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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Critical Thinking: PPLD Mountain of Authors

PPLD Mountain of Authors

Publishing Panel

Doris Baker
: Filter Press, LLC; middle grade and YA Western historical

Teresa Funke: Teresa Funke & Co and Victory House Press.

Nancy Mills: Children’s’ lit author; Pres of the Colorado Independent Pub Association. Has own publishing house (Pie in the Sky Pub) and publishes her own. Goal in writing is to publish children’s books that entertain both the child and the reading parent.

Q: What was your introduction to publishing?

TF: Wrote a historical novel about WWII. Editors loved it and couldn’t put it down, but refused to buy it since they wouldn’t be able to sell it. Men it was about were dying, and she wanted them to be able to see it in print, so she decided to self-publish POD. Enjoyed self-publishing. Next book—editors told her it wouldn’t sell. Rewrote as short stories and published them in literary magazines. Again, editors loved the compilation, but couldn’t sell it. So she and a friend started their own press. Also put her YA WWII series through her press because she felt the mainstream publishers would want her to take out the most important parts. Now she only publishes her own books, but will publish others later.

Q: What are the myths and cautions about publishing?

DB: Tiger Woods quote: “It’s harder than it looks.” Getting a book ready and published is harder than it looks. And writing a 32-page children’s picture book is like writing poetry—every word counts. And fact-based books must be researched not only by the author but by the editor to make sure it’s accurate.

TF: It’s a long process. People give up too soon when they don’t see it coming together. Sometimes you need to step back to short stories and essays.

NM: Biggest myth: “Oh, I don’t need an editor.”

If you’re not having fun, you shouldn’t be doing it. You should enjoy it, find it fulfilling, and find that it feels a need in yourself.

Q: Anything to be careful about regarding publishing?

NM: There are a number of companies that will package your book, but be very cautious. How many books will you have to sell make up your expense? POD [Publish in Demand] is very helpful since you don’t need to run 10,000 copies. If you have the desire to write the great American novel, be patient.

TF: Even if you’re working with a reputable POD company, look carefully at their different packages and pick and choose what you need. Editorial services with POD companies aren’t that great. Be careful with agents, too; if they require a reading fee, find another agent.

DB: You don’t want to get stars in your eyes. Don’t take the first person who says, “We can do…” Slow down and see if you’re getting a good deal. Watch out for add-ons like marketing and editing services. Read fine-print—which can go on for 25 screens. Know the terminology on publishing industry; read the blogs; know what to ask. Know if the company will own your book or if it’s simply a printer. If the publisher provides your ISBN, they own your book.

TF: Retain your rights for the book so you can turn around and do something different with the material later on.

NM: Usually self-publishers want to choose the cover, font, paper, so you definitely want to retain your rights for the material.

Q: But there are little or no upfront costs from a traditional publisher.

DB: Until about five-ten years ago, the model was that your book was seen as having a value to a specific publishing company. Once they liked it and agreed to buy it, the author’s job was almost done. In order to make up their investment, the publisher puts up the money for printing, marketing, distribution. This investment is why they have a say in what goes into the book—both content and format.

Now we have about 10-15 different models with a spectrum of author/publisher commitment and investment. Depends on how many rights the author wants to retain and how confident the publisher is that the book will sell.

Q: How much money is a publisher willing to invest in a book?

DB: A traditional publisher needs to sell enough quantity of a book to recoup the investment. A 32-page picture book with a professional children’s book illustrator…Her budget will start at $15,000-$20,000; printing will be in Taiwan or China. A smaller YA book with fewer illustrations would be much less expensive and printed on demand locally. If you want to know specifics about costs, ask a printer.

TF: At first, she thought it was ridiculous that a new author’s first book would get them 8%. Once she got into the publishing, she saw how much investment publishing companies pick up. She spent about $1500 on her first including $200 to a photographer for the cover image and another $100 for cover design. POD, small quantities cost was $7-$8 a book.

Q: What about agents?

NM: You used to not need an agent. The market has changed so much that now you need one for a traditional publisher. They can see if it needs editing or changing and what (if any) publisher will take it. The big five publishers in NY are cutting back on the traditional hard printed books they by. First ever time—e-books outsold hard covers.

