Quill and Quire

Industry news

« Back to

Dying is easy, launching a small press is hard

Editor and author John Warner has a lengthy post on Maud Newton’s blog about the non-success of his fledgling publishing enterprise, TOW Books, a humour imprint that was supposed to make him the Judd Apatow of the written word. For all his self-effacing irony, Warner, the editor of McSweeney’s online, notes the crushing bathos involved in launching a small press.

Back then I imagined that the challenge for most publishers was content, and since our titles would be good, and rigorously curated, so that if you liked one, you’d like them all, we would take bookstores by storm.

I know, stupid.

A short few years later, Warner acknowledges that selling books has as much to do with publicity and distribution as it does with content, so to jump-start his business he’s employing a tactic that increasingly is becoming part of a publicist’s arsenal “ namely, offering readers free copies of his books. The idea being that in this day and age of Amazon and blogs and Facebook and MySpace, and LibraryThing, and Shelfari, everyone has a public forum where they can express their opinions.

Warner’s piece is also a sobering reminder for humourless publishing-industry reporters to keep on their toes. From one of his press releases:

According to Mr. Warner, TOW Books will be dedicated to publishing titles with staying power instead of relying on slapdash parodies, designed only to capitalize on a current cultural trend and rushed to market to make a quick buck.

The first announced title to be published in early 2007 will be Kevin Federline’s Guide to Sudoku

I assumed the joke would be obvious, but this little nugget was repeated in the Publishers Weekly coverage of our launch as fact. The second Tow Books title, scheduled for release in early 2007, PW reported, will be Kevin Federline’s Guide to Sudoku