Thursday, July 16, 2009

Victoria Strauss -- Publetariat Vault

Recently I blogged about IndieReader, an online bookstore/distributor that is attempting to raise the visibility of self-published books and authors. In the process of researching that post, I discovered Publetariat Vault, which is also attempting to bring attention to self-published books--though in quite a different way.

The Vault is a project of Publetariat, an online community for self-published and small-press authors founded by self-publishing evangelist April Hamilton. Sporting the same revolution-referencing socialist realist graphics and wordplay as its parent site, the Vault is designed to promote successful self-published books to commercial publishers and film producers. From its Welcome page:

The Publetariat Vault provides a groundbreaking service: the opportunity to get your indie book in front of the publishers and producers who are seeking proven books for low-risk acquisitions. If you've ever thought that if publishers or producers only knew how much readers like your book, or how well it's selling, or what a great job you're doing to promote both it and yourself, they'd sit up and take notice, then the Vault was made for you.

The Vault, which opened for listings last month (here's the official press release), will provide a searchable database of self-published books whose rights are available for acquisition (here's the search form). Each book will have its own page, which will include info about the book and author, publication data, reviews and publicity, relevant links, and actual sales figures (a sample listing can be seen here). To seed the site, the Vault is offering its first 300 listings free for the first 90 days after it opens for publisher searches--which, to offer users some depth of content, it won't do until the 300 listings are in place. Thereafter, the rate for each listing will be $10 per 30 days. If a sale results from a listing, the Vault reserves the right to report the sale, but takes no percentage or commission. (These and many more details can be found at the Vault's extensive FAQ.)

The Vault is based on the familiar concept of the manuscript display website, which once was widely touted as the new paradigm for manuscript submission. While display sites seem to work reasonably well for screenplays, they haven’t historically proved very effective for book manuscripts, and most of the dozens of book-focused display sites that sprang up during the late 1990's are now gone and forgotten (except by wonks like me). I'm also not quite convinced by the logic in the Vault's press release--that publishers and producers "would prefer to acquire the rights before a book breaks through, when it's trending positively but not yet on competitors' radar." Still, with its focus on self-published books that are actually selling, and its all-in-one-place functionality, the Vault offers a unique twist on the display site concept. Together with the fact that no one else (as far as I'm aware) is doing anything similar, this may make the Vault more attractive to professional users than the display sites of old--especially since it's becoming increasingly fashionable for publishing people to profess enthusiasm about the potential of self-publishing.

Of course, the Vault's success depends on several things.

- Can it attract reputable professional users? This has been an area in which book manuscript display sites have fallen short--not just in their failure to persuade agents and publishers to visit online slush piles, but, often, in their inability to recognize and bar disreputable users.

I asked April Hamilton what she's doing to publicize the Vault. She tells me that she's been networking, both on her own and at conferences, and that she has lined up news coverage once the Vault opens for searches. Her efforts, she says, have resulted in expressions of interest from several publishers and agents--though she asked me not to print the names, since she feels that to identify them at this point "risks alienating those potential searchers since they're not officially registered and my publication of such a list could be construed as using those industry names to promote a service they have not yet endorsed."

As to the issue of disreputable users, she feels that the Vault is an open marketplace, and it’s authors’ responsibility to research any contacts they receive as a result of a listing, just as they research the agents and publishers they query. But authors are often very poor at research, especially where their hopes and dreams are involved--plus, many writers who use the Vault may assume that publishers' and producers' membership is an endorsement of their legitimacy. In light of that, it seems to me that the Vault--like any listing service or display site--does have a responsibility to make sure that its professional users really are professional.

- Can it ensure accurate sales reporting by authors? One of things that makes the Vault unique, and potentially attractive to publishers and producers, is members’ disclosure of actual sales figures. But how good are authors' records? How tempted may they be to tweak their figures to make themselves look better? If publishers and producers find they can’t rely on the information in the Vault’s listings--and they may feel that’s the case if even one or two authors are found to be less than honest or accurate--they won’t come back.

