5.13 Iguana Books

Iguana Books is a Toronto-based publishing company that is focusing on a new model of releasing books. Let’s face it, things are changing and they’re changing fast. The music industry learned it the hard way, the television industry is slowly getting it and movies are trying ways to develop bigger and more ridiculous spectacles in order to keep the theatre-going experience alive and separate from the online world. Iguana Books is taking advantage of the new way people are engaging with media. Located at the Centre for Social Innovation, I knocked on Iguana's door one day and we sat down together to discuss my book and whether it would be a good fit. Turned out it would be. You see, I tried the traditional publishing route, with various degrees of success. I wrote my cover letters and put together my packages. Sent out queries to many publishing companies and literary agents. There was some interest from some of them, but most of it fizzled out after a time.

What I had to admit was that my book wasn’t ready. So, I disappeared to New York for a week and went through the whole damn thing one more time. The last time. I was ready to shelve this book, but something told me I had to get it out there. I had other stories to tell, but this story had been in the works for almost four years.

Now, to be honest, I can be a bit control-freakish when it comes to my work. This is something I’ve had to let go of over time because if there’s any advantages to getting older, it’s learning about your limitations. Even though I play well with others a bit better now, I still wasn’t so interested in handing off my manuscript to a publisher and not being a part of the process. When I talked with Iguana, they not only welcomed me to be a part of the process, but encourage their authors to do so. They understand that the publishing landscape is changing and it’s important that the author put themselves out there in order to connect their writing to readers.

It’s a little weird for me, to be honest. I asked if I could be involved with designing the cover. Yes, sure! I asked if I could be involved with developing the marketing plan. Yes, of course! This really is the best of both worlds: my control-freakish nature can participate in every step along the way, and I can get the support I need from the various professionals that know the publishing industry much better than I do.

The whole process reminds me of the way comedians are embracing online tools. It’s my opinion that comedians really are ahead of the game. They’re taking everything into their own hands and managing their careers and building audiences through the internet. Comedians like Marc Maron and Louis CK are experimenting and pushing the limits of these online tools in innovative ways in order to get their work out there. Maron does it through podcasts, Louis CK does it by distributing his work independently. I hesitate to say this is the future, but really, look at the facts, it’s the direction things are going.

So, here’s how it works with Iguana Books. The concept is to take the professional elements of the traditional publisher and combine it with the various online tools available. At the moment, we are working out a pre-sale campaign through Pubslush, a crowd funding website similar to Kickstarter, but specifically focused on books. I was excited to go this route because it creates an opportunity to not only connect the book to readers, but to personally connect myself - the writer - to readers in ways that were not possible before.

One of the most incredible experiences is when someone responds to something that I’ve written. When people have contacted me about a piece on my blog, I’ve really come to discover that this is what it’s all about for me - that intimate interaction between reader and writer. That space that can potentially open up between us and allow communication and access. We are trusting each other. The reader gets to participate in the process and receive a professional book in the traditional sense. The writer gets to retain more creative control over their work. This seems like a win-win situation, if you ask me.

After the campaign is successful, we go into production of the book with a focus on print-on-demand and ebooks. The marketing is mostly done online and a large part of it is building the audience through personal interactions. Yes, I’m sure some writers loath having to put themselves out there in this way (I was one of them), but I’m enjoying it so far, and I can be one reclusive jerkoff.

This is all a risk, both on the side of the publishing company and the writer. But nothing new ever became the mainstream without it being risky first. So, screw the risk, let’s do this.

Here is the link for my Pubslush campaign for The Walking Man, published by Iguana Books: thewalkingman.pubslush.com.