I’m so excited about this. Today I have a super treat for you – an interview with the Co-Founders of City Owl Press (can I get a WooHoo). For those of you who don’t know, the magic Team of Tina Moss & Yelena Casale, who long ago joined forces in their writing collaboration (& who are both kick-ass ninja martial arts black belts too by the way), are now moving on to something so much bigger, riskier and better – PUBLISHING!
I ‘met’ Tina, via social media, some time ago and last year, Tina was one of my Mentors in the first annual #Nestpitch contest. Through her I got to know Yelena also. Sadly neither Tina nor Yelena will be Nestpitch 2015 Mentor’s for the simple reason of potential assumed ‘conflict of interest’ of now also being publishers. But fear not, Yelena & Tina will show their faces often on this blog! In fact, there is something brewing, a combined project between Nestpitch & City Owl Press, which I’ll share with you further down (now don’t cheat and rush to the end!)
For those who don’t know Tina or Yelena, which cannot be many of you; go to City Owl Press page here: for their bios:http://www.cityowlpress.com/p/news.html
City Owl Press is a full service publisher. As their motto states Innovation, Creativity, Affordability.
I was personally excited about this new venture for the following reasons:
(ii) Tina & Yelena have been planning this for a while; and have taken a lot of time to get their formula right, rather than simply rush in head-first. This gives me confidence in them
(iii) as authors who have been through the ‘aspiring to published and recognised author’ they know better than most the pitfalls, the dreams and the reality of publishing from the authors viewpoint
(iv) they are both known and respected in the industry.
Bet you’re champing at the bit for me to get on with the Q&A right? OK, let’s get to it. The questions are in black and both Tina & Yelena have given answers.
· NIK: with the industry changing so much, what was the deciding factor to starting City Owl Press?
TINA: After up and downs, and all around, on this publishing journey, Yelena and I came to the realization that we could do a lot of what the indie publishers offered. We knew so many talented authors who for various reasons didn’t break into the industry, or did, but felt dissatisfied. We wanted to provide a place for those authors to get their books out there in a way that would be beneficial to them on a personal and professional level.
YELENA: The industry is definitely changing and the indie publishers are becoming the wave of the future. We believe that good writers need to be published, even when they cannot reach it by way of traditional publishers – and the reasons for that may be many. We also believe that the right marketing and promotion is key for writers.
· NIK: It’s a big move to start your own publishing house. I know you’ve told me privately that you wanted to have everything “right & ready” before you open for submissions. How is the planning and preparation stage going?
TINA: Getting all the ducks in a row is important to us before we open to submissions. We’ve been lucky to get advice from some of the best indie publishers in the business. Special thank you to Art from Henery Press!
YELENA: There is a lot to be done, a lot to be tested, and we are in the process of doing that currently. When we do open for submissions, we want to make sure that we can offer the most effective and tested editing, marketing and promotional strategies to the writers we will be working with.
· NIK: As author’s who have been through the trenches, I’d say this gives you a better insight into aspiring authors. Do you think your perspective’s will be different to a traditional editor and if so how?
TINA: We’re all for thinking outside the box. As an indie publisher we can take a chance on books that might not fit into a specific traditional genre or books that cross into multiple genres. For example, our own book, A Touch of Darkness, has distinct elements of both urban fantasy and paranormal romance. The editing experience we offer will be thorough, but also open to the unique.
YELENA: I think in a way, traditional editors have more limitations and a narrower view of what they can acquire and do for their publishing houses, as well as how to promote their authors. As an indie publisher, we can offer less of a cookie-cutter and more of an individualized approach to the writers we work with. We are also focused on the reader/writer relationship, which is one of the factors that distinguishes us from other publishing houses.
TINA: Our business plan is for the next five years. We’ve already lined up freelancers to assist in the start-up, and we’ll grow gradually.
YELENA: The goal is to eventually have more staff, including interns/assistants, publicists and perhaps junior editors.
