Nathan Bransford, Author


Thursday, June 26, 2008

12: Imprint...... of the Future

I don't know if you knew this, but today is a holiday for me -- NBA Draft day!! Happy NBA Draft day everyone!!

Anyone who has not seen the NBA Draft is truly missing out. The poor fashion choices! The awkward interviews! Moms losing their minds and bursting into tears when their sons are chosen! NBA commissioner David Stern getting booed by the crowd at Madison Square Garden! Oh, and teams make their draft picks too. It's really one of the most compelling nights of television. For me, the NBA Draft is kind of like Christmas and the 4th of July and Halloween combined ONLY BETTER.

Meanwhile, I'm having a very busy day and will make this a short post.

I'm a little late to this party, but a few weeks back Moonrat had a great post about Jonathan Karp's imprint 12, which everyone should definitely check out.

Essentially, Karp's imprint is built around a simple concept: they publish one book a month and try and make them all bestsellers.

Moonrat really does a great job breaking down what this means, and if I may add my own interpretation, Karp is nailing one crucial fact about the publishing industry: when a publisher is really focused and really committed to a book, they can work wonders. When they don't? Uh. They always do! Nothing to see here NBA Draft tonight.

As publishers move in the direction of smaller lists and bigger books, to some degree or another they're probably going to emulate Karp's model. So familiarize yourself with that imprint, because it's one of several imprints that are redefining how publishers will operate in the 21st century.






36 comments:

Adaora A. said...

Why are you so cool Nathan? The NBA Draft is the best time of year, and I believe it should be an official holiday. They have something called 'family day' over here, and I think we should chuck that and have NBA D day. Oh that would be brilliant. Knew you'd mention it.

The players with their mis-matched ties (green and purple), with ugly, pinstripped suits and green sneakers. They look like giants next to the team owner. It's amazing.

I have heard of this trend, it just puts more pressure on us to put out a book that creates enough heat and hype.

C.J. said...

yes, being from MN, i'm still getting used to the whole 'being allowed to have a first round draft pick' thing. apparently, all you have to do is pick the most overrated guard and the rest works itself out from there (randy foye, rashad mccants, oj mayo).

Anonymous said...

This post is really relevant to the last one. I read the link about Karp's project (very interesting, thanks for that, Nathan!), and came across this:

"First, Jon (Karp) calls himself a strong believer in the gestational process. He points out that most mistakes that cause a book to fail come from deadline pressure. He also says that the few authors he chooses (or "gets") to work with he likes to acquire years in advance, and collaborate with on many slow edits."

Hmm. Book a year, anyone?

Dan said...

What are other imprints publishers may start to emulate?

Reading about Twelve made me think that a publisher could similarly do 24. Then the ominous red numbers and thumping seconds of the tv show entered my head... because I know my team (the Cavs) will waste its time on the clock tonight and make some ill-guided decision. They need to hire Jack Bauer as GM.

Nathan Bransford said...

dan-

Vanguard is another, I'll talk about that one too at some point.

K.C. Shaw said...

Thanks for the link! I hadn't heard about 12 before.

At first glance it seems like a great idea, but then I started wondering if some of my favorite books would have been published under that type of scheme. Focusing so completely on molding bestsellers leads to a certain sameness of books produced. I don't think there's enough variety in bookstores as it is.

I think that if Amazon and Sony and all the other ebook reader makers would stop trying to make THEIR particular software THE software, and instead produce a well-designed, easy to use reader that is inexpensive and will work with any type of document format, more people would make the move to ebooks.

I just don't want to go to the bookstore and find 80 copies of 12's book of the month, and nothing I actually want to read.

Richard Mabry said...

Nathan,
Enjoy. I won't be watching the draft, since the Dallas Mavericks traded away their draft choices for a mess of pottage. On the other hand, if it were the World Series....

Anonymous said...

I'm with K.C. Shaw on this:
"Focusing so completely on molding bestsellers leads to a certain sameness of books produced."
and this:
"I just don't want to go to the bookstore and find 80 copies of 12's book of the month, and nothing I actually want to read."

On the other hand, I wonder if the markets will go the other way and become more like TV: more channels and more specialized channels.

Or maybe both ends of the market will develop: publishers who focus on big books with wide, common-denominator appeal, and small publishers and self-publishers putting out a wide variety of books with smaller audiences.

