Self-Publishing Startups

Book minnow opens new chapter in publishing

4 November 2014

From The Telegraph:

Eileen Gittins doesn’t like to tell people she is chief executive of the world’s largest specialist self-publishing book company when she’s on a long flight.

“If I do that, they tell me about their book for the next three hours and I don’t get any sleep,” she laughs. “I don’t mind telling people on shorter flights.”

It’s not surprising that this would happen to Gittins, 59. Blurb, the San Francisco-based self-publishing house she founded in 2006 has now published 3m books.

At peak volumes, a new title comes over the servers every 2.1 seconds.

Developed initially as a way of producing picture books, Blurb has bulked up in novel and magazine publishing, and sees itself as the future of the industry – and a massive threat to traditional publishers.

. . . .

“Even five years ago, there was a stigma attached to self-publishing. It was like it was too bad because you couldn’t get a book deal.

“That’s gone now. There are way too many stories now of people making books themselves. Now the audience can pick.

“Is there are lot of rubbish out there? Yes. Has there always been rubbish out there? Yes. But I view this as something that’s just beginning. It’s huge. We’re going through the roof.”

Funded through $19m (£11.8m) of investment by US venture capital firms Anthem Venture partners and Canaan Partners, which now own slightly more than 50pc of the company, Blurb was profitable in its second year.

It employs 125 staff, including 15 in London, and expects turnover of $90m this year.

. . . .

Unsurprisingly, Gittins is gloomy about the prospects for traditional publishers.

“Traditional publishing is becoming a hits business like Hollywood,” she says. “They want to bank on box office, so if you’re a mid-list author, God help you if your last book didn’t sell a bunch, because you’re not going to get a deal.

“If you’ve never published before and are handsome or beautiful and 21 and have a big social network, they might take a flyer on you because your book could be the next Hunger Games.

“And if you’re a bestselling author, they’ll take you, too, because you’re the Brad Pitt of the publishing industry and people will just buy your book because it’s by you. But for everyone in the middle, good luck.

“That’s a huge population of people coming to Blurb now because they’ve had it up to here. They know they’re not going to get any marketing. There are no more advances so they’re not even making any money on the front end and they figure they’re going to have to do all the marketing anyway.”

Link to the rest at The Telegraph and thanks to Meryl for the tip.

Indies: How Your Next-Door Neighbor Is Changing Commerce

2 July 2014

From David Vinjamuri via Forbes blogs:

We are in the middle of one of the most important and least appreciated social transformations of the postwar era. It is changing the way that established companies sell their products while propelling unknown brands to the forefront. Everyone knows someone involved in this cultural shift, but nobody is talking about it – not as a whole. Or we don’t realize that we’re talking about it when we do. We’re talking about selfies when we should be talking about indies.

. . . .

In fact, indie movements have reached an unprecedented size in the past few years. Indie craftspeople and artisans ran over 1 million active shops (listing 25 million products) that sold $1.35 billion dollars of merchandise on Etsy last year. Amazon reported that nearly a third of its bestsellers were self-published (on Kindle Direct Publishing) last year, a fact noted in a front-page Wall Street Journal profile featuring prolific indie author Russell Blake, who has himself sold 650,000 books directly online. According to the American Association of Independent Music, 34.6% of the market for recorded music came from indie labels in 2013. While some of those labels are fair-sized businesses, many of them are the direct output of individual artists or bands. And Minecraft, an indie game created by Swedish programmer Markus “Notch” Persson has more than 100 million registered users on its original site.

. . . .

Then there’s author Bette Lee Crosby who wrote and indie published eight books before she saw her novel Spare Change reach the USA Today Bestseller list. Or Julie Austrakas, who sells funny, hand-designed greeting cards online. It took Julie over four years to quit her day job, but she has no regrets. She told me,

The indie artisan community has been more welcoming and supportive than I could have imagined … I have had various opportunities stem from my Etsy shop, including being approached to sell my cards at Urban Outfitters. Etsy has become so well-known that it seems bigger companies and publications go there to seek out unique indie artisans.

