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Writing isn’t very difficult, regardless of who you are. Writing something that people actually want to read, however, is extremely hard — especially if it’s a book.
This is why we have editors to polish incoherent paragraphs, designers to develop gorgeous book covers, and illustrators to create artwork that complements written pages. But according to self-publishing startup Blurb, there’s actually another very crucial reason aspiring authors need these kinds of collaborators: They greatly improve the odds of finishing a book.
Blurb simplifies the process of publishing both print and digital books and magazines for writers without publishing experience. It also acts as a distribution service, making ebooks available on Amazon’s Kindle store and print books available for order by bookstores. And today, the startup is rolling out a new “Dream Team” marketplace for authors to find and hire professional collaborators like editors, cover artists, illustrators, designers, photographers, and more.
“One of the main requests we get from authors using Blurb is if we can introduce them to an editor or designer,” Blurb founder and CEO Eileen Gittins told VentureBeat, adding that the startup quickly ruled out hiring a team of in-house pros to work on its clients’ books because that’s not a scalable solution. “We did start to realize authors who hired two collaborators had a significantly higher chance of completing their book.”
Since Blurb only makes money if a book gets sold (not just published), there’s a huge incentive for the startup to help aspiring authors not only finish their books but make sure they’re actually worth reading. Gittins said Blurb also had an unofficial network of professional collaborator friends looking for paid gigs as a result of downsizing at book publishing houses.
These two occurrences inspired the company to launch the new marketplace, which features a directory of over 50 professional collaborators with a range of skill sets. Blurb authors looking to hire a collaborator can search the directory for someone who fits their needs, connect with them, and later give feedback on the experience — like a Yelp for the publishing world. Blurb has vetted each collaborator on the marketplace to make sure authors don’t get burned and has provided collaborator profiles with links to previous work.
But collaborators are still firmly in control, having the final say on accepting jobs and pricing their services. Collaborators also keep 100 percent of what they make from jobs sourced through the marketplace.
“We don’t need to take a cut from what collaborators are getting paid, because it’s still providing a very valuable service to Blurb,” Gittins said.
Blurb is already profitable and has sold 3.6 million units (books) representing over 100,000 titles in the commercial segment alone since August.
Beyond the business strategy, Gittins told me the marketplace is also filling a huge gap in the publishing world.
“What’s happening now is, publishers are investing in fewer books that aren’t guaranteed hits,” Gittins explained. “It’s becoming more like Hollywood. Studios are betting on a handful of big pictures and spending less on smaller projects.” For the book publishing industry, that means “talented professionals are being let go because there’s not enough work.”
“And it’s also bad for published book authors,” she said. “You have a better shot at signing a deal with a publisher if you’ve never written a book. Publishing houses aren’t interested in taking a chance on a published author whose first book wasn’t [a best seller].”
Gittins said Blurb has plans to improve the Dream Team marketplace over time based on the needs of authors. The marketplace will eventually add new types of collaborators like ghost writers, publishing business managers, marketers, publicists, and more. The idea, Gittins said, is to slowly transform Dream Team into a platform that offers all the services of a traditional book publisher, and then some.
If Blurb’s strategy for the Dream Team marketplace proves successful, it could lead to an exciting shift in the publishing world.
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