The Lowdown on REALMWALKER PUBLISHING…
Following the awesome response to my article on beginner writers choosing to Self Publish, we’re having a bit of a ‘means of publishing your work’ month on Fantasy-Faction. A piece of this will be my follow up article where I talk about when Self Publishing is probably more sensible than seeking the Traditional route and where I will speak to a few authors who have trodden that path. Another part, of which this interview is included, is chatting with some people involved in the hybrid versions of Traditional/Self Publishing, the Small Presses and those who move from Self Publishing to Traditional or vice versa.
So, moving on to today’s article: I’m talking to James Drake who is the founder and President of Realmwalker Publishing Group. James has brought together a stable of popular, talented writers and professional level ‘behind the scenes’ staff who deal with many of the publishing processes that Agents and Traditional Publishing staff usually provide.
MA: Hey James. Lets start with the basics, shall we: What exactly is Realmwalker?
JD: Realmwalker Publishing Group is a small-press publisher based in Malcolm, Nebraska which specializes in finding, developing, and publishing fantasy, horror, and science fiction novels and anthologies.
We focus on creator-owned rights, leveraging technology, and collaborative creation teams to make efficient, professional-level resources available to new and emerging authors in a rapidly changing, hybrid marketplace.
MA: Very cool. I’ve recently spoken about the dangers of Self-Publishing alone and I have a feeling that you may be doing something that avoids many of the pitfalls I’ve spotted. Can I ask why you decided to start Realmwalker up?
JD: I initially began Realmwalker Publishing Group in 2012 as a means to bring my own products to market. I recognized fairly quickly the issues with self-publishing that extend beyond perception issues. There were real-world business matters such as taxes, supply chain development, and employment that can be managed much more effectively through the utilization of a solid corporate structure. Maintaining this structure, and some of the paperwork and management that is required is daunting, but the long term advantages and flexibility are all worth it.
From the beginning, I knew that if I was able to successfully find the talented individuals needed to help me properly develop The Realmwalker Chronicles, those same people could also be used to bring other products to market as well. This would provide not only author, but also artists, graphic designers, and editors an opportunity they might not have otherwise.
Ultimately, I knew that as self-publishing became more and more economically viable, more authors would choose that route. This not only meant that there would be more competition in the market for self-published efforts, but there would also be more authors in general, creating more competition for the few openings that the large traditional publishers would have each year. This would create a subset of very talented, unknown authors with brilliant ideas looking for a way to differentiate themselves from the self-published horde, but either unwilling, or unable to secure a deal with the larger publishers. It was with this realization when the current mission of Realmwalker Publishing Group came into focus.
MA: I agree with a lot of what you’ve said, James. Can you give me your opinions on the reason the Small Press way of doing things works better for both readers and writers than self/traditional publishing?
JD: First of all the advantage to both groups is that we offer another important line of distinction. There is a certain cachet that goes into being “signed” as an author, regardless of the size of the publisher. It means that, to some degree, that author has been vetted and approved beyond those who are strictly self-published or working through a vanity press.
Secondly, the advantage to the reader is immense. They get to see professionally produced work that they may not have ever had a chance to read in any other way, either because it would get lost in the morass of other self-published works, or it is missed by large publishers because it does not fit their formula of pre-determined success.
I have often used the analogy of indie film studios and their relationship with the large studios and the public as a way to describe how a company such as Realmwalker Publishing Group should fit in the industry. There was a necessity found in the film industry to have an arena to help groom and develop new talent and ideas, and provide established actors and directors with outlets for their pet projects. Indie studios filled this role.
These studios are able to develop and release new ideas and concepts that would be too risky for large studios, but yet are eagerly sought after by many discerning movie goers looking for unique experiences. Their role in the industry is a crucial element in the ongoing health and vitality of their industry, and is the reason why all major studios now have their own “indie” branch. Similarly, companies like Realmwalker Publishing Group, Ragnarok Publications, and Cohesion can be the connective glue that helps connect new, emerging genre authors with the audiences seeking something different, while providing the professional production values required to shed reader bias against many self-published efforts.
