- by Lina Gardiner
A special welcome to Lou Aronica. We’re so pleased to have you as our guest.
-Can you tell us about the Authors First, First Annual Novel Writing contest at The Story Plant?
We created Authors First because we realized that our roster of authors was particularly interested in sharing what they’d learned about the craft and business of being a writer and that this could be very helpful to a huge audience of aspiring writers. Once we decided to launch the site, adding a contest seemed like a natural thing to do as a way to both promote the site and give writers – especially new writers – a way to be heard.
The contest rules are all here, but we’re looking for book-length submissions of novels that have not been previously published. The first contest closes on September 30, and we’re going to announce the winner on December 1. The winner will receive $5,000, publication by The Story Plant and some other fun stuff.
We’re also running a short story contest where winners will be published in an annual anthology.
-How successful are virtual writers’ conferences and are they finally coming into their own in terms of successfully engaging authors?
I can’t speak for all virtual writers’ conferences, but I’m very happy with the traffic we’ve been getting our first couple of months. I think the key to successful engagement is constantly offering new and valuable material. We release a new session every week, which gives people reason to keep coming back to the site.
-Will you make virtual writers’ conferences an annual occurrence at the Story Plant?
To be clear, Authors First is an ongoing, permanent site. We didn’t create this as an event, but rather as a community center for writers, especially aspiring writers. We are definitely planning to run another contest for 2015.
-Let’s talk about your publishing company, The Story Plant. What prompted the decision to open your own publishing company?
I spent the first twenty years of my career in Big Five publishing (there were more than five back then). When I left to pursue my writing career, I thought I’d left that part of my life behind, but I found that it kept calling to me. I’ve always loved the process of publishing and I love developing writers, so I guess it was inevitable that I’d jump back to that side of the business even as I continue to write.
-How many books do you release a month?
We do two or three books a month.
-How do you promote your author’s books?
-In every way that makes sense. Our Marketing Manager Aaron Brown (a fellow Ninc member) and I have spent most of this year trying to parse out marketing tools that actually sell books as opposed to raising awareness. We focus heavily on bookseller promotions, because booksellers are far more effective at finding readers than publishers are. We do BookBub and other e-mail promotion, and we’re aggressively building our own e-mail list now. We spend a lot of time going after reviews, and we will on occasion hire publicists or embark on advertising campaigns. We have a good-sized social media presence that we’re always building, and we have a street team that we call the Spread the Word Initiative (always looking for new members, by the way). And then of course there’s Authors First, which is a great tool our writers can use to communicate with a community of readers.
-Do you have a foreign rights section?
Our foreign rights are sold by Trident Media Group.
-How are your royalties paid? eBook percentages, Trade book percentages?
Our trade royalties are industry standard and paid on cover price. Our e-book royalties are better than most traditional publishers and paid on net, which is the only realistic way to pay e-book royalties because pricing is so dynamic.
- What would you love to see come across your desk?
Anything with great characters and relationships. If a manuscript has those, I’m open to all kinds of plots and settings. Our first five titles this fall are about a tragic love affair, a young woman’s experiences in Israel in the early sixties, a “memoir of seduction,” a man campaigning for political office and for the future of his marriage, and a psych unit in a military hospital during the Vietnam War. All very different books, but all strongly character-centric.
-Has the upsurge of independently published books changed the way you acquire authors, if at all?
Not really. Writers come to us because they like our publishing philosophy and the way we continue to work books years after publication (or because they don’t know any better). Indie is a great option, and as you know I’ve been a vocal supporter of indie publishing for years. We’re just another option.
-Given your vast knowledge of the publishing industry, is there any advice you’d like to share with fellow members of NINC?
Between the conference and my bimonthly columns in NINK, I think they get enough of me already.
Lou Aronica is the President and Publisher of The Story Plant. He has thirty-five years of high-level experience in the book business. He was Publisher of two of the industry’s largest imprints, Avon Books and Berkley Books, and Deputy Publisher of a third, Bantam Books. As a writer, he is the author of twenty-four books, including the New York Times nonfiction bestsellers The Element and Finding Your Element (with Ken Robinson), and the nonfiction national bestseller The Culture Code (with Clotaire Rapaille), the USA Today bestselling novel The Forever Year, and the national bestselling novel Blue. Lou is also former president of Novelists Inc.