The Rise of Self-Publishing: An Interview with Blurb Founder Eileen Gittins

We’re a little biased, sure, but we think that one of the highlights of the London Author Fair was the seminar Author Entrepreneur: Why Your Book Is Your Startup, featuring our founder, Eileen Gittins. After all, she knows a good deal about creating startups and books. Even though she spends much of her time in the boardroom, she also carves out some time for the darkroom.

We caught up with her to find out what she thinks about Blurb’s role in the world of self-publishing.

When you first started Blurb, back in 2007, did you think of it as a “self-publishing platform”?

Absolutely. From the very get-go our vision was to enable everyone on earth —okay, it’s a vision :)—to create and publish their stories, work, and passions, reaching audiences of one to billions.

How does Blurb help the self-published author?

First, our whole reason for being is to be on the side of the authors. We started this company because we thought it was completely wrong that the folks who create the work are at the end of the food chain economically, not to mention the loss of creative control they often encounter. That was just wrong. So if you start a company to solve that problem, chances are good you’ll build a platform by listening carefully to the people who will want to use it. When you support that platform with inspirational and informative subject matter that helps guide people along the way—well, that’s the ticket.

What’s your impression of the state of self-publishing?

We’re in “phase one” of many phases. Right now, with respect to ebooks, people are still thinking about just replicating the book in digital form, and for the print book they are not yet thinking about how to take advantage of the ultimate in personalization. For instance, it is now economically possible to create books of one copy. I’m not talking about what’s been known as enhanced ebooks (with the addition of video and audio), but rather how else we would think about the total experience of the book. Let’s take what’s been done before into the new, instead of re-thinking what the new will enable the old to be.

What is the opportunity for Blurb?

We are transforming publishing for the 21st century. That’s massive. We are unbelievably lucky to be here right now, with a team of über-talented people from the best and brightest Silicon Valley companies, at a moment when what a book should be is morphing before our very eyes. How often does that bus come around?

What do you enjoy most about events like the London Author Fair?

Like most entrepreneurs, I am very curious about almost everything. I love, love, love talking to people about their books. I also love hearing their stories—what brought them to create this particular title, what did they have to overcome to get it done, what does success look like for them. When I started the company, I don’t think I really appreciated the dividends I would receive along the way—the sheer volume of creativity we see every day when titles come over our servers. It’s remarkable—and events like the London Author Fair give me a chance to meet some of the heroes behind the work.


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