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Flying Pen Press

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Editing for authors: because every writer needs a good editor.

HapiSofi

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Are you guys kidding? Flying Pen probably has good intentions, but they don't know book publishing.

It looks to me like what they do know is Wizards of the Coast, an idiosyncratic operation which owes its survival to the phenomenal continuing sales of its card game Magic: The Gathering. That kind of cash flow is like a rain forest: it allows all sorts of odd things to flourish. WotC is relatively benign by the standards of game publishing, which with some notable exceptions has tended to take a bruising attitude toward authors and other creators. (Beware of professional fields that are full of people who don't care whether they get paid for what they're doing.)

I'm going to discuss Wizards of the Coast's publishing practices because I believe that Flying Pen's proposed business model owes a great deal to WotC's example.

Under the original deal that WotC offered artists who worked on Magic: The Gathering's many elaborate card decks, the artist who illustrated a card received little or no advance money. Instead, they earned royalties on game sales that included that card. Later, when WotC had more clout and more capital, they switched over to work-for-hire, in some cases recommissioning basic cards in order to phase out designs created under the old royalty agreement.

Understand that the original royalty plan was an extremely flaky deal for the artists. When the company was starting out, WotC didn't have the money to commission all the art it needed, so it displaced the risk onto the artists. The risk was significant. Most games that get developed don't get published. Most games that get published never make a profit. As it happened, Magic: The Gathering was one of the most spectacular successes in the history of game publishing. That's not a rational basis for a business plan. Besides, if your book is capable of flying off the shelves like Magic: The Gathering, I guarantee that you can sell it to a better company than Flying Pen Press.

It's evident from the Jobs page on the Flying Pen Website that not only does Flying Pen not speak Trade Publishing, it doesn't speak Basic Business:
Flying Pen Press is a shoestring company. Almost all contractors are paid a share of the gross profits from the projects they are working on. Contracts tend to be project-based, and some staff sign a contract for each individual book or project they are working on.
There's no such thing as gross profits. There's gross income or gross earnings or gross receipts. When you subtract costs, overhead, interest payments, and whatever other charges you're laying against that income, what's left over is your net earnings or profit.

Contracts tend to be project-based: That's the default arrangement for freelance work. Of course, most publishers don't contract out every piece of work on every project. That's emphatically not a default arrangement.

ome staff sign a contract for each individual book or project they are working on: If they're contracting separately for each project they work on, they aren't staff. They're freelancers.

I am troubled by FPP's reliance on freelancers who receive only a royalty on books they work on, and receive it only if the book makes a profit. That's not a workable scheme. In place of the usual slow and paltry payments received by freelancers, they'll instead have to wait far longer, get paid only if the book makes a profit, and receive their payment (if any) in a slow and irregular trickle over what may turn out to be years.

I don't know any professional editors, copy editors, proofreaders, etc. who'll work on that basis. I know that if I were the author, I'd resent having perpetual royalties taken out of my book's earnings to pay for tasks that normal publishers pay for out of their own pockets. And what happens if you decide to re-sell the book to another house? Unless you revert to your original unedited text, the edit and copy edit are still present in the book, and the freelancers are still entitled to their royalties. I can't begin to imagine how that might be handled.

If the thought of having all those amateur freelancers work on your book doesn't make your blood run cold, it's only because you've never seen the damage they can do.

But it's not just amateurism you should fear. Paying editorial freelancers a royalty on the book produces a vicious circle. Start here: If Flying Pen were a real publishing company with a sales force, a distribution deal, adequate capital, and a proven track record in the industry, they'd be in a position to acquire real books from real authors. Under those circumstances, who wouldn't want to be a freelancer and get a cut of the profits from a sure-fire title by a popular author? At the same time, difficult or unusual books, or books by first authors -- all of which tend to be in need of a thoroughly professional editorial and production cycle -- would not get worked on by the company's best freelancers.

But Flying Pen doesn't have the resources or the track record of a real publisher, so they're not going to get first pick of manuscripts. The good freelancers, the ones who can always get work, will go elsewhere. What FPP is going to get freelancers are amateurs who either don't mind or can't tell that they're working on problematic books, and don't mind getting paid in vaporcash.

And that's still not the end of it. Look at that Jobs page, in the section on Copy Editors:
Contract: Contracts are made individually for each title, with a kill-fee provision. Copy Editors receive shares of gross profit of books, based on the number of pages they edit or on a per project basis.
I can divine a fair amount of information from that short paragraph. For instance, the part about "based on the number of pages they edit" tells me that Flying Pen doesn't know much about copy editing. You can, in a real crunch, divide up a book's proofreading between multiple proofreaders, but a copy edit is one task for one freelancer, because the copy editor works on the book as a whole.

FPP's kill-fee provision is disturbing. I've never heard of a book publisher paying a kill fee on a copy edit. If you don't like someone's work, you throw out that copy edit, strike the copy editor from your phone list, and hire someone else to do the whole thing over from scratch.

The only reason I can think of to pay kill fees on rejected copy edits is if you're using that as your main quality-control mechanism. It's disturbing on several counts. One is that it once again places the risk on the someone other than the publisher. If the freelancer's work isn't what the publisher had in mind, the freelancer finds it out by getting a kill fee instead of a royalty. Another problem is that if you're doing quality control via kill fees, the copy edits that almost but don't quite land in that category are going to be pretty awful. That's bad for everyone, but especially bad for the authors. And third, that rule makes it even less likely that decent copy editors will want to work for Flying Pen.

