Independent from what?

I’ve worked as an editor for a number of publishing companies (books and magazines) and interacted with them as a writer as well, having published books with companies big and small. It’s always struck me as curious that, in the magazine business, many “editors” do little editing at all. Some do management, some write. It always struck me as strange that in a business that uses words as its stock in trade, they were used rather haphazardly. Ah well.

In the current publishing environment (another curious term, seeing as I think it diminishes the actual value of the word and doesn’t describe the situation entirely accurately) we often hear of indie (or independent publishing) without as much discussion of what it might be independent of, beyond the major players. It might comes as a bit of a shock to newer writers, but traditional publishing isn’t about the machinations of the mergered remnants of the once vibrant book-publishing world called the Big X (plug in your own number. I hate to be too dated). Traditional publishing simply refers to a process, and one that has many variations. Most publishers, even self publishers, adhere to it in some form. Traditional publishing is nothing more or less than taking a manuscript that was written on spec or to order, editing it, creating a cover, choosing formats (not just ebook or paper, but the optimum size as well) and finding a way to go to market, to market.¬† So when I hear talk of independent publishing or of authors keeping their independence, I always cock my ear to hear what it is they are independent of.

Publishing should (a dangerously normative word) include all those things. When it doesn’t include them all (except for the marketing bit), it isn’t tradition that is threatened, but the quality of the end product. So the author is not free of editors, or cover designers. If the author becomes the editor or cover designer, and does it correctly then, while wearing those hats, they do the same thing. It doesn’t matter that it is the same person, beyond the acknowledgement that most people should not edit their own work. Not because they aren’t inordinately talented¬† or have the grammatical sensitivities of a giraffe, but because they will find it difficult to be objective. The point being that these necessary tasks have to get done. We are not independent of them just because we hire a freelancer any more than we expect better quality editing from someone who is “in house.” Being on staff is a circumstance, not a recommendation.

As the large, corporate publishers disappear into a miasma of complex accounting games, finger-pointing and searches for new revenue streams, they might become irrelevant, but the rest of us are no more or less independent than we were before they decided that brilliant quarterly reports beat good literature hands down. I suppose we, the small presses, the individuals who publish their books are, at least, independent of stock holder pressure and that is a good thing.

 

Changing Sands

Like most people involved in writing, at least those who are serious about it, I read tons of blogs about the publishing business. Some, such as The Passive Voice. Joe Konrath’s blog, Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s business blog, and some others, are almost required reading if you want to stay current, keep your footing in the changing sands of publishing.

I try (not always successfully) to avoid commenting on the fate of ebooks, print books or bookstores, or whether Amazon is good or evil. To my mind much of that discussion is irrelevant to what we do. We look at every format. Barnes & Noble having business problems doesn’t mean we shouldn’t publish in epub format. They still sell books. Print is dying? We still sell print books. When these sales stop, it will be time to move on.

Passion is a wonderful thing, but to my mind much of the discussions I read are akin to passion for a sand sculpture. It can be beautiful, but will dissolve with the next high tide. I can be passionate about it, yet that passion must take into account its impermanence. So much of what we do in book publishing is impermanent; it makes more sense to accept that and move on, trying to find the best ways to connect stories with readers. It’s also important to bear in mind that it is readers who will determine what the best way is. It doesn’t have to be one I prefer or even care for (for my part, the idea of reading a book or watching a movie on a telephone is beyond weird, but that’s me).

The blogs do alert us to what might happen next, or at least what a number of people think will happen next. Not only is that often useful, at least to the extent that it allows us to prepare, but it is great fun to see how things work out, see predictions that fail wonderfully. As my mentor used to say: “Screw them if they can’t take a joke.”

It’s a good era to be in publishing. Crazy, but good.

 

A Review for Clay McKenzie

We’ve been delighted to get some great reviews for THE INVENTION OF CLAY MCKENZIE by Ed Teja and J. Reid Beckett (available in paperback and ebook formats at www.amazon.com). The most recent is by Teri Davis and appears on the Midwest Book Review.

