Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Are Print Books Fated for Extinction?

Lida Quillen
Publisher and Founder of Twilight Times Books
Shares her Views on the Publishing Industry's Future

By

Dora Machado
 
 
 
Are print books fated for extinction? What does it take to remain cutting edge in the current publishing environment? What are the challenges and opportunities ahead? These are some of the questions I asked Lida Quillen, independent publisher and founder of Twilight Times Books as we wrapped up our conversation.  

How has the growth of self-publishing affected independent publishers like TT Books? When considering self-publishing, what are the advantages that authors may gain by signing with an independent publisher instead? What are the challenges?

I lurk on a number of publisher email lists and forums. I’m seeing reports that other small publishing houses have seen a downturn in the number and quality of submissions and thus fewer contracts are offered. At the present time Twilight Times Books continues to see a significant number of submissions.

Taking everything into consideration, an author may well have a certain amount of success (i.e. sales) if they self-publish a number of their titles. Readers seem to be paying more attention to Indie authors these days and showing their support by buying their books.

Several authors currently self-publish in addition to placing certain titles and/or series with TT Books. I don’t have a problem with this. If an author sends me their best work and I place them under contract then I can ensure that galley copies of their book will be sent to the pre-publication book reviewers. In addition, the editing process, the page layout and design (both ebook and print) as well as the cover art will generally be superior with a small press as opposed to what the author could achieve on their own. Also, the book will be eligible for a number of major book awards if published with a small press.

Sales for Indie authors can be rewarding, but so can the addition of “award-winning” author to the author bio and/or a snippet of a review from the Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, etc. to the cover of the book.

On the downside, an author published with a small press is most likely not going to see their book on the shelves of chain bookstores throughout the U. S. As you may know, new titles remain on the bookshelves for six weeks to three months before they are removed. Books with a small press will be in print for years.
 
What did it take to bring TT Books from a cutting-edge, pioneering e-publisher to a full-service independent publishing house? What were the highpoints? What were the challenges?

Twilight Times Books was established January 1999 as an epublisher. In 2004, we evolved from an Internet epublisher to a small press print publisher when we published 21 titles in trade paperback. We currently have 150 ebook titles, of which 110 titles are in print.
In 2004, we had a backlist of books that the authors were anxious to see in print. I had also lined up a national distributor who carried all 21 titles. I was able to keep up with production, just barely, but I was not able to properly market each and every book. So I have slowed down to 12 – 15 print books per year since then.

In 2005 we acquired new distribution channels for both our print books and ebooks more than doubling overall sales. From 2006 to 2013, we’ve seen a steady increase in sales of about 15% per year. Also, from 2006-2010 about 65-70% of our sales revenue came from print sales, but that changed to 50% in 2011 due to the increased demand for ebooks with the advent of a variety of affordable ebook devices.
In 2014 we have again doubled overall sales, compared to 2013, primarily due to a significant uptick/interest in our SF/F titles in recent months as well as acquisition of new distribution channels. 

Our print titles are highly competitive with other trade publishers, large and small. By that we mean the quality of the writing in the books. We have always been highly selective as to what books we selected for publication since inception.
We have ramped up promo opportunities via our ebook distributors such as Amazon Kindle, Apple iBooks, Barnes &Noble Digital, Kobo Books, OmniLit, OverDrive, etc. We have a direct relationship with our ebook distributors. We do not go through a third-party.

Twilight Times Books was listed in Writer’s Digest Magazine 2012 Top 100 Markets for Book & Magazine Writers. We are currently listed in the Literary Market Place. Twilight Times Books is on the Mystery Writers of America list of approved publishers as well as the International Thriller Writers list of recognized publishers. Our titles are eligible for major mystery and thriller awards.
We publish award-winning books which consistently receive four and five star reviews. Hundreds of libraries across the U.S. have purchased our books. Several titles have been selected as required reading for college classes in such places as George Washington University, Loyola College, Pfeiffer University, University of Kentucky, etc.

We will celebrate 15 years in business this year. Twilight Times Books was established in 1999 to publish the works of highly talented and yet unpublished and/or under-published novelists. We are committed to providing an outlet for brilliant authors with books that deserve to see print. Our philosophy has not changed in fifteen years.
Fifteen years? Congratulations! One of the biggest changes that we've witnessed in the industry during the last few years is the evolution of the E-book. E-books or print books, which one do you prefer to publish and why? Are print books fated for extinction?

I was perfectly happy as an epublisher. I was publishing well-written, interesting books from talented authors in a variety of genres. But I realized to maintain the quality of the submissions I wanted, I needed to offer print versions. Also, my ebook authors were clamoring to see their books in print.
We expect to see ebook sales continue as an increasing percentage of our sales revenue over the coming years. However, I don’t expect ebooks to completely displace print books. I anticipate that print books will remain popular for another twenty years.

What are the driving elements of the ever-changing publishing industry? What are the main challenges that publishers like Twilight Times Books face in today's changing environment? What opportunities will the future bring?

The publishing arena is changing quickly so we do need to stay abreast of any and all innovative developments. Publishers need to be alert to new markets, new ebook reader devices, new ebook formats, new developments in technology, etc.

Several of today’s established small press publishing houses started as epublishers in 1998-2000. At that time we knew ebooks were the wave of the future. We had no idea it would require over ten years for ebooks to take off. In my opinion, the ebook revolution took off with the advent of popular new ebook devices in 2007-2008.
For small presses who maintain high standards, have learned the business end of book publishing and who produce quality books, I feel the future is very bright indeed.

Thank you very much for sharing your insights with us, Lida. Talking to you has been great. We wish you and TT Books another fifteen years of continued success. And to our MB4 readers: The future is bright indeed. Have a good one and as always, thanks for reading.   
 
*****


 

About Lida Quillen

Lida E. Quillen is an author, editor, publicist and publisher. She is the founder and owner of Twilight Times Books, Paladin Timeless Books and Twilight Times ezine and current owner of Futures Mystery Anthology Magazine.

About Twilight Times Books

The mission of Twilight Times Books is to promote excellence in writing and great literature. TTBooks is dedicated to enhancing the prospects of getting great fantasy, historical, literary, mystery, science fiction and Young Adult books into the hands of readers.

Submission Information

Twilight Times Books will be open to submissions from February 15th to March 5, 2015. Send a cover letter, synopsis, first chapter and marketing plan in the body of an email message. The subject line must begin with ttb or ttbooks.


Contact Information:
 
Lida E. Quillen, Publisher
Email: publisher@twilighttimesbooks.com – or – publisher@twilighttimes.com
Website: http://www.twilighttimesbooks.com/

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*****

Dora Machado is the award-winning author of the epic fantasy Stonewiser series and her newest novel, The Curse Giver, available from Twilight Times Books. She is one only a few Hispanic women writing fantasy in the United States today. She grew up in the Dominican Republic, where she developed a fascination for writing and a taste for Merengue. After a lifetime of straddling such compelling but different worlds, fantasy is a natural fit to her stories.

When she is not writing fiction, Dora also writes features for the award-winning blog Murder By Four and Savvy Authors, where writers help writers. She lives in Florida with her indulgent husband and two very opinionated cats.

 
To learn more about Dora Machado and her award winning novels, visit her at www.doramachado.com , email her at Dora@doramachado.com, find her on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter.

 



 
 

2 comments:

Aaron Lazar said...

Thank you, Dora and Lida. This was an educational series of questions and answers, and I know our fans/friends have enjoyed it. ;o)

Dora Machado said...

Thanks, Aaron and thanks to Lida Quillen for sharing her thoughts and experience with us.