The job listings for book designers and cover designers also have the kill fee provision.

I don't know about you, but I'd quit writing before I'd let Flying Pen Press lay a hand on my work.

Back to the main text on their Jobs page:
Freelancers are contracted in the same manner. Flying Pen Press usually does not pay flat fees to freelancers, but instead offers a share of gross profits on the projects on which they work, or a sales commission if the work is sales related.
Real publishers make judgements and shoulder risk. Real editors, copy editors, proofreaders, designers, copy writers, marketers, publicists, and sales people know their own worth, and get paid for their work.

So, what's Flying Pen's role in all this? They don't provide a workspace. Everything is done in virtual space by telecommuters. They don't pay benefits. Everyone is a contractor. They don't appear to pay any employees up front. All their editorial, production, and sales work is paid only by giving the workers fractional royalties on the net sales of the books they work on.
This means that all work throughout the company is speculative in nature, as gross profits for any specific project cannot be forecast. Potential contractors should understand that accounting periods are quarterly. This means that there is a period between the time when work is done and when payment is made. Not all contractors are in a position to take advantage of this type of profit-sharing payment, because of this delay, while others are quick to note that profit shares can be quite valuable if a project is highly profitable.
Finally, some language we can all recognize.
 

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May I inquire as to how "traditional publishing" isn't working to most writers' benefits? (I'm not using the quotes in to be snarky, but to quote you) Additionally, you say that someone has to do POD publishing right. May I ask what FPP is doing differently to make this happen?

Just some clarification on what we are. We are a publisher which uses print on demand printer for our printing needs. I would disagree that traditional publishing isn't working towards writer's benefits, but I know that some people feel that way.

We are offering royalties to writers as well as maintaining a personal relationship with each author. Now, while I believe this isn't new, for many it seems that way.

I disagree. POD presses have a faulty reputation for a number of reasons. One of the big ticket items is that they lack the funds and/or strong enough presales and selling capabilities to do large print runs. The small quantities don't make it worth a distributor's time to try to push the books, therefore they'll decline to rep a POD company. I'm not talking about Ingram and B&T - they are warehouse distributors. I'm talking about distributors that have sales teams all over the country that are meeting with the chain, indie and library buyers on the national and local levels.

While I agree that it is a problem, it is something we are working to rectify. At this time, since we are launching officially as of June 1st, I cannot say how well it will work, only that it is in our business plan. Our first step is our booth at the Book Expo in New York. Still it is only a first step and I cannot speculate as to future.

Since buyers know POD companies have small runs and little money to have first rate editing teams, they generally decline to purchase POD books. Provided you can get some stores to buy your books, you have to discount them, and this is going to eat into your pay. Just because the book is in the store doesn't mean they'll stay sold. Returns can kill a POD company faster than anything else because they still have to pay for the print run. It's a double-edged sword and the blade be mighty sharp.

Discounts are planned, returns are accepted. It is a risk we are willing to take.

Benevolence is great, but it doesn't pay the bills, and your claim that you're committed to publishing books that the public will want to read is a non-statement. Again, please know that I'm not being snarky, but sharing some realities with you. And facts are that the genre buyers at the chains and indies don't know what your standards are. That holds true for any new publisher. All buyers care about is that there's demand for a book and that the publisher and author are working their tails off to a large enough degree that their efforts are creating demand. This takes money. Lots of it. It's only when you've been in business for a number of years that you begin to catch the notice of the industry buyers. That is how your standards are set.


I agree. We are taking steps towards recognition. We are very optimistic right now.

Oh, this simply couln't be more wrong. Do you know this for a fact? Books sell for a lot of reasons, but it all begins with having stock. If I had a nickel for the times authors have told me about a huge event they missed because the printer couldn't get the books printed in time, I'd own Hawaii.

To bring this down to reality a bit :) We are trying to plan ahead on this. We are working towards some more concrete solutions as we build. We are starting small. BEA is actually the third event we have planned. The first happened last week with Pikes Peak Writers. We have a lunch party and book signing next week at Tattered Cover LoDo. We have more events planned and we are working towards having inventory for those events before they happen. Not the day of. Still you are right things happen and we will have to deal with those bridges as we come to them.

You're thinking in a perfect world scenario where printers guarantee their delivery dates, and, believe me, publishing is anything but perfect. Just try to get a timely print run around BEA time or the holidays. I'll say it again; you must have stock sitting on the shelves or you'll get caught with your pants down more than once - I guarantee it. Even if you do a small digital run of 250, it's far better than printing onesies and twosies. But, again, it takes money and relative confidence that those books are going to move.

We do have confidence in our books. Will be at BEA this year. Will all go as planned? I sure hope so. In the mean time we will do our best.

What exactly needs to be shaken up and done right? I see this statement all the time about how publishing needs to be fixed, and you know what? It ain't broken. It works just fine. It's achingly hard work, very expensive, the learning curve is huge, and you cannot take short cuts. Ever. If you're willing to work for a cut of the sales, then more power to you. But you have to be rock-solid sure that there will be sales in which to draw your salary, or you'll be working for free. This requires distribution.

