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Spencer Hill Press

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Falling Clementine

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Hi guys. Does anyone know anything about Spencer Hill Press? I've tried researching them and have come up with nothing other than the fact that, of their two authors, on of them is also the editor of the press.

All info is appreciated.
 

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The site is registered to Osman Kaynak, presumably the husband of one of the authors. So I reckon it's a self publisher masquerading as a small trade press.
 

KateKaynak

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Hi folks,

I can tell you about Spencer Hill because I'm part of it. It's a new press--less than a year old--which is why we only have two authors and the three editors are all part-timers. We're incorporated in New Hampshire, which is where two of the three editors live. We're looking for YA paranormal, sci-fi, and fantasy books, and we do give (small) advances to signed authors. Our books are released in both paper and e-book formats.

And yes, my husband set up the website, since he's tech-savvy and offered to do it for free. :)

There are links on the site to Amazon, Powell's, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, and some of the independent bookstores that carry our books. Wholesale orders vary in their payment terms, which is why they are individually invoiced.

If you have any questions, please post them here, or you can ask through the contact form at www.SpencerHillPress.com. I got linked over here from a Google alerts hit and I wanted to set the record straight.

Thanks for asking, and take care!

- Kate
 

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Hi Kate! Thanks for dropping by AW. I've got several questions, if you'd be so kind as to answer them.

When you say you're 'part of it' do you mean you are the owner or co-owner of the press?

Is SHP's other author also one of the owners/editors/staff?

Websites are usually registered in the name of the business owner rather than the website designer. Is your husband a co-owner of SHP?

Who are the three editors at SHP?

What experience do the staff have in the publishing industry? By that, I mean have they worked at commercial presses in the capacity of acquiring editor, substantive editor, copyeditor? Or have they worked in book marketing/design? Or have they worked as freelance editors, and if so where can we find more information about their clients and success stories?

What rights does SHP contract, and for what period of time?

What is the minimum advance offered for novel-length works, and what is the minimum royalty rate?

Are royalties paid on cover price or on net? If the latter, how is net defined in the contract?

Are SHP books returnable?

Does SHP provide reviewers copies at their expense?

thanks so much!
--U
 

KateKaynak

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Hey U!

SHP's other author isn't an owner. Her role is purely that of the author. I've taken on many hats here, since there are a huge number of smaller jobs, and yes, I'm one of the owners, as is my husband.

The other editors are Debbie Britt-Hay and Jack Noon. Both have been editing and publishing for more than a decade, and are both published authors of fiction and non-fiction books. Jack was at the small indie Moose Country Press, and Debbie does freelance editing as well (http://www.alphaediting.com/).

SHP contracts North American and World English rights for all formats (paper, e-book, audio, not otherwise specified) for a minimum of three years from publication date. It auto-renews annually unless terminated in writing. All contracts are negotiable, of course, and authors are encouraged to read them completely and to have an IP lawyer look at them before signing.

We pay tiny advances, usually in the hundreds, not the thousands, of dollars. We pay authors a percentage of royalties on net and distribute quarterly. The contract states:
" Net sales are defined as the Total Dollar amount received by the PUBLISHER from the wholesale or retail sale of the WORK minus the printing expenses, costs to produce, costs to sell, costs to market, costs to ship and/or distribute, and total dollar amount of any returns of the WORK. "

Editing salaries are NOT part of that, nor are trade show expenses or anything else at the "whole business" level, like office supplies. We do itemized expense reports with royalty statements.

SHP books are fully returnable. We're distributed by Ingram and Quality Books, Inc.

We provide review copies--the contract states at least 20--although we usually provide many more than that in practice. The costs are considered marketing and are therefore gross expenses. The author also gets 20 copies of the book without charge.

One thing: because we're tiny, we're flexible. I'm editing the Covenant series--with backup from the other editors, of course, since it's my debut as an an editor--and Jennifer (the author) has had input and approval on everything from cover art to marketing budget allocation. My contract as an editor is much like Jennifer's as an author; I get a (smaller) cut of net royalties (but no advance). So, it's in my best interests to maximize her royalties.

I hope this answers your questions. Please let me know if you need further info.

Take care!

- Kate
 

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It sounds like an interesting place. I have a novella, how low of a word count is accepted? Will it be in print also? (it's 29K words)

Just wanted to ask out of curiosity
 

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KateKaynak said:
Net sales are defined as the Total Dollar amount received by the PUBLISHER from the wholesale or retail sale of the WORK minus the printing expenses, costs to produce, costs to sell, costs to market, costs to ship and/or distribute, and total dollar amount of any returns of the WORK.
Other than a reserve against returns, aren't all those listed costs usually borne by the publisher out of their share of the gross receipts?
 

KateKaynak

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Hi Lisa,

We're not doing novellas at this time, but I know several people at Broad Universe are putting together anthologies. Depending on your sub-genre, some might be good fits. Are you a member?

