Posts by: bsp

Blank Slate Press is thrilled to be a part of LIT IN THE LOU. 

SLLC LIT IN THE LOU poster

Please visit the festival webpage at www.stllit.blogspot.com and find out how you can be involved by:

 

A few years ago cupcakes were all the rage. Adorable little cupcake shops were cropping up everywhere and customers were flocking to them. I admired these entrepreneurs and their gumption for transforming their passion–baking cupcakes–into a business.

But what if Hostess (owned by a venture capital firm before it went bankrupt) declared it had the only real recipe and process for baking cupcakes? What if Entenmann’s (which produces all manner of baked goods, including cupcakes) declared only its processes could produce a quality product? What if these large companies spent millions upon millions in advertising and marketing to convince others in the baking industry that any cupcakes not produced, marketed, and sold by them were somehow not only of poorer quality but that they damaged the whole cupcake baking enterprise? That they were dangerous! That entrepreneurial cupcakes were more fattening and led consumers down the road to laziness and sloth and that with all those inferior and dangerous cupcakes lurking out there, how were lovers of baked goods to sift through the chaff to find the wheat of goodness that they themselves produced?

That’s crazy, you say. Well….

Let’s say your passion is not baking. Let’s say your passion is writing. And let’s say you’d love nothing more than to write a novel and publish it yourself–hire editors, proofreaders, designers, and, being entrepreneurially minded, sell it directly to readers. Just a few short years ago, you’d have been be a pariah in the publishing world. How could you–a writer?!–deign to write, package, publish, and market your own book? How could you create an actual business around that when obviously (the publishing world would say) your recipe and your ingredients and your processes are so inferior as to be dangerous to the culture at large. How could you even KNOW if your product is ready for the marketplace if it hasn’t gone through the processes established by the major players in the industry? And publish your OWN WORK?  It’s permissible to start a small press and publish OTHER people’s work–but your own? No, no, no! No writing and publishing for you–unless your work has been vetted by the Hostesses and Entenmann’s of the publishing world. Unless you hand over your recipe to a traditional, established company to produce, your work is of no value at best and dangerous at worst.

Sound ridiculous?

Unfortunately, it’s not. That attitude still exists in some corners of the publishing world, and the only reason it changed at all is because of Amazon–that horrible, terrible, no good, very bad Amazon that developed the technology and opened up a platform to entrepreneurial authors and revolutionized an industry. Of course there is a difference between baking a cupcake and writing a book. So let’s expand the cupcake example out to cooking in general.

Imagine the presidents of such culinary behemouths as McDonalds, Applebees, Olive Garden, Chick-fil-A and Subway taking a stand and telling the world that Grant Achatz–owner of Alinea in Chicago, recognized leader in molecular gastronomy and someone who has revolutionized cooking and dining–and his recipes and his processes are of dubious quality and that he is a threat to the culture of food because he didn’t franchise his restaurants through one of their companies. After all, although he might have a degree from an established culinary school, he can’t just run around starting restaurants using his own recipes. That’s, horrors, self-restauranting! 

The idea that any group that publishes books by “writers” like Snookie and the latest YouTube cat sensation owns the moral high ground and should be taken seriously when they run around declaring they are the only true arbiters and protectors of culture is ridiculous. And the idea that they need to be protected from competition is even more ridiculous. We’re in the middle of a publishing revolution, and, I’m afraid, as in most revolutions, blood (metaphorical, in this case) will be spilled. War cries are echoing far and wide as publishers and authors take sides, declare loyalties and allegiances, and brand one side as the devil incarnate and the other as innocent victim.

I have, my whole life, been a writer. I’ve written bad poetry, worse short stories, and started and completed several novels. But it was only in the past five years or so that I ever attempted to actually get published. I polished off a novel, sent queries to about twenty agents and editors, got lots of rejections and a few requests for partials and fulls and even an if-you-edit-this-a-bit-more-and-send-it-back-we-think-it-will-fit-our-list maybe from one editor. So I hired an editor, reworked the manuscript, and then didn’t send it back. Why? Because in the meantime, technology changed, Amazon single-handedly created a forum through which authors could publish their own work, and, after looking at the book covers and reading plenty of books repped by or published by those I’d queried, I decided I could do the publishing end of the job just as well as they could. After all, don’t I run a small press? Don’t I publish other people’s work? Why should I be ashamed to publish my own? As a restauranteur, would I only prepare and serve other people’s recipes?

