This post is regarding comments posted on a ‘writers’ blog.
IFWG Publishing is an honest, up-front small press, helping authors get a leg up in a tough industry, and promising no more than what we can deliver, and what we state we can deliver. Once in a while people will sensibly ask others if they have heard of us, and opinions, facts, and sometime incorrect statements, will be aired. The World Wide Web is a wonderful beast, and one of its strengths is that it is open and is mostly accessible for most of the world to use. The downside is that if an untruth or misleading statement is made, it can stick around a long time like a bad smell and many people can, and will, read it and believe it. In other words, the democracy of the Internet implies that everyone is equal, including idiots and miscreants.
Randy and I have decided to write a lengthy response to a particularly ugly set of statements made by a few ‘forum Nazis’ (of which there are many in the world, and most public facing forums seem to have at least one clique with them), not to debate them, but to try to ensure that we have our opportunity to have our say. We wont be debating further, because forum Nazis like to prolong debates (read ‘win them at all costs’, ‘damn the torpedoes’)—we will have said our piece for the ‘world’ to consider.
We both have a lot to say, so if you are willing to bear with it, and have an interest, read on—noting that the format is to directly address points made by the forum Nazis.
Jasmine calls one of us a 'gem' (thanks Jas) and yet others in the same forum consider our co-owned company as 'worrisome', nepotistic (or alternatively, set up to publish ourselves), are self publishers (and are avoiding the label), wont support some of our authors when we tighten our genre scope, that our book covers (inferring majority) consist of clipart, that we are exclusively POD, and don't understand publishing terminology.
These views are disturbingly, and completely wrong. The reason why they are disturbing is that they were presented within a membership forum but public facing, which doesn’t make it necessarily easy for those who are attacked to respond. Additionally, the authors make strong statements while being in the comfort zone of anonymity, behind their avatars.
Based on the poor research, knowledge and logic provided in many of the statements, we are underwhelmed by most of the forum authors.
IFWG Publishing began about a year ago, with the express purpose to help new authors climb the vocational ladder. We started small and had a business plan. We figured that authors who joined with us would get the step up—not the ten rungs that the big 6 can provide (although that is debatable to an extent, see below), or the 5 rungs that the mid-range publishers provide, but up a few nevertheless. Initially we constructed a hybrid model, where we would publish some authors traditionally (see definition below), and given our resource constraints, we would provide some services in assisting in self publishing, although with the proviso that a modicum of quality was present (this last point truly made it hybrid, and unusual). It didn't take long to discover that the hybrid model was not feasible, and so we bit the bullet and we transitioned quickly to traditional (again, MM, definition below), which was our ultimate goal. We have published 6 titles and three magazine editions thus far, and by end of December we will have published 11 titles (three are coming out in the next four weeks) and four magazines. We only started publishing titles from January, and that means our business plan is on target—we aim to publish 10 to 12 titles per year.
Our hybrid model was VERY short lived and in fact we have NOT published one word where the author had to pay—all our authors paid NOTHING (oops, sorry Terrie et al.—we don't and never have self published).
We are a company that is run by authors for authors. There are 4 of us, based in New Jersey, Missouri, Australia and England. We think we are pretty good authors, but time will tell (nothing else will, not even you, MM). Of the eleven titles that will be published this year, two will have been by members of the company. One of the remainder is an anthology of short stories (41 authors, most of whom were unpublished), and the other eight are debut writers—each and every one of them. The amount of work to edit, proof, InDesign format internal block, etc is HUGE. The cost also accumulates as we publish with worldwide wholesale distribution (through Ingram, same used by the big 6), along with epublishing. Do you honestly think we are doing this work in order to prop up our own novels? As I said, we think we're pretty good writers, and we do get the work peer reviewed, and edited, and proofed etc. With what we have done, there is no guilt whatsoever (sorry CaoPaux for contradicting you, but at least your head doesn't have to hurt anymore).
