Interview with author DeAnna Knippling

deannak

This week, I’m interviewing Colorado freelance writer, editor, author and book designer, DeAnna Knippling. I first met DeAnna through the Pike’s Peak Writers when I was still serving as the Southern Colorado Literature Examiner. What struck me about her was her enthusiasm and willingness to help where ever she can. She treats her writing as a business and goes at it with a high degree of professionalism, yet she is personable and willing to share what she’s learned from her own writing experiences.

DeAnna Knippling writes science fiction, fantasy, horror, crime, and mystery for adults under her own name; adventurous and weird fiction for middle-grade (8-12 year old) kids under the pseudonym De Kenyon; and various thriller and suspense fiction for her ghostwriting clients under various and non-disclosable names. Her latest book, Alice’s Adventures in Underland:  The Queen of Stilled Hearts, combines two of her favorite topics–zombies and Lewis Carroll.  It’s the story of a tame zombie who told a little girl named Alice a story that got them both in more trouble than they could handle. Her short fiction has appeared in Black Static, Penumbra, Crossed Genres, Three-Lobed Burning Eye, and more.

Kaye: You created Wonderland Press to get your books out there. What all is involved in creating a press for your work and what are the advantages of doing so? I mean, why would an author do this rather than just throwing their book out on Amazon or Smashwords?

DeAnna: This isn’t one of the fun answers.  It’s stupid easy to make a “press.”  It involves no special equipment.  You look online, make sure nobody else has one of that name in your state, register a business name with your state or county (look up, “How to register a business name in [name of state]”), and Bob’s your uncle.  You might want to get more complex with an LLC or something–but I recommend leaving that for later, unless you already have experience doing that.  I am, of course not a lawyer and can’t give legal advice.  When you want to start looking at an LLC or corporation, I believe, is when you start having to worry about taxes and tax brackets.

I set up my press, “Wonderland Press,” because some publishing sites back in the day didn’t want you to publish books under multiple pen names under the same account without having a publisher name.  Then I realized that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with multiple blogs for my pen names, and moved the names to the same website (for now).  However, things are changing, and I may need to move back to multiple websites, mailing lists, etc.  The thing about business is that everything changes based on the scale of what you’re doing and how much time has passed since you set things up.  It seems like it’s more important to stick to a couple of core principles (bring customers back to a location you can control rather than social media–that kind of thing) and stay flexible in the details than it is to get wrapped up in questions like, “Should I set up a small press?”
Kaye: A lot of your books don’t fit neatly into a genre category or subcategory. How do you describe your books?
DeAnna: I’ve struggled with genre categories since I started publishing.  Part of the reason for that is that my subconscious loves to smash incongruous things together.  For example, I love puns and double entendres–two ways of seeing meaning at the same time–and I love stories that are really two things that don’t really go together being put together (like cowboys in space–Firefly).  The kinds of stories that I tend to write are kind of the opposite of sitting firmly within a genre and therefore being easy to describe.
I’m both looking into ways to get around this (by sneaking more solidly into genres) and finding out what parts of my genres I’m missing out on.  I recently finished up what I call “my cheesy ’80s genre novel.”  When I did the research to try to find out where to put it, I found that…it actually fits pretty solidly into the current Occult subgenre of Horror.  I keep trying to tell myself there’s nothing wrong with writing what feels cheesy (I certainly read it), but sometimes it takes a while for me to learn the obvious.
To actually answer your question?  Since I can’t copy my competitors, I describe my books by putting on the silliest movie announcer voice I can come up with and reading the blurbs out loud.  The more mock-serious the better.  Somehow it works.
Kaye: What’s the most fun part of writing a novel or a story? What’s the least fun part?
DeAnna: Most fun:  The fun parts. Least fun:  The parts that stick the fun parts together.
I get really bored at the least fun parts.  I think that’s where the books I write start getting weird.  If I plan a book, then I plan something at least a little bit more genre-specific than what actually comes out.  But then I get bored and jump the tracks.  I feel like writing a book is a process of going “Ooooh, shiny” over and over until I step into the circle of rope hidden under the leaves in the jungle, and the ending jerks me upside down into the air.
I wish it were that quick to write the end–it’s the slowest part of the book for me as I wrap up all the shinies that I’ve picked up throughout the plot–but that’s what it feels like.
Kaye: If your writing suddenly made you rich and famous, what would you do?
DeAnna: More of the same.  My major goal in life is to allow my wonderful spouse to become a pool boy at our eccentric castle in the mountains.  Travel more.  At least, I say those things.  Probably I’d still just begrudge the time I wasn’t reading or writing.  I’d go to exotic locations and just read a book.
Kaye: Why do you think some writers sell well, and others don’t?
DeAnna: Probably that stuff I mentioned about genre.  A lot of writers will look at a successful writer’s book and go, “What a terrible writer!  Why do they sell?!?”
But here’s my experience (based on ghostwriting so much):
The stuff that I’m forced to write to genre by my clients sells a lot better than the stuff I write for myself.
Granted, you still need to know what you’re doing.  But writing a book isn’t just about pretty sentences–it’s about making the constant readers happy, feeding their addictions.  The answer to why some books are massive successes when others aren’t is often, “Because they can see the forest for the trees–and you can’t.”  Cold but true.
Kaye: Any advice for upcoming authors who are trying to get a foot in the door?

