Just a little over a week after The Sower by Kemble Scott was published in a limited hardcover edition by San Francisco independent publisher Numina Press and distributed exclusively to Bay Area independent booksellers, it debuted on Sunday in the fifth spot on the San Francisco Chronicle bestseller list.
The Sower has had one of the most unorthodox publishing trajectories in these changing publishing times. Since Scott uploaded the e-book edition of his second novel on scribd.com in May, three publishers of various sizes approached him about doing a print edition. At the same time, Praveen Madan, co-owner of The Booksmith in San Francisco contacted Scott about doing an e-book event in the store. Together, Praveen and Scott examined the author’s print book offers and hatched the plan to launch the hardcover edition of The Sower with Numina Press in Marin County and distribute its first printing exclusively to Bay Area independent booksellers.
Through Numina’s Vox Nuvo imprint, via print-on-demand technology, The Sower was printed and distributed to booksellers in a month. Since The Sower is set in a fictionalized version of the present and contains timely cultural references, Scott did not want to wait the usual year-to-18 months it would have taken most traditional publishers to publish a book. The author decided to release the book to the Bay Are independent booksellers as both an experiment (akin to how movies open up in select areas) and also in recognition of the booksellers Scott credits with making his first novel SoMa (Kensington) a bestseller in 2007. To support the book’s August 31 release, Scott has appeared in seven independent bookstores and did other events in the area.
Numina and Scott are discussing the possibility of a trade paperback release. “If we believe a book should be available in all formats, why not?” said Scott. “At the very least we’ve proved a point,” Scott added. “This book was completely done outside all of the traditional gatekeepers of publishing—and the technology of the times let us turn it around very, very quickly. It gives me, now, finally an opportunity to have people read the book for its merits and its content and not for the way it was published.”
As for what this might mean for the future of books, Scott said, “I think we’re all curious where this all goes. I think that digital books and printed books do compliment each other.”