Small Presses

Author Cornelia Funke Launches Own Publishing Company

17 September 2015

From Wendy Warris at Publishers Weekly

In an unusual move, bestselling children’s author and illustrator Cornelia Funke, whose fantasy series Inkheart and Mirrorworld have been globally popular, cites creative differences with her U.S. publisher, and a growing wish to be free of restrictions on her artistic output, as the motivating factors in her decision to start her own press, called Breathing Books. Funke’s partner in this endeavor is Mirada Studios in Los Angeles.

. . .

…Funke says she was “stunned” by the email she received from her editor at Little, Brown in the U.S., who she says was also speaking on behalf of the author’s U.K. editor. “It said, ‘We love the book, Cornelia, but could you please change the first chapter? It’s a birth scene. That’s a little drastic for our audience. Could you please put that somewhere else?’ ”

. . .

“From the very beginning, I had the problem of Little, Brown placing the Mirrorworld series in the 9–12 age group when I had told them it was age 14 and up,” Funke says. “The last seven years were bitter at times because of that argument.” She is grateful to Little, Brown, though, for giving her the rights back to the whole series, which has sold over 150,000 copies in the U.S.

. . .

As she speaks, Funke exudes confidence in her decision to become a publisher. “Little, Brown and others are like ocean liners that can only go to certain places,” Funke says. “I want to be a sailboat so I can fit into other places. If I have to figure this out myself, good!

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Posted by PG Vacation bench warmer Bridget McKenna


One Small Publisher’s Experiences with the Espresso Book Machine

19 February 2015

From TeleRead:

As a small publisher of literary fiction, I am very grateful to have a retail resource like Espresso On- Demand Books.

Publerati will have three titles available through the Espresso Book Machine Network this spring, and although there are a number of unique challenges to marketing and selling books this way in the current retail climate, I remain optimistic that this, or something similar to follow, will be an important part of future print book distribution.

. . . .

The first thing one has to accept is the eventual disappearance of most standalone bookstores. Ouch. I know, that hurts, and as a former bookseller myself I wish it were not so, but all the trends of the past ten years in book and other retailing (e.g., music, software, photos, DVD movies, florists, post offices) point to this reality.

In a future world where only the bestsellers and illustrated books are preprinted and sold mostly not through bookstores but in mass market channels like Target, supermarkets, and Amazon, how will the rest of the industry’s titles make it into print? How many standalone classes of retail trade can you think of in this day and age of the “huge general store”? Why should books be any different and deserve their own dedicated space in the era of the store-within-store?

I wonder how Big Publishing will distribute the needed quantities of preprinted books when Barnes & Noble is gone. B&N is already barely surviving due to selling more non-book items, while quietly closing underperforming stores, so this trend is established. These trends don’t just simply turn around and change direction suddenly because we hope they will. The only way B&N might survive is to become a general store themselves, with less merchandising space given to lower margin books. Which is what they have been doing and so have indie bookstores. For years.

My experience with On-Demand Books has been excellent. I received the necessary advance training to learn how to format and upload our titles correctly. Because the machines are so groundbreaking and mostly under-utilized in these early days, the operators at the various locations have been open to hearing from me as a small publisher and working together on store signings and promotions. There is no way I would get similar attention from the current physical book channels.

Link to the rest at TeleRead

Tinder Press to accept unagented manuscripts in March

19 January 2015

From The Bookseller:

Headline imprint Tinder Press has partnered with The Reading Agency to hold an open submissions period for unagented manuscripts.

Unagented authors will be able to send their manuscripts direct to the imprint for two weeks in March, with the event being held to celebrate two years of Tinder Press.

. . . .

“At Tinder Press we are committed to finding the freshest literary voices, and the time seems right for us to reach out directly to authors at an early stage in their careers. This business is all about discovering new talent, so we’re hoping to be surprised and delighted, and that at the end of the day we’ll find an author we can go on to work with in the future.”

. . . .

Only previously unpublished writers of fiction can take part.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

L.A. Indie Book Publishers Are Thriving. How Is That Possible?

