Campbell, Calif.-based FastPencil tries to democratize the book world with Web-based book creation and publishing tools. Now it’s trying to go up-market with a new publishing initiative called FastPencil Premiere.
The new service is based on FastPencil’s basic technology, but it’s aimed at established authors and at successful FastPencil users who are ready for a bigger spotlight. Authors can use FastPencil’s collaborative writing tools, or they can just import their manuscript. The books can be published as e-books and also as paper editions through print-on-demand technology, and authors can share links to the books through social networking tools like Facebook and Twitter. The books will be sold in FastPencil’s store, but also on Amazon, Barnes & Noble’s website, and iBookstore. The company said it’s also working on deals to bring the books into physical stores.
So why would an established author (the company is looking for writers who have sold more than 100,000 copies of their books) sign up? FastPencil says its advantages include speed (you can have a book on-sale within weeks, compared to the traditional publishing process of months or years), simplicity (the contracts are supposed to be short and easy to understand), and economy (since FastPencil’s overhead is lower, it can offer higher royalties).
Other websites have already shown that some big name writers want to bypass the traditional publishing process. For example, Scribd launched an online bookstore last year with authors like Tamim Ansary and Tim O’Reilly. FastPencil Premiere’s launch authors include children’s writer Angela Sage Larsen and cartoonist Guy Gilchrist (whose work includes the Nancy comic strip).
Of course, publishers do more than offer a book for sale. FastPencil also offers editing and book design — though unlike a traditional publisher, it charges for those services. Authors can also work with their own editors and designers through FastPencil’s collaborative tools.