Instant book

Last updated

Instant book is a term used in publishing to describe a book that has been produced and published very quickly to meet market demand.


Normally when a book is published, it represents months of preparation and production—the production process takes from two months to a year. [1] An Instant book is one that is written and published very quickly to capitalize on a current news event or figure. [1] Many of the scheduling and roadblocks in a publishing plan are put aside in order to get the book published as quickly as possible. [1] Sometimes government documents or reports are published—they require little editing and are part of the public domain. [1] The book generally has a very short lifespan once published—sales are expected to be high in the first few days and weeks and then drop off. [1]

The early years

There are conflicting reports as to when the first instant book was published. There are reports that the first instant book appeared after the Chicago fire of 1874. There were Instant books published and sold door-to-door about the Titanic shortly after the disaster in 1912. [2] Pocket Books claims that they published the first instant book in 1945 after the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the dropping of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima. [1]

Twentieth century

It was in the latter half of the 20th century that American publishers used Instant books more commonly as part of their publishing plan. [1] Instant books were published on the Northeast blackout of 1965, the Moon landing, the Iran hostage crisis, and the murder of John Lennon. [1]

One of the most successful instant books was the Warren Commission Report published in 1964 by Bantam Books, which by 1987 had over 1.7 million copies in print. [1] Bantam followed this book up with over 70 other instant books over the next couple of decades. [1] Two San Francisco Chronicle journalists wrote a book on the Jonestown massacre in 11 days, publishing it three hours before a competing work. Operation Entebbe and IBM's introduction of its PCjr home computer also received instant books. [3]

Instant books have gone in and out of favor over the years. By the late 1980s, the New York Times said that their high cost of production along with several failed Instant books caused publishers to back away from this process. [1] Publishers printed instant books in mass paperback in high quantity print runs that resulted in returns to the publisher after public interest waned in the topic. But by the 1990s advances in the publishing and distribution had allowed costs to go down and some publishers built instant publishing back into their plans. [4] [5]

St Martin's Press published several instant books in the late 1990s focusing on true-crime, including books on the O.J. Simpson case (Fallen Hero) and the Susan Smith case (Sins of the Mother). Executive editor, Charles Spicer, described to Writer's Digest how he looked for authors who were experienced reporters who were capable of gathering information quickly and writing to a deadline. He had chosen Carlton Smith, an experienced reporter, to write an instant book on the Jon Benet Ramsay case (Death of a Little Princess). [5] Spicer said that a book needed to be able to sell hundreds of thousands of copies to be worth a publisher's effort for an instant book. [5]

21st century

Some types of instant books did not fare well in the 21st century. The advent of the Internet affected government and document instant publishing—a government document or report could be posted online instead of printed in book form for easy public access. Instead of publishing documents—publishers looked for other ways to create value with instant books by focusing on major sporting and news events. [6]

Often a book publisher will team up with newspapers. Triumph Books, a division of Random House, is an example of a publisher that focuses on creating instant books with newspapers. Triumph worked with Los Angeles Times to publish a book commemorating the 2012 Stanley Cup, and with the Chicago Tribune for an Instant book commemorating the 2016 World series. [7] [8]

JHU Press is an example of a publisher producing an Instant book tied to a news event. JHU Press published an instant book on the Gun Violence debate shortly after the Sandy Hook incident with materials gathered from a summit that was quickly conceived and put together. The publisher Press described their process for publishing an instant book using a simultaneous process to Publishers Weekly in 2013:

Kathy Alexander, JHU Press’ publicity manager, reports that while the press is more accustomed to a publishing process that typically takes 11 months from transmission of the manuscript to book release, they are able to produce Reducing Gun Violence in 14 days by shifting from a linear production process, in which every task occurs in order, to a more simultaneous process, in which different tasks are performed at the same time.

The cover, for example, was designed before the title was finalized,” Anderson explained, “Metadata was pushed out to booksellers before the manuscript was complete. Even the peer review process was changed to accommodate the schedule with multiple readers reviewing individual parts simultaneously.” [9]

Over the years, printers and book manufacturers have adjusted their process to accommodate instant books through innovation and updating printing practices. [10] Where once a large print run was needed for an instant book (but often translated in high returns), now smaller print runs can make instant publishing more feasible. [10]

Notable instant books

Related Research Articles

Kevin J. Anderson American science fiction author

Kevin James Anderson is an American science fiction author. He has written spin-off novels for Star Wars, StarCraft, Titan A.E. and The X-Files, and with Brian Herbert is the co-author of the Dune prequel series. His original works include the Saga of Seven Suns series and the Nebula Award-nominated Assemblers of Infinity. He has also written several comic books, including the Dark Horse Star Wars series Tales of the Jedi written in collaboration with Tom Veitch, Dark Horse Predator titles, and The X-Files titles for Topps. Some of Anderson's superhero novels include Enemies & Allies, about the first meeting of Batman and Superman, and The Last Days of Krypton, telling the story of how Superman's planet Krypton came to be destroyed.

