Right in Burlingame’s backyard is a new publishing company that’s combining technology and literature and headed by a Silicon Valley tech entrepreneur.
Peter Miller’s Incanto Press, the book publishing division of Incanto Media, is launching its first four books, including his own called “Céline,” July 15. Miller, 70, a former employee of Apple and Viacom, received a graduate degree in engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, but has always had an interest in writing.
“I always had a split brain between literature and writing and engineering and science,” said Miller, who is running the company out of a home office in Burlingame for now.
Miller wondered when the time would be right for him to pursue writing. In 2012, he decided to write “Céline,” which took him about nine months. He spent time at Draeger’s Market in San Mateo and the former Bean Street on B Street in San Mateo writing the novel about an international art thief and femme fatale.
“That was a very profound experience for me,” he said. “I’ve always been an entrepreneur. When I went to writing workshops, I listened to and read how good writing was — the disconnect between the talent seen and business. That gelled in 2013 and I said ‘now’s the time and I started this company.’”
Through the company, he wants to use technology to enhance the experience of literature by exploring technology partnerships. When writers, who are from across the country, sign publishing agreements with Incanto, the publishing company acquires all the rights to be able to adapt the work for TV, movies, other performances and other platforms. The startup is following the Disney model of using the work in various media.
“It’s unusual for a publishing company to treat the work holistically as a package,” he said. “Publishing tends to be a pretty conservative industry. It has traditions that go back hundreds of years. It’s going to go through a hard transition, like all media.”
More than one person has accused Miller of being crazy for deciding to start his own publishing company.
“‘Why are you doing that?’ I heard a number of times,” he said. “From the heart, I believe there is a juncture part where art and technology meet. I debated very strongly. I did my first pitch on the tech side, but decided to start from the art side first, then start tech partnerships. One year from now I want to say ‘I found how to marry technology and literature.’”
There are two important things in publishing still — the properties you have and how you promote them, Miller said.
“The initial properties we have are good properties,” he said. “I like them and think they should do well. … It’s about how to get your books above the noise. We’re focusing a lot of our energy on social media.”
There is specific criteria that Miller does look for in manuscripts submitted. Aside from well-written stories, Miller likes to see books that have potential in many dimensions, such as film or to be turned into a series. The other three books coming out in July are called “Duet,” “Lost in Montreal” and “Perverse Wonderland.”
The books will be sold in Books, Inc. and Miller is still soliciting other bookstores across the United States. E-books should be released in late fall. Miller will begin pitching for Series A funding once the books come out. A New York native, Miller hopes to keep the company on the Peninsula if it goes to the point in which he needs to acquire office space.
“I love the Peninsula,” he said. “I lived in San Mateo and Burlingame and people are friendlier here. The weather is better and it’s close to the airport. You can zip down to Palo Alto.”
Miller is excitedly awaiting the books.
“When your first four books are about to happen, it’s like giving birth,” he said. “It’s a dramatic moment in the history of the company.”
Each book Incanto publishes is part of a themed series. The first series, called the Discovery Series, features stories that explore the complex challenges of personal discovery, growth and survival. The Journey Series explores personal, spiritually-inspired and geographical journeys. The Long Ago and New Again Series engages readers with modern fairy tales, the romance of special places and noir dramas in the form of graphic novels. The Children’s and Young Adult Series features both current and retro stories in both picture book and pocket novel format.
For more information on Incanto Press, go to incantopress.com.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 105