SPAWN Market Update – January, 2004
By Patricia L. Fry
This is the 27th issue of the SPAWN Market Update. I spend hours each month collecting information and news you can use in your writing/publishing business and another several hours compiling a 10-15 pages report. In order to keep you informed, I subscribe to dozens of newsletters and magazines, I search the net and I read the email that most of you delete. I conduct interviews with your peers as well as editors, agents and publishers in hopes that you will find nuggets of advice and encouragement that will help further your career.
It’s a labor of love and it’s a learning experience for me. But it’s also a great deal of work. And I don’t know if I’m reaching you or helping you through my efforts. Our site survey shows that the Market Update is the most popular aspect of the Member area of the SPAWN Web site. So maybe we’re on target with what you need. But a little feedback would still be nice. I’d like to start the year off by asking for your help. Let me know what you like about the Market Update, what you would like to see more of (less of). What sort of interviews most interest you? Do you want to see more writer, editor, publisher, agent interviews? Is there a particular resource you’d like to see featured here?
The Market Update is for you. Help me to produce it to your specifications and needs. Contact me at email@example.com with your ideas.
I’m also interested in hearing from those of you who have found a resource, tip or reference site we’ve featured especially helpful in your writing/publishing business. I know that a few members have contacted some of the agents we’ve featured. One writer told me that she keeps copies of the new markets for writers and has submitted query letters to some of them. How has the information in the Market Update helped you?
The Open eBook Forum has published some pretty amazing statistics about ebook sales through the third quarter of 2003. According to Nick Bogaty, Executive Director of Open ebook Forum, over 1 million ebooks have been sold during the first 3 quarters of 2003. This is the first time that sales have surpassed the one million mark in a single year. The total number of ebooks published in the third quarter of 2003 was 2,159. There were just 1,241 titles published in 2002 during the same period. Sales are up 64 percent over the third quarter sales in 2002. According to Bogaty, the ebook represents one of the fastest growing segments in publishing. Where did they get these statistics? It was compiled from data submitted by 30 of the world’s leading ebook publishers and retailers. I noticed that the publisher of my ebook was not listed. For more information visit http://www.openebook.org
Scriptmag Screenwriting Newsletter. This may not be a new publication, but I just became familiar with it, so I’m calling it new. If you are interested in screenwriting, you may want to subscribe to this free newsletter. http://www.scriptmag.com Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have you heard what Amazon.com plans to do next? They will start a book-text search so that folks can locate your book not only by the words in your title, but the words in your text. Amazon isn’t commenting on this plan at this time, but the scuttlebutt is that this service will start in the fall of 2004. If you have books displayed at Amazon.com, watch for information about how to get involved in the book-text search program.
Get published in Writer’s Digest. They’re seeking tips from writers for a column called,
Inkwell. Send them one sentence or a whole paragraph explaining how you juggle your assignments, beat writer’s block, develop more believable dialogue and so forth. But keep it under 150 words to quality for publication. What do you get for your efforts? A free copy of the issue in which your tip appears. I suggest that you read a couple of issues to get a feel for the style they’re using for this column and then email your suggestion to email@example.com Good luck
If you’re a writer looking for books, workshops, software, magazines, newsletters, etc. you must visit the Writer’s Store online. Subscribe to their free ezine to keep abreast of their new materials and specials. For example, the November issue carried a series of books for mystery and crime writers, materials for screenwriting and a course on how to start a copywriting business. They also featured two magazines for screenwriters.
Will return next month.
I continue to be skeptical about some of the new style publishing/book production companies that are cropping up. The books I’ve seen produced by some of these companies are quite unimpressive. And the complaints continue to circulate. According to Writer’s Weekly Whispers and Warnings, Publish America is getting a lot of complaints. Find out more about these and other complaints at http://www.writersweekly.com/whispers_and_warnings
It’s a good time to regroup and refresh. What is the state of your writing/publishing business or hobby? Did you meet your 2003 goals? Did you complete that manuscript, land a publisher or sell 50,000 copies of your book? Whether you met your career expectations for 2003 or not, it’s time to redefine your goals for the coming year and put into motion a plan for accomplishing them.
