Your manuscript is complete and you’re on the move to publishing your masterpiece. Then, you realize that finding a good publisher is harder than you imagined, let alone the entire publishing process. People think publishing is a piece of cake. Today, our guest, Jodi Thompson will break some of the myths and misconceptions related to publishing a book. Publishing is NOT easy and she will explain why. She will talk about the arduous process of finding a publisher, writing a catchy and convincing query letter, following the rules set by the publisher, and the actual publishing process. Jodi also shares some red flags to watch out for before entering any publishing relationship. Don’t miss out on this week’s episode and learn how to choose a publishing path that works for you!
“Don’t fall in love with the first publisher who says they will take your book. It’s not always a good contract. They’re not always the right publisher.” -Jodi Thompson
00:29 Myths About Publishing
03:27 Publishing Is NOT Easy
08:08 Hybrid Publishers vs Traditional Publishers
16:11 The Publishing Process
19:08 How to Grab Your Publisher Through Your Letter of Request
24:49 Follow the Format and Avoid Vanity Publishing
29:57 Choosing Your Publishing Path
32:19 Red Flags in Bad Publishing Relationships
22:51 “None of us needs to be working with people we can’t trust.” -Jodi Thompson
23:28 “If you’re going to sabotage, lie, and manipulate at the beginning of a working relationship, it’s only going to get harder and harder.” -Arlene Gale
26:16 “If you don’t follow the rules, there’s a really good chance your manuscript is not even going to be looked at.” -Jodi Thompson
29:11 “You can love your manuscript and writing and be excited about what you created, but it’s still all business at the end of the day.” -Jodi Thompson
30:28 “Just because we are a small press, does not mean we are not a legitimate, traditional royalty-paying press.” -Jodi Thompson
32:23 “Don’t fall in love with the first publisher who says they will take your book. It’s not always a good contract or good fit. They’re not always the right publisher. Trust your instincts and ask questions” -Jodi Thompson
34:39 “He who writes the contract wins. Why would I spend the time and money on a lawyer not to protect me and my business. You should do the same.” -Arlene Gale
Jodi Thompson had so much passion for writing even as a kid. Her earliest work was called Skippy the Horse, which was critically acclaimed by numerous family members, and at least one teacher. Eventually, she discovered her real talent lies in selling other people’s writings. That passion for sharing great books with the world led her to found Fawkes Press in 2016, a traditional publishing company headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas. Jodi seeks to be eclectic, exceptional, and eleemosynary in her endeavors. She believes that we exist to make the world a better place and she does this through the books her publishing company produces, among other things
Arlene Gale: Welcome everybody to this episode of mindset myths mastery with Arlene Gale. Today, we’re going to talk about some of the myths and misconceptions, misunderstandings related to publishing a book. Now, I specialize in writing and publishing nonfiction, but my guest today is an expert in publishing fiction works. And the processes, while some of them are the same, some of them are very different, but beyond that, there’s so many myths with publishing in general. For example, people talk about traditional publishing versus self-publishing without really stopping to consider about what it is that might be in the middle and that middle ground may be covered with what people call hybrid publishing. There’s misconceptions about what a traditional publisher is, because a lot of people think a traditional publishers, “Mainstream publisher, what’s called the Big 5.” Well, that’s another myth, that is not all that encompasses traditional publishing. And so much more, I mean, I could do a 30 minute introduction just of the myths and misconceptions related to publishing, but I don’t want to hog all that time because I have got an expert on the program today who is going to give you her wisdom and share that with you as a traditional publisher, a small press of mostly fictionary, fiction. Fictionary? Is that a word? Fiction word? Yeah. Fiction. Please forgive the anti-histamine fog that I’m in at the moment. And that’s another reason why I’m going to hand this Q and A process over to my expert Jodi Thompson.
So let me tell you a little bit about Jodi. Jodi Thompson has been writing for as long as she can remember. Her earliest work was called Skippy the Horse. If that’s not an intriguing title, I don’t know what is. And it was critically acclaimed, yes, by numerous family members and at least one teacher. But, you know, everybody’s got to start somewhere, right? But eventually she discovered that her real talent license selling other people’s writing. That passion for sharing great books with the world led her to found Fawkes press in 2016, where she strives to be eclectic, exceptional, and eleemosynary. And she’ll have to tell you whether I pronounced that word correctly and then maybe even define it for us. Because I pride myself on having a pretty good vocabulary. But I had to look this one up myself. Jodi Thompson is a neighbor of mine. She lives in Fort Worth with her husband and way too many pets, none of which can replace her young adult children who insisted on being independent and capable and despite her pleas, have gone on to be productive tax paying members of society. And Jodi and I share that in common too. She’s ahead of me in that game and lots of wisdom to share that maybe have to be another show Jodi about the emptiness thing. Welcome, my guest Jodi Thompson. How are you today?
