Self-Publishers Go to the Library: SELF-e at BEA’s Author Hub

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

19 May 2014 iStock_000022457377Small photog mjbs texted story image

Both in their books’ sales potential and library access, self-publishing authors will find encouragement next week at BEA’s Author Hub.

Table of Contents

  1. Our Live #EtherIssue Chat is Wednesday
  2. Author Hub-ah, Hub-ah: Howey and a Ribbon Cutting
  3. But Checking Into a Library?
  4. Last Week’s Topic: When Retailers & Publishers Collide

Our Live #EtherIssue Chat is Wednesday

Publishing Perspectives Editor in Chief Edward Nawotka and I will host a live Twitter chat on this week’s Ether topics — a new initiative to get self-published books into libraries and Hugh Howey’s latest AuthorEarnings report — at 11 a.m. ET / 8 a.m. PT—and that’s 4 p.m. BST in London. We’ll use the hashtag #EtherIssue as we do weekly. Join us and watch for @PubPerspectives and @Porter_Anderson on Twitter.

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Author Hub-ah, Hub-ah: Howey and a Ribbon Cutting

By Porter Anderson

BEA 2014 basicThe first-ever uPublishU Author Hub has its ribbon-cutting at 10 a.m. on Thursday May 29 at BookExpo America (BEA). You’re most welcome to join us if you’re there with a BEA badge.

Author C.J. Lyons, as mistress of the ribbons (I just made that up) will hand off to her fellow “Indie Bestseller,” the author Hugh Howey. And Howey will lead the first programmed session in the Hub, discussing findings and interpretations of his brand-new May 2014 Report from

Along with Howey and Lyons’ co-headliners in the Hub — Bella Andre, Barbara Freethy, and H.M. Ward — the entrepreneurial authors who are members of the Author Hub will find a lot to think about, a lot to be encouraged about, in what Howey has to say.

Hugh Howey

Hugh Howey

As detailed in my report at Thought Catalog, New Howey Report: Self-Published eBook Authors May Out-Earn The Rest By 27%, Howey’s project to develop quarterly data for authors this time (the follow from February’s debut) shows a healthy stability in the methodology, and a couple of intriguing points about the volatility of new titles vs. backlist long-tail material, for both traditionally and self-published authors.

As Howey writes in the new report, devised with the help of his as-yet unnamed author-associate, “Data Guy”:

As self-published authors build their own backlists, and as more of these authors employ freelance editors and cover artists and pay attention to quality, could there be a future where self-published authors as a cohort are earning a good deal more than traditionally published authors? Our advice to an aspiring author today might be to do one of two things: either build a time machine and travel ten years into the past to query their work — or self-publish today.

The new report may well raise new controversy around the Howeyan attempt to help authors determine a project’s best path to publication. As he and I will be discussing onstage at Writer’s Digest’s Annual Conference in New York and at its Novel Writing Intensive in Los Angeles. I can tell you from my experience of a live conversation with him and Publishing Perspectives Editor-in-Chief Edward Nawotka this month in Berlin at Klopotek’s Publishers’ Forum, Howey will be ready. The guy is always in command of his material and has an abiding passion for this project to support his fellow authors as they struggle, as he has done, to choose how to publish their work.

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But Checking Into a Library?

SELF-e logoOne thing that has slowed down many who might have liked to consider self-publishing is the quandary of how to get their books into libraries.

There have been some exceptions. One was the Smashwords agreement Mark Coker made with Califa, the California public library consortium, for some 10,000 books made available per Smashwords authors’ opt-in on the program. There’s coverage of that here in a 2012 story in Writing on the Ether at  (Coker will speak in the Author Hub, by the way, at 12:30 p.m. Friday May 30.)

Well, the Library Journal and BiblioBoard believe they have the answer.

It’s called SELF-e, and its new site is just up.

On Thursday May 29 at 1:30 p.m. in New York, Biblioboard’s Mitchell Davis and Library Journal’s Ian Singer will be in the BEA Author Hub to meet with writers and explain the new program.

Quickly, some important points:

SELF-e is a curated program. And immediately on getting that point firmly in mind, you’ve encountered what has been one of the biggest barriers to librarians’ interaction with the self-publishing community: how can librarians possibly face the massive wave of self-published books? — that “tsunami of content,” as Amazon’s Jon Fine likes to call it.

  • Once chosen for the program, a book becomes part of what the company calls “a unique discovery platform for participating public libraries across the United States.”
  • The program is platform- and device-agnostic.
  • A component of the program makes the books of locally based self-publishing authors available to library patrons on a statewide basis.
  • No multi-user limitations on checkouts of these books.
  • No cost to participating authors.
C.J. Lyons

C.J. Lyons

When I asked C.J. Lyons why she has officially endorsed the new program, she told me that it brings the library network into the discoverability effort for new books:

With so many books out there, authors and readers, both, rely upon libraries for discoverability. I’m so excited by [this] new partnership that will make it easier for authors and readers to connect–and for libraries to maintain a growing catalog without it becoming overwhelming.

