Changing the Perception of Self-Publishing

In Guest Contributors by Guest Contributor

Josh Brody, CEO, Pronoun

Josh Brody, CEO, Pronoun

Josh Brody, CEO of Pronoun (ex-Vook), outlines his company’s aims in refashioning itself as an author-first digital publishing and distribution platform.

By Josh Brody, CEO, Pronoun

Publishing is filled with people who care deeply about books. Yet despite unflagging dedication to their craft and their readers, authors often – if not always – end up with the short straw in a draw.

As other creative markets become increasingly democratized on the backs of new technologies (think YouTube and iTunes), publishing has been stuck in the same model from the 1800s. There are still thousands of submissions for every spot in “traditional” publishing. It is considered like winning the lottery, except it’s a lottery that takes away from what got the author there in the first place – creative, artistic, and financial control.

Today’s publishing industry doesn’t put authors first. When publishers fully control the marketing of a book, for example, authors don’t learn how to directly reach readers. In giving up their authority, they put themselves in a precarious position: if (and usually when) the publisher gives up on them, their story is over.

There’s a new way to “win” in digital book publishing, but as an industry we’re going to have to work together to change the perception of what the path to that ultimate goal looks like. Many thought self-publishing was the answer. And yes, self-publishing has benefitted from recent advances in technology for creating, distributing, and reading books. Authors can now publish on their own, with complete freedom. But even the free need support.

At its worst, self-publishing is rife with costly, bewildering services offering false promises, prompting legal action from the authors they purport to serve. At its best, honest ebook conversion and distribution companies mean well – but when they charge fees for creating and distributing books that in many cases don’t earn profits, the focus ends up being on making money from authors, not making money for them.

Our vision is that no one else writes authors’ stories except for them.


Pronoun was founded on the belief that technology can power the most successful digital book publishing model for the future, one that is beyond the existing frameworks of “traditional publishing” and “self-publishing.” We think the way to shift the paradigm is to put authors first, and we do that by leveraging technology to offer valuable services at no cost to authors.

Technology can drastically reduce the cost and time it takes to create and distribute a book. For example, software can can efficiently convert manuscripts to high-quality digital books that work on every device. Digital distribution can reach millions of potential readers instantly, and data-driven digital tools can help authors better understand and reach their readers.

So yes, technology can accomplish amazing things, but what’s even more exciting is the business model that technology engenders. At Pronoun, we are developing a platform that draws on these technology benefits to make publishing not only completely open, but also free. By using technology to automate ebook creation, distribution, and title-specific market analysis, we can give authors greater control over their work, and also enable them to keep 100% of their earnings.

We believe that by making publishing free, we’ll create a fairer market for millions of authors. When that happens, opportunities to build additional valuable services that grow our business will emerge. For example, down the road, Pronoun might help authors build and curate reader communities, manage social media, secure speaking engagements, sell movie rights, get print deals…there are lots of possibilities, and we trust our authors to tell us what they most want, need, and are willing to pay for. Today, though, our priority is making our core services the best they can be, and they will always be free.

An author should never have to pay to create or distribute their book, and they shouldn’t have to pay to understand what’s happening with their book in terms of its performance in the marketplace. They shouldn’t have to pay to learn how to reach more readers. And they should not have to cede control of their publishing rights to a corporation whose infrastructure and business model was developed before the advent of the internet. We can create a more favorable market for authors, and this new way of publishing has the potential to create a business model that’s more favorable for everyone.

About the Author

Guest Contributor

Guest contributors to Publishing Perspectives have diverse backgrounds in publishing, media and technology. They live across the globe and bring unique, first-hand experience to their writing.