Publishing Process of production and dissemination of literature, music, or information

Publishing is the activity of making information, literature, music, software and other content available to the public for sale or for free. Traditionally, the term refers to the creation and distribution of printed works, such as books, newspapers, and magazines. With the advent of digital information systems, the scope has expanded to include electronic publishing such as ebooks, academic journals, micropublishing, websites, blogs, video game publishing, and the like.

Random House is an American book publisher and the largest general-interest paperback publisher in the world. The company has several independently managed subsidiaries around the world. It is part of Penguin Random House, which is owned by German media conglomerate Bertelsmann.

Print on demand Printing business process

Print on demand (POD) is a printing technology and business process in which book copies are not printed until the company receives an order, allowing prints of single or small quantities. While other industries established the build to order business model, "print on demand" could only develop after the beginning of digital printing, because it was not economical to print single copies using traditional printing technology such as letterpress and offset printing.

Electronic publishing includes the digital publication of e-books, digital magazines, and the development of digital libraries and catalogues. It also includes an editorial aspect, that consists of editing books, journals or magazines that are mostly destined to be read on a screen.

A vanity press or vanity publisher, sometimes also subsidy publisher, is a publishing house which authors pay to have their books published. Where mainstream publishers aim to sell enough copies of a book to cover their own costs, and typically reject a majority of the books submitted to them, a vanity press will usually publish any book for which an author is willing to pay their fees. Professionals working in the publishing industry make a clear distinction between vanity publishing and self-publishing, which has a long and distinguished history.

Scholastic Corporation is an American multinational publishing, education and media company that publishes and distributes comics, books and educational materials for schools, parents, and children. Products are distributed via retail and online sales and through schools via reading clubs and book fairs. Clifford the Big Red Dog, a character created by Norman Bridwell in 1963, serves as the company's official mascot.

Doubleday is an American publishing company. It was founded as the Doubleday & McClure Company in 1897 and was the largest in the United States by 1947. It published the work of mostly U.S. authors under a number of imprints and distributed them through its own stores. In 2009 Doubleday merged with Knopf Publishing Group to form the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, which is now part of Penguin Random House. In 2019, the official website presents Doubleday as an imprint, not a publisher.

Pocket Books American publisher

Pocket Books is a division of Simon & Schuster that primarily publishes paperback books.

<i>Publishers Weekly</i> American weekly trade news magazine

Publishers Weekly (PW) is an American weekly trade news magazine targeted at publishers, librarians, booksellers, and literary agents. Published continuously since 1872, it has carried the tagline, "The International News Magazine of Book Publishing and Bookselling". With 51 issues a year, the emphasis today is on book reviews.

University of Nebraska Press American university press

The University of Nebraska Press, also known as UNP, was founded in 1941 and is an academic publisher of scholarly and general-interest books. The press is under the auspices of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, the main campus of the University of Nebraska system. UNP publishes primarily non-fiction books and academic journals, in both print and electronic editions. The press has particularly strong publishing programs in Native American studies, Western American history, sports, world and national affairs, and military history. The press has also been active in reprinting classic books from various genres, including science fiction and fantasy.

Project MUSE Online database of journals and ebooks

Project MUSE, a non-profit collaboration between libraries and publishers, is an online database of peer-reviewed academic journals and electronic books. Project MUSE contains digital humanities and social science content from over 250 university presses and scholarly societies around the world. It is an aggregator of digital versions of academic journals, all of which are free of digital rights management (DRM). It operates as a third-party acquisition service like EBSCO, JSTOR, OverDrive, and ProQuest.

Arcadia Publishing

Arcadia Publishing is an American publisher of neighborhood, local, and regional history of the United States in pictorial form. Arcadia Publishing also runs the History Press, which publishes text-driven books on American history and folklore.

Self-publishing is the publication of media by its author without the involvement of an established publisher. The term usually refers to written media, such as books and magazines, either as an ebook or as a physical copy using POD technology. It may also apply to albums, pamphlets, brochures, games, video content, and zines. Web fiction is also a major medium for self-publishing.

Ebook Book-length publication in digital form

An ebook, also known as an e-book or eBook, is a book publication made available in digital form, consisting of text, images, or both, readable on the flat-panel display of computers or other electronic devices. Although sometimes defined as "an electronic version of a printed book", some e-books exist without a printed equivalent. E-books can be read on dedicated e-reader devices, but also on any computer device that features a controllable viewing screen, including desktop computers, laptops, tablets and smartphones.