Hi Dreamweaver,
The big six all pay royalties against list price, so, yes, they do cover those costs, but many indie presses use the model we do. To make sure everyone is comfortable with the arrangement, SHP authors have input on the budget, marketing, etc., for their books.

Take care!

- Kate
 

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Kate, first, thanks for being open and professional with your replies.

I have to say, I haven't heard of successful small publishers--ones that sell enough to make money for their authors--that use this royalty model. By "making money", let's set the bar fairly low: annual royalties accrued (including those that offset any advance) that would amount to at least one car payment. Could you share the names of some indie publishers that you've used as inspiration or role models in setting this up? And perhaps also share your definition of "indie pubisher"? Thanks.

Edited to change "no advance" to accrued royalties including those offsetting the advance.
 
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victoriastrauss

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Hi, Kate,

Your willingness to provide info here is much appreciated, and much of what you say about your business model sounds encouraging. However, I'm very concerned about this:
We pay authors a percentage of royalties on net and distribute quarterly. The contract states:
" Net sales are defined as the Total Dollar amount received by the PUBLISHER from the wholesale or retail sale of the WORK minus the printing expenses, costs to produce, costs to sell, costs to market, costs to ship and/or distribute, and total dollar amount of any returns of the WORK. "
Many smaller publishers do pay on the publisher's net (rather than on list price, as is more typical of larger publishers)--defined as the income the publisher actually receives from wholesalers and retailers.

However, what's described above is not the publisher's net. It's net profit: the publisher's net less a menu of other costs, including the cost to actually print the book.

Royalties paid on net profit (and while some small presses do use this model, it's not all that common) is a MAJOR red flag in a publisher's contract, because it seriously reduces the amount on which royalty percentages are calculated. The wording of Spencer Hill's contract is actually worse than many net profit clauses I've seen, because it deducts not just production costs, but marketing costs. Production costs can be predicted in advance (so the author can at least estimate how much the publisher's net will be reduced), but marketing costs are hard to calculate--so authors really won't have any idea, from quarter to quarter, of what their actual per-book royalty will be.

Bottom line: at best, authors' royalties with Spencer Hill will be quite a bit smaller than with a publisher that simply paid royalties on net. At worst, authors will receive a pittance--or even, conceivably, nothing at all.

- Victoria
 

KateKaynak

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Hi Dreamweaver and Victoria,

Actually, there's a line in the same contract paragraph I quoted earlier that covers this:
" [FONT=&quot]AUTHOR will have the right to approve marketing expenses such as art work (including cover art), promotional giveaways, and advertising prior to campaigns going into effect.[/FONT] "

Basically, the problem with many publishing models is that the brunt of marketing and promotion is placed on the author. So, we don't spend the marketing money unless the author approves, but we put the bulk of our investment behind it. We've modeled costs based on expected sales in the first year, and we're confident that we can turn a profit for the author, editor, and the press within a year for each release. It won't be enough to put the kids through college--far from it--but it will be a profit. And authors receive an advance with each signing.

Sorry that wasn't clear in my earlier post.

Take care!

-Kate

PS - As for the "big bucks" in publishing, even the author of a NYT bestseller often can't make a full-time living as a writer: http://terrycordingley.blogspot.com/2009/12/whats-it-really-like-to-be-new-york.html
 

Richard Falk

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Basically, the problem with many publishing models is that the brunt of marketing and promotion is placed on the author.

No, not with any commercial publishing model with which I'm familiar. If we're talking about the disguised vanity model — PublishAmerica et al — then yes.

So, we don't spend the marketing money unless the author approves, but we put the bulk of our investment behind it.
So the author has a choice between more marketing or more royalties? This is quite unusual, to say the least. Normally the author receives an agreed rate of royalties and the publisher decides on the level of marketing (usually commensurate to their own resources, the commercial potential of the book and whether previous marketing spend on that title has produced a good return on investment).
 

KateKaynak

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Hi Richard,

The author DOES receive an agreed-upon rate of royalties, as well as an advance. The author ALSO has a say in nearly all the decisions we make regarding her/his book, including approval of the ad campaigns (the budget is determined by sales models).

I was always told that a third of an author's advance was supposed to go into marketing and publicity for the book, but we don't do it that way, probably because we're all authors ourselves and we hated that part.

And we're not a vanity press--the money goes TO the author--NEVER FROM her/him.

Take care!

- Kate
 

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Kate, have you considered paying royalties on cover price, or at least on net with net defined as "cover price minus distributor's/bookseller's discount"? I think you might find SHP to be a lot more attractive to authors if you were to do that. As your contract stands -- well, I'm afraid that like other commenters here I'd not recommend SHP. If the royalty scheme were to change, though, I'd be watching SHP's progress with a lot of optimism and interest.
 

Falling Clementine

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Kate,
I do want to voice, along with the others, that I appreciate the time you're taking to answer our questions and concerns.
 

KateKaynak

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Thanks, U and Clementine!

