For better or for worse, crowdsourcing is becoming a dominant way for independent artists to fund their creative endeavours. Specifically Kickstarter seems to be the funding vehicle of choice right now. I’ve supported half a dozen Kickstarter campaigns over the course of the last few weeks, and I feel like I’m starting to see a trend of more campaigns failing to reach their goal. This is especially true for artists undertaking their initial project.
We really appreciate the visits that we get from authors here at TwistedSciFi.com, and we do everything we can to provide content that’s relevant to our audience of authors. If you’re considering using Kickstarter, be sure to take a look at our earlier post Lessons from a Successful Kickstarter Campaign: Interview with Mike Allen.
If you’re evaluating a more traditional publishing route, we encourage you to consider partnering with a small publisher. To assist with this decision, today we are interviewing Russell B. Farr, the founder of Australian independent publisher, Ticonderoga Publications.
For authors who are considering crowdsourcing instead of a traditional publisher, what advice do you have?
I know I’m probably wrong in saying this, but I’d discourage writers from crowdsourcing their first publication. While there are probably numerous success stories, proving me – and the notion that if a work deserves to be published, someone else will – wrong, I think it would generally be a hard sell expecting strangers to part with cash for an unpublished work by an unproven writer.
It’s an interesting century for publishing, and I’d encourage writers to try everything to get the best stories out there. I’d say try the traditional route to publication, but even that is changing with more and more large publishers being open to unsolicited submissions. Try the smaller publishers, as they are still playing an important role in the process.
The fundamental question every writer needs to ask themself is: do you want to spend your time writing, or in sales? If you’re not good at sales, I think you’ll struggle in self-publishing. It’s important that whatever way you choose, it really plays to your strengths as a person.
What are some benefits of working with a small publisher instead of going the self-publishing route or working with a large publishing house?
I can’t speak for all small presses, as it’s a very diverse industry, but I’d like to hope that the benefits of working with TP include our service and world-distribution. While we can’t offer the kind of advance payments of a large publisher (though I’ve heard that these aren’t as large as they used to be), we try to offer our writers a personal, individual service. We want our writers to think that they are respected and valued, that they are an integral part of the creative and production process. All of our writers get considerable input into the cover art and design: we don’t publish a book until the writer is happy with it.
We’re also happy and willing to liaise on behalf of our writers in dealing with conventions and other events. I think that sometimes having a publisher helps with this, and we’ve been able to assist our writers in attending these events. At conventions we’re often behind a dealer table, allowing the writers to network and enjoy the event. When we’re not selling directly, we’re able to have stock for sale through other publishers and dealers.
We’re a good size, in that we offer writers worldwide distribution through Ingram, allowing us to get books into amazon, Barnes and Noble, the Book Depository, and a lot of other stores. At the same time, we’re not as heavily bound by various territorial rights, where books can be available in one country but not another – when we release a book to our distribution channels it is available everywhere at virtually the same time.
I notice that Ticonderoga Publications publishes a lot of anthologies. Can you explain why? Is this an intentional model for Ticonderoga or were you influenced by the artists that you worked with to go this route? Do you also publish stand-alone books or strictly anthologies?
We started publishing single-author collections in the 1990s, because at the time there were a bunch that needed to be done. It was the easiest niche to fit into, where we were able to sell books based on a writer’s recognised body of work. I also think reprint collections are great for writers: they get paid twice for the same story.
I strongly believe in helping and encouraging writers develop, and reprints don’t really provide the opportunity to work with new writers and fresh material. For a long time we were also publishing original stories on our website, Ticon4.com, and about 5 years ago moved into doing original print anthologies. I edited a couple and then my partner, Liz Grzyb, also started putting together anthologies. Liz now edits an annual themed anthology of original stories, and co-edits (with Talie Helene) The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy & Horror that we publish. As we’ve been expanding our catalog I’ve had to take a step back from editing anthologies to focus on our other titles, our novels and collections. Original novels are a new challenge, we’ll have our first of these, Ambassador by Patty Jansen, out next year. Following this we’ll have another standalone novel, and the start of a fantasy series.
As we’re now doing 8-10 books a year, we’re looking to make sure we’re as diverse and across genres as possible. We’d like to offer a good range of fantasy, horror, science fiction, paranormal, short stories and longer works.
Quite a few of the books that you’ve published have won prestigious awards. Is Ticonderoga involved in the submission process for these awards? Do you think authors with publishers have a better chance of getting noticed for certain awards? If so, why?
One of the things we aim to do for all of our works is to enter them in appropriate awards. As I said, we’re not able to shower our writers in cash, so we try to provide our writers a good service. If there’s an award a writer wants to enter, we’ll do it.
I honestly have no idea if being with a publisher helps with awards. I can’t say I’ve noticed a lot of self-publishers winning awards, but I’m not good at remembering these things.
I think writers, editors and publishers are better off focussing on producing the best work possible and let things like awards look after themselves. Make an awesome book, get it in front of as many people as possible, and repeat. If we’ve had any award success, it’s because of the incredible quality of work we’ve been fortunate to be involved with.
From experience, I’m not convinced that awards really influence sales. They feel nice, but if a writer is looking to make a living at this, they really should be doing what they can, and working with their publishers, to sell as many books as possible.
If I’m an author who wants to approach you about getting my work published, what advice would you give to me?
Make the work as good as possible, and then send it. We’re not big on cover letters, we’d rather you put the time to producing a great novel than having a shiny intro letter. We’ll read your submission (or a fair part of it) regardless of the cover letter. Full guidelines are here.
If you’re a writer looking to publish a collection of stories, probably just an email query is best. We’re fairly good at keeping up with writers on our radar, so there’s a chance we might be familiar with your work.
About: Russell B. Farr I love genre fiction, and grew up in houses where there were plenty of books. The ones I loved most of all were the ones that fed my generally overactive imagination, sf, fantasy, crime and mystery. I loved books, and relished every moment I could spend reading. In the mid-90s I found myself in the company of Jonathan Strahan, Jeremy G. Byrne and Richard Scriven, who at the time were the driving force of Eidolon magazine. Through them I got a taste for the world of small press. At this time I started reading the vastly underrated (and, at the time I write this, recently departed and sadly missed) Steven Utley. In a moment of blind courage, I asked him if I could publish a collection of his stories, as no one had already done this. He said yes, and I got to experience a new love, a love of putting books together. Of bringing the fantastic visions of others into the world and into the hands of readers. I’m not a writer, I lack neither the drive nor the discipline to do that. I do have a desire to try to leave the world a slightly better place than I found it. I guess that’s what I’m trying to do.