A NEW ERA,  A NEW PUBLISHING CONCEPT


        The Hudson Press is a new concept in publishing: an ebook first publisher. 

Apple is on schedule to sell 40 million iPads in 2011, to which must be added millions of ebook readers like the Nook and the Kindle, all connected to the Internet.  The distribution barrier that once was so daunting for new or small presses has vanished almost overnight.  This is the biggest revolution to hit publishing since the invention of the steam-powered rotary press in the 1840s, which made mass production of books and newspapers possible.  

However, we want to make clear that we do not see ourselves as existing in opposition to the traditional publishing industry, nor do we see ourselves as supplanting it.   There will always be printed books.  Books are not like newspapers or magazines that are thrown away after reading, they are objects of value that people keep, and will continue to keep.   

       In the future virtually all new authors and most  new books will debut as ebooks first, because it is so comparatively inexpensive to do so.  Once they have proven they have a market, they will be released in printed form.  Ebooks will be like a proving ground where new ideas and trends are tested and new authors introduced.  This is a good thing.

By shifting new authors and new books to the ebook space we actually seek to stabilize the economic foundations of book publishing, and reopen innovation by introducing new authors and new ideas in books, and also more points of view.   To borrow an old phrase, we come not to bury book publishing, but to save it.  We are authors, too, we love books, the last thing we want to do is destroy them.  


ADDRESSING THE PUBLISHING CRISIS


    In recent years the prices of traditionally printed books have skyrocketed.  It is getting increasingly hard to argue with those who say printed books are pricing themselves beyond their buyers.  At the same time a “star system” is drying up the introduction of new authors. Why is all  this happening?

     One of the reasons the publishing industry cannot afford to develop new authors is that it continues to cling to obsolete methods of printing and distribution.  For example, because so many new releases do not succeed economically, publishers are forced take back millions of volumes from retailers and destroy them.  This ancient but radically inefficient process drives up the cost of books for everyone, and also eats into the income of both publishers and authors.  The distribution and marketing system traditional publishers are locked into also makes it hard for them to move quickly to follow the marketplace.    

    Because publishers have been increasingly taken over by conglomerates focused on short term profits, most publishers responded by focusing on big name authors whose large volume sales produced efficiencies in development, manufacturing, distribution, sales and promotion.  This put a lot of power into the hands of these authors and their agents.  Advances, which were once merely intended to support the author while the work was being created, soared into orbit.  Greed took over.  A vicious circle ensued where escalating demands for advances further drove up costs, leading in turn to an increased emphasis on those expensive stars.  When books failed, as some inevitably would, the losses could nearly bankrupt a publisher. 

   

THE CONSEQUENCES


    Because costs are soaring, publishers can’t afford to develop new authors the way they used to.  A large number of average selling books were once the broad foundation of the industry.    These books today are often bypassed by agents and publishers because they usually only generate modest initial sales, or are not easily categorized.  But these books were always the future of publishing because that is where new writers are nurtured and creative experiments take place, and unlike small releases, provide enough revenue to keep authors working.  Without them the publishing industry is eating its seed corn.  That has now been going on for over a generation, and is another major reason the publishing industry is in such turmoil.  It is facing a creative crisis, not only a technological or financial one.  With every year that passes it becomes harder and harder for new authors to get established, which reduces new ideas, trends and styles, which in turn is reducing the audience for books.  It’s a vicious cycle we have to break. 


THE NEW TECHNOLOGY: CHALLENGE & OPPORTUNITY


A technological challenge from the new ebook readers has brought the problems described above to an inflection point.

    Ebooks are more affordable because electronic publishing creates savings in printing, paper, binding, distribution, and sales, and there are no returns from retailers,  in fact, there are no printing, paper, binding or physical distribution costs at all.  At the same time ebook readers make books easily accessible at any time in any place, all while effectively keeping books in print forever.   It is true that there is a one-time purchase of the device that makes the electronic book available, but  the cost of the initial purchase of the ebook reader is amortized over many years.  Overall, the advantages are immense.  It should be no surprise ebook sales area soaring.


OUR AIMS: NEW BOOKS, NEW IDEAS, A NEW ROAD MAP FOR AUTHORS


Thus the Hudson Press.  We have several related aims.  One is to recreate the space where new authors could be debuted and become recognized.  The lower cost structure of an ebook publisher makes this possible.   At the same time, we intend to make print versions of our books available for those who want them.

It is becoming increasingly clear that in the future that most authors are going to have to go through a preliminary entrepreneurial phase to establish their careers.  Fair or not, authors are going to have to prove their books will sell before agents and publishers will take them on, and some agents are already explicitly saying this.  Once a book is proven in the ebook space, then it can be “graduated” to a traditional publisher and issued in printed book form.

    In this way, ebooks, if used correctly, have the potential to preserve innovation in the book industry, so that we are not locked into having a small number of big name writers completely dominate book sales, and new talent has a chance to develop.  It will also allow us to move more quickly with the market, which does not hurt traditional publishers because they cannot do that anyway.

This change should serve to actually solidify the economic base of the entire book industry by eliminating much of the risk in publishing, for instance, by reducing the number of books that do not succeed economically, their returns and pulping.


THE PROBLEM WITH SELF-PUBLISHING THAT WILL NEVER GO AWAY


An obvious question poses itself:  why not just self-publish? 

For one, In the midst of all this change, readers will always need publishers to alert them to quality work that deserves their scarce time and dollars.   Although it is easier than ever to self-publish, thanks to the ebook revolution, that actually makes all the problems of self-publishing worse: recognition, development, promotion, and so much more.  Book publishing always has had a quality of adding more needles to the haystack.  Ebooks and the Internet in some ways makes that problem even worse.  Writers are always going to need publishers to help them stand out and be recognized.  In effect, the goal of The Hudson Press is to lower costs without simultaneously so lowering the bar or barriers to entrance that no one can gain recognition and success at all.  That is a real danger.  Every author needs to be able to say others have endorsed and vetted their work, and readers need that to know they are not wasting their precious time and dollars.   The problems self-publishing presents are structurally inherent, and can never entirely go away.   

    For instance, one of the real dangers self-publishing poses for authors is that when a book has not been picked up for representation or sale, an ambiguity exists—  it is still possible a book could get agented and published.  However, when an author self-publishes, that ambiguity evaporates: all doubt is now removed.   It is now certain that the author could not get an agent, and the book did not get signed for publication.  

    Any author considering self-publishing needs to think long and hard about the ramifications of this reality.  

    There are many books that deserve publication that nonetheless do not get picked up by publishers.  But self-publishing out of anger or frustration is not the answer, if the book is of that quality.  There are now real alternatives.


THE SOCIAL FACTORS: WE ALL NEED SUPPORT NETWORKS


But there are vital human factors, too.  Writing is a lonely life, and writers will always need their editors not only for social reasons, but for an outside, professional view to help their work realize its potential.  Publishers will remain, even if they do what they do in innovative ways.   

    Publishing at its best has always been a true and mutually beneficial partnership between authors and publishers, they need each other, and always will.   Making change work by empowering and enabling others is the pathway to success in the Internet age, and that is our goal at The Hudson Press.

 

ABOUT THE HUDSON PRESS