Posts Tagged ‘nonfiction’

Hard time for publishers and authors

November 27, 2017

Let there be no doubt about it, a writer’s worth in the marketplace is quickly diminishing. Google, Amazon and other giants of the free media age have created a feeding frenzy that’s eating away at an author’s ability to gain just compensation for their work, and larger publishers have moved to a greater emphasis on current best sellers and celebrities.

Smaller publishers are trying to fill the breach and CopWorld Press is in that mix. We want to find and publish law enforcement authors in this increasingly difficult environment, but that doesn’t mean we have lower standards, just a willingness to work with and help authors who have the goods. But there’s a right way and a wrong way to approach any publisher. What follows is a true-life example of exactly the wrong way to do it.

I recently met with an author who’d submitted a manuscript for consideration because we live in the same town and I wanted to help her along her journey. The tag line on the email with her attached manuscript had included the title and the words “a fiction novel.”  I asked her to define a novel. She had no idea that, by definition, it is fiction. She went on to say that she was somewhat confused because her story was partly made up and partly true, and, therefore, the term novel might not apply.

I spent about 40 minutes with her, during which time she twice upbraided me for not having taken the time to read beyond the prologue and initial chapter. I responded that one problem with her manuscript is the too lengthy chapters but gave her an opportunity to provide a verbal synopsis. She did so, without including anything approaching a plot. I asked her what genre her book is. When she acknowledged that she had no idea, I told her that my brief read and her synopsis indicated that it’s a police procedural. When I defined the term at her request, she declared that I was wrong.

I provided a brief history of my four decade journey as a writer, mostly focusing on the lows, and she assured me that her story depicted a female’s experiences in law enforcement which should give her an edge. I agreed that it’s important to get more police books out from the female perspective but went on to tell her some of the many weaknesses her manuscript displayed, including misspellings, tense changes and poor syntax. I urged her to read several police procedurals and books on writing whose titles I provided and recommended that she carefully consider my feedback. Part of that feedback was that the road leading to the professional writing level is a long and arduous one that requires research and a willingness to learn from mistakes. She responded by reminding me that she’d had a couple female friends read her book who “really loved it”– but she would consider my point of view too.

As I stood to leave, I resisted the temptation to expand on or reiterate some of her writing’s failings, instead simply saying something very close to–Just remember, I’m a professional writer and a publisher and they’re not. She responded by assuring me that she intended to pursue other opportunities?

As I descended the few steps to the street, I wondered which aphorism was more applicable, the one from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount to not “cast pearls before swine” or the one that guarantees that no good deed goes unpunished….”

 

 

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New Publishing Company for Law Enforcement Authors

March 23, 2017

MEDIA RELEASE
For Immediate Release
Contact: Timothy B. Smith—Email: submissions@copworldpress.com; Phone: 541-887-9421

**New Oregon Publishing House to Feature Law Enforcement Authors**

[Ashland, Or] CopWorld Press is a new, independent publishing company dedicated to helping authors with a connection to law enforcement tell their stories. Its books will feature true crime, mystery fiction, police procedurals, personal memoirs and other genres dealing with cops, crime and/or the “day-to-day experiences of the men and women who so bravely serve our communities and citizens.”

Company founder Tim Smith (who writes under the name of T.B. Smith) is a retired police lieutenant from San Diego, Ca, with 27 years of policing experience. In 1984, Pantheon Press published a non-fiction book by British author James McClure called “Cop World: Inside an American Police Force.” McClure utilized the ride-along format to chronicle the  experiences of the San Diego Police Department’s Central Division officers as
part of a broader look at American policing. Smith was one of the officers chronicled under the pseudonym of Luke Jones. Mr. Smith has since written two police procedural novels (The Sticking Place and A Fellow of Infinite Jest, published by Hellgate Press) that feature a Shakespeare quoting cop who uses the name Luke Jones, the name that James McClure gave Smith.”

“Cop World was a look at stories about police as witnessed by and told to an expert author,” says Smith. “But spend an hour or two at the corner bar with a few cops and you’ll soon find they’re the best story tellers on the planet. With that in mind, I formed CopWorld Press, which will work exclusively with law enforcement authors in partnership with my former publisher at Hellgate Press.”

Joining T.B. Smith in the venture is Harley Patrick, owner of L&R Publishing, an Ashland-based company that published Mr. Smith’s first two books under its Hellgate Press imprint (www.hellgatepress.com). Hellgate Press was founded in 1997 and publishes books on military and regional history, veteran memoirs, travel adventure and
historical/adventure fiction. L&R Publishing also publishes children’s books under its Paloma Books imprint (www.palomabooks.com). After receiving a master’s degree in 2000 from the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism, Patrick went to work as an editor at Hellgate Press. In 2007 he purchased the Medford-based company and moved it to Ashland where it has grown to become one of the leading publishers of military history books in the country.

