Five Reasons I Love my Small Publisher

I’m a full-time author. I have multiple short story publishing credits with two separate small, independent publishers. This month, I published a novella with my first publisher.

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I’m a “real” writer. I have an Amazon author page. I’m qualified as a Goodreads author. If that’s not enough, surely my website and business cards will prove it.

In the past, I strove to be traditionally published. Every manuscript was marketed to agents who have inroads with editors at the Big Houses. I figured these gatekeepers would insure that I didn’t put my work out there before it was ready.

But I would have zero publishing credits if I hadn’t changed my mindset.

I’m thankful for the ever-growing population of independents publishers with qualified editors and artists at their helm.
I adore the hard work these people do. They’re entrepreneurs with a love for authors, books and readers. In other words: my kind of people.

I wouldn’t trade my experiences with my two small publishers for anything. Here are five reasons why I especially love them.

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They always respond to every query

I’ve sent out hundreds of novel queries over the past three years. In that time, I’ve garnered a dozen or so “no thanks, but good luck”
form-letter replies.
Every submission to a small publisher netted me a personal response. Even if they said, “no thanks” it was written in a way I know the person who read the query wrote the letter.
And I have to say, I’m sick of hearing nothing. Because “due to the high volume of queries, we can only respond to manuscripts we’re interested in.”
Seriously? It takes so long to hit “reply” and copy and paste one of those form letters into the email?
Yeah. The message here is: we’re too important to spend even a minute responding to your crappy idea/query/whatever.

They’re prompt with payment

Okay, I’ve had a 50/50 experience with this, but the publisher who hasn’t paid me yet, isn’t behind with the royalties. In all fairness, I submitted to a charity anthology, so earnings from the first 500 copies were supposed to benefit a non-profit.
The publisher I have most of my work with pays promptly after the end of each quarter. The titles and sales numbers are plainly accounted for.
This is the same regularity I get from Amazon with my self-published Bible studies and Biblical fiction novella. And Amazon is a massive corporation.
Kudos to any small business who has the same consistency.

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They treat me like a person

Not only do I know the managing editor and marketing director by first name, they know me. If I ask them a question using Facebook Messenger, they respond. I’ve had several lengthy conversations about general policies, specific projects and promotions.
It’s nice to know I’m not a number on a spreadsheet somewhere. I’m an author who they respect as an integral part of the success of their business.

My input on covers is welcomed

If you get a contract with Random House or another major publisher, you won’t have an opinion about anything.
Well, you might be able to fight against some content edits. But when it comes to covers? Their designer will make all the decisions.
I’ve heard of authors being given four options and the one they chose wasn’t used. Why? Apparently, someone knows more about the importance of a cover than they did.
I’m in the process of writing a three-book series with Roane Publishing for their Novella Niblets line. I’ve already discussed how to keep the continuity in the covers and their designers were more than happy to spend HOURS tossing ideas at me.
Also, this is a “digital-only” line. However, the managing editor is open to discussing the possibility of taking them to print. (Because there’s something about holding your book in your hand and sniffing the pages.)

They pay better than the Big Five

It’s not about the money for me. Which is great because I don’t make much. According to the Tax Man, I’m earning in the negatives.
But my contracts with the small publishers offer me HALF of their net profit on every title. A traditional contract would have me splitting 40 percent (or less) with an agent.
I love my small publishers. Which is why I promote their other titles here and on my social media accounts. They don’t get the same sort of exposure.
You can show a little love for them, too. Buy their titles. Review the books on major retail sites.
What do you love about the company you work for?

This Writer’s Second Conference

I attended my second in-person writer’s conference August 7th and 8th. It was at the same location as the first conference. You can read about my first experience by clicking here.

For some reason, I wasn’t nervous about attending this year. In fact, I gave only a small amount of effort to preparing the pitch for the two meetings I scheduled with an editor and an agent.

Part of this could have been because I had company the week before the conference. Or it may have been the fact that I thought I would have to be attending all alone.

