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Jan 25, 2022

Laterpress 101: Guide to getting started

Thinking about signing up for Laterpress? Here's everything you need to know before getting started.

Malcolm Acan
Malcolm Acan
Person about to start running

What is Laterpress?

In a nutshell, Laterpress is a toolkit for authors to publish directly to–and make money directly from–readers via their own branded website.

When you publish to online marketplaces like Amazon Kindle or Wattpad, your readers have an indirect relationship with you. The e-reader, app, or website your readers use to read your book is branded to those companies, and those companies have total control over the experience, including how (or even if) readers are charged and what you as an author earn.

At Laterpress, we believe in a different and better future for authors. Readers want a direct connection with the authors they love, not with a company or marketplace. And authors deserve to control their relationship with readers.

That’s why Laterpress is building the complete toolkit for direct book publishing. Today that toolkit helps authors go direct in two fundamental ways:

  1. Direct publishing: Laterpress lets you publish online books and serials directly to your own branded website.
  2. Direct payment: Laterpress lets you charge readers exactly how and what you want–via subscription or one-time fee.

By going direct, we believe more authors can build a community of readers, earn more money, and ultimately forge the career they’ve always wanted.

How does it work?

So what does publishing via Laterpress actually look like? Let’s walk you through some of our core features:

1. Publish to your own website

Laterpress lets you publish your books and serials to your own branded subdomain (like https://iliad.laterpress.com) or even a custom domain of your own (like https://www.malcolmacan.com). With your branding front and center, you can build a direct relationship with readers:

If you decide to use a completely custom domain to host your stories, the best part is your readers don’t even have to know Laterpress exists. And if you ever stop using Laterpress as your publishing toolkit, you can host your new stories on the same website URL as always.

With central platforms like Wattpad and Kindle, that simply isn’t possible. If you decide to leave those platforms, you risk losing the readership you’ve spent months or even years growing. With Laterpress, authors never again have to choose between their independence and their readers.

2. Turn your books into web-native experiences

More readers than ever are reading on phones and desktop computers–a trend that’s only accelerating. But the experience of reading books and serials on the web still leaves a lot to be desired. The problem is that most platforms for web publishing are optimized for blogs, articles, and other short-form content. 

The unique needs of long-form content like books and web serials require a fundamentally different approach. With that in mind, we’ve engineered Laterpress from the ground up to meet the expectations of book and web serial readers.

For example, similar to reader apps like those offered by Kindle, Kobo, and Wattpad, your readers can navigate within chapters by swiping from page to page or by using a slidebar:

Readers can also jump between chapters using your book’s automatically-generated table of contents:

And they can toggle between light and dark mode for nighttime reading:

Most importantly, when readers are logged in, Laterpress automatically saves their place in your book so they can return to your website whenever they want and pick up reading right where they left off.

3. Charge what and how you want

Instead of forcing readers to jump over to Paypal to pay for your books, Laterpress makes it easy for readers to read and pay for your book all in the same place:

All you have to do to get started is create a Stripe account, connect it to Laterpress, and decide how you want to charge your readers. If you want to give your readers a free preview of your book, you can set the number of chapters they get access to. You also have flexibility over how you charge readers, with three different payment options:

  1. Entire book fee: You can charge readers a single price for access to your entire book.
  2. Chapter bundle fee: You can charge your readers a fee to unlock a certain number of chapters at a time. (This is a great option for authors of web serials in particular.)
  3. Subscription fee: You can charge your readers an annual subscription fee to access all of the books you publish on Laterpress.

Authors can even offer readers a choice between the options above: for example, between a book fee to purchase one book from you or a subscription to get all of your content. It’s completely your choice as the author.