I agree with you priceless and I am a sorry she said this. It is not the opinion of Flying Pen Press, however it is the opinion of some of our members. Debbie is one of our editors and she does good work. Thank you for being up front.

I wish you nothing but the best of luck, but I get the feeling there's a lot you don't know about the industry, and it'll come back to bite you on the behind. POD can work, but it's rare.

Thank you for your wishes. We are working hard, no one has quit their day job, though it is a goal we are striving for. I feel that some of our optimizism has bubbled over a bit.

We are starting small. And we are working hard. We appriciate the advise. Hopefully in a month we shall see more progress. No one is expecting overnight cinderellas, but we are very enthusiastic and optimistic. I don't really have any other answers to that right now.
 

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I've got my fingers crossed for 'em. And I hope that Carol and Debbie and Tirjasdyn will continue engaging discussion here. Nothing but good can come of that.

Thanks Nicole!

I want to keep all our lines open. I've been in this forum long enough to know not to turtle...besides I'd make a bad turtle.
 

goodsnow

May I inquire as to how "traditional publishing" isn't working to most writers' benefits? (I'm not using the quotes in to be snarky, but to quote you) Additionally, you say that someone has to do POD publishing right. May I ask what FPP is doing differently to make this happen?

Priceless,

I visited your website, and your company is obviously doing well. I appreciate your questions, and no snarkiness is taken. As I said in my original post, this is the kind of discussion and hard questions that are needed. I hope I can give you satisfactory answers.

First, we can expedite the time it takes to get a book on press. Once a book is edited and typeset, we can get galleys within a few days and approve them, and we're set. We can run two copies any time after that, or we can run ten thousand, since our printer has offset capabilities as well as sheet-fed. In addition, we can revise a book overnight if we get an important blurb from a reviewer, or if we want to change the cover or another detail for some reason. And I don't want to sound like a tree hugger, although I am, but it's no small thing that it's an environmentally sound way to print books. We're not throwing away hundreds of copies, maybe more, because our projections were off.

The small quantities don't make it worth a distributor's time to try to push the books, therefore they'll decline to rep a POD company.

They decline to rep most small presses for the same reasons. We're using, for now, the same distribution channels most small presses use, and we're close to getting distribution at B&N. That probably doesn't sound like a big deal to you, but as you said, it's hard for a print-on-demand publisher to break into those stores. Even though our first books haven't come out, we've already gotten close (and granted, it's not certain yet) to accomplishing a major feat.

Since buyers know POD companies have small runs and little money to have first rate editing teams, they generally decline to purchase POD books.

Ah, you're exactly right, and it's what we're fighting against. Our editorial team is first rate and each of us has years of experience in publishing. Our acquisition editors are also seasoned professionals. But we'll have to prove that, and we know it. We're hoping to make that known with our first four books coming out in June. I hope you pick one up just to satisfy your curiosity.

Returns can kill a POD company faster than anything else because they still have to pay for the print run. It's a double-edged sword and the blade be mighty sharp.

This is also true for any publishing company, especially a start-up. Since we'll print what's ordered and won't have huge print runs unless the books are sold, we'll minimize those losses.

All buyers care about is that there's demand for a book and that the publisher and author are working their tails off to a large enough degree that their efforts are creating demand. This takes money. Lots of it. It's only when you've been in business for a number of years that you begin to catch the notice of the industry buyers. That is how your standards are set.

If we don't set our standards now, we'll never catch the notice of buyers. What you're talking about, as I understand it, is letting the industry know what our standards are. You're right, it may take years to establish ourselves, but again, that's how it is with any start-up publisher. We're not so naive as to think we can do this with no start-up money, and we have events planned already for the upcoming books. Our launch party is at the Tattered Cover, a major independent bookseller in Denver. We'll be at BEA (with stock, by the way). But, because our overhead is low, we can spend more money on marketing, and we plan to. We have an in-house marketer who can probably elaborate more on those plans.

Books sell for a lot of reasons, but it all begins with having stock. If I had a nickel for the times authors have told me about a huge event they missed because the printer couldn't get the books printed in time, I'd own Hawaii.

Exactly. Our printer has the files set up every business day and can run as many copies as we need. We won't be caught in that situation, and neither will our authors, because, unlike models that only use big, offset runs, we can make a phone call and have books in three to five days. We're set up all the time.

Just try to get a timely print run around BEA time or the holidays.

Our print run is already set for BEA. Drop by our booth to see how fast we got them.

It works just fine. It's achingly hard work, very expensive, the learning curve is huge, and you cannot take short cuts. Ever. If you're willing to work for a cut of the sales, then more power to you. But you have to be rock-solid sure that there will be sales in which to draw your salary, or you'll be working for free.

OK, I'll give you that one. It was a bonehead remark to say it's not working, because for some writers and publishers it does. But having an alternative model can also work. We have our work cut out for us and discussions such as these give us an opportunity to try to show people how it can work. It'll take time, and as you said, we can't cut corners, and we can't slack off. I don't see cutting out the waste, paying the authors a bigger average percentage of sales instead of advances, and producing solid (and edited) books as cutting corners. We know it's not a model that everyone is comfortable with yet, and those who aren't shouldn't submit their work. But we're hoping people will keep an eye on us, will talk to writers who have published with us, and keep an open mind.

