Matthew Smith is the Director of Urbane Publications Limited. He kindly took the time to write an article for me about his publishing business and how it all started.
THE THIRD WAY
I’m a very lucky chap, as I’ve been fortunate enough to work in and around books for 25 years (hard to believe I know, given my youthful good looks). I started as a bookseller, when readers bought books, and digital was a watch. And I’ve worked for publishers big and small over the years, building experience and trying to find the ‘right’ way to create and publish great content. There has been such enormous change over the last few years, but the essentials remain the same – talented authors producing astonishing content that we all want to engage with. And despite an emphasis on ‘issues’ in the industry, there is a huge opportunity for innovative, entrepreneurial publishers to grow and thrive – I just didn’t feel I could pursue those opportunities working for another company. I decided to be bold (read stark raving crazy) and create Urbane. So I could publish the way I think content should be published.
The aim for Urbane Publications is always to drive, and be driven by, collaboration. Collaboration with authors to produce books and content worthy of their vision and blood, sweat and tears; and collaborating with readers to build an ever-growing community of word lovers who engage with books, authors and each other. So far so good – six months in and the publishing programme is building quickly, and the feedback from readers on published titles has been reassuringly positive (and in some cases wonderfully flattering). Even the odd 1 star negative review has made sense (although I obviously cried for days over each one).
Collaboration. That’s not a word said lightly. It isn’t just marketing fluff. And this isn’t about providing a production service either. I could use my experience to take advantage of the self-publishing boom, set up a system and charge eager authors a healthy fee to throw their unedited words together between some covers. But I think there’s a better way, a third way, that combines all the benefits of traditional publishing (an engaged editor, script development, knowledge, design, route to market, promotion etc) but gives the author creative and commercial engagement during every part of the process. Every aspect of the project is a shared experience with shared goals, a genuine partnership. And that includes the sharing of the revenue, because every author deserves a fair return on their words.
Many publishers have forgotten that authors should consistently be at the centre of the publishing experience, from initial discussion and on throughout the life of the book. Every single project is unique and every author plays a key role in not just delivering a manuscript but bringing it to life. For too long many in the publishing industry have been treating authors as a commodity, a deliverer of content, part of a process not the key driver of the publishing experience. This seems particularly daft when so many talented and smart authors can just self-publish. I want authors to be engaged from day one – because they know they can be. The aim is shared goals from the outset – what do we want, how can we make it happen, how do we realise success. It makes for a lively, engaged and ultimately fulfilling publishing experience where both parties want exactly the same thing – a great book that sells like hot cakes.
And how and why will the third way work? It has to be through persistency and belief. There is still a rather entrenched perception of authoring and publishing a book that simply getting it produced means it will be read, that readers will immediately rush to grab a copy. There are absolutely no guarantees anymore, not even for those publishing with the big corporates. That’s why the opportunities for an agile and responsive publishing approach are so exciting! Discoverability is vital to a book’s success and achieving it is really hard work! That’s why I already owe a huge debt of gratitude to the bloggers and reviewers who are spreading the word – the strongest and most powerful marketing is still word of mouth, personal recommendation, an individual endorsement – and authors are key in making that happen as the word always begins within their network.
So all you budding authors out there, we want you to consider publishing with Urbane and partnering with us for an enriching publishing experience. When it comes to a great book and a valuable piece of content your words will always be the vital ingredient – let Urbane help you take those words to the right audience in the most effective forms possible, with YOU as the key driver in the process. The Third way – you know it makes sense 🙂
For more information about Urbane visit http://urbanepublications.com