JES said...

Maybe I misread Moonrat's "manifesto" when she posted it. But it didn't seem like a sign of the coming apocalypse to me.

I thought it was great news for me as a reader, and bad -- or at least scary -- news for me as a writer.

But I was also impressed by some of the comments to her post, from other (skeptical) industry professionals...

I remember a Doonesbury cartoon from years ago. Roland Burton Headley (or whatever his name is -- the pompous TV news reporter with the safari jacket) was reporting from the front of one war or another. (They tend to blend together in my memory.) He interviewed someone on one side of a question and then he interviewed someone on the other. His final commentary in the last panel went something like, "So there you have it: the only thing we can say for certain is that we can't say anything for certain."

For some reason that seemed relevant to the Twelve story.

r.k.l. said...

I know one of the authors to have book out with these guys. He says only incredible things about them, how they were VERY with him during the editing process. A really great place to get a book placed.

Betty Atkins Dominguez said...

NBA? Bah- Humbug!

I like 12's concept. I bet it is the wave of the future. Wow. (yes, I read the article)

Erik said...

What's key about quality over quantity is that the latter only came to the forefront because of the economies of scale in the printing process. That's what's really changed, and we don't have that to worry about anymore. A focus on quality is certainly a big part of the way out of the current profitless situation, just as it was when technologies changed other industries in the 1970s.

Congrats to Imprint 12! I hope this all works.

Gabrielle said...

The 12 imprint sounds like a good idea. I don't know about a trend (would that create ultimately less books, more mainstream?) but think of those twelve authors who will receive a great amount of attention and care.

I don't mind publishing becoming more competitive, as long as it allows for the incredible diversity of reader tastes.

Wanda B. Ontheshelves said...

Eat This Up

From http://www.twelvebooks.com
/about/about.asp

(love that 50,000 minimum sales target!):

12 Things To Remember about TWELVE

1. Each book will enliven the national conversation.
2. Each book will be singular in voice, authority, or subject matter.
3. Each book will be carefully edited, designed, and produced.
4. Each book will have a month-long launch in which it is the imprint’s sole focus.
5. Each book will be nationally advertised.
6. Each book will have a national publicity campaign.
7. Each book will be published by Jonathan Karp, the editor who discovered Book Sense Book of the Year winners Seabiscuit and Shadow Divers, plus such bestsellers as The Orchid Thief, Franklin and Winston, Thank You For Smoking, What Should I Do With My Life?, The Dante Club, The Last Don, The Godfather Returns, and A Conspiracy of Paper.
8. Each book will be publicized by Director of Publicity Cary Goldstein, who for seven years was the architect of FSG's publicity campaigns for such acclaimed books as The Assassin's Gate, Sweet and Low, Natasha, and Trance, nominee for the National Book Award.
9. Each book will have the potential to sell at least 50,000 copies in its lifetime.
10. Each book will be marketed and distributed by the Hachette Book Group, the company with the best hit ratio in the American publishing business.
11. Each book will be promoted well into its paperback life.
12. Each book will matter.

Wanda B. Ontheshelves said...

How does your book stack up, compared to the 12 listed items above? Myself, I especially like #1:

1. Each book will enliven the national conversation.

I know "national conversation" is kind of a bogus concept, except that it could apply to number of times mentioned in news stories, number of appearances on talk shows, etc. You hit some minimum number/combo of mentions/appearances, and yep, you officially have "enlivened" the "national conversation."

Luc2 said...

Nathan, what do you think of the King's picks? The word is that Jason Thompson went too high.
I like the pick of Ewing Jr., but I'm probably biased because I really liked his dad. Still, Georgetown often brings forth solid NBA-players, who know defense.
I don't know Singletary.

dernjg said...

I was getting excited when Joe Alexander was starting to get projected as a pick for the Kings, as he'd have been a great fit for them. But it was bittersweet to see him go higher, as I know the kid through my day job and know him to be a great guy.

Luc2 said...

Alexander was projected to go to the Bucks for a while now, so no surprise. He seems like an exciting player, who works hard.

Betty Atkins Dominguez said...

The Kings picked up some good new players. I can't wait to see them in a game.

Anonymous said...

I know this is off topic, but last night, a writer in my writers' group told me that Borders was now cataloging their fiction by publication date??? (A Corporate decision, he said.)
Tell me it isn't so.
How will anyone find anything in that mess?

