SelfPubSmart.com excites me. It’s a new site with candid reviews written by writers about the self-publishing options and companies we all need to know more about. Many Indie author sites have come and gone but this one fills a major need–should quickly become a smart solution and valuable service. Got experience with any self-publishing company to share (e.g. CreateSpace, KDP Select, Bookbaby, Dog Ear, iUniverse)? Just join the site for free and help writers navigate their options or read the reviews to see what others recommend.
Founder, Andrew Chapman, is a publishing consultant, professional speaker, author, and former president of a large publishing association who has met many authors confused by the self-publishing process. He’s found how easily writers waste money on services in pursuit of dreams. In the worst cases, authors have been ripped off by deceptive practices.
Andrew knew there had to be a better way. With thousands of authors taking the self-publishing route every year, all of them using some type of company or service in the process, other authors and aspiring writers could benefit from collective knowledge. In leading and growing Publishers & Writers of San Diego for seven years, he prioritized the sharing of this information among members and supporters. But that was just one organization with a limited reach. He realized the only way to truly aggregate and share this valuable information would be through a review- and comment-based website.
Andrew, what is SelfPubSmart.com?
It’s the first website to feature author ratings and reviews of the “self-publishing companies” they have used, such as Lulu or CreateSpace. All the ratings and reviews are from the authors themselves. There are no editorial reviews. Plus, unlike many of the user-review websites, we require our users to create a membership to reduce the likelihood of bogus or planted reviews. So, even though you can find a lot of good feedback of this kind from authors in user groups and other places online, my vision is to bring all this collective wisdom into one central place.
What prompted you to create it?
I’ve been in self-publishing for 25 years, as an author, professional speaker, consultant, service provider, and president of a large association. As such, I have met thousands of authors and heard so many horror stories of self-publishing gone wrong. Sometimes it’s just authors not knowing better and sometimes it’s authors getting scammed. At heart, I’m an educator — I’ve always felt like it’s my role to teach authors, in whatever way I can. I think the self-publishing revolution is an amazing thing. I know firsthand, because I remember what it was like to self-publish in 1987. So I believe all authors should have a fair chance to express their work. You never know what author can come from a humble start in “indie publishing” and maybe change many lives. But there’s a lot to know to succeed and it’s easy to make mistakes. So, anyhow, I’d been thinking for years, since at least 2005, that there should be a site like SelfPubSmart.com — and finally, the pieces came together for me to make it happen. Actually, my first thought was it would be a book of company reviews, but then I discovered Mark Levine had beaten me to it. And he did a great job.
Seems like a lot of work. How does it benefit you or do you have plans to monetize?
Great that you asked about monetizing it. Authors need to realize that self-publishing is a business, so I’m glad you think that way! And yes, it has been a lot of work over the course of two years, trying different tools and solutions to make the site work well (at least to start). I see the site as my venture into social entrepreneurship — which means, this isn’t a non-profit, but the primary goal is social good and money comes second. Right now, there is an Amazon store on the site, which features my recommendation of resources for self-published authors. Of course, your book is there, Jason! But the money from Amazon affiliates commission is minimal, just a few percent. So, unless someone clicks through to find your book and then happens to buy a big HDTV at the same time (hint, hint), there won’t be much money in commissions. The main revenue will come eventually as I develop products that will be sold directly from the site. I have some ideas about what those can be, but a lot will come from listening to what the site’s members and self-published authors in general could use. The model is very much in line with the “lean start-up” concept — launch with a minimum viable product, and build from there based on audience feedback. I also like Brian Clark’s concept of minimum viable audience, which fits here as well.
How does it help authors?
Three ways. First and foremost, any author considering using a self-publishing company will benefit from the experiences of other authors through the ratings and reviews. The ones you’ve posted, for example, are excellent. Some things may help authors in small ways, like choosing certain service options, but in some cases, authors may discover something that could literally save them hundreds or thousands of dollars. The site is also beneficial through its blog and articles, which will serve to supplement the rating and review content with further education. Last but not least, authors benefit because they can create a membership profile that promotes their books and websites. And I should probably mention that there are no fees for any of this — membership is free.
Have you been getting any response from some of the companies listed for reviews?
Not yet, but it’ll be interesting to see the reaction. Some user-review sites have been criticized or even sued by the companies they profile, but the courts have sided with the sites. It’s pretty much a rock-solid First Amendment issue, as with many aspects of the Internet. But part of the problem for some of these sites is that they let anyone post a review, even anonymously. So that opens the doors to unjustly negative comments, as well as gaming the system, either by the companies reviewed posting glowing testimonials about themselves or flaming their competition. With SelfPubSmart.com, anyone can visit and use the site, but you have to be a registered member to post a review. In addition, we encourage members to create full profiles, which raises their credibility. And then, of course, we audit reviews and members for posts or anything that might be suspicious or inappropriate. We reserve the right to remove content we feel is inauthentic, although we will contact the person who wrote it first to give them a chance to verify it.
What do you envision for the future at SelfPubSmart.com?
I’d love to hit 1,000 reviews by the first anniversary, next May. That would be great. And I’d love to see it be the equivalent of Dan Poynter for its purpose. When anyone talks self-publishing for more than a few minutes, Dan’s name is sure to come up. That’s branding. And that’s what I’d like for the site — to be recognized as a “must have, must see” resource for someone embarking on self-publishing. And, to expand on the social entrepreneurship aspect, I’m currently looking to partner with one or more social ventures to create a win-win. So, for example, when someone posts a review on SelfPubSmart.com, a copy of my college book could be donated to a group that helps underprivileged kids reach higher education. That’s in the works, but I have other similar ideas to create social good from the site beyond just what the site does in and of itself. Stay tuned!
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