Oracles of Delphi, my historical fiction set in 340 BCE in Delphi, Greece and put out under the name Marie Savage, will be published by an imprint of Blank Slate Press this fall. Why the pen name? Because I’ve also co-written and am in the midst of self-publishing a sci-fi/YA trilogy with my daughters under the name K. Makansi and I don’t want to confuse the two author names in the marketplace.

I have great admiration for entrepreneurs in general. Folks who put it all on the line to create a new business and to put themselves out there. Take indie bookstores. I have often dreamed of owning my own bookstore/coffee shop/wine bar/art gallery and so I’ve always sympathized with and recognized the challenges independent bookstores face when competing against huge retailers. Just a few years ago, it was Barnes & Noble and Borders who were the big boys throwing their weight around and the indie bookstores had to compete against their ability to discount titles given that the big publishers gave the big chains better terms because of higher volumes.

Bookstores–big and small–are wonderful. But back in the old days (last year), your local indie was most likely the only bookstore to take on a book (let alone feature it) by a local entrepreneurial author. It hadn’t been vetted was one reason, and it might be awful (and often times I’m sure it was awful) was another. Or it had to be sold on consignment, which is a pain. And if a store took one self-published book, it would open the floodgate to a gazillion others begging for limited shelf space. Certainly no chain bookseller would touch a self-published book–at all. Period. Unless, of course, somehow the book had sold a gazillion copies already.

But now?

All that has changed thanks to Amazon. Amazon, along with advances in digital printing and companies such as Ingram/Lightning Source, created opportunity for entrepreneurial authors–authors that everyone else in the publishing world treated with scorn–and  now every big publishing company on the planet wants a piece of that same self-pubbed author’s purse. These big publishers are snapping up companies like Author House or are creating their own paid self-publishing platforms. Amazon created a market for authors to reach readers (and in the process allowed many authors to make real money off their writing for the first time ever) and the very publishers who decry Amazon’s dominance are scrambling to get a piece of that same market–a market they wouldn’t have touched with a 100-foot pole just a few short years ago.

Yes, Amazon’s dominance in this new marketplace is real, but I suspect part of the reason large publishers fear that dominance is because through the democratization function of the self-publishing platform, power has shifted away from the publisher as gatekeeper to the author as creator. This is, as a small publisher and self-published author, a welcome development, and I don’t understand how anyone who believes in free and unfettered access to the marketplace could see this as a bad thing. With lower barriers to entry, there will be more suppliers and more choices for readers, a more competitive market that will drive authors to strive to improve their work in order to stand out from the crowd, and lower prices to the consumer. And, readers, authors, publishers and retailers benefit (not to mention trees) when books sitting on “online shelves” don’t have to be returned and pulped to make room for the next big (or small) thing. At the end of the day, the best thing for the marketplace is a diverse ecosystem in which consumers have the widest choice, authors have agency over their product and are valued and monetarily rewarded for their creative content, and publishers and retailers can make a profit. There will naturally be give and take on all sides as the marketplace evolves.

My mantra in life is that if you meet anyone who insists they KNOW the THE TRUTH, turn and run the other way. Life is complicated. Nothing is black and white. Markets are messy. Companies put their own self-interests first. If publishers believe Amazon is out to ruin them and, in the process, usher in the end of books and of culture itself, why continue to do business with it? If authors truly believe Amazon is the devil incarnate, why are they not stipulating in their contracts that small independent bookstores be the only outlets for selling their books?

As  a reader, I ADORE brick and mortar bookstores (especially the small, often quirky indies!), and I have spent countless hours in them browsing, finding new gems to read, and generally soaking up the ambiance. But, as an author, I THANK my lucky stars that Amazon has revolutionized the technology to democratize publishing and to give writers like me (and my co-authors) the ability to compete for readers without bias or without being segregated or scorned for daring to be entrepreneurial. As a small press publisher, I LOVE BOTH indie and chain brick and mortar stores AND Amazon and other online retailers for allowing me to connect the authors I believe in with the readers who will enjoy their books.

