I get asked a lot of questions at conventions. Some are routine questions while others are, well, we’ll say amusing. One of the regulars is, “What’s your favorite part about doing what you do?” My answer is always the same, “getting to connect with people and talk about the writings worlds TNM produces.” It usually leads into what TNM stands for (The New Magratheans) which leads into talking about Douglas Adams, a writer I absolutely adore.
Today, I got the opportunity, outside of the con to talk not just about my writing worlds but about the publishing process in general with someone looking to do something similar to what we do at TNM Publishing. I always describe the company as an “author-owned publishing company” because at it’s core, that’s what it is. Sure, I’m the founder, lead author and borderline sole creator of content, but the mentality is that I work for TNM Publishing, LLC. There’s a business aspect to the publishing side of things that I also thoroughly enjoy, almost as much as the writing aspect.
Even when approaching writing from a publisher’s perspective, my favorite part is still when I have opportunities, no matter how small to share what I’ve learned from the mistakes that I’ve made trying to get this thing up and running. So, in case you’re a budding publisher or someone looking for a writing career down the road, here are a few things I’ve learned that I’d like to share.
- Always do your research before you sign a contract, especially if you’re a writer. If a local bookstore isn’t willing or able to order in a copy of a book from a certain publisher, don’t sign a contract with that publisher. There’s a reason they won’t order those books and if they won’t order the existing books, they won’t change their policy just for you.
- Never agree on a contract you’re not happy with. It doesn’t matter how badly you want to work with someone as an artist or as a graphic designer or as a writer; if you can’t get a contract you’re 100% happy with, don’t sign it. Sure, negotiations happen, but if deep in your gut something just doesn’t feel right, don’t sign that contract.
- Always own your own ISBNs. When you buy them from a third party source, according to Bowker (the company that sells all the ISBNs in the USA) that ISBN is still owned by the person you bought it from. They’re just letting you use their ISBN on your book and they’re making a killing. A set of 10 ISBNs is around $300 (at the time of this blog post) and they never expire.
- If you find a reliable, quality artist, do whatever it takes to make them happy and keep them working on stuff for you so that there’s always communication. This is a recent lesson for me. I’ve been blessed that an amazing friend of mine from before I had TNM Publishing likes me enough to do my artwork and let me pay her for it. I redid my entire art process just so I could keep her working on things because she’s never disappointed me.
- Find ways, no matter how seemingly insignificant, to give back. It’s the most rewarding thing you can do. As you go through the process of becoming a publisher or a writer, you’re going to have setbacks and roadblocks. You’re going to (hopefully) overcome obstacles along the way rather than be stopped by them. Sharing what you’ve been through and what you’ve learned. It means the world to the person receiving the advice and it makes you feel all warm and fuzzy to be helping someone achieve a dream.
- Never be afraid to go back to your little room. In the words of Jack White of The White Stripes, “When you’re in your little room and you’re working on something good, but if it’s really good, you’re going to need a bigger room. And when you’re in the bigger room, you might not know what to do. You might have to think of how you got started sitting in your little room.”