LiteraryArchitects

Literary Architects, LLC works with authors to combine the quality and standards of traditional publishing with the flexibility and control of self-publishing. Literary Architects' publishing professionals specialize in selecting and partnering with committed authors to produce trade-quality books, consulting with authors to plan and execute custom sales and marketing strategies, and providing authors with fulfillment and distribution of their books.

Monday, January 30, 2006

The Joy of Editing

OK, I'm going to say it. I love the actual editing process. I love being a book editor -- and as much as I love being a publisher, a business developer, and an entrepreneur, at the heart of it, I really just love being a book editor. Over the past few years, I've overseen hundreds of development and line edits on my books, but rarely had the time to edit a book myself. However, this weekend, on top of proposals, research, taxes, author guidelines, and a million other things, I finished editing a book and really, really enjoyed it.

I love the process of finding the author's voice and really digging into their message. Did they really convey to the reader the depth and breadth of what they wanted to say? Did they pull all the themes through they wanted to share with the reader. How can we artfully help them look good -- and still make sure they don't mistakenly offend someone. And how can we best help them present their advice and message to the reader? (Copyediting is something else altogether. I prefer to leave the spelling, punctuation, grammar, and style to the real experts!)

It takes a lot of time but it's so critical to a book's success. I work with some of the best development and line editors, but it's nice to do it myself when I can. The material really shines and I know it's a solid book. And editing brings back the joy of being an editor. I love business strategy, negotiations, presentations, and planning, but at the heart of it, books, authors, and words are the important part.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

What's in a Name?

For an industry that makes its living with words, publishing is sometimes filled with confusing, imprecise terminology. Consider the terms "vanity press," "subsidy press," and "self-publisher"; often they are used interchangeably and with no meaningful distinction or agreed upon meanings, other than all standing in stark contrast to another term: "traditional publisher." Instead of getting hung up on labels, let's look at how various publishers work with authors and examine their business models. That's the only way we'll really discover what's in a name.

Publishing Model #1 can be characterized by six key factors: 1) the publisher pays the author an advance, 2) publisher gains copyright control of the book, 3) publisher typically edits the book to ensure a quality product, 4) publisher pays all expenses incurred in producing, distributing, and marketing the book, and 5) publisher makes money by selling the book to the public. Because these publishers pay to produce and print the book and only make money when they sell it, 6) they are extremely selective about what they publish.

Publishers using Model #1 are called traditional publishers and have been in business for millennia—the publisher Atticus was selling copies of Cicero's speeches in 57BC—so their business model is pretty familiar.

Publishing Model #2 is diametrically opposed to the traditional publisher's model: 1) the author is not paid an advance (and almost never a royalty), 2) the publisher usually lets the author retain copyright control, 3) the publisher almost never edits the book or even bothers to read it, 4) the author pays the publisher to produce and print the book, and 5) the publisher typically sells the vast majority of the copies of the book back to the author. For these reasons, 6) the publisher is not selective about what they print.

Publishers using Model #2 are sometimes called subsidy presses or POD (a misapplication of the term print on demand which refers to a technology, not a business model or publishing philosophy). Most commonly, though, these publishers are called vanity presses. The first thing you notice is the disagreeable nature of the term itself: vanity, seven deadly sins, and all that. Traditional publishers love to use this derogatory term to categorize the competition, but it's a bit like Kroger calling the 7-Eleven a "lazy man's store." That is not to say I'm defending all vanity presses: I'm not. Outliers like James Frey aside, the vanity press segment of publishing has probably been the most fraught with fraud.

Publishing Model #3 plays out like this: 1) the authors are not paid an advance, but they are paid royalties on sales of their books, 2) the publisher usually lets the author retain copyright control, 3) the publisher usually does not read or edit the book, though some publishers offer limited editing at an additional charge to the author, 4) the author pays the publisher to produce the book, but in some cases the publisher pays to print the book, 5) the publisher sells the vast majority of the copies of the book back to the author, and 6) the publisher is not selective about what they publish.

With the advent of many online publishers, this model has recently come to be known as self-publishing (and sometimes, mistakenly, POD). The application of the term to this business model is pervasive and unfortunate. Formerly, the term self-publishing described authors who wrote, edited, and produced their own books, paid to have them printed, and then sold them to friends, colleagues, business customers, etc.

Publishing Model #4 looks like this: 1) the author is not paid an advance, but they are paid royalties on sales of their book, 2) the publisher lets the author retain copyright control, 3) the publisher reads the book and fully edits it, ensuring quality, 4) the author pays some fees involved in producing the book, but the publisher pays to print the book, 5) the majority of copies sold are to the public because the publisher actively markets and sells the book, and 6) the publisher is selective about what books they publish.

In many ways, Model #4 is a cross between the traditional publisher (Model #1) and self-publishing (Model #3). This is a new model that my company, Literary Architects, is one of only a handful of publishers to use. So far we can't think of a good name for it, though hybrid publisher is beginning to be used for obvious reasons.

So what is in a name? Rarely anything useful for describing what a publisher actually does. If you're interested in publishing a book, I offer you two pieces of advice: First, know what you want. Each type of publisher has its purpose, as well as its advantages and disadvantages. Their appropriateness depends on what you want: There's nothing wrong with buying a Ford Taurus, unless you were expecting a Jaguar.

Secondly, know who you're working with and what they will and won't do for your book. Find out about their experience and qualifications, their level of enthusiasm, and their ideas for your book. Talk to them on the phone: Anyone who doesn't take the time to get to know you and your book probably isn't the kind of person you want to publish with.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Putting a Face to that Voice on the Phone

Yesterday, while in Chicago, I finally met our wonderful publicist Gardi Wilks face-to-face! As is so typical in publishing, where working with freelancers is the norm, some of the people you work closest with you might never have actually seen.

I have worked with Gardi since 2000 when I was at Prentice Hall marketing the Financial Times and Reuters co-branded book series, and we often spoke three times a day. With all of today's cost-effective technology for working remote, it's still great when you can actually meet someone and put a face to that voice on the phone.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Welcome to our blog!

Welcome to the Literary Architects blog! Several months ago, in the midst of our company's start-up and web planning, we all agreed on thing: we needed to include a blog. It's taken us a little longer to just sit down and get it started, but it's been in our thoughts and on our agenda. Often, we bring up an idea, or philosophy, or thought we have on the publishing world and say "That would be perfect for our blog."

So, welcome. You can visit our web site and learn more about Literary Architects and who we are. But here, we also can just be literary architects and help you, the author, the publisher, the industry professional, bookseller, or entrepreneur understand more about why we are so committed to authors and their books.

So, welcome, to our world!