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Write Your Book, Pay Fans to Promote It

Publishing your own book might be a useful way to show off your skills but making sales is difficult. Libboo might be able to help.

It’s not just freelance writers who dream about become admired authors. For any freelancer, a book laying out their ideas, their approach and their philosophy can function as a business card that shows off their expertise. When the book is sold it generates revenue. When it’s shared, it spreads the freelancer’s brand. But writing a book is hard. It takes time. And the real work begins when it’s published. In order for the book to have an effect, it has to be promoted and sold, discussed and read.

For authors working with traditional publishers, that work is done by a professional team. Editors pore over the text looking for errors and improvements. Fact checkers make sure claims are accurate. Illustrators add the drawings. And professional public relations staff ensure that copies reach reviewers, and journalists discuss the book’s content. When self-publishers have to do all of that work themselves, it’s no surprise that they struggle to make sales — especially if they’re also trying to run a freelance business at the same time.

Tips for Using Libboo

  • Complete your profile. Add a picture and a bio so that followers can see who you are.
  • Network. Look for other writers in your genre and interact to attract the attention of promoters and team members.
  • Talk to the staff. Libboo’s team is available for questions and advice. If you get stuck, ask!

Build Your Team of Book Promoters

It’s that problem that Libboo is trying to solve. The company uses online networking to bring together authors and a team of people who can help to push their book forward.

“We aim to give the power, royalties and joy back to the author by allowing them to build teams to do the leg work that normal publishers would do, and have every team member share in its success,” says co-founder Fernando Albertorio.

The service originally launched in the UK in 2008 as platform to help authors become discovered. By the beginning of 2011, it was a beta that was developing into a community of writers, illustrators, editors and others who could help promote any form of written content. It then began to grow into a start-up, first as part of the Venture Mentoring Services at MIT and later, after winning into Boston’s MassChallenge small business accelerator program, as a corporation. The site launched in September 2011, and now allows authors and their teams to publish their works on every major self-published site at the click of a button, then mobilize their audience and build their reputation. By summer, says Dr. Albertorio, authors will be able to build promotional teams to help reach their target audience and provide opportunities for promoters.

The process for authors is relatively straightforward. Having signed up, you’ll be asked to give your “libbook” a title, then choose a category and sub-category. You can paste in the text right away, or you can agree to the terms and start writing afterwards, using the site’s online editor to add text, mark chapters, and add a summary, synopsis and tags. Authors can even upload a cover, or use a default cover supplied by the site. The Preview option lets authors see the state of the book as it develops, making the site valuable for the simplicity of its self-publishing tool alone.

Once the manuscript has been prepared, it should be just a matter of hitting the Publish button to send it into the world and see it in formats suitable for Kindle, Nook and other digital platforms.

The idea behind Libboo, though, is that authors will be able to do more than that. They can also make their books available for other people on the site to read, enabling them to build a team who can help them with the promotion or contribute illustrations or other services.

The Art of Finding Followers

At the moment, that set-up isn’t quite complete. Begin creating a book on Libboo and you’ll be followed by Richard Hawthorn, Fernando Albertorio and Chris Howard, the site’s founders. But to begin building other followers, you’ll need to browse follower lists to identify authors in similar fields or with books you might like to help promote — largely by distributing a link. There’s no easy way, though, to identify promoters with an interest in the kinds of book you want to write or find an illustrator with experience of drawing pictures for books in your field.

It’s also worth noting that books begin with a Creative Commons license that allows the book to be shared but not sold. Copyright, though, does remain with the author who can assign a percentage of the royalties for the book to each member of the team.

“For instance, an author may assign 15% (or 15 shares out of 100) of the wholesale royalties to a promoter,” explains Dr. Albertorio. “By working on a royalty share model, team members become invested in the success of the book.”

The team members aren’t the only ones who get a share of the sales price. The retailer also gets a large cut, and Libboo’s revenue model is to take ten percent. So a book sold on Amazon for $9.99 would produce just $5.94 to be divided between the team members.

Despite the lack of promoters on the site, the platform is already becoming popular. It now offers about 700 titles from around 1,200 registered authors.

The most popular categories, though, aren’t business or non-fiction but short stories within the comedy and young adult fiction genre. That might not be too surprising; there’s no shortage of people who want to become authors, especially of fiction. There is a shortage, however, of people who know how to promote authors and sell books. The question for Libboo will be whether the offer of a share of the revenues will be enough to bring those people to the site, look for books about which they feel sufficiently passionate to want to evangelize, and join a team.

The question for freelancers will be whether the site’s easy publishing platform makes Libboo worth using even without those promoters.

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