Monday, November 23, 2009

The New OpenRoad Venture

In June, 2008, after ten years at HarperCollins, Jane Friedman announced she would be leaving her job as CEO prior to the end of her contract and prior to the reporting of another year of lowered profits at HC.

In June, 2009, Friedman announced she'd raised $3 million for her new start-up company, OpenRoad, devoted to "developing a platform for eBook marketing and publishing."

Earlier this month Friedman talked about her new venture at her alma mater, NYU. The video is available online and worth watching.

She begins by talking about the "traditional tenets" that she still clings to:

1. Publishing is a business of relationships; a publisher must foster relationships.

2. You must hire the right people and ensure the right people are in the right position.

3. Authors are your best asset; make them your most important focus.

4. Know your market; concentrate on the consumer and what motivates him to purchase.

5. Move with technology. Embrace digital development.

Friedman then talks about the origins of OpenRoad and explains that it began with her efforts at HarperCollins to digitize not just the front list, but the back list as well. She wants to "Go back to the future" and publish the great authors of the past.

She describes OpenRoad as a "layer cake" where each layer impacts and blends the whole. She then went on to explain each layer of her publishing cake:

  • The base is the author-branded backlist which includes William Styron (of Sophie's Choice fame), Dame Iris Murdoch (Under the Net) and Pat Conroy (Prince of Tides).
  • e-Riginals: Original titles that are "born digital" with a POD capability as well as titles whose rights have reverted and which do not have a physical presence in America.
  • OpenRoad will also consider doing non-returnable print runs (either licensing print rights to legacy publishers or publish the works themselves as a p-book, using a distributor)
  • Discovery: A self-publishing arm offering existing self-publishers OpenRoad's marketing expertise and perhaps offering an OpenRoad self-publishing option.
  • Forming marketing partnerships with legacy publishers, particularly those who operate in niches. Already working with Kensington (romance, African-American, gay & lesbian and mystery) and Grove Atlantic (independent literary). She pointed out there are 80,000 independent publishers in America.
  • Producing marketing videos in the space between book release and the film version of the book.
  • DigiEnt (Digital Entertainment): Option and produce full-length features based on e-books.
The plan is to "push out content" to social communities like FaceBook and Twitter and to blogs related to the content of a book.

Probably the most interesting comment of Friedman's talk was her statement that OpenRoad's platform will be offered to EVERY author and genre on their list to increase the author's exposure "to the broadest audience possible."

Friedman believes that, because OpenRoad does not have the "overhead and ibidem" of traditional publishers, they can be more flexible and quick to market. As a data-driven company, they can "access what is working in real time."

OpenRoad will embrace technology, profit-share with authors (no advances), treat content as king and treat booksellers as partners.

She describes "Revolution, not Evolution."

Watch the video here. The questions-and-answer videos are interesting. I'll talk more about them later in the week.


Colleen said...

Sounds like a good idea... I keep coming back to the idea that e-readers buy more books than print readers. Since a successful business model has to have books sold at profitable margins as its core, this would seem to be a smart way to do. What's that curse about living in interesting times? :-)

Maya Reynolds said...

Colleen: [grin]

I was impressed with the concept--until I got to the Q&A. I'll talk about that more later.

Warm regards,