Daily Archives: October 8, 2009

Flying Pen Press: The Hunt for Great Authors

guest blog by David A. Rozansky, Publisher, Flying Pen Press 

booksExactly how does Flying Pen Press find its authors?

To answer that, one must understand that, as publishing houses go, Flying Pen Press is different, in many ways. 

Who is Flying Pen Press? 

Flying Pen Press is a small, independent publisher. We have neither staff nor funds to read unsolicited manuscripts. Literary agents overlook us.

Authors and readers now connect directly without the “book trade” involved. Authors have become our clients, not our suppliers. We help authors connect with their readers. Notice, I say “their readers,” not “our readers.”

We use print-on-demand technology. There is no need for warehouses and no inventory risk. That reduces costs over a traditional print run. We can take more chances on unknown authors.

We pay royalties differently. Authors receive a share of the book’s gross profits—net receipts less printing fees—usually 35% to 46%. As more books sell directly to readers, profit margins increase and greater royalties go to the authors. 

What Does Flying Pen Press Publish?

When we look at a proposal, we ask if the book fits our imprints. Flying Pen Press publishes a variety of books, fiction and nonfiction.

In fiction, we publish most all genres except erotica, YA or poetry. We have a many science fiction titles right now, because we found our first authors at Mile Hi Con, a science fiction convention in Denver, and our first catalog focused on the World Science Fiction Convention last year.

Because of our experience with Science Fiction, it is easiest to publish, but we are not limited to any one genre.

In nonfiction, we look at most topics. We do not publish New Age, Religious or Art books. We do have some specific nonfiction imprints.

  • Game Day: game books and books about games
  • Flying Pen Press Aviation: technical, travel memoir, how-to and fiction subjects, for aviation enthusiasts and professionals.
  • Flying Piggybank Press: business, finance and career.
  • Traveling Pen Press: travel memoirs.
  • Flying Pen Press Travel Guides: directories and guides for travelers.
  • We have four regional imprints: Flying Pen Press Colorado, Flying Pen Press Southwest, Flying Pen Press Rocky Mountain West, and Flying Pen Press Park Trek for national parks and monuments of North America.
  • The Press for Humanitarian Causes: a non-profit imprint to give a voice to those in developing nations who do not have a voice, and those volunteers who serve them. 

What does Flying Pen Press Look For?

If the concept meets our imprints or marketing channels, we look closely at the author. The quality of the author is far more important than the quality of the manuscript. If the author is not ready for the book trade, their books do not sell. Therefore, we ask questions and do research on the Internet.

Naturally, the author must be able to produce great material. We go to the public and see what they are saying on the Internet. We also read a small sample of the author’s work, preferably from material published on the Internet or in magazines or other publishers. An author who needs remedial training in grammar is of no use.

Then we search the author’s name, through Google, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and Technorati, and this is often where we weed out most of the submitted queries and proposals. We read comments by fans and lay readers.

Next, we determine the visible size of the author’s platform. A platform is a fan base or following that regularly reads the author’s material and is likely to buy her book.

We consider the platform in three ways:

  1. We can work with an author of promising talent who has started the process of developing a platform, and mentor them. This usually requires local authors. Telecommuting just does not work at this level of personal tutorage.
  2. The author has successfully built a sizable platform. We can see that the book will sell in profitable numbers rather quickly. Often, this is a quick decision for us because certainly, the author has approached other publishers.
  3. The author’s material easily fits into a platform we already have in place, like one of our nonfiction imprints.

In most cases, we are looking for authors who are building steady platforms of their own.

We want to see a blog with a lot of regular, repeat traffic. The number of “unique” visitors is not as important as is the number of “repeat” visitors. The blog should also be relevant to the author’s work. Novelists should post short stories.

The author should also participate in social media. We look at the size of the followers on Twitter, the number of fans on Facebook, and the number of friends on MySpace, as well as the intensity and authenticity of the discussions.

The author should have an electronic newsletter and a print newsletter. The number of regular subscribers to this newsletter is important. The size of the author’s mailing list is important, too, and we look at how she built it.

Basically, it all boils down to how the author attracts a fan base, and how she communicates with her fans.

If the author seems promising, we move on to an author interview and try to assess a number of factors:

  • Can the author write prolifically? We want an author to be able to produce two to four novels a year, regularly, a pace that unnerves many new authors.
  • Can the author accept writing assignments? If the author is not an assignment writer, can she write on the same subject or with the same characters and setting for many years?
  • Does the author blog regularly? Is she capable of producing a wealth of material that is always fresh, or is the blog merely a revolving advertisement? If the author is a novelist, can she supply short stories to feed to her fans between novels?
  • Is the author prone to miss a deadline? Ever? This is a vital concern.

Once all of these questions are resolved, only then do we ask for the complete manuscript. We often find 5-10 lay readers who volunteer to review the manuscript, and if their reviews are positive, an editor reads it. If the editor likes it, we perform a marketing analysis, and if all is well, we make an offer on the book. 

Where Does Flying Pen Press Find Authors? 

Flying Pen Press editors actively seek out authors. Our primary hunting ground is any gathering of authors. This includes writers conferences, genre-specific conventions, and writers association meetings. We also turn to social media. I am on Twitter most every day, looking for new authors and stating my immediate wishes subjects and story ideas.

Of course, email continues to be the busiest channel for reaching us. We look at proposals and queries, but it is a longer process because there is a delay in communication, and our email is so full of spam and frivolous submissions.

Do not even think about mailing a manuscript. A simple query letter is fine, but a manuscript by regular post tells us that the writer clashes with the electronic world that is publishing.

Sometimes, our Net surfing allows us to find an author’s platform without any previous contact. At those times, we will often initiate the contact with the author. 

About David A. Rozansky and Flying Pen Press 

David A. Rozansky is a writer with 23 years experience in journalism, public relations writing, magazine publishing, and book publishing. He has more than one million words published. He founded Flying Pen Press as a writer-centric publishing company that uses new rules for the new century.

David A. Rozansky receives emails at Publisher@FlyingPenPress.com. He can be reached directly at 303-375-0499. His Twitter account is @DavidRozansky

Flying Pen Press is located at 5491 E. Jewell Ave., Denver, CO 80222. The company website is FlyingPenPress.com.

Query letters and book proposals can be submitted to Flying Pen Press by email at Submissions@FlyingPenPress.com. Include the word “Submission” in the subject line.

All Flying Pen Press titles are available wherever great books are sold. 

Acknowledgments 

I would like to thank Deborah Riley-Magnus for inviting me to participate on her blog as a guest writer. The advice she gives to writers is invaluable, and I am proud to be a part of this experience. I met Deborah on Twitter, and she has been kind enough to point other authors my way.