Friday, 9 January 2015

A View from the Crossroads: an interview with Ricardo Fayet of Reedsy

This week, we meet Ricardo Fayet, co-founder of Reedsy, the curated marketplace of freelance editors, proofreaders, designers and illustrators..

Hi Ricardo. Can you start by telling us something about your background and how you became involved in Reedsy? What had you been doing before that?

Hi Catriona. Before starting Reedsy I was a business school student in France, as was my co-founder Emmanuel. It was fuelled by the fact both of us were avid readers and eager early-adopters of the digital formats (Emmanuel imported his first Kindle from across the pond). At the same time, we were really passionate about tech.

As an anecdote, right before Reedsy I had been working for 6 months at Hermès in the marketing and communication department. I quit when I couldn’t handle sacrificing my nights for Reedsy anymore (and because they were still refusing to grant me discounts on their ties…)

What is the first book you remember falling in love with?

I think it would be George R.R. Martin’s first book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series. I read it in 2006 or so (before it was “cool,” if you like) and got incredibly hooked in to it. It was very frustrating though - at that time George hadn’t published that many books in the series yet, so when I was coming close to the end of what was out there (and read that he wasn’t even close to finishing writing the next one), I had to compel myself to read slower, putting down the book at the end of each chapter, etc.

Although, if I was allowed to call it a tie with a second book, it would be The Red and The Black, by Stendhal. It’s a book I first started as I started any “school book”: with this mixture of hope and reluctance. I’ve read it thrice since. I just think the characters are perfect: they’re all incredibly different, with almost opposite, extreme values and personalities, and still I was able to connect to each one, understand them and feel their emotions.

What excites you most about the world of author publishing?

As I said, I’ve always been torn between the worlds of tech/entrepreneurship and publishing. Author publishing is really at a crossroads: indies ‘get’ startups because they have similar challenges. Also, author-publishers seem to be the only ones to have fully realised what the rise of eBooks means. It’s not an ‘option,’ or ‘something to keep in mind;’ it’s what will be the norm in a very near future (in my opinion)…

Another exciting thing is that I think there is a desperate need for tech in publishing, and indies are more receptive to it. The problem is that this ‘need’ has been identified by way too many people who think they can do tech, but can’t. Or by people who can do tech but who push their products before even consulting indie authors’ needs. Striving to not fall into either of those categories is what keeps me going every day, and the thought of what could become possible if someone figures out how to do it right.

Plus, let’s be honest. I haven’t met an indie author yet who wasn’t incredibly nice and an inherently good person. It’s a blessing to be working with this community.

Tell us about the basic idea behind Reedsy. When and why was it set up?

Emmanuel and Ricardo
The broad vision behind Reedsy is to invent a publishing model that combines the quality of traditional publishing while keeping the freedom and business model of self-publishing.

Reedsy started with Emmanuel and I around a year and a half ago. For a year we spent our evenings and weekends scheduling interviews and chats with authors, agents, publishers, journalists, etc. just to get to gather knowledge about the industry.

Once we had a clear vision for Reedsy (the one outlined above) and a good idea of how to get there, we dropped our respective jobs to start building it (around June this year).

What we’ve built so far is a tightly-curated marketplace of freelance editors, proofreaders, designers and illustrators. Authors can search it according to their need and genre, and choose up to 5 individuals to ask for a quote (and sample, in the case of editing). On top of that, we’re building project management tools so both authors and freelancers can keep all their workflow, files, payments and contracts, perfectly organised, in one place.

We have many other plans in the pipeline. Our goal is to make sure everything we do brings value to not just authors, but editors and designers and other freelancers too -- and we always question whether we’re doing is achieving that or not.

How many service providers do you have signed up with you now? What categories of service providers do you cover?

We have started with providers who fulfill an author’s most basic (and vital) needs: editing and cover design. Since September, we’ve received over 3,000 applications from freelancers. They’ve created intelligent, intuitive profiles where you can check their work experience, portfolio, awards, etc. In a word, we’ve created sort of a Linkedin specialised for freelance book professionals.

