Tag Archives: Publishing Venture

Technology…

I thought I would start this blog by sharing some information about the technology that was available when Pebbles, Bam-Bam and I went to school:

  • My first computer in high school was a Commodore Pet 2000 with the spaceman screen and Mickey Mouse keyboard (at least that’s what we called them). It had 8 Kbytes of memory, expandable to 16 Kbytes (yes, those are “Kbytes” – it’s not a typo). It used a cassette tape to load programs and came with a word processor – which was pretty useless because it had no printer.
  • My first “word processor” was a Sears electric typewriter that could do bold and italics and stored up to 5 pages of text in memory. Given that most of the papers I had to write in college were 5 pages and under, I was in heaven – so long as I didn’t need to work on two papers at the same time. I still have that typewriter, but if my life ever depended on getting a ribbon for it I would probably be toast.
  • The computations for my PhD thesis were run on a Cray supercomputer, and the software and results are currently stored on reel-to-reel tapes. It would take less time to rewrite all of the software from scratch and rerun all of the computations than it would to find a reel-to-reel tape reader, and my current laptop computer probably has more computing power than the supercomputer did.
  • My first mobile phone was the size of a small purse and could do nothing but make phone calls.

Of all the information I will share today, probably the most interesting fact is that I am under the age of 50. That’s right – in just over 30 years, or about one generation, we went from talking about personal computers with Kbytes of memory that could perform simple tasks to machines with gigabytes of memory that can run very complex computations. We went from mobile devices that could make phone calls to smart phones and tablets with touch screens that can surf the internet, providing instant access to information.

So what does this have to do with publishing?

A recent study suggested that over 70 percent of people under the age of 25 receive a majority of their information on mobile devices. As technology improves this trend is not likely to be reversed. Barnes and Noble recently announced they would be closing two hundred stores over the next ten years, and I suspect this reduction in stores will be accompanied by a significant increase in their web presence and the development of new mobile applications. Publishers who accept the trend by making their books available in electronic formats readable on mobile devices and by providing information about their books in an easy to find manner on the web will likely reap the rewards of these technological advances. Publishers who cling to old paradigms about how publishing works may find themselves looking for ribbons for their typewriters…

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Survival…

Perhaps it’s that I’m as crazy as people think I am, but I’ve recently started attending local writers group meetings and admitting I own a publishing company. I make sure to bring a lot of business cards, and usually post a comment the next day about having “made it out alive” or “surviving another one”…

Survival is actually a big thing for small presses. Last time I checked, Bowker estimated that 80,000 new publishers start up each year; this is based on the number of requests for new ISBN blocks. It is also estimated that 50% of these businesses close within the first year and that 95% of all new publishers fail within 2 years. This is the reason most advice columns for authors suggest that authors wait until a publisher has proven it is going to be around for a while before submitting manuscripts to a publisher.

The reason these statistics are significant (to me, anyway) is that Divertir Publishing was incorporated on September 16th, 2009 (yes, I did open a bottle of home-made chocolate orange Port to celebrate). Thus, we have officially hit our two year mark. I think we’ve come a long way in that time:

  • In July 2010 Elizabeth Harvey became our Acquisitions Editor, and we shifted out focus from publishing only nonfiction to also publishing our short story collections and fiction in certain genres.
  • Our first short story collection came out in December 2010; our 4th collection is slated to be release in November of this year.
  • Our first novel, Hurricane by Jenna-Lynne Duncan, was published in August of this year. Our second novel, Dragon’s Teeth by Suzanne van Rooyen, will be released in October, while our third novel (Fugo by Elizabeth Young) is scheduled for release in December. We have signed contracts with six more authors and will be releasing those books within the next four to eight months.
  • We have an arrangement with a local charter school to provide all of their custom textbooks.
  • Divertir Publishing was featured in the article “Keys to Cracking 10 Top Markets” by Adria Haley which appeared in the September issue of Writer’s Digest. I have to admit this is probably the one thing I have been most proud of; for me it was validation that we’re doing some things right.

