Small Press Spotlight
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Welcome to Small Press Spotlight, where we're pleased to introduce smaller publishing houses producing romance fiction. Join us for a look inside Delphi Books, whose founder is long-time romance author Fran Baker.

Fran, tell us how and why your press got started.

My agent and I were at loggerheads over ONCE A WARRIOR. She thought it was "too different" and didn't believe there was a market for it. To her credit, she did send it out. It didn't sell, which I attribute to a couple of things: Her lack of enthusiasm, and a shake-up in the markets that had editors who liked the writing (were highly complimentary of it, in fact) unwilling to take a chance on it. My agent and I parted as friends, and suddenly I was on my own.

I kept telling my husband that I had to write this book. That, as hokey as it sounded, I was born to write this book. He said, "Well, write it and publish it yourself," and I thought, "Yeah, right, and who will read it?" I had two other book proposals ready to submit to an editor, but I couldn't work on them - or work up much enthusiasm for them - because ONCE A WARRIOR wouldn't leave me alone.

So that's where I was in August 1997. Then in September, I believe, Julie Tetel wrote the first of three articles for the Novelists, Inc. newsletter. It was, quite honestly, like a sign from heaven. For weeks I'd been wondering if I was "middle-aged crazy" for thinking of publishing WARRIOR myself. Almost simultaneously with Julie's article, I reread a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt that said, "You must do the thing you think you cannot do."

That sealed it. In January 1998, I started my own company - Delphi Books, named for the Oracle at Delphi who was "a woman over the age of 50" and registered for business in the State of Missouri. In late February, I joined the Small Publishers Association of North America (www.spannet.org), a nonprofit trade organization for small to mid-sized publishers. All the while I was writing my book - the book that was "too different" and for which there might not be a market - and fighting the fear that kept waking me up in the middle of the night.

Did you have a mission in mind when you began producing books?

My original mission was to write ONCE A WARRIOR from beginning to end. Get it out of my system, so to speak, and get back to my "real" writing. Then tragedy struck. My mother broke her back on May 28, 1998, just as I was about to finish the book. Suffice it to say that this was the latest in a long string of "troubles" that had visited our family. The doctors told my sister and brother and me that she would never walk again and that we should probably make plans to sell the house she'd lived in for 40 years so she could go to an assisted-living facility.

At that point I thought, "I'll never be able to do all that and publish this book." Somehow, though, through prayer and just plain old stubborness, I managed to accomplish what I'd set out to do. Normally I'm a slow writer. (One of my friends calls me a "word-aholic" because I'm always searching for the "perfect" word.) For some reason, though, every morning when I sat down to write, the words just poured out. And every afternoon when I visited my mother, her enthusiasm for what I was doing sort of refueled me. I was fortunate too that my husband was so supportive. He either grilled our evening meal and did the dishes, or we went out to eat. That gave me both some breathing space and time to work with my sister and brother on getting our mother's house ready to sell.

In no time, it seemed, I'd accomplished my original mission. The book was done. I contracted with a freelance NY editor I knew, then started revising and rewriting. In the meantime I found a typesetter/book designer and began taking bids on the manufacturing of the book. I was as terrified as I was thrilled, but the book that had been burning inside me since June 6, 1994, when I went back to the American Cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach (where my husband landed on D-Day) and realized how many of those boys who died that historic day were younger than our youngest son, was about to become a reality.

Now that the book is done, I've gone back to my two other proposals--SILKEN TIES and POETIC JUSTICE--and am looking at them as potential "studio publications." They're good and, like ONCE A WARRIOR, they're "different." One has a married couple as the hero and heroine, supposedly a "no-no"; the other addresses a social problem that has derailed the heroine's every relationship, including the one she's about to have.

My goal now is to write one good book a year. And to let the readers decide if "different" is okay. I've decided that I would rather try and fail than not try at all.

How are your books published? Electronically or in print?

Actually, they're in both formats. ONCE A WARRIOR (November 1998, ISBN 0-9663397-0-3) is a Delphi Books trade paperback priced at $12.95 that's being simultaneously published by Hard Shell Word Factory (November 1998, ISBN 1-588200-066-2. To read an excerpt, go to hardshell.com, click on "mystery, suspense, action", etc. and scroll down to "General Fiction". Click on ONCE A WARRIOR, then "read an excerpt".) And I just learned a couple of days ago that the book is being reformatted for Rocket e-Books with yet another ISBN for sale through barnesandnoble.com, etc. So the book that was "too different" has come pretty far in just a year!

Do you print on-demand books?

No. I came this close to contracting for it, then pulled back because they couldn't produce the volume I wanted. Plus, the per book cost was higher than I wanted to pay. Also, because I was having the script on my cover embossed, I would have had to have had the covers made elsewhere and shipped to the on- demand people. I now have an arrangement with my manufacturer that's as close to on-demand as one can get.

How are your books distributed? Do you get help from Ingrams or Baker & Taylor, or are you on your own?

My books are currently with the wholesalers Brodart and Baker & Taylor. I've applied at Ingram and am waiting to hear. The truth is, I don't want to hand-sell books. I want to write them, and if I'm not writing for a mainstream publisher, manufacture them. And, of course, I want to create as much awareness of the book as possible so people will ask for it at their local or global bookstore.

