by Samantha Knoerzer • January 21, 2015 • Follow SamanthaKnoerze
Published in Interviews • 25 comments
We’re super excited to announce the launch of our 5 Questions Series. The series will be bi-monthly and focus on interviews with the people who are changing the face of book publishing now.
Our first guest is self-publishing pioneer Mick Rooney.
Mick Rooney, Editor-In-Chief of The Independent Publishing Magazine (TIPM), one of the first magazines that focused on self-publishing/indie publishing. Read on to find out what Mick’s thoughts are on the current challenges independent authors, what he predicts for the future of publishing, and how he started TIPM.
1) How did you come up with the idea for launching The Independent Publishing Magazine?
I started The Independent Publishing Magazine way back in late 2007. It really just started out as a personal blog where I could record some of my experiences writing and self-publishing over many years. I had self-published short fictional print since 1990, long before the emergence of print-on-demand and social media. Around 2000, I sort of went into a publishing hiatus to focus on completing a novel. With work pressures and the hubbub of family life, it was 2007 before I really started to look at the publishing world closely again. Over several months I had amassed a huge amount of research and I wanted to record the information I’d discovered somewhere. The blog seemed like the logical place to do this and a perfect way to share information with others writers who would appreciate its value.
Initially it became an online portal to explore the explosive rise of self-publishing services. Timing played a great factor in the success of TIPM (or POD, Self-Publishing & Independent Publishing as it was back then). There were a few online resources for self-published authors on the Internet, mostly in the shape of blogs, but I found they often had distinct biases or were actually spreading information which was didn’t go far enough, was sometimes inaccurate, and worse could actually be damaging to an author’s chances of self-publishing success. Many just didn’t deal with the nitty-gritty nuts and bolts of self-publishing, and truthfully, I felt a lot of the bloggers tended to accept everything a self-publishing service claimed or fed them, without asking the right questions or looking deeper into the whole vanity press history.
I knew instinctively the self-publishing service industry was a microcosm of the whole publishing industry, and the questions authors were starting to ask me as a publishing consultant and editor of TIPM were questions the industry itself would soon be asking. How do we negotiate different retail discounts? How big are e-books going to be and can I make a living on them alone? Can I publish and sell my books and survive as an author without Amazon? Self-published authors were already grappling seriously with print-on-demand, e-books and various pricing levels long before large publishing houses even took digital publishing seriously as a necessary part of their future businesses.
Ultimately, the blog became an online magazine in its own right. I sort of gave it its head and let it become what felt natural. There is a lot more scope now on The Independent Publishing Magazine — industry news, innovation, digital marketing, reviews of publishing services and publishing successes. I don’t see the magazine any longer as the sole home and resource for just self-published authors, but rather as a portal directly to the changes happening in the industry today. That’s relevant to all authors no matter what the means and path to publication is. The magazine is heavily linked to the Facebook, Google+ and Twitter accounts, and really it all interacts well together to promote comment and debate.
Like the industry itself, I’d like to think TIPM is a constantly developing resource, never happy to sit still and be one thing for one reason all the time.
2) What is the number one challenge right now for independent authors?
Discoverability. While authors today have several paths to publishing, some of which were not available years ago, so much of the real challenge only begins when an author’s book is available to readers. One of the biggest myths circulated in recent years is that readers can’t discover the books they want because of the glut of self-published and digitally published books. Readers know what they like and what they want. Authors might have a strong idea of their reader audience but they don’t always have the tools or control of the sales platforms to get their books in front of their potential readers.
If you asked me this question a couple of years ago, I might have said gaining a technical understanding of the book publishing business and knowing how best to deliver a professional book product. More and more self-published authors are getting better at knowing what is required to produce a professionally published book. There is a marked difference in how well prepared some of my author clients are today, as opposed to many of my clients two years ago. They are much better prepared and appreciated the need to involve professional editors and designers in their book projects. But discoverability remains the biggest challenge today. I’m still amazed that self-published authors restrict themselves to just one or two retail channels, or dismiss social media and an author website without realising that online retail listings is not marketing of itself.
