New Presses are Like New Puppies

Monday, July 16, 2007


Several times over the last few months I have seen exchanges like these.

A: Have you heard anything bad about Nouvelle publishing?
B: They have been open for seven minutes and don’t disclose who is running the place.
A: So they are all right then?

Repeat after me: Absence of Evidence is not Evidence of Absence. New presses simply haven’t had time to be bad yet. It is easy to assume a new epress will soon become the next Ellora’s Cave or Liquid Silver Books—but the odds are they will actually be the next casualty in the dead market’s list leaving a legacy of acrimony as the surviving staff and writers scuttle in all directions seeking the shelter of other houses. Or, if I am less cynical, they will join the ranks of the fifty or more less scintillating epublishers offering single or double figure sales.

New publishers can be fine if you are after someone keen or who has an approach genuinely lacking in any of the established publishers—and your expectations are in step with what novice houses can be expected to achieve. Most ebooks make most of their money in the first few months--and ebook readers generally shop by publisher. Selling to a new press pretty much guarantees that your book will release before any readership has built up.

How do you know an older publisher is any better? 1) If they have books released that are high quality, well edited and well presented. 2) Available reports suggest not just good sales but report figures and Googling produces readers chatting about their books not just authors and fluff reviewers. 3) A publisher that has already been open for at least two years has a much better chance of stilling being open in two more years.

New presses a good bet if they are run by people who are highly qualified and have successful, directly relevant experience (they have a pedigree), and they apt to repay your leap of faith with long term investment in your career (they are loyal). But I must note—most epublishers treat new and old authors pretty much the same so you could get the same deal without any down side by jumping on the bandwagon later (it's called 'cupboard love').

Am I discriminating against new press? Yes, I am. The simple fact is that a press that had been around a while tends to leave some evidence as to its conduct—good or bad. A new press is like a new puppy, cute and frisky, but more often than not destined to make a few ‘mistakes’. Your book doesn’t need to be one of them.

12 comments:

Anonymous,  9:59 PM  

So...what your saying is, that the old publishers dont make mistakes? Only the new ones do? Because I would beg to differ with you.

All publishers make mistakes, new or old. The old ones make mistakes, maybe you just dont hear about them as often, or maybe, as in the case of Trisk, when mistakes were being made, they were sluffed off because they had been around for a while.

I am a big ebook buyer from several different big companies around here, and between awful covers, typos, bad editing, missed editing, they are all still making mistakes. Perhaps they are just better at excusing them, or people dont care as much because it is a big, solid, great company that has been around for a while.

Debra
Dark Eden Press

PS..sorry about the anon..cant for the life of me remember my damn id and password.

Arin Rhys 11:50 PM  

I totally agree with you. I spent too much time on my book to just hand it off to someone who is just getting their feet wet. I shop from new publishers, but I don't want to submit to them.

Emily Veinglory 8:05 AM  

I mean exactly what I said. And nowhere in there do I say old presses make no mistakes. Only that they will have already made some you can research.

Anonymous,  10:12 AM  

I think the appeal of a new press is a quicker turnaround on results. It would be wonderful to be published by the likes of EC, Samhain, etc., but as they have become more popular and more respected, the submissions have multiplied. I've heard the wait to hear from some of the top ePubs can be as long as a year. Whereas a new publisher is chomping at the bit for work and can produce it much sooner for the author's tastes.

I am a publisher, and have had authors turn away contracts because they did not want to wait until 2008 to be published. It's their decision, but I would caution against rushing a book into production, especially if it needs work.

Anonymous,  6:38 PM  

My point was, what makes them better then the new ones? We make mistakes, they make mistakes.

Are they better only because they have been around longer, even if they ARE making mistakes?

Debra

Emily Veinglory 6:52 PM  

What makes them better is that the author can potentially discover if they are bad or good and avoid the bad ones. With new presses you have to use a crystal ball and it is largely up to chance (most new epresses fail, just like most pther new businesses.). If you want Ellora's Cave level sales there is a 95% chance you will get it at Ellora's Cave, a zero percent chance you will get it at [name not posted out of discretion] and no better than a 5% chance you well get ot at a new epress. (In reality rather less than that).

Predictability makes old presses a better bet for authors *who research their markets*. for those who don't, there is no difference.

