Hello friends. :)
I have been working like crazy on a bunch of different things - partially to do with writing and reading the wonderful worlds that are found in books, partially to do with school, partially pertaining to the very intriguing and intricate world of publishing, partially to do with finding a job, and partially based on the delicate intricacies of commission work.
But, in all of my doings, I have finally managed to finish writing up the interview on Magpie Eclectic Press that is for the League of Extraordinary Scribes, a group of young writers that I am a part of on Facebook. The interview questions were posed to me by a bunch of different members of the group, and were very interesting and thought provoking. Several of them took quite a long time to answer.
I thought perhaps I would post the interview here for anyone who wishes to learn more about me and Magpie Eclectic Press, the publishing company that I am launching.
1) How did you get interested in writing? Was it different than how you got interested in publishing?
Writing has interested me from the very beginning… and when I say beginning, I mean before I even knew how to write. You know how preschoolers go around drawing random lines on paper, many of which resemble monstrous-looking “E”s, which they then go around calling words and acting proud of? Well, I was that toddler – on steroids. Lol!
Seriously. As soon as I figured out what the black squiggles actually meant, I was trying to turn them into stories and poetry. I started writing poetry when I was 8, short stories when I was 12, songs at 14, and finally decided to tackle a full length novel just two weeks before my 16th birthday. The rough draft of my first novel took me a year to write, and the writing was absolutely atrocious, but I knew then that writing would remain part of me for as long as I drew breath. I honestly feel like it’s what God called me to do – to write and to encourage and support other writers.
However, I do remember the year that I first became interested in the publishing industry. I was only 14 and hadn’t actually started writing in the speculative genre yet. (It was, however, the year that I discovered The Lord of the Rings.) By that time, I had quite a few poems stacked up in notebooks spread across my room, and in documents all over my old 95 computer. My mom had suggested I categorize the poems and self publish them to give to friends and family. While I did get most of the poems gathered and typed into a single document (which has since grown, the more I write poetry), I was never actually brave enough to step out and actually publish them. However, I did some minor research on the subject and became intrigued – not enough at that time to take the idea any farther, but something had been sparked in me and I knew then that I wanted to eventually work in publishing. It was sort of a half conscious decision… especially considering I was only 14. Yet it was definitely there, and it remained until my interest really picked up at the age of 16 and 17.
2) What unique qualifications do you have to manage a small press?
Qualifications are what you make of them. I will openly admit that I’ve never really worked at a publishing house, nor have I interned at one, but as many people in today’s society know, such is hardly considered “qualification” anymore.
However, I do have a very strong passion for the written word, as well as a solid knowledge of the English language and how it works. I am currently majoring in English, working towards my associate’s degree, and then my bachelor’s, etc, etc… . In the past I have been on the editorial team for my college’s literary journal, have worked as a writing councilor, have taught a creative writing class to junior high and high school students, was a journalist for a local newspaper, and have had some of my poetry and short stories published in small anthologies. I have also done some manuscript editing on the side for other writers.
I am a third generation daughter born to a family of artists, so my sense of cover art, cover design, and interior design (etc…) is fairly strong, as are some of my connections within the world of visual art (thereby making it easier for me to justly judge a book “by its cover” and/or its layout and design.) I have also recently done commissions for other fantasy authors, including several illustrations for a new book being written by Jill Williamson, a map for the book “Offspring” written by Scott Appleton which is now published through AMG, a commission – and some fan art pieces – for the author Wayne Thomas Batson, and currently I am working on a map for Jill Williamson’s new book which will be published by Marcher Lord Press in the fall of 2012. I have also done cover art for an author currently residing in Liberia, and I’m working on a 12 piece chapter heading commission for another author here in the states.
I have been seriously – almost doggedly – studying the publishing industry and its inner-works for about 8 years now and have a strong business sense about the industry and what it involves. In about the last 4 years I've been slowly working to build a strong online presence, and I believe it’s paid off. I have been blogging for almost two years now several times a week and have a following of about 83… a number that I am both staggered and all too humbled to watch grow a little every month. I am an avid book reviewer and belong to several “blogging for books” programs through different publishers, and I make it my business to remain acutely aware of both the titles on the shelves of the physical bookstores, and the titles listed on Amazon.com within the genre’s that I follow (ie. Speculative fiction… especially Christian Spec-fic). To that end, I also make it my business to follow closely the relative sales of those books, their authors, and their publishers whether or not the book was published traditionally. I know what is selling well now, what sold well a few years ago, and I’m pretty good at guessing what the next trend will be… at least within the speculative genre.
