Bio: Georgia was born and raised in NYC but has been living in NC since 2006. She has over twenty years of marketing and product launch experience in the music and internet/technology areas. Georgia uses this expertise to help authors and publishers promote their releases and build awareness for their brands and imprints. When not writing or managing Month9Books or the non-profit literary organization YALITCHAT.ORG, which she founded, Georgia visits schools and talks to kids about writing books!
Why does Month9Books exist?
Month9Books exists to put evocative character and story-driven young adult and middle grade speculative fiction into the world. There are so many imprints out there that are genre driven, or that focus on the literary merit of a particular piece. But, we want to focus on the things the reader cares about : story and character. And, we want to do it in an entertaining way so that from the first time the reader sees one of our covers to the turn of the last page, they have been entertained.
What’s your process of deciding to take on a project?
We read it until we love it. We don’t always achieve the love. But we do accept queries on FB for unpublished writers, and agents email us directly. We have a team of about 10 people on our staff who give us feedback on titles. We compare submissions to what’s already in the market and what’s on our list. We think about how it could be marketed, how much editorial work it needs and whether we think it has series potential. A lot of time and effort goes into selecting titles but nothing is acquired without my approval.
What do you think is the biggest misconception surrounding small presses?
Lumping all small presses together is a mistake. Small presses can be distinguished by sales, how long they have been around and brand awareness. But other things to consider are distribution – does the press have ample distribution for ALL its titles, not just a few. Are the books available in stores? Does the press have reliable partners for not only distribution but foreign sales and subsidiary rights? Can they manage these things in-house? What’s the author feedback on the press? What are folks who have queried them or who are published by them saying? Finally, look at the professionalism and the team behind the press. Who are they? Are they experienced? Do they have a good reputation in the business? With any business, good intentions alone are not enough.
What are the benefits of publishing with a small press? What are the disadvantages?
Benefits vary. I think some small presses can be really agile and respond to the industry a lot faster than a larger press simply because of the size of the larger press vs the smaller press. It takes a lot more time and energy to stop a moving train than a moving car. Similarly it takes a lot more time and energy to reroute a moving train that it does a moving car. Some small presses (not all) prefer to see the writer as a partner, as opposed to how the writer has been traditionally viewed. That means across the board contribution to the process from start to finish.
Small presses also tend to offer higher eBook royalty rates, but that is not guaranteed. Month9Books is actively offering creative deals the likes of which would not have been considered even two years ago. It’s no longer about the advance. I see disadvantages of working with a small press in cases where the team is inexperienced, there is no distribution or foreign representation, and the author is not treated as a partner in publication. Of course, if the team in place has no idea what they are doing or experience with editing or branding, look elsewhere.
What’s the biggest advantage between signing with Month9Books and self-publishing? What about Month9Books a big/medium sized house?
As always, the writer must find the solution that is best for them. If the writer wants to sign with a large press, then they should. I am not anti-large press. As for self-publishing, I think if an author wants to, he should. What he should NOT to do is approach a press as an alternative to self-publishing—any press large or small. Small presses are not there for authors who want to self-publish but cannot afford it or who don’t know how to manage the business side of it to do their bidding. Writers should self-publish because they WANT to, and not because they cannot get a deal elsewhere. Just on the financial side alone, a well-edited novel of 300 plus pages could cost the writer between $500-$5,000. This does not include the line edit, proof, copy edit, book cover design, eBook and or print layout design, or creation of any marketing and support materials.
The cost savings alone and the peace of mind is one BIG reason to avoid self-publishing if you can. That said, I think self-publishing is a great option. I don’t want anyone to come away from this interview thinking that just because I run a small press that I advocate for signing with a small press vs. any of the other options out there. This is simply not true. Writers have lots of options nowadays. This is a good thing. As for signing with us vs. a larger press? I think we probably have less books on our list so we can give the books we do have good attention. We also tend to pay more often, so the writer might like to receive a check sooner than once or twice/year. Also, we are awesome. Did I mention Month9Books is awesome?
What do you think is the biggest obstacle an author at Month9Books (or any small press) has to face?
A small press author may realistically face issues with trying to book appearances if their publisher doesn’t have distribution. Booksellers want to make sure they can not only get books in store for an event, but that if they do not sell, those books can be returned. A bookseller may be wary of taking books on consignment from a small press without distribution.
A lot of people say small presses are only a stepping-stone to the Big Six. What role do you think Month9Books fills in the publishing world?
I really hate this idea that the small press is a stepping stone to a larger press. If an author comes to me with this idea, I immediately shut them down. Writers need to establish themselves regardless if they are published by a small or large press. They need to gain readers, build an audience. I would hate to be the author signed to the large press who sold only 10,000 books. That is largely seen as a failure, and that author would have trouble staying traditionally published. But to some small presses, selling 10,000 copies of one book could make their entire year. It’s the small fish big pond syndrome. This is a really old way of thinking and smart agents and authors know better.
Does Month9Books see a lot of sales in print books -- or are sales more prominent in e-books?
Month9Books offers print and digital books. As of right now, we sell more print books than eBooks not including our digital only romance imprint, Swoon Romance.
What is your marketing system?
We do a lot of outreach online, in stores and to libraries. We do our best to participate in conferences, festivals, and events where our authors can get exposure. We do some advertising. All writers must participate in [their own] marketing if they want to be successful whether if published by a small or large press.
What's your editing process at Month9?
Month9Books is a very editorially driven press. Sometimes authors and agents are surprised by the editorial process and assume that as a small press we should be able to get books out sooner. And I guess we could get books out sooner, but then the editing would suffer. Our process is much closer to that of a traditional publisher.
Does signing with a small press inhibit you signing with a bigger press later? What about an agent?
Everyone structures their contracts differently. I don’t advise authors to sign an agreement that prohibits them from writing for other publishers in the future if they want to. Publishing is changing!
Thank you, Georgia!
What other questions should we be asking Month9Books? What do you think about their process and answers? Was anything surprising?