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Flying Pen Press

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

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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 don't think POD is bad, per se. However, I think a great many people are duped by POD companies because they don't understand the extreme limitations and liabilities placed on these companies. As a result they come away from the experience disillusioned and bitter. This is why I feel it's vital that the POD paradigm be fully exposed. Knowlege is power and the more information writers have, the better able they are to make smart choices. As it is, I still see writers who make mistake after mistake, and I can only shake my head and wish they'd been in less of a hurry to publish and more patient about finding a solid publisher who can get their books to market.
 

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Quite so, but I think it is unweildy to attach that issue to discussing one small press. I have been floating around long enough to have a pretty good idea how my POD novel will go--but also to know it wasn't a candidate for an offset run. The middle ground between cheerleader and naysayer can be a lonely place to occupy.

So I think the general debate can be brought in more implicitly by saying something like 'this is the best an POD can do, are you doing that?'--i.e. look for things like a clear niche, potential for good online sales and appropriate management of author expectations.

Some small presses have successfully used POD as a transition to eventual PTD and then offset runs. Most have crashed and burned instead, but it is possible. I also see good e- and POD editors doing things like encouraging writers of more more commercial material to query the mainstream first.
 

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I've worked as a freelance copy editor and I most certainly wouldn't go for this arrangement. The way it's set up is almost guaranteed to attract amateurs/hobbyists. Freelancers do this for a living, and expect to be paid for their work.
 

HapiSofi

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Okay let me rephrase...Hapi is a assuming we have aweful writers, bad copy editors and horrible practices before a product has been seen.

And you're all a-flutter over how rude I supposedly am? Get real. I don't know you. I don't wish you ill, or want to hurt your feelings. What I've done is point out problems in FPP's business model. You're heavily invested in this publishing startup, so you don't like hearing about potential problems. That doesn't make me a villain.

Have you noticed that this is a forum for discussing such issues?

If FFP were just your own folly, I wouldn't say a word. But FFP isn't just about you, or your co-workers there. It's a publishing company. It solicits manuscripts, and undertakes to publish some of them. I'm thinking about the authors. Are you?

Authors can't minimize their risk. They can refuse to pay to have their books published, but that's about it. Their really big risk -- putting their book into the hands of a publisher -- is unavoidable. If you don't have experienced staff to work on your books, or a distribution deal and a sales force to sell them, your authors are screwed.

I didn't say what I said about freelance text ronin just to be mean. Are you personally acquainted with any professional freelance trade fiction copy editors or proofreaders? I know lots of them. Most of them don't quite live from check to check, but they're seldom all that far from it. A full copy edit of a medium-size book with fairly clean text is three to five days' work, minimum. They can't afford to work for the promise of a trickle of royalties sometime in the future, assuming the book sells.

Have you ever seen an inept or amateurish or ill-judged edit? I have. It can be a destructive and traumatic experience for those on the receiving end. There's no guarantee that the book or the author will ever recover from it.

I don't have to wait and see how your books come out. I've got decades of experience in the industry. I know how few good books are lurking in the slushpile. I know that if you only pay editorial freelancers a royalty on sales, you're going to get amateurs; and if you use amateurs, very bad things are sooner or later going to happen to your books. I know that you can't sell fiction in any appreciable numbers if you don't have a distribution deal and a sales force. I know that a talented sales rep who can sell books can sell other products, and get paid a base salary while doing it.

Here's an underappreciated fact about the conventional publishing industry: it's full of talented, experienced professionals who lost their in-house jobs when their department got axed or their company went away in a corporate merger. They're usually holding down four or five part-time gigs while they wait for another full-time in-house job to come along.

If it were that easy to start up a publishing company with no resources and no capital, don't you think they'd have done so? Yet they haven't. And why not? Because they know more than you do.
 
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Tirjasdyn

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Hapi, I don't know you either and I'm not trying to be rude. That is just what I am reading into your words. I know you are not attacking me but they way you are writing sounds like you are attacking the company.

If I have misunderstoond I appolygize.

I am trying to answer as best I can, relation to what you are saying. You don't like our business model. Okay. Let's be constructive talk about what you would do to change it?
 

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IMHO it is better to pay for art and editing up front, even if it is a lower amount it will get you a better quality of staff, and hence of product. There are a few publishers out there paying for art and editing out of royalties but it isn't a good.professional look--most of them have low enough sales that even $50 up front would be a better deal.
 

