"Dreams pass into the reality of action. From the actions stems the dream again; and this interdependence produces the highest form of living."
-Anais Nin

17 July 2016

Interview with Anna Faktorovich, Director of Anaphora Literary Press

New and even established writers often find themselves needing to decide between two publishing methods: the generally laborious and lengthy query/proposal/agent method (also known as 'traditional' publishing) where money flows from the publisher to the writer and the publisher bears most or all of the risk;  OR the newer, quicker methods where the writer takes on either all or most of the cost and risk of publishing (or 'self-publishing'). 

This is a very personal decision for each writer. I don't believe there is a universally 'right' or 'wrong' decision, or an absolutely 'better' publishing method. It all depends on the writer's circumstances, objectives, and preferences.

Click here for a discussion of the pros and cons of the two methods from an independent author's perspective; and here for a discussion from the perspective of a traditional publisher.

I had the opportunity to interview Dr Anna Faktorovich, the Director of Anaphora Literary Press, about the publishing model of Anaphora. Her candid and very informative responses to my questions are below. The press is currently accepting submissions

I hope this article helps inform that decision for you by providing information for one type of a non-traditional publishing model. Anaphora publishes through both models; 'traditional' for award-winning or bestselling authors; and 'cooperative' for other writers, which is explained in detail below.

Hi Anna. Thanks so much  for agreeing to do this interview for my blog. I’m really keen to share  with other emerging writers any information about publishers who are open to unagented and unsolicited submissions.

Your press, Anaphora, is still relatively young at eight years old and is already making waves in the literary scene with John Paul Jaramillo’s collection of short stories which received an honorable mention for the Latino Literacy Now’s Mariposa Award Best First Fiction Book Award. Could you tell me about the origins of Anaphora, its achievements, and what you’ve done to get it to where it is now?

I founded Anaphora in 2009 when I started my English PhD program at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania and received a graduate assistantship that included webmaster, research assistance and other duties, but failed to attain the better paid editorial assistantship with the school’s established journal. I maintained a 4.0 GPA in this program but was never promoted to this coveted editorial position. So, that year I started my Pennsylvania Literary Journal, which is now in its eighth volume. In the following couple of years, 

I started receiving book-length submissions, and decided to publish them as well, since I had already attained the skills necessary to put out a printed book. There were few changes in the first couple of years, and then I started researching better printing, design, website development options, and the quality of the books I was releasing improved. I was teaching college English between 2010 and 2012, and then I stopped teaching because profits from Anaphora were high enough by 2012 for me to no longer need a second job. 

When I made this decision, I started asking writers to buy 40 copies at 25% off (which went up to 50 this year) to make sure that I saw a profit from each of my releases and there was no chance of Anaphora suddenly folding because of a few unmarketable releases. I had been asked for subsidies of around $5,000 by academic presses to publish my own writing, while presses like McFarland paid 8% royalties for the two academic books I released with them. 

So, I knew the market very well and as I expected there were many academics and business professionals who made a 25% profit from this purchase by selling it to students, at readings and the like, and when they profited, they spread the word to other writers, and I’ve released over 180 titles this way so far. Anaphora has been a fun way to make a living and I think I have done some good work for some great writers. 

For example, I published Dangerous Obsessions by the Hercule Poirot Prize winner, Bob Van
Laerhoven. I have also done numerous interviews with best-selling and award-winning writers for my now two journals. And, yes, some of the books have been finalists in or have won major awards. One of the non-fiction pieces I published in PLJ won a CCCC rhetoric award. I exhibit Anaphora’s titles at ALA, SIBA, SAMLA, and various other conferences, and this is starting to make the press more visible to bigger-name authors. 

Because this is my chief form of employment, I have free time to constantly improve my operations. For instance, I recently started adding HTML tags to my books’ descriptions with the printer, which make them look more attractive on bookselling websites.  

What have been the greatest challenges that you have faced in starting Anaphora, and how did you overcome these challenges?

A low estimate of the number of publishers in the United States alone is 2,760. This is a lot of noise, and there is an enormous amount of failure among the new startups that join this chaos. In fact, the Big Four international publishers resulted from thousands of failures of smaller publishers that were eaten up if not during their bankruptcies, then during early signs of financial trouble. I credit my discounted copies purchase policy for keeping Anaphora profitable all this time, as book sales have risen and fallen, and risen again unpredictably. 

