Category Archives: Networking

Brand Identity

A guest post by Kevin J. Anderson

Kevin J. AndersonWhen I started my career with traditionally published novels, my editors and publicists encouraged me to make sure I mentioned the publisher whenever I talked in interviews and panels. I would promote my novels and proudly announce that it was “from Signet Books” or “from Bantam Books” or HarperCollins, or Warner, or Tor. I would print up my own postcards and bookmarks, sometimes even take out ads in publications. Once, I was roundly criticized for forgetting to put a publisher’s logo on the back of a postcard (that I paid for out of my own pocket).

It’s a basic commercial principle to promote brand loyalty among your consumers. Coke drinkers always drink Coke. Budweiser drinkers always drink Bud. Car owners are loyal to Ford or to GM. But…publishers?

I was an avid reader, a dedicated writer, earnestly trying to get a foothold in the industry. I paid attention to the news, to the editors, to shifts in publishing, but even I would have been hard pressed to define the difference between, say, an Ace science fiction book and a Roc science fiction book (yes, they are now under the same parent company). Or a Tor epic fantasy instead of a DAW epic fantasy.

Sure, there are some exceptions, most notably Baen Books, which has not only carved out a niche and a brand for themselves in the types of fiction they publish—generally reader-driven and fast-paced rather than literary and artsy-fartsy—and they even have a distinctive brand look with their cover art and type design. Baen has also drawn together a very devoted group of their core readers through parties at conventions, online forums, and extremely loyal authors.

But that’s the exception. As an author, I’ve been published by Signet, Tor, Bantam, Ace, HarperCollins, Simon and Schuster, Pocket, Gallery, Kensington, Hodder & Stoughton, Warner, Baen, and more. Some of those books or series went out of print from one publisher to be picked up by another. Did my readers really notice the brand name on the spine, or did they go for the author or the series?

The dramatic changes in the book industry lag behind similar changes in the music industry. When was the last time you actually paid attention to what record label your favorite band or album was on? Who released Led Zeppelin? Pink Floyd? Celine Dion? Taylor Swift? My favorite band Rush was on Mercury Records for their first several albums, but at some point it changed to “Anthem Records.” As an administrative matter with behind-the scenes paperwork and distribution, it made a difference to the band, but as a listener, it made no difference to me.

Same with movie studios. I’m pretty sure everyone knows the original Star Wars movies were from 20th Century Fox because of the seminal fanfare before the rollup text, but—quick!—which studio released the Predator movies? The Transformers movies? The Twilight movies?

One of the little-recognized consequences of the widespread changes in publishing and the surge in indie authors is that it has almost entirely erased the lines of brand identity for publishers. Most indie authors create a “publishing house” and a logo for their own books. In a few years, what used to be a dozen or so major publishing houses and hundreds of smaller ones including university presses, has become hundreds of thousands of imprints, all of which look “real” on the amazon listing.

When you order a book called The Ogre’s Toothache because the title is intriguing, the cover art looks good, the story sounds amusing, and you’ve read something by that author before, do you really notice—and more important, does it affect your buying decision—whether the publisher is listed as Gallery Books or Moonglimmer Books? (Gallery Books is real, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, but I just made up Moonglimmer Books…though I wouldn’t be surprised if such an imprint actually exists somewhere.)

When Rebecca Moesta and I formed WordFire Press, it was merely an exercise to release the eBooks of my own out-of-print backlist, to which I had reacquired the rights. We had called our own company WordFire, Inc. for many years, so WordFire Press was the obvious name. We had no intention of building it into a much larger publishing company. Rebecca herself created our original WFP logo with a graphics program, and then other author friends of mine, seeing the success of our original releases, came to us with titles of their own, and our publishing company unintentionally expanded.

At first, we took all kinds of books from author friends, some out-of-print romances, some unusual nonfiction titles. (In fact, technically, our very first book was a rather esoteric religious treatise by Rebecca’s father, which we published as a gift for him.) We didn’t really have a brand identity, nor did we intend to, but as we grew and we saw which books performed well and which ones didn’t, we started to focus on particular types of fiction, mainly the kind of stuff I liked.

As we revamped our website, we also got a snazzy new logo. We built up our author and title list, and we started to get a little more attention through word of mouth. But the real thing that began to draw recognition as “WordFire Press” rather than “Some Publisher” was our monumental effort of exhibiting at numerous conventions, comic cons, and pop-culture shows around the country. We gave our authors a chance to meet fans face to face, hand-sell and autograph their books, an opportunity to be seen by thousands of potential readers in a day. In 2016 we did 22 shows with a total attendance of 1.5 Million people. (That was insane, and those operations are now run by Rabid Fanboy, so that I can concentrate on the publishing end and, more importantly, my own writing career.) But even under Rabid Fanboy, the “Bard’s Tower” gives ambitious WordFire authors the opportunity to have the “famous author experience.”