Tirjasdyn

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Okay here's some more information for those who asked:

Pricing: Here are our first two fiction books:

Migration of the Kamishi by Gaddy Bergmann price is $14.95 for the trade paperback.

Looking Glass by James R. Strickland price is $14.95 for the Trade paperback.

Distribution: What we expect to have available in June is online distribution through our website and the LSI distribution system. We are working on marketing our books to local booksellers. As we have more to report on this front I will let you know.
 

Tirjasdyn

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IMHO it is better to pay for art and editing up front, even if it is a lower amount it will get you a better quality of staff, and hence of product. There are a few publishers out there paying for art and editing out of royalties but it isn't a good.professional look--most of them have low enough sales that even $50 up front would be a better deal.

We've actually already paid for art for our first two fiction books.

http://www.jamesrstrickland.com/

Mr. Strickland has a copy of his book cover on his webpage now. If you would like to look.
 
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priceless1

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... but they way you are writing sounds like you are attacking the company.
Tirjasdyn, this isn't a matter of attacking the company as it is trying to educate you to the realities of keeping your boat afloat. You're wasting time taking these comments personally when you should be looking at the viability of your business.

As Hapi says, it's not about you, but about your authors - most of whom are unschooled as to what POD companies can and can't do for their works. Having good intentions is great, but it doesn't sell books or make for a great business. You must be able to withstand the tight scrutiny that this and other forums will put you through because these people care a great deal about their fellow authors. Given that you're new and a POD, tough questions about distribution and sales are going to be asked.

I am trying to answer as best I can, relation to what you are saying. You don't like our business model. Okay.
Again, it's not about liking or disliking your business model - it's about what you can do for your authors and keeping your company afloat long enough to make some money. I think you have your heart in the right place, but I have to say that you've been very weak on offering concrete details about how you're going to transcend the POD model.

The only concrete thing I've seen you say is that you're going to the BEA. Great - we'll see you there. We're in booth 2302. But beyond this, you've not said how you're getting your books sold.

Let's be constructive talk about what you would do to change it?
Yikes. First off, it's not our place to say what we would do to change your company because this isn't our business. That's for you to decide. You've been given some insightful tips about how publishing works and the tough road you're up against using this particular business model. Your response is that you're "working on it" but not saying how. Your other response has been to respond with hurt feelings. Because of this, I don't see that I have anything more to add because you don't appear to be really listening.

Like I said before, I wish you all the luck in the world but more than that, I wish for writers to be beware of any company before signing on the dotted line. Blind faith has been the ruin of too many writers.
 

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Tirjasdyn, this isn't a matter of attacking the company as it is trying to educate you to the realities of keeping your boat afloat. You're wasting time taking these comments personally when you should be looking at the viability of your business.

As Hapi says, it's not about you, but about your authors - most of whom are unschooled as to what POD companies can and can't do for their works. Having good intentions is great, but it doesn't sell books or make for a great business. You must be able to withstand the tight scrutiny that this and other forums will put you through because these people care a great deal about their fellow authors. Given that you're new and a POD, tough questions about distribution and sales are going to be asked.

Yes.

Again, it's not about liking or disliking your business model - it's about what you can do for your authors and keeping your company afloat long enough to make some money. I think you have your heart in the right place, but I have to say that you've been very weak on offering concrete details about how you're going to transcend the POD model.

The only concrete thing I've seen you say is that you're going to the BEA. Great - we'll see you there. We're in booth 2302. But beyond this, you've not said how you're getting your books sold.

At this time I cannot layout our entire marketing plan. We are trying to open dialogs with the buyers at local booksellers. At BEA [booth 1832] we are trying to set up meetings with various Buyers whose stores we are looking it. We do have list we are working through. At this time I cannot post that list. I am willing to make more information available as I can.

Yikes. First off, it's not our place to say what we would do to change your company because this isn't our business. That's for you to decide. You've been given some insightful tips about how publishing works and the tough road you're up against using this particular business model. Your response is that you're "working on it" but not saying how. Your other response has been to respond with hurt feelings. Because of this, I don't see that I have anything more to add because you don't appear to be really listening.

Like I said before, I wish you all the luck in the world but more than that, I wish for writers to be beware of any company before signing on the dotted line. Blind faith has been the ruin of too many writers.

We are very upfront about what our authors are and are not getting to our authors. They know what our distribution is at this point, they know it is zero at this point. They are agreeing to the risk and we have made it very clear to them that it is a risk.

We have recieved some great advice and I have passed that onto David.

