Spotlight on IndeDebut 2010: Authors Publishing through Small Presses Part II

Are independent presses a stepping stone or the wave of the future? Meet eight authors being published by seven different presses and find out the challenges and rewards of going with a small publishing house. Read Part I of the interview here.

Lori, your book releases next year, but it won 1st place for the 2009 Dragonfly Publishing Award. Can you tell me how that works?

Dragonfly Publishing, Inc. holds a picture book contest each year, which is a wonderful opportunity for authors and illustrators to get their books in print. I entered my manuscript, The Bug That Plagued the Entire Third Grade, in the 2009 contest and won 1st place out of hundreds of entries. The prize was a contract with DFP and I jumped at the opportunity. Since then, DFP has picked an illustrator, Chet Taylor, who is currently bringing the story to life, and the finished book is due to release in September 2010.

Scott, you’ve got books with two different small publishers. What’s the big draw for you in going with a small press?

Maybe it has something to do with my college days.  I chose to attend a small, liberal arts college in Pennsylvania over a number of other larger schools.  The feeling of camaraderie and the individual attention drew me in.  It’s the same with small presses.  I can pick up the phone and talk to my editor or send an e-mail and know I’ll get a prompt response.  It’s close-knit, and I like that feeling.

I noticed you’re doing a cross promotion with American Forests. What prompted that? Has it been effective?

I firmly believe the work I share with the public should give back in some way as well.  My first novel, O.Y.L., partners with American Forests.  A one dollar donation goes to American Forests for each book sold, which results in a tree planted in the U.S.–One book, one dollar, one tree.

Mice Don’t Taste Like Chicken
will team with Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, and proceeds from each sale will benefit the organization.  As far as effectiveness goes, I know it’s effective because of the good feeling I have in my heart and the response I receive from the organizations. 

Miriam, on your blog you addressed some of the problems of going with a small press, including the fact that some people mistake it for a vanity press. How do you dispel that misconception?

By jumping up and down and waving my hands like a crazy person yelling “I didn’t have to pay for this!”
I wish I were kidding about that.


In all seriousness, what I found was that it was my other writer/bookseller friends who were the most suspicious.  When I told one of them that my book would be print-on-demand, her first question was “You didn’t sign with AuthorHouse, did you?” When I said no, she heaved a sigh of relief and started telling me all the horror stories she knew about authors who had been ripped off and disappointed by vanity publishing. In those cases, I found that the best weapon was knowledge.
I think–and this applies to whatever publishing road you decide to take–if you can be clear and specific about what you want out of it, realistic about the pros and cons, and professional in how you handle things, you’ll be a lot better off. For example, if your publisher uses POD and hasn’t decided to accept returns yet, don’t just march into your local Borders demanding to know why they won’t carry your book. You’ll look silly. And if you don’t know what returns are, or why that makes a difference, then you need to do some more research.

 Knowledge is key.

Terry, I noticed that you’re a member of a lot of associations: Outdoor Writers of America, Dog Writers Association of America, as well as SCBWI and the Writers Union of Canada. Do any of these memberships offer you additional promotional opportunities?

I do belong to quite a few associations.  I give them one year, and if the benefits of joining are not yet evident, I don’t renew.  But I think within my niche of outdoor adventure writing, it can only improve my visibility to belong to larger organizations.

Mush with PRIDE is a big one for me personally because they promote the sport of dogsledding as well as promoting good dog care. Their name stands for Providing Responsible Information on a Dog’s Environment.

The Outdoor Writers of Canada are a natural fit since I write for outdoor magazines. They are doing a spotlight on me in the next issue of their newsletter, so that’s a definite bonus.

I joined the Dog Writers Association of America mostly because I heard about the dog book contest they have each year.  I’ve just joined that group, so I’m not sure how much it will benefit me.  But with all those fellow dog writers, I’ll be making new friends and that’s always good.

Of course the SCBWI is a must for any writer of children’s books. They provide all sorts of information on publishers and industry news as well as provide a platform for all members. I think the community of children’s book writers is a friendly one and genuinely nurturing.  I receive a lot of support from members.

Carla, you have a lot of nonfiction titles out (with four different presses!). Are these subjects that you approached the publisher about, or were you contributing to existing series’? Did you need to have a platform to be considered as a nonfiction author?

I do most of my nonfiction writing for the educational market. The books are usually part of a series that is developed by the publisher. They send me a topic assignment and give me guidelines to follow – such as word count, number of chapters, tone, target audience age. To be considered as an author for one of these series, I sent an introductory packet which included my resume, writing background and writing samples. Some of it is being in the right place at the right time – your packet crosses an editor’s desk right when she needs to assign a new series for an age group that you have written for in the past.