So as you might guess, I’m pretty confident that I’m qualified for the job. ;)
3) How does Magpie Eclectic Press differ from other small presses?
This is an interesting question to me. How do I differ from other presses? Hmmm…
Well, for one thing, we’re starting out small but planning to grow. The plan is to only publish one book at a time… at least for a while; one book every six months, or maybe 1 per year. This means that our undivided attention will go towards that particular book in order to make it as marketable as possible. Also, we plan to sell books online, but we are also going to work to get our books into physical book stores. This may take some time, I’ll admit, but it’s a goal that we’re definitely working towards. In the meantime though, a lot of our marketing will be done online, and it’s our hope that we can work with our authors to cover as much of a base as possible. This will mean setting up blog-tours and giveaways and working with pre-readers to help spread the word around. I predict that most of the successful marketing done through Magpie Eclectic Press will be through online means.
On another level, it’s my plan that Magpie is to be a very personable press. We want to make friends with our authors, and not just in a business sense. My hope is that this company will become like a family, with the authors and publishers working together on a mutual level of respect and kinship. Like with any family, I expect there will be some disagreements, but hopefully those can be worked out in a timely and acceptable fashion. :)
Also, we are looking for works in the speculative genres. Now, we all know that there are other presses out there looking for similar works in the same genres, but one major difference between presses like MLP and FPP, and Magpie, is that Magpie is also willing to look at Middle Grade fiction; books that would appeal to fans of Artemis Fowl, The chronicles of Narnia, and Bran Hambric. Books that might interest those who love Rick Riordine’s Olympian series, and that might draw in fans of Redwall.
Now, I’ll admit that there’s a fine line between what might count as YA and what is considered to be Middle Grade fiction. Many of those who enjoy the YA genres have also enjoyed middle grade fiction, perhaps even thinking that the stories they were reading were YA. So in order to break it down, we are willing to look at novels that would interest kids from… well, from about 10-12 all the way up to 100! That’s part of what sets us apart from the other small presses out there. ^_^
4) What are the benefits of partnering with a small press like Magpie Eclectic Press instead of writer publishing their work on their own or going through a larger house?
Oh… this is going to be a long answer. Lol!
Probably the first benefit of partnering with a small press over a larger press is the individual attention that an author gets. Houses like Random House and Simon & Schuster are large, and while an author may have contact with one or two representatives of the company, I’m sure they don’t really get the personal attention to detail that many authors wish they received... the “one-on-one treatment”. With smaller presses like MLP, FPP, PYP, and yes, even Magpie Eclectic, you have a much more personal approach. The publisher pays more attention to you as an author, and to your book.
Because smaller presses can afford it. I know that sounds a bit impersonal at first, but hear me out. The bigger houses are (as most people know) BIG. Huge, even. They have many, many people working for them, and they are expected to churn out lots books, and to keep churning books out month after month, year after year... lots and lots and lots of books. Which, if you think about it, seems a little ironic if you consider how tough it is for an author to get picked up by a large house like Penguin Groups or Macmillan.
Smaller presses, on the other hand, only plan to turn out a few books a year… like anywhere from 1 to 5 tops. (Sometimes they can manage one book per month, like MLP is hoping to start doing, but that, in my opinion, is a rare occasion and I commend Jeff Gerke for going for it.) On top of that, they are only expected to turn out a few books a year which, believe it or not, can make a big difference. The fewer books to worry about, the more time there is to spend paying attention to detail. The more time there is, the more an author is likely to get personal attentions. It’s logic, really.
One of the biggest benefits of going with a small press over self publishing is the fact that you’re not going it alone. You have others there who know what needs to be done and who can help you do it. Self publishing can be tricky and difficult.
True, the world of kindle and ebooks has made it easier than ever to get your manuscript available to the reading public, but trust me when I say that availability really isn’t everything. Marketability is. And not just the marketability of the book, but the author’s ability to actually market the marketability of the book.
