Maybe Failing Faster Is Really The Way To Go

from the books-now-limited-to-140-pages dept

We’re always on the lookout for new experiments in media publishing, so keep on submitting relevant links, folks. So here’s another one. Trying to target a “gap” between magazines and books, the Daily Beast and Perseus Books Group are teaming up to publish books in just 2-4 months, giving authors 1-3 months to write and then publishing the work a month later as an e-book (and then in paperback). These books are aiming to be 40,000 words long, or around 150 pages — which sounds like a Twitter-like limit, designed to encourage authors to produce stories that are more topical and timely. And on the logistical side, these publishers are going to use the sales of the e-book titles to help anticipate how many paperback editions to print.

It’s an interesting experiment because it begins to grasp that digital goods can be used both to promote content and also to assess the market for the related tangible/scarce goods. On top of that, the shorter publishing cycle will likely be more engaging to readers who won’t have to wait very long for new books to come out. However, there are some possible pitfalls, too. If the e-books are too expensive (or poor quality because they’re written in a rush), then obviously the promotional aspect of the digital content won’t be there. They could also soon discover that their target audience is too tuned into digital goods, and the audience that buys printed books doesn’t overlap much with Daily Beast readers (so they’d need to promote on a different channel). But at least the publishers won’t be stuck with a ton of printed books in inventory, so the downside risk seems lower than traditional publishing. And, actually, that reduced risk might be the key part of this publishing plan. When digital distribution costs are minimal, the strategy of “throwing everything at the wall to see if it sticks” becomes more viable. The Daily Beast’s website already leverages free content with news and opinion articles, so if it can also offer unique content with a quicker turnaround time, the reason to buy its books could surface as more and more “good” authors are discovered and recommended — and commissioned to produce new content.

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Companies: daily beast, iac, perseus books

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Comments on “Maybe Failing Faster Is Really The Way To Go”

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BillDivX says:

3D engines anyone?

for nearly 15 years since the rise of wolfenstein, game developers toiled and tinkered with ways to quickly prune the display list of polygons more accurately. Since advances in cpu speed and even the rise of the gpu only allowed a few extra polygons with each generation, they had to be really careful not to waste polygon drawing time on polygons that would not be seen.

Then, a few years ago, something began to happen. Developers started discovering that the bus had become so wide open, the GPU so fast, that there was suddenly advantage to be had in _not_ taking the time to prune polygons carefully. Sure, you were throwing a bunch of unnecessary data at the GPU, but the GPU could handle plenty. Suddenly, there was an advantage in being sloppy with your polygon management, essentially, just throwing anything that wasn’t obviously off-screen at the gpu, and letting it figure out what stuck.

The reason it was an advantage was because you could draw almost as many polygons, but less time was wasted by the CPU, freeing it up for AI and animation.

So, yeah, there is absolutely, under the right conditions, merit in simply “throwing everything at the wall”. But only in the right conditions.

Robert (profile) says:

Word limits in books

There was a recent interview aired on the BBC over here in the UK, with authors talking about the way publishers ask them to increase the word count of their books.

The issue is that paperbacks are expensive, which is odd when the paperback was created so that everyone could afford books (can anyone say falling literacy levels among the poorest in our society). Publishers require purchasers to feel like they are getting value for money so the “standard” paperback is now twice as big as it was a decade or so ago (amazing how the price goes up at the same time isn’t it).

The authors in the interview were adament that all that happens when a publishers decrees a minimum word limit is that books just get bloated with unnecessary story.

I haven’t been able to find the interview at the moment I’ll post a link if I find it.

jsf (profile) says:

A return to the past

In many ways this sounds like a return to what the paperback publishing business was like prior to the mid-late 70’s. Back then the vast majority of books were less then 200 pages long. Mostly due to printing and binding costs. From the 20’s to the 60’s was the height of “pulp” publishing where authors would write a new book every month or two.

As for the shorter time frames reducing the quality and popularity, and thus effecting their profitability, history shows that these really have little to do with each other when it comes to books sales. Isaac Asimov is a good example. He started writing in 1937 and passed away in 1992. In those 55 years he wrote over 500 books in a very wide range of subjects. According to his Wikipedia entry ( in 9 out of the 10 Dewey Decimal categories. So that’s something like a new book every 5 weeks or so. Sure much of it wasn’t Pulitzer prize material, but then how many very popular high selling books really are?

Danny (profile) says:

This is easy to do, if done right

I developed a group process about 15 years ago for large group collaborative writing. I’ve taken a group of 12 people and led them through this process to write a 150 page book in less than a week.

I’ve tried to show this process to text publishers (in tech fields) thinking that getting a book to market faster would be a good thing. But it is so different than their standard way of thinking about author/editor/publisher relationships I haven’t gotten anyone to bite off even attempting it.

It strikes me, though, that the wave of the future is multiple authored texts (can you say crowd sourcing?) produced over a short period of time.

Independent of this, of course, the wave of the future is a digital delivery mechanism that might even make continuous upgrading of content possible.

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