Jodi Thompson: I’m good. Thank you Arlene. It’s good to be here.
Arlene Gale: So let’s talk a little bit, I want to start with this first myth that people that write a book think, “Oh, publishing is so easy. Anybody can do it.” And, you know, for me the simple answer is, well yes, if you don’t care about quality and you’re willing to spend extra time trying to vet cover designers and editors and this and that and the other thing, then maybe you can actually do it. But easy is not a word that I would apply to the publishing process. What do you say about that?
Jodi Thompson: I would agree. It is not easy. There’s a lot to go with it. And generally, people like my authors, they are great at putting together a story, but I wouldn’t put cover design on them. I have somebody else who, that’s where her magic is, is doing the cover designs. I have other people who do marketing. Very few people have all of the skill sets that are necessary to have a successful publishing career. And I’m sure there’s some out there, you know, I’m not saying that they don’t exist, but for most people you’re going to excel in one or two areas and then the rest of it you’re going to need help, you know? And that’s just, you know, that’s how it is. Some people, you know, just in daily life, they have somebody that comes in most of the lawn or they walk the dog or, you know, whatever because it’s outside of that person’s wheelhouse.
Arlene Gale: Right.
Jodi Thompson: Or maybe it’s something they can do, but there’s more important stuff that they need to spend their time on. You know, some of my authors might be able to design a cover. They’re artistic people. You know, they might be able to put it together, but I don’t want them working on that. I want them writing the next book.
Arlene Gale: Absolutely. And that’s where, that’s where you have to get to the, you know, where is your time best invested? The where you get the most return on investment is learning how to design a cover or lay out the interior of a book or writing the next book in that series.
Jodi Thompson: Right. It’s like, you know, I could go chase a chicken in the yard and catch it and pluck it and boil it for dinner or I could go to the supermarket.
Arlene Gale: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. Been there, done that. They still choose the supermarket.
Jodi Thompson: Exactly. So if you’re an author, choose a supermarket for everything else.
Arlene Gale: Absolutely. Well, and if you don’t get a cover artist or an interior layout and design artist properly, you know, it could lead to some bad quality work or it could lead to, you know, you pulling out your [inaudible], because you had a specific deadline in mind for releasing this book and now somebody hasn’t met their deadline. If I’m self-publishing that becomes my burden versus if I hire a traditional, hire republisher that becomes your burden, right?
Jodi Thompson: Correct. Correct. And if you missed deadlines, especially if you’ve got a book on preorder and then you don’t get it up or you have the wrong version of it up and it caused problems with your vendors and worse, it’s going to cause problems with your readers. They don’t like it. If they get that book and they open it and it’s full of errors because the final version didn’t get uploaded and there’s an unedited version out there. So you know, you have to really, you know, you need a team to make it work, so.
Arlene Gale: Well, and you can get in big trouble too, because one of the main retailers who, I won’t mention, if you put up something for presale, you put a date up there. And if you miss that date, then you get put in the penalty box and you can’t sell on that platform for a year. At least that’s the way it used to be. Is that still the way it is?
Jodi Thompson: I believe that it’s something like that and it, you lose presale privileges. And I think that existing books can stay up, but others, you know, there’s nothing new during that time.
Arlene Gale: Yeah.
Jodi Thompson: It’s pretty harsh. I don’t remember exactly what it is because, you know, we always get ours up on time.
Arlene Gale: I know. I know. I was just going to say we just went down a rabbit trail because that’s not an issue you ever have to deal with. See, from my perspective as a book writing coach, I get people who call me who say that this has happened and they didn’t know what happened and how can we fix it? And it’s like, well, you know the deed is done. You can’t undo it.
Jodi Thompson: You should have spoken to me earlier.
Arlene Gale: Exactly. Exactly. So I want to go back, set back to talking about hybrid publishers versus traditional publishers or what you call Fawkes press is a small press. It’s a traditional small press formula. So what is the difference? Can you help my listeners understand?
Jodi Thompson: Well, there’s one group out there that defines a small press as any press that has under 5 million in sales a year. So I want to say we just come just barely under that number, but.
Arlene Gale: Wow, that’s awesome.
Jodi Thompson: No. We are really not just barely into that number, but.
Arlene Gale: Okay.
Jodi Thompson: I like to think that. I’d like to think that.
Arlene Gale: Aim high girl. Aim high.
Jodi Thompson: I mean, what’s a million or two, you know, right?
Arlene Gale: Yeah. Exactly.
