Saturday, April 18, 2009

Publishing experience comes with a price

In 2005, I had a completed a 287 page manuscript, culled from a year's worth of research, and six months of working on the manuscript. My idea for a book had warranted interest from several regional presses. Each one of these small press publishers were intrigued by my idea for a book about small town baseball, based in Maine, during the postwar years of 1945, through the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. Ultimately, however, none of them had experience marketing a book about sports, so I was left with a dilemma--sit on my manuscript, or undertake the task of doing it myself. I chose the latter, and RiverVision Press was born.

With the release of When Towns Had Teams, my first book, a fledgling Maine-based small press garnered a national award, receiving an IPPY, in 2006, as my book was selected for Independent Publishers' Best Regional Non-fiction Title for the Northeast, beating out a well-established university press, the University Press of New England. This validated my decision to go the DIY publishing route.

Two more books; another author's work in 2007, and my second book, Moxietown, in 2008 (which has sold out its first printing) has firmly established RiverVision as a legitimate small press. Additionally, I recently helped another Maine author with pre-press support, and provided consulting assistance, allowing him to launch his own book, detailing his experiences as a basketball coach in Maine's western mountains region.

By learning to publish through a combination of trial-and-error, seeking out others doing something similar, and locating some very solid resources, and guidebooks, I now have something that borders on expertise in my niche corner of the publishing world. I can help anyone serious about getting a book to market, guarantee it will look professional, and help with the wealth of pre-press details that are the difference between having something that looks amateurish, or producing a sharp looking book that will be accepted by independent book stores, as well as the large chains, and Amazon. In fact, my background in sales and marketing will help any would be author/publisher develop a solid brand and marketing strategy.

Another area where I have a wealth of experience that extends far beyond publishing, is the ability to collaborate and partner with others, which leverages additional resources that I could never provide on my own.

On the writing/publishing side, I've forged a friendship and working relationship with a highly-skilled designer, and fellow small press publisher, in his own right. Ari Meil, of Warren Machine Company has been a real asset and his friendship has helped me to persevere as a publisher, when the going has been difficult. He and I have talked about collaborating beyond what we've done recently, where Ari provided layout and design support (and a great cover) for Moxietown. If the right project were to come along, I'd certainly consider it.

Still, despite my experience and relative success as an independent publisher, I still have many people that initially gravitate my way, expecting me to give that experience away. You wouldn't expect another professional, consultant, or other service provider to work for free--why would you expect me to do the same?

I regularly receive requests from people asking me to take a look at their manuscript, or wonder if I have the time to meet them, to talk about a book idea. Given that I work a 55-60 hour Monday through Friday job, am in the process of working on my third book, and also would like a few hours a week to spend with my wife, and enjoy Maine's all-too-short summer, I would say that having an expectation of being compensated for my services, and expertise, is not unreasonable.

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