I expanded this in the second half of the post today. A new press is an unknown. Known to be good is better than unknown, known to be bad is worse.

Barbara Sheridan 9:04 PM  

I know I sound like a broken record on this point but I don't think new companies realize how important it is to have a comprehensive "about us" section on their site that lists their publishing/business qualifications, especially since there are so many new companies springing up.

Two new presses I've seen who've given great info on themselves are Drollerie Press and Total-e-bound

And even though the bigger make mistakes even someone who is an "unknown" to their particular reader base is looking at 100 to 500+ copies the first month of sales. I don't know if the average new company will have that reader base to draw from unless they've really gotten a buzz going about themselves from the start.

As Emily said a new press is unknown and I think it's in everyone's best interest for them to show through a comprehensive "about us" section that they stand a chance of being in it for the long haul.

Jules Jones 10:43 PM  

What makes them better is that a) you can check out their history, b) you will probably see better sales figures with them.

Note that I signed up with a publisher that at that point hadn't opened. I was even approached by an editor rather than the other way round, which is generally a warning sign. But... that editor had chapter and verse on the owners' prior history in epublishing -- and they had a significant track record as staff somewhere else before setting up on their own, and were already building a marketing presence.

Still no guarantee of success -- but it makes the odds a lot better. The gamble paid off for me. As Emily can confirm, the first month's sales figures on my books that came out in the first quarter they were open were better than some new epubs manage as a total for the first year.

I would not go with a press that didn't have that prior history I could track. And if they won't even tell me who's running the company (which has been the case with some of the recent ones)...

Anonymous,  10:07 AM  

Isn't that what happened with Venus Press?...when they opened, all their staff went under stupid pen names and the whole thing looked shady from a keen observer's point of view, yet eager authors still couldn't wait to send them submissions and vote them #1 on all the silly popularity polls, and all before the first royalty checks were due. Then a year later, when most people didn't get paid, when all the books had kindergarten covers, when all these misspelled excerpts appeared on their website, when staff quit left and right and no emails got returned, all those same authors scratched their heads and wondered why they were so quick to jump on the bandwagon. That's what all of us "outsiders" were wondering also...how could those "rah-rah" authors have put all their faith in an untested company before that company even issued its first release or paychecks?!?! Frankly, when the company finally folded (inevitable) and all those authors were whining about their woes on message boards and blogs, they received very little sympathy since they didn't do their research like a professional author would have done. (And don't think those same authors haven't jumped on other sinking ships and the pattern has repeated itself yet again...it's like some people just refuse to learn their lessons.)

Anonymous,  11:37 AM  

I see what your starting to say Emily. It is better to know upfront what they can do, and how well they can do it, even if there are mistakes rather then join someone that you have no idea on.

And I completely agree, authors should thoroughly research any company that they are putting their works with. That is good business sense concerning doing any kind of business where you will be getting a service, or where you are relying on money from them.

Debra

Lynne Connolly 11:13 AM  

What I have found recently is that there is a definite career path in publishing, e or print or any other kind.
You have to work to get your own name out there. Independant of any publisher. That's not only producing books that people want to read, but also professional behaviour, like getting the edits in on time and being polite to people (oh yes, there are a lot of authors who don't).
New, startup companies can be a great way to start. But don't sign over all your books, never give them the rights to everything you might write, or you are stuffed.
The older, better established companies are obviously better, with a readership and a reputation you can tap into, but their new writer queues are huge.
However, this is where the hard work you've done on your career can help. If you're a name, if you have some kind of reputation, an editor is more likely to look favourably on you. You can bring your own readership. You also have more bargaining power when it comes to contracts and suchlike.
As a hardy veteran of 3 company closedowns, the most recent being Triskelion, my advice is to spread your work around a bit, and don't forget the career structure - work towards the bigger companies and if you just can't wait, send your work to the smaller companies, but look on it as 'disposable' - if they go down, be prepared to turn your back on your backlist (waaaa!) and move on.

Emily Veinglory 12:13 PM  

Everyone has their own approach but I would tend to suggest the reverse. Start with the big companies, other than EC most respond within weeks or months, and stick with them--to grow your monthly check and avoid having an closures to deal with.

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