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Exclusive: BookBaby talks about the growing significance of self-publishing and why should authors pay attention to it

For a long time, self-publishing has been considered as a last resort for authors who find it difficult to break into the world of publishing. The idea of “reputation” has often tormented writers and the fact that they might not be respected if they opt for self-publishing has stopped many from pursuing their dreams.

But today, people have started recognizing that the decision of a publishing giant is not the decision of the reader. It is really important to put forth one’s work and let readers decide if it should make its way to the top or not. BookBaby streamlines the process of publishing for the writers and makes sure that their journey towards self-publishing is as smooth as possible. Recently, the organization held a conference which brought forth hundreds of writers, big and small, to discuss the future of the publishing world and of self-publishing.

The founders interacted with Fuzzable and detailed out their goals. They also gave some useful tips for people who are planning to embark on the journey of becoming an author. Check out the complete interview below:

Please tell us how did the idea of BookBaby come about.
BookBaby was born out of our sister company – CD Baby – and its relationship with Apple. A surprisingly large amount of the music that resides in iTunes actually comes through CD Baby. When Apple was going to launch the iPad they inquired if we were able to create eBook files. We said – sure – without really knowing what an eBook was! We learned very quickly and when the new device launched we were one of the first approved eBook file conversion houses that Apple recommended.

While that was the actual physical start, the roots of our company are entwined in our 70+ year old music company. We’ve worked with independent content creators – musicians, filmmakers and now authors – for many decades. Many of the same wants/needs apply to all of these creative folk, and our business has grown quickly from this meager start.

What sets BookBaby apart from other self-publishing firms?
One of our favorite sayings is: BookBaby is where writers become authors. We provide all of the services, tools, mediums and consultative advice that a writer needs to become self-published. From editing to cover design. From book printing – which we do in-house, another differentiator – to marketing services. Authors now see BookBaby as a one-stop shopping destination for all of their technical and artistic needs.

Another important element that distinguishes BookBaby is our commitment to customer service. In this very digital world, we believe in very analog processes. In this case, it’s our people available via phone or email. It’s truly a case of author-helping-author as most of our customer-facing workforce has either published or in the process. They’re available every workday from 9 am to 5 pm in our Philadelphia area office.

And finally – and most importantly – every product and service that we sell is backed by a 100% satisfaction guarantee. That’s important to authors who are really depending on companies like ours to provide good value and fulfill our promises.

A lot of aspiring writers dream of converting writing into a full-time job but not everyone succeeds in doing so. What do you think are the biggest challenges faced by aspiring writers today?
The biggest challenge is discoverability. How does an author find his/her audience? It starts with preparing a professionally crafted book. Yes, the writing needs to be top notch. But every self-published author needs a professional editor to go through it. Too many writers hire their retired English teachers or the like. It’s an area where you can’t scrimp on.

From there authors need to make sure they maximize their audience. That means specifying the widest possible distribution – way beyond Amazon. We tell authors they need to ‘go beyond the jungle’ and put their books everywhere they can, from Barnes & Noble to Google Play and dozens of other foreign bookstores. Going with Amazon alone means they are losing out on 45% of their potential readership.

They also need to product both eBooks and printed books – readers have their favorite ways to consume books and authors need to make it easy for them to buy.

Finally, authors must understand the need for marketing and promotion of their books. It’s a necessary evil – and not just for self-published authors these days. Selling takes both perspiration and perseverance.

‎Today, even though there are several self-publishing firms, people still prefer to go for traditional methods of publication because of “reputation” it brings for them. What’s your take on it?
If you are a brand new author determined to publish in 2018 I have to label it this way: It is complete head trash. There are so many advantages to self-publishing, from much higher royalties to the quick turnaround time to get into the marketplace. You can get professional editing and cover design on your own.

The last remaining reason – traditional publishers can get you placed in bookstores – is no sure thing. And unfortunately, it’s losing its importance. Over 75% of all books are purchased online – and that number is getting bigger.

‎Self-publishing industry certainly opens doors for authors who want to be in control of their work. But how does the BookBaby make sure that only quality content is delivered? Do you have any filtering process to shortlist work that would go into publishing or does it let readers decide what’s good?
We are believers in the open marketplace. Traditional publishing was all about the gatekeepers and hurdles put in the way of authors. Can you imagine how many amazing books were never published because it didn’t find its way into the hands of the right agent? The right publisher?

Self-publishing doesn’t allow your manuscript to fall victim to that kind of random selection. If your book is good enough – and you market it successfully – it will be noticed.

Recently, Independent Authors’ Conference was organized in Philadelphia. How was the response?
We were happily surprised, stunned and gratified by the results of our first ever conference. We sold every seat – and surpassed our hotel room requests 3 times! We really didn’t know what to expect in our inaugural event. We used the contacts and friendships we’ve used in the publishing world to invite world-class speakers and subject matter experts. The programming and materials presented to our audience were top notch. And our attendees were thrilled. We surveyed them after the event and their notes were filled with glowing praise for the event. We’re already deep in planning for our next Indie Author Conference in Philadelphia on Nov. 2-4, 2018.

For writers who could not become a part of the conference, can you give 3 major takeaways from the event?
There’s a huge hunger for leaning digital marketing techniques for books. Attendees couldn’t get enough of these presentations.
Self-publishing is more than just a hobby for many attendees. They flocked to the ‘business of writing’ courses we offered, and it spoke to both their ambitions and expectations.
Writing and publishing a book is far more than a dream for most of our attendees. Over ¾ of them had either published or were in the process. They were seeking an advanced education into the how’s and why’s of self-publishing, and learning first hand from the professionals was an effective way to gain insight.
What according to you, was the highlight of the event?
Besides my opening keynote where I compared Ben Franklin to Rocky Balboa? : ) I think it was the overall level of engagement of our attendees with the speakers and exhibitors. It turned into almost a family event, with authors sharing stories with authors. Our great speakers were completely engaged in the entire event and spent many hours in 1 on 1 conversations.

For someone, who is just beginning her/his journey into self-publishing, what are three things that you’d like her/him to know?
Self-publishing is NOT easy. But it’s far from impossible. Like everything else important in life it takes knowledge and perseverance. There’s lots of information on the web – maybe too much to be frank. Going to conferences like the Indie Author Conference or others around the country is a tremendous way to learn.
You can approach self-publishing in many different ways – from a complete DIY process to getting assistance and advice from people like BookBaby. You can pick your own adventure!
Buyer beware! If you do choose to work with a self-publishing company, do your research on them. Look up TrustPilot customer reviews. Check out their reputation carefully. Do they offer a guarantee of services? Who has the ownership of your book at the end of the process?
Would you like to share with us your plans for 2018? What goals do you plan to achieve this year?
We’re growing by leaps and bounds. Last week we moved our office staff into a new large work area in our Philadelphia area complex. Next month we’re adding new printing and bindery equipment to meet our growing demand.

Last year I wrote a marketing guide called the 5 Steps To Self Publishing. It covered the entire range of the process: From writing your book to editing. From the production of their eBooks or printed books to specifying distribution plans. And of course, it discussed marketing after the publish. This is the script we’re following as we expand our products and services. We already offer very strong editing, production and distribution products for our authors.

We’re adding many more marketing services in the first half of 2018 to help authors publicize their books. And then we’re going to add products that are going to help authors to write their books.
Have you tried self-publishing? How has been your experience? Share it via tweet @Fuzzable.