A New Kind of Publishing Ecosystem

in publishing •  last month

 

 

What we're bringing into existence is unlike anything ever offered for writers in the history of publishing.”-- @Rhondak

Summary and Updates

Over the last six months, much has happened within The Writers’ Block. We’ve gone through administrative shifts and governance changes, but one thing has remained steadfast, and that is our commitment to the goal of bringing real value to this platform.

The idea of a crypto-backed publishing house germinated in 2017 and has grown steadily since. We’ve incorporated an LLC in the Commonwealth of Virginia, U.S., to legitimize us as a business with its own tax I.D. number. We have our own FIAT checking account. We have a legal department. We have a marketing department. We have a full staff of highly competent editors. Within the next four months, we’ll have a novel physically on bookstore shelves across the U.S. that bears the Steemhouse brand. We’ve accomplished all of this without large delegations or cash boluses. And we’re just getting started.

Issues with Steemit as an interface led us to consider our own front-end website, where we can curate content based on quality of the writing and presentation. We discussed this at length at a TWB meetup in Gatlinburg last year. We planned the site as well as a potential ICO and began working on a wireframe design. The finished site will demonstrate that it is possible to have a centralized-type of interface that pulls from a decentralized blockchain.

Why centralized? Because we’re in the business of real-world publishing. And for a writer to make it in this industry, they must have a portfolio of published work that amounts to more than blog posts. Credibility is built on how many times an author’s work has been deemed fit for publication by other professionals. For this reason, publication in the featured section of our managed front-end site will count as a legitimate publishing credit for authors whose work appears there.

Triangle Ecosystem

The Writers’ Block is taking a different approach with our publishing house. We’ve noticed a gap in traditional publishing, where some of the greatest contemporary talent is shoved out of the market by big name authors and left with only self-publishing as an option. Sometimes, that talent needs only a tiny bit of guidance or editorial help to produce writing that exceeds the quality of many mainstream books. We intend to offer recourse.

How will we accomplish this? Imagine a triangle. Steemhouse Publishing is the pinnacle point, but underneath it are two foundation points--The Writers’ Block and Wordrow. Workflow runs both directions between all points. An author can find us through the publishing house, and if they’re almost ready to publish but need a little more work, we send them to The Writers’ Block rather than reject their work automatically. There they can interact directly with Steemhouse editors and learn from the workshops and mentoring we offer.

 


 

Wordrow is a specialized front-end site that will showcase work worthy of publication in the mainstream. By gamifying this--making the rewards worth the extra effort and by providing the visibility that most authors want--we encourage the production of high quality content that will attract traditional audiences. Its design from the ground up is with the average reader in mind, not just the crypto fanatic or tech enthusiast. It is our plan, however, to introduce casual users to blockchain technology by allowing them to reward authors they like with tokens, and to have Steem wallets of their own without having to understand the dynamics behind it.

One very real advantage to building a publishing ecosystem on the Steem blockchain community is the rich talent pool we have to draw from. The novel High Kill, which will be available in both print and e-book format aimed at mainstream audiences, is a collaboration of skills from within The Writers’ Block. From manuscript to cover art to editing and formatting, we had to outsource nothing. This set a precedent for earning potential in all of those areas for those collaborating on future Steemhouse projects.

How Does This Benefit Steem?

One of the most persistent complaints about Steem is the prevalence of bad content. While quality can be subjective, few of us would be willing to accept a news site full of bad information or a novel full of typos. Individual blog posts are seldom edited to professional standards and expectations are lower. However, commercial media applications demand a higher standard. They also lure serious followers and have the broadest reach. We intend to compete at the level of commercial media as both a publisher (Steemhouse) and a literary magazine (Wordrow.)

We also have a built-in plan for onboarding new users. Our front-end site will have account creation capability. We’ll be targeting adult readers in the same demographic that populates most blockchain communities. Our interface will become an excellent onboarding tool, particularly among users who are likely to embrace the idea of owning a crypto wallet.

By far, the biggest contribution our ecosystem can make to the success of the blockchain is our ability to bring money into the system. Steemhouse Publishing will sell products into the mainstream for FIAT, which will then be invested in Steem. We’ll transact with our authors and staff with Steem. Some of that will be cashed out, sure. But much of it will remain as investment capital. This will potentially contribute to the sustainability and long-term value of the platform overall.

