THE BLOG

Publishing in the Future or the Rise of Independent Authors

26/09/2014 15:10 BST | Updated 25/11/2014 10:59 GMT

Publishing of tomorrow will be different due to the rise of independent authors, who write and publish their books in more formats, for more audiences and through more channels than ever before. We can see this future already in markets which leave the age of printing books fast to switch to electronic and increasingly mobile books - like China, South Korea or Indonesia. Europe will follow and we should be prepared for the changes. As authors, as publishers or as readers.

Since I joined the publishing world in 2005 a democratization of publishing has taken place, with non-traditional forms of publishing competing for the limited reader´s attention, and I find it gratifying to help texts to find new readers. When I worked for Random House as Director Business Development we were embracing new forms of online and social media marketing and worked to get in direct contact with the readers. The advent of better eInk-devices in 2007 in the US allowed the fledgling markets for ebooks to start growing and we focused first to convert our catalogue of great titles into the new format to be ready for the start of the German market. It took a lot of faith to invest so early in this still small market, to convince the authors to trust us with their electronic publication rights and convert the titles into the new formats.

But it was the right decision, in a couple of years ebooks will overtake print, something not many would have predicted only a short while ago. We saw that growing market and decided to help developing it further and in 2010 Skoobe was conceived, a joint venture of two of Germany´s biggest media companies, Bertelsmann and Holtzbrink to offer a book-flatrate similar to the Netflix-model for movies in the US. Skoobe has since garnered more than one million downloads, a very active user base and 7.942 ratings in Google Play and Apple iTunes with an average of 4.5 out of five stars. We predicted the rise of mobile and tablets for longform reading and the readers love a monthly flatrate and read as much as they want. As CEO of Skoobe my biggest learning came from negotiating with the traditional publishers and try to convince them of the feasibility of the business model and its effect for booksales. Now more than 1.000 imprints have agreed to participate, but there was and still is a lot of skepticism regarding new models and change in general.

There were many other learnings, especially through the close interaction with the readers. We realized that books do not only compete with other books anymore, but with all other forms of entertainment, especially on mobile devices. Hence it is crucial to make a large selection available so that everybody can find the right books and do not spend their time on Facebook or other new media platforms. Skoobe-members read more and spent more time with books, they even buy more ebooks and printbooks. Because the mobile phone offers immediate access to more than 50.000 titles more in-between time is spent reading than traditionally.

Now, as CEO of Open Publishing I'm trying to open the world of publishing to more authors across all genres. Authors, literary agents or translators can publish with us and can get as much help as necessary for their books.

With Open Publishing we are combining the strength of three business units:

1. The knowledge gained from our own imprints, starting with our origin as academic self publishing platform at grin.com, where we have published 157.502 ebooks from more than 60.000 authors.

2. The experience and creativity of our digital advertising and marketing agency bilandia, which is consulting the top tier of publishers and creating wonderful campaigns for individual titles.

3. The technical competence and features of our proprietary software and services solution, that serves Germany´s largest digital first imprint dotbooks and authors and publishers such as Wolfgang Farkas, Zoe Beck and many others to realize their own imprint and publish their own titles.

We have modulized the digital publication process and offer ebook production, distribution, marketing or automated author royalty-payments - individually or combined.

Why are we doing this? We believe, that the electronic books is actually better than any printed edition, because it is inherently more affordable, more portable and can be individualized to be read in the font size and font type the reader suits best. On top of that our clients at Open Publishing are no longer constrained by distribution and printing bottlenecks. With this new technology, authors and small publishers can publish on an equal footing with traditional publishers. Screens are the new paper, as you see every day in every bus or train in any larger city.

For readers it was never easier to sample a new ebook for free and making your buying decision on the fly with the help of thousands of fellow readers, who have been kind enough to leave their impression of the book and rate it for you. It is even possible to share the highlights on social networks or with your friends. The text is interactive by pressing a word that is unclear the connected device immediately gets to the wisdom of dictionaries, wikipedia or search the whole world wide web.

The sheer mass of books accessible online surpasses the biggest bookstore by far and self publishing authors are able to react and work together with their audiences to improve upon their works. They can charge lower prices, but because they are bypassing middlemen, they still receive a higher share per sale compared to working with a publishing house. They can use networks like Open Publishing to outsource any of the customary publishing processes, e. g. editing, cover design or ebook production.

Self-Publishing is here to stay and become a valid option for all writers. We believe, that in the next couple of years, ebooks will overtake print and reading books will become a lot more affordable, disseminate from high-income countries and prices to lower prices to reach readers globally. One of the bigger markets for Wattpad, a mobile writing and reading platform based near Toronto, is Indonesia. With the advent of mobile books, the easiness of access, selection and affordability of reading great stories has never been greater. Book buyers are price sensitive, and independently published books are on average 50% cheaper. More sold units out there mean that more readers will know about the authors and maybe try their next title. In 2014 for the first time in Germany the Top-20 E-Books were all from Self-Publishers.

Marketing is changing as well, and to quote Robert Bidinotto: „Social media has been the great equalizer of advertising, promotion and marketing. This is essentially asymmetrical warfare. No customer going to Amazon knows what is traditionally published or independently published - and they don't care". The good news is, that the creativity of authors is even enhanced when unleashed from the traditional, slow and expensive publishing process and the readers can expect more great novels than ever before. Please contact me if you are an independent author, we will help you reach more readers more profitably.

The Frankfurt Book Fair Business Club

Launched in 2014, the Business Club offers its members a comprehensive variety of services and a brand new way to experience the Frankfurt Book Fair. With its flexible range of conferences, consultation sessions, networking formats and lounges, the Business Club offers inspiration, guidance and a space where new business ideas can flourish. The day ticket costs 490 euros plus VAT, and is valid for all the events on that particular day. A week-long ticket costs 990 euros plus VAT; this covers entrance to all the conferences and the full programme of the Business Club. For more information about the programme and the speakers, please visit: http://www.book-fair.com/businessclub

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