I completely understand your concerns, since I realize that there are some unethical agents and publishers out there. Know that, while this is the standard contract that we've used up until now, contracts are negotiable. If we made an offer of publication to an author who wanted royalties based on list price, we would run a few more sales models and rewrite the contract with those terms. I can tell you, though, that we did it this way so that we could provide more promotional support to early-career authors--and so the authors would have greater say in how their books were launched.

So far, I've LOVED working with and for Spencer Hill.

Take care!

- Kate
 

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Basically, the problem with many publishing models is that the brunt of marketing and promotion is placed on the author. So, we don't spend the marketing money unless the author approves, but we put the bulk of our investment behind it.
Hi Kate,
I'm not sure which publishing models you mean here, but trade presses spend thousands on marketing and promoting their books. If we left that up to our authors, we'd be out of business within weeks because they have neither the time, money, nor resources to shoulder that kind of responsibility.

You deduct the marketing and promo dollars from your royalties, so you're making the author financially responsible for your job. Furthermore, if they chose not to have you spend any money on marketing, then how are those books going to sell? Unless I'm missing something, this is a Catch-22 situation.

the money goes TO the author--NEVER FROM her/him.
Is that entirely true? If they approve a marketing/promo budget, then you're paying yourself back out of their sales at the back end. Where does your risk come into this equation?

PS - As for the "big bucks" in publishing, even the author of a NYT bestseller often can't make a full-time living as a writer: http://terrycordingley.blogspot.com/2009/12/whats-it-really-like-to-be-new-york.html
I don't think anyone is advocating leaving their jobs and living the life of Riley, but there seem to be some inconsistencies that don't appear to benefit the author. Do you have a distribution deal in place?
 
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DreamWeaver

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...if they chose not to have you spend any money on marketing, then how are those books going to sell?
OK, let me see if I've got this business plan straight:

1. SPH contracts with an author to publish their book.
2. SPH pays an advance and does the editing, production, and printing for the book, which incurs a non-trivial level of cost. However, when the books sell, specified costs will come out of the author's royalties.
3. SPH then lets the author decide the level of marketing, understanding that any marketing money is also going to come out of their royalties.
4. If the author selects a marketing level which ends up being inadequate, and sales are poor, then SPH stands to lose the non-trivial amount of money they invested in the book in step 2.

Maybe I'm understanding this wrong, because this business plan makes little sense to me. If it were my business and my money invested, I would want control of the marketing decisions.
 
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Dreamweaver, I think she said three figure advances (?).

Kate, thanks for clarifying. It's good for us to get all that info straight from the horse's mouth.
 

DreamWeaver

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Dreamweaver, I think she said three figure advances (?).
You are right, of course, Unimportant. I've edited where I was figuring numbers using no advance. Sorry, Kate!
 
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OK, let me see if I've got this business plan straight:

1. SPH contracts with an author to publish their book.
2. SPH pays an advance and does the editing, production, and printing for the book, which incurs a non-trivial level of cost. However, when the books sell, specified costs will come out of the author's royalties.
3. SPH then lets the author decide the level of marketing, understanding that any marketing money is also going to come out of their royalties.
4. If the author selects a marketing level which ends up being inadequate, and sales are poor, then SPH stands to lose the non-trivial amount of money they invested in the book in step 2.
Yah, you got that right. They're expending financial resources into book production and advances but giving the power of marketing and promotion to the author. If the author agrees,SH pays themselves back out of any sales. Perhaps I have this wrong, but as I read it, it's backwards. As a publisher who spends no small amount of money on each title, I would never dream of taking those expenses out of authors' royalties because marketing and promotion is my job - not theirs. Nor would I put my own financial neck on the line hoping an author would agree to let me expend some marketing dollars to promote sales - even if I did pay myself back. I'm not following the logic.
 
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The other editors are Debbie Britt-Hay and Jack Noon. Both have been editing and publishing for more than a decade, and are both published authors of fiction and non-fiction books. Jack was at the small indie Moose Country Press, and Debbie does freelance editing as well (http://www.alphaediting.com/).
I looked up the link provided. Debbie has indeed written a couple of nonfiction books in a specialist subject (Jack Russell terriers) and published them with reputable trade publishers. While I think that's utterly great, I'm not sure how that qualifies her to be an editor. The only books she's listed as editing at A-1 have been Kate's self-published novels and another author's self-published non-fiction book, while Debbie herself has co-authored and published a novel with AEG, a vanity press that has its own subforum here at AW. A-1 Editing appears to be largely comprised of editors who have edited books by authors who've gone on to publish with BookSurge, AuthorHouse, PublishAmerica, Tate, and other notorious vanity presses, and is owned by Debbie's mother.

Jack Noon appears to work for the small press that publishes his nonfiction on fishing/hunting in New Hampshire.

Neither editor seems to have any experience editing fiction, particularly spec fic. Debbie's connection with vanity presses doesn't inspire any confidence in me. And I find it a little troubling that the text on the SHP site appears to deliberately mislead readers into thinking that there is no relationship between the press's owners and the authors.
 
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KateKaynak

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U? Deliberately misleading? There's a link for "our people" in the menu bar!
 

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