Monday, March 19, 2012

START-UP PUBLISHERS

So I am seeing a number of 'start-up publishers' that are making offers and even announcing deals on Publishers Marketplace. Though primarily e-book publishers, these new publishers are securing distribution deals for their print books and most often offering $0 - $200 advances with generous royalties. BUT--many, but definitely not all, have no professional editors on their staff nor do they hire professional freelance editors.

So I ask you, my blog readers....What is the benefit of going with these start-up publishers rather than self-publishing and keeping all your royalties?

If you could hire the likes of Emma Dryden, Karen Grove, Deborah Halverson, Tamson Weston....the list goes on and on and feel free to add their names to the comments section so people who do want to self-publish know who the freelance professionals in kids books are...and you can hire a reasonably priced cover artist, and you can learn how to upload books onto the ebook platforms, why go with a start-up publisher?

I am not saying anything negative about these publishers as they may be publishing amazing books and making an impact on our industry and our reading in the months and years to come, I just would love to know your thoughts...

Happy Monday, Everyone!

26 comments:

  1. Hi Jill,
    Well you bring up a good point :)
    I have not self-published or been involved with a "start up" publisher, but I would love to read what others think (just in case I decide to go that route).

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  2. I wouldn't go with a start-up publisher that didn't offer a professional editor, but I would totally take a minimal advance and standard royalties to go with a start up publisher that had an editor. Agents and publishers aren't taking chances on new talent, and a small press can offer cover art and editorial services. Things that can be very expensive for a self published writer, and in my opinion there is no point in doing it, if you're not doing it right.

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  3. The thought of having any of my books go out into the world unedited makes me cringe.

    You can add Catherine Frank, former excec. editor at Viking, to your list of freelance editors. http://editedbycatherine.com/, @CatherineSFrank

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  4. My experience with a start-up publisher, namelos, has been stellar. Stephen Roxburgh is at the helm and he's been in the business for 30+ years, editing works from amazing authors like Madeleine L'engle and Roald Dahl. He offers no advance but great royalty rates. Three years into his venture, namelos books have earned major awards and many Kirkus starred reviews.

    My debut, "Rape Girl" will be out this summer and I'll be entering the next stage of the game with them. Whatever the response, I know I couldn't have asked for a better editor. (Note: Stephen does offer paid editorial services on the side. If he acquires work via that route, he returns the fee.)

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  5. Sara and I would never sign with a start-up publisher. We consider self-publishing to be a learning experience while dreaming of the day when we have both literary agent and publishing deal. ]
    Cheers!
    S.B. Rodgers
    p.s. Love you blog. Thank you so much for the invaluable information. :)

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  6. i would be more concerned about their ability to promote.

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  7. I think the issue lies with what you consider a "professional editor." Many of these start-ups use editors with extensive editorial training but not a lot of experience. Don't get me wrong, I've seen horrific typos in small press books. At the end of the day, it depends on the small press. Some of these businesses employ transmedia developers that can help a writer earn greater exposure than the book tours the big six publishing houses offer.

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  8. Great point, Jill. I was approached by one of these start-ups to illustrate a book, and the pay was so low I couldn't believe it. What made matters worse was that they weren't even willing to give me a royalty on the book since the art was the driving force to the story. Flat fee ( low ) w/o royalty. I decided I could put that time in illustrating my own book.

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  9. Jill you bring up a good point, and you've made me think. I would imagine, rightly or wrongly, that many writers choose to go with a small press, epub, without looking into the qualifications of the press for three reasons.

    Firstly, getting that yes, regardless of where it comes from is a sudden validation of all the hard work. Finally someone likes what the writer has accomplished. That has to be a balm to many wounded hearts.

    Secondly, many people, rightly or wrongly and I make no judgement here, still see self publishing as vanity publishing. It does not have the validity of someone saying we like your book enough to take the risk on it.

    Thirdly, again rightly or wrongly, I think writers who go with presses, regardless of size of credentials imagine that by having the backing of a "publisher" the book will do better in the market.

    I am not sure any of the above reasons are in actual fact valid, but from what I have heard from writers opting for this direction, this is what they seem to believe. I wonder if anyone out there who has made this choice would like to enlighten us to the reality of the above?