If an author’s book is chosen to be included, then that author provides Library Journal with a non-exclusive license to make the book available to for library subscription programs. There are no restrictions on promoting and selling these ebooks “to any market,” the SELF-e material says, “including the public library market via other vendors).

If not chosen for the SELF-e platform, a writer still can get her or his ebook into “a statewide module with other local authors.” That localized module won’t be curated as the main program will be.

BiblioBoardFirst selections from entries offered by their authors (see the site for instructions) will be chosen later this year after a summer and fall curation period handled by Library Journal.

Another exciting point: the program is developing a “transparent system for all authors to see how many people are reading their ebooks and where those people are.” They expect that part of the program to be ready about a year from now.

In his statement in support of the initiative, Howey writes, “The SELF-e approach to curation combined with simultaneous user-access will encourage books to be discovered and even go viral.”

Librarians will be glad to know that there are no limits to how many submissions they can take from local authors for inclusion in their (non-curated) statewide modules.

Those librarians will also avoid the headaches of patron complaints about restrictions. “there are no wait lists or turnaways,” the material from SELF-e says, “and no time limits on checkouts.”

Library JournalThe homepage at the SELF-e site has an FAQ for both authors and librarians (scroll down to see it). And BiblioBoard already has modules (themed collections of material) in place, including its British Library: Common Core Learning module.

Lyons relates her own excitement about SELF-e to her childhood: “As a child, libraries were my portal to the universe, both real and imagined. How thrilling it is to be able to help readers of today and tomorrow never be without a good book.”

And that’s a good place to start with some questions for our #EtherIssue live conversation Wednesday.

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Wednesday’s #EtherIs­sue at 11 a.m. ET / 4 p.m. BST

Please give these questions a bit of thought, and join us:

  • With enough freely checked-out ebook material in libraries through a program  like SELF-e, can libraries begin to regain their footing in the wider books community as discovery centers for self-published work?
  • If you’re an author, how would you feel about providing SELF-e with the non-exclusive license it requires?
  • Do you agree that library exposure promotes sales? There are those who believe that a library card actually inhibits a user’s buying of books because books are available free of charge at libraries.
  • Does the curatorial element bother you? Is it a bit of gatekeeping?
  • Howey, in talking about the SELF-e program, says: “Librarians can be a powerful marketing force for emerging authors.” Do you agree?
  • And what of Howey’s latest AuthorEarnings report? — how comfortable do you feel with its findings on this second quarterly round? Would you have thought — at least among ebooks on Amazon where the sample is taken — that self-publishing authors might actually be gaining modestly this spring?

We’d love your input on Wednesday at 11 a.m. Eastern, 8 a.m. Pacific, 4 p.m. BST on hashtag #EtherIssue — see you then.

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Last Week’s Topic: When Retailers & Publishers Collide

12 May 2014 iStock_000009831697Small photog yanishka 2 texted story imageWhen we asked our Wednesday #EtherIssue conversation colleagues last week about the Hachette-Amazon standoff over contract negotiations, we got an admirably restrained, sensible discussion. It’s one of the things that tends to hallmark our Publishing Perspectives live chats — mutual respect and level-headed, mature debate, a big credit to our readers.

This is a volatile issue, of course, as is anything to do with Amazon and publishing. And as we go to press on this edition of the Ether, there is word from Frankfurt that three Swedish-owned German publishers may be encountering contractual tensions with the Seattle-based retailer, as well.

Here are  a few of the tweets that were exchanged during our discussion. We’ll look forward to seeing everyone online Wednesday.

And just a note in closing that our final tweeter there, the author Michael Sullivan, has since written a Digital Book World Expert Publishing Blog post on his experience of this as an Hachette author.

You can read his piece here: An Author’s Perspective on the Hachette-Amazon Battle.

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Porter Anderson is a Fellow with the National Critics Institute, a 33-year journalist with several newspapers and three networks of CNN, as well as a producer posted to the Rome headquarters of the United Nations’ World Food Programme. His Issues on the Ether column appears here at Publishing Perspectives on Tuesdays, followed by an #EtherIssue live discussion on Twitter on Wednesdays. Anderson’s Writing on the Ether articles are read at Thought Catalog and he is a regular contributor to He writes the Porter Anderson Meets column weekly for The Bookseller‘s Friday magazine in London with a live #PorterMeets Twitter interview with a newsmaker on Mondays. More about him is at Find him at Google+

Main image – iStockphoto: mjbs / Boston Public Library

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.