1 What's your company called?
Totally Bound Publishing.
2 What do you publish?
Erotic romance fiction in ebook, print and audio. We are the go-to destination for deliciously good stories that put a smile on readers’ faces and a spring in their steps.
3 What's the story of the company?
The company began trading in 2007 and has been going from strength to strength ever since. We started off with eight books in our first month but now release up to nine new books each week and trade internationally. We work with more than 380 authors around the world and are determined to deliver superb books and a service that will make us the destination publisher for all talented writers in our genre. All of our books are romance stories that go beyond the bedroom door, with a happy-ever-after ending—escapism for the modern woman needing ‘me’ time.
We rebranded in October 2013 after conducting extensive market research into what women and our readers want. We had a minor name change to Totally Bound Publishing and created two new websites—one a publisher site
and one a retail store
, or our book boutique as we like to call it. We felt that creating two websites allowed us to focus individually on our two sets of customers—our authors and our readers. In spring 2014 we were shortlisted for the title of eBook Retailer of the Year at The Bookseller Industry Awards, up against Sainsbury’s eBooks and Kobo. We launched two new imprints called What's Her Secret? and What's Her Passion? in 2014.
4 How's business?
Great! The ebook industry is getting stronger and stronger, and there isn’t another publisher in the UK doing what we do. We have our own book boutique where we sell all of our own titles, and customers can get great buying incentives like special offers and promotions, a reward scheme which earns you extra points towards future orders, and exclusive early downloads of all of our titles ahead of the general release date. Readers can also download straight to their Kindle, any other e-reading device or app at the end of their order, or straight from their customer account. We offer these features to incentivise readers to buy direct from the publisher rather than through other retail channels. It means our authors can get a higher royalty because there is no middleman taking a cut. Having said that, we do still sell our titles through all of the main retail sites too, as well as some bricks and mortar stores for our paperbacks.
5 What do you enjoy about being independent?
Everything. We have the ability to make strategic decisions and run with them quickly and efficiently. We have the freedom to take risks on new and interesting stories—risks that traditional houses are unlikely to take—because we accept short stories and novellas as well as longer novels and we’re happy to develop new authors and their brands. We have the flexibility to consider authors who otherwise might not have had that opportunity. It’s very satisfying to be able to develop a new writer and see their fan base grow.
Our costs to market are lower so we can also set a higher royalty for our authors to earn more and charge our readers less than the average publisher would for their books. We pay our authors monthly rather than quarterly, so it enables them to make the jump from other jobs to full-time writing when they have a regular and reliable monthly income.
I like that we don’t model our business on traditional publishing methods. I see us as the next generation of publishing. We have a very close relationship with our authors and we achieve that by utilising the agency model. None of our authors have to go through an agency to work with us, as we handle it all ourselves. Each of our authors is assigned their own editor with whom they build a solid working relationship, and this makes for a harmonious process on the whole. Being an independent publisher gives us the freedom to take publishing down a different path, to be diverse, to react quickly to an ever-changing marketplace and to stay ahead of the game.
We’re a very forward-thinking, technology-driven company that looks for new ways to enhance the publishing process and cut down on administrative functions by designing automated systems. Our business is very fast paced, fun and interesting, and no two days are ever the same. Releasing six books a week on average means that our schedule works at a much faster pace than most other publishing companies.
I love the e-publishing industry, the authors and readers that we work with, and being at the forefront of it with technology, strategy and development. We have a great team, who support each other and work closely together. I cherish the relationships I have with staff and authors alike.
6 What is the biggest single issue in publishing right now?
I’m sure it’s different for each publisher—but there are a few common issues that affect independents.
While we rely on bigger retail stores for a big chunk of our income, they are also detrimental to our business in some ways. Customers want cheap books, and fast, easy access to their downloads. Larger retail stores offer that with a one-click download and cut-down prices that are difficult to beat. Customers often believe that these retailers are their only option or their best option—that they can’t get this type of service anywhere else or download to their devices if they don’t use those sites. What we’ve been trying to educate them is that this simply isn’t true. It’s actually very easy to download from most publishers’ sites, and our website has clear and simple instructions for buying direct from us—and our prices are very competitive. If more people bought direct from publishers, then authors—whose books they love and want to continue reading—would be able to spend more time writing those stories, because they would earn more in royalties and be able to make a decent living from writing.
The growth of self-publishing is also very relevant. Most authors write for a number of publishing houses, which can dilute the author brand but is still manageable. But an increasing number of authors are experimenting with self-publishing. Some of them are successful, but the majority are not, and there are a number of problems with this route. One is quality. People underestimate how much a publisher does to prepare a book for sale and promote it and the author. Authors benefit from publishers’ editing too, as well as their expertise on cover art, which is so important in grabbing people’s attention.
Self-publishing is leading to saturation. The market is getting flooded with books that possibly wouldn’t have been published if they weren’t self-published, and that makes it very difficult for readers to find the good stuff, unless they are looking specifically for an author by name. I’m not saying that all self-published books aren’t good—some of them are very good, and those are the ones that tend to lead to their authors being offered contracts by traditional publishers. Self-publishing has also driven the price of a book down quite dramatically over the last few years, to the point where readers are used to and often expect a book for 99p. This doesn’t reflect its true value, and makes it very difficult to compete, especially with so many titles available.
7 What one piece of advice would you give to a fellow independent just starting out?
If you haven’t run your own business before, you’re in for the ride of your life. Be prepared. When we set up Totally Bound Publishing we worked 16-hour days for the first three years to get the company off the ground and then profitable. You need strong determination, a clear and defined strategy, a good business model and USP and a hard-working ethic.
8 What do you get out of belonging to the IPG?
I think it’s essential for independent publishers to have a voice. Together we are stronger. The IPG offer us that—a combined voice to enable us to make a difference, as well as support and contacts which give us opportunities that we wouldn’t have on our own.
Visit the Totally Bound website for readers
and website for authors