Via David Nygren, I read an article in Publishers Weekly that reported on Richard Nash and Dedi Felman’s panel at this year’s Book Expo. During the panel, titled “The Concierge and the Bouncer,” Nash and Felman describe their plans for a new publishing model/site, I suppose, that follows the metaphor of a round table, across which editors, readers, authors, business people, and others share their ideas about publishing and literature and so on (the traditional publishing metaphor being, perhaps, *a laundry chute?).
Nash and Felman outlined their push back against the outmoded idea of publisher as cultural gatekeeper. Nash didn’t realize until after he left Soft Skull, where he was “locked into this lefty, punky, quasi-anarchist, multi-interned model,” that it was the dreaded slush pile—not the publisher-author-reader hierarchy—that kept the business alive: “you have to keep accepting unsolicited submissions, because those people are our readers.” The key is a shift from a caretaker mentality to a service mentality, from a linear supply-chain model to the idea of a free-floating, non-hierarchical “ecosystem” of readers, writers and authors.
Felman outlined the concept in more detail: using a subscription system, Round Table will bring to the social networking platform not just finished content, but many aspects of the publishing process—including, for authors open to the idea, peer editing. The idea is that feedback and crowd-sourcing can dramatically enrich the editing, authoring and reading process for all involved—not to mention expose potential talent among members of the community (“In our formulation,” says Nash, “readers are writers”).
Over at his blog, Nash says that he’s been busily resarching and preparing for BEA, which is going on now, but plans to post during June some essays and so on that will hopefully explain in more detail this project.
*if you have a better metaphor for how traditional publishing works…