As a writer I want the quality of traditional publishing and the freedom of self-publishing. With a cherry on top.
I wrote two books. One was published the traditional way, the other was self-published. From these two experiences I know exactly what I want as a writer while working on my third book. And I believe my wish list looks very much the same as yours…
1) As an author I want help from a co-publisher.
I want to work with people who have experience in self-publishing, who can help me along the way toward a successful release of my book. What I need is not a publisher, but a co-publisher. A reliable business partner to help me publish the book, not by taking over from me, but together with me.
2) As an author I want a co-publisher with a global network.
I don’t want the co-publisher to focus on the US first, and the rest of the world later. Of course the US is important. But our focus should be global right from the start. This means any options for translation and localization are built-in right from the beginning.
3) As an author I want to pitch my book project for readers.
If the co-publisher makes a selection out of multiple potential book projects, I want my book pitch to be judged by actual readers, not by a clueless editor who just claims to represent the readers. Let the public decide which book idea they like most.
4) As an author I will get a fixed budget for my book project.
I am not more or less important than other authors. That’s why my book gets assigned the same budget as every other book in the pipeline of the co-publisher. Or else the budget should be awarded by actual readers, not by a committee. This would minimize envy and conflict among different authors.
5) As an author I want a producer/director for my book project.
I am like the actor in a movie production for my own movie script. My name will be on the final result but I cannot produce the whole project myself. I will need a producer/director who will manage the project with me.
6) As an author I want a mentor/coach for my book project.
In plenty of areas I am very inexperienced and I can use a bit of help from a more experienced author. Regular coaching sessions would be extremely helpful. My mentor won’t do any work, but will give me plenty of advice along the way.
7) As an author I want a customized book project.
Each book is different, which means each book has different needs. Some need great illustrations, while others need appendices. Some have notes, others have an index. Some need a website, while others should have a video. It all depends on the book and on me.
8) As an author I want to use my own writing tools.
I don’t want to be limited to the editing tools and versioning tools prescribed by the co-publisher. I use whatever I want, and let the professionals figure out how to deal with the crazy file formats that I deliver. Otherwise, why call them professionals?
9) As an author I want total freedom in design.
It is my book, therefore it is me who will decide if it’s going to be a book in color or not, and in hardcover or not. Of course, I will heed the advice of the producer and my mentor. But everything from the cover to interior design to illustrations will ultimately be my decision.
10) As an author I need a platform for my book.
My book is part of a bigger picture. The whole platform around my book can include a mailing list, social media presence, presentations, blog posts, podcasts, and videos. I need a co-publisher who can help me with all of that.
11) As an author I want my book to be managed in an Agile way.
This means working with a backlog of “things we could do”, a visualized workflow, limited work-in-progress, and a feedback cycle including actual potential readers.
12) As an author I want the support of professionals.
This potentially includes editors, illustrators, designers, translators, and others with actual experience of contributing to book projects. It will be as if I’m working with a traditional publisher, but I’m not. I'm publishing myself, with help from experts.
13) As an author I want to own the copyrights.
No matter how many other people have contributed to my book, it is ultimately my book. It is me who wrote the text and it is me who should own the copyrights. This also means that I am accountable for any copyrights mistakes that I made.
14) As an author I want help with a steady delivery cycle.
Both the feedback cycle while writing, and the update cycle after publishing, will need to be managed together with the producer. The co-publisher will see to it that this happens.
15) As an author I want my book in all formats and in all channels.
There should be no limitation to just one digital format, or just one reseller. My book will be on Amazon, of course, in paper and Kindle versions. But it will also be on other e-readers, and maybe even in book stores.
16) As an author I want help with the book launch.
Releasing a book is more than just uploading the data to Amazon. I want help with all aspects of promoting and marketing the book, and increasing sales in all distribution channels.
17) As an author I want to decide how to earn back the investment.
I know the co-publisher needs to have a return on investment, that’s why we split royalties 50/50. But when I decide to give away my books for free at conferences, that’s my own decision. I could also earn back the investment through speaking fees, consultancy gigs, or in other ways.
18) As an author I want to outsource printing and selling.
It is impossible for me to manage printing, storing, selling, and distributing my book at a global scale. That’s why I want others to do this for me. We can do this in the form of a license-to-print where people pay a fixed amount for a print-ready file to locally print and sell the book.
19) As an author I want to print and sell my own books.
No matter how many other parties are printing and selling my books, I want to be able to print my own copies and sell them at any price I want. (Or even give them away for free.) It will be as if I’m being my own distributor.
20) As an author I want the co-publishing relationship to end.
When the co-publisher has earned back their investment several times, I want our relationship to end automatically. It is my book, not theirs. Once they earned good money, the rest of the book’s success should be mine alone.
This is what I want as an author.
What I described here is the best of two worlds. I want the quality of traditional publishing and the freedom of self-publishing. I don’t know how much of this is realistic, but I do know that Happy Melly Express will try to make all of this a reality for me. And for you.