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Diana Hignutt
01-27-2009, 04:53 PM
Hi! My name is Diana Hignutt, and I am the major partner in a recently created publishing company, Four Elements Press, LLC, A New Jersey company. I thought that it might be interesting for writers if I started a thread about the publishing side of the desk, and Mac agreed, suggesting this forum to set up shop.

Let me get this out of the way, right off the bat, we are not accepting submissions at this time, nor will we be for at least two years. We have a four book deal with a certain fantasy author (yeah, it's me, that's how I got to be the major partner). Okay, don't run off and completely dismiss this thread as a self-publishing thread. I have partners and investors. We're not some sort of POD outfit. We will be producing books through print runs (first runs looking like 2,000 at this time). We will have distribution. We will advertise. We intend to push our brand hard and make a mark (a small one at first, of course) on the publishing world. So temporarily, try to forget that I am the author of our first book. I will do my very best to provide information in a non-self-promoting manner, specifically regarding everything that a publisher does.

Now, more about my qualifications to run a publishing company: I have degress in Economics and Business Management. I have been in charge (General manager) of a moderately-sized regional pump and control repair business for the last few years. I was the original marketing director for Behler Publications, LLC of Lake Forest, CA, and I helped turn that company from a micro-start-up operation (when I got there) to a respected commerical publisher with books reviewed by the likes of Publishers Weekly, Foreward Magazine and with books stocked at Barnes and Noble, etc. (by the time I left about a year and a half later). For more info on the early days of Behler, here's link to an old AW newsletter with Jenna interviewing Lynn Price, Editor of Behler:

http://archives.zinester.com/34123/30132.html

Okay, I also have some really good connections to reviewers, booksellers, media outlets.

When I starting thinking about starting my own publishing company, my original thought was to publish some rare metaphysical texts that had recently come into my possession. I was going to go POD, of course. My wife (a story for another time) and I decided to start Four Elements Press in November for this purpose. However, about the same time I was approached by investors who wanted in, on the condition, we published my fantasy trilogy first. Okay, another tangent: My first novel fell into the hands of a bad, unscrupulous agent who left me in the clutches of an evil publisher (regarding whom there is a large forum on this site). However, it still managed to beat the odds, earned big reviews, interviews in print, and in tv and radio, and a Specturm Award nomination, and a fair amount of fans. I got myself a lawyer and got my rights back. My second book went to Behler (before I was hired by them, BTW). It earned numerous awards noms and placements. Let's just say that after I left Behler, we had a parting of the ways, and my book was basically orphaned. Still, then I had even more fans, writing every week wanting to know where they could get copies of the first book (out of print) and when the last book was going to come out (looked like never). So, anywho, I played the game the right way, queried agents (had three top agents relunctantly turn me away, one telling me how super-talented I was), and top publishers (my networking here resulting in an invitation to submit my first book to TOR--two and a half years later still waiting...) Well, that's the backstory. I thought about it and decided to agree to a four book deal with my partners and investors, and bingo we got a pile of dough to work with.

Next time, I'll outline the very first things we did.

MacAllister
01-27-2009, 09:02 PM
Thanks, Diana. I think this should be interesting and informative for all of us, while you go through your own learning process - I appreciate you being willing to share the experience with us.

Medievalist
01-27-2009, 09:03 PM
I'm dead serious about helping. If you want someone to check the typesetting, or whatever, let me know.

Also, check with me before you start sending out review copies.

Sean D. Schaffer
01-27-2009, 09:31 PM
Diana,


When you said you started a publishing company, the thought of POD or self-publishing never even occurred to me until you brought it up. ;) I know you're not about to go into that kind of deal, and I think a lot of people here will agree with that sentiment.

I will say this, though: if I've talked with anyone online who has the drive, the desire, and the dedication to start an endeavor as big as a publishing house, you are that person. Best wishes to you, and I look forward to reading more about your new and wonderful adventures in the publishing industry.


Blessings.


--Sean

StevenJ
01-27-2009, 09:35 PM
Good luck, Diana, and thank you for the interesting thread. :)

Pamster
01-27-2009, 09:36 PM
Very interesting reading Diana. I look forward to your next post in this thread. Thank you for sharing your experiences with us, this is very encouraging stuff! :D

Diana Hignutt
01-28-2009, 04:57 PM
Okay, where was I? Oh yes, so we filed our paperwork with the state and federal government and obtained our Limited Liability Company status. We also ordered a set of 10 ISBN's from Bowker. And a new computer system for the company (the computer just got here yesterday, BTW)

Obviously, we needed to first concentrate on finding an editor and cover artist. For the editor, I immediately thought of kristan Ryan, a friend, and the former Editor at a former publisher of mine, who edited my second novel. She was orginally looking forward to editing the book (when that other company had the rights, but later released them). Well, when I contacted her, she was delighted at the prospect of working on my first novel, Moonsword (hereafter to be know as MS). We negotiated and settled on a some of money upfront and some on completion, and two percent of retail price on sales. She's working hard on it currently.