Jodi Thompson: So that’s one definition of it. But basically, a traditional publisher is any publisher that does not take any money from the authors being published. That’s the number one thing. And the number two thing is that they have to publish works by people other than themselves. So I could set up a publishing company and publish all my own works and it is still not a traditional publisher. You need to have other authors come in for it to be considered a traditional publisher. And then ours, you know, we’re small because we’re under 5 million. There are some that are considered micro presses but I believe the definition on that is that they sell 50 or fewer copies of whatever it is that they’re producing. And usually those are like poetry, chatbooks and that kind of thing when you get to micro presses. But basically, all it means is that we are, from a definition standpoint, we’re just like the Big 5. We’re like, you know, Penguin, or Simon and Schuster, or whoever, but we’re on a smaller scale. But the same thing, we pay royalties, our authors don’t pay anything. We’ve vet all of the submissions. We don’t just say, “Oh, you wrote a book. Great. I’ll print it.” So that’s pretty much it is. It’s just, it runs the same way. In the big strokes, the difference you’re going to find between some of the Big 5 publishers and the small publishers is that a small publisher operates, well, it’s the difference between if you go to Walmart or if you go to the little family store that stand on main street, you know, the selection may not be as wide, but the people that are there know you and they know your interest and they’re going to try to help you. And so it’s a little bit more like family and that’s kind of how we are, is that everything is more one-on-one. You know, we work directly with the bookstores instead of just having, although all our books are available to order through Ingram, and some bookstores do you just find us that way. We go out one-on-one with these independent bookstores and we meet them and we show them our books and we tell them why they should order them in. You don’t get that if you’re with a big publisher because they just have so many more. The scale is different. So it has to be attacked in a different way. But we’re a little bit more like a family.
Arlene Gale: Well, and as a small press, and if I’m understanding correctly, one of the differences is between you as a small press in a hybrid press, a lot of hybrid presses will just manage, they’re like the project manager, but the pays for all of the cover design, interior design, marketing, layout design, that has been number, everything that goes along with publishing that book, the hybrid publisher, one model is they’ll manage that and then charge you a workup for managing it. That’s how they make their money. And if they’re using that model, then basically they can bring in anybody who’s written a book and they don’t have an investment or a stake in really how the book performs and that’s very different than what you all do. You do have a stake and you do vet for the quality of books that you take on. Is that correct?
Jodi Thompson: That is correct. I want the books to make money. Because we invest quite a large amount into every book that goes out there because we have to hire editors, cover designers, layout marketing people. We invest in the marketing, you know, getting stickers or posters or sending it out to bookstores around the country. You know, there’s a lot that goes into it. So we want a book that is, you know, has a chance of making some money, but we also want a book that is good that we feel like it needs to be out there. Sometimes we will look at a book and think this isn’t going to have a wide audience. You know, it’s not going to have a wide audience, but it’s an important book and we want it out there so we can make that decision because we’re a small press. The larger ones, they don’t ever do that. Everything is based on the money that they’re going to make with it. But then going back to the hybrid or a vanity press. Yeah. If they’re getting a percentage of it, they’re a little bit more vested in it.
Arlene Gale: Right.
Jodi Thompson: But they don’t really have to worry so much about it because they’re not putting as much in in the beginning. You know, you’re the one that’s losing because if you’ve exploited your rights, you can’t sell it anywhere else. And that’s something that unfortunately, we have people who come to us and they’ll be, “Well, I self published it two years ago and it got a really good response, but I was hoping I would catch the eye, you know, of a larger publisher or a traditional publisher.” It doesn’t work that way. So, you know, and don’t tell me about the Martian. Don’t tell me about 50 Shades of Grey. That’s two. That’s it. Let me tell you about the millions of people who are sitting there with a book that now can not be sold anywhere.
Arlene Gale: Absolutely. Well, Jodi, we’re going to take a quick break. Everybody stay with us. We’re going to come back in just a moment with my guest today, Jodi Thompson, a Fox press. And I want to talk a little bit about the submittal process cause I know it’s different for fiction and nonfiction. And how does a small press like Fox [inaudible] the submittal process, cause I know that you listeners, you probably think, “Oh! I’m going to write my book and I’m going to get it off to Jodi, like in the morning. I just need to go buy stamps.” And that’s not how it works. So before you go out and buy those stamps and address the envelope and everything, come back with us and Jodi’s going to talk to us about the submittal process for a fiction book to most traditional or small presses. I’ll be right back in just a few seconds.
So welcome back everybody. We are talking to my guest today, Jodi Thompson, who is the owner, the brainchild behind Fawkes press. And I want to go back to talking about the submittal process for a publisher. Because Jodi, you specialize mostly in fiction works, is that correct?
Jodi Thompson: That is correct. We have a few nonfiction titles, a couple of cookbooks and such, but for the most part we are fiction.
