Phoenix Rising Press: February 2011

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Phoenix Rising Press: February 2011

Postby FranW » 02 Feb 2011, 15:04

Woohoo, my fellow forumites, we have another publisher interview! :cheer: :cheer: :cheer:

This time, we've been given the opportunity to shine the spotlight on Phoenix Rising Press. Those of you who frequent the Markets section will have seen the recent discussion about Phoenix Rising Press (see: viewtopic.php?f=29&t=42&start=45). They've generated our interest as they are neither standard trade press nor a service provider for self publishers nor a vanity press: neither fish nor fowl. So far, their published books are limited to titles by the owner, but they're open to submissions. They only want to see queries from authors who have already published, but not from authors who have a publishing contract (FranW: :dunno:). So, who and what is Phoenix Rising Press?

First, the basics:
Web site: http://www.phoenixrisingpress.com/
Established: 2010
Owner/CEO: Lynn Ames
Acquiring Editors: Lynn Ames
Number of books currently in print: 6
Accepting submissions from unpublished authors: No.
Accepts unagented submissions: Yes.
Sexualities accepted: L
Word length range accepted: novel-length
Preferred contact method: e-query

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Re: Phoenix Rising Press: February 2011

Postby FranW » 02 Feb 2011, 15:16

Ms Ames was kind enough to answer my questions. Here's our interview with Phoenix Rising Press:

FRANW: Many thanks for agreeing to do an interview with us. Our forum members, both readers and writers, are keen to know more about your press. To start with, I'd like to ask how Phoenix Rising Press works. The website refers to Phoenix Rising as a "consortium". Can you explain what this means? Who has the responsibility, and who bears the cost, for each task -- screening acquisitions, substantial editing, copyediting, layout, cover art, ISBN, printing, distribution, marketing, promotion, order fulfilment, royalty payment, subright sales?

PHOENIX RISING PRESS: First, many thanks for your interest, and that of your members, in Phoenix Rising Press. Phoenix Rising Press IS a consortium. I spent a very long time researching publishing models, thinking about what I wanted as an author, and what I wanted to be able to offer my fellow authors, as well. I studied many traditional models, self-publishing models, and various other options. What I arrived at is, I hope, the best of all worlds. It's a hybrid model.

In terms of book acquisition, editing, copyediting, layout, cover art, ISBN, production, scheduling, marketing, promotion, distribution, and order fulfillment, Phoenix Rising Press functions just like any traditional press. There are professionals handling every facet of the process. Phoenix Rising Press adheres to the most rigorous quality standards in the industry. Phoenix Rising Press books are available in every bookstore in the US, and are distributed by multiple outlets both in the States and internationally, including Ingram, Baker & Taylor, Alibris, Bertram, and Book Depository in the UK, and others (see http://www.phoenixrisingpress.com/Distribution.htm for details). Where the model differs is in the investment of the author in the production of her own books, and in the outcome.

I knew that I couldn't afford the front-end costs to produce the books or to assume all the financial risks, and I also wanted the author to be more invested in her own success. So I determined all of the production costs associated with my model for editing, layout, printing, distribution, etc., and where the break-even point would be. In other words, if all of the production costs associated with publishing a book hypothetically add up to say, $1,000.00 upfront, then how many books would an author have to sell to get a return on her investment? If that break-even point (again, hypothetically), is selling 1,000 books, then when that 1,000 book threshold is reached, everything turns to profit for the author, minus a small percentage to keep the business going (enough for website maintenance, store software upgrades, advertising, bookkeeping and the like). More on this in my answer to question #3, which essentially turns the traditional model on it's head. <g>



FRANW: Who is on the team at Phoenix Rising? At one time there was a staff list on the website, I think, but at this time (January 2011) there's no info as to who is part of Phoenix Rising, other than your name (Lynn Ames) on the "News" page. Rumour has it that at least some of the Phoenix Rising books are edited by the most excellent Ren Peters (forum member Proofrdr). Will she be editing all Phoenix Rising titles?

