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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Indie Authors: Researching Your Books

By Raysonho @ Open Grid Scheduler / Grid Engine (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Raysonho @ Open Grid Scheduler / Grid Engine (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

When writing books, there are a lot of things you can research. What genre should you write in (if you don’t already have a preference)? How can you attract readers? Who are your target or ideal readers? What should your book title be?

Below is a list of resources that can help answer those questions:

Guest Post: 4 Tips for Developing Compelling Characters

Australian_College_Journalism

By Marianne Stenger

This post was originally published on http://www.acj.edu.au/blog/acj-news/4-tips-developing-compelling-characters. The Australian College of Journalism is part of Open Colleges, and provides writing and media-related training.

Continue reading

What Rights Do Ebook Owners Have?

By NotFromUtrecht (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By NotFromUtrecht (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Over the last few years, there has been a lot of discussion around the ownership of ebooks.

The LA Times reported in 2012 about how ebook owners had few rights when it came to their ebooks. Instead of owning ebooks they purchased, they were merely licensing them:

Unlike the owners of a physical tome, they won’t have the unlimited right to lend an e-book, give it away, resell it or leave it to their heirs. If it’s bought for their iPad, they won’t be able to read it on their Kindle. And if Amazon or the other sellers don’t like what they’ve done with it, they can take it back, without warning.

In 2013, Motherboard wrote about how in some cases you can only access ebooks in certain territories or countries. For example, one professor from the U.S. traveled to Singapore and lost all his ebooks stored on his Google Play app, all because the Google Play bookstore wasn’t available in Singapore. To get his books back, he had to go back to U.S. and redownload them all. Also,, :

You can’t give away, loan to a friend, trade or sell your book when you’re done reading it, because it’s bound to the account of your Kindle, Google Play, iBooks, or whatever ecosystem you bought it from. This really ruffles the features of voracious readers, since sharing books is a classic and much-loved tradition

And in 2014, Guelph Mercury reported on ebooks that were disappearing in Japan. One ebook retailer announced it was shutting down, and issued refunds to users, but those users were no longer able to access the ebooks and comics they had purchased. According to the article:

It is technologically possible to make such e-books readable on other service providers’ platforms after one company discontinues its service.

But Toru Sampei, chief of the secretariat of the Japan Electronic Publishing Association, said, “All the companies are reluctant to do so because it takes time and is costly.”

Fortunately, there is more discussion lately over how to protect readers from losing their ebooks. In 2014 the state of Delaware passed a law that gave “heirs and the executors to estates the same rights over digital content which they would have over physical property,” according to The Digital Reader. Although this only applies to residents in Delaware, it is a strong first step.

Have you heard about any more recent steps to protect ebook owners? Please share in the comments!

For the Readers: A List of Sites, Tools, and Examples of Beautiful Works

More and more platforms are springing up to help both indie authors and readers looking for their next great read.

image3One new platform that does just that is The Books Machine, which allows authors to gift their books to hundreds of thousands of readers, according to the website. Readers have 30 days to read the book and write an honest review.

Reader membership is free, and readers can access excerpts of any titles that sound promising to them. The Books Machine is a community, a meeting place, and authors only pay $10 per month for access to potential readers.

Indie authors, there are a few other useful tools out there. A couple include LibraryJournal, where you can submit books for review, and Curator’s Code, which helps attribute content.

Reader Research

Having a reader base is essential to an author’s success. And more and more readers are turning to ebooks to get their fix, though according to Forbes print is still big. However, a survey found that people who own ereaders and tablets read 60% more than other readers. USA Today found that people read more on tablets than ereaders, and Venture Beat reported more people read on smartphones than tablets (though Publisher’s Weekly reported that adults don’t read as much literature as they used to).

According to Galley Cat, kids who read for pleasure do better in school (Salon also wrote an article arguing that making reading a chore was terrible for kids). And Publishing Perspectives created an infographic showing how much kids should read.

Salon wrote that reading is not yet a social activity, but though Readmill tried before it was bought by Dropbox. Still, reading seems to be becoming more social, with sites like Goodreads, The Pigeonhole (and its new private book clubs), and others.

If you want to know more about readers around the world, then check out Publishing Perspective’s chart.

Other Sites for Readers

There is a whole lot to read out there, and sometimes it’s hard to find something that suits your preferences. For readers looking for other books (and short stories, articles, etc.), here is a list of additional places to find them (in no particular order; some are paid, some are free):

Reader Tools

For people who love to read, here are some tools to help you stay organized:

Reading Online

If books aren’t enough, or you’d like to turn a web page into a book reading experience, this list is for you:

Examples of Beautiful, Interactive Online Articles

Just for fun. Also just for fun is a book that judges whether or not you’re worthy of reading it, based on scans of your face.

Social Reading and Writing

Ebooks open up a whole range of possibilities, from how people consume stories to how they talk about books they’ve read, and even how they find new works to read. Because ebooks are digital, authors and readers have many opportunities to be social with their books. Continue reading

Readers and Writers: Library News

Libraries are an important part of the book publishing world, and it’s been a while since I mentioned them in a post, so here’s a collection of links to library news, services, and more. Continue reading

Indie Authors: Finding Your Audience

It’s not the most glamorous aspect of indie publishing, and it’s definitely hard work, but finding the target audience for your book is an important step when it comes to successfully self-publishing. Knowing your readers and who may be potentially interested in what you have to say can make marketing down the line much, much easier, and interacting with fans and/or people in your community can help make the publishing process much more rewarding.

But how do you go about finding your audience? Continue reading

7 Strategies and 110+ Tools to Help Indie Authors Find Readers and Reviewers

Self-publishing is growing, and with it come new resources. One of the biggest hurdles of being an indie author is finding readers and getting reviews (which helps find more readers). Some people may still consider self-publishing a stigma, and some writers may think that promotion takes away too much time from writing. But many sites, including Outramp, Your Writer Platform, and Indies Unlimited have written posts giving advice for marketing.

On Digital Book World, founder of McCarthy Digital Peter McCarthy said, “Whoever is the best at connecting authors’ works with the end consumers — they win.” It’s about being agile and seeing what works.

With that in mind, here are 7 strategies and a list of 94 tools indie authors can use to help promote their books and find new readers and reviewers (although the first and most important thing is to write a good book, and then write another, and then keep writing).

UPDATE: After posting I realized I missed a few, so I’ve added them to the list, bringing the total count to 119 resources. You should also take a look at Your Writer Platform’s “How to Get Review For Your Book (Without Begging, Bribing or Resorting to Subterfuge)” for more advice and sites to use.

UPDATE 2: Honorable mention goes to Book Swag, a new website that is similar to BookBub, except free, and is aimed at helping authors promote their books for free and helping readers find great books. Continue reading

How One Successful Indie Author Marketed His Work Up the Bestseller Lists

I’ve mentioned it before, but I’m a huge fan of Hugh Howey. A while back, I had the pleasure of interviewing him, and I found out some of his amazing, and fairly unique, marketing and indie publishing strategies. You can read it here, on Writer Unboxed. I look forward to reading any and all comments!