Thursday, October 6, 2011: Dedicated Issue: Open Road Integrated Media

Open Road: Hotel Angeline by various authors

Open Road: From Here to Eternity by James Jones

Open Road: Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene

Open Road: Your favorite cookbooks and knitting titles now as e-books

Open Road: Children's ereads for the budding bookworm

Open Road: Mystery titles

Editors' Note

Open Road Integrated Media

Founded just over two years ago by Jane Friedman and Jeffrey Sharp, Open Road Integrated Media is a digital publisher and multimedia content company that is creating e-books, establishing relationships with authors and marketing to readers in remarkable and innovative ways that everyone in the business can learn from. Here with the support of the publisher, Shelf Awareness travels a bit with Open Road as it speeds on its digital journey.


Open Road: One More River by Mary Glickman

Books & Authors

Open Road and Its 'Layer Cake' Structure

Open Road has a kind of "layer cake" inspiration, as CEO Jane Friedman put it, and the main components are:

• Author brands, which consists of the works of established, classic authors who have retained e-book rights, including William Styron, James Jones, Carl Hiaasen, Rebecca West and Jack Higgins. These have "gotten the most attention," Friedman said. Open Road aims to publish an author's entire catalogue, or as much of it as possible, although sometimes it starts with just one title. The company has about 80 such brands, which continue to grow.

Recent additions are eight titles by the late Leon Uris, including Exodus (with three more titles next April, completing his oeuvre), and three titles by Alice Walker, including The Color Purple (with eight more titles appearing on November 22). As with other Open Road titles, these e-books include illustrated biographies that feature many previously unpublished photographs and documents from the authors, as well as video material. In Walker's case, there is video of her discussing her books and her life; in Uris's case, video includes commentary from two of his children, Karen and Mike Uris, about their father, his motivations, his work habits and more.

Publishing Partnerships. Open Road forms full partnerships with independent publishers, helping them enter the digital world. As part of these partnerships, Open Road creates, distributes and markets e-books. Publishers pick among the range of offerings and sometimes use all of them. The publishers are an eclectic bunch and include such companies as Kensington, Abrams, Akashic for Go the F**k to Sleep, Delphinium, Thomas Nelson, Pegasus Books and Cosmo for its first fiction e-book.

E-riginals, e-books that Open Road is publishing for the first time. By volume, e-riginals are a small part of what the company does but they are important for the house and its identity. "We are creating new authors, and they're an important part of the new kind of publishing--publishing for 21st century--that we're doing," said Brendan Cahill, v-p and publisher. (Cahill was formerly an editor at Running Press, Grove/Atlantic and Penguin, where he was a founding editor of Gotham Books.) Open Road published three e-riginals last year, 12 this year, and plans to publish between 15 and 20 next year.

An upcoming e-riginal is One More River by Mary Glickman, appearing on November 2. Open Road also published the author's first novel, Home in the Morning, as an e-riginal last year. The book shot up the charts, hitting #30 on Amazon's bestseller list, and Open Road is currently adapting the novel into a movie produced by co-founder Jeffrey Sharp, with Jim Kohlberg writing and directing.

The TV and film division. Several projects are in development, including a feature film based on Styron's Lie Down in Darkness and the TV series Cocoa Beach, based on the life of Open Road author Jay Barbree, who wrote Moon Shot: The Inside Story of America's Apollo Moon Landing with Alan Shepard and Deke Slayton and Live from Cape Canaveral.

Another innovation at Open Road is its business model. The company doesn't offer advances but shares e-book profits evenly with authors and pays them on a quarterly basis. The model creates "a richer, faster upside," Cahill said, and forges "a different kind of relationship and investment that optimizes the outcome. Each sale is worth more to the author and us." Unlike some more traditional deals, "We don't forget about the books or give up after selling a certain amount." Both new and established authors have embraced the model, he said.

Open Road sells its e-books through all the major e-tailers, including Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Google, Kobo, Sony and Overdrive. For print copies, the company uses Ingram's Lightning Source and the Espresso Book Machine.

E-riginals from Open Road

Embracing the Digital Landscape

A major impetus for the creation of Open Road in 2009 stemmed from an experience Jane Friedman had long ago when she was visiting one of her children and went to a local bookstore to buy a copy of Sophie's Choice as a gift. But the William Styron classic wasn't in stock. "I had been the publisher of Vintage, which has a strong backlist, and was aware of what was happening," she recalled. "Shelves were shrinking, and front list was taking more space." An obvious solution lay in digital publishing, something she encountered with the short-lived Rocket eBookMan reader that was launched in 1999. "I loved the idea of having a device with multiple books on it that you could travel with," she said. "I felt in my bones that we were shifting in another direction."

