I just answered a question from a reader about my experiences with SBPRA and thought I should include my answer here as well. I have been very happy with SBPRA, and have had all my nine children’s books published by SBPRA. (By the way, I am not an employee of SBPRA, I am only one of their many successful authors. I am happy to post relevant comments from readers that will help other authors, but I will not post derogatory propaganda… there is way too much of that already!) Please stay tuned!!
Please read on, to discover some of the advice and answers to questions that I have already answered. If you have other questions, after reading this and all the comments, please send me your question and I will do my best to answer it!
After several years of sending occasional queries to various publishers who, if they responded at all, either informed me that they were “no longer accepting unsolicited manuscripts” or recommended I find an agent, (who responded that they only chose to accept published authors), I made the most important decision of my literary life: I submitted Santa’s Birthday Gift to SBPRA (Eloquent Books and Strategic Books) which has ultimately resulted in my receiving thirty-eight National and International Awards in 2011-16 for my 8 books, including also Peter and the Whimper-Whineys, The Magic Word, Gimme-Jimmy, Manner-Man, My Fingerpaint Masterpiece and Mice & Spiders & Webs…Oh My! SBPRA has been with me every step of the way: connecting me with my awesome illustrator (Kalpart), and then helping with marketing opportunities, offering progressively better contracts as each book was submitted and showed evidence of strong sales – as well as providing entries into the world of eBooks and iTune Apps and international expos. I have discovered that their philosophy of giving every qualified new author a chance – rather than have an over-worked editor in some large publishing house determine whether or not a book will be successful – has worked very well for me. I had faith in my books, and made a commitment to get them into print and let the children decide their worth…
SBPRA has also provided me with two Fundraising Websites, enabling me to help others by offering to send 50% of the cost of the books to the participating Fundraiser organization. An earlier one was for the Women’s Economic Council Foundation which provides programs and scholarships for women. My current ones are for CureJM (http://sbpra.com/curejm/) which is to help find a cure for Juvenile Myositis – which affects 17,000 kids in the US alone. This photo is of 9-yr-old Addie (now 12), who suffers from this disease. I learned about her while preparing Gimme-Jimmy for publication, and put her name on the Acknowledgements page as one of my “Prayer Children” for whom I wrote the book. In my next book, Manner-Man, Addie was actually a character on the cover (compliments of my wonderful illustrator, Kalpart!) and she has been in all my subsequent books You can see she is happy about it! She and kids like her are the reason for my CureJM Fundraiser.
My newest fundraiser is for imbullyfree.org to help prevent and cope with bullying. (http://sbpra.com/imbullyfree) SBPRA has been wonderful – setting up the websites and handling the administrative portion – and should be credited for also sharing their profits. Not many publishers I know will do that! Please check out these websites if you get a chance!
Since this post, I have received several questions about how I feel about SBPRA, so I have decided to add a condensed version of my latest response to a potential author who has had his manuscript accepted by SBPRA. He had some reservations after reading some feedback he found online.
“I am sorry you have read some negative propaganda, although it is good that you are doing some research about something so important. I will try to answer your questions as best I can. First of all, let me say that I do not want to try to talk anyone into anything. I personally have been very happy with SBPRA – and go on record about that often. I can only speak for myself – although I know lots of other authors who are very happy with SBPRA as well. It seems that one can find a lot of griping and complaining on line, but not so much praise… There are also a few linked websites that seem to be on somewhat of a witch-hunt as far as I can see. I try to stay out of the fray as much as possible!
I am often asked about royalties, and I must stress that each contract is different, so I only know about mine. However, I have found that many authors don’t understand the allocation of royalties as determined by the amount of books sent to online stores by the printer. Amazon sales, for instance, does not immediately translate into royalties – because there’s always quite a lag, and difficult to track. Amazon will buy so many books, but the author and publisher get no payment until after the books are actually sold, so there is delay involved. Eventually it evens out…and I have never had a problem getting paid.
It also seems that many authors do not read or understand the contract offered to them. SBPRA is pretty clear about what they expect from you and what you can expect from them. They are not a Self-Publish Press which has authors buy a set amount of books upon publication. I refer to them as “Help-Publish” since they do a lot and we, the authors, have to do a lot too. They get your book to the marketplace, such as amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and lots of others, and then you have to help with social networking and responding to things like Google Alerts and looking for other marketing opportunities, to get your work recognized. Their philosophy seems to be that they will offer to publish books that they feel have potential, giving opportunity to many authors who otherwise might not find a publisher willing to even read their manuscript, and then provide extra support to the “break-out” authors. You have to be willing to help market your book, although you will be given a lot of advice on how to do that. If you wish to pay for extra help, that is also available – according to what you think you need. One year there were about twenty authors who reached 1000 sales, and they have been provided with a lot of free marketing. I was lucky enough to be one of them!!
Many of the large publishing houses offer advances (although most of them require you to pay them back if sales don’t equal the advance you were given.) Small Presses, as far as I know, do not. I contributed a relatively small amount to the publication of my first book, Santa’s Birthday Gift, because I had faith in my book and a willingness to help get it out to the children and let them decide whether or not it would be worth buying. The book has won two awards, and has been on the amazon best-seller children’s list in November & December for the past six years! At this point, my book is over 6000 – and my other books are also doing very well.
As for editing, I think it’s the best investment an author can make, and should be required! Books with grammatical, spelling and punctuation errors are not going to get very far…and you can’t rely on spell-check which sees aisle, isle and I’ll as perfectly acceptable !!!