Anonymous said...

12 and imprints like it would really be the death of reading for children.

When you look at bestsellers for kids, it's either the eat-your-moralistic-brussel-sprouts of the Newberys (and they're bestsellers only after that coveted gold sticker is applied. Before that they sell about twelve copies combined), or books that appeal to the fifteen-year-old girl in all of us.

So, our twelve-books-a-year would be about series. They would be about shopping and boyfriends and vampires and faery lardened with a heavy, hubric layer of dead dogs and mothers. Harry Potter would still be welcome, but Holes or the Westing Game? Probably not.

Linda

Anonymous said...

...on the other hand, if enough small imprints really *do* focus on the writing the editing, then what what this means is the death---not of the reader nor books nor imprints like 12---but of the huge, pub corps...

...and marginal writers.

Talented writers (and editors! and agents!) would thrive in a world of imprints which produce twelve perfect books a year. If enough imprints use this model, then there will by necessity be diversity; then there will be LOTS of imprints producing LOTs of good stuff; stuff well advertised and enticing and none of it drivel---ooo. I like it. I like it a lot...


Linda

Anonymous said...

If publishers move to smaller lists, it will mean less choice for the reader. As we've seen from other posts and comments, reading is very subjective. It would most likely end up leaving some people without the books they love. That sounds depressing to me. In the quest to only publish big books, I think publishers would go for the safe choices - stories that have proven to sell well. I think we'll miss a lot of great and moving stories. Will we end up with a handful of books that are all essentially the same?

One publisher doing it could produce some very nice bestsellers, and help those authors build solid careers. Everyone moving to smaller lists would be a shame.

Anonymous said...

"If publishers move to smaller lists, it will mean less choice for the reader."


Sure...if all we had were the Big Guys in New York.

But---what if they're gone? What if all we *had* were dozens and dozens (and dozens!) of small imprints, each producing crafted, polished books?

I think you'd get lots of diversity (imprints would have to try new stuff----because when it comes down to it, nobody really know what the reading public wants---not even the reading public... until it sees it), so imprints would always be looking for the fun, the serious, the wonderful,the goofy; and working it to its perfect pitch, publizing it as well as possible, and (here's an added bonus), keeping its back list fully alive and operational...whoa.

Suddenly there's lots of good stuff to read!

Sign me up!


Linda

(sorry I keep hogging, but I think this is wonderful...)

Sheila Lamb said...

12 - could it go either way?

I just don't want to go to the bookstore and find 80 copies of 12's book of the month, and nothing I actually want to read.

Or

What if all we *had* were dozens and dozens (and dozens!) of small imprints, each producing crafted, polished books?

Both good points...

Personally, I cry every time I read about how less books are being published, severe cuts in the publishing industry...I'm all for the real paper thing.

pjd said...

This seems to me to be a study in the difference between the shotgun approach and the sniper rifle approach. Or perhaps the mutual fund approach compared to the venture capital approach.

Mutual funds focus on reducing risk by spreading it across many, many different stocks. These funds figure that they will pick some winners, some OK stocks, and a few losers. The goal is to pick slightly more winners than losers, and the rest will sort of work itself out.

Venture capital takes the Twelve approach: select rigorously, invest heavily, and cultivate wholeheartedly. Although the ratios are about the same in VC as in mutual funds, the investing is far more targeted, and the investors take a more personal interest in their investments.

I'm not sure this imprint will exactly "redefine" publishing, but I'm guessing the old and new will coexist side by side. In the same way large financial services companies offer mutual funds and also have venture capital arms. As long as both approaches are profitable, both approaches will exist.

I see this only as a good thing for publishers, readers, and writers.

Amie Stuart said...

OMG For the first time in three years I missed the draft *sob* My life is over *sobsob*

Going to sulk now

JDuncan said...

12 does not sound like a publisher for genre fiction really, unless it is more crossover into literary fiction. I don't think people will have to worry about the big pubs suddenly producing far fewer titles a year. Fewer yes, but not on the lines of a book a month. Pointing back to earlier posts, this kind of thinking and publishing will likely only boost the need/desire for ebooks. I'm also curious how that whole technology around pod books from directly in the store ( can't recall the name of the machine that does this). If this technology ever develops to the point where it is cheaper than running books through a printing company, one could see a vastly different kind of bookstore in the future. If you only needed one copy of a book on the shelves, not only could you see a lot more titles, but you could potentially see the rebirth of specialty bookstores, which I know many readers have been sad to see go away. A potential drawback of course with far more titles, is being able to wade through the potential dreck to find good books. Anyway, plenty of food for thought and always an interesting issue to look at.

