One thing which keeps cropping up in my investigations into the world of non-traditional publishing is Assisted Publishing. Not quite self-publishing, but definitely not traditional publishing either. So what is it?
For instance, people I’ve spoken to in the US have very different ideas of what Assisted Publishing is in comparison to those in Ireland or the UK. Is an assisted publisher someone who just takes money from a self-publishing author to print out their book? Is it someone who does something to help you sell your book? Is it someone who helps you to make your book better? Nobody could give me a definitive answer.
So there I was, wandering around in an intolerable state of confusion about the whole thing, not knowing what to tell you about it. So I thought – I know, I’ll speak to someone who does know about it (see: I told you I have ideas sometimes).
I duly did an interview with Emer Cleary of Emu Ink, a Dublin publisher which has grown extremely quickly for a company established less than one year ago. And now I can safely say that I understand more about assisted publishing, in this country at least. The battle can rage on elsewhere all it likes! Here’s what she had to say.
1.Tell us about Emu Ink. What are you all about?
Emu Ink is an Independent publishing company, which is bridging the gap between self-publishing and traditional publishing, by providing a fully professional service to writers who decided to take it into their own hands to get published. Every book needs a good editor, every book needs a good cover design and every book needs marketing – we offer all these elements to good authors, who may otherwise not have the chance to realise their publishing dreams, simply because of various shifts in publishing trends at any given time.
2. How do you define what you do (Self-Publishing/Assisted Publishing)? What would you say to those who think it’s just about authors paying someone to print their book or put it up on Amazon?
We assist people to publish and, yes, there are places for the type of service that will simply accept payment and publish because of that but if that’s what you are looking for then you won’t find it at Emu Ink. When you choose to self publish you have to believe in your work first and foremost and equally, for us, we need to believe in it too. It is for this reason that we don’t publish everyone who approaches us, despite there being a cost. The way we see it is that any determined author will pay for a good editor before sending a manuscript out to be traditionally published anyway and that’s what you are paying for with us – but at an affordable price – and on top of that we offer so much more.
There is a selection process from manuscript submission and if we do not believe that your copy is ready to approach publication and the three edits we offer as part of our package (structural, second edit and proof) we will not take the work on. We will, however, give you feedback as to why and, as is often the case we will guide you through where we believe you could improve the work and invite you to resubmit if you choose to take our advice.
We have to see potential in a book – that’s not to say all books are going to be award-winning or make best-selling lists but if we take you on we believe you should be aiming for that and, for our part, we will aim to make your book the best possible version of itself to give it every chance.
The second strand of our business, outside being a dedicated publishing house, is that we are a digital library – Ireland’s first for new writers and the only publishing house, both at home and around the world, to have built a system on which we allow all of our titles to be rented out on any internet-enabled device.
This is a revolutionary step for the publishing world! A huge problem, as we see it, in the industry at the moment (and the same can be said for the music industry) is royalty payments. Most traditionally published authors are looking at 10 per cent royalty and often much less. The way we, at Emu Ink, see it is that without the author there is no work and no royalty benefits for anyone and even though, as a publishing house we have a huge amount of work to do to make books ‘shelf ready’ and a responsibility to get them out there, the ‘artist’ deserves to benefit from his/her idea and hard work more than they currently are through various channels. That is why we afford a 70 per cent royalty on all our rented titles to the author – with no need to pay out to any online retailers (such as Amazon, Kobo etc) as you read the book through the site.
Just to note we do convert to eBook and print paperbacks for which normal royalties apply. This is to ensure that a book is available in all formats, to cater for whatever way a reader prefers to read, but the rental can often be more lucrative for the author and is always less expensive for the reader – not taking up any storage space on reading devices and disappearing after 30 days.
3. What do you think sets you apart from the traditional publishing model?
In this changing world of digital domination we bring you the same dedication and commitment to your book as you would expect of a traditional publisher – we also have links to bookshop distributers, which we can pitch your title too on your behalf – but ultimately we bring a unique and fresh format that feeds into a constantly changing industry, which is crying out for something different all the time.
Authors, despite the fact that they pay for printed versions etc, also make a lot more royalty than they would being traditionally published and this is something that is very important to us.
Someone with a good command of English and a great story. Someone in touch with their target audience who is passionate about what they are writing and clear about their aim for their book. We love to work with all kinds of writers from fiction to non-fiction, children’s (both for children and by children – our youngest author is 10 and we have just signed an 11-year-old girl), sports writers and poets. We run a library so there is a place for all kinds of writing and we love nothing more than looking for the next great read and bringing fresh Irish writing to a wider audience.
5. What sort of promotional activity do you hope your authors will engage in? What is an Emu Ink author’s job after the book is written?
Book launches, and whether an author decides to have one or not is up to themselves, and is ultimately their responsibility, but we do encourage them for paperbacks and get involved in the running of them as well as PR both before and after them on behalf of the author. Once the book is published we do engage in helping the author push it, in that we will send releases to news desks, engage in brainstorming for various angles to help the author get coverage and actively chase interviews for them. This is not a full time strand of work for us with each author though; ie we do a certain amount after publication but ultimately it is the author’s responsibility to push and promote themselves. It is our responsibility to build on our unique business and drive traffic to a site where the aim is that readers will eventually automatically think of http://www.emuink.ie when shopping for new titles by talented authors and ultimately rent them, which is to the benefit of everyone involved.
6. Tell us about online libraries. Why would people rent books online?
The benefit of the online library is twofold for the reader. Firstly it is a less expensive way of reading new work by, often, first-time authors. The books can be accessed on any internet-enabled device including laptops, PCs, phones, tablets etc… and pretty soon – as e readers move towards having more tablet-orientated components and readers are able to get direct access to our site via the web on the e reader, there will be no need for going the more expensive route via the online retailer at all – you can simply read your book for a couple of euro, via our library, on the e reader anyway!
Secondly the reader has access to the title for 30 days (with the ability to extend the rental period by a further 7 days for a lower price if needs be), which means it doesn’t take up any storage space on a reader’s device – unless they love it so much they then decide to buy it to keep!
Emu Ink is almost one year old and the rental facility is already proving very popular with readers.
7. And finally… a word to that talented author out there, for whom Emu Ink would be a match made in heaven. Why should they choose Emu Ink?
Because we are on your side.
At Emu Ink, as much as we pride ourselves in going above and beyond for each author we also respect the fact that if it weren’t for the author, their dedication and work commitment, the raw material would not be there for any of us and so we want your book to be a success for you – even after we have done our job.
Royalties are getting lost left, right and centre for artists of all kinds but we have started something that is seeing that change and we want you to be a part of the revolution!
All that remains is for me to thank Emer Cleary for helping me wipe the puzzled look off my face! And congratulations to all Emu Ink authors for their part in the independent publishing revolution!