Andy Rubin, the founder of Android and the brain behind the quintessential early aughts phone Sidekick, is back, and this time he has his sights on taking over your home.
After months of teasing, Rubin on Tuesday finally debuted his new company, Essential. The company’s first and primary offering is a phone, but they also announced a competitor to the Amazon Echo and Google Home, also called Home. Rubin’s device is an intelligent speaker and smart home hub, and can be activated by voice, tap, or even a glance.
Yep, that’s right, Essential claims you can activate the home device by simply looking at it.
Essential is far from the first company to employ eye-tracking, which has found applications everywhere from gaming to advertising. Still, it’s terrifying to think of a device in the home that’s constantly watching for you to look at it.
For now, the Essential Home seems to be in concept stages and the released images appear to be renderings rather than photographs. Home comes with its own operating system, Ambient OS, which is an Android-esque approach to software for home devices. The platform is open source and intended to be expanded upon and used with all major software and hardware platforms.
The device reportedly works with SmartThings, HomeKit, Nest, and other smart home platforms, as well as with Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant. Home has both a screen and voice control.
The intelligent assistant can do many of the same things as its competitors, and some self-proclaimed differentiators like “take note of your routines and let you know when something feels off or if a light is left on,” the company said in a blog post. The home is intended to be a hub for all smart home products and connected devices.
“Think of it as an orchestra conductor for your digital instruments — something that can get them to start to work together in new, exciting ways,” the post noted.
Essential is entering a fairly new market but Amazon has a huge head start. Essential’s Home comes with a screen, like Amazon’s Echo Show, and will include proactive notifications like Google Now.
Essential wants to differentiate itself by putting privacy first and limiting cloud usage, the company says. “Essential Home will directly talk to your devices over your in-home network whenever possible to limit sending data to the cloud,” the post stated.
While the Essential Home makes bold claims about being a completely new approach and aims to “feel like you’re interacting with your home, not a gizmo in your living room,” however there’s too little information to actually back up any of the claims. That said, the product is still new so its true capability remains to be seen. According to Wired, the device will come later this year.
I have always had a strong sense of urgency. I think it’s a pretty common characteristic of entrepreneurs. After all, if we liked the way things were, we wouldn’t be so convinced we could do everything differently and better. And we wouldn’t be so good at persuading people to give us their money — or leave perfectly good jobs — to join us in our craziness and make it happen.
That sense of urgency has been the source of most of my successes — and failures. Investopedia is my seventh company, so I’ve had time to learn when that entrepreneurial fire works for you and when you need to bank it just a little to keep it from burning down the building. Here are three tips that I’ve found most useful in harnessing my intensity to become a more effective entrepreneur.
1. Don’t conflate “figure-it-out mode” and “scale mode.”
One of the biggest mistakes I’ve made due to my urgency is trying to scale businesses before they were ready.
As a newly-minted MBA from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, for example, I was given the opportunity to develop a new technology for Duane Reade that facilitated video conferencing with pharmacists (that was pretty new in 2003!). We developed a kiosk for ordering and delivering prescriptions, placed it in a few hospitals and physicians’ offices, and saw incredible initial usage.
I decided to scale from about five to more than 100 kiosks within a year. But, the kiosks broke down so frequently (and cost so much to repair) that the company paused the business. We scaled way too fast, which is especially dangerous when dealing with hardware and new technology. Learning: Take a breath after you launch. I scaled up when we should have tried to understand the customer metrics and gather qualitative and quantitative data.
That doesn’t mean your product needs to be perfect to launch. On the contrary, you want to launch something as soon as possible in order to get to the all-important “figure-it-out mode.” At Investopedia, MVP doesn’t mean Most Valuable Player. It means Minimum Viable Product, a concept I’ve happily stolen from The Lean Startup by entrepreneur Eric Ries. (I like the book so much that I urged Investopedia staffers to read it at our in-house book club.) What it means is, don’t invest too much time or money making a product perfect before you try it on customers and use their feedback to improve your initial idea before scaling up.
2. Learning from failure is more important than learning from success.
In my five years as an executive at 1-800-flowers.com, the experience that was the most meaningful and formative was ultimately a failure. It was a business area I ran at one point that rapidly grew from zero to close to 20 percent of the company’s profit, but with a questionable user experience. The company and I loved the dramatic revenue growth and blew past other execs who worried about our customers.
They turned out to be right: While we made strong short-term gains, it hurt us in the long term. We started to hear from more and more customers that, due to the new service I had started, we had lost their trust and future business. A reputation can be lost very quickly; it simply isn’t worth short-term, non-repeatable revenue. I have become a far greater champion of user value above all other decision criteria from this experience.
