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Rocking the publishing world

Posted by Jan Gardner  June 6, 2007 07:56 AM

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Johnny Temple, who plays bass in the band Girls Against Boys, is publisher of Akashic Books in New York. His company publishes urban literary fiction, political nonfiction, and novels from all over the globe ("American Visa,'' the bestselling novel in Bolivia of the last 20 years, is one of my favorite reads this year).

Last week he spoke on a panel at BookExpo America, the publishing industry's annual convention, about independent publishing, offering his views on the recording industry, record-high advances for authors, and the future of publishing:

He started Akashic after David Geffen signed his band for big money. On the one hand, the band realized they would get the big check from Geffen, then be ignored. On the other hand, the band could never afford health insurance until it signed with a major record producer. "Health insurance,'' Temple said, "is the issue that undercuts all my soapboxing.''

Temple, like the three other independent publishers on the panel, said he's seldom paid an advance of more than $1,000. He, like the others, was sharply critical of mega-advances. The overpaying of advances is toxic to the industry and turns an author into a poker chip, he said.

While the advances he offers are smaller than those paid by the big publishers, Akashic shares a higher percentage of the profits with its authors. After Akashic recoups its expenses for a book, it shares the profits with the author in a 50-50 split.

Temple, who had just returned from a literary festival in Jamaica, said finding great books to publish is the easiest part of his job. It's as easy as making a few calls to a university on another continent and finding out about the best books being published in that foreign land. "To me, the future of publishing,'' he said, "is beyond New York City and beyond the borders of this country.''

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Nicole Lamy is editor of the Globe's Books section.
Jan Gardner writes the "Shelf Life" column for the Globe's Books section.
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