Ideas Unbound: David Bernstein of the New Pamphleteer Part I

For some time we've been thinking about how the ever-expanding world seems constantly to be reeled in by indie minds and indie ventures and so far it has involved some of the most interesting people we've ever met. Most recently we've had a chance to chat with David Bernstein of The New Pamphleteer (or one of the Pamphlet Guys as we have been referring to him). A joint venture of David Bernstein and Adam Bellow, The New Pamphleteer started out as an effort to sift through the best of online writing and putting it into print. Fascinated with the way The New Pamphleteer mantra has lined up with the digitization of the craft world through online mags, zines and social networking sites, Marimello traded a few friendly emails. We'll post the rest tomorrow.
Sample their wares here.

M: A little background por favor: What's your inspiration for filtering the digital stream; taking blogs and putting them on the printed page?

DB: Initially, we saw value in preserving some of the most interesting online content in print for both commercial and archival reasons. However, over time we have become less interested in blog content than in we are in the bloggers themselves, many of whom are terrific writers and thinkers. The reason that blogs have become so popular as an outlet for talented writers is that there are numerous artificial barriers preventing these folks from publishing with mainstream outlets – from the need to get an agent, to having a media profile, to gaining the right contacts. What we want to do is open up the publishing process a bit, by allowing talent to find an audience over time rather than being beholden to the vagaries of the Barnes & Noblization of publishing – the trend that increasingly requires every book to be a “bestseller.”

M: Can you help elaborate on the difference between a zine and a pamphlet?

DB: Well, to me 'zines have this underground, haphazard feel to them. Multiple authors under one cover, no real point-of-view or consistency throughout. Not that 'zines can't be fun and interesting, but what we are doing is different – a pamphlet has a single point-of-view, a consistent voice, and a purpose in terms either providing concrete information or advancing an idea, argument or viewpoint.

M: Why'd ya pick a fashion blogger like Manolo [the shoe blogger] (aside from the fact that he is genius complete)? What's the submission process?

DB: Manolo is the ideal example of what we look for in an author – a rich blend of talent, a strongly passionate connection with a loyal online audience, and a mischievous entrepreneurial streak. In the case of Manolo, he was one of the first authors we sought out. But at the same time, we are very eager to see unsolicited submissions as well. One of our most successful, and I think best written, offerings is “Raising Wild Boys Into Men: A Modern Dad's Survival Guide” by Kansas blogger Tony Woodlief. Tony sent us about 6 pamphlet proposals by email before we settled on this one. We're also working on putting together a contest where we invite submissions, and we'll post them as ebooks and let the public decide which should be published in print.

M: Who are your target readers? What's the distribution process like?

DB: Our readers are the same people, by and large, who read blogs. We see the pamphlet as a physical extension of the online connection which top bloggers have with their readers. In pure marketing terms it's a “brand extension”-- like when you buy a Spider-Man t-shirt to go along with your closet full of comics. Currently, we distribute primarily through our own website. We sell a bit in independent bookstores, and we also have negotiated several bulk distribution deals with brick and mortar partners. In general, though, we have stayed away from traditional retail channels (and I count Amazon among those) because, first, they take too much of our money and second, we like having direct relationships with our customers, which is something you lose with retail sales.

M: Do you see these pamphlets as possible promotional tools for say a community effort? Say a publicist who reps a bunch of writers or designers? Or for that matter a bunch of writers who can't get it all together at Kinkos?

DB: The cool thing about the pamphlet format is that it can be purposed for pretty much any kind of content. We are looking at a wide range of opportunities and ideas right now, including using them for promotional purposes, reprinting classic or archival material, and even doing short graphic novels. So yeah, any ideas people have we're willing to entertain.


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