5 November 2012

From LA Weekly:

Starting a book publishing house in today’s economic climate, Anthony Berryman acknowledges, was “insane.” He admits, “From a business perspective, it was never a thought that I was going to be a book publisher. I’m a high school teacher. That’s what I do.”

But start a publishing house is just what he did. Berryman, who teaches English and philosophy at Compton High School, founded Mugger Press in his one-bedroom apartment in Eagle Rock in 2011. He wasn’t deterred by the catastrophic collapse the publishing industry is facing; he wasn’t frightened by the Great Recession. All he wanted was to bring Sam McPheeters’ novel The Loom Of Ruin into the world.

Blame his experience working at Bookfellows in Glendale — now called Mystery and Imagination Bookshop. One day, owner Malcolm Bell placed a first edition of John Fante’s Ask the Dust in Berryman’s hands. That’s when Berryman knew he wanted to publish books.

. . . .

“I had no idea what I was getting myself into,” Berryman says.

Because of the recession and the way that online commerce, from Amazon to e-books, is shaking up the book business, larger publishing houses seem mostly interested in projects they know will sell. They’re less likely to take a chance on a new author with a unique vision or a literary bent. But that has only created a niche for guys like Berryman.

. . . .

While it might be easy to deride these publishers as fiscally irresponsible idealists, it’s probably better to look at them as pioneers, men and women who are determined to bring quality projects to the collective consciousness, despite the overwhelming odds of failure. In fact, the founders of Writ Large Press first started a literary journal,Wednesday, with failure in mind. That premise, says its editor and publisher, Chiwan Choi, frees their creative process. Writ Large now has published five books.

Link to the rest at LA Weekly and thanks to Meryl for the tip.

Major League Lesson In Humility.

5 July 2012

From Indie Jane:

“I have to admit, as an author, I struggle with negative reviews. I know reviews are for readers and not for writers, but when I read that someone hated my book, it makes me cry a little inside.

“But authors aren’t the only ones who get criticism. There are downers in every field–or on every field. My favorite ball player, Mark Trumbo, doesn’t get the credit he deserves. He’s a home run god, but just received his invite to the HR Derby. He was named an All-Star, but that’s no thanks to fans who loaded the ballot with Yankees and Rangers.

“So when I read this article about how he deals with criticism, I realized 1) We actually have something in common, and 2) I could learn something from his philosophical approach.

“I’ll just take a moment for the fact that I’ve just claimed to have something in common with a Major League All Star to sink in with you all.

“Still taking a moment….”

Read the rest of the article here:  Indie Jane

—  Julia Barrett

In E-Book War, the Independent Publishers Strike Back

4 July 2012

The Atlantic Monthly allows contributing writer and small-time publishing exec Peter Osnos to post a piece of self-congratulatory fiction masquerading as business news:
[I’ll skip his first paragraph recapping the state of play in the DoJ lawsuit. It was the only non-fiction part of the piece. Also, I’ve highlighted a few key phrases]

Now, nine of the country’s leading independent publishers have taken a bold step, and deserve public recognition for their action. On June 25, they submitted a cogent, twenty-page comment to the court…  At first glance, this may seem like a complex legal dispute far outside the general concerns of most bookbuyers. But stay with me and hopefully you will appreciate why the publishers deserve credit, and why this contentious issue matters to readers.

At the core of the case is the role of Amazon, which has dominated the e-book market since its release of the Kindle in 2007 set off the enormous surge in digital reading. … The dispute is essentially over how e-book prices should be determined: by the retailer under the longstanding practice known as “wholesale” pricing, or by the publisher in the “agency” model, in which the bookseller takes a commission on each sale. The Department of Justice contends that the publishers colluded to satisfy Apple’s preference for agency pricing when the iPad was unveiled in 2010. Unexpectedly, the agency concept came to be seen as a way to expand opportunities for bookselling and to limit Amazon’s ability to undercut the prices of its competitors.

In their comment, the independent publishers asserted that, “in aggregate, according to market data published by Nielsen BookScan the independents accounted for approximately 49 percent of total trade book sales nationwide in 2011.” A significant portion of those sales were through Amazon, which is why their decision to challenge the settlement and incur the possible wrath of this retailing giant is courageous.

