Category Archives: Contracts

Brick Cave Media, the Challenge and Fun of a Small Press

A guest post by Robert Nelson

Brick Cave Media is a small publisher based in Mesa, AZ. One does not normally think of Mesa Arizona being hub for small publishing, but Brick Cave Media traces it’s roots back 23 years to the arrival of founder Bob Nelson and the start of a literary magazine called Anthology.

Today, Brick Cave Media represents 9 different authors across 2 states, with over 50 titles in publication.

While we function mostly as a publisher in the traditional sense, we benefit from having a small, agile team that can change direction quickly as needed. We have a passionate staff of 4 that wears all the hats of a full business, and a halo of editors, artists and others that support the Press’ efforts.

As a small press, our authors interact with each other, which we encourage, because we want them to be a source of encouragement and to share the opportunities that an indie author may not have alone. As a Press, we work to offer opportunities of scale, representation at events that indies may find daunting or financially challenging on their own and access to distribution opportunities that we can focus on while the author can continue to focus on writing.

A small press, the RIGHT small Press, can be a great vehicle for an author. We at Brick Cave tell every prospective author that there is nothing we do that you cannot do yourself, if you choose in invest the time and resources. That is not playing down us or any other small press, that’s an acknowledgement of the realities of what the last 25 years have done for the industry. Choose a small press based on what you want them to do for you, not for what you think you cannot do.

Brick Cave became a publisher through an interesting story. The business itself was founded in 2006 as a spoken word audio label, producing spoken word albums, and taking advantage of the MP3 revolution that occurred at the turn of the century. In 2008, the business added film company to it’s roster, as the company produced the feature film Sacrifice (available on Amazon).

In 2009, Author J.A. Giunta approached Brick Cave CEO Bob Nelson about publishing his fantasy novels. The two had worked together previously on Anthology literary magazine in 1994-1996. Because the Amazon Kindle platform had just debuted and there was a curiosity about how they could leverage the platform, Nelson agreed to publish Giunta and a deal was struck. In 2010, the Press added Sharon Skinner, and in 2011, started printing paperback editions of their books. In 2010, Brick Cave started making public appearances at local conventions (originally to promote Sacrifice, but eventually the books took over) and from there the business grew. In 2016, book sales accounted for 85% of Brick Cave’s annual revenue, and Brick Cave makes 12-15 appearances each year promoting new titles.

Originally, Brick Cave, because of it’s connections to the poetry non profit Anthology, was heavily poetry focused. To this day, Brick Cave maintains a strong roster of poets and release 1-2 titles a year. With the addition of J.A. Giunta and later Sharon Skinner and others, the Press expanded to include traditional fantasy, science fiction, and urban fantasy.

The future is bright for us. We have worked hard to, in a sense, grow up a little as a business, and put ourselves in a position to handle more books, and more authors. We are looking for smart, determined and creative authors that want to be a part of a larger story. We are working to build brand, so we are recognized well beyond our traditional borders. We are looking to get our titles in more places, our authors in more signings, and increase our profile.

As an author, if you are looking to use a small press, start with and examination of yourself, and make an honest list of the things you would like to keep control of and the things you would be willing to let someone else handle for you. Then profile the small presses that match you and your writing style, talk to strength in areas you want them to handle, and look like they would meet your expectations. Buy a book from them and read it. Reach out to them and ask for submission advice. Follow their guidelines. Be the model submitter that they can point out to others.

Also, understand that the majority of small presses are generally overworked, organizationally stressed, and financially limited. Keep your expectations in line with reality. If you start the relationship right, by researching and finding the best match for your style and your work, a small press can be a very powerful partner in a writer’s career.

Learn more about Brick Cave at https://brickcavemedia.com

A Small Press With Big Accomplishments

When I prepared to submit my debut novel Sleeper Protocol for publication, I decided that I would look into small presses as well as larger more traditional ones. As I prepared my list of potential “candidates” a good friend and co-author of mine mentioned a publisher I’d never heard of before: Red Adept Publishing. I added them to the list of potential publishers that I would research. As soon as I looked closer, I realized that Red Adept would move to the top of the list.

At that time, in 2014, I discovered that Red Adept Publishing had already published a New York Times Bestselling novel. That was a huge plus for them on my scoresheet. I also discovered they were located in North Carolina and being from Tennessee, this was another plus. Not too shabby. When I checked the normal sources (Preditors and Editors, Author Beware), I found nothing negative to speak of and so when the time came, I sent them Sleeper Protocol and kept my fingers crossed.

