Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

Booktrope: a team-engine to publish your book

Last week I stumbled on an intriguing wrinkle in, let’s call it, “indie publishing” — a newish platform called Booktrope. Unlike Smashwords, CreateSpace, or Kindle Direct Publishing, Booktrope is team-based and matches authors with skilled pros who help produce their books. In other words, Ms. Author will need a book manager, an editor, a proofreader, and a designer, and the five of them will work together to put the book out and market it.

The real innovation here is that nobody gets any money up front, so the author doesn’t have to fork over hundreds or even thousands to get the ball rolling. Everyone gets paid a share of the royalties (from 4% to the cover designer to 24% to the book manager, which means everyone involved is going to do their goldarned best to make sure that book is in the best position it can be to make money. Nobody gets a dime if no copies sell.

Interestingly, Booktrope does not limit its sales to Amazon. It sells via iTunes, Barnes & Noble, and “other major platforms and distributors.” This may well neutralize the policy so many bookstores have these days of declining to carry books produced by the Amazon system. (Much depends, of course, on whether Booktrope books can be returned to the distributors if they don’t sell in the store.) But at least these titles shouldn’t have the stigma that’s been placed on paperbacks from CreateSpace and ebooks from KDP.

There are a few problems, though, and this testimonial by a Booktrope author goes into some of them. This analysis looks at a few potential kinks too.

The largest issue is probably the fact that Booktrope markets strictly through social media, and we all know — and I hear the groans on Twitter every time I do another “Town Father, $2.99” tweet — that social media is becoming a fricking monkey house of sales pitches. There are gazillions of services that tweet books, RT book releases, and otherwise clog up the feed with book covers featuring naked male torsos, so limiting publicity to that scene seems like a losing proposition. That’s because few people buy books because they saw a tweet flit by for a nanosecond. I daresay nobody does.

Booktrope’s desire to do book publishing differently is laudable, and for the Amazon problem alone I’m highly tempted to give it a try next time out. (Probably not, though, if I can’t use Max Scratchmann as my cover artist!) But until somebody cracks the marketing problem in a way that’s affordable to authors and avoids the “self-published” ick factor (in other words, major newspapers and magazines don’t review indie books, nor is it likely that your local radio stations would pony up time for interviews), I worry that Booktrope is merely different, not better.

I’d love to hear from any Booktrope authors (or editors, designers, managers) who might wander in. Tell us about your experience.

For everyone else, what do you think of a collaborative, royalties-based system like Booktrope?


Town Father 3D copy

17 comments on “Booktrope: a team-engine to publish your book

  1. islandeditions
    December 11, 2015

    I had heard about this new publishing model. Thanks for the in-depth analysis and the issues you’ve raised surrounding it. I’ll be interested in seeing how this all pans out.

    • Kevin Brennan
      December 11, 2015

      I do think it has potential. I just hope it doesn’t become another arena where people with terrific talent and skills wind up doing their work for very little money. Labor of love, right?

  2. kingmidget
    December 11, 2015

    For more than two years, I’ve wanted to figure out a way to create something just like this. Not quite as developed as what BookTrope has done, but a collaborative effort of writers — call it a writer’s collective — who bring their different talents together and help each other across the finish line. I really like the Booktrope idea because it expands it beyond just writers into the other areas we need to achieve success.

    • Kevin Brennan
      December 11, 2015

      I really hope they find a way to succeed, because the idea behind it is great. It’s important that all the parties feel invested in the book, and this accomplishes that with the team approach. Sadly, if no one’s making more than a few nickels and dimes, the best editors and designers will steer clear…

  3. John W. Howell
    December 11, 2015

    I think it would be great if it included a REAL marketing plan. I’m with you. Sounds different not better.

    • Kevin Brennan
      December 11, 2015

      So true. Marketing is the key element, but it doesn’t sound like the book managers are adept at anything but social media. I wish social media could do what its hype says, but unless something goes viral, there’s way too much noise.

      • John W. Howell
        December 11, 2015

        I don’t believe I have sold one book (or bought one for that matter) as a result of a tweet

      • Kevin Brennan
        December 11, 2015

        Same here. I think it only peeves the other writers who are trying to sell their books there.

      • John W. Howell
        December 12, 2015


  4. cinthiaritchie
    December 11, 2015

    I’ve actually bought three books due to Twitter posts. But not exactly due to their Twitter post. Let me explain: Three posts by three separate authors caught my eye and so I veered to their homepage, veered to their Websites/blogs, read their bios, read sample chapters and then, when I realized that they were legit and had writing chops and done their time in writing hell to produce the best book possible, I bought their books. If not for Twitter, I would probably have never heard of these authors.

    Interestingly enough, of those three books I bought due to Twitter posts, NONE were book-pitching posts. They were simply interesting posts about writing that made me want to get to know the author better. And what better way of getting to know someone than to read their books?

    That said, though, I am so, so sick of shoddy books with shoddy covers showing up in my Twitter feed.

  5. 1WriteWay
    December 31, 2015

    Oh, Cinthia has an excellent point! Yes, she found books to buy through Twitter, but, no, it wasn’t because the tweets were about the book! Face palm. I’ve read it time and again but too many writers still don’t get it. I as a Reader (yes, with a capital R) won’t buy your book or even give it a look solely based on a promotion tweet. However, if I as a Reader find your tweets to be interesting, perhaps funny and maybe informative, I might actually look to see if you’ve published and where I can purchase your books. With Twitter, I actually spend very little time looking at my feed mainly because of all the hawking that goes on. That said, I will dig into some author’s feeds because they write about things other than promoting their books.
    I hope BookTrope can at least give Amazon something to worry about 😉

    • Kevin Brennan
      December 31, 2015

      I don’t know where all of this is going, but it’s pretty clear that social media is wrong for promotion. I’m not sure where promotion would be acceptable, but it seems like anything where there are a lot of people hanging around is inappropriate.


      • 1WriteWay
        January 1, 2016

        It’s definitely a head-scratcher for self-published authors, unless you have the wherewithall ($$$$) to purchase adverts in the NY Times and/or get interviews with influential people. The problem especially with Twitter is the you have to bombard people if you want any one of your tweets to stick. Yet, that’s one of the reasons why I tend to avoid my Twitter feed ;(

      • Kevin Brennan
        January 1, 2016

        Yep. See my other comment.

    • Kevin Brennan
      January 1, 2016

      I agree completely on the Twitter feeds. I keep a list of people I really like to follow so I don’t have to listen to all the shouting. Even so, I get the feeling that many less promotional tweeters are saying, subliminally, “I have to pump out these charming, informative tweets to keep you interested so you’ll BUY MY BOOKS!”

      Sometimes it feels like we’re in an episode of “The Twilight Zone”…

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This entry was posted on December 11, 2015 by in Publishing and tagged , .
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