DeAnna: Just keep working.  Everybody’s in a hurry to succeed.  Success!  Millions!  Riches!  Fame! But, in the end, it comes back to the basics.  Did you read?  Did you write?  Did you learn something?  Did you talk to other people in the writing community?

“A foot in the door” is just the feeling that the universe owes you something, or that you can sneak something past somebody.  “How do I cut in line past the people who have been working their asses off for years?” And the only answers are:  Write a good story, network, value your readers, don’t be stupid about genre, work your ass off, don’t fail on purpose.  That last one is pretty significant.  I’ve seen a lot of people give up or just put things off until they’re “ready.”  The hell with waiting for “ready.”  If you’re going to do that, you’ve already failed, because this is a bootstrap industry–nobody gets the magic green light.  Even people who are going traditional start out by hustling for publishers and agents.  Make someone else tell you no.  Make them tell you no a lot.
I want to thank DeAnna for joining us here on Writing to be Read, and for sharing her knowledge with us. If you’d like to learn more about Deanna or her books, her website and blog are at www.WonderlandPress.com.  You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Like this post? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted.


How Do You Measure Success?

Picture 979J

There are many measures of success, especially in writing. Readers may look at whether or not an author has made any of the best seller lists. Authors may look at the number of books published, or number of sales, or even positive reviews. For rising authors, who are trying to get a foot in the door, like me, finding a publisher willing to publish even one of your books may be all that is required to consider yourself a successful. That’s where I’m at right now, as I just signed a contract for my western novel Delilah. But the point is, that success is subjective and there are many different levels involved.

You can see what I mean. My little contract for Delilah wouldn’t be a big deal for someone like Stephen King or Anne Rice, who sell books faster than they can write them, but for little old me, it’s a very big deal, even though it isn’t with one of the big five major publishers and there is no advance that comes with it. Although those things would be nice, signing with my small independent publisher, Dusty Saddles, makes me feel plenty successful.

What’s great too, is that it doesn’t end there, because of those different levels I was talking about. Sure, I feel successful now, with book contract in hand. But, I also have a feeling of success when I check my blog stats and discover that my readers are increasing. I feel it every time one of my poems, or short stories is published. I felt it when I earned my M.F.A. in Creative Writing. I’ve no doubt I’ll feel it again if Delilah starts selling copies and I find people are reading it, or when the next book contract comes along, or if I sell a screenplay.

Success is what we, as writers, all strive for, although your definition of success may be just finishing the book. That was my definition while I was earning my M.F.A. in Creative Writing, but after completing two novels, working on both simultaneously, I know I can finish a book, so I’ve moved on to the next challenge. Selling the book, and now it looks like I have achieved that success, as well.