Using language that in legal terms is very strong, the publishers objected to the proposed settlement as lacking “adequate factual basis” and “contrary to the public interest.” The outcome of this case will have a profound impact on how books are sold in the digital era, but at least these nine publishers have made it clear where they stand: in favor of robust competition. And that is why they deserve our thanks.

You can read the entire article at The Atlantic.

Folks who are tired of all the back and forth over this lawsuit may want to skip this because I’m going to spill quite a few electrons rebutting this non-sense.

Here in the USA it’s Independence Day. This is my patriotic contribution to cleaning up our public discourse of that form of argumentation described in Harry Frankfurt’s seminal work, On Bullshit. The purpose of Mr. Osnos is clear. He wants to shape your thinking about the DoJ lawsuit by appealing to one of our primal myths.

We are treated to a classic formulation of the fearless little guy taking a brave stand against a powerful and mysterious force that threatens the well-being of the audience. We have the “bold step”, “incur the … wrath of this … giant”,  and “courageous”. Look at what our heroes “deserve”:  “recognition”, credit”,  and “our thanks”. This tightly constructed narrative is built out of a rather amazing amalgam of flotsam and jetsam Osnos has collected the shipwreck that is traditional publishing’s justification for collusive behavior.

Let’s dismantle this edifice piece by piece, remembering that the key to a properly constructed exemplar of this art form is the complete lack of regard for the truth value of any particular component. That lack of regard for truth means that it is pointless to wonder whether the author is aware of the truth or falseness of any particular claim he includes. Nor can we discern when omissions of pertinent facts are deliberate. A practitioner of this dark art doesn’t dabble in such niceties. All that matters is that each element contributes to the construction of his myth.

The foundation of this article is this falsehood: “At the core of the case is the role of Amazon”. The entire publishing industry is irrevocably committed to hiding behind the notion that Amazon is the bogeyman. Amazon is relevant to the DoJ lawsuit only in that Amazon was the target of the alleged colluders’ actions. Far from being the central actor, Amazon isn’t even the alleged victim. Read the lawsuit. The DoJ is alleging that bookbuyers were the victims. The Price-Fix Six aimed to take out Amazon by forcing you and me to pay more for ebooks. That’s the core of this case.

Resting atop the false claim about Amazon’s centrality, is this statement:

The dispute is essentially over how e-book prices should be determined: by the retailer under the longstanding practice known as “wholesale” pricing, or by the publisher in the “agency” model, in which the bookseller takes a commission on each sale.

Sadly, no. This is roughly equivalent to claiming that a lawsuit arising from one person stabbing another person with a butcher knife is about the proper use of butcher knives. That lawsuit would essentially be about the stabbing, not about the butcher knife.  And if there was a legal order barring the stabber from approaching the victim with butcher knife in hand, that wouldn’t amount to outlawing butcher knives. This lawsuit is about a group of wholesale producers with substantial  market power in conspiring with a new entrant into the retail marketplace to raise the retail prices of ebooks and end the ability of retailers to compete on the basis of price. Agency pricing was just the tool that was used to accomplish these ends.

What Osnos leaves out of his discussion of the settlement is the quite salient fact that agency pricing is not prohibited by the settlement. Mentioning that fact would be a bit problematic for the argument that “Unexpectedly, the agency concept came to be seen as a way to expand opportunities for bookselling and to limit Amazon’s ability to undercut the prices of its competitors.” It wasn’t the agency concept that limited Amazon’s ability to undercut prices. It was the illegal collusion.

And what about that “Unexpectedly” floating untethered from any syntactical anchor at the beginning of that sentence? Who didn’t expect the outcome of the collusion? The colluders certainly expected it. Steve Jobs is on video describing exactly what was about to happen to Walter Mossberg at the iPad launch. Immediately after the five publishers signed an agreement to force Amazon to raise the prices of bestselling ebooks, but before they had implemented the plan, there’s Steve Jobs laying out how they would accomplish it. Anyone who didn’t expect what was about to happen just wasn’t paying attention.

