Sunday, November 9, 2008

RichWriters Interview with the Publisher of Harper Studios, Robert S. Miller -- Part 1

Jeff Rivera Interview with Harper Collins' Imprint Publisher Robert S. Miller:


Robert S. Miller joined with Jane Friedman at HarperCollins to form a new publishing studio that is said to revolutionize not only the way books are sold and distribute but the readers experience. Mr. Miller was gracious enough to make the time for author and journalist Jeff Rivera to answer some questions authors have been posing about this new endeavor.


Jeff Rivera:       Thank you for your time Bob. First of all, how did this all begin?


Robert Miller:   Well Jeff, I have known Jane Friedman for decades and I have gotten to know HarperCollins better over the past year. They are very forward thinking and I was having a drink with Jane actually and I was telling her how, if I have to all start over again, how I would do it differently. And she really seemed interested.  We talked about how I would like to eliminate some of the things in the business that I had become frustrated with over the years. And she said, �Well, why don�t we do it?� and I realized that, yes, it would certainly be challenging but given her support and the fact that I have HarperCollins behind me, I thought it would be an interesting experience..


Jeff Rivera:            Was ABC [the owners of Hyperion] open to these ideas?


Robert Miller:   Yes, there was nothing about this that ABC would not have been interested in but I think the idea of low advances against profit shares in terms of author agreement and non returnable selling to book sellers, those are things that it is, I think are easier to do from scratch. Those are pretty significant adjustments to make that I think require a start up.



Jeff Rivera:       I think these ideas are brilliant actually and the first time anyone with that kind of support has put their money where their mouth is With all these new ideas is that why you called it a studio rather than an imprint?


Robert Miller:   Thank you and yes, exactly. That's why we're calling it a studio.


Jeff Rivera:       Let's talk about this no-advance business and how it affects authors. Many authors are open to the idea but there others are a little frightened with the concept. How will they be able to live without an advance or use the monies to help promote their book if they have no advance?


Robert Miller:   Well, it is not necessarily no advance it can be low advance.  I understand why for some authors that model would not work but for the authors that it would work, it is something that I am interested in trying.


Jeff Rivera:       But what do you mean exactly by a share of profits. Is this a "Hollywood Studio Model" where basically no one ever sees any profits?


Robert Miller:            No, it is an actual, true profit share without overhead deductive. What you are talking about is what we call �fatal subtraction� where there actually ends up being supposedly no profit but this is just simply taking all revenues and deducting all direct cost and splitting the difference, but no overhead.


Jeff Rivera:            Would that include distribution costs as well?


Robert Miller:   No, distribution say would be an overhead. It is an actual cost such as the cost paper printing, binding, publicity, freight that it cost to ship a book something you are spending money to do. This does not include staff salary.


Jeff Rivera:       What do you plan on doing to help promote books and break through the noisy advertising environment?


Robert Miller:   Well one thing we know as publishers is that consumer advertising hasn't had the affect on sales that we would like. Paid print ads, television ads we will not be doing here at the studio.  However, we will be spending our money and time on online marketing, for example spreading pieces of the book on websites. We are also open to satellite tours and talks on videos that are disseminated by electronic press kits or internet marketing. There�s a lot that can be done for books that can be effective without paid you know consumer ads.


Jeff Rivera:       How has been the response of agents and authors have been receiving any submissions?


Robert Miller:   Yes. A lot of people have come to talk and a lot of submissions so I have a lot of work ahead.