What will it take to finish that book—two hours a day of uninterrupted time for six months? Schedule that time.
How can you find a publisher for your novel? What if you get up an hour earlier 3 mornings a week and spend that time researching appropriate publishers?
Are sales lagging for the book you published last year? This is a good time to chart a new marketing course. Get creative. Define one new promotional technique each month. Or learn one new skill each month that will help further your career goals.
Do you have a tip to share with SPAWN members? Contact me at Patricia@spawn.org
Author, Rebekah Jones is in the process of establishing a business as a virtual assistant for authors. Here’s her story.
Q: What is a Virtual Assistant?
A: Here is the definition as explained by Stacy Brice, the owner of Assist University, “A Virtual Assistant is a highly trained and skilled professional who, as a support and growth partner to entrepreneurs, business owners, and busy people, provides high level, long-term collaborative administrative and personal assistance without having to be physically present in the client’s office.”
AssistU’s definition focuses on long-term collaborative assistance which goes well
beyond simple secretarial or project work. A true Virtual Assistant (VA) develops a long-term relationship with her or his clients and becomes a *partner* in the sense that we are partners in our client’s success. We can handle almost any type of work that an onsite person can do. However, we are not employees but business owners. This is an advantage for our clients in many ways – no overhead expenses for additional office equipment, office space, no payroll taxes or added insurance. Plus, Virtual Assistants are so much more than a full time employee or temporary employee. Were not just there to work our hours and pick up a paycheck. We brainstorm, look for ways to help our clients work smarter, and we discuss major financial decisions. We have a vested interest in our client’s businesses because we truly want them to be successful and profitable.
Q: There’s a school for Virtual Assistants? Please tell me a little about the AssistU experience.
A: Assist University http://www.assistu.com is the premier training institution for Virtual Assistants as well as a referral service for those seeking a VA. AssistU’s *Virtual Training Program* is a 20-week program consisting of weekly teleclasses, email and phone contact with your instructor and other students, business-building fieldwork that is submitted via email, and the creation and submission of a comprehensive business plan. This is followed by an extensive final exam comparable to a graduate program, with the exam being like a comprehensive exam that someone would take to receive a Master’s degree.
Students may sign up for a one-on-one class or a group class. I chose the one-on-one class for the individual attention. There are also group teleclasses and discussions available for all students while in the program. After graduation the support continues, at
no extra charge, through the alumni group.
The training does not stop at the end of the initial 20 weeks. Advanced classes are offered plus opportunities for business and personal coaching. AssistU also offers two levels of certification which is the highest certification in the industry. Graduates also have access to extensive proprietary information and resources as well as travel-and-learn opportunities, and in-person and virtual community events.
Q: Once you graduate, you hope to specialize by working with authors and artists. What services do you contemplate offering them?
A: Through my company, Coast Virtual Assistance International, I offer three main groups of services:
Office Administrative Services
business and personal auto insurance; process and pay (with access to client’s accounts) personal and business bills.
Other services available upon request so if you do not see what you need listed here just call me.
Q: What is your vision for an ideal career as a Virtual Assistant?
A: My purpose for becoming a Virtual Assistant was to own my own business, be able to set my own hours, and control my environment. I was attracted to the Virtual Assistance profession because of the emphasis upon the *partnership* relationship. So my vision for an ideal career as a Virtual Assistant is to have my own business and to build long-term collaborative relationships with my clients. My vision is to become my client’s *partner* in their success.
Q: Please describe your ideal client.
A: I have given a great deal of thought to my ideal client. In my personal life I am surrounded by creative people, artists, authors, and actors. Since I enjoy being with creative people and find them to be inspiring, I decided to incorporate creative people in my business life as well.
