I'm officially back in the market for publishing business assets as of today. It's part of a two pronged plan to grow my publishing business through acquisition and to create a new marketplace for orphaned intellectual property. I also think it would be a lot more useful (and fun) way to spend my time for the rest of the year than running a fiction contest for self published writers.
The idea of aggregating the micro assets of authors and publishers who have either exited the business or exited this life has been tugging at my brain for years. I think it originally came to mind when I was doing some estate planning, and the idea became fixed last summer when I did a study of small publishers who went out of business and abandoned their websites.
The basic premise, in a nutshell, is that a tremendous amount of intellectual property built up in books and websites must simply dissipate into nothingness every year. People either give up on business and don't have a ready market, or owners pass on and estate executors either don't recognize the value or don't have any way to realize it. With the Internet and print-on-demand, fairly small grains of intellectual property can be added up to make a worthwhile business, provided there's a practical way to find and acquire the copyrights. Ten years ago, I don't know what you'd have done with a publishing business that only sold a couple hundred books a year, but as long as those titles have lasting value, it now makes sense for another publisher to keep them in print, and perhaps get them online.
Since I've blogged about this stuff for a couple years, I already rank at the top of Google for many phrases related to buying or selling a publishing asset. But most of the people who contact me have insanely unrealistic expectations. They think their businesses should be valued by the investment they put in, which can run six figures, rather than by the sales, which can run four figures for the same. I think the reason I never hear from the sort of people with the small niche assets I was talking about above is that they don't think selling those assets is practical. They just wind down operations, pay their bills, and put the leftover books in the attic and let the website registration expire.
For the time being, the next step is advertising, and I'll start with an Adwords campaign to test the waters before rushing into print advertising in the various publishing newsletters or magazines. I wonder if there's an organization of estate liquidation attorneys where I could advertise? In the meantime, I'm willing to talk to anybody who has ideas on the subject, so don't hesitate to comment on this post or get in touch by e-mail. I'm hoping that at some point I can build a directory or resource that would become well known, so that people with copyrights and intellectual property assets they figured wouldn't be worth the bother of trying to sell will list them. The original owners would get the benefit of the selling price and seeing the work remain in print, or even get updated, while the buyer have a new path for expanding a small publishing business.
And please feel free to link to this post from any publishing discussion group you may participate in. The more feedback I get now, the more likely I am to invest significant money in building a new website rather than trying to limp along with a one page directory on this site.