In the real world, Osnos works for a company that is, at most, an interested bystander in this case. In the myth that Osnos is spinning, his employer and the other eight publishers who banded together are transformed into protagonists, acting forcefully against the Amazonian menace. Here is his one original contribution to the publishing industry myth, the notion that this hardy band of smaller publishers have become central actors in this drama by adopting, in full, the Big Six argument that the true threat to competition in the ebook business is not the price-fixing actions of Apple and all of the Big Six except Random House, but Amazon’s use of bestsellers as loss leaders. The act at the core of this bit of myth-making is simply after-the-fact “yeah, what he said”.

So, what are we, the audience, supposed to do in response to this myth? We are supposed to applaud these publishers for the courageous act of filing of a public comment about the proposed settlement between the DoJ and the three publishers who had enough sense to know when to fold rather than going all in on a losing hand. Seriously? For filing a public comment? That’s what passes for action in the world of publishing.

And why are we to believe these publishers are so brave for doing pointless paperwork that will assuredly be ignored by the court because the filers ignored the central issues of the case? Because they might incur the possible wrath of Amazon. If Mr. Osnos wanted to sell me on the idea that Amazon is a ruthless business that will do anything for a buck, I would be willing to listen. But he’s selling the notion that Amazon is a petulant bully that will extract revenge on these publishers because they said unflattering things about Amazon. And his evidence is? Nothing. Crickets.

To briefly recap: I call B.S. on Mr. Osnos.

-Guest post by William Ockham, who is solely responsible for the content of this post. The opinions stated herein do not necessarily reflect the views of the proprietor of this blog or the other guest bloggers.

The Book Arts Program.

28 June 2012

University of Maine, Machias.  The Book Arts Program.

Read more here: University of Maine at Machias.

Julia Barrett

From Jen Talty: Publishing is a Business of Business as Usual

25 June 2012
Comments Off on From Jen Talty: Publishing is a Business of Business as Usual

“and that is very bad.”

Over on Write it Forward:

“I have a fundamental problem with the idea of “business as usual”. Not in the sense that we have to run a business and it has to be done on a day-to-day business, but most business today are fluid and if you don’t keep up with the fluidity, well, for those of us living Rochester, NY it’s one word: Kodak. My father worked for Kodak way back in the day as a Regional Sales Rep for the Motion Picture Division and even then he said (mind you this is way back in the late 70’s) that if Kodak didn’t move with the times when it came to cameras they’d be a hurting company… Of course, Kodak was really a “film” company but you know there is this little thing called digital that seems to be turning many businesses upside down and inside out.

“Well, not my business.

“Bob and I have been in business together since December of 2009 (officially). Since then, we have changed or modified our business plan every 6 months. We just did it back in January and we’re doing it again this July (already making notes in Google docs for the Cool Gus Business meeting at Thrillerfest).  It’s exhausting and often times frustrating, but our industry is changing and we have to make adjustments or we’re going to go down with the Titanic (even though we got off a long time ago).

“Business as usual is a form of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results. Perhaps making a very slight adjustment like reducing print runs and deciding to remove DRM from eBooks. Well, I guess better late than never. Yes, I know, authors are screaming that I think smaller print runs are a good thing. How about lower advances? I once said that it wasn’t just publishers that had to change the way they think and do business, but that the author had to as well. Funny thing about change, most of us don’t like it. It took Bob a good year to wrap his brain around what we were doing. Not that I got there any sooner, but my perspective was different. I’d never been traditionally published and I read eBooks.”

Read the rest at Write It Forward.

—  Julia Barrett

What E-Publishing Means to a Country Boy.

22 June 2012

From Stant Litore, author of The Zombie Bible:

“Bea over at Writing Off the Rails asked me a few days ago what digital publishing, indie publishing, e-publishing, etc., means to me. That made me sit back and think a moment, because it means a lot to me. And not just what you’d expect. Here’s the answer I came up with.

It means all bets are off.

For the first time in quite a while, writers have options. A writer with a fantastic story, some marketing chutzpah, and the self-discipline of an old workhorse can take a decent shot at self-publishing, and that’s been good for a number of novelists. It’s a long shot, but thanks to the rapid growth of the e-book market and the ease of connecting writers and readers via the Internet, it’s far more feasible than it has been in the past.