Along with creativity, my ideal client must be honest, trustworthy, of high moral integrity, and results oriented but balanced with feelings, spirituality, and respect for the importance of relationships in one’s life and business.
Q: What does a Virtual Assistant charge? Do rates vary depending on the type of service desired?
A: Virtual Assistants typically charge $35.00 to $130.00 per hour depending upon the type of service provided and the individual VA’s expertise. The average charge is $35.00 to $55.00 per hour. Generally VA’s offer two rates: a “pay as you go” rate and
a retainer rate. The PAYG rate is charged to a client as hours are used and is billable at the end of a month. The retainer rate is offered at a discount over the PAYG rate, as the client has committed to “buying” x number of hours from the VA each month and
paying for those in advance at the beginning of each month, hence the discount.
Q: You said that you are a published author. Tell us about your work.
A: Along with being a graduate of the Institute of Children’s Literature, I have had a series of articles published in the Fibromyalgia Network Newsletter. This newsletter provides support and information to people living with Fibromyalgia. I had the opportunity to interview rheumatologists, psychiatrists, pain management therapists, physical therapists, as well as patients. My articles focused upon coping skills for living with a chronic illness. One of the articles was written specifically for helping parents teach their children how to cope with having a parent who has a chronic illness.
Q: What advice do you have for authors who might be overburdened with detail work that you might be able to handle for them?
A: Writing, painting and other art forms are often solitary endeavors. My advice is – Don’t go it alone! Enlist the services of a Virtual Assistant. You will find that by working with a Virtual Assistant you will truly have a professional on your side and someone who is dedicated to your success. So call me. I’d be glad to help! 🙂 🙂 Coast Virtual Assistance International is your support solution for success!
Q: Please add anything else you would like to add.
A: Coast Virtual Assistance International offers three retainer options $300/month, which pays for 6 hours of my time – Any hours used in excess of retainer will be billed at $50 per hour. $540/month, which pays for 12 hours of my time – Any hours used in
excess of retainer will be billed at $45 per hour. $800/month, which pays for 20 hours Any hours used in excess of retainer will be billed at $40 per hour. Time is billed in 10-minute increments. No discount will be given for unused hours and unused hours do not roll over to the next month.***As a special service to SPAWN members, I am happy to offer a 10% discount (on the first three months) to members enlisting my services.***
Contact Rebekah for more information:
Owner and Professional Virtual Assistant
Coast Virtual Assistance International
(voice) 505.824.4704 or 310.351.4554
I interviewed Robert Olmsted at Dan River Press in Maine. This is a subsidiary of the Conservatory of American Letters and is a nonprofit small press publisher of fiction and biographies. Those of you who write fiction might be interested in this informative interview.
Q: Tell us a little about Dan River Press. What is your mission?
A: Dan River Press is one of three houses owned by the Conservatory of American Letters, a non profit, tax exempt literary educational foundation whose purpose is to publish and conserve as much good literature as possible, without regard to financial potential. The conservatory was formed in Maine in 1982. It took over the assets and
resources of one or two small corporations, of which I, Robert W. Olmsted, was the sale stockholder. My publishing activities began in 1969.While our mission is to publish and conserve good stuff without regard to commercial potential, the last part is more myth than reality. We are not endowed, have never had any capital, or funding, we are able to
conserve very little of the good stuff that’s out there. And there’s a bunch of it that isn’t getting published.
Q: I see by your listing in Writer’s Market that you have some pretty specific needs and some pretty specific advice for authors. Would you provide that information here?
