Thursday, May 26, 2011

The publishing process

While I was living in Anchorage, I dedicated a fair amount of time to shopping my Tour Divide book around in the traditional publishing industry. During my conversations with agents and queries to publishers, I learned a bit about the book industry — namely, that it was not only more difficult and more unstable, but also less profitable than the newspaper industry. An agent who tended to take on "niche" projects such as mine told me her clients were lucky to see advances of $5,000. Plus, royalties and press runs were small enough that few authors even earned out their advances — meaning that $5,000 was all they were ever going to see. And this all came after months if not years of securing a publisher, revisions, marketing, etc. This agent was just trying to be realistic, but it was discouraging. I had worked hard just to capture her attention, only to reach a point where I learned even success in the book business wasn't really that successful.

Just before I moved to Montana to return to the publishing business at Adventure Cyclist magazine, I had dinner with a friend where I lamented the bleak prospects for my current book and unwritten future books. I related the hours I had spent working on the project, and how my time spent riding my bicycle around central Alaska and hiking the Chugach Mountains was ultimately more fulfilling and productive. I told him about the school paper I penned when I was 6 years old about "Where I'll Be in the Year 2000" and how I was one of those unfortunate children whose ambition was "to be a writer and write books."

"But, geez, I made more than $5,000 in the first year of Ghost Trails," I sighed.

He just looked at me quizzically. "Then why don't you do that again?"

Independent and digital publishing. Many industry insiders say that's the future. Similar to the sputtering newspaper business, they don't like that it's the future, but they acknowledge it's the direction the industry is headed. As more bookstores shutter their doors and more publishers shed mid-list and niche authors to focus on only those with enough popularity to sell millions, independent publishing will be there to fill in the gaps. I've long believed that outdoor literature has a potential that hasn't yet been fully realized. For the handful of bestsellers like Jon Krakauer who are currently capitalizing on literary nonfiction about outdoor endeavors, there are probably hundreds of talented athletes and explorers embarking on quiet adventures. If even just a fraction of these took the time to sit down and write a book, the world would have some pretty great books.

But would these books ever find a home? In this regard, I don't feel as optimistic. It's no longer enough for a book to be well-written and contain an intriguing story. These days, publishers want books that will stand on their own in the mass market, which is dominated by people who would rather read a tell-all by Levi Johnston than Hemingway. Good outdoor literary nonfiction will always find readers, but possibly not enough to survive in this industry.

Enter this idea I had, about an independent publishing group. A place where outdoor, nature and adventure authors can reach out to a like-minded audience. Perhaps it won't be millions, but it will be comprised of dedicated readers who truly appreciate this kind of work. And the best part is, in this brave new world of indie books, there's a strong potential for writers to actually be financially rewarded for their time — unlike legacy publishing, which is a game of craps at best. I'm calling the project Arctic Glass Press. I'm only starting to get it off the ground, but I already have interest from a couple of authors — Adam Lisonbee, who recently wrote a series of essays about outdoor stoke and the four seasons, and Eric Bruntjen, who compiled two volumes of art and essays by people who have raced the Great Divide. I appreciate these guys getting on board, and hope that in the near future, Arctic Glass Press will become a great source for off-the-beaten-path armchair adventures.

I've also decided to finally release my second book so I can get on with writing my third and fourth book, and so on. The possibilities really are endless. I'm excited. My latest book, about my adventure leading up to and during the 2009 Tour Divide, is called "Be Brave, Be Strong: A Journey Across the Great Divide." I'm hoping to have paperback copies ready to distribute by the second week of June (yes, in time for the start of this year's Tour Divide.) I'll write more about this in an upcoming post, but I've already received good feedback about the few copies I've distributed so far, including an insightful review from my friend, Dave.

This blog post is also a call to other outdoor-adventure-writer types. Anyone who has a book sitting on their hard drive or swirling around in their head. As an independent but full-service publisher, Arctic Glass Press can help you finish and polish your project, and release it to the world. Contact me at jillhomer@arcticglasspress.com and I'll send you more information about getting involved with the project.

