The second of out guest publisher blogs comes from Wizard's Tower Press. I don't need to say more about who they are and what they do, because Cheryl Morgan has explained it all so well in the post below. Suffice to say that their books are excellent…
Sam has asked me to say a few words about my publishing company, Wizard's Tower Press. We too regard ourselves as a company with a 21st Century attitude. That's because we focus on a very 21st Century problem. Let me explain.
Our business plan focuses on existing mid-list writers. The big, multi-national publishers (I hesitate to mention an actual number of them as they are merging so fast) don't care much about the mid-list any more. Neither do the chain bookstores or supermarkets. It is best-sellerdom or nothing as far as they are concerned. And yet there are many fine books that are going out of print. If you don't make it really big with your first two or three novels your publisher may well drop you in favor of someone they can bill as "new, exciting and different!"
I've been involved in the science fiction and fantasy field for many years, mainly as a reviewer. In that time I have become friends with many fine authors. Most of those people are now having difficulty selling books. Their debut work, even if highly praised at the time, is going out of print. Their new work is going to small presses, or not selling at all. It's not that they have stopped writing well; they have just stopped being new. Many of them are considering self-publishing as they have a devoted following of fans, but if they lack the technical skills, or would prefer to spend their time writing, so they need help. Ebooks are a cheap and effective way of making their work available once more.
A key feature of my business is flexibility in my dealings with the author. One may come to me with a finished electronic text and a good quality cover that I only need to get published. Another may only have a paperback of the book and no rights to the cover. I charge only for the publisher services I actually provide. If an author can come to me with much of the job already done then she gets higher royalties.
Of course with any small press the big problem is getting noticed. Amazon wasn't named by accident. It is indeed a vast river of products. Getting a few books noticed in that huge crowd is hard, especially if you don't have a huge marketing budget. Consequently I'm always looking for new ways to connect with potential customers. That's one of the reasons why I stick to the SF&F genres. There's a strong, international community that has grown up around such books, and I'm fairly well known in it. Fans of SF&F know that they can come to me and get good books.
I still sell through Amazon, of course. There are still plenty of people who love the convenience that their store provides, or who simply don't know that other ebook retailers exist. Oddly these are often the same people who complain loudly online about Amazon's business practices. That's human beings for you. But I also have my own ebook store, and support other independent stores. Partly that's because I think the industry needs competition, but I'm also keen to wean people off the ideas of hardware lock-in and renting of books.
Amazon's strategy is very clear. They want the books that they stock to only be readable on the hardware that they sell. That means that you can never truly own your books, you are always dependent on Amazon. And it's especially so if the books come with copy protection, preventing you from converting them to be readable on other hardware. From a publisher's point of view, this isn't healthy, because the more control Amazon has over the relationship with the customer, the more they will be able to demand the lion's share of whatever small amount of money people are willing to pay for books. It is down to us publishers to provide and/or promote alternatives.
One final point worth making is that the two of the three authors I'm working with thus far are women. Despite the success of JK Rowling, big publishers still view SF&F as "boy's books". If an author is going to be thrown overboard, it will probably be a case of ladies first. And, based purely on sales figures, that may be the right call. I'm happy to be able to provide an alternative route to market for the many fine women SF&F authors out there.
Wizard's Tower Press website is at wizardstowerpress.com. I'd also strongly recommend visiting Cheryl's blog. She's one of the best writers about SF and fandom that we have. You'll also find more intelligent comment on publishing and ebooks, as well as LGBT issues and politics, not to mention rugby and cricket.
Archangel Protocal is out now! You can find out more about the book at Cheryl's Mewsings. It's an award-winning detective story about US Presidential elections of the future. Clue: they don't get any less fraught…