Cyber Law by Brett Trout (ISBN 978-1-934209-71-4) is an excellent book by a very talented writer. Cyber Law is a major success story for World Audience Publishers, and after reading just a few chapters, anyone can see why!
World Audience’s goal is to be a driving force in the changing business of book publishing, which is being brought about by technology. Cyber Law specifically deals with how law is both shaping and trying to keep pace with the Internet. Cyber Law covers its subject in a clear and entertaining manner. It is thus a perfect fit for our press, and Cyber Law’s success bodes well for this press’ vision and goals. It is useful to study how the author approaches his subject and then apply that knowledge toward this press’ pursuit of its vision. It is vital that the authors World Audience publishes have a good understanding of blogging, for example, to market their books, and Cyber Law explains this subject and many others in great detail.
Cyber Law was published in September, 2007, shortly after our press began publishing books. It is a wonderful example of how desktop publishing, print-on-demand distribution, and our press work. Though we have enhanced our operations in the past 2 years, our core model is largely unchanged. We are efficient, and our business model has little overhead. A publishing team, separated geographically, worked online to publish Cyber Law. The author, in Iowa, worked with the book’s editor, Kyle Torke, who lives in Colorado. The final file was then sent to me, the publisher, in New York, and I formatted it into a book using only Microsoft Word. I then sent the file to our artist in Liverpool, England, Chris Taylor, to design the cover with the help of the cover image supplied by another artist. I then created the final files by converting the MS Word files to PDF with the use of a Web application that cost approximately $13. I set up the title (with the information that can be viewed at Amazon.com or related retailers) at our printer, Lightning Source, and then uploaded 4 PDF files: cover, back cover, spine, and interior. It took me about 1 hour to do the technical component of providing the files to the printer.
Cyber Law is one of our best-selling titles, and sales increase steadily each month. As publisher, I consider the sales growth of Cyber Law to be an indicator of how sales of a book can develop and the growth of our press, overall.
I am faced with a seemingly unanswerable question with each book I publish: what makes a great book? And what defines a great book in the first place? Perhaps the fact that I ask this question every time drives the press I run in the first place. To complicate further, the answer or answers to this question are changing because publishing itself is changing. This fact has dramatic impact on certain players in the industry, even as many of those players choose to ignore or avoid the reality that not only is publishing changing, but the answer to my question above is changing, too. In other words, the values held by a previous generation are not my values as a “21st century publisher,” operating primarily online, nor is what makes a book great the same.
For example, Cyber Law received excellent reviews, such as: “This book is a quick read and serves as an introduction to the basic issues involved in Internet marketing. Cyber Law’s details provide valuable clues…” –Martha L. Cecil-Few, The Colorado Lawyer. And, Cyber Law was reviewed by a noted technology expert, and it is available at the New York Public Library. For me, that (and there are more great reviews of Cyber Law) is a solid set of reviews that brings great credit not only to this book but to my press. And this is how it goes for every single one of our titles-though some of our titles have more reviews than others. But, for an older person not accustomed to the Internet or technology and who grew up reading the New York Times Book Review, the above reviews (or the effect of their marketing) mean nothing-simply because Cyber Law was not reviewed by the New York Times Book Review or perhaps a handful of other esoteric, academic sources (many of which are dying or dead, such as the Los Angeles Times book review section). Therefore, this potential market share of customers won’t buy a book that has not been blessed by their sources-such as Cyber Law (even being in the NY Public Library is not enough). This lack of “official sanction” in the publishing world has other consequences, such as making media attention in general hard to attract, among other things. And there are many other examples of how publishing of the past is clashing with the present, even down very petty things such as how older, independent bookstores will open a print-on-demand book to the back cover, note the placement of a bar code, and refuse to look any further at the book based on that fact alone. All of these biases (and there are many more) of the “old guard” are the equivalent of dismissing literally millions of writers who work online, and their books, and to exclude an entire generation-if not two generations-from access to the business of publishing and successfully marketing books in a profitable manner. It is a form of class warfare and economic prejudice. Even racial discrimination or nationalism can be applied to this “old guard” of publishing, who at the very least would be adamantly opposed (mostly politically) to free trade, which drives World Audience’s business model. Old-school publishing thrives on unions, for example, which are useless online.
What makes a book great, therefore, is different for me, as a publisher-and not because of my politics (this fact too marks a divide). What makes a book great is when it gets great reviews and that it can survive and prosper on the Web. If a title can do that with limited help from its publisher-such as Cyber Law-then even better because that means even more sales are likely once more resources are applied to marketing it. But if older venues of judging a book’s merit or “worth” are either gone or rapidly becoming obsolete, how is the other half to making a book great determined? A book’s worth must now be defined by the author in additional to the critic. But the critic’s role is diminished on the Web; he is nothing like Mr. Wood’s role of the past. In the recent past, an author had little to do with a book’s success, and he was even something of an afterthought. However, going back another generation, to maybe the 1920s, the author was a vital part of his book’s success. How ironic that technology has returned the author to a prominent role. In the pre-Depression era (The Depression is when the business model of publishing that survives to this day formed), the author was a major media figure, and his image was central to the success of his books. Furthermore, an author’s editor played a much larger role pre-Depression (such as Max Perkins) as opposed to the recent past, when editors were virtually non-entities. Yet, if you look at the start of my article, note the main players: author, editor, and publisher-and book. Because of the streamlined nature of our operations, and the multitude of technologies at our fingertips, we require no one else. We do not require a vast union of middlemen.
Publishing is changing, and the rate of change is only accelerating. It is amazing to me that there are still those who are, say, over 50 and averse to technology-and that includes much of the publishing industry. This group-this market share-exerts influence over a large piece of the publishing pie, even today. However, as the Internet and technology continue to evolve and become more sophisticated, “new publishing” is open to more market share, and this older demographic becomes irrelevant. For example, YouTube only became fully mature a year or two ago, and it has opened up many new opportunities for advertising and marketing books. The Web is simply too vast for older publishing business models, which are incapable of adapting, to survive. Thus, new business models that rely on technology-ebooks, for example-will take and replace the market share of old-school presses. Why would they not eliminate a smaller competitor? New publishing will not supplement the old model; it will eradicate it and take its entire market share. And readers used to getting their books through older distribution models will either adapt to the Web or live without books. And in the meantime, a new generation of publishers is redefining what it means for a book to be great, independent of what it meant in the past. Cyber Law is helping to define that, too, both through its well-written very subject matter and the course of success that it is charting on the Web.