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Roundtable: Musings on the Past and Future

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compiled by Alexa Schlosser, Managing Editor, IBPA Independent magazine —

Nine independent and author publishers reflect on 2017 and look forward to 2018

What did you learn about publishing in 2017 that will inform you moving forward? What will you do differently?

Kate Foster (KF): Rushing to hit a release date does nothing more than create unnecessary and avoidable stress. One of things on which we pride ourselves [at Lakewater Press] is that we never ever scrimp on editing. This, for us, is the most important element of birthing books. If a book requires three or four passes by our editors so it truly is the best product we can put out there, then it needs three of four passes. We will never rush or skip this process, so in the future we will always set release dates months ahead and ensure the entire process is far more enjoyable.

Dr. Tyra Manning (TM): Attending IBPA conferences and networking with other authors and experts in the book publishing industry is very important. Collaboration and supporting other authors is key.

Pamela Hartley (PH): I’ve learned a lot. I’m always in a hurry, which is great if you’re a runner, but not so much if you’re a writer. I’d read my story, make my corrections, and truly believe that it was perfect. It wasn’t. I should have popped my manuscript in a drawer and waited for a few months before additional rewrites and publishing. Next time, I’ll enjoy the process, and I’ll just have fun!

S. Q. Orpin (SQO): Two things: Stop freaking out about self-imposed deadlines. They are counterproductive and slow down the process. Stick to well-organized outlines, and everything will happen naturally. The second thing is to hire professionals as needed. I no longer format my own books, and it has saved me time and a lot of headaches.

Rachel Archelaus (RA): I learned more about getting reviews. I will continue to send galleys out and leverage the response. I’ll just send them to more outlets and include pitches to magazines and newspapers.

Ceitci Demirkova (CD): In April 2017, I published my fifth book, Motivated by the Impossible: Recognizing Your Invisible Mentors. I used Amazon in the first step of registration, but later switched to Gatekeeper Press for publishing and distribution. Many of the items, such as ISBN, Library of Congress number, and registering my own publishing company are not very hard to obtain and do on your own, but they could be overwhelming for first-time authors. I definitely found it key to own my copy and printing rights when looking for the right publisher; also books published independently on Amazon will not be carried in large book stores, so it’s of importance to work with an established publishing company in addition to registering your own publishing company if you are doing self-publication. Next time I’d have the publisher handle the registrations and filing for copyright, etc.

Nanci Rathbun (NR): The work of marketing and publicizing is at least as vital and time-consuming as the work of writing and editing. I will plan more carefully for pre- and post-releases and for ongoing ad campaigns.

Ruth Schwartz (RS): I learned about PCIP services and I will encourage all of my clients to get a PCIP data block at the get-go, even if they are not sure about library sales down the road. It is just part of having their books look even more professional than they already do when I get done with them.

Antonio Simon, Jr. (AS): Conventions are crucial. Few things help build an emotional connection with readers faster than handing them their own autographed copy and posing for photos with them. It’s also a great deal of fun.

What are you most looking forward to in 2018 for your publishing business?

KF: Bringing more books to life! Although, I think this will be what we look forward to as we approach every new year. However, being more specific, now that we have a solid and growing catalog, I’m looking forward to growing our network as we look to develop relations with foreign rights agents, audio book publishers, as well as the industry royalty that is book bloggers, reviewers, librarians, and sellers.

TM: I am thrilled to have a second book published in 2018. Due to the success of my memoir, Where the Water Meets the Sand, I have had the opportunity to speak at various venues and share my message.

PH: I’m still learning, and I’d love to hone my writing skills as much as I possibly can. I want to connect with other writers at all sorts of different venues in 2018. The writing community is so supportive and welcoming.

SQO: I’m excited to finish the last two books in my six-part Catwalk series. I’ve added a lot of intrigue and secrets and it’s amazing to watch it unfold. I’m also looking forward to starting a new series that has garnered interest.

