Recently, a fellow author contacted me and asked if I could do him a favor. “Sure,” I said. “What is it?” He proceeded to tell me that his daughter was taking a college class that required her to interview an author, non-family member. Introductions took place and his daughter, Nicolette Anspach, sent me a list of questions. Once I reviewed them, they were great questions, I realized as soon as people find out what I do, they ask me the same questions. I answered them for her and asked if I could post her interview. Nicolette did not mind at all. So, here’s what I do and why.
1) What made you interested in being a publisher/writer?
I have always loved creative writing and poetry, but never once set out to be an author. Growing up creative writing was one of my favorite classes, and I’d write poetry just for fun. Continuing to write as an adult, for no reason other than enjoyment, changed the day my mom became ill. Being English, she collected and loved fairies. Diagnosed with a terminal illness I wrote her a book. Mischief in the Mushroom Patch. She never saw it in print. She read the first seven chapters of the manuscript, and I told her the ending. But she made a request of me, that I could not deny her. “Finish your book and send it off. You must continue to write your stories, for you and your kids.” It was the promise that changed my course from writer to author.
2) What was your main influence in wanting to Pursue this career?
I think questions one and two are combined. I did not really set out to be an author, and I certainly didn’t set out to be a publisher. I was with a publisher, quite large; they had three of my titles. They taught me how to be an author, and that is the truth. As the time passed and I learned more about the print and book business as a whole, I felt as if the industry was one sided. Writers were giving so much of themselves, still do, and often receive so little. (Not referring to the big names most people know), there are milllions of word artists. They entertain the world per se, movies, books, plays, cartoons, newspapers, songs, columns and more. I wanted to create a company that was the best of both worlds. When I pulled my titles, it was because I had envisioned a company built for the benefit of authors while operating as it should, as a publishing company. One that gave authors higher royalties, which our company does, and negotiates on our author’s behalves things such as print and shipping costs lowering fees, which we did negotiate, and more. We do provide benefits authors can not acquire on their own, and because we built it our way we can continue to mold it the way we want as we learn and grow. We are getting there; founded by authors, yes, yet printing award-winning titles in paperback, library bound, hardcovers, and Ebooks. We are filling bookstore orders, handling P.O’s for schools, special print runs, and offer wholesale discounts. We have 100 titles, attend large conferences, provide Lexile scoring, and provide consistent PR for our label and titles represented at no charge to our authors. In addition to this, we have a nice web presence and were able to offer our first no-strings-attached traditional contract, tentative release date November 2016. We’ve only been in business for three and half years. We are NOT there yet, but we are closer than we were before.
3) Describe your day to day jobs.
This is a great question. What do we do daily? Where to start? I guarantee I will leave something out. Honestly, each day starts with a conference call, before eight o’clock, where my business partner, Jan Powelson, and I discuss work projects that came in the night or day before. Our contractors, located in the States, England, Australia, and India, are on different time zones. This allows us to work on a few items at a time. As a general rule, we prefer to wrap up one book before another is released. Unfortunately, publishing does not always work that way. Some issues that occur at plants are out of our hands; that is why we have a process that takes time. Deadlines, often imposed by authors themselves, can cause issues that trickle down the line. Most do no realize that files can go back and forth for a variety of reasons, not including back and forth to the authors or their editors which can be a handful of times. This does not include layout or issues if they arise, and being part of the Digital Certification program everything before submission to our printer. All of these things are part of the process. Files must be clean before loading. This doesn’t indicate problems; it’s part of a process. Authors, sometimes think delays are problems. Corrections are not a problem. Adjustments sometimes are necessary. It’s why we have a testing phase. Margins, gutters, color saturation, etc. However, it is nice to make sure things are 100% correct as best we can, before going live. In addition to files in progress, we discuss authors that need PR sent for new releases or introductions, marketing, and target marketing strategies, which is continual, are discussed. We have a marketing director assigned for daily projects, and we also work on larger projects such as trade conferences. Book orders are placed, emails between authors answered. Then there are new acquisitions and proofreading assignments that are assigned. If we bring on a new author, there’s time taken to explain the program. Discuss expectations behalf of both PRPP and the author, and what time frame and limitations are of the small to mid-sized press. If pursued, contracts have to be signed. Social media. Answering general emails, writing letters on behalf of the authors, sending inquiries and constantly working to ensure the site is updated. This does not include setting up new titles in LSI, KDP, or setting titles up correctly from the first step, which is Bowker. In addition to these things (which is likely is not all we do), we still have to maintain our own writing and we both have families.
