Monday, January 30, 2012

Pursuing Creativity in 2012 – My New Year’s resolution

Well friends, it is 2012 – the year that I am claiming as “The Year of Creativity”.  My prayer is that it will also be “The Year of Productivity”, and you will find that I have a very good reason for wanting this.  But I will get to that later.

For right now, let’s discuss “creativity”.  In the dictionary, creativity is defined as the ability to use the imagination to develop new and original ideas or things, especially in an artistic context; it is, in essence, the quality of being creative.  As writers, we are constantly creating… even when it appears to others that we are doing nothing at all.  This is because, to those who are creative at heart, our minds simply cannot STOP creating.

It’s true!  How many of you writers out there have decided you were going to read a book simply for the pleasure of it, and catch yourself comparing character traits and notarizing world building techniques by the middle of the third or fourth chapter?  How about those of you who glance out the window simply to see the landscape and find yourself contemplating the purpose of your characters’ journeys, or perhaps you start worrying over landmarks for your map, or you see a bird or a bug of some kind and get an awesome new idea for a unique creature?  Maybe you turn on the television to watch the news and begin to ponder the political standing of your characters, the government of their cities, or the religions of their world.  Do you ever sit in a church service taking notes for allegorical themes and hidden messages to incorporate into your story from your pastor’s sermon?

I have done all of those things and let me tell you – sometimes I get seriously exhausted from the fact that my mind quite simply refuses to SHUT UP.  I don’t MEAN to think about those things at those times… I simply can’t help it.  I have no control over the matter… it just happens.

But for the last couple years I’ve been seriously struggling with getting these thoughts onto paper – or perhaps better worded, into the computer.  I LOVE to write, but of all the activities that I find myself doing, writing is the one creative outlet it seems that I neglect.  It used to be that I would sneak away any chance I got to sit down and flesh out a scene for my book… but for the longest time now, I’ve had no will – no inspiration – to do such things.

Hopefully for no longer. 

My “sabbatical” from writing has lasted almost two years now against my will.  It has been a struggle to get the words out right, and then I grow weary of trying… so I stop, saying that I will pick it up again when I am more up to the challenge.  But I have come to realize that this will never happen unless I make myself up for it, and I berate myself for stopping at all.  Without pushing forward, of course I will always be stunted by that one obstacle that stands in my way; without persevering, of course I will be overcome by a problem that might have otherwise been easy to solve.

So this is my year of creativity.  This is the year that I take back the inspiration and perseverance that was always mine before.

And with that in mind, this is also the year that I claim as “The Year of Productivity”.  Not only am I going to work to get SOTD out of this rut that it’s been stuck in for so long, but I have some other exciting news as well… ^_^

MAGPIE ECLECTIC PRESS is almost ready to start accepting submissions! :D

(You may have noted the name change… and there’s good reason for it that I won’t go into right now. ;D)

That’s right, people!  Though I may have been neglecting my writing life, I have not neglected my research.  It has been six months to the day that I posted that Blog Post about wanted to start a publishing company.  But as I mentioned in that post, the idea has been simmering in my heart for several years, and I had been researching the subject long before I decided to share about it for the first time.    I thought back in August that to get the company set up correctly would take several years – and I don’t think I was wrong, but I also don’t think I was looking at the full picture.  Because, you see, I had already done lots of research beforehand, and since August, I’ve done even more. 

The other day I was able to get the site together and ready to launch.  I found a few typos afterward that needed to be corrected, but they are due to the fact that I typed up most of what is said on the site in a Word Document, and for some reason the site builder that I’m using doesn’t accept “smart quotes” and “smart apostrophes”… therefore leaving many of my contractions without an apostrophe at all.  :P  I was able to get those corrected.  There are a few other details I’m still working to get cleared up before I can start accepting submissions, but I’m confident that Magpie Eclectic will open its doors sometime within the next few months. 

Of course, this is an extremely exciting time for me.  As many of you know (simply because I’ve said it before… over and over again…) I’ve never tried anything like this before.  But I’m not backing down… not even a little.  I’ve been studying this industry since I was 17, and ok, that means it’s only been almost 8 years (much less that some people out there), but that’s still a whole 8 years dedicated to learning the business of writing and publishing.  Plus I’m earning a degree in English, was previously a writing tutor, and have done editing jobs on the side… not to mention the fact that I did once teach a creative writing class for young adults.  I’ve even had a few things published (well… mostly in the college literary journal, but still), and was afterward made a part of the same literary journal’s production team. 