After leaving HarperCollins in 2008 where she had been CEO for 11 years, she and business partner Jeffrey Sharp discussed how to "embrace the digital landscape with content for all screens, movies, tablets, computers, smartphones." Coincidentally Sharp, a film producer, had acquired film rights to William Styron's Lie Down in Darkness, which Friedman had published in paperback. Styron had "a wonderful backlist," Friedman said. "We could see the potential for his material, most significantly for e-readers." Many significant literary agents "embraced the idea early on," and Open Road's catalogue has continued to grow.

Friedman is quite comfortable innovating. Going back to the author tour in 1970 with Julia Child and founding Random House Audio in the 1980s, she said, "I've always been interested in the new thing, and I never liked to follow the crowd." Open Road allows her to do this. The company is "small and agile enough that we can have an idea, try it, and if it doesn't work, we move on," she said. "We can be creative on a daily basis." She added, too, that it helps not to have to deal with seasons, returnability and other aspects of traditional print publishing. "I came out of corporations. Here there aren't the same financial and emotional pressures that you have there." In fact, she's finding her new gig remarkable satisfying. "I'm having so much fun," she said. "I smile when I walk into the offices in the morning."

Open Road has attracted the attention of some renowned venture capitalists, having obtained seed money amounting to $7 million from Kohlberg Ventures in two installments in 2009 and 2010 and another $8 million this past spring from a group including Kohlberg, Azure Capital and Golden Seeds.

A sign of the distance Friedman and Open Road have traveled since 2009: last year the company attended the Frankfurt Book Fair mainly to make presentations about Open Road. This year, Friedman said, "We're doing business." She also will also continue to advise European and Asian publishers that they be prepared for the digital revolution because "it happens very, very quickly." Open Road, she continued, has experimented, made mistakes, but "now we know what works."

In a nice mark of recognition, just this week, Friedman was named to Fortune magazine's 2011 Ten Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs list.

Open Road: Conjugations of the Verb To Be by Glen Chamberlain

Creating Author Content--A Lot of It

A centerpiece of Open Road's approach is creating content around the author, which is the basis of what it adds to e-books and is at the core of its unusual and comprehensive marketing approach. It's also what makes publishing with Open Road attractive to its major assets, the writers.

The production staff have backgrounds in filmmaking and documentaries.

Luke Parker Bowles, executive v-p of production, worked in film development for Working Title Films, in the U.K., on such films as Bridget Jones' Diary, About a Boy, Atonement, Pride & Prejudice and Nanny McPhee.

"I came into this looking to try to turn the marketing of books and e-books on its head," Parker Bowles said. "The days of a generic author being dragged into a dark room and asked 10 generic questions are over. In the days of the Internet and YouTube, people expect much more."

Open Road has 10 production crews that visit authors or, in the cases of deceased authors, their families and people who knew them well or were deeply influenced by them.

The crews prepare thoroughly in advance of meeting authors. Open Road's Galen Glaze prepares a thick book of questions that range from many specific to the author and the author's work to topical questions the marketing team believes could be useful. (Such input led to Mary Glickman talking about Judaism and Pat Conroy talking about fishing the Gulf oil spill.) Open Road also has "evergreen questions" that inquire, for example, about the authors' writing process, other jobs they've had, the writers who inspired them, how they became writers.

The filming takes place over a day or two, usually longer than originally scheduled. "The authors have been interviewed hundreds of times," Parker Bowles explained. "Very quickly they realize that that this is going to be a real conversation and they can talk about what they have never been asked to talk about before."

When a crew went to talk with Pat Conroy, "he knew in 10 minutes that this was different," Parker Bowles said. "Everything in the room changed." The Conroy interview was supposed to last four hours, "but we ended up staying two days," Parker Bowles said. "And it was hard to leave him on the third day."

Friedman noted with a laugh that many authors say, "You know more about me than I know. What great researchers you have there."

Friedman described the filming crews as "fabulous and young." Some of them are children of parents with deep roots in the book world: Polly Bresnick, daughter of agent Paul Bresnick; Lily Henderson, daughter of Pushcart Press publisher Bill Henderson; and the son of Galen Williams, the founder of Poets & Writers. "They have a feel with the authors. I never worry about them."

In the case of deceased authors, the crews interview family members and "people who remain passionate about them," as Parker Bowles put it. For the late James Jones, Open Road spoke with his daughter Kaylie Jones, who talked about her father and how being wounded at Guadalcanal and his war experience drove him to write, giving him a purpose to live and saving his life. The head of the James Jones Literary Society also spoke about how it took 60 years for the unexpurgated version of From Here to Eternity to be published. (Released this year as an e-book by Open Road.) And author Tim O'Brien spoke about how Jones influenced him. Many times, these interviews "open doors" and result in interview with others.