Entrepreneurs need to understand that the goal of a startup is to learn and that making mistakes is the most productive way to drive real learning. With a success you may not know why you succeed — and in fact, it may have been just good luck or fantastic timing. But when you fail, you almost always can figure out why.
3. The right number two is as important as number one.
As a CEO, choosing the right Number Two is another place where urgency can be the enemy of success. So can feeling too comfortable with your potential choice. You need someone who can compensate for your weak points and give you more reach than you’d have on your own.
On a personal level, our current COO and I could not be more different. I’ve worked at seven companies. He has worked at two. I am completely non-technical, he is a former developer. Many of the ways in which I need to improve on as a leader are his strengths and vice versa. The danger points for the company are the areas where we overlap: Left to our own devices, we can over-emphasize analytics or new business development. If you’re choosing a co-founder for a brand-new start-up, these rules hold even truer.
It’s harder than you think. Just last month I almost hired an incredible VP of sales. Our chief revenue officer and I were going to pull the trigger on the hire. Then something began to bother me. After a couple of days I figured it out. Everything that I liked about the VP, I loved about our CRO. The VP was basically a less experienced version of our CRO. What we needed was someone who truly complemented our exec, who would bring healthy tension to the job. We ultimately hired another candidate who is the “yin” to our CRO’s “yang.”
I feel honored to teach entrepreneurship at both Columbia University and Pace University. I try to drive home and reiterate each of these three concepts frequently, as those who don’t learn from the past are destined to — well, you know.
David Siegel is the CEO of Investopedia, a leading online source of timely, trusted and actionable financial information for every investor. He is also a professor at Pace University and Columbia University, where he teaches venture capital…
Ever wonder what an autonomous vehicle ‘sees’ via its sensors, on-board computing and sensor fusion system? This video from Civil Maps, the high-definition maps technology company backed by Ford, reveals some of what’s going on when it comes to combining detailed 3D maps with sensor data culled from LiDAR, optical cameras, radar and other on-board vehicle hardware used to take stock of the world around an autonomous vehicle.
Civil Maps Product Manager Anuj Gupta explains how its technolgoy localizes a car in six degrees of freedom (a term you may be familiar with if you follow the virtual reality industry), across both x,y znd z movement axes as well as on roll, pitch and yaw rotational axes to help a car focus its sensors exactly where they need to be paying closest attention on the road at any given moment.
This results in computational power and sensor load savings, which is huge when you’re an automaker trying to balance cost of producing an autonomous driving system with putting something safe and effective on the road.
Of course, Civil Maps is trying to prove the usefulness of its product, which it wants to sell to autonomous technology companies for obvous reasons. The proof is in the pudding, however, and that’s why the team shot the video below, which shows the car’s localization and mapping tech at use in a test vehicle driving at speeds up to 70 mph on a major highway in Michigan.
Around eighty-five percent of the matter scientists have detected in the universe comes from something we can’t feel or see. It’s a seemingly enormous amount of mass whose gravity bends other stars’ light and makes galaxies spin strangely. And scientists really, really want to know what this so-called dark matter is.
But how do you detect something you can’t see or feel? If dark matter is a tiny particle, as many theories predict, then the solution is giant vats of liquid xenon, an element that’s usually a gas at room temperature, buried deep in mine shafts or in mountains. And the biggest functioning vat, an experiment called XENON1T buried beneath a mountain in Gran Sasso, Italy has just released its first results. There’s still no sign of dark matter—but no one’s losing hope yet.
“I think the most exciting thing is the fact that the detector works as we expect,” Laura Baudis, professor at the Physik Institut of the University of Zurich told Gizmodo.
But why vats of liquid xenon? Right now, physicists have compelling reasons to believe that dark matter should be some sort of particle that only interacts very weakly with the nucleus of regular-matter atoms. Physicists are hoping that those particles will hit the liquid xenon nuclei, producing light particles or knocking off an electron. The time between the initial photon signal from the strike and another photon signal from a released electron migrating out of the experiment determines where in the chamber the dark matter would have struck. Photomultiplier tubes amplify the signal and show up as a blip above some background on a graph.
Folks at XENON1T aren’t too worried about the lack of a detection just yet—their results, published today on the arXiv physics preprint server, were only based on about a month’s worth of data. If you put a big bowl in your backyard and waited for a meteor to hit it, you wouldn’t say “meteors don’t exist” just because you hadn’t caught one in a month. Especially if, in the case of dark matter, the meteors pass right through the bowl and the only way to detect that you’ve caught one is through a faint blip of light it might leave on a camera.
That’s essentially what these kinds physics experiments do. Once scientists have proven that there’s no dark matter at the mass detectable by the experiment’s operating sensitivity (that usually takes a few years) they move onto more sensitive (read: bigger) detectors. Bigger experiments increase the odds of actually detecting something, and that means more xenon.
