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Richard Nash Publishing 3.0

Well worth the 30 minutes, check out Richard Nash talking about the next step, maybe, in publishing --> 3.0 (link from catsparx).

Video here.


On building a publishing house

Things are very busy at Twelfth Planet Press right now. In a good way - in a contagious, productive vibe kind of way. In the last couple of weeks, it's started to really feel like a "house" for the first time. It's always been more than me behind the scenes - Tansy and Ben were there from the beginning and then Tehani came on board and it's been some combination of us collaborating on most projects.

But this year, I was a little nervous because for the first time I'm not coediting, I'm editing all the projects on my own. And that alone is a very big job - 6 projects for 2010, and not sharing that workload with anyone. I don't have anyone to doublecheck decisions. And I don't have anyone to share the driving force behind any of the projects. That makes it easy for any one project to get forgotten, or to be thought of as too hard, and procrastinated on. Especially if I'm still very busy working on others. And on top of it, being both editor and publisher is also a big workload. They are very discrete roles and both are equally time consuming. So balancing the publishing and editing is a finely tuned task in itself.

And I think maybe I thought that this would make working at Twelfth Planet Press both completely overwhelming (workloadwise) but also solitary. It turns out that it has been completely the opposite case. Firstly, my good friend Tehani has not completely abandoned me for her new FableCroft venture. She is still working at proofing and advising and reminding and marketing and promoting and throwing ideas at me. And she's still there for bouncing ideas off. And polishing all the final drafts till they shine. And Tansy is also still around for editing advice. And the awesome Amanda has come on board as the Art Department, as I like to call her. So from the production end, there is a lot of hubbub and tooing and froing.

And then there's this big jump that I'm trying to make in more of a hop, skip and a jump rather than one giant leap. I'm in the process of growing Twelfth Planet Press, taking it further in the direction that I would like for it to go. That's meant some changes in the way that I have been doing things - most importantly in terms of cash flow and timelines.

Up until now, the way I have operated is that initially we put seed money into the first projects and then when enough sales had returned enough seed money for a new project, a new project went ahead. And as more projects came online, and the long tail was still coming in for older projects (sales for a book project have preorders, the ramp up of sales on release, and then the long tail of the rest of the sales over time), more projects could come online sooner. And so it was that I did electronic projects (which never returned seed money), and then two titles in 2008, and four titles in 2009. Six titles are scheduled for 2010.

The urgency to grow at this pace comes out of wanting to produce the full vision of the press as quickly as possible. As reviews and feedback come in with each new project, the audience forms an idea of who you are based on what you have done and I want to very quickly put out as diverse an array of titles as I can within my vision for Twelfth Planet Press in order to both brand the house and also to capture the attention of readers, writers and booksellers. Additionally, the bigger the backlist you have, the more chance you have of promoting your press to booksellers and distributors, and ultimately to a greater readership.

So there are six titles scheduled for 2010, spanning anthologies, collections, our first novel and more in the novella/novella doubles series. And the plan is to use Worldcon as a launching pad for the kind of sales you'd need to generate to make six titles released in one year viable. That all works except for one little important fact I forgot until very recently - cashflow. You see, you need to pay the printer, the authors, the artists, the designer, the table space at the con, the advertising, the merchandising and so on. And you need to pay for all these things up front. And that would be where the waiting for the seed money from the last project coming forward to pay for the next one kicks in. A quick sum would show I produced 4 books last year and 4 books is less than 6. Yeah. That hurt me, too.

And that's of course where presales come in. There are all kinds of consumers out there - there are early adopters and uber-organised people who like to buy things as soon as they are available or who like to buy things as soon as they see them and then can forget about having to organise to buy them later. These people preorder books (I like to preorder books - that way when the book arrives months later, it's like a gift from the you of the past, or a book bought with someone else's money). And then there are the people who hear about books from book reviews or from your promotion, or who see you talk at a panel or were at your book launch, or wander past your table at a convention and pick up the book or who hear about it from word of mouth. These people buy your book in person. And they help bump up book sales on release of your book. (Sometimes I'm this person too - I like to see the shiny and then own it!). And then there's the longtail - this is the sale that keeps on giving. These sales come from further word of mouth, more reviews, awards shortlistings or wins, bookstores and libraries and so on. (I'm also this person - I am currently providing long tail kick in for single author collections and feminist SF published before I was involved in the scene.) I kind of hope that I have hit close to break even somewhere after the initial sales of the book release (maybe a couple of months later but still close to), which makes the long tail meaningful because it's the part of the process that pushes the book into "viable" and also brings in cashflow to support growth in the press. This is the bit that I was banking on kicking in to take me over the line and into 6 books viability territory.

