Recently, I had the good fortune to learn about Authors Unbound, an exciting new program created to help indie authors find an audience—and to help readers discover great new indie authors. I’m thrilled to introduce the founders of Authors Unbound, Ariella Papa and Lynn Messina. Ariella and Lynn have graciously agreed to answer some questions about their new program. Enjoy!
You are both published authors, originally from the legacy publishing world. Would you please tell us about yourselves.
After years of trying to sell our books, we each published three novels in rapid succession with Red Dress Ink, which was Harlequin’s chick lit imprint in the early aughts. Our books did well, particularly our first, which was the only title released by RDI for that month. It gave us a very positive, if slightly skewed perspective, on legacy publishing. Then the chick lit backlash hit, and we found it impossible to sell our books. We were bummed about it for a while, but then Ariella started to investigate e-publishing. It seemed simple and smart, so she published Momfriends. And Lynn watched from the sidelines and thought, Hey, that seems cool, so then she published The Girls’ Guide to Dating Zombies.
What—in your own words—is Authors Unbound?
Our mission is to provide indie authors with events to share their work and connect with fans. It is the first reading series devoted exclusively to indie and epublished authors. We find venues to host events, readings and discussions that support the careers of epublished authors. We want them (and us) to have the opportunity to get out there. We love meeting our readers, and we wanted to be able to do that in a setting that wasn’t necessarily a bookstore because we don’t always have a tangible book. Basically, we wanted the same things we had with our traditionally published books. We wanted a platform. And we knew we weren’t alone. With a traditional publisher, we very often had to set up our own signings and events and so this wasn’t that different.
As far as I know, this is the first program of its kind. Why did you decide to start the program?
The venue came first. We found an amazing free event space in New York City and decided to do a reading together. We knew immediately that we wanted to open the event up to other writers in our situation. Writing is a solitary business and self-publishing even more so, so any opportunity to interact with other writers is welcome. Plus, it’s always wonderful to meet readers. Then we looked around and realized there wasn’t a single reading series devoted to indie or epublished writers and we knew there should be. The indie revolution has created a sort of publishing diaspora. We don’t belong to a centralized place like a publishing house anymore, and we hope that Authors Unbound can become like a center.
As an indie author, I find it difficult to reach the audience for paperback books. Can you speak to this problem?
We can speak to it at length and still not provide any answers. We both spend hours trying to solve it. Without the browsing factor and, more important, the happened-to-see-it-while-walking-by factor, it’s hard to sell physical copies of a book. Readings and other live events are the best chance an author has to make a reader excited enough to pick up the book—to get the impulse sale. Hopefully, as indie publishing grows, bookstores will figure out better ways to work with writers. In the meantime, we are at the mercy of the mysterious algorithm that connects one book to another, and they don’t seem to connect ebooks to physical books.
The first event, on June 7 in NYC, sounded wonderful! Would you please tell us about it?
The first event was a blast. We had it at this amazing place called Wix Lounge, which is a large, open loft space in downtown New York City. We had a great mix of writers. In addition to Lynn and Ariella, Melissa Clark (Imperfect) and Ray Krueger (45 Love) read. The audience was really enthusiastic and engaged. After the readings, we had a q&a about writing in general and self-publishing in particular, and everyone asked really great, thoughtful questions. For us, it was wonderful to hear about other writers’ experiences and to think, Yes, exactly! It was amazing how much we had in common and yet how particular to our own lives our experiences were. It was really wonderful. Plus, we had the best cookies ever from One Girl Cookies in Brooklyn.
The authors who read on June 7 were impressive. How and why did you choose them? Would you please tell us a bit about your selection process?
We spent a lot of time thinking about these authors and how they could best represent this series. The event on June 7 included a lively discussion of epublishing, so we wanted authors who could speak to both traditional and epublishing. But we also liked the idea of having a debut author there, because we like that energy and what he (Ray Krueger) brought to the discussion. Melissa Clark wowed us when she pitched the idea of doing a pecha kucha, which is a Japanese method of presentation where you show 20 slides, taking 20 seconds to discuss each one. Neither of us consider ourselves particularly tech savvy in spite of the ebooks. Her idea was very forward-thinking and that’s the zest of what we want Authors Unbound to be. And, of course, we had to get our feet wet for the debut.
What do you envision for this series? How many readings do you have planned?
We envision nothing less than total world domination: Authors Unbound events in every corner of the globe. For the immediate future, we’re planning another event for October 9 at the Duplex in NYC. Both of us are going to be reading from out latest works and we’ll be joined by Brittany Geragotelis and Frank Anthony Polito. We have another event planned on January 30 at the Cornelia Street Cafe. We plan to be in Boston in April. After that we hope to have an event every other month and eventually every month. Oh, and T-shirts. We want to have Author Unbound T-shirts made up. It’s just a matter of asking another favor from one of our amazingly talented designer friends.
What are you doing to market the program? How has the response been thus far?
We are doing things like this, trying to connect with people in the community. We are also drawing on our own fan bases and those of the authors who read. We also try to get our events listed in as many places as possible. Being FREE has it’s benefits. We also had cookies and wine at our debut. Cookies and wine are a big draw. We feel the response has been great and the first event was a success. There were a bunch of people none of us knew at the event, so something worked.
Do you have plans beyond the series? If so, would you consider sharing?
As authors, we are continuing to epublish. Lynn just released Bleak, which was inspired by her experience with the movie option for her first book, and Ariella is in the process of publishing a series of short stories this year called Turn of The Century Stories. As for Authors Unbound, see question #7, and after we accomplish all that, we have dreams of paying it forward to give unpublished and soon-to-be-published authors a forum to read their work, perhaps through a submission or contest process. For now, we have a lot on our plate.
Do you have anything you’d like to add?
We hope that people will check out the site and begin to think of epublishing as a fantastic option. If you are a reader, we hope you will check out one of our next events. If you are an author, let us know if you are interested in being a part of a future series. For more information about us please go to authorsunbound.org.