Hugh McGuire is the founder of Pressbooks.com, a simple tool to make professionally-designed print books and ebooks. He has been building new ways to merge book culture and technology since founding LibriVox.org — the world’s largest library of free public domain audiobooks in 2005.He also is the co-author of “Book: a Futurist’s Manifesto” (with Brian O’Leary) and helped to start the BookCamps in Toronto, Montreal, New York and Melbourne.
All posts by Tom Robinson
With the news today that Tesco are off loading the loss-making Blinkbox and with Jeff Bezos seemingly staring at a warehouse full of Fire Phones it begs the question, how can even the most successful businesses end up writing off millions in their quest to innovate and compete in particular market sectors where they have previously not traded?
Joel Ohman is a Florida-based tech entrepreneur. His debut novel, Meritropolis, self-published earlier this year, is already proving popular and has topped several of Amazon Kindle’s bestseller categories. We spoke to him about his writing, the publishing process, and how he’s managed to drum up such a buzz about the novel.
Andrea Atzori has worked as an editorial assistant and consultant editor for a number of publishers, has a Masters degree in Publishing, and is the author of a successful fantasy fiction series, Iskìda of the Land of Nurak, published in Italy. For his latest project he has overseen the translation and release of the first instalment of that series into the English-language market. We spoke to him about that process and how it differed from his experiences with traditional publishers.
The Other Side of Loss isn’t your first book; No Ordinary Experience, an autobiography about your nightclub business was traditionally published. Why did you opt for the independent route this time around?
As a 66 year-old debut novelist I was finding it very difficult to be taken seriously by either literary agents or traditional publishers. I also discovered that one reason for this was that traditional publishers have become much more risk averse, and therefore rather unadventurous and predictably conventional. I had sufficient belief in my first novel and was lucky enough to be introduced to the future of books – independent publishing – by a literary agent who liked the premise of my book but could see that it might have trouble attracting the attention of a traditional publishing house. I was able to self-publish to a very high standard and I feel that most readers would not be able to discern my book from one produced by a major publishing house.
How different is the process of writing a novel as opposed to a biography? Did you find one easier than the other?
I found writing a novel much harder than my first non-fiction book, which was a ‘warts and all’ corporate biography about the early years of my international nightclub business. It was actually fun writing that book as it was a riotous story! Writing fiction takes a great deal of effort and isn’t at all easy. It is also riskier; you have to be prepared to invest in, and show, a lot more emotion.
What have been the biggest advantages of publishing independently? And what difficulties have you come across?
For someone who doesn’t know a huge amount about the publishing process, using a publishing services company who can help guide you through it all is a great way to go. Having had everything explained, I was led through the whole confusing publishing process by professionals who knew what they were doing and who knew the publishing business from top to bottom. This additional help gave me the confidence to see the project through, which I might not have been able to do if I was entirely alone; one thing I learned was that ‘independent publishing’ doesn’t have to mean doing it all by yourself.
While the process ran surprisingly smoothly, there were a number of challenges surrounding the technical aspects of book publishing, which I may not have been able to overcome without the help of the rest of the team working on the book. At one stage my eagle-eyed copyeditor spotted an issue with the ISBNs which could have been disastrous, and which would have gone entirely over my head if someone hadn’t pointed it out to me!
How important is collaboration with the likes of editors and cover designers for independent publishers? If you had to, do you think you could have done everything by yourself?
I think close collaboration between all parties – editor, copyeditor, publisher, cover designer, publicist, digital marketer – is vital for the coordinated success of any independently published book.
I’m hugely indebted to the designer for the really beautiful cover she created for The Other Side of Loss and I couldn’t have done any of the other things needed to produce a book of such high quality, nor generated its early success in book sales, without the help of other professionals.
Are you working on any more writing projects at the moment?
Yes, based on the early success of The Other Side of Loss I’ve started work on a sequel with the aim of having it finished by the end of 2015. I’m also looking at updating and republishing my first book No Ordinary Experience: The Juliana’s Story during the course of next year. The subject matter has become timely again on a wave of nostalgia for the great Rock ‘n’ Roll period of the 60’s, 70’s and early 80’s.
If you were to release another book in the future, would you go straight for the self-publishing route or would you prefer to work with a traditional publisher?
I’d almost certainly work with exactly the same team with whom I worked on this book. They are all talented people of integrity and I’ve grown to like them. In business we have choices and the older I get the more I want to work with people I like!
FOUNDER is a sleek four-floor office space reimagined for freelancers and small businesses. The dynamic environment fosters creativity, productivity and collaboration, ideal for freelancers looking for an alternative venue which reflects the creative work they do. But, what makes FOUNDER different from other creative spaces for freelancers? We asked the important questions to find out more.
Can you describe FOUNDER in a few sentences?