I have also kept Anaphora competitive by doing all of the design, formatting, publishing and the like work myself, without hiring a single paid assistant. I started hiring editorial interns back in 2012 and they have helped me with free proofreading, which would’ve been too time-consuming to do myself for 180 titles. 

These types of obstacles are the reason even enormous, academic publishers have been failing recently, so it has taken an incredible effort to keep Anaphora afloat this long. Since it’s survived for eight years, I think its chances of continued perseverance have increased.

What do you hope Anaphora will accomplish? For what achievements do you want it to be most known and recognized?

I hope Anaphora will keep growing and expanding and improving. I hope profits from book sales will keep growing until the 50-copies purchase will become unnecessary, and I will be able to attract even bigger authors and more bestsellers. I hope Anaphora will win more awards, but the modern awards industry lets too many bad titles win, so I do not count this as a serious goal. Instead, I hope that more students will be reading Anaphora’s books and learning and growing through their content and artistry.

"Authors like Herman Melville notoriously went into debt trying to pay back thousands in fees.."

      Do you feel that the traditional publishing industry has become stronger with the alternative options available? Or have these do-it-yourself options made traditional publishing and the literary agent industry less competitive in a market saturated with emerging writers?

The term “traditional” is misleading. I am working on a scholarly book on author-publishers. In fact, I finally completed the research for it today. As part of this project, I discovered the roots of the advance system in experiments made at Harper Brothers in the US and a few publishers in London. In the beginning, as today, the advances were loans offered to authors that they had to pay back if a book failed to surpass this expected profit minimum. 

Authors like Herman Melville notoriously went into debt trying to pay back thousands in fees that resulted from Harper sending out hundreds of review copies to journals that typically only reviewed in exchange for ad purchases or friendly reviews by the author. 

The insistence on calling “subsidy” and “self-publishing” models less “traditional” and less desirable come out of the monopoly that the Big Four have over the modern review journals that use these derogatory terms towards their competitors in a bid to keep them out of dominant market share. The Big Four offer their own subsidy options because they have always used them to recuperate the instabilities of the gambling enterprise of investing in the chance that a given book will see extraordinary sales. 

The Big Four were recently the Big Five, so, no, alternative options of printing books (CreateSpace, Lightning Source) and ebooks have not strengthened them, but rather are accelerating their drop in profits and subsequent mergers. I started a talent management agency myself in Los Angeles at one point, so I have resisted finding an agent for myself up to this point. Nearly every literate person alive today or in the past was an “emerging writer,” so the market for new writers to publish is humongous, while the top hundred agents can only take on a couple thousand best-selling writers, who keep selling pop garbage simply because they are perceived as guaranteed sellers. 

So, yes, literary agents are not keeping up with the market’s demand. Let’s say most of the world was composed of people who wanted to draw designs for mittens… Producers who could assist with the manufacture and formatting of these mittens would be better fit to meet the market output than a handful of agents who were offering to sell only a limited number of them to the Big Four mitten manufacturers.  

      How do you distinguish your publishing model from purely self-publishing options, such as vanity presses? What are the strengths of your model compared to the other publishing options? Any weaknesses? How is it better, if so, to options such as CreateSpace?

"If Anaphora’s 180 titles can seriously be considered as self-published, it would be among the top 10 self-publishing companies today, internationally." 

A “self-publisher” and a “vanity press” mean very different things. A self-publisher is somebody that can design, format, market and otherwise put together their book entirely themselves and only need a printer to release their books. A “vanity press” is basically any publisher that charges authors for their work, thus this category includes Harper, and the imprints that exist within each of the Big Four, and many of the top academic presses. 

CreateSpace is one of the easiest and cheapest self-publishing options because they offer cover templates that authors without Adobe CS6+ can use to design acceptable covers. CreateSpace does not charge setup or distribution fees, and so a writer can release a book with a $0 budget. 

I described my publishing model in the first reply. Bowker listed Anaphora on their list of self-publishers last time they counted them up in 2013 and it was a short list, with under a hundred publishers, including CreateSpace and other giant ventures. If Anaphora’s 180 titles can seriously be considered as self-published, it would be among the top 10 self-publishing companies today, internationally. 