Self publication on a professional and marketable level takes time – hours and hours of it spent researching and preparing and editing and preparing and researching and editing and preparing and… well, you get my drift. It also takes money… unless you know someone who’s willing to do the cover art and the professional editing and the layout and the typesetting for free, it’s very likely to take money. And if you plan to have physical versions of the book, it’s going to cost even more. You’ll have printing costs, the cost of ARC’s (if you are going to have physical versions), the price of ISBN numbers and copyright (which you will probably also need for the ebooks), and you may even have the price of having your book looked over by a tabloid or some other venue for high-end endorsement. (Technically you don’t need this last step, but it does help with publicity. Also, if a potential reader sees that the book has been approved by a tabloid that they trust, they might be more likely to pick it up, if only to see why the tabloid liked it.)
For those who are willing to put in the many, many hours of research and work involved, not to mention the money, Self Publication can eventually pay off. (I’m not against self publishing here; I know that it’s worked for some and I truly think that’s amazing, and I commend them. Besides, I’ve thought about it myself, on occasion, and I think for those who are self motivated and truly ready to work extremely hard for it, it’s a great endeavor to undertake. :D) However, unless you are self driven, extremely motivated, and willing to put in that work, that time, that money, it’s not recommended to try the self-pubbing rout. Even those authors out there who are successful self publishers and who continually preach the rout of self publication don’t recommend self publishing unless you are willing to commit to the research, work, and time that it involves. For Self Publishing to become a success, it needs to become a business and a life.
When an author goes with a small press, the biggest difference to note is that the author is no longer alone on their journey. They have someone there who has already done the research that needs to be done, who can help them with cover art and copyright, who knows how to edit and work with layout, who has a marketing plan already in mind – and a back up marketing plan, and a back up for the back up – who has researched the venues available and has figured out target audiences and prices, who will handle printing, payment, shipping, and other expenses on the front line, and who will help handle legal matters, should any arise (although that is definitely something to avoid if at all possible). A publisher interested in an author’s book needs to believe in that book as much as the author does, and this has its benefits too; for example, a publisher who truly believes in the value of the story and the marketability of an author’s book will work all the harder to promote that book. A publisher will usually push the book forward into as many venues as possible, will try to get as many people to see it as they can. In my opinion, it is the job of the publisher to make the book available and try to take it as far in the market as it can go (with the author’s help, of course).
Basically, when the author signs with a publisher, they are signing with a partner. The author is going to want that partner to love the book as much as they do, and to work as hard as they will. The publisher will think the same of the author. It’s a mutual agreement, and in my opinion it’s there to make it easier for the author. Plus, some marketing venues will not even look at a book unless it has a publisher’s mark on it that specifically signifies that the book went through a “house”. So an author going through a press has a better chance at getting into some of these venues… (Physical bookstores, for one. :D)
5) What are the disadvantages to a writer partnering with a small press, rather than publishing their own work?
The biggest disadvantage has to do with rights and control. Like I said above, and author who signs with a publisher is actually signing with a partner. You can’t agree to go into a partnership and expect your partner to work with you and for you, and yet insist that you get the full say of everything that goes on in the works. That’s not how it works. That might be what happens if you simply hire someone to do something for you, but this is not that instance. You cannot simply “hire” a publisher to do your work for you the exact way you want it done – unless you are going through a vanity press or some such. The contract between an author and a legit publisher dictates equal partnership, at least when it comes to printing and marketing the text of a book, so some rights are going to have to be given up, and some are going to be shared.
The most basic right that is handed to a publisher upon signing a contract is the right of printing and distribution. Most publishers also ask for electronic rights, book-club rights, and audio rights. (Magpie would not ask for audio rights at the forefront, but we might consider talking to the author about it at a later time if the book proves to be doing well in text form and the author is interested.) Small presses usually don’t venture much farther into subsidiary rights, which typically include foreign, translation, film & television, audio, dramatic, and periodical. However, some subsidiary rights, such as electronic and book-club rights are non-negotiable… which means it’s pretty much expected that the publisher will get those rights, and it’s very rare when a publisher doesn’t.
Magpie would definitely ask for electronic rights, since most of our marketing plan is targeted at the internet. These rights basically give us the right to put the manuscript into e-book format and distribute and sell the book through multiple venues over the internet. We would need those rights in order to legally take the book as far into the market as we possibly could.
