Today, I’ve got a guest blogger – Lou Aronica of The Story Plant. Lou has a long history in the publishing industry and he is launching a new venture dedicated to commercial fiction. He’s making the rounds of the blogs thanks to the good folks at Virtual Book Tours, talking about his new publishing venture and their upcoming titles.
I love the fact that he talks about new technology! You know my fondness for audiobooks and audio downloads, and I firmly believe that if the publishing industry doesn’t embrace technology, they’re going to end up like the recording industry did – trying desperately to catch up with their audience. I’m glad to see someone agrees with me and I will be looking forward to seeing how they put their plans into action.
Lou Aronica, on his return to publishing:
It’s a classic movie-of-the-week plotline: man comes back to his hometown after a long absence to discover that everything has changed. In essence, I’ve just returned to my “hometown” by starting a new independent publishing house after nine years of visiting other locales as a writer. My first steps into the old neighborhood were shaky ones: during my first presentation at Perseus (our distributor), my mouth was so dry that I had trouble forming some words. Since I usually love speaking in public, this was a clear indication that I’d placed some very high expectations on this trip back home.
Surprisingly, though, I discovered that most of the old neighborhood seemed familiar. The Big Man on Campus (B&N) was still very much the same. The Cool Kid (Amazon) was still cool and had grown into a prominent member of the community. The Town Council (the sales force) still held their meetings with a combination of measured enthusiasm and words of caution. And the taxman still required significant payments (in the form of co-op) if you wanted to live on the right side of the tracks. Of course, some of the locals I’d come to love (a large number of independent booksellers) had passed on and several others were in Critical Care. And my favorite playground (the mass market paperback) now looked worn, beaten, and beyond repair.
In fact, this story didn’t seem to be following the movie-of-the-week plot at all. In many ways, my return home wasn’t nearly as surprising as I expected it to be. I’m sure that had something to do with my staying in touch with a number of the friends I grew up with, but much of it was because not that much had changed. Sure, this Inter-Web guy is running all over the place claiming he has the answer for everything. And there seem to be fewer people around. But, in all, the place is very much the way I left it.
And I find this a little disquieting. I mean, many of the downtown shops needed some renovating. And the houses on Main Street could still use a new coat of paint and some landscaping. While it was comforting to know that the industry hadn’t moved on without me, I would have welcomed a jaw-dropping discovery or two. When I left this side of the business in 1999, I believed that we were on the cusp of innovation. If anything, we seem less on the cusp now than we did then.
Of course, if I’d started The Story Plant nine years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to blog about it. I wouldn’t have been able to say, “Hey, check out the great music video we did for American Quest at http://www.americanquestbook.com/.” That’s exciting stuff, and at The Story Plant, we intend to make use of every opportunity that technology provides us. At the same time, though, I look at the other entertainment fields and wish we weren’t so provincial. The music industry has iTunes and Rhapsody, and dozens of different ways for new bands to get their music in front of you. The movie industry has digital delivery to theatres, digital delivery to your laptop, Netflix, and realistic options for making great-looking films on tiny budgets. Television streams reruns online, offers all kinds of ancillary and sidebar stories on its websites, and lets us use DVRs to pause and even rewind live performances. Even the internet itself has become a genuine entertainment medium.
Back in my old-fashioned neighborhood, we don’t take kindly to that newfangled stuff. E-books? Maybe for people on the fringes of our society, but not for most of our citizens. Books that employ supplementary web material? That’s just crazy talk.
I love being home. I missed the people and, now that we’ve settled into the new shop, it feels really good to be meeting and greeting the customers again. I just wish it didn’t feel so eerily familiar.
I guess we’ll have to do something about that.