Publishing Isn’t For Sissies: Chris Keeslar’s Changing Landscape

Dorchester Publshing’s gotten a lot of press in the seven months that I’ve waited for Secret Legacy to release. The Dorchester staff has made some tough choices about their business, as have I. PIFS has been about the story behind the drama playing out on social media’s myopic stage. Tough realities and decisions must be faced once emotions cool. I wanted this to be a place where we could share experiences and take those next steps together.

Our industry is a lightening-fast spiral of change at the moment. We’ve talked here about challenging things. We’ve kept things honest but positive and forward-thinking. We’ve already heard from a PR professional and an industry-leading agent. Now let’s dig a little deeper.

My personal impression observing Dorchester Senior Editor Chris Keeslar in my six years as a published author is that he’s widely respected by professionals in every corner of our industry.

chris keeslar 2

Every author I know who’s worked with him loves how much he loves working with story and the minds that craft it. With Dorchester’s shift in publishing model, I suspect Chris is more involved than ever with the management of getting books to market. But reading his thoughts below, it’s clear that story and nurturing an author’s voice and career are still Chris’ ultimate focus.

He’s put a public face on each issue Dorchester has encountered. He’s handled these complex situations as best he could as quickly as he could, providing whatever information and action and answers were needed. I can’t imagine the journey’s been any easier for him than the authors he continues to champion. But he’s never publicly reacted in anger or frustration. I find it inspirational, his brand of integrity and optimism in the face of these challenges.

I’m thrilled that Chris is sharing his thoughts with us today on how a traditional publisher can help a digitally published author…

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“I’ve been thinking about the changing landscape of publishing recently. Here’s what I’ve decided:

Today is a great day. It’s the day of the writer. It’s the wild west. Digital publishing means that everyone who wants to publish a book, can. There’s really something to be said for that, something to be said for the removal of the old gatekeepers, for the large authorial reward of the direct-to-consumer digital publishing programs currently being offered.

How many legitimately brilliant stories saw publishing houses take a pass because they weren’t what was hot at the time, or because they rubbed one stuffy decision-maker or another the wrong way? More than a few. Now, with the digital revolution, if you have the whole package, you really can shine. If you’re a brilliant writer with a great idea, a great eye for design and can thus create a cover that catches reader attention, and if you know exactly how and where to market yourself and your product–or if you have the resources to pull together a team who can do all those things–times have never been more golden. You can and deserve to reap the benefits.

That said, not everyone is all those things or has the resources to acquire them. And while the door of opportunity has opened for you, it has opened for every other writer, too. That’s how, in my opinion, the traditional publisher maintains its relevance. Traditional publishers recognize that the best books deserve the benefit of teamwork. They deserve to have covers designed by artists and stories made better by editors. They deserve to be in all formats where consumers will buy them. They deserve publicity and attention. And, my particular feeling, authors deserve whenever possible to be mentored. I personally hope this reality pushes the industry back toward a craftsmanship-oriented model, where we develop a multitude of talent rather than mass produce and bank only on bestsellers.

No one is better situated to tackle the craftsmanship angle than the traditional publisher, with their great resources and know-how. But they’ll have to realize that that diversity is where true quality and profit lie. For everyone.

Not that I’m saying traditional publishing has entirely thrown development out the window. Not at all. But this is a time to get back to fundamentals. It’s a time to re-evaluate, a time to remember one’s reasons for doing whatever one’s doing. Most publishing people got into it because they love books. That’s why they’re the right people to help you with yours.

So, what does this all mean for authors? It means you need to evaluate a number of different factors.

Are you perfectly pleased with all aspects of the product you’re creating and your ability to market it to your target audience? (It’s certainly never been easier–or harder.) If you’re content, self-publish. Do it digitally. Read the contracts carefully and then take advantage of the multitude of new opportunities that abound for self-marketing! I imagine the success stories are infinite.

If, on the other hand, you think that your primary talent lies in authorship and you believe you can benefit from experts in the field, try to find those experts. We’re still here. Look to see who’s producing–both digitally and in traditional print form–the books that you know and love. Find a team you trust–I can’t stress that enough–and set your sights on being one of their stable.

Whatever your decision, make it the right one for you and your books.

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See?

Inspirational.

I’ve been lucky to work with amazing editors and publishing professionals at Dorchester. They’ve let me explore my voice and vision and stories, partnering with me through the realization that my mainstream work won’t exactly be romance or romantic suspense or even thriller.

The second book in my series developed as a fantasy. And that shift from a dream-based theme for my paranormal world to a alternate reality where three-fourths of the novel occurs in dream sequence was embraced rather than rewritten. Giving Secret Legacy maximum mass market appeal wasn’t the ultimate objective. I got to tell this story the way it needed to be told, while my team worked hard to provide it as broad a readership as possible. That’s just one of the many reasons I’m excited about Secret Legacy being a May Dorchester release–but in the end, it’s the most important one.

Chris will do his best to check back here throughout the day, in case there are any questions in the comments. He’s tied up in meetings, but if we’re lucky we might catch glimpse of him ;o).

Next Thursday, look for Tim DeYoung to stop by PIFS and talk industry trends and Dorchester’s switch to a digital publishing/trade paperback model.

The remainder of the schedule for visiting Dorchester associates is here.

I’ll be filling in th gaps with my own experience. My publishing team and I are trying a lot of things to get the digital and trade word out about this release. Some will work better than others. I’ll be as honest as I can each step of the way, as the results begin trickling in.