I know this makes me sound like I’m bragging, but I’m not trying to.  Really.  Actually, if anything, I’m telling this to you simply to help convince myself that I can handle this.   Or at least I hope I can. <_<

So keep your eyes open for more news on the opening of Magpie Eclectic Press.  If you are interested in visiting the site, here’s the link, but we aren’t open for submissions just yet:

And on that same note, I hope that some of you will also claim this year as THE year for creativity and productivity.  I totally believe it is.  By God’s grace I will be able to move forward, no longer stuck in 2011… this is 2012!

Nichole White


Galadriel said...

That sounds very productive--much more so than me sitting around and trying to avoid my homework story. But at least I have two others to critique. Yeah!

Gillian Adams said...

Congratulations! I look forward to hearing more about Magpie Eclectic Press in the future! :)

Philip Nelson said...

I checked out your Magpie Publication pages, and as a potential customer, I have a question:

I can already self-publish via ebooks (Amazon, etc.) and print-on-demand (Createspace), and get all the royalties those services offer. What do you offer that's worth my giving up some of those royalties?

Star-Dreamer said...

Philip, that's a good question. :)But I do have an answer. I mean, I knew that such questions would come up at some point in time, especially because of the rise of e-publishing and POD services like createspace.

My answer is that Magpie is a traditional house.

Ok, so that might not sound so wonderful upon first glance, but consider this: if you went into the business alone, how long would it take you to do the necessary research that is required to go about getting the job done correctly? How much money would be involved upfront? What legal issues might you run into? How about distribution? Who else out there would be pushing your product, and where would they be?

Magpie Eclectic provides for the book production process and we work to help promote our authors. the production cost is completely on our shoulders. We make sure that you (as our author) have professional grade cover-art, type setting, and editing. We cover the cost of ISBN numbers, Barcodes, and distribution. On top of that, I can guarantee that production cost of a professional product through Magpie will cost much less than what it would be if you undertook the publishing process alone - unless you felt confident enough to take on all aspects of production and publishing completely by yourself (and trust me when I say that the publishing and production process is much more involved than simply uploading a book to amazon or createspace.) Alone, an author might easily spend over $1000 to get a book produced on a professional level (no joke: I crunched the numbers.) With Magpie, production cost will usually level out at half that, maybe even less. Also, we pay the editor, the typesetter, the artist, the printer, and the service provider... not you. Cost of the initial production may be withheld from author payment until you reach the break-even point, but even after you start getting payed, we are wrapping up the financial loose ends.

We also encourage our authors to be part of the production team. We know how much it means to an author to have their book look the way they want it to, and we totally respect that.

So, first we make sure that you have a professional grade product, and then we step out even further.

When an author goes the publishing rout alone, it is usually them against the world. Sure, you may have one or two supporters, you may even have quite a following, but you can't count on them 100% to vouch for and push for your product. However, you can definitely count on us. We ask that the author work hard to market their product, but they should understand that we will be working just as hard as they are. If we believe in a book, we will support it with everything we have. That means that we will be looking into distribution options that a self-pubbed author probably won't have... for instance, right now, we are looking into Ingram and other distribution options that may be able to take an author's book world wide. We will also be pushing books into the schools, in libraries, on the news, in papers, in bookstores (the physical versions).

Star-Dreamer said...

Also, as a traditional publisher, it's likely that such establishments will be more accepting to our product, than if the product was being promoted by the author. No offense meant to those who have published their own books and have worked to promote them, but I've actually interviewed bookstore owners in my area, and they all say pretty much the same thing: the self-pubbed - or "local" - authors are put on a small shelf to the side. Those who have a company name behind them, usually get put on the shelves according to their genres, and can even be put in multiple areas of the store - places that the self-published books would never be put. Sorry, but it's the truth.

