SPAWN Market Update — February 2004
By Patricia L. Fry
Heart and Soul
I still hear writers state that there is no market for fiction—that they can’t find magazines that publish fiction works. As a service to SPAWN members who love writing fiction or who seek out fiction markets in order to promote their novels, I spent some time researching opportunities for you. Here are some interesting ones:
Open Spaces Quarterly
The Yale Review
The Messenger of the Sacred Heart
Here are a couple of fiction markets for those of you who write for children:
American Girl Magazine
Children’s Magic Window Magazine
Earn $25 to $100 writing nicey nicey
Become a paid agent.
Write for a magazine that’s worth $100,000,000. , with a circulation of less than 9,000 received a windfall of $100 million. They have the money, baby, if you’ve got the time and the talent, here’s your chance to earn top dollar for your fine poetry. Instead of the usual $2 per line, they are paying $6. That’s $120 for a 20-line poem. And that’s more than most poetry magazines pay. Poetry Magazine buys as many as 250 poems per year and the length is open. Hey, can you write a 100 line poem? That’s 600 bucks!! Find out more about their submission requirements at http://www.poetrymagazine.org
Earn money writing book reviews.
Draw/write for the greeting card market.
Modern Tales, Comics on the Web
Don’t discount those marketing opportunities that are right under your nose. We’ve recently started a new feature in SPAWNews, SPAWN’s monthly newsletter which goes out to around 1,500 writers, authors, artists and small publishers. Each month, we feature a member’s Web site. We put out a call to members—”Let us know if you would like us to feature YOUR Web site.” No one came forward. NO ONE!! I wondered, don’t our members have Web sites for their writing/graphics businesses? Aren’t they selling books through their own Web sites? So I went in search of member sites.
My first stop was the SPAWN Member Directory. While virtually all members are listed there, few of them had their Web sites listed. Somehow, they neglected to put their Web site address on their member application. So I began contacting members to ask if they had a Web site and if they would like to have it featured in SPAWNews. BINGO! Almost all of the 10-or-so members I contacted said, “Yes, I have a Web site and I’d love to have it featured in SPAWNews.” So why didn’t they come forward to take advantage of this promotional opportunity on their own?
I began evaluating my own marketing techniques and realized that there are opportunities I miss, too. We stay so busy trying to make a living, keeping up with our contacts, processing (physically and mentally) the enormous volume of materials we receive each day, coming up with new marketing ideas for our books and trying to maintain some order in our personal lives, we’re fairly overloaded.. No wonder we either miss or just don’t get around to pursuing some of the opportunities that are right under out noses.
I vowed to pay more attention to those opportunities that come up. When I read about a marketing opportunity that takes little time and effort, I’ll drop what I’m doing and take advantage right then. If I hear about a potential market for one of my books, I’ll make a note of it and slip it into a file folder which I promise to open at least once a week. My day for this work is Sunday afternoon. I spend another half day every few weeks pursuing new markets for one of my books—sending out press releases to libraries across the U.S., coming up with new ideas for newspaper press releases—that new angle that will grab an editor even in Boulder, CO or Jacksonville, FL.
So my tip for you this week is to pay attention to those opportunities and act on them now either by direct action or by filing the idea in a hot file and acting on it one day in the near future.
Watch Out for Burn Out.
Those of you who do not, yet, have a copy of this book, you’re missing out on some good stuff. Check it out at http://www.matilijapress.com. Those of you who do have it—any comments would be appreciated.
This month, we’re featuring Brook Street Press, a new small press that you won’t find listed in Writer’s Market. Those of you with novels in progress, read up! This is an interview with publisher, Jim Pannell
Q: Brook Street Press sounds like a small publishing house that specializes. You seem to have a very different concept in publishing than we envision the big publishers adopting. Would you tell us a little about your purpose and mission?
A: Brook Street Press was founded very consciously as an alternative to the big, primarily New York-based, houses. Although I have always been a voracious reader and you will find my bookshelves stocked with many a writer’s biography, my work experience over the previous 20 years was in financial services. Truth be told, when I first started looking at publishing as a new venture my initial conclusion was that it had to be just about the worst business model on the face of the earth. It was no wonder to me that everyone – writer, publisher, printer, distributor, wholesaler, or bookseller – all complained that they couldn’t make any money. To me the traditional model is fundamentally flawed and doomed to failure. We may suffer the same fate but we are working hard to “think outside the box” while still producing a quality product.
Q: What are some of your recent titles?