I’m not great at baking cupcakes or at creating innovative recipes, but as a writer and a publisher–both of other people’s work and of my own–I shouldn’t be ashamed of the desire and the drive to be entrepreneurial, and I am thankful that Amazon created the market environment in which I was able to transform my passion into a business.

Now, I need a cupcake.

 

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Slant of Light by Steve Wiegenstein - cover

THIS OLD WORLD by Steve Wiegenstein

Thanks to BSP author and former MWG president Steve Wiegenstein for allowing us to reprint this blog post. Steve’s is the author of SLANT OF LIGHT (2012) and THIS OLD WORLD (Sept. 2014). 

I’ve just returned from the annual meeting/conference of the Missouri Writers’ Guild, an organization I have had the privilege to serve as president for the last two years. I came away with several reflections that I will be sharing over the next few posts.

First, and most important from the personal perspective, I was reminded that all writers–all writers, I repeat–need to continually sharpen their craft. At the conference, we had beginning writers and authors with multiple books. But I think every one of us came away with something to remember. It’s easy to get stuck in a stylistic rut, or to grow insensitive to one’s weaknesses. A conference, with its wide variety of sessions and viewpoints, is a great way to pause and reexamine old habits. I was in a session this weekend with an insecure beginning writer who in the space of two minutes told us the most amazing and moving story, reminding  me that inspired thoughts can come from the most unexpected sources and that everyone deserves to be listened to.

I was reminded as well that writers, for the most part, are generous people with their time and thoughts. Throughout the conference, people gathered in hallways and side chairs, conversing and sharing. That’s where the real conference is taking place, as much as in the formal sessions and workshops.

It’s an ongoing, evolving art form, this act of writing, and a gathering of writers both humbles and refreshes. How much there is yet to know. How much there is yet to write.

You can find the original post on Steve’s blog.

Here’s a few thoughts on writing, running, and reaching the finish line from Amira K. Makansi, a BSP associate, one of Kristy’s co-authors in the Seeds Trilogy, runner, and now solo author of THE PRELUDE: Soren Skaarsgard, a novella set in the world of the Seeds Trilogy and now available on Kindle.

Cover of The Prelude: Soren Skaarsgard by Amira K. MakansiWriting a book is like running a marathon. You start out feeling great. You’re flying. You’re not tired yet (not even a little bit!) and you fucking love what you’re doing. That’s the first few miles, the first few chapters, dominated by euphoria, the thrill of your story, the thrill of activity. Then you get into a rhythm. You’re breathing a little harder than you thought. Staying up late or waking up early to write before and after your day job is a happy sacrifice, but a sacrifice nonetheless. Eventually, you start to realize what you’ve committed to. You’re looking at the mile markers, watching your word count, and realizing how far you have to go. How many miles lie between you and victory, how many more minutes or hours of doing exactly what you’re doing now. The excitement wears off. All you’re thinking about now is the slog, while that finish line is little more than an ever-receding horizon.

Read more here.

Drumroll, please.
BSP is delighted to present the cover for A Matter of Mercy by Lynne Hugo. It’s a beautifully written book, perfect for the beach, for reading time curled up by the fire, for book clubs, and for giving (& recommending) to friends. We’d love it if you’d help spread the word. 
Cover Reveal: A Matter of Mercy

You’re going to want to pick this one up, especially if you’ve:
1) ever been to Cape Cod,
2) if you like oysters or clams,
3) if you’ve ever made a mistake in your life,
4) if you’ve ever had to forgive someone,
5) if you’ve ever had to take a chance on trust and/or love,
6) if you’ve lost a parent,
7) if you’ve lost a loved one to cancer,
8) or if you like, uh, just damn good fiction.
Here’s the lowdown on this beautifully written novel:Caroline Marcum thought she’d escaped the great mistake of her life by leaving Wellfleet harbor, but is forced to face it when she returns, reluctantly, to care for her dying mother. Ridley Neal put his past—and his prison term—behind him to return home to take over his father’s oyster and clam beds. Casual acquaintances long ago, when a nor’easter hits the coast, Rid and Caroline’s lives intersect once again. When Rid and two other sea farmers are sued by the wealthy owners of vacation homes who want to shut them down, and Caroline accidentally meets the person she most wronged, they each must learn to trust—and love. Inspired by an actual lawsuit, A Matter of Mercy is a riveting novel about treasuring the traditional way of life in the shallows of beautiful Cape Cod bay by discovering where forgiveness ends … and where it begins.