“Every time we run our detector longer or make it bigger, we’re exploring more of the parameter space,” Christopher Tunnell, fellow at the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics at the University of Chicago, told Gizmodo. “You’re able to say dark matter isn’t this or it isn’t this.”
You’re probably wondering, if these detectors are so sensitive, how do they know they’ve spotted dark matter and not something else? University of California, San Diego’s XENON1T spokesperson Kaixuan Ni explained to me that radiation can come from anywhere and cause a signal in the detector, so XENON1T is buried deep underground to keep out stray particles from space. The scientists also learn what naturally-occurring atoms of radioactive elements might look like in the detector, so they can cut any of those signals out during data analysis. XENON1T is also shielded by water, and its newest results only include data from the middle of the detector, using the outer layers of XENON as additional shielding.
This has long been the way physicists have slowly been ruling out the possible properties that dark matter particles have had. XENON1T stands for XENON 1 ton, because it contains a ton (well, actually a little more than three tons) of liquid xenon. It used to be called XENON100, and before that XENON10. Competing detectors are looking for dark matter particles in similar ways—the Large Underground Xenon experiment (LUX) finished its dark matter search without a particle to show for it last summer, and is currently upgrading to “LZ.” Then there’s PandaX (again, a vat of xenon) and others that use another noble gas, argon. These noble gasses are used because they release light and electrons when they’re smacked, according to an article in symmetry magazine.
Folks from the LUX/LZ experiment and others outside the physics community have been paying close attention to the competition. XENON is first out of the gate of the newest iteration of these experiments. “This is the next generation coming out of its childhood in some sense,” Bob Jacobsen, physicist at the University of California, Berkeley, who works on LUX and LZ, told Gizmodo. “They’re not just showing that photomultiplier tubes are working, but actually doing physics.” And while not speaking on behalf of LZ, Jacobsen said the pressure is certainly on, now. “Everyone is focused on getting the next experiment built. It’s hard to win against someone whose detector is 3-4 times bigger than yours.”
Others thought the new results weren’t a huge leap, yet. Kathryn Zurek, theoretical physicist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, told me that XENON1T’s results only barely pushed past last year’s LUX results, which ruled out dark matter particles within a certain mass range. She did point out that these weakly-interacting dark matter detectors are now in “production mode,” chugging along looking for hints of particles.
But, as with the “competing” ATLAS and CMS experiments at the Large Hadron Collider that jointly discovered the Higgs boson, it’s important to have some independent verification in the case of a discovery. “We need two experiments,” said Ni. “If XENON1T discovers dark matter signals, then LZ can confirm it.”
As these experiments are getting larger, folks are beginning to feel the pressure of what might happen should we fail to discover dark matter. “You can’t do this forever,” said Tunnell. “You wonder if maybe dark matter is different from what you expect it to be.” In other words, not a weakly-interacting particle. Scientists aren’t at that level yet, said Baudis, and are working towards the ultimate dark matter detector, called DARWIN. But once these experiments get sensitive enough that tiny particles emanating from the sun and outer space called “neutrinos” start to turn up as hits in the detector, then it might be time to throw in the towel. “If we haven’t seen any dark matter [by] then, then it would be too many neutrinos,” she said. It’s not a hard cutoff, said Zurek, but it would take a whole lot more xenon to hunt for a slight dark matter particle interaction in the neutrino sea.
“So the question is going to become after LZ is built: Are we going to build another generation of experiments?” asked Zurek. “Now we’re talking about quantities of xenon getting to be a nontrivial fraction of the world’s supply.”
In that case, scientists would need to hunt for dark matter in different ways. This is something scientists are already discussing, said Zurek.
But we’re not there just yet—the current xenon vats are hunting in “that sweet spot” where weakly-interacting dark matter might communicate with our experiments via particles we know about and can detect. So for now, the hunt is on. Said Baudis: “We simply have no way of knowing until we look.”
Forget about the Ford GT or the Lamborghini Aventador. When it comes to supercars and rivalries, it’s all about McLaren versus Ferrari. On Formula One’s racetracks, the two have been duking it out for half a century. In fact, Ferrari and McLaren are, by far, the two winningest teams in the history of the sport.
In 2010, Woking, England-based McLaren Technology Group launched McLaren Automotive — the division of the company focused solely on building road-going supercars. This added a whole new dimension to the rivalry.
In the years since both companies have unleashed supercar after supercar. Each time besting the latest efforts of its rival.
The latest salvo in the battle for supercar supremacy is the McLaren 720S. Recently, Business Insider attended the launch of McLaren’s futuristic supercar at the demanding Autodromo Vallelunga near Rome.
