The Dawn of Digital Book Philanthropy

In Guest Contributors by Guest Contributor

Editorial by Dusty Sang

• Stay Thirsty Press, a digital first publisher, is donating 50 cents from the sale of two of its most recent titles to the Pennsylvania Innocence Project and ProLiteracy.

• Charity, argues Sang — whose own publishing house was inspired by a personal tragedy — should be part of every business strategy.

CHICAGO: In the darkest days of March during the Great Recession of 2009, Stay Thirsty Media, Inc., a global news and media company, launched a digital book publishing division under the imprint of Stay Thirsty Publishing. Now sixteen months later, I was asked to offer my perspective on our incredible journey.

The digital book revolution came of age in two stages in 2009. The first stage occurred when Amazon released its Kindle book app for the iPhone and iPod Touch and, in one day, expanded the distribution of its digital books to tens of millions of potential readers. At that moment it was clear to us that the legacy book publishers’ lock on book distribution was rapidly coming to an end. The second stage occurred when Amazon released its Kindle app for Windows PC’s and automatically expanded the distribution of its digital books to over one billion potential readers in 170 countries. These two events truly revolutionized and democratized book distribution and set in motion a profound disruption in the traditional publishing model.

And there we were, on the stage when the lights went on. In the beginning, we had one forward thinking, award-winning, veteran author, Pamela Ditchoff, with her third book entitled Mrs. Beast. We believed an historic moment — a Gutenberg Moment — had occurred that would both change book publishing forever and simultaneously stimulate the spread of ideas regardless of geography or borders.

Our business model, however, was different. We already had an established, powerful, global news and media megaphone with our internet magazine at viewed in over 170 countries. By carefully selecting talented writers, we slowly rolled out our digital first publishing division. To date, we have released seven original digital books with five more to come in the next few months and three more in contract negotiations. Authors, both award-winning veterans and debut or emerging talents, and literary agents have approached us with unexpected enthusiasm, and we have been fortunate to find works that we are truly passionate about.

And yet, we believed that just being in the digital book publishing business was not enough. From discussions with some of our newest authors, the idea of digital book philanthropy was born. In order to give back, to shoulder our social responsibility, and to focus attention on worthy causes, we have begun to partner with nonprofit organizations that are important to certain of our authors. In the case of The Ghost Detective by Thomas Kennedy Lowenstein, we have partnered with the Pennsylvania Innocence Project because Mr. Lowenstein has been a lifelong advocate for the wrongly convicted. In the case of our just published book, Little Hot Mama – The Flossie Turner Lewis Story, we have partnered with ProLiteracy, the largest literacy organization in the U.S., because of what achieving literacy at the age of 69 meant for Flossie. In these instances, the authors, the literary agent, and the publisher have combined to donate 50 cents from the sale of every digital copy of the particular book to the relevant nonprofit organization.

To us, working together with authors to support causes that are meaningful in their lives is an honor. Although not appropriate for every author or every book, where relevant it highlights the dawn of a new era of social responsibility and philanthropy that publishers should welcome. Content will always be king, but helping to foster a better world gives us a chance, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, to be touched “by the better angels of our nature.”

Dusty Sang is President of Stay Thirsty Media, Inc.

DISCUSS: Tell us about your favorite literary charities.

READ: Our earlier article on “The Rise of ‘Cause’ Publishing.”

About the Author

Guest Contributor

Guest contributors to Publishing Perspectives have diverse backgrounds in publishing, media and technology. They live across the globe and bring unique, first-hand experience to their writing.