Saturday, February 13, 2010

Response from North Star Press

I frequently complain about inept and dishonest pay-to-publish companies in this blog.

The fools and knaves at Outskirts Press, Lulu, Infinity, Westbow, AuthorHouse, Thomas Nelson, Leonine, Beckham, etc. have not had the guts to defend themselves against my criticism (or maybe they realize there is no defense).

I recently slammed North Star Press. I called it "another kind of sleazy publishing," and complained about the company's requirement that authors buy books to resell.

Here is a response from Seal Dwyer, the business manager at at North Star:

Yes, North Star Press is a traditional publisher and we have traditional royalty contracts. Books published under our ISBN are published by us.

Yes, we also offer self-publishing services to people, but those people get their own ISBNs. We do help many people do their self-publishing, and these are mainly county histories, church histories, and other specific-market books that rarely find a home in the larger book world. The people who are self-published are coming to us looking for self-publishing. There is no back door here. If a book is submitted for traditional publishing but is not suitable for us, we tell them why. We often suggest other presses to try. Sometimes they decide to go with self-publishing, especially if it is a family history or something else with a truly tiny market, but we do not say "this book is not acceptable for us, but we'll self publish it for you." If we don't feel a book is ready to see the light of day, we say so.

That being said, two years ago, we looked at the books we were publishing and at which books were selling and which books were not moving at all. The books that were selling were the ones that the authors were heavily involved in marketing: they need to do signings, they need to do talks, they need to have websites and blogs, they need to be out there. We don't want any book to fail. We put our heart into every book we do, as well as our capital. We want every book to succeed. And we do our part, but we also ask the author to be involved, and when there are approximately 600,000 books published last year, it takes some work to stand out. Our model may not be a fit for everyone.

We watched many of our publishing colleagues stepping back from publishing and bringing out less books, however, this is our livelihood, so we needed it to succeed. We needed to bring out more books. Small press, if nothing else, is about creativity, and the book buy was our creative way to publish more books, good books, books we wanted to publish, and get them out there selling more copies. Survival in hard times is also about creativity, and in finding a model that gives us and our authors a chance at success.

The book buy does not cover all the costs. It doesn't even cover the printing. We print considerably more than we ask the authors to buy, always. The authors do not pay for our editing or design time. The authors do not pay for review copies. The authors, on average, pay $7.48 per book, which is 50% of a $14.95 novel, and if they buy 100 copies--which is also the average--that $748.00 doesn't cover the printing or marketing, design or editing. But it does help us, and it does provide motivation for the author to tell people about the book. The book buy is not an attempt to make self-publishers out of our authors, but it does open a door for authors to make more money than they would on royalties alone. We are a small press, and we don't hide that; we do not offer advances or some of the other perks that larger presses can offer, but, we are a quality, award-winning press and our authors have more involvement in the publishing process than they could with someone bigger. We are not wealthy, nor do we seek wealth. We publish for our living, but more importantly we publish for the passion and love of it.

The marketing we do includes selling our books to buyers of Barnes and Noble, Borders, and indies. Amazon as well. We work with national distributors, like Baker and Taylor and Partners. We are members of the Midwest Booksellers Association, the Midwest Independent Publishers Association, and other groups, where we exhibit books. We attend bookshows and festivals all over the country, and in Canada. We bring floods of authors to these events--at no cost to the authors, I might add. We enter the books into book awards, such as the Minnesota, Midwest, and Northeastern Minnesota, and we often win or place in the finalists.

We do much in the way of trying to get reviews from large and small reviewers, and were reviewed in Publisher's Weekly, Library Journal, Booklist, and other major reviewers in the last year.

We help the authors set up signings (in as much as grouping them together with other authors when possible, providing contact information, and facilitating, however we are not publicists, and do not actually schedule them), and we teach them how do signings. We work with the authors to form marketing plans that supplement the work we're already doing, reaching into areas that we might not have access to ourselves.

We want the authors to be marketing to the non-traditional markets. They are to sell their books, at full price, to book clubs, civic groups, library readings, craft shows, and many other venues and events that direct contact with authors allow. It is these sales that we do the book buy for, and authors often come back and reorder because they do so well with these sales. We want our authors to always have books in the car, because they sell books that way. All of them. And if they sell books, at full price, to a person and can sign the book, the author gets more than their royalty for their effort and the customer gets a signed copy. This is a system that works, and works well, although it is not for everyone.

We maintain a high degree of integrity in what we do. We work hard at every facet of our business. We are a family business: my mom, my husband, and me. And we are proud of this business. We have many repeat authors, and many, many authors who tell their friends to come to us, as well. This speaks volumes for how we conduct ourselves and for the quality of work and relationships we maintain.



  1. Hey-- I thought that was a pretty good response. Ballsy.

    Although I understand the inherent sleaziness of vanity presses, the guy is right-- a lot of businesses are folding and you really do have to learn how to be creative and make money any way you can.

    Sometimes people don't want to hear the truth. "Your book is terrible, and completely unreadable" is not a deterrent for some authors-- they still think they have a hit "if only given the chance".

    These people are going to go to a vanity press, come hell or high water. I've talked to authors who were offered traditional publishing deals, but they didn't want to make "changes to their art", and decided to publish with a vanity press instead. They all regretted their decision, of course. The books tanked, they didn't recover the investment, and the traditional publisher was no longer interested.

    That's why they call them "vanity presses".

  2. I thought it was odd when she was asking me how my book should be marketed, and do I have any ideas on how best to market it. Then I figured it out and decided not to pursue it. Too bad they have to give thier publishing business a bad reputation.

  3. She had numerous errors in her response. For example, you need a comma before a coordinating conjunction (1st sentence). AND, you should never start a sentence with an AND. Wouldn't want her editing my work!