Who: Jeffrey Weber, founder of Stark Raving Group, along with three part-time employees and a dozen freelancers on a project by project basis
What: Purveyor of short novels by NY Times bestselling authors, Pulitzer Prize winners and other award winning authors
Where: Virtual offices, based in Los Angeles
When: Founded in 2013
@LA_SMB is an occasional series showcasing some of the coolest small and medium-sized businesses from around the Los Angeles area.
The novella may not be a dominant literary art form these days, but Jeffrey Weber is aiming to change that.
A successful music producer and avid reader, Weber founded Stark Raving Group in response to a couple of big challenges that he sees facing the publishing industry – books are too expensive and consumers have less and less time to read.
“Regardless of what publishers and authors will tell you about publishing, the public has their own opinions. And they differ markedly from the publishing industry,” Weber said. “The public may love to read, but who has time to sit down and read four hundred and fifty pages.”
Stark Raving sells all of its 25,000-35,000 word novellas for $2.99 each and today boasts a roster of eighty-five authors. Weber believes that this approach will help to “re-ignite the love and thirst for reading” by offering quality writing in several genres including mysteries, crime fiction, action/adventure, thrillers, suspense, science fiction, fantasy, horror, women’s literature, romance and non-fiction.
“We treat the authors with respect, dignity and value their input. We’re partners in the truest sense of the word,” Weber said. “By 2020, we expect to have close to one thousand authors on our roster and will be publishing more than 200 books per year.”
The following interview was conducted via email. Some responses have been edited.
@LA_SMB: Why novellas and not novels?
J.W.: Novellas can supply the entire arc of the reading experience in a shorter time frame – one that’s designed to fit into the lifestyle of today’s society. The great thing about a novella is that once you complete a novella, you want to jump right into another one. When you finish a lengthy novel, you are satisfied, to be sure, but you want to catch your breath and take a breather. With a novella, you can pack all the intrigue, romance, capers, and action into an hour or two and feel re-energized. You’ve just gone on a mini vacation.
@LA_SMB: Why is cover design such an important part of your business?
J.W.: I have specifically commissioned illustrators that work, for the most part, outside the book industry. Our covers are bold, colorful, over the top, compelling, in your face, aggressive, and yet inviting. We have illustrators from Madison Avenue, the music industry, the comic book world and many of our illustrators are simply legends. The purpose of the cover is to make a consumer stop in his tracks and focus on the book long enough to pick it up or find out more about the title. That we are publishing ebooks only makes the impact of a cover even more important. The cover represents the front door of our house. If the front door of our house looks terrible, it’s a good bet that the rest of the house looks like crap.
@LA_SMB: How has your experience as a music producer informed your approach to publishing?
J.W.: What I have taken from my experience from the music industry is the need to activate the peer to peer recommendation engine. That has become the only way to sell music, and by and large it is becoming the only way to sell books. As with the music industry, you can have your book available to anyone on the planet with a smart phone or computer within three weeks. You don’t necessarily need a publisher. That’s not the battle anymore. The war is to rise above the “noise” (32 million songs on iTunes and who knows how many millions of books are available on Amazon) and grab the attention of the consumer to somehow convert his attention, his interest into a purchase.
@LA_SMB: What are the similarities and differences between the music and publishing industries?
J.W.: Music and books are products of a creative mind and designed to take the participant on a journey. Both take extravagant amounts of time to create and often the road to their creation is tortuous and yet cathartic at the same time. A great song can be listened to hundreds of times, and to a lesser extent, so can books. There is a certain rhythm to all music, and the reason we love a specific type of music is that the rhythm of our bodies is sympathetic to the rhythm of the songs we love. There is also a rhythm to writing, and if that rhythm matches the rhythm of the reader’s imagination, then the journey of the reader and the writer merge and are propelled to intense satisfaction.
@LA_SMB: What challenges is your industry facing?
J.W.: Awareness is our biggest challenge. Competition for the time, energy, focus and money from the consumer is all encompassing, and in order for us to succeed, we have to be aware of the fact that we have become a niche based society. Within that niche is a very powerful community, and within that community is purchasing power. Awareness and access represent our challenges.
@LA_SMB: Why is your business a perfect fit for Los Angeles?
J.W.: Because we fit in with the pace of L.A. Lots of choices, quality at every turn, and extremely cost effective.
Previous @LA_SMB post: Greg Danylyshyn – Go Big! Entertainment
Steve Coulter is a marketing guy, writer and drummer living in Los Angeles.
If you have suggestions for future @LA_SMB features, please send Steve a message on LinkedIn. Include the name of the business, a short description and a link to their website. Steve is a one-man band, please keep it brief and expect a slow response.
Full disclosure: Steve is friends with and/or has worked with many of the businesses featured, at least for now. Thank you for reading to the bottom of the page.