But we have to be careful not to want that success so bad that we allow ourselves to be taken. There are a lot of scammers out there, who will try to steal your book right out from under you. Although I was excited about being offered a contract, I didn’t just jump into heart first, but used my head and went over it with a magnifying glass, being on the look out for all the fine print. I questioned different clauses and negotiated on any that didn’t serve my best interests, until the publisher and I came to an agreement that was fair and served both our interests. Although having a knowledgeable attorney or agent look over all contracts is always recommended, as a striving artist, I had no access to that type of professionals, but I did have someone knowledgeable in the business look it over. He confirmed that I was reading it correctly and helped my identify a couple of problems with it. Fortunately, none of them were deal breakers and the publisher was willing to be flexible.

Now, I’m ready to embark on a new publishing adventure and looking forward to in anticipation. Signing the contract holds a certain level of success for me, but the next level of success may be just over the hill, so I must press forward. My readers can help by buying the book, because the ultimate goal for me is for people to read what I write, (and the money from the book sales will be nice, too). Of course, I’ll keep you updated as to when it will be out. After all, I strive to create Writing to be Read.

How do you measure your success?

 

Want to know more about Delilah? Visit my Delilah Facebook Page

Like this post? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted.

 


Digital vs. Print Books

Digital vs. Paper Books

I recently read an article by Zoe Wood in The Guardian, which states that print book sales are on the rise, and may be making a comeback. I, for one, welcomed this news with open arms. For me, there is nothing like kicking back with a good paper book in my hands. I can get comfy with my Kindle Fire, but it’s just not the same. And I don’t know that I can explain exactly why that is, but it is.

When I first began doing reviews, back in 2010, as the Southern Colorado Literature Examiner, my ARCs all came via snail mail, in print form. Now days, an author can have an ARC to you in a matter of minutes, because they all send digital copies, and everyone publishes in digital format. Some authors also put out print editions, but it’s too easy to get a digital copy to the reviewer for them to want to give away the print ones.

Since my review books are now arriving via e-mail, I adapted by first getting an e-reader app. for my computer, which wasn’t always convenient, but got me by. Then, I won a Kindle Fire in a giveaway on Author Market, (where I now offer my editing and proofreading services for very reasonable prices). With the Fire, my review reading became much easier, because the Fire is small enough that I can carry it with me, so I can pick it up and read whenever I get a free minute.

But, it’s still not a print book. I can’t help but miss the physical act of turning the pages one by one as I advance through the story, the anticipation as the pages left get thinner and thinner. For me, there is something comforting in that small act. My Fire has a feature that makes it look like a physical page is turning, trying to simulate it, so I must not be the only one who misses it. I know I get downright excited when I agree to review a book and the author asks for my street address instead of my email.

Gaby Wood talks about the differences in the way we read with the rise of digital publishing in her article in the The Telegraph. There’s no getting around it. Reading a digital book is not the same as reading a print book, and it never will be. However, we are a resilient bunch, and I have no doubt that we will adapt to the changes that are thrown our way where our reading material is concerned. Already, a new format is gaining popularity in the form of audio books. They aren’t new, but they are rising in popularity, so who’s to say they won’t be the next rising trend?

 

Like this post? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted.

Image Credit: The Awkward Yeti. theawkwardyeti.com


Ah! Sweet Rejection

rejected

Last week, I received a rejection letter for Delilah from a publishing house I submitted to back in October. Although I know it sounds odd, I was elated. “Why?” you may be asking, and with good reason. Rejections are not something writers are usually pleased about. In fact, just the opposite. But I was pleased with this rejection letter for one reason. It was not a form letter. In fact, the editor took the time not only to read the sample I submitted, but to give me constructive criticism and suggestions as to how the manuscript might be improved.

As a graduate student, my professors drilled the idea into our heads that a personal rejection letter, means your manuscript made it past the slush pile and actually received some attention from the editor. It was good enough that they actually read what you sent. And a rejection letter with personal feedback is even better, because then you don’t have to wonder why they rejected your work, and you can strive to fix anything that needs fixing before sending it out again.

