As I sit across from the affable and erudite Paul Rhodes of Orb Entertainment, an old joke runs through my mind:
A struggling writer arrives home to find his house cordoned off by the police. He immediately runs up to the officer in charge and, sick with worry, asks him what has happened.
Grim-faced, the officer tells him: “I’m sorry, sir. Two hours ago your agent came to your house, butchered your wife and strangled your children.”
The shock on the writer’s face is palpable.
“No … it’s not possible. How can it be? My agent actually came to my house?”
The joke is all the funnier for being generally true of this industry. Most publishers and agents don’t have the time to talk to unknown writers, let alone make themselves available for face-to-face interviews.
So it is with some trepidation I turn up at Bar 5 on the top floor of Waterstones in Piccadilly, London.
I find Paul already there: I am late, but if he is irked by this he is too professional to let on.
We sit and chat, and there is a touch of the old Groucho Marx observation about the whole arrangement: after all, most writers secretly suspect they don’t want to join any club that would have them as a member.
And mostly this observation is correct: with the burgeoning number of thinly disguised pay-to-publish outfits sullying the market there are any number of ‘clubs’ a writer is best off declining membership for!
But Paul Rhodes’ entertainment label is not one of these.
Not by a long, long way.
So the question is: why me?
And the answer after our enlightening chat is as simple as it is elegant.
Paul had clearly read with a savvy marketer’s eye my recent blog posts on branding in books and had drawn a very interesting conclusion, one he now wishes to aggressively pursue.
He framed his conclusion as a rhetorical question: in a market where digital format’s i.e. e-reader, kindle etc are becoming increasingly popular and thus driving prices ever-lower, how does a publisher make any money out of books?
As a man of no small insight, Paul sees a future where e-books themselves are literally free.
The obvious conundrum: how to make a profit out of zero? What is the literary equivalent of medieval alchemy? What exactly is the ‘philosopher’s’ stone that can achieve this trick with books: i.e. how does one spin gold from thin air?
Simple: the same way free newspapers do. Stick advertising in them.
Paul has identified that niche in the market and has the skills to exploit it, and I will deliver the blueprint to meet his needs.
And that relationship may well be the future of publishing. Watch this space…
Rick James is an author, speaker, blogger and teacher living in London, England. He can frequently be found people watching on the streets of East London to get inspiration for his weird and wonderful fictional creatures and monsters and ranting, fantasy-tinged tweets.