Saturday, October 22, 2011

PNWA Author Panel: Poisoned Pen Press

Copyright © 2011, Steven E. Houchin. All rights reserved.

Last month, I attended the September member meeting of the Pacific Northwest Writer’s Association. The program consisted of a five-person panel of authors who have published books with Poisoned Pen Press of Scottsdale, AZ, which is an independent publisher of various mystery genres. According to the panelists, the editors are Barbara Peters and Annette Rogers. Unlike the big New York publishers, they take unagented submissions. They accept works between 60,000 and 90,000 words.poisoned pen press logo

The panelists raved about how the editors spent a lot of time with them to get their book just right. In general, they recommend that authors start out querying small, independent presses because the author has a good chance of receiving good feedback on their work, even if rejected. Like any other publisher or agent, 99% of submissions will be rejected; they receive a lot of poorly-written submissions.

Poisoned Pen’s advances aren’t large: about $1000. But, there isn’t a lot of deadline pressure, and they won’t necessarily drop you as an author because of poor sales. After your book’s first print run, they utilize Print On Demand for subsequent orders, and distribute through Ingram Publisher Services. This means your book never goes out of print. From day one, your book is published in hardcover, trade paperback, audiobook, and large print.

On the subject of marketing your book, the panelists emphasized the importance of sending out advance, pre-publication review copies to the big industry reviewers, such as Library Journal or Booklist. Poisoned Pen will send out the review copies. Once the book is published, these reviewers will not look at the book. They only review advance copies. Unfortunately, most newspspers no longer review books. Ones that do: LA Times, Seattle Times, Washington Post.

Also attending the meeting was a man (I didn’t get his name) from New Libri Press, a small publisher in Mercer island, WA.

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