As it turns out, another writer from my local writing group was going all three days. She offered me a ride on the days I attended. (If you read this, thank you, Linda!)

It was wonderful getting to know her better, listening to her pitch and having someone to eat lunch with on Friday. The fact that I didn’t have to drive? Extra bonus.

Friday

I loved the keynote speaker at the opening session. It was William Kenower, and he made me laugh so hard I forgot to be nervous.

I barely got a taste of the 9AM session since my first pitch was at 9:40 a.m. What I did learn is that agents respect writers who attend conferences. Whew! It isn’t the Big Bad Wolf I’ll be facing in a few minutes *wipes brow*

I met with an editor from a small press that was established in 2012. She ADORES dragon stories and has been searching for one starring REAL dragons since she began working with this house.

That means she liked my pitch and asked me to send her pages. And a synopsis *gags*

I used the extra time between my pitch and the next class to get a critique on my manuscript. They have authors who run a “Manuscript ER” servce for free – first come, first served.

“What do you want me to critique?” I wanted to know whether my beginning would hook that dragon-loving editor who requested twenty pages.

“I’m hooked.” And she offered sugestions about the two places where she had to re-read because what WASN’T on the page confused her. Easily done.

Yes, I was probably glowing for the rest of the morning. So who cared that the next session wasn’t compelling? Not me?

After lunch, it was back to the workshops. In this case, a delightful workshop presented by fantasy author Karen Azinger. She has an epic fantasy series out and idolizes Brandon Sanderson as much as I do. I immediately searched for her books on Amazon (and was disappointed not to find them at the conference’s bookstore).

The workshop was all about world-building. She gave me tons to think about to sprinkle the “flavor” of government and culture into my novel. I loved her energy and passion. Maybe I will grow up to be her one day.

The final thing in the afternoon was an opportunity to plot out our novel using the system of a children’s author. I love my Scrivener, so I didn’t really get much new information from this session.

Saturday

The two best things about this day:

  • Another yes from an agent at my 9:20 pitch meeting
  • Listening to bestselling authors who live in Oregon answer MY questions during lunch

I was disappointed to leave the Larry Brooks Storyfix session early for my pitch, but he gave us a link to the power point slides. I’m hoping to get the checklist for revision from that (at some point after I get the queries out).

The revision workshop at the end of the day was helpful, but there was too much for the presenter to cover in 90 minutes. I got a few good ideas about fleshing out my setting, though. It was fun to interact with the other writers in the room and hear a published author talk about her revision process.

Afterward

This post is making its way up on my blog quite late for a Monday showing. I would apologize, but I’ve been busy reading through my manuscript – sanding away the rough edges.

I sent the query letter and the first thirty pages off this afternoon to the agent I met with on Saturday. I hope she gets hooked like the woman who gave me a read in the “Manuscript ER” room at the conference.

Of course, she can’t respond too soon, because I still haven’t finished combing through the OTHER 300 pages of the manuscript. It needs primping and perfecting, I assure you.

Also, I’ve been reading Linda’s first fifty pages. I want to give her feedback she can use to beautify her manuscript before she sends it off to the three agents who gave her the nod at the conference.

If you’re trying to get a traditional publishing contract, attend a writer’s conference. Cough up the extra cash and pitch some agents who represent your genre.

Have you attended a writer’s conference? Pitched to agents or editors in person?

Writer’s Conference Reflections

Willamette-Writers2A puff of chocolaty goodness wafts by me when I open the door into the conference area. My mouth waters. Stillness underlies the hum of excited voices.

This is my first writing conference. Professionals attend conferences to network and build skills in their area of expertise. I may be pre-published, but I am a professional writer. Time to break out of my writing solace and enter the business world.

Women outnumber men. The largest demographic seems to be the over 55 crowd. This statistic gives me pause. Did they wait to pursue their dream until life settled down?

Everyone is a stranger and yet, strangely, invisible camaraderie pulls us together. The thread of love for words or creating worlds or setting our imagination free knits the crowd into something amazing.

