Gareth Howard is CEO and founder of Authoright, a company which provides high-end but affordable author services. They essentially help traditional publishers, self publishing companies, literary agents, indies, literary agents, international book fairs and direct-publishing tech platforms to understand the needs of authors and to future-proof their businesses at a time of change. Authoright are proud sponsors of BookMachine New York. Fabrizio Luccitti interviews Gareth for BookMachine.
1. Why do publishers and authors use Authoright?
Marketing and publicity services are still all too often really expensive, prohibitively so for an individual author. We have always believed that by working creatively, effectively and efficiently we can keep our prices as low as possible to ensure great value for authors, literary agents, new tech companies and publishers alike. Authors come to us to market their books either because they are self publishing and need someone to support the promotion of their book, or because their traditional publisher has let them down on the PR front, and they come to us to salvage things. We work across the industry with every kind of writer and every kind of book imaginable, to fulfil all the component parts of getting a book published, from structural editing to cover design to website design, social media campaigns and promotion, and everything in between.
2. Discoverability. That all important word. What’s your top tip to help authors be discovered online?
Commitment. Sticking at it, connecting with the right people, starting the right conversations, over time really will make a difference. Ultimately with discoverability there are myriad things authors can do to boost their visibility, but one great trick is what we refer to as benevolence marketing, that is giving things away for free – whether it’s your time, sample chapters of your book, your advice, your comment – rather than expecting always to receive. Authors who get it wrong just plug their book shamelessly and selfishly. Those who get it right reach out in earnest to online communities and readers, letting their potential audience get to know them and really engage with them in activities that serve to promote their book directly and indirectly.
3. Do you think that most authors are aware of the importance of marketing when they start writing? In your experience, at what point does the penny drop that it is so important?
Not enough of them, although author awareness of the realities of the market is on the up, which is good. Nowadays, marketing and publicity are arguably as important as the content of the book itself. We advise writers to start thinking about the marketing before they’ve finished their first draft; the more you can re-programme your thinking to incorporate marketing and promotional activities into what you’re doing – seeing everything as an opportunity to engage with readers – the more of a chance your book will have of thriving in what is now a hugely competitive market. There are between 20 and 30,000 new books being published each week between the UK and the US, and yet we’ll only ever see around 1% of those titles receiving any kind of solid media coverage. For many, the penny doesn’t drop until it’s too late, their book has been out for three months and they wonder why it isn’t selling. There was an awful statistic doing the rounds earlier this year, which suggested that half of all ebooks on Amazon won’t ever get a single download. That’s just tragic. If you’ve committed to the labour of love of writing a book, you must do it justice by promoting it to the right people well in advance of its publication, thinking creatively and perceptively about your target market and how to reach them, whether that’s exclusively on the internet or using a combination of print, broadcast and online media. To us, not marketing your book is like going to university but not bothering to sit your exams. What would be the point of that? But to excel at those finals, you’ve got to be prepared. The great thing about marketing today is that there’s so much a writer can do themselves to elevate their profile. What’s endlessly frustrating, is that some still don’t see it as there responsibility. But it is.
4. What does collaboration in publishing mean to you? How do you incorporate it in your activities at Authoright?
Well I think that every part of the publishing process should be a collaboration, between the author and those people who are brought on board to help bring their book to life. Many of our friends who’ve published traditionally have felt disappointed that they were not allowed to be more involved in the creative process. Some ended up with covers they hated but had no power to change them. There often seems to be a suggestion that the writer’s role is over once they’ve completed their manuscript. They shouldn’t be marginalised or excluded from the business of books, it’s critical for authors today to really get to grips with how the industry works and is changing so that they can put themselves in a really strong position. When we work with authors, we think that it’s absolutely vital to involve them as much as possible, to incorporate their ideas and their strengths, as well as encouraging them to see where the expertise of others – editors, designers, marketers – will benefit their book in the end.
Commercial collaboration is also really important to us, and as the boundaries within the industry continue to shift, it’s great to be able to partner with like-minded people and companies in publishing, people we admire and respect, and whose ethos we share, in order to help educate and inspire more and more new writers, whilst making the industry as a whole work for them. Helping people to publish and market their work well, regardless of their journey to publication, is a real privilege.