My colleague, co-author, and friend David Houle has a new book out: Entering the Shift Age: The End of the Information Age and the New Era of Transformation. The book has been racing up the charts at Amazon, and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to understand the forces that will shape our lives in the coming decades. (And that’s everyone, right?!)
But for the purposes of this post, I want to focus not so much on the contents of the book as on the way the book was written and published. How David brought the book to market says a lot about what the future may hold for publishing.
David and I have both worked with traditional publishers in the past, and have both felt some frustration with what that process is like. For starters, it takes a long time to go from a completed manuscript to having an actual book in the market place. I finished Leading the Revolution early last May, for example, but the official publication date was not until early January of this year. (All of the major editing was completed by early July.) For rapidly evolving topics, this is quite a long gap between writing and publication.
To avoid this sort of gap as well as a number of other frustrations, David teamed up with Sourcebooks for Entering the Shift Age and helped spearhead the publisher’s efforts with the Agile Publishing Model.
What’s the Agile Publishing Model?
Glad you asked. You can get a more detailed answer (and some good comments from readers) in the SourceBooks post “So What Exactly is Agile Publishing?,” but here are a few highlights:
It’s a “show as you go” model
As David finished sections of Entering the Shift Age, he published them to a site set up for the book by SourceBooks. Anyone who signed up could review what David had written – no waiting for 6-12 months to finally connect with your readership.
It’s a collaborative model
In addition to being able to review what David had written, readers were able to comment to share their reactions and ideas. Comments could then be used as a basis for revisions and improvements. The focus was not only on writing, but also on sparking conversations and building a community – a fan base – around the writing. If you are an expert writing on a complex, rapidly evolving topic – like, say, the future – I think this kind of reader/writer interaction is particularly attractive.
It’s a marketing model
Once they were polished up, SourceBooks also released sections of the book into the marketplace as eBooks. This helped to gauge interest and reactions beyond the community of readers that had formed around the book – and, of course, it created an initial revenue stream. As you will see at the Amazon page for the book, you can still pick and choose among these eBooks in addition to being able to purchase the complete work.
It’s a managed model
There’s much about what I describe in the points above that simply falls into the “blog to book” approach I discuss in Leading the Learning Revolution, but in this case, a commercial publisher is already involved, and the entire process is undertaken with the knowledge that a traditional, commercially published book will come out of it. (I have the hard back version of Entering the Shift Age sitting beside me as I write this post, and it looks really nice!)
I think there is little doubt that publishers will have to embrace the Agile Publishing Model or very similar approaches as they try to strike a balance between the value they have traditionally provided – a great deal of which has been or is being disintermediated – and the possibilities that the new generation of self publishing now offers.
What do you think? Is “agile” where it’s at? If not, what other models should publishers embrace? Please comment and share your thoughts. And don’t forget to pick up a copy – whether paper or digital, in full or in parts – of Entering the Shift Age.