Next time...the search for a cover artist, and someone to write an introduction to this all new, revised, expanded edition....

caseyquinn
01-28-2009, 05:37 PM
Springer! Springer!

*gets popcorn*

Good Word
01-28-2009, 07:02 PM
I'm interested in hearing about what Diana is doing. I'm not interested in the interpersonal schlock.

So, Diana, then what happened?

Diana Hignutt
01-28-2009, 10:17 PM
The next thing I did was begin my search for a cover artist. So I spent literally days searching the internet checking out the work of every professional fantasy artist I could find. I found myself most drawn to the work of Alan Gutierrez:

http://alangutierrez.com/

So, I emailed Alan and asked him about how much he charged to see if we could afford him. His rates for a commissioned work were exceptionally reasonable. He felt the project was in line with his vision and we agreed to work together. I sent him a sketch one of my partners had made, a PDF of the original version of the book, a detailed character description and a check for half up front. Within a week he sent me two "sketches" or renderings to choose from. We decided on purchasing the one that most closely matched our original idea, but also decided to buy the other for use on our website (currently under construction). He finished detailing the paintings and wow!

He has both paintings on display in his gallery on his website. Check them out if you like (link above)

Since we enjoy working together, he'll also be designing the text and such for the cover (title, etc.) and we're certainly planning on using him for (at the very least) the rest of the trilogy.

Now, I realized that unless we do some serious upgrading of the original edition this book would be passed over by reviewers as a reprint. So, we're revising it (which includes necessary editing that was poorly done on the original version) and expanding it. Still, I wanted this new edition to have a little more pizzazz to it, like an introduction, so I contacted an old mentor of mine, Mike W. Barr, science fiction and fantasy author (Star Trek: Gemini) and comic book legend (long time writer for Batman, etc., and graphic novels including: Batman: Year Two, Batman: Son of the Demon, Camelot 3000, and, of course Mantra) Now, the last two of Mike's works that I mentioned share a similiar theme to MS, so Mike seemed like an excellent choice, besides which we're friends. He kicked it around for a little while. We discussed timelines and monetary arrangements, came to an accord, and presto, he's committed to having the introduction done by March, which should fit in with our schedule (which we'll talk about next time).

Sean D. Schaffer
01-28-2009, 11:01 PM
Judging from what I saw of your cover artist's site, I would say you've picked an excellent cover artist for your work.

Also, I am glad to see how this all is coming along. This brings back some hard memories for me to handle, because the cover on my old book was so horrible. But at the same time, it gives me hope that my future work will, if a proper, legitimate house decides to use it, be given a far better treatment than my first work suffered through.

I am amazed to see how wonderful things are turning out for you, and I fully expect that whether your book is a best-seller or not, it will definitely get the treatment a properly written and accepted novel truly deserves. This kind of thread really gets me believing in my chosen profession again.

:)

Darzian
01-29-2009, 08:01 PM
Well, the thread has more deleted posts than any I've seen.


Definitely continue, Diana! I appreciate the time you are taking to give us such detailed information. This thread is giving me, and probably others, a lot of insight into such matters. Thanks for sharing!

Diana Hignutt
01-30-2009, 12:30 AM
Okay, well in December 2008, we opened a bank account for the company (actually two-business checking and business savings) with the money we received from our investors. Now the funny thing about investors is that they don't hand you money and say, here's a wad of money to blow and walk away. Before they became investors, even though some of them approached me, they wanted a business plan and repayment schedule. We agreed to one year interest free, interest accumulating for the next three months, and then we have to start paying them back. That's fifteen months before we start making payments. (This regards our investors, and not partners, BTW). So, working backwards, most distributors and wholesalers accept 90 day payment terms, but take longer in practice. This means that the book (i.e. our first book) has to come out in the fourth quarter of 2009 (hopefully early to mid) in order for us to be able to meet our payments. Of course, we have plenty of reserve cash to offset a few months obligations, as well as work on other books. Most distributors and wholesalers want the books (for consideration) six months prior to release, and major reviewers want between four and six months (but they'll take ARC's-Advance Reading Copies--which are not finished books). We'll also have to submit copies to the Library of Congress.