· NIK: Tina, as many know, you were a Mentor for Nestpitch in 2014 and, when I contacted you about 2015, even though you’re not going to be open to submissions until the (northern) autumn, you were concerned about any perceived conflict of interest, and fair enough too. Given you and Yelena both know so many authors and aspiring authors, how are each of you going to keep the 6-degrees of separation when reading a friends submission?
TINA: Professionalism is the most important aspect of our business. Our friends are our friends—and many of them are brilliant authors. We’re not going to close off submissions from people we know, but at the same time, they’ll go through the same submission process.
YELENA: We love our friends and will be glad to read their submissions. However, this is where we have to separate business from personal matters. We are always glad to help our writer friends and encourage them. Sometimes, it may be guidance as to how they may improve their manuscripts. At other times, we may offer guidance but may feel that their manuscript may not be a good fit for our publishing company and the way we do marketing (many factors, including the genre, etc.).
TINA: Romance is the number one selling genre in America. From a business perspective, it’s our primary focus. However, we also are open to speculative fiction and would certainly increase down the line as the market shifts.
YELENA: I would love to expand down the road (who knows how far down the road). I’d love to eventually see historical fiction and maybe even some non-fiction. However, only time will show when we might be ready. For now, our goal is to focus on romance and speculative fiction and until we hone our services to perfection in those areas, we will probably not move to other areas.
· NIK: what about Age Categories?
TINA: To start, we’ll be open to Adult only in particular genres and imprints.
· NIK: I happen to know you both have massively busy lives, which only goes to prove, “if you want something done, give it to a busy person” – how has this new enterprise impacted on your personal family & writing time?
TINA: It’s a challenge to balance the time. However, we didn’t go into this on a whim. We’ve been planning for over a year and didn’t even consider announcing it to the general public, until we were ready. Even submissions won’t happen until late 2015 with new authors coming up in 2016. We’re putting our work out there first to iron out the kinks. Our families are very supportive and add their expertise to the mix as well.
YELENA: With the day job, teaching and training at the Dojo (karate school) some nights and writing, things are a bit hectic. But, we are excited about the publishing company project and are determined to make it work. The important thing is time management. And, of course, sleep is advisable once in a while.
· NIK: You are both extremely experienced and educated, but even as you both kind of are “super-women” I’m sure there’s someone out there saying, “What about cover-art-work?” – I know Tina does cover design also, but do you have illustrators ‘ready-to-go’ when the time comes? (which, let’s face it, will not be until 2016 at least, but I had to ask)
TINA: Our business model is strong. However, like any start-up, we need to run cost analysis. If one of us can manage it, like cover art, we’ll do the work. If the design is not what we want, or not something I can do, then we do have wonderful people we can call upon. Freelance editors are also in the wings.
YELENA: And let me tell you, Tina’s designs are awesome!
TINA: Our target market is the USA. However, we’re happy to take submissions from international authors as long as we can come to terms on payment rates, and that’s a matter of contract negotiation.
· NIK: What have each of you found to have been the most surprising (good or bad) thing about starting your own publishing house?
TINA: The most surprising part has been the mixed responses from other indie publishers. Some have been absolutely wonderful about sharing ideas, tips, and strategies. Others, however, have been a bit closed off. I’m of the mindset that the more options out there, the better. In my opinion, indie publishers are not our competition; they’re our colleagues.
YELENA: It was surprising to me how hard it is to sometimes to find the right tools that would work for a small publisher (software, etc..) But, the indie publishing industry is still growing and developing.
· NIK: Having seen the world of publishing from pretty much every angle now and knowing how much the industry is evolved, even in the past 3-years, do you see the roles of agents changing in the near future and if so how?
TINA: Most definitely. I believe agents will have to take on a dual role of agent-publicist. Marketing is becoming one of the most vital ingredients in the publishing recipe.