Writing Process 2

thumbs-down

My rejection letter was personal, rather than form, and it offered feedback. How sweet is that? I mean, I’m not happy the book was rejected, but I am happy that somebody read at least part of it, in this case, the first fifty pages. My reaction to this rejection is to study the personal feedback and then really look at the manuscript to determine the validity of the comments. Then revise and resubmit to the next publisher on my list for Delilah.

 

For those not familiar with me or my writing, Delilah is my 60,000 word western novel about a strong willed young woman, who served two years in the Colorado Territorial Prison, in the late 1880s. Delilah thought that time had hardened her against the cruelties of the world, but she wasn’t prepared for the trip back home and the hardships of the Colorado frontier. She heads to her home in San Luis, with sixteen year old, Sarah. An encounter with two outlaws, who take the girl captive, sets Delilah on a journey into the high country of Colorado mining towns. Along the way she faces wild animals, outlaws and Indians, makes colorful friends, and learns to love again. Delilah is a novel with the true flavor of the Colorado frontier.

A while back, I also had a hybrid publisher, who expressed interest, but wanted me to provide other western authors that would be interested in publishing with them. (To get a better idea of what I’m talking about when I say hybrid publishing, see my article, Hybrid Publishers – What are they all about?). I posted in a few places on Facebook, but did not come up with any other interested authors.

So, this is actually the second personal, (non-form) letter that I’ve received on Delilah. Of course, it would have been better if I had received an acceptance letter, but I believe in myself, I believe in my writing, and I know that one day, that acceptance letter will come. And, if not, I am not beyond the idea of publishing her myself, because I know she is that good.

To learn more about and read updates on Delilah, go to my Delilah Facebook page.

 

Like this post? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted.


Pros and Cons of Traditional vs. Independent vs.Self-Publishing (Part 10): Conclusions

Red Quill

This series on publishing has been a lot of fun to create, and I hope maybe there are some of you who have read all of parts 1-9. I started it because I found that while those in my academic career seemed to be in favor of traditional publishing, with many instructors providing information about self-publishing as an option only reluctantly, while authors all around me were getting their work out there by self-publishing their books.

As I looked into the topic more, I found that some folks used the terms independently published and self-published as if they were interchangeable, while independent publishers are really smaller independent publishing houses that are not among the “big five” traditional publishers. As stated in Part 2, for the purposes of this series that is how I will refer to and view independent publishers.

One of the reasons I enjoyed writing this publishing series was that I am fortunate to know many authors, from all three publishing models, and I was able to gather many different viewpoints, examining it from all sides. Overall, I was able to obtain a pretty healthy balance between the three models. I interviewed self-published authors Jeff Bowles, Tim Baker and Arthur Rosch. In the traditional publishing arena, I talked with children’s author, Stacia Deutsch and historical and biographical author, Mark Shaw. I was only able to interview one independently published author, YA author Jordan Elizabeth, but to even it out, I also interviewed two independent publishers, Curiosity Quills Press and Caleb Seeling, owner of Conundrum Press. And for a nice rounded point of view, I spoke with my friend and children’s author, Nancy Oswald, who has published under all three models.

Now is the time to look at the series as a whole and see what conclusions can be drawn. While I think all authors secretly long for a traditional publishing deal, because being picked up by a major publishing house is ingrained in us as a symbol of success, I see independent publishing houses as a feasible alternative to holding out for the big boys, which can take a long time and for some of us, may never pay off. In some instances, debut authors have a better chance of being picked up by a smaller independent press. With both these options identifying markets which would be a good fit for your work, preparing submissions, writing cover letters and queries, synopsis and outlines will take up a lot of time which might be better spent on writing stories. Once accepted by either a major or a smaller publishing house, the author may be expected to do a good portion of the marketing and promotion, as well, although services such as editing  and illustration may be provided.

