article written by Faith Ombewa
According to thefreedictionary.com, a publisher is a person or business that produces and distributes something, such as a book or magazine, in printed or electronic form.
I like the definition because it points out certain keywords that I would like to comment on. A publisher can be: a person - meaning one single person can undertake this role or a business run by an individual or a group of people as partners or shareholders depending on the terms and agreements under which the business was formed. This person or business produces (in simple definition the act of making or creating) and distributes (doling out, spreading and available to the consumers).
My experience as an Assistant
The past six months of my life have been a journey, I cannot exactly calculate of how many miles - but rest assured it has been quite an experience.
Follow me on this, let me tell you what I mean:
So in November 2015 (and November also happens to be my birthday month - Yes! I am a scorpio baby) I joined Troll River Publications as an assistant. So yes, I had two things to celebrate; first it was my birthday - the thought that am not getting any younger, probably wiser and then the good news of getting hired with my very first job application and the relief that I wasn't going to travel the road of job hunting. Let me make something clear, the relief wasn't just because I got a job...no no, the relief was because I got a job of my first choice and something I was sure I would keep my energy high on doing so ultimately I would deliver positively.
Author S.N.Mckibben who also happens to be the head Troll River Publications is my boss, I prefer to use Stephy so for the sake of this write up that is how I will refer to her. Stephy is amazing, she is just on a different level kind of boss, honestly I shouldn't even use the word 'boss' because that is not how she comes out to me. She is different, she has her leadership skills mastered and knows exactly what to do, what to say and how to say. Just that, makes me feel rewarded and appreciated for the work I put in. Sometimes I feel our relationship is those of business partners (I am allowed to be me, express my opinion, make changes where necessary and even growl if I had to). So excuse my limited lexicon for not being able to get one word to describe her.
Full disclosure; once in a while I brag to my best friend and family that I am an assistant head to a publishing company, the next big thing in the world of romance novels. LOL. I know that sounds ridiculous but trust me the thought of it inspires me. The inspiration is not just the title or the excitement it comes with but the DESIRE to want to do more and be the BEST in what I do; the hunger to be a worthy investment to the company and not a liability.
Aaah! I forgot to mention, I am not those "wake up in the morning, dress up, look at yourself in the mirror, get on your sexiest heels, ask for your family's opinion on how you look then report to the office looking so on fire that every one else gets a little distracted by your entrance"... I am a virtual assistant. Yes, once in a while I get all dressed up to create a working mode but most of the time I am just in my pyjamas behind my very faithful laptop and a corner stuffed with pillows to ensure my back is taken care of.
Working from home is fun because you have the control of doing whatever you want - whenever you want it and if you are a mommy like me, it gets even more special because you have all the time to watch over the little one. And that is where the challenge comes in, one has to make it intentional to work. If there is anything I have learnt in this past six months, i would say self motivation, disciple and time management. I mean no one bothers whether I report to office or not, no one monitors what I do but everyone looks and expects to see the result of the work I do.
I started working at five hours a week, now am at twenty and many more to come. The change has made me keep on toss, I have stretched and upped my game. I have learnt to create a timeline for my whole week and have a draft of how my day would look like. I love it, I have never felt this in charge and responsible of my life. I feel like I have the power to write my own story without anyone telling me who they think I am. I have also learnt that am very good in building lasting relationships, something I took for-granted in the past.
For me,this has been a journey of traveling to an unknown land because each new day, month, book release, launch party, virtual tour and much more comes with its own experiences. The trickiest part is trying to read Stephy's mind to figure out how many star ratings she gives me in each of these projects. Some days I wake up feeling not satisfied with what I delivered, I wonder if she feels the same or it's just self - judgement. But some days I wake up feeling a hero at how I made a kiss-ass newsletter and played around with words. I cannot give an exact ratio of these two happenings or say which feeling comes more often but I can say I love both reactions, they help me strike a balance. The 'unsatisfied' feeling pushes me to do more while the 'hero' feeling makes me feel I am improving and getting better at what I do.
