Category Archives: The Writing Life

The Publishing Consortium

Around seven years ago, I was looking to self-publish some of my old tales that had reverted back to me. I also had a couple of friends that were looking to do the same thing. At the time I was working full-time in the IT field and had some extra funds I could use to buy a block of ISBNs from Bowker, the company that controls them in the United States.

Looking at the options, I could spend $125 for each one or, if I purchased in bulk, the price dropped down to a buck each. I decided to buy a thousand-block and founded The Publishing Consortium, which is a cooperative for a bunch of publishing imprints for my friends and my own little personal publisher.

It took quite a bit of research to find out how I was able to legally assign ISBNs without getting into trouble. Bowker would rather sell a couple of high-priced ISBNs at a time, so some of the information was buried.

By registering sub-imprints, I was able to create an entry in Bowker that would show up when someone looked up the ISBN to see the imprint that published the title. Even though The Publishing Consortium is the overall owner of the block, I was able to give out contiguous small blocks for my friends who needed non-CreateSpace assigned ISBNs. For the most part, I gave out chunks based on how much they planned on publishing. Several got 20, and some received 50. Originally I was going to charge five bucks each so I could buy more when my thousand-block ran out, but since most of my friends are authors and are therefore, by extension, not rolling in gold coins like Scrooge McDuck, I don’t think I’ve received anything except lots of goodwill and continued friendship. Oddly enough, I think I’m ahead of the game.

Small press publishers looking for a place to park at a convention.

If you’re considering setting up your own imprint, I would recommend you go with the cooperative plan unless you happen to have $1500 you can spare. Yes, the price of a thousand-block went up 50% for an imaginary number. It’s better to get ten folks to toss in $150 each, and you can register all of the publishers as an imprint. I always use ISBNs on print books, and sometimes I also assign them to ebooks. What some folks don’t know is that your ebook ISBN is good for all versions, including MOBI, ePUB, and even PDFs. If bookstores wish to buy copies, they won’t see those dreaded Amazon-owned ISBNs.

You can also set up more shared functions between all of the small publishers. Perhaps you can share editors, artists, layout experts, and even marketers. By trading specialties, everyone can contribute something and all of the members will benefit. As they say, a rising tide raises all boats. When all the boats works together it’s called an armada, which can be a powerful force.


 

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 and poet; 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.

 

Wouldn’t you like to get away? The intimacy of small publishing

This month’s theme of small publishing is a bit tricky for me, as I have not yet published. That doesn’t make me not-a-writer, of course. At first brush, an aspiring writer like myself might not take a second look at a small press. After all, what can they do for you? The big money is with the big boys, after all.

Okay, let’s talk about big for a moment.

For many of us, much of our lives are in big situations. We work at big companies, are students at big classes, drive to work in big traffic and shop at big stores. When everything is so big, it is easy to feel small. To feel like a cog in a machine, barely aware of the other cogs and springs that work alongside you, none of you really even knowing what the machine does. While you have the safety and security of that large organization, that comes with a loss of personal relevance. At times we long for something a little smaller, perhaps without even understanding why.

In those smaller situations, I think one of the major advantages is intimacy. I was fortunate enough to intern for a small press for a few years and I was struck by how close I got to be to everything. Not just the one person I was working for, but the various projects and people who were associated with the press were very close and reachable to me. This allowed me to learn more, to impact more and (most importantly) to connect more. I felt connected to the success of this small press because I knew them and they knew me. I felt something I think I’m less likely to feel were I to be published by one of the big houses.

I felt ownership. Not just in my little corner of the press, but in the whole press. Its success was my success, because I had such a personal connection to all the other people doing work there.

This is very similar to the feeling I had when I joined a small start up several years back, after a long career at large companies. There is a relevance to your work that is just not present in the bigger situations, where your contribution is just not able to move the needle the way it does when you are smaller.

Thus were I to consider a traditional publishing option I would recommend giving small publishers a strong consideration. While the blockbuster revenue potential may not be there, there is a working experience win that I am sure would be. By its very nature a smaller press is going to be closer to your work than a major house, and your success is much more likely to be relevant to their own.

I think in the end the choice comes to what is important to you as a writer. If those mega sales and multi-million dollar advances are your goal then I can’t imagine a small press is likely to be able to deliver that in the short term. If however you are looking to be a relevant member of a small, intimate team where there’s a strong familiarity level between you and the press and your own work matters farther outside your personal margins I can see that being a very attractive option.

Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name.

The Call of the Small Publisher

Beware! All small publishers aren’t created equal, and most of them will do absolutely nothing for you except waste your time and tie up your rights.

First of all, there was a time when a small publisher could really help a writer. But this was before the Internet and before services widely used by small publishers weren’t readily available to writers.

Nowadays all services that are available to small publishers are available to writers in one form or another, everything from editing to interior and cover design to printing to promotion to distribution. As a writer, you can become the publisher. You don’t have to rely on someone else to control your writing destiny.

Now, if you talk to enough people you will hear plenty of positive and negative stories about small publishers, and this includes print and e-publishers.

I have been with three small publishers over the last fifteen years. I needed the first small publisher because it was when the Internet was still in its infantile stage, and self-publishing had so many negative connotations.