As part of the festivities, I got the chance to take the 720S on a two-hour-long drive from our hotel in Rome to the racetrack north of the Italian capital.
Here’s how it went.
(Business Insider paid for travel and lodging associated with this trip.)
Twitter co-founder Evan Williams wants you to know he’s super sorry for any role the social media platform played in the election of President Donald Trump.
The sort-of apology was made in an interview with The New York Times published on Saturday. Williams’ remorse for possibly helping to create a political monster comes after Trump’s claims that Twitter was key in helping him clinch the election.
“I think that maybe I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Twitter, because I get such a fake press, such a dishonest press,” Trump told Fox News in March.
The Times reports that Williams has only recently heard Trump’s claim for the first time, reflecting on it for a while before speaking out.
“It’s a very bad thing, Twitter’s role in that.”
“It’s a very bad thing, Twitter’s role in that,” Williams told the Times. “If it’s true that he wouldn’t be president if it weren’t for Twitter, then yeah, I’m sorry.”
Trump’s use of Twitter has long been the source of criticism, especially now as he holds the highest office in the country. The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this week that Trump’s aides recently held a social media intervention with the president due to concerns his tweets could have political and legal ramifications.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment on Williams’ remarks, according to the Times.
Astronomers may have ruled out an alien megastructure as the likely cause behind KIC 8462852’s strange dimming, but it’s still mysterious — and that’s partly due to the lack of live data (as live as you can get for a star 1,277 light years away, at least). How do you understand what’s going on when you have to rely solely on historical info that doesn’t even account for the star’s spectrum? Thankfully, researchers are getting that big chance: they’ve caught the star in mid-dimming, and they have numerous telescopes trained on it. If they can record the spectrum before and after the oddball behavior, they may have a better idea of the root cause.
Scientists don’t expect to find comets. They’ve mostly ruled that out given that the dimming has taken place for several decades or more. However, the spectral data could at least point them in the right direction. If there’s consistent spectral dimming, it would point to a solid object like a planet. More uneven dimming, meanwhile, could point to dust or gas as the culprit.
A definitive answer isn’t all that likely, at least not without extended analysis. With that said, just having a general idea of what’s involved could be enough to shoot down wilder theories and narrow the focus. That, in turn, could improve humanity’s overall understanding of the cosmos and prepare for the next time researchers spot something they can’t immediately explain.
It was an exciting week for crypto traders. It seems like there are an ever-increasing number of traders joining the party doesn’t it? Given that just a year ago there was just a handful of traders compared to now, and we still have not even scratched the surface of the number of traders out there still trading Forex exclusively, the future seems bright indeed. To do well, all you have to do is make sure you don’t make a mistake that wipes out your trading account and forces you out of the game. (At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the best way for new traders to lose everything is to use leverage before they are seasoned traders.)
If you miss a “trade du jour”, my advice is don’t chase it. I know it sucks to be in a trade and then see a different coin is going through the roof while yours is stuck in the mud. Happened to me this week – I missed the ETH party. But if you chase a trade after the fact, you are highly likely to buy a high. There will be another trade tomorrow, and another the day after that, and the next… If you miss one, try not to get greedy and/or impatient – just catch the next trade. If you just stay in the game, IMHO, you stand a good chance of doing very well for yourself. There is a ton of money flowing into the altcoins, and we are still in the very early stages of what might be a bull market they will write about in the history books – IMHO.
I believe XBT is finally approaching the end of it’s present historic run. There are 2 arcs, a short-term 3rd, and a long-term 5th, very close by (~ $2100). I always counsel others, and myself, to never short a bull market. But I might make an exception in this case, if I am feeling brave enough. This 12 hour chart is screaming out a major warning to longs.
Dash has too little data on kraken for a long term look at the chart. But the short term chart shows a retracement at the 4th arc. A little more pullback and a new advance to the 5th arc will like begin. There is a number of reasons to believe that 5/27-5/28 will be a significant energy point for DASH. It is too soon to tell if it will be a high, low or acceleration. But mark it on your calendar.
Regretfully I missed this rally. By the time I noticed it, price was too close to the 3rd arc to buy it. However, my guess is that price will get through the arcs to go to the 5th arcs. Target ~$165. (Last week we identified $130 as a next target. This rally was stopped at $129). I see there is an energy point due tomorrow (red vertical line). Maybe that is the time to watch. I suggest waiting for a close above the 3rd arc, but aggressive traders might risk buying here.
LTC was a bit of a disappointment this week. We tweeted the low was likely in at $21, and it was. The subsequent rally to $29 was exhilarating, but that 1st arc pair stopped the party, and then the top of the square provided a ceiling. Then the money moved to ETH I suppose… Lets see when/if this coin can get through those arcs…
We tweeted that the low was likely in at .28, and indeed that was the low. Since then there was a rally that brought XRP back to the same arc that crashed the party several days ago. The arc stopped the rally again. My guess is that it will get through the arc soon and rally again. My suggestion is to wait for a close above the arcs though. It could fall again here.
