By SUSAN LAHEY
Reporter with Silicon Hills News
Just getting to “No” is a torturous process.
First you have to find the companies that deal with your particular kind of book—and god forbid it doesn’t fit neatly into a genre box. You have to collect tons of information on things you never knew mattered—like whether you have a platform and how many books like yours have sold recently. And once you’ve submitted it all, you have to wait for the inevitable rejection before you can do it all again for a different agent or publisher.
Monica Landers had done that process for a book she wrote on her adventures as a producer for ABC News, which inspired her to co-found Authors.me. Authors.me is a platform to connect writers to agents or publishers. It helps writers create a profile with all the information agents and publishers need, and can arrange the connection between, say a Young Adult Science Fiction/Fantasy writer and the companies that are looking for that kind of book. Since the site launched in July, they’ve facilitated 15 book deals.
It’s all about user experience. From the author side, said Landers “Trying to talk to publishers is very repetitive, you get no feedback, it’s just a soul crushing experience.” From the publisher side “They have to make sure they don’t miss the next best seller. But they get queries that don’t have enough information even to know if it’s a good fit. It takes a lot of back and forth.” Unfortunately, when publishers or agents start asking questions, authors assume they’re about to get a book deal when, in fact, the agent or publisher may just be gathering enough information to confidently say no.
“Publishers do have a heart and this is the least favorite part of their job. That’s why writers don’t hear back,” Landers said.
Matchmaking for Authors/ Publishers
Authors.me lets writers know when agents or publishers have taken a peek and when they have taken the book “in-house” for a closer look. It gives both parties a place to communicate without a hailstorm of emails.
One of the most groundbreaking features is the platform’s “Discovery” feature that pings publishers and agents when a certain type of project comes in, even if the author hasn’t specifically queried them, giving more books an opportunity to be found.
That’s one of Francesca Lampert’s favorite features. Lampert is the chair of the acquisitions committee for Little Pickle Press in the Bay Area, a children’s book publisher that prides itself on being early adopters. They were among Authors.me’s first publishing houses, migrating from the company’s biggest competitor, Submittable.
“The user interface is one of the most important parts,” Lampert said. “Submittable didn’t have the photos, it wasn’t color coded, it didn’t have the bios.” With Authors.me, she said, there are opportunities to make notes on each work and have reminders about where each submission is in the process.
It’s free for authors to use the service to create queries but if they want feedback, want the “Discovery” feature, want Authors.me to match them with agents and publishers and some other features it costs $19 a month.
Launching a Solution
Self-publishing, which seems like the obvious solution to running the gauntlet of finding a publisher, has produced a flood of books—about 600,000 in 2014 alone. But as Authors.me subscriber, writer Andy Cole points out, there are no gatekeepers. It’s so easy and inexpensive to self-publish a book, that anyone can do it within a matter of hours and it’s difficult for readers to distinguish between the good books and the slush. With a professionally published book, at least certain standards are assumed.
Author and journalist John Christensen self-published Perfect Swing, Imperfect Lies: The Legacy of Golf’s Longest Hitter. A long time freelance writer who has written about and encountered many celebrities over his career, Christensen was baffled by Perfect Swing’s lackluster success, especially given golf’s popularity. He signed up for Authors.me as soon as he learned about it, then met David O’Brien, co-founder of Authors.me, at a book fair in Christensen’s home town of Decatur, Georgia.
Since writing a book is such a time consuming labor of love, Christensen was thrilled to learn that—since he’s published two books already—just submitting a treatment of his next book project on Authors.me was sufficient to possibly generate a deal.
Landers and O’Brien and developer Henrik Kjallbring, started building Authors.me in December of 2014. Landers had written a book about her experiences as a reporter and had loved that part of the project. But when she started the process of selling it to agents or publishers, she realized, the fun part was over. She never published that book. Later she worked as director of content for Pagewise, vice president of media innovation for Demand Media and vice president of operations for Written.com. O’Brien is a writer, and founder of FanU, Gold Brothers Entertainment and GBE Interactive. They began by thinking through all the problems they could solve with the right platform, then interviewed publishers and agents about what would make the whole arrangement easier for them. Publishers and agents who use the site have a link that lets authors submit through it, streamlining their process. The company has a ways to go to build its critical mass of writers, agents and publishers before everyone finds a match. The bulk of its publishers, right now, publish fiction. The company recently opened a New York office to connect with the publishing world there, and is currently raising seed investment.
“We really looked for how we can instantly impact writers, publishers and agents, even before we have 10,000 writers onboard,” Landers said. “On the other hand, having a small population right now gives them an opportunity to massively stand out.”