I encourage you to read the review in its entirety, but I’d like to quote this small bit.

Ed Teja and Jim Beckett have created a thought-provoking, well-written novel. Their years of experience in the publishing world from their perspectives have created a unique story that utilizes the excellent writing gifts of both.

The Invention of Clay McKenzie is a book that I recommend for everyone, especially book lovers to read.

A science fiction collection

We are happy to announce that VISIONS OF JUPITER, a collection of three quirky short science fiction stories by Tilly Jupiter, is now available in both ebook and paperback formats from Amazon and as an ebook from Smashwords.

Visions Tilly is working on a major project right now, in cahoots with another of our science fiction writers, J. Reid Beckett. We will be making announcements about it later, probably early next year. If you want to be kept informed and possibly win a pre-publication copy, sign up on our contact form on the contact page. We covet our fans and don’t share information with anyone else.

 

If you are a book reviewer and interested in any of our titles, please let us know through the contact page. Thanks!

 

The Demise of “Hurry Up and Wait”?

Publishing has historically been a hurry up and wait business. The author has a deadline, the editor has one… everyone rushes through tight production schedules to meet publication/promotion targets that are keyed to business cycles and seasonal buying habits. So we scramble to get things done on time. And the timing is dictated by flow charts and manpower allocations and printing schedules.

That is changing I think and the concept of “on time” is losing its context for publishing. When a book is available (at least as an ebook) moments after it is uploaded and then stays available forever, more or less (the recent chaos with UK online sellers yanking books and closing sites proves the temporal quality might have newer aspects), the payback period becomes uncertain. ROI (return on investment) has become a rather muted metric. One book might pay dividends quickly and another slowly and why does it matter? What might be more important to publishers now is that the overall cash flow numbers are good. Certainly an author wants quick (and large) royalties for her book, but even if that doesn’t happen, it isn’t certain death for the author’s career.

Still, it’s hard to resist the insane desire to schedule things and get them out the door on time. I’m just not sure how much sense that attitude makes these days. Maybe the independent publishing revolution will also serve to mellow publishing out a bit. At Float Street Press we are trying to kick back a little and ensure that instead of meeting a rather artificial timetable, we give each book the attention and care it deserves. In some cases, we are revisiting layouts and covers and fixing things that rushing didn’t allow us to get right.

 

 

 

 

An Unfortunately Low Profile

It seems like when the most stuff is going on, there is often the least to say about. With several projects in the queue, but not ready to go live, there isn’t a lot you can say about them. I’ve mention some of them, and since then we have been working with editors, cover designers, and writers (of course) to get them into shape — producing the quality we (and you) want.

For instance, Javaid Qazi is finishing a huge edit on his Indian Romance novel, THE REMINGTONS OF INDIA. While it goes off for a round of final edits, we are doing the book layout, so to have something for reviewers.

At the same time, we are trying to establish relationships with reviewers and prepare advance review copies so that they will help us let the world know about the new books. And, of course, there is the endless effort to try and keep pace with the world of publishing, which is a rather unstable universe, prone to changes (both temporary and permanent) and requiring us to try lots of things to see how best to interact with readers.

We have avoided Facebook as a time sink, but hear from others that it works for them. So what to do? With few people and a small (microscopic) budget, I am going in many directions at once. But it is all good. Exciting stuff. And I learn something new nearly every day.

And on we go.

But there is little to say about that journey, at least that is worth telling, beyond the simple idea that our low profile means that we are working hard.

 

Booksignings

I love bookstores. I don’t just mean the ones that carry our books either. Even as the tidal wave of ebooks washes over us (well actually we are body surfing on it–not wanting to miss the ride) I love to go into stores and look at books. There is something special about opening one and reading that first page, even if you put it back. Physical books might not be the most efficient use of resources, but they sure as hell are inspiring. Just holding a book in my hands is wonderful.

It isn’t the best time for bookstores in general, but some are doing well. Without getting into any particular debate on their future, we are turning to them now to promote our books and, in the process, generate business for them too. Of course, all bookstores are not author friendly, so it is a matter of working with the willing. Fortunately, a lot of independent bookstores do love books.