ZEC closed above the 2nd arc before falling back. This suggests to me that the arcs are weak and will yield on the next test. I suggest waiting for confirmation. However, a rally to the 3rd and/or the 5th arcs is likely in the week ahead.
XMR rallied hard into the 5th arc of a longer-term setup. At this writing it is sitting just below the 5th arc. It is too soon to say if this is a double top or not (could be!), so my suggestion is to take profits here, if you are long.
Remember: The author is a trader who is subject to all manner of error in judgment. Do your own research, and be prepared to take full responsibility for your own trades.
Jim has an MBA from the University of Southern California. He has had a long career in both Corporate Finance and IT. Along the way he discovered that trading was a vehicle with great promise, but struggled for a long time without a mentor. After having been knocked down many times and having struggled to get back up, he had an epiphany and realized that geometry was a solution. He shares his experience here.
If you do well as a result of suggestions made here, feel free to say thank you :)
Follow him on Twitter (@jimfred1276) or email him at jimfred1276 at gmail.
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You are walking home from work when you pass the loveliest hydrangeas. At $6 for two stems at the local bodega they are a steal and impossible to pass up. You bring them home, plunk them in a vase with some water and forget about them for a couple of hours. Next thing you know, the perfect little blue petals are curling in, the whole thing is drooping and the perky flowers you bought just hours ago are rapidly dying.
Your Flowers Are Zombies
Well, sort of dying. Whether or not your cut flowers are living or dead is a matter of debate. Since it is not clear which one they are, you can sort of see them as zombies, not really alive, but not dead either. Under the right conditions they can be kept in a sort of zombie state for a week or two, long enough to decorate the coffee table and make you smile.
Flowers wilt for a simple reason: there is not enough water getting to the plant. When newly purchased flowers start to wilt soon after you buy them, chances are water is not able to get into the stems. There are a few simple steps you can take to help the flower drink again and revive. You can’t keep them fresh forever, but if they wilt prematurely, you can bring them back from the brink, no mouth-to-mouth or midnight sacrifices at the cemetary required.
Reanimate Your Blooms
Step 1: Recut the stems. Most often what happens is the bottom of the stem gets dried out and is having a hard time absorbing water. So take a very sharp scissor or knife and cut at an angle, to provide as much surface area as you can for the flower to drink up. This will also allow the flower to stand on point in the vase, helping water enter the stem. To increase the surface area even more, split the stem an inch or two from the bottom with scissors or a knife.
Step 2:Use warm water. Another way to open up the stem and make sure water is getting absorbed is to use nice, lukewarm water in place of cold. There are certain types of flowers that can’t tolerate warm water well, like tulips, but most flowers can tolerate some warm water in the vase. Warm water moves up the stem faster and can help clear any blocks in the stem that might be stopping it from absorbing moisture. Just don’t make it scalding or hot, simply turning on both the cold and hot taps on the kitchen sink to get a pleasantly warm temperature will do it.
Step 3:Spike the water with a little life juice. If you live in a city peppered with bodega flower sellers like New York, you are probably familiar with the little black packets of flower food that they tape to the bouquet wrapper. That mystery powder is magic. It does wonders to extend the life of flowers and help starving flowers revive.
Fortunately for those of you who don’t live near a bodega, that mystery flower food is also really simple to make at home. It is a combination of three simple ingredients: sugar, an acid like lemon juice, and a drop of bleach. The sugar provides the flower with food. The acid lowers the PH of the water, which helps the water travel faster up the stem. The bleach, which sounds scary to put into flower water, is there to prevent bacterial growth that might form more quickly because the water has sugar in it. Since only one teaspoon of bleach goes into an entire quart of water, it is not concentrated enough to hurt the flowers. (The Brooklyn Botanic Garden has a great recipe on its website for a homemade version along with some additional flower-keeping tips.)
Step 4:Wait. It is going to take the flowers at least a few hours to drink in the water and turn back into their happy zombie selves.
Step 5:Repeat as necessary. Since the flowers wilted in the first place, keeping them alive through the week may necessitate recutting the stems every couple of days—cut about half an inch off the end to ensure the flower has an open pathway to drink. Change the water if you see it start to get a little dull or cloudy, making sure to put in fresh flower food each time. Try not to keep the flowers in the sun in a baking apartment during the summer. If you have them sitting on a sunny windowsill, move them somewhere shady and cool in the house when you’re not home enjoying them.