Donna, your publisher puts out ebooks, iPhone apps and cds as well as traditional print books. Do you have the option of going into one or all of these formats or does the publisher decide? In what formats will your book be available?

The publisher discusses the options and to what is appropriate for the book and then the author makes the final decision on format. My story book, The Golden Pathway, will be available as E-book, Traditional print book, and Audio/Book Video DVD. Once the illustrations for the book are completed, an audio of the text is completed and then compiled into a video with the illustrations.

Anyone can design an attractive website, so how do you ensure that a small publisher is reputable? 


LORI CALABRESE: 
As with any business venture, a writer needs to research any company he or she considers working with. All of us at IndeDebut are aware that not all small presses are created equal and we caution authors to do their homework and sift through publishers to find the one right for them. Writers should google a publisher to see what has been written about them, check the Predators and Editors website for any warnings, and ask for author references. There’s also a vast network of author support across the web. There are hundreds of author chat rooms and forums you can join to ask other authors what they think of certain presses. Search Yahoo groups or Google and you’ll discover an entire world of information at your fingertips.


DONNA MCDINE:
 Research, research, research. Contact some of the publisher’s authors and/or illustrators and ask them about their experience. If the small publisher is legit the author and/or illlustrator will have no problem providing answers to your questions.


TERRY LYNN JOHNSON:
 I did my homework before I subbed to 4RV by searching sites like Predators and Editors and general web searches.  Once I met Vivian on the MUSE forums though, it was obvious I would be lucky to get in with them.


SCOTT HEYDT:
 You need to feel out the personalities that work there and do your homework.  Research some popular websites like Predators and Editors, but don’t necessarily take that as gospel.  Get to know the organization and let your own gut feeling tell you if it’s the right move.

CARLA MOONEY: I asked a lot of questions and did research before I signed my contract.

JO RAMSEY:
 In this case, because I’d published with them under the romance imprint, I knew they were reputable. They’d been recommended to me by another romance author I know.


MIRIAM FORSTER: I’m a big fan of Writer Beware and Preditors and Editors.  Also, for me a big tipping point was that the two people who started Oaktara had long histories in the publishing business as an editor and a writer, and those histories could be verified.  If they hadn’t had that experience, I might have been more suspicious.

DANIKA DINSMORE: I’d say don’t just go with someone because they offer to publish your book. Do some research and speak to some of their clients. Talk about the project in detail with them and then go with your gut instinct.

How does distribution work with each of your small presses? 


AMY COOK:
 PM Moon is a traditional press.  They print an initial run (for my book, we’re thinking around 2,000 books) and sell through independent bookstores, Amazon.com, Borders and their own website.  



LORI CALABRESE: 
Dragonfly Publishing, Inc. specializes in print-on-demand (POD) books. DFP offers professionally edited fiction in both electronic and hardcover/ paperback versions. Hardcovers are available at the DFP bookstore, Lulu.com and Qoop.com. Paperbacks are available at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Boone Bridge, Createspace and Tower.com. Ebooks are available through Lulu.com and Omni-Lit. Titles are also listed by wholesalers Ingram and Baker & Taylor. 



DONNA MCDINE:
 Guardian Angel Publishing works the same as the big boys. They have wholesale books distributed around the globe with Ingram, Baker & Taylor and many more distributors. They have distribution with Canada and Euro countries and most of our books are picked up in English speaking countries.

GAP’s print books are available at all the online bookstores from Amazon, B&N, Borders to Target.com and many more. GAP ebooks also have distribution networks: Follett Digital Resources sells our ebooks to libraries and schools. LSI distributes our ebooks for resale.

Some (and more as time progresses) of our small word count picture books sell on iTunes for iKidsPlay using touch screen technology for phones and iPods and will be available in other formats for phones too.
 

TERRY LYNN JOHNSON:
 4RV Publishing uses Ingram.



CARLA MOONEY: 
My book will be distributed by two wholesalers, Ingram and Baker & Taylor, and a distributor specifically for library sales. They are also negotiating for general distribution services. My book can also be purchased directly from Soto.



MIRIAM FORSTER: Oaktara does primarily online distribution , though they also work with the author’s local bookstores. Books are available at borders.com, barnesandnoble.com, amazon.com (including the Kindle) and through other major retail websites.  They recently hooked a distribution deal with CBD, the major Christian book distributor as well.

DANIKA DINSMORE: Right now the publisher is investigating our options. At first, it’s simply going to be up to us to create reader interest to attract a good distributor.

Do you see publishing with a small press as a stepping stone, or do you see this as the wave of the future?

