Gathering of the Ghosts – January 22, 2024

The Atlantic Misses the Enterprise Publishing Boat

June 10, 2022

This post is taken from the latest issue of our monthly newsletter, Words to the Wise. Subscribe here to receive a curated round-up of the latest news and analysis of the publishing and storytelling worlds.

Every few years or so, a magazine or content producer partners with a book publisher to form a new imprint. These collaborations spark headlines — Bloomberg works with Wiley! Oprah works with Macmillian! — but they usually follow the same old playbook: A media brand turns to, and rolls over for, an establishment player.

The latest to pursue this sclerotic path is the Atlantic. The venerated magazine is teaming up with the new indie publisher Zando to launch Atlantic Editions, which will release a line of books from the magazine’s writers. While the Atlantic showed an inkling of ingenuity in opting out of the Big Four, we still can’t help but note the huge opportunity they missed.

Instead of thinking narrowly, playing it safe, and basically doing what all their competitors are doing, the publication could have employed a DIY approach that would have kept all the control — and, more importantly, the money — in their own hands. Which is to say, rather than tethering themselves to the conventional traditional publishing model, they could have set up their own publishing program. This enterprise model would have enabled them not only to produce books for commercial sale, but also to leverage and license the august Atlantic brand to publish a wider range of voices and ideas and diversify their revenue streams.

As you may know, Forbes was the first big fish to reap the benefits of this innovative approach, where authors who care more about credibility and visibility than profitability pay to have not only the brand name on the spine of their books but also direct access to the brand’s audience. A handful of others, like Fast Company and Inc., have also seized this rare opportunity in today’s media marketplace to generate new revenue opportunities with almost no risk.

We put our own skin in this game a couple years ago when we partnered with RealClearPolitics and our hybrid-publishing friends at Amplify to create RealClear Publishing. Our goal was to redefine the marketplace for political books by balancing smart, high-quality content with speed to market, while at the same time avoiding the pitfalls of partisanship and restrictive politics that often come with traditional houses.

Media companies are far from the only businesses that are embracing enterprise publishing. Indeed, a variety of entities use books as a key part of their corporate and marketing strategies. (What do McKinsey, AARP, Patagonia, and the Mayo Clinic have in common? They all run their own book-publishing programs.)

We’re so bullish on this way of booking forward that we recently launched a sister business, Gotham Publishing Solutions. We’ve put together a network of experts skilled at helping brands and organizations leverage the unique power of books to unlock the full potential of their content and maximize the value of their brand. If you’re interested in exploring what books can do for you, drop us a line. We’re happy to offer W2W readers a free consultation.


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