TxLA: Self Publishing

Henry Bankhead of Los Gatos Public Library gave a great talk on self-publishing and ebooks. Henry was an early adopter of ebooks and in 2010 Henry started talking with Mark Coker of Smashwords, a self publishing firm.

Smashwords had a different perspective of ebook and availability than libraries do. While libraries are aware of the challenges of integrating ebooks into the collection and how ebooks fit into collection development, self publishers are more optimistic that any challenges can change and be overcome. Mark Coker had written a book that he couldn’t get published. His approach was that ‚Äòpublishing was broken’ not that his book wasn’t worth publishing…so he created a platform for people to self publish books.

The Los Gatos Library took a three prong approach to encouraging self publishing.
Coprogramming – Los Gatos, like most libraries, ran a lot of programs. In starting up the self publishing program they brought in outside people to come in and talk about self publishing process, ebooks and the issues surrounding ebooks (DRM for example). They put out a primer on ebook publishing that covered topics such as, “How do you accomplish this?‚Äù “What formats do I need?‚Äù, “What are the best practices- pricing, cover design?‚Äù Basically anything you need to know to make your books successful
Co-branding – Los Gatos placed a link on the library site to send authors to Smashwords and encourage them to come back when after they’ve written their book. Los Gatos likes local authors and is happy to consider adding the books to their ‚Äòlocal author’ collection.
Establish partnerships – With a PLP Innovation Grant the library worked with High School freshman class to self publish an anthology. The Anthology made it to the top of iTunes Poetry book list.

Thorny Issues:
— Quality control- Has it been vetted? Is it accurate? There is a stigma associated with self published materials. Then again, publishers have set the bar so high it is difficult for many authors to enter the playing field. Smashwords does vet for plagiarism.
— Librarian as “curator”. Who determines what is ‚Äògood’? Los Gatos steps back from curation and responds to the market. They provide what is asked for by the patrons.
— Liability – if you are simply directing people to a source that’s better than actually working with authors to publish their books.
— Segregation in marketplaces – Self published books are often ‚Äòsegregated’ from other ebooks. They are treated differently and not on the same level as other traditional publisher content.
— Access – Los Gatos uses an API in Koha to connect to Overdrive to show e-content.

Book as icon — versus — book as consumable
Henry went into more detail about what a “book‚Äù is. Sometimes it is important as an icon – i.e. a book of poetry or a memoir. However, sometimes the format takes a backseat to the content if the content is what was readers are after. This is particularly true in romance genre.

Benefits for library. It is a win-win for libraries and authors. Ebooks don’t take up shelf space, don’t need cataloging, no wear or tear. Authors, especially local authors, get exposure, sell books, and people read their books. It is a subtle shift from a Culture of Reading to include the Culture of Authorship. A great relationship that encourages the creation of the ‘thing’ that they ‚Äòuse/provide’.

CHANGE THE WORLD! Independent ebook publishers provides pressure on the traditional publishing model. Support of authors can increase pressure to be more library friendly. The self publishing model is identical to the open source ILS model. Both allow the user/author more control over your product.

Success Stories are possible with this model. But success may be measured in different ways. Niche topics are still valuable to those who read them, but the market is smaller.

Authors who have experienced success include:
The Martian, Andy Weir
Fifty Shades of Grey
Wool, Hugh Howey
Amanda Hocking

Check out Los Gatos library: http://library.losgatosca.gov

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