Following is an interview with MK Graff, author of The Blue Virgin
, who talks about her experience publishing a traditional paperback book with Bridle Path Press.
: Thanks for taking the time to meet with us. Can you tell us a little bit about The Blue Virgin?
MKG: Sure. The Blue Virgin is a combination of a cozy and a police procedural. It’s set in Oxford, England, a place I feel a special affinity for. I always choose my setting carefully, because I believe it is vastly important to a mystery, as it almost becomes a character. In the book, American writer Nora Tierney gets involved in clearing her best friend, Val Rogan, of the suspicion she has murdered her partner, Bryn Wallace.
: What brought you to Bridle Path Press?
MKG: I’ve had a good New York agent for many years who’s been unable to sell my novels. All of my rejection notices complimented my writing; the drawback was the publisher’s concern about selling an unknown American writer of a British mystery. In today’s world, traditional publishers are going with the sure bet, and you only become that way if you bring a track record. Their budgets are cut, their funding for marketing has become almost non-existent. This accounts for the steep rise in self and independent publishing. Authors are getting in print by investing in themselves and building their own audience.
: Then why not choose a Print on Demand service for your book? What made BPP so appealing to you?
MKG: There are several factors. First, I wanted to be involved with the design and production process. I wanted to make the decisions about what my book looked like, what the thickness of the paper should be and what color, things like that, in order to make it my own. In short, I wanted to control the publishing process. I also needed to retain complete ownership of my work, and through BPP that’s how they operate. Bridle Path Press makes no money, which makes it the most unique independent publisher around. Lastly, being a part of BPP puts me in touch with a community I enjoy being a part of, one whose mission is to encourage authors to publish their works and which offers them help and advice on how do it.
BPP: Walk us through the process. If a writer wants to publish with BPP, what should he or she expect?
MKG: An author submits his work to the press. Usually he will identify someone on the editorial board who is interested in his kind of work and engage that person as his sponsor. The rest of the editorial board then gives the manuscript a read to see if it’s a good fit for the press. Once the mss is approved, a member of the board will work with the writer on any editing that may be needed. In addition, the writer contracts with a copyeditor to polish the mss to the best it can be. BPP provided me with great editing on the pacing of my manuscript--which ensured that the final product would be a thrilling page-turner. The press also has a phalanx of talented contacts who helped me find a great copyeditor and book designer, assisted me with the nuts and bolts of publication, like obtaining an ISBN number and a bar code for selling the book. And it gave me the support of people who’ve been through this process themselves and understood my goal. With people to help me through the process, I never felt alone or anxious.
BPP: But you said the press makes no money. How can it afford to give writers so much help?
MKG: You are investing in yourself, and part of that is to “pay it forward” in helping the next author get her work into print. That community comes to the forefront then, with everyone pitching in their expertise to the new learner. It’s become a round robin of achievement and assistance.
BPP: Can you give us some idea of the costs?
MKG: The press has worked hard to keep the process affordable. Editing by the press is free, down on a pay-it-forward basis. Once the final editing is done, the manuscript goes to a copyeditor--we feel strongly about that. Sometimes writers have their own copyeditors. Otherwise we can make recommendations; copyediting usually runs about $2.50/page. Design work is next. This includes the actual cover design, the text layout inside, the font design inside, adding the bar code to the cover, adjusting the spine to the correct width, etc., all things a professional has to do. Design work runs about $800. We buy ISBN numbers in bulk, so writers pay only $25 for theirs. There's virtually no cost to do an Ebook--we can sell PDF's through our website, or writers can put their book on Kindle. For hard copies, we use Lightning Source. They're quick and do great work. LS prints books for publishers all over the world--including Oxford University Press. It costs $100 to set your book up with LS, and a typical novel runs $5-$6/copy.
BPP: How has publishing with BPP affected your writing?
MKG: It’s clear to me on several levels. The first is my delight in publishing my work, holding the book in my hands, seeing my name on the byline and knowing the hard work and time that went into it. It’s helped me to feel closer to my writing, as an actual product I’m excited about and proud of. Being a part of the BPP community and being taken seriously as a writer is one of the best things possible. And of course, the outgrowth of that is that others take me seriously, from the book signings I’ve done and continue to do, to the radio interview I had last week. It just plain feels good to be seen as a writer.
: What kind of writer do you think would be a good candidate for BPP?
MKG: Any writer with a strong manuscript, in any genre except pornography or extreme violence, should consider BPP. BPP is open to any kind of writing, and since the editors base their decision on quality alone, they are looking for works with mature, complete visions. The press is especially useful to writers who otherwise would have trouble making it into print: people who have collections of short stories or poetry, or have been deemed too “literary” for the marketplace. Writers must accept the idea of working and sharing within this community, and of investing in themselves. And they should be prepared, after a lot of hard work, to feel a wonderful sense of accomplishment and success. We are proud to have developed a model that works: so far, by keeping costs low, our writers have been able to recoup their investment through sales.