Welcome to Endless Iterations.

A place where one writer can chronicle the process of turning an idea into a story--through endless iterations....

Friday, May 25, 2012

A New Publishing Company

I have an idea for starting a publishing company that I wanted your opinion on. It's based on a model of a non-profit collective, rather than a for-profit corporation, and I wanted it to be structured around authorship, rather than publishing. It's pretty simple in theory, but I think that the details of setting it up may be significantly more problematic.

The nutshell is that I think a lot of self-published writers need help in their craft. I want to set up a company to help self-published writers get the help they need to publish a professional product. I want to give authors competent copyediting and revising. I want to set them up with artists who can give them professional looking cover. I want to ensure that once they have their professional product, they have a platform to advertise their work. You know--all the things that publishing houses do.

On the other hand, I want to make sure that the author maintains final control over everything. I want them to set the price point, choose what platforms they're sold on, decide who does their editing, and choose the final artwork. I don't want anything to be published without the author's final say so, and I want the author to retain all the rights to their work. I also want the author to retain the lion's share of the royalties.

I don't think I can make this happen--but I think we can make this happen as a community. I want to start a publishing company where the authors, editors, and artists are the "shareholders", and the shares are the books. Self-published authors can't afford to pay $1000 for cover art, or $2000 for editing, or god knows how much for a product placement and advertising campaign--but they can agree to a percentage. I want to charge 15%--what they'd pay for an agent--to be the publisher. I want to use 5% to run advertising, web sites, logistical shit, et cetera; use 5% to pay for peer critiquing, copy editing, and other similar expenses; and 5% to pay for art, formatting, and the like.

On top of that, the author only has to pay for services he or she uses. We, collectively, figure out what the price of a service should be. Then we "charge" the author that price. The royalties for that service only come out until that "price" has been paid--and then enough comes out for them to pay for the next guy. Not every book will succeed, but every one that does will pay it forward.

In addition, since the author retains all rights to the work, the author is under no obligation to continue to be published under the label. If it is ever not in their best interest, all they have to do is pay their collaborators (artist, editor, et cetera) the remainder of what they owe them for their services. Then they can part ways with no hard feelings--or they can pull some books but retain others. I want the author to have control.

But I'm hoping most authors won't want to leave. I hope they'll see value for their money. They'll become part of a community of peers, where they have the opportunity to work with and grow with other self-published authors, where they can be part of a professional-quality publishing house, where they have additional ad exposure, where they have listed editors to validate how clean their work is. In essence, the little guy can become part of a publishing house based on one criteria--the strength of his or her work. And they get in the door if their peers believe in that strength, rather than if a big, faceless publishing house thinks it can become a best seller. I think that's going to add a lot of value for most indie publishers.

There are a lot of hurdles to overcome, and a lot of things to figure out. But I think this model has merit, and I think it could be a good thing for a lot of people. I think it has potential, and I'd like to know what you think.


  1. Interesting concept. And again, how I believe many publishers started, with two or more authors who had the knowhow to make it happen. I did something similar when I started my career. I used my best quality in publishing—editing, and I bartered for things I needed. My first cover was in exchange for editing services.

    If I were to attempt something as you mentioned, I would bring to the table people who have different strengths to start and then branch out from there. The fact of the matter is you need a few items to make a great novel. #1 a great story, #2 professional editing, and #3 an eye-catching cover. From there, of course, you need quality formatting and the really biggie—MARKETING! After all, the book will be lost among a sea of two million some titles on Amazon if someone isn’t pulling their weight on the marketing end.

    The only problem with all of this, and unfortunately something I learned when I worked in the restaurant business, rarely can you find individuals who will carry their weight. When I worked in places where we had to pool our tips, believe me, I learned quickly it wasn’t the place for me. I spend fifteen hours a day between editing, writing, and marketing. Not to say that there aren’t other authors who will work that hard, but there are many who will not go the extra nine yards to be successful, as clearly you want to or you wouldn’t have wrote this blog in the first place.

    I will close with the comment that I am always willing to assist and answer any questions for aspiring authors wanting to do all they can to succeed in this very competitive market.

    My best to you in your ventures.

  2. This is an awful lot like my crowdsourced publishing model. http://publishingodyssey.blogspot.com/2012/02/crowdsourced-publishing-take-ii.html
    Love to hear your thoughts on that.

    Giving the author complete control is, in my opinion, reasonable especially if they have to pay for services already rendered, but expecting an editor or artist or marketer to gamble their time on a book just to earn a standard return is going to go over like a lead balloon.

    If you expect someone to take a risk on any business venture, (and this is a business venture) then they have to be paid commensurate with the risk, otherwise, they will just go elsewhere to be paid the sure thing. Why should they risk giving their work away for free? There either needs to be a premium payment or a straight cut of the profits.

    In this case, even if the author pulls the book, the pay is pretty iffy. How do you get money out of a starving artist? Also, what if you are an editor, put 100 hours into the book and then the author disregards all your editing and puts out something that is complete doodoo?

    Perhaps you could have a final choice for the auxiliary workers where they can ask for a percentage of their pay in advance of sales instead of a part of the profits.

    Given the huge influx of new authors, these points have to be discussed and resolved or we are going to be awash in a see of mediocrity so kudos to you!