An author should also consider that they can't be omniscient. It's true that online marketing is like the miracle of the publishing world today, but I know for a fact that physical contact with the costumer will usually take a product farther than the internet will. Even as the publishing model is leaning more and more towards e-books, there are still thousands and thousands of people out there who prefer a physical copy of the book to a kindle. Our company wants to work to push all of the marketing possibilities available to us. You know how hard you will be working to promote your work, so know that we will be working to the same extent that you are only in a completely different area of the world - basically, your marketing strategies can be applied in two (and, perhaps in the future, maybe three, or even four) different places at the same time, plus online marketing, therefore getting your product out to the world much faster than if you were only marketing it yourself.

Star-Dreamer said...

Also, if trouble comes up involving your book, we are legally responsible. (of course, this does not include incorrect citing which is, in essence, the author's responsibility long before they seek a publisher.) The lion's share of legal responsibilities that might crop up around your book will fall on our heads, and will not weigh as heavily on you. This means that if for some reason your book is taken to court because of copyright issues (which, God willing, will never happen, but one can't be too careful), it would be our company that would take the brunt of the assault.

I know that in today's world there are many out there who would vouch for self-publishing. Honestly, I can also see the value in it. I know that it cuts out the middle man and that it gives the author more of a cut in royalties...

I have considered this... but I have also done my research; 8 years worth, and counting. Call me "the middle man", if you want, but I know that any book Magpie decides to publish is a book that I will end up pouring my heart into, and I don't give up my heart lightly. I will believe in the books published through Magpie like no hired marketer, hired lawyer, or hired editor will. And I don't say that off hand. Magpie was created because there truly are not ENOUGH people out there who want to give their entire life and beings to the creation and production of this product. Some people only wish to write it, while others only wish for the money that comes with being hired for production. I am not one of those who only wishes for money, but I truly am one of the people who is not only willing to pour myself - body, mind, and soul - into this business, but determined to, and absolutely set on getting the job done right. I feel that this is God's purpose for me... I KNOW it is. And I won't back down.

And that is what you can be sure that the authors of Magpie Eclectic Press are going to get. It's something that no self published author can be guaranteed on their own. Magpie is a small press, but by God's grace, we'll grow. And when that happens, Praise God, the world might finally start to take notice of Christian Speculative fiction and the people and presses that support it so whole-heartily!!!

I hope that answers your question, Phillip. ^_^ Thanks for asking, really. It was the perfect opportunity to explain my purpose for creating Magpie. Just know that I don't say things that I don't believe in and can't back up.

Nichole White

Star-Dreamer said...

I just realized something that might have sounded funny:

"Also, we pay the editor, the typesetter, the artist, the printer, and the service provider... not you."

Of course, we DO pay our authors. But you don't have to pay the editor, the typesetter, etc, etc...

Sorry if that read in a completely different manner. *head-desk*

Philip Nelson said...

Dang, you never quite gave the answer I was hoping you would. :)

On what you did say, I can produce an ebook or Createspace book, with no middleman. I've already done an Amazon ebook, handcoding the HTML and XML to my satisfaction (and it was fun, too!). My dad just finished an ebook, and did Createspace too (and I'm very impressed with the result; I just saw the proof tonight.) The expertise to do those things well is not beyond me.

- Artwork I'm paying flat-rate for.
- Editing I can get flat-rate.
- Advertising is not something I want to spend much time on. I just want to publish my ebook and tell folks I meet about it as I think good, on a personal/individual basis. Ebooks are available for sale indefinitely, and if word of mouth reaches a critical mass, my book could go viral. I'm willing to wait years for that; I don't expect instant buzz/success/etc.
- Amazon is the market. That is, the 80/20 rule applies. I'll spend 20% of my time getting to the 80% of the market Amazon represents. I'll spend the other 80% of my time (or money) getting to the other 20%. That's not worth it to me. Brick and mortar space is too transient.
- Legal stuff I'm not concerned about: that's a low risk (and signing over some of my royalties, however little they might be, sounds like guaranteed legal entanglement).

But what was I hoping you'd say? My best answer is a story. My dad and I collect juvenile series books, and when I was a kid, we met a fellow in Florida who to me was Mr. Cool Series Book Collector. He was a private detective (inspired by the Hardy Boys), and he had the most amazing books for sale. I can't describe just how cool the rows and rows of rare books for sale in his office were. :)

But on one of our visits, the detective showed us something, and said," if you ever see these books, get them." What he showed us was an old publisher's mark: the Penn Publishing Company's, to be specific (ornate back-to-back Ps). Ever after that, whenever we'd go to an old bookstore and see that mark, we'd try to buy the book: regardless of genre, author, or title, because it was almost certainly a Good Book.

