WEBook: Book Publishing By the Masses

WEbookThere’s a new Web publishing tool on the block that seeks to deliver on the convergence promise between “blogging, social networking, and…American Idol!” So says Sue Heilbronner, president of WEbook that makes its debut today. I spoke with Heilbronner and Melissa Jones, the site’s content manager, and I asked questions from the point of view of someone who has written and published seven books to-date.

So what is WEbook, really?
From what I understood so far, it is a collaborative tool for writing books. You can create a book project, invite anyone to co-author with you – including an open invitation to the entire WEBook community – invite feedback from others including the community, and then submit for consideration to be published by WEBook in either print-on-demand, e-books, audiobooks or all of the above. The community votes on a submitted manuscript (the American Idol portion of the site) through a 1-5 rating system.

The first published book from WEBook’s Alpha phase is titled Pandora, an international terrorism thriller composed by 17 writers.

Available through WEbook, BN.com, Amazon.com (although this could change based on Amazon’s recent announcement that they will stop carrying non-Amazon POD books) and even SMS. The first four chapters of Pandora, for example, are available by texting “WEbook” to the phone number 41411 or by visiting Mobile Pandora from any web-enabled mobile device.

WEbook ProfileAccording to the company’s press release, WEbook is breaking the traditional publishing models and not a moment too soon.

The staid $50 billion publishing industry is dominated by a few traditional publishers that wield tremendous power over the titles that reach bookstores. Writers face a daunting challenge—the odds of an unknown writer securing a publishing deal are 15,000:1.

What about protecting one’s book ideas?
Copyrights and IP issues are top of mind with WEbook, and they’re working on sophisticated IP protections. Any member can keep their writing entirely private and opt never to submit to publication through WEBook. So I can, for example, start using WEBook to collaborate only with the co-author on a new book project where I already have a book deal.

Or my husband could start working on the third book in his science fiction/fantasy trilogy about a new age after the Third World War and allow an editor, family and friends participate to give him feedback before he shops it around with the first two books that are already finished. At the moment, WEBook doesn’t provide tools to upload a completed manuscript with ease for further feedback and editing.

The company’s Terms of Use covers copyright and ownership issues, and they will have a short video explaining the risks (and rewards) of publishing any writing online, particularly in such a collaborative environment. There are also safeguards in place to monitor for plagiarism.

So why try publishing through WEbook
If you go for a regular book deal with or without a book agent and going through traditional publishers, you are looking at least a year from acceptance of the proposal to publication of the book but more typically two years. WEbook says the process from acceptance (by the WEbook masses and the WEbook company) to publication is about two months.

If you self-publish, the long and hard part of book-writing is writing it, getting feedback and editing it. Bringing in other writers could certainly ease the time suck of writing the whole book by yourself, but even enlisting editors or people to give feedback on your edits can speed up the entire book-writing process.

Personally, I am looking forward to seeing how it works on several book projects I have – one with a single co-author, one with two additional co-authors, and several essay anthology ideas that have been in limbo but through WEbook, I can solicit essays from other writers and begin compiling the actual book.

And the deal with WEbook if submitted for publication is not onerous. They have six months to decide if they will actually publish the book or not. Most traditional publishers want a year.

WEbook pays royalties from sales to the writers, editors and other contributors to the finished work so everyone can share in the rewards of a successful book.

What else can members do?
Once a member, you can ask to participate in a variety of open book projects. Right away a children’s book about the plight of wild mustangs caught my eye, and I’m going to see what other anthologies are in the works so I can possibly contribute an essay or two such as the one about ex-pats writing about their experiences living abroad.

And of course, WEbook has all those little social networking tools that link members with like-minded writers and editors including a Friends list.

All in all, I have to say I’m pretty excited about putting this tool into action for my book writing projects. I’ll report back in a few months to let you know how it is going.

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