Problem with Self-Publishing
Self-publishing or indie publishing is very attractive because it empowers writers to put their work out there without worrying about being accepted or rejected or promoted by traditional publishing houses. With this freedom come certain responsibilities. Writers are now responsible for editing their product so that it at a professional standard, creating the interior design and the cover design of the book (which is the main draw back of a self-published book). Most self-published books on Amazon can be easily identified for their poor construction and their lack of reviews (on the cover). While self-publishers can get some readers to review their work on Amazon and post their reviews (there are a few Facebook groups where writers exchange books for reviews), these reviews are not often printed on the cover of the books and in the interior of the books the way Penguin, for instance, would. As a result, self-publishers are at a big disadvantage.
Solution: Collective Publishing
The way to overcome this handicap is to stop publishing one book at a time by one author, but instead for groups and/or collectives where all members share in the costs, work and promotion of the book. This gives writers a fighting chance of getting their works discovered by libraries and bookstores.
Need CIP Numbers
The future of self-publishing is in collective publishing. Writers working alone will never be as productive and effective as those who come together to publish and support one another to put out quality books together. Traditional publishing houses rely heavily on the library market and early orders from bookstores to make most of their money selling hardback books. These books require Cataloging in Publication (CIP) numbers (Library of Congress) and unique ISBNs. The CIP number allows the publisher to notify reviewers like Publishers Weekly and other review sites about their book and online sites like Amazon and Barnes and Noble that they have books coming out in the future. Without these reviews, self-publishers are entirely cut out of the library market. In may other countries, CIP numbers are free and relatively easy to get, but in America self-publishers are excluded from these services as they are tailored toward big businesses. To get a CIP number from the Library of Congress, a publisher had to have put out 2 previous books under other people’s names (to show that they are not self-publishers). Thus, self-publishers are eliminated from participating in the publishing process even before they start, unless they form publishing collectives.
Need Unique ISBNs, Not Ones Sold by Createspace
It is also very important to buy unique ISBNs directly from the only company authorized to sell them (ISBN). If you buy cheaper ISBNs directly from Createspace or Amazon then your book is tagged as published by that company, i.e. the publisher is Createspace. If the book is tagged as published by them then you have distribute it through them and the metadata will always reflect that they are the publisher. Because they are the publisher then you will never be able to get reviews ahead of time and have a proper pre-production promotional plan when the majority of book sales are made. Unlike self-publishing one book, working within a publishing collective empowers writers to pull their resources together, unique ISBN numbers in bulk (at a cost of $1 is you buy 1000 ISBNs) and put out enough books to qualify for the CIP number.
Need Quality Metadata
In addition to the ISBN numbers and the CIP, there is also the issue of metadata. Metadata allows libraries and bookstores to discover your books. Discoverability is very important as there there are millions of books that are published a year all over the world and matching readers with books is the essence of a successful book publishing campaign. Most buying decisions currently made by libraries and bookstores are made using metadata. It is very important for authors to tag their books properly using metadata as it increases the likelihood of sales. Self-published book that are not in the proper databases, like Bowker’s Books in Print, will never be picked up by libraries or bookstores because they are not available for purchase in their systems.
Aim of Barbaroi House: A writer-managed publishing collective
The aim of a publishing collective like Barbaroi House is to empower writers the same way that the process of self-publishing does, but also allow them proper distribution using the correct channels like traditional publishing (if the collective is run properly). In this way, writers are able to share the duties of editing, designing or hiring others to do the covers and the interior design of the books, and, most importantly, creating and conducting the marketing plan. This process involves contacting reviewers who review for Publishers’ Weekly and other similar publications and sending out copies to the reviewers at least three months ahead of publication. Reviewers do not like to waste their time reviewing books that they do not think will go anywhere, thus each book should come with marketing materials that provides the reviewers guidance in how to review the book. These marketing materials should come with a blurb and descriptive language that a reviewer who is pressed for time can use in his or her review. This is what traditional publishing houses do and this is why they are so effective in getting their books reviewed. After the book is reviewed, then the best parts of the reviews can be printed on the covers and put into the online marketing materials for that book.
All of this is very difficult to do for one book and almost not worth the time. However, working together writers can help one another and their publishing house sell copies and really compete with the traditional publishing houses.