Richard Eoin Nash and Social Publishing

Richard Eoin Nash, former editorial director of Soft Skull Press, editorializes here about new business models for publishers:

"Given that books are orders of magnitude more demanding of our minds than any other media, they are commensurately better reflections of our minds and identities than other media. We publishers should be servicing readers’ desire to communicate about themselves with peers, offering books as the basis for connecting."

Here Nash prophesies:

"Basically, the best-selling five hundred books each year will likely be published much like Little Brown publishes James Patterson, on a TV production model, or like Scholastic did Harry Potter and Doubleday Dan Brown, on a big Hollywood blockbuster model."

"The rest will be published by niche social publishing communities."

And in this thought-provoking Publishers Weekly piece, Nash talks about his new social publishing venture -- "social" because:

"To call Cursor 'niche' or another 'independent' publishing enterprise would be a poor approximation, because those terms fail to capture the organic gurgle of culture at the heart of the venture, the exchange of insight and opinion, the flow of memes and the creation of culture in real time that is now enabled by the Internet."

Reading the phrase "organic gurgle of culture," I can't help forming a mental image of T. S. Eliot choking on his cucumber sandwich. And the idea of "creation of culture in real time" terrifies me. To clarify, Cursor is intended to be "a portfolio of self-reinforcing online membership communities:"

"The business will focus on developing the value of the reading and writing ecosystem, including the growth of markets for established authors, as well as engaging readers and supporting emerging writers. Each community will have a publishing imprint, which will make money from authors' books, sold as digital downloads, conventional print and limited artisanal editions -- and will offer authors all the benefits of a digital platform: faster time to market, faster accounting cycles, faster payments to authors. But the greatest opportunity is in the community itself. Each will have tiers of membership, including paid memberships that will offer exclusive access to tools and services, such as rich text editors for members to upload their own writing, peer-to-peer writing groups, recommendation engines, access to established authors online and in person, and editorial or marketing assistance. Members can get both peer-based feedback and professional feedback."

Reading and writing are types of networking? Submitting and accepting and even rejecting manuscripts -- also types of networking? There was a time when I would have rejected such ideas out of hand...

1 thought on “Richard Eoin Nash and Social Publishing”

  1. In part, what helped me become more comfortable with these notions is the realization that the interweb is basically restoring some dimensions of pre-Industrial Revolution social interaction, effectively making coffeehouse culture possible on a far larger scale. One thing that happened then? The passing around of MSS…

    Also, while Soft Skull was one of the few nationally-distributed publishers accepting unsolicited manuscripts, our rejections were form—just a slip. I always felt terrible about that. This process is designed to allow for much more interactivity in the process, such that it is less an either/or situation. For sure, the imprint dimension of the community will be publishing a relatively limited number of titles, but folks will be much more engaged, getting and giving much more feedback, being open to alternative form of publication by themselves, or by other companies than was the case hitherto…

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