Unfinished Books, Finished Books, Book Launches, Storytelling and Fiction

published Dec 06, 2012

We just launched a small feature, where you can show how done you are on the landing page.

It is set on the Settings > Landing Page tab.

This is intended to be an optional self-report estimate. If you don’t believe in estimates, leave it at 0 and it will not be shown.

If you set it between 1 and 99, it will look like this currently: “The author considers this book to be about 80% complete!”

If you set it to 100, it will be: “The author considers this book to be done!”

An example of where it lives on the page is at: https://leanpub.com/lean

Obviously, instead of showing just a number we should show an elegant looking progress bar. Coming soon.

Finished Book Launch Page

Recently there have been a few tweets comparing how a book launch by random publisher x compared to Leanpub. We have huge respect for the author and respect for the publisher, but there are a few things being deliberately conflated here. And besides untangling them, it provides a clue for a good Leanpub feature…

a) There is a certain category of reader who buys in-progress books.

b) There is another category of reader who buys completed books. Within this category, you get a significant % of your sales within the first few weeks of having launched your finished book.

For typical books, our guess is that (a) represents between 10% and 40% of the market for the book. This is just our intuition from our own experiences, it’s not Big Data :)

So, the other 60% — 90% of the market for the book is for the finished book.

Now, if a book launch goes really well, you can capture a meaningful chunk of these sales in a short time.

So, you can say things like “I made more in x weeks with publisher a than on y months with Leanpub”. However, this is conflating “in-progress” with “finished book launch” (which includes being front and center on the publisher’s homepage) and “Leanpub” with “pubilsher”. A more valid comparison would be to compare average in-progress on Leanpub vs. average in-progress with the publisher, and finished book launches on Leanpub with publisher book launches.

Oh, wait.

There currently aren’t any Leanpub finished book launches!

Clearly, if you believe the above, that’s a big problem.

So, we’re going to fix that.

And the first step in this is for everyone to self-report how done they are. That way, when a book goes from 90% done to 100% done we can jump up and down, hype it, give it a proper launch on its own tab of just-finished books plus featured section on our own homepage, etc…

Storytelling

…and then maybe there will be legitimate comparisons for interested parties, about how Leanpub finished book launches go vs. the competition and how Leanpub in-progress goes vs. the competition. Until then, well, I like storytelling too.

The story I would tell is about how the author kept almost all the money while the book was in-progress, unlike any alternative. And about how this is fair since the author’s own brand was what was doing the marketing.

The story would be about how Leanpub has zero lock-in, so the author can happily take his or her book wherever he or she wants when it’s done. No contract to break, no negotiation, no BS.

The story could include how publisher of this nice, good quality book could, hypothetically, say that the book was previously self-published without saying where (since Leanpub obviously is something the specific publisher is afraid of).

And if the advance buzz on the internet through Leanpub helped in some small way to give the publisher a successful book launch, the story could include how we were totally happy for the publisher to tweet nice things about Leanpub. (This is fiction remember.) Or we could go with the version where the author tweets about how much better the publisher is.

At Leanpub, we love storytelling and fiction too!

This is why we sponsored NaNoWriMo.

This post has caused a bit of reaction. This is good. However, it has also caused one misconception that we want to correct.

It is a misconception that Leanpub is unhappy if an author does a deal with a publisher after they have gained traction and made progress on their book.

We fully expect that many of the bestselling Leanpub books, and also many of the best Leanpub books that have not been marketed adequately, will be ripe candidates for smart publishers to swoop in and try to do deals with the authors. We consider this a measure of success, both our authors’ success and our success, that it happens. It’s fine.

Also, it goes both ways: many of our authors have previously written books for these same publishers. Competition is healthy and is expected. We expect that over time, many of these publishers will consider Leanpub to be one of the primary sources of lead generation.

However, since Leanpub offers authors such excellent terms, these authors have an excellent BATNA in their negotiations with publishers. The alternative to a negotiated agreement is simply sticking with Leanpub and our excellent royalty rates.

(Leanpub’s co-founder, Peter Armstrong, once got 80% ebook royalties from a publisher, since he had such strong ebook sales when the book was self-published and in-progress — like Leanpub books are today. Yes, that is 80% of revenue. Not after costs. BATNA is a real thing. Leanpub authors do not need to settle for 10% or 15% ebook royalties from publishers, or 50% after substantial costs.)

Now, one thing that we have not done well to date is launch finished Leanpub books. Launches should be done with a bang, not a whimper. However, we have been so focused on the in-progress book aspect of our business that we have not built features around the launching of finished Leanpub books. This is changing now. Watch this space. This has served as a bit of a wake up call for us, so it’s a good thing.

Once we do book launches better, then there will be a more valid comparison. Right now, the correct comparison for Leanpub sales is against the beta / in-progress / rough cuts / etc programs that publishers offer, not to their finished book launch numbers. Anything else is just spin.

So, we were unhappy about an unfair comparison. That’s it.

At Leanpub we really like all our authors. But they’re not married to us! We’re friends with benefits.

We deliberately have no contract with our authors. None. Authors should use Leanpub because we’re the correct choice, not because of any contractual lock-in.

Leanpub authors can do any deal they feel is best for them, at any time. With our blessing, in fact — although it’s not contractually needed.

As authors ourselves, this is what we would want. We are authors too.


Originally published at leanpub.com.

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