Thursday, 5 July 2012

Interview: Jessica Bennett of Grub Street Reads

Today's interview is a little bit different from what you might be used to here on Nyx Book Reviews. I'm not interviewing an author (well - she is an author, but that's not the focus of the interview), but the co-owner of new indie book endorsement company Grub Street Reads.

The Interview

Nyx Book Reviews: Hi Jessica, welcome to Nyx Book Reviews! Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Jessica: Hi Celine, I’m really pleased to be here at Nyx Book Reviews. My business partner, Leslie Ramey, and I are both fans of the blog, and we’re excited to share information about our business, Grub Streets Reads, with you and your readers.

Leslie and I are, first and foremost, passionate readers. Personally, my addiction started when a shady friend slipped me my first Goosebumps book at a young age. That was the gateway book, and I’ve been hooked ever since. It shouldn’t be surprising that both Leslie and I knew early on that we wanted to be authors.

Fast forward a few decades, and I found myself sitting across from Leslie in a writer’s critique group. She and I began to meet separately to critique each other’s work and to discuss publishing our work. We both did our own research of the current publishing market and decided to self-publish. It was a really exciting time, but also scary. Self-publishing means that you’re on your own, especially when it comes to marketing your book. Marketing is a task that almost all indie authors struggle with.

During this time, Leslie and I looked at every possible way to market our books. We assumed there was some organization out there that provided endorsements or had developed a quality standard for indie books, but all we found were authors and readers alike asking for this type of service. No one was doing it, even though the need was clear.

Leslie and I spent a lot of time discussing the idea. This included much lip chewing, brain storming, and maybe a few tequila shots, but eventually we decided that if no one was going to step up to the plate, we would. A year – and much, much, much work – later, we’re fit to burst with pride over Grub Street Reads, which officially launches July 9th.

Your company is called Grub Street Reads. What do you guys do?

In a nutshell, Grub Street Reads seeks to encourage higher readership of self-published and indie authors by providing a quality standard for self-published and independently-published novels. The Grub Street Reads endorsement seal is given to those books that pass an evaluation process based on the fundamental qualities of good storytelling.

We believe that the indie book market needs standards and that spotlighting the best indie books on the market with our endorsement is a good thing for authors, readers and the reputation of the indie market.
We’re very open about our evaluation process and endorsement criteria on our website. We also have a fun and kooky video on our home page that explains our business in a little more detail:

You endorse books. How is this different from publishing books, like the big publishing houses do?

One of the biggest differences is that we don’t consider ourselves to be “gatekeepers”. Just a few years ago the only viable way to be a successful author was to get into the big bookstores. In most instances, this required an author to get an agent who would then have to place the book with a publisher. If a publisher didn’t accept the book, the author had a very poor chance of ever getting visibility. Agents and publishers are very picky and only a very small percentage of authors ever got a publishing contract.

At Grub Street Reads, we don’t stop anyone from publishing their book. Even if we don’t endorse a particular novel, that author can still self-publish on Amazon and Barnes & Noble and potentially be a great success.

Our main focus is to spotlight and support quality indie books, not to hold anyone back.

Another big difference is that a publisher will typically handle all aspects of an author’s book publication, marketing and distribution. This includes editing the manuscript, developing a cover, publicizing the book, etc…

At Grub Street Reads, we don’t publish or actively distribute books. We do list all of our endorsed books in the Grub Street Reads Library and include links to where they can be purchased. We also try to support our endorsed authors by acknowledging them on our website, our social networking sites, our newsletters and in many other ways.

What kind of books/authors are you looking for?

Quality is the most important factor when it comes to receiving a Grub Street Reads endorsement. We are very clear about what our endorsement criteria are and even have a “Read Before You Submit” page on our website with Dos and Don’ts.

If you’ve got a great book, we’d love to evaluate it and give you our endorsement if your manuscript meets our criteria.

As far as specifics go, we accept all genres of fiction except for children’s book. We also accept creative nonfiction. We don’t accept poetry or screenplays. Manuscripts must be complete, and at this time we’re only accepting manuscripts written in English. We accept manuscripts that are unpublished, self-published, and traditionally-published.

Do you think indie publishing will take over the market?

I don’t think we’ll be seeing the major publishing companies melt away entirely in the next couple of years, but they’re definitely not the only game in town anymore. . The explosion in self-publishing will only get bigger as more and more authors look at the market just like Leslie and I did and see all the opportunities that abound for indie authors.

It’s easier than ever to self-publish, and the royalty rates offered by Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other online distributors can’t be beat. With the continued and far-reaching adoption of Kindles, Nooks, iPads and other electronic reading devices, readers are buying ebooks in droves. No longer must authors get their novels into (dwindling) bookstores to be successful.

The publishing promise land has come for authors. Unfortunately, that promise land is getting really crowded. The process of self-publishing a novel may be easy, but actually developing a strong readership is anything but. Authors still need to find a way to stand out from the crowd and please readers.

Speaking of readers, I think most of them don’t care whether a book is self-published or comes from a big publishing house. They just want a great story that will sweep them away. Unfortunately, with so many low-quality books floating around, readers are starting to shy away from trying new authors.

The bigger the indie book market gets, the greater the need for Grub Street Reads.

Thank you for answering my questions (:

Thanks for letting me stop by your place to chat! It’s been a pleasure. A couple last things I wanted to mention: Grub Street Reads officially launches July 9th, but our beta site is up, and we already have a growing list of endorsed indie books in the GSR library. We invite readers of Nyx Book Reviews to check out our site, view/mock our kooky video and read more about our endorsement process and criteria. We’re also offering a 25% discount for all manuscripts submitted before our official launch, so hurry up and hustle over.

Thanks so much for your time!


Kit @ Bibliotekit said...

This sounds like a really interesting concept. Great interview!

Celine said...

Thanks Kit! (:

Shane @ Itching for Books said...

Great interview! very awesome answers.

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