PHOENIX RISING PRESS: As there has always been, there is a staff list on the website. Please go here: http://www.phoenixrisingpress.com/Staff.htm . The staff consists of me, the most excellent editor Linda Lorenzo (Ren Peters), who, I believe, is one of the finest editors anywhere and has agreed to edit all Phoenix Rising Press titles, and our outstanding cover designer Pam Lambros. I may contract the services of one or more other freelancers on an as-needed basis.


FRANW: How do royalties/profit sharing work with Phoenix Rising and its authors?

PHOENIX RISING PRESS: This is where I've turned the traditional model on its head. <g> I know I shouldn't say this in public, but I didn't create Phoenix Rising Press to make money. I created it as a good karma vehicle to help maximize the creativity of, and return on investment for, Phoenix Rising Press's authors. So, where the traditional model might call for an author to receive, say, 10% of the net profits for her book sales, I'm going to give her closer to 85 - 90%. So yes, an author has to make an upfront investment in order to get the book produced, but once the book goes on sale, she'll get almost all of the profits, and once she's sold that hypothetical 1,000 books, she's already made her investment back and everything else is pure profit. This is why I say that the author is invested in her own outcome. While Phoenix Rising Press will do all the traditional marketing, PR, promotional-type things, the author can help herself as much or as little as she wants/feels comfortable with. The more work she does, clearly the more successful her books will be, and the more money she will make.

I've been testing this model on myself for almost a year now, because I would never ask someone else to take a risk without first taking it myself. In one month in 2010, selling the same titles that had been previously released with a traditional press, I made six times more income than I made in an entire year under the traditional model. Let me qualify that by saying there's nothing wrong with the traditional model, and my model is certainly not for everyone. The outcome will always vary by book and by author, but I've seen what my hybrid model can do, and I'm confident that these kind of results can be duplicated over and over again.



FRANW: Phoenix Rising's submission guidelines say the press will look at submissions from "well-established, seasoned authors". Can you expand on this? How can an author know if she fits into that category? Would you like to see submissions only from authors who have published multiple novels with trade presses, or are you also interested in authors who have self-published, authors who have a lengthy list of short story publications, etc?

PHOENIX RISING PRESS: If you've been reading my answers to your previous questions, I think it becomes clear why I've created the submission guidelines as I have. A well-established, seasoned author has a built-in audience as a foundation from which to build and expand, which is important. I want to ensure that each and every Phoenix Rising Press author gets a return on her investment. That means she has to have selling power and a proven track record at the outset. In this way, getting to that magic hypothetical break-even 1,000 book sales mark is virtually assured. This is as much for the author's protection as anything else. I want to set my authors up for success, not failure.

Yes, some untested, unpublished author may say, "But I don't care if I lose money, I just want to be published." She might be incredibly talented, and down the road, she might be a good fit for Phoenix Rising Press and vice versa. But I'm not willing to put her money at risk on unproven sales potential, even if she is. Obviously, this does not exclude a previously self-published author with a proven sales record.

As an aside, I've put stringent quality standards in place, and I'm incredibly picky. The reputation of the press and, by extension, every author associated with it, is in play, and I'm going to do everything I can to ensure the best quality titles in the industry. This will help us all succeed. That means that I won't simply accept an author or a work because she has a track record and a following. EVERY author, no matter how experienced, will go through a rigorous submissions process.


FRANW: Phoenix Rising's submission guidelines also say they will "not accept submissions from authors who are presently under contract elsewhere". When I read this, my first thought was "I don't think this means what they think it means." For example, I am under contract elsewhere: I have a story in a Ravenous Romance anthology for which they hold some primary and subrights for a few more years, and they occasionally send me a royalty cheque for sales of that anthology. The contract bars me from submitting that particular story to other markets at this time, but it doesn't have any bearing on other stories I might write and wish to publish. Some authors have suggested that what Phoenix Rising means is that they do not want submissions from an authors who is contractually barred from submitting her manuscript because her current contract with a lesfic press includes the ROFR (options clause) for her future work(s). Others have said no, Phoenix Rising really does mean that they won't touch an author who has any work currently contracted anywhere to anyone under any circumstances. Which is correct?