Challenges

One of the biggest challenges we’ve faced on the Steem blockchain is the inability to successfully disseminate information among the various communities. There is no central hub for sharing and sometimes very little crossover of members. We’ve been trying for months to get word out about our project. We even sent representatives to Steemfest to speak about it on stage. Even now, major players in the Steem universe are unaware of our initiative or misinformed about it. This is definitely a problem for us as well as dozens of other projects that could use support from the community at large.

We’re also trying to build our ecosystem at a time when trust has been shattered by the collapse of several projects gone before us. Some left the blockchain and took their wares elsewhere. Some internally combusted with ugly fallout that sullied the feeds for weeks. We’ve not been without our own little dramas that played out on a public stage. Add to this the abysmal price of Steem and there’s a loss of morale across the platform that affects our momentum greatly. We aren’t about to quit--we’re as committed as ever. But we have definitely noticed waning enthusiasm for Steem-based projects and hope this takes an upward turn in the near future.

What's Next?

The Steemhouse Publishing project is in no way dependent on the blockchain. We’re marketing to the mainstream, targeting a FIAT economy. So the pinnacle point of the triangle is full speed ahead. We’re currently looking to raise at least $20,000 USD for book promotion, marketing, and travel expenses to speak with bookstore owners across the country. We have a Fundition project running and we’re also considering a Kickstarter. Pre-sales of our first novel will be available in March. Our deadline for raising this capital is April.

We’ve never pushed hard for delegations until recently, and the latest effort fell flat. Most likely, that was due to the inability to efficiently disseminate information and the loss of community morale. With a large upvote, we could reward authors posting quality content on Wordrow and attract mainstream writers to the platform. We do have a business partnership in discussion that would help us with this, but the point is for us to earn and retain our own capital. More delegation drives may be on the horizon. Stay tuned to our blog for developments and announcements.


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This seems aspirationa, but lacking in concrete information. A couple of questions...

  • How does the "The Writers’ Block [where] they can interact directly with Steemhouse editors and learn from the workshops and mentoring we offer" differ from the traditional editing process?
  • What royalty rates are you offering?
  • Why would an author on Steem submit their work to Steemhouse, rather than just post it directly to Steem?
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@hockney, these are excellent questions. Thank you for asking them. This post was intended as an overview, not meant to be comprehensive, so many details were excluded in the interest of readable length. However, discussion is an excellent way to address more points. We will try to keep your comment voted to the top as best we can.

As far as royalty rates, we will be experimenting with that for a while. We’d like to offer 40% to the author, which is a significantly higher percentage than Top Five publishers offer, as well as other small press. We don’t have the overhead cost of office space and other expenses that traditional businesses encounter. Most of our expenses will be marketing and promotion, and we also intend to employ salaried staff. The first novel to be released is written by a board member who will forfeit much of her royalties to startup costs. That makes it a great pilot project unlikely to incur liability.

You asked how our ecosystem differs from the traditional editing process. My question to you is what type of editing process are you referring to? There are paid editing services and then there are the editing departments of publishers. We won’t be offering commercial editing services, or at least that isn’t within our scope at this time. In order to access the editors of publishing houses, you must first have your work accepted by them. Anyone who has submitted work to a traditional publisher will know how improbable this is in today’s market. Acceptance and admission past those formidable industry gatekeepers is a rare thing indeed. With Steemhouse, the editing staff and SHP Board members are accessible right there in our community. They can’t commit to working with every writer on every project, but TWB offers regular writing workshops in which aspiring authors can learn exactly how to get their work accepted by our acquisition team. This is unheard of in the publishing industry. The best most authors can ever hope for is a form rejection letter, and if they are really lucky, a personal note explaining why their work wasn’t accepted.

Lastly, “why would an author on Steem submit their work to Steemhouse, rather than just post it directly to Steem?” Well, first of all, Steemhouse is only accepting novel-length work. We aren’t interested in posts. Steem is great for short stories and novellas, but not the ideal place for chapter by chapter publishing of books. There’s a seven-day payout window, and past that, blockchain content can generate no revenue. Also, work posted on Steem isn’t publishable in traditional markets. Once work is posted to the blockchain, it’s considered perma-free on the Internet. No publisher worth their salt will attempt to sell a product that’s available online at no cost. For those intending to self-publish, consider that Amazon price matches. That’s exactly how authors set their books at perma-free on Amazon—they post it online somewhere else (like Smashwords) for $0.00 and notify KDP with the link. KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) then matches the product offered on their site to the same amount. And if you think reviewers and readers won’t discover your work on Steem and report you to KDP, you’re sadly mistaken. No serious author would take this chance. By the same token, Steemhouse won’t touch anything that has been posted on Steem beyond a teaser chapter or the first 5,000 words. It simply is not worth the risk for us. Therefore, the answer to this is in the question for authors of novels: Steem isn’t where they want to publish their books in the first place.