Arlene Gale: Okay. So, you know, I specialize in nonfiction and I write a lot of proposals that go to publishers for nonfiction books. And for nonfiction, the proposal process is such that you outline the book and you write a chapter or two and then you do all the marketing materials and all of that stuff before the book is written. But for a fiction book, that proposal process is very different. And the submission process to a traditional publisher, a small press like yours is very different also. So could you kind of walk us step by step from, okay. Yey, I’ve got to finish the manuscript. Now, what do I do?
Jodi Thompson: Yes, absolutely. The first thing that you want to do is if there is a publisher they’re interested in submitting to is to go to their website and find their submission button and follow those directions to a T. You don’t need to, you know, reinvent the wheel with this and really what’s going to happen if you try to do that is it’s going to get trashed. I mean, because we get a lot of submissions. We actually right now are close to submissions except in person and through agents. So a couple of times during the year for a short period of time, we will open to submissions where people can email them directly to us. And when that happens, we want a query letter and it’s gotta be good because we get so many and we’re a small press and we still, if we were open to submissions all the time, then we would do nothing but go through those submissions. I mean, it’s crazy the number that comes through. So what you want is a query letter. It’s got to grab in the first couple of paragraphs and it needs to be about the story. I don’t need to know about you in the beginning. You may be a great person, but if your story isn’t going to grab me, then it doesn’t matter.
Arlene Gale: Yeah. We’ll grab that lunch but I’m not publishing your book. Right?
Jodi Thompson: Exactly. Exactly. So start with a story, make it good and then go down and tell me, you know, you’re a member of such and such critique group or if it, if you’re a, you’ve written a medical mystery but you also happen to be an actual cardiologist, you know, then you can put that down at the end. And then when we do it, we like to see the first 50 pages attached with it. And that’s going to vary again by the person, by the publisher. So then we’ll take it and if the query letter catches us, then we’ll start reading. Sometimes even if the query letter isn’t great, I’ll read a couple of pages, but that’s not the norm. I’ve had agents tell me that you have, when they’re reading about 10 seconds to make an impression because-
Arlene Gale: Wow.
Jodi Thompson: – they just don’t have the time otherwise. So your opening paragraph has got to be amazing. And that’s the same when you’re sending it directly to a publisher. Same thing, you are trying to sell that story, you know? And if you can’t make that opening paragraph in a letter amazing, you might want to go back and take another look at your book. You know? So.
Arlene Gale: Yikes. Yeah.
Jodi Thompson: Yeah. Right? So that’s the harsh truth.
Arlene Gale: Well, so give me a tip or give my listeners the tip. What would be a good way to come up with, I mean, you’re talking about 25 words where you’re really going to provide something that not only tells me about your story, but why your story is so amazing. Or give me a tip on how we can make that first paragraph capture your attention.
Jodi Thompson: Okay. Let me tell you, first of all something that is very unpopular and that is to start with a rhetorical question. What if?
Arlene Gale: Yeah.
Jodi Thompson: No, no, no, don’t like that. Be bold with it. I want to know immediately, you know what’s happening. I want the tension in that very first paragraph. Of course, unless it’s, you know, some kind of, you know, happily ever after romance and there’s really not any tension. Then give me the vibe of your story. I mean, that opening paragraph has to match your story. And I’ll give you, I’ll actually read one from a book that we’re releasing later this year. And this was the opening to the request. Rain Wooten is the messed up psychologically scarred, emotionally stunted hero we need. Her story is Gone Girl meets Hunger Games with a bit of Red Dawn thrown in for good measure. It takes an unflinching look at patriotism and Post 9/11 America. And what that means to the kids who have grown up being taught the family down the street just might be plotting to kill us all.
Arlene Gale: Yikes.
Jodi Thompson: A lot of tension in that, right?
Arlene Gale: Yeah.
Jodi Thompson: You want to read more?
Arlene Gale: I do, actually. I do.
Jodi Thompson: Yeah. So that’s it, is that that’s the kind of opening paragraph you need. And don’t worry about, want to give it all away in the query letter. Yes you do. You’re trying to sell me the book.
Arlene Gale: Right.
Jodi Thompson: You want to give it all away.
Arlene Gale: Well, I think that what you read was good because it told you that, you know, a young child growing up post nine 11 without going into a lot of details of she was five years when this happened, you know, kind of thing. So-
Jodi Thompson: Right.
Arlene Gale: -so yeah. That’s very good. Well done whoever wrote that.
Jodi Thompson: Yeah. Yeah. So then from that, then you can go into it, now I’m hooked on reading. So then you can tell a little bit more about the story. Then you can tell that, say that it is young adult psychological suspense and it’s complete at 80,000 words and dah, dah, dah. And then the author can tell a little bit about themselves. But the most important part is that the opening paragraph is just gotta grab. It’s, you know, because there’s a thousand ways that that could have been written that would just make a person pass over it. So, and I’d like to give one other little tip. It’s a little random.