JDuncan

Nathan Bransford said...

Cautiously satisfied with the Kings picks. Thompson seems like he went a little early, but at least he's big and athletic, which the Kings haven't had since... well basically since Chris Webber blew out his knee. I like Singletary in the second round. Really not sure about the Ewing Jr. pick, but I guess we'll see.

Anonymous said...

I love this idea. I read somewhere that supposeldy 5,000 children's books get published a year.

Really, are they all picture books? Because when I peruse the YA section of any bookstore I see the same handful of established writers on them, each with a whole damn shelf -- or in the case of Stephenie Meyers an entire WALL.

If more publishers took on fewer books and PROMOTED them, got them on the shelves of big chains, instead of leaving them to die by the wayside, I'd consider that a big plus.

A new YA author will almost always break away from the pack in sales when they are promoted. (The quality of book has nearly nothing to do with it.)

I'd rather have 50 books promoted, on shelves, than a select 3.

Joseph L. Selby said...

My company is moving in the smaller list/higher revenue direction as well, but as a large corporation, it does what all corporations do. It looks at the bottom line. It's not that they can produce fewer books and create higher revenue. It's that they can produce fewer books, which require fewer staff, which produces higher revenue.

The notion that publishers will devote more attention to books to increase the quality to increase the revenue is applicable only for an edition generation. After that, someone who wears a tie and is told he's important will think, "why don't we do that on a larger scale." The word will go out, the existing staff will be expected to create more books that sell just as well. The only way to do that is to reduce the time intensive nature of each book and to do that lowers the quality of that book. It's the never ending yo-yo of growth strategies.

Miss Viola Bookworm said...

I don't normally watch the draft, Nathan, but I did last night because one of my former students went in the first round. I can remember Courtney Lee back in the day, when my friend and I tried to get him to do his math in 7th grade, telling us that he was going to be at least six foot six and make it into the league. I guess he did, and from what the commenters say, he has handled himself well and will be a good, dependable player. I only wish he had been there last night so I could see the look on his face.

Sera Phyn said...

I know nothing about the draft (avoids the evil eyes being sent in her direction), but Twelve sounds amazing! I would love to work with a publishing house like that! I think their dedication to and believe in the books they produce will be the key to keeping good books in print at all. In fact, I think a future possibility is a bunch of smaller presses that work on a 12-like model instead of huge conglomerations of houses. But those conglomerations don't exactly let go easily... It'll be interesting to see what happens. :)



Nathan, I have a question for you on a completely post-unrelated topic. My full MS has been with an agent for three months now and I have e-mailed him twice (once at the two month mark and once at the three month mark) asking him simply for confirmation of receipt. If he needs more time to look at it, that's fine, I just want to make sure it made it to him. My question is at what point is it okay to risk blasphemy and being struck by lightning to call and check? He didn't give me a time frame when he asked for the full, and I haven't been able to find an average response time for him anywhere online. I really don't want to be an annoying author, but I also don't want to wait six months to find out he never even got it. Any advice?

Amie Stuart said...

I almost feel sorry for Ewing Jr. It's like being Stephen Kings kid or Anne Rice's kid. Lots of eyes on you.

And hey...interesting scut on King James ending up w/the Nets in a few years. Sue me I'm shallow and I love me some Vince Carter *ggg* that said, I LOVE college ball too so I like seeing where everyone ends up.

Richard...I still haven't forgiven the Mavs for getting rid of Devin Harris :(

AstonWest said...

Combining 1 book a month with 1 book a year per author (from a different blog post), one would think a publisher would shortly run out of available talent.

I don't see it working unless a bunch of new imprints sprout up to fill in the gaps. As previously mentioned, reading is subjective...and will make it difficult to hit a bestseller out of the park (or sink a buzzer-beater, since it's an NBA crowd) every month.

James Morgan - Puritan Financial Advisor said...

As publishers move in the direction of smaller lists and bigger books, to some degree or another they're probably going to emulate Karp's model.

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