Hamilton is aware of this issue. The Vault's listing form instructs authors to be truthful, reminding them that they must be able to provide copies of actual sales reports to any interested publishers; and the Terms of Use requires authors to warrant that "All content provided in your listing is accurate and true to the best of your knowledge." Authors who are found to be lying or fudging will face consequences. Says Hamilton, "[S]ince reporting false information is a violation of the Vault's Terms of Use, such an author will be banned from the site and his listings will be removed without any refund of listing fees."

- Are reported sales numbers actually worthy of notice? Per the Vault's FAQ, anyone can join, as long as they’re the rights owner. Hamilton tells me that some of the listings she's received so far show impressive sales stats, including one author who has sold over 1,200 copies just in the past three months. But such figures are the exception in self-publishing, and if the Vault becomes clogged with writers who think that selling 400 copies over the course of a year makes them commercially viable--i.e., if most searches are going to throw up large numbers of listings that are of no interest to professionals--publishers and producers may stay away.

Can the Vault surmount these issues? We'll have to wait and see. As with any brand-new service, authors should consider carefully and be sure to read the fine print. But all in all, it’s an interesting and, I think, innovative experiment--though certainly, there's a very complex irony at work in the tension between the criticism self-pubbed authors so often level at commercial publishing, and a website that's designed to feed them into that very system.

In the meantime, Hamilton finds herself caught up in the same cycle of doubt that has caused so many people to react negatively to IndieReader.

"So on the one hand I have the searchers, looking forward to trying the service but unlikely to use it unless it's filled with good listings," she says. "On the other hand I have authors withholding their listings until they are convinced searchers will use the service. I anticipated this issue, and that's why I've made the first 300 listings totally cost- and risk-free to authors for 90 days, but...the word on the street is that while the Vault may eventually turn out to be a good thing, authors should maintain a wait-and-see attitude until some success stories are forthcoming. Few listings = no searches = no success stories."

23 comments:

Bryce Beattie said...

I'm excited to see how well it works. I wonder how long it's going to take to fill up those first 300 spots. My book is in there, so I guess the question really is how long is it going to take to fill the other 299 slots...

Victoria Strauss said...

On the "cycle of doubt"--forgot to include this, but the comments thread on Self-Publishing Review's post about Publetariat gives a sense of the kinds of objections that people in the self-pub community are raising. They're quite similar to the objections about IndieReader, and as with IndieReader, the fee seems to be a particular sticking point.

SB said...

As interested as I am in these mass self-publishing sites popping up, I kind of wish it was further along in its development. As an aspiring writer, I want my work to be at the very least *noticed*. All due respect to the creators of these sites, but I simply don't feel like they could supply me with that just yet.

Ann Somerville said...

All you need to list a book is clear ownership and ability to pay the fee.

This service takes no commissions, only author fees.

So where is the quality control which would make this appealing to these publishers, and what incentive is there for the service to make sure it's helping the authors to sell?

And, an objection I will continue to raise because I have had no answer - Hamilton refuses to name names of publishers (which looks increasingly silly, IMO - the store is open now, so the customer has a right to know what goods are available. In the Vault's case, the goods are the publishers.) But she also refuses to name the *kinds* of publishers who are interested in this - are they big NY companies, small pressses, Publish America, or what?

All publishers, large and small, are overrun with submissions. Since there is no quality control, even of a cursory kind, on who can list, how does this service differ from an ordinary slush pile? Small publishers are desperately time poor, so they won't be looking anywhere else, and the big guys don't need to.

Sure, a publisher can see what marketing efforts the author has allegedly made, but they can find that out from normal queries.

Hamilton's venture is predicated on fairly widespread interest from biggish players in sniffing out hidden gems outside the publishers own submissions. Yet from my contacts with publishers and authors, and everything I've read about the industry, says such interest simply does not exist. Hamilton has never offered any evidence that it does (nor has any other of these new listing services).

Is there some hidden yearning for self-published work within the breasts of publishers that the industry is hiding from us? I don't think so.

The fees are too high if all you're trying to do is market a self-pub book to your potential audience, but reasonable if Hamilton can deliver the publishers. I simply do not believe she can because all she's offered is waffle about networking and confidentiality with not a single specific. It's time to be forthcoming.

