Today, I sit down and talk publishing with Jacqueline Church Simonds, Publisher of Beagle Bay, Inc.
Tell us a little bit about your press and how you came to be?
After 2 years of trying, I discovered that no New York publisher wanted my woman pirate novel Captain Mary, Buccaneer (this was before “Pirates of the Caribbean”). I read Dan Poynter’s Self-Publishing Manual, hired an editor, (my husband had done typesetting before) cover designer and book packager, and I was off.
We decided to get into publishing seriously and focus on women. Well, as I was reminded, women are interested in EVERYTHING! For instance, 65% of travel decisions are made by women—so we got into travel publications. Women want to know about self-esteem issues and novels and… so you can see how our mandate grew to encompass a wide range of books!
Are you open to publishing a wide variety of writing styles, or is there a specific style/voice you are looking for?
We are a book packager and a distributor. We also do custom publishing. I no longer take on Traditional publishing projects. With that in mind (and at the risk of being totally irrelevant to your survey), I’ll answer as book packager and distributor:
We look for marketability: How does this book fill a need, address a question in the marketplace. As a distributor, I have to see that the whole package (editing, cover, marketing plan) are professional quality. Then I have to see how this new author/publisher fills a gap—what is their platform, what is their expertise, who listens to them?
As a book packager, I’m looking for great projects. Two books we did that I’m really proud of: Women in Shadow and Light that addressed a photography project for abused women and Hornet Plus Three that celebrated the recovery of the Apollo 11 spacecraft.
How do you discover new writers? Do you take recommendations from authors or contacts you are already friendly with, or do they tend to be blind submissions?
I’ve done a lot of work for self-publishers in the last 10 years: I’ve been a co-List Mom on the SPAN Self-Publishing Discussion Group, I wrote the Self-Publisher’s FAQ (the largest on-line compendium of advice for new self-publishers), I’ve written scads of articles on aspects of the publishing world for various publications, as well as appearing in national and local media. So I get a lot of people approaching me out of the blue—mostly women, but also men (mostly because their wives or Moms suggested me). I know a fair number of people who do book packaging; we sort of swap clients if we don’t handle “x.”
What is the most common mistake that authors make when querying that, in turn, causes you to lose interest in their work? (i.e., perhaps the way they wrote the query letter, a manuscript that is less than polished, etc.)
Mostly what I see is a lot of people unaware that publishing is a $3 trillion a year global business. That somehow, their Third Grade teacher runs the publishing universe, and all will be well if they get the book “out there.” This leads to astounding mistakes, like publishing a book with typos not just in the manuscript, but on the cover; a belief that “everyone who likes to read” will like the book; a general disinterest in basic grammar. I get a few queries a day. Most I say no to for all of the above reasons.
A lot of writers submit to multiple presses at a time and are naturally anxious to hear your thoughts on their work. What is the protocol for an author to follow-up with a press about the status of their query? Is it appropriate to follow-up, or is this something that is off-putting?
The queries I get are from people who are looking for book packagers or distributors. If I receive an e-mail for book packaging services from someone that is simultaneously delivered to many people (you can see the header full of other addresses, or it says “address list not disclosed”) I just delete. I don’t engage in cattle calls.
With distribution clients, I try to listen to what their needs are. I assume they are talking to several distributors. We run a concierge distribution company, specializing in start-up presses. We offer something none of the big distributors do—personal attention and an understanding of the joys and woes of beginning. I try to show why that has more importance for them than a mega-conglomerate.
What do you take into consideration when you’re thinking of publishing an author’s book/novel/whatever? Is it the writing alone, or is it more than that?
Strong writing is good, but it’s the total package: writing, author platform, marketing.
Since so many authors are going the self-publishing route, why would an author go with you?
We offer so many options to help people self-publish: from editorial services to typesetting to book design, marketing plans, and distribution.
What can you do for them that why might not be able to do for themselves?
Not only do we offer all of the above, but I also do consulting. Publishing is hard—but not impossible. I help people get started on the right footing, so they have the best chance of success.
How do you feel about self-publishing and where it is headed?
I see that a lot more people will be self-publishing. That’s good—in that they’ll retain their intellectual property and all the rights and possibilities to monetize their message that go with it. It also means that there will be a lowering in quality overall. Some people simply do not seem to think that rushing to get into print, not taking the time to make the work look professional, will damage their impact on readers. Will readers be frustrated by a lot more dreck in the system and actually start to care about traditional publishing houses again? It remains to be seen. Publishing is evolving at an amazing pace. I’m interested to see what happens next!
And lastly, if you could publish any author in history (dead or still alive) who would you publish and why?
Wow! Cool question! Can I pick 2? Both self-publishers, originally:
Chris Paolini (Eragon, etc), because he understood from the beginning that it was all about getting other young people to share his vision of a fantasy world. And I’d get to edit him… which he sorely needs
Gertrude Stein because she had an eye for what was up and coming in her generation. What an eye! I’d love to listen to her exchange ideas, quips and barbs with the best of her time. I’d learn so much from her!
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