Penguin Random House Multinational conglomerate publishing company

Penguin Random House LLC is a multinational conglomerate publishing company formed in 2013 from the merger of Penguin Group and Random House.

C&T Publishing is a midsize, family-run, independent publisher of quilting, sewing, and crafting books based in Concord, CA. It was founded in 1983 by Carolie and Tom Hensley, owners of The Cotton Patch, a quilting and sewing supplies store in Lafayette, CA. Roberta Horton, a friend of Carolie's, wanted to publish a book on Amish-inspired quilting, so Carolie and Tom raised money from friends and followed do-it-yourself advice from a library book to publish their very first book, An Amish Adventure. The first edition sold 90,000 copies. The business grew from there, and Carolie and Tom's sons, Todd and Tony Hensley, purchased it from their parents in 1990. Since then, C&T has introduced two new imprints: Stash Books and FunStitch Studio, as well as a website,, where quilt patterns can be posted and purchased directly by consumers. C&T Publishing has also made efforts to become more environmentally friendly, becoming a certified Bay Area Green Business especially in light of the trend for green quilting projects. In Summer 2015, C&T also acquired Kansas City Star Quilts. Authors published with C&T include Barbara Brackman, Yvonne Porcella, and Michael James. C&T Publishing books are distributed in the book trade by National Book Network and in the UK by Search Press.

Atria Publishing Group

Atria Publishing Group is a general interest publisher and a division of Simon & Schuster. The publishing group launched as Atria Books in 2002. The Atria Publishing Group was later created internally at Simon & Schuster to house a number of imprints including Atria Books, Atria Trade Paperbacks, Atrai Books Espanol, Atria Unbound, Washington Square Press, Emily Bestler Books, Atria/Beyond Words, Cash Money Content, Howard Books, Marble Arch Press, Strebor Books, 37 Ink, Keywords Press and Enliven Books. Atria is also known for creating innovative imprints and co-publishing deals with African-American writers as well as known for experimenting with digital or non-traditional print formats and authors.

A hybrid press or hybrid publisher is a publishing house that operates with a different revenue model than traditional publishing, while keeping the rest of the practices of publishing the same. The revenue source of a traditional publisher is through the sale of books that they publish, while the revenue of hybrid publishers comes from both book sales and fees charged for the execution of their publishing services.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 Freitag, Michael (1987-11-15). "On the Endangered List: The 'Instant Book'". The New York Times. ISSN   0362-4331 . Retrieved 2016-12-28.
  2. White, Jay (1999). "God's Ark: Subscription Book Publishing and the Titanic" (PDF). Acadiensis. XXVIII: 93–118.
  3. Rosenberg, Ronald (1983-11-25). "160-page 'Instant Book' on IBM's PCjr Home Computer Due Out Today". The Boston Globe.
  4. "Personnel Moves at Running Press". Retrieved 2016-12-28. As for the instant books, DeVito said that he'd like publishing to feel a little more urgency. "I definitely think that publishing has the ability to keep up with the electronic media. People force through an instant book now and then, but more often than not, the editorial and production staff try to keep people from doing that. We're at a stage now, with technology and smart management, where we can get out there very fast.
  5. 1 2 3 Gross, Jerry (July 1997). "St Martin's Press's Charles Spicer: 'Instant books must truly be worth it.'". Writer's Digest: 33 via GALE Biography in Context.
  6. "A 'Seabiscuit' Stampede". Retrieved 2016-12-28.
  7. "Triumph Scores With Stanley Cup Instant Book". Retrieved 2016-12-28. The book, which was produced with a 10,000-copy print run, documents in text and illustrations provided by the Los Angeles Times the number eight playoff seed’s unlikely journey towards the first Stanley Cup championship.
  8. "This Week's Bestsellers: November 21, 2016". Retrieved 2016-12-28.
  9. "JHU Press Publishes First Instant Book In Response to Gun Violence". Retrieved 2016-12-28.
  10. 1 2 "Book Production Shifts Gears". Retrieved 2016-12-28. All over the industry, printing records are being broken. At Inland Press in Menomenee Falls, Wis., president Jim Lacy said the company prides itself on an under-15-day turnaround from receipt of purchase order to books shipped out. In the next few years, Lacy says, he is determined to get it down to 10 days. Ironically, the aspect of book publication that hasn't speeded up considerably is the sales and marketing cycle. On a normal schedule, the sales people still need to present a book to the marketplace five to six months before the on-sale date. On an exceptional basis, with an instant book, everything goes much faster.
  11. "<titanic>". Retrieved 2016-12-30.