When I first met Colin Wright, he was carrying everything he owned into a bar in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. It wasn’t much because Wright travels light; the “professional exile” moves to a new country every four months based on reader votes on his blog. To support his lifestyle, he runs a handful of innovative businesses, and his most recent venture, Ebookling is due to become the disruptive darling of indie publishing.
The bootstrapped business has been pulling in profits since before it officially launched on February 15th. The three person team receives dozens of requests a day from authors wanting to publish ebooks on its platform, but the content is carefully curated and only hosts a total of 60 authors at this time. In less than two weeks, the site has sold over 1,000 ebooks.
Wright, a voracious reader in his own right, is working on Ebookling while living in Iceland, an apt choice considering the country is tooling with the idea of becoming a publishing hub. “Some say Iceland wants to be ‘the Switzerland for freedom of speech'; a place where everyone can build a business and say anything they want,” describes Wright, “Everyone here has this laisezz-faire attitude towards publishing; if the information is out there, it should be accessible.”
What is Ebookling?
Ebookling gives content creators from bloggers, cook book authors to rock star musicians and documentary film makers, the resources they need to become ‘authorpreneurs,’ and make enough money to live off of what they do best. It’s a connective platform for creative folk, not only can authors can sell their work but there’s also a page for “mercenaries” to provide publishing services like editing, designing and translating.
Most of the site’s ebooks are between $10-15 with a few higher end books topping off at $50. Ebookling will allow any vetted author to put up his or her book for free. For paid books, the author and EBookling split the sale 50/50. Ebookling publishes the content in PDF format so they can be enjoyed on any ebook device, smartphone or computer.
Wright has 4 books in the Ebookling store; 3 for free- How To EBook, Personal Branding, How to Be Remarkable, and one $20 ebook titled Networking Awesomely. If you click on that link and buy his book, I receive $5. How? As part of Ebookling’s pay model, affiliates receive 25% of each sale, which comes out of Ebookling’s pocket, not the author’s. So I get $5, as the author Wright gets $10 and Ebookling gets $5.
Ebookling lets you get credit for these sales automatically: you can grab the affiliate link manually but its also automatically embedded if you “Like” or tweet about a book on Facebook or Twitter. If one of your friends clicks on your Tweet and ends up buying the book, it’s payday. In the last 24 hours, Ebookling has paid out over $150 in affiliate marketing.
“We’re trying to create an ecosystem within an ecosystem that will encourage people to consume and create this type of publishing. As a user you want to help your favorite authors make money and you may be able to do that through a personal newsletter, book club, embedding the affiliate link on your website or just having a great social network. I’m waiting for the day when someone can quit their job and make a full income off of affiliate sales.” -Colin Wright
Why it’s disruptive
A lot of online ebook stores just rip off other books by scraping the web, using certain scripts to pull in any pdf or ebook file and selling it, often without giving the author any compensation.
On the other end of the spectrum, Amazon, where ebooks have officially outsold paperbacks and iBooks are just remnants of the old publishing model trying to apply a new technology. While publishing is free, you have to adhere to rigid formats, DRM and pricing models. For example, they only accept epub which is essentially a stripped down version of html.
“It’s like the Parthenon,” explains Wright, referencing Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, “While it is a famous travel destination, the actual building elements aren’t as impressive as everyone believes. While regarded as an enduring symbol of Ancient Greece, it is a stone building put together using the old forms of wood construction.”
The next chapter
“If we can figure out how to make your ebook into a paper airplane we’re going to do it,” says Wright.
With musicians and documentary filmmakers approaching Wright, he wants to make Ebookling a cross media publishing and resource. Ebookling’s focus on experimenting and its bootstrapped ambitions means it can innovate where other giant companies like Apple and Amazon can not.
In the coming weeks Ebookling will release a sweeter version of Letter.ly so that authors will be able to publish newsletters or serialized fiction novels in a subscription based format. Expect it to be a much better version of Sam Lessin’s forgotten child.
Prior to becoming a world traveling entrepreneur, Wright worked in an independent bookstore for 5 years until it was put out of business by a neighboring Barnes and Noble. To try and keep up with Wright, follow him on Twitter @Colinismyname.