YELENA: The role of agents has been changing and evolving for a few years now, and most authors are aware of that fact. Like Tina said, agents have to do more, be more, in order to be relevant in the publishing industry. In the past, agents and publishers were two distinct entities that worked together for the benefit of the author. But many writers wonder now if they need the agent as the middle man in the current environment. There is no easy answer to that – it depends on many factors.
· NIK: If you could do one thing differently, as an author, what would each of you change in the past?
TINA: Write more, worry less. For so long, I didn’t trust my writing ability. I wouldn’t take on certain projects, because I didn’t believe I was good enough to write them. Looking back, it was foolish, and a waste of energy. Trying and failing is a heck of a lot better than never making the attempt.
YELENA: I think I would not take such a long break in writing, even if I could not get published earlier. I wrote a lot during my school years, but very little (except for some articles and work documentation) until I met Tina and we realized that we both had this in common – our passion for reading and writing. I feel like I could have been at a different point in my craft is I continued to write throughout my life and studied the craft more.
TINA: Know the market; know your book. When you’re submitting you want to be able to say to a publisher, “This is where my book would sit on a virtual shelf” and “This is why my book is unique”.
YELENA: If writing really is your passion, don’t let anyone tell you not to pursue it. Write, hone your craft and reach for the stars. It may take time, but keep going.
TINA: First, we’ll have a successful launch of books in 2016. After that, we’ll increase staff and production, becoming a true player in the indie publishing world by 2018. Finally, by 2020, I’d like to see us setting up distribution into physical bookstores (if they’re still around hopefully) and negotiating international contracts.
YELENA: By 2016, if everything goes according to plan, we’ll be putting books out to the public. By 2018, we will evaluate how the company is doing and what needs to be done more. By 2020, we are hoping to be a successful publishing company, working with a number of authors and offering top-notch services that will take us ahead of our competition, as well as connecting our readers to great authors.
Thank you so much Tina & Yelena for taking the time to answer my questions and for letting the writing public know more about your plans and your approach. I don’t think anyone would disagree that the publishing world is changing, almost daily and the rules, if not tossed out, are certainly bent and bending further.
I would like to add my own thoughts.
I believe in Indie Publishers. I believe they offer a venue for authors that otherwise would not be available. I also believe that, if those who are running the publishing house have contacts, know the industry and start small, there is no reason to think they will not make their own mark.
In Australia there are more publishers than there are literary agents – true fact. Most are indie publishers – again 100% true. Another fact is that many successful Australian authors don’t have agents, or got themselves an agent after getting a publishing deal from an indie publisher, built a following etc. I do think agents play a vital rule in the industry but I also know that there is no one ‘correct’ path for any artist and we must all be as open to business paths as we are to creative ones.
I’m not going to go into massive detail here but the Nestpitch Blog is, in conjunction with City Owl Press (& potentially others), planning on running a workshop in the Southern Winter / Northern Summer. The date is yet to be set and will be long after #Nestpitch 2015, however, it will be open to Adult & New Adult writers, (it may extend to YA, I can’t say more at this stage as it’s still in the planning stage). This is a FREE workshop with the objective being to help aspiring authors sharpen their first pages and/or chapters (again word-could to be confirmed) with feedback from Yelena & Tina (and others) on how to improve and strengthen your work.
We picked this time because the (northern) summer means many agents and publishers are closed & many authors are able to work on their WIP’s in preparation for future contests and submissions.
If you want to know more, make sure you follow Nestpitch here and on Twitter, follow me on Facebook & Twitter and of course, follow Tina, Yelena & City Owl Press on Titter, Facebook & on their website.
City Owl Press blog: http://www.cityowlpress.com/
City Owl Press Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/YourCityOwlPress
City Owl Press Twitter: https://twitter.com/cityowlpress
Tina Twitter: https://twitter.com/Tina_Moss
Yelena Twitter: https://twitter.com/Yelena_Casale