I am dedicated to my work as a virtual assistant. I give it my all, I do it like I will never do anything else but sometimes I have fears; What if I wake up one morning and Stephy doesn't need an assistant any more!? What if she decides she needs to cut costs and I am top of her "cutting cost" list!? But in these moments, I hold onto the good relationship more like a friendship we have built and my loyalty to her and the company. I remind myself that whatever happens I will have given my best and will proudly walk head high knowing I was diligent. This is what am saying; working as a virtual assistant has taught me to build trust and see the very best in people, something I used to struggle with before. I was rather skeptical; but now I live each day at a time, give the best in everything I do and believe that nature has a way of rewarding faithfulness and hard work.
I feel like am a new person: the first time I felt that was on the 10th of October 2014 when I became a mom to my beautiful baby girl (That was an experience of a lifetime), 10th October 2015 when he went on his one knee and popped that 'life trembling question'. LOL. Then again on the 24th of November 2015 when I marked officially as my first day at work as a Virtual assistant, Troll River Publications. Why do I put this date as part of my special days calendar date? Because it is special to me, right from the start... I knew it was the genesis of a beautiful journey.
Faith Ombewa - Assistant Troll River Publications
My Circus...or is it?
So...for all you authors out there that don't think you have control over your publisher...this happened...
One day early last year my author, PAK, calls me and says--oh yeah we're all doing a compilation story (meaning all TRP Authors) revolving around a beach theme and your going to publish it.
Do you think I'd even dream of saying no? That's just not the TRP way.
However I did have that moment of...my monkeys are running amok and they are about to throw poo at me (meaning a curve ball I didn't budget for). But after each and all of their stories turned out to be gold nuggets we all agreed to use this as an introduction to readers that know one author (like PAK) but not another (like Rachel De Lune).
So now we have this romantic contemporary beach-themed compilation for a value-priced 99¢. Each story is a stand-alone, novella/novelette, complete, no cliff-hangers story by award winning, award nominated and fan appreciate authors! Check out the excerpts!
And know that not all publishers tell you what to write ;) Sometimes it's good to take control and publish what you want, not what the market tells you to.
My Life in 2015
But, I feel the day is close when I don't have to give away pieces of my soul and hand them to another person to market as theirs.
I get paid well, but I can not honestly recommend selling your work without recognition. Even though I write for others, I have my own stories to tell. My clients love my stories, but I give my all to the ones of interest for me--my own that are not popular or what's on the marketable list this week. But this is neither here nor there.
I do what I do to get my authors stories out there. And it feels exactly like the picture above. There I am climbing up, determined to "make it". Carrying my author puppies with me. All in it together. And I feel like we're almost "there".
But where is "here"?
Currently I am a writer full time and a publisher full time. On some days I'm a writer. Others a publisher. Everyday I'm an author's advocate. I love helping authors. When I see an author down in the dumps, confused or worried I can't help but tell them it's okay. I've been where you've been and here is where you're at, where you're going and what you have to do.
I too can feel a little lost or beaten up going down this path. Do I know this place? Have I been here before?
My path, the author's path, the publisher's path is an uphill climb in which you can not see the top. Scratch that--it's a sheer cliff and we're all repelling. Me and my posse are so bad ass we're doing it free style. Just like the picture.
I think I can see the top, but I'll have to let you know when I get "there". So far the challenge has been difficult, but I know this: those author puppies on my back have kept me going. I love you guys!
What this means? Every author needs a group. People that understand. Writing is a lone sport. Publishing that work is not. If you are trying to publish alone that's where you get in trouble. I'm not talking about running out and getting a publisher, agent or whatever. I'm talking about crit partners, support groups, writer's covens. Even self-published writers had a cover artist, an editor, a marketing expert to talk to. Or at least I hope so. Dear god, I hope so.