I'm rather expecting that for your company. :)

Star-Dreamer said...

Oh Phillip!! :D Thank you! That's what I'm hoping for from my company as well. My passion is in stories - well told stories, and the process of creating and presenting them - and I won't put out anything less than what I consider the very best. I know what you mean about seeing a mark and knowing it's a good read. I have many favorites like that... whether I get the book because of a publishing mark, or I get the book because of the author's name and reputation. And I want my company to grow a reputation like that as well. ^_^

I guess I just wasn't sure what you were asking for. lol! I mean, I know that there will be people looking at only the numbers (which I know is a big deal) and I feel like I should be ready for them too. Of course, I don't want to publish anyone who is more concerned about the numbers than their story, but I want to make sure that the message is out there for the right people to see. :) You know?

I can't stress enough how much I love the written word. It has been my passion for so long that I literally can't remember a time when I wasn't writing (or trying to, at least.) The true goal for Magpie Eclectic is ultimately to help good writers become BETTER writers and then help those writers shine... to help make their stories shine. It's more of a mission than a business, if you get my meaning. :) I have to think through all the numbers first (unfortunately), but just like my heart and passion is given to the written word, so will my life. I don't know... I just can't stress that enough. Talking about all of this raises a longing and passion in me so strong it makes me tear up, and as my grandma always says, if you love a passion so much that it makes you cry, then you know it's what you're called to do. ^_^

Thank you Phillip for your comments! I really liked that story you told as well. That's something to remember and cherish forever and always. :D


Philip Nelson said...

I've been thinking about what it would take for me to seriously consider paying an ebook/POD publisher via royalties. Here's what I've come up with so far:

- No up-front fees. The publisher would take care of editing, artwork, layout, formatting, ISBN, distribution, etc. all covered by my giving up some royalties. (I haven't really thought about how much yet.)
- I wouldn't want to be ashamed of the publisher. For instance, I've seen too many Christian authors I like give in to being secular, ostensibly in order to "reach" people, and by secular I mean putting things I really don't like into stories, i.e., profanity (and not the tame British kind, either).
- I wouldn't want to lose control over my stories, their pricing, or their presentation (via formatting/artwork/etc.), and I'd want the results to be quality.
- I wouldn't want to be expected to travel to do book-signings/conventions/etc.
- I wouldn't want to get legally stuck, say if the publisher were bought out.
- I wouldn't want to give up the freedom to fix textual things later. One of the advantages of ebooks is that if you find an error, you can always update it.
- I'd want the publisher to have a good name.

Star-Dreamer said...

*Nods* Exactly. And I can honestly say that that's the idea behind Magpie. While I've always liked the idea of the big publishing houses, I'm well aware of how they deal with things. One of the benefits of being part of a small press is (and this is truly my hope for magpie) that the authors and those working to publish them become sort of like a close-nit writing family.

1) Magpie does not charge any upfront fees... ever. We take care of everything you mentioned above out of our own pocket. These costs for production will be set against the author's royalty, but upon reaching break-even, the author starts getting paid. That's pretty standard in the business. :)

2) Magpie is willing to publish some titles that are deemed more "secular", but NOTHING vulgar, and nothing that goes AGAINST a christian world view. As mentioned on the website, we will still uphold a strong moral standard to maintain ourselves as an upright example to writers and readers of all ages. So while we accept titles and stories that aren't strictly labled as "Christian", we still will not accept anything with profanity, and nothing super riske... I mean, simple kisses are fine, but... well, I doubt I need to say much more.

3) Prices are discussed by the publisher and the author and decided on in a joint effort. The same goes for presentation. The goal of the author working together with the publisher is to make sure that both parties are satisfied with the final project, which will be quality. (I can promise for Magpie that I will let nothing go into circuit that is not quality. I haven't been studying industry standards for 8 years for nothing! ;D) We definitely want to hear what the author thinks will work, and because this is a publishing house run by a writer, I know for sure that writers who are intent on being published are usually serious about their craft. This means that I don't doubt that the writer has done some research of their own on the subject.

