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24 posts from March 2008

Helium Interview with Mark Ranalli

HeliumHelium is a multifaceted writing and publishing operation that I recently discovered.  As their website states, Helium exists to help you "learn what you need, share what you know."  I asked Helium President & CEO Mark Ranalli to take part in a blog interview and he graciously agreed.  Here's what he had to say about the organization:

JW: How did you wind up creating Helium and what's your long-term goal for the site?

MR: Helium's founding mission was to bring order to the chaos of user generated content. The explosion of content being created on the Web is awe inspiring, yet it has been missing a structure. The traditional publishing industry, despite many of its short comings, has succeeded for thousands of years. This system established credibility, orchestrated distribution, and established standards of quality. Helium's objective is to empower its community to replicate many of the assets of the traditional publishing industry, such that it can help launch a citizen journalism industry.

JW: Helium's Marketplace site is where content publishers are posting their needs for articles and other short-length works.  It looks like much of this is for online content.  Are you starting to see traditional magazine and even book publishers utilize the Marketplace?  How do you see this evolving?

MR: We are very excited about Helium's Freelance Marketplace. We are seeing interest from publishers from all spectrums of the publishing industry. Many of the early adopters were online publishers, but we are seeing an every growing body of more traditional publishers start to embrace our solution. Through our Marketplace, we have provided content for a number of high end print magazines, we have sourced material for books, produced corporate marketing material and product descriptions, and most recently, we've begun to partner with a number of newspapers.

JW: Your site mentions a proprietary peer review technology.  How does this system differ from the typical peer review model that other sites/services use?

MR: Helium's rating engine is at the core of our offering. Helium has created a true meritocracy. Our rating engine is designed to elevate quality, not popularity. Helium's rating system pulls from both peer review and relative ranking.

JW: Who owns the rights to material that's written through Helium?  Are the rights determined by the paying publisher or is there a blanket set of terms that applies to all works on the site?

MR: Content rights are very straight forward with Helium. Our members retain all rights to their content that they publish on Helium. The only exception are the articles that are purchased through Helium's Freelance Marketplace. With Marketplace articles, the member is fully aware of what rights they are assigning to the publisher, which only transfer upon payment. The most typical rights transfer through marketplace are for exclusive publishing rights to the content, although in some cases, our publishers are only requesting First Rights, and in some cases they are requesting re-naming (ghost writing) rights.

JW: Is there a typical earnings model new members tend to follow?  I know it's hard to generalize on this, but some prospective authors would probably like to know how long it typically takes to see an income stream.  Are new members finding that it's a creative outlet that's a labor of love or do they frequently find they're generating income much sooner than they originally expected?

MR: Earnings on Helium cover a wide spectrum. Like anything in life, you get out of Helium what you put into it. Helium's underlying brand promise is that we will always share our advertising revenue with our writers. As Helium continues to grow, the pool of advertising revenue we share will continue to expand. Today, we have writers who have built up a portfolio of a few hundred articles on our site. These members are earning upwards of $50 to $100 per month for their body of work, and will continue to do so. Other members focus their energies on our numerous weekly contests, and are earning weekly prizes that range from $5 to $75 per contest. For those writers who are most interested in writing for the money, Helium's Marketplace is putting a lot of money in our writers hands. Last month, one of our writers earned $1,300. This isn't bad for a part-time passion.

I believe the most valuable reasons for joining Helium are to build skills, to be recognized, to participate in a massive community of people who are seeking to share their knowledge and to have their voices heard and to express themselves as well as possible.  One of our most recent announcements is the creation of Helium’s Journalism Awards program. Through Helium, our writers have the ability to win journalism awards for the Pulitzer Center, the Knight Center for International Media, OneWorld, Foreign Exchange, and several other organizations. Additionally, the National Press Club has extended application offers to all of Helium’s 5 star writers. Through Helium, citizen journalists have the ability to be fully recognized for the value they bring to the broader journalism industry.

What Does the Technology Add?