Jim Beckett andThe_Invention_of__Cl_Cover_for_Kindle I are scheduling signings of our book THE INVENTION OF CLAY MCKENZIE. On October 26th we will be at COAS Books in Las Cruces, NM from 10 am to 12 pm (during the farmer’s market) signing away and talking with readers.

We are scheduling other signings as well and will announce them as we get closer to the dates.

 

 

Settling In

Float Street Press is now settling in to new digs in New Mexico. The weather is beautiful here and our hopes for growing the business are high.The effort is one of love and so, in the most important sense, the business can’t possibly fail.

We have some great books in the works, such as The Remingtons of India (the book I wrote about in the previous blog), but it will take some time to get a handle on how long it takes to finish them and render them suitable for public consumption. Covers, editing (going on now), proofing and all that takes time. Moreover, I am a writer and insist on spending a fair amount of my time writing my own books. I have two novels in various stages, but more on that later.

It is an exciting time to be in book publishing, and a tricky time. We watch the trends through the eyes of others, mostly, taking advantage of, and trying to learn from, their mistakes and successes. We maintain a lightweight overhead, relying on freelance help so that the long term benefits accrue to authors, rather than supporting employees. We aren’t against employees, but are more comfortable with independent contractors (and they have to eat too). We will be trying out some of our own ideas for promotion and marketing as time permits. If you have ideas, go to the contact page and, well, contact us.

And that is the update from our world.

 

New books come before marketing

We’ve put a fair amount of energy into ramping up this site, hoping it will provide a place where people can learn about the new books our authors are working on. A lot of that work doesn’t show, as it involves simply learning what to put up and how to make it look right.

The site is still quite incomplete, as working on the new books takes priority over almost everything, and certainly over any marketing efforts. We don’t have and won’t have a Facebook account for the press. We don’t have time for that. It’s lovely to do such things, of course, but a small press is, well… small. If we market, that is time taken away from things we are more concerned with. (This isn’t a condemnation of marketing, just that in achieving our goals, it is less significant.)

Here are a few things we are putting time into.

Javaid Qazi has a new book in the works–a rather long romance that takes place in a fictional British Raj. Our medium-term focus is on getting that book edited and formatted. We want it to read and look great–the physical book should complement the story and the final entity provide a wonderful reading experience.

Even though the editing is ongoing, the layout has already begun. That means we are deciding on the best typeface, the nicest (most appropriate look) for the chapter headings, and designing attractive running headers. All details, but things that work together in determining the overall look and feel of the book. The cover is done–designed by Judy Bullard. Here it is.

The Remingtons of India Amazon

Can you tell that we love books?

And this is but one project in the works. Further down the pike we are working on the debut of a new series of science fiction novels. The intention is to have at least two ready to go before we launch them (lots of opportunities for Beta readers there)¬† and a sequel to Ed Teja’s mystery UNDER LOW SKIES (Amazon and B&N).

If you would like for us to let you know when one of these projects is ready, use our contact form on the contact page to let us know. If you are a book reviewer and one of these interests you, we are looking to do launches and will make pre-release copies available in various formats.

We are also eager to find some serious Beta readers who will read and report on our books. if you are interested in one of our books, we’d like to know that as well. We love the way Beta readers help us catch the niggly bits that otherwise slip by. Naturally, we hope that readers will develop an enthusiasm for our books and authors that translates into reviews and word of mouth, but mostly we want your sharp eyes and feedback.

 

July ebook sale!

During the month of July, a number of our ebooks will be on sale at Smashwords. Some will be 50% off, including full-length novels, such as THE INVENTION OF CLAY MCKENZIE, UNDER LOW SKIES and THE LEGEND OF RON ANEJO. It’s all part of a summer reading festival. Just go to the Smashwords page and click on a book, or go directly to the book link here, and you’ll see a coupon code for your discount. Enter it and you’ve got your discount. It is a great way to find new authors, and new stories and you’ll be able to choose the ebook format you want to download.