Except that I forgot one important thing! Timelines! I want to put all those books out at once so the long tail of book 1 can't pay the seed for book 6. And that would be where the balancing of my cashflow comes in. That was an *interesting* lesson to learn.

The other lesson I am learning is again related to timelines. If I want to better manage my long tails, and I want to increase my initial sales, I need to do better in terms of prelaunch publicity and marketing. And to do that, I need to have book galleys ready well in advance of the book release date and out to book reviewers well ahead of time. For example, to get a review in Locus, you need to send the book for review about 3 months in advance. And the same is true for a lot of the big newspaper outlets in the US. And many will only review the book galley and ahead of the book release date. Up until now, I haven't been remotely able to deliver on that kind of timeframe.

But I have to. So this year is all about working timelines so that we can do this from now on. And that means that I am currently also working on 2011 projects whilst simultaneously working on my 2010 schedule. And if you've followed along on my maths up until now, you'll have guessed that I have more than six projects in my 2011 lineup. And the bit I haven't yet wrapped my head around is that I probably need to be starting to think about 2012 projects and be working on an 18 month ahead timeframe. If I think too hard about this, it does my head in (though to be fair, I think I have two projects already pencilled in). And it certainly is quite interesting in thinking about how you remotely stay on the cusp of the industry when working this far out from release dates.

And so this would be the bit where it's really starting to feel like a publishing house around here. I have so many writers that I am in touch with now on a daily basis that my inbox is all abuzz with writing and ideas and concepts and so on. It's so much fun! I'm looking forward to talking more about the 2011 lineup which is looking really exciting but so much of it is in the initial planning stage that I'll wait until later in the year, when I have firmer details to release. But I will say that this is one of my favourite bits - glimpsing the beginnings of books and seeing new ideas start to evolve and form and grow.

It's a lot of fun!

Submissions Call for 2011 Anthology

Twelfth Planet Press is announcing a reading period for Speakeasy, a new anthology to be launched at Natcon50 in Perth 2011.

With Prohibition in full force in the US, speakeasies were all the rage, cocaine was still legal and the Charleston, the Shimmy and The Bunny Hog were in their heyday! Art deco influenced the faces of cities, jazz music was widely popular, eyeshadow was very heavy, the women's suffrage movement made major progress and movies got sound. The Roaring Twenties was the era of Charlie Chaplin, Joan Crawford, Albert Einstein, Greta Garbo and Niels Bohr. King George V was on the throne in the UK, Mussolini had power in Italy, Hitler wrote Mein Kampf and King Tutankhamun's tomb was discovered.

Speakeasy is a roaring, lively and exciting new original anthology, edited by Alisa Krasnostein and published by Twelfth Planet Press. It will blend art deco with urban fantasy, the Charleston with the vampire and the flapper with the noir detective. It will be fast paced, action packed and well dressed. Stories in the vein of Dorothy Parker's "Flappers: A Hate Song" will also be considered.

Stories for Speakeasy should be original, unpublished fantasy stories of between 2,500 wds and 7,500 wds, set in the 1920s and fun.

How: send your submission in rtf attachment to submissions@twelfthplanetpress.com
Length: stories should be between 2 500 and 7 500 words
Submissions will open June 1 and close September 30, 2010.
Payment: AUS$50 per story

Shiny Issue 6

The final issue of Shiny - Issue 6 - is now available!

I’m very sad to farewell Shiny, but farewell it I must, as Issue 6 is to be our final issue. We’ve had so much fun and found this project so rewarding. I would like to thank Tansy, Ben and Tehani who have acted in various roles for this project along the way – slush readers, editors, proof readers, reviewers and layout designers. We have learned many things along the way and this little ezine has been more successful than we could ever have imagined.

Thank you, reader, for coming along and sharing this ride with us. This final issue sends Shiny off with a bang with Dirk Flinthart’s moving and thought provoking story (with pirates! and princes!), “One Story, No Refunds”, Patti Kurtz’s emotive “Language Lessons” and a reprinting of Deborah Biancotti’s award winning story “Scar for Leida”.

