The former Editor-in-Chief of William Morrow, Betty Sargent has held positions as Executive Editor of Harper Collins, Executive Editor of Delacorte Press, Fiction and Books Editor of Cosmopolitan Magazine, and book reviewer for CNN. She is the author of seven traditionally published books and one self-published book and, most recently, the founder of BookWorks.
Loren Kleinman (LK): You started out in the traditional publishing industry. What made you want to become an advocate for self-‐published authors?
Betty Sargent (BS): My interest in self-‐publishing sort of crept up on me. I started to notice a big change working its way into the traditional publishing world. Publishers had closed their doors to “the slush pile” also known as unsolicited manuscripts years before, so authors who couldn’t find an agent and connect with a traditional publisher were out of luck. Now these authors (who once had had a chance of being discovered by an editor at a traditional publishing house) were figuring out how to publish their books and find their readers on their own. It was very exciting. A real sea change was under way and I wanted to learn everything I could about it
LK: Why did you start BookWorks (BW)? What can BW do for self-‐published authors that other organizations can’t?
BS: Truth be told, I was sitting next to an indie author at dinner one evening and he said, “You know what the publishing business really needs now—an association where every indie author can go to find out everything she needs to know about self-‐publishing and, chat with others who are doing the same thing.” “Great idea,” said I, “Let’s start it together.” “Sweetheart,” said he, I am too old and too tired. You do it.” And so I did.
We now offer indie authors that interactive community as well as through the following benefits:
* Works-‐in Progress -‐-‐ where you can post up to 2000-word excerpts from your book and get feedback from peers and publishing gurus
* Book of the Week –receive BookWorks Medallion for your book cover
* BookWorks Blog – advice and news from six top industry experts
* BookWorks Bookshop –showcase and sell your book
* Curated Resources – find the best service providers around
* Consult with Our Experts – for premium members
* BookWorks Blurb for Your Cover – for premium members
LK: What do you think the landscape will look like in the next five years for self-‐ published authors?
BS: I think indie authors will own the publishing business, or at least co-‐own it. I suspect that some sophisticated filters will be put in place so that all self-‐ published books will have to meet certain quality standards in order to get hope support from distributors-‐-‐but overall, my guess is that we will see significant consolidation in the traditional publishing business, and that the majority of indie authors will thrive
LK: Why should authors consider being a hybrid author? What are the benefits?
BS: If, by hybrid author, you mean an author who sells her print rights to a traditional publisher while retaining her ebook rights and then publishing and promoting the ebooks herself, that is often a good idea. Traditional publishers are usually very good at producing, marketing and publicizing books so hybrid indie authors get to take advantage of their expertise. The problem is that it is not always easy for indie authors to find traditional publishers interested in buying print rights only.
LK: What have been some of the major highlights of working with self-‐published authors? How are they different from traditionally published authors?
BS: I love working with all authors, whether they hope to self-‐publish or find a traditional publisher. What I find so exciting is that now, with self-‐ publishing, almost everyone can become an author, find their readers and produce a book they are proud of. Indie authors themselves are really no different from traditionally published authors in my experience, except that they have to be willing to take on the marketing part of the book business themselves, and also be willing to hire professionals, such as editors and designers, to help them make their books the best they can be.
LK: Can you talk about working with Joel Friedlander? What is the Author’s Toolkit? How does it help indie authors?
BS: Joel Friedlander was one of the first bloggers to focus on indie publishing. He figured out, early on, that a new day was on the horizon in the publishing business and started generously offering his time and advice to people who were considering becoming indie authors. Now he offers almost everything an indie author could need: webinars, templates, a weekly roundup of blogs on self-‐ publishing, his authors toolkit—you name it, he probably has it, or could tell you where to find it. Joel is eager to help all authors and he is a joy to work with.
LK: How do you define indie? Do you consider yourself indie?
BS: For me Indie, as in “Indie Author”, refers to any author who is publishing outside the traditional book-‐publishing arena, and those are the people we serve at BookWorks. Indeed, I do consider myself an indie author. Here’s what happened. I’m the author of seven traditionally published books.
A few years ago I decided ask for the rights back to one of my books called, How to Get Him Back From the Other Woman—If You Still Want Him. St. Martin’s Press graciously granted me the rights and I hired David Wilk to help me self-‐publish the book since I knew very little about how to do that at the time. More and more, traditionally published authors are starting to do this. It’s is a terrific way to give a whole new life to a book that was originally published by one of the big five traditional publishers—or by any other publisher for that matter.
LK: Why would you encourage indie authors to become part of a writing community? What are the benefits?
BS: Writing can be a lonely business. By joining workshops, writing groups and self-‐ publishing communities like BookWorks and IndieReader, writers can find the support they need, make new friends and connect with lots of other writers who can not only offer them constructive advice but also become potential new readers.
LK: Do you think every traditionally published author should consider self-‐publishing at least one book?
BS: It depends. If a writer has an out of print book, like I did, why not ask to have the rights reverted and give that book a shot at a new life? But, if a writer feels his traditional publisher is not getting his book out into the market place very effectively, then he might want to test the waters himself. If, however, the author is happy with his traditional publisher, and he is not eager to take on the task of producing and marketing his next book himself, I’d suggest he just stay put.
LK: What are some ways outside of BW that you support the indie community?
BS: I write a column for Publishers Weekly and other magazines interested in self-‐ publishing, do lots of public speaking, host workshops in New York and attend all the conferences I can both in New York and in Los Angeles, where I spend part of the year. Also, Joel Friedlander and I have co-‐authored THE SELF-‐PUBLISHERS ULTIMATE RESOURCE GUIDE, which we are happy to say, has been selling like crazy.
LK: What advice would you give to indie authors just starting out?
BS: Be patient, do your homework, hire professionals when you need them and do everything you can to make your book the best it can be. The cream always rises to the top—your book can too.