Gawking like a foreigner, I locate the priority one item on my list. It’s just to the right of the main entrance. Yes, the ladies’ restroom. Who can concentrate on anything when the bladder screams like a crowded rollercoaster?

Highlights from the weekend will be covered in this post. Over the next several weeks, I will embellish on certain points that impacted me the most.

Sessions

The planners organized things according to different segments of writing. On the “TV Guide” schedule of events, categories like “literature,” “genre fiction,” “nonfiction” and “business of writing” head the colorful columns. It’s not surprising that most of my choices come from the literature column.

StoryEnginewebConveniently, that will keep me in the same conference classroom for the entire morning. It’s the room where the amazing Larry Brooks expounded his structural genius. (I found out he grew up in Portland, OR, and went to high school with Sam Eliott – of the Dodge voice track.)

Most of the sessions ask us to participate, which gave them a workshop feel. Write the definition of a premise. List the words you know you overuse in your writing. Things that help attendees ingest the information and immediately apply it to their writing.

Presenters ranged from authors to agents, from editors to social media gurus. Each one shared their expertise and opened themselves to questions about their topic. Some of them even rubbed elbows with the masses after the session.

Panels

The first session I attended was a panel of three agents. For an entire hour, those in the audience could ask any question burning in their minds. To say it was an eye-opening introduction to the writing world might be understating things.

Agents might respond to my query in eight weeks. After I send them the full manuscript, it could be another two to three months before I get the phone call offering representation. Or the rejection letter.

Say I sign with Ms. Ideal Agent. I have a contract. But not a publishing contract. It might take as many as 18 months for my advocate to find the perfect publisher for my novel. 18 months? That’s crazy!

After I get a real contract from a publisher, it could be another 18 months before my book makes the shelves of the Barnes & Noble at the mall. Talk about a LONG process. No wonder so many people are independently or self-publishing.

I’m hardly a mathmetician but that looks like almost three and a half years from original query to holding a published novel in my hand. That’s the math if my first querying attempt nets a manuscript request which leads to agent love. So that whole five year timeline from finished to published makes more sense now.

No wonder people are self publishing books on Amazon like there’s no tomorrow. Five years is more tomorrows than some people have to invest in a writing dream.

Critiques

For an additional fee, writers could submit twenty pages of their manuscript and a short synopsis to an agent, editor or author of their choice. This had to be done six weeks before the conference for best results. Some people walked in with a manuscript to get a critique on the spot, but since the windows for meetings were ten to fifteen minutes, I doubt it could have been in-depth.

I surfed the conference webpage to find someone who wrote or represented my genre. The closest I could find was a writer of adult urban fantasy. I booked her and whipped out a synopsis (which I felt clueless about producing) and submitted the pages.

I was her last appointment for the afternoon because she was presenting a class on hour later. We spent more than 30 minutes discussing my manuscript weaknesses. It was well worth the money spent.

More on this process later.

Pitches

Isn’t being discovered the reason pre-published writers attend conferences? Based on the number of attendees presenting to three or more agents or editors, the answer must be yes.

Fortunately, I attended a session taught by the agent to whom I presented my work. My pitch seemed to already meet her guidelines. It pays off to spend hours researching.

Pitch sessions lasted ten minutes (which is a long time in the real world of pitching ideas). The group of authors entered the room and shuffled to the round table where their industry professional sat waiting.

A surreal process really. More specific details about my own pitching experience in a future post.

Attending this conference opened my eyes to many things about my chosen path:

  • It is packed with thousands of others hoping for the same outcome
  • It takes fortitude to stay the course in the face of rejections
  • I don’t know as much about the craft of writing as I thought
  • The business of writing? I know nothing, Jon Snow.

At this juncture, I intend to attend this conference (or another local one) next year. I hope to network more at that future event. I may need to take a class: “How introverts network with other introverts.”

Is there a specific aspect of the conference you would like me to share information about? Have you attended a conference? What advice do you have to help me build networking skills?