The Indie Revolution is also having a huge impact on the marketing strategies of Fortune 500 companies. In November of 2012, the average price of a top-25 bestselling eBook was nearly $12. A year later, as the holidays approached in 2013, that price had dropped by half, to around $6 according to Forbes contributor Jeremy Greenfield. Some of this has to do with an eBook price-fixing trial, but much of it owes to the downward price pressure exerted by indie bestsellers. Consumers who picked up the new John Grisham bestseller Sycamore Row on Cyber Monday last year could thank the unprecedented $3.29 price point to the pressure of indie writers reaching the bestseller lists with genre fiction often discounted to $0.99.

Link to the rest at Forbes blogs


28 April 2014

From author Brenna Aubrey:

Around the time At Any Price released, my husband and I got a rare chance to go on a date for our wedding anniversary. We went out to dinner and to see Saving Mr. Banks.  I was surprised at how emotional I grew over the decision Ms. Travers faced to sell the Mary Poppins film rights to Walt Disney. I’d just released my debut novel and had no idea whether it would sink or swim.  In turning down a “sure thing” advance, I’d taken a big risk.

Reality is a bit distant from the happy ending depicted in the movie. P.L. Travers, it is said, was quite upset with how Disney produced the film. Ultimately, she had little to no control over the final product, despite what she’d been promised. However, there’s no questioning the renown that Mary Poppins achieved due to Disney’s treatment of it.

But as I watched, I couldn’t stop equating P.L. Travers’ situation to mine.

. . . .

If you haven’t followed my story before, then you should start here:

1)    Why I turned down a three-book deal

2)    The first month’s results as an indie author

. . . .

Let me sum up. As a result of an editorial auction, I was offered a three-book deal, $40,000 advance against royalties per book and $120,000 in total to be delivered upon publication of the third book (likely late 2015).  The first book would have been published in fall of 2014.

Upon publication (approximately October 2014) I would have received the balance of 85% of $40,000 for At Any Price (the full sum minus the agent’s fee). This amounts to $34,000.

The book released on December 9, 2013. By the end of the day on April 15, 2014, I’d sold 16,331 books with a total earned of $36,031. Subtracting the costs involved in production of the book, $1,827 . . . this amounts to a net of $34,204.

Four months after publication, I hit the milestone of “selling through” what my advance would have been had I published traditionally.

The interesting thing here would be to examine how many books it would have taken to sell through had I signed the deal.

. . . .

Using the figures above of my actual sales, my indie royalty rate averages out to be $2.21 per e-book sold (I do have print sales that have not been figured in, as the royalty and sales numbers are comparatively negligible). This royalty rate per e-book as an indie author averages out to be 63%.

Looking at typical e-book pricing for my genre by the Big 5 publishers, they range anywhere from $3.99 to $7.99. I’m going to optimistically guess that they would have offered my book at around $5.99, a happy medium. Vendor sites may or may not have discounted, but the terms of my contract would have been 25% royalty off the net. This averages out to about 12-13% of the full e-book price. So I would have made $0.78 per e-book sold.

. . . .

Could the publisher move more copies of my book than I could? It’s likely, but not definite. Do I need to move as many e-books on my own as a traditional publisher would have in order to make that same sell-through amount? No. Not even close.

. . . .

There’s no denying that I’m glad I did what I did. I was able to earn out what my advance would have been on At Any Price six months before the novel would have seen the light of day. It’s like beginning the job early, with a six months head start. 

Link to the rest at Brenna Aubrey and thanks to Mike for the tip.

The benefits of being an unknown author

4 December 2013

From The BookBaby Blog:

It’s a common complaint. And I bet you have been guilty of falling victim to it too.

“Nobody is paying attention to me or my book!”

“I need an agent or major publisher to save me from this obscurity!”

“If only I could get a lucky break and suddenly burst onto the national scene, then my problems would be over!”

Sound familiar?

Here’s my take on it: Are you currently operating with few fans, slow book sales, and hardly any high-profile media coverage?

If so, congratulations! It’s time to celebrate and have some fun!


That’s right. When you’re at an early phase in your author career, or in the early stages of developing a new book project, you are in a unique position that more established authors wish they could return to now and again.

. . . .

As an independent author who barely shows a blip on the book marketplace radar, you are free to play and experiment. You can take chances and try things. If your new promotion or short story or public speaking event fails, there aren’t many people who will see it. The negative consequences will be minimal.

Working in obscurity gives you time to woodshed and hone your skills. It allows you to play and find your voice and your style. This smaller stage gives you the green light to experiment and happily stumble upon an unexpected win.

Link to the rest at The BookBaby Blog and thanks to Mit for the tip.

