I've just renewed our membership with the Independent Book Publishers' Association, and was filling in the questionnaire provided, originally posed by Jan Nathan, when I thought it would be worth re-posting. So here it is ...
Why did you become a book publisher?
Three years ago I was looking at creating a second career for myself when I retire from the public sector in five years. At the time there weren't many small publishers focussing on the ebook SF&F market (and to the present in Australia that remains the case). I was NOT aware of how all consuming the whole process was going to be, and if I had been I might not have done it.
What do you enjoy most about publishing?
Working with the author to create a finished eBook that we can both be proud of. Secondly being a patron of the arts. Unlike our authors who aren't paid an advance, our illustrators are paid upfront for the work they do in designing our covers and the work they produce is simply stunning. I'm actually in the process of getting some of our covers printed onto canvas for framing.
What is the most effective form of marketing for your press?
Its the work that authors do as a member of on-line groups, just talking about other people's work and getting their name out there without pushing their own work. As a publisher, however, the most effective tool I've found is the use of book cards. The size of business cards, and costing only 6c, I provide 500 to each author and tell them to hand them out to anyone they want. I've had cases of people telling me 6 months after they were given the card that they've finally bought the e-book.
How do you define a successful title?
It would be nice if a book actually covers its cost, which means I'd be ecstatic if we sell 1,000 of a new book for an unknown author. Alternatively a successful title is one where a reader has re-read it several times, and then has tracked the author down to let them know, and to demand the sequel.
Tell us about one of your titles about which you are especially proud.
'Frontier Incursion' by Leonie Rogers. This is the first book that actually covered its costs and is still selling regularly 18 months after its release. The book has a strong, young female lead, without a hint of romance. More importantly it has starcats, which seem to have created a link with a number of its readers. I mean, who wouldn't want to partner with intelligent, glow-in-the-dark cats the size of panthers! The second in the series will be coming out soon and I have to admit to being unable to put the manuscript down when I started reading.
What has been your biggest challenge in achieving success?
Learning on the job. I've learnt so much in the first two years: how to get books reviewed, what makes a good cover etc etc. Its a steep learning curve and those of my authors who risked coming on board when we started out have unfortunately missed out on some of the opportunities I am now aware of. Luckily they have all stuck with the company and with second books coming out for most over the next 12 months I will have the opportunity to reward them with the knowledge I've been able to pick up.
What advice do you have for newcomers to book publishing?
If you find a mentor, do so. Small publishers aren't in competition with each other, and the ability to talk shop is one that both sides can benefit from.
How will you and your company be positioned in five years?
Hopefully we'll be more established, and in a position to regularly publish three books a year. A combination of new authors and more established series.
When you're not fully immersed in publishing, what do you do for fun?
Write. I'm an aspiring author LOL. However, after having seen how difficult it is for my authors to break out I'm not sure that I actually want the hassle and heart-ache involved with having it published.