Thursday, October 9, 2014
Interview With Michele Orwin, Publisher, Bacon Press Books
Michele, what are the rewards and challenges to leading an independent publishing company?
The rewards: I love discovering gifted authors who have written good books and making those books available to readers. I’ve been very lucky to have found a group of talented people to work with to make sure the books are done professionally. And the indie community has been very generous about sharing information and helping small publishers like me who are just starting out.
The challenges: Almost too many to list.
Finding authors with good, finished manuscripts who are ready to try independent publishing and understand the partnership model we’re using. Then finding readers when there are so many books to choose from.
Working almost counter to some authors’ fantasies of what being published is going to be like. Sometimes emerging authors hope the book they’ve written is perfect and doesn’t need professional editing. Or that their book will be an immediate success - friends and strangers will rush to buy it and will be eager to write great reviews. That can happen. But more often it doesn’t. And last is the fantasy that the book will somehow sell itself. Maybe the hardest for me and our authors is understanding that it all takes time. Time to build a reputation, time to find the right readers.
What are some of your most successful books? In this super competitive publishing world, I think any kind of exposure, sales or reviews for a first-time author are great. I know other people measure success differently. Our nonfiction book, In Search of the Fun-Forever Job by Ellis Chase is the overall most successful. Great reviews from both respected people in the field and readers. Sales every month. Quite a few bulk orders. Ellis is also the only author who does a blog post every week. He’s active on social media, and he has a lot of speaking engagements. Plus it’s nonfiction on a topic of interest. It’s well-written and has a great cover. All those things don’t come together that often. I think our newest book, Identity Thief by JP Bloch, will do really well. It’s a fast-paced, psychological thriller - a popular genre. Early reviews and sales are excellent. The book that’s coming next, Landfall by Joseph Jablonski has a real shot. It’s beautifully written and an unusual story. The debut short story collection, The Man Who Built Boxes by Frank Tavares, has more than one hundred reader reviews. Not all of them great, but at least it means readers are taking notice. Short stories are a tough sell even for seasoned authors. For me, the other books have had some success, considering they’re from first-time authors. They’ve gotten very positive reviews. Man from the Sky by Danny Wynn is a novella. Blues for Beginners by Judith Podell is a collection of funny short stories. And The Clear Blue Line by Al Sprague is an action/adventure story set in Panama in the 1970’s. We thought with a lot of sex and sharks, it was bound to be a best seller but it’s too early to tell.
What do you offer authors in terms of help in marketing or sales? A lot. I went into this as a writer, not a marketer or a natural sales person. So I’m trying to learn as much as I can as quickly as possible. I spend a couple of hours each day reading about marketing. And then a few more hours trying to market books. With our tight budget, I rely heavily on social media. I go to conferences. I’ve joined associations and online professional groups. I follow experts like you so I can get good advice from people with more experience. When a book comes out, I spend the first few months taking every opportunity I can find to promote it. Then finding more opportunities. I’ll try anything that sounds like a good idea if it isn’t expensive. But here’s what I’ve learned and I don’t think many authors will be happy about it. In this new landscape, authors are really the ones who sell books. Not publishers. There’s only so much I can do on my own. Authors are the ones readers care about. And the minute an author stops working with me to promote his or her book, the sales drop. I see it over and over. I understand how hard it is for some authors to do promotion, I’m the same way about my own writing. But it has to be done. There’s no magic formula. We have to keep reminding readers the book is available and why they’ll like it.
What authors and books are you looking to work with? We’re always looking for good writing and good stories. Polished manuscripts. Authors who are excited about the opportunities that indie publishing offers. The biggest problem with most of the manuscripts I see is that they’re just not ready for publication, but the author is in a hurry to get it out there. Or else I hear from authors who really are looking for a traditional publisher. I originally started my company as a way to help already published authors make their books available in paperback and eBook. Since then, we’ve started to take on original work, both fiction and nonfiction. I’m not keen on cheesy erotica, gratuitous sex and violence, religion or politics. So far we haven’t done YA or NA books. We’re not ruling them out but they’re not top of the list. I write, read, and teach novels. I guess I’ve got a bias toward fiction. Unfortunately, fiction is harder to sell than nonfiction.
Where do you see book publishing heading? I wish I knew. I don’t see digital books going away, but I also don’t see people giving up the pleasure of reading a physical book. The big, traditional publishers may keep merging but they’re not going to disappear. It’s really a question of how many small and independent publishers will continue to grow and survive. I’ve got my fingers crossed we all make it. It’s too much fun to give up.
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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, Media Connect, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2014