An Industry Pioneer: A Q&A with ePublisher and Literary Agent Scott Waxman

by Allison Horton on

Literary agent Scott Waxman saw the value in ePublishing eight years before Amazon released its game-changing Kindle.  Having worked for HarperCollins as an editor, Scott founded The Waxman Literary Agency (now the Waxman Leavell Literary Agency) in 1997, representing fiction and nonfiction authors.  Two years later, he founded his pioneering startup LiveREADS, a multimedia-enhanced eBook production company.  But it took a while for eReader technology to catch up to Scott’s vision.  Now he runs Diversion Books, an eBook publisher specializing in original eBooks from authors, media content companies, and bloggers, as well as reissuing backlist titles on eBooks.

Last month, The Washington Post announced that it is teaming up with Diversion Books to produce a series of eBooks.  From 75-100 pages long, each eBook is focused on a specific topic and features content from the Post’s archives.  Vince Bzdek, Deputy National Politics Editor for The Washington Post, says, “We're thrilled about this new partnership, which will allow us to reach new audiences with our journalism and give Washington Post readers – and writers – access to an exciting new forum.”

We spoke with Scott over the phone to ask about his experience and this exciting venture.

From LiveREADS to Diversion Books, you have been a huge champion for ePublishing.  Can you tell us about this experience?

Initially in the late 90s, we thought that digital publishing was right around the corner.   Stephen King released Riding the Bullet as a PDF and sold it off of his website to be read on your desktop.  We founded our eBook-production startup, LiveREADS.  The problem was that there were no devices on which to read eBooks and no cable modems through which to download them.   This brings us to 2001, around the Dotcom bust.  There was a period of seven years where nothing happened until the Kindle arrived.  I became excited about digital publishing again and founded Diversion Books.

You published a great eBook by Dallas Mavericks-owner Mark Cuban, assembled from his popular blog posts about his career.  How did this come about?

Mark has always been skeptical of traditional publishing and never interested in getting a big paycheck.  But he was always interested in technology and direct contact with consumers, so he stayed ahead of the game and found an interesting way to share his work.  He controls and releases content from his computer.

What was the process behind the Washington Post deal?

It was a roundabout process when it originally started and goes back a year and a half.  I have client at The Washington Post who I represent through my agency, and he put me in front of a few people to talk putting their eBook project together.  Their original response was “that’s a good idea but we could probably do it ourselves.”  They weren’t happy with the product and came back to us: “Tell us again what you guys do?”  They realized this is what we do everyday in terms of marketing and our relationships with retailers, so they became very excited.

Do you think eBooks are in the future for all newspapers?

I think papers are primarily focused on apps, and all of their big revenue is going to come from apps.  I personally read all of my newspapers on my iPad right now.  But distributing existing material via eBooks is another way to use their great content.  Plus, they already have the ability to market it and a direct relationship with their subscribers.

 

We couldn’t agree more!  Vook is the technology provider behind The Wall Street Journal’s latest eBooks.

Check out all of Diversion Books’ great eBooks and look out for The Washington Post’s upcoming eBooks any day now!

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