And now, to find some cake…
On May 1, 2009, ireadiwrite Publishing officially ‘opened’ for business. Of course, I had been working on it for many months previous, but that was our official site opening. The past year has been one of ups and downs. I have made a lot of friends and contacts; some of whom know the story of ireadiwrite Publishing – many who don’t. I thought I might take this opportunity to share what’s happened this past year. Feel free to comment or ask questions, I’d love to hear them.
I came from the corporate world – I was a manager with a major market research company for over a decade with a bachelor’s and master’s degree from the University of Waterloo. And unlike many who start publishing companies, I’m not a writer. But I knew writers, and I had heard their stories, how hard it was to get anyone to read their books, get an agent, get published, get noticed, etc.
So why did I start ireadiwrite Publishing? To help writers get their work out there – for those who might not be able to by going the traditional publishing route. To foster the creative endeavor – giving a voice and a helping hand to those who might not have had one.
I envisioned this company as an independent publishing portal that used the low cost – but still tiny – medium of ebooks. (I remember that, because I wrote it down on a napkin – very cliche, I know). It was to give authors a bit of help without having to go the route of self publishing and doing it all themselves. I would take their work, in whatever form it was in, and put it up for sale on our site. In order to get content, I worked on making “friends” online, authors who might take a chance on this little site to help get their work out.
I didn’t really work on their content though – I took their raw work and created a cover (if they didn’t have one) and made sure it was properly formatted into the most widely demanded ebook formats. I distributed their books only on the ireadiwrite.com site. I had sales, mainly because the authors took the time to let people know about this weird thing called an “ebook”, and their friends supported them by downloading their book. I knew back then that I didn’t want to offer our books for free – that didn’t do anyone any good, and it devalued the soul-factor that the author had put into it. So, we played around with pricing – I basically let the authors price their own books. I didn’t edit the books, I let the authors do that. I just took their work and put them up for sale. I marketed as best I could and I gave them an avenue – a small one, I know – but hopefully one that would later hook up with a bigger thoroughfare.
Ah – ebooks. A year ago I couldn’t find a single person in my life that knew what they were. Sure there were the early adopters who’ve known for years – but they are the VAST minority. When I would tell people what I was doing, they’d look at me like I was crazy. First of all, I’d niched myself into the digital book market AND I was working with unknown authors. Needless to say, I didn’t expect to be rich by the end of the year. I knew I was ahead of the curve – I just had to ride it out.
In an effort to get more content and keep abreast of what was happening, I started finding a ton of self publishing portals out there. Smashwords was taking off; Scrib’d was about to launch their online store and the self pub site like Lulu and Amazon were all offering DIY digital publishing.
I knew I couldn’t keep up with them. They had money, expertise, people. I had myself.
So I started changing – I searched out the independent ebookstores that I could get contracts with and started distributing to them. I kept all our books without DRM and became a registered Canadian publisher. I initiated set pricing and assigned ISBN’s. I thought, well if I can’t keep up on the self-pub thing, I’ll be somewhere in between a publisher, DIY site and a distributor.
But the big bookstores wouldn’t look at me – I wasn’t big enough. I saw that Smashwords would distribute to some of the big guys, that was an avenue that I could take. But my pride wouldn’t let me. Gosh darn it – I didn’t want to be just a distributor – I wanted to be a publisher! My tack was changing, the direction of the prevailing winds was moving in favor of ebooks and I knew that I could be a player – I just had to keep weathering the little storms that blew my way every once in a while.
I started issuing contracts to my writers – I didn’t ask for exclusivity or ownership – I just wanted to be more “legit”. One writer pulled their book. It hurt.
In September I didn’t sell any books. Not one.
I contacted the big booksellers yet again. They wouldn’t return my emails or phone calls.
Then someone on Twitter said something less than nice to me.
I started getting submissions. Lots of them.
I started seeing news reports on the growing popularity of ebooks. I started seeing press releases of every major electronics manufacturer’s new ebook reader. Apple was rumored to launch one. B&N introduced the nook – and every indication was that ereaders were the hot item for Christmas ’09.
I started getting letters from my authors about how much I had helped them – how I had given them a chance when they didn’t think they had one – how they are more pleased with my little house than the traditional houses that originally published them.
I hooked up with a graphic designer – and he started designing covers. I started getting more selective about the books that I chose to release and I started editing – a little at first, but I started spending a little more time on them.
Then Christmas hit, and so many people got ebook readers. I was jumping up and down when I saw our post-Christmas sales.
Then I heard from the big bookstores – they wanted my catalogue. So I made one. There were over 35 books in it. And now our books are live (or almost) on those too – all with direct agreements.
Earlier this year, I decided to put a book in print. I chose THE HAMBLEDOWN DREAM as my guinea pig. The author had done well with his ebook and he was and is completely committed to marketing himself. He let me cut my teeth on him, and unfailingly supported me while he put up with my mistakes and blunders, so that I could bring another book to print – ALL IN GOD’S TIME, MY SONS. And around my first birthday, I’ll launch my third print book – AMANDA IN ARABIA: THE PERFUME FLASK.
So it would appear that I’ve graduated to real publisher status? I don’t know. I’m fairly selective about the new books I can take on. We edit every new book and have covers created that rival the bigger houses. But, I can’t market like the big guys, the older books remain unedited, my print books don’t have listings in the big bookstores, I work late into the nights and on what is much less than minimum wage. I make a lot of mistakes. I learn from them, and never make them again. But I also do a lot of things well, things I never thought I’d do. I also see things I’d never thought our authors could do.
I’m proud of what I and my partners have accomplished this past year. I am truly blessed to work with the talented and wonderful writers that I am proud to call friends – there’s 25 of them with almost 50 books. More than anything I’m thankful for the folks who’ve bought or blogged about our books and in so many ways supported us.
We’ve stayed around while others falter. We believe in ourselves and each other. I’ve never once doubted what I was doing – and when a small wind blows up, I go with it, letting it carry me – rather than fighting it.
I’m know I’m still a little ahead of the curve, but it’s gaining on me quickly – and I couldn’t be happier.