New Publisher House started out as one of those ‘good ideas’. I saw an industry in the midst of total transformation and in an economic environment which was vastly accelerating the process. Authors were turning more and more to self-publishing only to start discovering they needed professional help in design and editing to be commercially successful. Publishing professionals in the book and media industries were (and still are) being laid off in droves, including editors, journalists, proofreaders, photographers – the list seemingly almost endless.
I saw authors needing help with their books and publishing professionals – many turning to freelance – needing clients. The idea I envisioned wasn’t just a publishing ‘dating’ or job website, but a platform based around what I call ‘social technology’.
It would get around many of the problems faced by both authors and publishing professionals. For authors, it would be mean transparency and ease when publishing their work. An author could choose who worked on their manuscript and what help they needed. The New Publisher House platform would give them the tools to easily manage the entire process from their computer (or any device), from editing to distribution and marketing. They could do it by themselves or hand over to an editorial manager – just as in a publishing house.
For publishing professionals it would solve key issues in freelancing: leveraging time and resources, finding clients and scaling a business. Tasks like manuscript tracking, resource allocation and so on would be handled by the platform. If you needed help to take on a larger project, you’d just add more team members by choosing from the people on New Publisher House. Whether you were a single freelance or a group of friends, you’d have the power of a publishing house at your fingertips – a complete end-to-end publishing system.
For both authors and publishing professionals, you could evolve as the publishing market evolved. As books become richer in content, incorporating elements like video and audio, you could simply add people with those skills to your project.
It all sounded like a great idea to me. But would it fly? The real revelations came when I researched the self-publishing market. At first I found it almost unbelievable what I discovered. In a twenty-plus year career in media and digital technology (including being a publisher at Fortune 500 company McGraw-Hill), I’d never seen such a misreading of a market. Commonly held assumptions about the current publishing industry are just plain wrong.
It took a great deal of work. Unlike other industries, reliable data is scarce and a company like Amazon doesn’t provide detailed breakdowns in its financial filings or even earnings calls. So how was I able to do it? I’ve produced business cases and market reports for major corporations across a range of industries. I also co-managed the Rich 200 list for Australia’s leading business magazine, BRW – Australia’s equivalent to the Forbes 400. This required establishing valuations on assets for which there was little public data and required lateral approaches (I had wondered about those valuations until one of Australia’s richest people asked me how I was able to so accurately calculate their net worth).
I decided to put the research into a report I’ve called State of Independence 2014 and share it because of the startling information I uncovered. Unlike most industry reports, I’ve actually gone into detail about the methodology so people understand the data and can assess for themselves their validity. You can get the Executive Summary here. It gives the key findings and table of contents. For those interested, the full report (which has sources and methodology) will be released with our crowdfunding campaign.
- James O'Toole, Founder of New Publisher House