I wish you nothing but the best of luck, but I get the feeling there's a lot you don't know about the industry, and it'll come back to bite you on the behind. POD can work, but it's rare.

There's a lot I don't know about a lot of things, admittedly, but I know enough about the industry to help in an attempt to do things more efficiently. I appreciate the good wishes, and I hope I can talk to you again in a year and tell you we're one of the rare small presses using print-on-demand technology that made it work to the benefit of both the writer and the publisher. It can be done.
 

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Are you guys kidding? Flying Pen probably has good intentions, but they don't know book publishing.

It looks to me like what they do know is Wizards of the Coast, an idiosyncratic operation which owes its survival to the phenomenal continuing sales of its card game Magic: The Gathering. That kind of cash flow is like a rain forest: it allows all sorts of odd things to flourish. WotC is relatively benign by the standards of game publishing, which with some notable exceptions has tended to take a bruising attitude toward authors and other creators. (Beware of professional fields that are full of people who don't care whether they get paid for what they're doing.)


I kind of take exception to this, but I'm game as pixel stained technopeasent and all. I am a gamer, I'll admit (I've admited several times on these boards). Most of my experience in publishing is small press news and undergrad literary journals. We have several established writers working for us as well as some hopeful people. This isn't just a group of gamers that got together and said lets publish. :) Not that that hasn't happened before and worked.

I'm going to discuss Wizards of the Coast's publishing practices because I believe that Flying Pen's proposed business model owes a great deal to WotC's example.

Under the original deal that WotC offered artists who worked on Magic: The Gathering's many elaborate card decks, the artist who illustrated a card received little or no advance money. Instead, they earned royalties on game sales that included that card. Later, when WotC had more clout and more capital, they switched over to work-for-hire, in some cases recommissioning basic cards in order to phase out designs created under the old royalty agreement.

Understand that the original royalty plan was an extremely flaky deal for the artists. When the company was starting out, WotC didn't have the money to commission all the art it needed, so it displaced the risk onto the artists. The risk was significant. Most games that get developed don't get published. Most games that get published never make a profit. As it happened, Magic: The Gathering was one of the most spectacular successes in the history of game publishing. That's not a rational basis for a business plan. Besides, if your book is capable of flying off the shelves like Magic: The Gathering, I guarantee that you can sell it to a better company than Flying Pen Press.


While that might be true, we are counting on the slush pile a bit. Yes, authors are taking a chance with publishing with us early in the game. There is no doubt in this. However we are not the only small press which uses a print on demand printer. We are not expecting a cinderella story....we expect to work hard at this and keep going. We are just very enthusiastic.

It's evident from the Jobs page on the Flying Pen Website that not only does Flying Pen not speak Trade Publishing, it doesn't speak Basic Business:
Flying Pen Press is a shoestring company. Almost all contractors are paid a share of the gross profits from the projects they are working on. Contracts tend to be project-based, and some staff sign a contract for each individual book or project they are working on.
There's no such thing as gross profits. There's gross income or gross earnings or gross receipts. When you subtract costs, overhead, interest payments, and whatever other charges you're laying against that income, what's left over is your net earnings or profit.

I've worked in Corporate America for 5 1/2 years now in various marketing lackey positions and I've had to measure against gross profits quite a bit. So I would disagree. The point is that that is what people call it. Which is why I didn't even blink when I saw it. Your not wrong, gross earnings would be a better term, I believe. But I've yet to work with a company where gross profit doesn't come up becaust they thing of all money as profit until the grunts work down the numbers. That's my experience. Still I'll explain: every thing works on a percentage based system which is broken up from the total earnings. So costs is currently set a projected percent. Then come authors and the various contractors that work with the company. This is percent is based off the total earnings not the net earnings.

Contracts tend to be project-based: That's the default arrangement for freelance work. Of course, most publishers don't contract out every piece of work on every project. That's emphatically not a default arrangement.

It is our current default arrangement. It is not an industry default.

ome staff sign a contract for each individual book or project they are working on: If they're contracting separately for each project they work on, they aren't staff. They're freelancers.


You're word mincing. We're treated as staff. We are paid as freelancers. No one is denying this.

I am troubled by FPP's reliance on freelancers who receive only a royalty on books they work on, and receive it only if the book makes a profit. That's not a workable scheme. In place of the usual slow and paltry payments received by freelancers, they'll instead have to wait far longer, get paid only if the book makes a profit, and receive their payment (if any) in a slow and irregular trickle over what may turn out to be years.


That is true. Again it is a risk we are willing to take. Currently this whole venture is a great risk but we are trying to minimize this.

I don't know any professional editors, copy editors, proofreaders, etc. who'll work on that basis. I know that if I were the author, I'd resent having perpetual royalties taken out of my book's earnings to pay for tasks that normal publishers pay for out of their own pockets. And what happens if you decide to re-sell the book to another house? Unless you revert to your original unedited text, the edit and copy edit are still present in the book, and the freelancers are still entitled to their royalties. I can't begin to imagine how that might be handled.


Carol Hightshoe is one such professional editor who is willing. Again no one has quite their day job yet.

You are talking contracting issues now. I would suggest you bring up these questions during any contracting process. An author earns a percent of the royalties regardless of where they go...so do you resent it when an agent gets a percent of the book? Publishers get that money they pay from selling the books...so the also take a percentage of the book profit. If I'm mistaking any of this please let me know.

