I love this story!
We are all guilty of bemoaning the state of book publishing today, often to the point of conflict. In the past few days, two heartfelt essays promoting what is best in both old-school corporate publishing (Adrian Zackheim in his Portfolio blog) and what is wonderful about printed books (Aaron Gilbreath in the Chicago Tribune) stood out. I scanned through the comments after each essay–so many people, so vehement, sometimes disrespectful, so convinced that both print and publishing are on the way out. The rancor is unnecessary; the issue not black and white.
There may be a best of both worlds on the way. In the tale of The Hangman’s Daughter we see an almost poetic melding of technology and talent; of digital and print; of traditional and digital, and it is heartening.
OLD SCHOOL AND PAPER AND PEOPLE: The Hangman’s Daughter by Oliver Pötzsch was published originally by the large German publisher Ullstein, and was very well-recieved there.
ALGORYTHMIC MACHINERY AND DIGITAL EVIL DO-ERS: According to Amazon’s Booklending blog, Amazon used its own “international book sales data to identify popular books that were not originally published in English,” and then acquired the English rights to publish the book on its Amazon Crossing imprint, and “leverage(s) the huge bookselling reach of Amazon.com.” Kindle sales soared.
Guess what else? One of the driving forces behind the sales, was online word of mouth, which means people. Individuals who talked with one another online to lend one another copies. The book hit the top of the Amazon lending lists while it was still ” only at #184 in the regular Amazon bestsellers list” (same source, the Amazon blog). That’s pretty cool.
AND WHAT’S OLD IS NEW AGAIN: The classy old (sorry) publisher blend Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has a deal with Amazon, where it publishes select trade paperback editions of Amazon titles. So Amazon Crossing turns around and re-licenses the book back to a traditional print publisher, and the book comes home again. You can buy it in bookstores in print, you can buy it through Indiebound online (which is where I’ve linked here), you can buy it in German, you can check it out of the library (you can’t check out the digital edition, though).
And the book is working. Across formats, across international borders. With several more on the way; The Hangman’s Daughter is the first in a series.
Almost makes me feel like we’re all playing on the same team again.
PS. The unsaid damper–with Amazon starting up its own publishing division, who knows what this kind of story will look like next year. But…let’s live in this moment, OK?