The home team Lo­cal ser­vices to help writ­ers


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The Roque Lo­bato House: Santa Fe, New Mex­ico , pub­lished on Dec. 15, 2014, is a good ex­am­ple of the col­lab­o­ra­tive na­ture of many projects in the self-pub­lish­ing realm to­day. Ellen Kleiner, founder and direc­tor of Bless­ing­way Au­thors’ Ser­vices, was edi­tor. Laura C. Wid­mar, direc­tor of the Owings Gallery, did the book de­sign, and Robert Reck was the pho­tog­ra­pher. The au­thors were ar­chi­tec­tural his­to­rian Chris Wil­son and home­owner Karl Horn, along with his son Oliver. The book was pub­lished by Santa Fe artist Billy Schenck’s com­pany, Schenck South­west, with Bless­ing­way tak­ing care of reg­is­tra­tions and ob­tain­ing the ISBN and CIP num­bers and the bar code.

Bless­ing­way of­fers au­thors a range of pub­lish­ing ser­vices. Many writ­ers en­list the firm for the whole she­bang: ed­i­to­rial, pro­duc­tion, and mar­ket­ing. Two re­cent books re­flect­ing this amount of in­volve­ment are Bul­let Trains to Yaks: Glimpses into Art, Pol­i­tics, and Cul­ture in China and Ti­bet (2011), by Stan Bi­der­man, and In the Lo­tus of the Heart: The Essence of Re­la­tion­ships (2015), by Shubhraji. “We as­sist both self-pub­lish­ers and small presses,” said Kleiner, who has worked in the busi­ness for more than 40 years, in­clud­ing stints at Bobbs-Mer­rill Com­pany, John Wi­ley & Sons, Moth­er­ing mag­a­zine, and New Mex­ico Mag­a­zine . You won’t find the name Bless­ing­way in any of the books in its port­fo­lio, be­cause the com­pany doesn’t have a pub­lisher’s imprint. But busi­ness is fly­ing right along. “In a good year, we do 12 to 15 books,” she said. “Right now we’re busier than we’ve ever been.”

Why would an au­thor or an artist choose to take the self-pub­lish­ing route? To begin with, the op­tion is no longer as­so­ci­ated only with “van­ity” books. And self­pub­lish­ing of­fers you con­trol over con­tent, ap­pear­ance, and mar­ket­ing; it is much quicker than the process with a tra­di­tional pub­lisher; and it of­ten yields higher prof­its. On the other hand, you have to pay for ev­ery­thing your­self, and you don’t have the wide dis­tri­bu­tion, or the ca­chet, that a tra­di­tional pub­lish­ing house of­fers. Such a pub­lisher has to be con­vinced of the mer­its of your book project, and even if you’re ar­tic­u­late, you’re go­ing to need an edi­tor. In self-pub­lish­ing, the au­thors are of­ten bud­ding at best. “Many peo­ple who come to us know what they’re writ­ing about, but they’re not skilled writ­ers,” Kleiner said. “Some­one go­ing to Simon & Schus­ter will be a skilled writer, but it may be an ivory tower: He may not have lived what he’s writ­ing about. We fig­ure that what comes to us is two, maybe three, lev­els be­low what would land on an ac­qui­si­tion edi­tor’s desk at a pub­lish­ing com­pany.”

It’s Kleiner’s job to im­prove the lower-grade sub­mis­sions. “In­stead of sleep­ing, that’s what I do. Some peo­ple do come back and say, ‘You’ve changed my words,’ or ‘You’ve changed my voice’ — but they don’t have topic sen­tences, or they don’t draw con­clud­ing state­ments, or they want to re­peat them­selves.” Bless­ing­way uses a sys­tem it de­scribes as “an­no­tated cri­tique and eval­u­a­tion” for projects that are “re­ally early in the writ­ing stage, where peo­ple just sort of pour all their stuff onto the page and say, ‘Here’s my book,’ ” Kleiner ex­plained. She reads such copy at the rate of 50 pages an hour and an­no­tates ev­ery page with notes to the au­thor: What do you mean by this? Clar­ify that for the reader. Can you em­bel­lish? Does this con­tra­dict that? When did that hap­pen? “At the other end, we have au­thors

who im­prove dramatically, and their sub­mis­sions for sub­se­quent books get bet­ter and bet­ter. They can look more an­a­lyt­i­cally at their own work.”

Jeanie C. Wil­liams, Bless­ing­way’s mar­ket­ing direc­tor, said, “Once Ellen has the book edited, and if the au­thor chooses to con­tinue with us, I do an in­take as­sess­ment of who I see as the pri­mary au­di­ence and the sec­ondary au­di­ence, and I do a draft mar­ket­ing plan and a monthly out­line of what we rec­om­mend the au­thor does for the book.” Bless­ing­way also helps with place­ment on Ama­zon, Barnes & Noble, BookBaby, Smash­words, and other on­line re­tail­ers, and, in the par­al­lel uni­verse, at book­stores. “We were just in­vited a month ago by Baker & Tay­lor, the sec­ond­largest book whole­saler in the coun­try, to serve as a pre­mium ven­dor, which means all of our au­thors’ books qual­ify,” Kleiner said. “They get books into the re­tail­ers and into li­braries.” To be sold in the brickand-mor­tar stores, books must be re­turn­able and have priced bar codes, a Li­brary of Congress num­ber, and an as­so­ci­ated sub­ject cat­e­gory.