Today I hit “submit” on our new BSP catalog entry and am excited to announce that A MATTER OF MERCY by the wonderful Lynne Hugo will be published this August. Our final cover reveal is coming very soon, so stay tuned!

You’re going to want to pick this one up–especially if you’ve:

  1. ever been to Cape Cod,
  2. if you like oysters or clams,
  3. if you’ve ever made a mistake in your life,
  4. if you’ve ever had to forgive someone,
  5. if you’ve ever had to take a chance on trust and/or love,
  6. if you’ve lost a parent,
  7. if you’ve lost a loved one to cancer,
  8. or if you like, uh, just damn good fiction.

Here’s the lowdown on this beautifully written novel:

Caroline Marcum thought she’d escaped the great mistake of her life by leaving Wellfleet harbor, but is forced to face it when she returns, reluctantly, to care for her dying mother. Ridley Neal put his past—and his prison term—behind him to return home to take over his father’s oyster and clam beds. Casual acquaintances long ago, when a nor’easter hits the coast, Rid and Caroline’s lives intersect once again. When Rid and two other sea farmers are sued by the wealthy owners of vacation homes who want to shut them down, and Caroline accidentally meets the person she most wronged, they each must learn to trust—and love. Inspired by an actual lawsuit, A Matter of Mercy is a riveting novel about treasuring the traditional way of life in the shallows of beautiful Cape Cod bay by discovering where forgiveness ends … and where it begins.

BIG NEWS:

Blank Slate Press is looking forward to a year of expansion with new titles, new authors, and a new team member.  We are proud to announce that Brad R. Cook, a former freelance technical writer, founding contributor of The Writers’ Lens, and current President of St. Louis Writers Guild will bring his talents to lead the team on Marketing, Author Management, and Acquisitions.

PLUS, we’re reopening submissions! 

Taking the lead on reviewing submissions, Brad will be working with Amira Makansi to read and evaluate new manuscripts. As Brad puts it, right now BSP is looking for “great stories with deep complex characters and strong voices. I’d really like to find, some wonderful magical realism, historical fiction, or escapist adventures. I’m on the eternal hunt for books that make me think, wrench my emotions, and define my life … basically books that move me.” Check out our submissions page here.

And speaking of books that moved us…our first author, Fred Venturini, is back on the scene with his re-edited and expanded version of THE SAMARITAN. THE HEART DOES NOT GROW BACK will be released by Picador this fall and you will not want to miss it. It’s already getting buzz! Check out #15 on this BuzzFeed list.

 

We have some more big news here at Blank Slate Press! In addition to welcoming two new authors to the fold, Lynne Hugo and Deborah Lincoln, we’re also preparing to launch two new books from two tried and tested Blank Slate Press authors. The sequel to Kevin Killeen’s smash debut Never Hug A Nun is slated for release in July of 2014, and the second installment Steve Weigenstein’s timeless historical novel Slant Of Light will be released in September. As always, we’re incredibly excited about both novels, and we can’t wait to introduce them to the public. Now there’s not just warm weather and green trees to look forward to in the summer: there’s two more great books coming out from BSP.

Try to Kiss a Girl It’s July, 1969 and the Apollo Eleven astronauts are hurtling toward the moon, and somewhere down below,  two eleven-year old boys who meet on vacation launch their own mission — to try to kiss a girl before the week is over. Try to  Kiss a Girl is the title for the sequel to Killeen’s hilarious and heartwarming story of the misadventures of seven-year-old Patrick Cantwell. Here’s a snapshot of what’s in store for Patrick and his readers:

It’s a hot week in the Michigan resort town of Grand Haven, where Patrick Cantwell — the juvenile delinquent from Never Hug a Nun meets a new friend who reveals to him the secret of the ages… where babies come from. 

Astonished and ashamed that he has overlooked this hidden activity at work throughout history, an activity which apparently even Abraham Lincoln knew about, Patrick wonders what else he has missed and decides he needs to open his eyes and start living.