The upside to signing with a traditional publisher is that the major publishing houses pay out an advance on projected royalties, so major money can be seen in your near future. Independent houses may also pay out advances, but they won’t be nearly as big, and some do pay out a higher percentage of royalties. Of course, as Tim Baker pointed out in Part 2, the flip side to collecting a sizeable royalty is if your book flops. It would be a drag to have to pay it all back. Independent houses may also pay out advances, but they won’t be nearly as big, and some do pay out a higher percentage of royalties.

For self-published authors, there are no advances, but they keep a higher portion of their royalties than with traditional or independent publishing houses. Still, there is no big money now, and no guarantee that there ever will be. Authors may be waiting a long time for their writing to pay off.

As Stacia Deutsch mentioned in Part 4 of the series, traditional publishers provide professional editing and illustrators, to be sure your final product is of good quality. I believe this is true of independent publishing houses, as well, but you won’t find it available through the self-publishing process; one reason self-publishing carries with it such stigma. Gatekeepers insure the book you put out will be the absolute best it can be.

Despite the stigma surrounding self-published authors, due in part to a few self-publishers who like to take short cuts in lieu of putting out a quality product, there are some very good self-published authors out there.  As Jordan Elizabeth pointed out in Part 6, self-publishing has a lot to offer. Self-published authors have a lot more control over their work than traditionally published authors, who do not chose their own cover art, and may not even get to keep their own title.

As Jeff Bowles pointed out in Part 1, another possible advantage to self-publishing is the ease and relative inexpense for today’s authors. You can publish a book with Amazon almost for free, and collect either 35% or 70% of your royalties, depending on the price you place on your book. I can attest to this as it is what I did with my short story, Last Call, and it didn’t cost me one cent. At least that way, if my story doesn’t rise to the top of the best sellers lists, (which it hasn’t), I really haven’t lost anything. The important thing to remember when self-publishing is that you need to put out a quality product. It is worth it to find a good editor, and for all of us starving writers out there, an editor can be employed for a minimal expense. I also suggest utilizing a good critique partner when funds are low, but be sure to have some type of editing done, by someone other than yourself, before publishing your book.

Although Amazon has made publishing extremely easy and inexpensive for authors, they have also monopolized the industry and are making it more difficult for independent publishers, as Caleb Seeling explained in Part 8. Learn more about the negative effects Amazon has had on the publishing industry in the Institute for Local Self Reliance’s report, which emphasizes, from a consumer standpoint, the need to buy local and battle monopolization. If readers heed this warning and buy their books from local independent, or chain, bookstores right down the block, the publishing industry may change yet again.

Amazon’s monopolization affects authors and reviewers as well, as is discussed in What Amazon’s New Review Policies Mean for “Writing to be Read”. As much as Amazon’s review policies effect the reviewer, they also effect the authors who are depending on those reviews to get their books sold.

Author Mark Shaw gave us a heads up about vanity, or subsidy publishers, charging unsuspecting authors exorbitant fees to publish their work as Mark Shaw warns in Part 5. They prey on authors who desire to get their work published so bad that they are willing to empty their coffers to do so. These publishers can get outrageously expensive for authors, so don’t be drawn in. The kicker is that even if you publish on Amazon or Create Space in order to fit your budget, you still may need to spend quite a bit of time and/or money on marketing as Art Rosch tells us in Part 3.

Independent publishing houses, also referred to as small or medium-sized presses, work along the same lines as traditional publishers, but they don’t publish as many books each year as the big five do. In addition, they tend to be more specific in what they are looking for, with most having very specialized niches that your book must fit into to be published. Although all independent publishers may not follow this practice, publisher Caleb Seeling says he actually seeks out authors whose work fits into his niche. In any case, authors should be familiar with submission guidelines of the publishing house they are submitting to, whether large or small. In her article, How to Smartly Evaluate a Small Publisher, Jane Friedman, of The Hot Sheet, (the publishing industry’s news letter for authors), offers some great tips on what to look for.