However, something an author should know heading into a publishing agreement is that signing a contract that gives the publisher the rights over something usually means that the publisher calls the shots when it comes to those rights. Here at Magpie, we value the author’s input to a very high degree and we want to include the author in the publication process as much as possible, but if we own the right to something, it basically means that we have the final say in areas like cover-art, layout and design, certain marketing areas, etc, etc… We want to include you in every process of your book’s publication because you are an extremely vital part of it, but we will also be thinking about certain things like how the book can be made more marketable, what other venues would be interested in hosting or accepting the book, what readers are saying and thinking about it, and so on.
That’s probably one of the biggest things that authors worry about; the loss of their full control over the final product. If an author self publishes a book, they keep all of the rights and all of the control over that book; basically, they are the bosses. They make the rules and they are the ones who must balance out everything that has to do with their book and their business… because publishing, whether by yourself or with a press, is always a business.
Signing into a partnership with a publisher means that you, as an author, no longer have full control. You’ve given up your right to full control so that a publisher can help you get your book out there and into as many markets as possible. Instead of you working on the product alone, the publisher is the one who will be setting up designs, working with cover art, planning out marketing strategies, and paying for the production of the book. The publisher will also be splitting the money that is made from the book, AND they will have the final say on things like cover-art, layout, and design. There are many authors out there who think that this arrangement simply isn’t fair. Those authors have turned to self publishing, and some of them have done really well. I’m not going to deny that.
However, if you are an author with concerns such as these and you aren’t sure whether or not to go into self publishing or to go with a small press or a larger house, you should also take into consideration several other important factors.
First, if you sign with a publisher, then that publisher is going to be doing a LOT of work. It’s a partnership, right? Work on both sides is part of the deal. But the publisher will be doling out the initial funds and setting up printing arrangements, etc, etc… and they will need to be paid for their hard work. They are going to be investing in you, in your story, in your novel… They are taking a serious risk on you, whether you are a well-known, best-selling author, or a brand new one just breaking into the business. They are probably taking this risk because they believe in you and in your book and they know that other people will want the finished product. However, you can’t expect them to do all of this hard work for free. That’s not how it goes, or how it’s ever gone. If they believe in you, they will invest in you and work to promote you, but they will also expect something in return. This is normal. And if you think about it, you would probably expect the same if you were in their shoes.
Second, if a publisher is going to have their name on something, that something had better look professional and finished. Your book, if taken through a publisher, is going to end up representing not only your hard work, but the hard work of the publisher too. This means that the company has put their reputation on the line; they are going to want a product that looks, feels, and IS professional at any cost. The finished piece must not only represent the author and the product itself, but also the company and what the company represents and believes. This is a lot to think about, but it is very, VERY important. So when a publisher decides to go a certain way with the layout of a book, or decides to change something in the cover art that an author has already approved, you must realize that the publisher is trying to be considerate of everything that the final look and feel of the book must represent. Authors are perfectionists when it comes to their craft, and publishers are perfectionists when it comes to their business.
Now, here at Magpie we want to include the author in as much of the publication process as possible – something that the larger houses definitely don’t do – but yes, we will have the very final say on things like cover-art, and layout and design. The author will have to approve what-ever is going to be used, of course, but the final details and tweaks that are required to make the book as marketable as possible will be up to us. Anything that goes out into the world to represent this company, the work itself, and the author who worked so hard to write the book, must look as professional and finished as possible. We won’t accept anything less.
6) How did you find your contacts in the writing/publishing/artistry world? How have they helped you in your journey to create Magpie Eclectic Press?
Oh, you know… the usual ways. Lol!
Seriously, though, it required a lot of research and a lot of reading, but above all else, it really had to do with God, timing, and being friendly.
If there’s one thing I enjoy in this world, it is writing, reading, and researching the Christian Speculative genres. Sometimes I would read something that moved me, and then I would write the author and tell them how and why their article or their book touched me so… then, on occasion, we would get into a conversation through email and things would unfold from there.
I also love to blog, and to read other blogs, and I was truly surprised and humbled by the response that my little niche corner of the web received. I started my blog “The Pen and Parchment” two years ago this last April 1rst, and I blog about writing and books and… well, basically anything else that comes to mind at the time. People have told me that they enjoy reading what I have to say, and I simply can’t tell you how honored that makes me feel. Truly. I never imagined that I would have that much of an impact. So I have to thank everyone who’s read my blog in the past, or followed me. You guys truly make all the difference there.
