Q. You use digital printing, a more unusual approach to the printing process. Many writers are unaware of this shifting paradigm to a more environmental- and budget-conscious approach. Can you explain the benefits of digital printing for both publisher and author?
A. For publishers, the advantages are in not having to invest as much money up front in publishing a book. A print run of even 2,000 copies can cost $6,000 and up. And then it might take two years to sell all of them—or perhaps to sell only some of them. Capital is tied up for all of that time. And, moreover, the publisher has to pay to store the books in a warehouse. Digital printing requires only the cost of printing each book as it is sold or ordered. And there are no warehouse expenses. For the author, the advantage is that the publisher can invest money in promotion rather than storing books (assuming the publisher is honorable). There are some disadvantages. The publishing business, particularly some bookstores and review media, hold a prejudice against digital or print on demand because over the years self-publishing has tended to use these printing techniques. Excluding books digitally printed from a bookstore or review makes it easier for booksellers or reviewers to decide which books to ignore. It is not a fair way to make a choice, but it happens.
Q. Let’s say you have currently accepted a new writer. Can you explain the steps the writer would take in working with you?
A. Writers work with us pretty much as they might work with any publisher, except I think we tend to involve them more in our process. We invite a manuscript, offer suggestions for revision, issue a standard publishing contract with royalties. Authors pay for nothing. We offer standard royalties. We copy edit and design our books; authors review editing and have a chance to offer design suggestions and review the design. We work with authors to create a review and media list and send out as many as 100 copies to promote the book. We also work closely with authors to set up events and readings. Finally, we sell authors their own books at a 50% discount, and they are encouraged to sell the books themselves, keeping the “profit.” In effect, it’s a 50% royalty. Most authors like the option. We print the books as authors need them. We also sell through Lightning Source to bookstores, the chains, and libraries —both in the US and the UK. Our books are on Amazon.com here and in the UK.
Q. KenArnoldBooks does not work with agents in the traditional sense. Can you explain why?
A. Again, it’s a matter of where to put our money. Agents want advances; we don’t have that kind of capital lying around to invest. Advances can tie up capital for a couple of years. Also, we are not a mass-distribution publisher. Our sales goals for our books are modest —or, perhaps, reasonable, given that there are some 200,000 books published every year in the US.
Q. You offer your authors industry standard royalty-based book contracts. Do your royalties rates also compare similarly to traditional pub houses?
A. Our royalties are pretty much standard. For example, we pay 30% on sales through Amazon because Amazon takes a pretty big cut and a 10% net royalty —which is what we offer on other sales —would be negligible. Our 30% equals about 9% of the list price, which is as good as the larger trade houses. A 10% royalty on net sales is standard for most houses, slightly better than the 6% or 7% even larger houses offer for trade paperbacks. We also pay authors 50% of subsidiary rights sales–also standard in most contracts.
Q. The financially strapped publishing industry now has very little budget available for the publishers to aid the author in marketing. What kinds of traditional and non-traditional marketing methods do you use, and how do your authors help you in accomplishing your marketing strategies?
A. We work closely with authors to identify the right market for a book. We ask them for mailing lists and information on their networks. For us —and for most publishers, I think —we depend on the authors’ networks to get the word out. We publish a monthly newsletter for our own list and for authors’ lists. We do a national press release for each new book to targeted markets and to local media. Although we do some print advertising, we find that it is not the most effective use of our money. Our core efforts are in the internet, where we use viral marketing, blog-related networks, and online review media. We send a lot of books to reviewers and try to generate author and book stories in the non-book pages of media. This summer we will start using Google adwords and advertising on Amazon to increase the visibility of our list. We also focus on local marketing in an author’s community, wherever the author lives. Portland is a key market for us, and we have been successful in generating publicity here for us and for our authors. Publicity is the key: it’s cheaper and, eventually, more effective.
Q. Submissions to KenArnoldBooks are currently closed, but will reopen during a short window between October 15 and December 31, 2008. What types of writing will you be seeking at that time and what are your submission guidelines?
A. Potential authors should look at our website and the kinds of books we have already published. That’s the surest guide to what we are interested in. Good writing of all sorts is important. We will be looking for a poet or two for next year, perhaps a fiction title, a book in spirituality (I’d like something with a Zen perspective), and something really hilarious —a book of political or social satire. In the end, I think our list looks like Portland —a little bit weird, a lot committed, serious but not too nerdy about it. Potential authors should send us a letter of inquiry and a sample of writing. The website has guidelines for authors to follow.
<!–[if gte vml 1]> <![endif]–>Ken Arnold has at various times been a poet, playwright, author, deacon, and publisher. He is the author of several plays, including House of Bedlam, She Also Dances, and Enlightenment, and two books on spirituality, On the Way: Vocation, Awareness, and Flyfishing, and Night Fishing In Galilee: The Journey Toward Spiritual Wisdom. He has been the director of Rutgers University Press, the editor of CrossCurrents, an influential inter-religious press, and the Publisher of Church Publishing, Inc. He founded KenArnoldBooks, LLC, after moving to Portland in 2007, and is working on another book of spirituality, The Body of the Beloved: Trusting the Wisdom Within.