Back then, subsidy publishers were rip-off traps that raped writers young and old. They charged outrageous prices for their services and offered little help after they finished printing your book. You were left to swim or drown. Most writers drowned, never recouping their initial investment. Many of these companies are still in business in one form or another.

My first publisher represented a dozen or so writers and helped when they could, but they had a limited budget. Most of the footwork and promotion was up to me. I understood my part and did what I could to promote my book. Things were going along slowly, but smoothly. Then, the publisher ended up biting the dust, and that was it. I was back to square one.

My second publisher was someone I respected greatly. He had been in the business for a long time, and had connections with a lot of different people in the industry. But publishing is a grind. It burns out those with the best intentions. He ended up giving all his authors back their rights and closed shop. To his credit, he helped me a lot with my writing and was the first person to suggest I start my own publishing company. The company would publish one author—me. I should have taken his advice.

Unfortunately, I was offered a three year deal from a larger small publisher, one that represented several hundred authors in one form or another. They gave me a small advance that was used for a three minute video to promote the book. When I signed the contract I knew they were a lot different from my previous two publishers. Their contract was much longer, and contained clauses that would make it difficult to leave if I wanted to sever my relationship early.

Things started off well. They were polite and attentive, answering all my questions. But in the back of my mind there were things I didn’t like about them. I almost didn’t sign with them, and looking back at it I should have followed my gut and passed on their offer.

First of all, their acquisition editor confused me with another author. That was the first warning. Then, they didn’t care what size the book was or what was on the front cover. They were like ‘that’s up to you.’ Then came the price they would charge for the book, and my discount rate. I thought both were too high for an unknown author.

Lastly came the advice they gave me for any future books. They suggested that I make them a certain length so they would be easier to package. After a few months, I realized I was going to make zilch from this deal unless I really busted my butt. They were going to make money no matter what happened.

That’s when it hit me! Why bust my butt for a small percentage when I can bust my butt and reap the lion’s share.

Now I have to admit that I had no idea about cover design, interior design, blurbs, price points, discounts, promotional pieces, giveaways, reviews, ISBNs, and a bunch of other information that my publisher knew.

But you know what? All that information is readily available on the internet. There are many good people out there who are willing to help you. Of course, you have to beware of the many sharks too, but it is like any business. There will always be good with the bad.

Next, look at the life expectancy of many small publishers, both traditional and on-line. Notice how many of them are out of business after a short while. A lot of them! They will never have the passion that you have for your work. no matter what they say. Many of them are like a lot of agents—they will suck your blood dry, and then when there is nothing left, they’ll move onto the next victim. I mean writer.

If you can start your own publishing company this is the best time to do it. There is a ton of information out there. If you’re still a little nervous about taking the plunge, team up with another writer. You can share the cost, the hours, the ups and downs.

But remember, it’s a business and you should treat it like a business. The more you put into it, the better chance you will get something positive out of it. But be realistic. Most likely, you will never get rich. You probably won’t even make a living or you will make a marginal living.

As writers, we all want to make money, but if you’re in the business just for the cash, do something else. You can make a lot more money in other lines of work.

Lastly, I want to give two references that everyone should read if they even have an inkling of becoming a publisher or if they just want to become a better writer.

One of these people I know well, and I consider him a friend. He’s smart and at times inspirational. The other is someone that I don’t know. But the guy is friggin’ brilliant. Every article I read from him gives me hope and makes me want to write and publish.

The first gentlemen is Harvey Stanbrough. You can find him at HarveyStanbrough.com. The second gentlemen is Dean Wesley Smith. You can find him at deanwesleysmith.com.

Guest Bio:
Glen M Glenn is an entrepreneur and a fiction writer. His books Last of the Firstborn, Dark Ritual and Sheepland will be coming out later this year. You can check his website out at glenmglenn.com.

 

Publishing in the Boondocks

This month’s subject for our Fictorians posts is about small and local publishers.

I’ll just get this out of the way right now. I live in a rural area in Arkansas and the closest significant publisher of sci-fi or fantasy books is far enough away that distance simply isn’t relevant.

So that leaves “small publishers.”

I’m afraid I don’t have any real experience there either.

Well, unless you consider my self-publishing under my own LLC I created to have a separate business unit for publishing. That’s a pretty small publishing company, being just a part-time portion of me.

But here’s the thing. While the concept of being your own publisher was crazy talk two decades ago, it is getting more and more feasible every year. With access to eBook sales platforms like Kindle, Kobo, Smashwords, etc. it is true that a self-published author can reach an arbitrarily large audience. Add in the print on demand services like Amazon’s CreateSpace, and that reach includes people who still want to hold a dead tree in their hands.

The major problem with that sort of self-publishing is the lack of support that a traditional publisher provides. But even that is changing as smaller “traditional” publishers are offering pared down services that may not include the marketing, promotion, printing and editing services they used to offer to all authors. A savvy self-published author can find free-lance services for editing, graphics, proof-reading, etc. Which really leaves promotion as the major area that traditional publishers still offer a major benefit to authors.

But I’m wondering how much longer that will be the case with crowd-sourcing services growing, and social media giving authors a platform with worldwide reach without an agent, a publisher or deep pockets.

I plan on trying one more time with my next book to get a traditional publishing contract. But if that doesn’t work out, I will probably spend the rest of my life self-publishing. At least until I’m so successful at that, that the publishing houses come to me.

I can dream, can’t I?