In Part 7, Nancy Oswald points out one of the big advantages to publishing with a small press is the more personal relationship between author and publisher. Whereas a traditional publishing house may not be able to put a name with a face, independent publishers work closely with their authors because they only have a few at any one time. Independent publishers may also have a shorter wait time for publication than traditional houses, which can be quite lengthy.

And then there are the new kids on the block, like Curiosity Quills Press, which are hybrid publishers, offering various combinations of traditional percs with self-publishing author responsibilities. These small independent presses may charge authors for some services, like subsidy publishing, but they also provide a certain amount of author copies at no cost, provide author support, and the services they do charge for are optional. You can find out more about this new model of publishing in my post, Hybrid Publishers: What are they all about?

After hearing from the experts, it seems no matter which model you choose to publish under, there is still a lot of non-writing activities required of authors, including marketing and promotion, resulting in the need for Today’s Authors to Wear Many Different Hats. Of course, you can also do as author Jeff Lyons suggests in his interview with Arwen Chandler, and hire a third party to handle such tasks, so we, as authors can get down to the business of writing. The only problem I see with this is that you must make money before you can spend money, paying someone else to do the tasks that don’t come as naturally as writing does.

Like this post? Subscribe to email to receive notifications to your inbox each time a new post is published. Or follow Writing to be Read on WordPress.


Pros and Cons of Traditional vs. Independent vs. Self-Publishing (Part 9): Interview with Curiosity Quills Press

curiosity-quills

This series has looked at three models of publishing from every angle. We’ve heard from independent authors Jeff Bowels, Tim Baker and Art Rosch, and traditionally published authors Stacia Deutsch and Mark Shaw, independently published author Jordan Elizabeth, and an author who has published under all three models, Nancy Oswald. We’ve also heard from Caleb Seeling, the owner of the independent publishing house, Conundrum Press.

This week, we hear from a small independent hybrid publisher that specializes in genre fiction of the highest quality. I have been privileged to review two Curiosity Quills anthologies, Chronology and Under a Brass Moon. I have also reviewed several books by Curiosity Quills author Jordan Elizabeth, who we heard from in Part 7, and Keepers of the Forest by James McNally.

Founded in 2011 by Eugene Teplitsky and Alisa Gus, Curiosity Quills was created as a resource portal to help writers, such as themselves survive the publishing industry, and quickly morphed into a publishing press which today, has solidified it’s share in the market. They work with major retailers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Audible, and publish six new titles every month. Curiosity Quills Press offers the some of the advantages of a traditional publisher and offers their authors a chance to participate in the publishing process.

Kaye: How did Curiosity Quills Press come about?

CQ: Back in early 2011, Alisa and Eugene were an aspiring author couple working on a little MG project called Gatecrashers. In an effort to build up our socials and gain a following prior to release, they created a blog called Curiosity Quills (which was nearly called Curiosity Kills… dodged a bullet there!). Throughout that year, many guest authors and industry pros were hosted on the CQ blog to share their stories, wisdom, and experiences with the world. Before they knew it, a sizeable community formed around the CQ blog – and A&E had the brilliant idea of being more hands on about helping the authors hanging out on the site. It wasn’t long before Michael Shean and Rod Kierkegaard, Jr. became the first published authors of Curiosity Quills Press. Unfortunately, this was also the death knell for Gatecrashers or any other further writing project for Alisa and Eugene – turns out running a traditional publishing house is a HUGE time-suck!

Kaye: What are the publishing goals of Curiosity Quills?

CQ: We have a number of goals at CQ, and these can be broken down into the following points:

  • To bring the highest quality genre fiction to the masses, at affordable prices.
  • To spotlight genre fiction that some traditional publishers might find too unconventional; instead of following genre trends and the mainstream in what is popular, we try to stay ahead of that, anticipating gaps in the market.
  • To diversify genre fiction, by publishing stories featuring characters of all race, sexuality, gender identity, social standing etc. While we want to stay ahead of the mainstream, we also want to be inclusive and representative of the ever growing, expanding world we live in.

