The company and lady who gave my book its chance

My picture (2)
Since 2008 when she secured her own first book contract, Melissa Miller has become the head of one of the fastest growing mid-market publishers in the USA. This year (2014) she capped her achievements by  being announced an International Best Selling author and two of her books were optioned for film.
Now Melissa, as chief executive officer of Solstice Publishing based in Farmington, Missouri, is paving the way for other budding authors to bring their creations to e-readers and print. I have a personal reason to thank her. Solstice accepted my first book, Tread Carefully on the Sea, after I’d spent nearly a year trying to place it with a publisher.
I asked Melissa a few questions
1. How do you conclude that books are likely to sell? Is it pure instinct or do you have a formula?
There isn’t a formula to know what will sell and what won’t. We look for well written manuscripts with interesting plots.
 
2. Based on your experience in publishing, what’s one thing you would advise today’s budding authors?
One of the most important things new authors need to know is the importance of branding their name. The use of social media is going to be very helpful in their journey. The marketing and branding of their book is going to be a full time job. Writing the book is the fun part. After that the work begins.
 
3. Why do you think fiction is so powerful that almost everyone wants to read it – if not write it?
I think fiction is so powerful because it’s not real. After a long day at work, or taking care of the kids, or cleaning the house, readers like to escape into new worlds. It’s nice to get away from reality for a while.
4. What were your favorite childhood books and how did that affect your career?
As a child my favorites were Winnie The Pooh then as a teen I grew into loving Stephen King. Now as an adult I like a variety. I enjoy Stephanie Meyers, Cassandra Clare, Jeannette Oak, Nicholas Sparks and then of course all the great authors of Solstice Publishing.
 
Melissa’s company
With over 200 authors covering every category of fiction and rapidly expanding into non-fiction, Solstice is quickly gaining a reputation for fast paced suspense thrillers, sizzling romance, action adventure, science fiction, and a spooky collection of horror and paranormal reads. Critically acclaimed authors have achieved top spots on best seller lists, had their stories adapted to screenplays, and won movie deals with top Hollywood studios.

Melissa Miller is an Amazon International Best Selling Author under a pen name. She writes paranormal/ romance and woman’s fiction. She’s a wife and the mother of two boys.

I ALSO WANT TO GIVE MY SINCERE THANKS TO MEL MASSEY-MARONI AT SOLSTICE,  MY EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, AND I INTEND TO PERSUADE HER TO DO AN INTERVIEW IN THE NEAR FUTURE.

An interview with Melissa Miller, CEO of Solstice Publishing,www.solsticepublishing.com
Are you a founding member of SP?
Melissa – Yes. I started Solstice Publishing on my own in 2008 under another name and in 2010 I changed it to Solstice Publishing.
Could you please tell us how SP began?
Melissa – Solstice began because of my love of books. I started out as an author and then became a publisher the following year.
Do you work with agents?
Melissa – Yes we work with or without an agent.
During the publishing process, how many people at SP actually read an entire book besides the assigned editor?
Melissa – The EIC who decides to accept the book, then the editor, and the proofreader also read the entire book. So three people.
Is there any disadvantage being characterized as a “Midwestern Publisher?”
Melissa – I don’t believe so. We are an E Publisher. Everything we do is online so I don’t feel that your address in any way helps or hurts you in today’s epublishing industry.
Do you have a virtual staff with everyone in different locations communicating via email?
Melissa – Yes. We use Go To Meeting for face to face video meetings, Basecamp for project management, Facebook for chats and messages as well as emails and text messages for everything else. With all of the technology available to us today it’s not hard to have staff in different locations of the world.

An interview with Kate Collins COO of Solstice Publishing,www.solsticepublishing.com
Are you a founding member of SP?
Kate – No, but I’m thrilled to be part of it now. There’s something very exciting about working with people who have a clear vision of the future and an idea of how to get there. Melissa knows where she wants Solstice to go, and it’s a privilege to be able to help her get it to that level.
I see you are an author as well as the COO of Solstice. How and when did you make the transition from writing to publishing?
Kate – I was an author first, and then Melissa gave me the opportunity to work with her at Solstice. I think it’s given me a unique perspective on what happens on the business side that many authors don’t get.
Do you work with agents?
Kate – Yes, we have a few agents whose clients have signed with us. We have far more unagented authors, but that doesn’t matter to us. Having, or not having, an agent is a personal choice for each author.
How many people are working for SP today?
Kate – We’ve got about twenty or more people, counting all our editors and proofreaders. There’s a whole amazing crew that works on the books that the authors rarely interact with.
You’ve done some recent reorganization at SP. Can you describe the company’s current structure?
Kate – We’ve got an amazing staff now. Our Editors-in-Chief do a wonderful job in reading submissions, answering author questions, and the like. It makes it easier for me, as COO, to help Melissa grow the company. We can spend more time finding opportunities to promote the titles on a daily basis now.
How would you characterize SP publishing today?
Kate – Growing, expanding, and thriving! Melissa’s done a great job in the recent changes, making it easier for all of us to get things done and help out the authors even more. We’re all big on communication, and the new chain of command really keeps the flow moving towards getting the titles released.
How do you attract new authors?
Kate – The normal venues of social media, and referrals by our authors. They’re our greatest asset, and best referral network.
On average how many submissions do you receive each month?
Kate – That varies so much! We really can’t put a number on it. One month can see three, the next have 20.
How does your staff choose which to publish?
Kate – That depends on the EiC that reads it and what they feel makes a good book. We’ve got a general guideline to go by, but it’s up to the individual Editor in Chief to make the call.
Is there any disadvantage being characterized as a “Midwestern Publisher?”
Kate – I didn’t even know there was such a thing! LOL. We’re a publisher. Period. Sure, we’re not one of the big 5 out of New York City, but we’re growing. Given the nature of communication now, it’s just as easy to email someone or ask them a question on FaceBook over sit down at lunch in Central Park and make a deal over a couple of drinks.
Do you have a virtual staff with everyone in different locations communicating via email?
Kate – Yes. In some ways, it’s an advantage. Our staff is able to work at different times, making it so someone’s available to talk with authors outside of what many would think of as normal business hours.
How many authors have you contracted with?
Kate – Probably around 200 currently, but the number fluctuates from month to month as new authors are accepted.
How many books do you publish each year?
Kate – That varies so much! It’s impossible to give an accurate number.
How many active books do you currently have?
Kate – Best estimate is around 400 titles out right now. We release new books almost every month, though, so it’s pretty fluid!
Are your contracts for authors or for individual books?
Kate – We contract each title separately, instead of by author.
I noticed that you have a rather long list of books optioned for film. How do you work that, and what are the steps?
Kate – We’ve been approached by production companies who had interest in some of our titles. Due to confidentiality agreements, we can’t say more

