By Alexandra Correll
As self-publishing explodes, so do the many companies geared to help authors with their projects. But with so much choice comes confusion. To help authors navigate this tsunami of service, we are offering a series of blogs introducing you to some of our favorite companies and asking them for their best tips for indie authors.
Today, we speak with Brooke Warner, the publisher and cofounder of SheWrites Press.
Before co-founding She Writes Press in 2012, Warner spent 13 years in traditional publishing; eight years as executive editor of Seal Press, and five as project editor at North Atlantic Books. Over that time, she began noticing a shift in publishing that troubled her: The focus seemed to change from the quality of an author’s work to the authors themselves, with marketing teams asking for photos of authors to judge their “mediagenicity” and inquiring about whether they already had access to wide audiences (called a “platform,” in the publishing world) through speaking engagements, social media and other means. After being forced into the position of turning book after book down because the author had no platform to speak of, Warner conceptualized SWP as a hybrid press that would give women a voice based purely on the merit of their writing.
Can you tell us about your version of a hybrid press? What can authors expect from it? How does it work?
I feel equally comfortable with the term “hybrid” publisher as I do “partnership publisher.” Our version of hybrid is partnership—and it was our authors who helped us come up with this term based on their experience working with us.
She Writes Press is a publishing company, and our authors pay to publish under our imprint. The authors keep a high percentage of their royalties, so they absorb the financial risk of their publishing endeavor. We offer traditional distribution through Ingram Publishing Services and the benefits that brings, including the ability to have books preordered and your data streamlined; a curated, selective acquisitions process; and we have a publisher at the helm—me—making sure there’s a cohesive vision and that all of the books are adhering to a level of quality that’s on par with traditional publishing.
Do indie and traditional authors have different concerns, and if so, what are they?
At the end of the day I think the primary concern of all authors is the same—that their book be the best it can be, that readers take them seriously, that they feel legitimized, that they’re proud of the work. I think there are different concerns popping up for authors who were previously traditionally published and now can’t get a book deal. This is due to the changes happening in the industry, and a lot of authors are having to ask themselves if they’re willing to publish non-traditionally. I think most are. And this is where She Writes Press has been carving an interesting space, because many authors are willing to publish non-traditionally, but they want all the access and possibility that’s promised to traditionally published authors, and we have that with our vetting process and our distribution.
Do indie and traditional authors have differing concerns about publicity or press?
They might, but they shouldn’t. I think traditionally published authors have to realize the new paradigm publishing has entered, and to fully grasp the reality that publishers are bankrolling only the top 5% of their lists, giving them a good advance and a solid publicity campaign. Most publishers simply don’t have the bandwidth to pay for author publicity campaigns, so they do some but not a lot for the author.
…So my point is that the concerns should be the same. Authors really need to look out for themselves where publicity is concerned, and to be proactive—even if they’ve hired their own publicist. You really can’t sit back and assume that your publicist is going to think of every publicity angle, or see a possible news angle for your book.
But in terms of getting press, I believe the gap is narrowing between traditionally published and self-published books—that the media cares less about how a book gets published and more about what a book looks like, especially its cover, and how well written and conceptualized it is.
What’s the most common concern that indie authors share with you?
Self-published authors are definitely concerned about distribution, about their book not getting into bookstores. Many authors considering self-publishing largely just don’t know what they don’t know and are sometimes anxious as they try to navigate their choices. I think hybrid models like She Writes Press and author-assisted self-publishing are becoming more popular because authors really want support in publishing. They don’t particularly want to be doing it all themselves. They want to focus on writing and working on their author platforms.
What’s the biggest challenge indie authors face that traditional authors don’t?
Here again I would definitely say distribution. Self-published authors are doing amazing books and seeing a lot of big wins, but the limitations they face because of not having distribution really can’t be overstated.
There’s also a lot of discrimination out in the world of publishing against self-published authors. Self-published authors are often barred from entering contests, from having their work reviewed, from being members of organizations… I’ve been arguing for a while now that whether or not an author pays for his or her work to be published should not be the measure of how good or worthy it is. The only measure we should care about is how good the book is. Its merit. But publishing has completely lost sight of that, and this is the uphill battle any self-published or subsidized press faces today.
Alexandra Correll is a junior at LeHigh University majoring in English and International Relations. She was BlueInk’s Summer 2015 intern.
BlueInk Review is a fee-based book review service devoted to self-published titles exclusively. For more news and tips, sign up for our mailing list. And be sure and visit us at https://www.blueinkreview.com.