Avid Press, LLC
An exclusive interview by Pam Ripling
Avid Press, LLC., is a royalty-paying publisher of fiction and non-fiction books, produced in both electronic and paper print format. Striving to maintain a reputation as author-friendly publishers, Colleen Gleason Schulte and sister Kate Gleason started Avid with the goal of bringing fresh fiction to their readers while pro-viding an extraordinary opportunity for those writers who have been unable to get "beyond the closed doors of the writing industry. Colleen has been writing herself for over fifteen years and in addition to an extensive background in business, art, graphic design and public speaking, she holds a B.A. in English and an M.B.A. from the University of Michigan. We recently met over a cup of cyber-coffee to discuss these very exciting times for publishers and writers alike.
Colleen, what did you do before Avid, and do you still work a "day job"?
I am what most people would consider a type-A, workaholic type of person (a big grin here) --but I really don't see myself in that manner. I thrive on having a lot of things going on--if not, then I become bored or unmotivated. So . .. to answer your question, yes, I still have a "day" job.
I am very fortunate in that my job is a flexible, sales management position in which I have a wonderful boss and excellent working conditions. While I can't do much during regular business hours, I can conduct business via my cell phone while en route to appointments or on lunch; and I can check and respond to email during my lunch hour.
Not only do I have a day job, but I also am the mother of two toddlers--aged 3.5 and 2; and the wife of a self-employed musician/piano tuner/music director. I also am a writer--which is how I got into this business, by the way, and that is the one part of me that has suffered during the advent of Avid Press.
How many hours a week would you say you devote to Avid?
I am always thinking and strategizing--even when I am sleeping--so the number of hours a week is not really relevant. I live and breathe Avid Press even when I am otherwise involved because it's my company, my business, and my goal is to not have a day job in the next five years---and in order to meet that goal, Avid Press must succeed.
My sister edits all of my work, and sometimes I want to toss her overboard! How is it working with yours?
(Laughing) We have our up days and our down days. We bring different talents and viewpoints to the business--as a writer who is also very familiar with the industry, because of my endeavors to get my own work published, I often have to be re-minded to look outside the "box" of the industry--and Kate helps to push me in that direction. She is a good foil for me, and although we often have disagreements, the differing viewpoints I think add to the dynamics of our company.
Can you remember the moment, perhaps the event, that finally convinced you to be-come a book publisher, and what was it?
I don't remember the particular moment. We (Kate and I) had been tossing the idea around for awhile because I learned about epublishing and was also frustrated as a writer; and Kate was beginning to work on developing websites, and she was working in an editorial capacity for a university. Besides, we both love to read and share a similar interest in certain types of books. The idea evolved because I realized that no matter how good a book was, it stood a very small chance of being published in NY--because of consolidations, because of cutting lines, reissues of front list authors' books, etc. There just wasn't enough room for some very talented new writers. And as a voracious reader myself--and Kate too--I began to notice that the same old stuff was being published in genre fiction; so much so that I could no longer walk into a bookstore and walk out with 5-10 books that I couldn't wait to get home and read. Instead, I could barely find anything that interested me, other than new releases by a few of my favorite authors.
So Kate and I decided that we wanted to give this opportunity to some new, talented writers--to get some new, fresh stories out there. And we have been very pleased and delighted with the titles we've acquired and been able to release.
What has been more difficult than you thought it would be [about publishing]?
Working through the system that is set in place by the "big boys"--by big boys, I mean everyone from distributors to wholesalers to booksellers, etc. It's no easy task to get our books out there--there are hoops and there are hoops. We can't do any-thing until we have a book in hand to show the distributor/wholesaler/bookseller--and even then, they are not always willing to take the book on--and they certainly aren't in a hurry to make a decision. We might have ads breaking in national publications-like Romantic Times--but our buyer at a wholesaler won't even return our phone calls because we are the little cheese. It's very frustrating at times.
Because we're new, and haven't done this a gazillion times before like the larger publishers, everything is a learning curve and a new step. We are learning, and are thrilled with what we've learned . . . and perhaps others in the industry might think we go about doing our business in the "wrong" way--but I believe in thinking outside the box--coloring outside the lines--and being an industry outsider may end up helping us as we work our way through the system and learn how to do things. And we will succeed--it may just take us a bit longer than we--or our authors-would like!
What would you do differently with regard to Avid, if you could start again [if anything!]?
