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Booktrope Closing Its Doors Leaving Authors Without a Publisher

Booktrope LogoIn a sad turn of events, hybrid self-publishing service, Booktrope, is going out of business. Via Geekwire:

Booktrope plans to go out of business at the end of May, bringing an end to its “team publishing” platform used by ad hoc groups of authors, editors, marketers and designers to create and market print books and e-books…

With the closure, Booktrope says it will “remove all published books from sale as of May 31, 2016,” returning rights to authors as of June 1.

There’s a lot of consternation about how Booktrope went out of business when it just received $1.2 million in seed money only last year. Some of the comments on the Geekwire post aim to clear up that confusion.

The money Booktrope raised, as well as the money earned by selling books, went to four things: salaries, rent, marketing, other expenses. Most likely, the founders were paid little to nothing (and you can guarantee there are no severance packages for anybody), so those salaries were for people who were hired…

I know of a startup that closed a $2M round with a half dozen employees and went out of business in less than a year? How? Well, $1.5M of the $2M was already spent by the time the round closed. They started raising another round again as soon as the first round closed but couldn’t get it done.

What this means for authors is starting over with a new edition of the book. They should be able to link a new edition with the old to retain reviews, but finding a traditional publisher to take on a previously-published book should be very difficult without stellar sales. So self-publishing will need to be the way forward for most of these authors (though many are saying they now “need a publisher”). Additionally, covers will now have to be redesigned. Here’s the back cover of a Booktrope print edition:

Booktrope Print Edition

This has led to authors now having to beg for sales before the May 31 deadline:

What this means is that May 31, 2016, will be your final opportunity acquire THE DOLOROUS ADVENTURE OF BROTHER BANENOSE! Without a publisher, the eBooks & paperbacks will go out of production. So if you’ve been procrastinating on trading in a tiny fraction of your income for a copy, now’s the time.

Understandably, there’s a fair amount of anger about this development – not only from authors, but from editors who were contracted by the service. Ally Bishop writes bluntly on Medium:

Neither of us have said a word publicly against Booktrope largely because we felt foolish for getting involved with them in the first place. But now, watching the flames rise from what was, at best, a foolish venture, and at worst, designed to fail, some truths should be noted, if for no other reason than to warn fellow authors and creative types.

She gets harsher:

Booktrope never placed a priority on qualifications when hiring. The people at the top had little-to-no book publishing or editing experience, yet those same people were their acquisitions team…They didn’t ask, didn’t check backgrounds, didn’t require their book marketing managers to have any previous marketing experience.

Her main conclusion is this: “Profit-sharing models in publishing don’t work.”

Generally, it seems like Booktrope did what a lot of self-publishers do: get a good cover, get edited, try this and that with marketing and hope it works. That’s fine for a single book (though the book probably won’t sell), but it’s fairly predictable that this model wouldn’t be sustainable for 1000 books at a time.

Here’s a list of blogger responses to the shutdown.

Interested authors can contact our publishing imprint Kwill Books to help get their book back to market (we will market the book anew).

Editors looking for work might look into a service like Book Butchers.