(Victoria, an author friend of mine objects to the idea of NY taking self-pubbed books because first publication rights are all important to them. I know small presses don't care so much. Do you know what the situation is regarding the big players? Because that's highly pertinent to this and all the other listing sites.)

April L. Hamilton said...

"Is there some hidden yearning for self-published work within the breasts of publishers that the industry is hiding from us? I don't think so."

I guess you're not aware of these recent stories---both reported just last week---about one author getting a two-book deal with Harper Collins based on his Kindle book, and nother getting a deal with Simon & Schuster to publish a print edition of his Podiobook.

http://www.blogherald.com/2009/07/08/writer-gets-book-deal-after-recording-chapters-as-podcasts/

http://www.trendhunter.com/trends/boyd-morrison-kindle-simon-and-schuster

Clearly, even the biggest of the Big Boys in publishing are actively seeking new acquisitions far afield of their in-house slush and agent referrals, and just as clearly, are entirely receptive to self-published and self-produced works.

RE: my refusal to name names where pub pros are concerned, it would be foolish of me to risk alienating those interested pros by "outing" them prematurely just to settle an online argument with someone who clearly has no intention of ever using the Vault, anyway. It's a relationship business after all, and trust once abused is trust forever lost.

In any event, the links I've provided here should serve as proof enough that Harper Collins and Simon & Schuster are receptive to new acquisitions methods and models. Is there any doubt that where the industry leaders go, others will follow?

April L. Hamilton said...

Oh, and BTW, the store is not yet "open" to searches, and I am not "waffling". From the Vault's FAQ:

"Who are the publishing pros and content producers who will be allowed to search the Vault's listings?"

"Anyone who is in a position to purchase some or all of the rights to a given indie book, or who is in a position to make an offer of representation to authors, may sign up for a publishing pro/producer account. This includes publishing house acquisitions staff, independent or small imprint staff, literary agents, literary managers, film and television producers, game producers, online content providers, and anyone else who can offer authors either representation or a contract for some or all of a given book's content rights."

"Once the Vault opens for pro searches, a list of registered pros will be posted to the site and updated regularly. We will also post any Vault success stories reported by authors or pros."

As to what "types" of publishers, they're from both major and small publishers, both mainstream and indie.

RE: "first publication rights are all important to them"

In Jane Friedman's 6/30 blog entry, she says, "Key takeaway: Just because your work is "published" when it appears online doesn't mean you've destroyed its market value. That's a very old-school way of viewing the value of content—a viewpoint that's based on decades of print publication tradition, when whoever had the "first" rights to print publication had the "best" rights, and paid the most."

"If you haven't noticed, things have changed."

http://blog.writersdigest.com/norules/2009/06/30/AreYouNeedlesslyWorryingAboutYourWorkGettingTOOMUCHExposure.aspx

ALC said...

I don't believe for a moment that "outing" potential publishing companies, lit. agencies, etc. on this site would harm your bottom line unless you provided specific names of the individuals at these companies who would be responsible for acquisitions.

Naming companies doesn't harm your "relationships".

It does seem a bit "fishy". I can't imagine that anyone would pay a dime without that knowledge. It would be bad business on the part of the self-published writer to shell out dough without real specifics.

As far as whether or not the service will actually prove useful to these excecutives: If anyone who can shell out the fee can play, then it certainly isn't doing any favors for the execs. However, if the site provided a means for the execs to search authors strictly based on the sales statistics provided by the authors then it might actual be useful. This would, however, make it a bad idea for anyone with mediocre sales under their belts.

April L. Hamilton said...

ALC -
What's so "fishy"? Look at it this way.

Let's say you're a big wheel author and someone contacts you about a new product that will be coming out soon for authors, asking if you'd like to be notified when the product comes out. You check out the site, it looks interesting, so you write back to say sure, you're interested and want to be notified when the product becomes available.

The next thing you know, there are posts all over the web saying the product---which isn't even for sale yet---has already been "endorsed by bestselling author ALC!"

Now maybe the person who wrote you only indicated "bestselling author ALC has expressed interest in this product," but you know how things get misquoted and repeated all over online. All that matters is that in the end, your name is being used to promote a product you haven't even tried yet, and I suspect you'd be a bit miffed about it.

