Monday, July 26, 2010

The Dark Side of Publishing

I was privileged to be a presenter this week at the Pacific Northwest Writers' Association Conference, discussing what we referred to as "The Dark Side of Publishing." Joined by authors Terry Persun and Boyd Morrison, we discussed the impact of small presses, self-publishing, and eBooks on the writer trying to break into publishing. The conversation was lively to say the least. But it was also fueled by the declaration of Agent April Eberhart that in 18 months she saw the role of agent being replaced by author advocates and self-publishing as a both a viable and dominant form of publishing in the future. This sentiment was also echoed in an interview with Agent Jackie Meyer who said "We are at a tipping point where authors may be better off self-publishing."

This week, the conversation has also been fueled by yet another industry dust-up involving the Amazon Kindle as super-agent Andrew Wylie signed an exclusive eBook contract for 20 works with Amazon. Meanwhile, Random House considers those rights to be theirs and has declared they will no longer do business with Wylie.

The problem (if there is only one that I'm dealing with) is that writers seem to be reaching a point where they don't trust the agent/editor/publisher infrastructure any more, but at the same time are being led to believe that all they have to do is put their eBooks on Amazon and they will start selling 4,000 a month. This can't really be blamed on hearing Boyd Morrison's fairytale ending for his new book "Ark." It can really only be blamed on our own credulity for believing there is any easy way to see our novels, memoirs, or non-fiction published. It still fundamentally requires a great story, well-told, perfectly edited, attractively presented, and marketed the hell out of.

The industry is going to change. Boyd declared that when he published his eBooks on Amazon in 2009, it was 45 years ago in Internet time. Mainstream publishers and even alternative publishers like Long Tale Press will have to be nimble in order to keep up in the next 18 months which will be like another 65 years of Internet time.

We are going to return to more technical information on this blog that will address fundamentals of creating eBooks, but we will continue to intersperse industry information in with it as we go. And I will be continuing to follow news posts on excellent sites like Media Bistro's GalleyCat. Follow @wayzgoose for continued updates on Twitter.

Monday, July 19, 2010

How Books Are Chosen at Long Tale Press

I originally conceived this site for fairly technical information on how to create and design eBooks. You'll find bits of that throughout, but the world of eBooks is the world of publishing, and there are a lot of interesting things happening in the publishing world. Recently, the Twitter hashtag #dearpublisher has inspired a lot of conversation about publishing as well as a few publishers (like Peachtree Publishers) to give people a look inside the publishing process. So I thought I would take people for a tour inside what happens at Long Tale Press in celebration of its second anniversary open to the public.

Long Tale Press was conceived based on the concept that there were a lot of good stories that would never see publication because their market was limited, they didn't make the right connections with agents and editors, or the author simply didn't have the ability to sell her work. On the other hand, technology was changing rapidly. It was apparent to us that eBooks were going to capture an increasing amount of the market, especially in niche markets where mass production was prohibitive. Our initial intent was to focus exclusively on eBooks, but we've expanded that considerably.

At Long Tale Press we decided that we would build the publishing process around what people wanted to read. So we developed a juried selection process. It works simply: Any author can submit up to the first 5,000 words of his novel at our site. Readers read and review the excerpt, rating it in four significant areas: Story concept, Writing quality, Character development, and Would you buy it? Excerpts accumulate points based on these ratings. Exceeding 100 points gains the writer an invitation to submit the entire manuscript to Long Tale Press. From the review pool, three reviewers are chosen (volunteers) to read the entire book and provide the author feedback. This will take from 30 to 90 days as the reviewers are all people who read for their enjoyment, not people whose jobs are to read through the slush pile. While the primary job of the review pool is to determine if the entire manuscript lives up to the promise of the first 5000 words, we encourage the review pool to be detailed and specific in their comments. These are passed on to the author with our publishing recommendation.

The publishing recommendation will be one of three things.
  1. Thank you, but we don't feel the book is ready to be published. The work needed to get it ready is more than LTP feels it can invest in.

  2. Thank you, let's get this book published. We're ready to invest our time in editing, design, and production.

  3. Thank you. Your book shows great promise and we'd like to see it through, but you'll notice the comments from the review pool suggest some revisions that need to be made. If you are willing to make the commitment to revise and rewrite as necessary, according to the comments that are enclosed, we'd like to pursue helping you get it ready for publication.

The last option is the most likely. Before you go with the "Aha! They want money," conclusion, Long Tale Press doesn't sell any services, nor do we recommend the purchase of services to edit a book or get it ready to publish. If an author is ready to make the commitment to revise, we will continue to review the work as it progresses, make comments and suggestions, and encourage the author in getting it finished. We're just not going to do the work for him.

If we determine that the author has fulfilled her agreement to rewrite and we can take the book to publication, we offer a contract to publish the work. When the book comes in "ready to publish" our real work begins. Before we release a book, we will do a line-by-line copy edit. We don't want typos, copy/paste errors, or wrong words (like then/than, sit/set, lay/lie, etc.) to slip into a book. Then we take care of cover art and design, layout, and production. Long Tale Press is neither self-publishing nor vanity press. The only time an author pays LTP anything is if the author decides to buy print copies at wholesale cost to sell at events, book-signings, speaking engagements, etc. We offer a generous royalty based on net received above cost of goods, figured on a book-by-book basis, not up front costs.

Then there is the question of whether we are going to produce a print book or an eBook or something else. When we make this decision, it is based on a number of factors regarding the specific book market as we see it, the quality of the reviews received, the cost of production, and our gut feeling in the matter. Our baseline is to publish as an eBook and if all the other factors merit it, publish a short-run print edition (100-500 copies). In nearly all cases we will do a print-quality layout and design of the book to make it available as a PDF eBook or print-on-demand book. We'll also create an industry-standard ePUB book. The book will be sold through the Long Tale Press bookstore,, and other channels as we can open them.

Having discovered that even avid eBook readers really like something to put on their bookshelf, we've begun publishing our eBooks on CD-ROM. The disk holds both the ePUB and PDF versions of the book and is packaged in a book-like case with the full cover art so it can be put on the bookshelf and installed on any computer or reading device the reader would like. They can even put it in their garage sale if that's what they decide to do!

Well, that's a peak inside Long Tale Press. We continue to be committed to finding and publishing quality fiction.