When it comes to Wordrow, our literary magazine, short stories and serialized novellas will indeed be posted to Steem through our front-end. The submissions process is for featured work only, the work that will appear on the public front page and be upvoted vigorously by our partners (we aren’t yet at liberty to disclose more information—NDAs and whatnot.) Work approved through our submissions queue will then be eligible to use in professional portfolios as described in the post above. In this submissions process, rather than a form rejection letter, authors will be informed of the reasons their work isn’t suitable for publication in our literary magazine, and in many cases, offered a consultation with our editing team at no cost to discuss ways to improve the material. Again, this is unheard of in the publishing industry. Will it be a herculean task for our editing team? Certainly it will. But because we’re a Steem community, we have access to a growing pool of users who may be interested in training for these editorial acquisition jobs. We will eventually launch our own SMT, which will make excellent compensation for their hard work.

Any more questions, feel free to ask!

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Thanks for the speedy and thorough reply!

I was thinking about in-house editing in the first question. I'm aware of some small presses accepting work or authors who are still at pre-publication level. This seems to work to varying levels of success.

40% royalty rate is indeed in the upper levels.

I tend to forget that there's an expiration date on earning from posts, so you make a good point. Also, any social media platform is at best an advert for a content creator - some sort of web site is needed to funnel interest.

I should mention that I'm not a creator, but am married to an author (9 years of traditionally published work this month) and manage web sites for a number of others. It's a tough market out there in publishing.
I wish you luck and will be paying attention :)

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Are you saying that by publishing our stories on Steem for free, it is impossible to self publish them on Amazon at a price?

I'm working with several fiction writers on Steem with the end goal of producing and publishing a book on Amazon by March 1st.

We will be publishing under the name Steem Fiction Writers. I intend to show the world that the Steem blockchain has some of the greatest fiction writers around.

We're currently discussing whether it is a good idea to publish none, pieces, or all of our finished stories on the blockchain here first. It sounds to me that you are saying that publishing any piece of them on here, outside of a teaser, is a bad idea.

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Yes. That's exactly what we're saying. Well, you actually may be able to publish them at a price, but as soon as the KDP team discovers what you've done, they will price match to zero.

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Hi, I know you have done LOTS of research so must know much more on this subject than me.

That said (you knew that was coming didn't you!)... surely this just applies to the edition of ebook (with same ISBN). If you look on amazon and search for a classic (eg The Picture Of Dorian Gray) you will see a variety of editions of the same story (kindle editions and paperback obvs). Some are available on Amazon for free and some for over 3 dollars (for a kindle edition). There is a variety of prices. They have not been price matched (except perhaps with other sites listing the same ISBN book).

So I can't see that if individual chapters are available for free on the internet (blockchain or elsewhere) that if you put together an ebook and sell it on Amazon they will say well this is available for nothing (if you look for each separate chapter online -not available as one whole story in one ebook) so that is all we are selling it for. Because that is not what happens with other Ebooks that have different editions and publishers (even though the same story is available for free not only elsewhere on the internet but right there on Amazon).

I get that if I produce an ebook and make it free on smashwords but 1$ on amazon that they would be annoyed. But that is not what is being proposed.

A quick google search reveals the only problem people seem to have with amazon is getting them to reduce their book to free (even after listing it for free elsewhere). Amazon are there to make a profit.

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I can assure you that I had no trouble whatsoever getting them to list my novel for free using the price match system. 😉

I reached out to the Amazon legal department last year with this question. It took a while to get a response, but eventually someone did get back to me with the assurance that they will price match at will if provided with ample documentation. They will typically allow 10,000 words of a teaser. Also don’t forget the risk of one-star reviews by customers unhappy that they paid for something offered elsewhere for free. And with Steemit’s powerful SEO, the chance of discovery is quite good.

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Speaking as a reader... I buy ebooks so I can read them easily. I don't want to rumage from chapter to chapter on a website i don't know (unfortunately steem is not that big). I have bought several versions of the same book (ebooks, paperbooks, hardbacks). I've seen plenty of ebooks on Amazon that are available in different versions for free elsewhere. I'll take the risk (not that I am self publishing at the moment), that Amazon want to make money out of people and not give stuff away for free unless they have to. And if my only one star reviews are due to it being available on steem for free I'll be happy
:)

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That's your option. But it's not a risk t hat Steemhouse will touch with a ten-foot pole. Reviews mean everything. Just ask Elaine Moore in TWB. ;-)

I've loved watching and doing what I can to help support this project as it moves forward. It's going to be one of those sneakers that will suddenly go from what's that to have you heard!

