Business models

Trade Duty: Publishing What Ought to be Read

Many decision points contribute to a trade editor’s GO/NO GO final opinion. A bestseller will generate revenue to keep the doors open and the firm able to further its mission. A mid-list winner fills an ongoing content need and will keep selling and selling, slow and steady. In these POD days, when the words “out of print” have lost their meaning, publishers can revive backlist perennials to add to the bottom line.

And then there is the book that ought to be published, independent of financial analysis. Like “The Pentagon Papers.” Or like
The Climate Report: National Climate Assessment-Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States by The U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), which Merians and Johnson just published and is selling for $16 per print copy. Geeky scientific reports are not typically the fare of trade book publishers. But this one makes sense. The book results from a mandated, every-four-year U.S. government study on climate change, which profoundly affects all of us, those who will follow us, and other life forms that share the planet with us. This small, Brooklyn-based, indie trade publisher didn’t appreciate that Washington deep-sixed this devastating climate report by releasing it the day after Thanksgiving in 2018, while the news cycle was focused on overeating, traffic jams, Black Friday shopping deals, football, and a long weekend. The fact that our current government administration undervalues this report, and is in fact actively denying and subverting its contents, renders all the more urgent the “ought” that drove Merians and Johnson to publish it. Bravi!

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