Q&A: Eileen Gittins, founder and chief executive, Blurb

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Marketing Week (MW): How did the Blurb selling platform – where authors can list their self-published books for sale – start?

Eileen Gittins (EG): Our original store was a facility where you would place an order and then receive the URL. Then professionals began making their way to us and their work was commercial quality, so that’s when we knew we needed to develop a seller programme.

MW: How can you make such small print runs economical?

EG: The process becomes very manual. We get sent a file that gets sent to the printer, but the printer is used to doing large runs so someone has to set it up for the small run with specific binding and paper.

We didn’t just have to create the book software, we needed to find and work with printers that could do this. We had a print expert on board to pitch the concept to printers and convince them it was the future, as well as to ensure consistency across different international printers. It takes a lot of relationship building and coordination but this model works well for us. We are looking to grow globally so we are always investigating new print partnerships.

MW: Can the unedited quality of written work published on Blurb stand up to the traditional market?

EG: There is a natural filter – someone will read a book and give it five stars or ’like’ it on Facebook and soon it will get some visibility for being good. We have people who print their first book, give it to people to read and then adjust future copies based on the feedback received. The editing function can still happen, but what’s changed is that it now happens through your network, not a big publishing house.

MW: What reaction have you had from the traditional publishing world?

EG: The publishing industry has become receptive to partnering with people like us. They send us leads to authors and use us as a testing ground. There are books that have been published on Blurb that traditional publishers have picked up. If we can be seen as a place for emerging talent, more people will want to put their work on our site in the hope of being discovered, which is a good thing for us.

MW: Could this lead to Blurb being bought out by a big publisher?

EG: We’ve been approached for purchase before but it wasn’t the right time or company. We’re open to an exit, either through acquisition or share flotation. We’ll pick the best option in the future.

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