A: Needs? I don’t have any. I take what’s offered that can be funded. Of the three publishing houses that the Conservatory operates, Dan River press, Northwoods Press, and Century Press, only Century Press is able to accept subsidy from authors and we almost never do it, as that doesn’t help the author. Anyone with a job can have a book published, but having a book published is not what authors need. Readers is what
authors need. Paying a subsidy does not get an author even one reader. Dan River Press publishes ONLY fiction, biography, the Annual (since 1984) Dan River Anthology (2005 now working). The Dan River Anthology accepts only short fiction and poetry, and is the only place that Dan River Press publishes any poetry. Northwoods Press publishes only poetry and local/family history. Both have a University press division for textbooks. Neither Dan River Press nor Northwoods Press may accept subsidy from authors. Century Press publishes everything else. In truth, we have little interest in “everything else” (but we did just do a self-help book, THE HEALING FORCE OF SERENITY.)
Advice to authors. Get real! Most authors think all they have to do is write a great piece and the world will beat a path to their door. It will. Only they forget that it costs about a jillion dollars to let the world know about it. Most authors waste time doing the wrong
thing. They try to get better. Don’t get me wrong. Getting better is always good, in any field. But getting better may make you a better writer, it won’t get you published. The average writer thinks because he/she writes brilliantly, that publishing should follow. Not real. Publishing is a commercial activity engaged in for profit. Writing is art. If you are asking a publisher to invest in your art, give the publisher a reason and they will. Most authors are looking for reasons for rejection, so they can improve. There is only one reason for rejection. All rejections happen because the publisher has other options on which he believes he can make more money. In the case of small presses like me, who for thirty-some years hasn’t even made minimum wage at it the reason becomes, I have other fundable options which I like better.
Small press. Think about it! Why is a small press small? Because he can’t get good books? Naw, that’s not it. I can get books as good (or better) than anything published by the large press. The only reason is that the small press can’t sell books in significant numbers. Why? Capital. Know-how. The know-how is easily learned, the capital is
another problem. I’ve had authors write me and tell me their market is “all women between 8 and 80.” Great, now how am I going to afford to reach them. A typical large press will give away more review copies of a novel than I can produce. They might spend over $3,000 just sending out review copies, not counting labor, and the cost of manufacturing the book and other pertinent material. I may have a total budget of
$850.00 to produce a 200 page novel. I have never even sold 3,000 copies of a fiction title.
If/when you go to a small press, don’t expect it to be just like a big press only smaller. Think itty-bitty. If you and your spouse are working you may well gross more per year than about 90% of the small presses out there. (We publish our gross and full financial details of cost and expense every year in our spring issue of out literary magazine, The Northwoods Journal, a magazine for writers. Our magazine is not a how-to, but a showcase.) And remember, if the small press you go to could sell books, they’d be large and they’d have an expensive secretary to shield any editor with “yes” authority from you. All of this is simple logic, but it seems to escape 95% of all wanna-be authors.
No one should mess with any small press. None of us is significant in any way. The only thing you can hope for is a good looking book and support so you can do what you must. Get out there and create aaudience of real people who actually want to read what you write.
Q: What are some of your recent titles?
A: Dan River Press’ most recent title is IN THE RIVERS’ FLOW by Jim Ainsworth. A story of a boy growing up in NE Texas farm country, battling drought and poverty, with life sweetened (a little) by baseball and learning. It’s set in the 50’s and has already sold almost 500 copies. (its official release date is April 15, 2004, it has just come off the press this week.) Another coming by Jamie Clifford, BLACKBEARD’S GIFT. Set in England and the Carolinas during the time of Edward Teach (Blackbeard) and pirates. A fine story. Publication date is April 15, should be off the press by Jan 15 or so.
