I 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.
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!