Part two of my interview with Colin Mustful, this time, his perspective as a publisher. One thing he did not mention, is that he signed NYT bestseller, Alina Adams, author of Nesting Dolls for her book, My Mother’s Secret, which is for sale at his website here: https://www.historythroughfiction.com/my-mothers-secret Look for a review on Readerly soon, I got my copy!
Thank you so much for letting me ask you questions for writers. Lots of writers are interested in what it takes to be a small publisher or work with one, but don’t know anyone who is one. You can share invaluable information to help writers succeed. 🙂
- Would you tell us a little bit about your background as a publisher? What made you decide to become one, how did you get here?
It’s been a long journey that started when I finished my first novel in 2011. I had no idea what to do after I finished the first draft. I started submitting the manuscript to publishers, but I didn’t get any positive responses. Then, in the fall of 2012, I finally heard back from a publisher. They offered me an incredible contract and I was so excited that I signed it even though it required a $4,000 retainer. I didn’t know this at the time, but I had signed a contract with a Vanity Press. When my book was published in October 2013, I didn’t sell any books or have any events, and the press always wanted more money from me. It was an awful experience.
But, I mention it here because I learned a lot of hard lessons from that experience. It was the catalyst I needed to learn more about ins and outs of book publishing. I used what I learned to self-publish two books. Then, I went back to school and earned an MFA in creative writing with a concentration in publishing. Around the time I graduated, I decided to combine my experience self-publishing with my educational background to start my own independent press.
- What is the most challenging project you have worked on so far? What challenges were involved with it?
The biggest challenge for me has been digital marketing. It’s very easy to spend money on digital marketing, but it’s hard to get a positive return on investment (ROI). There’s a lot of strategy and research that goes into the various platforms and keywords for digital marketing and the best teacher is usually trial-and-error. Sometimes, even hiring an expert in digital marketing can backfire. It’s hard to find what works and it’s easy to spend a lot of money trying to find out.
- You accept submissions from other writers and also indie publish your own books. Could you tell us a little about how these two things are similar and/or different, and why you decided to do both?
When you self-publish your work, you’re running your own business. Essentially, there’s no difference between self-publishing and publishing. Being the publisher is just about taking control of the process. I can’t tell you how many times work has been rejected by agents and publishers. But now, in an era of digital printing and social media, there are less barriers to entry in publishing. I just decided to take advantage of that. It’s been an incredible amount of hard work to create a company and platform that people want to be a part of, but it’s been incredibly rewarding too.
- Would you mind giving readers/writers an idea of how long the publishing process takes and what is involved between you and the writer?
It varies, but I would estimate that it takes 16-24 months from submission to publication. First, there is the submission process which takes a few months for me to review submissions and finally decide on what I want to publish. Then there’s contract negotiations which could take a day, a week, or a month. Once the contract is signed I insist on doing a developmental edit. This takes me about a month. In the meantime, I ask the author to gather as much useful marketing information as they can. Once I return their manuscript with my edits, it takes a month or two for the author to do a revision. After completing the editing process, we move to book design. This usually takes one to three months. From there it’s on to pre-marketing…things like sending out review copies and adding the book to NetGalley. Pre-marketing starts about six months prior to publication. Finally, in the last three months before publication we move onto heavy direct marketing. This means making announcements and asking our audience to pre-order the book.
- What kinds of projects are you looking for in the future?
Anything and everything. As a small business, I’m always looking to grow and try new things in order to discover new audiences. And, I would like to play a role in sharing more diverse voices and stories with readers. It’s a complicated and significant issue in book publishing and one I’m trying to learn more about while facing many challenges involved in growing a small business.
- What do you think is the most important thing for authors to know about getting their book ready to go out into the world?
Have patience. Find your audience, but don’t force your passion on others. Seek out and accept criticism and feedback. Be prepared for a long journey filled with setbacks and triumphs. But, practically speaking, get help. Find beta readers. Hire an editor or book coach. It will take hard work to get your book published and to make sure it stands out from the hundreds of other books published on a daily basis. But if you follow the process, you’ll succeed.
- How can writers and readers find out more about you and the books you publish?