Today I'd like to welcome Devon Trevarrow Flaherty onto 'The Story Factory Reading Zone'. Devon is co-founder of Owl & Zebra Press. Benevolent, written by Devon, is the first book to be published by the small press.
I asked Devon to tell us a little about the process of setting up her own press. Here is what she had to say:
When asked to blog about setting up an indie press, I am of two minds. One half of me thinks, Surely they don’t mean me! I have no idea what I am doing. The other half of me chimes in with, Oh yes you do! You’ve done just as much research and way more work than the average self-publisher! Take a little credit, Devon! Self talk aside, the field is full of amateurs (of which I am not even strictly one), thus the nature of self-publishing and indy presses.
That said, one of my north stars during the whole process—from conception to promotion—was professionalism. I wasn’t trying to hide the fact that I was grass roots (as some might accuse me of), but I was trying to make the grass roots look good, if you know what I mean. I want to run with the big boys because one of the reasons I even jumped into this whole circus was to give my book the best opportunity it could have.
Self-publishing is the best case scenario if and when your book does not fit the traditional slots of publication; if and when you have the resources (including time and energy) to start a business; if and when you like the sound of getting paid better for leg-work you were going to be forced to do even with a traditional publisher; and if and when creative control is of great importance to you. It took me years to get to this point, and the publishing industry and I collided and formed this perfect-storm-of-2012 that became an intense focus to self-publish Benevolent. And to do it as a professional.
From that moment on—the one where you decide to self-publish—there are winding paths off into the woods of uncertainly a-plenty. You begin with books (since that’s where you always begin) and with the internet. You explore your options and weigh the information you have been given. For me, I ended up deciding on CreateSpace as a printer and Catherine Ryan Howard’s Self Printed as my guide book. However, neither of those travelling companions made the fateful decision that I would make, with me; to not only publish my own book, but to begin a small press into the bargain. And to do it with professional aplomb.
First things first: my aunt is a non-fiction editor. I have been an editor here and there, as well as a freelancer, and between the two of us (very strongly on her side) we have more than thirty years of experience. That’s nothing to thumb your nose at. Even so, while both of us fall asleep dreaming of future novels, our experience was not in fiction. I guess that means anyone could do it? I can’t imagine going through this process without Aunt Shelly’s tireless editing, not to mention encouragement. The moral? If you don’t have experience, you have to hire out sometimes. I really mean it. Someone needs some experience, even it’s just your editor and cover artist. Otherwise, you can’t act as a professional and your product will be less-than.
And what does it take to magically create a small press? For me it meant this: creating a name and a logo, a website and a Facebook Fan Page. Buying a website domain and an email address, as well as a PO box. Running up to the store for office supplies, which included tons of padded envelopes, paper, and especially a ledger for expenses, revenue, and deadlines, not to mention a receipt envelope. Creating a tax identity and perhaps even incorporating, eventually. And then doing all the work I was going to do anyhow; writing, editing, revising, mapping, illustrating, cover work, interior formatting, e-formatting, planning, creating a space and office work, designing and ordering promotional materials, proofing, book-keeping, budgeting, mailing, taxes, and last but not least marketing and sales (which is a huge, great, big deal). I’m sure I’m forgetting plenty.
But here’s the main thing: I also learned to take myself seriously. I think that’s one of the benefits of not just going solo but creating an indie press, and, of course, doing it with professionalism as a goal. (That, and the possibility of others approaching you later on asking you to help them in their great projects.) Eventually, somewhere on that long and winding path, you come around the corner and a ray of light shifts down into your eyes and it hits you; you are not just a writer, you are not just an author; you are a publisher. And doggone it if you are not also an entrepreneur.
Thank you Devon.
Readers, what are you experiences of indie presses?