07 February 2014

Self-publishing research: Interview with Chris O'Byrne from JETLAUNCH

Last week, I believe it was, Chris O'Byrne followed me on Twitter and I found out about JETLAUNCH Premium Publishing, a company that helps indie authors navigate self-publishing their print and ebooks by offering editing, formatting, file conversion, book and cover design, and distribution services.

This got me thinking of indie authors I've encountered who find the idea of learning about the nuts and bolts of self-publishing daunting (especially after having just gone through sometimes years of work writing the book), so I decided to investigate a little further and to invite Chris to do an interview so we could get a glimpse of the man behind the company. Happily, he said yes and was able to respond to the interview questions in record time!

In the following interview, Chris talks about how he got into the business of helping indie authors self-publish, his reading habits, and the challenges to and best strategies for selling a self-published book.

What got you into helping indie authors self-publish?
The indie authors themselves got me involved. My first venture into book publishing was back in 2006 when someone heard I could do web design and asked if I could help them design a print book. I said sure, and then quickly learned how to do it. About four years later, someone asked if I could convert their manuscript into an ebook, so again I said sure, and then quickly learned how. I found I loved the whole process and set about learning how to do it right. Word spread, one thing led to another, and soon I had created a whole business.

I noticed that all your team members have the same last name. A family business or an eerie coincidence? Did you all decide to start the company together, or was it mainly one person's project and they recruited everyone else?
I would love to be able to say it was an eerie coincidence; that would be an awesome story! I started the business, and then after I got married, my wife, Mara, joined the effort. After that I started hiring my children because they are brilliant and talented. My daughter Brianna isn’t listed on the website yet because she only works part-time, but she is a excellent editor.

What did you do for a living in your past life/lives, before JETLAUNCH?
My answer could fill a book, so I’ll hit the highlights. I was a chemical engineer for a few years, and I left that career to teach high school science and math because I wanted to make a difference. Eventually, however, my need to be my own boss overcame everything else and here I am today.

That sounds very Breaking Bad, only without the meth. Do you also write? If so, what do you write? Have you self-published?
I do a lot of writing, almost all of it for teaching purposes. The only book I have self-published right now is a short book called Choose Keywords That Sell More Books. I’ve been so busy running the business that I haven’t been able to publish any more of my own books than that. Very sad.

Share with us a childhood memory of a book or of reading?
I grew up reading voraciously. My three favorite series were the World Book Encyclopedia (seriously!), the Tarzan books by Edgar Rice Burroughs, and everything by Louis L’Amour.

What kinds of books do you read for fun now? Favorite book or author?
I still read a lot, mostly for an hour or so before falling asleep. I love action novels and science fiction, along with business books. I also read books on prayer and the Christian walk. I also tend to read several books at a time, switching between them, often in the same setting. I’m currently reading The ONE Thing, Get a Grip, Personal Kanban, and The Prayer Warrior’s Way.

Paperback or eReader and why?
Paperback if I have a chance to read during the day because it’s easier on my eyes and a lot of fun to curl up with on the couch with coffee while the cold Minnesota winter wind is blowing. At night, I read with the Kindle app on my iPhone because I can lay on my side and read with one hand.

What's the biggest challenge to selling a self-published book?
Building an audience, by far. Which leads into the marketing question…

Best way(s) to market a self-published book?
I’ll keep this short: Build a platform and write more than one book.

Just for the fun of it, can I share with my readers the story you told me via email of the time you moved to Portland?
I wouldn’t mind at all.  :)

Oh goodie! Here's the story:
My daughter used to live [in Portland] and my friend Tammy Strobel and we'd come visit. One year my wife and I decided to move to Portland. It was the end of October and the rainy season has just started. We lasted one day. The next day we were driving back to the desert in southern Arizona.  lol

Chris would love to connect with you on Twitter and LinkedIn, and you can find out more about JETLAUNCH on their website. And if you are curious about the book covers they've designed (as I was), check them out here.

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