How long your flowers will last after you revive them will depend on a number of factors like the genetics of that flower, how long ago it was cut, and how warm it is in your house. There is a reason florists often keep the expensive flowers in a fridge—colder temperatures slow down the flowers’ deterioration. Think of it like suspended animation for your already zombified flowers.
In case of emergency: If your flowers are very dried out and look like they need immediate critical care, try submerging them in a big bowl or bucket of room temperature water for 30 minutes to an hour to jump-start their water drinking process. You can even leave them in water overnight, though they should perk right up after an hour. After you remove them from the water, follow steps 1 through 3 above.
So you want to self-publish your book? You’re in good company. Plenty of authors have gone ahead of you, working to prove that high-quality books can hold their own in the marketplace without the support of a traditional publisher. Amazon, of course, has changed the entire publishing landscape, but authors have been taking control of the publication process as far back as Charles Dickens, or the Brontë sisters. Self-publishing works, if done well—and for the right reasons.
Even though you’re reading an article titled “How to Self-Publish a Book,” the first question to ask is should you self-publish your book? I’m going to assume, at this point, that you have a book; it might not be revised, it might not be edited, but it is drafted and you’re starting to think about the publication phase.
I’m also going to assume that you want to publish your book at the professional level. If you want to just put your book on Amazon and not worry about professional copyediting or a large-scale marketing campaign, that’s cool. Plenty of people do that, and Amazon has excellent step-by-step instructions. You might even make a few bucks.
But this guide is for people who want to self-publish a book that can hold its own in the current literary marketplace—and help you build a reputation, if not a career, as an author.
It’s also for people who want to self-publish because they’ve decided that’s the right choice for their book.
“Some people do come to self-publishing saying ‘I know this is right for me, I’m excited about it, I want to get my hands dirty and figure all this stuff out,’ and for some people it’s very much a backup,” Brooke Warner, co-founder of She Writes Press, explains. Although it’s perfectly fine to choose self-publishing after querying your book in the traditional publishing market, you shouldn’t go in thinking “well, I couldn’t get an agent, so it looks like self-publishing is my only option.” Self-publishing should always be something you actively decide to do.
Let’s start with some inspiration from The Author’s Guide to Marketing:
You may have heard that this is the best time in history to be a writer. And it’s true. Authors have more opportunities to reach readers than ever before, and if they want more control over the process, they can have it. Distribution changes have made almost every book in print available to every reader, wherever they are and whenever they want it. Online bookstore shelves are limitless and global. Print-on-demand technology makes it possible to keep a book in print forever. Finite bookstore shelf space or the demands of scale no longer limit publishing.
The first big “pro” of self-publishing is this lack of limitation;you, as an individual, can do nearly everything a traditional publisher does. (Notice I wrote “traditional publisher” and not “traditionally published author.” Once you decide to self-publish, you take on the publisher role—and it’s a big one.) If you have an idea that you want to turn into a professional-quality ebook, paperback, or hardback, you can. If you want to sell that book in the same major marketplaces as bestselling authors, you can. If you want to set up a book tour, buy advertising, or get yourself podcast and media appearances, you can.
This brings us to the first big “con:” you’ll have to do all the work—and front all the money—yourself. Advertising is not cheap. Getting your book reviewed by major industry reviewers is not cheap. Buying advance review copies of your own paperback to distribute to reviewers and bookstores is not cheap—and getting bookstores (and podcasters, and media) to pay attention to a self-published book takes work. Being a self-publisher means taking full responsibility for your own book, from the cover you choose to the editor you hire, and that responsibility will cost both time and money.
Of course, for some people, having full responsibility (sometimes called “creative control”) isn’t necessarily bad. They want to run the show. They want to study successful covers and learn how to create one—or how to hire a designer who can create one. They want to learn how to legally quote song lyrics or reference brand names. They want to go in-depth on pre-orders and pricing and marketing campaigns.
Which brings me to another pro: if your book is successful, you will earn significantly higher royalties than a traditionally published author would. (You’ll earn significantly higher royalties regardless, but that matters less if you only sell five copies.)
I publish my ebooks through Pronoun, which gives authors 70% royalties on ebooks priced between $0.99 and $9.99, and 65% royalties on ebooks priced at $10 and above. I publish my paperbacks through IngramSpark, and get direct publisher compensation on every book sold.
How does that compare to traditional publishing? I’ll quote from Green-Light Your Book:
The industry standard is for traditional publishers to keep 85 percent of paperback net sales and 75 percent of e-book net sales.
With self-publishing, your royalties more than double. Although industry standards—and self-publishing standards—can and will change, self-publishing royalties are likely to stay higher than traditional publishing royalties because you are taking on the role of both author and publisher and collecting both shares of the money.
