Monday, April 06, 2009

Why I love my publisher at Swimming Kangaroo

Note for the record: I am published with three terrific publishers so far: Twilight Times (Infinite Space, Infinite God) and The Writers Cafe Press (Leaps of Faith), and Swimming Kangaroo (Magic, Mensa and Mayhem). I recommend them all. However, since this is the Magic, Mensa and Mayhem tour, I'm bragging about Swimming Kangaroo.

The author is only part of a team involved in putting together a book--and, just like with any team, the better the members, the better the results. I am blessed to have a terrific team at Swimming Kangaroo. I've blogged before about my wonderful cover artist, Roe Mesquita. Today, I want to go to the top and tell you about publisher Dindy Robinson.

I met Dindy at the Muse Online Conference. She was hosting a workshop where you sent in your stories and she critiqued them. Since "Amateurs" did not make it into the Ten Plagues anthology, I was concerned I'd missed something in it, and so sent it for her critical eye. She not only found nothing wrong with the story, but asked me if I had enough to make a story collection for her to publish. (Lesson: Sometimes, it's not the writing that leads to a rejection.) At that time, I didn't have a lot of stories, but I did have this funny serial I was writing for The Prairie Dawg...

We signed the contract for Magic, Mensa and Mayhem shortly thereafter.

Swimming Kangaroo is a small press, named for a family joke and run by Dindy with the help of her husband and children. It's a second job for her, and one that is still struggling to keep its head above water. However, I found it not only very professionally run but also deeply concerned for its authors. Let's hit the professionalism first:

Dindy has done her homework on the publishing industry. She's working all the tricks--from getting books the right reviewers to playing all the games at Amazon. She's hired a very talented group of editors, who I'll feature later this month, as well as illustrators. The only thing she lacks is an aggressive marketing force, and that's an economic constraint she's working to overcome by providing instruction in marketing to her authors. As a result, Swimming Kangaroo books are winning awards and several of her authors are making headway in the publishing world.

In fact, she told me one of her authors was so successful, she was not able to handle his load, and they worked to get him another publisher. That's the second terrific thing about Swimming Kangaroo--we're a caring team, rooting for each other, helping each other as we can, and when one is ready to swim out into deeper waters (and Kangaroos CAN swim), we're there cheering.

Dindy also involves her authors in the entire process: editing is done via e-mail with tracked comments so the author understands the editor's thoughts and makes her own replies. I was so impressed with the process that I asked was glad to sign a contract for the next book with them. Similarly, the cover art is a cooperative process. In my case, that caused a little delay in the book getting out (Sorry, Dindy!) but wow! What a result!

Dindy set up a Yahoo group for authors to chat with each other. It's one of the more active groups I belong to, and people not only post their brags, but also tips they've found online--places to get reviews, ideas on marketing, suggestions for sales... Swimming Kangaroo has a lot of first-time authors, and several do not know how to market or don't fully understand its importance or their role. Rather than let it slide, or make some kind of marketing requirement for publication, she's putting a portion of her budget into helping these authors learn the tricks of the trade. I'm a part of that with my Marketing Mentor program (which is open to anyone, btw), and she has asked another good marketer in our group to put together an instruction booklet. Granted, this helps her business as well, but she's also genuinely interested that authors learn these skills so they can succeed no matter where they publish.

One of the advantages to working with a small press is when you find one that's family. I've found that in Swimming Kangaroo. I think the experience has made me a better writer, and regardless of where I publish in the future, whether with SK or the big NYC publishers, I'll treasure the fact that the first DragonEye, PI novel has a kangaroo wearing an inner tube.

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