Arlene Gale: Please do.
Jodi Thompson: As I said, right now we are close to submissions except in person. So like at a conference or through an agent. I also, if one of my authors or one of my editors that I work with regularly contacts me and says, “Oh, you know, I’ve seen this manuscript and I think you would like it.” I’ll take it that way. So if you happen to know any of my authors and you’re an aspiring author yourself, then that’s a good way to get in. But we try to make it, you know, good for people. But there are people who try to skirt around that. And there are people who will submit and they’ll say, “I’m an agent for so-and-so.” And then you go in and you look up this agent and they’re not an agent. They are sometimes a spouse, or they’re a friend, or they say they’re an agent, but they don’t have an agent website and they don’t have any other clients except this one person. And it makes me very suspicious that they are not actually a legitimate agent. But what happens with that, it may actually be a really good book, but we look at that and we’re like, yeah, you know what? They can’t respect us enough-
Arlene Gale: Right.
Jodi Thompson: – to follow these rules. They’re trying to make an end run. And we don’t need to be involved with people that we can’t trust.“None of us needs to be working with people we can't trust.” -Jodi Thompson Click To Tweet
Arlene Gale: Right.
Jodi Thompson: So you really are shooting yourself in the foot and you know that although the publishing world is vast, it’s also a very small connected world. So if somebody does that and sends it to us, or sends it to another small publisher and tries that, it’s not long before everybody knows this person’s trying to make an end run and you’ve really damaged your reputation and you may have just sunk your very, very good book. So-
Arlene Gale: Right. Because if you’re going to sabotage and lie and manipulate at the beginning of the relationship, you know it’s only going to get harder and harder because you have to be able to trust each other and work together as a team throughout the process to be successful.“If you're going to sabotage, lie, and manipulate at the beginning of a working relationship, it's only going to get harder and harder.” -Arlene Gale Click To Tweet
Jodi Thompson: Right. So even if it is frustrating, I’m sure that there are people who would like to submit and they’re like, well, I can’t get to any of the places that you’re going to be, or I don’t know anyone, or I don’t have an agent. Okay, that can be frustrating. Watch our website, watch our social media and watch for those weeks that we open up that anybody can submit, you know, just stay on top of it. And if we are supposed to be the right publisher for you, just believe it’s going to get to us.
Arlene Gale: Right.
Jodi Thompson: And that’s the same with everyone. And occasionally I will get a book and I think, “Oh, I really like this, but it’s not for us. Who do I know that might like this.” So we’ve referred people to agents that we work with. We refer them to other publishers that take on agented manuscripts if it’s good, but just not a fit for us. You know, we like to pass it along. And the same thing we have had other publishers call us and say, “Hey, I got this submission. It’s not really, it doesn’t fit us, but you might like it.” So there’s lots of ways that that happens. So don’t try to force it with an end run.
Arlene Gale: Well, and I think going back a couple minutes, you were talking about making sure to get on the publisher’s website and follow their format for submissions because some people will write a proposal and think, well, I’ve got this order in my proposal that I’ve already done. I’ve got one, two, three, four, five, six, seven and this publisher wants one, four, three, six, you know, and I’m not going to rearrange it. It’s the same stuff. It doesn’t really matter.
Jodi Thompson: No, it matters.
Arlene Gale: It matters.
Jodi Thompson: It matters. Yeah. Well, here’s the thing is that there’s so many, this is for agents, this is for publishers, this is everybody that there are so many submissions coming in. I mean, the internet is wonderful, but it has made our job a lot harder in that regards because it’s easier for people to contact, you know, and they don’t always think about it as much whenever it’s just a few clicks of the buttons versus I’ve got a printed, I’ve got to take it to the post office, I’ve got to get it mailed, you know? So we are just looking for things that it’s like, okay, this follows the rules. I’m going to read it. This doesn’t, I’m just gonna move it straight to trash, you know. Because you have to do that or your entire life gets eaten up. It’s hard to explain how crushing it can be. The weight of all those inquiries and we are a small press. I can’t imagine if you were a major sought after agent or something like that.
Arlene Gale: Right.
Jodi Thompson: So yeah, it matters. If you don’t follow the rules, there’s a really good chance that yours is not even going to be looked at. And people say, well then they’re missing out on something great. Maybe so.“If you don't follow the rules, there's a really good chance your manuscript is not even going to be looked at.” -Jodi Thompson Click To Tweet
Arlene Gale: Yap.
Jodi Thompson: But you’ve got to draw lines. Yeah. You’ve got to draw a line somewhere. You just can’t. Yeah. You have to draw the line.
