The publishing world has changed dramatically since the introduction of the Gutenberg press. Companies like Amazon have shaken up the relationship between the reader and publisher, causing some in the publishing world to think it’s becoming a commodities market.
Wind Ridge Books, based in Shelburne, is looking to change that. They are a small, non-profit publishing house that publishes works of Vermont authors, such as the recent novel Shape of the Sky by Shelagh Shapiro. Lin Stone, managing editor at Wind Ridge Books, wants to return to the old, romantic world of publishing. “I think if you look at publishing the way that it has grown in recent years, with the giant online people from Amazon and that model … much of the work is un-edited, it's pasted and put together in not a professional, lovely or engaging manner. So, it's become a cheap commodities market in many ways. And that's not who Vermonters are. That's not our cup of tea, if you think about the localvore movements or the artisan food movements,” Stone says.
Similar to other art communities, Stone sees the only way for the publishing business to become sustainable is to form alliances and join together with the artists – or in this case, writers and readers. “[We] came up with the non-profit model where the price of the book ... doesn't necessarily cover all the costs. In our model of publishing, which is not cheap, [all of our books] are edited and carefully designed with original art, often from local Vermont artists. If you take that model, then you need a community of people who love good writing and care about good books to link arms with you … to become a supportive organization that will keep the arts alive,” says Stone.
Stone says that when publishing in smaller batches, it’s almost impossible to make money by depending solely on the books. She explains that stores buy books at a discount price, often 40 to 55 percent of retail value. She says that after printing, marketing and promotion, publishers are “lucky” to make $1 off of every book. And with the size of their publishing house and market, they don’t have the volume to pay for the overhead of the business.
For this reason, Wind Ridge Books recently became a non-profit organization, operating under the name The Voices of Vermonters Publishing Group, starting Jan. 1. "We'll begin an online fundraising campaign that will go out to the community we already have a relationship with, and we're reaching out to the people in the reading world and the publishing world who have expressed interest in our work and interest in supporting our kind of work,” Stone says. They are also forming alliances with other non-profit organizations that have stories to tell, but not necessarily the resources. “And then we're forming a new imprint and new alliances with some of the local colleges to help publish their books," Stone explains.
Wind Ridge Books also runs writing workshops in their “Writers’ Barn” and offers their professional services to writers who want to self-publish. As for the future of publishing, Stone hopes that Wind Ridge is setting the precedent. “Well I do have to say, like a lot of other Vermont projects, that we might be leading the way. And I certainly hope we're leading the way to save the world of publishing from the commodities market style of publishing. So I hope we're a leader,” she says.
Learn more about Wind Ridge Books and the variety of works they’ve published on their website.