Also, as a small press, we retain the right to publish your material in the formats agreed upon in the author contract. Terms of the contract will be thoroughly discussed to make sure that both parties are satisfied before anything is signed into agreement. And let me now make it clear that the stories our authors send us remains the authors property without exception; however, as a publisher, we will retain the right to printing and distributing. If it is ever agreed that the contract should be terminated - whether instigated by the author or by the publisher - the contract will be voided within a default 6 months (or agreed upon time span) of both publisher and author having signed a written termination agreement.

The reason contract termination is handled this way is to make sure that we, as the publisher, can try to sell out any of the author's books that we still have in stock (in stock, here, meaning placed in bookstores, on amazon, etc... we would have to get all of that cleared out and taken down so that the author would be free and clear to present their story to the world at a different time under their own name or a new company name.)

6 months after the termination agreement is signed, all rights automatically revert back to the author... period. :) And we will renounce all claims to that story's publishing rights or distribution rights. The story is and always will be the authors. End of story.
It is the author's choice to publish with us, and our honored privilege. We don't want to impose on that privilege. :D

Star-Dreamer said...

4) Authors wouldn't have to travel to do book signings unless they wished to. For our part of marketing, we will be setting up our own agendas for traveling and spreading the word about the book, but our authors might have a different marketing model in mind that they would rather try. Of course, if the author wishes to travel, that is totally up to them. And I will say that it's encouraged, because the more people who know about the book, the more likely it will be to sell... but traveling is not and never will be mandatory.

Magpie will also work with the author to set up blog tours, author chats, etc... in joint effort with the company, and the author can go about setting up such events for themselves as well, if they so wish.

5) If the publisher were to be bought out, Magpie's authors would be given the option to stay signed on under Magpie, or else to take back their rights. Authors wishing to stay on will be offered a new contract that will need to be agreed upon and signed in order for Magpie to continue publishing those authors' stories. Authors wishing to take back all publishing rights will be offered a termination contract which will need to be agreed upon and signed. The termination contract will hold to the same standard as mentioned above (original contract voided within a default 6 months under the terms of the termination contract.)

Our goal is not to restrict authors but to help them grow. Because of this, we will not hinder our authors if they wish to take their stories elsewhere. However, we will most definitely try to give them everything we can offer to the best of our abilities, so that the author's decision to move is (hopefully) not because of bad service on our part.

Star-Dreamer said...

6)Authors will always, always, ALWAYS retain the right to fix textural things later on. As a reader, I know that sometimes typos slip through the editing process, and sometimes an author says one thing but it reads a different way. As a writer myself, I strongly believe that authors should be able to fix these problems if they want to and have the revised versions available to their readers, if the readers wish for them.

As far as revisions go (and I'm talking big revisions here... like a whole extra chapter that wasn't in the story before, etc...) there will probably have to be some small modifications made the authors original contract in order for us, the publisher, to be able to actually print and publish the text, but it will be nothing that goes against the contractual agreement that the author signed and agreed upon before, and it will not take away any of the author's rights... all it would do is give us the right to publish, print, and distribute the new bit of text with the rest of the book. :D

7) And as for a good name... well, I would hope that you think that's what Magpie Eclectic Press has. :)

Though perhaps that's not what you meant. ;) As far as reputation goes, my aim is to grow this company into a publisher who is noted for it's stories and it's quality product, all from a christian world view. I want Magpie to be a company whose name people know they can trust... really trust... much like MLP, or Tyndale. I want it to be that when people see a book with our logo on the spine, they will no that not only will the book be quality, but so will the story. And, books through us will be rated so that parents who perhaps are worried about letting their children read a book which might have (perhaps) a little more graphic violence in them (such as battle scenes, etc...) the parents will know what to expect from the story's content.

So, does all of that answer your questions? Basically the answers that I gave you were already thought out before hand. :) I have a solid goal and image in my mind for what this company is and what it needs to be, and I'm not going to back down from my standards. If anything, that's one aspect I totally respect and admire from MLP... they don't let their standards fall. Neither will Magpie. ^_^

Nichole White

Philip Nelson said...