But do I think that readers have a strong brand loyalty, that they pick up a book because it has the WordFire Press logo on the spine, rather than because it has a story that fascinates them, an author they’ve enjoyed before? No, I don’t think so.

Now, more than ever, you can’t rely on the brand of a publisher. You have to rely on your own brand as an author or the brand of your series. You have to rely on YOU.

Guest Writer Bio: Kevin J. Anderson is the author of more than one hundred novels, 47 of which have appeared on national or international bestseller lists. He has over 20 million books in print in thirty languages. He has won or been nominated for numerous prestigious awards, including the Nebula Award, Bram Stoker Award, the SFX Reader’s Choice Award, the American Physics Society’s Forum Award, and New York Times Notable Book. By any measure, he is one of the most popular writers currently working in the science fiction genre. Find out more about Kevin at Wordfire.com.

Anthologies

If you’ve followed this blog for awhile you have probably heard of Superstars Writing Seminars. Each of us Fictorians participated in the seminars and as such are considered Tribe Members. Not only did we get to spend several days rubbing shoulders with the greats like Kevin J. Anderson, David Farland, James A. Owen and many other top notch authors, we also have had the chance to meet one another.

Through Superstars I met my crit group. I also met the fine folks that started the Fictorians and through my association was invited to join. Another perk is the opportunity to participate in an annual anthology.

A few years ago, I hadn’t attended the most recent Superstars (usually in February, in Colorado). I followed a thread on Facebook introducing an anthology about purple unicorns. I couldn’t understand why, of all the awesome things to write about, would such a talented group of writers put out an anthology about purple unicorns. It seemed rather silly to me and I didn’t participate.

Later, I learned that the idea stemmed from a part of the seminar discussing the submission of what an editor/agent/publisher was looking for. If they want purple unicorns don’t write about dragons, even if they’re purple dragons. And don’t write about pink unicorns. Give them the best story you possibly can about purple unicorns.

When several of my friends and fellow tribe members were selected to participate in the anthology, I realized what I had missed. They were published by WordFire Press alongside Peter S. Beagle, Todd McCaffrey, Jody Lynn Nye and others. I kicked myself for not at least trying. Then I read the fantastic compilation of stories, one more unique than the next, each about a purple unicorn. It was incredible.

The next year, I didn’t hesitate to submit a story to the anthology about red unicorns. Even though I didn’t make the cut, the process was educational and worthwhile. I ended up selling my story to another anthology that will hopefully be released soon.

This past year I worked extra hard. The anthology went a different direction, dealing with dragons. It also took on a charitable purpose, named after a fellow tribe member who passed away. All profits support The Don Hodge Memorial Scholarship Fund, providing tuition to Superstars for those who are awarded funds by other tribe members. About 6 scholarships were awarded last year.

This time I made the cut. My story, HIS GREATEST CREATION, was selected alongside some incredible writers including Brandon Sanderson.

And now, in 2017, we are anxiously waiting the results of another Anthology, this one dealing with underwater sea creatures. My story, THE SHARK KING, has so far made the first cut.

Because of Superstars and WordFire Press, I can claim the status of a published author. It has been fantastic to participate in the process and learn from incredible people like Lisa Mangum who has edited all of the anthologies thus far. And each of the anthologies has been illustrated by James A. Owen.

So, if you want to write and you hope to get published, Superstars is the way to go. Not just for the anthology opportunity but because of all the training and awesome people you’ll meet in the process.

Jace KillanI live in Arizona with my family, wife and five kids and a little dog. I write fiction, thrillers and soft sci-fi with a little short horror on the side. I hold an MBA and work in finance for a biotechnology firm.

I volunteer with the Boy Scouts, play and write music, and enjoy everything outdoors. I’m also a novice photographer.

You can read some of my works by visiting my Wattpad page and learn more at www.jacekillan.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.

Guy’s Top Five Favorite Publishers

I’ve been writing since the mid-1970’s. During that time, I’ve assembled a huge assortment of trunk stories. I could just let them rot away, but I don’t like to waste my time and energy. I poke at them every so often until I find a suitable market and — this part is important — I’m comfortable with the quality of the story.

