An Interview with Richard Billings, Founder of Leafless

leafless-whiteThe publishing industry is full of opportunity. Today, publishing startup Leafless, a digital distribution platform and publisher, is launching (after rebranding). Leafless aims to solve the problem of authors paying for reviews and honest reviews disappearing from sites like Amazon. Through Leafless, authors can give copies of ebooks to readers for reviews, and popular books on the site can be distributed globally, in order to collect data for agents and publishers to see and choose whether or not to publish a Leafless book traditionally. Leafless also plans to traditionally publish select titles under its own imprint.

Leafless was part of Ingram Content Group’s 1440 publishing accelerator. I got the chance to ask the founder of Leafless, Richard Billings, a few questions about his new platform and what it means for indie authors.

S.R.: What inspired the creation of Leafless?

R.B.: I began as an amateur writer, writing poems and short stories. After some good feedback and encouragement, I decided to write a novel. I spent two weeks clicking away on the keyboard only to come up with two chapters. I decided that if I was going to spend a year of my life writing a book, I should probably take a look at how the publishing industry works. It didn’t take long to find out that most manuscripts submitted to traditional publishers are rejected. When researching the self-publishing industry, I found many authors setting their prices high but providing very few, if any, reviews for me to base my decision on.

S.R.: How can Leafless help indie authors?

R.B.: Our initial offering only tackled pricing and reviews. We tried to circumvent the traditional market by only selling ebooks on our own site in a self-published-only model. We continued to talk with authors and were continuing to find that although many were happy for the opportunity to have their books read, many still wanted to be traditionally published, but didn’t have the connections to publishers and agents. We also began speaking with publishers and agents who said that they were buried under slush piles and needed a way to filter through the noise to find good content. At Leafless we give authors the opportunity to be discovered by traditional publishers and agents without the mess and rejection of submitting manuscripts to disparate publishers and agents.

S.R.: How many authors and readers is Leafless currently working with?

R.B.: With our previous offering we worked with nearly 300 authors from around the world. We of course hope to see many of those authors convert to the new site. We will also be actively seeking new authors in the coming months.

S.R.: Through Leafless, authors can give copies of their ebooks to readers, and then readers can nominate books for publication. How many votes does it take for a book to be published?

R.B.: Books submitted to the site will remain as ‘Galleys’ for readers to read and provide feedback. Readers can read as many of these as they like, but will have a limited number of ‘Nominations’ that they can use towards books they’d like to see published. A nomination will require that the reader to write at least 250 words about why they’d like to see the book published. After 10 nominations, authors will be offered a global distribution contract as a self-published title. We will apply our pricing model and provide limited marketing towards these books.

S.R.: And how does the publication process work?

R.B.: During the self-publishing stage, after nomination, we collect pricing, sales, demographics, and other important data which we then make available for subscribed publishers and agents. Publishers/agents can use this data to make informed decisions about which authors they’d like to make a contract offer to. The offers take place through our site where we either act as the agent in the case of a direct to publisher agreement, or as a split-commission in the case of an agent agreement. As part of our process, once a book is picked up for traditional publication, those 10 that initially nominated it will receive a signed copy from the author.

S.R.: Are reviews that readers write only available on Leafless or will they be published elsewhere?

R.B.: We still looking into it, but our goal is to disseminate reviews gathered through our process to as many retailers and review sites as possible.

S.R.: Leafless will also be publishing books the traditional way. How many books does Leafless plan to publish per year, and what does Leafless look for in a potential book?

R.B.: Leafless will publish books that appeal to us as a brand. We will probably publish only one book per month under the Leafless imprint. Our authors will receive all of the bells and whistles of traditional publishing, including editing, cover design, marketing, and our contract is based on the Authors Guild fair-contract recommendations. Our goal is to provide a service between authors and publishers. Our publishers would get a right-of-first-refusal for any books we decide to take one. We don’t want to compete with our publishers.

S.R.: How can authors submit their work for consideration?

R.B.: We will, as in the past, provide an easy to use submission process. We are partnered with Pressbooks.com to provide simple eBook creation tools. Submission into the Galley section is free and under no contract other that our normal Terms of Service.

You can learn more about Leafless here.

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