The newly launched space sits on Regent’s Canal between Victoria Park and Bethnal Green. Generous reclaimed timber desks, comfy leather chairs and a roof terrace appeal to individuals or small businesses who may have outgrown the high-octane environment of places like silicon roundabout. The space is organically enriched by bountiful ferns and potted plants to cleanse the air and enhance wellbeing.
What do you think the most important benefits to freelancers are of working in a space like FOUNDER, rather than a café or a library?
We hope to offer our co-workers an unprecedented chance to work, create and grow, on their own terms, in an environment that doesn’t just support productivity and wellbeing, but actively fosters it. Given that most of our members are entirely self-dependent, maintaining or indeed improving physical and mental wellbeing is paramount to the Founder ethos.
What aspect of the space or FOUNDER’s philosophy do you think adds the most to its function as a working environment?
Community and collaboration are at the heart of Founder. Developed across four floors, the space plays host to a variety of pop-up events which aim to support and showcase its members work. Through curating a programme of events for those working alongside each other, we believe we are creating as many possibilities as possible for our members so that they can, together, achieve more success.
What facilities and services do you provide for hot-deskers?
Co-workers are encouraged to use and nurture a communal herb garden for botanical teas and healthful salads. Stimulating essential oils, free communal juicer and fruit box delivery are additional touches to help their members feel good. London has such a vast offering of high tech incubators and managed workspaces. We hope to be a slower-paced and sophisticated addition to the desk rental landscape, one that is affordable, flexible and luxe.
We are not all about wheat-grass and yoga, though, we also have drinks every Friday!
What are the prices for using FOUNDER?
Daily Rate: £20.00 from 9am- 7pm
Weekly Rate: £60.00 for 5 day access from 9am-7pm
Monthly Rate: £230.00 per month all inclusive with a dedicated desk and 24/7 access.
FOUNDER also offers private and semi-private workspaces for businesses of 3 to 24 individuals and offers free tea and coffee for all.
This is our final post in a series about the best places to work as a publishing freelancer. If you want to find out what we thought about the other spaces we found out about, you can read our posts here and here.
At whitefox we thrive on the work of many talented publishing freelancers, but we know that sometimes it can be a struggle to find an inspiring and productive place to work. This is the second in our series of investigations into the best places to work as a freelancer… (Our first post was here) @Work Hubs describe themselves as a “business eco-system.” Based in central London, this is a place where freelancers and entrepreneurs can work in a secure co-working environment, avoiding the isolation of working from home and the noise of working in a café. We spoke to Philip Dodson to find out more about this new, exciting option for freelancers looking for a space to work.
How long has @Work Hubs been running for and why was it originally set up? What is your ethos? @Work Hubs was established in February 2013 and the ethos is very much about helping start-ups, entrepreneurs, freelancers, and business people find a flexible, productive and affordable place to work and connect with others.
What facilities and services does @Work Hubs have and what is the security like? The space provides shared desk space, meeting space, a lounge, kitchen, private offices, and lockers. The space can only be accessed by membership card or buzzer and also has CCTV for security.
What are the prices for using @Work Hubs? The space can be used on a pay-as-you-go daily rate of £29 +VAT, on a range of flexible monthly memberships from £80 +VAT for 24 hours use, through to £300 +VAT for unlimited usage. The meeting room can be booked by the hour at £30 +VAT.
Where is @Work Hubs located and what are the transport links like? @Work Hubs is conveniently located just one minute from Euston mainline & Underground Station, one minute from Euston Square Underground and 6-7 minutes from Kings Cross/St Pancras mainline and Underground Stations.
What do you think the benefits are for freelancers working in a space like yours, rather than just in a café or a library? The major benefit of using the hub versus a coffee shop or library is that we have great security, super fast fibre internet, reliable wi-fi, events and others to connect with. Not only that, but this is a proper business working environment.
See @Work Hubs’ website for more details about how you could use the space for your freelance work.
Here at whitefox, we know how difficult it can be, as a publishing freelancer, to find a comfortable place to work which encourages productivity and wellbeing. So we decided to investigate the best work spaces for freelancers on offer. First up is Duke Studios…
Duke Studios, situated in the heart of Leeds, is a multi-disciplinary creative space. Described as a “hub of collaboration and creativity” it is an ideal base for freelancers looking for a place to work and network outside of the capital. We interviewed James Abbott-Donnelly, one of the co-founders of Duke Studios, to find out more about the space.
What was your idea behind Duke Studios?
Duke Studios was created to provide an inspirational creative work space in the heart of Leeds. We basically “scratched our own itch.” Myself and Laura Wellington founded Duke; I’m a photographer and Laura is a furniture and lighting designer. We couldn’t find an appropriate place in Leeds to house our businesses in so we decided we would create it. The idea was to create a fun and different-looking place with different levels of workspace to meet diverse needs and varying budgets. The space would also provide affordable facilities to the creative industries and general public.
