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SFI Special: On Publishers, Authors & Readers

SFI Special: On Publishers, Authors & Readers

I was really surprised when Alex informed me that this month was DragonRising's 15th birthday.

Look at that ... I own a publishing house ...

You think no evil, live your life as you do, try to make the world a better place and then one day you wake up and you're the owner of a publishing house ...

How did that happen?!


Easy answer - I couldn't get anyone to publish my very first book, "Your Dog & Your Baby - A Practical Guide."

Now that was a book which I knew for a fact was sorely needed but no publisher wanted to know. I got rejection slips. In case you're not an old author, they are called rejection "slips" because back in the day when the dinosaurs still roamed the hills and we were still typing on metal typewriters, publishing houses got so many manuscripts and sent out so many rejection letters that in order to save money, they didn't send the author a letter of rejection.

They duplicated a short rejection notice, printed fifty of them on one single sheet of paper, then cut them up into thin strips that read, "No potential audience, not interested," or such.

It's an extraordinary experience to have put your heart and soul into writing a book, which is a big step for a person to take, believe you me, and then to get those little scraps of paper from the publishers.


Now I would have gone away with my book "that has no audience and no profit potential" if at the time my phone hadn't been ringing off the hook with desperate pregnant ladies and also grandparents with dogs who were told the dogs would have to be put down because of all the dangers of the baby being eaten or at least, infested with worms and made to go blind.

This was exacerbated as the whole hype about dangerous dogs was happening at the time, so I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that there was a market for my book, and moreover, that it was needed, wanted and there were lots of people out there who would stop being so upset and desperate if they could read it.

So I took an enormous leap of faith.

I got myself a publisher's number - 1 873 483 - remortgaged my house, found a printer and a book binder and produced the book myself.

And thus it started ...

If you have one book, and a mailing list of interested people, you can write another one. My house was all mortgaged out and to be fair, I wasn't making any money on the dog & baby books although they sold steadily; so I turned to making spiral bound, photocopied books for dog behaviour specialists and obedience instructors.

That was all good and well until Project Sanctuary came along. My mailing list of dog trainers wasn't exactly the right target market so I tried once more to find a publisher.

I don't have to tell you how that went, next time around ...

I mean, who wants to buy a book on making worlds inside your mind? You'd have more chance trying to get a book on dogs and babies published ...

But I was born under a lucky star.

The internet came along, and with it, those mysterious ebooks.


Here was my solution. I could find interested parties on the web and sell them an ebook - no more mortgages on the house! And so, in 1998, I started to sell Project Sanctuary as a .doc email attachment after someone sent me a cheque in the mail!

Back in the day, banks were totally freaked out about the internet and wouldn't touch it with a barge pole; but then, Clickbank came along and we celebrated with champagne!

.doc email attachments turned into downloadable pdfs after online payment verification and the instant ebook download was born. I'm proud to say that I was amongst the very first people on this planet ever to distribute information that way. Because Project Sanctuary was the only product then, I called my publishing company "DragonRising" because that's the PS logo and the symbol for PS at large.

In 2003, my son, fresh from University and having gained a degree in computer and business studies, joined the company.

Now you would be forgiven to think that such a bright young thing with a love of all things computery would be just as excited about ebooks as I was, but nothing could be further from the truth. Alex wanted to publish "real" books! We had and still to this day have many an argument over this. Ok, hard books still sell better than ebooks but they are so much more trouble in comparison. Why won't folk think of the trees! LOL ...

Still, fate lent another helping hand. Mysteriously, and there really is no good reason for this other than provenance, it so happens that the UK's first print on demand book factory opened in the very town our publishing company is located in. It's a small town by the seaside, not known for its industrial prowess, but there we are.

And print on demand or POD as it's known in the trade entirely revolutionised the whole business of book making and publishing.

No longer were mortgages needed to produce a "print run" of books, you could now print one at a time, on demand.

This was done by enormous laser printers and back in the day, a hand finishing process to put the bindings on. The books cost a lot more per copy than the old way when you made thousands all at once; but you could put as many books into circulation as you wanted.

As with the ebooks, the existing publishing industry was spitting at POD books. They really didn't like them and declared them to be "not proper books at all."

Now, less than ten years later, all short run books are published in POD, including the most learned University Press tomes from the snootiest of oldest of publishers. As an aside, I always thought I sold not very many books, comparing myself to JK Rawlins - until the day I heard an interview with a University professor who had just published a book on something "which would be read by 3 other people, and potentially future PhD candidates, there's one of those at the moment ... in Russia I believe ..."