Remember, PIFS is about learning and sharing and opening as many doors as possible for everyone. It’s about navigating this changing landscape together.

Join us and share your own journey…

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8 Responses to “Publishing Isn’t For Sissies: Chris Keeslar’s Changing Landscape”

  1. Bri Clark says:

    I appreciate Chris’ words of truth and encouragement. While I have heard here and there about the drama round this publishing house. Honestly I didn’t pay attention. It just seemed like a waste of time. I’m glad I didn’t now. Because I imagine a more influenced opinion would have prevented me from reading this article with an open mind. I agree with what he said and the ideas he offered. And might I add he looks British in this photo. Is he?

    Anyway Anna keep up the good work and congrats on a May release. I love releasing in May. It’s a fun month.

    Bri

  2. Rachel Lynne says:

    Great job bringing Chris here, Anna. I first became aware of the Dorchester ‘issue’ after stumbling onto a “smart” blog. The trash talk that day turned my stomach, I’m a comments after the post reader, but half way down the page I found Chris’ response to the dirt being dished. You are absolutely right, Anna, he is inspirational and forward thinking, and a host of other adjectives it is too early in the morning for me to pull from my sleep deprived brain. I wrote Chris an email that day telling him I wished Dorchester and him luck and that I found his response to the catty blog comments to be restrained and professional.
    You have summed him up as inspirational; I’ll add Classy :) .
    Good post and blog Anna and to Chris, don’t change,ever,
    their are too few enlightened souls among us today!
    Best,
    Rachel Lynne

  3. Anna says:

    Thanks for the great start to the comments, Rachel and Bri. I must admit, PIFS was at first a reaction to the “smart” cattiness flying all over the Net, while Dorchester staff and my fellow authors and I were actually dealing with the massive change others were throwing mud at. I tried to be careful those first PIFS posts, but if you re-read some of them it’s clear I was steamed, and I’ve left those thoughts where they are. This is a real place, after all. Emotions were running high.

    But I soon realized that my primary issue with all the exaggerating, conflict-building, and bystander gawking was that the majority of those spreading the bad juju were folks who were in no way involved in the actual dynamic they were ranting about. These might have been good-intentioned rants on behalf of those the bloggers thought were being wronged, but when you talk about things you don’t know the full details about, you tend to be off base more often than you’re right. And when your ignorance fans the flames of misunderstanding and outrage for sport, you’ve lost my respect.

    So, PIFS became a place where I wanted to share what I was seeing as one who all this was happening to. At first, I wasn’t even sure if SL would even be released as a Dorchester title. Once that became a lock, I’ve talked about that journey (the exciting and the challenging things). Now Dorchester staff have generously offered to do the same, adding their take on the changes they’ve implemented since last fall.

    No one’s saying this has been easy or necessarily fair for everyone. But what I’d like to think we’re saying here is that everyone’s doing their best to figure this out going forward. I for one consider myself lucky to have had someone like Chris working on my side all this time.

  4. PW Creighton says:

    It’s a very honest look and very good to see some inside insight. There’s been so much talk about Dorchester and everything spiraling with the changes in the industry. It’s very refreshing to see a perspective from inside the whirlwind.

  5. mary beth bass says:

    Great post, Anna.

    Their insightful, creative, visionary, dedicated editorial staff is what drew writers to Dorchester in the first place. You can hear that in what Chris says above and especially in this quote:

    “I personally hope this reality pushes the industry back toward a craftsmanship-oriented model, where we develop a multitude of talent rather than mass produce and bank only on bestsellers.”

    From the beginning, readers (and listeners) have paid for stories not just with money but with time. Writers ask readers to give up hours or days to spend with their books. This is not a question to be taken lightly. Dedication to craftsmanship at every stage of a book’s development is the only way stories survive.

    Dorchester is lucky to have Chris Keeslar to fight for stories, writers and readers.

  6. Susan says:

    Anna, thanks for this. Dorchester’s new model puts me in of Samhain. I liked hearing Chris’ take on the ‘new publishing’ world and seeing his upbeat attitude. I’ll be most interested in following the marketing. From one who is self pubbed, that is the hardest hurdle, I think. Getting the word out.

  7. I love my editor! I’ll stand by Chris always, not only as an unfailing, stand-up guy, but as a damn good editor, one of the very best we’ve got in the field. I feel very blessed to have worked and to continue to work with him. I owe Dorchester so very much for believing in me, launching my career and my Strangely Beautiful series. I sure love being on the shelves with you, Anna, and here’s to many more! Thanks for posting this!

  8. Gord Rollo says:

    Hi Folks,

    I’ve had four novels published through Dorchester and although I would be lying if I said I was 100% pleased with everything that has gone on in the last year, I am still holding out with hope for the future. I do think Chris is an open, honest, hardworking editor and I wish him and the rest of the gang at dorchester all the best with the rebuilding of their brand. I definitely liked what he had to say here on the blog but we’ll have to see if they can put words into action, right? All I want is to be treated fairly and honestly. That’s it. My new book, VALLEY OF THE SCARECROW just came out this month but I’m still waiting to see if it actually makes it into a bookstore. Like I said, my fingers are crossed and I hope things get better. I have a new novel written and ready to go and in total honesty I have no idea whether I’d consider submitting it to Dorchester at this point. I suppose time will tell.

    Cheers,

    Gord

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