Tuesday, 30 September 2014

The Industry View - Reedsy's Ricardo Fayet

Ricardo Fayet
Ricardo Fayet is a co-founder of Reedsy, a curated marketplace connecting publishing professionals. He’s primarily a startup enthusiast who likes to closely follow the publishing industry. He spends most of his spare time analysing European football games and complaining about the London weather.

So how would you define Reedsy? 

There are a lot of definitions of Reedsy, from the succinct “curated marketplace for publishing professionals” to long paragraphs explaining exactly what we have in mind for the near future.

However, there is one that really expresses the brand we are trying to create: Reedsy is a publishing company where authors get to choose the people they want to work with and keep their rights and royalties.

Many fantastic editors and designers have left the big publishers in the past few years to work as freelancers, and almost all like to tap into the self-publishing market. We’re creating a place for them to regroup in with other top-notch freelancers so authors can easily find them.

Many author assistance schemes have attracted a certain amount of scepticism for selling sub-par services at a premium price. What makes Reedsy different?

Self-publishing should not mean “vanity publishing”, as seemed to be the case 5-10 years ago. There are tons of professional “indie” authors out there, seeking to make a living out of writing, and we believe they should have access to the same level of quality they would get through a big publisher.

We are all about that. We call ourselves a curated marketplace because we are going to check all the profiles of the freelancers featured on Reedsy to make sure they comply with our standards. We don’t want to stop there though, we are working on exciting collaboration and project management tools to save authors and freelancers both time and money. We think the way authors work with editors today is a bit outdated (we already had MS Word and email 10 years ago, maybe it’s time to move on?…) though we will naturally let people use whatever tools they prefer.

What drew you to the self-publishing market?

Emmanuel (my co-founder) and I were among the first people in France to read on tablets. Emmanuel actually imported his from across the pond. We were enjoying the “digital revolution” as readers and started thinking about what that revolution actually meant for authors. We started digging into self-publishing, spent a couple of years researching “the industry” and felt like almost all services offered to “indie” authors today were “vanity publishing” ones, so we came up with Reedsy.

The media likes to fan the trad v. indie debate whereas others believe the industries are complementary. What’s your take?

I don’t think the trad v. indie debate we currently have is the right one, because one side of the debate is totally anachronistic. Publishing companies haven’t changed their business model at all over the past 50 years.

Today, with some work, money and dedication, you can get a pretty good book out and sell it to the world. What publishers do, today, is save you the investment and some of the work, give you a small advance, and add one distribution channel that is shrinking year after year (print) to your distribution strategy. For that they take 90% or more royalties, the same share they took 10 years ago, when you basically had no other choice as a writer than going with them…

If this business model changes (and that’s what people like Hugh Howey have been calling for, basically), then we can have a debate. We can say “if you’re entrepreneurially minded and good at marketing, you should self-publish, else try to find yourself a publisher”. But right now for me there’s no debate. Which company is ever going to give away 90% equity in exchange for a couple thousand dollars and access to a shrinking distribution channel?… If you do that it means that you don’t really believe in your company.

You’’re a speaker of more than one language– - are translators going to be a significant resource at Reedsy?

Definitely. This has been our vision since the very beginning. We had to start somewhere, so we are doing it with the most basic services, the ones without which you cannot self-publish (editing and design). But our goal is to recreate a publishing company and be a kind of “one-stop-shop” (without ever sacrificing quality, but I’ve made that clear already).

In year 2 of Reedsy, we will be adding new languages (countries) and opening our marketplace to translators. Finding good literary translators is the next big thing for today’s successful indie authors, and it’s no easy thing.

In our last issue, David Gaughran gave his opinion on the Amazon/Hachette battle. It’’s a business dispute but how does it affect authors?

Wow, it’s kind of difficult to come after David Gaughran and all that has already been said about it…

What has struck me in this dispute, from the author’s perspective, is the trad. vs self-pub. clash that has emerged, and how both parties have handled the situation… If you sum up and caricature it a bit, the first group has paid a ton of money to get an ad in a newspaper, while the second one has created a (free) online petition that has almost immediately gathered thousands of signatures…

I’ve tried to follow this neutrally, as a reader, but as I discussed it with Andrew Rhomberg from Jellybooks over Twitter, it really makes you wonder where these best-selling traditionally published authors took their PR advice from…

In any case, I think this battle mainly affects traditionally published authors, because they are the ones in danger if Hachette comes victorious out of it and prices ebooks high (in order to protect print). And they are the ones in danger if the “negotiations” (or absence of it) carry on and pre-order buttons are not reinstalled.

The good thing for them is that indie authors genuinely care about them. Let’s think about it for a moment, if Howey’s/Konrath’s/Eisler’s theory is right and publishers are actually fighting to price their authors’ ebooks too high, it’s actually a good thing for indies’ marketshare, right?

Well, I voiced this question to many indies, and the global response was: “yes, but we actually care about authors in general, not just indies”. I feel that right now Hugh Howey and co are fighting the mid-to-low-list mainstream authors’ battle, because these authors basically don’t have a voice. And that’s a good thing. Now, I could be totally wrong and mid-list “mainstream” authors may actually be on Douglas Preston’s side, but as they have no voice, it’s difficult to know…

I know you’’re a serious reader. So which book, regardless of publication source, has impressed you most this year?

I realised a few months ago I had probably never read a self-published book before. So I started reading Ben Galley’s Emaneska series as I enjoy the occasional “dark fantasy” book (as he likes to call his genre).

I was incredibly impressed by his second one (Pale Kings). Don’t get me wrong, the first one wasn’t bad, it was pretty entertaining, but not much more than that. From the first pages of the second one, though, I really felt like I was entering his world, and not only “reading” it.

Seeing this incredible improvement from one book to the other makes you feel close to the author, so I actually reached out to him to congratulate him (something I had never done before). I can’t wait to read his next novel, Bloodrush.

Nice easy one to finish with - how do you see the future of the publishing industry?

Honestly? I see it as a combination of two complementary type of companies. On the one hand, companies like Reedsy, making quality self-publishing possible and “easy” since the very beginning. On the other hand, actual publishing companies with a fair business model (like FG Press).

Some authors are just not supposed to self-publish, those who don’t want to have to pick their editorial and design team, negotiate prices, do all the marketing, etc. At Reedsy we can make self-publishing easy but it will always make sense for some authors to just have the publisher handle everything which is not writing.

 By JJ Marsh

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