A: Our initial list consists of five novels: WALTER FALLS, NO REVENGE SO COMPLETE, and REEL AND ROUT are all first novels, though in the case of REEL AND ROUT a novel by a gentleman who has published widely in non-fiction. A LONG DAY’S DYING is a reissue of Frederick Buechner’s first novel, published in 1950, and we believe that he is an under-appreciated novelist who will one day be viewed as an American C.S. Lewis. Finally, IRA FOXGLOVE is a posthumous novel by the “cult” writer Thomas McMahon. This is a previously unpublished novel and his three previous works (PRINCIPLES OF AMERICAN NUCLEAR CHEMISTRY: A NOVEL; MCKAY’S BEES; and LOVING LITTLE EGYPT) have recently been reissued by The University of Chicago Press.
Q: What type of manuscripts are you currently seeking?
A: I have to confess that I’m pretty awful when it comes to submissions. Given that we have the goal of eventually publishing 10-20 books a year I think it is all that much harder. I spend a lot of time thinking about how one title fits with another on the list. I recognize that this is very subjective but I think it is very important that we try to develop an identity that is consistent. In reality, it is really a matter of whether or not something catches my attention. The success of this house will rest largely on whether my taste is “marketable” to the public.
We get a lot of submissions both unsolicited directly from the author and from agents. I’ve found that in the last year or so that I receive a lot of books that have terrorism as part of the plot and a lot of titles that have very bad things happening to children. I find the terrorism angle a little too trendy (though I do have one title under contract that has this theme) and as the father of two young boys I confess that I cringe a bit with violence in general and toward children in particular.
That’s all a fairly long-winded answer to not answer your question!
Q: Please describe your proudest moment in publishing so far?
A: It’s probably a bit premature at this point. I’m just glad we are still plugging away and recently got paid for the first time. We aren’t profitable yet but I think we are heading in the right direction.
Q: What are your future plans for your company?
A: Stick to our knitting. Don’t try to do too many things. Eventually I’d like to add some non-fiction titles but want to wait until we are a little more established to do so.
Q: Would you talk about trends in the publishing industry? What direction do you see this industry heading? What shifts or changes should we be watching for?
A: Technology is one of the key aspects that will drive change. I don’t think much of e-books at this time since I believe that reading is still a sensory experience that is not satisfied with an “appliance”. Until someone invents an “appliance” that looks, feels, and smells like a real book I don’t see much coming of it other than in education where revisions are constant.
There are clearly too many links in the supply chain with everyone looking to take another nickel out of your pocket. Why the book has to go from the printer – to the distributor – to the wholesaler – and finally to the bookseller is beyond me. My vision, and admittedly everyone thinks I’m nuts, is that printing will eventually take place at the bookstore where the bookseller doesn’t have to stack up 40 copies of one book but can draw on a database of every book in print, print out the stock that they want and fill custom orders as they come in. I can see us one day going up to the counter, saying, “I want a copy of WALTER FALLS” and then coming back to the counter a few minutes later with the book waiting for us.
I also think that Borders is on to something when they say they want publishers to quit putting a suggested price on the cover. It really is one of the few industries that do. I think that this will have a significantly impact on traditional houses. The old line houses still pay royalties based on retail price. We don’t think that makes any sense given that the discounts are so much higher now than they were even 20 years ago. If Borders gets its way then I think we will see the end of royalties based on retail price as it would be an accounting nightmare to track. Even without such a change we pay royalties based on net price. We prefer to ramp up the rate as sales increase. In essence we don’t think we should be penalized if a book does not do well and we don’t think we deserve a windfall if it takes off. It’s a shared responsibility and pay for performance.
Q: What would you advise someone who is seeking a publisher for his/her literary ficton manuscript?
A: Spend 99% of your time working on your craft. If you produce something of merit it will eventually find a home. You may not make any money, and most writers don’t, but a steadfast commitment to your art will serve you best, or at least keep you relatively sane.
I suppose the traditional houses like it but I’m not terribly interested in blurbs that an author has solicited. In fact, I’d like to become a blurb-free-zone. I think they are questionable as to their ability to improve sales and the “blurb industry” has become very disreputable of late (perhaps it always was).
Be patient. I know that a writer wants the publisher to read every word as soon as they get it but this stuff takes time. Perhaps being a small publisher means it takes even longer.
When submitting a manuscript I prefer to see something that the author feels is a finished product. That is not to say that it is. We will have to edit, copy edit, proof read, etc. But small guys don’t really have the resources to take a concept and help to mold it into a finished book (actually the big houses probably spend less time on it than we do).
Q: What do you expect from your authors once you’ve published their book? I get the sense that you enter into a partnership with authors. What is their responsibility in the partnership?