So is it "fishy" for the person who wrote you to withold your name when posting or talking about the product, or is it simply being properly respectful of you and your reputation?

Also, even if I *did* publish a list of those who've expressed interest or asked to be notified when the Vault opens for searches, some other critic would just come along to say, "Well, just because Big Name Publisher 'expressed interest' doesn't mean they're actually going to use the service, and it's misleading to drop their name since they're not even officially registered to use the Vault yet." And you know what? That critic would be right.

No good can come of publishing such a list, but plenty of bad lies that way.

And finally, given that the first 300 listings are FREE for 90 days after the Vault opens for searches, and every listing thereafter is FREE for the first 30 days, there is NO RISK and NO COST to authors to try the Vault. If they view the list of searchers when it's posted and decide they don't like the names on it, they can simply delete their listings and close their member accounts.

Nobody has to provide billing info up front to claim one of the first 300 promotional listings either, this isn't one of those deals where people are tricked into providing billing info to take advantage of a free trial and then find it very difficult to cancel the subscription. Anyone who gets a first-300 promo listing is also free to cancel the listing and membership at the *end* of the free trial period, again, with no strings or difficulty.

Lots of authors talk a good game about how broken the current trade publishing acquisitions system is, yet when an opportunity to bypass that system for FREE, and with NO RISK comes along, some of them STILL aren't willing to merely give it a try---or at the very least, wait until others have done so and reported back---before criticizing it. I can't help but wonder if those authors really want change at all. Sure, it's entirely possible the Vault will fail miserably. It's also entirely possible it will be a big success, just like the Inktip Executive Index. Either way, no author who takes advantage of the promotional listing offer will lose anything by doing so. But if the Vault *does* succeed, more than a few authors will be glad they kept an open mind.

April L. Hamilton said...

"However, if the site provided a means for the execs to search authors strictly based on the sales statistics provided by the authors then it might actual be useful."

Again, from the Vault's FAQ:

"What level of sales, or quantity of positive reviews, is high enough to impress publishing pros and content producers?"

"There's no set number, it depends on the individual pro/producer and other qualities of the book and author(s). While a book that only moves a handful of copies each month doesn't look very promising on that basis alone, very positive, high-profile reviews or buzz can convince publishers to take a closer look. Conversely, a book that has few reviews, but consistently sells hundreds of copies every month is also worth further consideration."

"Publishing pros and producers realize indie books are at a disadvantage to mainstream books in terms of publicity and media coverage, and remember: the whole point of the Vault is to help publishers find promising books before those books become breakout hits. If your book is already selling thousands of copies a month and getting lots of high-profile, positive reviews, you're probably already on pros' radar and don't need a Vault listing."

I don't mind answering questions anyone may have about the Vault, but I'd really appreciate it if people who've come to express a negative opinion would peruse the Vault site and FAQ first, to see if their concerns have already been addressed there.

Victoria Strauss said...

April shared the names of some of the interested publishers/agents with me, and I can confirm that they're all reputable. She asked me not to print them, though, and whether or not I agree with her reasoning, I have to respect that request.

Will these publishers/agents actually follow up on their expressions of interest and use the site? That remains to be seen, and I think will depend in part on how well the Vault deals with the issues I've identified in my post.

I don't think that there's any question that publishers and agents are interested in self-published books that do well. This has always been the case, though I think the actual numbers of books acquired are trending upward now, if only due to the vast, vast increase in the number of self-published books over the past decade or so. As a percentage of all self-published books, however, self-publishing success (defined as high sales numbers, which is success to a commercial publisher--I know that "success" means something very different to many authors) remains rare, and self-publishers transitioning to commercial publication even rarer.

Ann Somerville said,

Since there is no quality control, even of a cursory kind, on who can list, how does this service differ from an ordinary slush pile?

The sales figures. But this is one of the issues I identified in my post. If the Vault becomes a backwater for authors with typical self-pub sales (a few hundred copies), professionals will probably stay away. In my opinion, the Vault can't afford for most of its professional users to be small publishers, either, because authors really don't need a service like the Vault to approach such publishers.