We_tell_stories_2As a publisher focusing on the professional IT sector, I ask myself this question a lot: What does the technology add?  Is this new tool or release measurably different from the others?  Will it enable users to create products faster, less expensively, with more useful features...or all of the above?

I found myself asking the same question when I recently read about this project, The 21 Steps, by Charles Cumming, which is part of Penguin's We Tell Stories initiative.  In The 21 Steps, Cumming uses Google's satellite imagery to help tell the story.  Different?  Yes.  Functional use of the technology to enhance the reading experience?  I'm not so sure.

To be fair, I only got through the first three chapters before I lost interest.  Perhaps it's because I'm not into fiction, but I found the text and imagery integration lacking as well.  I didn't see the benefit to having the animated movements on the satellite images.  I also got pretty tired of clicking again and again, just to read the next sentence or two.  In short, if technology is added to the formula for something like this, I feel it should improve the overall experience; in this case, it seemed to weigh it down.

I'm also not the sort of person who thinks in terms of satellite views.  I'm more of a street level guy and I suspect I'm not alone.  After all, we see and experience things from a street-view view, not an overhead one, so it forces you to constantly adjust your perspective as you're reading through the screens.

Before anyone jumps down my throat on this, please realize that I absolutely love the fact that Penguin is experimenting with technology on this project.  If I published into the fiction area I'd be jealous that I didn't think of this approach.  The lessons that can be learned from the pioneers like Penguin will help benefit everyone in the long run.

For example, as I ran through those chapters of The 21 Steps, I started to think about other applications for a narrative-map mashup.  Think about travel guides for a moment.  A walking tour of a city with travel guide content spliced into satellite map displays would be cool.  Switching to street-level view instead of satellite probably makes it better.  Offering the capability to flip between both is better yet.

I'd also like to see more content goodies sprinkled throughout, and perhaps this is where community content could come into play.  Maybe the tour features great pictures from previous visitors or recommendations they have for future visitors.  Let them be ranked by the community itself so that only the top show up as push-pins on the screen.

The device has to be considered here as well.  If I'm doing the tourist thing it's unlikely that I'm carrying around something larger than a cell phone or Blackberry.  You can't design this for a computer when it's being used on a display that's much smaller.  This is where the Kindle might evolve into something highly useful.  Imagine a next-generation Kindle with a color display.  The Kindle's Whispernet technology would enable cellphone-like connectivity with a larger, but still portable display.

So again, I applaud Penguin's efforts here and although I'm not convinced this is anything more than technology for technology's sake, there's much to be learned from the experiment itself.

New Publishing Solutions Interview with Jim Nye

NewpublishingsolutionsJim Nye was one of the top executives running what at the time was called ITT Publishing, my first employer out of college...many, many years ago.  Jim was an insightful leader and someone I always looked up to.  We went our separate ways after ITT Publishing but our paths recently crossed again.  Jim is a partner in a venture called NEW Publishing Solutions and I thought it would be fun to interview him on the blog:

JW: Ingram has certainly built a strong reputation as an important wholesaler in our industry.  You've done a lot of work with their Digital Group -- what are some of the more interesting things Ingram is doing to further diversify their operation on the digital side?

JN: Ingram, through Ingram Digital Group (IDG), aims to be the number one distributor of digital content.  Working with them to build the beginnings of all of what IDG has become was very exciting. The key focus of all of this is to help Publishers sell more content. IDG is organized into four main business units - publisher, retail, institutional and educational solutions:

Publisher Solutions (CoreSource)
Brings comprehensive digital asset management and distribution capabilities to publishers. Among the features of such a relationship are:

  • Viral marketing via a widget
  • The flow of content directly into print on demand
  • Direct selling via websites powered for the publisher
  • Custom publishing is enabled
  • Content can be flowed to any customer through any channel
  • Files can simply be transformed from one format to another

Retail Solutions
Allows publishers to sell content to consumers through the retail channels and  includes encrypted eBook download in various formats, pdf, .lit, palm etc. Full search and discovery plus a browse inside the book capability are available. They have some 130,000 unique titles available.

