Dieselpunks

Dieselpunk + Steampunk Culture

Recently I've been in contact with a local independent publishing house called Twit Publishing. I had to opportunity to meet with both the editor-in-chief Chris Gabrysch and his brother Craig Gabrysch who is also a business partner (Writer, Layout, Webmaster) yesterday at the Steampunk convention, The Difference Engine, Fort Worth, Texas. 

 

They describe their company on their site as:

Twit Publishing LLC is an independent publishing company based in Dallas, Texas. It specializes in electronic, visual, and print media. PULP! Summer / Fall 2010 is the first of eight anthologies focusing on genre fiction that is the direct descendent of the pulps of the early 20th century.

http://www.twitpublishing.com/

 

Thanks to the convention website they've learned that some of the fiction they've been publishing was actually Dieselpunk but they didn't know it had a name. In addition, I learned yesterday that they're interested in publishing a "Dieselpunk Anthology" and that they are looking for writers.

 

This could be big for DIeselpunk, folks. To have a hard copy anthology of Dieselpunk stories in print could really be helpful for getting us some of the respect the genre deserves.

 

So, check out their site. Show some support and buy their publications. And contact them if you're interested in having a book or story published.

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here is the url.

http://www.twitpublishing.com/

Something to keep in mind, if you approach them. Find out what they are offering you specifically for your work besides just publishing. How is their enterprise being funded? What sort of distribution channel do they have access to? Is it unique? How are they promoting the product? How have their other titles sold (get numbers)? What are the terms to actually get paid? Does your work become exclusively locked to them? And finally get every important agreement in writing or email. 

The most important thing to remember is, if they are just offering you a 'chance to get published' you can do it yourself. It's actually really easy. Why have a middleman taking a cut if don't offer anything significant in return? 

Keep in mind this information isn't directed at twit publishing. I don't know them. I would offer this same advice to anyone looking to partner with a publisher.

Good luck

John

Good advice, John. One thing unique here is that they're wanting to publish an anthology of Dieselpunk short stories and novellas. At their site they listed the following as distributors:

Amazon.Com

Smashwords

Diesel e-books (gotta love the name)

Barnes & Noble

Reader Store (which is the ebook retailer for Sony.com)

Larry,

This info tells me that they are using Smashwords as the actually publisher, and twit is really more like a group of editors. I suspect that means there are two layers of middlemen between the creator and the audience and potentially two hands out each taking their cut first.

Any independent publisher who signs with smashwords directly will have access to amazon, ibookstore, barns and nobel and the others, if they set up that type of account/agreement, which anyone can.

http://www.smashwords.com/

(actually the smash words marketing guide is free and it's got some good info in it if anyone is interested. http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/305 )

If there are enough like-minded creators here in dieselpunks, they could produce their own genre related anthology very easily. Getting published is not hard at all anymore. Building up your audience can be difficult, but not distribution.

Keep in mind, I'm not trying to shoot down the original idea, I'm just trying to help offer practical perspective. I hope this helps others make informed decisions.

John

Hey Guys,

 

So my name's Craig Gabrysch. I'm the writer/webmaster/layout guy for Twit Publishing that Larry mentioned above. I went ahead and created an account for two reasons: to answer questions about the anthology, and to more easily soak up the culture. I'm kicking around my own ideas in the genre, and it's always easier to talk them out with other people contemplating the same ideas.

 

So, to address the questions above (And, you're right, John, these are all things you should ask about every publisher. There are sheisters and hucksters all over the place in this industry).

 

1. Regarding compensation: We pay 3% of revenue generated to each writer in the anthology on the PULP! series. This is a new project for us, and we haven't decided the number of authors, so this may go up. I'd love to offer up front money, but we're a new company (less than a year old). Doing straight up cash would be wonderful for me, because honestly, I hate doing the accounting.

 

2. We have a private investor on funding this project. We are an indie publisher, though, and do this as POD. 75% of cover design is done in house (we do farm out some of the work to a production company we're partnered with).

