I recently got the chance to speak with Lisa of Ninestar Press, a new LGBT publishing company that opened its doors last month. To learn more about Ninestar, check out their website.
E: Thank you so much for speaking with me today Lisa. Ninestar Press just officially opened its doors and you have a lot of great stories coming out soon. Tell me, what inspired your to start your own publishing company?
L: I’ve worked in the business for so long that starting my own company became the natural next step, and for years now I’ve wanted to launch a publishing company that gave the best of this business to both readers and authors. There have been many times in my career where I’ve wanted to scrap a clause in an author’s contract, or deliver a better buying experience for readers, but my hands were tied. Fortunately that’s no longer the case!
E: Starting your own company isn’t easy, especially in this day and age. There are a lot of risks to factor in. What challenges did you face when getting Ninestar Press started? Did you encounter any serious problems or was it relatively smooth sailing?
L: It’s been a fairly smooth process, to be honest. I had personal finance in place, I knew my way around publishing law, and I knew exactly which talented people I wanted to bring on board. Those first few weeks flew by in a haze of ideas and excitement. Our biggest challenge was finding the right website developer—one who could take our long list of requests and run with it. We must’ve spoken to a hundred developers! But once we had all the right people and plans in place, everything started coming together rapidly. Of course, I haven’t slept in months…
E: What steps did you take to getting your company off the ground? If one of our readers was interested in joining the publishing world (whether with a publishing house or starting their own), what advice would you give them?
L: First make you sure you know your way around publishing law. It’s absolutely vital that you understand contracts, publishing rights, and royalties. Second, get the right team around you. You need someone who can not only edit, but also manage an editing department. You need an exceptionally talented artist to run your art department—because it’s not only books that need to look good! Your whole brand, from covers to site graphics to promo material, needs to be of the highest quality, or no one will stop to look twice. And—equally as important—you need people who have a ton of experience in marketing & promotion. You might have the best books in the world, but who’s going to know they exist if you’re not getting the word out there?
Aside from that, you need to cover your legal bases. Company formation, shareholding, bank accounts, tax—these are all things to take care of immediately. Getting a publishing company off the ground is not easy, but with a lot of hard graft and a great team around you, it will be an enjoyable and rewarding process.
E: Building a company from the ground up is hard work. There is a lot to do. What were some of the basic steps you took to starting the company? How did you go about the hiring process, selecting works, and creating a marketing strategy?
L: After the legal requirements, like business registration and finance, I immediately moved on to bringing people on board. The hiring process for the senior staff was simple—I knew exactly who I wanted to work with, and I pitched to them. Fortunately everyone was as excited as I am about the potential of this company and signed on straight away!
We’re currently right in the middle of assessing submissions and signing authors, and we’re also looking to invite authors whose work we already know and love. Our marketing strategy is large and complex, and it’s probably received more of my attention than anything else. My brain is constantly bubbling with ideas on how to get our name out there, but our main promo push won’t begin until shortly before our big launch. We’re super excited to build our audience. That’s not to say we haven’t already began marketing our brand, and the response so far has been amazing.
E: What would you say is a strong market strategy, both for a publishing company and for an author? Are there certain things a person should keep in mind?
L: Everyone knows about the Rule of Seven—where a consumer needs to see an ad or product seven times to take action and buy. So our initial marketing strategy is simple: get our brand out there in front of eyeballs as much as possible. I called on some contacts and old acquaintances, I brought a marketing consultant on board to help me reach out to bloggers and other marketing venues, I put together a paid advertisement strategy, and I made contact with some of the biggest gatekeepers of this industry. As said, our big marketing push won’t begin until nearer our main launch, upon which our paid advertising kicks in and our press releases start making their way out to all relevant venues. But I’m blown away at the response we’ve received so far, when only 10% of our full plan has taken place. If this is the interest we’re getting now, before any of our big adverts go live, then I can’t wait to see what happens later in the autumn prior to our launch! I feel like NineStar Press is a name people are already coming to know, and we’ve barely even started.
As for authors and their books, our promo and marketing is our biggest selling point, I think. Every single book benefits from an extensive promotion campaign, and underperforming books will be revisited. We have a saying: No book gets left behind. And this, we believe, is one of the most important things a publisher should remember. All too often books are pushed out into the world without any support—how are those books expected to sell if no one’s aware of them?
E: Ninestar Press is setting the bar pretty high in the indie publishing world. Your company is offering a lot of benefits for authors that other publishing houses don’t. What are you offering authors that sets you apart from other indie publishing houses?
L: Aside from the promo, the author-friendly contract, the decade of experience, the drive to make every single book a success—I’ve spent the past ten years watching the industry make mistakes and anger authors. That, in my opinion, is the most valuable thing. I have the benefit of knowing what works and what doesn’t, what sells books, what appeals to authors, and what readers want to see when they open a book. I know the million ways to screw up, and I plan to do the exact opposite.
E: Ninestar Press is an LGBTQA+ publishing house. What kind of stories are you looking for exactly? What made you decide to go specifically into LGBTQA+ fiction?
L: The people running the company are all LGBTQA+, and we’re all great readers of LGBTQA+ fiction. As an editor, I always gravitated towards the LGBTQA+ books, but I also found myself disappointed by how little gets published outside of MM. There is an audience for lesbian fiction, for asexual fiction, for trans* characters, for genderfluid questions. The readers are there—you just have to let them know the books exist. There’s no need to shy away from everything that’s not MF or MM. If a publisher is willing to put the work in, then they can find a readership for anything. Of course the majority of what we publish will be MM—that’s just the nature of this business. For every one FF submission, we’ll receive twenty MM submissions. And that’s fine with us, as we all love MM! But we’re also hoping that over time we’ll earn the trust of authors who write characters who fall elsewhere on the spectrum. We’ve got some great FF contracted already, and we’re currently assessing some trans* and ace literary novels.
E: E-books and indie publishing have really come a long way, and things will only continue to change from here. Where do you think the market is going to go? What are your thoughts on the future of publishing?
L: Things will go more digital, more online, and move more towards streaming-type services and subscription models. This has already started with Amazon, and at some point indie publishing will have to catch up. There will always be a place for print, and no doubt it will continue to dominate the market for many years, but there’s no denying that the reading world is moving quickly. One thing this industry is good at is adapting, from coming out of the bookstores and onto the internet, through to ebooks and the Kindle and how we can read an entire novel on our little smart phones. When change comes, you have to roll with it or get left behind. We don’t plan on being left behind!
E: Lastly, do you have any pearls of wisdom you’d like to share with our readers? Any advice for aspiring writers who are trying to break into the market?
L: Choose a publisher who will earn their share of your royalties. Think about what 60% of that money is worth and don’t settle for anything less. Times are changing, and there is a lot of competition out there. One editing pass, a slapdash cover, and a bit of author-led promo is no longer going to cut it. This is your career—choose a publisher who will fight to advance it.