Friday, October 14, 2011
What do you get when you distill modern book business through the structure of tech startups? You get Lean Publishing, a means by which a writer can look at book production as a profit-building exercise. You won't find any writing tips or methods for overcoming writer's block in this manifesto. Peter Armstrong has produced a plan that puts people with an idea on the same path of Angry Birds, rather than the traditional route of finding a literary agent.
Every problem looks like a problem with the pipes when you ask a plumber, and Lean Publishing is much the same case. Armstrong's background is in a web development and architecture start-up, so fixing the problem of developing a profitable book, of course, looks like something to be solved the web start-up way. Many of the terms and ideas sound very foreign to somebody who has no connection to that world, but there is one advantage to the language of VC start-ups. "Creatives" are the people for whom the start-up system was built, and the methods for navigating a start-up are suited towards directing creative people through business minefields. There's a reason that much of the internet was created by art majors who quickly hired a CFO once checks started coming in: a creative founder needs that sort of help to reach a profitable end.
As such, the people who can benefit the most from Lean Publishing are the people stuck on the traditional publishing path. The process requires giving up the usual process of getting words onto paper, and introduces the scary idea of making ideas available to readers (and the competition) before the text is complete. The Blooker Prize was a bit ahead of its time in recognizing that a worthy book could come from the web. The success of Julie and Julia, the 2006 Blooker winner, should have inspired more in that direction, but taking that route to publishing lacked the roadmap to such success. Lean Publishing hopes to brandish a machete and clear that road, blazing a new path to long-form writing success through the methods that built the internet into what it is today.