About "first rights:" basically, I agree with Jane Friedman. I think this is a dawn-of-the-Web issue, a relic of the time when people were still trying to figure out what electronic rights were and what the impact of online bookselling would be. If a self-published book sells 5,000 copies in its first six months, an agent or publisher is not going to let first rights issues stand in their way (always assuming that the book is well-written [I've known self-pubbed authors who've managed to sell large numbers of really pretty bad books] and the sales suggest a market that could be tapped, rather than one that has been exhausted, as with some niche products).

Ann Somerville said...

"If the Vault becomes a backwater for authors with typical self-pub sales (a few hundred copies)"

That's the problem, isn't it? The overwhelming majority of self-pubbed authors sell a couple of hundred books. For Ms Hamilton to make any money, she has to attract the majority, and yet by your examples and hers, the only authors the mainstream publishers want are the rare exceptions - who don't need the service because they are going great guns without it. Seems to me she's going in knowing that most of the authors can't possibly get a damn thing out of this because they will never make the crucial sales figure to ping the publishers' radar. That's not just a quality issue - a lot of self-pubbed books are decidedly niche interests. They are, ironically, the ones who really need the boost, but the very ones who will never get it.

So I think it's disingenous of Ms Hamilton to use such rare examples and imply they can be extrapolated to the rest of the self-pubbed author population.

You seem satisfied that Hamilton has creditable publishers interested now (though how you can verify that claim unless she names them in public, I don't know - sounds more like she's afraid they will disown the claim if she names them.) But as in the case of this site which we discussed in email:
http://accrispin.blogspot.com/2008/03/victoria-strauss-creative-byline-great.html

Keeping the publishers is entirely a different issue.

Ms Hamilton - I'd use your service if you gave me reasons to trust your claims. But right from the start, you have conspicuously failed to do so. Victoria is warily persuaded of the potential, and I'll be following the course of Vault with interest. But your persistent attempt to personalise my concerns about this product don't give me - or anyone else - cause to trust you more.

April L. Hamilton said...

"But your persistent attempt to personalise my concerns about this product..."

Um, what attempts might those be? You've raised questions and I've answered them, just as I've done for others' questions.

JediMormon said...

Anne Somerville said: "...your persistent attempt to personalise my concerns about this product don't give me - or anyone else - cause to trust you more."

That perhaps should have read, "anyone else but one", as I don't share Ms Somerville's opinion on the necessity of outing the pub pros. Not yet, anyway.

Ms Hamilton chooses not to reveal certain information at this time. As she said: "It's a relationship business after all, and trust once abused is trust forever lost." I agree with that statement one hundred and one percent. You don't build credibility with potential partners or associates by giving your word on something and then promptly breaking that word.

From what I've read so far, my intuition says that Ms Hamilton is legit, and I'll be following the development of Publetariat with interest.

April L. Hamilton said...

"So I think it's disingenous of Ms Hamilton to use such rare examples and imply they can be extrapolated to the rest of the self-pubbed author population."

But apparently it's perfectly OK for *you* to make such sweeping generalizations as:

"Seems to me she's going in knowing that most of the authors can't possibly get a damn thing out of this because they will never make the crucial sales figure to ping the publishers' radar. That's not just a quality issue - a lot of self-pubbed books are decidedly niche interests. They are, ironically, the ones who really need the boost, but the very ones who will never get it."

Deals for self-pubbed books and blogs are no longer "rare examples", and the fact that big publishers are actively out there looking for self-pubbed works to acquire and setting up sites like Authonomy as an alternative acquisitions route is proof positive that even THEY are no longer convinced their gatekeeper system works.

And, as I've already quoted from the FAQ---which was, like the rest of the site, developed with input from publishers---sales figures are not the only thing that matters to publishers who are looking at self-pubbed books to consider for acquisition. Neither the Podiobook nor the Kindle book that resulted in the deals announced last week were breakout hits, neither was selling/downloading hundreds of copies a week or anything, but in the case of the Podiobook readers' enthusiasm tipped the scales and in the case of the Kindle book the author's extensive platform and media coverage did the trick.

As for niche interests, I'm surprised you're not aware that there are plenty of niche publishers who are entirely dedicated to niche audiences. Elva Resa specializes in military-themed books. Chelsea Green specializes in books on sustainable living and sustainable business practices. I could go on and on, but what's the point? When I offer evidence that disproves your assertions you ignore my response and go on to raise yet another red herring of suspicion and thinly-veiled attacks on my character?