Shaking hands with his new friend Rex on a five-dollar bet, Patrick rockets into high orbit to try to be the first to kiss a girl before their vacation is over.

But it’s not that easy.  There’s Mr. Jawthorne, the protective father of the kissable, young Tammy and her ChapStick-loving friend Ginny.  There’s a biker just back from Vietnam on a road trip to no longer be a killer who meets two boys in Grand Haven he’d just love to kill.  And there’s Patrick’s big Catholic family whose puzzle nights, dirty diapers and warnings about sin and death threaten to cost Patrick five bucks.

Try to Kiss a Girl is Kodak snapshot of the station wagon era, when the simulated wood grain was unfaded, and parents were young and a cooler full of orange soda and WonderBread sandwiches prevented back seat anarchy.  Well, most of the time.

Up ahead — beyond the Burger Chefs, the Sinclair Dinosaurs and Stuckey’s – was a rental cottage with crooked floors and a lake view, a land of relaxed adult supervision and freedom.  A place where an eleven-year old boy could body surf on a red flag day, ignore thoughts of the approaching school year, work on his pinball game at the Khardomah Lodge and try to figure out someway, somehow… to kiss a girl.

This uproarious tale makes a great companion to the first, and Killeen’s laugh-out-loud prose will ensure that everyone else at the beach gives you plenty of funny looks while you read.


This Old World is the second installment in Steve Weigenstein’s historical series Daybreak. The sequel to the award-winning debut, Slant of Light,  follows the development of the utopian colony Daybreak, as James Turner and his wife Charlotte struggle to lead a group of people with noble ambitions but very human flaws.

Weigenstein resumes the story in the aftermath of the Civil War, which nearly tore the colony apart. Turner, along with the other men who survived, return to Daybreak. But unfinished business comes back to haunt them all and they discover that the wounds of war do not easily heal. Now the colony faces the same challenges as the nation at large: How to rebuild in the face of such devastation? Can the innocence and idealism that was lost ever be recovered?

The cover isn’t finalized, but we thought we’d give you a peek at where we’re going with it. What do you think?

working cover for This Old World by Steve Wiegenstein

After a lot of careful evaluation and thought, Blank Slate Press has made the critical decision to begin a new relationship with Midpoint Trade Books.

Why use a distributor in the first place? 

After three years in the publishing industry, we’re convinced that the growth in the future of publishing is in small press and self-publishing. With the rise of e-book sales and digital distribution through Amazon et. al., the future of indies is bright. By working with a small press, authors get access to professional cover design, an experienced editorial team to make the book the best it can be, layout and design services, and assistance with marketing and publicity. But authors who choose to self-publish can have access to all the same things, provided they can pay out-of-pocket for such services. So what sets small presses apart from self-publishing? What advantage does an author achieve by signing with a small press rather than simply self-publishing?

The answer is in distribution.

Many distributors only work with publishers who have more than a few titles on a backlist, which enables them to sell more books in bulk to their buyers. This prohibits self-published authors from signing with distributors. Self-published authors can also occasionally find distribution cost-prohibitive. It’s only by working with a larger number of authors and titles that small presses can achieve the economies of scale to make distribution viable. What does this mean for us? In order for Blank Slate Press to continue to attract authors of the highest caliber, those who deliver the kind of award-winning prose our readers have come to expect, we have to provide them with something valuable – beyond services that authors could pay for on a service basis. By working with a distributor with a powerful, well-established sales team and national reach, we can provide Blank Slate Press authors with the opportunity to have their voices heard far and wide, from the largest booksellers in the world to the nooks and crannies of your favorite neighborhood bookstore.

Why Midpoint? 

As we reached out to distributors and considered all our options, the team at Midpoint stood out to us. They were impressed with the quality of work we’ve sought out thus far, and they are passionate about bringing small press books to the fore. The sales and administration team at Midpoint has several decades of experience between them, coming from high-ranking positions at some of the top publishers and booksellers. We can learn from them, and in exchange, we can provide them with incredible books and talented authors. Midpoint works with booksellers all over the country, and they have connections in the United Kingdom and Canada as well. They have personal relationships with buyers at Ingram, Baker & Taylor, Barnes and Noble, Target, Walmart, K-Mart, Follett, and many more, as well as hundreds of small and independent bookstores throughout the country. By partnering with Midpoint, Blank Slate Press will achieve a new level of distribution and be able to bring BSP books and authors to hundreds of new hands. We’re thrilled to be able to work with them, and we believe that all our authors will benefit from the new opportunities Midpoint affords.

