Anna Lewis is our host at BookMachine Unplugged on the 23rd May– having successfully created Completely Novel (a publishing community) she is now co-founder of Valobox, a pay-as-you-go eBook platform. Through launching Valobox, Anna has lots of experience collaborating with publishers and is in an ideal position to host our Unplugged event in London, which celebrates the culture of collaboration in publishing.
We wanted to know a little bit more about Anna, so here are 5 questions…
1. Completely Novel is an example of how communities can be created online. Authors use the service to self-publish a range of books. How did you know (back in the day) that this sort of service was needed?
Oli Brooks (my cofounder) came up with the idea – he had been speaking to authors and other people in the publishing industry. There were lots of social networks springing up, but nothing that really seemed to fit the bill for writers who wanted to build up a profile so that they could either sell their books themselves or present a business case to publishers proving that their book had a market. We saw that print-on-demand was taking off so we built that into the community from the start.
2. What is your biggest piece of advice for aspiring authors?
Every author is different and writing for different reasons, but if you want people to read your book then you have to be realistic about the work that’s involved on top of writing a great book. Unless you are already very well-known for something, then you are going to need to sell. This applies whether you are selling it to a literary agent (in the form of submissions etc) or selling directly to readers… there’s no reason you can’t do both. Of course, the advantage of publishing yourself is that you can just get on with it, and learn a lot about the publishing industry in the process.
3. Valobox, your newest venture, allows books to be read via a browser. Again, how do you know that this is what readers need?
Readers will always need quality and convenience and web browsers have become the best way to deliver both. The web is essentially what we use computers for now. It’s the fundamental distribution platform. Even apps are often websites within a device-specific wrapper.
The advantage that books through browsers have over Ebook readers (which are based on browser technology) is that web browsers are far more advanced.
4. How have publishers reacted to your proposal, and to re-shaping some of their business models to allow readers to pay for content in chunks and be rewarded for the content they sell?
Publishers have been incredibly positive about what we are doing.
I’d argue that the largest change in the business model is allowing other suppliers to sell the content from anywhere, rather than selling in chunks. Chunking up content, delivering through a browser – that’s all about making books more accessible than ever. Empowering your fans, reviewers, authors, developers to share and sell your content for you – that’s the most exciting change.
5. You’ve got a list of top publishers, already collaborating with you on Valobox. What has been your biggest lesson learnt there?
Working with large companies tends to involve quite a lot of delay. This means you have to be prepared to do lots of well-timed following up, and work out what information you need to give your in-company advocates to make it easier for them to move things forward internally. To be honest we’re still figuring things out – any advice is very welcome!!