As I've said repeatedly in response to your jabs, I am not doing any of this with a primary profit motive. I'm doing all the things I'm doing to advance the cause of indie authorship, plain and simple. (cont'd)

April L. Hamilton said...

(cont'd)

- I'm giving away hundreds of listings on the Vault, and as a result of doing so, won't see one thin dime of income on the site until October or later

- Given all the time and money I've already sunk into developing the site, I don't even expect to earn back my upfront investment until sometime next year

- I'm already personally reaching out to publishers on behalf of authors who are listed in the Vault, on my own time and my own long distance bill, despite the fact that I don't stand to earn so much as a finder's fee if any of those contacts result in an offer

- I make my The IndieAuthor Guide available for free on my author site and blog

- I built Publetariat, a free resource for self-pubbing authors and small imprints, by myself, and paid for its registration, software and hosting out of my own pocket

- I shoulder all the ongoing expense and the lion's share of administration for the Publetariat site, which since its launch on 2/11 of this year, has only earned $36 in ad revenue; the site never has, and likely never will, earn its keep in ad revenue, but I keep it going because I know it's a valuable resource for authors and publishers

- I've given away far more copies of my novels than I've sold, because I'm a pushover for anyone who emails me to say s/he can't afford to buy them

- I paid my own travel expenses to speak at this year's O'Reilly Tools of Change conference, nearly $1000, just to be part of the Rise of Ebooks panel and raise awareness about self-published authors who are strategically leveraging ebooks

- I judge in self-published book competitions, and I read the *entire* book in every case, despite the fact that the honorarium has never been more than $12 per book---a figure that works out to less than $.50 per hour of my time spent reading and commenting

In spite of all this, you still come here and elsewhere to insinuate I'm greedy and only out to take advantage of my fellow authors. All I can say is, my record stands for itself. If this is supposed to be some kind of get-rich-quick scheme on my part, I'm obviously going about it all wrong. ='D

Zoe Winters said...

I would just like to say that April Hamilton is a friend of mine and I believe in her integrity, but what is more is... All of this is a NON-argument.

Because the bottom line is, you don't have to give ANY payment info up front and if you sign up to be one of the first 300, you get the first 90 days free.

And that's not the first 90 days from the day you sign up, that's the first 90 days from the moment it opens to publishers and other rights buyers.

So why on EARTH would you bitch and moan about this, that, and the other, when none of it matters, I have no idea. Succeed or fail, the vault is NO risk to anyone. Period.

If after the 90 days, you don't like it, you can cancel without having to pay a dime. If you decide to keep going, it's $10 a month, which is hardly going to put anybody in the poor house. Most people spend more than that a week on stupid crap they don't need. (magazines, video rentals, fast food, etc. Even in our economy we all buy stuff we don't need, so why anyone should complain about a fee that is completely "at will" and can be terminated at any time, that is along the same expense lines as fast food and magazines and video rentals, I'll never know.)

If someone has no interest or need in the Vault for their personal goals, that's fine. But whining and poo pooing all over a company that poses no risk or harm to any author period, is silly. Such people are not "protecting" the interests of self-published authors, they are engaged in an effort to hold them back from even "trying" anything which "may" help them.

I really don't understand this mentality and believe if the vault ultimately fails it won't be because it was a bad idea, it will be because not enough self-pubbed authors were willing to give it a shot totally risk-free. I'm not sure if this speaks to a fear of failure, a fear of success, or some yet-to-be-named mental disorder present only in writers.

These are my personal opinions and I will not be back to reply to any responses here. I don't feel like getting into a cat fight, but every time I see people argue about such silly things I wonder why I'm a part of this community of indie authors at all. It's obviously a group that wants no help.

Mark Coker said...

I hope the Vault is wildly successful, not only because I know April's heart is in the right place, but because if the Vault is successful it means her authors are successful.

Victoria Strauss said...

