“I think most publishers will tell you that while we can publish and market the book, it’s the authors who ultimately sell the books. There are authors who get behind the process 100% and these are the more successful authors.”
Why did you become a book publisher? Light Messages began as a small family run publishing company primarily to produce Creole language materials in Haiti. After the success of those publications, the company branched out and created a partnership publishing model under the Torchflame label. As the Torchflame publishers grew, the company saw a need from emerging new authors and in 2011 began to expand the traditional publishing label Light Messages. The company is still mostly family run, but has been doubling in size each year.
What do you like best about publishing? Working with emerging first time authors and watching them grow along with their manuscripts. Of course, the greatest pleasure comes with the success of the published works.
What do you publish? Most genres - fiction and non-fiction.
What is the most effective form of marketing for your press? We find blog and book club tours to be very helpful. Their reviews and websites help spread the word about a new title to their viewers. Calling indie bookstores where the author is from or where the setting of the book takes place also helps launch a title. Ultimately, the marketing package must include an author who is willing to put in time and effort in getting the word out, as well.
How do you define a successful title? Primarily by sales and reviews. Because there are so many publishers and so many book releases in any given day we do not expect a book to be successful in the first few months of publication. (Of course, when one does seem to take off, we are all thrilled.) But we like to give a title 6 months before judging. Early good reviews help book sales. So the more reviews the better. If you are looking for numbers, we find that when a title reaches 300 copies in the first few months, it is easy to make that go higher and grow.
Tell us about one of your titles about which you are especially proud. That would be "Obsidian Dagger", the first of author Brad LaMar and the first in the "Celtic Mythos" series. I think what makes us happiest is that middle school and high school librarians are stocking the book and have waiting lists for readers. As one librarian said, "What more is there to say, if you get middle school kids fighting over a book to read, you're successful." The title has also been picked up by after school book clubs. Mr. LaMar is a teacher himself and relates well to children of all ages. His book takes two teenage siblings through a fantasy adventure in Ireland and Scotland. The teenage banter between the siblings is very realistic and one that both kids and parents can relate to. The fantasy has both magical and scary moments and keeps teens and adults turning the pages.
What has been your biggest challenge in achieving success? Author involvement. I think most publishers will tell you that while we can publish and market the book, it's the authors who ultimately sell the books. There are authors who get behind the process 100% - these are the more successful authors. But there are others who think that because they have a publisher, they can sit back and wait for the royalties to come in.
What advice do you have for newcomers to book publishing? Believe in your work. Be willing to listen to editors; they have experience in what reads well and their small changes can sometimes be what lies between success and failure. I would also advise a newcomer to come to a point of being happy with the book and then let others take over - so many new authors read and re-read their works so much that they never stop editing. If left on their own, a book can go from exciting and fresh to overworked and boring. Don't over-edit.
How will you and your company be positioned in five years? Probably about triple in size to what it is now, with several new authors and publishing the 2nd and 3rd works of our new authors. We probably won't have a top 25 best seller, but we will have books in the top 10%.
When you're not fully immersed in publishing, what do you do for fun? If I say read does that make me a nerd? I love reading, especially when it doesn't have to do with work and I am reading just for fun. I also love cooking and traveling.
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