Q: What’s your idea of the perfect author? What are the qualifications you most desire in the authors you work with:
A: A perfect author? That’s easy. One who writes well, has done his homework (knows why a small press is small), and is not overwhelmed with his own importance and doesn’t think he/she is the next (insert your favorite writer here). One who believes and understands that writing is like anything else. Only a tiny fraction achieve anything like
greatness. To get there they have luck, perseverance, and they work. Most writers are lazy, and apparently are drawn to writing because it seems like easy money. I know most writers are lazy, because I’m always trying to get them to do something, and I can’t. (Not for what little we can pay, anyway.) But, most famous people in other areas worked for
peanuts before they became famous. They’re lazy! The perfect author works. Not at being better, but at creating an audience for him/herself. Writing is pure art. Publishing is commerce. There are always three legs to the stool of commerce. Creation, production, and marketing. Most writers think there is just creation. Production is best left to others (but not necessarily the design part), but marketing –well, stop and think. Who in the world has any incentive to market you. When for the same effort they can market Jessica Lynch, or Howard Stern, or Amber Frey, or virtually anyone else in the news. The answer is sad. No one! Just you. The perfect author accepts that cruel reality and gets about doing it.
Q: Is there anything in particular that you ‘re seeking at this time, more poetry, more horror, for example?
A: We never seek anything in particular, as so much is dependent on a marketing plan that will create the little funding we need to get off the ground. If it’s good (that is to say I like it) and it can be funded, I’m interested.
Q: What can an author expect from you should you decide to publish his/her manuscript?
A: If an author has given up all hope of commercial publishing and comes to me he/she can expect a perfect, beautiful book (both hardcover and paperback) and as much sales support as there is available to work his/her marketing plan. Our sales support is limited only by the number of sales happening. We’ll do anything to promote a book that has a
reasonable chance of working. (Ie. providing a profit, or surplus as we have to call it) We provide posters, mailings, refreshments at readings, and big compensation. We provide little editorial advice (if it’s not pretty damned fine we don’t accept), but do provide good to superb copy-editing. (Cardinals don’t bring worms to their nesting mates, for example. Cardinals are seed eaters. Baby ducks don’t quack. Albuquerque is not in Nevada.) We’re also fast. If an author presents a book on a perfect disk, we can have the book ready in paperback and in hardcover with full color dust jacket in about two weeks. That’s a big if, and it never happens.
He wants to add “One thing I forgot to add under “What should authors expect from us. Your book will be offered by amazon.com, Baker and Taylor, Ingram and six or seven other lesser distributors and retailers. Your book will be available to every individual bookstore and library in the U.S, Every library and bookstore in the UK . Of course that doesn’t help as these entities do not create markets, they only fill orders but it may make reviews easier to get.
Q: Please include anything lese you would like to add.
A: Anything else to add? Authors should stop worrying about “good enough” and get to the business of finding readers. If they do that well enough, no need to worry about finding a publisher, a publisher will find them.
and: We are not a subsidy press. We quit subsidizing writers just because they happened to be good when I had to retire as a financial planner.
Contact: Dan River Press
Acquisitions: Richard S. Danbury
Thomaston, ME 04861-0298
Christine Holbert is founder and director of Lost Horse Press, another small press striving to bring excellence in fiction to America’s readers. Here is my interview with her.
Q: Lost Horse Press doesn’t sound like a very large publishing company, but you do publish the works of other authors. Tell us how you came to establish your publishing company and why.
A: I started Lost Horse Press after graduate school, when I discovered there were very few paying jobs in independent publishing. I figured if I was going to work for nothing, it would be for my own company where I could make my own decisions . . . and my own mistakes. Also, I wanted to live in the country, but very few publishing opportunities exist in the wilderness of north Idaho. I decided to make my own opportunity.
There seemed to be a need for a literary publisher in the Inland Northwest for emerging writers and poets: Lost Horse fits that niche. The Lost Horse Northwest Poetry Series for Emerging Writers is dedicated to promoting the early books of deserving authors whose work is ignored by conglomerate publishers who require their authors to already have an established audience. We don’t just publish first books, however: Several of our authors—including Christopher Howell, Valerie Martin, and Pierre Delattre—were very well published before they approached Lost Horse with their manuscripts.
Q: Would you describe Lost Horse Press? Why this name and what types of books do you publish?