Kaye: What do you see as the advantages of independent publishing over traditional or self-publishing for today’s authors?

CQ: Independent publishing offers the best aspects of both traditional and self-publishing. On the one hand, we’re able to offer the highest standards of cover designers, editors, proofreaders etc. on par with any traditional press.

We also offer authors access to a wide rage of services, such as NetGalley and features on sale subscription sites like Book Bub. And, as with traditional publishers, we are always focusing our efforts to get our titles into chain bookstores, like Barnes & Noble, as well as selling the rights for our titles to audiobook publishers, and film companies.

But, unlike traditional publishers, we offer a closer, more family-like community for our authors, and try to involve them in the publishing process as much as possible, getting their input on cover design, marketing campaigns etc.

Because of our close-knit community, there are always over authors – at various stages in their careers – on hand to answer questions, help promote each other’s works, and collaborate with.

Kaye: How has the increasing trends in self-publishing affected the role of independent presses?

CQ: Authors want to be much more involved in the process, and on the whole, we’re more than happy to accommodate this. We view publishing as a partnership, where both the publisher and the author bring different things to the table.

As mentioned above, the close-knit community leads to a family of authors all striving together to make CQ the best it can be, which is something you don’t always find with self-published authors. While there is still a level of camaraderie there, all self-published authors are competing against each other, in ways authors of independent presses aren’t.

Kaye: What do you see as the future role of independent publishing houses within the changing publishing industry?

CQ: Independent publishing houses will continue to bring readers what they want, know and love, while also broadening their horizons and opening them up to a wealth of new stories that might get overlooked by the mainstream.

At the same time, independent publishing houses will strive to bring authors an experience they won’t get anywhere else in the publishing industry, with all the benefits of traditional and self-publishing, but less of the drawbacks.

I want to thank Clare Dugmore and Curiosity Quills for sharing with us here on Writing to be Read. I know they are busy people and I appreciate them taking the time to answer my interview questions. Next week I will follow up with conclusions on the series in Part 10 of Pros and Cons of Traditional vs. Independent vs. Self-Publishing.

 

Like this post? Subscribe to email and get notification to your inbox each time a new post is published.


Pros. and Cons. of Traditional vs. Independent vs. Self Publishing (Part 8): Interview with Independent Publisher and owner of Conundrum Press, Caleb Seeling

publishing-changes

There is no question that the rise of digital publishing has changed the face of the publishing industry. How could it not? This week we hear from someone who has a good handle on the publishing industry and what those changes look like. The following is an interview with Caleb Seeling, the owner of Conundrum Press, a small independent publishing house which publishes poetry, literary fiction and creative non-fiction by authors in the Rocky Mountain region.

Kaye: What brought you to become a publisher?

Caleb: I have always been a reader and a writer, and during my grad and post-grad years, I became more involved with social engagement and cultural influence. So when the opportunity arose to enter the publishing industry as a senior acquisitions and developmental editor, I took it. As I learned how the industry worked, I hatched a vision for what my own press would look like–to run a literary publishing company as a social entrepreneur–had I the opportunity (and gumption) to start one. That opportunity came in 2009 when I joined the thousands of other editors in the unemployment lines when publishing companies laid off most of their low to mid-level staff. I decided to use the time to make my vision a reality, and I’ve been doing it ever since.

Kaye: As the owner of Conundrum Press, what are your publishing goals?

Caleb: To not only publish excellent literature from the Mountain West, but also to champion voices of minorities and disenfranchised people. We’ll do this through an evolving acquisitions strategy, promotion, philanthropy, and also education via Colophon Center.

Kaye: What do you see as the advantages of independent publishing over traditional or self-publishing for todays authors?

