Extending The Publishing Paradigm: Book As Souvenir

Innovation guru John Wolpert is always pushing the envelope. And so it comes as little surprise to learn that he is innovating again.

This time his innovation is within the publishing arena with the release of his first novel, The Hidden Stage.

Set in a civic theatre not unlike the one in John’s hometown, he was inspired to write this story by a trip to his local theatre in 4th grade. He recalls how he had to go to a play there, and thought he was too cool to go.  He remembers having a serious attitude about it.  But half-way into the show, he became totally mesmerized.  The end of the first chaper of The Hidden Stage has a moment for the main character, Alex Cole,  that is not dissimilar to something that happened to him – and it changed his life.

John believes that a lot of professional writers are starting to wake up to the notion that you don’t have to print heaps of dead tree in advance in order to publish.

The new way – and while the concept of this isn’t new, the practicality of it is very, very new – is to focus on your maven market (in the case of The Hidden Stage, the 100,000 volunteers and professionals at civic theaters in the US), go viral with them, and give them the ability to order the book on Amazon.

He found that using Scribd.com was also a huge bonus.  He is able to tell exactly how the book is doing online.   In ten minutes, he had the whole book – all 450 pages – online and embedded for reading on both his own site and on Scribd.com.

John’s strategy was to first write a compelling book that was a page-turner and then to really lower the barrier to reading that first page.  As reading any book is a serious investment of time, the cover and the site were fundamental to getting that first page read.

He scripted a Flash website to give potential readers a really good sense of what they would be getting if they embarked on reading the story.  Then he gave them a simple one-click path to reading the whole book online, and finally there is the link to Amazon.

John also points out that there is an alternative through Amazon, which is not self-publishing, but simple print-on-demand through BookSurge.  Instead of authors having to put up $$ to do mini print-runs, finally print-on-demand is here.  He says it costs a little more for the book buyer, but it is great that we can finally get books into readers’ hands without having to line the pockets of publishers…all the rest is tapping the market and knowing your audience.

What he’s seen so far from feedback is that people start by reading the first page just to see what it is about.  Then they read a bit more, because the story is exciting.  If the whole story was not available for free online, he suspects that he would not be getting readers to even try the first few pages…it’s psychological.   But then they decide they want the printed book, and can get it from Amazon.

As they say:  “If your idea isn’t good, you lose.  If your idea isn’t viral, you lose.  If people don’t want to buy your souvenir, you lose.”

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