The rated epublishing houses list on this blog has been running for over 3 months now, with a new publisher added every week-day. So far, though it has garnered a lot of visits, hardly any author from any publishing house commented on any publisher profile. Until beginning of September that is. Within 2 days of posting the ratings for MuseItUp Publishing, over 20 authors had flocked in to chant the merits of their publisher and share with all how happy they are in that community.
This is so unusual and fascinating that it certainly begged more information. So an interview of Lea Schizas, the publisher herself, seemed unavoidable. As predictable from the dithyrambic compliment her authors relayed, she readily agreed.
Hello Lea, thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions.
Your authors seem to be a very active and tight knit community, how do you explain that?
I always have followed my parents’ upbringing: show by example. If the head of a company doesn’t step forward and demonstrate their enthusiasm for their establishment and pave a path for the people involved within their environment, don’t expect these same individuals who pour their sweat and blood to make it a success to step up and do the work on their own.
The Muse authors do whatever they do not because they are told what needs to be done, but because they feel welcomed, respected, and for them it’s not a chore to promote their pub house and books, but a way of showcasing their involvement in a house that they are truly a part of, shaping the way it grows. So basically, it’s an investment in ‘their’ company.
With such a tight knit community, do you authors help each other in marketing their books? Is that voluntary or do you encourage to do so and how?
Oh yes, everyone regardless what genre their books are help one another in many ways:
From hosting them for a blog tour
On their radio shows
Twittering their new or upcoming releases
Blog guest spots
Month long blog festivals with a certain theme
All voluntary, and yes, I do go in and offer tips but never impose what they should or should not be doing. These tips are left for the authors to decide what best fits their schedule.
MuseItUp publishing is just over a year old and already has over 150 books published. How do you manage such a high production level?
You may not giggle at this but I know Musers will understand this: I’m nuts and very anal. Anal in the sense I’m a perfectionist when it comes to the quality of our books and showcasing our authors, and nuts because I do believe many of them think I sleep by my computer desk. What it boils down to is having a deep passion for what one does and for me this is not work but something I feel deeply involved with. I’ve always helped writers in my career and this is simply another means to help more.
For such a young publishing house, at least 5 of your books have won prizes or awards. Do you do something specific that explains such a high rate?
This follows my responses above: passionate and being anal to make sure we offer as top notch quality products to our readers and buyers. And our head cover artist, Delilah K. Stephans, began and maintains the same quality and virtues I do: making sure the full package is nothing less than presentable, a product we (meaning the authors, editors, artists) are proud to place their stamp on.
Could you give a ballpark figure of the kind of sales an author publishing with you can reasonably expect within a year of publication?
This isn’t an easy question to answer. There are never any guarantees of the total $ figure an author might make. This is highly based, in my opinion, on the readership an author brings to the table already. An author who has a large following will naturally make more than an author who is just starting out. At the Muse we welcome and have many new authors, and we do our best to showcase and help them build a following.
What are your main marketing techniques? Do your authors perform a lot of marketing themselves?
Blog talk radio shows
In face to face situations we’ve managed to get one major retail establishment in Montreal to sell our print books, and we’ve made contact with several more. We’ve had an ad in Realms of Fantasy, and currently alternate showcasing our authors on several sites.
But again it goes back to what I initially said above: when an author sees their publisher doing their all for their authors it tends to encourage them to do the same, especially when the authors group is supportive and full of helpful tips and guidance.
Your contract is for 3 years for ebooks and a year initially for print books, which is a relatively long time for an epublisher and it is unusual for an epublisher to reserve the print right. Can you explain the rational behind?
No, our contract doesn’t demand print rights but is offered. Those who want to wait a year to see if their book will go in the queue for print can give us the rights. If the print book is not published within a year then their print rights are reverted back to them. If they want their print rights before then, in case they’ve found a publisher seeking print, or perhaps they want to self-publish their print book, their rights are given to them. We don’t ask but have it included in the contract which they can simply not X. And because we are new, to be honest, budgeting our expenses is of high priority. As you know, print costs, so we’d rather be safe than sorry. As we get more established perhaps the print books can be introduced earlier, but for now we need to be careful because we are here for the long haul.
Your authors give lots of compliments about their editors. How do you select your editors?
Each of our editors, regardless if I’ve worked with them in other houses or not, need to complete an editing test. There are things in that test I purposely added that if an editor misses more than one or two items, things that as an editor they should pick off, then it’s a fail. In the beginning we had something like 20 editor applications and from that 8 were chosen, editors who are still with us. Our editors are encouraged to participate in our authors loop, and they do. As a matter of fact, our authors are such fun people I had to add a new group, Muse Gab Room, just so they can go and play there and leave the authors’ group free for promo and helpful information.
In view of your current success, do you have any plan to expand in the future?
There is one more lifetime goal yet to be achieved, A Muse Bookstore, where authors can have a consignment placement of their books and not worry going through corporate headquarters and giving a spiel about their books. But there’s more to this bookstore in the blueprint and once it’s achieved I’ll be more than happy to share.
For now, within a year, we’ve already incorporated and our trademark papers are in the works. We may open up to nonfiction, certain categories, but for now we’re simply growing by making sure our authors are happy with their books final product, marketing our in-house authors, and keeping a level stance on all aspects of our house. This last statement is important because as a new house one can get carried away and steer away from the alloted budget, thus risking the future of our house by not being level-headed and smart as to how fast we can and should grow. As much as we’d all love to see MuseItUp Publishing reach a goal sooner than later, the word of mouth recommendation may be the slowest form of recognition, but it’s certainly one that builds a more solid base.
Thank you very much Lea, and congratulations on having created such a vibrant community and bringing their work to the light! Keep up the good work.