A: We want to hear their ideas and know the level to which they want to be involved. Some authors don’t want to be bothered, others want to control everything. If the author doesn’t want to do readings they don’t have to. I don’t care if they want to use a pseudonym and never have their picture printed on the jacket. We can do the cult figure route if warranted! Still a willingness to do readings, and actually line some of them up, is a great help. If you have contacts that you think will be helpful for getting reviews by all means share them. But don’t contact reviewers and pester them about reviewing your book. It’s counterproductive and diminishes reputation of the author.
Q: Please add anything else you would like to add.
A: Fiction, particularly literary fiction, is a real crap shoot. I really believe that the best way to launch such a title is to concentrate on the independent bookstores and try to get reviews. But with reviews shrinking in all the major papers and magazines it is really, really tough. Authors doing readings helps a lot as well though these “literary” authors are often cranky types that don’t want to leave home (one author I have refers to his room where he works as “The Bat Cave”). Personally, I think that print advertising for literary fiction is largely a waste of money. I have asked every publisher I have talked to how much they spend on print advertising for such books and why they do it. Every single one has given me a very large number but also confessed that if they stopped doing it they would see little if any impact on book sales. They all say they do it to make the author happy. Sounds like a pretty stupid business plan to me! So, bottom line I think finding creative ways to get the word out on literary fiction is what I spend most of my “marketing” time thinking about. Again, why one title does well and another doesn’t I think is utterly luck of the draw.
There are two types of writers: those who can’t find the time to write—who procrastinate themselves out of a writing career. And those who write for so many hours each day that their posture when standing resembles their posture when sitting. New and renewing members have a copy of my newest book, “The Successful Writer’s Handbook” and you’ve seen my piece, “The Care and Feeding of the Whole Writer.” Here’s what I suggest and you KNOW I’m right. Get plenty of sleep, eat regularly and make your meals nutritious, exercise every day, take regular breaks (my chiropractor says for every hour you sit, get up and move around for 10 minutes), seek mental stimulation and inspiration of a type different than your current project—in other words, read for pleasure, mingle with interesting people. In addition, expand your creative endeavors, acknowledge your spirituality and volunteer—yes, help others. at http://www.fun-with-words.com was featured in an issue of Market Update 2 years ago. I thought you might have fun with it again. Please let me know if you document and file each of these sites I give you and use them regularly throughout your work week and I won’t run them again. On the other hand, if you appreciate being reminded of some of the great learning sites for writer types on the Web, here you go…. While this is a subscription site—you pay $9.95 for a month subscription or $59.95 for a year—you can get quick answers to your questions for free. I asked a couple of really off the wall questions and was astounded by the prompt and thorough responses I received. Visit them the next time you are researching mammals common to the Russian Steppes or the number of books sold in the U.S. during 1998. http://www.britannica.ocm has put out a call to cartoonists and writers. Find out more at http://www.moderntales.com/submissions. Or contact Joey at Joey@moderntales.com A greeting card company is looking for artists, cartoonists and copywriters to create material for their humor line. They pay $100 for each card idea and $60 for each one-liner you can come up with. Contact the editor at email@example.com. Check them out at http://www.kalanlp.com/home.html Do you enjoy reading? Would you like to make extra money writing book reviews? Here’s an article designed to help you get started. The writer, Niki Taylor, also gives you some markets to pursue. http://www.writersweekly.com/this_weeks_article/001002_12172003.html. Note: While this IS the correct link, clicking on this will take you to a page that says it is not. Just follow the search options on that page and type in the title of the article, “Getting Paid to Read – 10 Paying Book Review Markets” by Niki Taylor, and you will be directed to this very link. Sigh!Poetry MagazineHere’s a money-making opportunity for writers. Meg Weaver at Wooden Horse Publications, is offering commissions for people who will act as agents for her magazine database. Have you visited http://www.woodenhorsepub.com, yet? Meg has a database of over 1700 magazines with contact information, pay scale, submission guidelines and editorial calendars. And she wants help soliciting subscriptions. Contact Meg at firstname.lastname@example.org . Steve Zikman at doinggoodsubmissions@GOscape.com (http://www.goscape.com) is looking for heartwarming true stories for a “Doing Good for Goodness’ Sake” project. Jennie S. Bev seeks inspiring true stories for her Mint Candy for the Spirit series. email@example.com. http://www.writinggigs.com. If you have a book related to personal empowerment, send a copy to Donna Seebo at The Donna Seebo Show, POB 97272,Tacoma, WA 98497-0272. She is currently booking interviews for her radio show, “The Donna Seebo Show.” http://www.delphininternational.com encourages fiction submissions that are 800-1,000-words in length and that address real problems according to Biblical principles. They will accept serial stories and also like adventure, historical humorous, mystery, religious, spiritual and sports. Your story should be appropriate as a take-home paper for Sunday school classes.