By Catherine Burr
I have never told this story before, and it is a bit of a long post, so you may want to read it a bit at a time.
New Line Press this year celebrated our 10th anniversary and I have thought a great deal about the reflection upon these ten years. I wanted to write here an overview, though I wish I could write more, but truly, that would take an entire book.
This basically is how NLP came to be and some of my thoughts over the years as a publisher. I’m writing this two-fold, one because after ten years, it seems like a good a time as any, to reflect on our origins and path, and two, because if I could help even one potential author or person who would like to open or start a publishing company, then, I hope to encourage them with my experience.
READY, SET, GO
My first experience in publishing was during a time when I was with the Junior League of San Jose, (where I received valuable organizational training) and I worked for a non-profit as a project director. It was a short-term job, but I published (under the non-profit name) a directory of all of the non-profits in Santa Clara County. It was a huge undertaking and was my first experience at publishing and I learned a lot!
My experience in commercial publishing began in the 80’s, when I worked for a poster publishing and graphics company as an outside national sales rep. I studied under the guidance of a great team, which laid the groundwork for me knowing about graphics, images, working with graphic artists, retail stores, wholesalers, distribution, sales, inventory and management, the whole enchilada.
In the 90’s, I submitted an idea to the gift book publisher that I was working for, and low-and-behold it was accepted, and that book became a nationally bestselling (50,000+ print copies sold). The experience of being an author, and doing book signings and interviews, media, TV, radio, all of that, was one that I look back and utilize my experience in years to come when I opened New Line Press.
After my parenting humor book (“Motherhood is not for Wimps”) succeeded to beyond my wildest expectations, I really wanted to write a novel, so I did. Boy, my “motherhood” publisher was a little miffed when I submitted my novel to another publisher! Ooops. At first, the novel publisher rejected my novel, but then one day, I found a “we are interested in publishing your book” email in my in-box!
The experience working closely with this publishing company, publishing my novel, was amazing. The company had conferences where I met and networked with other authors, and set up book signings and radio appearances, and I even had my own PR person.
I’ll never forget when my novel (“Silicon Secrets”) hit the “Movers and Shakers” list on Amazon as a top seller. I could not believe it. I even had a screenwriter write me and want to write the screenplay (she did). And, it all went a bit to my head.
Again, all that experience helped me later on. I didn’t know why at the time, but my editor kept after me to write and work on my next novel. I procrastinated. And then unfortunately, sorrow soon came and everything changed.
But change, as sad as it can be, can move people forward in new directions they never thought possible.
COMPETITIVE. WHO ME?
During this same time, I was still working for the gift book publishing company and I was the nationally top-selling salesperson for 36 months running. I was obsessively competitive (still am). I worked in trade show booths, customers–both in person and phone, selling, inventory, working with national and local retail stores for their wholesale purchases.
If the end of the month rolled close and one other salesperson was ahead of me, I got on the phone and sold even more books over the phone to bookstores and retail shops (wholesale purchases), and consistently beat the competition.
IF YOU INSIST
I never intended on opening a publishing company, however one day when the publisher who had been urging me to work on my second novel (which I procrastinated doing), suddenly passed away, my other print book publisher called me up, and suggested that I start a new imprint off of their publishing company, they’d initially back and mentor me, and I would own and run it. How could I say, “No.” So, I pulled an all-nighter and thought about what I might call the new imprint of the press, and by morning, came up the name of “New Line Press.”
NLP (as it soon became known) started off publishing print books with runs of 500-1,000 per title (print books). This was before ebooks. We started in 2006 with 2 novels (mine), but soon added other titles as I and a small team searched the Internet and in person for the best of the best. One of the best things I did was to hire an EIC who knew editing inside and out. Without that kind of in-house editing team, I’d not gotten very far! Sometimes, I’d send an email to an editor just to ask a quickie clarification of when to use a comma or a semi-colon. Having experts on stand-by is key.
FROM PRINT TO EBOOKS
As far as submissions went, in all honesty, we did open submissions from time to time, but only accepted about 1% of the submissions received. How did we find authors? Networking. Reading. Connecting. Perusing. And, that initial contact with a publisher is so important. If in those first emails, if I didn’t like the author’s tone, out they went to the sludge pile.
Round about early 2008, I heard about this thing called, “Kindle,” and with my background in Silicon Valley and being on the forefront of technology, I was instantly intrigued. To be able to publish books without all the hoopla and expense and paper, and months that it took to do traditional print copies, fascinated me. I wanted in. And in, I got. We put a few ebooks out to start, and the sales steadily increased. There was a trend and it it upward. I was hooked. We never looked back.
During times when we were taking submissions, I always sent the queries to my submissions team (which consisted of an EIC and several initial query readers). I would usually glance (for the most part) at a query, but usually just forwarded it to one of our submission team members. Did I always accept what their recommendation was? Heck no. But, typically what that meant was, that editor would not edit that particular book and I would do it myself or assign it to someone else. Have to keep everyone happy!
I found several authors on MySpace (yes, it was awhile ago). I think that was really how NLP got off the ground, there was a group of us writers on MySpace, who were posting every day, really just having fun. We would get a little goofy, because at that point it wasn’t really a business we were just getting started and having a good time. After a while, some of our authors got noticed, and one thing led to another, and suddenly it became very serious business! Of course we all fled MySpace anyway but the friendships and business associations remained.
MYSPACE OVER-BUSINESS LIFTOFF
We soon got incredibly busy and I was in search of editors, writers, and talented people across the board. Once I found an author by accident. I was looking for a particular editor, but came across another editing and writing site instead, who had free stories up, (this is why it’s important for wanna-be authors to write blogs), and I fell in love with the words and wrote to the writer out of the blue and asked to consider writing for us. That writer became one of our bestselling authors and has written many bestselling books for NLP.