Institutional Solutions –  The MyiLibrary
Allows publishers to sell their digital content to academic, Public, Corporate and Government libraries.

Education Solutions
The VitalSource platform is the leading textbook distribution platform and allows publishers to sell their eTextbooks to students, distribute them to faculty (eComps) and offers the capability for search within a title, across titles and within a class or course grouping.

Ingram now has over 500,000 digital files from some 4,000 publishers that are being and are optimised for all the solutions.

JW: You've had a couple of stints as President and CEO of two organizations with an emphasis on computer/web-based training products (Carnegie Learning and ExploreLearning).  How did your traditional publishing background help you in both of these roles?

JN: With both Carnegie and Explore I was working with very bright people who had created ingenious answers to educational challenges without any experience or background in the business of educational content. Having a clear perspective on the relationship between content and intent as well as years of experience in the systems of learning gave me a wonderful chance to bring their great ideas into the mainstream.

I was able to not only help create appropriate systems of management, sales and marketing for them but I also introduced both of the companies to traditional publishers, their people and their business systems.

Interestingly there are a lot of wonderful, effective ideas that are being developed outside the publishing norms all of which can benefit from working with someone with a traditional publishing business experience base.

A number of my small clients fit this profile exactly.

JW: You also held a variety of positions with several educational publishing companies.  Where do you see the college textbook market heading?  Will a device like the Kindle ever live up to everyone's expectations and enable students to carry their entire textbook library with them (without breaking their backs!)?

JN: First, Joe, I do not think that the any answer being sought is going to be provided by a reading device. Kindle, the Sony Reader, and other such attempts have the limitation of primarily being black and white readers with little or no interactivity possible. To my way of thinking the most likely utilized "device" on the market today, that has tremendous potential, is the iPod Touch.  And, the iPod Touch is much more a computer with reading, interactivity, wi-fi, etc. than simply an ebook reading device.

Much of what I see happening to the market is focused around the growing interest in access to content in a fluid and dynamic system, anytime and anywhere and within a wrapper that allows for measurement both normative and formative as the learner approaches desired outcomes.

Who makes the content decision, how it is made and how the selected content is presented and the results measured are undergoing change. Achievement that can be measured and outcomes that can be defined are clearly becoming a part of the educational imperative.

Technology allows for and supports such systems and technology also offsets the limitations of printed and bound pedagogical tools. We can house all of the content required for a college major and much, much more in almost any laptop computer in popular use today (no breaking of the back).

There are some fascinating initiatives underway that are attempting to deal with all of the issues of digital content in education.  One of the most interesting is the California State University Digital Marketplace Initiative.

It is the intention of this program, as one example of the application, to have all of the classroom materials in use on any California State University campus in the future available in digital form. Ohio has a "like" program underway as do a number of schools and universities individually.

Other interesting initiatives are:

and other open source programs that are developed and developing.

Then, another force that I see impacting the educational content market is the entry of non-traditional providers such as Intel, Sun, Cisco, Google and Microsoft who are developing or supporting educational programs central to their corporate mandates.

One only need look at what is going on in the K-12 segment of the educational market to see the impact of new entries, modalities and designs that will bubble up in to Higher Ed.

JW: Finally, quite a few publishing professionals have toyed with the idea of eventually becoming an industry consultant down the road.  You successfully made the transition, so what advice do you have to offer anyone who's currently thinking about making that switch?

JN: Network, network, network.

Know the people who are working in your marketspace, learn what their interests are, how they do their business and establish friendly relationships with them and remember who they are. They will be going places in their companies (or maybe the one you work for) and become an amazing resource.

And do not restrict yourself to meeting people in your specific business. If they are on your campuses or at the meetings you attend you need to know who they are and what they do.

Having this kind of perspective not only will pay off in the future as references, it will enhance your work with your primary targets if you better understand all the work of the people in their world.