4) Was being a publisher/ writer your first career choice?
This was not what I set out to do. My last position in the corporate work force was a sales position. I was a Regional Sales Manager for Systran, a Division of Textron. I sold Receivable Financing / Factoring and was responsible for several states including TX, LA, GA, CO, MS, FL. Prior to that, I was a CSR for First Data, formerly NTS.
5) How do you communicate what you do to other people around you?
We communicate several ways. Of course phone, the internet. Messages. Text. In person. Fly. Often we teleconference with our authors. Skype. We have an international author, and many of our authors are out of State. We have an open door policy, and it is not unusual for me to drive out of state or several hours to meet with my authors. I’ve put 100 thousand miles on my car. No kidding. 98% PRPP.
6) What books have you personally written?
I have personally written several books. The Greenlee Project, Mischief in the Mushroom Patch. A Fairy Match in the Mushroom Patch. A Spider Web Scramble in the Mushroom Patch (due to release soon), The Ghost of Whispering Willow, There’s A Gator Under My Bed, Sadie’s Fairy Tea Party, What If…A Story of Shattered Lives
7) What books/articles..etc have you been a part of to publish?
I’ve had several articles / interviews written about me. I’ve written articles for online magazines. However, the Momtastic interview was my favorite because it was about balancing everything you do. We did not even have the publishing company then. However, I was lumped with Dr’s. Attorneys, and then little me. It was neat. I’ve also been in women’s essence magazine and others. I contribute to Angie’s Magazine. http://www.momtastic.com/health/110432-work-life-a-balance-amanda-m-thrasher/
8) What are the processes of getting a book published?
The process of getting a book published has changed over the years, especially with so many ‘load and go’s,’ snail mail, gone. People can send their work in via the Internet. Sample chapters, query email. Most publishers have their guidelines on their site. If they are accepting submissions, they’ll state that and will tell you exactly what they need. Usually a brief synopsis, sample chapter, writing references and if you have an agent, who represents you. But unless you’re proven it seems an agent are harder to come by (successful agents). Once your manuscript has been accepted the journey begins. I cannot speak for other companies, but for us, our turn around time depends 100% on the authors completed packet. When we say your manuscript must be print ready, it needs to be print ready. Any time a manuscript is sent back, down time starts. Illustrations take time as well.
9) What are the processes of you, as a publisher, in deciding if a manuscript is book worthy?
Our process is typically this: If a piece interests us, we send it out for review. (Acquisition Editor). Depending on the review, will depend on if we pursue it. A bad review will likely mean we will not. We are looking for marketability, author possibility (platform), work ethics and manageability. Small press, dynamics within is incredibly important. Teamwork is imperative. If we agree on the piece, and the review is good, I will make a call and visit with the author. At that time, I will explain exactly what we do, provide and what that means. A meeting is scheduled, and I will find out first and foremost what their expectations are (this is very important), what they know about the book/print industry and what, if any, experience they have in sales. If we are on the same page, a contract will be offered. Authors are allowed to use an editor of their choice. However, the work must be edited professionally three times before we lay it out. For PRPP prior to layout we require:
Manuscript (plain, double spaced, 12 font Times New Roman).
Illustrations, if they have them, scanned correct DPI
Back matter / Blurb and Reviews
Idea of cover
About the author
Sales Market & Media Contacts
We layout multiple files depending on the book, hardcover, paperback and ebook.
10) What advice would you give someone who wants to have a career in publishing?