I am not hurt by the hard line. I am just asking that we keep things civil because Hapi's posts do not sound civil as I read them. I don't want to get into a match with Hapi. If it sound like I'm hurt, perhaps my language is not clear enough. All I can do is appolygize and move on.
 

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Hapi, I don't know you either and I'm not trying to be rude. That is just what I am reading into your words. I know you are not attacking me but they way you are writing sounds like you are attacking the company.

If I have misunderstoond I appolygize.
Thank you. Insofar as I have done what I should not, or failed to do what I might have done, I apologize as well.

Here's my question: How polite, indirect, or reassuring do I have to be to get away with saying, "I don't think there's any way FPP's business plan can succeed"? I'm entirely willing to soften the way I say it, but I won't soften the judgement.
I am trying to answer as best I can, relation to what you are saying. You don't like our business model. Okay. Let's be constructive talk about what you would do to change it?
I would scrap it entirely. From the amount of energy FPP has put into limiting its own exposure, I'm guessing that you guys don't have startup capital to blow on this venture. If you can't afford risk, you can't afford to run a publishing company.

Writers tend to be most conscious of the risk represented by the advances paid them by publishers, but that's only the start. A publisher also invests considerable sums in a book's editing, production, printing, distribution, and marketing. Since FPP (by my guess) will run out of money if it has to pay for that, it's proposing to redistribute the risk to freelancers in the form of unpaid work. What I know is that few professional freelancers could afford to take on that risk, assuming they wanted to.

If you want good people to work for you, you have to give them something. Your business plan doesn't have that. You're not going to get first-rate books if you can't offer the authors first-rate editing and production, and a good sales force to sell their work. Your editing and production people aren't going to get paid for their work if the books don't sell, and with no paid sales force and no way for your company to appeal to first-string writers, it's pretty much guaranteed that sales will be negligible, so we're looking at joyless unpaid work on mediocre books. If your sales people are offered only a straight commission on sales of second- or third-string books that are edited, designed, and produced by amateurs, the sales force you get is going to be neither committed nor experienced nor brilliant.

[Later addition: or you'll get people of good will who are trying to fit what is essentially volunteer work for FPP into their available spare time. It will always have lower priority than work that pays their rent or earns their degree or holds their family and household together. You'll have perpetual problems with tasks that take longer than anticipated, and completion dates that slide and keep sliding.]

It might be different if FPP had thought up something weird and new to publish. I'd still think the company's under-capitalized, but at least y'all would have cool points going for you when you went to recruit freelancers. Unfortunately, this doesn't seem to be the case. Your company's competing for the same books, authors, freelancers, and readers as all the other trade publishers. That's not a fight you're going to win.
 
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James D. Macdonald

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I think there's a lot of talking-past one another in this thread, and that various people are using various terms of art (e.g. "kill fee") to mean different things.

That being said, I'm going to introduce one of my favorite hobbyhorses and hope to bring a bit of clarity with a bit of terminology.

I'm going to talk about the dread acronym POD.

POD stands for Print (or Publish) On Demand. That's a business model. Under the POD business model a book isn't printed until someone sends in an order; until money has changed hands. While it is common these days for POD books to be printed up using digitial printers, that isn't required. You could conceiveable POD using potatoes. You could Print On Demand using a letterpress. You could Print On Demand using monks and quill pens.

You could even Print On Demand using offset presses. If the Demand is one or two copies, that's prohibitively expensive, but if the Demand is ten-thousand copies (prepaid) it makes sense.

Unfortunately, Printing On Demand is so often done using digital printing that the term "POD" is often used to mean digital printing. This is the point of confusion. Digital printing is a technology, not a business model. It's a means for making very-short-run printing economically feasible (as opposed to setting up an offset press to print a dozen copies, or giving that monk a quill and saying "Go to, Brother Horace").

Now that we've dealt with the problem of terminology (please say "POD" when you're talking about the business model, and "digital printing" when you're talking about the technology -- many misunderstandings will be avoided thus), please remember that POD (the business model) is incompatible with bookstore shelving, since bookstore shelving, of its nature, does not identify an order in advance of printing, nor has money changed hands at the point where the book to be shelved is created.
 

Tirjasdyn

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Hapi,

I applaud your dedication to this. I respect your opinion and yes I see your concerns. All of these concerns and advice I have forwarded onto the owner and editors.