What I gained in 2015 is insight. The knowledge to know we've a long way to go. Troll River Publications was born in October 2012. But December 24th, 2012 was our publishing debut with Luke's Tale. We've achieved 3 years and still going. Want to give an anniversary present? Write a review for one of our authors! Doesn't matter which platform or book. We take payment in four and five stars!
We have a line up of books coming in 2016. There should be one or two releases every month. As a publisher, I'm hoping readers continue to support our authors.
To the TRP authors I want to give my sincere and humble thank you for believing in me, letting me help you reach your goals and letting me carry your books. The commissioned artwork was for you and inspiration of you. Patricia, Elizabeth, Carol, Kris, J.D., Marilyn, Rachel and the new authors to come in 2016 Madeline Iva and the duo C.M.Moore (yes even you) -- Thank you. Let's have a great New Year!
An Interview with S.N.McKibben
In recent events, I was interviewed as an author and a publisher by Debbie McClure.
Debbie McClure was introduced to my by Carol McKibben, and right from the start Debbie and I felt like old time companions. She was warm, welcoming and a determined writer set on finding a editor that would tell her why her story was getting these rejections letters from agents and publishers. After reading her first chapter I got on the phone and told her the reasons behind the "form letters" and what a personal note from an agent really meant. She was grateful, and Debbie found me interesting enough to interview, in which you can find here:
But what I love most is that I found another writer who openly shared her experience with rejection. I want to tell all writers--this day will come. Even if you never write one query to an agent or publisher, it will come. Rejections comes in many forms. It comes in the form of a one-star review, a library not buying your book, Barnes & Noble refusing to stock your title, a family member whose eyes glaze over as you try to explain your story.
These little confidence killers build up. Some writers stop because of them. And that's okay. Because everyone should ATTEMPT to write a book. But not everybody should be a writer. I say attempt--I can't stress it enough, because not everyone can FINISH writing a book. I've heard things from "I start to write, then I know the end and I stop before I finish the book" and "I can't express myself on paper", and even the "I'm not a writer".
But I'm going to give you a secret.
Are you a writer or an author? You might think they are the same thing, but as a publisher, I see a huge difference between the two.
Writer's put hands on the keyboard and go. But author's have a plan. They finish. They go on to the next. I'm an AUTHOR'S Advocate, not a writer's advocate.
So if you're looking for an agent or a publisher, finish the book first. It's the first step in becoming an author.
Publishing Platform: Wise Grey Owl
Minion Troll found a new advertising platform that is based in the UK called Wise Grey Owl. They boast 8K hits everyday. Readers click on the link for either U.S. or UK and those links take you pretty much to Amazon. You can search their site by Books, Authors or Genre. To me it looks like a place where you can find diamonds in the ruff.
This particular post is what happens when I give Minion Troll assignments like - "Prove to me you know what a publishing platform is--write me a blog."
Below is what Minion Troll has to say about Publishing Platform and Wise Grey Owl.
What is a Publishing Platform?
Before we get into discussing the publishing platform I have set out to tell you more about in this article, I see it fit to first make you have a clear understanding of what a publishing platform is. This will be brief but efficiently covered. Let’s get to it…
Briefly, a publishing platform acts as a link between independent authors to potential readers of their work. A publishing platform bring these two parties together and benefits them in the following ways:
Wise Grey Publishing Platform
The publishing platform we are going to have a look at is The Owl Grey Publishing Platform. I will go through all the major aspects about the way this publishing tool to have a clear understanding of how the platform works and how it will help you as an author or a reader.
How it works.
Wise Grey is not involved in any financial transaction meaning that readers do not buy books through this sites. Authors who submit those books will provide link(s) to make those purchases.
Wise Grey Owl is a UK based Publishing Platform whose main goal is to support writers and artists globally. As mentioned earlier, it provides promotion services to independent writers making their work reach far wider audiences.
