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Putting Your Best Foot Forward

My blog today is going to be a little different than my usual posts.  Today I have the honor of interviewing the amazing Karen Syed, President of Echelon Press.  Why is she amazing you ask?  Well I think the answer to that question will become quite clear after you read my interview.  Before we delve into the interview, I’d like to tell you why I think Karen, her company, and the work she is doing earned the title amazing.  Imagine being an author (if you’re not one already), and imagine writing a book.  You have this wonderful creation in your hands.  I can only liken it to a child, if you haven’t written one.  You have this amazing thing, and you want the best for it, you want it to succeed in life, you want people to like it, and I’ll stop there hoping you get the idea.

The question that is left is, what do you do to get all the things you wanted for your book?  Everybody recommends finding an agent.  Easier said than done.  Everything about trying to get your book published was difficult, or so I thought.  Then I was introduced to Echelon Press and Karen Syed.  With that being said, take everything you know about book publishers, walk over to the closest window, and chuck it.  Karen’s company is rewriting what it means to be a publishing company.  The largest of the houses fear what is coming in the changing market of books with the dawning of eBooks and eStores.  Echelon Press is not only embracing this future, but paving the way.

The Interview

How much does an author’s personality figure into you working with them?

For me, personality is a huge aspect. I have made a point to try and personally know every author I bring into Echelon Press. It’s crucial for an author to have the personality and ability to connect with people in any situation. Often at events there will be people who want to criticize or talk down to an author whose work they don’t see as “worthy.” On the other side of the coin, there will be those people who are so smitten with them that they will want to hang on their every word and monopolize their time. Authors often need to be diplomats.

I often hear authors say how shy they are, and this drives me insane. Okay, you’re shy, so in the world go into a career that puts you in front of people all the time? Hel-lo!

How strongly do you follow what is trending? Do you only publish what is hot now?

Oh rubbish! I am not a fan of trends. Think about it, a trend is a pattern that has already happened. Why would you put all your eggs in that basket? What’s hot now may be lukewarm tomorrow and who’s to say what is hot. We all have opinions and they are almost always different, so who decides what is hot or not? Millions of readers think James Patterson is hot (as an author, not a man) but I have not been able to finish a single one of his books. I just don’t like them. Not to say he isn’t a wonderful man, I’m sure he is. I just don’t like his writing.

Same with Janet Evonavich. Readers lover her books, I hate them. No offense to her, just my personal taste. I think that the publishing industry needs to focus more on originality and less on rewriting the same stories.

Is it more difficult to be an author trying to get published, or being a publisher working with first-time authors?

They are so different. On one hand, being an author trying to get published is like trying to get your first job. You have no experience, and you have to get a job to get experience, but you can’t get a job because you have no experience.

On the other hand, being a publisher working with a first-time author is horrible. They are insecure, they are arrogant, and they are overly enthusiastic about finding the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Most of them think that they will write that first book, it will sell tens of thousands of copies, and they will make hundreds of thousands of dollars. It is almost impossible to fight this battle with them as the myth just keeps getting told and we all want to believe it.

I’m sure you have found the internet to be an invaluable marketing tool; can you think of any disadvantages to it that can be detrimental to book marketing?

Oh yeah! No one seems to understand that in almost all instances what you put up on the Internet is going to be there for as long as the Internet exists. What you post on your Blog on a really bad day will still be there years later when you least want it to be. I am a blogger and I have bad days. I post all kinds of crap, but I try to make certain that it won’t hurt me or anyone else now or later.

When a writer sets out to be an author (I believe a writer writes, an author gets published) they must make a commitment to behave in the most professional manner possible. Getting published means you are putting yourself out there for all the world to see. The other thing that tends to make the Internet dangerous is the frequency of myths and misinformation. Anyone can say anything whether it’s true or not and that is always an uphill battle.

What is your favorite reward, job, or even part of being a publisher?

My favorite part of being a publisher is finding the talent. I love the feeling inside me when I read a manuscript that moves me. I love being able to hear the pride in an author’s voice when they hold that first book in their hands.

How do you feel about literary agents?  Do you think the benefits of having one outweigh the costs?  Do you recommend authors having one?

Okay, I will infuriate agents everywhere with this answer, but I’m not a big fan. An agent gets a portion of an author’s income for doing something that an author can well do for themselves. Okay, perhaps after an author has had a few things published and they have learned the business end of things, an agent can help them. But when an author sets all their hope on getting an agent to get published, they miss out on valuable education in the industry.

I’ve also had some very bad experiences with agents. I’ve gotten submissions that were simply horrible. I’ve gotten query letters from agents riddled with mistakes. There’s one agency that has sent me dozens of submissions, despite the fact not a single one of them has adhered to our submission guidelines. I’ve told them we are not interested and yet they continue to send submissions.

I don’t think an author should be too willing to give away money they haven’t made yet. So my advice is, get your feet wet in the business before you drop your fate into the hands of someone who isn’t as committed to your success as you.

