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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Many of you may not know, but I’ve written a novel with my two daughters and we’re self-publishing it serialized form before we release the full book. We’re following the Blank Slate Press mantra: adventures in publishing. Many have asked us why…why self-publish in the first place and why break the book up into parts and serialize it. Here’s a post one of my co-authors wrote on the serialization question:

Why We’re Serializing, Part 1

A lot of people have been asking why my co-authors and I decided to publish serially. In the age of Amazon, instant gratification, and the digital revolution, why would someone choose to release a book in installments rather than the full thing?  We’ve even had a few people ask ‘what is serialization?’ and many more have wondered why we would choose to break our book up into sections. It’s complicated, they argue, it forces the reader to do more work to read your book, and it’s confusing. And in a lot of ways, they have a point.

So I’m going to explain our rationale for serializing The Sowing, and at the end of this whole process, I’ll do a reflective post and explain what worked, what didn’t, and whether we would do it again. Read the rest ….

BSP is pleased to present this book review written by Zoe Maffitt, one of our summer interns:

Lilith's Brood book cover from AmazonI read this gem of a book thanks to a science fiction class I took this past semester. While Lilith’s Brood by Octavia E. Butler is packaged such that the trilogy is in one volume, due to time constraints our class only read the first volume, entitled Dawn.

The book is set in a post-apocalyptic time, hundreds of years after nuclear war has annihilated most of humanity and ruined Earth. The story follows Lilith, one of the few humans saved by the Oankali, an alien race that is attracted to the complexities of human beings and who are driven to heal our ravaged planet. Lilith is trained to help the other human survivors make the transition back to a newly healed Earth.

Dawn is driven by the tension derived from miscommunication between the Oankali and the humans. With this constant push and pull throughout the story, the Oankali remain complex, elusive characters.

My reading experience is what stands out to me. No book has made me think as much as this one has. It brings to question the definition of humanity, costs of survival, such complex issues as Stockholm Syndrome and leadership, adaptability versus staying true to oneself, and what it means to be an outsider.

In all honesty, my class had a mixed reaction to Dawn: half of us loved it while the other half trudged through. I believe the distinction between the two mindsets came down to how sympathetic or even neutral the reader remains in respect to the Oankali throughout the book. And that, I believe, is part of Octavia E. Butler’s genius. As a woman with a stutter who grew up in a racially mixed and economically challenged neighborhood, she comes from a place ideally suited towards exploring themes of segregation, persecution, mixed heritage, interactions with those different from oneself, and the huge, insanely messy can of worms that is communication and empathy.

At the end of the day, I cannot recommend this book to you enough. While it can be uncomfortable at times—how can it not, tackling such issues?—it has a permanent spot on my favorite-books-of-all-time shelf. It is such experiences that lead to growth as an individual and, ultimately, as a society.

Happy reading!


P.S.  Interested in a quick read? Take a look at Octavia E. Butler’s short story “Speech Sounds.”

The Historical Novel Society’s 2013 Conference is almost upon us and we’re delighted to once again host an author interview in preparation for the big event. Today, we host Victoria Sutton, professor, lawyer and scientist. She writes fiction and nonfiction, including historical fiction typically involving biological or toxicological aspects.

Q – What got you first interested in historical fiction?

A - I think my first introduction to historical fiction that thoroughly took me in was through the British comedy series, Black Adder, starring Rowan Atkinson.  That probably drew me into reading historical fiction where I could find the world I craved to experience in an historically accurate way.

My first attempt at writing historical fiction was in my early years after working on geneaology research in the family and I needed to fill in some gaps, so I wrote a fiction piece about how I thought the family history had happened based on my understanding of the context of the period.  It was very satisfying and gave me much broader insights than I would have had doing strictly nonfictional notetaking in the research.  But I never forgot that process.

Q – How do you find the people and topics of your books?

A – I find people who have many of the same wants and desires as we do, today.  I have an endless number of story ideas, but they all tend to be created around an idea or conflict that is still with us today — gender bias, war, politics, power struggles.

Q – Do you follow a specific writing and/or research process?

A – I diagram the story from start to finish and have a rough outline and diagram.  I leave it open for changing it but it gives me a solid starting place.  The whole idea for me is to get a draft done first and then revise.  I have heard there are two types of writers – the planner and the gardner.  I am the planner type.

For research around the historical period, I look for the scholarly articles and books that have been peer-reviewed for accuracy and then go from there to other secondary sources.  I look at key historical events that may not be particularly important now, but were at the time.

