23 March 2011

Publishing - The ins and outs by Lauri Blasch

At Black Opal Books, we’re often asked two main questions. The first: why did we start a new publishing company when so many publishing companies are failing? The second: should an author really go with a new, untried publishing company?

The answer first question is simple. Black Opal was started by four authors—who were also friends and business associates—who believed that authors were getting a raw deal from the publishing industry at large. Authors today are required not only to write the book, but also to revise, edit, and polish it on their own without much help from the publisher. And then if they are lucky enough to get the book published, they are also responsible for 99% of the promotion and selling. But after all this, they only get a small percentage of the income from the book while the publisher keeps the lion’s share.

Black Opal’s founders felt this was this was unfair. If you think about it, writing a book is a lot of work. From story concept to finished product, a novel takes most authors the better part of a year, if not more. So it seems only right that, after all the work the author puts forth to create the book, the biggest share of the profit, if any, from the book should go to the author. A lot of authors agree and have turned to self-publishing as the only way to make this happen. But as many self-published authors have discovered, there’s a downside to self-publishing.

Which brings us to the answer to the second question. Here’s the rub: although, it is slowly changing, a lot of venues do not consider self-publishing legitimate, so a lot of doors are closed to these authors. For example, some contests held for published authors do not allow self-published books. And some book distributors won’t allow self-published authors to list their books for sale with them. Even among other authors, self-publishing is not considered really being Published. Despite the fact that some self-published authors have not only created quality books, readers have rewarded their efforts by buying enough of their books to give these authors a great deal more money than most old-school published authors will ever make. At least not without a runaway best seller.

Another problem is that authors want to write. That’s why they became authors in the first place. To write. They don’t want to spend all the hours and effort it takes to learn how to correctly format all the versions of ebooks, find a good POD company, and deal with all the myriad of other business details that a publisher must deal with. They just want to write.

Black Opal’s founders understood all this. They decided to start a publishing company that offered higher royalties to start with, and then after the initial investment required to publish the book was recovered, royalties would increase so that the lion’s share of the income from the book would go to the author.

Still, there are pros and cons to going with a new publisher. On the pro side, a new small publisher such as Black Opal doesn’t have the backlog of books to schedule, so the time from acceptance of a manuscript to release as a published book is considerably shorter. New publishers are also often more lenient about the types of manuscripts they will take. Not that you can get by with submitting a poorly written manuscript and expect it to be accepted. But it does mean that new authors without publishing credits can get their manuscripts considered more easily at a new publisher. For example, because Black Opal was founded by authors, our policy is that we don’t judge a manuscript on the basis of the query letter or synopsis. Although we do require submissions to include both a query letter and a brief synopsis, we also promise to read at least the full first chapter of the manuscript before rejecting it. That way the author at least has a chance to prove they know how to write a novel, if not a query letter.

Lauri Blasch,
Acquisitions Editor
Black Opal Books

To be contniued on Friday 25th March

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