Is 'Self-publish' No Longer a Dirty Word? Author Solutions Inc. CEO Kevin Weiss explains why some major publishers now are embracing this model.
While the term "self-publishing" still may carry a stigma for many in the book industry, the ranks of major publishers embracing the concept are on the rise, and Bloomington, Ind.-based Author Solutions Inc. (ASI) is a part of that turning tide.
In October, ASI—which provides self-publishing services to authors and publishers, and is the parent company of self-publishing imprints AuthorHouse, iUniverse, Trafford Publishing and Xlibris—partnered with religious publisher Thomas Nelson to create a self-publishing arm, WestBow Press. The following month, ASI announced a similar partnership with romance publisher Harlequin to create Dellarte Press.
According to Author Solutions CEO Kevin Weiss, ASI and its brands have helped more than 85,000 authors publish nearly 120,000 titles over the past 13 years. In 2008 alone, it helped bring more than 21,000 new book titles to the market.
Weiss says innovative partnerships like the ones with Thomas Nelson and Harlequin are just the change the book publishing business model needs. He recently spoke with Book Business Extra about ASI's strategy and how it can benefit publishers.
Book Business Extra: What are the mechanics behind Author Solutions' partnerships with publishers like Thomas Nelson and Harlequin?
Kevin Weiss: … We've believed for quite a while that the self-publishing services model that we have, as a company, is not something that necessarily needs to be ours alone. ... And so, last year, we started to talk about the growth in our business and what we were seeing as an explosion in the marketplace. … Where could we help others drive the marketplace? We looked at what was going on in traditional publishing and how it was ... changing. ... We said, "Traditional publishers really are in a position to be able to offer a variety of things in the marketplace. But they don't know how to do what we do." We had a hunch that there was this model whereby traditional publishers would create their own self-publishing imprint, and they'd have the opportunity to watch [authors] who are inside that imprint and determine which ones they were ready to pull out and offer a contract to traditionally publish. We put this model together, and we started to call on publishers … . That's how it came about. … It's just more of a "How can we participate in the ever-changing landscape that's currently called publishing?"
Extra: How does this type of publishing impact the industry?
Weiss: … One thing that it means is that there's more choice for people. I think we're going through a transition. ... And that old standby model, which was, "I give you a big advance, you give me a manuscript, and we'll publish the book and print lots of copies, and cross our fingers and hope you're a success," just doesn't work anymore. It's a very risky model, and it's one that I don't believe can stand completely on its own. ... There will be a lot of opportunities in the future for people to experiment with different methods of publishing. … We want to help participate in those changes that are taking place. And, where appropriate, we'd like to be the catalyst for change. ...
Extra: What sort of reaction is ASI getting in the industry from the introduction of this model?
Weiss: ... It's far more favorable than unfavorable. But the unfavorables tend to dominate the landscape. When we announced the Harlequin partnership, the Romance Writers of America just threw up their arms and went into a fit about this. ... The Mystery Writers of America came out and said, "No way. Absolutely not. We're not going to support Harlequin." And the Science Fiction [and Fantasy] Writers [of America] came out [with] ... (basically, my words, not theirs): "No one in their right mind would ever read something that was not traditionally published." ... It's amazing to me that these writers guilds would … be so archaic. They're there to support writers. We have mutual interests. ... We're in an age where consumers choose, right? ... I think that, over time, they will come around and see that this is not something that's going to restrict writers' ability to get published; it will not restrict anybody's ability to be a traditional publisher versus an assisted self-publisher like we are, an indie publisher like we are. And everybody's going to come around. It'll be a while before they do.
Extra: Why are traditional publishers like Harlequin and Thomas Nelson finding these types of partnerships beneficial?
Weiss: ... When a traditional publisher gets into this business—either by themselves directly, which is hard to do for a traditional publisher, or through a partnership with somebody like Author Solutions—they get the opportunity to, in essence, create a farm system. ... [Traditional publishers] get the opportunity to watch these writers and see how they do in the marketplace before they give them an advance. ... Because we do so much volume, costs are much lower than [traditional publishers']. It gives traditional publishing the opportunity to look at a different form of production of the physical book and start to experiment, and see how other people do things and get a much closer look at it. … It gives the publisher the opportunity to get involved in a new form of publishing without building all the infrastructure and expending all the time and energy that it takes to build something new. ...
Extra: What are ASI's plans for growth?
Weiss: ... We're going to keep doing what we're doing. And we want to do it better, faster and cheaper than we currently do it today. ... We're expanding our presence. We've opened up operations in Australia and New Zealand, and this past year, we opened up another operation in the United Kingdom. ... We're going to get heavy into the Spanish language. ... And we're going to be opportunistic in the opportunities that we think can help us expand the imprints that we have today. We're going to continue on this push with partnerships, because we'll get by … the big "fastoche" that's going on in the marketplace today. We'll get beyond that here in 2010, and there'll be more people stepping up. We've got several proposals out there right now in the marketplace for more of these partnerships. ...