“Law enforcement professionals have such amazing stories to tell,” says Patrick, “and Tim and I are committed to helping them do just that, as well as assisting them in navigating the sometimes complex world of mainstream publishing and distribution.”
For more information, or to submit an author query, visit the CopWorld Press website at
http://www.copworldpress.com.
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The Current State of Publishing: Q & A with Hellgate Press

July 12, 2016
hellgateHi Harley: Thanks for agreeing to take the time to answer some questions about the current state of publishing.
You’re the publisher of Hellgate Press that primarily publishes war memoirs but also has a small fiction component and has recently begun publishing children’s books.
Q:  How much are you focused on eBooks and what do you think the next five years holds for that niche in the publishing market?
A:  We simultaneously publish print and ebook versions of every title. Over the past 5 years, we’ve seen a tremendous growth in ebook sales, to the point where now they regularly outsell the print versions. I see no reason for that trend to change over the next 5 years. While I think the printed book will always be with us, it definitely now shares the marketplace with its ebook counterpart. And for authors and publishers alike, that’s a great trend, as there is more profit in ebooks because you eliminate the  cost of printing—which is substantial.
Q: Do you think that the increase in self published works has had a negative or positive impact on the quality of the books in the marketplace?
A:  I guess it depends on how we define the “marketplace.” The mainstream booksellers, such as Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Millions and others, don’t typically sell self-published works, so that marketplace really hasn’t been affected. Amazon and other online sellers do, and I think, while there are many well-written, even well-regarded self-published works, many of those authors are new to the world of writing (particularly fiction) and labor under the false notion that all you have to do to write a book is sit down at a computer and start typing. Many of the manuscripts that come across my desk, and even some previously self-published works that are submitted to Hellgate Press, are frankly not ready for publishing. For those, we recommend  that the authors find a professional editor/proofreader who can work with them to get the book ready for publication. Once they do that, we will then reconsider the book for publication. On the upside, while self-publishing may have brought many amateur writers to the marketplace who are not quite ready for it, it has also resulted in some wonderful books that might not have otherwise been published.
Q:  Which is more important to you when approached by a new author, their credentials to write the book, or the quality of the writing in your correspondence?
A:  It depends, and is probably more often than not a combination of the two. An author who has no direct experience with his/her subject matter may be able to craft lovely prose, but the facts need to be accurate and reflect either a good deal of research and/or personal experience. If not, then it really won’t matter how good the writing is. And if the expertise is there, but the writing is less than perfect, well that’s where a good editor comes in. But of course editors are no substitute for experience with the subject matter. And this is true whether we’re talking fiction or nonfiction. In the area of military history, for example, a writer better have the facts, the jargon, the specifics, etc., absolutely correct, or we’ll hear about it. But we rarely hear complaints about the writing style. Of course I attribute some of that to the fact that we do work with our authors to make sure they’re putting their best writing foot forward.
Q:  What does your publishing experience teach you about the viability of fiction vs. non-fiction? In other words, what type of book sells best and should there be a stronger incentive to write one form over the other?
A:  To be honest, neither type of book is selling in the numbers that they used to. According to Publishers’ Weekly, “The average U.S. nonfiction book is now selling less than 250 copies per year and less than 3,000 copies over its lifetime.” Numbers for fiction books are even lower. Consider that every book published is competing with more than 10 million other books for sale at the same time! At Hellgate Press, we sell many more (maybe twice as many) nonfiction books than fiction. But that could be due to our main niche being military related topics. I would imagine that if we published romance-related titles, our novels might well outsell our “how-to” books.
I personally think nonfiction is an easier sell, particularly because of the competition in fiction writing. If you write well, have intimate knowledge of your subject matter, and, if necessary are willing to work with a good editor/proofreader, you can produce a high quality, marketable non-fiction book in relatively short order. But if you’re working on the great American novel, or a lengthy piece of historical fiction, you’re competing with the very best writers in the world, or at least writers who have studied and practiced the craft for a long time. And you better have an excellent mastery of prose, dialog, pacing, plot, metaphor, structure, etc., or the reviews could be brutal. And while good reviews may or may not help with sales, a bad review definitely hurts. So I think the old advice is the best advice: Write what you know. And if you know how to write well, then give fiction a go. But if writing is something you’ve always wanted to do, but really haven’t studied it (and I mean formally, at a well-respected university or with a professional mentor), then non-fiction may be the better choice.
Q:  You’re planning on establishing a new imprint called Copworld Press that will exclusively publish authors with a law enforcement background. Why is that group of writers important to you and what do you think they can bring to the marketplace?
A:  This speaks to my earlier comments about writing what you know. While I don’t think you have to be a military veteran to write about military topics, it’s been my experience over the last 16 years that it certainly helps. I believe the same is true when writing within the law enforcement/true crime genre. Like the military, law enforcement has its own community, its own jargon, rules of conduct, etc. And although not impossible, it’s more difficult for an outsider to “get it right.” And getting it right can make the difference between success and failure when writing about a particular group or profession.
I enjoy publishing books written by those who serve and are affected by that service, and law enforcement professionals certainly fall into that category. And as a publisher, I know that the genre is a popular one, and one that can only benefit by an influx of writers who know what they’re writing about. So, I’m seeing it as a win-win opportunity to bring new writers with solid credentials and a wealth of experience to the genre, and, in so doing, provide a publishing opportunity for those who perhaps have found it difficult to get their work into the mainstream. And, of course, sell some books in the process!
Learn more about Hellgate Press at https://hellgatepress.com