Saturday, 27 February 2016

A Brave New World - Preserving the Printed Word

I am pleased to welcome Donna and Alex Carrick of Carrick Publishing, as I continue to explore the changes in the publishing industry and impact of those changes on the various stakeholders.

I’d like to thank Joan for featuring Carrick Publishing today at her blog site.

Much has been said during recent years about the changing industry landscape. Alex and I made the decision that, rather than witness these changes as bystanders, we would become involved on a pioneering level.

We’ve been able, in some small way, to help shape the changes in our publishing industry. We offer options to talented authors who might otherwise not be able to reach readers.

In your dual role as an author and publisher, what changes have you seen in recent years?

The changes our industry has faced so far in the 21st century have been much discussed by authors and industry leaders. My comments stem from the grass-roots level, my gut reaction to what we’ve witnessed in the past 10 years.

Most notably, there have been the closures. Closures of large publishing houses. Closures of brick and mortar bookstores.

Talented authors have been advised their publishing contracts will not be renewed.

The rise of e-books, which should have offered salvation to the struggling author, has yet to realize its potential.

In a free-market society, one expects the best and brightest to rise to success. This has not, for the most part, been the case. We still see only a marked few authors gaining reader recognition. And this success, while in part driven by talent, has not been a true gauge of the “best of the best”. Too many skilled, worthy authors still sit on the sidelines, unheralded and unrecognized.

Alex is an Economist by profession. Naturally, with that background, we do believe that eventually the reading public will seek out new talent. Meanwhile, though, the extremely alluring distractions of video and internet media are giving authors a run for their efforts.

Books, whether print or e-book format, may never regain their former glory, floating as they do upon a public that is pulled in other directions. But we must believe that reading will, with the continued effort of publishers and authors, find its place within the recreational options open to young people.

I target young people in this comment because I believe the “over 50” crowd already understands the importance of reading, both as it relates to intellectual and emotional development, as well as for the pleasure it can bring the reader.

Young people, though, are a tougher market nut to crack.

Reader by reader, it is our job, those of us who love this industry, to bring them into the fold, kicking and screaming if necessary. If we fail in this mission, we will have failed our industry. We’ll have let our fellow authors down, our publishers, both traditional and Indie…in short we will have failed our art.

How have your roles been affected by the changes?

My initial role in this industry was as an author of literary thrillers.

Writing is my first love. I can recall as a very young child being deeply moved by the great books of the time. My mother saw that love in me. She made sure, even though she was of middle education herself, that our house was filled with children’s classics. She took pains to encourage that love, even though she did not share it. I credit her with this passion.

Having said that, timing is everything.

I always knew I would write novels. I even always had an idea of the themes I would try to address in my work. What I didn’t necessarily anticipate was the quicksand-like force of these industry changes. Suddenly, agents and publishers were no longer enjoying wide profit margins. Without profit margins, they had little, if any, incentive to champion new talent.

The upheaval caused by this economic sinkhole meant that a new author, such as myself, would not be judged on merit, on talent, or even on effort. The stories and themes that I hoped to bring to readers would, in short, never reach the public, even on a modest level.

As an artist, this was unacceptable to me.

If I could not find a publisher, it seemed the alternative was to become a publisher. Hence, the birth of Carrick Publishing. Alex and I perceived a need in our industry, and we set about trying to fill it.

What is the impact of these changes on authors? on readers? on the book industry overall?

Authors: I believe many authors have been, quite simply, devastated by the changes in the publishing industry. Authors who used to be able to focus of the art of story-telling must now become self-marketers, editors, in many cases cover artists. Authors are being stretched beyond their capacity, and still they feel no assurance of support within the industry. They face dwindling (often disappearing) royalties; they are being systematically dropped by their agents and publishers, and only the very select few are still enjoying the publicity that is the banner-benefit of signing with a large publishing house.

Readers are, in my humble opinion, being led by the nose. They are being offered a grossly narrowing array of works/authors/talents/themes to choose from. In a time when we, as an industry, should be pulling out all stops to court new readers, instead we are offering them a mere Pablum assortment of genres/authors/works.