 

I do typesetting for the novels, and do the conversion for the ebooks. I use professional software (InDesign), and my brother and I are OCD about catching errors. Additionally, my brother has a BA in English from UT Austin and is not afraid of appearing too critical. At this point he has edited 6 full length books. Depending on when we receive all the story submissions, this will be the 8th or 9th. All of this reduces the operating costs dramatically.

 

3. Distribution-wise, we are available locally through booksellers in Dallas. Online, we're available through most booksellers. We produce an ebook version in every available format (including .mobi and through the apple store).

 

4. We insist on contracts. In most cases, we get 1st electronic and print rights. We never ask you to buy any books at full price. If you want to print books and sell them personally, we take a small cut on each one so it goes back to the other authors. Generally we send out blanket discount codes around Christmas, etc. so you guys can buy cheaper copies for your family and friends as presents.

 

5. Finally, you're right. It is pretty easy to publish on your own. BUT, with us you get several advantages:

 

  • I make text look pretty and readable. My goal is to make it so that a reader forgets they're reading a book. I want them to interact with the text as seamlessly as possible. That means no orphans, no widows, no hyphens across pages. I have the software, an eye for layout, and the experience to make this happen. It takes a lot of time and trouble to do what I do. You can do it too, but I don't recommend it.
  • You get a free editor in my brother. To get an experienced editor looking over your short story would cost $20 an hour, plus. He reads and edits crime noir/scifi/western/detective stuff all year long.
  • We have the ISBNs already. Those, right there, run you close to $300 for a block of 10. And you have to buy a MINIMUM of 10.
  • We're an actual LLC company. Putting the short story out by yourself, or novella, or novel unfortunately relegates you to "self-published." I'm not saying this is BAD, but I am saying that it doesn't give you the same thing as even having a small indie attached to it.
  • We have a catalog that's growing. Our 1st book was released July 2010, second in February 2011, third next month, fourth in october, fifth in december, 6th in February 2012. Hopefully Dieselpunk can come out soon after that.
  • We tirelessly show up at conventions and other events. We have an online presence that's growing steadily. We have affiliations with other indies and other organizations in the area.

So, that's my shpeal about the company. Hope it answers some questions and maybe instills a little trust.

 

-Craig

Craig
Thanks for your candor and participation. Since you're here, I've got a couple of follow up questions and comments.

- How have your other books sold?

- what are the numbers for the highest selling and lowest selling books.

- over what time frame do those numbers cover?

- Through which channel have you had the most sales success?

- you wrote "In most cases, we get 1st electronic and print rights." What would trigger the end of the 1st rights? What would be the motivation to ever remove something from electronic print?

- you realize that anyone can purchase isbn number one at a time or in bulk online in a matter off minutes, right?

- you also must realize that the editing services you offer are also available from many of the other online publisher. And wouldn't it be fair to say that your editing services aren't really free, they are just built into the profit/royalty you receive from each book sale?

- can you email me a copy of contract or contracts you were referring to? (takejohn3@yahoo.com)

now about this..

"or novel unfortunately relegates you to "self-published." I'm not saying this is BAD, but I am saying that it doesn't give you the same thing as even having a small indie attached to it."

I'm sure this would point would be valid to some, if the publisher was nationally or internationally recognized. Otherwise this sounds like a hint of spin from a publisher. As a publisher can you guarantee a specific volume of sales?

Also, you realize that anyone can set up an LLC by filling out a few forms, right?

I can see real value in this...

"We tirelessly show up at conventions and other events. We have an online presence that's growing steadily. We have affiliations with other indies and other organizations in the area."

- how many books do you sell at a typical show?

Thanks for your time and support of this community.

John



I can only comment about this point Craig mentioned:

 

I make text look pretty and readable. My goal is to make it so that a reader forgets they're reading a book.

 

The hard copy book I have of Pulp Summer/ Fall 2010 is of very high quality and is equal to anything that I've bought printed by a major publishing house.