Arlene Gale: Yes, absolutely. So follow the rules people. You know, authors, I’ve met authors who think that their book is going to do the publisher a favor. That is not a good way to enter that relationship.
Jodi Thompson: Right. And it may and it may very well, I mean, but you don’t come up with that. Yeah.
Arlene Gale: Yeah.
Jodi Thompson: I am going to live in your favor.
Arlene Gale: Don’t believe in that.
Jodi Thompson: Yeah. I’m going to do you a favor by letting you publish my book. That’s not the best way to establish a relationship. So-
Arlene Gale: And, you know, we go back from where we were, you know, 28 minutes ago with publishing as easy. No it’s not. And there’s lots-
Jodi Thompson: Right.
Arlene Gale: -of details and lots of things that need to be done and sometimes it’s not a matter of the right cover or the wrong cover. It’s, you know, this is different or that’s different. You really have to have an honest working relationship to negotiate and brainstorm because it shouldn’t be a situation where it’s the author against the publisher. You really are a team working for a common good.
Jodi Thompson: Right. And that’s a good point is that if a traditional publisher also, you know, says, “I’m doing a favor by publishing this for you.” Then they’re probably not who you want to be with either. Because I’m not doing my authors a favor. We are entered into a business relationship and we have common goals. So you know, you need to think about that. Now there are some types of publishing where maybe they are kind of doing you a favor, but on the other hand you’re paying for it. And I’m thinking of like vanity publishing and I actually, I do a class at conferences around that is choosing your publishing path. And I look at all the different ways that you can publish and what might lead you down one way or another. So vanity publishing, it leaves a real sour taste in people’s mouth. Speak about vanity publishing, but it can have places where it’s appropriate. One would be if someone is trying to leave a legacy for children or grandchildren, if they have a health condition that you know it’s critical and they’re not going to be around much longer and they want to hold their book. So vanity publishing does have a place, but even in a case like that, they are doing something for you. They’re providing a service for you but you’re paying, usually paying exorbitantly for that service. So even then they’re not really doing a favor for you. So I think it’s important for people to keep in mind that as much as this can kind of be, you know, our love child. It’s still business. You know, so you can love it and be excited and everything, but it’s still, it is all business at the end of the day.“You can love your manuscript and writing and be excited about what you created, but it's still all business at the end of the day.” -Jodi Thompson Click To Tweet
Arlene Gale: Exactly. Thank you for reeling it back in because we thought we were going in completely different directions.
Jodi Thompson: Well, I mean.
Arlene Gale: Different show there for a moment.
Jodi Thompson: I’m here for whatever you need Arlene.
Arlene Gale: I know you’ve always got my back.
Jodi Thompson: That’s right.
Arlene Gale: Okay. So speaking of always having your back, now I’m going to turn things on you and put you on the hot seat. Are you ready?
Jodi Thompson: Yes.
Arlene Gale: Okay. So let’s think about you and your career as the owner of the successful publishing company. What have you experienced personally that’s been a mindset that has hindered you, either when you were starting this business or as the business continues to grow?
Jodi Thompson: Oh, well, I think that the most important or the biggest thing that has stopped me was thinking that, “Oh well, I’m a publisher and everybody’s going to immediately recognize that that’s legitimate.” And unfortunately that is not always the case if you are not part of the Big 5. So there, you know, there’s been a little fight there sometimes to have people or organizations recognize that just because we are small does not mean that we are not a legitimate, traditional, royalty paying press. On the flip side of that are people who contact me, you know, they know me from, I don’t know when my son was 10 and played soccer or whatever, and they’ll call up out of the blue and they’ll say, “I wrote a book. How much would it cost for you to publish it for me?” Well, nothing because that’s not how I work, you know? So even people who respect that that publishing is legitimate, don’t really understand how it works. So the idea that I had coming in that immediately people are going to understand the nuances, they’re going to respect that it’s a legitimate business just did not happen. So that held me up for a while until I realized that I kind of have to fight to inform people, which is why I go and I speak at a lot of conferences and why one of my things is choosing your publishing path because a lot of people just don’t understand the differences.“Just because we are a small press, does not mean we are not a legitimate, traditional royalty-paying press.” -Jodi Thompson Click To Tweet
Arlene Gale: Well, and there’s a lot of people out there that know just enough to be dangerous.
Jodi Thompson: Oh, absolutely.
Arlene Gale: Spreading information as if it were gospel and that the industry too, but that’s me standing on my soapbox.
Jodi Thompson: That’s an entirely different show.
Arlene Gale: Yes. We’ll have to do that again and we could be talking about book writing, publishing politics. So she-
Jodi Thompson: Right. Just about anything.
