One of the most exciting things about being a writer today is the number of venues available for getting your work published. There’s the traditional big press, those international publishing houses now reduced to six main players. As the number of major publishing houses have shrunk, so have the number of opportunities they offer, especially to new authors.
There’s self-publishing, which has slowly gained a level of acceptance as more and more established authors go that route. Services like Amazon’s Create Space and Smashwords allow users to create and market e-books and even offer print services.
In between, lies the small press, which over the last few years have exploded to fill the void left by the contraction of the larger publishing houses. There are literally hundreds of these, each filling their own niche. Damnation Books – which specializes in horror, dark fantasy, and thrillers – is one of these.
I had reached out to founder, Kim Richards Gilchrist, several years ago, looking for some guidance on my first experience with a small press publisher, and she responded quickly and gave me some real good advice.
When I recently emailed her again to ask if she’d interview for KnippKnopp, she graciously and enthusiastically accepted. Here’s what she had to say:
KRG: Thank you very much for this opportunity to talk with you. We all love talking about things near and dear to our hearts, don’t we?
JK: How does Damnation Books operate differently from “traditional” press?
KRG: How do you define “traditional”? Do you mean the big pubs?
Compared to those, we pay a higher royalty percentage and have a faster turn around time between acceptance and release of a book. We also focus on ebooks first and then print because the majority of our sales come through digital editions.
The down side is, because we’re a smaller press, we cannot afford to print via mass market. All our print editions are trade paperbacks. This makes print copies a little more expensive but the quality is very nice.
Damnation Books is often looked down upon by other publishers for releasing the number of books we have. That always cracks me up because it is something we do intentionally. Yes, I love every single author and value every single book. I also believe readers will read more than one story in their lifetime. Some are voracious and practically inhale the words. I’m one of them which makes my job the best one in the universe! I read every day and yes, I read every single book we release. I have to in order to format them but also because I love the stories.
The other reason for a large catalog of titles is simply to give readers what they want. Readers know what they like and don’t want something else pushed on them. Hard sells are a turn off for everyone. Especially in today’s world with the online stores, we’d better have something readers want when they type in those keywords at Amazon, B&N, or Itunes.
I’ve also seen first hand at conventions where a person will pick up a book-in one case a werewolf story. He came back the last day of the convention and bought every other werewolf book we had to offer. Those are the hardcore customers I’m after. The same goes for the romance side. Women who love those Scots in kilts will get every one of those stories to feed their love.
JK: What are some of the best ways for authors to market their books? How important is social media to marketing?
KRG: Authors are crucial to their own success. Damnation Books (or our sister imprint, Eternal Press) can get books out in the distribution systems, online retailers, and bookstores who will work with small presses but readers don’t want to hear from us. They want to talk with the authors, hear their stories behind the story, get to “know” them online and off.
I’ve said it many times before: I can send out the exact same email as an author. Mine gets marked as spam because it’s coming from a company. The author’s is considered interesting.
Getting out there is hard–especially for people who are home bodies, which many writers are. Stepping out of the natural comfort zone is a scary thing but the only way to get past it is to do it. That’s true for promoting books, right along with facing other life fears.
Authors can also hurt themselves. Some of the dumbest things I’ve seen are authors who refuse to promote their book because sales are low? That one’s a WTF for me. How the heck will it get any better if no one knows the book is available? Taking the story to another publisher or self-publishing it won’t be any different if the author refuses to talk about it-especially on the social networking sites. If the author doesn’t care about it, why should anyone else?
Complaining on the social networks is a sales killer too. Readers don’t want to know about your beef with a store refusing to carry the title or your problems with a reviewer or publisher. That’s a BIG turn off. The same goes for lambasting a reviewer who didn’t like the book.
I’d like to recommend marketing advice from Dany Iny and Firepole Marketing. I recently took his audience building masterclass. He makes you focus on finding the audience, which is what authors need.
JK: Can you see pop culture hits like The Walking Dead and American Horror Story leading to a comeback for Horror writing? (Did it ever completely go away?)
KRG: For me, personally, horror never died. The people putting cheezy horror out moved on and we were left with the good stuff. I can’t speak for others but I know what I like and it doesn’t matter whether it’s “in” or not. I’m counting on readers of Damnation Books titles being just like me.
JK: So we’ve moved passed vampires, and it seems zombies have reached a saturation point, what trends do you foresee in the Horror markets.
KRG: Upcoming trends are really hard to predict. I’m seeing more weird westerns and urban fantasy stories-particularly with witches and fallen angels. Steampunk was getting popular but it’s stabilizing now too. Definitely erotica is on the rise. At both Damnation Books and Eternal Press, we love a good erotica.
JK: What are the most common mistakes you see new novelists make?
KRG: I can think of three big ones right off. First is submitting the first draft. Okay, so I’m a big fan of NANOWRIMO. I’ve participated six times myself. However, just getting the story down is the easy part.
Then it’s revise, edit, revise some more, run it by a reader and critique group, revise some more. Only then, submit it to a publisher or self-publish the story.
Second is to do research on the publisher. It wastes all of our time when a submission comes in and it’s clear the author didn’t read the submission guidelines.
It’s worse when we love a story, offer a contract, and the author says, “I decline to sign the contract because I don’t think your publishing house is the right fit for me.”
Why didn’t they find this out before submitting the story? Come on, we named the imprint Damnation Books because we are into dark fiction.
There is one nice thing to having two imprints though. Damnation Books does dark fiction: horror, thrillers, dark fantasy; any story with dark themes to it and not necessarily a happy ending. Eternal Press is the lighter imprint with romances, contemporary, and a definite happy ending requirement. Both do science fiction,erotica, gay fiction, historical, western, thriller, mystery, medieval fantasy, urban fantasy, young adult and more. Our acquisitions editor is the same person for both so if a book is submitted to one imprint but is more suited to the other, she can consider it and talk with the author.
The third mistake is with editing. Editors are not there to do the writing for the author. They aren’t the enemy either. I know I’ve only been a publisher for nearly five years but already I’ve noticed it’s the new authors who fight their editors the hardest. Those who have been publishing for a while know the value of a good editor and that no one is trying to destroy the story.
I love working with brand new authors. It’s a kind of paying it forward for me because I’ve had some great mentors. It’s also very frustrating when someone is too stubborn to see the value in an edit or too lazy to do the work of revising. Everyone involved: acquisitions, the editors, cover artist, marketing, production, all of us are aiming for the best book we can produce. We’re polishing and fine tuning to make this baby shine!
Thanks again for having me. I enjoyed talking with you.