Rights revert automatically after two years unless the contract is renewed with authors under Flying Pen Press. Since we are no where near to selling our book to another publisher this has not come up. I can pose the question to David though.

If the thought of having all those amateur freelancers work on your book doesn't make your blood run cold, it's only because you've never seen the damage they can do.

You are assuming we are amaturs. Can we keep this civil please?

But it's not just amateurism you should fear. Paying editorial freelancers a royalty on the book produces a vicious circle. Start here: If Flying Pen were a real publishing company with a sales force, a distribution deal, adequate capital, and a proven track record in the industry, they'd be in a position to acquire real books from real authors. Under those circumstances, who wouldn't want to be a freelancer and get a cut of the profits from a sure-fire title by a popular author? At the same time, difficult or unusual books, or books by first authors -- all of which tend to be in need of a thoroughly professional editorial and production cycle -- would not get worked on by the company's best freelancers.

Again you are making quite alot of assumptions about the people we work with. All I can say is yes we are small and yes it is a risk at the present time. We are working toward a point in which this won't have to be the case. That takes time and money.

But Flying Pen doesn't have the resources or the track record of a real publisher, so they're not going to get first pick of manuscripts. The good freelancers, the ones who can always get work, will go elsewhere. What FPP is going to get freelancers are amateurs who either don't mind or can't tell that they're working on problematic books, and don't mind getting paid in vaporcash.

Of course not because we are just starting out. If you don't want to take the risk that's fine. However you've just assumed that all our authors are trash and that is really really hurtful. I'm sorry but all I can say that you need to wait and see what we can do before dismissing us out of hand. This might be a year from now or it might be two years...maybe more. It's a risk we are willing to take.

And that's still not the end of it. Look at that Jobs page, in the section on Copy Editors:
Contract: Contracts are made individually for each title, with a kill-fee provision. Copy Editors receive shares of gross profit of books, based on the number of pages they edit or on a per project basis.
I can divine a fair amount of information from that short paragraph. For instance, the part about "based on the number of pages they edit" tells me that Flying Pen doesn't know much about copy editing. You can, in a real crunch, divide up a book's proofreading between multiple proofreaders, but a copy edit is one task for one freelancer, because the copy editor works on the book as a whole.

No you're assuming again. How about or on a per project basis? I'm sorry but we've covered this. Okay so you don't like the jobs. Again that is fine. We currently have one copy editor. We have four books coming out in June. If you would like to ask a concrete question about the job perhaps I'll better be able to answer it.

FPP's kill-fee provision is disturbing. I've never heard of a book publisher paying a kill fee on a copy edit. If you don't like someone's work, you throw out that copy edit, strike the copy editor from your phone list, and hire someone else to do the whole thing over from scratch.


Copy editors aren't normally paid for the work they do if the editor doesn't like it? I can't say that I did know that. A kill-fee is a guaratee that the contractor would be paid even if they don't use the work..why is that disturbing?

The only reason I can think of to pay kill fees on rejected copy edits is if you're using that as your main quality-control mechanism. It's disturbing on several counts. One is that it once again places the risk on the someone other than the publisher. If the freelancer's work isn't what the publisher had in mind, the freelancer finds it out by getting a kill fee instead of a royalty. Another problem is that if you're doing quality control via kill fees, the copy edits that almost but don't quite land in that category are going to be pretty awful. That's bad for everyone, but especially bad for the authors. And third, that rule makes it even less likely that decent copy editors will want to work for Flying Pen.


I'm sorry I'm not following your logic here. Guarantee pay is not a reason?

You're assuming we don't check resumes and work. A freelancer has to sign a contract and go through a highering process before they can obtain a kill-fee.

We are based in Colorado. This is an at will state...that means that employment can be legally terminated by the employer or employee without stating any reason. This is in compliance with that law. However we are commited to common decency and work with those that work with us.

Back to the main text on their Jobs page:
Freelancers are contracted in the same manner. Flying Pen Press usually does not pay flat fees to freelancers, but instead offers a share of gross profits on the projects on which they work, or a sales commission if the work is sales related.
Real publishers make judgements and shoulder risk. Real editors, copy editors, proofreaders, designers, copy writers, marketers, publicists, and sales people know their own worth, and get paid for their work.


Have you ever worked in a business that pays on commission only? They do exist and they do work. Claiming someone isn't a real anything because they don't accrue an hourly wage is a bit specious.

So, what's Flying Pen's role in all this? They don't provide a workspace. Everything is done in virtual space by telecommuters. They don't pay benefits. Everyone is a contractor. They don't appear to pay any employees up front. All their editorial, production, and sales work is paid only by giving the workers fractional royalties on the net sales of the books they work on.
This means that all work throughout the company is speculative in nature, as gross profits for any specific project cannot be forecast. Potential contractors should understand that accounting periods are quarterly. This means that there is a period between the time when work is done and when payment is made. Not all contractors are in a position to take advantage of this type of profit-sharing payment, because of this delay, while others are quick to note that profit shares can be quite valuable if a project is highly profitable.
Finally, some language we can all recognize.

Let me say this again since you feel the need to belittle us to get your point accross.

This is a risk right now and yes we know that. We are not hiding that fact. If you want information please just ask.

