Small Press Spotlight
Welcome to Small Press Spotlight, where we showcase some of the smaller publishing companies who offer romance fiction. This month we're pleased to welcome Petals of Life Publishing. Editor/founder Janine Johnson and author Elizabeth Delisi offer their insights into Petals of Life and the philosophy behind their books.

Talking with Janine Johnson

Janine, welcome to TRR! Tell us how Petals of Life got started.

Petals of Life Publishing began in November 1997 with the intention of entering into the e-publishing arena. After a period of about 6 months, I decided to move the business into print publishing as well -- so now we offer both formats to readers.

Prior to beginning Petals of Life, I had been thinking about publishing only my own work. And then I decided to bring on other authors and make this a full-fledged publishing company.

At Petals of Life, I try to pick books which are different and which push the limits of genre boundaries. I don't want traditional books -- I want books which have unique situations, though they may have a traditional message presented within the story. And this is what I feel I offer to readers through my company -- something different and something with all of the guts of the a situation in place rather than editing half of it out.

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

Yes. The mission I had in mind was (and still is) to help authors on their way into publishing. To help get their name out there in the market - to help them learn about the publishing business as well, in order that they can carry that skill with them into future publishing ventures. I also wanted to produce books which are deep and different and which hopefully will have an appeal to a wide variety of readers.

In what format are your books published?

Both. We offer electronic versions as downloads or on disk and we offer perfect bound print versions as well.

Tell us about your experience with print-on-demand books.

We did do print on demand, but recently the demand became so large that I couldn't keep up with the books. Therefore, I have hired a printer who will print the books professionally and in small quantities. Because of this, I will now have inventory in stock and can re-order new books instantly to replace the depleting stock of inventory.

How are your books distributed? Do you get help from Ingrams or B and T, or are you on your own?

Completely on my own at this point. I checked with the distributors and didn't like the large discount they require. I've sold directly to bookstores, saved the large discount, and get paid upfront for what we do. I've heard horror stories about the distributors (and certain chain bookstores!) who refuse to pay for merchandise when ordering and then take 6 months to pay. At Petals of Life, we are not in a position to grant credit and we don't have to. That's the thing so many publishers think...that they have to give huge discounts and they have to grant credit. Not so! It's simply a mentality the distributors and major chains have embedded in the industry's mind in order to make themselves more money.

Because of the way I handle business, we've shown a profit, albeit small, during this first year in operation. And we may not sell as many books, but then we make the same money as if we'd sold a large quantity of books through a distributor. Our authors understand this as well.

Tell us about your advertising strategy.

To be quite honest, I haven't done very much advertising. Of what I have done, direct mail seems to work rather well. And putting our money into flyers and promo items for booksignings seems to work great, too.

I've done a bit of internet advertising and none of it has paid off. Now that our books are being printed by someone else, I will be spending more time on the marketing end of things and be able to try some other avenues. I choose very carefully, as advertising is so expensive.

What releases do you have out now or coming soon?

Deborah Milton, ANGEL, MINE
Elizabeth Delisi, FATAL FORTUNE
Tamalyn Nicholas, THE RAVEN'S FEATHER - (new release)
Margery Harkness, A BLOSSOM FELL - (new release)
Rebecca Vinyard, DIVA - (our special Christmas release)
Janine Johnson, ONE LOVE - (my own book)

What is the price range for your releases?

All of the downloads are priced at $3.00 each. Occasionally we have $1.00 download specials, where readers can purchase 3 for a dollar each.

All of our diskettes are priced at $5.50.

Our print books vary according to length and printing cost - from $9.95 up to $18.95. these a trade paperbacks (not mass market) with full color glossy covers and high quality paper.

How can readers purchase your books?

The best place is through the Petals of Life web site - either by using the e-mail order form or mailing a check.

Our books are also listed on Amazon as they are released and they can order through them.

As we are in Books in Print, a reader should be able to walk into their local bookstore and have them order our books as well. However, if the bookstore refuses to pay for the merchandise, then they will tell the reader the book is "out of print". Interesting, isn't it? None of our books are "out of print", and if a reader encounters this problem it simply means the bookstore doesn't want to pay for the book then, even the the store will be kind enough to take the customer's money for the book.

Do you have a website with more information?

Yes. Petals of Life Publishing is located at:

Janine, thanks and best of luck! Now let's hear from author Elizabeth Delisi, whose romantic suspense novel FATAL FORTUNE is a Petals of Life release.

An Author's Perspective

Welcome, Elizabeth! Tell us about your experiences with Petals of Life. What led you to a small press? Were you previously published by a mainstream house?

My debut book, FATAL FORTUNE, isn't easily pigeonholed into a single genre. It's a romantic suspense, it's a paranormal, it's a mystery--and traditional publishers simply didn't know what to do with it. I discovered that electronic publishers and small presses are more willing to "push the envelope" and publish anything, as long as it's good. That's a big advantage of electronic publishers.

What do you feel are the pros and cons of writing for a small press?

There are several advantages to small presses in addition to their openness to cross-genre material. The response to queries is quicker, and a book goes from manuscript to print in a shorter space of time. The author has more control over cover art and back cover copy than with a traditional publisher. Also, I've found the relationship between author/editor is closer.

The main disadvantage of small presses and electronic publishers is that e-books are a relatively new format. Many people are unaware that they exist, so before you can sell your book, you have to educate your potential customer. Since it's a new medium, it's not as lucrative (yet) as the traditional route, though the royalties are quite generous. I've had to do quite a bit of publicity myself, which was a surprise, though I understand that traditional publishers are now having their authors handle much of their own publicity as well.

Do you receive advances and royalties?

There are no advances, but the royalty percentage rate is much higher than with a traditional publisher.

Tell us about your experiences promoting a small-press release.

As I mentioned, publicity is something you have to get heavily involved with if you're published by a small press. I'm a newcomer to the whole publicity thing, so I'm really feeling my way along. Here are a few of the things I've done so far.

I belong to a few writers' e-mail lists, so I announced my book information there. I have a web page, and I put the address of the page in the signature of all my e-mails. I've posted my name, web page address and book info on every search engine and writing-related page that I could find, and have asked for reviews from small press and e-book-friendly reviewers. When the reviews come in, I add the information to my book's page at Amazon, and to my web page.

I've mainly tried to promote the book over the Internet, but I did have a very successful booksigning at my hometown book store. The local newspaper did a nice article about my book and the signing, which generated some wonderful free publicity. My publisher is sending out publicity packets to bookstores within a 5-6 hour driving radius of my home, which we hope will generate more booksigning opportunities.

I have a web page at

Thanks, Elizabeth, and good luck! Readers, we have a review of Fatal Fortune for you.

April 5, 1999

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