Surrounding the Audience: Cursor and the Social Publishing Community, or, Apres Le Blockbuster, Le Niche.

Richard Nash (Small Demons/ Cursor)
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In 2008 alone, over 550, 000 new book titles were published. The supply problem in publishing has been solved. The challenge of the future is in generating demand for individual titles, especially for not-yet established writers. In the current sea of content, how can:

  • Readers find quality content and connect with authors they might like and value but don’t yet know?
  • Professional authors get the kind of marketing—and editing—they need to gain attention for their work?
  • Aspiring writers (more than 14 million Americans report they’re engaged in creative writing) improve their craft and access larger readerships?

Cursor believes the answers lie in a new, social approach to publishing, one that see the supply chain as just one part of the value of the ecosystem; an approach that marries social networks to publishing.

Cursor is establishing a portfolio of powerful, self-reinforcing online membership communities that develop markets for (professional) Authors, engage Reader Members, and support emerging Writers.

Cursor’s three initial communities (each with its own digital/print publishing arm) are in areas that currently draw strong participation on the web. 1) Science Fiction/Fantasy [charmQuark]; 2) Pop-Lit-Alt-Cult [Red Lemonade] 3) African-American culture [Dark Matter]

Each of our branded, aesthetically/thematically contiguous communities features the fullest possible collaboration and engagement including, for example, the opportunity for readers and writers to actively engage with early drafts of an Author’s work; the opportunity for editors to publicly edit the book, a rendering transparent of the publishing process; and the opportunity for writers to discuss and comment on each other’s work and instructors’ use in our courses.

We surround the audience, and empower the audience, offering reading, sharing, writing and publishing.

Reading—Readers and Writers connecting with Authors:
  • The book is a platform: for pre- and post-publication discussions, information exchanges (nonfiction) or reader feedback on new series characters or developments (fiction), online or offline, with Author.
Sharing—Readers Connecting with Readers:
  • The book is a conversation: for readers to share thoughts via comments direct on the text, member forums, and book chats (Twitter, chat room, and offline) guided by our community moderators.
Writing—Writers connecting with Writers: The book is a tool for learning to write so for writers aspiring to be professionally published we offer:
  • Courses specific to the areas/genres in which they work (competitive online courses tend not to be genre/area-specific and advice is thus often overly broad.)
  • Services including professional critiques of proposals and manuscripts
  • Portable “profiles” with comments and ratings from readers and authors that will serve as writers’ calling card to the larger literary world (and will assist our editors in identifying potential authors for our own publishing imprints)
  • A transparent publishing process—a window on editors’ real time interactions with authors
Publishing—Authors connecting with Readers. We offer Authors:
  • Less restrictive grant of rights—the typical publishing contact extends of the “life of the copyright,” typically life of the author plus 70 years. Our contract will be limited to a three-year term with automatic one-year renewals and a six-month notice-of-termination clause.
  • Above-average digital royalty rates— 30% net vs standard 25% net
  • More monetizable content—In addition to standard-length (50K-150K words) works, we will also sell out-takes, later commentary, shorter works, etc through our channels
  • Faster time to market — digital production cycle far faster than print, and direct-to-consumer sales channels can be filled almost instantly, as opposed to standard lead times of nine months. This permits faster payments to authors.

The Economy of the Ecosystem

All the works we publish will be available as part of an online Library, as digital downloads, print publications, and as limited editions.

  • Community Membership. All registered members have access to the content and for the premium ($9.95/month) members have access to early drafts, to author conversations, .
  • Digital Download of authors’ content
  • Conventional Print edition of authors’ content. Traditional print, eschewed by many recent entrants to the publishing marketplace engages the key amplifiers in traditional book publishing—chain stores offering product visibility and brand-building, independent retailers offering curated and motivated retail experiences (“handselling”), and traditional print-philic media outlets. We will offset the working capital intensive nature of this sales channel through aggressive inventory management.
  • Limited Edition Print of authors’ content. Artisanally created, unique or semi-unique objects are ever more desirable for collectors of high-end literary fiction. Price points ranging from $40 to $1000
  • Online courses taught by the community imprint’s own established authors
  • Other licensing revenue from events, translations, audio, games.
Photo of Richard Nash

Richard Nash

Small Demons/ Cursor

Richard Nash ran Soft Skull Press, now an imprint of Counterpoint, from 2001 to 2007 and ran the imprint on behalf of Counterpoint until early 2009. He now consults for authors and publishers on how to reach readers and is developing a start-up called Cursor, a portfolio of niche social publishing communities.

  • Ingram Content Group
  • Qualcomm
  • Copia
  • Impelsys Inc.
  • Innodata Isogen, Inc.
  • Adobe
  • Aptara
  • Baker & Taylor
  • Bowker
  • codeMantra
  • Connotate
  • Google
  • HP
  • LibreDigital
  • MagMe
  • Malloy
  • Mark Logic
  • oXygen XML Editor
  • Chuckwalla
  • Foxit Software
  • Jacquette Consulting
  • Jouve North America
  • Lulu
  • Marvell
  • Media Services Group
  • PubServ
  • Safari Books Online
  • Silverchair
  • Virtusales
  • Vitrium Systems
  • Smashwords, Inc.

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