Plus One Press - An Opportunity to Do It Right
The founders of Plus One Press, each having experienced the abuses inherent in the
current mainstream publishing business, have determined that the best way to avoid
such abuses in the future is to take ownership of their own publishing milieu and to
create a small press publishing house that supports authors and their works, as
opposed to merely acquiring "product" and attempting to maximize profits even when
such attempts are clearly counter-productive to both the publisher and the author.
Doing it Wrong
Today, larger publishers are generally focused on the revenue requirements handed down
to them by their even larger corporate conglomerate owners. This, coupled with a paradigm
shift in how publishing has chosen to evaluate literary "value," has evolved the publishing
industry into an insensitive behemoth that has little or no regard for the creative element
it seeks to exploit.
The adoption of the "bestseller" model, in a desperate attempt to meet profit requirements
that in many cases exceed 20% net, has:
The adoption of the "least common denominator" approach to content selection has:
- caused publishers to abandon any significant attempt to nurture new authors and
develop their careers;
- caused publishers to abandon any significant marketing and sales support for their
- caused publishers to abandon any contracted author whose revenue numbers don’t meet
prescribed minimums, regardless of the literary value of the work;
- caused publishers to shorten book revenue lifecycles from a generalized three years
to less than 90 days;
- caused publishers to purchase more books in an attempt to discover new (marketable)
talent through chance, rather than develop strong voices and grow authors into bestsellers,
thus further diluting those very resources that might be applied to improving sales of
any given individual title.
Publishers are in desperate trouble. The monetization of creative work has always been an
unfortunate aspect of the industry, but an acceptable one because everybody has to eat.
These days, however, the industry has lost its overall purpose, which is to:
- caused editors to narrow their vision of what a "marketable" book might be, thus
excluding a wider variety of titles from being acquired;
- caused agents to narrow their vision of what a "placeable" book might be,
thus excluding a wider variety of titles from ever being submitted to publishers;
- created a huge preponderance of titles rooted in a very small number of "marketable"
themes, with an ever-growing percentage of new titles merely being poorly executed clones
of the existing bestsellers;
- created the vicious circular logic that has publishers claiming that they only provide
what the public wants; agents claiming they only submit what publishers want; and the
public only buying what the publishers provide.
- act as an intermediary between an author and an audience, which
- provides a viable marketplace for the authors’ work, permitting the author to continue
to create, and which
- provides the public with a wide variety of entertaining, thought-provoking, enlightening
and enriching literary content that, overall, raises the quality of thought and discourse
in the community.
Doing it Right
Mainstream publishing has largely abandoned these principles and its mission, in favor of
pure profit. It falls to the small press publisher to fulfill the intended purpose of the
industry. Plus One Press was founded to provide an alternative to the broken publishing
model, by creating a business with philosophical and operational models in line with that
original purpose of commercial publishing.
Responsibilities to the Author
The author, as the creative source for everything we do as publishers, has been given an
extremely short end of the stick in the transformation of this industry from active enabler
to predatory vampire. Plus One Press seeks to reverse this trend. Good authors are an
increasingly endangered breed and, as such, need to be nurtured and supported so that they
are both capable of and encouraged to continue to create.
Finding good authors is not particularly hard. Finding them a second time is becoming almost
impossible. Plus One will never lack for decent books to publish; our task in this regard is
to ensure that authors who provide us with good books can, in fact, do it again. To accomplish
this, we need to avoid the "bestsellers only" model that buries an author if they don’t make
some impossible sales goal. It is our responsibility to the author to create a publishing
program that rewards their efforts, and therefore encourages them to continue. We need
to be aware that "reward" means more than simple cash; it means hand-holding, editorial
support, training, exposure, etc. We also need to be aware that different authors have
different motivations for writing, and that we need to tailor our support for each individual.
This is not to say that money is irrelevant; it isn’t. Or that we’d resist a bestseller if
we discover one. If we do our jobs properly, we stand as much of a chance of breaking an
author into bestseller status as any large, mainstream publisher. We actually have a greater
chance of breaking an author big, because of the level of support we can bring to each and
every title we publish. And, in the spirit of the concept that "money should flow towards
the author," our responsibilities to the author often include maximizing the revenue
return potential for the project. But again, monetary return is not necessarily the
primary motivation for an author, nor should it automatically be the primary motivation for
Plus One Press as the publisher.
Responsibilities to the Public
The reading public is currently suffering from a disease that they aren’t even aware of. As
noted above, the bestseller model has led to a massive lack of diversity in subject matter.
Readers can only read what’s made available to them, and with the stranglehold the major
publishers have on big-box retailers, what’s being made available is increasingly narrow
in scope. But common sense and sheer numbers tell us that with tens of thousands of potential
readers for every individual author, there’s an audience for virtually any author in any subject area.
Our responsibility to the public is to help increase the diversity of titles available to it.
We do this by presenting works that have been deemed "incredibly good, not commercial enough" by
the mainstream houses. Sometimes this means an author who, perhaps through a lack of support,
has been dropped by their original publisher. Sometimes this means an author whose work is "not
quite right" for another publisher. Sometimes it means a work that was not necessarily written
for a large audience, and so genuinely falls outside "normal" publishing channels. Plus One Press
can help evaluate the relationship between a given book and its appropriate audience, and then
provide distribution support to reach that audience. This ability to focus on the appropriate
reader segments will enable us to provide a wider variety of titles to a wider variety of readers.
Responsibilities to the Work
Only a very few authors nail it with their initially submitted manuscript, and produce a book that
can go straight to typeset. One of the primary responsibilities of a publisher is to guide an author
in the development of the final manuscript. All too often, this responsibility is misunderstood to be
"optimize the book for commercial appeal." This is at least partially false. The publisher’s true
responsibility to the work itself is to help the author reveal the story being told. This is not to
say that consideration of the reading audience is not a factor; indeed it is sometimes the primary
goal of the editing process. And the ability to reach that audience may often be directly tied to
the commercial appeal of the book, which in turn affects the editorial approach taken by the publisher.
But far more often, the publisher’s editorial involvement with the work should be intended to
guide the author in telling the story in the most effective way that is appropriate for the work.
One of the main factors in the editing process is the establishment of the appropriate voice for the
work, and to optimize the work to properly speak with that voice throughout the manuscript.
Ultimately, the publisher’s responsibility to the work demands that the primary goal of the editing
process is to support the author in telling the story they want to tell. All other considerations
are secondary. This assumes publisher involvement, of course; there will always be works that the
publisher does not want to take on, and the publisher is not directly in the business of teaching
creative writing. Our goal is to work with an author to produce a book that fulfills their intentions
and that we can, in fact, publish and make available to readers.
Responsibilities to Ourselves
Bottom line: our responsibility to ourselves is to do it right.