Hmm. I don't know. Not that we've done everything perfectly--don't get me wrong--but I think what we've done, and the mistakes we've made, and the paths we've traveled--however convoluted and difficult they might have been--have been too valuable to say we shouldn't have done it that way.
How do the submissions you receive rate [poor, average, good, great] percentage wise?
About 75% of our submissions I would characterize as being average. Same story, nothing new or fresh, obviously trying to write for what the industry says they want--not what the author necessarily feels a need to write for.
About 3-5% are GREAT, excellent, clean, neat, new, wonderful manuscripts. And, unfortunately, we can't even offer contracts for all of them-because we have limits to what we can produce, and produce well and fairly.
Of the ones with "promise", how clean are they? Do people pay attention to your guidelines?
We don't really have guidelines. We are looking for fresh stories (I use that word a lot--but that's the only way to describe what we want.)
What advice would you give to authors hoping to get published electronically?
The same old advice that editors give over and over (even if they buy other manu-scripts): write what you want to write, write for yourself, writer what needs to be written. It shows when you do that; an editor can tell when a book really came from your heart, consumed you, MADE you write it. As a writer myself, I KNOW that feeling . . . I treasure it and I wish it upon anyone who has the talent and ability to recognize the feeling. Don't write for the industry.
Few e-book publishers offer paper printed versions of their books. What made you and Kate decide to be one of them?
We wanted to make our books available to a wider consumer market. Epublishing is not the norm yet; it's not even the tip of the iceberg in the consumer market. We believe so strongly in our authors and the books we've acquired that we just want to make them available to as many people as possible.
How do sales compare, in general, between print and electronic versions?
When you count the books sold through bookstores, at signings, etc., the print versions totally outsell the electronic versions--by probably 50 to 1. When you look at sales via the web, through our site and including other ebook sites, the comparison is much less. We sell probably 2 print books to 1 ebook in that scenario. There is a price difference, and, of course, the ease of receiving the book via email or download within hours of ordering it from the comfort of one's home . . . and there definitely is a place for ebooks.
How will "print on demand" work when/if you implement it?
We have a title coming out in June that will be a true Print on Demand title--where we will literally print one or two books at a time, as they are ordered. The book is by one of our current authors--it's his second book--and it will be a trade paperback; a departure from our usual mass market format (we have one other trade paper-back at this time.). So . . . we'll see how that goes!
Bill Gates has predicted a million e-books will be sold during the first year his new "Reader" software is available. This leads me to wonder how affected small, independent publishers like Avid will handle the wave when the big NY houses open their "electronic" floodgates. Any thoughts on this?
We'll already be established as publishers who publish new, interesting, off-the-beaten-path books. I think it will only enhance our presence. What are your plans for Avid - what kind of volume would you like to see over the next year, marketing direction, new genres, etc.?
The main goal for Avid Press in the next year is to continue to put out our books--about one per month--and to work on securing good distribution in bookstores. That's long road, but we're plugging away at it.
We are also considering expanding our one-title-per-month plan to offer ebook-only contracts to two EXTRA books per month, in order to keep from rejecting some of those wonderful manuscripts that truly deserve to be published. I would very much like to hear from your readership--and any interested parties--what they would think about that type of expansion: ie, is it better to add two new titles per month as ebooks only (doing a total of 3 per month), or to keep publishing only one book per month, but in print and electronic binding.
They can drop comments to me about this issue (not submissions; we'll soon be set-ting up an email address only for submissions--and we are currently closed to sub-missions) at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are you currently writing? If so, what genre do you prefer, and will you publish your own work?
I write when I have time--usually when I force myself to give up the time to do so, it's time for my critique group to meet. I force them to make us meet every month or 6 weeks so I HAVE to write.
I write contemporary romantic suspense with a bit of paranormal tossed in, and I also write medievals. And I would like to publish my own work, someday, perhaps in the future once Avid Press has substantiated itself as a quality publisher so that noses won't be thumbed at me for "self-publishing." And, of course, I have to convince my sister that my work is worthy of the name Avid Press as well. (A smile.)
Thanks for the opportunity to be interviewed! I hope your readers will stop by our site and check out our titles--there's something there for everyone--and sample the wonderful work our authors have to offer.
Thank you, Colleen, for joining us for WORDSMITH, and good luck to you and Kate on the continuing success of Avid Press!