The flip side is that you won’t earn an advance. Traditional publishing houses often pay authors a large chunk of money up-front, aka “the advance.” It’s technically an advance against royalties, which means that the author doesn’t earn any more money on their book until their royalty payments exceed the amount that was advanced to them—and many authors don’t ever earn out their advance. But they get that advance money whether their book sells five copies or 50,000, and self-published writers… don’t.
Crowdfunding has changed the game a little bit. Some self-published writers (like yours truly) have used Kickstarter and Patreon to earn “advance-level money” from friends and supporters. If you go that route, be aware that this isn’t necessarily money you’ll get to keep; you’ll very likely pour a lot of it into the costs of publishing your book.
So. Should you self-publish? Ask yourself these questions:
Am I ready to take full responsibility for my own book?
Am I ready to finance the cost of publishing my book?
Am I ready to take on all of the work required in publication—designing, copyediting, marketing, etc.—and/or outsource this work to people who are more skilled in these areas?
There’s also one more question to answer:
Is my book any good? Is it ready for publication?
Or, as Beth Jusino puts it, “The biggest mistake a writer can make in self-publishing is hitting the Publish button on a book that’s not GREAT.”
If the answer to all of these questions is an enthusiastic YES, let’s look at the various ways in which you can get the job done.
Self-Publishing Methods: DIY, Assisted, or Hybrid
There are three basic methods of self-publishing a book:
DIY: You do nearly everything yourself, from copyediting to formatting to marketing. You might hire another person to create cover art or do a developmental edit, but you’re doing the majority of the work on your own.
Assisted: You do some of the work yourself, but you also hire a team of editors/designers/publicists/etc. to round out the skills you don’t currently have. You can build this team on your own, or use a service that provides a team for you.
Hybrid: You hire a publishing company to take on the complete “publisher” role.
I’m going to assume that the DIY and assisted methods are pretty self-explanatory, and focus on what hybrid publishers do, since they occupy a really interesting space in the publishing world. She Writes Press is a great example of a hybrid publisher, and here’s a summary of their services:
Unlike traditional publishing houses, which buy the majority stake in your book but often don’t deliver when it comes to providing the editorial and marketing help you need, SWP gives authors a traditional house experience, complete with traditional distribution and an experienced editorial and production team, while allowing you to retain full ownership of your project and earnings.
Many hybrid publishers, including She Writes Press, are selective about which manuscripts and authors they work with. This makes sense, for two reasons: first because it helps both you and the publisher ensure the project is a good fit, and second because it allows hybrid publishers to maintain a certain level of quality in the books they publish and promote.
Which method is right for you? I’ll offer this piece of advice: don’t base your decision just on cost. A hybrid publishing service might look like the most expensive option—as of this writing, She Writes’ all-inclusive She Publishes package costs $5,200—but no matter which method you choose, you’re probably going to be investing a few thousand dollars (or more) into the publication process.
Instead, make your decision based on the skills you have, the skills you need, and the type of experience you want. Do you want a publisher to guide you, do you want a few people to help you, or do you want to navigate the self-publishing path on your own?
The Typical Self-Publishing Path
This is where I finally explain how to self-publish a book. (You’re still reading, right?) Everybody’s self-publishing path is slightly different, but here are a series of steps that, when followed, will lead you towards self-publication:
1. Write Your Book. Or Write Two.
Get that book written. Make it the best book it can be. Run it by writing groups or beta readers or sensitivity readers. Revise it. Revise it again. Do the proofread. (If you’re thinking about hiring an editor, you can do it either at this stage or at the “build your team” stage, below.)
If you are planning on writing a series, it is to your advantage to write the first two books before you start publishing. Momentum is a huge component of success, so if you can get your first book out there and very quickly follow it with a second book, you’ll have twice as many opportunities to promote your series, get readers excited, sell the second book by giving the first book away for free, etc.
2. Build your team.
If you’re going the hybrid route, look for a hybrid service that publishes books like yours. If you’re going the DIY/assisted route and hiring designers/editors/publicists, look for people who already have experience in your genre. Readers have specific expectations for romances, mysteries, and so on, and you want your team members to be as familiar with those expectations as you are. (You are familiar with the expectations and conventions of your genre, right?)
“Ask for references,” Warner advises. Hiring a designer or an editor is tricky because you can ask for samples of finished work but that won’t give you much insight into their process. “You can ask editors what work they’ve edited, but they’re not going to send over their editor’s marks.” So get those references and talk to other writers about their experiences before you bring someone onto your team.
It goes without saying that there are plenty of scams out there. Check Writer Beware before hiring any publishers or signing up for any services, just in case you accidentally pick the one that’s too good to be true.
