PubSlush Interview with Jesse Potash, Founder

PubSlush PressI had the opportunity to interview Jesse Potash, the founder of PubSlush Press. It is a whole new concept in publishing and although small now, has great potential in the future. PubSlush combines powerful forces of the internet to fund literary ambitions of writers who find it hard to follow the traditional publishing routes.

I find the concept promising and intriguing and had shared my thoughts on this on my PubSlush review. I hope you share my enthusiasm in learning more about the company and what they offer to writers and readers.

Brief Bio: Jesse Potash is the founder of Pubslush Press (www.pubslush.com), a social, full service publisher that lets readers decide what books get published, and for every book sold donates a book to a child in need. Jesse hails from a financial services background but has worked additionally across a wide array of industries including publishing, fashion, and advertising. Jesse also serves on the board of directors for the Pubslush Foundation, which is committed to supporting children’s literacy initiatives worldwide. He is a native New Yorker, yogi, boxer, and avid traveler.

Here’s the interview: be sure to let me know your thoughts in the comments section! And don’t forget to share the word – that’s the only way to support upcoming authors and for readers to find diamonds in the rough.

How did you come up with the idea of PUBSLUSH?

The idea sprung from my ongoing obsession with JK Rowling and work with intellectual human rights. Having just left a career in corporate finance, working in the publishing world shocked me even more; so much of the industry seemed dated, bureaucratic, and nonsensical. I thought reintroducing readers into the publishing equation would be a simple way to aid the existing talent discovery process, and was completely feasible because of the intense proliferation of social media in the last decade.

The charity component was inspired by me and my partner’s background in philanthropy. My partner, Hellen, in particular had worked for the past ten years helming an extremely successful nonprofit committed to education initiatives. This experience was at the forefront of our conversation in developing the concept for PUBSLUSH, and having been huge fans of TOMS Shoes, introducing a one for one business model was the genius suggestion of our community director, Erin.

Tell us more about your charity program.

For every book we sell, we donate a book to a child in need. This is the driving force behind our organization. Our charity program allows us to sustainably impact poverty with literacy and by engaging and empowering a community of readers and writers online. I mean the statistics speak for themselves. Illiteracy is one of the leading causes of poverty. Today, close to 1 billion people are illiterate. Also today, over 100 million children don’t have access to literature meaning they too will become illiterate. Fighting poverty is hopeless without books.

The program has several components beyond donating books, including supporting libraries and community reading spaces, providing supplies, utilizing digital reading technology in the developing world, and more. We are committed to improving children’s literacy initiatives by working with established giving partners around the world.

PUBSLUSH is entirely about giving: giving a voice to aspiring authors, giving the power to decide what books get published to readers, and giving books to children without access to literature.

Why should a writer choose PUBSLUSH instead of following the self-publishing route?

We encourage writers to understand all of their options before choosing a publishing route. PUBSLUSH is the right option for many because we offer a forum for any aspiring author to essentially bypass all the bureaucracy of the industry and just prove they have what it takes to be published. Indeed, our concept is of the “actions speak louder than words” camp of thinking. While we are huge fans of self publishing, navigating the publishing world entirely on your own can be a daunting task. PUBSLUSH appeals to authors who want to maintain a large amount of creative control, but who also want to receive ongoingsupport. We build a specialized team around each book that works with the author to maximize potential success.

Of course, the most obvious reason to choose PUBSLUSH over self publishing is the author never incurs ANY costs. The service is completely free for authors. And even if an author doesn’t get published with PUBSLUSH, they are still building an audience for their book.

Pubslush Interview Jesse
Do you feel self-publishing is over-rated? Where do you see the future of the publishing industry in terms of the role of the publisher?

I have mixed feelings. Self publishing is fantastic, but there is no quality control. And inherently, because of the sheer volume of content being created, the majority of it is low quality. And that’s not to say the ideas behind the content are bad, but just that they are not cultivated. In following, I believe the role of publisher in the 21st century will be to gauge quality (as determined by readers) and to provide support to help a book realize its full potential.

Are there other publishing presses like PUBSLUSH with the same idea?

Truthfully, not really. PUBSLUSH breaks down all the barriers to connect the writer directly with the reader. Also, we don’t concern ourselves with raising money for a book, as much as we do with raising awareness. The most important part of our discovery process is the number of unique supporters who commit to preorder an author’s book. It would be easy for someone to come along and say here’s $100,000 to publish this book, but that doesn’t guarantee an audience.

Are you focusing more on authors or book-lovers for now? In other words, are your efforts directed more towards getting authors to put their work on PUBSLUSH or getting readers to support books they like?

In the beginning we were focusing more on authors, but now we are a bit more reader centric. Presently we are partnering with existing online social reading communities and launching a professional and collegiate ambassador program, plus we have many exciting developments in the pipeline. We’ve also been lucky to have an amazing group of authors come on the site who have rallied their own networks to spread the word.

How would you rate the quality of the books so far at PUBSLUSH? Do you regulate which books can be put up on PUBSLUSH at all?

Honestly, I couldn’t be more thrilled. As I mentioned, we have such an incredible group of authors on the site right now. It’s just a testament to how many great books are out there that haven’t been discovered yet, and even more so a testament to how many authors are eager to embrace the future of publishing.

We do regulate the books in terms of technical qualities, but not in terms of content quality. In order to maintain the integrity of our site, we require manuscripts be edited for spelling and grammar, have standard formatting, etc. Also at this time, we only accept book length text based books. We do not accept poetry or picture books.

Once a book reaches 1000 supporters, what additional support do you provide authors?