I'm tired...it's midnight see you later today :)
 

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Copy editors aren't normally paid for the work they do if the editor doesn't like it?

I'm not Hapi, but that's not what she said. To clarify -- the copyeditor would get paid for their work, but they would not be called again.

This is a risk right now and yes we know that. We are not hiding that fact.
All publishing involves risks. What bothers me is that FPP is offloading the risks usually assumed by the publisher onto the freelancers. I have to agree with Hapi--though FPP's intentions seem good, their setup is rather odd and off-putting.
 

HapiSofi

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This is getting painful. Miz K'Lyssia and Tirjasdyn obviously mean well; and besides, Nicole vouches for them, which I very much take into account. But you guys at FPP have been too thorough about limiting your own risk. What you've invented here is technically a vanity press.
 

herdon

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I have a feeling this thread might get very long.

I think you'd pretty much have to have a kill fee with that type of set up. In fact, if they didn't have a kill fee I would worry more about the likelyhood of shabby work getting out than with a kill fee. I'd put more trust in a publisher paying a specific set amount for bad work than to pay one editor 5% for shabby work and another one 5% to redo that work thus paying 10%. (I'm just making up those percentage to use as an example, of course). The kill-fee seems pretty much the only sound way to protect the publisher should the publisher actually plan on making money on the books. (Of course, if they aren't planning on selling many books then not having a kill fee would be fine.)

As a writer I wouldn't sign any contract that mentioned percentages going to editors, copy editors, etc. But I also wouldn't assume that their writer's contracts would have anything about that in it. I'd assume that would be a contract between publisher and editor and would be in effect only for sales by that publisher.

Personally, what I think is more important (for writers) is the plan to get books into bookstores and the plan to market the books. I think that would be a far worthier discussion. As of yet I haven't seen much detail on this plan other than "there is a plan" (or maybe going to those three book shows is the extent of the plan).

I have no problem with reducing costs of a startup by profit sharing. That's not a new trick and has worked in the past. I'd be more curious on how the company intends to market the books and what the basic marketing budget per book might be.

Any way you slice it there is going to be considerable risk to the writer since there is no track record to check on which creates a barrier. The only way to reduce that barrier is to have details on the plan to market and sell the books, and even then the barrier is going to be high until there is a track record.
 

HapiSofi

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Yes, Flying Pen Press is a start-up and like many start-ups we are operating on a shoestring.

Many of the small press publishers out there are using Print on Demand Technology, through companies such as Lightning Sorce (LSI) to produce and distribute their books. The use of Print on Demand Technology does not equal vanity press - at least not in this case and not in most of those cases either.

Yes, we are a royalty press in that we are not paying advances and those of us who are starting with this company are willing to work as editors, etc. on a royalty basis for the projects we work on instead of a regular salary. We are doing this because we are willing to take a chance with a new publisher entering the market and because we have a passion for this business.

I understand. You want to be publishers and editors so much that you'll work for free. The trouble is, you don't really know what you're doing, and you're proposing to do it with other people's books.

Granted this not an arrangement that many people are willing to work with and if you are one of those people, then I agree you probably wouldn't be comfortable submitting to us at this time.

However, as with most publishers when they first start out, we need time to prove ourselves and we hope you will watch us and see that we do plan on becoming a stable part of the publishing world.
You don't have a distribution deal or a professional marketing department. FPP isn't guaranteed to fail, but I sure wouldn't bet on it to succeed.
 

HapiSofi

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I'm also an editor with Flying Pen Press, and I'm glad to see these questions. I think the POD discussion is a good one to have now because traditional publishing just isn't working to most writers' benefit.
That's true. It only really works for authors who write books the public wants to buy and read.
 

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This is getting painful. Miz K'Lyssia and Tirjasdyn obviously mean well; and besides, Nicole vouches for them, which I very much take into account. But you guys at FPP have been too thorough about limiting your own risk. What you've invented here is technically a vanity press.

I disagree.

Hapi we are asking authors and contractors to take a risk on us at first. I will not deny that. You are judging us before we even start. We are working so that those risks will not always be the case.

We are NOT asking for payment from any of our contractors or authors. We believe in Yog's law.
 
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Tirjasdyn

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You are correct. And you have valid questions. Three shows is not the extent of the plan just the start.

I will see if I can't get some more clarification for you. I do ask that you be paitient with us a bit we are in final stretch for our first books coming out and preparing for these events.



Personally, what I think is more important (for writers) is the plan to get books into bookstores and the plan to market the books. I think that would be a far worthier discussion. As of yet I haven't seen much detail on this plan other than "there is a plan" (or maybe going to those three book shows is the extent of the plan).

I have no problem with reducing costs of a startup by profit sharing. That's not a new trick and has worked in the past. I'd be more curious on how the company intends to market the books and what the basic marketing budget per book might be.

Any way you slice it there is going to be considerable risk to the writer since there is no track record to check on which creates a barrier. The only way to reduce that barrier is to have details on the plan to market and sell the books, and even then the barrier is going to be high until there is a track record.
 

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Hello. I thought I'd wade into the fray as a voice of someone who's operated a publishing company (albeit e-books) on a shoestring before.

FPP, I understand what you're trying to do, but could I make an argument for changing some of your practices?

