Monday, March 3, 2014

Software That Does What Publishers Can't

There are three things that self-publishers can do that traditional publishers will never be able to. Do you know what those three things are? I’ll give you a hint, they’re things that will revolutionize the publishing industry.

Before I discuss those three things, however, let’s first discuss traditional publishers and the publishing landscape. 

A lot is said in the self-publishing community about the evils of the traditional publisher. They reject great books and then take all of the revenue from the books they accept. And this might be the case, but let’s take a second to understand why they act this way. 

Traditional publishers are in a very difficult position. In order for them to remain relevant, they have to do what they do better than their competitors. In order to be the best, they must hire the best editors, cover designers and publicity folks. In order to hire the best people, you have to pay competitive wages which allow their employees a standard of living that is at least on par with the best of their field. 

What that means is that publishers can’t just acquire any great book that crosses their desk. They can only acquire the books whose revenue is enough to make sure that their publishers and editors can continue to make the lease payments on their 2012 Audi A6’s. And I don’t say this in jest, this is a real thing. The best editors and publishers in the United States should be able to drive Audis. They work hard and do a great job, so why shouldn’t they? 

But what this means is that traditional publishers need to increase their odds selling a lot of books. Were you involved in a national scandal? Were you on a reality show? Then move to the front of the line. After all, publishers and editors have lease payments to make.

Where does this focus on profit leave the self-publisher? Actually, in a really great position. Why? Because there are advantages and disadvantages to employing a large team of egos. The disadvantage is that large companies move slowly. We have all seen this point in action when it comes to the book-to-shelf times of large publishing houses. But we can see another example of it when we bring up the topic of innovation. 

How much innovation have you seen from the traditional publishers during the last 10 years? Did anyone notice the new font they introduced in Bill O’Reilly’s last book? No? Well neither did I. That’s because there has been no innovation. We’re 7 years into the digital revolution and the great minds at the helm of the most successful publishing companies in the world haven’t introduced an innovation since glued binding. 

Well, my SnapChatting nephew probably doesn’t even know what a box bookstore is. And, while traditional publishers have been chasing after the next sure thing, self-publishers have been busy inventing things that traditional publishers could never think of.

Self-Publishing Innovation #1
Did you know that studies have identified the people who are most-likely to purchase your book? Did you know that traditional publishers already know who these people are and use it to their benefit?

Studies have shown that the person most likely to purchase your book is a person who has purchased one of your previous books. Traditional publishers know this. The reason why they place ads in the back of your books is because the person reading your book is a proven customer. And the reason why the ads in the back of your book are to books written by other authors is because publishers need to make their Audi’s lease payments. 

Traditional publishers need to redirect proven customers to the books that are most likely to increase their revenue. They might sell more of your book if they showed only your books, but they will make more money if they show someone else’s books. And because they show someone else’s book in the back of yours, does not mean that they will show your book in the back of someone else’s.

My Publishing Assistant’ is a suite of software that is designed to make self-publishing easy. ‘My Publishing Assistant’s Book Management’ plugin works with WordPress and allows you to automatically place links to your back catalog in the back of your books. This allows those who are most likely to buy your books to find your books. 

But advertising your book in the back of your other books is something that traditional publishers can do. They just don’t. Let’s discuss something that publishers can’t do. 

We all have our favorite digital bookstores. And if we could, we would probably buy all of our books from there. Readers are the same way. So when we add our back catalog to the back of our books, why not add links to the book at the reader’s favorite bookstore? If a reader bought your book on iTunes, why not have links in your book to all of your other books on iTunes?

Traditional publishers can’t do this because it takes too much time and they aren’t motivated to chase after every sale like you are. Digital publishers like Smashwords and D2D can’t do this because the one book you upload to them has to be generic enough to be distributed to all publishers. As a self-publisher, however, you can do this. And with software like ‘My publishing Assistant’s Book Management’ plug-in, you can do it quickly and easily. 

When your reader purchases your book on Barnes & Noble, the links in the back of your book will go to Barnes and Noble. When your reader purchases your book from Google Bookstore, they are just one click away from purchasing your other books from the Google Bookstore as well. And when you add in the Book Management plug-in’s ability to output books in ePub, Doc, Mobi, Pdf and html, you get an innovation in self-publishing that traditional publishers can’t match.

Self-Publishing Innovation #2
Do you know what one of the hottest trends in children’s book publishing is? It’s customized books. Kids get a kick out of seeing their name in print as the protagonist of a wonderful story. And why shouldn’t they. We read to be swept away on an adventure. And one of the fun things about reading is imagining yourself in whatever adventure or romance the protagonist is experiencing.

What if book customization wasn’t limited to stories under 1000 words? What if readers could customize full novels replacing the names of the characters with ones they know? What if your reader could put themselves and their favorite crush in the romances you’ve written? And what if they could change the novel’s locations to their city and the places they visit every day. How much would your readers be willing to pay you to customize your stories?

Could you imagine a traditional publisher every being able to offer this? Why not? The technology has been there for years. So why haven’t they at least tried? It’s because large companies move slowly. You, as a self-publisher, don’t have the same limitations. 

Soon, by using My Publishing Assistant’s website themes, you will be able to easily turn your catalog into a bookstore. And adding on the Customize Book plug-in, you will be able to take advantage of the fact that your books are digital. You will be able to quickly and easily turn your books into customizable books that your readers can buy. And you will be doing this while traditional publishers wait for the latest Bachelorette to deliver her non-fiction book on how to win friends and influence people.

Self-Publishing Innovation #3
I’ve already mentioned how valuable the space in the back of your book is. It is direct access to the attention of proven customers. And when you publish your book with a traditional publisher, they own that space. They could use it to advertise your books or the books of their favorite cash cow. But whoever it is, they will certainly be the ones to benefit.

Do you think that, on your own, you could ever get access to the ad space at the back of a bestselling book? No, you couldn’t. Why? Because it is a monopoly. 

If you published traditionally, could you ever be the one to reap the financial reward from the space in the back of a book you’ve written? Never. Traditional publishers employ a lot of people and that extra revenue is what helps to keep the juggernaut alive.

What if you could, though? What if you could sell the space in the back of your book? What if you could purchase space in the back of bestsellers within your genre? How valuable would that be to you?

Soon, by using ‘My Publishing Assistant’s Ad Marketplace’, you will be able to purchase ad space on the back of other books, while selling the space at the back of your own. You will be able to choose who gets access to your book and you will be able to ask for a flat fee or sell it to the highest approved bidder. And this will be a feature created by a self-publisher for self-publishers.

Could traditional publishers ever give you such access? Do you think that they would even if they could? And as self-publishers gain access to more and more innovative and effective forums of advertising, what do you think will happen to traditional publishers?

This article has only highlighted the innovations of one company focused on the arena of self-publishing. What happens when more self-publishers turn their creative minds on innovation? The possibilities are endless.

So, as traditional publishers chase after Kim Kardashian for her next literary tome, self-publishers will be changing the landscape around them. And for me, it isn’t a matter of which group will win the publishing game, because self-publishers have already won it. It might not look like it to them as they peer down from their New York offices, but it’s only because they can’t see here from there. 

Alex Anders,
International bestselling self-publishing author
Software developer at