4. Release your book all at once… or serially

Some of the best stories are the ones told serially over years and years. But current book publishing technology (like static ebook files) makes serial publishing hard. With Laterpress, we’ve changed that. You can add new chapters to your book whenever you want with just a few clicks:

And your readers can receive automatic email notifications whenever new content is available so they always stay up to date:

5. Gather insights about readers

Laterpress gives you the tools you need to understand your readers. You can view high-level metrics or download a report that tells you what chapters people are reading and where they might be dropping off:

And because Laterpress integrates with your Stripe account, you can also log into your dashboard and see a detailed breakdown of how much you’re earning and how those earnings are trending over time.

6. Build a mailing list… and community

Whenever readers create an account on Laterpress, they are asked if they want to sign up to your mailing list:

That means every visitor to your book is an opportunity for a direct and enduring relationship with a reader, not just for a one-off transaction. Simply export your reader list from Latepress into a newsletter service like Mailchimp or ConvertKit and you can start communicating directly with readers today.

7. Control the platform you publish on

The conundrum many authors today face is that technology platforms are often essential to building a career in books, but as those platforms grow and investor demands increase, the platforms often make unilateral changes that benefit the company at the expense of authors. Maybe the company hikes fees from 10% to 20%, or they change their algorithm to prioritize more lucrative content. Whatever the change–the authors responsible for growing the platform in the first place don’t even have a voice or a seat at the table.

At Laterpress, we’re building a new kind of platform. Not only are we flipping the traditional script on publishing and helping authors go direct to their readers, but we’re giving authors a direct say in how Laterpress is run. We’re doing this by setting up a first-of-its-kind author working group to help us develop a governance system designed to give our community of authors a vote on important issues like platform fees, content guidelines, and more.

Does Laterpress help readers discover authors?

The short answer is not today... but we have lots of features coming soon that will. In the meantime, publishing on Laterpress is a great way to build stronger ties and make more money from the readers who do discover you.

For example, if you’re an author with at least a handful of readers on your mailing list, Laterpress can be a great tool for you. Next time you send out an email blast announcing a book, simply include a direct link to the book you published on Laterpress alongside the usual links to sites like Amazon, Google Play, and Kobo. And then tell your readers that if they want to show extra support, use the Laterpress link because you are only charged 5%, compared to the 30% to 70% that the other platforms take.

Another great tactic to use with Laterpress is to publish free content on "discovery" platforms like Wattpad or RoyalRoad as a way to generate reader interest. As interest grows and readers want even more of your story, you can then link them over to additional chapters or books you’ve paywalled on Laterpress.

Finally, if you’re planning to tell the same story by publishing chapters serially over the course of months or years like the authors of Worm and The Wandering Inn, the best approach might be to skip “discovery” platforms entirely and to jump straight to creating your own site using a tool like Laterpress.

Your readership might grow more slowly using this approach but the payoff can be huge. Readers looking for the latest updates will return to your website again and again, and link to the website in conversations all across the internet. And as these backlinks proliferate, the SEO of your website will steadily rise and attract more and more readers – a compounding advantage that positions the website you control as the place your readers gather.

What does Laterpress cost?

Our approach to pricing has two key pillars:

1. We only make money when authors do: Publishing on Laterpress is completely free and we only keep 5% of what you charge your readers. Our third party payment processor, Stripe, charges a small additional fee (roughly 2.9% - 3.4% + 30¢), and you keep the rest.

2. Authors have a choice: In the future, we plan to offer a set of features that let authors partipate in a community of other authors and earn additional income through things like affiliate links and referrals. There will be an additional fee for this "Author Community" functionality but using those features will be optional. The choice would always be up to each author.

What happens if I leave Laterpress?

We believe that leaving a platform should be easy. That’s why we’ve designed Laterpress so you can take everything with you — your books, subscriptions, and mailing list — with no strings attached. With Laterpress's free custom domain functionality, authors can even leave Laterpress while keeping their domain.

Making leaving Laterpress easy for our users is a way for us to ensure that authors are sticking with us for the right reasons. Not because we’ve locked them into our proprietary payment system or because we’ve co-opted your readers but because we’ve built the best toolkit for direct book publishing. That's our mission.

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