I also keep tabs on my favorite authors, publishers, and as-of-yet unpublished writers through blogs and websites, and I’m on several writing forums. If I hear that an author (or a writer for that matter) is looking to do a tour in my state or relatively close to it, I invite them to have a signing or an author talk in my area… or to just come visit. Sometimes it doesn’t work out, but if it looks like it might work, we email back and forth to flesh out the details of the event, and I always get crazy excited. ^_^ After all, it gives me a chance to meet some of my FAVORITE authors! How would you feel if it was you? Lol! When we actually get to meet, then I get to talk to them. That’s important, because simple conversation can lead to more friendly conversations on a personal level, and those can lead to a type of professional friendship that lasts even after the author has left the area. The important thing to remember is that I honestly don’t do this sort of thing as a matter of personal gain. I truly am interested in hearing what the authors have to say, and I get giddy over meeting them! It’s exciting! But if you are friendly, and also show that you have an interest not only in their books but in writing as well, it can become more than just an author meeting his or her fan. ^_^
I’m also on several book blogging programs. Now, I’ll admit, I did join those for personal gain… lol! Book blogging programs are amazing, because they will offer you a free copy of a book if you promise to post a review for the book on your blog. The reviews don’t have to be positive… in fact, the publishers who host the different programs that I’m on, encourage their readers to post a critique that is honest and meaningful; if that means that the reader seriously thought the book was terrible and not worth picking up, then that’s what the publisher is looking for, as long as the reader is being honest.
A lot of the Christian Speculative books that I own came through several different book blogging programs. They were all free.
Now, on the business side of this, book blogging programs are a way for publishers to check out your online following and see if you are worth noting. Also, authors whose books you’ve read will probably be able to check their google stats and see that you wrote a report on their book (or you can just send them a quick, friendly note. :D). If you are faithful with your reports and are sure to turn in reviews on time, publishers will be happier with whatever result you’ve turned out because they will take note of the fact that you are prompt and reliable. Authors will notice this too. Authors who think your review will be helpful to their potential reading base will likely post a link back to the review on your blog. That will help drive traffic to your site. And, authors and publishers who find your reviews to be helpful to their audience and who notice more and more people coming to your site to read what you have to say, will be likely to tag you as a reliable publicity outlet for future projects. I know this is true, because I’ve seen it work several times over for me and for several other up-and-coming writers that I know. ^_^
7) Is there a genre or type of fiction that Magpie Eclectic Press will not consider publishing?
Yes. Here at Magpie, we are looking for speculative fiction. This means we are looking for the weird stuff… the science fiction and the fantasy and the supernatural thrillers; the dystopian, the urban legends, and the epic quests… maybe even some paranormal romances (maybe). We like the stuff with magic, with sword fights, with spacecrafts flying in… in short, we definitely like the stuff that isn’t considered “normal”. We like to think “outside of the box”. There are TONS of speculative sub-genres out there, so for right now, here’s a link to a wonderful description of the main sub-genres we are looking to publish:
(If you are not sure if your book falls into one of those genres, but you still think it is speculative fiction, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll try to answer your questions there.)
What we are NOT looking for are prairie romances or children’s books (for ages like 9 and under) or picture books. We are Christian, here at Magpie, so while we plan to consider some manuscripts that aren’t strictly “Christian”, we will not accept anything that goes against our beliefs. (And like I said above, if you have questions, you can contact us for more info. :D)
8) Is there a specific age group that Magpie Eclectic Press is targeting with its publications?
Yes. We are specifically looking for books that will target both YA and adult readers. We are also interested in looking into what might be considered “middle grade” fiction (consider the Olympian series, Bran Hambric, or Artemis Fowl… or, if you will, The door Within Trilogy, the Berinfell Prophesies, or “Isle of Swords”). We are not, however, looking for children’s books or picture books.
9) How many editors are there at Magpie Eclectic Press?
