It seems not a week goes by without someone asking me, “Why don’t you publish on Leanpub?” or “Have you considered writing on Leanpub?” or some other variation of the same question.
I believe the question is wrong. It seems to imply that Leanpub is either the best choice for authors (it isn’t), or that it is the default/leading platform (it definitely isn’t). So why are people asking me the same question again and again? Am I the most stubborn or ignorant author on the web, persisting in my silly and pointless refusal to use any of Leanpub’s awesome services?
I believe the answer is: No, most people are just lazy.
Leading Tools and Platforms
As a serious and disciplined self-publishing author, I like doing a bit of research before any serious commitment in time, money, and effort. That’s why I’ve read at least 15 different books about writing, self-publishing, and book marketing. During my research I have come across dozens of tools and platforms for self-publishing authors, such as:
And many more…
What I find interesting is that none of the experts in the global self-publishing community suggest using Leanpub. Let me rephrase that, just to make sure to get the point across: In all the best books I read about the self-publishing industry, nobody ever suggested using Leanpub.
Now, don’t get me wrong. This doesn’t mean Leanpub is bad! It could be a hidden gem that most of the experts have yet to discover! However, it does mean that Leanpub is not a major player on the global market, and it’s certainly not a leading platform.
This is easy to validate for yourself. Just check out the “bestselling books” on Leanpub. What do you see? APIs, architecture, code, technologies, craftsmanship, development, testing, platforms, etc. There are no novels, no cookbooks, no photography books, no detectives, no biographies, no comics, no management books, nothing… Only technology topics. Leanpub has emerged as a platform for IT books. No bestselling authors outside of IT are using it! (Please, don’t tell me, “Actually, there are several novels somewhere in the Leanpub database.” I’m referring to the list of bestsellers on their platform.)
Obviously, this is no reason to dismiss Leanpub as a suitable tool for authoring and self-publishing! It all depends on your requirements as an author. So, let’s see. Considering that writing and publishing are important activities for me, I did a bit of soul-searching. What are my requirements?
1) I want a great authoring platform when I’m writing.
Despite all its flaws, Microsoft Word is still one of the most powerful editors on the planet. Sure, I’m willing to move to another platform, but only when it can offer features that Word doesn’t have. Scrivener is certainly one of those. (Sadly, I had terrible issues this week with its instability.) Can you ask Leanpub, “Give me a list of all text parts that I tagged as being a sidebar” and then edit those sidebars all directly together? Probably not. Can you ask Leanpub, “Generate an eBook for me of all the texts that have status draft but not the ones that are completed?” I don’t think you can. For advanced authoring features, you’ll have to go beyond Leanpub, because it’s not a professional authoring tool.
2) I want a publishing platform with great formatting.
As some of you have noticed, I use plenty of illustrations and photos in my books. I also use formatting features to convey meaning. For example, the stories in my new book are formatted in a different way than the sidebars. And takeouts (my own writing) have a different layout than quotes (other people’s writing). For me, this is important. Anyone who suggests that I have a look at Leanpub has either not seen the kind of books that I write, or is simply unaware that Leanpub is seriously lacking in the visual/graphical department. The question, “Why don’t you use Leanpub?” is, from my perspective, a ridiculous suggestion. However, the question, “Why don’t you use Blurb.com?” is a very good one! (I haven’t used it yet, but it looks awesome.)
3) I want the best possible tools for getting feedback.
Leanpub is often promoted as a great tool for iterating a book and deploying it repeatedly to actual readers. To be honest, this doesn’t make any sense to me. Continuous deployment of unfinished products is great for software, but not for movies, books, and music. Very few people I know want to read the same book more than once. Me neither! I want to read your book when it’s finished, not as long as you’re still working on it. Sure, iterating is crucial while you’re still seeking feedback from beta readers and proofreaders. But they are not the final audience! And frankly, I don’t need Leanpub for getting feedback. I’ve used a combination of my blog, PDF files, MailChimp, and SlideShare, and it worked fine. Plus, it didn’t require any proofreaders to register on yet another third-party platform.
4) I want distribution channels that are not focused on IT.
As many people have pointed out to me, there is nothing preventing me from writing for a wider audience than just the Agile and IT crowds. Great management is needed everywhere, not only in IT. Therefore, I made great effort to remove all unnecessary references to “agile” and “development” in my new book, so that the book can be appreciated by a bigger audience. Obviously, having my book distributed and sold on a platform with an almost exclusive focus on IT is the last thing that I want!
5) I want increased readership, not increased royalties.
Some people told me I should try Leanpub because they offer a high percentage of income as royalties (90%). Seriously? Is that what motivates you? I am motivated by having actual readers being inspired by my stories, games, and practices, and seeing more organizations adopt better management practices. Who cares about 90% royalties on very few books sold? I’d be happy with just 15% royalties if it means selling the book to a million readers and inspiring more people. I seriously doubt that I can find those numbers of readers on Leanpub.
This post is not intended to bash or ridicule Leanpub. On the contrary, I’m sure it’s a great tool for a selection of authors with other requirements than mine. I’m just a little tired of the never-ending question, “Why don’t you use Leanpub?”
As I said, the question conveys the idea that Leanpub is, by default, the first and best option to consider for every author. Well, it isn’t. It’s no surprise that only people in Agile and IT are asking me this question.
Most of them don’t look beyond their own needs and their own communities.
Most of them don’t take the time to research available tools and platforms.
Most of them don’t take the time to really understand requirements, matching them with available solutions.
A better and more neutral question would be, “Which tools do you use, and why?”