Small Presses

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.

One Micro-Publisher’s Book Sales

22 October 2011

An interesting picture of ebook sales from January 2010 to September 2011.

From Walt Shiel – Author, Pilot, Publisher:

The first, gratifying, news is that we are selling a lot more books. Although we’ve been in business since 2005, our total sales increased by 450% over those seven quarters! And that is unit sales, not dollar volume. I’m not going to get into raw numbers, since that is not my point…so don’t even ask. Again in unit sales, eBooks represented about 18% of our sales in the first quarter of 2010 but, and this is the kicker, 76% of unit sales in the last quarter (July-September 2011).

 

 

Next I looked at our sales of eBooks alone. We offer eBooks in three formats — Kindle, ePub, and PDF. So far, sales of the PDF formats is insignificant, down there in the noise level of the data. And, far and away, we sell more Kindle books than ePub books. We have our ePub editions for sale in the B&N Nook Store, the Apple iBookstore, Kobo Books, BooksonBoard, and a dozen other miscellaneous sites (the first three represent about 99% of our ePub sales). It turns out that, although Kindle represents the largest percentage of our eBooks sales, ePub is making some inroads, having jumped from almost zero in the first quarter of 2010 to about 20% in the last quarter.

 

 

So, what does it all mean? We’re still mulling it over. I have to admit that I am somewhat saddened by the tremendous increase in sales of eBooks while, at the same time, encouraged by the heady jump in total books sold. As for dollar sales, I will say that we make at least as much (in some cases more) per eBook sale as we do per print book sale.

Why would I be saddened? Personally, I am not a big fan of eBooks in any format, although I do read them occasionally. Somehow, I think we are losing something as a culture if eBook sales continue to increase the way they have over the past couple of years. However, if our readers want eBooks, we will offer eBooks.

Link to the rest at Walt Shiel – Author, Pilot, Publisher

Indie Publishing for the Love of It

18 August 2011

Australian indie publisher and teacher librarian Tehani Croft Wessely loves books:

My time at ASIM [Andromeda Spaceways Publishing Co-operative] was pretty much my internship in publishing – I did every role involved in creating a publication that you could do, I’m sure! I slushread, commissioned stories and art, edited, did layout, proofread, organised contracts and payments, marketing, promotions, sales, e-publications and every little thing in between that gets an issue of a magazine from being just an idea, to being in the reader’s hands. The structure of ASIM was both its beauty and its curse – organising anything by committee can be difficult, but for the most part, the support provided by the ever-varying ASIM team meant that you had people to rely on, and also that someone in the group would usually know how to solve a problem. As a learning experience, it was a very good one and has, I think, stood me in good stead in my own publishing ventures. It’s even led me to paying jobs in academic editing, which is a nice sideline!

Being an indie publisher is not an easy road. For every indie press that makes a book that breaks even or, even more rarely, makes a profit, there are dozens, even hundreds, that see money vanish into big boxes of books stacked up in spare rooms and sheds, until the erstwhile owner (or their long-suffering spouse) finally says, “Enough.” It’s fascinating to chart to progress of these publishers, to see them rise and fall, to see the authors who put their faith in them get a start, and read the projects they produce. They continue to emerge, perhaps in even greater numbers in recent years with the advent of E and POD publishing options that make it more cost-effective to produce books, and easier to reach a wider audience. Well, I say “easier”, but what I mean is “possible”, because as the numbers of indie publishers rise, so do the number of self- and vanity publishers, which means the role of the publisher – that of gatekeeper and quality control – is being lost under the white noise. And sometimes it’s very difficult for readers (and authors) to distinguish between an indie press and a vanity one, which has a negative impact on the perception of all independents.

I think this brings us to the part of indie publishing which is the most difficult – it’s not finding the right project, or having the skill to help authors polish their work to the best it can be, or the design skills to produce a quality book, or the money to do a decent print run, and then the tenacity to sell them (although all of those things help). No, I believe that the most important part of being a successful indie publisher is marketing and promotion – getting your books out there in places they can be found and will be purchased. And this is so very, VERY difficult to do.

Not only are our local bookstores closing in droves, not only are the online bookstores being flooded by self-published books that clog up the filters of search engines, not only are the big publishers closing ranks on DRM and ebooks and pricing, all of which makes the indie publisher’s life more difficult, but of course, we try to compete on a shoestring budget. The best way to get into bookstores is to have a distributor. To get a distributor, you need a print run of at least 1000, often more. You also have to sign agreements that almost guarantee you will lose money on the books you send to that distributor, with discounts of up to 70% of RRP necessary for them to take you on. You also run the risk of losses in transit, in the warehouse, and in the end, to pulping, as the contract may give them the right to dump your stock with no returns.

. . . .

I guess it has to come down to love – editors and publishers in indie press have to love what they do. The thrill that comes with being the first person to read a new story, discover a new author, to make a new book! It costs money to publish – money that comes out of the indie publisher’s own pocket for the most part, although there have been some very successful crowd-funded projects in the very recent past (it’s all about the signal boosting!). Even if you decide to only run your manuscript through the Smashwords meatgrinder and hope to sell that way, there’s still an investment of time that has to go into a quality product, the money to pay the authors, artists, designers (if you use them), and the money it costs to market – because there are ALWAYS costs.

So we have to do it because we love the process. Some of us may hope to use our experience to step up to another level in publishing, but even that is becoming a distant hope, with the way publishing is teetering on a financial knife edge at the moment, and particularly in Australia, where jobs in the industry have never been prolific. So indie publishing is perhaps our way of expressing our love for books, for writing, and supporting the industry that gives us much joy.

Link to the rest at A Conversational Life and to FableCroft Publishing, an independent press dedicated to the future of speculative fiction in Australia.

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