As it is and since this press is just starting out, I am the initial editor here at Magpie Eclectic Press, but I’m also hiring out to freelance editors who have proven their worth to me and whom I trust. Currently I have three other editors that I am in contact with. When I have finished going through a manuscript for any faults that I might catch, the manuscript will then be sent to at least one if not several of these editors for another scouring. The goal is, of course, to end up with a manuscript that is as free of errors (both plot-wise and grammatically) as possible.
Someday it is my hope that this company will grown and gain editors who work specifically for this press. That would be wonderful! I can see the company getting there someday, but right now I’m focusing on being realistic and putting out the best product that I possibly can. :)
10) How important is cover-art to Magpie Eclectic Press?
Cover art is a BIG DEAL here at Magpie Eclectic Press. You know that age old saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover”? Well, that saying was first brought into circulation years and YEARS ago when books weren’t necessarily required to have snazzy, eye-grabbing covers… and when many of those books didn’t.
Nowadays, bad covers won’t cut it, and as the daughter and granddaughter of two artists who became known around the states for their work, I’ve seen plenty of bad cover art… enough to last me a life time, I assure you, though I’m certain I’ve yet to see the last of it.
The simple truth of the matter is that good covers sell books and bad covers don’t. It’s really that simple. I know from experience because one of the authors that I follow just recently put out a new book with a cover that really isn’t anything special at all, and though I’ve been tempted to buy the book several times, I never have because I just can’t get past that unoriginal and mundane cover. It’s also why so many self published authors have had trouble in the past selling their books (no offense to anyone out there who is self published, I hope; I’ve also seen many self-pubbed books with absolutely amazing covers, but I’m sure you understand what I mean by this.)
On the flip side, there have been times when I’ll buy a book strictly based on the fact that I really like the cover. I’ve only done this a handful of times, but you can probably see the benefit. If only ten costumers out of 1 hundred costumers who bought my book, bout it strictly because they liked the cover without any other reasoning to go on, that’s still 10% of my costumer base that actually made a purchase… and all because they liked the cover of the book, nothing more.
The point is that I know the difference, and I have a fair knowledge of what makes a book cover look good. And quite frankly, if I don’t think I can do a cover justice, then I will hire out; I won’t risk having a bad or boring cover slip through the cracks. That’s just not the way we do things here.
11) Will authors have input in how their cover art looks?
Oh, absolutely! As a writer myself, I know how important it is to authors to have a say in the final product of their book. Authors have a vision for their work and the cover of their work, and I certainly don’t want to ignore that.
The plan is for the cover to be a collaborative project. Before starting, there will have to be some pretty intense conversations about the project, and plans will have to be laid out for the work. This will probably happen over the internet via a chat-box or messenger of some sort. Maybe even over the phone, if it comes down to it. Once the details are worked out, I will save what we’ve worked to come up with and either start on the first draft of the cover image myself, or else look into an artist who can do the idea justice. The first draft (basically just initial sketches) when finished will be sent to the author to look over, and we will further discuss the project. The idea will be for the project to stay within three to five drafts, thereby making it much easier on both the artist and the author (as the more a person “nitpicks” a project like that, the less likely it is to turn out well.) After the cover image is finished, the cover will then go into the design stage, which is where we add the details such as the back-cover blurb, the authors name and bio, and the title of the story, etc, etc… The final design will be run past the author, and I will have to approve it as well before it can actually be used for the book.
12) You mentioned the author sharing in promotional work for their book. Would this come out of royalties paid to the author? If not, would you share how this cost sharing would work?
Cost sharing is simply that… the author and the publisher sharing in the cost of something – in this case, promotional venues for the author’s book. Would it come out of the author’s royalties? Meaning, would I take the author’s half of the shared promotional cost out of the author’s payment before the author even received that payment? No… I don’t think so. The cost would not come out of the authors royalties unless the author used what they had earned from their royalties already received, and that’s completely up to them.
At this particular point in time this company does not have the means to do cost sharing for the promotion of an author’s book, though hopefully we will in the future. However, the idea is this: if this publisher puts forward money towards a book’s promotion (such as a book signing, seminar, etc…) it is in an investment – a bond of trust with the author. Basically it means that I believe that the author will sell enough books to turn a profit, not just for him or herself, but for this company as well.
It’s like the story of the rich man in the bible who gave talents to three of his servants before he left on a trip. The servant who received five talents and the servant who received two talents each doubled the amount of money that their master had given them by the time he returned, and the master was very happy with them: his investment had not gone to waste, but had instead doubled.