    Wishing all the best,
    Rhay Christou

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  10. I recently pulled my middle grade series from a small press for this very reason. "I" actually had to correct the copyeditor's typos. I now have a two previously published books and one unpublished manuscript, along with a new YA novel, to present to publishers and agents. If I don't find a better home for the books, I will self-publish, because I have a fan base. They did hire new editors and I kept hoping I'd see improvement, but there's no advantage to having a substandard publisher. I know a great cover artist and a superb freelance editor, so I'm better off on my own.

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  11. Another problem is the e-book only aspect. The vast majority of children prefer print and still find their books the old fashion way--in bookstores and libraries. If a publisher can't offer me those distribution outlets, then I don't see the point in signing with them.

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  12. Honestly, I'd be hard-pressed to go with a new start-up publisher under any circumstances. Rule of thumb for me is wait a year or two and see if they're still around/how they're doing.

    Anything else is far too risky.

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  13. I imagine some people don't know enough to realize the "editors" have no credentials/training. As for start-ups being able to offer cover art/design that may be out of the average on-your-own author's reach, sometimes that's true. But sometimes the covers coming from small presses look like the worst examples of self-published covers.

    Also, I vehemently disagree with Beth's statement: "Agents and publishers aren't taking chances on new talent..." I know many new writers who are getting agents and publishing deals--some of them pretty impressive. (This includes my own critique partner.)

    Just because agents and publishers aren't taking a chance on ME (yet) doesn't mean they aren't taking chances on new talent. It just means I need to keep working, have a little luck with timing, and continue to consider various options.

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  14. One argument for going with a start up is there is less stigma amongst the reviewers of the world, than if you went with full self-pub. However, you make an excellent point about the editor.

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  15. Maybe it's because of the word, "publisher". It has a kind of magic glow around it that makes people think their book will do better. Maybe the prospect of finding an editor and freelance artist is overwhelming.

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  16. I hear stories about independent publishers that go under, and some authors can't get the rights to their books back. I agree it's best to err on the side of caution...

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  17. Justin, I was going to expand this talk to the promotion aspect because I agree...DISCOVERABILITY is so important. (Decided to stay focused on what I see as the primary problem since a crappy book has little chance of promotion truly effecting sell-through)

    With print books, the traditional publishers definitely have a better chance of getting their books onto bookstore, library and school library shelves. I am just not sure the traditional publishers have this down yet when it comes to e-books but my guess is that many have the $ and collective smarts to figure it out. Plus, when it comes to Amazon, paying for facetime is the realm of the publisher with money.

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  18. Just slapping the name "editor" on a random person does not an editor make.

    Research their credentials. Who have they worked with? Have you read it? Are there a lot of mistakes? Do they have a copy editor AND a content editor, or is the same person supposed to do both (not a good idea)? Or are they expecting YOU to do copy edits (in which case, why are they taking all your money)?

    What's their distribution? What's their marketing budget?

    If the editor is a complete unknown, they don't do marketing, and their distribution is the same you could get self publishing, why hand over most of your royalites?

    On the other hand, if they have a great editor, design, distribution, and marketing AND they pay decent royalties, they might be worth a shot. Just don't sign away more than 1 book.

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  19. More than one person has mentioned typos and copyediting mistakes with small presses, but I think it's important to keep in mind that copyediting and editing are two different things. A start-up may offer copyediting services to make your book look clean and professional. But don't be afraid to ask a start-up whether they have professional editors (ask for credentials) who will work with you on your novel. Will they make it a better book? Will they push you as writers? I think that, more than anything, is the deciding factor when choosing to be published vs. choosing to be a writer. (Note: There's nothing wrong w/ just wanting to be published either.)

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  20. I went with a start up independent publisher because I was not remotely interested in self publishing. I didn't want to find a cover artist, hire an editor, etc. While I did base the decision of where my book went (I had 3 offers) based on which house presented the most skilled cover art and provided the most comprehensive marketing plan, I was least concerned about royalties. I do not expect to pad my retirement with royalty checks from this book. Maybe my weekly grocery bill, but that's it. Regardless, if we've learned anything from the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon, it's that a book with typos and poor writing from an unknown house can become a best seller. This is a wonderful option for me right now. Next book, who knows?

