Reedsy pushes for better indie books through collaboration

Reedsy co-founder Emmanuel Nataf talks about the future of indie publishing.

Credit: Reedsy
Credit: Reedsy

Just because I’m an indie author doesn’t mean I can’t get good help with editing and book design.

I recently signed up for Reedsy, an innovative web platform that helps indie authors find freelance publishing assistance. A few days ago, I signed ex-DC Comics editor Rachel Gluckstern to edit my upcoming novel, The Wanderer and the New West. It’s an exciting collaboration that was made possible by Reedsy.

Also read:
Line between traditional, indie publishing nearly gone: The Fussy Librarian
How indie authors can break through the noise with NoiseTrade
How to find readers and get book reviews with Story Cartel

Reedsy was founded in London during the summer of 2014 by Emmanuel Nataf, Matthew Cobb, Ricardo Fayet and Vincent Durand. For the first year, the co-founders worked on Reedsy as a side project on nights and weekends, but it became a full-time job after the startup was accepted into Seedcamp, a London-based startup accelerator. Soon after, the tech startup raised cash from angel investors including Ben Yoskovitz, the bestselling author of Lean Analytics. Today, Reedsy is a team of seven that operates out of a co-working space in the Shoreditch neighborhood of London.

I spoke with co-founder Emmanuel Nataf about what Reedsy hopes to accomplish and where it sees the publishing industry headed. You can read the full interview below.

Adam: What problem were you trying to solve when you created Reedsy?

Emmanuel: We were seeing two major publishing trends converging. On the one hand, more and more authors were self-­publishing, as they could easily reach an audience through digital distribution (460,000 titles were self-­published in the US in 2014 according to Bowker). On the other hand, more and more top publishing professionals have left traditional houses in the past few years and have gone freelance, available to work with both traditional and self-published authors.

At the time, we were seeing too many low­-quality books being pushed to the Kindle Store. It was clear that self-­publishing was not yet a viable alternative to the traditional route. Quality can only be achieved with an investment in editorial, design and marketing services, something that self-­published authors did not have access to. They needed a single, trusted and quality source of people that they could collaborate with.

It’s from this frustration that we decided to create Reedsy, a curated marketplace for the
publishing industry.

More recently, we started to work with traditional publishers as well. They have been impressed
with the level of quality Reedsy professionals can provide, and love the way our collaborative
tools streamline their workflows.

Adam: Today, authors can self­-publish a book all by themselves if they want to. Why is it
important that authors pay for freelance help, and how big of an investment does that
need to be?

Emmanuel: The production process of a book doesn’t stop after the writing phase ­– it starts there. Self-­publishing authors can certainly release new titles much faster than “Big 5” authors but they can’t skip editing, design or marketing if they want to have any chance of being successful. In fact, to stand out from the crowd, they need to publish a high-quality product and have a solid plan to commercialize it. This takes time and requires experience. This is where Reedsy professionals can help.

We are planning on open-­sourcing our data so authors can get a better idea of the cost of self-publishing. However, for an 80,000 ­word book that needs editing, design and marketing help, you will need at least $2,000. Most spend $5,000 or more if they want to work with award-winning professionals and want to design an aggressive marketing plan.

Adam: The publishing industry is in a state of flux right now. Where do you think it’s going, and
how well will self-­published authors fare against industry published authors?

Emmanuel: The whole value chain is evolving so much that I’m not sure how long the self­publishing/traditional publishing antagonism will remain.

For instance, we recently helped PFD Literary Agents set up their own digital imprint where they give a very interesting 50/50 deal to authors. The emergence of more digital imprints is something that we follow closely. What we believe, though, is that the production of high-quality books can be commoditized through a service like Reedsy, and that publishers should only do what they do best: curate content, offer physical distribution and negotiate foreign rights.

Credit: Reedsy
Credit: Reedsy

Adam: How many freelancers and how many authors do you have on Reedsy?

Emmanuel: About 6,000 authors have joined Reedsy so far and we have selected 300+ professionals out of 7,000 applications.

Adam: What is the most popular service authors are looking for when they join Reedsy?

Emmanuel: Self­-publishing authors are mainly looking for editing services when they come to Reedsy. We would love to see self-­publishing authors invest more into their book covers though: too many of them still underestimate the incredible impact a beautiful cover can have for their book sales.

We see mix of authors looking to self-­publish and authors looking to polish their manuscript before submitting to agents or publishers, which is why we recently added a “query letter review” service to our marketplace. Eventually, we want Reedsy to become the backbone of the industry, providing high­-quality services to all authors or publishers.

Adam: Do you have any minimum qualifications for freelancers? Is it required they have
experience in the publishing industry?

Emmanuel:  Yes! Our team receives hundreds of applications every week and only selects a handful of professionals. The objective is to provide the highest level of quality to authors and publishers. This is why people often describe Reedsy as a “curated” marketplace. We require a strong experience working at top publishers or with bestselling authors and a portfolio of at least 10 books. We also ask them to connect their social networks to Reedsy so we can verify their online identity.

Adam: How does Reedsy make money? Is it purely commission-­based?

Emmanuel: Our fees are shared between professionals and clients who both pay a 10 percent commission on every transaction. This allows us to develop our product, curate our network, and offer customer support with a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee.

Adam: Besides Reedsy, what other innovative companies are helping indie authors right now?

Emmanuel: Crowdfunding platforms are a good complement to Reedsy. For instance, Reedsy authors often use Publishizer or Kickstarter to raise funds to pay for our services. We are also pretty excited to see what Find My Audience is going to release in the coming months to help authors locate and engage with a highly qualified audience.

Adam: What’s coming next for Reedsy? What can you tell me about any plans to further expand
or enhance your services?

Emmanuel: Many things! First, we will be adding more services to our marketplace in the coming months: marketing, ghostwriting and translation will be progressively rolled out. Then, we will be adding dedicated publisher accounts to allow publishers to manage entire teams and projects through Reedsy. Last but not least, we will be releasing our collaborative book editor to allow any author to work collaboratively on their books and get properly formatted EPUB and PDF files instantly.

Thanks so much to Emmanuel Nataf for the Interview! For more on innovative indie publishing companies, check out my interviews with Story Cartel, NoiseTrade and The Fussy Librarian.

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