Open Road Integrated Media Passing Major Mile Markers
On Tuesday, Book Business' Senior Editor Jim Sturdivant and I visited with Open Road Integrated Media Co-founder and CEO Jane Friedman, who is one of the most widely known and influential executives in book publishing. Friedman launched Open Road following her 11-year stint as president and CEO of HarperCollins Worldwide. Shortly after the launch, I spoke with Friedman about her new role as an entrepreneur after so many years in traditional book publishing with major publishing houses. She had seemed a bit overwhelmed at the time, without a global team to implement her plans, but excited and rejuvenated by the new experience. It turns out, the role seems to suit her.
The Open Road offices are much different than what Friedman was used to in her role heading one of the world's largest publishing houses. Nestled in Soho, the office building is somehow reminiscent of Andy Warhol's "The Factory," with cement floors and old elevators. Open Road's office carries the same slighty rough, but post-modern feel, decorated to give you a sense of the seriousness of the business and the stylish, confident air Friedman herself brings to a room with her presence.
The 20-some employees that the company now employs are primarily young, ambitious "worker bees" as Friedman endearingly referred to them, sitting side by side in an open workspace, busily focused on social media efforts, and marketing, marketing, marketing, which Friedman emphasized as one of the most important aspects of Open Road's mission and uniqueness.
Part of our conversation with Friedman focused on Open Road's announcement this week that it would be publishing e-books of three titles by author Alice Walker, including her novel "The Color Purple," which, the press release announcing the launch reminds us, "won the 1983 Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award, and was subsequently adapted into an Academy Award-winning film starring Whoopi Goldberg and Danny Glover."
In addition to "The Color Purple" e-book, Open Road will be publishing its follow-up book, "The Temple of My Familiar" (featuring characters from "The Color Purple"), as well as Walker's "Possessing the Secret of Joy" in e-book format.
Friedman's excitement about the Alice Walker announcement is apparent, as is her pride in Open Road's growth and success as a startup already making major waves in the book industry.
"Alice Walker is one of America's greatest living writers who has moved countless readers with her powerful and unique voice," Friedman told Book Business Extra. "Open Road is proud to digitally publish her extraordinary, iconic titles and to create a marketing program that will help bring them to a new generation of readers on 'e.'"
Open Road also will be releasing, on Nov. 22, eight more titles in the Alice Walker e-book collection, including her debut novel "The Third Life of Grange Copeland" and "Meridian"; poetry collections "Revolutionary Petunias," "Horses Make a Landscape Look More Beautiful," and "Once"; short story collections "You Can't Keep a Good Woman Down" and "In Love & Trouble"; and the essay collection "Living by the Word."
The e-books will include add-on features, not available in the print books, such as behind-the-scenes author commentary and videos as well as an illustrated biography in each e-book, including unseen photographs and documents from Walker's personal life and distinguished career.
This news follows Open Road's announcement this spring of its receipt of $8 million in Series B equity financing led by Azure Capital, and also including Golden Seeds and current investor Kohlberg Ventures. (Kohlberg Ventures previously had invested a total of $7 million in Open Road—$3 million at launch and an additional $4 million in June 2010).