May 27, 2012

Publishing... Flipped!

Publishing... Flipped!

It is conventional wisdom  that old-fashioned ink and pulp publishing is either in its death throes ("about to slide into the sea," the linked author opined) or very, very sick. Yet this diagnosis results from seeing publishing at odds with new technology, with the internet, with the digital present.

What if, like the Khan Academy (which is "flipping" the educational model), we figured out how to "flip" the publishing model in a way that preserves what is good, adopts what is new and useful, and filters out what is harmful and useless?

I think we have found that way, and I invite you to join with us - our Tribe of Russophiles and bibliophiles - to prove it can be done.

First, some background. According to the old (and still clinging to the gangplank) publishing model, knowing editors, agents and publishers decided what was right and good for the public to read. They would work for months and years creating their products before unleashing them upon the world as the Great Thing we have all been waiting for (but which until five minutes ago we did not even know existed).

Of course, because it's pretty hard to predict in advance what people might like, this system results in lots more misses than hits. It is highly inefficient and leads to tons of unsold books being remaindered or destroyed. 

There has to be a better way that doesn't waste so many trees, so much time. What if the decades-old model were flipped?

What if, when we publishers (or authors) had a great idea, we fleshed it out, then - thanks to the new efficiencies of communication - pitched the idea to our Tribe a la the Lean Startup, asking for feedback and improvements? If one's Tribe likes the idea and you convince them, you go ahead and produce the book. If not, you start over and try something else (or take it to a different Tribe). 

There are all sorts of implications to this manner of publishing (not least of which taking on the ridiculous way books are retailed in this country), but I won't go into that right now. The main thing is that despite iPods and Tivos and Kindles, I feel people still yearn for books, for the tactile sensation of turning pages, for the smell of a new book, for the joy of cracking a binding for the first time, turning down pages, making notes in margins, falling asleep with a splayed novel on their chest. I know I do.

Books are to be cherished. And publishing can save itself if it can flip.

It's what we are doing, starting right now... 

We have an ambitious, exciting new publishing project. It's a trilogy of historical espionage novels that we think could be hugely, wildly popular. Problem is, the books are in Russian. And translating and creating a quality product of this scale is a major investment. So we're turning to you, our Tribe of Russophiles and bibliophiles, to partner with us on this.

If, based on your experience with us, you feel we create quality products, things that you find interesting and that you want to have in your home library, you can join with us on this publishing project at the front end instead of the rear.

You'll get a book (or more) out of it, and you'll get the satisfaction of being involved in a new type of publishing. Flipped.

The project is called The Silk Road Trilogy. And you can read about it here (

Join us, won't you?

Paul Richardson
Flipped Publisher


On July 15, 2012, our Kickstarter project closed and we hit the goal! Thank you to all those who have believed in and crowd-funded this project. 

Translation is underway and will be completed in the spring. The first book  - The Pet Hawk of the House of Abbas - will be released in the fall of 2013 (good translations take time :). 

April 15, 2013: The translation is now complete, we have a wonderful new cover and an excellent map for the book, and the final process of line editing, proofing and revising is well underway! Release date is set for September 1, 2013. Project partners will see their books this summer.


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Russian Life is a publication of a 30-year-young, award-winning publishing house that creates a bimonthly magazine, books, maps, and other products for Russophiles the world over.

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