One option for publishing that I’ve looked into in the past is small presses. To be honest, I didn’t consider this route for The Dark Queen of Darkness, primarily because of the size and format of the book, but also because I just couldn’t find a small press that was calling for that sort of thing. That said, I think it’s a really compelling option. To that end, I’ve asked L.M. Bryski to join me for a few questions on the subject.
D: Before I get to my main questions, could you tell us a bit about yourself and your writing?
LMB: Hey Dave! Thanks for this opportunity to chat with you. And hello Dave readers. I’m a Canadian Emergency physician turned author. Since 2016, I’ve published 3 books with Moran Press: a coming of age story Book of Birds, a children’s book The Harmonica Tree, and my latest, a medical thriller called Blood Chill.
I was mainly an academic clinician, working in a trauma center teaching hospital, but I became more and more interested in writing stories. I had no formal training other than a single university English course but had practice documenting patient stories, and telling their stories when seeking consults on their behalf.
I wanted to write my own stories, though, as patient stories are sacred and private. And thus I began writing about fictional characters from stories that popped into my head.
D: Did you submit your book to other presses or agents before going with a small press?
LMB: My first foray into submissions was in late 2014 with the first draft of Blood Chill to a mystery contest run by one of the larger publishers. I was really cocky with my 70,000-word manuscript. I hadn’t even reviewed it for flow. I was sure I would win.
I also wrote up a few kids stories during that winter which I used as an easy way to learn how to submit manuscripts. I think I got about 8 rejections from that batch… my favourite of those stories I ended up illustrating and publishing in 2017 with Moran Press.
I worked on Blood Chill for about another two draft rounds before an idea for a new book popped in my head almost fully fleshed out. The character voice for this second book was so strong, I set Blood Chill aside and put all my effort into writing Book of Birds. It felt more complete, more well rounded, so I decided to lead with that manuscript and buff it up before shopping it around, which led me to my editor, Jette Harris.
D: All of your books are published through Moran Press, how did you find that imprint and decide to submit?
LMB: For Book of Birds, my second manuscript, I only submitted to one small press, Moran Press, a micropublisher in the United States which represents a handful of authors. My first step wasn’t even submission. It was editing. The editor I hired to help me with my manuscript, Jette Harris, read through it and asked if she could show it to Stephen Moran (I said yes please!). Moran Press reviewed it and got back to me that same day. I was lucky. I was already impressed with how Moran Press was with its current authors. I said yes!
D: What did the submission process to a small press look like?
LMB: It felt easy. I had quick responses from Stephen Moran, that were thoughtful, congenial, and professional. It was a true pleasure bringing Book of Birds out under his care. He had a great managerial style, knowing when to let the editing process continue and when to step in with direction. This has been [the] same for each of my books published with Moran Press.
D: Once your book was accepted, what happened next? As an author what did you need to do leading up to publication?
LMB: The editing process took about 6 months. You really need patience to go through a manuscript over and over again. I have an amazing editor in Jette Harris: smart, precise, and good humoured. I learned a lot about balance of words such as how changing even one word in one place means a review of the paragraphs around to make sure everything remains both balanced for flow, and unbalanced for differing sentence lengths and nonrepetitive descriptors.
Once the manuscript is set, then work on the layout and font occurs. I’m really particular about spacing, preferring a solid indent and ample margin space around the words. This is reflected in the updated version of my first book.
Then the cover art. So many ways to do it, but Moran Press prefers to work with a cover artist. Book of Birds is currently in second edition with the fabulous artwork of Kelley York.
D: For folks like me choosing to go 100% self-published, it’s up to me to find people to help with cover design, illustrators, editor, someone to do layout, 100% of advertising and getting the book to different venues for purchase. What did this process look like for you working with Moran Press?
LMB: My editor was one I chose and I still prefer to work directly with my own editor. I’m lucky Moran Press allows this. As for the rest of the package, that was more under Moran Press. I did handle some of the expenses as part of the negotiated book contract. Advertising is a mix between me and my publisher. I handle local events, but my publisher has done more for things like sales, bloggers, other social platforms.
D: Your books are available on Kindle Unlimited. Was this your decision as the author or a decision made by the publisher or was it more of a discussion?
LMB: This is a publisher decision. I haven’t found it to be either a positive or a negative, to be quite frank.
D: Kindle Unlimited is somewhat controversial amongst authors as the terms have led to authors being removed from Amazon altogether by the actions of others. Overall, how would you describe your experience with Kindle Unlimited?
LMB: So far, it’s been a nonissue, but this controversy is something to keep an eye on.
D: In your experience working with a small press, what does a small press do for an author and what does a small press not do?
LMB: In my experience, a small press is able to make decisions quicker, and bring stories to publication quicker. It has an easy open avenue for communication, and more author say in their publications. On the downside, being small means smaller reach, and more (but not all) responsibility put on the author for helping keep the book advertised.
D: Your cover-art changed for Book of Birds from the initial release, the one I have on my shelf, and the second edition. Why did you decide to change that cover?
LMB: I fell in love with the bird painting on the back and wanted it for the front cover. The whole cover started as a painting I commissioned for the book. I liked it a lot, but was more drawn to that blue-black drongo bird. Moran Press also got a new cover artist who had impressive work. We put together a new cover that had the blues of that bird picked out and a slicker font. I still like the old edition and have a few on hand that I occasional give out if I want to give a special gift.
D: Do you have your book in any bookstores?
LMB: I do. I’m available at the local Chapters Indigo stores in Winnipeg and on their website. I’m also in McNally Robinson locally and on their website. Else my books are available through moranpress.com and on Amazon as kindle or paperback.
D: I know you’ve done at least one author event. How did you organize that and what sort of challenges did you experience?
LMB: Locally I’ve had two book launches I arranged with McNally Robinson. They have an event coordinator that puts together a poster and ads in both their newsletter and the local newspapers. The event also has an MC and catering that you pay for and hope that you sell enough books to cover. Both events were very much worth it. I ended up on the store’s bestseller list for general paperback fiction those months. I also arrange book signing myself at the local Chapters bookstores. They sometimes reach out to me, too, inviting me out to their stores for a weekend afternoon. I’m lucky that the local managers are really supportive of local prairie writers.
D: As much as I’d love to continue bombarding you with questions, I think I should just stop here, but before I let you go, do you have any sage wisdom for others on publishing or marketing?
LMB: Edit your work, but don’t edit it so much that the joy of your first written draft is diluted out.
Talk about your books when you meet people. Most people are interested or even have heard of you and what you’ve written.
And be prepared to talk about your writing even when you might be busy doing something else. I’ve had people come up out of the blue to chat with me about reading both my books and other books, and it has led to some great conversations and connections.
Thank you again, L.M. Bryski for taking the time to answer these questions. You can find L.M. Bryski’s work at Amazon:
Blood Chill: http://mybook.to/BloodChill
Book of Birds: http://mybook.to/LMBryskiBoB
The Harmonica Tree: http://mybook.tp/LMBryskiTHT
or directly through Moran Press at www.moranpress.com and you can follow her on Twitter at @LMBryski.