RA: I’m most looking forward to working with new authors. I enjoy managing the publishing process and working with my team. It would be great to work on multiple projects at once.

CD: Bigger exposure of the book to national and international audience through TV and radio shows, booking larger venues for speaking, and winning at least one book award.

NR: I’m anticipating success in the audiobook arena.

RS: Finally getting our own book, The Best Solution to Hunger in America, finished and launched. I help an average of 20 authors through the self-publishing process every year, but my own book seems to get pushed to the side too often.

AS: We’ve got a slew of great authors lined up for publication. Each year we’ve been in business, we’ve attracted bigger and better talent. Next year is going to be phenomenal in terms of new books and continuing sales of our current titles.

Did you have a big win in 2017? If so, what was it?

KF: Yes! Other than continuing to receive four- and five-star reviews of all of our titles, two of our books were winners in the IAN Book of the Year Awards; one of which, Ares Road by James L. Weaver, is the second in a series of which the prequel won the same award in 2016. Also, author of the other IAN winner, Maura Jortner (The Life Group), signed with a wonderful literary agent. When our authors have successes, we celebrate as hard.

TM: Yes. I was thrilled when my memoir, Where the Water Meets the Sand, was awarded the 2017 IBPA Benjamin Franklin Award™.

PH: Yes! I published a MG novel, The Seasons of a Giant, which won a Gold CIPA EVVY medal, two first place Purple Dragonfly awards, two Silver Literary Classics medals, and a silver Mom’s Choice Award.

SQO: I pitched a new series to eight publishing houses and all of them were interested! I’m taking my time to polish the first manuscript and submit it to an agent first.

RA: I got a review in Library Journal. That was so unexpected for me but such a high. I think I jumped up and down when I saw it and then when I saw my book in libraries across North America.

CD: Yes! In July 2017, my book became a No. 1 bestseller in hot new releases on Amazon in two categories and No. 3 bestseller in Christian Living as well as Christian Inspiration, and No. 13 on the bestselling list in all books under Christianity and Bibles.

NR: After significant work in revamping my website and using a lead magnet, my email list has grown by 400 percent.

AS: We had two big wins. First, our company, Darkwater Syndicate, published 10 books in the first half of 2017. We’re a small press, and 2017 represents our biggest year in terms of new releases. Second, we published some established names in horror, including the UK’s legendary Guy N. Smith, Adam Millard, and Nicholas Paschall.

What is your publishing-related New Year’s resolution?

KF: Other than being generous with publishing timelines, we are more determined this year to not be afraid when trying out new ideas and treading new pathways, not just with the books we publish, but in our publicity and marketing campaigns. I think most small presses and authors are uncomfortable with the sales part of their business, but the time, money, and effort we’ve put into trialing and researching fresh and unusual ideas over the past two years in this regard is starting to pay off. We’re excited to keep learning, keep evolving, and give things a go. If they don’t work out, so be it. At least we tried.

TM: To publish my second book in 2018 and to post two blogs every week that encourage readers to tell an dwrite their own stories. Sharing our stories emphasizes that we have more in common than differences.

SQO: 2018 will be the year to submit my Catwalk series to agents for consideration of adaptation to a TV series (possibly Netflix). My other goal is to have my second series with a traditional publisher so I can become a hybrid author.

RA: My publishing related New Year’s resolution is to use my book to get speaking engagements. I have been wanting to travel and speak at different venues for a while and now I have a great topic and authority in my field.

CD: Create a webinar and podcast that accompanies the books for online audience. Expending our online and social media followers; create greater outlet for book sales through marketing, speaking venues, and conferences.

NR: To increase sales revenues by 80 percent in e-books and build a marketing campaign for audiobooks.

RS: Set up a detailed deadline list for every client project (in contrast to just the ones that have rush deadlines). It is nothing fancy, just a punch list with deadlines for both me and the author/publisher.

AS: If you’re a small publisher, don’t be like General Motors with a dozen divisions. Select a handful of genres you feel most comfortable working with, and excel in those. ⦁

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