New readers, with their legendary short attention spans, are quickly becoming disgusted with this shortage of variety.

Some may set out to discover new Indie works, but even there they are not satisfied. With the groundswell of unsupported authors, there is an unmatched tsunami of low-quality work.

I am not an advocate of the traditional “gatekeeper”. Alex and I believe firmly in allowing readers to award success to authors where it is merited. Having said that, at least the gatekeepers offered some small assurance of quality.

The flux of unsupported writers unfortunately brings with it a flood of lesser work. Work that is not properly edited, with themes and characters that are less than original, less than compelling.

Book Industry: In a few words, I do believe our industry has been injured by these changes. It will take time and a great deal of effort to regain the trust of readers. We can do this only by offering them greater variety, greater enthusiasm for our art, and a deepening of the quality of our work.
What challenges and opportunities do these changes present to the various stakeholders?

We live and work in a climate of tremendous opportunity. However, it does not present itself without equally tremendous effort. Alex and I saw, early on, that this is a time for pioneers, if you’ll allow the word.

More than at any time since the invention of the typewriter, this is a time of innovation, of new approaches, of new attitudes and ideas within our industry.

The traditional guard is slowly beginning to see this, and to govern itself accordingly.

At Carrick Publishing, we’ve known this for more than a decade. It’s the basis of our business.

How are you positioning yourself to meet the challenges or take advantage of the opportunities?

Our position is simple:  If it doesn’t work, don’t do it. Instead, be open to new ideas. Find out what does work.

With this in mind, we offer independent authors a means to reach readers. We offer them an Indie publishing platform, with services that include copy-editing, formatting and verification of the publication files. We also offer follow-up, working closely with our authors in the post-publication stages.

While we cannot act as publicists, we do fully support our authors through social media, and we encourage our authors to grow their personal platforms. We’re happy to guide where we can in this seemingly daunting process.

Royalties, slender as they are these days, are vitally important to our authors. We recognize this. Therefore, our fees are related strictly to the labour we provide. We make no claim on the future copyright or royalties of our authors. We act as publisher of record, copy-editor if needed, guide for new authors, formatter and setup. 

Finally, we are fully dedicated to restoring literary quality to our industry. If a work comes to us that is poorly edited, we will let the author know his/her next steps required.

We will not accept or work with manuscripts that are poor quality, nor will we work with anything we deem to be in poor taste. This, of course, is subject to our opinions, but would certainly include anything we see as hate-literature.

Beyond those qualifiers, we are open to most genres, from memoirs to literary to mystery to fantasy, or any mix of genres.

Do you have any additional thoughts you'd like to share?

Donna: If you have the ear of a young person who does not read, please encourage them to do so. Please, do not attempt to restrict (beyond the necessities of good taste) what your children choose to read. Allow them, and encourage them, to read for pleasure, more than for education.

Only through the deep, undeniable pleasure of being completely lost in a good story can we hope to bring a new generation of readers back to our industry.

And back to our art.

Alex: Another art form is currently ascending, and has already replaced books as the dominant cultural touchstone. This art form is video, in all its current and future platforms. We recognize this reality, but there remains a true value in preserving the printed word, out of which so much of video is derived.

We feel a responsibility to continue to fight for the recognition of the written word.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

A Brave New World - Author Revolution

I continue to explore the changes in the publishing industry on various stakeholders.  My guest today is Cheryl Kaye Tardif, author and publisher of Imajin Books.

In your role as a publisher, what changes have you seen in recent years?

What we've seen over the past ten years is an author revolution, with a dramatic increase in self-published or indie authors taking the lead. Educated writers who take on publishing as a "business," are discovering that most book retailers like Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, GooglePlay etc., have their own publishing platforms available to writers from many countries. Some authors published by the Big 5 have taken back their rights and self-published their titles. We've also seen many start-up hybrid or indie publishing companies open and close their virtual doors. Ebook sales have risen worldwide. Amazon still remains the leader in book sales, especially for ebooks, and more authors (indie and published by small publishers) are making it onto the overall Top 100 Best Sellers list on We're also seeing a huge demand for translated works, and indie authors or authors published by hybrid publishers like Imajin Books now have more opportunities to see their works translated and sold in various territories. We've also seen an increase in freelance editors, proofreaders, formatters and cover designers, though writers should do their homework as not all offer quality.