I published novella length works, paying for the costs out of my own pocket, and the costs usually broke down like this:

* Cover art: $100 (I paid an artist for rights to artwork and put the design together myself)

* Copyediting: $90-200 (I paid a copyeditor $1.40/page)
* Copyright registration: $30 (this was before the rates went up)
* ISBN: around $30 as I bought in bulk and each different e-book version had a unique ISBN.

My outlay ran between $200 to a little over $300 per book. Your price would certainly be higher due to longer lengths.

Now, the reason I'd advise you to paying your contractors outright is simplicity's sake. Royalty statements are a huge headache. There's lots of places you can screw up, from entering data wrong to getting your formulas wrong.

I didn't look but if you are paying your authors a royalty rate on a net price (what you receive for the book) instead of the cover price, I'd like to urge you to reconsider. Again, the complexity of putting together royalty statements for net royalties is a huge pain the keister. At the time I closed down my company I was paying only 14 authors royalties and the statements took me a good two days to put together, despite having a spreadsheet template.

It feels nice to say you're paying authors a higher royalty on the net price but I ran some numbers at the end and found that authors made nearly the same amount (and in a couple of cases would have made more) if I had paid them a lower royalty on the cover than on net.

Good luck!
 

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I disagree.

You are judging us before we even start.

But you have already started.

A book being on the shelf isn't the start. Planning, production, promotion--all of those things count. From the moment you have a mission statement, you have started.

For your books to be successful, they'll need to be sold into the market months in advance of release by either the in-house sales staff or by a distributor, they'll need review support from pre-pub reviewers like Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, and Kirkus (they all need the book 3-4 months in advance). The hardwork part of those things should have been done last fall.

The publishing industry moves at the pace it moves. For things to work right, publishers need to be aware and respect that pace.

Earlier in this thread it sounded like June books still don't have a price. That kind of information is set months in advance after running profit and loss statements by successful publishing companies. It's not about doing business differently, it's about doing business right. There are some things that just can't be skipped.
 

herdon

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* Cover art: $100 (I paid an artist for rights to artwork and put the design together myself)

* Copyediting: $90-200 (I paid a copyeditor $1.40/page)
* Copyright registration: $30 (this was before the rates went up)
* ISBN: around $30 as I bought in bulk and each different e-book version had a unique ISBN.

My outlay ran between $200 to a little over $300 per book. Your price would certainly be higher due to longer lengths.

You left out editing. I don't count copyediting as the same as (regular) editing, I think of it more as strictly grammar/proofing/etc. I'd count copyediting as the stage after the editor and author work through the book.

I didn't look but if you are paying your authors a royalty rate on a net price (what you receive for the book) instead of the cover price, I'd like to urge you to reconsider. Again, the complexity of putting together royalty statements for net royalties is a huge pain the keister. At the time I closed down my company I was paying only 14 authors royalties and the statements took me a good two days to put together, despite having a spreadsheet template.

As I understand it most e-publishers pay on net because of the hefty discounts given to Amazon and other distributors. They pay on gross for e-books sold off their site, net for e-books sold on other sites.
 

Tirjasdyn

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Roach I appriciate the information. I will send it on to David. Thank you for the advise.

Hello. I thought I'd wade into the fray as a voice of someone who's operated a publishing company (albeit e-books) on a shoestring before.

FPP, I understand what you're trying to do, but could I make an argument for changing some of your practices?

I published novella length works, paying for the costs out of my own pocket, and the costs usually broke down like this:

* Cover art: $100 (I paid an artist for rights to artwork and put the design together myself)

* Copyediting: $90-200 (I paid a copyeditor $1.40/page)
* Copyright registration: $30 (this was before the rates went up)
* ISBN: around $30 as I bought in bulk and each different e-book version had a unique ISBN.

My outlay ran between $200 to a little over $300 per book. Your price would certainly be higher due to longer lengths.

Now, the reason I'd advise you to paying your contractors outright is simplicity's sake. Royalty statements are a huge headache. There's lots of places you can screw up, from entering data wrong to getting your formulas wrong.

I didn't look but if you are paying your authors a royalty rate on a net price (what you receive for the book) instead of the cover price, I'd like to urge you to reconsider. Again, the complexity of putting together royalty statements for net royalties is a huge pain the keister. At the time I closed down my company I was paying only 14 authors royalties and the statements took me a good two days to put together, despite having a spreadsheet template.

It feels nice to say you're paying authors a higher royalty on the net price but I ran some numbers at the end and found that authors made nearly the same amount (and in a couple of cases would have made more) if I had paid them a lower royalty on the cover than on net.

Good luck!
 

herdon

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But you have already started.

This is off topic, but generally I think it is bad form to use quote brackets and not use the full quote. I think, if you do that, you should put an elipses in place of the deleted text to denote something was originally there.

Other than that, I agree with what you said: They've already started and asking someone not to judge them is... well, for lack of a better term, silly. A writer shouldn't judge the publisher they send work to? An editor dispensing advice to writers shouldn't judge publishers asking for their work? Silly.

So, call my quote thing a pet peeve ;)
 

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There is a lot flying around here but some of it seems overly negative. I can tell you that most readers I speak to haven't the faintest idea what POD is. They will buy the 'big' books fairly readily especially in romance and fantasy. The main thing to put them off might be price and cover art.

The biggest obstacle to POD is distribution, but that seems to me to be a general point to discuss not a stick to beat any particular publisher with.
 

