Wow! The last week has been truly memorable. The Digital Book World conference was incredibly exciting, with lots of new ideas. And the warm response to the announcement of the Agile Publishing Model (APM) and partnership with futurist David Houle was very encouraging—it looks like we’re on to something exciting here.
So let’s get started…
From all the comments and tweets following the announcement, the first big question has become clear: What exactly is this Agile Publishing Model and how does it work?
Well, part of the fun is that we all get to help answer that question. Here’s some background to get us going.
Agile isn’t a new idea. O’Reilly Media has been doing some really interesting work on this with some of their books. And Zeeen.com offers authors tools to help develop communities as they work on their book.
The term itself, obviously, comes from the software development industry, which has been using agile development models for a number of years.
In tech, agile development means releasing iterative and incremental versions of a software product or website, getting input from your customer about that version, learning from that input, and then repeating the process until you reach an improved finished state. More simply put, it is about “Build…measure…learn.”
So could this approach be applied to writing and publishing a book? Can you build a community around an author creating a book? Would it make a better book, a faster process? How would it work?
While the APM will be dynamic and changing, right now we see 6 initial guiding principles that could be useful as we start building the APM together.
How many times have you read a book and wished that it offered something else you were looking for?
In the APM, we’ll all be able to provide comments and feedback to the author as the book is created. David will be posting materials on an ongoing basis as he writes, asking us to discuss and give feedback on them together—refining ideas, making sure key topics aren’t missed, all with the goal of producing the best final book.
How is this different than crowd-sourced content or writing-by-committee? Right now, it seems different—the author still writes and drives the direction for the book, while the community provides some “thought-leadership” or guidance for the book as a whole or within a particular section. Whether this ultimately ends up closer to the current author model or the crowd-sourced approach, or something completely different yet, will be interesting to see.
At the moment, the APM seems particularly useful for expert-based authors working in dynamic or rapidly changing environments. For example, David will be writing about society’s move from the Information Age into a new age, so he sees a lot of benefit in having a conversation as he writes the book, getting everyone’s viewpoint on current affairs and the pulse of changes we’re all experiencing.
The APM may not be suited for every genre or every author, though. Could the APM also be applied to fiction or other genres? We’ve been thinking about that too.
You’re only going to spend the time helping craft a book’s content if you believe in its message or are interested/immersed in the topic area, right? But creating the book is only the first step; then comes getting it out to the world.
In the APM, the plan is to release short ebooks to the general marketplace as sections are completed, giving us several opportunities to see the reactions of non-community members. So we’ll all get to participate in both roles—first providing our own feedback and then evaluating the feedback from others.
You may ask: can’t this all be done by the author through regular social media channels? Perhaps, but it seems this process can be a big one to manage. For some authors it may not make sense to try to balance it all. So with the APM, the publisher will be providing a support team and resources, both technical and creative, as our group talks and grows. And then, after the book is finished and actually published, comes all the “normal” publishing marketing and sales (see here for a glimpse of all that involves).
Like any start-up company or new business model, we believe the APM should be dynamic. These initial guidelines are a starting point, and the model will likely change as we move forward. So as we work together to develop the book, we’ll also give feedback to each other on different areas of the APM (access to iterative content, content pricing models, how to provide comments, etc.) and how they can work best.
What do you think? Please share your thoughts and additional questions in the comments section below. And thanks for your interest!