Oh, and by the way, if someone is considering becoming a consultant I am always looking for new talent!

Opinionated: A Kindle Exclusive

Kindle3Thanks partially to the Kindle's Whispernet connection feature, new and innovative ways of distributing all sorts of content are likely to emerge.  For example, this week's announcement by Tribune Media Services (TMS) to create a Kindle-exclusive magazine called Opinionated: Voices and Viewpoints on America and the World.

The print magazine business is currently going through some challenging times.  If it's not higher paper costs, more advertisers going online or a decline in subscribers you also have to face the fact that Walmart is cutting almost 1,000 titles from its shelves.  Why fight those odds when you can launch in the happy world of no inventory management or manufacturing costs?

The only real question is whether enough Kindles can be sold to make this a profitable venture for TMS.  Since it's exclusive to the Kindle, I have to assume Amazon was willing to make this a sweeter deal for TMS than they've done for other magazine publishers, especially in the short term while Amazon works to address the Kindle supply issue.

The White Book, by Ken Mansfield

ThewhitebookJust when you thought you had read and seen everything about The Beatles...  Author Ken Mansfield provides one of the more entertaining and fascinating books about the Fab Four in years.  The White Book isn't just another Beatles book because Mansfield isn't just another music critic with a new angle; he's the guy who used to run the U.S. arm of Apple Records, the label started by The Beatles.

The White Book is loaded with stories and photos that I've never seen before, and believe me when I tell you I've gone through my share of Beatles books.  In addition to the many unique photos of the band, there are also pictures of memorabilia and letters.  It was interesting to read not just the facts about each event/document but Mansfield's behind-the-scenes explanations, the real insider's perspective.

Mansfield's music experience isn't limited to The Beatles and neither is the coverage in this book.  He dedicates the latter part of the book to his work with other big names such as James Taylor, Waylon Jennings, David Cassidy and several others.  The White Book is a wonderful book and one that every Beatle fan needs for their collection.

Double or Nothing: HarperCollins Continues Experimenting

Double_or_nothingI recently got an e-mail message from the PR team at HarperCollins (HC) for Tom Breitling's book Double or Nothing.  Although I'm not interested enough in the topic to read the book I have to admit the message got my attention.  Why?  HC is offering access to the entire book for free on their website till April 14th.  So if you really think you can read a 256-page book via HC's Browse Inside service, go for it!  Details are on Tom's site and here's the link to HC's Browse Inside access for the book.

The reality is very few people are going to read the entire book online even when the price is zero.  Rather, what HC is doing is leveraging their Browse Inside service to see how much of a sales bump they can create by providing full access for a limited period of time.  As a fellow publisher, I'm intrigued by the experiment.  And thanks to the magic of Bookscan data, I can keep an eye on the sales trends during and after the free access period.  My gut tells me they could leave the full access in place indefinitely and it would only help sell more copies in the long run...  Regardless, I love it that a major trade publisher like HC is experimenting like this with free access to e-content.

Authors on the Net Interview with Philip Davis

Authors_on_the_netI briefly mentioned Authors on the Net in this post back in January but I thought it would be useful to interview Philip Davis, founder of both Authors on the Net and ZDocs.  Here's what he had to say about both businesses:

JW: Let's start by talking a bit about ZDocs.  What's the core mission of ZDocs and how do you differentiate your services from others out there?

PD: The core mission of ZDocs is to provide both corporate and independent publishers the most cost-effective way to produce professional books. There are many ways to print books, for example:

  • One-off on-demand printing
  • Short-run on-demand printing
  • Long-run offset printing
  • Long-run webpress printing.

ZDocs offers companies and individuals short-run on-demand printing, but if a customer will be better served by another type of production, we help guide them to make the right decision for their business, even if that means the customer may use another vendor.

For independent authors, deciding on the right quantity is really up to the marketing plan the author has created. While one-off on-demand printing, what POD publishers specialize in, works for many authors, I personally think if an author is serious about building a business around his or her book, then the author should print at least 250 books. Authors, especially non-fiction authors, will find they need to give quite a few books away as part of their initial promotional efforts.

