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Sourcebooks NEXT.

Sourcebooks Next Blog

We’re at a historic point in the transformation the book.

Ebooks, reading devices, retailers and e-tailers, software and apps, and all the cool things we haven’t even imagined yet are changing the face of reading, entertainment and learning. Sourcebooks Next is our blog looking not from the perspective of pundit or prognosticator, but from the perspective of a publisher deeply engaged in the workings of the transformation. Please feel free to join us.

Monday, June 22, 2009

I spend my days steeped in rights, royalties and the contracts that govern them, and this much is clear: publishers must plan new approaches to rights or risk future viability. Regardless of how the courts or the Justice Department treat the Google Book Settlement, the Book Rights Registry (BRR) will exist in some form; the industry needs it for the widest possible dissemination of content. A registry combined with clear and streamlined rights agreements would help publishers keep pace with content delivery innovations.

Following a BEA panel on the settlement that my company, MetaComet, hosted, my colleagues and I surveyed some industry leaders on the subject. "We've got to make it easy for people to find who is the appropriate rights holder.... Right now, that is a complexity that is unnecessary in our business," said Dominique Raccah, publisher and CEO of Sourcebooks Inc.

"We want to ensure that authors reach readers in the broadest possible way," via iPhone apps, music video, "or something we can't envision now." A registry and simplicity in rights agreements would help accomplish that.

One option to facilitate this: have authors give a publisher all rights to a work, but for a limited time, such as three years. "Because everything moves so fast, it ought to be quite clear in three years if a publisher exploited each right," Richard Nash, formerly publisher of Soft Skull Press and now a consultant, told me over coffee earlier this month. Nash hopes to implement this idea in a new publishing venture he is working on. He thinks this structure would facilitate business partnerships between authors and publishers, and would provide authors with one partner who orchestrates the entire campaign. It could also benefit agents, because they could spend less time shopping around smaller "chunks" of content.

Will authors and agents stand for such innovation and out-of-the-box thinking? Conversations with the Authors Guild made it clear the challenging environment has made authors more open to new ideas of partnerships. Giving up rights for a shorter duration is "interesting.... I wouldn't rule it out, but the devil is always in the details," Paul Aiken, executive director of the Authors Guild, said to my COO recently.

At the very least, authors are much more open to the idea of a business partnership with publishers than in the past. "There used to be much more of an adversarial relationship between author and publisher than there is now," Aiken said, "probably because... these are challenging times economically, and with the changing technology, authors and publishers are in this together."

While Raccah loves Nash's idea, she recognizes implementation might be tough, but she has pushed the partnership angle. When a new idea arises-such as an iPhone app-she makes an addendum to the existing contract. Still, an innovation such as the trade-off of rights for duration would be good for publishers and authors, both because of the simplicity and because "it's incumbent on publishers to prove that they are actually" benefiting authors and their works.

Agents also might be open to such innovation, given the changing marketplace. In fact, they might have little choice, according to literary agent Richard Curtis, who owns the publishing company E-Reads. He first schooled me in rights and royalties nearly 10 years ago. "Right now, authors are so desperate that if a publisher asks for all rights, an author will give it," Curtis said. "Even with powerful agents, 99% of the time, they will just throw in the digital rights, because they have nowhere to go with them."

Publishers and authors must recognize that content has a limitless array of uses-uses as incalculable today as e-commerce was 15 years ago. There must be a very clear delineation of rights, and the simpler that delineation is, the better. If publishers, agents or authors start breaking out translation rights, serial rights, foreign rights, etc., they make it more difficult to make content accessible, and therefore monetizable, through an organization such as the BRR.

Publishers need to bring authors in on these discussions and educate them on the details, so that they realize the benefits of simplified contracts. In fact, it could be that the best way to accomplish this would be for publishers to work with authors to develop rights standards through an organization like the Book Industry Study Group.

The key to future publishing success will be a change in attitude that simplified contracts and the BRR represent: publishers and authors are business partners and must act as such.

Soapbox: The Rights Thing
Why the Book Rights Registry is necessary
by David Marlin -- Publishers Weekly, 6/22/2009

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Dominique was interviewed for a story on publishing that aired yesterday, June 19, on Chicago Public Radio's flagship show, "848," and again in the afternoon during "All Things Considered" (local)!  HEAR the interview on Chicago Public Radio.