That’s the idea. If I invest my time and money in a jointed promotion with the author, it means that I’m trusting that the author will do a little investing of his own time and money, and that the result will turn a profit for the both of us. It’s worth the investment if the author is willing to work hard and the effort turns a profit…
It’s not worth the investment, however, if the author doesn’t plan on doing anything to further it. Like what happened in the story with the servant who only received one talent and buried it rather than trying to grow it. The master wasn’t happy with that servant because he had made an investment that the servant hadn’t taken any further… the servant hadn’t even tried! In the end, it might have been better for the rich man not to have invested that one talent to his servant at all.
You get the idea. I need to believe that the author is going to make my investment worth it… not that the books are just going to sit in a basement getting dusty.
13) Publishing can be a risky business. How do you plan on making the legal side fair to both parties?
To start with, Magpie is a Christian company and bases all that it does on golden rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do onto you.”
With that said, I understand that legal matters can be tricky for both parties. Everything agreed upon between the author and the publisher will be drawn up in a contract that is signed and dated by both parties, and that is notarized through the government. The terms of a contract will be discussed by both the company and the author to ensure that everything is fair to both sides. Here at Magpie, we are NOT cheaters… we are not here to take advantage of our authors or their books. Everything is going to be as straight forward and black and white as possible. No mumbo-jumbo.
For this, I am most certainly grateful that I am also a writer, because I know what writers are looking for in a publisher, and as a Christian, I will be dealing fairly with Magpie’s authors according to what I myself would look for in a publishing deal. I won’t present anything in a contract that I wouldn’t agree with, or accept from a publisher myself. This publisher in particular was created with the intention to do justice to the writers out there who are to be published through us and who deserve better than what many of the other houses are dealing out. That’s why we want to make sure that the contracts are as clear cut as possible – that the author understands what’s going on from the get-go and can address any issues he or she might have a problem with.
Like with many of the other publishers out there, I anticipate that there will be some authors that don’t necessarily agree with what we might consider “Standard” in the contract. That’s ok. We are definitely willing to take the author’s ideas into consideration. We may have online discussions with the author about certain matters in the contract that are of concern to either the author or to us, but the ultimate goal of these conversations would be to come up with a contract that both parties are satisfied with in the end.
14) Do you plan to release e-books and paper back copies simultaneously?
At this point in time, it is a huge possibility, but my thoughts are that it will depend on the project. As some of you might have guessed already, each project must be approached differently… unique to how the last one was dealt with. It is quite possible that Magpie Eclectic Press will release one book in paperback first and then move into e-books, while a we release another book in both formats simultaneously, and yet another as an e-book first before moving into paperback.
Like I said, it all depends on the project and the marketing plan involved (which will be discussed with the author). Everything hinges on a good marketing plan, and every plan will differ from book to book depending on the target age, type of book, style, audience, etc, etc… We really can’t expect the same plan to work for all of our books, so we must be prepared for the chance that it won’t… we must be diverse and consider all of our options. A person can never really know for sure which plan will work best for a certain book, but switching up the release times of different formats for different types and styles of books will give us a good idea of how best to market our books to the public.
15) What is the best thing that a writer can do to catch the interest of a small press owner like yourself?
The first and foremost thing that an author can do to catch the eye of any publisher, not just a small press owner like myself, is to really, really learn their craft and hone it. Trust me when I say there is always room for improvement. Typos and other mistakes are expected in a long manuscript, but excessive grammatical mistakes and spelling errors, as well as plots that are continually inconsistent will not be tolerated in the slightest. If you, as a writer, really care about your art form, then you will do everything within your power to make your submission the absolute best it can be before you submit it… even if it means hiring an editor to help you (although a much less expensive way would be to have it gone over by one or even several critique groups either online or in person). Not only is this considerate, but it shows that you are truly serious about your craft, and both of those aspects are important to a publisher.
Also, be as original as possible. As C.S. Lewis once said, there is no new idea under the sun; everything has been done at least once before. But for a serious writer, this fact simply offers an opportunity. How can you take an idea that has already been done and make it into something new? What strange twist can you put on it? What new idea can you throw in? How does your story differ from everybody else’s and why? The more original your story is, the more likely it is to stand out… and for a publisher who is receiving at least several, if not hundreds or thousands of submissions a day, “standing out” is VERY important.
