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Authors as Entrepreneurs and Heroes

I'm proud to host today's guest blogger!  Client Greenleaf is the Founder and CEO of Greenleaf Book Group, who also happens to be my publisher.   The publishing business is one of the best examples of a dinosaur in the making. Publishers refuse to release the gravity inherent in "the way we've always done it", even as the digital era roars over them. Clint and his team are a fabulous example of challenging the status quo in this rapidly evindustry.

Publishing is an industry plagued by the status quo on many fronts: the policy of our product being 100% returnable by retailers, which few publishers can successfully work around; the long timeline it typically takes major houses to bring a product to market (years); and the paying of non-refundable upfront advances that leave most projects in the red. Alternative publishing models have grown to challenge some of these practices, but despite their growing success, we still face an uphill battle against the most dangerous status quo in publishing – the idea that a writer’s work is of no merit if the author paid to have it published.

Our business development manager, Tanya Hall, comes from a broadcast background and recently commented on how publishing is the only media sector where the creator is  scorned if funding his or her own work. In film, if you are an “indie  filmmaker,” you’re the darling of the industry. In music, most record company deals are ultimately artist-funded (record company pays to produce the album and draws down those costs from royalties before the artists see a dime). Despite funding their own ventures, those artists are not shut out from the award opportunities, association memberships, media reviews, etc the way self-funded authors are.

Entrepreneurs who bootstrap (fund their own ventures) are the heroes of business. I built Greenleaf Book Group this way: I believed in it enough to put my own money on the line. My authors do the same – they contribute to production costs on the front end and retain much more (35% of list price) on each unit sold than in a traditional model. Our company brand is built around quality, so we don’t suffer from some of the snubs that our self-published cousins contend with. Even so, some high-profile organizations designed to support authors deny membership to any author who has paid his or her publisher for services. To exclude an author based on the business model behind the work is short-sighted and goes against everything these organizations claim around supporting authors and developing genres.

To be fair, I fully realize the volume of bad self-published work out there. We reject hundreds of submissions every month, but unlike those who blacklist author-funded works, we take pride in recognizing the potential in books that need a bit of help in positioning, titling, repackaging, etc. If the weakness can be fixed, we will explore fixing it.  Our mission is to support these authors with our knowledge of the marketplace. Otherwise, they work in a vacuum and never have a chance to develop. Associations, reviewers and others with a vested interest in the growth of publishing owe it to themselves to take a similar stance.

Those in the writing community lament that with traditional houses gambling less on new voices, the overall quality of modern literature will decline. Whether you are a book review editor, media producer, awards director, or literary association leader, if you are blacklisting bootstrapped authors, you are a huge part of the problem. The talented new voices are out there, but you must be open to hearing them regardless of the business model behind their work. Put your money where your mouth is and support your own.


About Clint Greenleaf:

Clint Greenleaf is the founder and CEO of Greenleaf Book Group. GBG, an Inc 500 Company, is a leading publisher and distributor with several New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestsellers. Clint (a CPA) sits on the University of Texas Libraries Board, blogs for Inc.com, and has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc magazine, Fox Business, MSBNC, Money magazine, Forbes, and Entrepreneur. Clint speaks about publishing and entrepreneurship across the country at conferences, seminars, and schools. 

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Rebel Brown guides organizations and individuals to harness the power of their minds to step into their ultimate potential. A masterful agent of change, for over 25 years Rebel Brown has inspired, coached and empowered individuals and businesses to unstoppable performance and results. As a recognized market strategist and turnaround expert, Rebel guided over 200 global organizations to step beyond their status quo perspectives to create profitable market advantage. She also worked with US and European venture firms to successfully fund and launch their portfolios. She also ran a consulting practice in Paris for three years, working with European clients. Fascinated by the power of our human minds to limit ourselves and our business results, she began her study of neural science. Her core question was simple. What could we do if we had no limits? Today, she brings the power of neuroscience to business (NeuroBusiness),fueling limitless thinking that drives powerful bottom line growth for her executive and corporate clients. Rebel’s work has been featured in media including First Business TV, Forbes, Inc, Entrepreneur, Business Insider and Business Week. She is a Vistage International speaker and workshop leader as well as NSA speaker. She’s also been named one of the Top 100 Women in Computing. Rebel is also the founder and director of the Unstoppable U Foundation, a non-profit program committed to guiding kids to know that they are born to be Unstoppable!