I have been asked the question regarding what my model it numerous times, and the more I research this question, the less sense it makes. Is the question: do you charge authors for your services? But, the other part of the question is if authors are publishing their books themselves without any services from me? 

So, there is an assumption here that the Big Four are better because they do not charge for services and offer more services than a smaller publisher like Anaphora can offer. This simply isn’t true. The Big Four charge, and also offer an extremely small royalty % in contrast with Anaphora that offers discounted books for re-sale and 50% royalties on books that sell beyond this purchase. I use the purchase to offer numerous special services such as creating YouTube book trailers, press releases, ads, bookmarks, and exhibits that rival those giant publishers. This is why recently founders like Roland Colton (major law firm) and Ralph Crosby (major marketing firm) have been choosing to publish their books with Anaphora versus with all those other options. Anybody that does enough research into the industry learns that I do everything possible to offer the most I possibly can to Anaphora’s authors, as their success means my continued independence.

      The vast majority of successful publishing still originates from US-based authors writing for US readers, yet reaching global readers. I really commend you for reaching out to writers outside the US. What do you think these non-US writers need to do to break into the global market while also achieving success in the US market? Do all writers published by Anaphora pay for marketing and book design services? Or are those services offered separately from those manuscripts that you accept for publication, i.e. if you accept a manuscript for publication, the design and marketing are 'free' and you recoup the costs from the discounted books that the author is required to buy?

"Anaphora has two models: “traditional” and cooperative."
It’s an illusion that US-based authors are more successful. British authors have a majority if you look at the top 100 bestselling authors of all time. The British and Australian book buying markets are enormous. My model works primarily when there are writers that want to sell their books at readings and the like, and I am limiting myself if I only work with the US market. There are plenty of writers that cannot find a publisher as good as Anaphora in the UK and AU and I want to reach these writers so we can work together for mutual benefits. My printer, Ingram, can print and ship books at the same cost in the US, UK and AU. The only difference is that in the UK and AU, I usually have to use PayPal payments, which costs 4% more, but avoids international currency exchanges and wire fees. We live in a global market, so it’s only logical to take advantage of opportunities outside the US bubble. Writers in UK and AU would be breaking into the international market by publishing with Anaphora because Ingram also distributes book in India, Russia, and a long list of other countries, making titles available globally, rather than just in a single country. Even Laerhoven has told me that Anaphora’s international dimensions was a primary appeal, as he can advertise his Anaphora book to buyers in London and Paris or in his home Belgium, exposing readers across the world to his fiction and not only in the narrower list of countries that even his giant publishers cover.

Anaphora has two models: “traditional” and cooperative. Award-winning or best-selling authors fall into the first category and they are not required to buy any books for resale. In the traditional model, I volunteer all of my services and hope the book will sell and the writer and I will see a profit. On the cooperative end, the 50-book purchase pays for all of my design, formatting, marketing and various other services. Only very specialized services that are very time consuming, like indexing, are extra. Authors should ask about any special requests they have prior to signing the contract, so that they will know in advance if there will be any additional costs. YouTube trailers, press releases, image editing and creation and the like come with the standard 50-book purchase. It is all explained on the “Services” tab on Anaphora’s website. The 50-copies minimum is set at a level where I can spend time on the included services and be compensated for my work at a minimum, with the hope of making more if the book sells well.

The list of publishers on Preditors and Editors posted a comment from you in response to a writer’s comments about Anaphora’s (50-50 profit model). P&E made the comment that your model works very well for academic books but is uncommon for fiction. Would you like to explain to this article’s readers how you think your model might work for fiction books? How do you decide when not to require the author to buy discounted copies, i.e. when you think you can recoup the costs through your own book sales to the public? Only when the author is already known and has a following? How much would an 80,000-word novel usually cost per copy?

