Unable to arrange the sale of Alyson Books, parent company Here Media has announced that it is dropping Alyson’s print book program and plans to restructure as an e-book only publisher. The country’s oldest gay and lesbian house has been in financial trouble for months and publisher Don Weise had been trying to put a group together to acquire the publisher. With the restructuring, however, Weise will leave the company.
John Knoebel, v-p of consumer marketing at Here Media, has been named interim publisher until a new digital publisher can be found. Knoebel said he doesn't expect Alyson to begin publishing e-books for nine to 12 months. "We want to develop a strategy that makes sense," he said, adding that Here Media would like to have the new publisher on board and involved with creating the new business model. The recruitment of a digital publisher "could take some time," Knoebel said.
Over the next few days Alyson will be reaching out to the authors it has under contract and whose books they have not published to give them the option of getting their rights back or moving ahead with Alyson's digital program. "We know authors are working in different circumstances," Knoebel said. "We hope some will stick with us." Alyson has about 24 authors under contract whose books have not yet been released. Alyson has not published new print books since fall 2009.
While Alyson has never released an e-book, Knoebel said other parts of Here Media, specifically Out and Advocate, have done digital products that have been well received. The gay and lesbian community tend to be early adopters of technology, he said, "so we are encouraged that they will take to digital books." Knoebel said one factor in the decision to stop publishing print titles was the closing of many gay bookstores. "There are just fewer places to sell books," he said.
Alyson is the second mid-sized publisher to try an e-book strategy to continue to publish. This summer, Dorchester Publishing dropped its mass market paperback line in exchange for an e-book/print-on-demand approach.