Connecting Authors To Tangible Goods They Can Sell?

from the business-models... dept

When we talk about business models for content, one question we get asked a lot is how these business models could possibly apply to authors. We're always told that such business models might work for music, but couldn't possibly work for authors. To be honest, I find this sort of response incredibly uncreative. If you look around, it's actually not hard to find authors who are making use of new and innovative business models, and even publishers who are willing to embrace that kind of thinking. This is definitely a good thing, but we're always interested in hearing new and more examples of this happening.

Ross Pruden alerts us to an LA Times story about a company called OpenSky that is apparently helping authors implement additional business models by helping them find tangible products they can sell in association with their books. Indeed, the whole concept seems to fit in with our concept of using infinite goods to make scarce goods more valuable:
A cookbook author, for example, not only sells books through OpenSky but also hawks a favorite barbecue sauce and grill. The author pockets 50% of the profit, with the rest going to OpenSky and others involved in the transaction.


David Hale Smith, a Texas literary agent, was about the only one who hadn't morphed roles since Naples last saw him. After they sat down at a table near that escalator, Smith immediately handed her a copy of a client's newest novel: "So Cold the River" by Michael Koryta. Smith mentioned that it's set in an old hotel in central Indiana known for its Pluto Water, believed to have healthful effects.

Naples lit up: "If [Koryta] was on OpenSky, the novel could be tied to a promotion of the hotel. He could have a button on his site for readers to buy the book and the water." (OpenSky would find a supplier to bottle and ship it.) She described other commercial possibilities: a sneak-peak download of a chapter of his next book, a "webinar" with him discussing his stories.
I can already hear the critics complaining about this sort of "crass commercialism" that I'm sure is "destroying" the concept of "art for art's sake," but I find it odd that those who focus on the whole "art for art's sake" argument are the same folks who also complain that the changing marketplace means content creators can't make money any more. No one is saying anyone has to adopt these models -- just that for those who feel comfortable doing so, it's now easier than ever to embrace infinite concepts -- and use them to make scarce goods more valuable.

That said, after reading about all of this, I went and looked at OpenSky, and I don't see any of this on their website. Instead, it looks like a plain old store. If they're really focused on helping content creators, it seems like they would be a lot better off promoting content creators on their site as well.

Filed Under: authors, business models, sales, scarcities, selling, tangible
Companies: opensky

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  1. identicon
    Michael, 5 Aug 2010 @ 7:42am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "#1 is probably my biggest fear. I don't like creating incentives for content creators to produce content that is good at promoting other products"

    This is a problem that solves itself (as a whole). If the content gets bad, it will have less value (not cost - don't mix them up). Abundant content with less value will do less to increase the value of scarce goods. Simpler terms - if the content sucks, people will not be as inclined to buy the promoted products. Unfortunately, this could result in content creators that were creating work that you liked creating work you do not like because it sells scarce goods better that way. Oddly - this is the same thing we have now. Look at classic novels vs. the paperbacks of today. The content that sells is the content that gets created. If society changes to focus on a type of content you do not like, you are out of luck - but that is not something you can do anything about and it has happened throughout time.

    "as an aspiring author, I feel very cautious about thinking about my content as a marketing platform"

    This is good news and the attitude that will likely generate most of the good content. Does it mean you may not make as much money as you could? Possibly. Has it always been that way? Yup. Some of the best artistic works in history were ahead of their time and nobody cared when they were first produced.

    What is different now is that instead of a publishing company looking at your book and deciding if enough people like it for them to make a good profit, you can now produce the work that appeals to a small group of people with little cost investment and possibly make money off of it. You can also - as an independent artist - produce something that is a big chance. Ten years ago, a publisher did a cost-benefit analysis on your book that included production, printing, and distribution costs that they HAD to pay for to see if people liked the work. Now, you can write it, upload it, generate a following, and go to the publisher with a list of people that will buy your next book and a printed copy of your current book - as well as coming up with some other creative way of making a living on your work.

    The content creators win. Publishers probably lose a little - until they come up with a way of helping you with the creative business models you do not want to deal with yourself. In your case, you trade in your unlucky lottery ticket (winning a publishing deal) for a reasonable chance of a steady (possibly hard-working) living.

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