Q – For you, what is the line between fiction and fact?

A – The historical context has to be accurate as well as the setting and possibilities.  Most of the time the character is fictional reacting to factual history. That is the magic of being in that world in a convincing way and (hopefully) bringing your reader along.

Q – Do you have an anecdote about a reading or fan interaction you’d like to share?

A – I have given a lot of talks about biological crimes and once I was giving a talk and suddenly realized that one of the convicted criminals I had highlighted in my talk was sitting in the audience, just released from prison!  I had a tense moment deciding whether I should omit that part of my talk, but decided I should give the talk as planned. I didn’t leave anything out, because it was important to my narrative of the law, but it was a rare moment I will remember.

Q – Where do you feel historical fiction is headed as a genre?

A – I see it growing with the popularity of “The Borgias”, the popular television series and even “Game of Thrones.” Though “Game of Thrones” is decidedly a fantasy, it is based on the factual War of the Roses and that world.  I definitely see a growing interest in the genre as a way to tell a fascinating story that has another world that can be explored and experienced.

Q – Is there an era/area that is your favorite to write about? How about to read?

A – I enjoy all periods, but I am most attracted to the Medieval period anywhere in the world and the emergence from that period typically around 1500.  I am also interested in the Magna Carta period of 1251.

Q – What are your favorite reads? Favorite movies? Dominating influences?

A – Anything by Philippa Gregory and the underrated and one of my favorites, Jeanne Kalogridis.  I also like David Liss’s “The Coffee Trader”.  I fear I am leaving out a lot on this question because I have broad interests.

As for favorite movies, I write about the subgenre biohorror, biothriller and bio-fantasy in a new book, The Things That Keep Us Up At Night:  Reel BioHorror at .   You probably will not be surprised some of my favorite historical movies are about the black plague and that period, the 1340s:   Black Death (2010), The Name of the Rose (1986) and The Seventh Seal (1957).  Other all time favorites are Doctor Zhivago (1965), Passion of the Christ (2004), Ben Hur (1959), and any of the Indiana Jones movies.

Q – Is there a writer, living or deceased, you would like to meet?

A – Alexander Tolstoy

What book was the most fun for you to write?

A – The Lady and the Highwayman, aka 1511

Q – Can you tell us about your latest publication?

My latest work is “The Lady and the Highwayman” which won a place in the Golden Acorn historical romance category, last year.  I am excited about my character, Lady Rasa, a young woman from Lithuania who travels to Padua, Italy in 1511 after her entire family was killed by the black plague.  She resolves to go to medical school at the University of Padua in the region of Italy in hopes of saving humanity from the plague, but after all her planning finds that the University admits only men.  Just when she thinks she has her life planned, she falls in love with her classmate who she discovers is not what he seems to be — but then, neither is she.

Q – Do you have a most interesting question or crazy anecdote related to your writing you would like to share?

A – I suppose the oddest thing that happened was once not too long ago, when I was writing for a deadline I stayed awake far too long.  While writing, I fell asleep for awhile, but kept writing – apparently.  The next morning I read what I had written and it was like I had never seen it before.  It was actually not so bad but must have been generated in my subconscious brain.  I since had it happen again, and thought it was great, but a little weird.  I just hope I am not shopping online or writing an email to someone if that happens again!

Ok, I am sure it has happened to other writers who are pushing a deadline, too, but here I am, admitting it.  You have had this happen to you, right? Right? Yes?  Please say yes!

As authors, publishers, and readers of historical fiction gear up for the Historical Novel Society Annual Conference, which will be held this year from June 21, 2013 to Sunday June 23, 2013 at the historic Vinoy Renaissance Resort in St. Petersburg, Florida, bloggers are posting interviews with those who will be presenting or participating on panels. Blank Slate Press is delighted to feature author Jack W. London. For more on Jack’s books, visit his website at: (edited 6.10)


Q.  What got you first interested in historical fiction?  

A.  In the fifth or sixth grade, when I read Gone with the Wind and several Sherlock Holmes books.

Q.  How do you find the people and topics of your books?

A.  My novels are of people  who are ordinary in their own right but find themselves pulled up into extraordinary events.   My characters might be someone you went to school with, or married, or worked with in a shop or farm, but whose lives were changed by being pulled into the Army in World War II, or who left a small town to go to work in a bomb factory.  Ordinary people who by living in extraordinary times became extraordinary themselves.

