Alisa Krasnostein is editor and publisher at Twelfth Planet Press, an Australian indie press for fresh, new speculative fiction. She is also Executive Editor of the review website ASif!, member of Not if You Were the Last Short Story on Earth and part of the podcasting team at Galactic Suburbia.
In the latest episode of Galactic Suburbia, we were talking about the recent apology to writers from Nightshade Press and their subsequent suspension from the Science Fiction Writers Association (SFWA). An excerpt of their apology is quoted below:
Night Shade has grown faster and more uncontrollably than we had any idea how to handle.Â What started as two guys shipping books out of a garage now consists of a full staff working out of an office in San Francisco. Weâ€™ve shuffled around a lot of our responsibilities, but in many ways, weâ€™re still figuring this out as we go.
This has led to some major miscommunication, and sometimes flat-out lack of communication, with our authors, sometimes, even amongst ourselves. We screwed up: Details were missed, one of us assumed another was handling a situation, or a reluctance to deliver bad news turned into an unprofessional excuse to procrastinate. The issues that have come up today, at their core, are really ones of communication.Â All this could have been avoided through simple phone calls and emails, through us letting people know what was happening.
That said, this has been a wakeup call for us.
This struck a chord with me as I have struggled managing growth in my own, still new, indie press. On the podcast, I mentioned how I think itâ€™s hard for emerging publishers to find mentorship and guidance compared to that available for writers. Thereâ€™s a lot of information out there to help writers set themselves up for writing as their career. But Iâ€™ve found it much harder to find similar formal assistance for the establishment of a small press and for guidance to grow my small press into a more professional business. Probably thatâ€™s because there are far fewer major success stories and because those that have been successful have used unique, and specific to their business, models.
In establishing Twelfth Planet Press, I have been very lucky to have had support and guidance from many small press publishers in Australia as well as more recently, elsewhere in the genre. But I thought, for my guest blog post, Iâ€™d share ten of the most important things Iâ€™ve learned so far and that I give as advice to emerging publishers when asked.
1. Treat your small press like a business from the get go.
I learned this the hard way and to be fair, Iâ€™m not sure you ever really know at the point that you begin your first project what you are going to need or how your press will grow. It starts out innocently with one project, which you can quite clearly remember all the costs of â€“ they came out of your own pocket anyway. And then the sales come in, other projects start up, you have authors and writers to pay and advertising and postage costs, ebook sales across three different online stores, other people might invest in particular projects with you, you split catering costs with another small press at a book launch once, you need an ABN or Tax File Number (in Australia) and then you need to register the name and have a bank account to attach your paypal to and the next thing you know is that you have to trawl through three years of 6 different bank account transactions and paypal receipts and figure out what you lost or earned and what you do or donâ€™t owe the tax man. And where your business stands, financiallyâ€¦
This happened to me. It was an excruciatingly painful experience. It made me cry more than a few times. And it took me months of solid weekends and one three week holiday between day job contracts to forensically audit about 5 years worth of records across 2 paypal accounts, 7 bank accounts and 9 publishing projects. I wish that on no-one.
Just recently, I applied through my bank for an eftpos machine to take electronic payments at Aussiecon 4 in September. It was only in this process that I finally had banking advice on the kind of products and packages I should have to manage my finances. But even in that process, the kinds of questions asked â€“ what proportions of sales come in this form or that form, what turnover do you expect â€“ were ones I could only now really confidently answer. I would have had no idea when setting up Twelfth Planet Press and I also would not have had a transaction record and cash flow through the accounts to show the bank.
My advice though is to set up a unique paypal account for your small press and record your transactions as they happen. Donâ€™t take my approach of â€œhaving a paperwork trailâ€ that you can fall back on later. Trust me, that way leads only to pain.