A: Established in 1998, Lost Horse Press—a nonprofit independent press—publishes poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction titles of high literary merit, and makes available fine contemporary literature through cultural, educational and publishing programs and activities. The Lost Horse Northwest Poetry Series for Emerging Writers is dedicated to works—often ignored by conglomerate publishers—which are so much in danger of vanishing into obscurity in what has become the age of chain stores and mass appeal food, movies, art and books.
Q: What are some of your recent titles?
A: Hiding from Salesmen, poems by Scott Poole; Iron Fever & Other Poems by Stephan Torre; Just Waking, poems by Christopher Howell; Woman on the Cross, a novel by Pierre Delattre; Food Chain, short stories by Janet Keiffer; Where They Used To Be, short stories by Joy Passanante; Love short fiction by Valerie Martin
Q: Please describe your proudest moment in publishing so far?
A: I was pleasantly surprised and pleased when Pierre Delattre’s novel, “Woman on the Cross,” won the 2001 Literary Fiction of the Year Award from ForeWord Magazine. But the proudest career moment occurred during the first Lost Horse Press children’s writing conference—Young Writers of the Lost Horse—when a young girl read her poem at the end of the conference, before family, friends and community, and invited other kids who were interested in creative writing to sign up to meet weekly at the local library, a co-sponsor of the event. The children’s librarian and I arranged for a local young freelance editor to meet with the kids weekly; the group continues to convene and grow and write to this day, three years later.
Q: What are your future plans for your company?
A: Besides our publishing program, and our adult and children’s writing conferences, Lost Horse Press hopes to soon provide the opportunity for artists of various disciplines to collaborate and to explore the extreme possibilities for dance, theater, music, literature, poetry, film, photography, painting and sculpture; to encourage artists of various disciplines to interact with their peers in a total collaborative effort, resulting in a learning environment that honors education through the creative process.
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: Umm, that’s tough to predict, but I do foresee independent publishing becoming more and more essential during this era of conglomerate corporations taking over every aspect of our culture, including what we read. Independent publishers are now the only voice left for writers who aren’t writing mass appeal books or books promoting war.
Q: What would you advise someone who is seeking a publisher for his/her ficton manuscript?
A: A writer needs to do a bit of investigative work before submitting a manuscript to a publisher; find out what the publisher’s vision is, and what the previously published titles of that particular publishing house are. I receive hundreds of manuscripts of inappropriate genre that are a waste of my time and the author’s effort. Ask a publisher for their submission guidelines, and follow them to refine the chances of your manuscript being accepted. Also, forget everything you’ve been told about creative packaging for your manuscript: when I receive a manuscript tied with ribbons and flowers and lollipops, my first reaction is to throw it vigorously out the window. Do, however, send a neatly typed, double-spaced, clean, uncrumpled manuscript, SASE, and cover letter. Better yet, check with each particular publisher you wish to submit a manuscript to determine what format she prefers.
Q: Be sure to give us your contact information–Web site, etc.
Lost Horse Press
105 Lost Horse Lane
Sandpoint, Idaho 83864
http://firstname.lastname@example.org: desk top publishing including newsletter design and writing/writing brochures and other marketing materials; event planning; seminar planning; booking speaking engagements and book signings; designing marketing materials for large meetings and one-to-one meetings; following up on leads; business plan writing; research: on and off line.: travel arrangements; gift buying and personal shopping; business referrals; restaurant reservations; theater/event tickets; event and party planning; personal care appointments/salon and spa; medical appointments and tracking medical billing and insurance reimbursement; research life, health, and long-term insurance for best rates and benefits; research business insurance; research homeowners/renters insurance; research : contact management; resolving client issues; writing letters; process correspondence including mailings, email, phone calls and voice mail; scheduling appointments/confirming appointments/sending reminders; coordinating daily schedule; working with vendors, agents, publicists, and publishers; tracking forms; manage projects and provide progress reports; brainstorm new marketing and service ideas.