black rose writing, author and publisher relationship, publisher interview

The Author and Publisher Relationship: Black Rose Writing

June 13, 2019, 1:13 p.m.
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With Reagan Rothe, creator of independent publishing house Black Rose Writing, we navigated complexities of the author and publisher relationship. An author himself, Reagan is familiar with both roles and had plenty of insights on book marketing, submissions, and managing authors through BRW.

What was the impetus behind Black Rose Writing?

I started out publishing my own novels through other publishing houses. My experience with publishing wasn’t bad, but I felt it could have been improved in timeliness of communication, a more personable atmosphere (like a family partnership), and more forthcoming direction. Because of my time as an author with publishing, I decided I wanted to create something that helped other writers.

BRW seems to have a very data-oriented culture. Is that a focus you personally emphasize?
I have a passion for not only for English and journalism, but also math, which comes easily to me. Science, on the other hand… let’s just say I’m not passionate about knowing the ins and outs of how a TV works.

I also played golf in college, which taught me the importance of being realistic and data-driven while also keeping a healthy balance with optimism.

Your site mentions BRW's interest in "an individual's originality and hardship." Is that referring to the author's work or the author?
Both. I’m not thrilled when authors introduce their manuscript as something like “this is the next Harry Potter.” Black Rose Writing doesn’t want the next already written book. We want your own unique story.

I’m also a big Game of Thrones fan and especially appreciate George R. R. Martin’s writing style. I like that GRRM knows where the characters are going and adeptly plays with time and alternating perspectives.

How do you talk about BRW to people who stop by your table at a bookfair or conference?
If we have signing authors at our table, it's typically to ask a reader what genres they prefer, and if it's a match for one of our signing authors, then introducing them and their book. Talking a bit about the book and what makes it unique, something they may want to read. As for just Black Rose Writing, it's reiterating our family atmosphere and partnership philosophy. We really try to match our Indie publisher keywords on a day-to-day basis (Innovative - Self-reliant - Nimble - Forward Thinking - Subject Experts - Entrepreneurial - Engaged).

Where do you find your writers?
BRW rarely reaches out to authors or uses ads anymore. We’re past the 6 month scheduling mark and have books slated to come out for the next 7 to 8 months. We do use Publishizer, a crowdfunding site for authors already in the publishing industry. Agents on there reach out to BRW representing their authors on the site.

How do you advocate for the writers with you?

Each book has a different audience,so some would entail pitch on radio talk program. There’s a lot of cooperative marketing with authors, and BRW’s success is due to their many lines of promotion, from book festival showcasing to broad distribution.

I also read interviews to see what publishers and authors are doing to be successful and how that fits with what we may be doing. You can also get some new creative marketing ideas and hear about apps, programs, etc. that you may not have previously knew about or used.”

What do you look for in submissions? Deal-breakers?
Self-published authors query, but it’s hard to want to re-publish something. If it’s good, the publishing house might take a chance, but if already self-published, for an indie press, that means you might’ve already sold the book to the immediate audience. BRW wants to sell to friends & family who have to buy it too, and it’s nice to have those before.

What makes a query letter stand out?
An author platform certainly makes you stand out, says Rothe. “If you’re, say, published with 4 other houses, had 50-100 reviews, why wouldn’t we want to publish?”

A warning: research the company you’re submitting to. Black Rose Writing receives plenty of queries that weren’t researched properly or just clearly weren’t the right fit.

What don't authors understand about your work as a publisher?
Some authors don't really fully understand how much work or time we've spent on their project, or the time it takes for every step along the way. Just because a book hasn't been released yet doesn't mean we haven't spent time gearing it towards that stage.”

Some authors hear about the “perfect contract,” and then they expect to get that on their first book, despite being an unknown, unagented, and without a large following. They often forget that you have to start somewhere and work your way up to build the credibility and status.

What are your key insights on managing/working with authors? In what circumstances are they difficult to manage?
We always strive to keep communication open in a direct and timely manner and be available for our authors. We realize every author and every author's books and genres differ, and marketing changes based on the type of book and an author's location - so being forward thinking and flexible is a good thing. Authors can be difficult when they choose an inappropriate channel to criticize or ask questions, using social media instead of simply emailing me or a member of our staff. Going to the source first is almost always the best route, as a resolution may be quite easily achieved before stirring up fellow authors without all the facts.

What are some publishing trends you’ve noticed, working in the industry?
The audiobook trend has gone full circle. They were popular, then they weren't and now companies are pumping out more and more of them. Sales of audiobooks have increased, and the trend will be much like eBooks: there used to be no demand, then a spike where everyone worried that everything would go digital. But print books are still going strong and will keep on doing so.

What’s going on for you right now?
I just published a children’s horror story called I Like To Eat Children, which sold out at Texas Frightmare Week. I’m currently working on a dark fantasy series. I’ve also published a standalone mystery suspense novel, Blacke, about an author whose loved ones end up dead if he writes about them.

I'm currently reading the uncut version of Stephen King's The Stand. I just finished reading every book ever written by Joe Abercrombie, and look forward to reading George RR Martin's Fire and Blood, the first full prequel to A Song of Ice and Fire.

As for BRW, The Five Wishes of Mr. Murray McBride won the Maxy Book Award for 2019, and proceeds are going to charitable causes for special needs. Another BRW book, Managed Care, is starting to get really noticed-- it has a 5.0 on Amazon with 71 reviews, which is rare! Also, John Hunt’s Doll House, a hardcore horror novel with a strong and dynamic female lead, is the first BRW book to crack 400 stellar reviews.

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In case you missed it, our last post was on June's short fiction competition! The theme is "Identity," and guidelines can be found in our blog.