AMY COOK: This is a great question.  I think a couple years ago, small presses definitely were stepping stones, but in the age of POD and in light of the struggles of the larger houses to stay afloat, small presses have a unique opportunity to step into the void.  Being small and having lower overhead, they’re better able to adapt to changes in the market and in technology.  Publishing is on the cusp of dynamic changes and I hope to see some small houses emerge as pre-eminent, independent publishers instead of imprints of something larger.



LORI CALABRESE: I think publishing with a small press is a great stepping stone for an aspiring writer to break into publishing. The experience I’ve gained by publishing my first book with a  small press, DFP, has been great. I don’t see small presses as replacing the larger publishers, but the world needs small presses to champion new voices, focus on niche markets, and reissue out-of-print titles. Thankfully, the internet has made it easier for small presses to reach their customers and share some great stories that might not have been published for one reason or another.


DONNA MCDINE: I see small presses as the wave of the future. While I don’t have experience with large publishers, the one-on-one attention provided at Guardian Angel Publishing is beneficial in learning the correct steps in marketing.



SCOTT HEYDT: I’m too new to the industry to give a confident answer to this question.  I’d like to think that one day I might achieve publication by one of the famous New York presses, but that doesn’t have to happen for me to believe in my work.  As long as I have the opportunity to share my passion with others, no matter how large the crowd, I feel rewarded.

CARLA MOONEY: I see this a needed and valuable part of the publishing industry.

JO RAMSEY: I think it is what you make of it.



MIRIAM FORSTER: Quite frankly, I have no idea what the future of publishing is going to be, and I try not to think about it too much.  For me, worrying about what is coming makes it harder to focus on the writing that I want to do. As far as small presses go, I’d be completely open to doing it again if it was the right fit for the book.


DANIKA DINSMORE: I think, like other entertainment industries, the publishing industry got a bit out of control and out of balance. I think new technologies and social media have leveled the playing field. Just like indie film and music companies bring us important work, so do small presses. I’m glad I chose this path. I’m not sure where it will lead, but I want to support the independents out there!

Thanks to all of you for taking the time to answer these questions and good luck with your new releases!

Learn more about these authors through their website, Indie-Debut 2010.

21 thoughts on “Spotlight on IndeDebut 2010: Authors Publishing through Small Presses Part II

  1. Very useful information in this. Some things that stood out of me: I appreciate Scott partnering with organizations he admires. That is a winner on so many levels.
    I like the comments about the more accessible feel of working with small presses.
    Great interview questions and informative answers. Thank you all.

  2. I enjoyed this post and its predecessor very much. Terry is in the middle of the editing process with one of our top editors right now.

    Some of us, as small presses, work more one on one with authors. I think that's the big draw.

  3. Woo! I'm so excited about being here! Thanks again for the great interview Sherrie.

    And since my publisher commented on both posts, I think that says more than I could about the benefits of going small press.

  4. Thanks for reading, everyone!

    I think it's so great that everyone at Inde-Debut is working together to bring more attention to small presses. It's good for them, it's good for the small presses involved and it's good for writers who are considering going with a small press.

    Best wishes to all of you!

  5. Thanks again, Sherrie! I would love to see more and more people submitting to small presses. The quality of the books put out by small and independent presses will continue to improve as submissions increase. I'm envisioning a time in the not-so-distant future where small presses are the jewel boxes of publishing: small but selective establishments putting out award winning books.

  6. This is a REALLY great interview! I've seen Inde-Debut around, but it was awesome to read about it here.

    I have a question, though…anyone know why it's spelled Inde instead of Indie?

    Thanks for the interview! It really was superb!

  7. Wow, you give the best interviews! Lots of great info that I'm adding to my list of things to know. Also, I have an award for you over at my blog…go check it out when you get a chance. 🙂

  8. Great profiles of both the publishers and authors here. I like Miriam's comment that we can't really know the future of publishing. So it makes sense to pursue present opportunities. Whether small press or major, both have high standards that speak clearly of the quality of the author's work, and either are very commendable options. Kudos and best wishes to all the authors profiled here today!

  9. Thank you so much for taking the time to interview us, Sherrie. It's a great pleasure to be part of your website, as well as to be part of Indie Debut. I think that's one of the keys to working within the indie book business — forming collaborative and supportive communities.

  10. Beth says, “I have a question, though…anyone know why it's spelled Inde instead of Indie?”

    It's funny that you mention this Beth. When our group debuted, and at the time of this interview with Sherrie, it was known as Inde. But since it was causing confusion, we decided to go with the regularly accepted Indie.

    Inde, Indie, small press, or independent…tomata, tomato! 🙂 Either way, our mission is the same!

    Please check us out at
    http://www.indiedebut2010.blogspot.com

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