Tell us how you advertise. Where do the dollars go, primarily?

I designed a PR sheet and sent it, along with a tear sheet from the NYT ("Making Books; July 30, 1998), to over 500 public acquisitions librarians and booksellers nationwide. I also had 20 bound uncorrected galley proofs made and sent them out for review.

Then fortune finally smiled again. My mother's house sold to the first buyer for practically full price, making her financially able to pay for her care. (My sister and brother and I had been paying the bills to that point.) The very next day, thanks to a blurb in SPAN's monthly news letter, I won a free 30-day news release at bookflash.com. The first review of the book had come in - a beauty, calling it "POWERFUL! . . . A book I will never forget." - so I incorporated it into the news release (which is still running, by the way). Other reviews - one calling my book "an incredible war romance," another "a magnificent book," and yet another giving it "5 Very Large Stars" - began coming in. Then the covers arrived. I incorporated the new reviews into my PR sheet, paperclipped it to my cover and started sending it.

Within a few days, Barnes & Noble's small press department picked up my book and placed an order. Now I'm working on Borders/Waldenbooks. I'm also sending finished books out for review to newspapers, syndicates, etc. I'm also taking care of my own back yard - getting info to local newspapers and radio/TV stations. A portion of the proceeds from this book will be donated to the restoration of Kansas City's Liberty Memorial - the only World War I memorial in the nation - so I'm using that as an angle for local coverage.

Who are some of the authors you've contracted with? What releases do you have out or soon out?

A. So far it's just little ol' me, though Denise Dietz Wiley (THE RAINBOW'S FOOT) and I have been talking about doing a Christmas 1999 anthology with a third, as yet unknown, unnamed writer.

I'm also considering re-releasing some of my earlier books, to which I now own the rights. For instance, one of my books (written as Judith Baker) was a launch book for the Silhouette Desire Line in June 1982; another one came out in October of that year. I also did one as Cathlyn McCoy. And while I don't have the rights back on my Loveswepts, I do have them on my Bantam Fanfare, THE LADY AND THE CHAMP. It's not a done deal, and if I do reissue any of them I'll be sure to call them "Delphi Classics" so the readers will know they might have read them before.

And I'm working on my next new book for release in 1999.

How can your books be purchased? What is the price range for your releases?

Barnes & Noble has placed an order for the trade paperback. Readers may have to ask for it at their local store, but I know they can get it. Also BarnesandNoble.com is carrying it. I've done all the submission work for Amazon.com but have yet to hear back from them. Also, readers' local bookstores can order the book through Baker & Taylor, Brodart and - soon, I hope - Ingram. The e-publication is available at hardshell.com; they're also selling the trade paperback through a special arrangement with Delphi. The Hard Shell disk is $3.50; a download with a cover is $5. Readers can also go to their public libraries and ask that the book be ordered. And, if all else fails, they can send a check for $12.95, plus $2 s/h (MO residents add 85 cents tax) to Delphi Books, P.O.B. 6435, Lee's Summit, MO 64064, and I'll send them an autographed copy. I believe the price is competitive. I've seen mass market paperbacks for $7.99, and hardcover prices have really skyrocketed. I spent months researching the market, studying book sizes, number of pages, etc. With the discounts I have to give the wholesalers I'll make a small profit selling it at $12.95, but I won't make the industry's "standard" of production costs X 5. After I make a donation to the restoration of Liberty Memorial, I'll plow the rest back into another book.

Okay, Fran, put on your author hat for a moment. Were you previously published by a mainstream house?

I was previously published with Silhouette Desire, Bantam Loveswept and Fanfare. My books have been translated into more languages than I'll ever be able to speak and sold in more countries than can count. My greatest thrill as a writer was walking into a drugstore in Bastogne, Belgium in late June 1984 and seeing my book (in French) on the shelf. I made a complete fool of myself, pointing at the book and then at myself and going "moi, moi, moi." (I'm lucky the shopgirl didn't call the police!) I left the store with the book but forgot the aspirin.

My writer friends - my non-writing friends, too - have been very supportive of me throughout this process. One of my dearest writing friends - a NYT bestselling writer - kept telling me during the process of trying to sell WARRIOR to a mainstream house that it was my "break-out book." I don't think she expected me to "break out" quite the way I did, but she's stuck by me and encouraged me every step of the way. I will always love her for that.

Tell us about the pros and cons of small press publication.

The advantage is I get to do everything; the disadvantage is I have to do everything. Seriously, I've learned more doing this than I ever did when I had an agent and was writing for mainstream houses. I'm ashamed to admit I might have gotten a little lazy, letting "them" do all the work while I wrote the books. If I ever do go back to a mainstream house, I'll be a lot more proactive on the promotion front.

One thing I really like is having cover control. For both artistic and financial reasons, I wanted a simple but elegant look for my books - rich background color, the title in beautiful, embossed script with a small logo of some sort over it, and my name in plain type on the bottom. When I go back to print (thinking positive now!), I'll add snippets of those wonderful reviews on the front and back covers but won't clutter them up. I was lucky to find a book designer who shared my vision, and she did a fabulous job. If Delphi continues to produce books, simple elegance will be the trademark.

Readers, you can contact Fran at DELPHIBKS@aol.com for information on Once a Warrior. Read our review of the book!


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