3. Build your book. Also, start the marketing.
At this point you’re at least six months from publication; potentially nine months, depending on how much editorial work your book needs. You’ll be managing three big projects simultaneously:
Prepping your book interior
Prepping your book exterior
Marketing your book
The book interior includes not only your text but also front matter, back matter, copyright information, author’s notes, acknowledgments, etc. Every word that goes into your book needs to be written, revised, edited, copyedited, and final-proofed—and there are a lot of words you won’t realize your book needs until you start putting it together. (Are you going to include blurbs? Are you going to write a call to action at the end of your book, urging readers to leave Amazon and Goodreads reviews?)
The book exterior includes your cover design as well as a back cover, a spine, dust jacket flaps if you’re going hardback, a potential author photo, and even more copy. (What are you going to write on the back cover, and how will that convince people to buy your book? Are you going to include quotes from industry reviewers like Kirkus, which take up to 9 weeks to get?)
You also need to make sure that your interior and exterior match traditional publishing standards. “There are ways to let industry folks know that you’re self-published,” Warner says. She regularly sees books without running heads, or covers that include the words by [Author’s Name]. “Covers don’t have the word ‘by’ on them.”
While you’re doing all of this, you might also be building a platform (if you don’t already have one), building a mailing list, setting up a pre-order, booking interviews, sharing your industry reviews, writing about your process on your blog, doing a cover reveal on Instagram, and getting that buzz started.
“Marketing, at its core, is building positive impressions with your audience,” Jusino explains. “It’s never too early to start that. So even when a writer is still working on their draft, they should also be thinking about their audience. Who will be the core, passionate readers of this book? Who will get excited the first time they see it?”
If you read Beth Jusino’s book The Author’s Guide to Marketing—which I seriously recommend you do—you’ll learn about her Attract-Convert-Transform marketing plan. Attract and convert should be self-explanatory; transform is about turning a reader into a fan (who will, in turn, help attract and convert more readers).
Everything you do to promote your book must cover at least one of the three A-C-T steps. A solid marketing plan balances its efforts to cover all three.
The book has worksheets to help you plan your own A-C-T strategies. (I love books with worksheets.)
4. Plan your launch.
You might be three months out at this point. Let’s say your text is fully edited, which might still mean a copyedit or final proof but should give you enough mental space to start thinking about how you want your launch to go.
Launch is not a single day. I’m counting “launch” as “everything that happens from two weeks before publication through three months after publication.”
Launch is also not a solo event. Ideally, it should incorporate the audience you’ve built up over the past several months, as well as the contacts you’ve been developing as part of your marketing and media strategy.
So what happens during launch? It could be any combination of:
Articles (written by you) about your book
Articles (written by others) about your book
Interviews (print or podcast)
Social media campaigns
Bookstore and library appearances
What you’re trying to do is get as many people excited about your book as possible. This means using the network you have—and the audience you’ve already built—to generate momentum that will carry your book further than you can promote it on your own.
“If you’re a totally unknown name and you throw a book into the vast ocean of titles on Amazon, it’s going to be very, very hard for anyone to find it,” Jusino explains. “But if you’ve done your homework and built your core group of followers before the release, then you have a built-in army of ambassadors who will help drive the attention.”
Launch is also about what’s coming next. If you are writing a series, let readers know right away that the next volume will publish a year from now, or six months from now. If you’re doing a book tour, share that information with your mailing list and local news sites and Facebook and everywhere else—you can even put your tour information on your Amazon author page.
5. Publish your book.
Launch isn’t a single day, but Publication Day is. Enjoy it.
Ideally, you’ll have some interviews or blog posts scheduled to go live on Publication Day. You should also set aside time to interact directly with your readers, whether you’re responding to their social media posts, setting up an online launch event, or hosting a book launch party at a local bookstore.
Publication Day is about you and your book, but it’s also about your readers. Make them an integral part of the day, and let them know how much you appreciate the support.
6. Keep writing and publishing.
Here’s what a lot of writers don’t realize—it’s a lot harder to sell a large volume of books than it used to be. I’ll quote Green-Light Your Book one more time:
Fewer books than ever before are selling six-digit numbers (or even five-digit numbers) because more inventory means more choice for consumers.
Your first book is unlikely to be a six-digit success, but that’s okay. The best thing you can do as a self-published writer is keep publishing. It might take you three books before you break your first 5,000 copies sold—but if you self-publish you can get those three books out in two years, all while building your audience and refining both your “author” and “publisher” skills.
Yes, that means you’re doing more work for less money than writers “in the past” had to do, but that’s true for writers across the board (and for people in the majority of industries right now). You can view self-publishing as a way to build a writing career, but you can’t necessarily view it as something that will be your sole source of income. It might happen, but it’s more likely that you’ll find a core group of readers that love your work and are excited about what’s coming next—which, honestly, counts as success in my book.