Today’s blog entry will feature an interview with Melissa Miller, founder and owner of Solstice Publishing, one of the fastest growing independent publishing houses.

Hi Melissa, great to have you here! First, would you tell my readers a little bit about what prompted you to jump into the publishing business?

Thanks for having me here today John. The fast answer is my love of books. I’ve always enjoyed reading when I was a child and, as I grew older, I got interested in writing. One day I decided that I wanted to learn more about the behind the scenes part of the publishing world and I haven’t looked back since.

A little bit of background about Solstice:  I opened my publishing company in March 2008. In 2010 I teamed up with a marketing company who suggested that we change the name. So we changed our name to Solstice Publishing. Solstice has been growing strong for almost seven years now and we plan to have many, many more to come.

Many publishers have different divisions and banners they publish under by genre. Does Solstice have such a setup?

Yes we do. We have several actually. We accept almost all genres.

Solstice – Mystery, Fiction, Westerns

Summer Solstice – Romance, Young Adult, Suspense, Thriller

Solstice Shadows – Paranormal, Sci fi

Solstice At Night — Erotica

Let’s toss out a scenario: I’m a writer who just cooked up a short story but I’m not sure what I should do with it? Does Solstice accept shorts and, if so, what’s the minimum length?

Yes we do accept short stories. We don’t have a minimum length. We look for a well written story with an interesting plot.

What sort of preventative measures do you suggest for submitting writers to prevent piracy of their work by unscrupulous agents and publishers?

Like I said I’ve been doing this for almost 7 years now and I’ve never come across the issue of somebody’s work being stolen by an agent or publisher. I’m not saying it hasn’t happened. I’m just saying I have not heard of any cases. However if the author is worried about that they could have their work copyrighted before submitting it to anyone.

What would you say is the biggest difference between Solstice and a “legacy” publisher – Random House, for instance?

The biggest difference is that Solstice is primarily an e-publisher. We do print on demand for our print books but ebooks is our main focus. We put your book in print but they don’t go into stores. A bookstore can order them and stock them if they want and we have had authors get their books into local book stores in their town, but that is on a case by case basis. The majority of our print books can only be bought online.

Understanding that many literary success stories are often “right place, right time,” what can aspiring authors and writers do to level the playing field?

Marketing is the biggest thing. An author needs to brand their name. The more they get their name out there the better their success will be. Writing the book is the fun part. After the book is published is when the work starts. Social media is one of the most important assets to an author.

Who are some of Solstice’s rising stars?

There are too many to name. Some of our best sellers are: Lanny Poffo, Tell Cotton, Elle Marlow, Mysty McPartland.

What would you tell a young person in school who wants to pursue a dream of being published?

I would tell them to stay in school and work hard. Don’t expect everything to be handed to you. Being a published author is hard work. I don’t want to scare them off but a lot of people think that being an author is no big deal that you put a book up for sale and then you sit back and get the big check. That simply isn’t the way it really works. I would like to encourage a young person to pursue this dream and do it but just know going into it that they have to put the work into it. It can be an amazing thing to write your story and then see it published, but then they need to know that they also have to market and promote their book or they will be disappointed and not want to continue their dream.

Many Solstice authors are unofficial “foodies.” That being said, where’s your favorite place to get a good cup of coffee?

I know this will be viewed wrong by so many people LOL but I’m not a coffee drinker. Now Dr. Pepper, that is a different story. I have to have my Dr. Pepper.

Finally, if someone wants to become part of the Solstice family, either by landing a contract or working for you, what’s the first step?

If they would like to  submit their stories to us they can do that here:  http://solsticepublishing.com/submissions/

By the letter

What are the most oft-used letters in the alphabet? I searched and counted the appearances of each letter in my 100,000-word book Tread Carefully on the Sea. This was the result:

A = 36663
B = 7858 (surprisingly low)
C = 10815
D = 20542
E = 55097 (clear winner)
F = 8952
G = 9173
H = 29345
I = 28040
J = 1025
K = 4148
L = 17700
M = 9772
N = 30706
O = 33862
P = 7832
Q = 385
R = 23893
S = 27617
T = 41858
U = 11851
V = 3961
W = 12078
X = 517
Y = 7776
Z = 274 (loser)