Circumventing the Gatekeepers

5 November 2013

From Publishers Weekly:

In February, Josiah Bancroft self-published Senlin Ascends: Book 1 of The Books of Babel via CreateSpace. The book received a starred review from PW Select, with our reviewer saying, “Bancroft succeeds amazingly in creating a baffling world that offers little tenderness or hope, but in which pursuit of instinct and love, dedication, and shared sacrifice can overcome barriers. If he sustains the tone of quirky menace in his planned sequel, the reader will find much to applaud.” We recently chatted with Bancroft about the changing nature of the book business and the importance of setting specific self-publishing goals.

Why did you decide to self-publish Senlin Ascends?

I decided to self-publish Senlin Ascends before I started drafting the novel. I’d spent the previous 10 years sending out queries and mailing blind submissions, and I was just tired of spending most of my time dealing with the gatekeepers. I wanted an audience, even a modest one. For all its difficulty, self-publication pretty much guarantees that: if you put it out there, someone will read it. The decision was really liberating because I didn’t have to worry about negotiating with editors, or appealing to trends, or wooing agents. I could just sit down and write the story I wanted to write.

Once you decided to self-publish, what was the process like?

I published first with CreateSpace/Amazon, and then later I put my e-book on the Barnes & Noble Store…CreateSpace and Amazon aren’t perfect, but I found them easy to work with. Most of the copyediting was done by my wife and a friend. The cover, which sells the book, was created by one of my oldest friends, Ian Leino. He’s a genius with design and has promoted the book tirelessly. I learned pretty early on that self-publishing can cost anywhere between “No Money” and “All of Your Money.” As of now, I have spent somewhat more than “No Money,” but a little less than “All.”

. . . .

Looking back on your own experience, what are the pros and cons of self-publishing?

There are two levels of writers who have complete control of their vision: best-selling millionaire talents and self-publishers. I self-published Senlin Ascends because I didn’t want to compromise, and in that way, self-publishing has been perfect for me. On the downside, the self-publishing market is absolutely flooded. Tens of thousands of books were self-published in 2013. The same week that I published Senlin Ascends, 460 other writers self-published fantasy books on Amazon alone. Distinguishing my work from the crowd has taken a lot of work.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Bowker says analysis of ISBN numbers shows self-publishing jumped 59% last year

11 October 2013

From Talking New Media:

The company most people associate with ISBN numbers, Bowker, said that an analysis of U.S. ISBN data shows that the number of self-published titles in 2012 increased 59 percent over 2011 to more than 391,000 – and 422 percent over 2007. The analysis was done by the company’s affiliate ProQuest.

“The most successful self-publishers don’t view themselves as writers only, but as business owners,” said Beat Barblan, Bowker Director of Identifier Services, in the company’s press release. “They invest in their businesses, hiring experts to fill skill gaps and that’s building a thriving new service infrastructure in publishing.”

A huge portion of the ISBN numbers, over 80 percent, came from eight companies, with Bowker citing Smashwords and CreateSpace.

Link to the rest at Talking New Media

Wattpad, the social network for aspiring writers, launches a crowdfunding feature

13 August 2013

From GigaOm:

Wattpad, the Toronto-based startup that runs a social network for aspiring writers, has been described by one of its investors as “the YouTube of writing,” because of the way it allows amateur creators to share their work with the world. Now the company has launched a crowdfunding feature similar to Kickstarter called “Fan Funding” that makes it easy for members to tap their fan base as a way of monetizing their work — and could also help the network monetize its own user base as well, since it charges a fee for the process.

. . . .

Despite the similarities with Kickstarter, Lau says there is a crucial difference between what Wattpad is doing and other platforms, because of the emotional connection that already exists between members and their community of fans. “On Kickstarter you typically have to beg your relatives and friends to fund you, or you create a cool video and ask strangers to fund you,” Lau said. “But in our case, the psychology behind it is very different — we are asking the fans who have been supporting writers all along, and utilizing that network to go through the crowdfunding process.”

Some Wattpad members have tens of thousands of followers of their work already, and this provides a built-in support base, Lau said. All the new fan-funding feature does is make it easier for those members to tap into that relationship they already have with fans of their writing.

Link to the rest at GigaOm and thanks to L for the tip.