Q.  Do you follow a specific writing and/or research process?

A.  I am emphatic about primary source research.   For example, in Virginia’s War, when I wrote about a young woman who is issuing ration stamp books  in March, 1944, I researched the Office of Price Administration records to learn precisely what stamp symbol (such as a stamp with an image of a tank or a stalk of wheat) was issued that month, for which commodities, such as butter, and how many stamps were required.    When I wrote about a young man who is applying field dressings to a wounded soldier, I researched the Army Medical Corps History of the European Theatre to learn precisely what the medical facility would be called, what its personnel roster included, where in Normandy it set up facilities, and the kinds  of dressings that were and were not available.  When you have that level of detail, the things the characters do is much easier to write because you already are in their ‘shoes.’

Q.  For you, what is the line between fiction and fact?

A.  Events that form the background of a story must be reasonably accurate as to time, date, place, known participants, that sort of thing.

Q.  Do you have an anecdote about a reading or fan interaction you’d like to share?  

A.  A French-speaking host on a radio interview confessed that he went to the municipal records office in St. Lo, France, to try to find the family names and actual facts of a woman I had made up as a character in Engaged in War.  He said that she and her family were so real to him that he believed I had been writing about an actual family and he woke up in the middle of the night worrying about what had become of them after the book ended.

Q.  Where do you feel historical fiction is headed as a genre?

A.  Glutted with poorly-written books  by people who do not want to learn the craft of writing.

Q.  Is there an era/area that is your favorite to write about? How about to read?  

A.  I trained as a medievalist and continue to be fascinated by the period between 1154 and 1485.   However, it is not the era that draws my reading but the quality of the writing.   Anya Seton wrote a fascinating novel about Katherine de Roet Swynford but was criticized by Alison Weir, an alleged historian, for writing in a number of unknown details as if they were facts, such as the outcome of the disappearance of her daughter, the existence and role of a serving woman who befriended her, that sort of thing.  When I read Weir’s own ‘history’ of Katherine Swynford, it was almost unreadable and relied on the words ‘may,’ ‘perhaps,’ ‘is possible,’ ‘might have,’ and the kind to an extent that no self-respecting historian would do.

Q.  What are your favorite reads? Favorite movies? Dominating influences? 

A.  Favorite reads:   The war trilogy written by Evelyn Waugh (Men at Arms, Officers and Gentlemen, End of the Battle) and almost anything by Jane Gardam and William Boyd.  Favorite movies:  I’m a sucker for Out of Africa and Casablanca.  Dominating Influences:  story telling, romance, and accuracy.

 Is there a writer, living or deceased, you would like to meet?

A.  Evelyn Waugh, Anthony Powell, Simon Schama, Rick Atkinson

Q.   What book was the most fun for you to write?

A.  Engaged in War

Q.  Can you tell us about your latest publication? 

A.  My series on writing advice, A Novel Approach, is being edited at the present.

Q.  Do you have a most interesting question or crazy anecdote related to your writing you would like to share? 

A.  I am asked daily some variant of the question about ‘the other’ Jack London, most often whether we are related.  Every once in a while someone asks me the home run question:  Are you Jack London?    I have long since given up explaining and now simply say ‘yes,’ which now and then gets me a hotel upgrade or a seat at the front of the room, but that’s about it.

Click here to find out more about the Historical Novel Society and historical fiction. 

This past Thursday and Friday I attended the IBPA (Independent Book Publishers Association) Publishing University in Chicago. It was my first time attending the event, and I’m really glad I went as I think the speakers and attendees represented the thinking—old and new—swirling around the industry. I was also happy to attend because Blank Slate Press won the organization’s 2012 Bill Fisher Award for Best First Book-Fiction for our debut title, THE SAMARITAN by Fred Venturini, and so I have a soft spot for all the great folks at IBPA.

The breakout sessions were led by a number of talented publishing professionals who were both motivating and informative, but it was the big names—people like Guy Kawasaki (author and former chief evangelist of Apple), Mark Coker (Smashwords), Brian Felsen (Bookbaby), Allen Lau (Wattpad), Matthew Cavnar (Vook), Curt Matthews (IPG), Dan Poynter (author and speaker), Kelly Gallagher (Ingram), Dominique Raccah (Sourcebooks), and David Houle (futurist)—who really set the tone.

Before I talk about what I believe were the major themes, I must clarify that I took notes like a madwoman so I apologize in advance if I make a mistake in attribution or get the particulars of a quote wrong. For others in attendance, please let me know if you can add anything or correct anything.

So what were the main takeaways? Some of these overlap, but here are the six major themes I identified at the conference.

