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An Interview with Lucy Challenger of SelfPubli.sh

I recently had the good fortune of meeting Lucy Challenger, director of SelfPubli.sh, an exciting new online marketplace that provides content creators—such as self-publishers—with a means of selling their work using a “Pay What You Want” model. The goal, Lucy says, is “to give customers an attractive legal alternative to piracy.” Lucy was gracious enough to talk with me and answer my questions about this new platform.

Terri Giuliano Long: Could you please tell us about SelfPubli.sh?

Lucy Challenger: SelfPubli.sh is an online marketplace that enables content creators to sell their digital goods using the “Pay What You Want” model. Subject to a minimum price of $1 (and a maximum of $10,000), customers can choose what they pay!

TGL: When did the site launch? What was your inspiration?

LC: The site launched on the 28th of December, 2012. We really liked the Pay What You Want business model offered by Humble Bundle. They hand-pick a collection of games, books, music and sell them in bundles. We wanted to make this business model immediately available to any independent content creator, not just those chosen by Humble Bundle.

TGL: Who are the likely users? Why will buyers purchase from SelfPubli.sh as opposed to recognized retailer sites?

LC: We’ve built SelfPublish to be open to anyone with digital content to sell. We think it is perfectly suited for independent digital content creators, authors who have struggled to be published in the bookstores, musicians who aren’t yet signed, filmmakers who create for the passion of making films. We do not prevent anyone from using the site though, so established authors and artists are free to use the site too!

TGL: What solutions do you feel SelfPubli.sh will provide for consumers? Content creators?

LC: SelfPubli.sh will allow fans to directly support the digital content creator. Sites like Amazon and iTunes take high commission rates, but SelfPubli.sh takes only 15%. The remaining 85% goes directly to the content creator, meaning that the fans know that their payments are going directly to the source. It will be a gateway for any content creator to reach millions of people around the world, and give them a way to monetize their work.

TGL: Do you have any limitations—is there content you won’t accept?

LC: We allow most types of digital content to be sold on SelfPubli.sh. We do not allow any pornographic or illegal material on Self Publish. We will also not approve any material that discriminates against a particular group or contains overly offensive material. We do however accept erotica in novel form, and allow nudity and violence in films, games etc.—however, it must be clearly marked during the product creation stage so that future customers are aware of the content. Each product is checked by SelfPubli.sh before customers can purchase it to make sure it complies with these guidelines.

TGL: Authors must provide DRM-free files, which are specified for personal use only, but personal use is broadly defined. Could you please tell us what this means? Would it be possible to enforce the regulations?

LC: We don’t think that DRM does much to prevent piracy, and the proliferation of file-sharing is testament to that. It only takes one person to remove the DRM and share the file and the copy protection is useless. We want to give customers an attractive legal alternative to piracy. They get to choose their own price, download a file without any restrictions and at the same time support the content creator (85% of the purchase price goes directly to the content creator!).

TGL: Would you please tell us about your unique pricing structure?

LC: Customers can choose to pay any price between $1 and $10,000 (although we don’t expect too many purchases at the higher end of this scale!). Whilst customers can choose any price they like we have noticed so far that the majority of customers choose to pay the suggested price. This pricing structure is designed to give customers a low-cost way of trying out a product they may not otherwise have bought. We think this is a win-win situation. The customer pays less than the price of a cup of coffee, and the author makes a sale they may not have made with a traditional pricing structure.

Customers can also top-up any existing payments if they later decide they want to pay more, or to become eligible for receiving the bonus downloads.

TGL: While customers can pay as much as they choose, content creators can set a bottom line for products with extras. What constitutes a bonus download?

LC: Bonus downloads are nice extras that can be used to reward customers who pay more, as well as giving them an incentive to do so.

We encourage content creators to be creative with their bonuses. Filmmakers have an easy option as they can include deleted scenes or outtakes, and musicians can set bonus tracks or album artwork, but there are lots of good options for authors too!

Some suggestions we have come up with are:
An audiobook version
Notes/materials used when planning/writing the book
Illustrations of characters in the book
Interviews with the author
Short stories related to the main book

We allow any digital content to be set as bonus downloads. The one restriction we do impose is that your main product must be set as the main download and not as a bonus. I.e., you cannot add the main ebook as a bonus download in order to enforce a minimum price as this goes against the ethos of the website.

TGL: On retail and other sites, reviews—both positive and negative—can be an issue. On SelPubli.sh only people who’ve bought a product may place a review. Do you feel this will solve the problem? Why?

LC: In an attempt to keep the reviews fair and constructive we only allow customers who have bought a product to review them on the site. We welcome honest and clear feedback, which will allow new customers to have a small insight into the content before they purchase. SelfPubli.sh doesn’t vet or limit the reviews and would only remove abusive or inappropriate content, so we felt that it was important that the reviews came after the content had been watched/used/seen. This way we can ensure that the customers has actually accessed the product and that the review is fair.

Lucy Challenger is the Director of SelfPubli.sh, an online marketplace that enables content creators to sell their digital goods using the “Pay What You Want” model. Follow Selfpubli.sh on Facebook or Twitter.

Readers, we’d love to hear your views about this. Would you use a platform like SelfPubli.sh to buy books? How much would you be willing to pay for an eBook?

Authors, would you sell work on a “Pay What You Want” basis? Why or why not?

Terri Giuliano Long
Terri Giuliano Long is the bestselling author of the novel In Leah's Wake. Her life outside of books is devoted to her family. In her free time, she enjoys walking, traveling, and listening to music. True to her Italian-American heritage, she's an enthusiastic cook. In an alternate reality, she might be an international food writer. She lives with her family on the East Coast and teaches at Boston College. In Leah's Wake is her debut novel. For more details about Terri and her book events, please visit her website: www.tglong.com, www.tglong.com/blog, Or connect with her on Facebook or Twitter: @tglong
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