The New York Times has revealed it’s now commonplace for rock and roll acts to offer a V.I.P. to rabid fans with deep pockets. For $1000, you get front row seats, an exclusive catered party invitation, merchandise, and perhaps a chance to hob nob with your favorite rocker and get your photo taken.
“If you call something deluxe, if you call something unique,” said Jon Landau, Bruce Springsteen’s long-time manager, “this is America — someone will buy it.”
What if you could buy an e-edition of the Jane Austen collection which was loaded with all the best commentary on her works from all the greatest scholars, all the movies, a link to her fan club forum, and a chance to win a date with Jane? (OK, the latter wouldn’t quite work, but you get the idea).
Publishers are chasing after A-, B-, and C- list celebrities on any old topic that halfway fits with what they’re famous for, and ignoring their backlist and the opportunities for synergy (I remember that word from back in the early 90s, when megacorporations gobbled up independent publishers and insisted that this would be beneficial because every division would work creatively with each other–that didn’t seem to happen anywhere).
What about nonfiction that would easily hook into other nonfiction and be searchable in e-form? Those of us who would buy the 3 top books on a subject anyway would be willing to pay a little more to be able to cross check topics, get links to outside resources, and directly email the authors through a simple link.
Book publishers need to recognize they are not in the book biz but in the creative assembly and distribution of information biz.