1)    “The flaws in the traditional publishing model are everywhere. It is not a viable model.”  This is one of my favorite quotes from Dominique Raccah, founder of Sourcebooks and one of the people busy reinventing the industry.  The telling part of the quote is in its context. Her presentation was not about the industry per se, and that quote was not taken from her presentation, but rather was a response to a question from an attendee who asked why, with all the opportunities available for authors today, she or anyone else should seek to publish traditionally. Raccah responded that she actually had no idea why anyone would want to do that if they are willing and able to take on the tasks necessary to make a book a success according to their own measures and expectations.

2)    “The future is global virtual distribution.” That’s the way Kelly Gallagher of Ingram put it, but he wasn’t the only one talking global. Allen Lau of Wattpad related several anecdotes about people from around the world sending him notes about how much they love the accessibility of putting up their own stories and being able to read stories from people around the world. In a conversation over dinner, we talked about how he envisions Wattpad as a giant global campfire around which everyone is able to share stories without barriers to entry. And both Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, and Brian Felson, founder of BookBaby, talked about the stunning growth of ebooks in global markets. 

From the panel with Coker and Felson, I learned that Apple distributes to 52 countries and that its distribution reach is a big growth area for Smashwords. According to Coker, Smashwords conducted research that showed the 2012 global ranking for ebook distribution is:

  1. 1 – Amazon
  2. 2 – Apple
  3. 3 – Kobo

He advised authors and publishers to think globally  because lots of people around the world read/speak English. And both Coker and Felson said they believed that it won’t be too long before the international market will be bigger than the US market.

Coker and Felson made the point that the fundamental change in publishing is that shelf space is no longer an issue. With ebooks and print-on-demand, online bookstores want to and have the ability to stock every book available. It’s just a matter of storing the ones and zeros that make up the digital file. 

3)    It is no longer all about distribution (that part is easy), it is now about discoverability.  I can’t remember who said that, but almost everyone echoed the sentiment, including Gallagher from Ingram, Lau from Wattpad, Cavnar from Vook, Coker from Smashwords, Felson from BookBaby, Dan Poynter, and David Houle. The only person on any of the main panels who didn’t seem to be excited about the future was the representative from IPG (Independent Publishers Group), the second largest distributor for independent publishers. (Disclaimer: BSP’s books are distributed through Small Press United, a division of IPG.) He made several very important points about the importance of metadata and point-of-sale information and he said that when IPG first started that had two IT people. Now they have twelve. And he reminded attendees that 90% of the books sold (that’s what he said, but I’m not sure that’s correct) are still print. But the most memorable thing I have in my notes from his contribution to the panel, titled Beyond the Click, was that self-publishing is very hard. That didn’t get a very big applause line from the crowd.

4)    The Era of Artisanal Publishing.  Industry veteran Dan Poynter used his own success as a guidepost for independent publishers and authors. He, along with Guy Kawasaki and futurist David Houle, drove home the point that it is up to each author to define themselves and carve out their area of expertise. They all three admonished attendees not to be defined by terms from the past.  Kawasaki compared authors self-publishing to people who choose to make artisanal cheese or craft beer. No one says to them: Oh, you couldn’t get a job at a real cheesemaker, so your making your own cheese. If you approach your business like an professional and an entrepreneur, your choice to be a small press publisher or independent author are no less valid than any other craftsman putting out a hand-crafted artisanal product.

5)    The Myth of Big 5 Marketing Support. So, this may sound strange coming from a publisher, but I’ve been on the other side as well and I know that, for many (most?) the idea that just because you got a nice advance and you’ve got a publicity team assigned to you, doesn’t mean you’re actually going to get real, sustained—or intelligent!—pr/marketing support. Dori Jones Yang, a successful historical fiction author, told the story about her agent’s response to all the marketing she was doing. The agent was thrilled at her success and said, “As soon as you hit it big, your publisher’s publicist is going to leap into action.”

Yang also said that from her point of view POD and ebook distribution is the future…and the future is now.

It has always been hard for an author—even an author published with a sought-after New York agent and a big-time New York publisher—to get shelf space in bookstores. And that shelf space is expensive. And if your book doesn’t sell, it is returned and pulped or remaindered. And the hit to your royalty statement is serious. So why would anyone want to go that route? With POD and online distribution, your books are always available and they never go out of print.