One October afternoon, I had some scheduled writing time before I was to pick up our youngest child from daycare. I walked out of Starbucks, got into the car, and my phone rang with a North Carolina area code. I picked it up and so began my first conversation with Red Adept Publishing. Lynn McNamee and her amazing team go much farther above and beyond than most small presses I know. Not only was I told that Sleeper Protocol would get a copy edit and a line edit, a spectacular cover, and marketing assistance, I found myself folded into a group of authors across many genres (fantasy, romance, thriller, paranormal, science fiction) who support each other and really are one big, happy family. I could not have been happier to have signed a contract with them.

It’s fair to say now, though, that Red Adept was not the first small press I submitted to, nor was my contract on Sleeper Protocol the first small press contract I received. The first publisher has since gone out of business and their contract, which they touted as “negotiable,” was a learning experience in and of itself. When I look back and compare that publisher and Red Adept Publishing? Yeah, there’s no comparison at all. Why? Red Adept’s contract is very friendly to authors and the quality of work they’ve produced over the last several years stands for itself.

Since I signed with Red Adept, the publisher has seen another author hit the New York Times list and two authors hit the USA Today Bestsellers List. Those are tremendous accomplishments for any press, not just a small press. What sets them apart is very simple: they are the most professional, enthusiastic, and supportive team of authors and editors that I know and I’m thrilled to be a part of them going forward.

Just the other day, I received an email from my line editor that it was time for Vendetta Protocol to start its final march to publication. We already have an amazing cover and I was fortunate enough to have the same editing team from Sleeper Protocol sign on for the sequel. I’m looking forward to publishing more with Red Adept Publishing in the future. They certainly have changed my life. I’m very glad that I decided to go with a small publisher, but it matters most that I went with one of the right ones. They’re out there.

All The Good Things That You Do Not Want

As authors, it isn’t enough to have goals and know what you want – you also have to know what you don’t want.

We spend so much time working towards our goals that it seems contrarian to not embrace every opportunity that comes along, but in fact, to truly create and build up the kind of career you want most, that’s exactly what you have to do. The problem isn’t that we aren’t offered opportunities; the problem is that we are so hungry for acceptance, so desperate for validation of what we work so hard to create, that we overlook the potential drawbacks of saying yes to the opportunities we’re presented with.

This, exactly this, is what allows vanity presses to thrive, and scam artists pseudo-publishers, who promise everything from editorial guidance to production to promotion to distribution, to prosper. Education is key in avoiding being stuck in those kinds of mires, which is one reason I am a teacher for and advocate of the annual Superstars Writing Seminars – because learning the business of being an author is just as vitally important as being an author itself, and the need for that knowledge is ongoing.

New authors are extremely vulnerable when it comes to publishing scams – but those can, with a little knowledge, be easily avoided. No one wants to be scammed, so those aren’t exactly missed opportunities. The ones that are more difficult to avoid, even for experienced authors, are the ones that look exactly like what we wanted, and may in fact be very close – but which turn out to be Potential Disasters In The Making.

Several years ago, I had an opportunity to sell a comic book project to a flashy, upstart publisher that had been having a lot of success in the comic book Direct Market. A lot of my peers were doing books with them, and we were in active talks to develop my project – until I read the contract. They asked not just for a stake in ownership of the properties they developed (which was balanced by a hefty page rate up front, something not guaranteed by publishers like Image where they don’t have an ownership stake, but you pay all the development costs yourself), they asked for 51%. Just enough to be the majority owner of the Intellectual Property. And over that 1%, I declined.

I took a lot of grief from friends over what they saw as a stupid decision – right up until that company decided to shut down, and sell all of its properties to a Big Corporation Publisher. All my friends lost their books, because that 1% meant they never owned them from the moment they said yes and cashed the check. In some cases, they had to watch as other writers and artists were brought in by the Big Corporate Publisher to work on books they had created, while they weren’t even considered.

Saying yes to that 1% might have given me a short-term boost, as it did with my friends – but I’d have lost control and ownership of something I had created, and that option was never, ever going to be appealing to me.

In traditional book publishing (as opposed to comics), ownership is not a question, unless you are being asked to do work-for-hire, or ghostwrite a project, but the same problems can arise depending on the terms of the contracts being signed. Even dealing with that issue that is mostly a matter of knowledge though, and willingness to stick to what you want, so it’s something that can be worked through (or not) and signed (or not). The opportunities that are the hardest to turn down are the ones that almost give you everything you think you want – except for that one little thing. But trust me: like the 1% difference in that comics contract, that one little thing is what will define our work and our careers, and sometimes irrevocably change the direction they take.

I spent a good part of this year negotiating a publishing deal for my inspirational nonfiction trilogy The Meditations, with a publisher that is well known and respected for publishing such books. The publisher liked me. The editorial staff liked me. They liked the books a lot, and really liked the fact that I was already being paid as a speaker, doing my presentation Drawing out the Dragons. It all seemed like an ideal match and a perfect opportunity: they would publish the books, and I would join other speakers on their established lecture circuit. It was giftwrapped and ready to go…except for that one little thing.