Over the years I’ve found plenty of different types of markets, ranging from “for the love” to pro-level. If one of my trunk stories will work for a non-paying market, I don’t mind sending it in to the editor. I feel that it’s a better location than a hard drive that will eventually fail. Because I’m a prolific writer, it doesn’t take me long to produce stories. Now that I’m switching to dictation software because of worsening carpal tunnel issues, I expect my output will expand even further.

Here are some of my current favorites:

WordFire Press

This is a small-to-middling sized pro-level Colorado press owned by Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta. I’ve done some minor work for them in the past, and they’re publishing a novel I co-wrote with a couple of friends. Everyone there is wonderful to work with, and I know many of them personally.

Getting published by WordFire means your work will appear next to books by Kevin and Rebecca, who are both award-winning and NY Times/USA Today bestsellers, plus the likes of Brian and Frank Herbert, Alan Dean Foster, Alan Drury (Pulitzer Prize winner), and a host of name-brand, top-tier authors. An added benefit is the ability to attend some of the best conventions as a WordFire author.

Wolfsinger Press

This is another Colorado publisher, albeit a micro press. Wolfsinger puts out several unique anthologies every year, and sometimes I write a story for them just because the anthology concept excites my muse. They respond to questions quickly and actually do thorough edits.

My story, “Grubstake”, appears in Supernatural Colorado, and a story I’ve sent in to their Love ‘Em, Shoot ‘Em anthology was accepted. They sometimes have guest editors, so it’s nice to work with new folks in a familiar environment. Although this press has a token payment and royalty setup, I can report that I actually do receive royalty statements as promised, which can be a rarity with the token-payment or royalty-only presses. They do offer discounted copies for contributors.

Another benefit of Wolfsinger is they also have a couple of fascinating eZines (The Lorelei Signal and Sorcerous Signals). I’ve been published in The Lorelei Signal, and they also put out a compilation in ebook format. Both can add to your bibliography.

James Ward Kirk Publishing

This micro press run by (no surprise) author and editor James Ward Kirk puts out several unique anthologies per year, plus a couple of annuals. This is a for-the-love or a token payment press (two $25 awards for the top two submissions). I love many of their anthology concepts and come up with complete story ideas by the time I’m done reading the submission requirements on their open call page.

I’ve had stories accepted for several of their anthologies, including “We Are Dust and Shadow” for the anthology of the same name; “A Gift of Light” in Bones II; and “The Box”, which appears in Ugly Babies 2. I also have a story in their horror sampler and the Barnyard Horror publications. The anthology editors are great to work with, and they offer good discounts for contributors.

Garden Gnome Publications

Another oddball small press that publishes an interesting series of anthologies called Biblical Legends, amongst others. I co-wrote a couple of stories with Tonya L. De Marco about two robots who go about doing horrible things to humans — enough so that they help to create some of the legends and mythologies we have to this day. “One Bit Off” appears in their Garden of Eden anthology, and “Garbage” appears in Sulphurings.

Garden Gnome has branched out from ebook-only to some limited print versions. I am always pleased when I have more print books that I can pile on a table at a convention. This is a token-payment publisher, but they’re fun to work with.

Daily Science Fiction

If you’re not signed up for their weekday free stories that appear in your inbox, you’re missing out. This is a small SFWA-approved venue that pays better than pro rates. When they picked up my short story, “A Case of Curiosities”, I was qualified to join SFWA. This is a tough market to crack, but certainly is worth your efforts.

The owners are the editors, and they enjoy a wide range of micro-to-short speculative fiction. They do enjoy mild horror (with a speculative bent) and fantasy. DSF should be one of the first group of publishers you send your best work to. They also on occasion publish a gigantic print anthology of the best works that appeared that year.

♦ ♦ ♦

The bad thing about letting you know about my favorite publishers is that I can now expect more competition for slots. I would suggest you buy several works from each publisher you’re interested in working with to see the types of stories they pick up. Besides, it’s important to support the publishers we all want to succeed.

Best of luck with your submissions!

 


 

About the Author:DeMarco_Web-5963

Guy Anthony De Marco is a disabled US Navy veteran speculative fiction author; a Graphic Novel Bram Stoker Award® nominee; winner of the HWA Silver Hammer Award; a prolific short story and flash fiction crafter; a novelist; an invisible man with superhero powers; a game writer (Sojourner Tales modules, Interface Zero 2.0 core team, third-party D&D modules); and a coffee addict. One of these is false.
A writer since 1977, Guy is a member of the following organizations: SFWA, WWA, SFPA, IAMTW, ASCAP, RMFW, NCW, HWA. He hopes to collect the rest of the letters of the alphabet one day. Additional information can be found at Wikipedia and GuyAnthonyDeMarco.com.