We do have a budget for sales and marketing. One of the items to cover when we go to New York in two weeks is to go over marketing and sales options both outside and inside the BEA convention. The owner has invested a good amount of capitol in this venture and is prepare to pay more he does have backup at hand to pay with if this venture fails. However he has chosen to go with the commission business model at this time. It is not an end all be all to the business plan.

Yes we are working on commission. No one is being asked to quit their day job, the authors have been made very aware of the risk they pose by going with us now as opposed to a year or even two years from now. We are not asking authors to take that chance who feel uncomfortable with it. When a contract is offered on a piece this information is disclosed before any contract is signed.

I would disagree that our editors are not first rate, they have proven themselves professional and competant. We understand that this cannot really be proven to the public until they see the product.

We are where we are at right now. A lot has to be done and yes we have a lot will have to pay, plan and to catch up with.

Now I must apologize again. The biggest reason why I am here answering these questions is because I have been a member of this board for a long time. I certainly did not expect us to be on anyone's submission radar in my first week; though I certainly knew we'd eventually have a post here on B&B. Delays in my answering any questions have to with me going to those who know in the company. I am telling you this so you that for some questions I have to go get information. When I say I, I mean me...We I say we, I mean the company. If I have mixed these I'm sorry.

Jim: I understand that the POD model is not generally accepted by bookstores. The company believes they can change this with time and if not can move into a steady warehouse situation over the course of the next few years. It is a constant source of meeting material right now to discuss our buisness model and what we need to do to get our books to stores.

I hope this answered some of your questions and concerns. Yes our business model is risky. We do want everyone to understand that, and we appreciate the warnings give to us and others about this.
 
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HapiSofi

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Yes our business model is risky.
Risky for the authors and employees, that is.

This David guy is the owner -- would that be right? If so, then all these women I've seen explaining and defending Flying Pen Press are working for him without pay. While he supposedly has startup capital, he has "chosen to go with the commission business model at this time," which means these employees won't be compensated unless and until the books they've worked on make a profit, at which point the employees will receive royalties subtracted from the books' earnings.

I don't suppose David does the accounting, does he?
 

Tirjasdyn

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Risky for the authors and employees, that is.
Yes.

This David guy is the owner -- would that be right? If so, then all these women I've seen explaining and defending Flying Pen Press are working for him without pay. While he supposedly has startup capital, he has "chosen to go with the commission business model at this time," which means these employees won't be compensated unless and until the books they've worked on make a profit, at which point the employees will receive royalties subtracted from the books' earnings.

Yes from the book's total earnings. The other two, as you put it are Carol Hightshoe, a published author and a freelance editor. She is our lead editor. Debbie is another editor.
 

herdon

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Out of curiosity, is there any permanent staff? (Marketing director, etc.)
 

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You're going to keep your day job no matter what; but you know, if I were you, I'd take that time that would have been given to Flying Pen Press, and instead apply it to my (your) writing. You own your writing.
 

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I suppose what it boils down to is; how well do you know the owner of the business. I can see where the oddities of the business plan would be of concern to people, but if the owner is on the up and up, it just might work.
It is taking the virtual office to a rather uncomfortable extreme, but then with that wide a reach FPP would be able to attract some serious part-time help. Especially as those here have already said they aren't quitting their day jobs.
As for myself, I think I shall keep an eye on how things go for FPP as I continue writing this book of mine. It might turn out to be an interesting outfit to work with. Especially as I'm not going to be giving up my night job. :)

mark
 

Tirjasdyn

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Currently everyone is on comission, even the owner. I do not have exact number of permenat staff...about 7 or 8 at the moment. By permenant I mean those who are in a position until otherwise noted.

I've known David for 4 1/2 years. I do know him to be a man of his word...I know that's not all it takes to run a business :) It's just a character statement.
 
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veinglory

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Hmm. I would note that the owner has possession of all funds and so is only on commision to the extent he says he is. We may in fact be entering 'to much information land' here if you are trying to give a pro impression. Now we have a guy putting some of his long time friends on comission and calling it a company...?

I went in with an open mind but I would want to hear about start up capital, marketing plans, identifying niches, starting with a strong stable of writers through head hunting etc etc about here and it doesn't seem to be happenng that way.
 

Tirjasdyn

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Hmm. I would note that the owner has possession of all funds and so is only on commision to the extent he says he is. We may in fact be entering 'to much information land' here if you are trying to give a pro impression. Now we have a guy putting some of his long time friends on comission and calling it a company...?

That is my situation, not everyone's in the company.
 

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