“We’re in the writer-reader connection business”

That statement was made as part of a talk I have referred to and shared so many times now you would think I was on some kind of commission. The source, Richard Nash  said it as part of a keynote he gave at a gathering in Toronto of book publishers. It’s available here, you should watch it if you haven’t.

At the time Richard was in the process of pulling together a start-up, Cursor, which is a socially-driven publishing platform. He’s of course not the only one, Seth Godin and Amazon have a much-publicised project together to try and “re-invent publishing”, and most of the major publishers are, in various ways, throwing whatever they can at the wall in the hope that something, anything, will stick.

This quote was ringing in my ears though when an email arrived from Amazon a couple days ago. @author is a service they’ve just launched to allow readers to pose questions to certain authors from either their Kindle or from the Amazon site itself. The tagline? Connecting writers and readers.

I somehow don’t think a call-and-response mechanic was what Richard had in mind when he made the above statement. It will be interesting to see how they build this out, particularly in light of their moves to become not just seller but publisher of original works. The most famous face among the authors featured, Tim Ferris, has already said his next book will be published exclusively through Amazon. Tim is no stranger to experimenting with what it means to have a relationship with your audience through writing, going so far as to put on a workshop detailing how he has managed to achieve his success with both the Four Hour Week and the Four Hour Body. That bootcamp of writing and marketing would set you back $10,000 – if you could still get a ticket. It was well and truly over subscribed, with people filling out a form TED-style in the hopes of having the chance to attend.

Ferris’ approach is a little closer to what Richard had in mind, though I wonder if he had figured it as brazenly commercial and unapologetic as Ferris’ execution. Regardless, its experimentation that the industry needs. If the music industry went about things in this manner rather than simply creating new contracts that tapped into revenue streams that were traditionally out of bounds for the major labels, you might see something as interesting, and potentially even more ludicrous, than a $10,000 work shop bearing all the hallmarks of attendees who have failed to beat, so are paying to join.

(If I had a spare $10k, I’d probably be doing the same)

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