What facilities and services does Duke Studios have and what is the security like?
Duke currently provides three levels of workspace, drop in co-working, permanent desks and varying sizes of studio spaces. We also have a variety of on site services including laser cutting, vinyl cutting, meeting rooms, a photography studio, a workshop, and event space.
We deliberately run open plan space in order to facilitate networks and collaboration. We very carefully manage the users of the space and craft the community. Physical security is tight with several layers of key card and code access required to come and go.
What kind of people work at Duke Studios and what sort of work do they generally do?
Our residents are makers and doers in their field, including: designers, photographers, bloggers, social media experts, copywriters, interior designers, brand consultants, community managers, retail designers, makers, event planners, web designers, architects, digital consultants, illustrators, graphic designers, fashion writers, landscape architects, film makers, talent agencies, coders, software engineers, product designers, typographers, writers and editors.
These talented individuals and teams socialise, share, collaborate and grow together. Duke Studios built the space but the people make it.
What are the prices for using Duke Studios?
Co-working: £85 per month (including VAT)
Permanent Desks: £210 per month (including VAT)
Studios: £360-595 per month (including VAT)
What do you think the benefits are for freelancers working in a space like yours, rather than just in a café or a library?
Collaboration is king; we provide a specifically designed space to encourage and enable connections and growth. Duke makes meeting people easy and hassle free. One of our pillars was to network without “networking” (we hate quick intro, business card swapping network events) whether its bouncing around ideas, going for beers at the end of a long day, combining companies to create a bigger team to bid on projects, outsourcing work or simply getting advice on whatever it is that you need. Duke provides a space to work and socialise without name badges, business cards or pull up banners.
whitefox has two free tickets to the festival to give away to one lucky reader. To enter, simply email your name and address to firstname.lastname@example.org. Entries will be pulled out of a hat at the end of the week. Good luck! [/intro]
While some of our finest publishers battle it out in Seattle in the hopes of securing a future for our trade (and by extension our culture), I find myself engrossed in the small print: train times to Lymington, the dietary requirements of very special authors, where Joan As Policewoman is going to sleep on Saturday night and anxious, secret googling at 3.20am in the morning to look at next week’s weather forecast. Yes, you will have guessed it – I am co-curating the Curious Arts Festival at Pylewell Park which runs from 18th-20th July and if ferocious discounting by Amazon doesn’t get me first then surely the combined levels of anxiety, adrenaline and good old-fashioned madness that are essential to propel one through organising a festival surely will.
A fair question would be: why do it? Surely life as an agent at Conville and Walsh is busy enough? To be truthful: yes it is. At this stage in the run-up to next week’s launch I can’t really remember why I said I’d do it apart from the fact that Paddy Keogh, my partner in crime, is charmingly persuasive. However, if I can find the time to stop and think about it I do believe passionately that there is a direct correlation between the unstoppable rise of the literary festival culture in the UK and the increasingly boringly transactional way people buy books. In challenging times authors, agents and publishers must change the way they think about how they find readers.
Authors have to become “authorpreneurs” and actively seek out new ways to promote themselves, often without quite enough support from their publishers and agents. Publishers have to become impresarios, coaxing “influencers” and the press into taking interest in the books in the first place and constantly looking for new and interesting platforms to promote them. Curiously, a festival at its best can offer everybody a new experience and I believe that the devil is in the detail, even if it does mean getting up at 4.30am to start sending e-mails, because a sense of detail is something that a Seattle algorithm can’t supply. So our aim for our artists, writers, and musicians alike is that they will arrive at Pylewell Park and have an incredible stay: the beds will be comfortable, there will be flowers and chocolate in their room, and drinks and meals will run throughout the day courtesy of The Feast of Reason. Children and dogs are welcome too.
We also aim to ensure that our paying visitors have a marvellous time: a dazzling programme of events, a beautiful camping site in the incredible grounds of the park with unbelievable views of the Solent, delicious food and drink and a wonderful and comfortable pop-up bookshop run by Waterstones, Lymington, where there will be hourly signings (but where you can also snuggle up in an armchair and read a book).
In addition, Curtis Brown will be running a film tent, there’ll be loads of activities and events for children including A Jabberwocky Hunt, a Pestival Walk and donkey rides. If you want to take a different journey through the festival, breathing lessons, life-drawing classes and bibliotherapy are all available. Our aim is to make Curious, unique and unforgettable, a place, rather like one’s own bookshelf or a gorgeous local bookshop, where the familiar, the much loved and the fresh combine. We want Curious to be a festival that artists, guests and visitors will return to again and again, part of a vibrant culture that the great and the good of international publishing are trying so hard to preserve on our behalf. So, do join us!