For those who have been following Richard Nash’s long post-Soft Skull buildup to his new venture Cursor, last week brought the long-awaited unveiling. Richard Nash has now opened Red Lemonade for business.
There are still a number of unanswered questions, as a look at Cursor Corp’s URL makes clear It’s a little difficult to tell just what’s going on. But this is about as clear and concise a description as I’ve seen:
Cursor is the platform, Red Lemonade is just the first publisher to use that platform. If Red Lemonade isn’t quite your style, we want Cursor to be a platform that can be used by people to start their own publishers or start their own author collectives. What I want Cursor to do is the engine that powers the new writing and reading economy
OK, except then you go to Red Lemonade’s website, and it looks more like the community Cursor wants to be than a publisher. In addition to RL’s debut titles by Lynne Tillman, Vanessa Velka, and others, there’s also an entire library of manuscripts uploaded by whoever the heck wants to (current titles including books by Samuel Beckett, Albert Camus, and scores more).
The About page offers some explanation (as well as a cute four-image graphic that explains the general idea):
To read a Red Lemonade manuscript, just start at the Library. There you will find an array of work by community members which you can read at your leisure and which you can annotate on comment on simply by commenting on the home page of the manuscript or by highlighting a word, or sentence of paragraph.
To read a book picked for publication by Richard Nash with the input of the Red Lemonade community, see our Featured Books. These are available to be read in their entirety, for free, on this site, but also downloadable from our store [coming soon!] and all eBook retailers, and purchasable as trade paperbacks from our store [coming soon!] and from most book retailers, and case-by-case available in fabulous artisanal editions we’ll let you know about as they become available.
Also available in our Library are a selection of excerpts from the Evergreen Review, perhaps the most influential cultural magazine of the 20th century, run by Barney Rosset, founder of Grove Press. We offer these excerpts, by writers such as Samuel Beckett, Frank O’Hara, Marguerite Duras and so forth to give some context to our efforts to be creating and supporting the independent publishers of the 21st century.
Essentially, this seems something like a cross between a traditional publisher and the liberal community/political blog Daily Kos. Essentially a managed space that is hoping to attract a large community of users to build it up by providing content and daily interaction.
This is an interesting idea, and clearly Richard Nash is a smart guy who has thought this all through, but I wonder how it will all work out. I think the closest model here would be the web community that has sprung up around National Novel Writing Month, but that’s a very different beast in a lot of ways. Does your average book-reader/buyer want to be involved in wading through reams of manuscripts and commenting on them? I don’t know.
And then, presupposing that Red Lemonade’s community gets going, how exactly does having a thriving community of writers translate into sales and income for Red Lemonade/Cursor?
And perhaps most of all, what will happen with Nash’s choice to offer all of Red Lemonade’s content for free in perpetuity on the website? (And while I’m commenting on this, do yourself a favor and read some of the stories from Lynne Tillman’s newest book.) It’s a bold move, and I don’t think I’m the only one to admit that I have no idea what this will mean for the sales (electronic and print) of Red Lemonade’s books.
Let’s sum up: clearly the idea here is to engineer a new publishing model by combining a traditional publisher with a web community that generates a lot of online activity, along the lines of websites like Facebook, Twitter, Daily Kos, etc. My doubts here would be as follows: 1) I don’t know that readers want a web community where they can share their writing and critique others’–in short, I don’t know that this will catch on in the same way that a Daily Kos or Facebook has; and 2) Unless RL eventually gets heavily into advertising and merchandising, I don’t see how having a thriving community contributes that much to RL’s bottom line, even if it generates substantial amounts of publicity.
But these are questions that I’m sure Nash has done a lot of thinking about, and I’ll be interested to see, as we surely will, the answers that he has imagined for them deployed on his websites going forward.