You’re here, at Book View Café. That means that you love great books, at great prices, written by great authors. But do you really know about Book View Café? Do you understand who we are, how we started, how we get great books to you? This three-part series (originally published in Romance Writers Report, explains publishing, the co-operative way! Part 1 describes our history — how we came to be the publisher we are today.
What’s your idea of Publishing Heaven? For me, the answer was simple – a publisher who understood what it was like to be an author, and who helped me be the best author I could be, creating the finest books I could create. My ideal publisher produced beautiful finished works, providing professional editing services and pricing my books fairly in a competitive marketplace. My dream publisher promoted my work in traditional and novel ways, getting the word out to a broad variety of readers and potential fans.
And the best thing about my dream publisher? It actually exists. It’s Book View Café Publishing Cooperative, and I’m a member. Our experience over the past five years can provide guidance to any group of authors considering forming a similar cooperative venture.
Book View Café is an author-run publisher. We’ve released over 200 books (both backlist and new), written by our more than forty members. Our authors include New York Times and USA Today bestsellers, along with Hugo and Nebula Award winners. We published our first New York Times bestseller in February 2013. Many of our authors work or have worked as writing-related professionals – including editors, graphic designers, and publicists – and others have worked as lawyers or accountants. We were incorporated under the laws of the State of New Mexico earlier this year.
The Mists of Time – Five Years Back
Book View Café grew out of a conversation among a group of science fiction and fantasy authors. In 2008, during the ancient days of electronic publishing, a group of women joined forces to cross-promote each other’s work.
The first Book View Café website was a site for free online fiction, along with a group blog. Participating authors typically wrote an electronic short story or novella set in the world of an established speculative fiction series, with the goal of introducing new readers to print books available for sale elsewhere.
Within months, the website evolved. Full-length ebooks were added to the mix. The online presence expanded to include a bookstore, where customers could purchase multiple formats of Book View Café writers’ works – in .mobi, .epub, and .pdf.
The membership of Book View Café expanded, as well. In addition to the original speculative fiction authors, several romance authors applied for membership, as did writers who specialize in young adult fiction. A number of Book View Café authors write in multiple genres.
As Book View Café grew, it continued to rely on the coordinated expertise of its members. That coordination is accomplished through several private Yahoo discussion groups and one massive online forum.
The discussion groups generally cover matters of fleeting importance – who is going to which conventions? Has anyone come up with exciting new contest prizes? What have people heard about this new social media opportunity, or that new book promotion service?
By contrast, the forum serves as a permanent repository for discussions. Each member’s books are made available to all other members, for free, through the forum. Each book published by Book View Café is given its own project timetable, maintained on the forum. We have long forum pages devoted to brainstorming cover copy and to analyzing cover designs. The forum is also the hub through which we track our relationships with third-party business partners.