We have a lot of exciting plans for the coming year, including the launch of a free magazine (one way we plan on more actively marketing our short story collections) and a more interactive web site where readers can communicate with their favorite authors. We have started reaching out to local authors both so we can can feature more local authors in our short story collections and as a way to help local authors get their work published, even if it’s not with us (thus my “adventures” attending writers group meetings).

I want to thank all the authors who have worked with us, both on our short story collections and full-length manuscripts, for putting their faith in us. Also, without the efforts of the people who have worked with us as editors (Beth Harvey, Lisa Keele, Mel Ngai, and Elisa Nuckle), we would not be where we are today. Thank you for all of your hard work as we were starting out.

The changes which have resulted from the “digital revolution” have made this an exciting time in publishing. I’m looking forward to the next year and the exciting things it will bring.

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Do you really need a publisher?

My last blog talked about book sales with respect to Joe Konrath’s assertion that authors no longer need publishers and that most authors would be better off self-publishing. So the question of the day is “Do you really need a publisher?” The short answer is “no”. The more complete answer is “it depends”.

I’m glad I was able to clear that up for you.

I won’t make the usual arguments against self-publishing. I won’t comment on the relative quality of books published by “legacy publishers” versus books that are self-published. One needs look no further than Snooki’s recent book or the fact that Tinkerbell Hilton has a book (yes, Tinkerbell is the dog) to realize that the quality of books from “legacy publishers” can be pretty bad. I won’t comment on how poorly self-published books sell, because in my last blog I pointed out that the average book published by a “traditional publisher” only sells 500 copies. In fact, Joe Konrath and others have shown that a well-written self-published book can do extremely well. Instead, I want to quote Joe Konrath from another one of his blogs:

In order to reach the point where I understood the opportunities that ebooks presented, and was able to capitalize on that opportunity, I’d put in another 10,000 hours learning how the publishing industry worked.

That’s right. As much as I’m sure he would prefer to think of himself as an independent author, Mr. Konrath has become an independent publisher. He has taken the time to learn how publishing currently works, and to his credit has taken that information to come up with a strategy for how he feels publishing should work.

Publishing is a business, and if you self-publish then you should be prepared to treat it like a business – including learning all that you can about the business. So the answer to “Should I self-publish my manuscript” really is “it depends”. If you believe (as I do) that the way things are currently done in the publishing world are a throw back to the days of the typewriter and you have fresh ideas on how things should be done, then by all means you’re better off self-publishing. If you already know a lot about the publishing industry and wish to learn more, then you should take the plunge and self-publish. If you find the thought of one day being an independent publisher exciting, then go for it. There is no better time to get into publishing (unless you’re one of the large publishers), and there are plenty of people out there (including myself) who would be more than happy to assist you in getting started.

And for those of you who don’t one day wish to have the title “independent publisher”, the good news is that there are plenty of independent publishers already out there that would be happy to work with you.

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A New Publishing Venture…

The latest adventure in my life began the way most of my crazy ideas begin – it was the direct result of a conversation with my friend Roger.

I had just received a new Kindle 2 for my birthday, and I was completely hooked. This amused most of my friends, in part because I’m the same person who refuses to received email on his cell phone. I’m just not one of those people who jumps on the bandwagon for the latest technological “toys”. This made Roger wonder exactly what it was about this device that made it so special.

We spent lunch that day talking about the Kindle. We talked about how books could be purchased directly from the device, and how anyone could publish a book for the Kindle. It suddenly occurred to both of us why this little book reader was so special. The simple truth is that this device was going to help change the way we read and purchase books. More importantly, it might even change the way publishing was done.

The researcher in me kicked in at that point. I wanted to learn everything I could about publishing. More importantly, I wanted to learn how this new technology might change the way publishing was done. The conclusion of this research was that technology was indeed going to change the way publishing was done. The result of this research was my decision to start Divertir Publishing.

The purpose of this blog is to share my experiences starting a publishing company. For people who are looking to start an independent publishing company or to self-publish their work, I’m hoping this blog might provide the information you need to get  started. For people already working in the publishing industry, I’m hoping this blog will provide an interesting view from an outsider looking in.

I’m hoping this will be an interesting journey. Feel free to join me.

Dr. Ken Tupper

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