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Between The Pages, Past
A Mystery Column
By Dennis Collins

Small Press

      In past columns I’ve touched on the state of the publishing industry and the direction that it seems to be taking. I recently talked to three small publishers to get their view of the state of the business. All three of these publishers have been in operation for less than a year and are all aggressively making their way in a competitive and ever changing business.

Authors Ink, represented by CEO Laurieanne Cruea
Behler Publications, represented by Acquisitions Director Lynn Price
Winterwolf, represented by CEO Kevin Grover

    I asked these publishers the same four questions. Here are their responses.

1. What made you decide to establish your own publishing company?

Authors Ink:
       I have always had a very strong passion where books are concerned. Once I get onto the topic, it's very hard to shut me up. I had already researched the idea of self-publishing, yet at that point, all of the pricing I'd seen was well out of what I considered to be a reasonable range. After eighteen months with an agent and countless very kind rejections (I have one of those rejections framed on my wall), I traveled the road of critique groups. I saw so much talent in the chapters I would review, and these people had the same huge pile of rejections. Yet, going into the local bookstore, I couldn't find anything I was interested in buying.

      After a little more research, I started putting numbers on paper regarding print costs, recording costs, program costs, etc. After a while, I just couldn't get the figures out of my head. I think I missed two nights of sleep because I was so excited about what I was putting down on paper. I knew that if I didn't write it all down before I closed my eyes, I would
forget what I had in my head. During all of this, I kept talking aloud to my husband. Everything I kept repeating to him kept making more and more sense.

       I have always been told that your job is less of a job if you enjoy and have passion for your career. Books have always been my passion, and I wanted them to be my career. Thus, the birth of Authors Ink Books, the web presence being

      It’s the typical ‘fill the void where one sees a need.’ My first novel was with another publisher and I realized how much more could be done to aid new authors in marketing their books to the general reading public. There is so much amazing talent out there, my husband and I decided we wanted to give them a voice.

      Well, I was given a break once and wanted to pass that on. However, through talking with a lot of people, I learned a lot of things that made small publishers undesireable. Along with the fact that I wanted my next novel to be handled in - what I felt to be - the "right" way, I felt that the best way to do it would be to start my own publishing company and, in the others achieve their dreams as well.

2. How long did it take you to go from inspiration to reality?

Authors Ink:
      It didn't take very long to get the business "established". Within a few days after my husband told me, "So, are you going to do this or not?" Getting into the nitty gritty of everything took longer. After all, with only one person, and going one step at a time, and still maintaining my 'day job'
in another sector of the publishing industry, it takes time. I didn't expect miracles to happen overnight, and as such, I am still maintaining my 'day job' to make sure that my family has immediate needs provided. I hope to narrow down to just AIB within 2 years.

      My husband brought up the idea of looking into the publishing world in November of 2003. He researched non-stop and in mid-January 2004 we signed our first author.

      Actually, I thought about it for a year and discussed it with a very close and important friend of mine who was instrumental in convincing me that it would work and that I could do it. We worked out a lot of the details, but I shelved it for a while. Once I made the decision to go forth, it really didn't take more than a couple of months.

3. Were there any surprises along the way?

Authors Ink:
      There are always surprises. Anything from authors backing out before a contract has been signed to delays, delays, delays. The biggest surprise I've had along this road so far was having an entire print run sent back to the printer's office. I had pages missing, pages reversed, the covers
peeling. It was not what I expected. The printer took responsibility and the problems are being corrected. Of course, surprises are part of the business; you just have to roll with the punches.

      This whole business had been one fabulous surprise after another. But the main surprises we’ve experienced is whenever we needed someone of expertise and vast experience, whether it was with editing, marketing, or printers, they magically dropped out of the sky and into our laps. We have consistently met the exact right people at the exact right time.

      Yes. I was surprised by the number of submissions we received in our first few months. We received over 100 submissions the first month, and averaged 40-50 per month until we closed submissions in May so that we could concentrate on the titles we have and could hack our way through all of the submissions.

4. Do you envision bright promise for small publishers or do you see it as a continuing struggle with a clouded future?

Authors Ink:
      There is always bright promise for small businesses, whether they are publishers or some other such industry. With smaller companies, you get a little more time to develop ideas. There just isn't the high pressure dealings of these larger locations. The biggest obstacle a smaller company faces: finding that diamond in the rough. If you are the company who finds the 'next big thing' you have to make sure you have the ability, both financial and labor-wise, to keep up with demand. The easiest way to crash and burn is to have your supply not keep up with your demand. It's fundamental business practice.

      In the publishing industry, there is more of a stigma attached to smaller companies, but I wouldn't call it a struggle. It's not in the eyes of the buyer. The stigma is in the eyes of the writers and what they envision they should receive. With a larger company, the writer usually has to be available for whatever appearance is requested. With a smaller company, the writer usually has to help with their own marketing--set up some of their own signings, create a portion of their promotional material themselves, and generally work at getting their name out there. While this is common among new name authors at nearly all companies, it is more so with smaller companies.

      Unfortunately, with new ideas comes the inevitable companies who take advantage of the unsuspecting author, and this can give the whole small publishing industry a bad name. But, as with everything else, those companies are eventually weeded out and exposed for what they are. With all the changes going on in the industry, authors need to be far more knowledgeable and savvy about their rights and what they’re getting into.

      Having said that, however, I envision an extremely bright future for the honest, hardworking small publisher. The entire publishing world is in a state of flux as authors from small houses begin to see their books reach best-seller lists. Old paradigms are being challenged with new technology and authors are presented with options they’ve never had never before. The small publisher represents a sense of optimism to authors with their more personalized service, editing, cover input, and more individualized marketing strategies. As we sign talented authors our voices will become stronger and more widely recognized. The tagline for our company is ‘Building dreams one book at a time’, and I believe that holds true for the small publisher as well. We’re all building dreams.

      I think it depends on the publisher. As long as one doesn't try to take on too much, it will be a bright promise. In fact, we have been working with in formulating a system by which they will begin to incorporate a "Top 100 Small Press Best Sellers" list. This will be just like their current Top 100 list, but it will only be those titles released by a small press in order to give more attention to these hidden gems. Of course, it's just a seed of an idea, but it's a start. Not to mention that a number of people are looking more at small presses than the larger ones for publication. Most (if not all) of the larger houses require a high-powered agent to get in the door. In order to get the high-powered agent, you have to be published by a major house. I think that, in time, the small presses will take over as the top sellers. Primarily because of sheer volume, but also because there are a LOT of terrific stories out there. Then, too, with the political climate, a lot of large presses won't touch political memoirs (and similar types of books) unless they can generate controversy. The small press doesn't look at things politically, thus is more open to take a bigger risk.

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