So now DragonRising was producing hard copy books, as well as ebooks. By some other strange fluke of fate, we found Europe's largest book distribution company was also situated in the same small town as we were; and that brought our books to Amazon and "all good bookshops, online and off."

And here we are in 2011, and it's been 15 years, and we really do own a fully functional publishing company with distributors, staff, bespoke online ordering systems and storage libraries, and many authors.

Sooo ... does that mean I'm a *publisher*???

As Goethe said so succinctly, "Crap! I have two souls within my breast!"

I can't be a publisher! I hate publishers! I'm an author! It's my duty to fight a never-ending war with publishers and I swore this on the entirely unpublished version of the author's bible when I stepped up and became a member of the recipients of the rejection slips society! RRSS for short, our number is legion!

LOL ...

Multiple personality disorder can have its merits. Or we'll have to try and do something new here with DragonRising - have the authors, publishers and readers working together to make something we can all enjoy and profit from in our various different ways.

I still think that for sheer information transmission, such as a how to book, ebooks can't be beaten. I still think they're awesome and a godsend for everyone concerned and that publishers should wholeheartedly embrace them. Even with print on demand, my new EMO book is already flying around the world and being read NOW when it's going to be weeks, months, before hard copy can be snail mailed and consume god knows how much unnecessary resources as these heavy books travel by plane, train and automobile, burning up fossil fuels as they go ...

And the instant updating ... As an author and a researcher, I can't tell you how it hurts to have outdated editions in hardcopy hanging around and still being sold because they were published in the traditional way and the publisher still has 20,000 copies left to sell from the original 1 million print run. What a waste! Those books have to be stored in temperate controlled warehouses with heating and cooling and dehumidifiers running 24/7 else they'll spoil. More fossil fuel ...

Sorry, that's a hobby horse of mine. Eventually the human race will get their heads around the merits of ebooks and then I'll get to say I told you so, even if it's in a ghostly voice from the grave!!!

In the meantime, I have a publishing company. It didn't happen overnight. It wouldn't have gotten anywhere if it hadn't become a family business and my good son hadn't put his back into it the way he did. There was help from the Universe too.

At the end of the day, and speaking from the soul that is probably my only one and smack  in the middle of my energy system, the author's soul, I'm totally delighted that I get to make the final decisions over what is in my books and what isn't; what gets withdrawn and what gets kept around for posterity; what the covers look like and what the advertisements say.

That's completely priceless; and of course, I can write anything at all and I will never, ever get one of those goddamned rejection slips, ever again!

There's one more thing.

You can't be an author if you don't have readers; and it's always been the readers and their responses to what I've written that has encouraged me, that has stopped me from giving up in the dark days and dark hours (and there were plenty of them!). It's always been the readers who tipped the balance in the war between author and publisher for me.

The publishers told me that there was no market, there were no readers.

The readers told me they liked what I've written and paid good money, hard earned money, to read my books.

I can't tell you how truly and profoundly GRATEFUL I am to each and every one of my readers across space and time. Without you guys I honestly don't know where I'd be or what I would be doing. YOU are priceless. You are not just a "the market." You are the people power who is behind everything, even if "the powers that be" try to hide that fact or make it go away.

Buying a book and reading it is a discourse between the reader and the author. Publishing companies should never get in the way of that; they should only ever be the bridge between them, to make it possible that they meet. I believe the big old fashioned publishing forgot that, became too self important, too self centred. As long as I'm alive, DragonRising won't be like that because they've got an author on board who wants to discourse with their readers - even if they are also now "a publisher."

DragonRising is still a dragonet. This doesn't bother me because I think of our company as one of the little mammals that were running around when the dinosaurs thought they'd had it all sown up. We are fast, clever, ultra modern and capable of evolving into any ecological niche. That'll suit me as a metaphor for now :-)

In the meantime, and with the wisdom of hindsight, the path to finding yourself with a publishing company has been fun.

And I would like to thank you all for being a part of that journey, and continuing to give us your good interest, your time and attention.

I *never* forget that I write *only* for the readers. And if I can get the publisher to remember that too, well, then we can all be very much on the same page :-)

Here's to the next 15 years!

With all my love and best wishes,


Silvia Hartmann,

Author + Publisher :-)

Posted Mar 13, 2011 Read Article...
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