MD of Snowbooks
December 31st, 2012
2013 heralds the tenth birthday of Snowbooks, the indie publisher I co-founded. When I look back, do I think of all the great books weʼve published, all the innovative practices weʼve introduced, all the prizes weʼve won? Nope: I canʼt help but dwell with a sort of bemused horror at the too-frequent displays of my own personal cack-handed ineptitude. A book sent to print with the wrong ISBN on the title verso? Check. Book data released to Amazon with an out-of-date author biography? Check, again. A cover on Amazon with the pull-quote “Best book in the world” by “Famous Person”? A late royalty run batch? Another late royalty run batch? An upset author whose advance wasnʼt paid on time? The foreign rights sale I forgot to chase in? That thing with the rights guide and Frankfurt? The audiobook review I mistakenly posted about the paperback edition which praised the readerʼs melliﬂuous tone? Oh, the mistakes, the foolishness. The shame.
So thatʼs why I put aside the last couple of years to write Bibliocloud, a cloudhosted publishing management system. I wrote it to make me do fewer stupid things and more smart things in less time. Bibliocloud is the place I can put all my book data. And work data. And my contacts, sales, contracts, royalties, rights, advances, past payments, forecasts, print records, my schedules. I can type the data in, or I can do bulk imports. And once itʼs in, I can put the information to work. Bibliocloud is where I get my title verso page and book back-matter from, all formatted and accurate, including the barcode and pull-quotes. Itʼs where I get my AIs, rights guide, mailing lists, publication planners, ONIX.
But itʼs not just a dumb data store. Itʼs written to interject, to gently lift my hand away from the trigger, the moment it notices Iʼm about to do something stupid. If, for instance, I record a bookʼs title as being “placeholder” or “tbc”, it will ﬂag up what a dumb idea that is, and it wonʼt let the record be included in the ONIX feed. Bibliocloud lets me be kind to Future Emma. Say I agree a contract with an author where we pay an advance of £500 for a series of ten books, with 25% on signature, 25% on delivery, 25% on the 1st of January of the year of publication and 25% on publication – thatʼs 40 transactions which need to be paid over a period of ﬁve years on dates which change like the wind as we reﬁne the publication schedule. Bibliocloud will email me the week before each payment is due, and nag me on the to-do list on Bibliocloudʼs dashboard until Iʼve recorded them as paid. Bibliocloud lets me be lazy and get away with it. I have triggered an entire royalty run from my iPhone, from the sofa, with a few clicks and swipes.
I can have a thousand gorgeous AIs exported to PDF in a ﬂash. I can export Top Ten volume, value and margin graphs straight to Excel so I know which books are successful. I have a beautiful automated website (snowbooks.com) that takes me no time to maintain. Every record is duplicatable. Information is stored at work level that editions can optionally inherit, so I donʼt need to repeat myself. Data feeds go automatically to Bowker, Nielsen, Amazon and the others. XML feeds go to the printer. Sequential ISBN13s get allocated automatically. I can even produce a complete PDF catalogue with frontlist, backlist and static text pages at the touch of a button.
I can access Bibliocloud on the train, on the sofa, at Frankfurt – even on my parentʼs PC over Christmas. I know my dataʼs safe because of the rolling backups, the military-grade authentication and authorisation, the world-class PostgreSQL database, the audit trail that records details of every transaction. I know my codeʼs robust and maintainable because Iʼve followed the tried and tested conventions that companies such as Groupon and Twitter have adopted when developing their sites in Bibliocloudʼs web development framework: Ruby on Rails.
And now we can offer all this to fellow publishers thanks to a whopping great grant from Arts Council England who have paid for small publishers to use Bibliocloud for free, forever. Drop us a line to check your eligibility, then sign up before December 2013 and youʼll have all this and more as we continue to develop new features. If youʼre not eligible, we are providing reasonably-priced user licences to larger companies. Iʼm looking forward to the next ten years. Letʼs all do fewer stupid things and more smart things in less time. Because when you donʼt have lots of admin, and you donʼt have to tidy up after your own mistakes, youʼve got the time and energy and pride to ﬁnd the best possible books, create the best possible design, work on the most exciting innovations and do the best imaginable publishing. I like being proud of my work. Bibliocloud makes that possible.
In addition to managing her publishing company Snowbooks, Emma Barnes has spent much of the last three years writing Ruby on Rails apps. Sheʼs the new MD of General Products, the company founded to bring Bibliocloud to market.