They wanted exclusivity, not of those books, but of my efforts as an author and speaker. In doing their due diligence, it seemed to them that I had plans to continue working as a YA Fantasy author, and comics creator, and an illustrator, and they felt that was not the best use of my abilities – not if I wanted the deal to move forward. They saw me as a potential full-time Life Coach, and someone who could ask – and get – ten or twenty times the amounts I was being paid in speaking fees if I was only just willing to edit the books to point in that direction, and more fully dedicate my efforts to that end as a part of their stable of author/speaker/Life Coaches.

I had to decide what I wanted, because that proposal seemed to me to be 99% of what I had asked for – a nice book deal, an international platform, and the potential for a lot of money – but the 1% difference, which wasn’t going to be contractual, just, ah, strongly encouraged, made my heart sink.

I knew what I wanted my career and life and work to be, and it was all of the things I do: writing fantasy, drawing comics, and yes, writing inspirational books and giving lectures. But the combination, the whole, is what makes me happy, and hopefully, inspires those around me. To exclude any of those parts would lessen who I am, lessen my happiness, and lessen the quality of the work that I do. And so I said no, and let that opportunity pass.

Those books have their own purpose, and will find their audience. I’m not worried about missing that deal, or about my career, because it’s the choices we make and the actions we take that define us, and there are always going to be more opportunities to choose, as long as we haven’t given away too much of our power by saying yes to too many of the wrong things, simply because we were afraid to say no.

So, if you didn’t get that publishing deal, or agent, or contract, have a drink and celebrate – it might be the best thing that could have happened to you. Then keep going, keep writing, keep choosing. That’s how it works.

James A OwenJames A. Owen is the author of the Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica series, the creator of the critically acclaimed Starchild graphic novel series, and the author of the Mythworld series of novels. He is also founder and executive director of Coppervale International, a comic book company that also publishes magazines and develops and produces television and film projects. He lives in Arizona. Visit him at HereThereBeDragons.net

The Importance of Author Mentors

A guest post by Petra Klarbrunn.

Most beginning authors I know think that a mentor is someone who will look over your latest screed and give you feedback and editing suggestions. While it is something that a mentor may do for you, that’s actually the job of an editor and/or critique group.

So what does an author mentor provide? I’m glad you asked.

  1. Questions at all stages. As mentioned, you might be lucky enough to have a mentor who has enough time to read over your epic novel. The majority of mentors are working professionals, so they’re busy working on their own epic space opera trilogy. They don’t have time to line edit your work. They do make time to answer specific questions for you. Say you’re having a problem with your opening hook. You can ask your mentor to look at a couple of paragraphs and get feedback from someone who knows how to write opening lines that propel the reader forward. Even better, they can provide a couple of different takes and have them go over why one is better than the other.
  1. Contracts. Mentors can give you some feedback on contracts, explaining what the egregious portions are and what they actually mean. They may suggest contract modifications or recommend that you take the contract to a specialist lawyer, especially if the contract is from one of the Big 5 publishers.
  1. Plotting. Some mentors can go over your plot outline and make suggestions. One of my mentors found a serious flaw in a novella that would have had me spinning my wheels for weeks until I discovered it. Don’t send a forty-page plot outline to your mentor. Send a bullet-point list so they can see how you build up towards the third act.
  1. Networking. Often overlooked, having someone who can provide introductions within your genre can give you a leg-up on your peers. One of the complaints about writing is “it’s about who you know that counts.” While exceptional writing can do your introductions for you, getting introduced to a busy editor at a convention or via email can at least give your work a better chance at getting looked over by a publisher. Introductions can also provide opportunities to get into anthologies or to work on collaborations.
  1. Blurbs. Receiving a blurb from a bestselling author or a celebrity can push your work to the top of the shopping cart. Stephen King gave a relatively unknown author named Jack Ketchum a glowing blurb and recommendation. Now Mr. Ketchum is a bestselling author and screenwriter.
  1. Giving back. Most mentors say that the main reason they choose to be a mentor is to give back to the community. Because most authors are genuinely nice individuals, they want others to succeed. Sometimes mentors didn’t have anyone they could ask questions of, and they want to help new authors with the craft. And who knows? Perhaps one day they will ask their mentee for a blurb or two.

Petra Klarbrunn Bio: Petra battles with her four cats daily for the use of her laptop. She writes in the romance, erotica, bizarro, horror, and academic fields using multiple pseudonyms. Her diet consists mainly of tofu and espresso.