Arlene Gale: Anyway, just because you shout it louder doesn’t make it more true. Anyway, back to the topic at hand. So can you leave the listeners with what you think is the most important golden nugget that they can take with them now in looking for publishing that they can actually implement and do now?
Jodi Thompson: Yes. The number one thing is to don’t fall in love with the first person who says that they will take your book. It’s not always a good contract. They’re not always the right publisher, so you should vet them. You need to look at what else they published, look at what their rankings are, their sales rankings are, if possible, speak to some of their other authors and make sure that it truly is a good fit and that it is a good contract for you. Before I started Fox press, I was what I called the fixer, and I helped people submit their books either to agents or to small presses that took an agent and submissions. And as part of that business, I would also help people kind of go through contracts as they received them. And sometimes a publisher, a press would send a contract and they’ll say, “Oh, just let me know if there’s anything you wanted to negotiate, we’re totally open to that.” But then if you actually sent them something that you would like to negotiate in the contract, they got very offended. You know, they didn’t-“Don't fall in love with the first publisher who says they will take your book. It's not always a good contract or good fit. They're not always the right publisher. Trust your instincts and ask questions” -Jodi Thompson Click To Tweet
Arlene Gale: Offensive.
Jodi Thompson: Yeah, yeah. They didn’t really want to negotiate anything at all. They wanted you to sign the contract that was best for them so that that’s a red flag. But sometimes despite the warnings, you know, the people would still sign those contracts that they didn’t like with a publisher that didn’t really sell their genre, that didn’t have good covers. You know, all these warning signs because they were the first person to say yes. So, you know, it’s just like, you know, I guess dating and marriage is that, you know, you probably don’t want to marry the first person you go on a date with. I mean-
Arlene Gale: Right.
Jodi Thompson: -a few people that work out, good for them.
Arlene Gale: Very few. Yes.
Jodi Thompson: But that actually worked out for my daughter. But, you know, everyone else that just, that doesn’t happen.
Arlene Gale: Right.
Jodi Thompson: So just don’t be so overwhelmed with, “Oh my gosh, somebody loves me.” That you’re willing to jump into a bad publishing relationship.
Arlene Gale: And that is such a great, huge golden nugget, you know, from a variety of perspectives. Because, you know, when I talk to people about their contracts, it’s like, remember he who writes the contract wins. There’s no advantage for me to spend time and money with a lawyer to write a contract that if there’s a problem I can’t win.34:39 “He who writes the contract wins. Why would I spend the time and money on a lawyer not to protect me and my business. You should do the same.” -Arlene Gale Click To Tweet
Jodi Thompson: That’s pretty much it. Yeah. Our contracts, I mean I have two terms and under completely non-negotiable. Everything else I will negotiate. But it’s a business.
Arlene Gale: Right.
Jodi Thompson: So it’s going to, you know, favor me in the end.
Arlene Gale: Yes. You know, you just have to decide how much you’re willing to give up or give in. But this is a whole different program that, you know, gives me some great ideas of topics to discuss. But yeah, that’s great, you will have invested wisely if you get someone to look at that contract and play devil’s advocate with you.
Jodi Thompson: Absolutely. And even if you don’t really, even if you’re fine with the contract, if you think it’s a good contract? I would actually suggest hitting back with the person and saying, “I’m unsure about one area. Are you open to negotiation?” And see what they say because if they come back with absolutely not, yeah. You may not want to go with them.
Arlene Gale: Absolutely. Well, great. So Jodi, as we wrap this up, please tell people how they can connect with you, or get in touch with you, or find out when and where you do have open submissions. How can we contact you?
Jodi Thompson: Okay. Our website is Fawkes press and that’s F-A-W-K-E-SP-R-E-S-S.C-O-O-M, and there’s a page on there that has events and it desperately needs to be updated. It’s only got our stuff from March right now, but it shows where we will be. So anytime somebody from our office is at an event, you are welcome to pitch to them. You can contact us. There’s a button on the right hand side that says contact. Please don’t actually query through that. You can contact us and say, I would like to get on a list to be notified when you query. That’s fine. And we’ll shoot you an email when queries are open. And then follow us on our social media because when we do have those rare weeks where we are open, then we’ll put it on out on our social media. So basically you just need to follow us and wait for that day to happen or run into us at one of the events that we’re at, where Texas and Oklahoma a lot, we’ve even took some pitches in New York last year. I mean, we really took some in California last year, so we’re not that hard to find. You just have to want it. So, the best thing is to go onto our website and then follow us on social media and just wait for that to happen. And also have your proposal or your query letter ready because there’s a lot of small presses that operate like we do that they are only open for very short windows. And unless they specifically say that they don’t take simultaneous submissions, everyone assumes, I mean I assume if you’ve sent it to me, you’ve also sent it to half a dozen other places. That’s smart. So have your stuff ready, research, make your list and just follow your calendar. So it’s like, Oh, okay. This one that I really liked, they’re open this week, here, send it out. So that’s the best way to get us, is to follow on social media and be ready for that announcement that says we want to see it.
