Post Mortem: Two Publishing Start-Ups

Guy Gonzalez had a post up recently about the Domino Project, which Seth Godin is closing down. Included in the post was a link to a talk by Richard Nash, ruminating about what did and didn’t work at Red Lemonade, Nash’s web startup.

I generally agree with Guy’s take about both projects. Before I throw in my two cents, however, I want to state without reservation that both men deserve credit for putting their time and money where their mouths were. In a world of wall-to-wall pundits and doomsaying snipers with no skin in the game, we need all the people we can get who are willing to step in the arena and risk being humbled. It’s the only way progress will be made. Having said that, I have my own thoughts on what the end of these initiatives means. (Previous posts mentioning Seth Godin here, Richard Nash here.)

Both Godin and Nash garnered a great deal of interest a year ago as a cresting wave of change and doubt swept through the traditional publishing industry. Capitalizing on their celebrity and showmanship, both men looked into the future, saw a way forward, and acted on it. Godin, by partnering with Amazon in a publishing venture; Nash by creating and launching Red Lemonade, the first of an anticipated series of sites under the Cursor brand. Each project, at root, envisioned a new way of publishing content outside the traditional publishing paradigm.

So what can authors learn from their efforts? Well, given that most writers will never publish the work of others, probably not much. Unless you’ve a mind to become a publisher — whatever that elastic term means to you these days — most of what Godin and Nash have been through is probably inessential, however interesting it might otherwise be. Still, I think it’s possible to see connections to authorship in these ventures — if not directly, then indirectly, as confirmation of other truths.  Read more ]

Doctorow, Anderson and Godin, Oh My

Six months ago, when I first opened up shop here at Ditchwalk, there was a riot brewing in the publishing marketplace. For all the back-and-forth about self-publishing versus traditional publishing, however, the rhetorical clash that eventually broke out last fall was never really an us-against-them-whoever-they-are revolution. Or if it was, it was only that for a few short weeks, until the industry forces manning the status-quo battlements got their mind around the fact that the internet wasn’t going to go away no matter how many ruby-slippered heel clicks they threw at the damned thing.

What really drove the chaos last fall is what drives chaos in any business. Suddenly, with only a fleeting decade’s warning, the book business didn’t now how to make a stable profit. The internet was the obvious scapegoat, at least until the recession took hold, at which point big names in the publishing business reassured the rabble that everything would be fine as soon as the recession was over.

Now, when a pricing plague strikes your village and the experts fail to stop the spread, and Aunt Sadie’s home recipes don’t work, and your prayers don’t save the people you love, there’s a natural tendency to latch on to anyone who comes by with a possible solution. Fortunately, the one thing you can always count on in such situations is that someone will come by.  Read more ]

Squidoo and the Identity-Theft Threat

Speaking of trying to make a buck off of other people’s property, this is pretty impressive:

Rather than convincing companies to set up their own public profile pages for their brands to aggregate and manage online conversations, Squidoo is creating hundreds of unofficial ones (e.g. for Guinness) in the hopes that companies will come to them and cough up $400 per month for the right to develop the page on their terms. Once a company pays up and gains control over the relevant Squidoo lens, the left hand column will ‘belong’ to them.

Obviously Squidoo is smart enough not to use Guinness logos or other branding on the page, but what’s the real intent here? Rather than wait around for some user to put up a Guinness page, Squidoo is priming the pump in the hope that a discussion will get going that Guinness will then feel compelled to take ownership of. It’s a wonderful example of extortion by social-networking proxy, and I can see why somebody thought it was a good idea.  Read more ]