Being a startup ebook publisher: an inside view

In 2010, in response to a print publisher’s request for help in getting their back catalog online, I founded, an ebook-only publisher that sells backlist and original titles worldwide.

Currently we’ve got four titles online: an original thriller, The Versailles Memorandum, John Birmingham’s first novel, He Died with a Felafel in His Hand, which is an Australian classic; and two public domain titles–an edition of Nicomachean Ethics and an illustrated one of Pride and Prejudice.

All of these are solely available on the Kindle store, with the exception of Felafel, which is also on iBooks. We’ll be uploading the rest to iBooks in the near future, and to other platforms (B&N/Nook, Overdrive, Kobo) as we establish relationships with them. You can see a current list of all titles on the company site, along with links to the storefronts.

We’re just beginning: current revenue is somewhere around USD 150/month, much of which we currently pay back to publishers as royalties. But we’re quietly hopeful that things will pick up: the company was founded out of my very strong impression, from being a reader as well as a digital publisher in my working life, that ebooks will soon be the dominant, if not the only format for fiction. J. A. Konrath made USD 68,000 in March 2011, so there’s good reason to believe that we and our authors can be financially succesful as indies, and that we have much better chances this way than if we stayed solely within the fiefdom of the big print publishers.

So, 68K a month? We’re not there yet, but we’re not afraid to tell about what we’re up to. Here’s an excerpt from an email I sent this morning to an author who’s looking to publish with us, for a look at what being a startup ebook publisher is like, from the inside:

I’m beginning to reach out to traditional (print, web) and social media to publicize the books I’ve put out to date (hence the Goodreads push–I haven’t been in years and since then the advent of ebooks has made it much more vibrant, which pleases me). But as I’m sure you’ll appreciate, your own involvement in social media as an author is one of the major keys to (possible) success. The other, and you may be familiar with this already if you follow J. A. Konrath (who’s currently making $68K a month off his almost 40 ebooks, almost all of that done on the Kindle platform), is putting out new material fast and often (bear in mind, he’s built up his 40 from over a decade of work, including stuff done with print publishers, schlepping around doing book tours and so on).

So… Usual terms I offer are: editing, production and retail (presently on Kindle and iBooks, others to come), in exchange for a 50% royalty. (We offer 75% on backlist titles that have already been edited.) Pricing is negotiable–we’re experimenting with different pricing levels. You keep print rights. The marketing platform is currently in development, but clearly there’s an incentive for to market books that we publish–so we will be doing that with increasing intensity. Royalties are presently paid twice yearly, in June and December (we might move the months around to avoid EOFY crunch–first royalties are due out this June, so we’ll see how we go).

Currently you’d be 3rd in our queue, after Dylan Thorn, “Burn This” (a poetry collection), and Mark Reister, “How to Own Unlimited Investment Properties”. Peter Saunders’ thriller, “The Versailles Memorandum” came out last week on Kindle (at $2.99/copy after discussions with the author), with iBooks to follow, and we’ve already got John Birmingham’s “He Died with a Felafel in his Hand” out there.

So, if you’re keen to go ahead, the next steps are (1) Edit, (2) Publish, (3) Sell.

Let’s roll.

Author: Ben Hourigan

Ben Hourigan is a novelist from Melbourne, Australia. His books Kiss Me, Genius Boy and My Generation’s Lament are Amazon category bestsellers, and are available wherever good books are sold online. Ben also works as an editor, copywriter, and self-publishing consultant at his own firm, Hourigan & Co. For news and book release updates, sign up to his email newsletter.