If an author believes that they’ve taken their book as far as they can take it by themselves, they’ve done their research, and they’ve had their book critiqued and then they’ve edited – if after that they are still interested in submitting to us, then they should read about us and check out our author guidelines. That will tell them what they need to know about submitting to us.
16) How long does Magpie Eclectic Press hold the rights to an author’s story?
This is actually a question that someone else brought up to me just the other day. I’m glad you asked it again. It’s definitely an important one to address.
The contract of a book will last through the production period and for two years after the release of the book to the public before either the author or the publisher can terminate the contract.
This is set up to ensure fairness all around. Basically, this makes it so that the author can’t sign a contract with us and then decide after production to terminate the agreement and use the work we put into the book to either publish the book themselves or through another house. It also ensures that we (as a company) can’t break contract with the author before the author even gets a chance to see results for sales, etc… that wouldn’t be fair either.
After the initial two years, the contract will remain intact as a mutual agreement of publication between the publisher or the author until either the publisher or the author agrees to terminate the contract.
Now, after two years, 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 might 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.) If we are not able to sell out all physical copies of the books we have in stock, the author can buy any remaining stock for an extremely discounted price.
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 author’s. 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.
If the publisher were to be bought out, Magpie's authors would be given due notice, and we would be talking to the other publisher about author agreements. It would be our goal to give the authors published through us the option to stay signed on under Magpie (or whatever the publisher would then be), 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 not (hopefully) because of bad service on our part.
17) Could an author self-publish as well as have work published by Magpie Eclectic Press (at the same time but different works)?
Most definitely. Authors are more than welcomed to self publish other works that they’ve written, while still having some books published through Magpie Eclectic Press. In fact, I think that’s a marvelous idea! Why not try swimming in both sides of the publishing pool? What’s wrong with that?
However, it would be wise to note that the right of first print and distribution that is given to the publisher through a signed contract means that the author agrees not to write and publish (by themselves or through another house) another book that would “compete” with the book going through the one publisher… or in other words, another book that would be almost exactly like, or very close to, the book that they’ve already agreed a certain Publishing house or press has the right to publish.
That sounds confusing, I know, but before anyone gets all upset over it, let me try to explain (and hopefully I’ll do a decent job of it… :P). The word “compete” in this context does not refer to the second, or third, or fourth, etc… book in a series. That would just be silly. That’s not what is meant here.
What the word “compete” simply means here is that the author, upon signing the contract with a publisher, is agreeing not to write another book that is so similar to the first one that some readers might not be able to tell the difference. It’s not really fair to the publisher (your partner) if an author decides to just change a few sentences or a few words of a book they are already having published in order for them to sell the book themselves or through another house. To the original publisher, this feels like cheating. It sort of makes the publisher think that all their hard work wasn’t worth it, or that the author didn’t really care in the first place.
Basically, if your book is contracted to go through my company, that means that I have the right to publish it for/with you. If, for example, Magpie Eclectic Press decides that they want to publish a whole series of books – say a trilogy of science fiction novels, for instance – and the author agrees and signs a contract saying that Magpie Eclectic Press is given the right to do that, then it’s not fair if the author decides to go back on their word and publishes the second book of that series by themselves or with another house, even though they signed a contract saying that Magpie could publish it first.
It’s basically a matter of honor and honesty, and that’s what the contract is there to uphold. We’re all humans after all… whether we like it or not, there are bound to be snags in agreements from time to time. A contract is just there to make sure that what was originally agreed upon doesn’t get distorted or taken advantage of (or disadvantage of) in any way at any time. It makes those who signed the contract accountable for upholding their word. That’s the whole purpose of it.
I don’t foresee there being a lot of trouble with this issue (the issue of multiple book or series contracts). This is because it is my plan to contract only one book at a time, thereby giving the author more freedom over the publishing choices of their other books (including other books in a series) while also keeping things relatively simple on our end. Of course, it’s a lovely idea, in my opinion, to have a series of books published through the same publisher, but for the most part we plan to leave that decision up to the author, and we’ll address the issue one submission at a time.
And there you go. :) That was the interview. If you have any questions, feel free to let me know in the comments.