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  21. Two years ago, before Nosy Crow www.nosycrow.com had any apps or books on the market, I heard their MD, Kate Wilson, speak at the London Digital Conference. Prior to setting up this new publishing house, she had 25 years experience in Scholastic and Macmilllan children's books. I would immediately have sent her a ms if I had something suitable - she had the background knowledge, contacts and desire to develop a reputation for only creating excellent products. Though editors have made all my books far better than I could have produced on my own, Kate's industry experience and talk alone (with 'Three Little Pigs' app trailer) made me believe that she understood the importance and mechanisms of marketing, and I would not have researched her staff prior to making a submission ...though I agree, that doing so may always be a wise plan of action.

    In 2011 Nosy Crow published 23 books and now have 14 staff. In the US they currently partner with Candlewick, and Allen and Unwin in Australia.

    Looking forward to meeting you in Sydney.

    Best wishes to all

    Peter Taylor

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  22. I think Jill raises a good point. It's not always how good your editor is, its how good your marketing plan is. Reputable publishing houses have experience, contacts and money that these start up businesses can only dream of.
    There will always be great stories out there that don't get a chance to shine because other books have wealthy backers and better marketing. But that's just business.
    I think at the end of the day a self-published author with a little business sense could potentially earn more that one who sells their dream short and relies solely on a start-up publishing house. But that's just my opinion. :)
    Cheers!
    S.B. Rodgers

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  23. I've been perusing that Namelos webpage. They look really good! I've put one of their books on hold at my local library so they got distribution at least.

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  24. I would consider a start-up publisher. With another full time career, it's daunting to think of organizing coding, editing, graphics, marketing, etc. all myself. I'd provide out of pocket any services (like copy editing) that they didn't provide.

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  25. A critique partner of mine sent our group a link to a start-up publisher, and when I checked out the website it became clear that the house had been started by a woman (with a background in business and marketing, not publishing) who had been unable to find a traditional publisher for her work. Most of the start-up's books were her own books, and she seemed to be the editor on staff. Additionally, they had books in one or two independent bookstores, and nowhere else.

    I put them on my "no" list. If a publisher doesn't have an experienced editor on staff, and doesn't seem to be doing much to market their books, why would I want to work with them?

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  26. I appreciate that Jill brought this topic up, and in such a thoughtful manner. The comments also discuss some excellent points, so I'd like to add a few of my own.

    I suppose one of the first questions a writer should ask when going with an e-pub startup is: Will they produce my book better and more effectively than I could on my own? Some have mentioned covers, which can be an immediate indicator of the quality of their work. If the cover looks terrible, what else are they going to offer that would offset the lost sales? Readers still consider a book cover before purchasing a work, even an e-book. With 50 Shades of Grey, the cover is basic but functional, and nothing that would scream AMATEUR! In that case, the author probably made a wise choice considering the books' bestselling status. Could she have done the same on her own? Perhaps. But it is something to consider.

    One thing I strongly advise is to look over any contract from a start-up publisher with a nitpicking comb. (Well, any publisher at all, really.) I've seen some ghastly examples from writers who've asked for my opinion on what they were about to sign. Even some smaller, well-established and respected regional publishers have contracts that make my eyes bleed. The worst example is one I saw that had a clause retaining the right to publish any or all of the author's future books for 21 YEARS. The details in those clauses were even more horrific, but this is a publisher that has wide niche distribution.

    So authors, alwaysalwaysalways make sure you understand what you're signing BEFORE you sign it. And consider the cost-benefit analysis. It's not just the monetary cost that you have to evaluate; how much work and stress, and possibly even damage control will you have to do?

    All that said, I've worked for some wonderful small publishers who did excellent work, one of which sadly folded after a good half dozen years when the economy tanked. They did great work, but publishing can be a very tough business. Working with a newer publisher can be a wonderful thing. Every successful publisher had to start somewhere. But it is essential for writers to evaluate the benefits and risks when it comes to publication of their work. There is no easy answer, so research as much as you can and then trust your gut. To borrow a worn phrase: no one ever said this would be easy, but it might well be worth it all in the end.

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