How Publishing Traditions Inform Innovation

In Guest Contributors by Guest Contributor

PageTwo co-founders

Jesse Finkelstein and Trena White, Principals, Page Two

Jesse Finkelstein and Trena White of Page Two, a publishing services firm in Canada reflect on what they’ve learned in their first year in business.

By Jesse Finkelstein and Trena White, Principals, Page Two

One year ago this month, we founded a new agency called Page Two. Our company was formed in the spirit of innovation: we act as literary agents for authors through an alliance with Transatlantic, an established literary agency, and we provide consulting on a variety of non-traditional publishing activities – from advising industry associations on digital initiatives to helping individuals and organizations self-publish professionally. Looking back on our first year, we realize that the work we’ve done on even our most non-traditional projects has deep roots in industry traditions, and our most digitally-minded clients appreciate the benefits of time-tested publishing practices. Here are a few that come to mind:

Publishing for Posterity

We work with people on the front lines of digital change, some of whom spend most of their waking hours posting and broadcasting material on the internet. Those same people still make a distinction between publishing a book and posting content online, regardless of which format they choose to publish in. They feel that writing, curating and editing long-form work – and packaging it separately from everything else they produce — is what transforms them from blogger to author. The work they publish in book form is meant to stand the test of time in a way that online posts are not generally meant to do.

Since the advent of ebooks, the boundaries that separate books from other forms of digitally delivered content are fuzzier, but – at least for the moment — they’re still meaningful. For example, take the subject matter expert who delivers valuable information on her blog. She might also offer a free ebook download, which covers much of the same ground as the blog posts, though the material is often collected or curated in a different way. Packaged as a book, the content is less ephemeral than the blog post; it’s meant to be read in a different way and valued differently, even if it’s given away for free. Perhaps the constant deluge of online content makes the concept of the book inherently more valuable than it ever was before.

Book Marketing Requires Real-World and Virtual Expertise

When we’re advising our authors on marketing campaigns, some of them expect us to recommend online marketing at the expense of everything else. There’s a belief that publishing in the “digital era” requires throwing money at aggressive social media campaigns that will somehow work their magic on the market and lead to widespread book sales. We’ve seen publishers execute thoughtful, strategic marketing campaigns that build on authors’ strengths and networks both online and offline, and this is most often the approach we recommend. There’s still lots of room for innovation and creativity in a marketing campaign that doesn’t have us putting all of our client’s eggs in one basket.

Getting Some Good Help

Many of our self-publishing clients understand that the term self-publishing is misleading, and that they can achieve better results in a number of ways — higher sales, stronger brand-building, better reviews, etc. — if they obtain support from experienced publishing professionals. Our clients value our ability to connect them with freelance editors, designers and others who have worked for traditional publishers because they know most of them have honed their craft in companies with high standards.

Print is Still Privileged

Given our backgrounds in digital publishing, we thought clients would be particularly interested in developing digital-only projects. Some are — we helped one company shape an app concept, for instance, and another publish an ebook series — but most of our clients still want print books. They value the permanence and authority that they lend, as well as their beauty when well designed and produced. Witness the talented chef with tens of thousands of YouTube channel subscribers whose online fans have been clamoring for a print book they can hold in their hands, even if they can get all of her recipes online.

We love running a business with a steep learning curve and a model that allows us both to build on tradition and to depart from it where necessary. We can’t wait to see what next year brings.

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.