Saturday, March 13, 2010

Another dream realized: Alla Breve Publishing

In the early 20th century, a group of English writers and literary enthusiasts came together and formed a literary club known as The Bloomsbury Group. Its best known members were Virginia Woolf, John Maynard Keynes, E. M. Forster, and Lytton Strachey. Because their writing centered on controversial subjects and was on the cutting edge of literature, aesthetics, criticism, and economics as well as modern attitudes towards feminism, pacifism, and sexuality, many of them were shunned by the established publishers of the day. So in order for them to publish their writing, they pooled their resources and purchased their own printing press and put it in Woolf's basement.

Now I'm not comparing Steph or myself to the likes of any of the incredible or influential writers listed above, but it is no secret to many people that Steph and I have been frustrated by the state of the publishing industry for quite some time now. In the last twenty years or so, it has become quite evident that mass marketing and big profit are the greatest concerns of the publishing industry, and publishers only use writers as a means to that end, caring little for quality, content, subject matter, or originality. Now, snot-nosed kids with MBA's in business marketing serve as screeners, and if a book isn't "marketable" or doesn't have bestseller potential, the manuscript is flatly rejected no matter the quality of the story or writing. In Steph's case, she put over 15 years into the research, writing, and shopping out of her novel, Night Music: The Memoirs of Wolfgang Amadé Mozart, and sixty-some-odd rejection letters later, it is still sitting on her hard drive unpublished, despite the fact that virtually every rejection letter came with the comments that it was a wonderful story that was beautifully written. The only reason it was refused in each and every case was that they didn't "know how to market it". She has now become so frustrated with the same old rejections, and so tired of re-writing the story over and over to please the publishers, that she has abandoned Night Music to write a trilogy of historical fiction novels based on the rock & roll scene in 1960's through 1980's England.

Because I have watched the frustration and heartbreak that Steph has gone through with Night Music, (and have had my own heart broken over it along with her), I knew that when I began writing So Faithful a Heart that it was most likely it would be doomed to the same fate. So about half into the writing of the novel, I made the decision to self-publish it. I had been introduced to the online print-on-demand publishing company,, through several other writers whose books Steph and I had read (and found to be outstanding quality), that were about obscure subjects on which standard publishers wouldn't take a chance. Because Steph and I are of limited financial means, we were unable to afford a vanity press (which we didn't want to use anyway), so I was excited to learn that I could publish my book through Lulu without any upfront money nor would I be required to purchase hundreds of copies of my book only to have them sitting in my garage rotting because I couldn't get rid of them. So in November of last year, when my book was completed, I published the first edition with Lulu and put it out there in a limited market format to test and see how it would be accepted. To say the least, I was blown away by the response! It sold around 50 copies in less than six weeks and the feedback was incredible. People loved the subject, the story, the writing, and everything about it. I was given comments such as "I can't put it down", and "I don't normally read love stories, but this one is fantastic",  or "I stayed up all night so I could finish it and then I cried myself to sleep!"  So after such favorable response, I decided to write an expanded version and publish it "for real" with an ISBN number that would allow it to be distributed and marketed internationally.  In the meantime, Steph had begun seriously writing her trilogy and we realized that this writing thing could actually lead to something bigger.

We have always dreamed of one day owning our own publishing company, but we figured that it would be too cost prohibitive. But what we didn't understand was that what we were doing with our books by writing them and publishing them through Lulu was actually the beginnings of our own company. We already own a web design company, Alla Breve Design for the Arts,  so why not incorporate a publishing branch under the same name and use Lulu as our printer & distributor? So when it came time for me to publish the second edition of So Faithful a Heart, I published it under Alla Breve, and thus our company was born!  In the near future, we plan to purchase our own block of ISBN numbers (which is not as expensive as one might think), and publish Steph's trilogy in the same manner, only with our own ISBN, using Lulu as the printer and distributor. We're planning to expand our company to include other genres and to invite other writers to submit their work to be published through Alla Breve, turning it into a small publishing company that specializes in "niche market" writing in which the "big" publishing companies aren't interested.

So there it is--another dream realized.

1 comment :

  1. This is so exciting! I look at books like Sarah Palin's book and shake my head at how on earth something like that from something like her could be a best seller, but then I heard that people like her buy up thousands and thousands of copies and distribute them for free to news media, right-wing grups and the like, and those count as "copies sold." Well, that goes along with her character.

    I'm glad for you that this is taking off and I think you and Steph will do well! I can't wait to read the new edition of "So Faithful a Heart." I also can't wait to do my long-distance backpacking trip and write a book about it and publish it through Alla Breve! :D