Arlene Gale: Well, and I think the other thing I kind of off topic, but really on topic, I’ve spoken and done workshops at the same conferences in this region where you are presenting, and I’m going to tell you people, if you are new to this business, go to these conferences. Because the connections you’ll make, whether they’re your peer group or with agents or people that are, you know, a year further down the publishing writing path that you are, you’re gonna make some great connections and you may think you know it all, but you don’t.
Jodi Thompson: That’s right.
Arlene Gale: You don’t know what you don’t know until you go to these conferences and realize, “Oh, I didn’t know that.”
Jodi Thompson: That’s right. And you would be amazed at the number of things that come to us just with a chat. Last year my acquisitions editor went to a conference, she was not accepting pitches. She overheard a conversation, said, that sounds interesting and said, would you mind letting me take a look at it? That’s now in our pipeline. And it all happened because somebody was talking to somebody and our acquisitions editor was eavesdropping.
Arlene Gale: Nice.
Jodi Thompson: Yeah. So, you know, you can get a lot from that when you’re not even expecting it. And of course going to these conferences is how I found out that my skills really lie in selling the books and not writing the books, which actually looking back, you know, to my master’s piece of Skippy the horse, I should have known that because I made copies and then sold them. So, you know, it was like four pages of folded up notebook paper, you know. But I made the copies and you know, my aunts all had to buy a copy and of course my mother and grandmother and you know, so even from the beginning I was focused on let’s make this a book and sell it. So I should have known way back then that that’s where my skill was and not necessarily in the writing. But I didn’t discover that until I started going to these conferences and would speak to people and we’d be talking about our books and then I would always come back around to, you know, what would be a good promotional opportunity for your story. So, you know, you never know what you’re going to find out
Arlene Gale: And they’re writing conferences all over the world. So look for something in your neighborhood, you should be able to find one. And if you don’t come to our neighborhood, we’ve got some great ones down here.
Jodi Thompson: We’ve got some great ones. Yeah. Absolutely. Absolutely. And also if you’re coming to our area, DFW airport is a major hub and it’s really cheap to get down here. So.
Arlene Gale: Now we need some chamber of commerce advertising money here.
Jodi Thompson: Yeah. They do. It’s a good place to fly into. It’s very convenient. And then the other thing is when you’re looking for a conference, there are some that are, you know, they’re great conferences, but they have 8-900 people and that might be a little much for your first conference.
Arlene Gale: Yeah. It might be a little bit overwhelming.
Jodi Thompson: So I would really suggest for people to start out with those smaller conferences and work your way up.
Arlene Gale: Yeah. And most conferences will have agents or editors or publishers that come because they’re doing workshops or doing presentations, but they’re also available during a certain day and time where you can sign up to pitch to them.
Jodi Thompson: Right.
Arlene Gale: So look for those things. With a lot of conferences, they’re included in your registration fee and at with other conferences it may be, you know, $15 or $50 or you’ll just have to figure out what the market will bear and what your pocketbook can bear too.
Jodi Thompson: Right. And again, with those, you want to research them ahead of time and make sure that you’re choosing the best ones because, you know, if you’re writing a romance and you pitch it to the person who specializes in science fiction, you really haven’t made any progress.
Arlene Gale: Right. Well and Jodi, we could go on and on forever ’cause what that brings up to me is that you gotta know your genre. Don’t go pitch a book if you don’t know your genre. There is a difference between romance and women’s lit. Now those things. There is a difference between so many different, I mean my head is just spinning. I can’t even get the words out fast enough. But you gotta know your genre. Don’t go in and somebody says what’s your genre? And you say, I write why A, which is a young adult. No, that’s not a genre. That’s a target market people.
Jodi Thompson: Right.
Arlene Gale: Know that was a glitch.
Jodi Thompson: Exactly. Exactly. That’s again, another episode.
Arlene Gale: Another episode. Yeah. So we will have to get back together, but thank you so much Jodi for your wealth of information. There’s just so much because we’re both so passionate about helping people succeed in publishing their hard works, but we want to make sure they do it the right way. So thank you for your time today. It means a lot. It’s important and like I said, all I can say is thank you, thank you, thank you.
Jodi Thompson: All right. Thanks for having me and I’m happy to answer your questions if people want to contact me through the website.
Arlene Gale: Okay, sounds good. Well, I’m going to leave my listeners with this thought. Do not let the world dictate your story. Be mindful of the stories that you tell yourself about what is or is not possible for you in your life. You get to choose to live and write your own story everyday.