Along with publishing titles, we also publish our own journal (SQ Magazine), again overwhelmingly to help new authors. Again peer reviewed—we have a dedicated editor. Ralan.com and Duotrope.com vetted us and are happy to advertise our mag (and Ralan is also happy to advertise our seeking submissions for titles—Ralan pays particular attention to avoid self publishers). Daniel Pearlman kindly submitted a short story which we will publish next month in SQ Magazine #2. Things are going well—all we need now is more good press and at the least an opportunity for people to sample our wares (oops, came to the wrong place for that).
Regarding our authors—we are very happy how things are running. Jack Eason, author of Onet's Tale, got a 4 out of 5 stars rating by Paul Goat Allen, Barnes and Noble's Specfic reviewer. Biola Olatunde is a writer from Nigeria and we are EXTREMELY proud that we have given her a break for her excellent adventure/social commentary, Blood Contract—if you think it is hard to get a break in the US, England or Australia, try Nigeria. Hey, why don't you write to some of our authors (other than Linda, who kindly already responded) and ask them how we perform—or are primary sources hard to swallow? (perhaps it is, and goes with a hurting head).
Stating it again, we are a small company and we have a clear, modest, business plan, and we believe we make a difference. We believe that we will grow and our authors will grow with us. We know that most authors fail to get published, and of those that do, the vast majority start humbly indeed and make little money—we believe we are a facilitator in this difficult process and all signs are showing that it is working. Aside from recognition by Ralan, Duotrope, etc, our authors are finding they are eligible for submissions to awards that require legitimate (read traditional, MM) publishing as a criterion for entry—and categorically state that self published works are ineligible. The industry accepts us as a small press, the only people who don't are a small scattering of armchair quarterbacks (quaint US term), in a variety of forums and wikis. Who critiques the critics? We know you guys aren't in that category, don't we?
We are figuring that Momento Mori (MM) may be the alpha forum Nazi in this particular eco-system, and it is her/his (can’t tell, with the anonymity) commentary that most perplexes us, and disgusts. Why be so volatile? Why filter the data gathered from our site? Why bother going into such depth? Why so quick to respond, and change the tack of attack in different postings? We believe that whatever the motivation, it isn’t particularly flattering. One thing is clear is that MM, despite the rhetoric, is clearly not an expert in the field of publishing. We find it interesting that someone claiming to be an author would slam a company who is simply making a way for unknown authors to get a foot in the door. We never claimed that we would kick the door open, just that we would do our very best.
The following itemization addresses most of her/his points made over a few postings (again, not to debate, but to set our point of view for a fair hearing):
1. Advances - we assert on our website that payment of royalty advances are 'disappearing' or 'diminishing in size'. Note that the wording is not in absolute terms—this is our observation of a trend. MM's criticism is illogical and unwarranted, as she/he is stating that we are making an absolute statement.
2. We use a high level definition of 'traditional'—contrasting it with 'self publishing'. Many traditional, mainstream publishers use POD (Printing on Demand, Digital Printing, Green Publishing) facilities—particularly the small press, but not confined to them. We consider it being part of traditional publishing technology for some years now. We see it as a viable option compared to hundreds of thousands of unsold books ending up in landfills, which is what happens every year. We ALSO carry out offset print runs of titles, by the way. POD does not equal Self Publishing, but Self Publishers almost exclusively use POD. POD is a technology. Some statements made in this site about POD are categorically wrong, and a whole lot of reputable small, medium and large publishing companies would be most unhappy indeed with the insults. We think MM is the one with definitional problems.
3. Regarding our statement about not necessarily putting books on shelves—it's just a natural extension of point 2 above. We are up front about everything, and certainly in more detail when we work with our authors. Is it easy to get a book on the shelves? No. Will every book that the big 6 publishes make it on book shelves. No. The amount of shelf space that they would require comprises 2 feet of new shelf space per day every day of the year. Bookstores would have to double in size every year and that is just for new releases. MM infers (by way of contrast with us) that just because one of the big six publishes a book, that instant success will follow. Not true and if one of their titles does not sell well, they mothball it.
