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Podcast: Kirkus Relaunches Website, Indie Writers Strike Back

Every Friday, mbStartups joins GalleyCat editor Jason Boog on the Morning Media Menu to discuss the week’s biggest headlines.

Now that indie bloggers can post alongside seasoned journalists on the Huffington Post and eBooks can pop up on Amazon next to bestsellers, the question becomes, which writers should be paid, and how much? Today on the Morning Media Menu, Kirkus Reviews lent us their indie editor Perry Crowe to weigh in on this week’s headlines and share advice with writers who are fed up with the publishing industry.

Kirkus is an 80-year-old book review publication that was purchased by Indiana Pacers’ owner Herb Simon after it was shut down at the end of 2009. Â  On Tuesday of this week, the company relaunched its website. “Kirkus is making a big push to own the area of book discovery,” said Crowe, “which is basically helping people find books that they’d like to read.” In response to the shift, Kirkus’ paid review service, Kirkus Discoveries, has been rebranded as Kirkus Indie, and Crowe said the reviews will be better integrated with the other verticals, such as fiction and nonfiction, to level the playing field for independent writers.

Kirkus has also added a network of book bloggers to its team of freelance writers, and in light of the outrage that ensued following AOL’s acquisition of the Huffington Post, Crowe was quick to point out that Kirkus’ bloggers will be compensated for their posts. Today GalleyCat reported that Visual Art Source publisher Bill Lasarow is encouraging unpaid HuffPo bloggers to go on strike, arguing that the publication should both pay its writers and separate editorial content from promotional content. In an interview with The Wrap, Arianna Huffington responded, “the idea of going on strike when no one really notices. Go ahead, go on strike.”

In the book publishing industry, it’s the paid authors who are, in a sense, going on strike. Seth Godin launched his new book, Poke the Box through his own imprint, The Domino Project, which he launched in partnership with Amazon. Not everyone has the resources of a major bookseller at their fingertips, so we offered our Startup of the Week, Fast Pencil, as a resource for authors who want break away from traditional publishing. Crowe added, “A revolution is underway – it’s exciting to see what’s happening.”

Take it from a guy who reviews self-published books for a living, there are many factors to consider when choosing to self-publish a book. “The big thing you want to hit on when you’re self-publishing is that you want to make sure that you get it professionally edited,” said Crowe. “However good of an editor you think you are, or how closely you think you’re reading, you need a third party to look at it – someone who doesn’t know you, ideally – because they’re going to come with a clean set of eyes.” Services like Xlibris, Trafford, AuthorHouse and iUniverse have a range of publishing packages to help authors polish their manuscripts.

We’re told not to judge a book by its cover, but Crowe pointed out that most people do. “More and more people are buying books on the Internet, so your book is distilled down to this single image in terms of catching someone’s attention,” he said. He recommends investing in a professional book designer.

As for marketing, Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr are valuable tools, said Crowe, and community forums like KindleBoards are great resources for authors looking for help. He also recommended successful indie author J.A. Konrath‘s blog as a place to look for inspiration. “He’s very transparent,” said Crowe, providing sales figures and other great advice for self-published authors.

Kirkus Reviews will also be present at the SXSW festival next week in Austin, TX. On Friday, March 11 the company will host PubCamp@SXSW at Caffe Medici, a free event “examining the intersection between readers, writers, and technology.”

The Morning Media Menu is hosted by GalleyCat editor Jason Boog. To listen to the podcast, click here.

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