It Takes a Village

9 Jun

Those who follow Bundoran Press on Twitter and Facebook will know that we recently took on a new partner.  Mike Rimar becomes Associate Publisher and joins me (Hayden Trenholm) and Elizabeth (Liz)Westbrook-Trenholm as an equal investor and owner in the business.  Mike approached me a few months ago and after some thought and negotiation we came to an agreement. 

I remain the Managing Editor and will make the day-to-day decisions for the business; Mike and Liz will offer advice and guidance and provide assistance with a number of areas of the operation.  It’s a pretty good arrangement for all concerned and makes Bundoran Press stronger going forward.

However, there are lots of other people whose efforts are critical to make a publishing firm successful. 

First and foremost, there are the writers (not to mention all the beta-readers and writing groups that got it to almost publishable in the first place).  I’ve been gratified by the number of novels I’ve received.  Dozens of submissions from around the world flowed in during the three months we were open.  So far I’ve announced three books for publication (not including the Strange Bedfellows anthology) and expect to announce two or three more in the coming weeks.  Going forward I plan to buy four to six books a year – so get writing.  Submissions will open again this fall.  So far more than 80 stories have arrived for Strange Bedfellows ranging in length from 700 words to 11000.  While the flow has slowed in recent weeks, I still expect in excess of 250 by the time submissions close on September 30th.

That’s a lot of reading.  Fortunately, Liz has been helping me out with the novels.  Though I read every 3-chapter submission myself, she provides a good second eye on those I’m thinking of asking for full manuscripts or those I’m not sure about.  She has also made useful suggestions on first round edits on occasion.  I trust Liz’s instincts implicitly – she is the first reader of my own work and often provides great insights for improvement before anyone else in my writing group sees it.  She’s also been helping out with copy-editing, that onerous process of tracking down every typo and grammatical error that all too often (especially with self- and small publishers) gets neglected.

For Strange Bedfellows, I was fortunate enough to be approached by a person who wanted to read slush with a view to improving their own writing.  We had a good discussion about writing and politics and I developed an assessment tool.  Each story is ‘graded’ on writing, plot, character, science fiction elements and political content (not the contents of the politics but whether the story contains politics) and given a verdict of reject or consider.  Stories that get below a certain grade, I reject (I did do some spot checks and we agreed within a single point on every assessment); ones above that I read and either reject or keep for the second round of consideration (or buy in two cases).  As a result, my workload has been reduced by more than 40-50%.  I’m not paying my slush reader much – but they will get something at the end of the process and will be acknowledged in the book. And until then I’ll keep their identity a secret – in case they get accosted by disgruntled writers.

I’ve had a couple of other people approach me with the offer to be ‘minions,’ (their word not mine) and I’ve given Gavin Lusk a few tasks to do – like data base management or writing press releases.  Not glamorous stuff but I hope to find more for him and others to do as the business expands – again no big pay but an honorarium and a few perks commensurate with their efforts.  I’ve also had a number of people help out at Conventions selling books including Derek Künsken, Nicole Lavigne, Nick Matthews, Matthew Johnson, Marie Bilodeau and Gerald Brandt (I apologize if I’ve forgotten anyone.) There is no way Liz and I (and now Mike) could do it all.

And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the 91 people who made contributions to the Strange Bedfellows Indiegogo campaign which allowed me to pay professional rates and attract so many good stories for that anthology.

My main focus has been on selecting and editing fiction; managing social media; fundraising and all the contractual arrangements and the day-to-day work of running a small business (book keeping, filing, correspondence, tax reports etc.).  Not to mention the majority of the physical labour of hucking books around (where is my muscle-bound minion for that?).  While still doing my day job and trying to do a bit of writing myself.  Plus I have a life – I really do!

When I took over Bundoran Press, I was determined I was going to do it all: including reading all the slush, running the web-site; designing print and e-books, dealing with printers and so on.  As it turns out, it’s not only a lot of work; it’s a lot to learn.  While I plan to eventually learn how to do most of it – and maybe, once I retire, actually do some of all of it – the truth is: publishing 6 books a year is probably more work than one person can do without soon burning out.  And as my friend Jim, a gourmet cook, says: Never make something in your kitchen if you can buy a better version from someone else.  In other words, focus on what you do best.

Which is why I never dreamed of doing the artwork for the covers – no-one would want to see that.  Luckily Dan J. O’Driscoll has agreed to sell me his professional work on an ongoing basis and will produce the majority of our covers going forward.

Equally fortunate, Virginia O’Dine continues to work for Bundoran on contract to do book design while mentoring me on such things as obtaining bar-codes and ISBN numbers and dealing with printers. Meanwhile, Ryan McFadden provides his services on web maintenance and e-book conversion. 

Selling books also takes a team.  I’ve mentioned the volunteers who have helped at Cons but I should also mention the bookstores who have put our books on their shelves or hosted readings or book launches at their stores – such as the Book Cellar in Yellowknife; Bakka Phoenix in Toronto and Sentry Box in Calgary.  Going forward we will be distributed internationally by Diamond Book Distributors of Maryland, but Bundoran Books would never have gotten this far without the help of dedicated independent booksellers.

Yup, it takes a village to make a book.

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