The journey from book vlogging to starting a publishing company might seem like a difficult one. But UK-based Benjamin Alderson took the leap and has shown us how it’s done!
Starting off as a booktuber, Ben built up a solid following for his video reviews, recommendations and bookish chats. A mere two years later, he was launching micro-publishing company Oftomes Publishing in December 2015 – and they’ve already launched more than 15 books into the world.
So how did Ben make the leap from vlogger to publisher? And how did he find success in both booktubing and micro-publishing? We recently got the chance to take five with Ben and chat about YouTube, book production and the Oftomes manuscript wishlist.
You’re a super successful booktuber. How did you get started doing videos?
Thank you, Helen. So I knew I always wanted to start a YouTube channel. For years I had been watching popular bloggers and personalities and I knew it was a community I wanted to join.
Problem was I did not know how to join and what to talk about. It was not until I left education and got my first full time job that I met people at the establishment who read and recommended me books about witches, which is my favourite.
At first I was really reluctant to buy the recommendations because originally I didn’t read and I did not want to waste my money at the time.
So, randomly I was on YouTube watching dancing cats or something strange, and I decided to look up the book my work friend recommended, because truthfully I didn’t want to read reviews about them due to my short attention span. So in the search bar I typed in the book title and funnily enough, a boy popped up and began chatting about the book.
Fast forward a week, I had brought and read the book and loved it. I then went back to his channel and took some more recommendations. Fast forward to December 2013 and I knew I had to join and start. I could see how positive and fun the community was and I really wanted to join and add my personality to the mix.
At what point did you feel your channel had really taken off?
I have been thinking about this and I cannot really find an answer. I have never really been one to watch subscriber count so I am unsure. But, what stands out is the number of comments started to grow a year after I started. For me that was really exciting, as it was the interaction I started the channel for.
Do you have any advice for writers out there who might be considering starting their own channel?
YouTube is a platform for freedom of speech, creativity, beliefs and views and I wouldn’t want to give any advice. I can ‘suggest’ that the best thing for a new channel is just be yourself. Chat to others around you, have fun and don’t take it to seriously. Have fun and enjoy the ride.
After finding a loyal following on YouTube, you took a huge leap and started a new publishing company, Oftomes Publishing – what inspired you to do this?
I knew as soon as I fell in love with reading that I wanted to work in the publishing industry. From the start of my channel until know I had the pleasure of working in two micro-publishing companies in the US and also lots of experience with the leading publishers in the UK.
I loved the process. I loved the communication and relationships between the author and publisher, but for me I felt there were steps missing.
I also know that I love being self-employed, I enjoy working in a small team and creating a family, so why not mash my love for publishing and small business together and create my own?
So after a year of planning, saving, creating, communicating with people in the industry, I launched Oftomes. I launched Oftomes with some things in mind, things I had learnt from my experience but also new ideas. Ideas that I felt inspired to try as I had not seen them being ‘played out’ before.
What has been the most rewarding experience running Oftomes Publishing?
Creating a family. I work really closely with the authors and other small businesses and it is wonderful. The communication between us all is strong.
We all talk daily and all get along and support each other really well. I look forward to growing the family in the coming years.
Tell us about your production process!
So to start off with a submission, the author sends us a synopsis and the first five chapters of their novel. If we enjoy it, it will be sent off to be read by the editor we work with.
If the novel is accepted and signed with our company the following will happen. It will be read by myself again once more and sent off to the editor for rounds of edits, length depending on how many rounds it needs to go through.
Immediately, marketing will plan the FMSP, which stands for Five Month Standard Plan. This plan is exclusive to Oftomes and is a detailed plan of what is going to happen with said novel starting five months before release.
It will then be sent to our digital artist and cover designer for visuals and covers. Once edited it will go through interior design as well to prepare for review copies.
That is in brief what happens but there are also lots of secrets and magic we cannot share… You just have to keep an eye out!
You’ve recently said that you’re looking for YA, Fantasy and Sci-Fi… In terms of your MSWL, what kind of new approaches/exploration of themes are you looking for in submissions?
We really focus on Young Adult fantasy, but under that genre we really are very flexible. We love new work, ideas and authors.
As long as the novel has a meaning or broaches important topics in some way, we believe it to be important for young readers to be exposed to them.
What we love above all is creative freedom. Reading work that an author has created is really exciting, being allowed to enter worlds and witness characters grow.
As long as we can see this freedom in the work we do not mind what theme the novel falls under.
What’s your best advice to authors currently submitting their novel to publishers?
Personally, at Oftomes we really like to see the following. A simple, short query letter expressing your interests, reading habits and inspirations. We also like seeing visuals, so if you have any pictures, these could be sketches, paintings. It really makes the submission stand out.
Also, it is super helpful to see an aspiring author being active on social media, it is a big ‘turn on’ for a publisher to already see an author connecting and adding their five pence to discussions on social media. But mainly, be yourself. We love seeing submissions with character and humour.
We wish you luck with all your submissions and writing.
Writer’s Edit would like to thank Ben Alderson from OfTomes for sharing his experiences and insights with us.
To submit to Oftomes, click here to view their submission guidelines.