How Indie Publishing can create better writers and give readers something worth reading about.
The growth in self-publishing has made it easier for almost any author to be published, and not held to ransom by the vagaries of traditional publishing houses.
But while anyone can have their work published, the important question is, should they?
Carolyn Martinez is the director of Hawkeye Books and Hawkeye Publishing and David Reiter is CEO of Interactive Publications (IP). Between them, they have over 50 years of experience both as writers and publishers and their mission is to maintain a high standard in published work.
‘Readers deserve exceptional,’ Martinez says. ‘We push our authors. Their books are published when the story arc is polished, and the writing is original and has a special cadence.’
‘In the writing guide Winning Short Story Competitions, L. E. Daniels uses the term ‘resonance’. There is no better term available to describe a manuscript that deserves to become a book. The writer has mastered the techniques of writing, and then transcended above the legion of other technically good writers, to achieve resonance.’
‘Readers deserve better than clichés. We look for original writing that challenges.’
Reiter believes that along with maintaining high standards, authors should know that there is a middle ground between rejection from mainstream publishers and DIY or vanity publishing.
‘Prospective authors need to understand that their work has to be the very best it can to compete with thousands of books that appear on sites like Amazon every year, and that there are very few authors equipped to do everything that needs to be done to produce and successfully market their work’, said Reiter.
Hawkeye Publishing offers traditional contracts when exceptional, market-ready manuscripts cross their desk. ‘But sometimes, an author comes to us with a great story, however the writing and structure requires some work. Rather than reject them outright, which often pushes them into DIY in frustration, we offer an alternative.’
Interactive Publications and Hawkeye Publishing both offer forms of hybrid publishing in a bid to offer good authors who need some extra help, the opportunity to work with a publishing house to craft their story into its best form.
‘David and I share the vision of maintaining a thriving, Queensland-based, independent traditional publishing space,’ said Ms Martinez. ‘Sometimes, part of that involves helping authors take their writing to the next level. That’s the benefit of a hybrid contract. We have scope to teach an author why they’ve been rejected from traditional publishing contracts, and how to take their writing up a level. It’s not for everyone. We’re not here to hold a writer’s hand and teach them the basics of writing. For us to offer a hybrid contract, they still have to be excellent writers with a riveting story, only in need of guidance to make the hurdle from very good to publish-ready.’
IP focuses on literary and poetry works with some genre fiction, while Hawkeye publishes popular mainstream work.
A Hybrid contract involves some form of financial investment on behalf of the author, but the pay-off is usually higher royalty returns.
For example, Hawkeye Publishing state on their website that a Hybrid author contributes half the production costs (currently $2,375AU), and go on to share 50% royalties with the publishing house. Whereas authors contracted under a traditional contract have no upfront fees, but receive 10% royalties.
‘Some authors offered a traditional contract, actually choose hybrid to access higher royalties when they know the book is going to sell well,’ Martinez said.
Reiter cautions authors to ask questions when offered a contract with up-front fees. ‘Some are simply vanity publishing. If all they’re doing is publishing what you send them, that’s vanity publishing.’
Martinez agrees. ‘You’re not going to learn anything, or grow as an author, with vanity publishing. Our authors undergo a structural edit, line edit and three proofreads before we move into production. Structural edits usually provide the a-ha moments for a previously unpublished author to understand why they were getting rejections. After a structural edit, the author goes away and addresses the issues raised in the report, before the manuscript is considered for a line edit. The structural report also highlights for an author the things they’re doing well. It’s an incredible learning opportunity.’
Martinez sums up the advantages of Hybrid with the right publishing house. ‘With a hybrid contract with us, you’re going to spend what you would have ended up spending if you self-published a print and ebook edition anyway. And you’ll have a team working with you to ensure your book is publishing house quality, publicised well, and distributed through our established channels.’
‘We’re proud of our community of authors. Whilst it’s amazing working with our traditionally published authors, there’s a certain satisfaction in working with our hybrid authors and watching them learn and develop into their full potential.’
When asked if the printed book is dead, Reiter is animated. ‘The printed book is here to stay,’ he said. ‘But we are also excited by the digital and audio channels for publication, and the opportunities they offer for extending the audiences for literary work. Digital publishing makes it possible to trial work that “mainstream” publishers reject as non-commercial. But more importantly, it offers artists new media and new forms of expression.’
According to Australia’s largest distributor, Nielsen’s, audiobooks are the fastest growing market in publishing.