AGENT OR PUBLISHER?
There was a time when it was perfectly clear what a publisher, agent or a book scout offered. But these days it's likely that a Web-based "publishing" business will fashion itself into a hybrid of all three. Take Authorlink.com, a Web-based firm aimed at agents and editors that initially allowed writers (for a monthly fee) to post synopses and excerpts from their unpublished manuscripts. Authorlink.com was founded in 1996 by Doris Booth, who told PW the site has facilitated ("we hook both parties up") the publication of more than 50 titles and helped more than 200 authors find agents.
Booth is now launching Authorlink Press with 12 new trade paper titles available this fall and another 24 titles by spring 2000. She's inked a deal with on-demand printer Lightning Press to produce the print titles and another with digital publisher Peanut Press (www.peanutpress.com) to release downloadable editions of each. AP d sn't offer advances just yet but pays the standard (8%-15%) royalty rates. All titles can be browsed at Authorlink.com and purchased from the usual online retailers; brick-and-mortar stores can order them from Ingram. "We see so many good writers who aren't published," Booth told PW. "Now we can offer them an opportunity. On-demand publishing is the wave of the future." Titles include fiction and nonfiction. "A hodgepodge," said Booth, "to see where the market is."
RETAILER OR PUBLISHER?
Not to be outdone, the new Web retailer AmericanaBooks.com has already added a new Web wrinkle called the Electronic Agent. Americana Books founder George Lovato Jr. told PW that, much like Authorlink.com, the Electronic Agent will allow authors to post synopses, chapter excerpts and an outline from their unpublished manuscripts for a $25 fee. If publishers or agents don't bite, Lovato said AB will publish the best stuff itself as downloadable e-books and audiobooks or print on-demand trade paperbacks, depending on the work's viability. According to Lovato, AB will use a variety of publishing models: traditional advance and royalty arrangements, outright purchase of the rights and author-subsidized printing with royalties or even third-party sponsorships. "We're trying to create new business opportunities," noted Lovato.
COLLEGE WEB PUBLISHING
Looking for economically viable ways to publish serious titles, Columbia University Press, the university's libraries and its Academic Information Systems have launched a formal publishing relationship (funded by $750,000 from the CU provost) to be called the Electronic Publishing Initiative at Columbia. Kate Wittenberg, editor-in-chief of CU Press, who has been named director of the initiative, told PW that EPIC will incorporate "books, journals and new models of online publishing beyond simply circulating print titles online." EPIC will also oversee online projects such as Columbia International Affairs Online (www.ciaonet.org), a site with full-text books from academic publishers, and Columbia Earthscape (www.earthscape.org), an interdisciplinary online publishing, and curriculum resource for Earth Science. EPIC also has to produce some revenue. CIAO and Columbia Earthscape are targeted for "subscriptions to libraries," said Wittenberg. "We're looking to break even in three years."
IN THE BLACK
BlackVoices.com, an online community aimed at African-Americans, is launching Campus Life (www. campuslife.blackvoices.com), focusing on the site's large 18- to 24-year-old demographic. The site will emphasize books on career and financial management and feature titles from Chicago-based publisher NTC. The site will announce other book-content deals in the next few weeks.