A new wave of Canadian publishers is looking to tap in to the popularity of self-publishing and help authors do it in a more professional way.
"Everything we do is totally customized for the author and their book and their audience," says Trena White, principal and co-founder of Vancouver-based Page Two Strategies.
Her company offers a variety of services to authors, such as editing, design, marketing and distribution support on a fee-for-service basis. In other cases, it acts as a traditional agent, representing authors to publishers.
"We felt that there are a lot of authors with really great book ideas that deserve a market that just are not getting picked up by traditional publishers," Ms. White says.
Ms. White and her business partner Jesse Finkelstein have a long history in traditional publishing. The pair worked together at Douglas & McIntyre, a well-known publisher that filed for bankruptcy protection in 2012.
One thing Page Two can offer that conventional publishers can't, says Ms. White, is speed. The producers of CBC Radio show This is That approached Page Two last May with a book idea. While other publishers would normally be interested, the writers wanted the book to be in stores for the Christmas shopping season.
"No traditional publisher would move that fast. They didn't have a word written," Ms. White says. Page Two did the design, editing and secured a distribution deal that got the book in stores by November.
Page Two has also expanded into commissioning books. Its first, published through its imprint Page Two Books, was intended to capitalize on the summer's Pokemon Go trend. When work started in June, Ms. White says she knew they had to move fast.
"From start to finish, from the original idea, to the time the book was actually in the market, was a period of three months, which is phenomenal for book publishing," she says. "Most books would take maybe two years to go through that entire process."
For self-published authors, standing out from the crowd is a challenge. After all, even big publishers don't always get the marketing right, says Chris Hall, the co-owner of McNally Robinson, a Winnipeg bookstore that also has a location in Saskatoon.
"The vast majority of self-published authors sell to friends and family," says Mr. Hall. He says that authors who use self-publishing services are often setting themselves up for disappointment. "They end up with hundreds of copies of their book and, realistically, most of them don't get sold," Mr. Hall.
He is wary of marketing services aimed at self-published authors and says writers should be careful they're not getting taken advantage of. "People want to believe that their book is the best," he says. "I hate to be the person to bring the realistic news, but the chances of success are very low."
Greg Ioannou also says he's seen a lot of people pay to publish a book, only to be disappointed by the sales. He's the founder of Iguana Press, a publisher that also offers services to authors, but is selective about which books it publishes.
Now, Mr. Ioannou is the CEO of PubLaunch, a Toronto-based startup that's building a crowdfunding site focused exclusively on books. Crowdfunding will allow those writers a chance to get financial backing to publish instead of having to pay out of their own pockets.
"It takes the financial burden off the back of the author who's trying to self-publish. They either get their costs covered or they discover that the way they're envisioning doing the book probably isn't going to be successful in the way they had thought it would be," he says.
"We started being more comfortable with that model than with the model where the author comes in, pays us thousands of dollars and doesn't sell as many books as they want," he says. "They have dreams of a bestseller and they sell 200 copies or 20 copies. It just didn't feel like a model I wanted to be involved with."
PubLaunch is also building an online marketplace for services like editing, design and marketing. One area where PubLaunch sees a big opportunity is with consultants and public speakers – people who already have an audience.
That's a market Page Two is also targeting. "There are only a handful of publishers left doing business books and the largest ones are looking for people who are real household names," Ms. White says.
"From our perspective, it's not about how you get published," says Ms. Finkelstein, "there's actually a whole spectrum of ways of getting your book into the right hands, and to us, it's about publishing strategically."