Finally, the advantage to the authors, aside from visibility, is that our dedication to creating author-friendly contract agreements and an environment of collaborative success. Aside from providing a significantly larger royalty percentage than is possible with most traditional publishers, our contract is designed to give the author a voice in everything from design and development to marketing and sales. Each author also has the ability to control their own destiny with the contract, and can decide to go back to being independent again, or even sign with another publisher, at any time. It may be a risk, as we can lose an author, but it also keeps us working to earn our author’s loyalty every single day. This independence and freedom makes their decision to work with us more important and valuable to us than the illusion of security a more restrictive contract provides. We cultivate this environment of transparency, cooperation, and teamwork amongst everyone involved with the company, not only because it is the right thing to do, but it also establishes solid professional connections that can last a lifetime.
MA: The idea is a great one: the aspects of a degree of quality control, professionals supporting the publishing process, decent deals for authors, potential for unusual and innovative genres to come to market. But, here’s the big question for you guys and your continued success, I guess: how fans are reacting?
Since we have started working with our core group of authors in May of this year, we have seen the fans react very positively to our business model. There are always bumps in the road with any new venture, but we have seen an amazing level of support from our fan base, and more are joining the ranks every day.
In the end, however, it is about the books. We have an amazing group of talented authors, and each of them have brought along their own dedicated and supportive group of fans. The treat for me has been watching as these disparate groups of fans discover the other authors, and each other, and have knit themselves together in support of all of Realmwalker Publishing Group’s authors and titles.
MA: I know that small presses such as Realmwalker were around before the Kindle, but I do feel that today there is more opportunities for authors and companies – such as yours – than ever before. As someone so heavily involved in the publishing industry now, can I ask your views on how eBooks and E-platforms have changed the game?
JD: eBooks and other digital platforms for books has changed the entire face of the industry, much as it has done for the other forms of entertainment media, and the changes and effects are still being discovered daily in the industry.
The biggest affect is found in the economics of the industry. Because the digital mediums for eBooks and Audiobooks has rendered ‘scales of economy’ nearly moot, a greater level of competition across all content providers has made the production and access to books cheaper and easier than ever before.
Audiobooks used to be horribly cumbersome and expensive to create. Now, with digital audio, a renaissance in audiobooks has made them legitimate options for publishers and consumers at all levels. Expect this trend to only become more pronounced, resulting in an even greater number of options and better pricing for audiobooks in the future.
But obviously the largest impact is found within the eBook. Aside from offering publishers and readers with low-cost sources of product, it has also changed the print industry, driving the market for lower cost print-on-demand options for publishers and authors. I believe we will see our industry develop much like the music industry has, where the paperback book will go the direction of the CD, and eBooks will become the primary method of easy mass market access to content. Meanwhile, Hardcover editions will become the primary way, once again, that book-lovers will collect and purchase their favorites, primarily on the strength of the visceral experience of reading a nicely produced tome in their hands. This will be much like the revival of the vinyl market now seen in the music industry.
MA: As you’ve said – it’s early days, but you seem like an ambitious kind of fellow who wants to see this baby grow. Looking into the future then, what are your hopes and ambitions for the label?
My primary hope is that we can become an important and valuable piece in the ongoing development and success of the publishing industry, both for authors and readers. I hope that we can dispel the reputation that anything done outside of traditional publishing is filled with only low-quality efforts and knock offs. Instead, I hope that consumers and large publishers will view small press publishers as the breeding ground for the “next wave” of emerging authors, genres, and business models that are the industry’s future.
On discussing the future, James announced to me that he’d like to bring our readers’ attention to something not too far off: Graham Austin-King is releasing the third book in his best-selling Fae series later this year. As an exclusive for Fantasy Faction’s readers and fans, james offered us the first reveal for the cover of Fae: Sins of the Wyrde, Book Three of The Riven Wyrde Saga. Check it out:
Myself and Fantasy-Faction would like to thank James for taking the time to chat with us and share his hopes and ambitions for Realmwalker. What do you guys think? Are Small Presses going to take over the Publishing Industry? The benefits, as we have seen, can be numerous if done right: a better ability to react to trends / ignore them, support for authors, creative control for authors, a higher level of quality control for readers, and many more besides. All that said, can a small press truly stay a small press? Can they attract the truly great authors we’d like to read? Do leave your views!!!