Adventures in Self-Publishing

15 July 2013

From The Wild Hunt:

Over the past ten years there has been a significant increase in the number of writers who are self-publishing.  The days of literary agents and big publishing houses may be numbered.   Actual statistics are hard to come by due to the multiple modes of production.  However, several big papers have attempted some estimations.

In 2011 the New York Daily News reported that 43% of all paperbacks were self-published, with overall publishing up 287% from 2006.  The Wall Street Journal reported that self-published books were up by 160% over the same period.  Amazon’s publishing arm, Create Space, told the New York Times that “its books increased by 80% from 2009-2010” alone.

. . . .

Self-publishing has now become a very viable option for even the most accomplished and prolific of authors.  This mode of production puts the power back into the artist’s hands.

Last week I interviewed one such author – John MatthewsOver the past 30 years he has written over 90 books on Arthurian mythology as well as a volume of poetry and many short stories.  His children’s book, Pirates, reached the number one slot on the New York Times Best Seller list in 2006. – See more at:

. . . .

H: After all this time, why have you decided to move away from traditional publishing to self-publishing?

J: Partly from economic necessity, partly from a desire to get some of our old books back into print, and partly to have some control over the appearance and content of the books.

All of our professional lives my wife, Caitlin, and I have had to contend with editors who felt they knew better than we did, who wanted to change the emphasis of various things, cut things out, amend spellings, and so on. In today’s economic climate, unless you’re Dan Brown or Neil Gaiman, you can’t afford to make any kind of a decent living. So we decided that we would do it ourselves. Fortunately we’ve been aided in this by our friend and colleague Wil Kinghan, who as well as being an incredibly good artist with whom we’ve worked several times, also trained as a graphic designer. His input means that the books will look sensational, and hopefully have very few mistakes. In fact, we think they look a lot better than some of the professional titles released by the big publishing houses.

. . . .

H:   Will [your self-publishing company] Mythwood be re-publishing all of your old writings?

J:  Well, there are a lot of them to do of course!  Almost 100.  Quite a few are still in print and we’re happy to leave it that way; but the older titles which have lapsed sometime ago, and for which we now have the rights, will eventually I hope be reprinted in this format. The next one that is lined up from our own list is my book on Robin Hood.

. . . .


H:  Let’s go back to the self- vs. trad- publishing debate.  Weigh the pros and cons of the two.  

J: The pros of course are that you have control over what goes into print, though this can have a downside, which I’ll come back to in a minute. The other good thing is that you get to keep most of the money that comes in from purchases. If you think that with an average publisher the very highest royalty that you can get is 12%, we can offer our authors 60%. And that is of actual money received, not percentages of percentages, as you get from so many regular publishers.

The cons are that if you intend to do it yourself it is quite labor-intensive and unless you are very computer savvy can take quite a long time to fathom out all the different formatting problems. The other con goes back to the idea of being able to publish whatever you like. This means, unfortunately, that a lot of shall we say less than wonderful books get out there. They may have nice covers, interesting titles, and they may have an interesting topic; but they can be badly written and full of typos. That’s why you need an editor…

But there is still one thing which I personally find annoying, but which is at the moment anyway, inevitable. There is a certain stigma around publishing your own work. There will always be people out there who will say, “Well, it can’t be very good then, or he or she would have published it with a proper publisher!” There’s not much we can do about that, though the proof of the pudding is in the eating. In time I think people will realize that a great deal of really good work is coming out from smaller companies or self published authors.

And there’s no getting away from the fact that you can make a lot of money this way. I’ve heard of people earning as much as $10,000 a month from their self published books. Of course these tend to be very popular subjects, mostly fiction, and the people in question usually have a couple of dozen books out there. Even if you’re only getting 60% of say $5.95 it soon adds up.

H: Are there any other limitations to self-publishing? 

J: I don’t think there are any limitations providing you have the time and energy and the know-how to format your manuscript. That can require a lot of learning if it’s going to be done properly. But you have to start somewhere. We’ve just been very patient, and taken our time, and made every effort to ensure that every book that Mythwood Books produces will be the best it can be, will look great, and will read on just about every platform out there. That means not only all the Kindle devices, but Nook and a few others I can’t remember at this moment. Each one requires different formatting, to make it read properly, so you can imagine the time that takes.

Link to the rest at The Wild Hunt and thanks to Clare for the tip.