Shiny Issue 6 (see Shiny website for other issues)

Shiny Issue 6

Heh - that title is a tad tongue in cheek [1] but my thoughts have been turning to single author collections a lot lately. It's often said, in Australian specfic circles, and you know, behind the closed doors where critics talk in lowered voices, that many (male) authors are collected too early in their careers and that female authors tend to be collected well passed when they should have been. Certainly more male authors are collected in Australian specfic. I note that there was only one female author collection on the Aurealis Awards shortlist this year for the Collection category.

I enjoyed both working on A Book of Endings and the finished outcome so much that I've certainly put single author collections front and centre as a serious line for future Twelfth Planet Press publishing schedules. For 2010, I have a boutique collection of related stories by Marianne de Pierres called Glitter Rose. And I already have several other single author collections in development for 2011 and beyond. This is not to say that I am not open to other collections on this timescale but that I have already given the subject much thought.

Working on A Book of Endings made me think a lot about the kind of product that I thought a single author collection should be. And deborahb also had a lot of strong ideas about what her collection should look like. I certainly thought from the outset that she was one such author who was being collected too late. But even so, we were always very clear that not all her previously published work would make the cut. We always felt that this collection should cherry pick the very best of her work but also collect together the most cohesive pieces, those that best worked together and resounded with each other, to create a new, greater work. We wanted to present a book that had its own narrative, that strongly presented Biancotti and that gave a strong and clear commentary of her body of work. We wanted her debut collection to summarise who she is as a writer, and hint at where she might be going next (as done with 6 new works).

A debut collection is a critical milestone in the writer's career. It's the first clear statement that the writer has a body of work to speak of and that this body of work is worthy of consideration as a whole. It stands as a historical archive of the writer's initial works, that's true. But what it should not be is an archive, collecting every piece ever published. Consider maybe the first 10 (but probably longer) years stretch of a writer's career. I'd say there would be very few writers who hit their stride in the first 5 to 10, dare I say 20, pieces of fiction ever published. At the beginning of a writing career thoughts are to getting published at all, to developing voice and style and narrative. To experimentation and to discovery of one's self. Some will be hits and some will not be. All will serve a purpose in the journey but not all should find a significant place in the Body of Work. I follow most Australian short story writers as they get published locally and then in bigger local and then international outlets. I watch their development of tone, style and hopefully proficiency. For most writers, I think it takes a few years to emerge with a clear individual subject/theme narrative. I can name the writers for whom I look out for their next work to see what else they are saying or have worked through on the issues they tend to be exploring in their work.

To me, a debut collection is almost a declaration, a promise. Of battles won and of wars to be waged. Or of lessons learned and skills developed and new challenges to be taken up. A debut collection says to the world "Here I Am!" It also says, "Judge me now." A debut collection is a calling card, a cv to submit to bigger and brighter job applications. It says, "This is what I can do, let me try that now..."

So, what am I saying? I think that when considering doing a collection, it should not (and it isn't for me) just be a matter of, "Well I've had 40 publications now, I'm ready for a collection." When I look at a collection, I look at number of publications, outlets for these, awards shortlisted/nominated/won, and cohesiveness of the work. I look for themes, exploration and development across these themes, depth/strength of message or a group of short stories that can be pulled together to show an examination of an idea or topic, maybe from different perspectives or an evolution of an idea. I look at whether I can construct a narrative by pulling together certain works.

I think at the point at which a writer is no longer working on reacting to editors, and at trying to get stories published, and rather is focussed on doing their own thing, and when that thing is interesting, this is the point where I am interested in reading their collection. Because that is the point at which they have become an interesting writer with potential. And that, to me, is sellable.

[1] And refers to the Australian Opposition Leader's recent statements about virginity being the greatest gift a woman can give her husband.

Temporary Shop

I've unfortunately lost my shop pages on the Twelfth Planet Press website. I'm currently working to get the function back up as fast as I can but in the meantime, purchases for our books can be made via the following buttons. If you have a question, would like to roll purchases into one parcel to save on postage etc, please fee free to email me at twelfthplanetpress @ gmail dot com (remove the spaces and replace with .)

Roadkill/Siren Beat by Robert Shearman/Tansy Rayner Roberts

Roadkill/Siren Beat

A Book of Endings by Deborah Biancotti

A Book of Endings

Horn by Peter M Ball is currently out of stock. There will be a new printing within the next month. Prepay for your copy now:

Novella: Horn


New Ceres Nights anthology edited by Alisa Krasnostein and Tehani Wessely

New Ceres Nights

Angel Rising by Dirk Flinthart

Angel Rising

2012 anthology edited by Alisa Krasnostein and Ben Payne


Shiny Issue 6 (see Shiny website for other issues)

Shiny Issue 6


Finally back into the swing of things

It's well and truly into January and the start of 2010. Whilst I did work on Twelfth Planet Press projects over my Xmas/New Year break, a bunch of personal stuff happened in the first week of this year that meant I was too tired and too busy to get properly stuck into the massive to do list.