31 comments:

  1. Great idea! Congratulations on your new venture.

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  2. See what happens? You move to the Silicon Valley and turn into an entrepreneur!

    I think this is a great idea. Best of luck in this new venture. Anything your friends can do to help, don't be afraid to ask.

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  3. Jill, I'm excited to be a part of this project. And I'm really enjoying Be Brave, Be Strong so far. I plan to write a full review at my blog as soon as I am done reading it.

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  4. Karen2:05 PM

    After reading Dave's review, I can't wait to dive into your new adventure book! I loved Ghost Trails and eagerly await Be Brave, Be Strong. Thanks for putting it all down on paper.

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  5. Anonymous3:17 PM

    GO, Jill, GO!

    kristin

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  6. Sounds cool. I see that I'm not the only one!

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  7. You should consider allowing pre-release ordering of your new book on your site ... I was ready to place my order then and there.

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  8. Great idea. Loved Ghost Trails & am looking forward to the digital vers of Be Brave...

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  9. With the three titles currently available on your site, I notice that purchasing actually takes me out to Amazon or Lulu, the latter itself being an online DIY publisher. So are you just acting as a go-between with the currently available DIY publishers? Just wondering exactly what your service is. Editing and marketing? If you could provide a little more clarification, that'd be appreciated. It's a great idea, though - sounds like a great fit for where your skills lie.

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  10. Anonymous10:02 PM

    Grizzly Adam is verbose, boring, and not enough there in the getting-it. All packaging and the content that rarely lives up to that wrapper.

    But then again, I read him. But I sure as heck would never do so unless he was free. And it's a little of a silent make-fun-of-him daily endeavor too.

    Sorry to be brutal, but no one is forcing him to write in public.

    You, so, so, so different and I have paid, and will pay, for your stuff.

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  11. Fonk,

    Currently, APG serves as a marketing site/roundup for my, Adam's and Eric's publications. Since this just launched, I contacted authors who already had publications available and asked them if they'd be interested in participating. Our efforts to reach readers will be stronger if we work together. This is the goal of APG. I also believe that as more authors get on board, readers will look to APG as a source of outdoor literature, spread the word, and we'll all sell more books.

    In the future, I hope to work with authors as a traditional publisher — offering editing, design, marketing and distribution through both online and traditional distribution channels. I can do this through POD production with sites such as Lulu and CreateSpace, and I can offer better royalties than traditional publishers (although no advances.) But yes, what I offer is experience and skills to turn over published books — something that can be quite a barrier for many authors. I'm also working on setting up a direct marketplace through the APG site so I can sell books directly, but I haven't gotten it up and running just yet. This is actually why I can't quite yet offer pre-ordering of Be Brave, Be Strong just yet, although I'd love to. I will post on here as soon as pre-ordering is available.

    Let me know if you have any more questions? I'd be happy to answer them.

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  12. OK, cool. Thanks for the clarification.

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  13. Anon 10:02 ... Everyone is entitled to their opinion. I've been reading Grizzly Adam since 2006. I enjoy his writing. I find it to be uniquely descriptive and thought-provoking. I didn't have a hand in editing his book, but I did read it and enjoyed that as well. The digital version of his book costs a paltry $6 — about what you'd pay for a magazine at an airport. If you don't want to pay it, it's of course a free marketplace. I believe it's worth it, which is why I endorsed his book on my site.

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  14. Anonymous3:23 AM

    Go Jill, see all the agonising recently over what you're going to "do" in CA.....WOW!
    I'd be interested in pre ordering too.

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  15. Congratulations on your new adventure! I look forward to seeing where this next chapter takes you!

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  16. YAAAAAAAAY!!! Can't wait!!

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  17. Sounds brilliant! I'm eagerly awaiting the new book. And the start of this year's Tour Divide.

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  18. this is wonderful news. i enjoyed your first book and reading you blog during the divide biking experience. i will watch closley for the new book.

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  19. You go girl! There's just no stopping you! I like it...things aren't what you would like them to be, so you MAKE it happen yourself. Congrats, good luck and all that. I am also one of the many awaiting your new book.