3) What role do you see publishers playing in the changing landscape of book publishing?
The first way to answer this question is to realise that the concept or meaning of a publisher has changed dramatically in recent years, and what a book is now can no longer be defined simply in terms of physically printed products. Anyone can be a publisher, whether you are an author, a legacy publisher in New York, or a new technology start-up in Silicon Valley. If you are the captain of a 1000-ton publishing ship, it is a great deal harder to quickly turn that ship in a multitude of directions, especially when the sea conditions are constantly changing.
We are seeing proactive change from publishers, in a way they were not always open to. I think we will see publishers become more content managers and facilitators of book projects. There is always going to be a role for legacy publishers but I think that space is going to become occupied mainly by bestselling authors. Publishers will use digital imprints to find and test new writing talent, and they will open their systems and professional resources to more small presses and authors for a contract fee.
I think the idea of publishers as gatekeepers and preservers of literary culture is quickly eroding in the eyes of readers and authors.
4) What are some of your predictions for 2015 in publishing?
While much has been made of e-books, print will remain the dominant format for sales of books over the next five years—certainly no more than 50-50, and there are signs e-book sales may not reach that point.
I think 2015 is going to be a year where self-published authors examine closely the role Amazon has when it comes to their book sales. The introduction of Kindle Unlimited and the new VAT ruling in Europe has shaken things up.
While I think we will see a growth in book subscription and crowdfunding models, I’m unconvinced just how well authors are really using them.
We are going to see a further contraction of POD/print-centric self-publishing service providers.
Big publishers are going to increase their focus on direct sales to readers and find technology collaborators outside the normal retail ecosystem.
5) Share something about yourself that most people who read your magazine don’t know.
While many people will know me as editor of The Independent Publishing Magazine and a publishing consultant, I’m also an aviation journalist.
Bonus Question: What’s your favorite book of all time?
So far, Paolo Coelho’s The Alchemist, but I’m convinced there could be even better books out there and to come (written and unwritten). It just a question of time!
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About Mick Rooney
Mick Rooney is a publishing consultant, editor, investigative journalist, author, and Editor-In-Chief of The Independent Publishing Magazine (TIPM). His career has spanned three decades, from working in various roles in the entertainment industry, general retail, warehousing and logistics, to marketing and promotion in music and publishing. Mick spends much of his time providing personally tailored consultation services for authors and small publishers. He is one of the leading voices in self- and independent publishing and is a strong advocate for change and innovation in the publishing industry.
Mick has written many informative articles for print and online magazines about the publishing industry and the growth of self-publishing over the past 30 years, including Writers’ Forum, Publetariat, Self-Publishing Review, Publishing Basics, Irish Publishing News and The Self-Publishing Magazine. In 2007, Mick launched TIPM, an online magazine providing essential information, resources and reviews of self-publishing service providers. The magazine has a distinct editorial focus on the future of publishing in the digital age. Over the last seven years, TIPM has established itself as the primary point for independent authors and small publishers who are developing a publishing brand. Mick is also a Services Watchdog for the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi).
Mick has been writing for over 30 years and has published 10 books, including two non-fiction books written for authors trying to navigate the world of self-publishing. To Self-Publish or Not to Self-Publish (Troubador Publishing, 2011) is an in-depth look at self-publishing in the UK and Ireland, and Choosing A Self-Publishing Service (Font Publications, 2014) is a guide complete with everything readers need to choose the self-publishing pathway that’s right for them.
The Independent Publishing Magazine is an online magazine for independent authors and publishers in the new age of digital media. The magazine provides the latest publishing news, innovations in the industry and reviews of companies that provide publishing services.
I am the Social Media Coordinator and Author Relations Manager for BiblioCrunch. And I love to read, OF COURSE! From the classics to YA and children's, you can find me reading it all. I have a masters in publishing from NYU's Print and Digital Media Studies masters program, and have undergraduate degrees in music, marketing, and english. I have a passion for reading, music, and travel. My goal is to travel to as many places around the world as possible. If you need to find me, you can catch me traveling all around the world at any chance I get – always with a book in hand!