About Leanpub with Liz Madrid

17 December 2014 / Leave a Comment
I came across Leanpub on Liz Madrid's Wattpad profile. It sparked my curiosity ... I hadn't heard of Leanpub before and wanted to find out whether it's a hidden gem that indie authors should be considering ... Liz is an author and poet and is using Leanpub for her fiction work. Here she tells us about how writers can use the platform to get feedback on their work, build an audience, publish and how it allows the reader to pay the author more than the book is marked for ...


Please tell us a little about Leanpub?
Leanpub is part of the movement called lean publishing. According to Steve Armstrong, the founder of Leanpub, 'lean publishing is the act of publishing an in-progress book using lightweight tools and many iterations to get reader feedback, pivot until you have the right book and build traction once you do.'


So as a writer, it allows me to post one chapter at a time, get feedback and build my audience if I want to. Unfortunately since I already post my chapters on Wattpad, I don’t necessarily need Leanpub for those reasons. What I did like about Leanpub was that I could publish my book as I wrote it if I wanted to, edit or update it, and have it available within minutes in three formats: epub, mobi and PDF, complete with a cover.


How does Leanpub work?
Probably the only catch I’ve noticed with Leanpub is the format with which material is uploaded to their platform. Unless you’re exporting your blog or Wattpad story, you need to write your story in markdown language.


According to Wikipedia, 'Markdown is a plain text formatting syntax designed so that it can be converted to HTML and many other formats using a tool by the same name. Markdown is often used to format readme files, for writing messages in online discussion forums, and to create rich text using a plain text editor.' What it basically means is that it’s the opposite of WYSIWYG programs like Word or WordPerfect (don’t know if that’s still around). Instead, markdown is very barebones it reminds me of writing in DOS.


An example would be, to write my heading, Chapter One, in bold font with a font size of 15 in Word, markdown would just require me to write it with a hashtag (or pound symbol), a space, and then Chapter One. Subheadings would be two hashtags, a space, and then the title. To italicize a word or sentence, I simply have to enclose it with the asterisk, before and after. (The only reason I’m not doing it is because I’m writing in markdown right now). Bold is with two asterisks before and after the word or sentence. Spaces between paragraphs requires two hard returns, so if you don’t, your paragraphs will bleed into each other.


Since I already write in markdown using Ulysses 3.0, it was quite easy for me to adapt to Leanpub and see for myself how the finished work would look like. For those used to WYSIWYG programs like Word, it would be a heck of a challenge though, but after you get used to it, sometimes it may be difficult to go back to Word. I know because I prefer to write in markdown ever since I learned how 2 years ago.


After I have my book done, I simply click Preview for a look at what the final book will look like, and Publish to have it available in the Bookstore. Besides having it available for sale in the Leanpub bookstore, Leanpub also allows the reader to pay the author more than the book is marked for.  Let’s say your book’s retail price goes for $5.99. Minimum amount the reader pays (there is a range, you see) is determined by you to be $1.99 and retail recommended price is $5.99. If, let’s say, some really generous and happy reader (don’t we all want one of these readers?) decides that they want you to get $5.99 gross, not royalty out of $ 5.99, but the actual amount (less the 10% and $0.50 for Leanpub), then there’s a slider that allows them to determine how much your royalty will be compared to the retail amount paid. If you’ve assigned a charity to get a percentage, like in my case, NaNoWriMo, it factors that in, too.


As far as royalties go, writers receive 90%, less $0.50 per sale.


How can fiction authors use the platform effectively?
Unfortunately, I haven’t seen fiction writers see any success with Leanpub yet, though software books are doing amazingly well, and they sell for much higher prices, too.


But that doesn’t mean fiction writers should give up on Leanpub just yet. I think there is great potential there for a fiction author to have their books available on Leanpub, especially if they are already familiar with Markdown and book formatting which is really straightforward, as Leanpub has the platform all set for lean publishing - just fill in the blanks and then publish. If the author wasn't already posting their stories elsewhere like Wattpad, they could write their books on Leanpub, have it available as they go and get feedback from their readers (probably readers from their blog, let's say) before publishing right there as well.


I love Leanpub's book page.  Once you publish your book, I like the way the information is presented. Here's the Finding Sam page on Leanpub which I really like: https://leanpub.com/findingsam


You also have the option of having your book available to read online for free (let's say the chapters you need feedback on) or a sample downloaded (you determine which chapters are to be downloaded).


For it to work and be profitable, maybe the author should only have it available on Leanpub for a while and do major marketing to lead their readers there, but it’s worth a try.


Visit Liz Madrid's blog: www.lizmadrid.com

Visit Leanpub: https://leanpub.com/
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