Out of these applications, we’ve hand-picked the best ones and are now featuring around 200 of them. We will soon be adding freelance publicists (PR specialists) to the marketplace -- and this segment will be even more heavily curated (you won’t get the “I’ll write you a press release for $5” kind of guy).

I am an editor / cover designer / other service professional.
  • How do I go about signing up to Reedsy?
Through our landing page, indicating during the signup process that you’re registering as a freelancer.
  • Once I’m accepted, how do I go about offering my services to authors?
You wait to be contacted by one. Once you are, you get to see the brief, containing all the details you need about the book, and offer a quote, explaining what you’ll do, for what price and deadline. You can also attach a sample.
  • Do Reedsy get involved in the contractual arrangements between author and service provider? Do they take a cut?
The only thing Reedsy does is provide an easy interface for receiving the brief/offering a quote, negotiating, and agreeing on specific terms. We do not decide the terms nor influence anyone in any way. However, we do then take a 10% cut on the payment.

I am an author looking for editor / cover designer / other service professional.
  • How do I go about signing up to Reedsy?
Through the landing page. The onboarding process is really quick as most information we ask for is optional. But it’s worth taking the time to fill out everything - as we’re working on author profiles (you’ll love them), if you fill it we’ll keep it saved for then.
  • How do I know that I will get a good service from any of your listed providers?
In the first place, on Reedsy, we filter the marketplace so that we only display freelancers we know are talented and professional (because they’ve proved it in the past). This guarantee is part of what makes Reedsy the best place to come find a provider (we would lose all credibility if it turned out this was not the case).
  • What will it cost me?
Reedsy is free for the author - we take a 10% commision from the freelancer. It’s important to remember that most of our editors and designers come from a traditional publishing background, and have a great reputation in their field because they’re so talented. You’re getting someone at the top of their game on Reedsy, and the saying ‘you get what you pay for’ holds true. Now, they’re all working already with indie authors, so they’re not unreasonable either.

Tell us some of your success stories. What are you particularly proud of?

I think what we’ve achieved with Reedsy in under 6 months has certainly been the most rewarding thing in my life so far. Launching the site in September, having hundreds of book professionals take the time to fill out profiles and share them… There’s nothing like creating something out of nothing and having people enjoy it. It’s just what an author feels when getting their first reviews, I imagine!

What do you think is the future for author publishers? How can those who are approaching it professionally (using editors and cover designers etc) best distinguish themselves from the much derided ‘finish-the-first-draft-and-upload-it’ view of self-publishers?

I think for writers it can be really hard to show to a potential reader what you have to offer, especially online -- you don’t so much get that crucial moment where a reader flips through a few pages of a book to see how they feel. This is important because of this challenge you’re highlighting that authors have, how they need to distinguish themselves from authors who are more ‘amateur’ than ‘indie.’ But it’s not impossible.

This is where having a great book cover is important. Obviously, you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but you can afford to be at least a little prejudiced! If an author has cut corners on the way their book is presented, it’s unfortunately reasonable for a reader to worry about whether that happened in the editing of the book itself. Much like in life, looking professional helps when you’re a self-published author.

Another way of distinguishing yourself is showing your potential readers what your work is like more directly by making excerpts and sample chapters available easily. There’s a little debate right now about the return you get from giving away material, but there’s something intuitive to the idea that the best way to show a curious reader that you’re a good writer is by showing them your writing.

And finally, what was your stand-out book of 2014, and why?

For me, it was Uncommon Stock: Version 1.0 by Eliot Peper. It’s a very personal choice, powered by the fact that this book had a deep personal impact on me at a moment when I needed one. Eliot has created a new genre, really: “startup thriller”, and he balances both sides in it perfectly well. There’s this sentence he gave me when we first interviewed him: “I think the human mind is wired to understand complex problems through stories. It’s boring to read a complex problem that isn’t part of narrative.”

A startup is definitely a very complex problem, or rather a constant blend of several of those. Using fiction to “teach” entrepreneurs about how to handle the tough moments is something that Eliot has done very well. Or at least it has really worked for me!

Thank you, Ricardo!

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