Writer and entrepreneur Penelope Trunk has a new book coming out called The New American Dream, but you won’t find it in your local bookstore. Instead, she’s publishing it exclusively with startup Hyperink.
That’s not how the book started out, says Trunk (who writes a popular blog and also authored a couple of controversial TechCrunch posts about women and startups). Her previous book The Brazen Careerist (also the name of Trunk’s last startup) was published traditionally, and she had a contract to do the same with The New American Dream.
What happened? As Trunk tells it (and to be clear, this is just her side of the story), her publisher was “incredibly incompetent” on a number of fronts. Here are a few of her big criticisms: For one thing, the publisher’s idea of online marketing was stuck in the 1990s — in fact, the PR plan started with online newsgroups. The publisher was also opposed to just turning Trunk’s blog posts into a book, to the extent that it required her to track how many new words she was writing versus reusing from her blog. (Trunk says the idea that big-name nonfiction authors aren’t turning their blog posts into books is “just such bullshit,” and she argues that by re-curating her blog posts, she’s presenting big ideas in a new way and to a new audience.) And Trunk says she makes less money as an author from each purchase on Amazon than she does as a blogger driving traffic to the same site through affiliate links.
Continuing on the subject of Amazon, Trunk marvels at how little information publishers get from the e-commerce site: “It’s insane how screwed the publishers are.”
Nonetheless, Trunk says she was willing to stick it out, because she was learning so much about publishing, but eventually, the relationship became combative enough that she was told, “We can’t do the book.” (To be fair to the publisher, I would have a bit weirded out if an author started recording all of our meetings and phone calls.) So Trunk started to look at self-publishing and other options, eventually settling on Hyperink, the digital publishing startup incubated by Y Combinator and backed by Andreessen Horowitz and others.
The Hyperink team was on-board with Trunk’s vision — in fact, one of its specialties is blog-to-book conversions. (For example, it published a collection of MG Siegler’s columns called You’re Damn Right I’m A Fanboy.) And by working with Hyperink, Trunk didn’t have to deal with a lot of the extra tasks/costs of full-on self-publishing publishing, like editing the book and laying it out.
And no, Trunk says she won’t miss seeing a physical book on the shelves.
“You don’t actually gain influence by having a book in Barnes & Noble anymore,” she says, adding that her goal is to “steer a conversation” — which is what Hyperink helps her do.
So what’s the book actually about? As the title suggests, the book looks at the current state of the American Dream and argues that it’s really more about interestingness versus happiness. You can read more about the book and purchase it here.