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IBPA Member Spotlight: Lee Foster

Thursday, August 8, 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Christopher Locke
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Lee Foster Innovates & Succeeds with Website Book Publishing
IBPA member Lee Foster's website, Foster Travel Publishing, wins the Bronze Award for Websites in the annual competition of the Society of American Travel Writers, Western Chapter.

Recently, IBPA member Lee Foster won the Bronze Award for Websites in the annual competition of the Society of American Travel Writers, Western Chapter (the leading organization in the U.S. for travel journalists).

“I was pleased to win this award,” says Lee, “because I think a strong and competent website will be critical for the survival of all content creators in the new era. If I can be helpful by example, that is satisfying.

“I love to do travel books and literary books, and to publish them in both traditional and innovative ways. The website award was partially an acknowledgement of my long involvement in innovations in electronic publishing. Way back in 1983, I was one of the first journalists to publish my work (travel journalism in my case) on CompuServe, for a royalty profit of 10% of their income from my Premium Content, as they called it. They sent me a monthly check for the next 17 years. The past was glorious. However, I’m focused now on the future, not the past.”

The future that Lee is talking about is his decision to publish some of his books directly onto his website as weekly articles/chapters, in addition to publishing them as printed books and ebooks. So far, Lee has published three books this way: Northern California Travel: The Best OptionsTravels in an American Imagination: The Spiritual Geography of Our Time, and his newest book, Northern California History Travel Adventures: 35 Suggested Trips.

“We need to realize that the concept ‘What is a book?’ is changing,” says Lee. “We are not now just chiseling our thoughts onto stone pedestals, as I observed in ancient Xian China, or putting ink on parchment, as I saw at the Dead Sea Scrolls site in Israel. We are benefitting from Gutenberg’s movable type. And now, our books can be printed, delivered as ebooks, and also presented in website ways. How will a consumer want our books? I think one leading presentation mode, looking ahead, will be a book as a website book. The consumer will want to just look at the book content on a website.”

For publishers wondering how they can earn money by publishing books on their websites, Lee explains, “When someone visits my website, I earn some money. I have Google AdSense ads, for example. When 100 people come to my website, I earn about 25 cents, both for impressions and for clicks. When clicks occur, I earn more. I have Google Ads, other private ads, and some ‘influencer’ income from entities that want to be present on my website. I also sell print books and ebooks. People read an article, enjoy it, and buy the book/ebook. Maybe they buy the book from Amazon through my website, and I earn a little beyond royalty with an affiliate link. Maybe they look at a destination and click on a Booking.com lodging opportunity, and buy it, and I earn a little something as an affiliate. All this income is incremental, as happens in the modern era. I need to build traffic. Traffic results in income.”

Author publisher Lee Foster's title, An Author’s Perspective on Independent Publishing: Why Self-Publishing May Be Your Best Option

In response to whether or not Lee will fully move toward only publishing his books on his website, he says, “I believe the future will have many waves, including a few tsunamis. But I will continue to publish in all the forms that I think consumers will desire. I don’t see an either/or that we need to fret over. I see multiple formats flourishing. Print books, ebooks, translations (especially into Chinese), audiobooks, website books—all will meet the desires of various audiences. We don’t need to restrict ourselves to a particular form. There is no alpha form in the modern book publishing world, in my opinion. Let’s just listen to what the consumer requests, and let’s humbly respond to that request.”

For Lee’s next project he’ll be updating his recent book on self-publishing, An Author’s Perspective on Independent Publishing: Why Self-Publishing May Be Your Best Option.


Three Questions with Author Publisher Lee Foster

IBPA: Can you share any tips for other author publishers and independent publishers who are thinking about publishing their book content on their websites?

Lee Foster (LF): Ask yourself, how will the consumer want to get your content? Do you want to promote yourself or accept your obscurity? Are best practices of the past a guide to the future, or should you innovate? The website presence of your content also can lead to wildcard positives. Because my travel journalism content is on my website, I’ve had one large “licensing” deal and one large “assignment” deal in the last 5 years, each with 5-figure incomes. The buyers found my content on my website, not in my printed books or ebooks.

IBPA: Can you list a key lesson you’ve learned about how one can succeed as an independent publisher?

LF: One important aspect is to be consistent in your Social Media efforts to promote your books and your content. A modern author will benefit from some Social Media presence. I post once a week to my Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram. My main “engagement” is on Facebook as I participate in travel and publishing “groups.” All of my posts are about my book content or about the drama of modern publishing, with only an occasional personal/family post.

IBPA: How has it been beneficial to you to be a member of Independent Book Publishers Association?

LF: I have benefitted from IBPA and from my membership in our local IBPA Affiliate, Bay Area Independent Publishers Association. IBPA’s CEO Angela Bole and IBPA’s Director of Marketing & Programming Lee Wind have come up to San Francisco to participate in our monthly meetings. These communities of author publishers have been an inspiration to me since roughly 2006, when I did my first indie book, which was Travels in an American Imagination. I have enjoyed participating from time to time in the IBPA Independent magazine with my articles. I think it’s helpful for every modern author to have both a regional and a national publishing support group.

IBPA: Thank you, Lee, for sharing your story with the IBPA community, and congratulations again for winning the award for your website!

Click here to visit Lee’s award-winning website, Foster Travel Publishing!


Share your own publishing news with the IBPA community! Send news about events or accomplishments to christopher@ibpa-online.org. For more details about the types of stories we're seeking, click here.

Keep in mind that we reserve Spotlights for major news (such as, you published a book about space exploration and now it's being read in a live video feed by astronauts from the International Space Station), unique news (such as, you published a book about cycling and now the author is riding a bike across the U.S. for their book tour), or human interest stories (such as, you visit shelters every weekend to read books to the dogs and cats there).

Though launching a new book isn’t the focus of our Spotlights articles, IBPA is happy to share that exciting news on social media. Please contact christopher@ibpa-online.org with the launch date, your book cover, your book title, your book's genre, a link to where readers can learn more about your book, and your Twitter handle.

For good news in general about your publishing company (your book received a wonderful editorial review, you have an upcoming speaking engagement, etc.), use the hashtag #IBPAmemberGoodNews on Twitter and IBPA will amplify your good news!

Whether you have news or not, all of us at IBPA are cheering you on!


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