E-books are the future. But traditional books will never go away for the same reason TV didn’t put movies out of business. E-books will be more convenient for text books (which needs regular updating) and reduce carbon footprint. But people will continue to love to hold books—be with them. When her first book came in from China, she wanted to spread them all over her bed and roll around in them naked.

But she didn’t.

DB: E formats can make every writer a published writer. If your goal is to be published in print, the best way to leverage your talents is to publish an e-book and get people interested in your topic and your writing. [Wow. Did she just say that?] If you can get the readers, you have leverage with the traditional publisher. E-books free the writer. There are still a lot of processes to get the book e-published: editing, cover, endorsement, marketing. If she was a non-fiction writer, she would take it straight to e-publishing and skip print.

NM: Doesn’t agree completely. Hates to lose the opportunity to meet the audience—both to sell them to the person face to face, and to allow the reader to be able to purchase the book and put it on their shelf as a reference. Don’t do one without the other.

TF: Put two of her books up, but what do you charge for it? And how do you get it out there? And Amanda [Hocking] had 19 books to put out there. Readers will want a library and be less patient for the sequel. If you do it, do it well. Get it properly edited. Even if you price it low, if the writing or the formatting sucks, you’re going to get bad reviews. Don’t take shortcuts. Don’t frustrate your reader.

NM: “Editing is not spell check.”

DB: When you’re publishing, are you putting a book out just to see what will happen, or are you starting a writing career? If you’re looking for a career, it needs to be professional.

Her company is in the process of putting all their back-list out as e-books. They have a built-in audience since the books have print readers. They've started making sure print format will easily transition to e-book. Offering 30% royalty on e-books since expenses were taken care of when they edited the print book.

TF: Kindle pays about 70%; Nook 65%

DB: It’s a lot of fun to do it yourself. Make sure you get samples if you have someone format your book for e-book. It’s not a straight translation. Indentations are tricky. Ask to see their work.

TF: AAR—Association of Author Representatives—if an agent is listed there, they are legitimate.

Q: Should you ever respond to an on-line review, good or bad?

TF: There was recently an author who did that. It’s hard to get a bad review off of Amazon unless you can prove malicious intent. You need 5-star and 1-star reviews. If it’s all 5-stars, people will think they’re all from your relatives. A 1-star review makes the book seem real. Most people don’t pay attention to 2-4-star reviews.

NM: Got told her book had words that were too big—like “fuchsia,” and a woman thought the funniest parts were inappropriate.

DB: Hope for more positive than negative, but consider how you’re spending your time. You need to pour your creativity and energy into your writing, not rebuttals. Peer reviews are more important to your craft. You need to look at the peer reviews, but readers will pay attention to amateur bloggers and Amazon commentors.

Q: How do you define success?

DB: Sometimes she can’t believe she’s still in business. Gets frustrated with printers and editors and the market. Remembers why she’s in the business: keeps her reading, thinking, and in company with the people in the book world. Loves the people in the book world. Derives satisfaction in seeing an author’s work polished and in print.

TF: It is difficult in the publishing industry, and she quits, absolutely, twice a year. The next day she wakes up with a brilliant idea. You do it because you love it, period. Most will not get money or fame, but will get satisfaction and fulfill your passion. The way she does it enables her to do things creatively and take risks. There are so many avenues and opportunities, and you don’t have to give up on a project. It’s an exciting time and frustrating time, and it takes a lot of work, but if you love it, it isn’t work.

NM: Three big ways people move through the world: 1. Work to feed your habit—golf or buy toys or travel. 2. Work because they feel strongly about the cause—reward is huge and money doesn’t matter. 3. Work at what they love and make money. Use any of these. Hers has nothing to do with publishing. At the end of the day, who loves you? She integrates her family into her books—involves them with the creative process, which draws them into her live and work.

TF: Whatever your goal is for your book, it’s valid. Whether it’s for your family, a small press, a block-buster, just do it.

NM: No matter who you pay, no matter who you hire or talk to, this is your book, your story, your theory, your imagination. Likely, your book has merit, so stick to your guns.

DB: Still stuck on the image of rolling around naked in books. But there is a thrill of holding that first published book.
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