While in beta our threshold for publication is 1000 supporters, but once we leave beta (likely in September 2012), our threshold will be 2000 supporters. If an author reaches this amount, we provide all the services of a full service legacy publishing house, including editorial, design, distribution, marketing, PR, printing, legal, etc. at no cost to the author ever. The difference between PUBSLUSH and traditional publishing houses is instead of employing a full time publishing staff, we build a team around each book to make the process more personalized. Authors can learn more about the type of support we provide in our author resource center.

When do you expect to publish your first book? What are your short term goals in terms of number of books to publish?

Definitely within the next 4 months! Our short term goals are to publish 1-2 books in 2012 and 4-6 books in 2013. Our model is completely scalable because it is project based, so there is really no minimum or maximum number of books we can support. We will publish books chosen by the people as frequently or as infrequently as it happens.

Do you think you might increase/decrease the minimum number of supporters from 1000 in the future?

We certainly won’t be decreasing the number, and as I mentioned, once our site leaves beta, the number will increase to 2000. Beyond that, PUBSLUSH is completely flexible in nature and will adapt to the marketplace. We are amenable to changing the threshold and will adjust accordingly as we monitor our progress.

Are most of the authors at PUBSLUSH from New York or from all over the country/world?

We have a few New York authors but the books on the site are from all over the world. We are thrilled because we like to think of ourselves as a global book club with a cause, and that vision can only be perpetuated by an eclectic, international group of authors.

What advice do you have for authors wanting to get published through PUBSLUSH?

Read everything on the site first and come up with a plan before submitting. The authors who have come onto the site with a plan of action have performed exponentially better. We even provide advice and ideas for how to create an effective promotional plan while on our site. It’s all there in our author resource center. Also, there is no excuse for zero supporters! No one takes a book with zero supporters seriously, so don’t hesitate in harassing your mom, friends, etc.

I hope you found this useful in some sense. Here are the books that I am currently supporting: A Beautiful Mess and A Sweeter Stride.

Let me know your thoughts. Don’t forget to share, so we all know where to find the next publishing gems!

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Ethical SEO Techniques: Google Evolves

Ethical SEO techniques should be learned by every webmaster who wants to holistically grow their site and are in for the long haul, not looking for a quick buck off their website. The meaning and idea of optimizing for search engines has drastically changed in the last couple of years. Considering how frequently Google updates their algorithms and what is, in general, considered ethical, I deem it necessary to educate my readers about ethical SEO techniques that are up to date today.

Ethical SEO is all about following the Google Webmasters Guidelines, in a nutshell. You should definitely read and understand the spirit of this document.

Search engine optimization, or SEO, has been around since search engines and before Google. The definition of ethical SEO has kept evolving over time. It is important to keep up to date because when it comes to best practices with respect to SEO, these keep changing with time and if you are not well informed, can be left in the dark when it comes to promoting your site online.

Recently, Google has accelerated in its quest for weeding out questionable SEO techniques and penalizing websites using them. It started off with the (in)famous Panda Update that left Article Marketing Obsolete. There were plenty of smaller updates with the Panda. The most recent Google algorithm changes have to do with including social data in the search engines.

A lot of “grey-hat” SEO techniques are also being punished. For instance, recently, Google began deindexing paid blog networks which affected quite a few websites. It is also worth nothing that a number of internet marketing/SEO blogs had actually promoted their use and many webmasters were taken by surprise because they considered this to be complete within the realm of ethical SEO techniques. Well, guess what, it is not! It is simply a disguised form of link-spamming with thin content that hardly adds any value.

In such turbulent times, best practice dictates that you stick with core Google values and do the following –

1. Build Quality Content

2. Build Quality Links (most penalties are in this area, be ethical!)

3. Provide a great user experience, user interface and look to keep visitors hooked on your site.

4. Promote your site on Social Media, including Google Plus

These are the essential fundamentals of ethical SEO techniques.

Quality Content

At the heart of ethical SEO lies quality content. There is no denying the fact that ultimately, the purpose of search engines is to dig out the best quality content and present it on top. There should be no substitute for this. Not even Google can be perfect in this – perhaps you have written an entry that is better than Wikipedia but you will be beaten by Wikipedia every single time. That doesn’t mean quality content means nothing. Never compromise in this aspect. Good quality content spills over to all the other aspects of SEO as mentioned above as well.

Link Building

The most contentious part of ethical SEO comes with respect to link-building and most efforts to trick Google using black-hat techniques have to do with link-building. Essentially, you don’t want to spam the internet with your links, try to build links as organically as possible so it is most “natural”. Follow the dictum – if there were no Google, how would you use link-building? You would still want your links on high quality blogs and sites so their readers can discover you and you won’t bother about crappy blogs that exist solely to provide backlinks to other blogs. Do the same with Google present.

User Experience

This is hard to measure, but Google is certainly taking the overall user experience into consideration when it ranks websites. This involves a slew of metrics from the bounce rate and time spent on the site to the time taken to load the website. As a webmaster, you should be involved in this process and try to provide the best user experience to your visitors. Does Google have to tell you to do this?

Social Media

This is another new addition to the list of ethical SEO techniques from Google. The more people like and share your articles and website on social media, the better it is. Social media is also harder to game – for example, how can you ensure that a piece goes viral without it actually having the qualities of going viral? You cannot log into your friends of friends’ Facebook accounts and share your link now, can you? Don’t spend all your time on social media though, optimize your time and effort.

The bottom line is that ethical SEO techniques cover a broad range of topics and not just looking for backlinks for your website. Take a holistic view of the internet and search engines and understand why they exist and how you can align their purpose with yours. You should be able to do well in the ethical SEO realm, don’t resort to black-hat SEO and other questionable techniques. Don’t blindly follow everything you read from the “Gurus” either. Think on your own and understand what Google wants.

Photo Credit: San Diego Shooter

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