@shadowspub
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It's All About Community!

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It's going to be one of those sneakers that will suddenly go from what's that to have you heard!

Shadows, this is awesome! GREAT statement, and it's bound to be true. We're all so thankful to have you be part of this from the ground up. You rock!

Great introduction to this exciting project. Looking forward to the coming months!

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Great to see such commitment, drive, and talent ! TWB continues to seem to persevere where others may have given up amidst the blues of the cryptoworld (and in particular, Steemit).

I applaud you and I wish you all great success :D

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Ditto that. Sad but true - others may have given up amidst the blues of the cryptoworld (and in particular, Steemit) - I know too many ex-Steemian authors! And even more who declined my invitations to join us here at Steemit.

Hello @thewritersblock I would love to talk with you about your business model. @hobo.media wants a little different direction, not coordinating centralization with decentralization, but taking decentralization to new heights.

I hope that your group will welcome open discussion between me and your team so that we can put our minds together and advance Steem in ways the publishing world has never seen.

Entering traditional publishing markets is fine and good, but I would like to have the opportunity to pursued you to a new way of looking at the industry. I don't believe paper books or even traditional ebooks are the answer here. We should utilize NFTs and good game theory, and build up a thriving second-hand digital book market for indie authors.

I think we might find that we have different ways of seeing things, but if we have some deep conversations, together we might be able to build on Steem the new way to publish.

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We'll soon be doing a Kickstarter that will include a great deal of information about our business model. You can see more about the direction we're taking once that's published.

We're not at all interested in decentralizing the publishing industry. Self-publishing and POD have caused irreparable damage to consumer confidence in products offered by retailers like Amazon. Our goal is to focus on quality and education, not open new doors for work that should never see the light of day. We also don't believe that a blockchain is the right place for long form fiction, for many reasons.

Our biggest issue with what you may be proposing is the absence of professional editing. Without that, a publishing startup is doomed to failure.

I couple of days ago I wrote a post about a possibility of a company paying it's employees in Steem and today found you through SOS news. You are doing exactly that for authors! This is wonderful for the entire Steem economy. Good luck!

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Have occasionally wondered how this was going or if it still was, glad you’re all persevering 😄 some of the negotiating stuff sounds like hard work, good luck with it all!

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This post has been included in the latest edition of SOS Daily News - a digest of all you need to know about the State of Steem.



It’s really exciting to see the momentum building for the three-part system. I’ve seen the incredible energy, drive and commitment behind the scenes, and it is a thrill to be a part of it. I have no doubt it will be successful. There are countless writers with absolutely mind blowing talent who can’t make it in the current mainstream publishing world, and Wordriw and Steemhouse Publishing can be the missing link.

The challenges are very real. But I personally believe the blockchain will recover from the doldrums. I’m hearing about a lot of real world applications under development that are built on the blockchain, and ultimately that will create momentum and sustainable growth. To my mind this is the perfect time to develop projects, so when that time comes everything is in place and aligned to grow with it. I believe the aches and pains are temporary.

Keep it up, @thewritersblock. Never quit.

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We could not agree more, Jayna.


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This is a seriously awesome project... I know I’ve only been around on the fringes (as well as a different time zone), but I’m fully behind this.

I know I’ve mentioned it several times, but when it’s time to start considering the non-fiction section........ 😉🙏🏽☯️

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Yes! - some of the greatest contemporary talent is shoved out of the market by big name authors and left with only self-publishing as an option - think Harvey Click and "The Bad Box" - a masterpiece! - yet Harvey says he will stop writing and publishing fiction (not selling enough books to pay for the professional cover artist, I imagine, and that's sad). Lindy Moone and Jassy Mackenzie also said they've quit - and Jassy had a brick-and-mortar New York publisher. I've read and reviewed a LOT of talented indie authors, and it's sad to see how the best writers go unrecognized while 50 Shades of Cliches and Purple Prose sell millions of copies. As ebooks opened the door to Indie Authors and revolutionzed the publishing industry, I hope SteemPress will add more roads and bridges for new authors. Thank you for doing this and I wish you every success!

I was there for the triangle! Love seeing this evolve y'all!

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Congratulations on all the great news - just heard your excitement on PYPT and it was contagious hehehehe

love it!!! this is gonna be a fun year for Steem i think! :)