Most of the books I have published thus far have been in fiction and poetry, and I’ve made a living from Anaphora for eight years. In what sense, isn’t my model working with fiction? I think it’s working very well for me and the writers I publish. I don’t know how P&E measures commonality or popularity. I think their measure is their own opinions, which can be flawed. I have never come across an academic publisher that offers a 50/50 profit split. In those early days of publishing, in the nineteenth century, Harper and others experimented in 50/50 or similar profits splitting, but it is extremely uncommon today in fiction, and non-existent in academics. I can offer it because the initial 50 copies cover all of my expenses and I believe writers are more motivated to sell beyond this purchase if they know they will make 50% royalties. I use the 50/50 split as motivation to keep writers selling their books, and in my experience this is a great motivator. I am a bit of a communist due to my upbringing in Soviet Russia. If I was more concerned with my profits beyond subsistence, I would not offer a 50/50 split.

It is extremely difficult in the modern book market to guess in advance which book will sell well. A lot depends on the author’s willingness to help market the book by pushing it out there to their contacts, local media and the like (with my help).

 In general, if an author has won a major award, or if they are a New York Times bestselling author in any genre, I will offer a “traditional” contract. So, this branch is as competitive as the screening process at the Big Four. On the other hand, my cooperative branch is very accessible to any good writer. 

On average, a cooperative writer pays $750 for a novel-length (up to 110,000 words) book. I have published books of my own with several different publishers and I’ve only made more than this amount on ghostwriting projects for pop fantasy fiction. A professor can sell these copies to students and come out ahead with a profit, but only a few of the writers I have published have made more than this amount in annual royalties. Because in my experience it is very difficult to reach this minimum and it is what I need to employ myself with the press, this investment by the author is essential to the longevity of Anaphora. When most of the books I publish will start breaking the $750 annual royalties minimum, the cooperative purchase will no longer be necessary.

Can you tell us about John Paul Jaramillo’s collection of short stories which received an honorable mention for the Latino Literacy Now’s Mariposa Award Best First Fiction Book Award? Did you know when you first read his stories that the book would be acclaimed? How?
Jaramillo’s book is very honest, and includes an interesting mix of Spanish and English. It includes intense stories that grab attention. But, Jaramillo succeeded in the Award because he was one of the only Anaphora authors that have attempted to apply for Awards. Of those that nominate themselves, a very high percentage of Anaphora authors end up winning. It’s just a matter of putting your name in the hat, which frequently includes paying fees. I have never attempted submitting any of the books I have authored over the years to any awards.

9    When you read a fiction manuscript submission, what are the top three things that grab your attention within the first fifty pages that help you decide whether to keep reading or not?

I have a very open acceptance policy. I do a scan for quality. I read the first page, the last page, and random parts in the middle. I am checking for linguistic density, for the appropriateness of the content, for reading level and other linguistic indicators. A book that passes a certain minimum quality is accepted. My minimum is not that high. I got used to grading papers quickly as a professor, and my acceptance is a pass/fail decision. In my experience, only writers that believe in their work agree to buy 50 copies of it, so many writers reject themselves, even if I fail to spot the mistakes deep within the manuscript.

Can you describe a story that you would want to see published in Anaphora? Is there a particular genre you favor over others?

Anaphora is a general publisher. I do not restrict what I publish in anyway. If the book is well-written and passes my quality test without boring me to sleep, it will be accepted regardless of its category or genre. The 50-copies purchase means that I do not have to reject books that are unmarketable because they are in a narrow obscure category. I profit regardless of what it is.

      What do you want to see in a marketing plan submitted with a manuscript? What are some effective marketing tips that you can share with this article’s readers?

I have seen ten-page marketing plans, and one-sentence ones. I ask for a paragraph-long plan. I just want to see that the writer will attempt to schedule some readings at their local bookstores, and will advertise it on their social media, or to their alumni associations and the like. Some writers promise a lot more, and many end up carrying out an extensive marketing campaign, while others don’t do much after publication. I just think it’s important for every writer to make at least a small effort to see a profit beyond the initial purchase.

      Do you have any other tips for unpublished writers who may be interested in submitting their work to Anaphora?

Professionals that have had successful careers are more likely to display quality writing even if they have not published before, in my experience. Otherwise, an adult writer that has never even published an article or a short story is unlikely to submit writing that would pass my basic quality test. Then again, there are some shy people out there who might have been wrongly rejected by a few publishers thus making them hesitant to submit their work, so who knows. They should give it a try.

Thanks again for your time. I wish you the best for Anaphora.

You are welcome!