Sunday, June 14, 2009
Sourcebooks CEO and Publisher Dominique Raccah is featured in yet another installation of Book Business trade magazine. In this month's issue, editor-in-chief Noelle Skodzinksi highlights Dominique's contribution to the recent Making Information Pay (MIP) conference, where she discussed Sourcebooks' potential with "content continuum" and expanding digital brands.
Monday, April 13, 2009

Sourcebooks CEO and Publisher Dominique Raccah is featured in this week's Publishers Weekly in their special "Changemakers" profile by Claire Kirch, PW publishing industry reporter:

Entrepreneur built Sourcebooks book by book

Dominique Raccah
Entrepreneur built Sourcebooks book by book
by Claire Kirch -- Publishers Weekly, 4/13/2009

If publisher Dominique Raccah is jetlagged after returning from the Bologna Book Fair the previous evening, she doesn't look it. Exuding energy, she whirls through our interview at Sourcebooks' Naperville, Ill., office, illustrating her remarks by digging through the stacks on her desk and handing over galleys and finished books, even pulling up on an office computer the company's first digital book, Country Music: The Masters by Marty Stuart, to demonstrate its multimedia features.

"Fundamentally, a book is an experience. Whether it's a reading, an audio or mixed-media book, a picture book-however it is, it's an experience," Raccah declares, "If it gives you the chills, if it makes you laugh or cry, if it reaches you, touches you, moves you, inspires you-if it works like that, then it's a book worth publishing."

For the past 22 years, but especially in the past decade, Raccah's also gambled that books with a visceral appeal will be the books that are going to sell. Sourcebooks, launched by Raccah in 1987 with a 1,000-copy print run of a single title, Financial Sourcebooks Sources, now publishes 300 adult and children's titles annually in a variety of genres, with print runs ranging from 5,000 to 150,000. Its breakthrough came in 1998 when the publisher produced and marketed a book/CD package, We Interrupt this Broadcast. Not only was it the press's first New York Times bestseller, it's still the company's topselling MediaFusion (an integrated mixed-media format) package, with 750,000 copies in print; a new edition will be released this fall. "I had no idea if it'd be successful," Raccah says, recalling how she mortgaged her house to pay for the initial print run of We Interrupt, which swelled from a planned 20,000 copies to 150,000 after a strong reaction to the book at BEA that year. Sourcebooks now publishes five or six MediaFusion titles each season across the company's entire list. To date, the press has sold two million MediaFusion units, including 400,000 mixed-media poetry titles.

Raccah is no stranger to striding forward in new directions when opportunity beckons. She was born in Paris, and her family immigrated to the U.S. when she was nine, after her father accepted a position as a physicist at M.I.T. After "doing really badly" at Stern College for Women (Yeshiva University), Raccah transferred to the University of Illinois, graduating with a B.S. in psychology and, later, an M.S. in quantitative psychology. Raccah subsequently performed quantitative research for major corporate clients at the Leo Burnett advertising agency in Chicago for seven years before striking out on her own.

"It turned out to be a great experience: Burnett gave me a vision for how a creative company works," Raccah says, describing Sourcebooks's "process-driven" company culture and strategy of branding authors as being modeled on Burnett. Raccah calls her 75 employees "creative, passionate" and "egoless" in their shared commitment to publish and market books that can reach the maximum number of readers."For me, it's always been about one book," she insists. "I never wanted to build a big company. It doesn't interest me. As a result, Sourcebooks is very organic. I call it the bricklaying approach: you lay a brick, then another, and another, and pretty soon there's a wall. That approach takes you very far."

While Raccah, who's in her third year as co-chair of BISG, acknowledges it's "a really difficult time, business-wise" throughout the industry, she believes there are opportunities for publishers willing to take risks and be creative in providing content in new formats. "We're going to get very vertical, we're going to get very deep in a bunch of areas-poetry, historical fiction, romance, parenting, study aids," Raccah says. She notes that 500 of the 2,000 Sourcebooks titles in print are available in e-book formats, and three frontlist titles, besides Country Music, have been recently published as multimedia digital books. The company also just released Most Baby Names as an iPhone app. Her approach also includes creating partnerships with retailers to connect with consumers in different ways. "It's all about excitement," she says.

"Sourcebooks seems very well-sized for the times," Raccah reflects. "We're big enough to explore, be dynamic and develop new things, and we're small enough to be flexible and move quickly. The world, the landscape is changing so quickly. If you don't have the right resources, you can't get it done."

Name: Dominique Raccah

Age: 51

Company: Sourcebooks

Title: President and publisher

First job: Lifeguard, Sudbury, Mass.

Publishing in the future will be... incredibly exciting.

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