Vook Relaunches as Pronoun – A Free Self-Publishing Platform

Pronoun 2015Vook originally launched in 2009 as a digital content creation platform for e-books. Over the past year Vook has acquired  boutique e-publisher Byliner  and e-book data analysis engine Booklr. Vook has decided to combine the digital technologies of Byliner and Booklr and relaunch itself as an ‘author-friendly’ and author-centric book publishing platform called Pronoun. The platform will be free to use and will provide authors with book creation tools and distribution to all major e-book retail channels. Authors will earn all of the remaining revenue after retail discounts. Pronoun will not take any profit from authors’ e-book sales and will instead generate revenue from its existing publishing and data tracking businesses.

Pronoun is not yet live for authors so I’ve not tested its creation tools and its global e-book distribution channels. But more importantly I want to be certain that Pronoun’s understanding of ‘free’ squares with mine. Not all so-called freemium publishing platforms are created equal. Some can include irksome digital watermarks which you have to pay to have removed or the publishing platform as a whole simply isn’t flexible enough for entrepreneurial authors with their own imprints and ISBNs.

Pronoun also released something of a blog mission statement along with its press release yesterday — How to Fix Book Publishing. I didn’t know all of book publishing was broken!

It’s 2015, and publishing is broken.

Writing a book that has a chance of connecting with readers takes all of an author’s effort, talent, and passion. Yet the structure of the publishing industry puts a long chain of people and corporations, each with their own incentives, between you and your audience.

Traditional publishers, in the pursuit of blockbusters, take control of your publishing rights — then drop support for every author whose sales don’t generate a corporate level of return on investment.

Self-publishing forces you to choose between hundreds of costly services whose value is obscured by sales pitches. And once you publish, you’re on your own.

We believe authors deserve better.

I’m not sure I agree with either descriptions of publishing. The description of traditional publishing seems extraordinarily generalised, ignoring small and independent publishing presses, and publishers who are adopting cooperative and crowdfunding models. Vook… pardon, Pronoun seems to think every published book comes from a massive, corporate publishing house. And ‘self-publishing’ does not force you to ‘choose between hundreds of costly services whose value is obscured by sales pitches. And once you publish, you’re on your own.’ That’s a pretty skewed view of self-publishing, or maybe not if your only view of self-publishing is Author Solutions.

Self-publishing as it stands today means finding your way through an array of costly services with drastically different features, business interests, and incentives. Many don’t deliver what they promise. The biggest company in self-publishing, Author Solutions (which was purchased for $116mm by Pearson in 2012 and is now part of Penguin Random House), is currently being sued by its own authors for its deceptive practices.

I’m delighted Pronoun is aware of the Author Solutions issue in self-publishing, but its description of self-publishing reads like a statement from the CEO of a big publishing house and as laudable as this How to Fix Book Publishing claim might seem, I’m not sure it actually provides the answer. Well, apart from making everything free. It’s almost like the people behind Pronoun have never heard of Amazon KDP, CreateSpace and Smashwords.

Authors deserve support, especially after their book is launched.
Every author shouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel. You deserve to learn from the best practices that made other authors successful, and from data-driven research that tests assumptions and makes clear recommendations. What should you do on Day 1 of your launch? What about Day 10? Or Day 100? How do you get visibility in online stores? How can you drive more readers to see your book? Launching a book is just the beginning of the journey, and authors should have help the entire way — and final say over important decisions.

Okay. So will Pronoun’s free publishing platform throw in all the marketing tools and services that are required to support a book release? I suspect Pronoun’s idea of post publication support is data-mining.

And is Pronoun’s answer to the broken publishing world just to make everything free?

I don’t intend to be cynical and I welcome Vook’s new Pronoun publishing platform (if it is free as it is claimed and there are no strings attached) but I’m somewhat puzzled why Vook chose to send out a press release when Pronoun is not yet available publicly.

 

From the Press Release:

Pronoun Announces Formation of Free Publishing Platform for Authors

Three leading digital book publishing companies combine to form Pronoun, a new platform that puts authors first

NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Today Pronoun announces the formation of a new author-friendly platform for book publishing. Pronoun brings together Vook, the leading digital book creation and distribution platform; Booklr, the industry’s largest proprietary data and analytics engine; and Byliner, a digital-first imprint that publishes bestselling contemporary authors. With this combined technology and experience, Pronoun rethinks what publishing should offer authors. Pronoun empowers every author to create and distribute beautiful digital books, own and control their work and their rights, and receive 100% of their earnings – all for free.

“Pronoun is committed to changing the publishing model by making it open, and by making it free,” said Josh Brody, Chief Executive Officer, Pronoun. “The book publishing industry’s structure pre-dates electricity. Authors seek a viable alternative – both to legacy publishing, with its exclusivity and restrictions, and to self-publishing, with its complexity, limitations, and high costs. Pronoun starts with the author at its core, and builds from there.”

“Digital technologies have transformed every creative industry, from iTunes in music to YouTube in video. The same is now happening to the book industry, and publishers are unable or unwilling to keep pace with that change,” said Ben Zhuk, Pronoun’s Chief Product Officer. “Technology drastically changes the ways digital books can be produced, distributed, and marketed. The question is whether new technologies will be used to impoverish authors, or to empower them. Our mission at Pronoun is to put authors first – by building free digital tools that help them find and reach their audience for the lifetime of their books, not just at launch.”

Pronoun gives authors access to capabilities and information previously available only to large enterprises by bringing together the technology, data, and expertise developed by Vook, Booklr, and Byliner. Vook’s creation and distribution platform, which is used by The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Fast Company, and many other leading media companies, has achieved significant scale, publishing over 6,000 titles to Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Google, and Kobo. Booklr’s proprietary data and analytics engine, which tracks performance, customer behavior, and pricing statistics on over 5 million books each day, is trusted by the most prestigious book publishing companies in the world, including Penguin Random House. Byliner, a boutique literary brand, publishes original titles and backlist stories from bestselling authors like Jon Krakauer, Jodi Picoult, and Nick Hornby.

Pronoun is based in New York City. It is backed by several leading venture capital firms, including Floodgate, Tribeca Venture Partners, VantagePoint Capital Partners, Lerer Hippeau Ventures, Founder Collective, Felicis Ventures, Baseline Ventures, and SV Angel.

Pronoun is currently available by invitation only. If you’re interested in publishing on Pronoun, please visit: www.pronoun.com

About Pronoun

Pronoun is a digital publishing platform that empowers every author to create and distribute beautiful digital books, own and control their work and their rights, and receive 100% of their earnings – all for free. Pronoun is based in New York City. It is backed by several leading venture capital firms, including Floodgate, Tribeca Venture Partners, VantagePoint Capital Partners, Lerer Hippeau Ventures, Founder Collective, Felicis Ventures, Baseline Ventures, and SV Angel. Learn more at: www.pronoun.com

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