Au­thors can opt to or­der small quan­ti­ties of books from a com­pany such as Light­ning Source that of­fers on-de­mand print­ing, but Wil­liams said Bless­ing­way can do the print­ing at a quar­ter of the cost via a tra­di­tional print run. “We work with pa­per mills near rivers so the pa­per stock doesn’t have to get shipped on trains with all that added cost,” Kleiner said. “So we’re go­ing to Ohio, Michi­gan, Arkansas, and Canada. The Roque Lo­bato House book was printed in China. We use con­tract la­bor lo­cally, but for the man­u­fac­tur­ing we have to go to the Mid­west or off­shore.”

Hur­leyMe­dia LLC, an­other Santa Fe com­pany, is known for its work on fine-art books, which are typ­i­cally printed in Sin­ga­pore, China, or Italy. “It’s less ex­pen­sive in Asia,” Joanna Hur­ley said. “The United States is the most ex­pen­sive, and we only use two prin­ters in the U.S. when we have a su­per-tight sched­ule. There’s also Friesens in Canada.” Hur­ley acts as pack­ager and agent for her clients. “I don’t do self-pub­lish­ing. I don’t pro­duce a book un­less I have a dis­trib­u­tor: a pub­lisher that will give its imprint and do the sales and mar­ket­ing, ware­hous­ing, and ful­fill­ment of or­ders. I’m do­ing ev­ery­thing a pub­lisher does ex­cept the sales and dis­tri­bu­tion. Once I have a pub­lisher on board, I start pro­duc­ing the book.”

She worked for Thomas Y. Crow­ell Com­pany, the Uni­ver­sity of New Mex­ico Press, and Vin­tage Books be­fore es­tab­lish­ing Joanna Hur­ley Mar­ket­ing & Lit­er­ary Ser­vices in 1992. Eight years ago, she teamed with David Skolkin, David Chickey, and Dar­ius Himes to found the non­profit art pub­lisher Ra­dius Books, and then re­turned full-time to Hur­leyMe­dia. Au­thors can ap­proach Hur­ley di­rectly, but she doesn’t take ev­ery book project. “I find projects that I think are worth­while. One way is through the Re­view Santa Fe pro­gram at the Cen­ter or­ga­ni­za­tion [a non­profit sup­port­ing gifted pho­tog­ra­phers]. If I think it’s wor­thy, I put to­gether a pro­posal and a blad [a “book lay­out and de­sign” mock-up that shows sam­ples of the con­tent], and then I show it to dif­fer­ent pub­lish­ers.”

In­ter­viewed in her of­fice, Hur­ley pointed to a good­look­ing blad she did at Kinko’s for Joan My­ers’ forth­com­ing photography book, Fire and Ice: Timescapes. “I showed this to An­drea Al­ber­tini from [the Ital­ian pub­lisher] Dami­ani when I was in Lon­don last year, and Dami­ani bought it in like two sec­onds.” Once it takes on a new book project, Hur­leyMe­dia as­sists the artist or pho­tog­ra­pher with the con­cept, lo­cates writ­ers to cre­ate both text and endorsements, and may bring in a map­maker or illustrator to fill things out. The book pro­posal and mar­ket­ing plan are then pre­pared for pre­sen­ta­tion to pub­lish­ers.

Two books from the com­pany’s ré­sumé are De­scend­ing the Dragon: My Jour­ney Down the Coast of Viet­nam , by Jon Bow­er­mas­ter (pub­lished in 2008 by Na­tional Geo­graphic) and Dark Beauty: Pho­to­graphs of New Mex­ico , by Jack Par­sons (pub­lished in 2011 by Hud­son Hills Press). When Hur­ley first saw Jef­frey Low­der­milk’s book about his fore­bear’s war ser­vice, it was a thin pub­li­ca­tion made us­ing the on­line self­pub­lish­ing com­pany Blurb. “I thought it could be big­ger be­cause so many peo­ple are in­ter­ested in mil­i­tary his­tory, so I had the au­thor do re­search and write a lot more, and we com­mis­sioned maps,” she said. The re­sult was Hon­or­ing the Dough­boys: Fol­low­ing My Grand­fa­ther’s World War I Di­ary , a re­mark­able book pub­lished last year by Ge­orge F. Thomp­son.

