Mashup your own anthologies

Are we using the word mashup anymore? It slid off my screen some time ago.

Back when mashups were still page one—which is to say about five years ago, when I was trying to foresee the digital transformation of trade book, textbook, and scholarly publishing—the idea of an anthology mashup made sense. What was needed at that time was an online interface designed to allow any user to pull together licensed content from various sources for a one-of-a-kind anthology compiled and printed on demand. The concept was logical from the user’s standpoint. Now that ebooks are sufficiently popular, the execution should be even simpler.

Because I just read the news of yet another such publishing endeavor outside the textbook sector, it’s due time for a list here on the blog.

What should I call these anthology mashup publishers?

  • AnthologyBuilder
    First to grab the perfect trade name and catch my eye was this publisher in Rantrum, Germany, offering custom anthologies in print for $14.95 plus shipping charges.
  • Bindworx
    Set to launch in May 2013, this UK company, a collaboration of Eden Interactive of Chester and Trust Media Distribution of Carlisle, is an ebook-conversion service for publishers offering “whole or fragmented content” to consumers in ebook format.
  • Slicebooks
    This publisher in Denver, CO, allows publishers “to slice and remix ebooks, journals, and magazine content.”
  • BiblioBoard Library & Nuvique
    A platform and an application developed by the Charleston, SC, publisher that goes by the name BiblioLife, this multimedia software launches in 2013 with an eclectic assortment of public domain works.
  • CAT Publishing
    In Palo Cedro, CA, this company publishes short print runs of co-authored textbooks. Its current catalogue is very limited.
  • Bedford/St. Martin’s
    This texbook publisher, which is part of Macmillan, has a permissions editor on call to facilitate the creation of customized anthologies for classroom use. A minimum quantity of books is required for an order, and they’re delivered in four to eight weeks.

This is not a comprehensive list. Let it be said that many publishing companies could, and most big textbook publishers already do, offer user interfaces to make anthology mashups possible, with someone behind the scenes handling rights licensing and customer service. The products are likely to be called custom or customized anthologies or solutions. If you’ve used one, please feel free to leave a link to the company in the comments section.

Obviously, there are logical objections to sales of one-off anthologies and collections. Anthologies often include works from authors who are not well known, and they’re a beautiful, time-honored way to introduce these emerging or overlooked talents to more readers. Furthermore, the editors of anthologies receive extra attention for their efforts, even if none of their own writing is included in the books they chaperone through the publication process. If anyone can become an anthology creator, well…

Nevertheless, the web, like the world, is user oriented. In a sophisticated world of users and makers, the former will tend to outnumber the latter. Makers, perhaps because they’re often more vocal and more visible, and because they’re running the show, tend to forget that the much more numerous users are equally indispensable. The user experience will establish the reputation of the maker, good or bad.

Cheers to the makers who recognize the value of usability!

Book publishing and marketing – served à la carte

Between the intrepid self-published authors, who enjoy learning the skills they need to do it all themselves, and the old-school traditionalists, who want a publisher to risk the investment of time and talent to bring their books to market, there is a group of writers willing to pay for publishing expertise. They just need to be able to find it.

To be perfectly clear, this has always been the case. Just about any publisher will agree to bring out a subsidized title that might otherwise not have been considered worth the investment. Labeling various publishers, therefore, might be increasingly pointless as new business models proliferate.

A year ago, I might have referred to a company offering consumers a menu of editorial, design, production, marketing, and publicity services that could be purchased individually as a custom publisher, for lack of a better term. You could also call it self-publishing, or you could refer to the vendor as a subsidy publisher. Rarely is the term vanity publishing heard anymore, but publishing platform is a buzzword. When I decided to write this post, I knew it would be difficult to give a name to the kinds of one-stop publishing project shops I’m describing.

To further complicate matters, a book author might be seeking an ebook publisher, a POD book publisher, or one capable of both.

Following are some of the companies that currently offer à la carte book publishing and marketing services. Not included are those specializing in custom book production alone, without the option of marketing or publicity components. I expect growth in this sector, so the list will soon be outdated. My point is to make writers aware of the existence of these kinds of à la carte publishing service providers, occasionally referred to as concierges. I am not offering any recommendations. The buyer alone is responsible for investigating the quality and reliability of these companies.

BiblioCrunch – New York, NY
[Added on May 13, 2013]

Blackstaff Press – Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK
[Added on August 3, 2011]

Concierge Marketing, Inc. – Omaha, NE

FastPencil, Inc. – Campbell, CA
[Added on July 3, 2011]

Flying Pig Media – Arlington, VA
[Added on July 12, 2011]

Greenleaf Book Group – Austin, TX

PubHub – Quincy, MA

Second City Books Premier Author Services – Palatine, IL

The Silloway Press – Columbia, MD

Not included in the list above are the big subsidy or vanity publishing businesses like Author Solutions, the Jenkins Group, PublishAmerica, and their many subsidiaries, which specialize in expensive publishing packages. In fact, I avoided listing any company that advertised publishing packages. All of the bigger companies, however, are likely to atomize their offerings and re-brand to reach a larger market if their profits take a dive. Likewise, the smaller companies could evolve into something more like Author Solutions.

Let me know if you’ve found other companies offering à la carte book production and marketing services. I think they should be much easier to discover online, and it would be convenient if all of them listed their rates up front.