Are Publishing Solutions Addressing the Real Problems?

publishing book in hands

If you were an author 50, 25, even 10 years ago, you’d clamor for the opportunity to sign with a traditional publisher. Landing such a book deal meant an advance, access to professional talent like editors, and distribution. Those were the solutions authors sought because the problems they solved were the most obstructive. But are they the essential problems that authors face today? At Snippet, we’re reevaluating our answers to that question because—contrary to the impulse reaction—we’re not so sure they are.

When we first began Snippet, we desired to help authors by equipping them with a tool that provided their readers with an incomparably beautiful and engaging reading experience. Having spoken with numerous self-publishing authors, we knew that the authors cared more and more about the happiness of their readers. A happy reader is a loyal reader, and a loyal reader is a life-long reader who will continue to buy books as well as fuel more distribution through word-of-mouth promotion. And given our progressive publishing values—that writers should retain all the copyrights to their works; that writers should earn a fair royalty rate—we knew we were solving at least two of the three conventional problems: making money from publishing books and tapping into a distribution network.

So that’s what we did—we built the Snippet App, a mobile reading experience that is easy to use and fully capable of integrating multimedia for advanced storytelling. Readers loved it. Further, authors could set their own prices and publish on-demand for quick distribution. Our writers loved it. All was well, though we began to realize it wasn’t enough. We were solving problems, but maybe we weren’t solving the problem. So we continued to closely observe the industry and talk to writers. The more we watched and listened, the more we realized that the conventional problems have shifted from being the essential problems to being adjacent or secondary problems. A new breed of problems has arisen in their place.

This new breed of problems is rooted in access not to distribution channels or talent but to data and capability. With the increasing ubiquitousness of self-publishing “broadcast” platforms like Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing that can be sufficiently monetized, the modern author is realizing that book production, distribution, and sales—while not gimmes—aren’t nearly as obstructive as they used to be. She definitely doesn’t need a traditional publisher get a book out into the world at a fair price and attract some buzz about it. But what she does need (and is progressively asking for directly) is access to her customer list, the ability to adapt her formats to the expressed interests of her readers, the opportunity to integrate related publishing solutions together, and the means to stimulate two-way conversations with her readers. If we summarize the essential publishing problems of yesteryear as “one-way broadcast” problems, then we can reasonably summarize today’s essential problems as “two-way conversation” problems.

Solving these two-way conversation problems is our next target area. We’re building advanced analytic and customer insight tools to further empower our writers with the data they need to nurture their readerships. We’re also structuring an open API that will become the backbone of future integrations with other web tools that authors know, love, and rely on. We’ll soon be adding a new multimedia discoverable that will allow authors to encourage readers to subscribe to their email lists directly from within the reading experience. And we’ve just launched our web reading platform, allowing readers to enjoy the Snippet reading experience on any device from anywhere in the world.

A beautiful and engaging reading experience will always remain central to our Snippet ethos. Similarly, an intuitive writing and publishing experience for our writers will remain a top priority. By devoting some energy to these new target areas, Snippet will become that much stronger and more intimately aligned with the needs of the modern author, who is the primary catalyst of the publishing revolution. This is the future; we’re thrilled to be a part of it.