Larry,

That's good to know that their finished products are polished. That's a tangible report, but it's not unique to twit publishing. Everyone should beware of nebulous or emotional marketing phraseology especially in sales pitches.

Larry, Did you actually forget you were holding and reading a physical book in your hands?

A physical book may be all that some authors want, but keep in mind there are several are other companies offering that service. A quick google search will get you to publishers like this...

http://www.lightningsource.com/

If you only want a few physical books for yourself, you can probably make them at kinkos. Actually a quick google search on that topic got me to this guy's story...

http://www.esuccessjournal.com/coaching/publish-your-own-book-throu... 

Also authors, while making your publishing decisions keep in mind that ebooks are outselling physical books in several markets. Consider the totality of the market's future when considering the breadth of a business deal in that space.

John

I would like to add one consideration that hasn't been mentioned. The owners of Twit Publishing, in many ways, understand genre-punk, especially Dieselpunk. In fact, Craig attended my panel so he has a knowledge of Dieselpunk that one won't find from many other firms.

 

Certainly any writer needs to be cautious about choosing the best publisher for him or her. In addition, one should also expect Craig to promote his company and present it in the best possible light. In my opinion though to have a company with an interest and understanding of our genre is something important to also consider.

Larry,

That may be good point, and it seems to me that the proof of some unique corporate understanding of diesel punk counter culture would be in their sales. Then we'd have to compare those returns to a non-genre specific publisher's results to get the answer. Outside of going to the genre specific shows that craig referred to, is twit publishing offering some unique way to get books in front of potential diesel customers, then convert them into buyers?  

As far as i know twit is only the second publisher to approached this site. Do we actually know how many other firms understand the dieselpunks genre?

John

John,

 

No problem on answering the questions. You make some excellent points throughout (primarily how young our company is). I am going to lump some together for sake of convenience:

1. Not as many books as we'd hoped - but it's been an increase in volume with each book. We're looking at just over a hundred sold right now, not nearly the volume of thousands or hundreds of thousands. As I mentioned above, we're small and in our first year, with only our third anthology on the way. We have no major authors in any of our stories, just people who write good genre fiction that haven't gotten noticed yet (as a side note, our upcoming 3rd anthology contains stories submitted by 9 previous authors).

2. Direct sales by us, through the brick and mortar stores we're carried at, and online print. Truth-be-told, not as many sales on the ebooks as I'd like. The internet is basically a vast database, and you have to create a large enough presence through time and diligent networking. Hopefully, they'll pick up once we've released our novel. Looking at the numbers of ebook sales and talking to person after person about hard-copy vs. ebooks . . . you'd be surprised how many people prefer print to electronic still.

3.I was referring to us getting 1st electronic rights. For instance, if we did publish a short story by you, you wouldn't have rights to submit that story to another print or electronic publisher without our written permission. It's not that big of a deal, since I like getting a "this story was previously published in Twit Publishing Presents: PULP!" or something similar at the end of the story. Eventually, these do expire, of course. In this instance, since we're talking about building a sub-genre of speculative fiction/literature, we'd definitely be willing to write in a clause making this easier. A lot of these stories will probably need to be cross-pollinated all over the place.

4. And, yes, you're right. Editing is figured into the fact that we do take a cut of revenue. We ARE a publisher, after all. Whichever way you do the editing service, you pay for it.

5. As far as promising a volume of sales, I challenge you to find ANY publisher that promises any volume of sales.

6. In regards to the "spin" of indie vs. self-publishing, you'd be surprised on the difference it makes to an audience.

7. As far as the LLC, yes, anyone can set one up in a few minutes. It's ridiculously, stupidly easy. But, have you ever tried to do the taxes on one?

8. Depends on the show as far as book sales. We've had real duds, and we've had surprisingly good shows. At the moment, being a small company, we're selling anywhere from 5-20 books. We're happy that we have people from previous conventions remember us.

