a piece for us here at The FutureBook, ‘You are the destination’: Aerbook’s ‘native commerce’ for publishing.

But if you are the sales-pitch target, not “the destination,” of start-ups in the author-services space, you might have a somewhat less patient response to the wooing of authors through outsized promises.

Such as? A memoir-creation service for “ordinary people” exhibiting at London Book Fair said in a statement it sent to me that it has “taken Europe by storm.” #Cmonson. If that kind of claptrap is what it takes to get investors, then you’re chasing some very dimwitted investors.

And what Martinez had picked up on in the aftermath of the chat was a potential for abuse, and not just in the independent-author end of things.

“I’ve seen authors burned by old and new models,” Bublish creator and chief Kathy Meis. “Need a better way to separate wheat from chaff.”

Philip Jones
Philip Jones

All this had been precipitated by my colleague Philip Jones’ able commentary in Friday’sThe Bookseller. In The grand illusion, he wrote of the bustling, profitable London Book Fair pace and tenor. But the major powers are, he wrote, just one part of the picture.

Around them [the big houses] and in the galleries above them, envious eyes looked on. Many within this wider firmament of smaller publishers, start-ups, and service companies whisper darkly about how the business model is broken, yet the rights activity at LBF tells us otherwise.

Where is the “new model,” he wrote, to prove the wrongful ways of the old model? The consensus seemed to be that this new model — if it’s in place at all — is likely represented by a fragmenting of so many aggregated services offered by traditional publishers into myriad, isolated operations.

As usual, I’ll hit just some highlights of the discussion that followed Friday, with gratitude to all who participated. What came across is that some predictable biases to exist. Writers may be more concerned about being misled by author-services hype and confusions of terminology than they worry about the plight of start-ups looking for funding. And if they start by feeling ill-served by traditional publishing, they may have little patience for what appears too them to be misrepresented when it comes to the many, many overtures by that “wider firmament” to authors.

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By Porter Ander­son

The FutureBook:  #FutureChat recap: When envious eyes aren’t smiling

Read the full post at: TheBookseller.com/futurebook


Join The Bookseller’s The FutureBook #FutureChat each Friday at 4 p.m. London (BST), 5 p.m. Rome (CEST), 11 a.m. New York (ET), 10 a.m. Chicago (CT), 9 a.m. Denver (MT), 8 a.m. Los Angeles (PT), 5 a.m. Honolulu (HAST).


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