Caleb: Well, for starters, the term “independent publishing” has been coopted by the self-publishing world. Conundrum Press is a small press, and like most small presses, we operate much the same way a so called “traditional” press does—we accept agented manuscripts, we have contractual terms and pay royalties (and advances on occasion), we have full editorial, design, production, marketing, and sales processes, we’re internationally distributed, etc. So the question is really about what are the advantages and disadvantages of choosing to publish with a small press, or a medium-sized press, over one of the big 5 and their subsidiaries, or over self-publishing. The advantages are that we are more passionate, more invested over a longer period of time, more focused, and more flexible than large companies. And while we don’t have the resources that large companies have to throw at their A-list authors, we do at least the same amount of promotion, and probably more, than they do for their lesser known authors. We also have more resources and expertise than most self-publishing authors do, and have the ability to get books into more markets and sales channels than they do.

Kaye: This series is using independent publishing to refer to small and medium presses and I have distinguished these from self-published endeavors for my readers. That said, you stated that small and medium presses operate along the same lines as the big traditional publishing houses. Do you think it is any harder or easier for an author to get picked up by on of these houses than it is with traditional publishing houses?

Caleb: I guess the answer is it depends. Small presses are kind of like literary magazines—you’ve got to know what their focus is, be familiar with what they publish before sending a query. Their lists are going to be comparatively small per season, so they have to pick and choose very carefully. I have a slush pile, but I haven’t really had a chance to go through it because I am actively looking for what and who I want to publish, and then I go after them. Other houses may have different acquisition strategies. Also, there are many more small presses than there are large houses, so the chances are in your favor for that reason. But standards vary across the board, as well as how much editorial work they’re willing to do to get a manuscript ready.

Kaye: How has the increasing trends in self-publishing affected the role of independent presses?

Caleb: It’s made small presses that much more valuable, given the fact we are filling in the enormous gap left by the mega-conglomeration of media companies and the incredible noise created by the advent of relatively inexpensive print-on-demand and design technology. But self-publishing, while really great on so many levels, has increased the level of clamor for attention in the marketplace to a pitch that makes it nearly impossible for anyone to be heard at all. And with the cost of advertising and publicity staying as high as it is, it has perpetuated our culture of celebrity, where the only ones who get heard are the ones who are already known, or who have tens of thousands of dollars to throw at promoting one book, much less a list of 10-100 per year.

Kaye: How has the rise of Amazon and digital publishing in general, affected the publishing industry?

Caleb: Amazon has not only contributed to the noise, but it has encouraged unrealistic expectations of authors regarding the ability to sell, and in their bid to control the publishing industry through their algorithms and price controls, it has been antagonistic to publishers and contributed to the downfall of American community of which local bookstores have always been a hub. They’ve made our job really difficult and they are extremely unfriendly to work with on the vendor/supply side. On the other hand…never before has there been the opportunity to have ALL of our books available anywhere to anyone who wants them. And there’s the rub. Can’t live with them, and, for now, we can’t live without them.

Kaye: What do you see as the future role of independent publishing houses within the changing publishing industry?

Caleb: The importance of small presses will only grow as the mega-media conglomerates continue to merge, which they will, and as the glut of media grows worse, which it will. As the noise and de-diversification of books and content gets worse, the need for risk-taking gate-keepers will also grow. Small presses meet this need, and more and more agents and authors are turning to them, taking the bold, long-term approach to publishing that small presses excel at. What we need now, however, is readers to become aware of the publisher’s mark on the spines of the books they read, and to deliberately choose to buy a book from an author they may not know published by a small press. The success of the buy local and small food movements are encouraging…deliberate consumer choices really do change the world. It’s happening with our food and environment…so let’s see it happen with our information and entertainment as well. Buy local. Read small. If you find a book on Amazon that you want, call your local bookstore and order it from them instead. Or buy directly from a local or regional small press. Our culture is a garden that needs to be tended—small presses, conscientious authors and agents, and partnering indie bookstores can bring the seeds to fruition, but we need readers to harvest what we’ve grown.

My thanks go out to Caleb for taking the time to offer his input here. His responses have been educational for me and I hope they have for other authors out there as well. Be sure catch next week’s interview, as well, when we will hear from another independent publishing house, Curiosity Quills Press.

Like this post?  Subscribe to email for notifications to your inbox each time a new post is made.