4.Yes we take both ebook rights and print rights—and more importantly, we actually publish in both mediums for every one of our titles. Most publishers include this clause.
5. Prediction on how well Duleek’s novel will sell, including marketing, royalties etc. MM’s statement is a lazy statement, as in a year the posting is likely to have (deservedly) fallen into relative obscurity. MM’s understanding of the publishing industry is dismal. How many authors who are taken up by the big 6 get decent royalty checks (ie get good sales)? How many of them have contracts that require them to spend large amounts of time travelling, at their own expense (via deduction from royalties?) How many of them with books that don’t sell, find that they are removed from the shelves (mothballed, as stated in 4 above?) Research, MM, research. The chances of IFWG Publishing turning a first-timer into a best seller is very small indeed, but we will give them the leg up through bona fide, recognized, publishing, and are likely to be on parity with the majority of first time midlist writers in medium publishing houses. The leg up is of high value in itself, as already described ad nauseum. While IFWG Publishing knows that author participation makes a big difference in sales, it does not expect or require the author to do anything. If the author chooses to promote their work by doing independent advertising, that is their choice. IFWG and the author are partners in the process. IFWG promotes authors work by contacting book buyers, especially those in the area near the author. Our authors are from all parts of the world so our promotion varies from country to country. It would be hard indeed to find a publishing house that pays higher royalties than us. Our authors receive royalties in four different categories. If anyone knows anything about other publishers the best you will get are two categories.
6. Our move to specialization and those who are not within scope. This is probably the most underhanded, ugly statement that MM has made. Whenever we announced this move, targeted for 1 January 2011, we made it crystal clear we will support all our authors for as long as they want to associate with us, gladly. We emphasize loyalty and are committed to it. MM deliberately left those statements out, and this, for us, is clear proof of very poor analysis (or worse). We should also point out that all four author-owners are specific specialists and have good, and growing connections in the industry (hence the ease to get Barnes and Noble to review, to get Ralan to pick us up, etc).
7. Clipart, schmipart. We aren’t the big 6 and we aren’t in the top end of the midrange publishers. MM is using a high benchmark of the big 6 to pick on the small dudes. IFWG Publishing, by and large, have good art and getting better. SQ Magazine and The Devil Came East were produced by excellent artists, They Never Gave Up is a very clever graphic job, delighting the author with its symbolism (the inverted footprints), etc etc.
8. Questions about IFWG’s marketing. We do plenty and plenty more to come. Rhetoric by MM with no information at all, for reasons that we cannot fathom, but guess.
We believe that MM smacks of an ill-intentioned, clueless amateur.
Finally Jasmine. We will say little in order to honor our disclaimer agreement (and thanks again Jas, for the nice words). Since she had a few things to say about us (nevertheless), we are happy to at least state that we parted on reasonable grounds and we don't necessarily disagree with Jas' statement that she wanted to go it alone—a philosophical point. As a publisher, we get exposed to a lot of people, and people = unpredictability. We are grateful this has been, thus far, an isolated event.
We are a growing company and we are already starting to get points on the board. We will have eleven titles out this year, and we are already booked out until July 2011 with a further nine (non IFWG Publishing owner-authored) titles slotted (that's 20 over 19 months - we had to lock down submissions for a while). We will have published by this December something in the order of 70 authors’ short fiction. In other words, we are working hard and are very busy helping emerging authors, while at the same time making a business of it (mutual benefit).
We wrote this long retort because, regardless of the dubious qualifications of commentators in this forum, publicly accessible electronic postings stick around a very long time and gets picked up by Google and other search engines. It would be good to have our say equally visible, particularly on points of fact. We currently have eighteen new authors who are doing their damnedest to break into the market and we are doing everything we can to help them.