“Soft Skull began at a Kinko’s in 1993 courtesy of Adobe and Xerox. It started with fewer resources and far less maturity and experience than, say, Seven Stories, Arcade, Manic D or New Press. But we all benefited from the collapsing barriers to entry into the publishing business.
Distributors like PGW, IPG, Consortium, SCB arose to service these publishers and in so doing engendered yet more presses—first Akashic, then Two Dollar Radio, Featherproof, Chiasmus. First, we were the barbarians at the gate. Then, we became the alternative establishment.”
Richard Nash recounts his past at Soft Skull, and talks about his vision for the future of publishing in this article at Publisher’s Weekly.Elsewhere in the piece, he writes:
what emerged from my research is a model that to some will seem unconscionably radical, to others unconscionably conservative: a business that properly avails itself of all the tools that now exist to enable the creation of writing and reading communities from which all else emanates—print books, downloads, marketing and publicity, editorial services—and, of course, revenue.
He outlined his business plan for this venture, called Cursor, which he created with Dedi Felman, at BEA a couple months ago, and in the article he outlines it for the whole world:
Cursor will establish a portfolio of self-reinforcing online membership communities. To start, this includes Red Lemonade, a pop-lit-alt-cult operation, and charmQuark, a sci-fi/fantasy community.
The business will focus on developing the value of the reading and writing ecosystem, including the growth of markets for established authors, as well as engaging readers and supporting emerging writers. Each community will have a publishing imprint, which will make money from authors’ books, sold as digital downloads, conventional print and limited artisanal editions—and will offer authors all the benefits of a digital platform: faster time to market, faster accounting cycles, faster payments to authors. But the greatest opportunity is in the community itself. Each will have tiers of membership, including paid memberships that will offer exclusive access to tools and services, such as rich text editors for members to upload their own writing, peer-to-peer writing groups, recommendation engines, access to established authors online and in person, and editorial or marketing assistance. Members can get both peer-based feedback and professional feedback.
This is one of those proposals that you’d never think of, but which seem obvious as soon as you’ve heard it. It reminds me of the online community Zoetrope Virtual Studio, that Zoetrope: All-Story has fostered around its website and magazine. Here’s the link to the article, again.