Creative Copublishing with Fithian Press

Finding the right publisher is not easy.

Major-league publishers don't have time to read all the query letters they receive, let alone all the manuscripts. Nor will they take a risk on an unknown author. They rely on agents to do their screening, and they publish only what they feel confident will earn them a profit. But, as any newcomer knows, it's almost as difficult for an unpublished author to find an agent as it is for an unagented author to find a publisher.

The small press scene offers some of the most creative publishing happening today. Unfortunately, most small-press publishers operate on a shoestring budget, so they must be very selective about what they decide to print. So, although the small press options are more encouraging than the big time, it's still not easy finding the right publisher in this arena.

Self-publishing is open to anyone with a manuscript, some time, some money, and some know-how. But it's time-consuming work,work that most writers would rather leave to experienced publishers. Self-publishing works best for how-to books or informative nonfiction; self-published "literature" seldom breaks even.

Subsidy press publishers are not always ethical, and you could be paying a lot of money to receive less than you expected. In selecting a subsidy house, ask the following questions: What is the quality of their production? Is binding included in the production? What sort of promotion is planned for your book? Who owns the books once they are manufactured? Finally, shop around: these companies' prices vary from simple cost-plus to whopping fees.

Creative copublishing

Often the reason a publisher won't publish a new book is because of the risk: publishing is a business, and the publisher needs to know that each book will make a profit. If the author can reduce or eliminate the risk, the publisher will be far more likely to take on the book if the book fits the publisher's list. There are many ways an author and a publisher can work together, but here is how it usually works at Fithian Press.

The author pays the major production costs: typesetting, printing, binding, etc. The publisher contributes services ranging from editorial (editing, proofreading, jacket copy) to production (design, typesetting) to marketing (press releases, brochures, bound galleys, review copies, sales, distribution, and fulfillment) to executive (ISBN, Books in Print,
copyright, Library of Congress cataloging, bar code, contracts, and permissions).

All copies of the book remain the property of the author, who may take possession of any or all copies at any time. In addition, the publisher handles sales and order fulfillment, and pays the author a royalty of 60% of the net receipts from all books or subsidiary rights sold. That way the author gets paid back (to some extent) for his or her investment.

Fithian Press is a small-press copublisher whose function is to bring out worthwhile books that other presses might not consider commercial. We specialize in literature, but we will consider manuscripts of all sorts. We do not, however, offer to publish every book that comes our way. Although we can't promise big sales, we tailor a marketing campaign for each book we publish. Our production standards are high, our prices reasonable, and our contracts fair.

Should you copublish?

Every author has a different reason for wanting to be published: money, recognition, a message, self-expression... Before you decide to copublish your book, you should know why being in print is important to you. Because copublishing won't make you rich and famous. Fithian Press publishes realistically small editions, and our authors don't appear on big-time TV talk shows. The financial risk rests with the author, and we can't guarantee that you will make your investment back. We do, however, promote each title to its fullest potential, and for that we need your help.

Know your market. Because we publish short-run editions, we're most interested in books with a specific target audience. Can you define the audience for your book? We will want your help as we research and develop a specific marketing plan.

You can help your publisher by providing lists of people interested in your book. Tell us the names of authorities who would read galleys and give us blurbs for the back cover. Promote actively in bookshops and in the media. Copublishing means more than just subsidizing production; it means working with the publisher to make your book a success.

Can you afford it? Is it worth it?

To answer these questions, start by getting a copublishing proposal from us. Follow the instructions on the Fithian Press manuscript guidelines page. If we feel your book is right for us, we'll respond with a free editorial and marketing analysis, plus a book design and a quotation on the cost of the project. If you're happy with our copublishing terms, we'll happily mail you a contract.

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