Yesterday I finally made the realisation that I may never catch up on my sleep and I might just have to grab the editing by the horns and jump on the beast. And funnily enough, as I started to wade in and make a little progress, the mind fog lifted and I found myself feeling like I was getting somewhere and feeling like my brain was once again engaged. Number 1 rule for breaking the negative mindset - find one easy task to do and complete. Then find another.

So, yesterday I managed to approve and sign off on two new ads, make some enquiries about moving web server host, sold out the last copies of Horn, provided feedback on a Sprawl submission, sent receipts to some novelette submissions, entered some TPP sales into the finance spreadsheet and proofed one of the stories for Shiny 6.

Onwards and upwards.


5 Lies Writers Believe About Editors

Thanks to Alan Baxter who tweeted the link to this post by Jeremiah Tolbert - 5 Lies Writers Believe About Editors.

I've been wanting to write a post about my recent ongoing adventures as an indie publisher. I have a bunch of different measures for gauging the way I track my progress in this venture. Some of them are obvious - bottom line, book sales, source of invoice requests, reviews and review outlets, buzz, award nominations, slush (who submits to you and what they submit). Some of them are quantifiable and some are not.

One of the things though that I have been struggling with is the way sometimes I feel like Ms No. The shortlistings of Twelfth Planet Press books and short stories in the Aurealis Awards dramatically increased the number of emails, pitches, requests and opportunities that started to be directed my way. Which is really cool. I'm constantly looking to learn and grow and evolve as an editor and publisher and the more opportunities that come my way, the greater chance that I can do this. The trick though of course, is in the picking of which things to opt in and which to opt out of. Which ultimately will tell whether I am on or totally off mark.

And so I have come to realise that the number of times I use the word "No" in a week is a new measure. I hate saying No. But just like slushing stories, if I want to be a gatekeeper, that means I have to, well, stand at the gate and check the pockets of all who enter. Slushing 70 submissions to Sprawl was hard because I knew I was only able to buy so few of them and that would mean so many rejection letters. It was harder than say slushing for Shiny because now there are more and more names that I recognise in my slush pile. It doesn't change my objectives or the way I operate it just means that there is this hard bit at the end - the sitting down and the writing of "No".

So too I have begun to get deluged by all sorts of requests for things - requests for internships, all sorts of artists and designers requesting work, lots and lots of pitches for projects. And I've had moments where I've thought, "but I'm just me, and this laptop here." It can get overwhelming at times, if only because I need to sit down and write all these polite declines. At the same time, it's pretty cool because I can glimpse a bit of where I want to be and that maybe, just maybe, if I stay on track, be clear about what my own vision and direction is and stick with it, there's a chance I might just get where I want to go. Maybe. After all, luck is still a pretty big player in this game.

But back to the article, I love the 5 lies that Tolbert debunks. Yep, not every story deserves fair consideration. Any serious time slushing will teach that. Also, editors reject good stories - stories get rejected for a bunch of reasons. In terms of Sprawl, I had a very clear tone I was looking for in the stories that I hope will overarch the anthology as a whole. This meant I did reject a story if it didn't fit with the tone, some were still good stories and will easily find homes elsewhere. I hope that the call for submissions excited writers to write stories that they otherwise wouldn't have written and that the spread of the suburban story goes out far and wide into other publications.

The third lie - that editors don't foster writers like they used to - is a really interesting one. Tolbert debunks it. But it reminds me of a really interesting discussion I had at cassiphone's house on xmas day with her dad and then several times later on as I mulled it over.

I very definitely work behind the scenes with certain writers. And I have had some very definite results with several (stay tuned for two I am really proud of in the 2010 lineup). Just because an editor isn't fostering you, doesn't mean that the mentoring is not going on. I am also aware that I am gradually building up my own stable of writers. This is something that I have mixed feelings about. Tolbert says: Editors do build a stable of writers. The reason most people don’t see it is because by the time you come along, the editor has already established a group of authors he or she can count on. But short story writers in particular are always going on to write novels, so openings do occur from time to time.