Maggie Licht­en­berg, who bills her­self as a “bookpub­lish­ing coach,” makes a distinc­tion be­tween in­de­pen­dent and self-pub­lish­ing — both of which are al­ter­na­tives to the tra­di­tional meth­ods. “In­de­pen­dent pub­lish­ing is an op­por­tu­nity to do ex­actly what the pub­lisher and mar­ket­ing depart­ment would do, but you do it your­self, and you foot the bill,” she said from her home of­fice in Santa Fe. “Self-pub­lish­ing can be kind of a hy­brid, and that’s be­cause a lot of com­pa­nies have jumped on the bandwagon and de­cided they’re pub­lish­ers, when, in fact, they are in­ter­net pro­duc­ers.” Many of her clients come to her first to fig­ure out which way to go. “I re­ally love be­ing able to show peo­ple how to spend less money, less en­ergy, and less time by get­ting it right the first time.”

Licht­en­berg worked for 20 years in the main­stream East Coast pub­lish­ing in­dus­try, with jobs at Bea­con Press and Simon & Schus­ter. Among those she has as­sisted in her Pub­lish­ing Op­tions Coach busi­ness

are Paula Baker-Laporte, a co-au­thor of Pre­scrip­tions for a Healthy House: A Prac­ti­cal Guide for Ar­chi­tects, Builders & Home­own­ers (New So­ci­ety Pub­lish­ers), and Tom McMakin, au­thor of Bread and But­ter: What a Bunch of Bak­ers Taught Me About Busi­ness and Hap­pi­ness (St. Martin’s Press).

Au­thors who want to act as their own pub­lish­ers should con­sider start­ing busi­nesses of their own, as Licht­en­berg did her­self. Through Open Heart Pub­lish­ing, in 2006, she pub­lished her award-win­ning book, The Open Heart Com­pan­ion: Prepa­ra­tion and Guid­ance for Open-Heart Surgery Re­cov­ery . “By con­trast, if you’re go­ing to self-pub­lish, you can hire one of the in­ter­net com­pa­nies like iUni­verse and AuthorHouse. There are dozens out there if you Google it — and their prices might be half of what you have with in­de­pen­dent pub­lish­ing. What you’re not get­ting is mar­ket­ing, or any say in how the pro­duc­tion goes.”

One of the ad­van­tages of go­ing with tra­di­tional pub­lish­ing is that, if your pro­posal is ac­cepted, there are very few up-front costs. “If you have a plat­form, a pub­lisher may of­fer you a con­tract,” Licht­en­berg said. “But you have to build up to a point where you are known and peo­ple will be ea­ger to ac­tu­ally plunk down the Visa card for your book. It’s the whole mar­ket­ing push you have to en­gage in be­fore the book is pub­lished. The way I say it is that you have a dis­cov­er­abil­ity chal­lenge. There are four pieces to the mar­ket­ing. First is so­cial me­dia. You must get out there and be­come known. Two, public speak­ing. Then pub­lic­ity — pos­si­bly hir­ing a pub­li­cist. Four is dis­tri­bu­tion.”

Hav­ing your book on Ama­zon merely means that peo­ple can buy it there. More im­por­tant is its avail­abil­ity in book­stores and li­braries. “If you hire a pub­li­cist and you get on an NPR show and there are no books in the stores, that’s the worst thing that can hap­pen. Also, if you’re go­ing the route of the main­stream pub­lisher, you have to have a book pro­posal that isn’t just good, but out­stand­ing, be­cause the com­pe­ti­tion is huge. You have to show why your book is dif­fer­ent or fun­nier or more dis­tin­guished or ab­so­lutely nec­es­sary.”

Licht­en­berg is very big on mar­ket­ing, and on start­ing it as early as pos­si­ble — way be­fore the book is re­leased. The au­thor should have a web­site and a blog tar­geted to the book’s po­ten­tial mar­ket or au­di­ence. “You should find groups you can be a part of on­line. I of­ten rec­om­mend that you join some­one else’s group, get the lay of the land, and make your con­tri­bu­tions of opin­ion. Then, at a cer­tain point, you can ask the head of the group if you could be a guest blog­ger. It’s so im­por­tant to get into the con­ver­sa­tion, so that when your book comes out, some­body will ac­tu­ally be wait­ing for it.”

She ad­vises the au­thors she works with to re­lease an e-book ver­sion at the same time as the pa­per ver­sion, but not be­cause the lat­ter is on the way out. “I don’t think we’ve seen the end of the book. I think, in the next five years, it’s go­ing to be a hoot that any­body re­ally was wor­ried about books de­clin­ing. The only change is that there are ad­di­tional ways to read books.”

I FIND projects that I think are worth­while. One way is through the Re­view Santa Fe pro­gram at the Cen­ter or­ga­ni­za­tion [a non­profit sup­port­ing gifted pho­tog­ra­phers]. If I think it’s wor­thy, I put to­gether a pro­posal and show it to pub­lish­ers.

— Joanna Hur­ley, lit­er­ary agent and pack­ager

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