Brian Tibbetts

June 17, 2015

Publishing & Technology: Open Source Publishing – The Future?


Brian Tibbetts is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Wednesday, Brian posts about trends in the publishing industry and developments in technology that impact the industry. You can find him on Twitter @BRIANRTIBBETTS

This week in Publishing & Technology we’ll be discussing free distribution as a marketing strategy and applying the concept of open publishing to literary and genre publishing.

While making a recent decision regarding which tech conferences I might attend this summer, I found myself reading Cory Doctorow’s bio on the O’Reilly Media SolidCon – Internet of Things conference website. Doctorow will be a featured speaker at the conference and will, no doubt, be wearing his “technology activist” hat during this appearance in San Francisco later this month. Doctorow has a very popular blog and scores of tech publishing credits to his name. For an example of his writing about technology and the internet go to his recent post on internet utopianism on

What struck me while reading Doctorow’s bio, however, was the following statement: “His novels…are published by Tor Books and simultaneously released on the Internet under Creative Commons licenses that encourage their re-use and sharing, a move that increases his sales by enlisting his readers to help promote his work.”

I don’t have access to Doctorow’s sales figures, so I can neither confirm nor deny the claim that this marketing strategy effectively “increases sales.” But, it is an interesting concept. One that almost seems to embrace the intended legacy of the Google Books project, the PWYW (pay what you want) pricing philosophy, and the idea of open source, while taking content marketing to a completely deeper level. I would love to know more about his interaction with Tor surrounding the creation of this marketing strategy and what (if any) concessions Doctorow had to make to get them onboard. It’s challenging to argue against free or low-cost access to content as an audience building strategy for emerging writers, but one is left to wonder how it might benefit established writers (or publishers for that matter).

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