And every team member at Midpoint we’ve dealt with so far has been enthusiastic, kind, polite, and patient. We’re looking forward to growing Blank Slate Press with Midpoint on our side.

After going through the long and challenging process of selecting manuscripts for publication, Blank Slate Press is proud to introduce two new faces to the Blank Slate Press author cohort. Please join us in welcoming Lynne Hugo and Deborah Lincoln to our group of talented authors!

Lynne Hugo

Lynne HugoLynne Hugo is an American author whose roots are in the northeast. She lives with her husband, the academic vice president of a liberal arts college, in the Midwest. They have two grown children, two grandchildren, and a chocolate Labrador retriever. A National Endowment For The Arts Fellowship recipient, she has also received repeat individual artists grants from the Kentucky Foundation for Women and the Ohio Arts Council. Her publications include five novels, one volume of creative non-fiction, two books of poetry and a children’s book.

The Sea Farmers, Lynne’s first novel with Blank Slate Press, is the story of Caroline Marcum, a woman who thought she’d left the past behind her.  But when she returns home to Wellfleet Harbor to care for her dying mother, she finds she must face everything she’d left behind. Ridley Neal put his past—and his prison term—behind him when he returned home to take over his father’s oyster and clam beds. Casual acquaintances from long ago, when a nor’easter hits the coast, Rid and Caroline’s lives intersect once again. When Rid and two other “sea farmers” are sued by the wealthy owners of vacation homes who want to shut them down, and Caroline accidentally meets the person she most wronged, they each must learn to trust—and love—again. Based on the events of an actual lawsuit, this quiet, moving novel takes place against a backdrop of a traditional way of life, powerful yet perishable, in the shallows of the beautiful Cape Cod bay. 

The Sea Farmers is tentatively slated for release in early- to mid-summer of 2014.

Deborah Lincoln

Deborah Lincoln, of Neskowin, OR, a self-proclaimed “history fiend,” brings to life the true story of her great-great-grandparents, Agnes and Jabez Robinson, “both extraordinary people whose lives were the stuff of epic adventure stories,” she says. “They weren’t famous, but the information available about them is enough to bring their characters to life.”

Of her passion for historical fiction, she says: “I’m fascinated by the way events—wars and cataclysms and upheavals, of course, but the everyday changes that wash over everyday lives—bring a poignancy to a person’s efforts to survive and prosper. I hate the idea that brave and intelligent people have been forgotten, that the hardships they underwent have dropped below the surface like a stone in a lake, with not a ripple left behind to mark the spot.”

With Lick Creek, Deborah Lincoln brings to life the expansive, seemingly limitless world of a growing nation.

Agnes Cannon watches as a woman swings at the end of a rope, and she knows that the price to be paid for rebellion against a woman’s lot is high. But in 1852, life can pinch like last year’s corset, so when her father insists she marry the first available candidate, she rebels and heads for the Missouri frontier. Lick Creek is a vivid portrait of a woman’s struggle to free herself from the tyranny of society’s precepts, just as the South struggles to free itself from the tyranny of the North. Or that’s the way the coming cataclysm is viewed by Jabez Robinson, the man who will turn Agnes’s views of marriage as involuntary servitude upside-down. This eloquent work of historical fiction chronicles the building of a marriage against the background of a civilization growing – and dying – in the run-up to civil war. 

Lick Creek is tentatively slated for release in fall of 2014.

___

I hope you’ll join us in welcoming these two authors to the Blank Slate Press team. We’re excited that they’ve agreed to contribute their talent to our organization, and we can’t wait to reveal these works to the public. Check back for more updates such as cover reveals, release dates, and launch and speaking events. We also have some big news coming out soon about two of our current authors, so stay tuned for that as well!

As always, thanks for reading, and we’d love it if you’d share this post on your social media pages to help us spread the news.

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