The interviews give Open Road material that can be used in marketing, in e-books--and for unforeseen uses. "If the Huffington Post comes to us about a story," Parker Bowles said, "we have hours of material that we can cull. We can shoot a video to the story and provide content that's interesting and relevant.""

The company also creates videos about the authors and their books that are like small documentaries. "They're short real profiles of the author as a real person," Friedman said. "There's no phoniness. Nothing is staged or rehearsed. It's spontaneous. We kind of let it rip, and we haven't had one complaint."

Not surprisingly, the in-depth interviews create a bond with the authors. The production department keeps in contact with authors and works with them on the videos. With Mary Glickman, for example, "we talk every other week, and a marketing person talks with her weekly," Parker Bowles said. "I wouldn't put anything out into the world without the authors' support. Occasionally we tweak the videos. It's really a partnership."

'360-Degree' Marketing

Open Road's proprietary Marketing Platform creates content for blogs, social networks, portals, news organizations and more. It's a continual, 24/7 effort on behalf of the company's authors and books--Open Road calls it a "360-degree cycle"--and is "dramatically different from traditional book publicity," said Rachel Chou, chief marketing officer. (She is the former v-p, online product development, at HarperCollins.) With the amount of Open Road's titles and videos, there is a lot of material to work with.

"We can go into our archives two years later and mix and match and find what is fresh," Chou said. The company does short videos, in-person events, virtual events, Twitter chats, q&a's, online ads and banners, traditional print ads and much more. "It's all part of the gamut of what we work with," Chou said, and the aim is "to keep the books out there and keep the conversation going. It's about scale--authors can do only so much. We amplify it all."

One example: once a month, Barnes & posts an entry in what it calls the On the Road with Open Road series. Each of the 10 entries so far tells in video form the story of Open Road's trips to interview specific authors and journeys with the authors, with plenty of archival material. "The one of Pat Conroy got more than 3,000 views," Chou said. "And there's always a lot of pickup on Twitter."

In social media, one example of how the company has taken given new life to classic books involves Gertrude C. Warner's 128 Boxcar Children Mystery titles. "A half dozen are about zombies and spooky house and the like," Chou said, so as Halloween approaches, Open Road is doing "targeted ads and tweets of-the-moment marketing for them."

Social media cannot be "cookie cutter," Chou emphasized. "Twitter has to be authentic. There has to be a conversation. You can't just post author quotes. You have to figure out right mix and places to be."

The most impressive of Open Road's marketing efforts are what Chou calls "mashups," which often get a lot of attention. These are videos that are dedicated to a topic or event that consist of material from many Open Road authors.

Just last week, for Banned Books Week, Open Road pulled out the stops. The company's blog offered multiple entries during the week that each day had new original commentary from authors and excerpts from a banned or challenged classic. These included commentary from some of the authors of Hotel Angeline about their "favorite banned books ever"; an excerpt from Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene, which has often been challenged; and an essay by author Lisa Alther on banned books. Links went to author pages on Open Road and to retail sites. Each excerpt was embeddable, allowing readers to share them on their blogs and websites.

Open Road also created a special video of authors and others talking about banned titles, including The Confessions of Nat Turner by William Styron, Candy by Terry Southern and The Drowning of Stephan Jones by Bette Greene, The Boo by Pat Conroy and Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George.

The company created a Banned Books Collection, an embeddable collection of excerpts of banned or challenged books that Open Road pitched to media contacts and bloggers who picked them up in these ways:


Children's E-Publishing Takes Big Steps

During Open Road's first year, it focused on adult publishing but now is catching up fast in children's publishing. Friedman brought on Barbara Marcus a year ago as an advisor for children's publishing. (During her many years at Scholastic, Marcus led the children's trade publishing operation, including when Harry Potter was published in the U.S.)

Children's titles have been slower than other categories to catch on in the e-world, in part because the first e-readers were text-only devices and didn't handle illustrations. But with tablets like the iPad and more sophisticated dedicated e-readers available, "We'll see interesting results," Friedman said. "If we had this conversation a year ago, it would be quite different."

Marcus plans in part to do in the children's area what was done in the adult area: bring back classic and award-winning titles in e-book form. "It's a great opportunity for librarians and teachers, parents and children," she said. Among the titles already out: Mr. Popper's Penguins, Virginia Hamilton's work, including M.C. Higgins the Great, and some of Jean Craighead George's and Bette Greene's work. With Kids Can Press, Open Road has also brought to e-book the Franklin series by Paulette Bourgeois, including Franklin's Halloween and Franklin's Christmas, and with Albert Whitman, the Boxcar Children series.

Following the success of YA publishing in general and the phenomenon of readers in their 20s reading YA titles, e-tailers are focusing more and more on YA digitally, Marcus noted. Open Road is now publishing YA books including a new tranche of eight books by horror writer Richie Tankersley Cusick.


We hope you have enjoyed this journey on the Open Road!


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