PHOENIX RISING PRESS: Wow, those certainly are divergent interpretations. Thanks for the opportunity to clarify this aspect of the submission guidelines. If the author has a right of first refusal clause in her contract whereby her present publisher has the first option to the author's next work, regardless of what it is, I will not entertain a proposal from that author until/unless her publisher has exercised the option and passed on the next work. That makes the author a free agent. If an author has a story in an anthology, or even one hundred anthologies but does not have a contract for full-length work, she is a free agent. For instance, I've contributed to many anthologies, but although they own the rights to those stories, they don't own the rights to me or my future (or even other current) works. I am not under contract to the press that published the anthology, I wrote the story as an independent contractor. So I certainly will entertain submissions from an author in that position.

Let me add that I have no desire to compete with any of the many fine traditional publishing houses in our industry. I have no intention of enticing or otherwise luring any author away from her current situation. Think of it as my unwillingness to tamper with contractually obligated players. <g> That was not my plan when I created Phoenix Rising Press. Phoenix Rising Press is an alternative model for authors who are not otherwise presently under ROFR contractual obligations.



FRANW: Conversely, does Phoenix Rising's contract place any restrictions on its authors’ ability to publish with multiple presses, such as an options clause or a no-compete clause?

PHOENIX RISING PRESS: This is another way in which Phoenix Rising Press is unconventional. There is no right of first refusal clause in my contracts. And every author will ALWAYS maintain the rights to her own work, including e-book rights. In addition, it may be that an author has one book in particular that is not a good fit for any other press, but all of her other books work for a publisher with whom she already has, or wants to have, an ongoing relationship. (An example would be if an author has an entire series published with one press, but that press doesn't want any work from her out of genre.). Phoenix Rising Press would entertain that book with no requirement that the author publish any others with us. She can publish as many, or as few of her books, including her backlist, as she wishes with Phoenix Rising Press (if she owns the rights to the titles free and clear).

Phoenix Rising Press is designed by, and for, the maximum benefit of its authors.



FRANW: Authors are often interested in “their odds” with a publisher. How many books do you expect to publish each year, and how many new authors are you expecting to sign?

PHOENIX RISING PRESS: As I've indicated, neither I nor my team is willing to sacrifice quality for quantity. At present, it appears the maximum number of new, original works (not including reprints of existing works) Phoenix Rising Press will be ably to put out annually is nine.

FRANW: A lot of small presses specialising in lesbian fiction started out as self-publishing outfits, then expanded and began accepting submissions from authors other than the owner(s). Some new authors see this as a conflict of interest -- they worry that all of the press's promotion and marketing dollars will be put towards the owner's books at the expense of the other authors' books. Others see it as a positive selling point, because their books will be associated with those of the owner's, who usually is an established name in the genre. What's your opinion on this, both for trade lesfic presses in general and for Phoenix Rising?

PHOENIX RISING PRESS: A lot of small presses specialising in lesbian fiction started out as self-publishing outfits, then expanded and began accepting submissions from authors other than the owner(s). That's an interesting observation and very true. In my case, as I stated previously, I was never going to ask another author to take a risk with my model until I had tested it on myself to be sure everything worked as I envisioned it, and to tweak those things that needed tweaking. But I always envisioned making Phoenix Rising Press available to other authors.

As to the speculation/suppositions about the workings of such "inward to outward" presses, I'll leave that to y'all to discuss. I can't speak to the motives or business practices of others, since I'm not inside their heads (it's hard enough being inside mine). I imagine, like anything else, there would be some of both kinds of owners/publishers in the world.

