Author-published Books — A Conversation With IBPA’s Lee Wind

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The BookBaby Spotlight podcast is your home for conversations with authors, illustrators, editors, and other industry insiders from the world of self-publishing, hosted by BookBaby distribution manager, Sam Sedam.

Sam recently spoke with Lee Wind, a “lighthouse of stories that center on marginalized kids and teens and celebrate their power to change the world.” Wind is the Director of Marketing and Programming for the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA), which focuses on empowering indie publishers so they can have their voices heard. The following is an excerpt from the podcast interview.

Sam Sedam: I’m hearing a lot of different predictions regarding the state of self-publishing — in fact, I just had Beat Barblan from Bowker on the podcast. He thinks it’s full steam ahead for indies, but it’s been a wild couple of weeks. How is the IBPA doing?

Lee Wind: First of all, let me jump in and say that I’ve always had a reaction to the term “self-publishing” because I believe it tricks people into thinking that self-publishing means you can do everything yourself. At the IBPA, we use the term “author publisher” or “author-published” rather than “self-published,” because when you’re publishing something, even if it’s something that you’ve written, you’re responsible for that being the most professional book it can be — the most awesome book it can be.

The way I think of it, if no one is going to pay me to design the cover of their book — and trust me, they wouldn’t, I’m not a designer — then I have no business designing the cover of my book. It’s not my skill-set, and if I want my book to compete in a world that has a million titles coming out every year, the very basic, most important thing I can do is make sure it’s awesome. To do that, I need to hire a team. I need to hire a professional editor, I need to hire a professional book designer, I need to hire a professional cover designer. Then, it has a chance. So, I think it’s more productive for us to think in terms of being author-publishers rather than self-publishers because when we put on our publisher hat, we’re in charge of our own business.

So, back to your question about what’s going on at IBPA during this global health crisis — we’re working remotely, we canceled our big conference, Publishing University, which was supposed to take place at the beginning of April, and a lot of the programs we are involved in, like the American Library Association conference, which was supposed to be in Chicago in June, was just canceled. So there have been all these disappointments and there’s a lot of discussion about how people feel as if they’ve got all this time on their hands, which in the IBPA office seems a bit ironic because we are busier than ever.

In addition to rolling back all these programs, we’ve been organizing resources for indie publishers, including author-publishers. There’s actually a page on the IBPA website that has resources for independent publishers, given what’s happening with Covid-19, and I think that has made us all feel really unified, that we’re not just four people sitting in our home offices — we’re a community of 3,000 publishers who are coming together to help each other. When people discover things that are useful, they’re sharing information. It is a fascinating moment and we’ll have to see what happens as it all unfolds, but IBPA is up and working and we’re doing our best to be of service to our members.

Sam Sedam: How do you expect the Coronavirus will affect the indie publishing world, in general, over time?

Lee Wind: I think we’ve already seen some of this shift. Amazon announced that they’re de-prioritizing books and some of the online orders are getting fulfilled in other ways, which I think could be a really important course correction. I feel Amazon has too much of the market and that is dangerous, when any single entity holds too much then we’re really vulnerable to something changing there. And Amazon is notoriously not communicative and they don’t really share what’s going on, so that could be really healthy, when we come out on the other side of this health crisis. A lot of bookstores have been closing — some of them are open but only for curbside delivery or online orders — so if you’re able to donate to the book industry, go to the Book Industry Charitable Foundation, it helps booksellers and bookstores. We want those to be robust parts of our ecosystem, so if you want a book and you can order one from your local bookstore, do it. That’s very helpful.

A lot of libraries are closed, physically, the American Library Association came out last week with a recommendation that all libraries close — but that’s the physical building. Online, libraries are open, and I believe we’re going to see a larger share of people doing that. With everybody home, people are going to realize, Wait, I can access audiobooks on my cellphone through programs like OverDrive. So, we don’t have a crystal ball, but already we’re seeing changes and the big question is, “How will things evolve?” Things are changing almost on a daily basis.

Sam Sedam: What strategies would you recommend for someone who was on the cusp of publishing before this? I’m personally recommending authors edit, edit, edit — take all your time and make sure you have that book perfect and ready to go.

Lee Wind: I think that’s good advice any time you’re thinking of publishing.

We had a webinar this morning with a bunch of experts for IBPA and they were talking about trends that are happening right now. Activity books, books for kids — especially nonfiction books for kids, because with all these schools closed parents feel they need to help with the education of their children — do-it-yourself titles, and cookbooks are having a resurgence because people are home and they want to do something with their time.

There is a LOT more to the conversation. Listen to the entire podcast. Check out more episodes through Anchor.fm, Spotify, Apple, and most other podcast platforms.

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1 COMMENT

  1. if you are smart enough to write a book then you are smart enough to design the cover.
    download a template and DIY faster better cheaper easier.

    paying some alleged cover artiste hundreds or thousands of dollars is delusional and a total waste of money. will any of them guarantee that their cover design will generate enough additional sales of your book to pay for it?

    covers are meant to sell books not win awards for being artistic which only helps the person who made the cover not the author of the book. dont be a fool! DIY!!

    where is dan poynter when we need him. he was *the* self publishing guru for decades and his web site showed how to design a cover to help sales. maybe you can find a copy of it in an archive somewhere. whatever you do never pay anyone to design a cover for your book.

    the only thing you really need to hire out is editing . every writer needs a good editor. but make sure you know which of the five levels of editing your editor is proficient at.
    you might need editors at all the levels but most folks can get by with just the lowest one if they are competent with writing. be careful as many editors from so called publishers are just hacks working to make more profit for the printer calling themselves a publisher.

    remember THE publisher is the owner of the ISBN. If you want to self publish (or author publish as some call it) then you need to own your ISBN.

    and if you publish in print format it makes sense to also hire a book printer and get quotes as prices vary widely all the time and nobody is the best choice every month.

    any other services are merely for convenience of the author and are not necessary although some authors use many such helpers for their own convenience. but be careful that you are getting what you paid for, and that you needed it at all. many people will try to sell you many services that are worthless except for boosting the ego of a naif.

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