How has your role been affected by the changes?

My role as publisher hasn't changed much. I'm still looking for exciting, well-written stories with memorable characters and plots, whether novels or novellas. More importantly, I'm looking for writers who know how to promote themselves online and in public. We are always on the lookout for authors who don't want to self-publish. We'll even consider authors who've left the bigger houses and retained their book rights. We've branched out into foreign translations, whether we publish them or negotiate deals for our authors with foreign publishers.

What is the impact of these changes on authors? On readers? On the book industry overall?

For authors, these changes mean no more paying tens of thousands of dollars for old-fashioned "vanity" printing, or no more paying thousands for a print-on-demand publishing package. Publishing a quality book takes an investment of $1500-4000, depending on who you know. Not only are writers publishing their own works, they're taking charge of their marketing and promotions. They realize, now more than ever, that this is a business, and like all businesses you need to invest time and money every month. Authors who want their books to sell must regularly invest, and that means buying ads from book promo sites, Facebook, Twitter etc.

For readers, there is now a large quantity of $0-$4.99 ebooks available daily. The Big 5 and mid-sized publishers are still jacking up ebook prices, but we're seeing lower-priced ebooks by some.   eBooks published by Imajin Books have always been more affordable than those of bigger publishers, and we hold quite a few sales and freebie events each year.

What challenges and opportunities do these changes present to the various stakeholders?

The biggest challenge for authors is 1.) learning that they can't do it all. If they want to be taken seriously as a career author, they must hire professionals (editors, proofreaders, formatters, cover designers etc.), and 2.) making sure they have available financial support to properly promote their works.
The biggest challenge for publishers is trying to weed out all the hobby writers (those who will most likely only write one book, and usually not that well) from those who have true talent. This has always been an issue for publishers, but with the influx of new authors comes more manuscript submissions.

As for opportunities, there has never been a better time for writers to either publish their own works or find a smaller hybrid company to publish their books.

How are you positioning yourself to meet the challenges or take advantage of the opportunities?

At Imajin Books, we take advantage of all the tools that self-published authors have access to. We pay small advances but higher than average royalties. We have access to far more sales data than ever before, so we can take advantage of other people's experiences. Plus I am both indie published and traditionally published, meaning I've self-published some works and other publishers have published me too. This gives me the benefits of experiencing and learning from both sides. I believe this makes me a better publisher. I'm always on the lookout for new technology.

Do you have any additional thoughts you'd like to share?

I encourage writers to consider what they want out of writing. Do they just want to write for pleasure? If so, there's nothing wrong with being a hobby writer. Do you want to write books full-time as a career author? If so, make sure you're prepared to spend the money AND the time. You can't just throw a terribly edited work up on Amazon then ignore it and expect it to sell. There's much more to being a career author than writing a couple of books. Treat this as a business, and you'll see your business grow. And know that ANYTHING is possible. Even hitting the New York Times bestseller list!

Write for yourself first. Write because you feel passionate about it. Then decide what you want to be. :-)

Cheryl Tardif is the publisher at Imajin Books®, a hybrid publishing company in West Kelowna, BC, Canada. Utilizing today’s technology, Imajin Books publishes ebooks and trade paperbacks by international authors. Imajin Qwickies® is a novella imprint that launched in 2015, along with children’s imprint, Ogopogo Books™.

Cheryl Kaye Tardif is an award-winning, international bestselling author represented by Trident Media Group in New York. Booklist raves, "Tardif, already a big hit in Canada…a name to reckon with south of the border."

Check out Cheryl’s website and Imajin Books website, and connect with her on Twitter (Cheryl and Imajin Books) and Facebook (Cheryl and Imajin Books).

Photo credit: Jessy Marie, Ai Love Photography

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Brave New World - A Matter of Numbers

I’m continuing to explore the impact that changes in the publishing world are having on the various stakeholders – authors, readers and marketers. My guest this week is Vicki Delany.

