Bloggers in Print

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The New Pamphleteer

For bloggers who yearn to see their words printed offline, Adam Bellow, a 20-year book publishing veteran (and son of novelist Saul Bellow), is now giving them the chance. Bellow's new project, the New Pamphleteer (TNP), aspires to be the publisher of choice for online pundits. The company doesn't intend to simply recycle old blog posts, but will also commission new work from popular bloggers that is not available online. For now, the print runs are small, in the hundreds, but Bellow hopes it's only the beginning.

Bellow and his business partner, David Bernstein, also an experienced publishing hand, are betting that these bite-sized books are the perfect way to capture the best voices of the blogosphere in an easy-to-read format. Says Bellow: "Pamphlets are the ideal form for the needs of the intelligent reader in our fast-paced, media-saturated, ADD culture." The average TNP pamphlet averages 40 to 80 pages. Small enough to cart around easily (4x6 inches), they run $4 apiece on TNP's website.

But who will read them? "The community of people who blog and read blogs, in specific areas of interest ranging from politics to food and from fashion to philosophy," says Bellow. "Beyond that, I have in mind the much larger audience of people who know that blogs exist but lack the time or inclination to sift through the enormous flow of verbiage to find the best that has been thought and said online."

The six-month-old enterprise intends to publish digests and anthologies of blogs, plus other up-to-the-moment writings. "Pamphlets after all are a grassroots phenomenon that were traditionally read by everyone in society from the lowliest street sweeper to the crowned heads of Europe," says Bellow, the president and editorial director of TNP. "They are the natural form for the expression of ideas, especially those that are marginal, unpopular or against the grain of current moral taste." Not to mention that people increasingly don't have the desire to buy pricey, time-consuming books, a fact that has not escaped the notice of Bellow and Bernstein.

So far, the outfit's as-of-yet small number of offerings are lively. "Embrace the Suck" by Col. Austin Bay is a pocket guide to "milspeak" (military slang) in Iraq. "Everything Could Explode at Any Moment" consists of dispatches from the Lebanese-Israeli front by Michael Totten. And as for those more interested in the culinary wars, TNP offers "Best Recipes from the Jewish Blogosphere" by Judith Weiss.

Bloggers won't necessarily get rich off their pamphlets. "This is a low-budget operation financed out of our own pockets, so we cannot pay more than a token advance at this stage," says Bellow. "Hopefully that will change as our audience grows. But we do offer a hefty 30% royalty to authors of original work."

Bellow hasn't quit his day job, either, as executive editor-at-large at Doubleday Books. But he is as enthusiastic about TNP as if he were running Random House. "The New Pamphleteer is really just a couple of book editors who have decided they want to do something different and fun for the hell of it. Whether that makes us a viable business remains to be seen."