From the Frankfurt Book Fair where she is promoting her new company, former HarperCollins CEO Jane Friedman has added a few more details about her new operation, Open Road Integrated Media. As previously reported, Kohlberg Ventures is paving the Open Road with $3 million in funding, and Friedman called Open Road “a multilayered company” that will be centered around the publication of e-books, both originals and backlist, while also doing print-on-demand, producing films for theatrical release and promoting e-books from other publishers through Open Roads proprietary marketing platform. Open Road will not release any titles until its marketing platform--which it described in the release as “being designed to reach consumers where they live, socialize and shop online”--launches, sometime in early 2010.
Friedman estimated that Open Road will publish and promote a total of 750 to 1,000 e-books in its first year. That total includes roughly 40 original e-books that Open Road will publish under its Studio division, which is being headed by Brendan Cahill whose background includes being a founding editor at Gotham Books. In addition to doing e-books, Studio will have a print-on-demand component and will use the increasingly popular model of paying no author advances but offering a more generous profit split with writers. Friedman said if any Studio title has the potential to become a hit, she will consider licensing the book to a traditional publisher or work directly with a distributor to print and distribute the title. “We already have three books that could become bestsellers,” Friedman said. A second division being overseen by Cahill is Discovery which will provide a self-publishing option for authors while also offering self-published authors the ability to use Open Road’s marketing platform. Both services will carry a fee.
The key to bringing backlist books back to life as e-books will be new marketing initiatives that will include video and audio components being developed under the direction of Jeffrey Sharp, Open Road president and who had worked with Friedman at HC in a unit called Sharp Independent designed to produce movies from HC books. All e-books released by Open Road “will have some marketing component,” although some authors will receive more attention than others, Friedman acknowledged. The promotions will not interfere with the e-books, but will be linked to them. “We don’t want to interfere with the story,” Friedman said. Pricing has not yet been worked out, but Friedman has a few ideas. “We will price them so people will buy them,” she said. “Lower is better than higher, but that doesn’t mean they all have to be $9.99.” Open Road e-books will be available for all reading devices.
Backlist titles at launch will include works from William Styron, Pat Conroy and Dame Iris Murdoch. Open Road has also signed deals with Grove Atlantic and Kensington to use the Open Road marketing platform to promote e-book editions of their backlist titles.
Click here for more coverage of the 2009 Frankfurt Book Fair from PW and BookBrunch.