A prolific and varied author of crime fiction and sitting president of Crime Writers of Canada, Vicki is well-positioned to offer an insightful perspective. She writes the Year Round Christmas mysteries and, under the pen name of Eva Gates, the Lighthouse Library series, both from Penguin Random House. She is also the author of the Constable Molly Smith series, the Klondike Gold Rush mysteries, and standalone novels of suspense. Her Rapid Reads novella, Juba Good, is currently shortlisted for a Golden Oak award from the Ontario Library association. Vicki’s most recent book is Unreasonable Doubt, the 8th in the Constable Molly Smith series.

A former computer programmer and systems analyst, Vicki lives and writes in bucolic Prince Edward County, Ontario.

In your dual role as an author and president of CWC, what changes have you seen in recent years?

I’ve seen a lot of unhappy authors! This has always been a very difficult business and I doubt there ever was much of a golden period for writers. But as difficult as it was, at least it used to pay better. All reports out of the UK, US and Canada, say that writer’s incomes are down by 50% over the last twenty years, and that’s tough.

I believe the biggest impact on writers’ incomes is the plethora of free books out there. I’d like to ask readers to think before they load up on free books. What’s the value of that book to them? If it’s nothing, okay go ahead. But if you want good writers to continue to write good books then you have to realize that they have to be paid. And that’s what worries me most about the new world of publishing. That we’ve forgotten the value of a book. Will we get to the day when there are a handful of bestsellers making money and everything else is free? And worth exactly what you pay for it: $0.00. 

I won’t be writing, if that’s the case. And neither will a lot of reader favourites.

How have your roles been affected by the changes?

As a writer, I’ve been very lucky. I’m still with the publisher I joined ten years ago, and I have moved between others for other books. I am published now by Penguin Random House, and although they have recently consolidated I’m still hanging in there with my Year Round Christmas Mystery series.
As the president of the CWC, we continue to represent and promote our authors and crime writing in Canada, and our membership is strong and growing. The state of getting Canadian crime writing published is a story for another day.

What is the impact of these changes on authors? On readers? On the book industry overall?

I’m just glad I am not starting out today. In fact, if I was, I’d probably give up. It’s much more difficult to get a first novel published by a major press than it used to be. No one wants to take a chance on an unknown, and a lot of publishers are cutting back the number of books they’re releasing. Plus, there seem to be a lot more people wanting to write a book, so competition for those few first novel slots is intense. On the other hand, I get the feeling there are a lot of new small publishers and mid-sized publishers, and that might be a good thing. As long as their eye is on quality and they know about production and distribution and promoting and are not just in it to make a quick buck off a desperate author. 

What about self-publishing some will say? I’ll mention up front that I would never advise anyone to self-publish their first book. Yes, I just said above that it’s more difficult to get a traditional publisher, but it’s worth the effort. You need that ‘gate keeper’, you need people, professional people, not your mom or best friend, to tell you what’s wrong with your book and how to make it better. Maybe you need someone to tell you it’s not worth publishing, try again. 

I think it’s too early to tell the impact on readers. There seem to be lots of new voices, self-published or published by one of the new small presses, but is that a business model that can sustain good, serious writers over the long term? When larger houses cut back or “consolidate” their output, the readers’ favourites are let go. Writers probably need the support of their readers now more than ever before. If you love a book or an author, let the world know.

What challenges and opportunities do these changes present to the various stakeholders?

It’s harder to get a book published by a traditional publishing house, if that’s what you want. If what you want is to write something and have it “out there” and maybe have a couple of people read it, then self-publishing can be the way to go. But don’t fool yourself that it’s going to lead to a big publishing contract. 

Selling books is a numbers game. If you want a publisher to take you on with anything other than a first, unpublished manuscript, the very first thing they do is look at your numbers. They don’t care if you were with a small, but excellent literary press, or self-published. If you didn’t sell a certain number of copies, they have no interest. Sometimes, the quality of the book doesn’t even matter.

Some established authors are doing well self-publishing their new books or out-of-print ones; they’re what are being called hybrids. These people have a following of loyal readers, they have a network of fellow-authors, they have a track record with respected reviewers, and they know how to play the game. And in many cases, they also still have traditional publishers for other books so they cross-promote. Many hybrids are doing very well in this new world. 

