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Author Solutions Interview with Kevin Weiss

Author_solutions_2Author Solutions is the parent company of several brands including AuthorHouse and iUniverse; recently I was fortunate enough to sit down with several key members of their organization.  The Author Solutions team showed me some of their existing tools and talked a bit about their vision for the future of the industry.  It was a great session and I plan to cover some of these items in future posts.

In the mean time, Kevin Weiss, President and CEO of Author Solutions, agreed to do a blog interview as well.  Here's what Kevin had to say about Author Solutions, the iUniverse acquisition and the marketing and PR process:

JW: What are the key attributes that you feel help distinguish Author Solutions from the other self-publishing options out there today?

KW: Leadership and innovation. At AuthorHouse and iUniverse we have continually introduced new services and systems to make publishing more professional, affordable and accessible to authors. That commitment has enabled us to become the worldwide market share leader. But we’ve only just begun.

We are currently making significant investments in both our internal production and customer-facing systems. By Q3, we will introduce the most advanced systems in the industry, which will give authors --and publishers-- unrivaled flexibility, efficiency and opportunity to make the best choices throughout the publishing process. 

We are also working diligently to make publishing a more "open" environment. Historically, the industry has been "closed" in the sense that a select group of people decided what should be made available to the market. We don’t think that system will work with the next generation of authors.

They have been raised with file sharing, online collaboration and self-directing content creation. They also expect nearly simultaneous feedback. Waiting months for a rejection letter won’t work with this crowd. That's why we have made our Wordclay platform available to individual authors and communities who have members who want to publish books quickly, affordably and professionally.

We take all we’ve learned from publishing nearly 80,000 titles and make that available to any one who has a book in them. We believe the end result will be more authors publishing more titles for more readers, which is good for readers, good for us and good for the industry.

We expect to have more to say about both of these areas around BEA, so stay tuned.

JW: Last year you completed the acquisition of another self-publishing operation, iUniverse.  How do you see these two teams fitting together and what does this mean to authors from both organizations?

KW: Author Solutions acquired iUniverse because we see the brands as distinct and the teams as complimentary. AuthorHouse, which was Author Solutions first acquisition, has a broader product offering both in publishing and promotional services. iUniverse has distinguished itself by its editorial services and traditional-publishing experience.

With this acquisition, we are able to take the best practices of both organizations and offer authors of both brands the most valued services in the industry and more expertise than any other self-publishing company in the world. Because we are publishing nearly 20,000 titles, we are also able to create production efficiencies that we can pass on to authors in the form of higher value and more affordable services. We are excited about the future of both brands and the strength of the leadership teams.

JW: How about on the marketing side...what programs do you offer your authors to help them get the visibility they need to succeed?

KW: Ask successful authors today and they will tell you they work on their marketing plan as much as their manuscript. So while we provide a range of services to help authors gain visibility, they still need to make a commitment to promote their books.

Depending on the brand, we can offer authors a public relations program, bookstore marketing packages, including returnability and even a personal publicist if they have the budget and the title warrants it.

Perhaps the most important marketing tool we provide though is a free author Web site. We've been offering this service through our AuthorHouse brand since December and authors love it. Four weeks ago, we just announced a beta version of AuthorTree. AuthorTree is a site that offers all published authors a free, easy-to-use tool to set up an author Web site.

These Web sites give authors 24/7 visibility for potential readers and provide a powerful way for them to build an audience.

JW: How much do you rely on authors to help with the PR and marketing effort?  Do you have any success stories you could share?

KW: As I stated previously, the author is the key to marketing and PR. Even JK Rowling has to get out and talk about her books, and it is no different for our authors. We have  many great examples of authors successfully marketing their works, but two recent ones stand out.

The first is a book AuthorHouse published titled The Gift that Heals by Reg Green. Reg's seven-year old son was murdered in Italy 12 years ago on a family vacation. They made the decision then to donate his organs and the story received worldwide acclaim. Since then Reg has become a leading advocate for organ donation and wanted to write a book about how organ donation affects the people involved in the process. He is very passionate and has a great sense of urgency, so he didn't want to wait for months or years to have traditional publishers decide to publish his book. He self-published with us and the book is selling well. A few weeks ago, he was featured in People magazine and last week he was on the morning talk shows in New York

Another example is Martha Barnette. Martha had previously published with a traditional house, but they allowed her books to go out of print. In the past few years she has become the host of a radio nationally-syndicated Public Radio show called A Way with Words, which focuses on the beauty and intricacy of words. She has published two books with iUniverse that were previously out of print and brought them back for her listeners. Self-publishing has allowed her to develop a whole new following of readers and create an even greater platform.



I often say in the world of user generated content, the people in the best position to deliver meaningful, relevant content are professional communicators and the Online PR can be a powerful tool to do this because of its extensive reach online not only as a media relations tool but now as a direct-to-consumer communication via search engines and other online reach.

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