We did it specifically for the benefit of authors. We’ve made tough, unpopular decisions to keep the business operating the way it should, as a business. Profit margins are slim. Very slim. People believe the margins are higher because they do not understand how the business works. If you are starting a publishing business, do not be afraid to make hard decisions to protect your company. You cannot grow and vest in your company if you give everything away. Be selective where you go to sign and showcase your titles, conferences, and above all remember content is crucial. It is all right to decline pieces. We’ve learned that over the years what printers to use, what not to do, where to showcase, and what to focus on to get the best for our authors and our company. We are still learning, but the wheel is in motion, and we see results. Even if you have solid, consistent producers, it does not mean all of the work is right for the label. Do not be afraid to tell authors no. Surround yourself with team players. The ‘I’s or the ‘Me’s’ of the world will bring down a team. It takes a team to sell. PRPP is trying to move all of the work we produce. It is inevitable that some titles will sell better than others, but if the label is represented properly and all content is solid, even if a few titles are more popular than others they still are from the same press and are in good company. I firmly believe not every author is a fit for every publisher, and every publisher is not a fit for every author. It is best to cut your losses both sides and walk away if the relation isn’t working out for either one. Negative energy breeds negativity. It is bad for business; it is bad for creativity. The whole reason we write is to stay creative and to be inspire and be inspired. There are many times when you will not have the answers, but do not be afraid to admit that and find the answer out. I know to ask. Be it our CSR or our contractors, print or distributors, I’ll find out. We have learned, the hard way, sometimes people do not need to know everything. Being a small to mid-sized press, we used to share a lot of information. We’ve found our authors do not need all of the information we have, they do not know what to do with it, and it can cause too much confusion.
11) What steps did you personally take to be a publisher/ writer?
I think last couple answered this.
12) Do you enjoy your job and what it entails?
I do enjoy my work. We’ve learned so much; I cannot begin to tell you. From the ins and outs of the publishing world to dealing with the authors, industry trends and what’s new in the market. We learn something new every single day, and that is the truth. Every day something new is on our plate!
13) What do you enjoy or not enjoy about your job?
What I don’t like about my job is unintentionally hurting people’s feelings, but sometimes it’s necessary. And not having my personal time to write. However, now the company is ALMOST where we need it, and then that will change. We gave ourselves five years for the start-up. Looking back, I cannot believe what we’ve accomplished in three and half years. Well, I take that back, I can believe it; I just can’t wait to finish what we’ve done. I’ve always said I’m a writer first and foremost, author second to that, and now I can add publisher to that list.
Our very own Linda Boyden was in Plainville, MA. as an invited guest to read her story, Roxy Reindeer. The store is owned by Jeff Kinney, the author of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. Today he stopped by to see Linda Boyden, the guest children’s author, a former high school classmate and fellow Plainville native who now lives in California.
If you visit the store, you can still find copies of her book there. It is a beautiful, historic three-story space of an old general store in Plainville.
To read the full article about Jeff and his new store, click HERE.
I feel like I’m always in a rush to finish my current book project. It seems to happen each time I come up with a story. I get the initial idea. I start building characters in my head. I begin laying things out on paper. Next thing I know, I’m writing and am deep within the middle of it all, watching it take shape. To me, this is the most exciting part of writing, the beginning of a new adventure, building that new world. It is very strange, because once you start building it and create worlds, universes, charaters, or just a simple fiction street with a lonely house and a guy named Sue, it actually does exist now. It becomes very real for me. These places and characters become a part of me and stay with me. I think about them throughout my day and what they might be doing, therefore I can visit them again when it’s quiet and guide them in another direction. Take my last book, Hope, for example. Now that that book is finished, I do still think of Christopher and Tommy every now and then. I wonder what it would be like if they started stiring things up again? Hmm, maybe someday. They can just chill where they are for now.
Crazy, you say? I’m not sure. But, if being ‘crazy’ is being able to create different worlds, characters, and having a connection with them enough to take readers on a journey that they will never forget, and hopefully bring a smile to their face, then I don’t want to be sane.