Advertising they offer.
Wise Grey Owl allows you to advertise on their site and gives you the liberty to select the pages you wish your adverts to appear in. Authors need not create adverts unless they wish to promote their books by paid adverts.
The prices for these adverts are quite fair standing at £20 for ever or until a request is made for the advert to be removed. Payments are made in advance via PayPal, direct transfer or through a cheque drawn on a UK bank. The adverts supplied should meet the following specifications:
Terms and Conditions.
I will not go through the whole Terms and Conditions document for Wise Grey Owl in this document. I will briefly list down the sections of the Terms and Conditions document and at the end of the list, I will provide you with a link you can follow to view this document. Let’s get started.
The following are the sub-sections of Wise Grey’s Terms and Conditions document:
Below is a link that will take you to the complete document containing Wise Grey Owl’s Terms and Conditions:
For more information, you can contact them using any of the following channels:
Telephone: +44 113 815 5991
The Pros and Cons of DRM
First, what is DRM?
Digital rights management (DRM) refers to digital locks used by contents creators and publishers to restrict unauthorized use of their digital contents, and to control how such contents are accessed and shared when usage is authorized.
Copyright owners may use DRM to protect their digital contents by using encryption systems that allow remote monitoring and control. Published contents such as ebooks may be encrypted to prevent piracy.
Several authors, publishers, and end-users are often divided about the role DRM plays. Over the years, DRM has influenced digital content protection, access, and sharing from unauthorized users. However, DRM controversy evolves from how it restricts authorized users from enjoying the benefits of what they have already paid for.
So, basically what DRM means is...
At least the reader can't pass their books from one device to another. Wait a minute...doesn't Amazon have a way of passing from device to device? What about Whisper net? How does that work? I sense a different blog post here.
Now I'm a small time publisher and I really don't have a fancy way to detect where my books are going so in general, I go DRM free. A plus side is the result is people are willing to buy a book that's DRM free and since you really don't have control of pirates being pirates, you hurt your sales and that's just bad business.
And now, a chart to visualize my point.
However, because I like to know about things before I spout off, we did some research and came up with our Pros and Cons.
The Pros of DRM
Some authors, publishers and even end-users have supported DRM, and most of their argument revolves around the following:
Protect Intellectual Property: proponents of DRM have argued that authors deserve the right to own their brain child. Without DRM, authors (especially self-published authors) may easily lose their brain child to publishers, other authors, or even an unknown pirate.
DRM makes it possible for authors and publishers to track and monitor how their contents are accessed and shared. Without DRM pirates can easily copy and redistribute ebooks illegally and may end up with more money than publishers and authors.
Of course being plundered by pirates is bad for business however, these were people that were NEVER going to buy your book in the first place. You can feel riped-off and fight those pirates and put forth the effort, hours and hair-pulling of chasing them down, or you can consider it the price of marketing.
Yes, marketing because most people will buy your book if it's:
b) Easy to obtain
c) They know you will entertain or educate
People don't want to feel like thieves and with those three assets above in place, you're normal person will not go through all the effort to rip you off.
DRM Ensures Authors’ Payment: DRM ensures that authors get paid for their work based on facts and figures gathered from DRM data. The remote monitoring system of DRM makes it possible to collect relevant data about consumers, number of purchase made, and buying patterns.
Self-published authors can easily find out what to expect from the sales of their ebooks. Also, authors working with publishers may be aware of what to expect from their ebook sales, though it may be subject to initial contract agreement.
I'd like to point out, I don't have any special DRM tracking device. Maybe Amazon does, but I don't.
The Cons of DRM
The following are some of the cons of DRM:
Limit Accessibility and Portability: DRM makes it impossible for consumers to access contents they paid for on desired platforms except the ones authorized by the copyright owners. This system places the consumer at a disadvantage and makes it almost impossible to move around with contents they paid for using a preferred device.