So, the logistics of business pretty much inform our release decisions (especially our first release). However, the timeline works out well for general economic reasons as well. Clearly the economy will still be in the crapper for at least the next two quarters (probably three), so the fourth quarter (will hopefully) be the ticket.

Also, just a note, the quotes I received from offset printers indicate that the actual manufacture of finished books should take a relatively short amount of time. So, basically, we have the first quarter of this year to get our first edits done to the point that we can consider making ARC's.

More next time...

Diana Hignutt
02-04-2009, 07:09 PM
Well, I got an update from our editor. She'll have the first patch of edits done before the end of the month. That's about perfect.

Otherwise, we've been scanning photos, writing content and figuring out what exactly we're going to use for our website. Our domain name has been reserved by our webmaster. The website should be up in a couple of weeks. I'm also updating my personal website with new artwork, format and content.

I'm also investingating all sorts of marketing and advertising options.

Also, I've got a friend who owns a motion picture production company exploring the possibility of a movie-style trailer for a viral marketing campaign. He's also a Hollywood film editor currently working on a Dreamworks project. After he finishes work on that film, he's promised to put his thinking cap on and see what he can do.

Diana Hignutt
02-09-2009, 03:50 PM
I suppose this goes to the something postive out of a negative catagory. The occassion of the death of the father of a friend of a friend led to a reunion of college friends in Annapolis. I went down yesterday, as an old friend, Scott was up from Florida for the funeral. I haven't seen Scott in probably fifteen years. It was great to see him again. We started talking, and I remembered that Scott used to own a small chain of bookstores. It so happens the distributor he used was the one I want. His best friend is a VP there. So, he's going to help get my title looked at. Scott's also an accountant now, and has offered free acounting advice for our LLC. Connections like that can only help.

GregB
02-09-2009, 09:39 PM
Before they became investors, even though some of them approached me, they wanted a business plan and repayment schedule. We agreed to one year interest free, interest accumulating for the next three months, and then we have to start paying them back. That's fifteen months before we start making payments.

Just a nit, I'm sure, but what you're describing is a creditor, not an investor. An investor typically commits capital in return for equity in the enterprise.

Also, if you're doing 2,000-unit print runs and you're depending on the revenue from the sales of your first book to service debt, your business is undercapitalized. I assure you, from long experience, you're not going to have anything left over--assuming you sell-through the print run in 90 days--to make payments against debt. This isn't surprising, because insufficient capitalization is the reason most small businesses fail--and small presses are worse than most.

None of this is meant to be discouraging. You can make it work. But now is the time that you ABSOLUTELY MUST insure that you're well enough capitalized to get enough books out there to reach a critical mass and support a viable business operation.

Good luck!

Diana Hignutt
02-09-2009, 10:01 PM
Just a nit, I'm sure, but what you're describing is a creditor, not an investor. An investor typically commits capital in return for equity in the enterprise.

Also, if you're doing 2,000-unit print runs and you're depending on the revenue from the sales of your first book to service debt, your business is undercapitalized. I assure you, from long experience, you're not going to have anything left over--assuming you sell-through the print run in 90 days--to make payments against debt. This isn't surprising, because insufficient capitalization is the reason most small businesses fail--and small presses are worse than most.

None of this is meant to be discouraging. You can make it work. But now is the time that you ABSOLUTELY MUST insure that you're well enough capitalized to get enough books out there to reach a critical mass and support a viable business operation.

Good luck!

Greg,

I did say that we had enough capitalization to work on other books and service debt for a while, however, it would be nice to get some money coming in within timeframe. I do believe we are sufficiently capitalized.

Also, there is provision for a return from profits, and hence I think the term investor is correct, but it is rather a hybrid situation, as there is no share in actual equity beyond our partners (who also put money in, BTW).

Thanks for the good wishes!

sassandgroove
02-09-2009, 10:39 PM
Great Thread. THanks Diana.

brainstorm77
02-09-2009, 11:04 PM
At least you have taken the time to research out the business and I bet you will do well :) Best of luck. Question, when you do take submissions, what will you be looking for in terms of genres?

Diana Hignutt
02-09-2009, 11:41 PM
At least you have taken the time to research out the business and I bet you will do well :) Best of luck. Question, when you do take submissions, what will you be looking for in terms of genres?

Our plan is to publish fantasy, paranormal romance, and some metaphysical texts. Oh, and thanks!

