WarrenAdler.com, Digital D.I.Y.

From Publisher’s Weekly, June 4, 2001

By using digital books and print-on-demand technology, authors who own the rights to their work can now make their stories available directly to readers, on the author’s own terms.

One of the first authors to fully exploit this opportunity is Warren Adler, author of 24 novels, including War of the Roses and Random Hearts. Under the name Stonehouse Press, Adler has a compiled a complete digital library of his books, which he sells on WarrenAdler.com, his own website, and through online bookstores. “This technology has enabled me to jumpstart a whole new phase of my career,” he said.

Adler’s Web site, now in its soft-launch phase, offers his e-books in MS Reader format for $6.95 each. His digital bookstore was created by Overdrive, a digital-content management and infrastructure provider. Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other online vendors distribute his titles in Adobe Acrobat and MS Reader formats, and as a POD trade paperback for about $14.95. All of Adler’s titles can be ordered in hardcover or paperback from independent bookstores in conjunction with Ingram’s POD service, Lightning Source. Adler is also working with Gemstar and Palm Digital Media (formerly Peanut Press) to format his titles for handheld devices. Internet vendors will split the revenues and also promote his books online.

As a publisher, Adler receives 45% of the retail price for the e-books and POD titles, while vendors and wholesalers get the remaining 55%. “I don’t expect this to be the giant income producer in the next few years, but as advertising and promotional thrust, it’s invaluable,” said Adler, who has spent $50,000 of his own money to develop the site.

His website is much more than an e-bookstore; it offers interviews with the author and reviews of his work, a calendar of his appearances, a book club and a bulletin board that allows readers to correspond with him directly. “If it takes time away from writing, it’ll be worth it,” said Adler. “There’s nothing more important than my readers.”

Most of Adler’s contracts were negotiated before publishers began demanding that authors sign away their electronic rights. Instead of taking his new novel to a big house, Adler went with a smaller publisher and kept the e-rights. Kensington Books will publish Mourning Glory in hardcover in August, and will promote Adler’s website in advertisements and on book jackets.

“The whole idea is to use the traditional publishing route to cross-collatorize with every other known electronic venue, so that one helps the other,” said Adler. “Everything we do at Kensington, we’ll do jointly.”

Adler is offering the initial chapter of Mourning Glory on his Web site for free download, as he does with all his titles. He pointed out that there is a lot of evidence that e-books stimulate demand for print books.

Mike Shatzkin, founder and CEO of the consulting firm Idea Logical, agreed. “In today’s market, the more you give away, the more you sell.” But Shatzkin, who worked with Adler to create his e-business, cautions that this may change in the future. “We’re still at a time when e-book giveaways are a very effective promotional device, but as the reading experience improves with e-books, that may no longer be true.” Publishers, said Shatzkin, need to learn more about promotion on the Web.

Adler is especially well suited to the task because of his business savvy. Long frustrated by publishers’ half-hearted promotional efforts, Adler thinks he can do better. “This is my revenge,” said the author, who previously owned a number of radio and television stations and ran his own advertising and public relations agency. “Branding ones authorial name is the whole motive of this game,” said Adler. “It’s an investment in myself.” –Megan Costello