Cenetral Avenue Publishing LogoPopularSoda is pleased to present an interview with Michelle Halket, Creative Director of Central Avenue Publishing. Though she may have taken a roundabout path into the publishing world, there’s no denying the talent in both the owner and authors of Central Avenue Publishing.

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Michelle, thanks for taking the time to answer some questions about publishing from the viewpoint of a smaller press.

Thanks for having me. It’s a pleasure to talk to you and let you know a little more about our publishing house.

How would you describe Central Avenue Publishing, its style, and its focus?

Central Avenue is a press featuring writers of original fiction, poetry and selected non-fiction. We look for talented, driven and committed writers. Many of our books are published under the ireadiwrite Publishing imprint. Our goals are to treat writers with respect and integrity while bringing to market entertaining books that connect with readers.

How would you define ‘publishing imprint’ in one sentence?

To me, a publishing imprint is simply a brand name under which the publisher releases books.

What does this definition translate to in terms of daily responsibilities and long-term goals?

This is a very interesting question, since it has changed since we first started up. In 2008, we envisioned a simple kind of self-publishing venture which would take an author’s work and just put it out there.

((For an in-depth history of Central Avenue Publishing, check out the full story in Central Ave’s first anniversary blog post.

This post, written in the middle of the third year, shows how far Central Avenue has come and how much has changed–or not.))

 As we’ve grown, we’ve morphed into a traditional publisher, where we decide what we will take on.

Generally I like to start my day by answering emails from authors (they live all over the world, so they come through in my nighttime), following up on issues with bookstores and distributors and doing other administrative tasks like bookkeeping, etc. I then delve into the one or two projects I’m working on at the moment. It could be in any stage of development, from cover design to proofreading to distribution. Throughout the day I update and keep tabs on our social media, (blog, website, facebooktwitter), and make sure to catch up with people I meet on there.

What do your workflow stages look like? How do stories progress from initial interest to finished product? 

We are a traditional publisher, so we work in the same way as all others. While we aren’t accepting unsolicited submissions at the moment, when we are, our workflow looks like this:

Gather submissions monthly and send out those with interesting premises for reading to beta readers. Queries which are not professionally done are usually dismissed and a note to the author goes out indicating that we aren’t interested at this time.

Once I get feedback from beta readers, I read the first part of the book myself to see if I like it. I then research the author to find out as much as I can about them. Ideally, I am looking for well connected people who enjoy having a professional online presence.

If all goes wella proposal is sent to the author and if they are interested, a contract is drawn up.

The book goes for editing, cover design, proofreading, typesetting and distribution. Before distribution, an ARC (advance reading copy) is sent out to reviewers that we work with in hopes they can review the book before its release.

Post-launch marketing is mostly done by the author with support from us for things like poster/marketing material design and help spreading the word on events.

How have ebooks changed imprints from the old model, if they have changed? If not, what are some timeless truths about publishing?

What I love about publishing right now is the change. Gone are the age old traditions of books being held captive by New York publishers and the elite. Here today are small imprints that work in a variety of ways to get authors’ work out there. Legacy publishing (to borrow Joe Konrath’s nomenclature), is still here, but the advent of ebooks has meant that small publishing houses can flourish and authors can do it themselves much easier than before. This means that authors now have choices in how they want to distribute their work, which is empowering to them and forces the rest of the publishing world to adapt and evolve.

I suppose something that hasn’t changed is that at the end of the day, you still need a good product or else it won’t sell. It needs to be a well-written book, have interesting characters and a captivating plot, be edited well, and have great cover art. No matter how it’s publishedit still needs all those elements.

Are you involved in marketing//editing//designing as well, or are authors expected to come in with their own long-term plan?

don’t expect authors to have a long-term marketing plan when they come in, but I do expect to know how they plan on approaching marketing. They need to have an online presence – even if it’s just a simple informational website or blog. However I strongly advise against getting involved in social media if there’s no interest on their part. The last thing I want them to do is start tweeting if it isn’t organic and won’t be maintained. Social media is about putting yourself out there as the person you areIf you don’t, it’s pretty easy to see through that and you won’t get any followers or fans from it.

As we’ve grown, we’ve been able to attract more professional writers who are serious about their careers. Writing might not pay all their bills, but they take their craft seriously and want to put a professional foot forward. This has been great since it means that many of them already have a presence or fans and have a head start. That said, we have many authors who are brand-new and this is their first book. [We have some books which] have taken a year or more to get off the ground and get sales going. Some take off instantly and some languish selling only a few copies every month.

What is the best part of your job? What’s your least favorite part?

My favorite part of my job is probably the design of cover art and typesetting. It allows me to take what I’ve read in the artist’s work and put my own creative spin on it. I personally cannot write, but I know good writing when I see it, so being able to lend something to the book gives me a tangible sense of accomplishment.

Definitely my least favorite part is having to turn down authors who have submitted their work. It is an absolute horrible feeling. In some cases, the author will ask why I turned it down, and I like to be honest. Honest reasons are painful to give out and likely painful to hear.

Any parting words?

One thing that I tell all artists is to keep doing what you do. For authors not to write, it would be a shame. You are denying who you are if you don’t. It doesn’t matter if 2 million or only 2 people read your work, if you are a writer, keep writing. If you stop because you don’t get that publishing contract you wanted, or for some other unimportant reason, you deny yourself, and in doing that, deny the world of the true person you are.