I CAN and will speak to my position and motives and I will say this in the clearest possible terms. I have spent more than a quarter of a century doing public relations and marketing for others, as well as teaching them to do it for themselves. All any good PR person has is her integrity, and that's something I take VERY seriously. I've dedicated my personal and professional life to making a difference for others. My job is to lift up others and help them to be all they can be - all they want to be. That was the underlying philosophy behind creating Phoenix Rising Press. Every Phoenix Rising Press author will get the kind of PR/marketing that I would/will do for myself, as if her book was my own. I'm only happy if my authors succeed beyond their wildest expectations.



FRANW: Tell us about one or two of the books that Phoenix Rising Press has slated for release in 2011.

PHOENIX RISING PRESS: Beyond Instinct, a pure thriller by some author named Lynn Ames, is the next book out from Phoenix Rising Press on May 30th. There are a couple of things from other authors in the works, but nothing I'm yet prepared to talk about publicly.


FRANW: Where can readers buy Phoenix Rising Press books?

PHOENIX RISING PRESS: Phoenix Rising Press's paperback books are available at http://www.phoenixrisingpress.com and in virtually every brick and mortar and online bookstore in the U.S. and the U.K., and a bunch of other places internationally. If the store doesn't have the book in stock, they can order it through multiple major distributors. Our e-books are available in multiple formats, including those for the Kindle, Nook, and iPad. Our e-books are available at http://www.phoenixrisingpress.com and our Kindle versions are also available at Amazon.com. Naturally, our authors make more money if you buy from http://www.phoenixrisingpress.com, but I'm just happy if you buy our books. <g>


FRANW: Most small presses that succeed do so because they fill a niche, or a niche-within-a-niche, for which there is an underserviced market. Is there a particular genre or subgenre or style of book that you want Phoenix Rising to become known for?

PHOENIX RISING PRESS: One of the greatest things about Phoenix Rising Press is flexibility. For instance, I might publish a memoir, or a coffee table photography book by a lesbian artist, which would be a tough fit for most other publishers in our industry. I'm in the business of making author's visions and dreams come true. Not a bad thing to wake up to in the morning.



FRANW: Authors (and editors) have varying goals, preferences, and idols. Some dream of becoming (or discovering) the next JK Rawling, while others hope to be the next generation's Jane Austen. Some want their books to be read only by lesbians, while others would like to cross over into the mainstream readership. They disagree on whether today's finest lesbian fiction writers are Nicola Griffith and Val McDermid, or Radclyffe and Karin Kallmaker, or Jeanette Winterson and Sarah Waters. They debate the wisdom of including flawed lesbian protagonists or lesbian antagonists in lesbian fiction, argue over explicit sex versus fade-to-black at the bedroom door, and reach for the duelling pistols when trying to reach a consensus on "what constitutes a lesbian?". What kind of novel would be the "defining" book for Phoenix Rising Press?

PHOENIX RISING PRESS: The wonderful thing about my vision for Phoenix Rising Press is that there IS no "defining" book. I believe there are arguments to be made for all of the examples you cite in your question. I want my authors to soar and to write what's in their hearts, and I've set up the distribution model so that their work can appeal to whomever they wish to attract - lesbian audiences, mainstream audiences, the "literary" crowd - it's all good, as long as it's a quality book, the best book it can be. And, because I have decades of experience with PR and marketing, we'll create a marketing plan designed to maximize the author's success in whatever milieu she so chooses.


FRANW: People say that "the future of publishing is e-books." (This always strikes me as kind of odd, because e-books are already a reality and are very much a part of publishing at the present.) How do e-books fit in with Phoenix Rising's current and future publishing plans?