Once a new story passes the halfway point (just a feeling I get, knowing about where that might be is always different of course) I seem to start throwing stuff on the page that doesn’t seem to be well thought out. I have to make myself slow down and breathe. All I can figure is that it’s some sort of mental anxiety of feeling like you have to meet that certain deadline of getting it out to the masses. Yes, this ‘deadline’ is only set by myself. I’m not necessarily under the gun to finish anything, but it is annoying to fight with yourself. Oh well, who am I kidding? I like having conversations with myself. I always know what to say, and I can always make myself laugh.
In closing, the message for today and for myself is to ‘breathe and take your time’ in all you do. Rushing yourself will only cause stress and create mistakes.
Another year has passed, and here I am again on my birthday. I’ve always enjoyed my birthday, never had a problem with it. There are a lot of people out there who seem to have this sickening feeling when it shows up on their calendar. They can’t stand it; they dread it. In fact, many try to avoid reminding any of their friends, well the ones that don’t know them very well and probably forgot. I’ve never been that way. I enjoy it and look forward to it. I guess I’m still a kid at heart and probably always will be. Even though the numbers are increasing, my mind stays pleasant and accepting. Me? I just keeping rolling with the flow and look forward to the next day.
The only thing I usually get stumped on are the presents. Every year it’s the same thing, ‘What do you want?’ ‘What would you like?’ Whether it’s my mother or my wife, these are the questions that I tend to only have ridiculous answer for, which I feel a lot of people do. I always ask for a Ferrari. Well, why not? They’re asking. I think I remember getting a Hot Wheel version one year. Hey, I was getting closer. I never know what to ask for. There’s always electronics, that’s my thing. If it’s new technology for my phone, music, whatever, I’m all over it. But even those gifts are getting pricy and it’s hard to expect someone to buy them. I seriously don’t even think that the people buying for you really want to know what you want, just because of how much it may cost. Now, I’m not including your significant other or parent in this example. They usually do what they can or split something together if they find something really special they want you to have. Did you catch that? It’s not necessarily what you want either, but it could be something you need to have and you just didn’t ask for it. They bought it for you.
I was very lucky this year and excited about my present. I really didn’t expect much and figured it would be the typical clothes birthday. I’ve always insisted that I get some sort of ‘toy’. This type of gift usually takes the pain anyway after receiving the clothes. That’s what I like to call gifts that “reek Matt”. Meaning, any gift that I would just be drooling over, technology or music… (Ferrari). So anyway, my ‘toy’ this year was incredible. My wife and mother surprised me with the Apple Watch. I knew I was going to want one as soon as the announcement was made. Now I know there’s a lot of anti-Apple people out there, but just calm your jets for a moment, it’s my birthday and I’ll brag if I want to. Anyway, I’m very thankful and still can’t believe I have it, very cool.
As I get older, there really isn’t anything specifically that I just have to have. Well… there are several things I want, ‘toys’, but do I need them? The most important question is: ‘Can I afford it?’ No! Not everyone can afford a Ferrari. Really? Oh sure, I’d take it, but I don’t want to buy it. Would I actually keep it if I could buy it? I don’t know, maybe not. It is cheaper to just rent one for a little while and drive the hell out of it, and walk away. This is exactly what happened one Christmas a couple of years back.
My wife had bought me the deal of a lifetime. It was the best surprise. She had paid for me to be able to drive a Ferrari 599 for an hour. I think my eyes started to bulge the closer we got to the place. When we arrived, I met up with the guy that would ride along with me. He sat shotgun while showing me the bells and whistles, then off we went. It was a predetermined route throughout the city, however there were a couple of places where I was free to drive like I wanted. Oh yeah, it was awesome. Afterwards, I climbed right back into my hail-damaged Hyundai and drove off, rickety, rickety, rickety.
I am very thankful this year, not only for my ‘toy’ (thanks Kim and mom, love you both) but just to still be breathing. If there’s anything inparticular that I think about more than I used to as a younger man, it’s how fragile we really are. You never know how your day will lay out. Make the most of each day and truly be thankful. Stop worrying about tomorrow or you’ll miss your life right in front of you.