Another one of our bestselling authors, started out as one of our editor and story readers, and one day asked if we’d consider a short story (in a genre we hadn’t previously published), and as a businesswoman, I’m open to new opportunities, so, after reading the work, I said, “Absolutely!”
One of the things that has been the most gratifying to me is the entire creative process. From discovering or creating a persona of an author and taking them and working with the marketing and “branding” and development, from author presentation to book covers, to marketing, to every detail that goes into developing authors, to me is so rewarding.
Marketing and packaging is how my brain rolls!
I’ve said this before, but to start with a blank slate and out of one’s own creativity, to come up with an idea, a plan, and follow it through, is unbelievable. Especially when the buying public responds.
Now remember, I had mentoring and initial backing that helped me tremendously and taught me everything about publishing from the inside out. Having experience in the business world (I was previously a CFO of a company, and a bookkeeper of another), coupled with the experience of working in graphics and book publishing, and being an author, gave me the tools to succeed.
I took NLP to its own imprint (which meant I bought ISBN’s in the NLP name and all that business stuff), and took leadership from a print book era to digital. I can’t stress enough how important it is to have a business background, to have publishing experience, and also I think to have experience as an author already, so you know the needs of authors and how they may feel, what’s important to authors, and how they tick.
I also had additional experience in publishing, by writing an award-winning, successful blog for over a year for The Celebrity Cafe, and that experience helped give me even more experience in the world of publishing. I’ve had other experiences too, but I simply can’t name them, all here. Check my LinkedIn, many of them are listed there.
My success tips can be summed up:
- Don’t F anyone over!
- Don’t spend more than you earn!
- Be professional!
In publishing, you’d be surprised at what a small circle it is. Everyone knows each other. It’s a tight group. Be professional, decent, and don’t burn bridges.
Anyway, I’m going to backtrack just a bit here; after the first few books, I was determined for NLP to become independent (which back then, did not mean publishing like it does today). As we became our “own” house, we expanded our base of print books, and I heard about this new thing called “ebooks.” We were one of the first publishers to publish on Kindle.
Like most successful pubs, I have always hired the best of the best, from EIC, to editors, to freelance artists and graphic designers, to proofreader’s and story and line editors. I love the being in control, being the one to make the final decisions, however, I always have put much faith in the people I work with, because they too are experts in what they do! The graphic artists bring to life the covers and the images that reflect a book and is forefront in determine whether a buyer is going to take a second look to read the blurb or not. Talented artists are key.
NO DARKNESS ALLOWED
NLP recently celebrated 10 years in the publishing business and NLP thanks our readers and fans around the world, and everyone who has worked so hard to bring great books to entertain and enjoy. We try to have fun with our books. I don’t like darkness, we never have had a “dark” look to our site or books, and there’s a reason for that, most of our books are light-hearted quickie reads in the romance genre, with a sense of humor.
I would be remiss if I didn’t reiterate what has been one of the most rewarding part of my experience with NLP. Discovering and working with new authors and developing them into superstars is unlike anything I’ve ever done. Taking someone from the ground floor, who basically is an unknown, or taking a concept that originated in my little head for an idea for a book or a series, and working on the concept, from start to finish, is rewarding.
To take an idea from nothing, follow it through, make something of it, put it all together, and put it out to the public, something I’ve helped create, or in some cases, created, and then when the public respond, and the books sell, and sometimes go viral, it’s so satisfying and what propels a person to work all night long. That’s been the thing that have loved the most and found the most rewarding, I can’t even tell you.
If someone is even thinking of a creative concept, I highly encourage them to do it. To follow something to fruition, from initial concept, to end-result is beyond rewarding. And when it sells, that’s icing on the cake.
The NLP Team:
Editing: We have worked with very talented editors and freelancers, including JP Halon (former EIC), Stephanie Campbell, Jo Sarti, J. Polus, Lea Ellen B, Winona Rasheed (founding creative director of NLP Kidz and now owner of Sugarberry Press), and other freelance editors and proofreaders.
Authors. Some, but not all of our current and former authors include: Cadence Dean, CJ Starr, Penelope Rivers, GG Royale, J. Halon, Terry Wright, Jessica Wayne, Tony Schaab, Eric Emery, Lori Golden, Winona Rasheed, Larry Wall, Kathleen Russell, Judy Layne, Anne Adair, P. Lee, BJ Hudson, BJ Scott, April Wild, AK Fenley, and Catherine Burr.
PAY IT FORWARD
With our encouragement and mentoring, several of our authors have started their own publishing houses, CJ Starr, Terry Wright and TWB Press, Winona Rasheed and Sugarberry Press. We couldn’t be more proud of our authors and like I was mentored before me, I have proudly mentored authors and hope that someday, they too, carry it forward.
I started my publishing journey like a little baby bird who nested until I was ready to fly, and I feel the same way with authors whom I have supported and mentored them as they continue in their own and unique publishing journeys.
NLP Covers and Graphic Design:
- Fantasia Frog Designs
- Justyn Perry
- Dara England
- Night Owl Designs
- Humble Nations
- Larry Wall/Kathleen Russell
- Winona Rasheed (original creative director NLP Kidz)
- Jimmy Thomas (cover model)
- Jason Baca (cover model)
And, that’s the abbreviated story of NLP. I could write pages about the different experiences I had with authors and editors and graphic people, and even working with other presses, I have to say, all great. It takes a village to make a publishing company and the people we’ve worked with are extremely talented, and to that, I say, thank you!
Catherine Burr, Publisher/NLP