Another thing that’s exciting to me is the new species of publishers emerging. Some of the small presses are not only entrepreneurial but also give their writers a fair deal, which is something that hasn’t really been the norm among large publishing houses since the 1950s.

And there are the Amazon imprints – Montlake, Thomas & Mercer, 47North, and the others. These not only offer a fair deal but a very powerful marketing engine, and they’re run by innovative people who invest in the author-editor relationship. They’re bringing good work out and they put their weight behind it – not just behind one or two titles they’re banking everything on, they put their weight behind all their books. I’m impressed by that.

All of this means that a good writer has a better shot at making a living than has been the case in quite a few decades.

That’s a good thing.

But what the e-book market and the digital publishing phenomenon really means to me is bigger than that. Much bigger.”

Read the rest at:  New Wave Authors, What E-Publishing Means to a Country Boy.

Julia Barrett

The Author as Publisher, Author as Fraud

5 June 2012

Photo Credit: Amy Gizienski

From author and frequent visitor Bridget McKenna:

So, should independent author-publishers have their own publishing imprints?
I wondered about this when I was first dippng my toes in the indie waters this time last year, so I asked a couple of experienced people I respected whether they thought it was necessary and beneficial, and they said absolutely yes. I created my publishing company, Ravenscourt Press, and got on with the business of publishing some books. It did not then occur to me that in the minds of many people I was doing something wrong.

A discussion elsewhere in the indie community a while back brought up the question of whether or not indie publishers should form their own publishing imprint. The blog author was not especially in favor of it and asked for opinions. As the commenters began to chime in, the idea of creating a publishing entity for self-published books was labeled “not right”, “criminal”, “fake”, “duping the reader”, “dishonest”, “deception”, and “morally questionable” just in the first handful of comments.

. . . .

After my comment, other author-publishers chimed in on the pro side: 

“There is nothing wrong with creating your own business whether it’s books, dresses, or gift items. A product is a product no matter what it’s form is. And I don’t understand this concept of morality that comes into it. You’re either in business or you’re not.”

“I’m just not understanding why being up front about approaching selling books as a business (separate from the craft of writing them) would be perceived as a lie. Your readers want a good book. If you’re giving them that, how many of them do you suppose are really invested in whether or not you have a publishing identity separate from your name?”

“It’s a one-person press, sure, but a press nonetheless. And frankly, anyone who’s willing to do all the work themselves (often many of us around family and day job obligations) should be proud to call themselves both an indie and a press.”

. . . .

I publish my books under an imprintand anyone who cares to do the research can pretty quickly discern that I’m the only author Ravenscourt Press publishes. I make no attempt to hide it. I’m proud of the books I publish or I wouldn’t be doing this.

I love my books, and I love my very, very small publishing company. I love making sure each new publication is as good as I can make it with the help of a good editor, and I love finding and being found by readers. I did it New York’s way; it was thrilling to have all the trappings of literary legitimacy as we defined it then. We have new definitions now, and a new world of publishing opportunity to explore.

In the interest of full disclosure, there was a time when I would have argued against what I’m doing with my publishing business for pretty much the same reasons other people object to it now. But the game has changed, and self-publishing, as well as an opportunity writers have never had before in quite this way, is a business.

Link to the rest at Points of View

Passive Guy’s view on this is colored by interaction with some small publishers who appear to operate their businesses with all the sophistication of a lemonade stand and whose contracts include at least one grammatical error per paragraph.

In PG’s evanescently humble opinion, the idea that an author owning a publisher for purposes of self-publishing is some sort of misrepresentation is crazy. The fact that Cold Gray Walls Publishing is owned by an ex-con instead of an author has no impact on the quality of the books published. Just like agents, nobody licenses publishers and nobody regulates them for quality.

On a more serious note, there may be some good business reasons for having an entity as the publisher of record for your indie books. For one thing, it may ease the process of estate planning. Having a separate bank account for the publisher into which all publishing income goes and out of which all publishing expenses are paid makes record-keeping for purposes of taxes a little simpler as well.

An indie author is a small business and having a publishing imprint is a little more businesslike.

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