6)    The jawbone of an ass. In what I thought was a brilliant comparison, Tom Doherty, president of Cardinal Publishers Group, a distributor of non-fiction titles out of Indianapolis, said that sometimes it is best for a sales person to just shut up. If a customer isn’t excited about a book, the sales person should quit pushing and try to present the book at the next appointment.  He said (and I’m paraphrasing here) because  just like in the Bible when Samson killed a thousand men with the jawbone of an ass, a salesperson can kill a thousand sales by flapping his jawbone like an ass.  My big takeaway here is that this relates not just to sales people on a distributor’s payroll, but to every independent author who won’t shut up about his or her book on Twitter or Facebook.

And finally, back to distribution, Ingram took the opportunity to formally announce Ingram Spark—a “new and improved” service designed for small publishers that will roll out later this year.  I learned that very small publishers (those with under 1 million in sales…uh, yeah, I fit in that group), makes up 20% of the publishing industry, and Ingram is perfectly positioned to serve that 20%.

As the largest wholesaler in the industry, Ingram serves over 200 ebook retailers in over 150 countries. They have 2500 partners, they handle 11 million titles through 3800 channels, and can output a different book every six seconds. But still they see room for significant growth catering to that 20%–as well as working with many of the major publishers who use their services (including O’Reily Media who just closed their last warehouse).   Ingram Spark will be much easier (according to the Ingram folks) to use than Lightning Source today. It will be “easy, quick, and free” and will provide one interface for POD and ebooks.

I’m looking forward to it.

By Amira Makansi, originally published on The Z-Axis. 

I went to my first writer’s conference this weekend! It was really low-key and casual, but still informative, and I definitely met some great people. I’d like to hearken back briefly to my post about the life of a young writer because the gif I put in about being “At A Writing Conference” held remarkably true to form: I was hungry pretty much the whole time. But that aside, I had some really interesting and fulfilling experiences that made the conference on the whole a very positive experience for me. I’d like to share them with my writerly friends because, You can do it too! It was fun! I’m also going to share them in list form, because, well, lists are great.

Tales From The Missouri Writer’s Guild Conference, Told As Anecdotes With Morals About Why You, Too, Should Attend Conferences:

1) You can make new friends! I met people who were awesome, who were as invested in writing as a career as I am, who were devoted, thoughtful, and fun. I even exchanged phone numbers and email addresses with some of these people! (No, it wasn’t a dating conference.) I had a great time networking with people, despite my initial shyness (I always sort of have to be drawn out of my shell) and it was really fulfilling to meet other people with similar interests and passions. Conferences are primarily about networking, and it’s really important to constantly reach out to new people and build a rapport with people who you support and will support you in turn.

2) You can pitch to agents! It was my first time ever pitching or querying, and I was pretty nervous. I told this to the first agent, and she was super nice about it. “Great, welcome to the club,” she said. “Don’t be nervous.” I got through my whole pitch without reading off my sheet of paper, and she asked me some good questions. And then she requested a sample of my manuscript! Wow! I walked out on cloud nine. Of course, I know this is just the beginning, and she has to like the writing, and blah blah, blah blah, but … it was an awesome feeling. Pitching in person is a great opportunity. After all, the agent-author relationship is all about, well, relationships, and there’s no better way to sell your story than by looking someone in the eye, chin up, a ring in your voice, and telling them how deeply you believe in your manuscript. Go get it!

3) You get to meet really influential people! The agents I met and talked to are people who are movers and shakers in the industry, people who are well-informed and who know what’s coming down the pipes. There were a few speakers as well who had lots to say about the future of publishing in the changing industry, and I felt like I learned a lot and made some good connections. And that’s just at the small-town MO conference. My mom was at a conference in Chicago this weekend and got to have dinner with the founder of Wattpad – a website that has garnered hundreds of millions of users, all people who are actively engaged in the reading community. Conferences are a great opportunity to meet people who are changing the world of reading and writing.

4) You can learn what NOT to do! One of the great things about the conference was hearing people talk about what they didn’t like. For example, it’s really important to not taking pitching too seriously. There were people who were clearly distraught and upset after their pitches, and that was a turn-off for the agents. It’s also important to make sure you’re pitching to the right type of agent. It’s also important to have your manuscript formatted properly. It’s also important to … etc. My point is, agents, editors, and industry professionals are at these events to teach you how to get published. They’re not there to bash your work, or hurt your feelings, or anything else – they’re there to educate and promote. But in order for them to do that, you have to meet them halfway, and those are big things that are easy to learn at writing conferences.

Have you ever been to a writing conference? Did you have any memorable experiences – positive or negative? Would you go again, or not?