Publishing Startup at a Crossroads: ‘Maybe It’s Time to Embrace Something Old-Fashioned’

The iOS app, pending improvements, still might catch on, but if it doesn’t, we’ll have to figure out how to try to keep those subscribers as we fold them back into the original distribution system. We’re also in talks with an established indie publishing house, trying to figure out whether doing a handful of print and e-book Emily Books originals in collaboration could make financial sense for both us and them; I’m hopeful, but when I look at the profit and loss statements they’ve given us for reference, I get less so. The idea that print availability is the only difference between selling a few hundred and a few thousand books seems like a stretch. Then again, we have a built-in base. “Two hundred people who love you are more important than 2 million people who like you,” some startup guy or other once said. Startup guys say a lot of stuff, though.

When night fell on our retreat, we put away our laptops and curled up on the couch in front of the TV. The Devil Wears Prada was showing on Lifetime, as it always is, and we were delighted to sit down and rewatch it. Outsized caricature that it is, this monumentally great chick flick does seem in some ways to encapsulate my own journey from principled young striver to glamour-chasing young sellout and back again. As we watched Andi toss the cell phone that had tethered her to her dream-nightmare job into the fountain and put her terrible corduroys back on to work at some kind of scrubby newspaper, I wondered if the movie wasn’t an omen. Maybe it’s time to embrace something old-fashioned instead of something glitzy and new and untried. Maybe our future–and publishing’s future–isn’t to be found in technological advancements that change the way we read, but in advancements that change the way books reach their audience.

Emily Gould, in Fast Company, with an honest reflection on her own publishing startup, and questions about what to do next.

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