At this point, the books are paying for themselves, and the company's part of revenue is paying for the conventions. The high point so far has been having two of our stories read at "Naked Girls Reading" here in Dallas.


So, as far as the rhetoric on the print layout, if you've ever read a poorly lain out book, you understand what I mean. A reader shouldn't have to fight with the text.

And, yes, you could go with Lightning Source, but it still requires the hundreds of hours of work that all books require. It's a printer, not a publisher.

Oh, and what Larry mentioned on Genre stuff: Yeah. We love it. I grew up on Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, H. P. Lovecraft, Westerns, horror, and World War II films. I also love Joyce, Hemingway and Fitzgerald and crime noir.

Yes, we do go through Smashwords. We also go through Amazon Kindle, because Smashwords doesn't port directly into their kindle store. You can create the format, but it's not available for distribution.

And, as far as the collection of editors comment goes: What is a publishing house other than that? That's like saying a fiction writer is just a person who makes up stories. Well... yeah... of course they are.

 

But, the real question is: what do you guys want? Are you interested in submitting stories or not? This is definitely a project my brother and I want to put together, but it's one for which we need you guys. No stories, no anthology. This is a very specific, little known sub-genre, and we're going to have a hard time rustling up prose from anywhere else.

 

Guess that's it.

 

-Craig

Craig,

Thanks for the clarity and candor you offered. I have a few more follow ups.

"1. (how many units sold) Not as many books as we'd hoped - but it's been an increase in volume with each book. We're looking at just over a hundred sold right now, "

So if I'm following and adding up the details correctly, it looks like the math may go something like this. if a twit book sold for $12.00 and the creator gets a royalty of 3% per unit sold, if the publisher sells 100 units over a the course of a year, a creator would $36.

"2. The internet is basically a vast database, and you have to create a large enough presence through time and diligent networking."

this is true, but If twit doesn't have unique access to some market-space in it, that i'm not aware of, and if you don't have an established, sizable audience in place, you're just competing with everyone else at the same level.

If you're putting the time and effort in to do this type of marketing, that's great. that could be of some real value, some day. But the creator would have to decide if it was worth waiting for the payoff.

"3. I was referring to us getting 1st electronic rights. For instance, if we did publish a short story by you, you wouldn't have rights to submit that story to another print or electronic publisher without our written permission. It's not that big of a deal."

Can I see a copy of the contract(s) you referred to earlier?

"5. As far as promising a volume of sales, I challenge you to find ANY publisher that promises any volume of sales."

you're right about the promises, but i knew that asking the question. however Depending on your relationship with certain publishers or agent, some can get advances based on royalties though this is not likely for new comer. A quick web search get you this...

http://www.writersservices.com/res/ri_adv_royalties.htm

Other small and large publishers are willing to offer projections based on previous successes once you start talking to them. going into this business venture, twit must have some projections of their own, otherwise how would the primary investor assess the ROI?

More than likely they were reading articles like these over the past two years and got excited about the opportunity.

http://www.mediapost.com/publications/?fa=Articles.showArticle&...

http://www.businessweek.com/news/2010-04-12/u-s-book-sales-to-incre...

But the larger point i wanted to reveal here is that, if the creator goes with a publisher like twit, you may end up in the same place you started and have less control of your material. it's just a gamble at this point for the creator. The LLC holds all the cards.

"7. (about LLCs) It's ridiculously, stupidly easy. But, have you ever tried to do the taxes on one?"

Yes i have. I'm not sure why you think it's so hard? It's also not necessary to be an LLC to successfully publish or sell an ebook. you just see it as marketing advantage thought it doesn't seem to be supported by your sales, yet.

"So, as far as the rhetoric on the print layout, if you've ever read a poorly lain out book, you understand what I mean. A reader shouldn't have to fight with the text."

