Saturday, July 28, 2012

She Writes Goes into Book Publishing

Okay, let me say upfront that self-publication is always something I advise against when someone asks me if he or she should self-publish a book. This question usually comes from one of two kinds of writer: 1) Someone with virtually no publication credits and little understanding of how publishing works, or 2) Someone with a good deal of publication credits but no success in finding a book publisher in spite of several years of trying.

The first person is just going to spend a lot of money and end up with a box of books in the basement. The second person, oh, the poor second person. I get the frustration. I had it. But I am so glad that I stuck it out those years of trying and kept trying, each summer refining the manuscript. As I look back now, I know that I would have regretted it if my first efforts had managed to find a publisher. I know I would have regretted it even more if I'd jumped the gun and self-published.

So I always advise the second person, especially if he or she is relatively young, to keep plugging away. Patience and persistence.

But the pros and cons of self-publishing is not really my topic today. I want to talk about the new venture just launched by She Writes, an online community for writers, primarily women writers. I joined a few years ago when the site was new. There were just around 300 members at that time. Now there are almost 20,000!

Now the site has found a way to "monetize"—I'm learning to hate that word, by the way. She Writes recently announced that they were launching a book publishing arm—She Writes Press—and were officially open for submissions from their members. As I read their newsletter, I realized that this is a self-publication venture, that is, selected authors will have to cover the publication costs. There is also a substantial $25 reading fee for the first 20 pages.

According to the press's website, the publishers, Kamy Wicoff, the founder of She Writes, and Brooke Warren, will not automatically accept any manuscript that is submitted. They will be selective. If they like the first 20 pages and the project description, they will ask to see the entire manuscript. If accepted, the author pays $3900. That seems hefty to me, but I have no idea how the cost compares to that of other self-publication presses.

It is not clear to me how much editing is done as part of the package, but there are additional fees for additional services. Depending upon the readiness of the manuscript when submitted, some of these services may be required. The publishers suggest that the author hire someone to proofread the first pdf. They then proofread the final version as part of the package fee. They promise a good deal of oversight and editorial input—something that will distinguish them from other self-publication services.

I have no idea how many manuscripts were submitted, but the publishers soon posted an announcement of the selection of their first title. I rather poo-pooed that.

That is until I read the online excerpt at iPinion. I really really liked it! And I am now looking forward to reading Judith Newton's The Joys of Cooking: A Love Story. Newton, not surprisingly, is not an inexperienced writer. She is a well-seasoned teacher, author, and editor.

The publishers describe the book as follows:

The Joys of Cooking: A Love Story is the history of a woman’s emotional education, the romantic tale of a marriage between a straight woman and a gay man, and an exploration of the ways in which cooking  can lay the groundwork not only for personal healing and familial relation, but for political community as well. Organized by decade and by the cookbooks that shaped author Judith Newton’s life, it sensuously evokes the cuisines, cultural spirit, and politics of the 1940s through 2011, complete with recipes. 

Sounds rather delicious, doesn't it? I'm looking forward to the book and am curious to see how this new publishing venture will develop.


  1. Thanks for posting about She Writs Press, Diane. We appreciate the dialogue and I'll be interested to hear what your readers are thinking. I want to be clear here about our submissions process. Manuscripts aren't accepted based on whether or not we "like" the material, but rather on their merit and whether they are ready for the trade. We are publishing work that's publish-ready. Our readers are agents and editors, and the $25 doesn't even cover their fees. We are not only reading submissions materials; we are providing an assessment, too. Already the authors who've submitted their work to us feel that they're gaining valuable insights into what's working and not working based on the assessment. So our feeling is that this is a worthwhile service to authors, even if they choose not to publish with She Writes Press. Again, thanks for the conversation.

    Brooke Warner, Publisher, She Writes Press

  2. When I used the verb "like," I made the assumption that you would like work that had merit. But thanks for elaborating.


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