PHOENIX RISING PRESS: There is no question that e-books are a VERY big part of our present, and their prevalence will only continue to expand and alter the market. I can tell you from my current sales figures that e-books are outselling print books by about three to one! One of the reasons I created the printing/distribution model I did is because it will be unaffected by the mercurial changes in the production/media end of the equation. I've got the flexibility to ensure that we already are/will continue to be every bit as nimble as the marketplace. Phoenix Rising Press is well-positioned, and will continue to, provide its books in multiple formats, both print and e-book. It's all about creating choice and options as varied as our readers.


FRANW: Lesbian fiction is quite separated from mainstream, particularly when it comes to romance. Myself, I don't see Harlequin publishing a lesbian romance anytime soon. But lesbian characters are to some degree becoming more acceptable in Tor fantasy novels and Random House mystery novels. Where do you see lesbians in fiction and lesfic publishing going? Where will we be five, ten, twenty, fifty years from now?

PHOENIX RISING PRESS: Hold on, let me get out my crystal ball (those don't work, by the way, they're just for show. <g>)... Seriously, it has always been true that societal factors heavily influence what we, as a community, write and want to read. We want to see reflections of ourselves in fiction. Sixty years ago, our fiction was all about angst and heartbreak and reaching for things you couldn't have, with dire and often tragic consequences. Thirty years ago, and even twenty years ago, our stories were all about coming out. Today, it's pretty rare to see either of those models in our fiction, because they no longer represent or reflect where we are as a community. Our issues are more complex, and we continue to become more and more woven into the fabric of the mainstream society around us. Our fiction will reflect this, and often already does, although, as you point out, our fiction remains somewhat segregated from the mainstream. That will change. Over the next decade, as the millenial generation comes of age and into power, our stories will become more and more mainstream, until I think, there will be very little separation. Or so I hope. The younger generation has grown up with images of lesbians and gays front and center in ways that my generation (the baby boomers), never did. It isn't as big a deal to them, and almost all of them would tell you that they either know, or know of, someone who is gay. That's a huge shift, not to be underestimated.


FRANW: What else would you like to tell us about Phoenix Rising Press and its books?

PHOENIX RISING PRESS: I hope you'll all pick up a Phoenix Rising Press book so that you can judge the quality standards for yourself. That goes for both e-books and print books. I'm very proud of the press and optimistic about the present and the future. If you have any questions, I'm easy to find. Please don't hesitate to contact me at lynnames@phoenixrisingpress.com. I'd love to hear from you. Thanks again for this opportunity. Awesome questions, Fran!
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Re: Phoenix Rising Press: February 2011

Postby FranW » 02 Feb 2011, 17:23

Lynn was pretty comprehensive (wow!) but if y'all have questions or comments, post 'em here, and I'll send them on to Lynn. I've also invited her to join the forum, in case she wants to answer y'all directly.
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Re: Phoenix Rising Press: February 2011

Postby PaulaO » 02 Feb 2011, 17:34

LOL that's Lynn.

I'm still reading what she said and will probably have questions soon.
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Re: Phoenix Rising Press: February 2011

Postby FranW » 02 Feb 2011, 17:54

What a great interview!

I have a few comments (yeah, like when did I not? Fran the perpetual blabbermouth....):
As there has always been, there is a staff list on the website. Please go here: http://www.phoenixrisingpress.com/Staff.htm .

Thanks for that! I checked the website again, and on my browser (Firefox) the main page and its linked pages don't have the second bar on the left that contains links for
FAQ's
Help
Order Policy
Permissions
Staff
Terms Of Use

So it's possible that the Staff page, while it clearly exists, isn't find-able via a link from any of the other pages. For the benefit of people like me, who are too unimaginative to think to try writing "Staff" after the main page URL, PRP might want to add a clickable link on the main page that goes directly to the Staff page. Or is it just me? Y'all using Firefox or IE, do you see the gold bar with brown-text links on the main page or any of its linked pages?

The staff consists of me, the most excellent editor Linda Lorenzo (Ren Peters), who, I believe, is one of the finest editors anywhere and has agreed to edit all Phoenix Rising Press titles, and our outstanding cover designer Pam Lambros.

