Startups in Publishing: Meet the best indie-only ebook store
For the second installment of our series featuring literary-minded start-ups, this week we spoke to Ben Galley, co-founder of Libiro. Libiro is an amazing ebook store that is exclusive to indie authors and small presses.
We talked to Ben about where the idea for Libiro came from, how being an indie author helped inject the spirit of being indie into Libiro’s ebook store, and what the future of indie publishing might look like. Enjoy!
Why did you start Libiro? What’s the founder’s story behind it?
It was an idea that came about 2-3 years ago. As an author, I felt like a lot of ebook stores were missing certain things - not all the boxes were being ticked for me. Teague Fullick, Libiro’s other co-founder, found he was facing similar issues from a consumer’s side.
After a lot discussions, there was a penny-drop moment where we realised that we could do it ourselves. As Teague’s skills lie in business/web development and corporate branding, and with my knowledge of the publishing world and marketing, it seemed like a great way forward. It took us a long 18 months , but in the end we launched our first store in September 2013, and have not looked back since!
Our goals are threefold. First, we want to tick all the boxes for indie authors. At the same time, we focus on the readers, delivering and showcasing new, exciting literature – indie literature – to readers around the world, therefore helping authors and readers to connect. Lastly, we’re set on injecting a local bookshop feel to an online store and have been trying to redefine what an online bookstore can be. We feel the personal approach is missing from many e-retailers, and want to make sure we do better.
Yes, it’s really interesting to see how much more intuitive the site is compared to other bookstores. It’s almost as if no one has really ever put much effort into thinking about the process before, to be honest.
Well that’s brilliant, it’s really what we’re aiming for, thank you! We are definitely just at the start of our journey and what we can offer. There’s much more still to come in the coming years!
Are you thinking to move into print at some point, or are you in the process of developing that?
Ah, good question! In the future, we would like to explore that market, however we’d like to focus on audiobooks first. Our next store will hopefully facilitate the ability to easily upload and download audiobooks. The success of that would depend of course on how tight the grip of other players is over the audiobook market. We’re hoping to redefine this medium as well, and we hope to hit on something really interesting and special. Print may come after that, if the market’s right.
What do you think you can do with other startups out there (like IPR License or Reedsy)? The three of us, for example, are now well-established, very professional companies trying to help indie authors. So do you think that there are some bigger projects that we might be able to do together?
Absolutely. Teague and I think one way to be successful in this current market is to build bridges. If the three of us have the same ethos, the same ideas, goals and aims, then joining forces makes us stronger overall. It just makes good business sense.
The fact that we three are different means that we can actually service three different parts of the author and book life cycle, and that’s really exciting. For instance, Reedsy helps the author create their professional sellable book, Libiro can then take care of selling the book, and IPR can focus on helping the author sell their rights, and diversifying.
I totally agree, and I think that us being in touch like this is going to make it easier to integrate more efficiently. I now have a “hard” question on the future of publishing, and Amazon. Many self-publishing authors dream of a relatively near future where readers don’t care whether the book has been self-published or traditionally published. Though this would be a bright future for indies, what would Libiro’s purpose be then?
Well, if you boil us down to our bare essence, we’re another ebook store where you can find great literature, so in that future we would still continue to serve authors and readers.
What we’re trying to do at the moment is show people that indie literature can be just as good as traditionally published books. It’s a stubborn and unfortunate misconception. We hope our efforts can reverse this mindset, so that self-published books aren’t dismissed or ignored, and bought and enjoyed instead.
That future could be a bright one. Authors win because they’re not lumped into “traditional” or “indie” categories and being snubbed, and readers win because there’s more literature available to them overall. This could mean a healthier book market and a higher focus on quality and professionalism as the game is raised across the board. That sort of future certainly doesn’t scare us. To the contrary, we really welcome it.
I notice you have quite a few “free ebooks” or promoted books on display (authors can run promotions on Libiro). How does this work for the authors and Amazon’s pricing/competition requirements?
We actively try to say to authors: “Be aware of price matching” which is something major stores can do if you set a lower price at another store. We are also careful to prevent authors who are exclusive with other stores from trying to sell their books with us. As that breaches the exclusivity agreement, we don’t want to get anyone in trouble.
However, if you’re doing a discount across the board then you can of course match the price on the Libiro store too. We haven’t had any problems so far, and we keep a keen eye open for this sort of issue. It is down to the individual author, and we try to make sure they’re aware of what the terms and conditions of other stores, and our own terms and conditions are as well.
My last question, and possibly the most important one, is about curation. How do you curate the books posted on Libiro?
What’s great about our current store is that we get to see every book that is uploaded on a daily basis, and as each book is uploaded, we can check the price, quality, file format, and genre to make sure that it’s in the right section. So if it’s erotica and it’s in the fantasy section, we just say: “Do you mind changing the genre?”
We also look at the quality of the cover, and check it against our strict content guidelines for to make sure we’re avoiding poor quality covers, and any frontal nudity too.
As well as being a curation system, getting sight of each and every book that gets uploaded is also fun and insightful for us. Although at the moment it’s very manual, we’re looking into automating it for the future. We want to source or build a tool that can automatically analyse a book’s content, so we can make sure people find the books they want to find and that are right for them.
That’s fascinating, I’ll keep an eye on it for sure. In the meantime, thanks a lot for your time, Ben!
To read the first instalment of the “Startups in publishing” series, about IPR License, click here!
To get in touch with Cherry, the woman with the tablet – and Libiro’s #1 fan – drop Teague an email at firstname.lastname@example.org