JW: Your other operation, Authors on the Net, is one a lot of readers are likely to be very interested in.  The subject of author platform is a popular one on my blog.  How does Authors on the Net help an author with their platform?

PD: We help authors take a structured approach to building their platform online. When I started writing my book, Fast & Furious Book Promotion: A system for promoting books online, I was going to focus on blogging and social networking as the way to build a platform and rise above the crowd to either build a successful self-publishing business or get picked up by a publisher.

But as I spoke with authors printing with ZDocs, I soon realized that many authors were using Myspace and blogs and websites and they were building email lists etc., but not one of the authors we worked with had a cohesive plan. They were just throwing pebbles into the ocean hoping something would happen. I can’t tell you how many authors told me they had made four blog posts yet no reader had left them a comment or bought their book. Building a platform takes time and that is one of the key messages in my book.

So I decided to focus on a system authors could follow to build a plan that will help them build their platform. I call this the DRILL system, which is:

  • Develop your goals
  • Research your target audience
  • Invent your strategy
  • Layout your tactical plan
  • Leverage your assets

The foundation of Authors On The Net is built on the DRILL concept. We want authors to learn how to use the Internet to build their platform, and we want them to move fast and furiously, but we also want them to commit at least three years to their promotional efforts, keeping in mind that even if their current book does not sell too well, the platform they've built can be used for their next project.

JW: The Authors on the Net website talks about helping authors create marketing plans for a retailer like Barnes & Noble.  How hard is this and can a typical author really influence the marketing plans of a major brick-and-mortar chain?

PD: We have three tools authors can use to build their plans: a PowerPoint model, a Word model and a simple spreadsheet. Since no author I’ve worked with could show me a plan for their book, I decided to keep the planning tools as simple as possible. I believe many people think a marketing plan is a complicated document that requires an MBA.

When an author follows the DRILL system, he/she will have a simple, yet powerful plan in place. Just knowing your goals and target audience will put an author ahead of the pack. A plan we just created for a book How To Become a Total Failure, generated a phone call from Barnes & Noble. We’re not sure what this means yet, but getting Barnes & Noble to express interest was a nice validation of the effectiveness of these plans. I’m pretty sure that without our plan, we would have received a polite rejection letter.

Whether a typical author can influence the marketing plans of a brick-and-mortar chain depends on the book. Some books are just too niche to merit significant effort on the part of the bookstores, but other books that appeal to a large audience could have an impact. The point I’d stress, however, is an author will not be considered at all if he or she does not have a solid plan supporting his or her book.

JW: Virtual book tours and trailers are getting a lot of buzz these days and I see Authors on the Net also offers guidance there as well.  What are some of the more effective strategies you've seen authors implement with either of these tools?

PD: I just did a virtual book tour for Fast & Furious Book Promotion. We had over 20 people on the call and I could only get through about 10 questions. I didn’t sell a book, but I did get over 40 new people into my platform. But for me, the best value I got out of the call were the questions. We ran an "" campaign and collected many good questions. These questions are leading me to a new product, which is a tool to help authors run a book campaign much like Barack Obama and other politicians are running their political campaigns.

I liked the feedback so much, I decided to leave the askphildavis link on the site so we can continually receive questions from authors. A virtual book tour for me is valuable to get market intelligence. While it would be great to sell books, it’s not the most important result for me. A fiction writer, on the other hand, can use the same tool and structure the call completely different. The fiction writer could have three people help her read different sections form her book. The point is that once an author becomes comfortable with a new tactic, he or she can then "invent" a way to use that tactic to meet his or her needs.

Regarding book trailers, I think they are a great promotional tool. If you put a video on YouTube and 1,000 people watch it, well, that's 1,000 more people who now know your book exists. I like the marketing concept of "hooks in the whale." To catch a whale, you have to put many hooks in it. To catch a customer or a reader, you also have to have many hooks out there. A book trailer is a cost-effect way to create one such hook.

