WEbook is a fairly new service that offers an excellent collaboration platform for all types of authors. After digging around a bit on their website I asked WEbook President Sue Heilbronner if she'd answer a few of my questions for a blog interview. She graciously agreed and provided the following responses:
JW: How did the WEbook service come about and what was the inspiration behind it?
SH: WEbook was founded by Itai Kohavi, successful entrepreneur, mountain unicyclist, and author of two novels and a children’s book. From his own experience as an author, Itai realized that the old model of the solitary writer toiling alone for years – then dropping a manuscript in the mail and hoping for the best – was woefully out of date. With the advent of social networking, blogging, and other next-generation trends in writing and digital content, the "lonely writer" just doesn't make sense anymore. Itai thought there had to be a better way for people to write, read, and get published, so he assembled a team of software developers, writers, and other idea-people, and behold! WEbook was born.
JW: Your operation differs from self-publishers because WEbook selects certain projects and pays for production, manufacturing and distribution. How do you choose which books to publish and what retailers do you distribute through?
SH: The entire WEbook community participates in publication decisions – that's one of the things that makes us different from traditional publishers. Starting July 4th (Independence Day for writers), WEbook will open its inaugural voting cycle. WEbook users will have the chance to review and vote on a range of exciting books on the site, and WEbook will choose its next published books from the projects voted in the top 10%. WEbook titles will initially be available through the WEbook store and Amazon.
JW: How do you see the publishing world evolving in the coming years and how do you see WEbook fitting into that vision?
SH: Everyone knows that the publishing world is headed for big changes. Traditional publishers have been slow to respond to the demands of readers and writers for a more open, flexible publishing model. The Web 2.0 revolution provides unprecedented opportunities to harness the energy of huge numbers of talented writers and engaged readers who don't play in the traditional publishing world. Through the use of collaborative web technologies, community-sourcing, and social networking, WEbook hopes to re-define how books are created, published, and consumed.
JW: What's a typical day in the life like for the president of WEbook?
SH: I golf a lot, and spend weekends in Fiji with George Clooney.
Okay, one out of three isn't bad. Seriously – I wish I had such a thing as a "typical" day. On any given day, I might be in the WEbook offices in Bethesda, MD, brainstorming and sharing mixed nuts with the WEbook marketing, production, and content staff. I might be in Mountain View, CA, keeping up with WEbook's software developers. I might be in Israel meeting with investors. Or I might be in Bethesda, on the way to the airport to go to Mountain View, while on a conference call with investors. All this while trying to keep up with industry trends and make sure the overall direction of the company reflects our newest, best thinking on community-sourced publishing.
It is amazing how much time I spend fielding comments and suggestions from WEbook.com users. The web gives users an open platform to share their hopes, dreams, aspirations, and criticisms. We get all that and more, and I along with every member of our team spend a good amount of time fielding queries, funneling the best suggestions into our plans, and sending out t-shirts to the people who take time out of their day to help us make WEbook better.
In my spare time, I do occasionally find time for a hilly walk on closely cut fairways.
JW: What are the biggest challenges you face in making WEbook successful?
SH: At some level, the challenges at WEbook are the same as the challenges in life – limited time, limited resources. We have a tremendous amount of talent and energy on our team, and we're always faced with the difficult decision of which great ideas to implement right now, and which to save for later.
There are, of course, some interesting challenges unique to our mission. We're dependent on the strength of the WEbook community for our success – we need writers writing, readers reading, reviewers reviewing, and we need them all to come together in a way that both produces publishable content and supports quality publishing decisions. Our challenge is to respond to the needs of the community and build our platform in such a way that we become the destination for writers looking to get published, and for readers looking to have their say. The bigger and more dynamic our community gets, the more appealing we become as a destination. The good news is that we have lots of great writers, readers, and reviewers already, and more are showing up every day. We believe that if we continue to offer a high-quality place to write, read, and connect with other writers and readers, and if we offer attractive publishing terms for the top-rated content produced by WEbook writers – and with our 50/50 profit split for writers, we think our terms will be pretty attractive – we will build the critical mass we need to make a lasting mark on the publishing world.