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You left out editing. I don't count copyediting as the same as (regular) editing, I think of it more as strictly grammar/proofing/etc. I'd count copyediting as the stage after the editor and author work through the book.

I did all the editing myself so I never placed a price tag on it. But you are correct, FPP would have to run the numbers on editing as well.

As I understand it most e-publishers pay on net because of the hefty discounts given to Amazon and other distributors. They pay on gross for e-books sold off their site, net for e-books sold on other sites.

All the e-book sites I distributed through asked for the same kinds of discounts that bookstores ask for. Amazon.com lets the publisher decide on the discount but encourages a 50-55% discount. Fictionwise.com took 50% of the cover price, the Mobipocket e-book store took 45% (IIRC) the others I can't remember off the top of my head but I have it in a spreadsheet somewhere. :D

The point is: the savings a publisher would think he'd get from paying on net is pretty much eaten up by the time it takes to put together the more complicated royalty statements.
 

herdon

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The point is: the savings a publisher would think he'd get from paying on net is pretty much eaten up by the time it takes to put together the more complicated royalty statements.

That is an issue of software. If you do not have a software program capable of producing the royalty statements with different formulas for different sources then it would take more time.

I don't know the insides of the e-publishers, maybe no one has written software targeted specifically for them. (Heck, maybe I should approach them on it -- I was just thinking the other day that I should write a program to deal with online agent submissions and try to sell it to agents since the few online agent submission forms I've seen seem a bit shabby -- though that was just a fleeting thought -- I'd have to have a paying customer to do it).

The point is, though, that they shouldn't be putting together the royalty statements by hand in the first place.

As for gross vs net, they are just different ways of slicing up the pie. In the end, you still have the same amount of pie, and if you've done your slicing right, everyone is getting the proper sized pieces.
 

Tirjasdyn

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But you have already started.

A book being on the shelf isn't the start. Planning, production, promotion--all of those things count. From the moment you have a mission statement, you have started.

Okay let me rephrase...Hapi is a assuming we have aweful writers, bad copy editors and horrible practices before a product has been seen. I still say we need a change for our distribution show numbers. That will not happen in significant form until our books are "off the press" so to speak.

This company started a year ago. We have been working towards this moment since that time. We did not wake up last week and say "hey let's start a publishing company."

For your books to be successful, they'll need to be sold into the market months in advance of release by either the in-house sales staff or by a distributor, they'll need review support from pre-pub reviewers like Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, and Kirkus (they all need the book 3-4 months in advance). The hardwork part of those things should have been done last fall.

Actually it has been a little harder than that. It was not until last fall that we had a staff and networking began. On top of that we have a small staff.

Perhaps I am not communicating what stage we are at clearly. We are at the beginning of having the review copies, because our current printer is a print-on-demand printer we feel that we can say that our books will be availble by June. I appolygize if I was unclear.


Earlier in this thread it sounded like June books still don't have a price. That kind of information is set months in advance after running profit and loss statements by successful publishing companies. It's not about doing business differently, it's about doing business right. There are some things that just can't be skipped.

I have givenan estimate, which is all I'm allowed to give at this time regarding the price. I have to wait for approval before I can give final pricing. I know this is not the same as say you can buy the books for this much.

The publishing industry moves at the pace it moves. For things to work right, publishers need to be aware and respect that pace.

You're right it does. This is why I'm confused though...on one had we have people telling us this takes years...which we know. But then we have people that are telling us you have nothing so you suck. Frankly you can have both slices of bread on the platter until you are in a position to do so, which takes years.

Again we are a risk right now. We have four authors who are willing to take a chance. If you as an author are unwilling to take that chance that's fine. We understand. Writing is an important art which we cherish.

Now if you're thinking you can send us Atlanta Nights and expect it to get through our slush pile, I'd say you're dead wrong. :)

If you're planning on sending us a manuscript of your great American Novel and have it be a best seller in a month well it's a nice pipe dream. We might accept it but it will take awhile to get threw the editing process, then because of the stage we are at distribution will take time.

Thank you for your comments, we do appriciate them. :)
 

HapiSofi

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Hapi, can we please refrain from the disparaging remarks and keep this civil. Please? You have decided not to like us, but you don't have to treat us badly.

Excuse me? I said what I said because I thought it was true. Don't kid yourself that I dislike you, or think you can dismiss what I'm saying on that account. I don't know you. I do know something about publishing.

Furthermore, there was nothing disparaging or uncivil about it. Here's the exchange:
Goodsnow: I'm also an editor with Flying Pen Press, and I'm glad to see these questions. I think the POD discussion is a good one to have now because traditional publishing just isn't working to most writers' benefit.

HapiSofi:
That's true. It only really works for authors who write books the public wants to buy and read.
That may have made you flinch, but it wasn't because I was mistreating you.
 

veinglory

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The other side being that POD and ebooks can serve smaller audiences who despite numbering only hundreds or low thousands are 'public who want to buy and read'.

I do think 'POD is bad' and 'This publisher is not likely to suceed on a POD scale' are very different. There are people here who buy, write and publish POD and are successful in that context and on that scale.

(For the record I am only in the first of those 3 groups until October when I will be in the second group also--my expectations are set at a realistic level as a writer in a niche genre)
 

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