Adding links to the two self-published book deals that April referenced above:

John Lenahan's Podiobook ShadowMagic sold to HarperCollins

Boyd Morrison's Kindle book The Ark sold to Simon & Schuster

These are both terrific, exciting deals for the authors. And as I said above, I don't in any way dispute that commercial publishers are interested in self-published books that do well. But in the two deals above, as with many transitions from self-pub to commercial, the story is a bit more complicated than many of the reports of these deals would make it appear.

John Lanahan's Harper deal is not recent. The book is coming out in paperback this August, which means that the deal itself was made considerably earlier. Nor is the Harper paperback Shadowmagic's first publication. The book was originally published by The Friday Project, an independent publisher in the UK, in limited hardcover edition in 2008. Per Publishers Marketplace, agent Joshua Bilmes of the JABberwocky Agency made the deal in 2007. Either Bilmes or the publisher subsequently sold paperback rights to Harper.

Boyd Morrison's deal is recent--but, it turns out, he also has an agent, who marketed his book without success, but then took it back to publishers once the Kindle edition started gathering sales and buzz. As Henry Baum of Self-Publishing Review points out, "This book deal did not happen in a vacuum."

Often when such deals are reported in the media, they're presented as if the author transitioned directly from self-publishing to commercial publishing, with no intervening circumstances--i.e., the publishers themselves found out about the great sales numbers or the buzz and were so impressed that they snapped the authors up. Of course the sales and buzz are a deciding factor, but the story is nearly always more complicated than just that, and very, very often includes some sort of special circumstance, such the author having an agent.

Sarah Laurenson said...

I hope it does take off and do well.

I'm sure there will be many disappointed authors, just as there are in traditional publishing. As well as a lot of people who think their book should do well and it really isn't ready.

Times are changing and people who do try new methods, or reworked old ones, are leading the way into the change. If it works, then we know there's a way to jump on this new path to publication. If it doesn't, then we know something more there, too.

What publisher wouldn't want a book that is already showing signs of success?

Having a centralized location for self-pubbed books sounds like a great idea. Wasn't Eragon self-pubbed?

JS said...

Having a centralized location for self-pubbed books sounds like a great idea. Wasn't Eragon self-pubbed?

It was originally published by the author's parents, yes. They had some expertise in publishing and marketing, and the whole family spent a year and a half, and tens of thousands of dollars, promoting the book before it was picked up by Knopf.

And this is the thing. "Self-publishing success stories" always wind up being "someone invested thousands of dollars and months or years of work in promoting a book before it was picked up by a major publisher."

And the people who are self-publishing success stories are almost always people who have expertise in marketing, sales, or publishing itself, from Christopher Paolini's parents to Brunonia Barry to E. Lynn Harris to Richard Paul Evans.

If this site is a useful tool for self-publishers, that will be great. Self-publishing is very very hard work, and self-publishers need all the help and resources they can get.

My main worry is that many people have overly optimistic images of self-publishing as "easy", which is the farthest thing from the truth, and that they will have unrealistic expectations about what the website can do for them.

Sarah Laurenson said...

The amount of work required is one of the main reasons self-pubbing has never appealed to me. I have enough on my plate with writing. I can add publicity when the time comes. Getting out there and putting it all on the line for a book that editors and agents rejected? Um, not my cup of tea.

JediMormon said...

Having visited the site on several occasions, I remain impressed. I recognize time spent when I see it, and this site's amount of that commodity is pretty obvious. Something else that should be obvious is why Ms Hamilton is not outing the pub pros at this time or even giving out the names of the companies they represent. What some others may see as marks of a scam, I see as just professional caution. I'd do the same thing--dern straight I would. I'd not want to promise anything that I could not make good on. Advertising something to the effect that "company X has expressed interest in our concept and has said that they might be interested in participating" is a statement that is exactly what it looks like: full of ifs, ands, buts, and maybes, but nothing substantive. Much better to stay low-key and and hold off on the glowing promotional stuff until one has gotten some solid endorsements/commitments. When you can say honestly that "publisher X has agree to visit the site on a regular basis" etc., etc. that's the time then to brag it all over the 'net.

Victoria Strauss said...

PW reports that Publetariat has partnered with Redhammer Management. "Through the deal with Redhammer, agency principal Peter Cox is exclusively available to represent authors in contract negotations, on a one-time basis."