The last few weeks have been heady days indeed. IFWG Publishing has been created, and all the necessary technical and procedural elements have been put into place to actually allow us to publish. Now the hard work begins.
Somehow, someway, despite the hectic pace, I actually had moments where I was able to contemplate the bigger picture, and review why we are doing what we are doing. We want to run a business – that’s a given. We want to make a living doing what we like best, in the industry that stimulates us the most, and we want to be rewarded for hard work and innovation. This is true, very true, but we also have an ethos – a philosophy that permeates all elements of what we think and do. We want to help good writers to be better writers. We want to publish good work and get the buzz.
I have just described to you, the reader, what we want to do, but we have to prove it to you too, and win your heart and soul. The biggest obstacle to this, in my view, is the fact that we are a self-publishing company (I should note here, however, that we certainly do more than what a self publishing company would normally do, and it is definitely part of our plan to also have a traditional publishing imprint).
Self publishing has an enormous stigma and this is our clear challenge to overcome. Many people – including those in the industry – intentionally or via ignorance, interchange ‘self publishing’ with ‘vanity press’, or dead end, low quality products. It isn’t surprising, because we have a publishing industry in a technological, economic, and cultural hiatus. All you have to do is spend half an hour on Twitter, or visit one of the hundreds of blogs out there in the Internet, to get a sense of the excitement about where the industry is headed. What we do know is that an an author, or a small self-publishing press, CAN print high quality books, given the skills and effort applied to it, and it can be marketed to a reasonable degree. It is equally well known that new authors entering the business will still look to keeping their day jobs for many years to come (if not forever) because the efforts by large publishing companies to invest in ’emerging authors’ is conservative indeed. With some few exceptions, regardless of self publishing or not, the onus on marketing has fallen to the author, and perhaps a third party, if they can be afforded.
In my estimation the real obstacle for ’emerging authors’ is not the constant barrage of failed queries (which are symptoms), it is the conservative nature of the industry itself, where authors are commodities, not human beings. The irony is that for every potential great writer that gets discouraged, there is a financial investment lost to those same companies. It is an incredible waste.
So I thought about how we could do things differently, and it occurred to me that what we needed was something analogous to a ‘social contract’ – where there are two parties of very different ilk, who have an agreement about how things are done (this is my definition, as it is hardly the sociopolitical definition). In other words, we need to be able to convey to authors what we can do for them, and at the same time describe what they can do for us. For instance, we can publish an author at an incredibly low price compared to most of the self-publishing industry and which would have been unheard of only a few years ago. That is one of our commitments. However, we also require quality – we need to maintain a standard in the industry that will, over time, prove that a self-publishing company can produce titles that a retail store will gladly place on their shelves. Authors will certainly gain from that! Authors in this relationship need to work beyond their submitted manuscript level – they need to be willing to rewrite and work with editors – and pay for the effort.
On a similar level, marketing is critical and has a place in the ‘social contract’. We are committed to market your work if you publish through us, but we can only do so much. But we will help, and advise. We will help you, help yourself. Your commitment, is to participate in the marketing process, assuming you want to make a success of this.
There are other examples, but I will leave it at that. It is all about relationships. Ultimately, it is about making good authors better authors.
I hope that many of you who read this get a sense of what we are trying to do, and join in the ‘social contract’.