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  20. B — You asked a good question and I'm not sure where it went in this list of comments. But in response to "why" you might want to read my book — ultimately, it's just entertainment. It's up to you, the reader, to decide if its entertainment value is worth the cost of a digital file or paperback. If you buy it and read it and think it sucks, you'll ping me for selling a bad product and I probably won't sell very many books. But if I manage to put forth an entertaining book, word will spread and more people will buy it. That's how the marketplace generally works.

    I'm not trying to boost my accomplishments. So many people out there have accomplished so much more than I have. But what I offer, as a writer, is a window into a world not everyone sees — the world of riding 2,740 miles along the Continental Divide. It's a travel story. Honestly, with this book, I'm really hoping to reach people who would never dream of running 6 miles a week, let alone 60, and merely want to read an entertaining account of an ordinary person muddling her way through an awesome adventure.

    I also disagree with your insinuation that recreation isn't meaningful. It's up to the individual to decide what in life contains meaning. If we all valued the exact same experiences in the exact same way, there certainly wouldn't be as many interesting stories to tell.

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  21. Excellent news! I've been noodling around for some impetus to get started on a novel I have sketched out. I'll be taking this post as the push off the ledge I've needed! Thanks!

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  22. Signed copies be available??!! :)

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  23. "And it's a little of a silent make-fun-of-him daily endeavor too."

    Your making fun of me daily AND silently? It would be so much better if it were out loud. But I'm flattered that you make the effort anyway.

    And your criticisms are fair. Sometimes I bore myself.

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  24. Hmmmm... I might want in on this, but I want to make my novel a pop-up book (for obvious reasons). Any room for that with Arctic Glass Press?

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  25. Good luck, Jill! I enjoyed reading Ghost Trails, have recommended it to others, and reviewed it for the BellaOnline cycling website. I can't wait to do the same for your new book.

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  26. Hey. Thanks for giving my comment your time and consideration.I realized after the fact why I had that knee-jerk reaction. It's the title. If you had used this title when you had the frostbite situation during the Iditarod, it would have been apt.I'll be blunt because I think you recognize that i'm not belittling your work, just noting mistake in marketing. If you had been mauled by a bear, fell off a cliff, survived an avalanche..etc etc..this title would work. Follow me? Don't take my word for it, ask others for an objective opinion. This is going to invariably tick you off..but it sounds like a cheesy Lifetime movie and you're hurting yourself with the choice. I'm sorry, someone should tell you. I've admired the way you've transitioned between bicycling and running, not many can do that. Also how you handled your relationship breakup. I'm definitely not among the haters who've somehow decided you deserve derision. It's the title. Rethink it.

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  27. I love the cover of your new book. Just curious, where each photo was taken.

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  28. Dicky ... Love the idea of a pop-up novel. I'll look into it.

    B ... I understand your points on the title. Honestly, I was more worried it sounded like a Christian marching song, but I can see the Lifetime Movie in it, too. But I did give the title some thought. There is a context. During the Tour Divide, my emotions and thoughts turned very childlike. "Be Brave, Be Strong" became a mantra I chanted to myself incessantly when I was intensely fearful or nearly too mentally exhausted to function, which was quite a lot. It helped, and in that process became a meaningful part of my solo journey.

    I also think because it's a command — BE brave, BE strong — it depicts a struggle to overcome fear and weakness, which is what this book is all about. I believe that people who read the book will get it, and those who won't buy the book because of its title probably wouldn't have liked it anyway.

    Kraig ... top photo is a self-portrait taken in the Marin Headlands of California. It's meant to depict fear and uncertainty. The bottom photo is the Great Divide Basin and sunrise, meant to depict joy and strength. The title in the middle is a visual bridge of the divide between the two photos

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  29. I'm looking forward to your new book, and I'm ready to order. :-)

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  30. What a great idea! I'm not a writer but I'm a reader and I can't wait for your 2nd book and to see what titles Arctic Glass puts out!

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