On September 2, 2014, a new book publishing company will open its doors. In this interview, Joel Goldman, one-time trial attorney, bestselling author, and now book publisher, talks about the new company he is creating with Lee Goldberg. Brash Books (www.mysterythrillerbooks.com) will launch with thirty books from award-winning and bestselling authors. To understand why Goldman and Goldberg think a new publisher is a good idea, one must begin at the beginning.
“It seemed like a good idea at the time,” said Goldman. “My partner and I, for the last several years, have been self-publishing our backlists. We’ve both been traditionally published and we had tremendous success. Between the two of us, we’ve sold over 800,000 copies of our backlist books. Our friends, when we would go to conventions were always asking us how we were doing it and what was the secret. The more we thought about that, the more we thought we might be able to take advantage of the lessons we had learned.”
Goldman and Goldberg were at Bouchercon in September 2013 when discussions became more serious. Goldman said, “Lee was telling me about his efforts to acquire some out of print books by one of his favorite authors who was from the 70s and had been sort of obscure, but wrote books Lee really loved. We talked about it and I said, ‘I think there’s a business model here.’“
At that point, the brainstorming between two friends became more serious and they began exploring their options. Goldman described their conversation as an “epiphany moment.” The two began exchanging emails, and about a month later, it was Goldberg who proposed they move forward. Without much thought, Goldman agreed they should proceed.
The company’s tagline is, “We publish the best crime novels in existence.” This seems like an appropriate marketing plan for a company with the name “Brash Books.” The question authors and readers might be asking themselves is, who gets to decide? Goldman said, “The mystery tent is very wide, very deep, and there are many fabulous books. We want our books to be the best and we have some criteria for that. We’re looking for books that are award nominated, have won awards, or are critically acclaimed.
That’s where we start. The next part of that analysis is to ask what books we like from that group of books. Obviously, we’re not publishing every award-winning book from 1970 on. We’re focusing on books that are meaningful to us, that we like, have shaped our writing, or authors we have found who we think really deserve an opportunity for a new audience. So, it’s a combination of both the objective and the subjective.”
The main focus of the company will be books that have gone onto an author’s backlist. Primarily, this means older books. However, Goldman said they are also releasing two new titles in their September launch. He added, “We’re going to release eight to ten books per quarter next year and there will probably be one or two new titles in each of those releases.”
Goldman also described what he sees as the major difference between Brash Books and traditional publishers. “Before the advent of the Kindle, if you were a mid list author and didn’t break out, it didn’t matter how great the book was or how many awards you won, publishers moved on. We have the opportunity to introduce these books to a new audience.”
He added, “I think it’s very important that Lee and I are authors, not just publishers. We know how authors want to be treated. What I tell our authors is that we don’t want a contract or a relationship that an author can just live with. We want a relationship they’re thrilled with. Because we come at this as authors I think we have a different perspective. That’s been very appealing to all the authors we’re working with.”
The fact that both authors are bestsellers in their own right raises an issue that might concern authors interested in dealing with Brash Books. Goldman said, “Lee and I are both continuing to go as hard as we can with our own writing. However, Brash will not publish our books and there’s a very important reason for that. We don’t want our authors to feel like we’re in competition with them. We have dedicated resources to promote the Brash books and we want that to be for the benefit of our readers and our Brash authors.”
Goldman said he and Goldberg are in complete agreement that they need to keep their writing pursuits separate. “Our authors need to feel that they have our full attention and support and that we’re not trying to leverage Brash in any direct sort of way with our own books.”
The publishing business is certainly more volatile than it’s ever been. With millions of books to choose from, writers and publishers are all struggling with one major issue—discoverability. Goldman said, “It’s the hottest topic in publishing today, discovery and discoverability. We have a well-conceived marketing plan that’s a combination of old school and new school.”
The “old school” methods include taking out ads in trade and convention magazines. “We’re making sure that we’re doing a lot of ‘hand selling,’” said Goldman. “We’re giving away books at conventions.”
And what about the online world Goldman referred to as “new school?” He said, “We’ve engaged an advertising company and a PR firm to mount and execute an online campaign that includes advertising. We’re active on Facebook, Twitter, and Google +, and we have a very active blog with other authors as bloggers from time-to-time. We have a terrific website that was designed by PML Media. We also are making our e-books exclusive to Amazon in exchange for promotion opportunities that are substantially more than are available through KDP Select.”
With everything that he’s working on for Brash Books, Goldman says his most interesting project is giving birth to the company. “Just creating and starting something from scratch is exciting. Our books will also be available as print on demand. We have gorgeous covers. With every author we sign, I get to see the birth and rebirth of the events that happen along the line. When I got the first POD book for Brash, I was as excited as when I received my own first book.”
In a world in which quantity seems to define success. Goldman sees Brash Books as different. “We are publishing a very curated list. We’re not like some of our competitors who are publishing thousands of books and literally swallowing up list after list. We want to stake out our ground as publishing the best crime novels in existence and limit our list to the books we can support and promote. Given our criteria for what we’re publishing, given the scope and type of books that we’re publishing, it’s the special relationships between us and our authors set us apart.”
Because they’re focusing on quality, the company will also need to quickly get books into consideration for major awards. “We’ll submit our authors’ books for the Edgar Awards and the Thriller Awards and others that we feel are appropriate,” said Goldman.
Along the way to the company’s birth, Goldman and Goldberg have certainly had many decisions to make. Fortunately, they get along well. “We agree on almost everything and it’s like a perfect marriage,” said Goldman. “In fact, our wives refer to each other as the other’s second wife. We complement each other very nicely.”
With Goldman in Kansas City and Goldberg in Los Angeles, the two seldom met. Goldman said, “We got to know each other first on the convention circuit. We also spent some overlapping time on the board of MWA. We each naturally gravitated toward parts of the business that, based on our lives to date, seemed to be natural. I was a trial lawyer for twenty-eight years, so I work with our lawyer, handle the contracts and financial side of things. Lee spends more time working with the authors.”
The business venture has not been without challenges. Goldman said, “It took longer than expected to get our website up. We’ve run into problems with some authors who wanted to come with us, but weren’t able to get their reversion of rights from their original publishers. The other thing that turned out to be true was the time commitment required is taking a lot more time than we anticipated. It’s been a blast every step of the way, but there have been a lot more steps than we thought there were going to be when we started.”