Unfair Profit: copyright owners often claim that DRM is aimed at curbing piracy, but the system has been used to generate unfair profits for authors and publishers. Buyers may have to pay for an ebook twice or more just to view contents in a different format or device. Some DRM systems are specifically designed to limit accessibility instead of redistribution.
Hack and Crack: authors and publishers who support the use of DRM are aware that pirates can hack and crack DRM encryptions. When content’s DRM is cracked, it is often available for free online or via several devices for copying and sharing.
In such situations, many consumers simply sidestep the genuine source of the digital content. However, when contents are DRM free, consumers will buy from the genuine source. The reason is simple they can move what they pay for to almost any convenient format or device.
Consumers often prefer to acquire contents form genuine sources except if such contents have been encrypted to limit usage. This is true even of my own household.
ACTION ITEM: The takeaway is--make it simple to read your stuff! DRM isn't going to protect you from pirates. The law isn't going to protect you from pirates. Fans and admirers will support you. Put your energy into making them happy. Just like you need a thick skin for critics, you need a thick skin for those who would steal for the sake of stealing. For most, their conscious guides them. Just make it easy for them to say...I'd rather my favorite author get the money so she can write some more.
Publishing Process with 99Designs
Exciting parts of publishing are the times I get to work with my author on their cover! I've worked with 99Designs before and now knowing what to expect, I can help my author through the process. Those on the mailing list -- keep a lookout of your email! We'll be sending you opportunities to choose the cover to Elizabeth SaFleur's upcoming novel "Lovely" her first novel in the Elite Doms of Washington series.
For those new to 99Designs, the process is simple. You'll be walked through the start and then you'll have designs pour in! You rate them but also, it's important to explain why they got that rating (good or bad). You'll often times have some designers submit several different covers. I usually get an average of 50 designs.
Also, there's a section under the submitted designs where you can write to all the designers at once. I use this to let everyone know what my battle plan is and to give them links to my Pintrest board or other links to inspire them and give them insight into my tastes. Communication is very important.
There are basically 3 rounds where you eliminate designs and designers each round. You can make your contest run for 24 hours or 7 days. It's up to you on your time limit. I chose the 7 days so my author could absorb everything and get the best book cover.
So, even if you're just starting out, I would give 99Designs a try! If you don't see anything in the first round you'll be given the chance to get a refund. But if you decide to go onto the second round you will have to guarantee payment so the designers know your serious.
Now for the word of warning. I'm a softy and I get that people are working hard at earning the money and presenting the best design they can. However, every time I've done a contest I've had designers whine at me, "I do everything you ask and why you no like my design?"
I breath in, take a count of my people points and then write a professional and kind reply. The thing about 99Designs is, there are somewhere in the likes of 15 to 20 designers and only one win be crowned the winner.
People like to win. They don't like to do a lot of work for free. However, this environment is very much a bidding war. Designers put their best foot forward and hope you go for it. Great designers will "get" you and your brand right away and submit one or two designs. They are the ones you want because every one is after them for a reason. But then, there are the ones that need more practice. That may seem harsh but if you don't have a hard shell, it's going to rip you to little itty bitty pieces. Being a writer, this should sound familiar. Even designers get rejected. In effect, doing a 99Designs contest is rather like being a publisher. You have 50 people clamoring for you to choose them and you can only give one person the prize. But usually, what you get is worth the pain, strife and agonizing.
One of my authors wanted to go international after about six months of having her book published. That's when I started researching the details of doing such.
I found one company, Babelcube, who seemed to be the right fit for us at the time and I'm here to report back my findings.
In short, Babelcube is a company that connects authors and publishers with translators. You set your book up on their website and wait for a translator to ask to translate your book or your search and invite them to translate your book. The translators payment comes in the form of royalties, 30% after Babelcube takes their 20%. Because the translator doesn't know how much they will get for their time I suspected the translation would progress very slow. I projected it would take someone 6 months to translate a novel. I haven't been far off.