MagicMan
02-15-2009, 09:17 AM
Hiya Diana,

I didn't know you worked with Lynn. She is a regular at another forum. She is priceless.

You certainly have a little magick or luck following you and the business. The pieces of the jigsaw seem to be coming together to create a marvelous scene.

Smiles
Bob

Diana Hignutt
02-16-2009, 07:46 PM
Hiya Diana,

I didn't know you worked with Lynn. She is a regular at another forum. She is priceless.

You certainly have a little magick or luck following you and the business. The pieces of the jigsaw seem to be coming together to create a marvelous scene.

Smiles
Bob

Hi Bob! Yeah, Lynn and I worked together for a while. Right, now, though, I'm not high on her favorite persons list. I will always wish her the best, however.

Officially, we're going with luck, BTW. ;)

Diana Hignutt
02-24-2009, 10:03 PM
Not too much to report, but I got sketches back from Alan on the cover text design--crazy good. It's so unique, I can't wait to share it with you folks.

Also, we got our website materials off to our web designer last night, so it shouldn't be long before we get that up and running.

geardrops
02-24-2009, 11:35 PM
Not too much to report, but I got sketches back from Alan on the cover text design--crazy good. It's so unique, I can't wait to share it with you folks.

Also, we got our website materials off to our web designer last night, so it shouldn't be long before we get that up and running.

Why don't you talk a little about the process of getting an artist to do the cover designs and stuff like that? :D

Diana Hignutt
02-25-2009, 12:20 AM
Why don't you talk a little about the process of getting an artist to do the cover designs and stuff like that? :D

Um, I did talk a little about it on post #15. Would you like more detail?

Unimportant
02-25-2009, 12:39 AM
Diana, are you able to share with us some of the financial details -- how much money you've started off with as capital, how much you expect to spend on each aspect of the bookmaking process, how long you expect it to take to recoup and get into the black, etc?

Diana Hignutt
02-25-2009, 12:58 AM
Diana, are you able to share with us some of the financial details -- how much money you've started off with as capital, how much you expect to spend on each aspect of the bookmaking process, how long you expect it to take to recoup and get into the black, etc?

Let me think about it. I'm not entirely sure that I want to post that info yet. I really don't want everybody telling me that I could've done it here for less, or that I paid this person too much. I'd prefer not to be second guessed at this point. However, I will promise to list that information in some way once the first book comes out. How's that?

Lauri B
02-25-2009, 02:07 PM
Diana, what is your distribution plan? That's one of the biggest reasons small or micropresses fail--no distribution means you have to do all the selling yourself.

Diana Hignutt
02-25-2009, 03:58 PM
Diana, what is your distribution plan? That's one of the biggest reasons small or micropresses fail--no distribution means you have to do all the selling yourself.

Lauri, You are absolutely right. After a chance meeting with an old friend whose best friend is highly placed at my first choice distributor, I'm sending them what I have so far. My fingers are crossed that they'll like what they're getting, and my marketing plan. If not, I know other distributors (having met them at the two BEA's I attended) that will hopefully be interested. The situation is actually very much like what an author goes through looking for an agent or publisher, except that we have more time and financial pressures. So, right now, I have a good feeling that we'll get the distributor that I want, but we do have a plan B. My partners are willing to do sales work and pitch to booksellers if we have to, we'll offer better than average discounts if we have to. We'll do whatever it takes. There's always wholesalers like Baker & Taylor if we initiatially have to do the sales work ourselves, but hopefully it won't come to that.

Diana Hignutt
03-10-2009, 03:01 PM
What's new?

Well, I just got the first draft of the introduction for MS from Mike. It's terrific, in it he even refered to me as his "friend and colleague." I am honored. It should do exactly what I'm hoping.

Also, my web designer, Paul Norwood, just put up our home page:

www.fourelementspress.com (http://www.fourelementspress.com)

(That's all there is for now, but it's a start).

And, of course, taxes. I'm buried in taxes for Deltronics and now, trying to figure out the stupid 1065 form is absolutely no fun whatsoever. Taxes. Ergh!

Soccer Mom
03-11-2009, 05:09 AM
Congrats on having the website live.

Ms. Jem
03-11-2009, 06:26 AM
Love the web design. Thanks for this very informative thread.

DamaNegra
03-11-2009, 07:37 AM
The artwork is gorgeous!

Diana Hignutt
03-11-2009, 03:00 PM
Thanks for the comments on the web site and artwork there. The artwork is from the alternate cover design that Alan Gutierrez did. I just knew I had to do something with it (so I bought it too). I'll pass the compliments on, I'm sure Alan will be pleased.