As a publisher, what would you rather have submitted to you, a poorly written novel with a great story line, or an extremely well written novel with plot holes or a weak plot?  Which is easier to fix?

I would definitely prefer a  great story that is well-written, but if you make me choose, then I would pick a great story that needed extensive edits. Anyone can learn to edit, but storytelling is a gift.

How ironclad are contracts?  Have you, or an author, ever tried to renegotiate before or after a book has been released?

Our contracts are pretty standard and they are what they are. I won’t normally renegotiate a contract and I can’t honestly think of a reason to do it. Unless of course an author gets Oprah or Ellen to bring them on the show, then I might add an extra percent to their royalties.

Karen and some of her wonderful authors at the Printers Row Festival in Chicago

  1. July 16, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    Excellent interview! Full of interesting and great information, as well as a fun read.

    Just curious if publishers have a set number of books they will publish, ebook or paper, per year. Or does it depend on what works they find? If it is a set number, is it hard to choose which will become published?

  2. July 16, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    PS 😀
    Another question, how often do your authors work together on marketing?
    I know how important marketing is, how about an e-book author campaign; “Save the trees! Read e-books!” 😀

  3. July 16, 2010 at 2:52 pm

    Most publishers have a set number and schedule. I try, I really do, but sometimes I don’t have enought to put up, or I have too many to choose from and I end up doing more than I should.

    We used to do 12 paperbacks per year, but it just didn’t work for us. Now I am doing 2 eBooks per month and I pick and choose my paperbacks as I see fit. We do have set release dates, but not neccessarily (how the hell do you spell that?) on a regular basis.

    Like right now our paperback submissions are closed, but with our eBooks if something sell particularly well and we have a huge request for it in paper, we will seriously consider it.

    Some books just don’t sell, no matter how much I love them or how great I think they are, so paper is not always the best route to go.

    Hey, want one of my eBook FREE? Tell me which one. You can find a full list at http://mariadkins.com/sassy-gal-blog-tour

  4. July 16, 2010 at 3:02 pm

    I do have a few authors who work together on things. But most seem standoffish about it. I think there is definitely power in numbers. Even with inter-publisher mingling.

    Promo is promo and any of my authors will tell you that I am an uber promo whore. It’s kinda scary, m ostly for them though. LOL

    I think promoting eBooks is twice as important as marketing a paperback. Paperbacks, kinda feed themselves, not to say you shouldn’t market, but when marketing an eBook, you don’t always have a tangible object and that makes it easier for people to overlook it.

    I think protecting the environment is an excellent tool for promoting eBooks.


  5. July 16, 2010 at 3:10 pm

    Oooh thank you! Your books all look wonderful, Dark Shines My Love has the catchiest title, but I’m not picky. I do love romance 🙂

    More and more people I know are starting to read e-books, but so many still stick with paperbacks. I think authors should really promote them more.

    I’m surprised I do not see a lot of authors promoting together. I’ve sold crafts/art etc in the past and have been in Design Teams that promote the groups work together. It was always very well received and sales certainly increased. I would think it would certainly work well even with authors who write different genres, a larger market would then be available to everyone.
    I should have written all of this in my marketing strategy. LOL My brain is a day late with ideas 🙂

    • July 16, 2010 at 3:15 pm

      I don’t understand the standoffish attitude that some authors have. Everyone I have had the pleasure of communicating with has been more than helpful in getting the word out about my works, as well as being extremely grateful for my help in putting the word out about theirs. Maybe I’ve just been lucky in who I’ve made friends with in the various social media platforms.

  6. July 16, 2010 at 3:18 pm

    Interesting interview and so true on all counts. I would like to add, as a newly published author with echelon press, two things: 1) working with karen is one of the most down to earth and pleasant experiences, and 2) author’s need a thick skin. Expect criticism, learn from it but don’t over analyze. Karen is right, with the internet anyone can say anything and it won’t always be nice.

  7. July 16, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    Getting the word out is more than just word of mouth. That word only travels so far.

    Bookstores, libraries, even readers do like tangible evidence of a book, even if it is an eBook.

    I have authors who think it is a waste of time to send bookmarks for eBooks to libraries. Hel-lo! Libraries have computers and a lot of them now have devices for reading eBooks as well as being able to get eBooks through their library off the Internet.

    My library is part of the Maryland Consortium and we can get eBooks and audio books from their web site. It’s pretty cool.

  8. July 16, 2010 at 11:03 pm

    Nice interview, Sean 🙂

    • July 16, 2010 at 11:35 pm

      Thanks, Jon! My twitter friends asked most of the questions. Made it alot easier and interesting.

  9. July 17, 2010 at 3:27 am

    GOOD INTERVIEW with, clearly, a really really difficult subject.
    Maybe next you’ll tackle somebody who will actually respond! (;-)

  10. August 24, 2010 at 6:27 pm

    Thanx for putting this content here. It is purely informative, especially for me.

  1. January 2, 2011 at 8:12 am

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