The service is built on gains from royalties and does everything free--connecting you to a translator and setting up your book in different platforms. You need to supply a translated book cover and new ISBN but otherwise Babelcube sets up the book in many platforms of the language in which its translated for. To me this is the best part of the service. I could not afford to hire a translator and once done--I didn't know how to market it in another language.
Now, here is what I have found. The shorter novellas were completed in short order, however--as I predicted--the novels might take up to 6 - 9 months. Set up is easy, getting the book covers was no problem and Babelcube set it all up and reported back to us what the links were for the different platforms they put them on.
However, it should be noted that you have to wait for a translator to come to you or search through the profiles and invite others to translate your book. Customer service is fairly responsive - somewhere between 24 - 48 hours.
In short this service has potential.
The main question I get is: How do you know the translation is correct?
You don't. Unless you have a friend that is bi-lingual in the translated version, you don't know. Sure, you can buy two or three translation editors but if you can do that, you might not need Babelcube. I discussed this with my author and the end result was, if it's not perfect translation we will accept that. This service was the only way we could go international. So basically it's a question of whether you want to do it or go without.
If you feel there is a market for your books but don't have the money to get it translated, then here is another question: How are you going to market it?
See this was a question I answered to my author: I couldn't. But dreams are big and Babelcube was the best solution. Just remember, you need to market your book in any language or country it's in. There are two sides to selling books. Production and marketing. Make the best book you can then market it.
ACTION ITEM: Before taking your book international--figure out how to market it. Just like writing, translation is the easy part.
Words I never want to hear: "Authors don't sell to other authors. We don't read each others books."
Silent, pregnant pause.
Perhaps. Perhaps not. Granted I don't read often as I'd like, but I still read authors in the genre I write. I read out of the genre I write. I read genres I'm not really interested in until a real storyteller jumps out at me and grabs my attention. Then I have to read it because a storyteller doesn't have a genre. Storytellers have your rapt focus because they are so good at their craft their writing goes beyond genre boundaries. Think Neil Gaiman.
But when authors say this--I don't know what to say. I can't tell you how many authors have read my stories. However, more important is how many authors that have promoted me.
Even if writers don't read your books, there is still the collaboration and sense of belonging when you find a good writing group. These people are your fans. Fans of you. They promote you through word of mouth. They are the ones that understand your triumphs your crazy notions or when you get excited because you figured out what the next plot twist would be. For most, your family doesn't understand--even if they are supportive. If they aren't writers, they will never understand and shouldn't be expected to. *pat, pat, pat* Yes dear, that's nice dear. I'm so glad you managed to get Bob the talking head into your story dear. The type of attention you want like, squeals and round eyes of admiration is not the type of understanding you'd get from anyone other than an author.
Here are some things authors do and why you should collaborate with other authors. Group Blogs, Blog Hops, Virtual book tours, cross promotions, and story ideas are the ones I can fire out right away. But the real truth of the matter is camaraderie. There is nothing like having a group to fall back on, to complain to, to have your back and give you a boost when you need one.
The fact is...authors do read other authors books. They also don't just buy them, they become fans and promote your work. It's what I call author coalescence. Two promoting your book is better than one. Five promoting your book is better than two. A thousand promoting your book is the road to success. Few get there alone.
ACTION ITEM: Before you say "Authors don't sell to other authors..." try buying another book that hasn't been written by an author or a group of authors. Hard--isn't it? Not many books out there written by machines, huh? Only those without a book shelf have the ignorance to deny the special bond writers can have with each other. The main action item here is--don't tell me authors don't read or promote other authors. I see it happen every day.
My efforts are to make this a learning blog where writers can see the flip side of publishing. If you have comments that will improve your experience or have a certain topic you'd like discussed, please contact me through email - HERE.
~ Sincerley, Your Editor
Troll River Publications
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