I don't know anything about Ms Ames so I can't comment on her abilities, and I don't know Ms Lambros at all either, but if Linda/Ren/Proofrdr is the substantive editor/copyeditor, I think authors will find that their books are in very good hands.

So yes, an author has to make an upfront investment in order to get the book produced, but once the book goes on sale, she'll get almost all of the profits, and once she's sold that hypothetical 1,000 books, she's already made her investment back and everything else is pure profit.

Thanks to Ms Ames for that very clear and concise explanation of how PRP works. The consortium model sounds like quite an intersting set-up, and one that could be quite beneficial for some authors.

As a caveat, it's been my impression that sales figures are strongly linked to publisher. That's come through extremely strongly with erotica e-presses, where a given author can predict her sales very accurately based on which publisher she has her book out with; it's something Emily Veinglory has tracked and has a lot of data for. It also seems to be true for lesfic presses: an author who has published with multiple presses find that her sales figures mirror the other authors with a press far more closely than they mirror her sales figures for her title with a different publisher. But sales are also inevitably going to be correlated with the author and the quality of her writing, and how well she has established a fan base. So if PRP can sell books in general, then an author who has already put the time and effort into her craft and into making a "brand" for herself will find herself rewarded personally and financially.

Of course, it does depend on the author being in a position to financially back the publication of her books. That won't work for everyone, but I expect it will be the right choice for some.

In one month in 2010, selling the same titles that had been previously released with a traditional press, I made six times more income than I made in an entire year under the traditional model.

:yikes: Now there's a selling point for the consortium model.

If the author has a right of first refusal clause in her contract whereby her present publisher has the first option to the author's next work, regardless of what it is, I will not entertain a proposal from that author until/unless her publisher has exercised the option and passed on the next work.

I for one certainly appreciate that clarification, as I'd interpreted it quite literally (and wrongly). So that's good to know.

I have spent more than a quarter of a century doing public relations and marketing for others, as well as teaching them to do it for themselves.

That too is good to know! Because most authors really don't know anything about marketing and promotion; having a professional at their side will surely be a blessing.

I can tell you from my current sales figures that e-books are outselling print books by about three to one!

:yikes: again! Though quite a few lesfic authors have recently noticed a huge jump in their ebook sales. That is really great!

Hold on, let me get out my crystal ball

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Re: Phoenix Rising Press: February 2011

Postby PaulaO » 02 Feb 2011, 18:11

So it's possible that the Staff page, while it clearly exists, isn't find-able via a link from any of the other pages. For the benefit of people like me, who are too unimaginative to think to try writing "Staff" after the main page URL, PRP might want to add a clickable link on the main page that goes directly to the Staff page. Or is it just me? Y'all using Firefox or IE, do you see the gold bar with brown-text links on the main page or any of its linked pages?


I see it. Ah, wait. It is only visible if you go to the Help section. Otherwise, it isn't there. It is considered a subsection of the Help section.
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Re: Phoenix Rising Press: February 2011

Postby FranW » 02 Feb 2011, 18:31

Ah, well spotted, eagle eyes!
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Re: Phoenix Rising Press: February 2011

Postby PaulaO » 02 Feb 2011, 19:22

Nah, I just clicked until I found it. This time of night/morning, it is squinty eyes.
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Re: Phoenix Rising Press: February 2011

Postby FranW » 02 Feb 2011, 19:30

Whereas, I'm just dead lazy. I look for the "Staff" or "About us" or "Who are we?" linky-link, and if it ain't there, I assume they ain't tellin'.
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Re: Phoenix Rising Press: February 2011

Postby deej » 03 Feb 2011, 02:09

Lynn joined the forum as of this morning. :-) I'm sure she'll clear up any questions you have and be more than willing to discuss the issues publishers are facing and any other subject.
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