Daily Beast Seeks to Publish Faster
By MOTOKO RICH | The New York Times
Having ramped up her metabolism from magazines to online journalism with The Daily Beast, Tina Brown now wants to speed up book publishing.
In a joint venture with Perseus Books Group, The Daily Beast is forming a new imprint, Beast Books, that will focus on publishing timely titles by Daily Beast writers — first as e-books, and then as paperbacks on a much shorter schedule than traditional books.
On a typical publishing schedule, a writer may take a year or more to deliver a manuscript, after which the publisher takes another nine months to a year to put finished books in stores. At Beast Books, writers would be expected to spend one to three months writing a book, and the publisher would take another month to produce an e-book edition.
In an interview in her office at The Daily Beast, which is owned by Barry Diller’s InterActive Corporation, Ms. Brown said she believed books often missed opportunities to attract readers because the titles took too long to come to market.
“There is a real window of interest when people want to know something,” Ms. Brown said. “And that window slams shut pretty quickly in the media cycle.”
Ms. Brown said that Beast Books would select authors from The Daily Beast’s cadre of writers, most of whom are paid freelancers, to write books with quick turnarounds. She said she planned to publish three to five books in the first year. Other publishers have already experimented with releasing quick e-books before issuing a print version and have seen only modest results. “Dumb Money: How Our Greatest Financial Minds Bankrupted the Nation” by Daniel Gross, a writer for Newsweek magazine who expanded on some of his articles for a book that was first published in an electronic edition by Free Press, a unit of Simon & Schuster, sold 4,000 copies in paperback, according to Nielsen BookScan, which tracks about 70 percent of retail sales.
PublicAffairs, another imprint of Perseus, issued an e-book version of “The New Paradigm for Financial Markets” by George Soros two months before releasing a hardcover, selling 50,000 copies of the print version.
Ms. Brown, a former editor of Vanity Fair, The New Yorker and the ill-fated Talk magazine, said there was a gap between online writing and full-length books that was no longer being fully met by a dwindling market for magazines.
She envisioned most of the Beast Books titles as being 40,000 words, or about 150 pages. They would cover touchstone political and cultural topics first addressed on the Web site, as well as more personal memoirs.
Perseus is paying The Daily Beast a five-figure management advance to cover the costs of editing and designing the books, and Perseus will distribute the titles through its existing sales force. The writers will receive low five-figure advances from Perseus, then split profits from the sale of both the e-books and paperbacks with Perseus and The Daily Beast. Ms. Brown said writers were not required to give Beast Books a right of first refusal on any book ideas they might generate.
Both Ms. Brown and David Steinberger, chief executive of Perseus, declined to say exactly how the profits would be split, but Mr. Steinberger said authors would receive “meaningfully more” than the typical 15 percent of the hardcover price that authors currently receive as royalties in more traditional book contracts.
The imprint’s first book, scheduled to be published as an e-book in December and a paperback in January, is “Attack of the Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe Is Hijacking America,” by John P. Avlon, a commentator on CNN who has written extensively for The Daily Beast about left- and right-wing political groups.
Perseus is planning an initial paperback print run for “Attack of the Wingnuts” of 100,000 copies but may adjust after reviewing the number of digital downloads.
With three million unique visitors a month, Ms. Brown said, The Daily Beast — which marks its first anniversary next month and has not yet turned a profit — would be able to provide a much more powerful marketing machine than typical publishers. The site will provide links to retail sites like Amazon and Barnes & Noble to buy the books, although Mr. Steinberger said that in the future, if Daily Beast readers wanted it, the site would consider selling books directly to consumers. He said there were no current plans to do so.
“One of the big criticisms that one hears about print books is that by the time they get out it’s too late and who cares,” said Constance Sayre, a principal at Market Partners International, a consultant to publishers. “The only thing I worry about is that everybody’s writing and nobody’s reading. But I think it’s not going to happen if you don’t try it.”
Ms. Brown said she was not concerned that readers would feel saturated after reading free articles on The Daily Beast and was confident they would want to pay for additional content. She said she learned from her experience helping to run Talk Miramax Books, where she helped to attract celebrity authors including Madeleine K. Albright, Rudy Giuliani and Queen Noor of Jordan.