JW: I see you have a one-stop product coming next month called Self-Publishing in a Box.  This whole sector seems to be in a constant state of flux as new technologies and service providers arise.  What solutions can authors expect to find in this product and what are your plans to keep the content fresh down the road?

PD: Yes, the book led to the website and the website then led to Self-Publishing in a Box. What we learned during the soft-launch of Authors On The Net is that authors needed even more structure. So we created a seventeen week program that walks authors through the process of getting a professional book published and a strong online presence built.

The idea is that all authors need to do certain things, like getting listed in Baker & Taylor, writing a promotional plan, using a professional editor and designer, listing their book all over the place, building a platform, using press releases and what could become the most important tactic of all, using social networks like Facebook to run a book campaign.

While most authors understand what it means to get published by a traditional publishing house, some authors struggle with the difference between publishing with a POD or Vanity press and truly self-publishing. One of the biggest differences is when you self-publish you start your own publishing company. Two other key differences are that you buy your own ISBN and you do not share royalties with anyone. The kit helps authors make these critical decisions.

I’m not against POD publishing and I think for many authors that form of publishing is the right choice. My interest lies in helping authors choose the right way to publish based on their goals and overall plan.
Regarding change, I don't see the concepts in the kit changing too much, but as we will be printing on demand, when significant changes take place, we can make those changes. What will change at a Fast & Furious rate are the online tactics. How to use Amazon will change, how to social network will change, new tools will emerge and so on. This is why the website is so critical. We can let people know about new tools on our blog, in our categories and sections and even more importantly, we can learn from other authors in the forums.

In conclusion, I'd like to say that one of the hardest parts of my business plan for Authors On The Net is that we are not trying to help people become New York Times best selling authors or millionaires from their books. It can be hard to attract people without the hype. But we've added over 200 authors, both published and self-published, to the site during our three-month soft launch, so I'm encouraged.

What we want to do is help authors find their readers and sell profitably to those readers. Whether a book becomes a best seller depends on so many factors outside the control of most authors. Self-Publishing in a Box and the website Authors On The Net is all about building a solid platform authors can use to take their current book to the next level or possibly use for their next book.

Promoting and selling books is a daunting and sometimes overwhelming task. Self-Publishing in a Box and Authors On The Net was built to ease the process for both published and self-published authors.

All You Can Eat iTunes: What Could It Mean for Books?


There's renewed speculation that Apple could be working on an unlimited music subscription model similar to the Rhapsody model.  The deal appears to hinge on Apple sharing part of the hardware sales revenue with the record labels.

As I mentioned in this post late last year, an unlimited content model for books could be a very interesting option for the Kindle.  Amazon probably wouldn't be too keen on sharing their hardware revenue with publishers but if it makes sense in the music world...

As long as Amazon is unable to keep up with Kindle backorders they probably have no incentive to consider a service like this.  But once manufacturing catches up with demand this could be the spark that really ignites the e-book market.  And keep in mind it would just be another option for customers to consider.  Kindle owners would be free to buy one book at a time as they always have, just like Apple would still offer single track sales even if they eventually add an all-you-can-eat option to iTunes.

Fractal Press Interview with Navanit Arakeri

Fractal_press_2I recently stumbled across an interesting new publishing venture called Fractal Press.  The headline on their website says "We Publish Blog Anthologies", which sparked my curiosity.  I was fortunate enough to catch up with co-founder  Navanit Arakeri for the following interview:

JW: At Fractal Press you're planning to produce a print book on personal finance using the best of the blogosphere.  Where did this idea come from and how has it evolved?

NA: The general idea is to build multi-author books based on valuable existing content in the blogging community.  Our approach is heavily inspired by Art de Vany and Nassim Taleb. The idea first came up when we approached the question: "What can we do if we don't know anything?"  So it was essentially a risk-management issue and the problem of acting under uncertainty. Fractal Press is one instantiation of the general framework that emerges from studying this question.