It's much clearer now, thanks. :)

I keep coming back to this:

"Magpie does not charge any upfront fees... ever. We take care of everything you mentioned above out of our own pocket. These costs for production will be set against the author's royalty, but upon reaching break-even, the author starts getting paid. That's pretty standard in the business. :)"

After break-even, is the author paid all the royalties, or just some? If some, how much?

Some thoughts on this:

- I was figuring the publisher would get a cut in perpetuity, but if not, that's like flat-rate, which makes the publisher a lot more attractive.
- The laborer is worthy of his hire; I would expect the publisher to get significantly more than break-even.
- The big difference between this and traditional publishing, of course, is that there's no massive print run to soak up resources and create huge risk. Because ebooks/POD are virtually forever, costing few to no resources to maintain, the publisher getting a cut of royalties virtually forever (say, twenty years?) seems like a high cost for the up-front work.

This is perhaps the crux of the matter for making an ebook/POD publisher viable (attractive to authors who would otherwise self-publish and successful for the publisher).

Star-Dreamer said...

Ok, so this is how it goes. ^_^

After the break even point, the author starts getting paid 40% of net profit. The net profit is the profit made after printing costs and service provider fees. Service provider fees are 40% of profit made after printing costs... so basically, the net profit is what is left after the printing cost is taken care of and after the service provider takes out their cut. Then the net profit is split so that the author gets their royalties, which is 40%.

This percentage rate is perpetual as long as the contract is maintained between the author and the publisher. Generally, the contract will hold the author to the publisher for two years (standard time in the publishing business), after which the contract will continue to be maintained until the author and/or the publisher decide on and agree to contract termination. The reason the system is set up to hold the author to the publisher like that for two years, is because it wouldn't be very fair if an author gets accepted by the publisher and the publisher produces the book, only to have the author terminate the contract as soon as the book is produced to sell the product themselves. Now, if the contract were breached by the publisher (or, perhaps the author, in some cases) that would be a different story in which the contract could be legally terminated before the allotted time is up, but that's something that I hope never has to happen with Magpie Eclectic.

So, as mentioned above, the publisher would get more than break-even from the book. Net profit is split 60%-40%, and that percentage split will be maintained until the contract is either voided or terminated. Of course, 40% author royalties is much, MUCH more than what many other houses offer their writers. :)

So then, as mentioned above (again. LOL! I'm answering all of these one point at a time, so I may be repeating a few things...) The publisher gets a cut of royalties until the contract is voided or terminated. HOWEVER, an author should remember that as a publisher, we will be working for our cut. We produce the book, yes, and that's the upfront cost, but even after the two years of contract time is up, we will continue to work for our authors' books as long as the author/publisher contract is maintained.

It's not that the publisher only works on production and then expects to be continually paid... it's that the publisher will CONTINUALLY AND CONSTANTLY be working to market the book for as long as the contract is maintained between us and the writer. So you see, we WILL be working for you and your books... and we will be getting paid for our work that way.

Think of it this way. It would be as if an author decided to self publish, and then hired a publicist to help them in marketing. As a publisher, we are multi-tasking. We produce, publish, and publicize... and at the same time we continue to handle the troublesome truths of dishing out the cuts to printers and service-providers, and so on and so forth.

So in essence, the publisher does continue to get paid until the contract is terminated, because the publisher is continually working (and working HARD) for the author.

^_^ Make sense?

Oh, and I should add, this goes for e-books as well as Physical copies (whether through POD or retail). E-books will, of course, sell for less that physical copies, (I think anywhere from $2.99 to $5.00 is standard for e-books on amazon, where as a physical copy might sell anywhere from $12.00 to $20.00 depending on dimensions and where the book is to be sold...) but that won't mean that the publisher isn't working just as hard to sell the e-books as they will be to sell the physical copies.

One way or another, the publisher will be working for their money. As you said, the laborer is worthy of his hire... and it's our job, as the laborer, to maintain our worthiness and work for our pay. :D

Philip Nelson said...

Very interesting: thanks for taking the time to explain! I wish you well in your endeavor. :)

Star-Dreamer said...

Thank you for asking questions and being interested. :) I'm more than happy to explain things... in fact, I quite enjoy it. lol! And you had some really good points and questions. I'm glad my explanations helped, and I wish you well in your writing and publishing endeavors as well. Happy Writing! ^_^

Nichole White