The Future Of Self-Publishing

12 June 2013

From Forbes Blogs:

I suspect most people can agree that publishing books, and especially ebooks, at different times in different territories is nothing but frustrating for readers, and that delaying ebook publishing until months after the hardback comes out is just stupid.

But it was the point about how much work self-publishing can be that I wanted to expand upon. Abercrombie was very firmly of the opinion that self-publishing is too much work and not of interest to him.

“I don’t want to publish, I want to write,” he tweeted. “Let me rephrase — I scarcely want to write, let alone publish…”

“Successful self-published authors are hiring editors, designers, publicists… Er, hang on,” Standage replied. “In other words they are becoming tiny publishing companies.”

. . . .

The problem that he outlined, that self-publishing is very time-consuming, is a valid issue to raise. But we’re still at the dawn of self-publishing and the infrastructure we need is still being built. Over time, it will become much easier not just in terms of the tools but also the management.

There are two scales at which we should look at the future of self-publishing: individual and industrial.

On an individual level, self-publishing efforts evolve as the person develops the requisite knowledge, skills and contacts to do the job. You don’t just have to learn the craft of writing, you also have to learn about all the things that go into putting a book out. That involves not just the intricacies of Smashwords or Lightning Source, but also about how to commission a cover designer, how to find a story editor and proof-readers, how to manage beta readers, how to create ebooks, even how to produce a properly typeset PDF.

. . . .

However, going the traditional route doesn’t come without its own overheads. As a fledgeling author seeking a deal, ie is at the same point in their career as the newbie self-publisher, one has to learn how to write compelling synopses of your work, how to write a query letter, figure out which agents are accepting unsolicited manuscripts and how to format that manuscript appropriately.

Then if you do get an agent, you have to manage your relationship with them, learning how to prod them at the right times and in the right way. If they get you a deal then you have to learn all about contracts and how to assess your agent’s advice, and then go on to learn how to manage your relationship with your publisher, deal with feedback, liaise with the various departments at the publishing house that deals with publicity, tours etc.

Having a traditional publishing deal does not mean that you escape having to manage professional relationships with the people who turn your book into a product. I suspect think that some traditionally published authors forget this because they’ve already climbed up the trad publishing learning curve and managing these relationships is familiar and mostly effortless.

Link to the rest at Forbes and thanks to Meryl for the tip.

PG says if something goes wrong while self-publishing, the author can fix it, usually very quickly.

If something goes wrong in the process of traditionally publishing a book, the author is largely helpless. Weeks and months pass and the book is trapped in a dungeon somewhere.

Atari Founder’s Book to Kickstart a Publishing Platform

15 February 2013

From Mashable:

It wasn’t until 2012 that [Atari co-founder Nolan] Bushnell sat down to write the whole story: all about Jobs and Wozniak offered him a third of Apple for $50,000 and how he turned it down. How the first mass-produced Apple computer was made with Atari parts. How he stayed a friend and advisor to the growing company over the years.

And most importantly, it’s about what you can learn from the whole experience. “It’s less of a biography and more of a book on creative infrastructure,” Bushnell tells Mashable.

But when he tried to find an outlet for the book, How to Find the Next Steve Jobs, Bushnell got frustrated with the traditional publishing houses. It would take up to four years to edit it and publish it, they said. “I don’t have that kind of time,” replied Bushnell, now 70. He also didn’t accept that publishers should keep 80% or more of the book’s sales, as is traditional.

So Bushnell turned to Net Minds, a brand new publishing platform that officially launched Wednesday. Net Minds is the brainchild of Tim Sanders, a former Yahoo executive and the New York Times bestselling author of Love Is the Killer App. It will publish regular books as well as e-books, and lets authors build a team to edit, design and market the book in exchange for a cut of the sales.

Sanders’ founding principle: books should be run like startups. “The industry is incredibly inefficient at every level,” he tells Mashable. “Frankly, for a lot of authors, it’s incredibly unfair. Advances are dropping. And there’s no reason why it should take three years to publish.”

Net Minds has built software that can turn a document into a printed galley copy (used by authors to check for mistakes) in just three days, rather than the usual few months. Flipping the traditional royalty model on its head, the startup keeps 20% of all book sales. The author gets 80% (or 90% in Bushnell’s case), and gets to apportion that as he or she sees fit. The startup says it will connect authors to freelance editors, designers, marketers and PR folks to get them going.

Link to the rest at Mashable

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