Positive-skew (low-downside, potentially high-upside), massive diversification, and power-law (long-tail) environments were what we were looking for. I initially pitched the idea as "Fallible Publishing" that involved diversification across as many dimensions as possible (multi-author books) and benefiting from the massive bottom-up tinkering going on in the blogosphere.

As we worked with the idea we realized that there are plenty of other benefits that emerge when we work with content in the blogosphere. For instance, it has been shown that artists who worked on their pieces without any monetary incentives show more "flow" and enjoyment of the process when compared to artists who worked on similar pieces but with monetary incentives. Bloggers write on topics that they care about, while we play a minimal role in terms of editorial direction, heavy-handed changes, or monetary incentives during the creating process -- we believe this vastly improves the author-publisher relationship and makes it much less adversarial than is usually the case.

We also realized that we offer a pretty unique way for bloggers to monetize their content without compromising the design and aesthetics of the blog.  I've written about our fallible approach in general in a post on our philosophy and another on editorial control.

JW: How can personal finance bloggers get involved in the project and how will they be compensated?

NA: Personal Finance bloggers can simply email me at, or they can install our button to help us find them.

We have been fortunate in that we already have some of the top Personal Finance bloggers appearing in our anthology. These are folks who have been featured in The New York Times and write regularly for major online financial channels in addition to blogging. We are currently moving forward based on recommendations from them. We also use rankings from, technorati, and other blog tracking tools to help us make decisions on which blogs to follow up with.

Bloggers will be compensated like regular authors based on a percentage of the proceeds from the sales of the book. Given our approach to risk management, we can afford to be particularly generous with our authors. A traditional publisher has to pay the bills while they wait for an author to finish the book in a year or so, we don't have that problem since we use existing content and can get a book out much more quickly.

We donate the proceeds from the first 100 sales to charity.

JW: Are you planning to leverage the blogosphere for PR and general visibility in the market?  Can you share any of your marketing plans with us at this point?

NA: I think this is where our understanding of uncertainty, particularly the mathematics of information cascades will come into play. One of the best features of having so many contributors in an anthology is the large number of "seeding" points that can trigger an information cascade. Our approach will resemble a "starburst" release akin to releases in the movie industry.

We are also experimenting with other ideas such as the new Kindle and ebook platforms that are being introduced. Essentially, we hope to leverage the digital medium to drive sales in the real world.

JW: Is it safe to assume you're running this project through a print-on-demand vendor?  If so, which one and when do you expect to have books available?

NA: Yes, print-on-demand is the best way to manage the uncertainty in this business. We're working with Lightning Source, a print-on-demand provider based in Tennessee. We are also looking into other providers and keeping an eye on the competitive landscape.

We expect to launch the Personal Finance anthology by the end of April. It should get easier and quicker after the first book is out when we'll be able to streamline our processes and focus on building momentum.

JW: Are you planning follow-up books to the personal finance one?  If so, are you sticking with the financial area or venturing into other sectors?

NA: We have many other topics in mind including productivity, fitness, and entrepreneurship. There are some fantastic bloggers in these areas. We're also looking into working with particularly prolific individual bloggers who have great content that can be molded into a book.

Based on our focus on diversification, we will venture into as many sectors as possible . In the future our decision-making around this will be influenced by the success of our past books and our ability to leverage existing information cascades.

The Wikinomics Playbook: Mass Collaboration in Action

Wikinomics_playbookHave you read Wikinomics yet?  If not, you need to!  Here's my earlier review of the book.  Either way, you'll want to grab a free PDF of "the final chapter" entitled The Wikinomics Playbook: Mass Collaboration in Action.  As promised, this piece was written and developed in an open forum and features coverage of wiki evolution, leadership in collaborative communities, transparency and government (which is probably the first time those last two terms have been used together!).

If you can't tell by now, I'm a big fan of Don Tapscott, co-author of Wikinomics.  If you are too, be sure to check out his New Paradigm website as well as the Wikinomics blog.