If you really want feedback on your work, join a workshop or critique circle. It’s not the editor’s job to help you become a better writer. Sometimes, we’re helpful, but we can’t do it for everyone.

cassiphone's dad and I were discussing the waves of publishing. He was talking about how new waves (which come from small presses which spot and foster new and fresh talent, build writer loyalty and a stable for their houses) come in and destabilise the status quo which has become stagnant and old. The new wave is fresh and different and so is appealing to readers but of course inevitably it too is destined to become the stale status quo and cycle is repeated. I don't want to become stagnant and old :P

Read the rest of his post, it's well worth it:

“Editors are just like us.” No, we’re not. You don’t have a neverending stream of bad writing coming at you day in, day out. You get to read for pleasure, selecting material that has been through at least one filter. Whereas you turn on the tap and get a stream of nice drinkable water, we put our mouths to a sewer pipe and hope to get at least one swallow that won’t give us raging diarrhea.

There's fun moments along the route to anthology production that stand out in your memory of the experience. These tend to be the only bits you recall (conveniently forgetting the painful ones) when you decide to go through the process all over again.

I'm currently at perhaps the most exciting part of the process for Sprawl. Submissions for the anthology close on Sunday. They've been trickling in for months and have started to really pick up pace now. Interest has been pretty strong and I'll admit that I've been peeking at the stories - partly because I can't resist and partly to avoid a massive task of having to sit down to a huge pile of reading after Sunday. I've read over half of the submissions, I've accepted one story and earmarked a couple more. At this stage, I'll wait until all the stories have come in before I start making any definite decisions.

But as I stood back yesterday and looked at the stories I had earmarked so far, I realised how breathtaking this part of the process is - months ago I put together the idea for Sprawl, bounced the idea round with some friends, knocked up the guidelines and put them out there, hoping they would capture the imagination of writers and readers. I have a very clear idea about the tone I am looking for and the kind of story that, to me, is "suburban fantasy". And I'm slowly sifting through the submissions pile and pulling out the ones that are the reality of this vision. And as I looked at what I'm thinking of taking, I was blown away by how cool it is to get to watch this process. You put something out there that writers riff off, they throw in their own version and ideas and commentary and send it back to you. And all you had was just an idea, an amorphous cloud of a thing, and slowly, as you buy stories, you start to turn that idea into an object - a table of contents, internal content of a book that other people will hopefully want to read. And it's never really what you thought it would be - and hopefully it's much much better than that.

Right now I'm excited to open each submission and read it and see which I fall in love with. I try to take stories that I love, that demand my attention, that absorb me, emotionally engage me or make me think in ways I hadn't before. Stories that leave me buzzing. But at about now in the process, I'm also looking at what I'm picking up, across the board - what will interplay, what riffs off what, what kind of a feel the whole is starting to have. Will it be themetically linked or will it be a collection of strong stoies in a common genre?

I love watching books happen. This is the bit about editing for me that's really addictive - getting to read the stories before everyone else and seeing what everyone did with the challenge!

And sometimes it's the little things

Sometimes it's not about the big things, sometimes, it's the tiniest detail that makes a difference. Personally, I'm the kind of person who can very easily avoid doing something that will take literally two minutes and put it off for later. Even after all this time, when I have learned that doing something that takes two minutes now, even if it is slightly out of my way, could save much much greater hassle later in time, I still probably won't do it straight away.

Finally, after I wrote out the last return address onto the envelope that broke my return address camel's back, I spent an afternoon a couple of months ago designing some return address sticky labels for Twelfth Planet Press. And every single time I wander into the office, grab a label and stick it on an envelope, or *even better* grab an envelope with the sticker already stuck on, I smile at not having to write out the address. And I wonder why I didn't sort the stickers sooner. Such a little thing. So much joy for the saved pain.

The other little detail is acknowledging submission emails. After two years of not doing this, and avoiding probably over a thousand emails of acknowledgement I've now completely changed my approach. The one or two emails every now and then querying a submission or asking for acknowledgement of a submission really used to irritate me. When I am drowning in emails, which is very often (any day that I haven't stayed on top of the emails as they come in), the most irritating email to receive is one asking about the email sitting 6 down in the queue. Answering the query email takes time away from dealing with the original email etc etc. Now, I have taken to sending a one sentence email acknowledgement as I am entering the submission into the tracking spreadsheet - grab all the info, add it, shoot off a "thanks for the submission", file the email. Done. Takes two minutes and saves sooooo much stress at annoying emails later. Plus, I like the professionalism of the acknowledgement email.