White Cloud hits on new publishing model

After almost two decades in the business, White Cloud Press of Ashland has taken its visionary founder Steve Scholl back into the fold and is focused on a new publishing model — partnering with authors to share production costs and help sell their books.

It's a model White Cloud hopes can compete with publish-on-demand, which is "all the rage" but short on distribution, says Scholl.

Under its new Confluence Press brand, White Cloud collaborates with authors and shares the risks with them. The more authors invest in design, printing, production and other costs, the bigger percentage they earn — a big plus if the book gets legs.

Though it defies long-standing traditions in the industry, the model opens publishing house doors to authors with a manuscript they believe in and are willing to support with cash and promote on the road.

"Overall, it's a much better model for the author, as well as the publisher," says Eric Alan, author of "Wild Grace" and the new "Grace and Tranquility," both published by White Cloud. "The old model, where the author gets 12 percent, is not a fair model. The new model distributes costs better and is more of an equal partnership.

"I have more upfront costs, but so much more self-determination."

Alan, a longtime Ashlander before his recent move to Cottage Grove, says both old and new models provide limited incomes. And the new one requires authors to promote their books not only at readings but through seminars and on the Internet to generate more sales.

Ashland author Paul Grilley has seen his "Yin Yoga" become a best seller in the field, providing him the recognition and credibility to become a sought-after trainer around the world, said Scholl.

"It was published under the old model and has been a steady seller over the years, but we're not going to gamble anymore," said Scholl.

White Cloud's catalog offers an array of interesting titles, especially in spirituality and world religion, and its publishers want to involve local writers and buyers more, Scholl says. White Cloud seeks the kind of visibility in the print realm that Blackstone Audio has in the audio book world.

"Our focus is on helping people package and share their story with the world — and we have the capacity and experience to do that better with someone local," says Scholl. "There is tremendous wisdom in this valley."

Scholl started White Cloud 18 years ago. He and his fellow owner-publishers Gary Kliewer and Stephen Sendar bring a combined 40 years of experience.

"It's fun to work hands-on with locals," Scholl says. "There's something about this part of the world that thrives on ideas and getting out stories.

"With a small press like us, these are acts of passion. People write books because of passion — and publishers publish them because of passion."

White Cloud will still discriminate, taking on only projects that are "good books we believe in" and survive editorial review by Publishers Group West, the organization that connects publishers' wares to distributors, such as Ingram Books in Roseburg and other cities around the nation.

"Self-published books don't get in that pipeline. They're out of the system," says Scholl, noting that established access — and White Cloud's history of producing quality books — is what opens the door to distributors for their writers.

"It doesn't cost that much more," says Sendar. "You get personal attention. You get all the reps at PGW. You get in with Barnes & Noble and Amazon. You get detailed feedback on what to do — or we'll say it will never make it. You get covers, layout and the collective wisdom of the people in the business."

With Amazon selling more e-books than the paper kind, White Cloud is now digitizing all its books, but also believes hard copy books will survive through time. The company is moving into v-books, which have video content to supplement text. It also does a lot of marketing on social networks and the Internet, says Kliewer.

"We didn't invent the new model," says Scholl, "but we should know by the end of 2011 if it's going to work for us."

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

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