This only an issue if you are interested in making physical books. formatting ebooks (like text on the web) is different. Issues like widows and orphans are irrelevant because the text/content are more fluid. The user has more control of the text in ebooks than the publisher. Look at your browser settings. it's almost the same thing. Some users prefer a different text size, font, color, and in some cases layout. take an ipad for example, when you turn an ipad ebook on it's side, the layout completely shifts and the text wraps dynamically. but it doesn't feel like you're fighting with it. there are tricks in the code (basically all ebooks are really xml) to lock down the format, but if you do, you may block the users control which would be a bad move since it flies against most of usability research i've seen over the years.

"And, yes, you could go with Lightning Source, but it still requires the hundreds of hours of work that all books require. It's a printer, not a publisher."

i just used lighting as one example to demonstrate anyone can get a book printed if that's what they wanted. there are dozens of publishers everyone has access to including smashwords, which you use. 

Your point about putting in a lot of time into prepping a book can be true. And I can see how your service would be useful. but it is not really the same level of effort as actually writing a book. in your business model the bulk of the profit/reward goes to the prep time not creative content. actually i'd bet most the overhead is printing books and travel expenses and booths at conventions.

the creators would have to ask themselves if this tradeoff/risk was worth the reward.

"And, as far as the collection of editors comment goes: What is a publishing house other than that?"

My point was that, twit publishing is not a necessary component to the independent publishing process, unless someone sees a unique benefit in what you're offering. you're middlemen. My over all point is the services twit is offering are available elsewhere, except maybe

- connections to texas bookstores

- a brother with a BA from UT

- the fact that the twit team is willing to go to conventions to promote and sell physical books

- and larry's testimonials that craig has an understanding of the dieselpunk subculture and that the books look good.

 

"But, the real question is: what do you guys want? Are you interested in submitting stories or not? "

everyone here will have do decide that for themselves, but let me throw in one more thing for the creators to consider. what if you went the same publishing route on your own and failed? what would you lose?

- ISBN - 1@ $130 (or 10 for 250)

- COPYRIGHT - $35

- TRADEMARK - $275 (if you felt it necessary)-

- TIME SPENT ?

for this example let's say the hard cost were $400. you'd only be out $400 bucks if you fail, but your work would be yours and yours alone. you can go wherever you want with it next.

What if you went on your own and only focused on kindle? let's say you matched twits current sales of 100 $12 books in a year. with your kindle royalty of 70%. you're at $840.

Other secondary publishers have tried business models like before and failed. What if twit publishing goes bankrupt? have any of you ever tried to wrestle a creative property that's been identified as an asset out of a bankruptcy? all interested authors may want to do a little research into this area before signing on with anyone. if twit fails, what do you stand to lose? your story?

 

"No stories, no anthology. This is a very specific, little known sub-genre, and we're going to have a hard time rustling up prose from anywhere else."

I fully understand the benefit of this deal for them. we have to ask yourself what is the benefit for us? twit publishing is offering to do what they consider the hard work, for you. you'll have to decide what that service is worth to you. 3%?

good luck to all parties.

John



Good questions. I don't have an answer but I know that I asked at least one writer posted here to have "Dieselpunk" inserted in the cover or the promotion of the book and the response was that publisher had complete control. It didn't sound positive. So to go with an average publishing house you would be put at a disadvantage of having to 1) explain Dieselpunk, and 2) encouraging them to insert the word, which they might not. Unlike Twit, where this isn't necessary. Like the rest of us, they've already drank the Kool-Aid. :)

 

Another comment you made about counter-cultural. I like the idea of an independent company simply as a matter of principle, which I'm sure many who follow my blog shouldn't be surprised about.


John Picha said:

Larry,

That may be good point, and it seems to me that the proof of some unique corporate understanding of diesel punk counter culture would be in their sales. Then we'd have to compare those returns to a non-genre specific publisher's results to get the answer. Outside of going to the genre specific shows that craig referred to, is twit publishing offering some unique way to get books in front of potential diesel customers, then convert them into buyers?  

As far as i know twit is only the second publisher to approached this site. Do we actually know how many other firms understand the dieselpunks genre?

John

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