Thursday, September 13, 2012

{Guest Post} How Seventh Star Press Stacks Up in R.J. Sullivan's Haunting Obsession Online Book Tour

Welcome to the official home stretch of the Haunting Obsession Blog tour, the second of four consecutive new posts by yours truly. Thanks to the Book and Movie Dimension for hosting today, and to Seventh Star Press as always for setting this up.

This Online Book Tour is Brought to You by Seventh Star Press!

So today's topic: Book and Movie Dimension asks, point-blank, how is Seventh Star treating you and how would you compare them to other publishers?

To which I say--

 Oboy, look at the time, I have that thing with those people at that place.

Confronted with the ultimate author Awkward Moment, I want to go on record about Damnation Books. You may know them by reputation--which is not necessarily sparkling if you do a Google search. 

I had Google then, too, and I had that information available. I really have nothing to contribute to that conversation. The facts are there to be reviewed. 

Here was the situation when I signed with DB. Kim Richards, the EIC of Damnation and Eternal Press, was completely up front about the online dispute and enlightened me on the facts. I understood where she was coming from. She answered my questions directly and I was satisfied enough to feel confident that those issues were not relevant to our partnership.

Kim personally clarified specific terms of the contract I did not understand and negotiated terms I wanted changed. I was happy with the results. Nothing has happened since to change that. 

I was given my choice of artist (the marvelous Ash Roland, who introduced me to the publisher and helped guide me through the process). DB delivered exactly what they promised. A timely, smooth edit of the manuscript, an attractive cover, a spot on their website, the appropriate ebook files went online as promised, and a quality softcover edition through Lightning Source. They fill my author orders fast and my royalty checks arrive on time.

DB also gave me the "street cred" of being an author vetted by a publishing house when I took my book on the road. And that's important.

I was an author with a handful of short story credits. My literary agent had agreed to part amicably after she had shopped Haunting Blue to all the big publishers and could not land it. I wanted it available. And I got that.

I also understood DB's business model up front. They put out 4-6 Damnation titles and 4-6 Eternal Press titles every single month. That's up to 12 new books every month. They offer an array of horror to a ravenous readership by creating a large stable of authors who provide the content. Also, and as an author residing in the Midwest with a publisher set up in California, I had no illusions about the individual attention I'd receive after the big first thirty days.

I got what I expected. I have no complaints. Putting out Haunting Blue led me to find the Indiana Horror Writers, taught me a great deal about author independence and self-promotion, and in fact set me up to discover Seventh Star Press. And before I move on, I'll add that when I told Kim of my decision to move to another publisher, she sent warm congratulations and wished me good luck, They continue to pay out royalties and fill my book orders as needed. 

So. In comparison.

Oh, look at the time! I got that thing with...

Okay, fine!

As I indicated, through the IHW, I became aware of, and carpooled to, several genre conventions while rooming with members. I got to know IHW President Michael West, a nice guy and damn talented author, and observe his interaction with a representative from his publisher, who appeared with him at many of these events. The publisher was a small press out of Lexington Kentucky, called Seventh Star Press, and the rep was a friendly fellow named Stephen Zimmer. 

I remember Stephen's generosity offering up supplies I needed for my table, his help with my banner, and a long weekend at an uneventful event where lack of activity left us chit-chatting quite a bit.

I particularly remember Context 2011, when Stephen and Michael and I left Friday night to find dinner and we hopped into my van. What started out as friendly teasing about my "Shagin' Wagon" turned into a social media blitz that started from Stephen's Facebook, led a photo session, and became the talk of the con. By Saturday morning, most authors and readers approaching my table would ask my name, and then reply with, "You’re the guy with the van!" This broke the ice and led to conversation. Sometimes it led to selling a book.

Stephen "gets" social media. And remember, I wasn't even with the publisher. Stephen owed me nothing. He just knew how to take a moment and work it to my advantage--one small press author helping another. Because that's how he's programmed.

When I think back on that moment, I'm inclined to paraphrase When Harry Met Sally. "I'll have what Michael's having." And I knew where I wanted to send my next project.

Fast forward to December. 

I had just finished writing Haunting Obsession. I knew I loved it, but I also knew I hadn't exactly created a safe, commercial story that was a shoe-in for any publisher. About the only thing I knew for sure was which publisher I wanted to consider it first.

By late January, the decision had come down. EIC Amanda DeBord read it, loved it, and wanted to make it happen. They sent me a contract--a friendly contract, to be sure.

However, I am a control freak, and as such, I wanted to make sure that all my petty demands would also be met before I found out too late otherwise. First, I wanted Bonnie Wasson as my artist. SSP has two artists, and I thought Bonnie would fit my work better. I planned to negotiate whatever needed to be negotiated to get her. And the answer was: "Done. We were thinking that direction anyway."

Well...okay, then.

I expressed that all I wanted was someone meet me halfway on my ideas to help make them happen. Our first test came days later when Stephen tasked me with think out of the box, something that would fit Haunting Obsession and make it stand out. I realized a cardboard standee of Maxine, created in the "classic Hollywood style," would be a huge attention-getter and fit the book very well, and draw more people to the table. was also a significant up-charge over the standard banner.

Their response: "That sounds great. We'll pick up the difference for you."

You could have knocked me over at that point.

Don't pass on reading!- R.J. Sullivan's Haunting Obsession Online Book Tour: Review of Haunting Obsession by R.J. Sullivan

I could go on, but the point is, Seventh Star works with the author. For each idea, for each marketing piece specified or negotiated, (bookmarks, art cards, standee, book trailer) that's either something that would have had to come out of my pocket or something I would have had to just forget about. Every investment SSP made on my behalf is an investment I didn't have to put into those pieces, and could apply elsewhere. 

It's added up fast. And we're just getting started.

But they did break their word to me. They don't deliver halfway; they deliver 75% of the way.

I'll overlook that minor infraction.

There's really no need to belabor that SSP understands social media, knows how to generate interest in an author and how to make books move. They also understand the reader--from the hipster ebook consumer to the old school reader who treasures collectible hardbacks. They understand how much genre readers love a good piece of interior artwork, too.

It's about a difference of approach. There's nothing wrong with a publisher creating a large catalog of titles and seeing what sticks. SSP chooses another model. I was the "seventh star of Seventh Star" when I hopped aboard. For all the perceived growth of the publisher, they have added only one more authors since me. It's definitely a better strategy for an author, and they think it's a better strategy for themselves. 

Only they can say for sure, but I don't see any sign of SSP changing strategy anytime soon.

And now, look at the time. I really must be going.

[Thank you to R.J. for this most revealing post and I'm proud to be a book blogger for Seventh Star Press]

About R.J. Sullivan
R. J. Sullivan resides with his family in Heartland Crossing, Indiana. His first novel, Haunting Blue, is an edgy paranormal thriller about punk girl loner Fiona "Blue" Shaefer and her boyfriend Chip Farren. R.J. is hard at work on the next chapter in Fiona's story, Virtual Blue, coming soon from Seventh Star Press.  R.J. is a member of the Indiana Horror Writers.
Twitter: @RJSullivanAuthor

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