One other group is getting rich off this. And that’s the people out to scam desperate writers. Fake contests, phony agents, “vanity presses” that promise the world and charge thousands of dollars. I got an email just the other day, saying that for a special rate of $99 they’d promote my free book on Amazon. Hum, so I can pay to get nothing in return.

How are you positioning yourself to meet the challenges or take advantage of the opportunities?

I’m doing nothing at all different. Then again, I’ve said that I’ve been lucky and I have. I still publish three or four books a year, all from traditional publishers ranging from mid-sized to one of the big five.

Do you have any additional thoughts you'd like to share?

I’d advise everyone out there who is thinking of writing a book or who has written a book and wants to have it published to learn all they can about the business and the options out there. Networking is key. Networking is how I got my contact with Penguin Random House. I knew someone whose agent was looking for someone…. Be very aware of the scammers I mentioned above.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Brave New World-Seismic Shifts in Publishing

It seems to me that the publishing industry is undergoing a seismic shift. Traditional publishing houses are either closing their doors or absorbed into larger houses. E-publishing is another factor along with a rise in the rate of aliteracy (ability to read but not the desire). So how are these changes affecting the various stakeholders?

Over the next while, I am hosting various individuals who can provide some insight into these changes and the implications for readers, writers and others. My first guest is Melodie Campbell. A prolific author, whose novels and short fiction have been published for over 25 years, and the immediate past Executive Director of Crime Writers of Canada, Melodie is well-positioned to comment on the changes occurring. Welcome, Melodie!

In your role as an author and also more recently as Executive Director of Crime Writers of Canada, what changes have you seen in recent years?

The main change I've seen in six years is the ruthlessness of publishers. It used to be that they would tell us they lost money on your first book. They broke even on your second, and they finally made money on your third. So the idea was, they wanted an author they could hold on to through many, many books. Now, publishers want to make money on your first book. A whole lot of money. If you don't make that right off the bat, they drop you. There is no 'nurturing time' anymore.

What is the impact of these changes on authors? On readers? On the book industry overall?

It's devastating. I can name eight authors who got picked up by the big five publishers four years ago, who have since been dropped. I know more authors dropped than those who have been kept. Publishers seem to want a few bestsellers, and that's it. We used to say in the industry that the bestsellers helped to support the publishing costs of the mid-listers. But now publishers seem to be dumping their mid-listers. This will mean fewer books traditionally published overall.

What challenges and opportunities do these changes present to the various stakeholders?

I see self-publishing becoming even more important. I expect many authors who have been let go by publishers, will turn to hybrid publishing. Companies like Carrick Publishing, which puts a professional spin on books that would have been essentially self-published, will flourish.

How are you positioning yourself to meet the challenges or take advantage of the opportunities?

I write because I love to write. Luckily, I've found two publishers - one midsize, and one small - who like my books. There is great freedom in writing for enjoyment rather than for a living. I make money with my books, but it's Corvette money, not money to live on. And that suits me fine.

Do you have any additional thoughts you'd like to share?

A lot of our problems in publishing today are not caused by Amazon and ebooks. They are caused by people not reading as much as they used to. And particularly, younger people aren't reading for pleasure the way earlier generations did. It's much easier to turn on the television, and there are some really good shows on Showcase and HBO, for example. So I would say our competition as authors is not with ebooks and self-publishing so much as the old boob tube. This saddens me terribly. In my Crafting a Novel classes at Sheridan College, I often have adult students who tell me they don't read fiction for pleasure. But they want to write a novel. This baffles me. Even more baffling, they seem shocked when I ask them, 'who do you expect to buy your books, if you are a writer and you don't read fiction yourself?'

Thanks, Melodie!

The Toronto Sun called her Canada’s “Queen of Comedy.” Library Journal compared her to Janet Evanovich. Melodie Campbell got her start writing standup. She has over 200 publications, ten novels and ten awards for fiction, including the 2014 Derringer and Arthur Ellis Awards, for the screwball crime comedy, The Goddaughter’s Revenge.