My background is as an artist. Before I started Joffe Books, my only experience with the industry was publishing my very first-novelish novel with Saqi Books. It was about an arrogant and ambitious young British artist. Its sales were minimal, and the final Borders book reading had a whopping zero attendees.
Perhaps because I came to it from another world, I don’t divide publishing into outside and inside, big or small, trad or indy. I honestly don’t really know how other companies do things or what the differences are.
I just think of publishing in terms of people buying books and reading them. This is not format specific, or shop specific, or country specific. Everything we do is just about creating the best books we can and reaching as many readers as possible. We streamline the in-between bits while keeping a high editorial standard, respecting the work and love authors have put into their writing.
At this very moment in time, most efficient way we can do all this is by selling most of our books on Kindle and through Amazon. This primarily digital process means we can get books by million-selling authors like Joy Ellis and Faith Martin into the hands of our readers super fast.
I have developed many of our processes, from manuscript preparation through to publication, by emulating the best in the field, or just by googling how to do them, to meet the goal of selling great books in large numbers. This evolution through trial and error has led to a publishing process that might be described as holistic: linking up editorial to cover design to marketing. In simple terms: many of these jobs are done by the same person.
The advantages is that if I’ve done the final proof, designed the cover and written the blurb, then I probably know more than anyone what readers will appreciate about a book, and at that point, I might as well create an ad campaign or a marketing email.
Because feedback is coming in all the time, direct from readers in the form of emails from our loyal advance readers or comments on social media, I have a real sense of what people like or dislike about our titles. And because of this live data and the ease of making changes, we have the ability to respond very quickly to the information we’re getting. For example, if readers tell us they hate a cover, we can have a new one designed, uploaded and live in a couple of hours. Or we can create a selection of covers, show them to our wonderful Facebook followers, and let them help decide which one works best.
In short, almost everything we do, we've made up as we went along. If something worked, we did more; if it didn’t, we stopped and tried something else. By that process, we got to the point of selling 2.6 million books last year.
I still don’t really know how traditional publishing works.
Jasper Joffe is the founder of e-book specialist publisher Joffe Books.