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sunday, june 10, 2012

The Publisher's Learning Curve

ALVA Press incorporated in 2004. Over the last eight years, as ALVA's CEO the learning curve persists. Only its focus changes.

When I Thought I Knew What I Needed to Know

When I formed ALVA Press to publish Jolt: a rural noir, my questions centered on finding first readers, an editor, a designer, and a printer. The process took me five years, but by the time Jolt: a rural noir was published, I felt I had found the answers. I was done. Or so I thought I was--until Kristen Henderson asked me to read her work--and publish it.

A Critic's Abrupt Awakening

When I picked up Kristen Henderson's marvelous stack of poems to peruse in the effort to offer an opinion on them, I questioned whether I had the skill to do them justice in critiquing them. Luckily, to begin with they were wonderful. And luckily they just needed a bit of organization--always an area of strength with me. But even to tell her I thought they were wonderful took courage. Perhaps I would be leading her down the wrong path.

Lucky for both of us, my experience in writers' groups over the years had taught me my critiquing skills were highly valued. In fact, it seemed most of the writers in them had seemed more interested in my criticisms of their work than they were in critiquing mine.

My BA in English also provided me some guidance--as did my having been all my life an avid reader. Also, by the time Henderson asked me to provide some feedback on her work, I was myself a published author. Yes, personally I had experienced the kindly critiques of first readers and the more incisive ones of a professional editor. And while these facts did not make me a died-in-the-wool expert, they did at least lend to my sense of competence--which continues to hold--or at least until a new writer submits and the question of my skill as a critic and the challenge of acting on it present anew.

So each time I receive a manuscript, I not only get to apply my skills, I again face the challenge of daring to offer a first-phase-overview critique. My courage remains bolstered by my recollection of how valuable such first takes were to my writing skill development--and how difficult they were to come by--as well as the appreciative response from writers to date.

Still, each time I wait with baited breath, worrying I may be too critical or that the writer will rail at my suggestions. To date, however, things have gone well as writers generally welcome my suggestions and use them as a basis for future editing and revision.

As for me, I remain convinced that a thorough critique followed by a look-see by a professional editor is essential to great literature--or even just the production of good reading matter. And because of this I remain willing to give the overview critique my best shot and as I have said, to date, results have been positive and authors have generally been appreciative of my comments and follow up on that assessment of their work to whatever extent seems reasonable and appropriate.

Whoops! I'm a CEO

Ah, but let's advance to my largest present challenge which revolves more around learning to pull out the talents of everyone around me in order to ensure the success of both the company and the authors ALVA serves. As such the emphasis in my learning moves more and more to improving my administrative skills while responding to the need to keep authors' costs as low as possible and still pay for website support, PR, an editor, a designer, a printer, and distribution.

Wouldn't a Traditional Approach to Publishing Be Better?

Given my current experiences with ALVA, I now understand why in traditional publishing as manuscripts are received, simple letters of acceptance or rejection follow. And for those that are accepted, once the publisher takes the copyright, editors and designers may polish the books with limited to no consultation with the author prior to publication. But that is not me. And that is not ALVA's way.

So What's ALVA's Style of Publishing?

Here are ALVA we believe that every writer should keep his or her copyright and should be able to work with an editor and a designer. We also believe that every writer also needs a reader and every reader deserves only well edited and designed books to enjoy. As such, submitting a manuscript to ALVA results for the writer in a conversation with ALVA professionals that should lead to an eBook or book of which the author can be proud--and perhaps most important, a reader will enjoy!

For more about ALVA's Cooperative Author-Publisher Style, click on the first tab to your left above.


Roberta in Po-Town, Publishing


PLEASE NOTE: Life is a bit of a crush; this blog is updated more or less monthly.

10:32 pm edt          Comments

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