Now back to those stupid 1065 Tax Forms. Dang the thing is confusing. I figured I could do it myself easily, after all I only had like 5 or 6 transactions in 2008. Oh well, I figure it out.

Diana Hignutt
03-12-2009, 06:24 PM
On our website, the 'About Us' page and the 'News and Releases' are up. My webmaster said I shouldn't have mentioned that the website was coming up until after everything was approved (due to a couple of typos and such), but, heck, I love you guys...

Now, back to my f-ing tax forms...

sassandgroove
03-12-2009, 06:50 PM
good luck with the tax forms.

Diana Hignutt
03-12-2009, 09:23 PM
Yeah!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I got my Fed 1065 Form finished!!!!!!!!

Not too bad; heck, it's not due for two more days.

sassandgroove
03-12-2009, 09:38 PM
good for you. I like the look of the site. The art is beautiful. Four Elements is a good name too. I can't wait to get your book.

Nivarion
03-14-2009, 10:01 AM
well, i guess first i have to say, When I saw this post I thought is was a bit of self promotion that the mods would soon squash. When I saw it again a bit earlier I saw that Diana had started it, so came on in and read it.

It's all sounding good, and I'm gonna be looking for your book. looked at your artists sight, some incredible paintings there, really captures the action.

shouldn't get on AW and ramble after 1 am should I.

Unimportant
03-14-2009, 10:34 PM
Diana, you might look into having your books stocked/sold with StarCrossedProductions, an online bookseller that specialises in GLBT books and gets a fair amount of traffic. (Your protag is trans, right?)

Also, the webpages do have a couple of typos on them. (Yell if you want me to flag them for you.)

Diana Hignutt
03-18-2009, 07:41 PM
Diana, are you able to share with us some of the financial details -- how much money you've started off with as capital, how much you expect to spend on each aspect of the bookmaking process, how long you expect it to take to recoup and get into the black, etc?

I've thought about this a little, and I've decided to provide some sort of expense accounting here. I think it is something writers should know.

In rough numbers, it looks like this:

Editing: About $1,000
Cover Art (including title and text) About $1,000
ISBN's: (a block of 10) About $400
Barcodes: $25
Introduction: About $300 ($.20 a word) + 1% on retail price.
Computer System for Business: About $1,000

That's a start. Later I'll go into more on this...

Diana Hignutt
03-23-2009, 03:15 PM
Got back for our little weekend trip to Atlantic City to find that our editor, Kristan had completed the first round of edits for MS. Very substantial, indeed. Now it's the author's turn (wink, wink), and she better do it quick because we're already a little behind schedule.

I thought I would also announce that AW's own Casey Quinn will be joining our editing team as copy editor.

sassandgroove
03-23-2009, 07:11 PM
You better keep that author in line Diana. ;)

Feathers
03-24-2009, 12:16 AM
Neat thread, Diana. Thanks for taking the time to share all of this with us! Can't wait for more updates.

Diana Hignutt
04-07-2009, 08:53 PM
My split personality is acting up due to my publisher/author dicotomy. I keep yelling at myself to go over my edits at a quicker pace, and then I thumb my nose at myself and tell my publisher-self to be patient. Feeling the publishing pressure isn't actually beneficial to doing creative work. Oh well, I'll figure it out.

I paid for my edits and the introduction yesterday...

Also, I received a very interesting email this morning. A noted writer (not a novelist) emailed about me about possibly publishing their novel with us. Huh? Really? I'm considering... this person has a pretty big name and I'm a bit confused as to why they would even consider a super small publisher that hasn't even had their first book out yet.

Lauri B
04-08-2009, 12:19 AM
Well, the likely reason is that the novel isn't selling anywhere else.

sassandgroove
04-08-2009, 12:41 AM
Might be good for both parties?

Diana Hignutt
04-08-2009, 05:40 PM
Well, the likely reason is that the novel isn't selling anywhere else.

Yeah, I figured that, but still, this guy shouldn't have any trouble finding a publisher. Are things really that bad out there.

Diana Hignutt
04-29-2009, 03:17 PM
Editing. Editing. Editing.

It's definitely taking longer than I had anticipated to edit. I'm still going over my editor's original edits. I am determined to take my time. We're almost certainly not going to be on schedule, but that's not what's important. Getting the novel as good as it can be is top priority, even if it means moving release to early 2010.

I'll ready to send the first few chapters to the copy editor soon.