I have found the SBPRA client communication very profesional. They make books available to the authors at a reduced rate, and will allow you to get them for review purposes at about the wholesale rate. I do not try to sell my books, preferring to let them be purchased on-line or at the stores that carry them – although I do have several fund-raisers where schools or organizations can buy the books at a reduced cost to them, and then sell them for whatever they wish to their supporters. I usually go to those events to sign them and read to the children as well – because that is a lot of fun for me!!! I also had many Barnes & Noble book-signing events in upstate New York, where they sold very well and were put on the shelves with the covers facing out. (My printer does not put the title and author on the spine of picture books, so they tend to get lost when stacked on the shelves.) I set these up myself by going to the store and talking with the CRM (Community Relations Manager) and giving her a copy of my book. It sold itself. I have not fared so well in the Philadelphia area which refuses to consider POD (Print on Demand) books.
My first book was published in Nov. 2009. SBPRA has provided opportunities to send my books to their international expos, they have offered me support and advice whenever I have asked – and I have been very happy there. I do not want to talk anyone into anything, but I will be happy to answer questions. My only other point is that you also need to take into consideration how long you want to wait to get feedback from other submissions you may have made to any of the big publishing houses. It’s really up to you!!!
2/15/12 – I just received a couple more emails with questions, so I will post my answers here… One of these days, maybe I will have answered them all! (not)
SBPRA offers lots of contracts, tailored for each author. They have all kinds of different contracts for different types of books – and it would depend on your ability as well as your marketability, and what they think will sell well. I know they used to have an offer that if you would guarantee a certain amount of books pre-publication, they would offer a contract along those lines.
What do they do to help the author (author help) personally from beginning to end publish a manuscript? Do you pay for each segment like the illustrator, editor, designer, printing, etc? – I really can’t comment except about children’s picture books. Yes there are illustration expenses if you don’t have your own illustrator – and that was the largest part of my investment because I fell in love with Kalpart’s illustrations and was willing to invest in their artwork to help sell my books. Their illustrations are awesome– and I can’t say enough about their covers. You know the “don’t judge a book by its cover” line? In the children’s picture book world, your cover helps sell the book!!! Anyway, once you are under contract they walk you through the rest, which is included in the initial charge. Their contract is very clear about what they will do, and what you will have to do to help market the books.
Do you feel comfortable giving me some idea of the “author help” cost? – I have no idea of the cost of publication now, although I know it’s more expensive and they are more selective about which authors they accept. (But don’t forget that there are some publishers that say they don’t charge anything for publishing, but you are required to pay $4000+ for marketing.) The illustrations were a per/illustration cost, and I don’t feel comfortable quoting anything about that, since I have no idea what kind of book you are hoping to publish nor what kind of illustrations you need. That would be between you and the illustrator. I also have no idea what the initial costing is now – but the best way to find out would be to submit and find out what they offer! You don’t have to accept anything!
Hope this helps! – Let me know if you have further questions!!
Some advice about editing, since this is really important!!
I would like to add here, a recent response from a new author, Liam Moiser, who responded to my advice about editing before publication: “Thank you for the advice on editing, I went with it and it looks beautiful, now I have just signed off on it and I must admit I read through it four times and it’s amazing, I can’t believe what they have done for me, I saw the mistakes that I have missed and some of them I couldn’t believe because when I was reading it in my head it looked right but obviously it wasn’t, anyway I am getting excited and nervous at the same time because the next stage is the text block design, everything is awesome and the company is just amazing to work with.”
Here is a recent request from an author, to pass along this Tweet: “Sherrill plz RT: 2 new authors: EDITING: I can’t say this STRONG ENOUGH. Get a professional edit. Save 4 it. I didn’t. Saw review. Sorry now.”
Here’s a follow-up note from Liam… I wish everyone could have such a positive outlook! “I thought I’d give you an update on how things are going this end, the text block design was amazing and they hit the version I had with the first attempt except for a few things I spotted there wasn’t much I could complain about and it’s amazing I’m totally loving it, though I don’t think it will sink in until I have the proof copy here, I don’t care what anyone says this company is amazing and even if I just sell one copy I’d be happy though of course I’m hoping to sell more than one, I write because I love writing, I sent it to a publisher because I wanted to share the story with others, if it sells it sells if it doesn’t it doesn’t. I’ve figured out the people who complain are those who expect to write the next Harry Potter and just want to make money, okay it would be nice to make money but I’m just happy that my story will be shared with others. Anyway I’m waiting for the back cover text to be sent to me which will be sometime the end of this week I’ve been told and then I’ll go through that and see if it’s how I want it to be. I’ll keep you updated.”
Since some have seen some of the negative comments I referred to as the “witch hunt”, (usually from SFWA or Writer Beware) please read:
I am inserting here, the resolution to the frivolous lawsuit which probably has affected many potential SBPRA Authors. It was settled “with no admission of guilt and no violation of the law.” (I will post the entire thing at the conclusion of this page, if anyone cares to read it.) Please be assured that SBPRA is both ethical and influential in the world of books…and it’s time to submit your manuscript to see if you will be accepted by this awesome publisher!!
(Here is Robert Fletcher’s conclusion and message of looking to the future: “With this settlement, our family of authors and employees can rest assured that our business principles are sound and fair. I am extremely happy for our authors, clients, and employees who have had to deal with the uncertainties of this misguided litigation for the last six years. We have now formally put this behind us and we feel stronger than ever. Let’s get back to business. We have our clients’ books to publish and sell and distribute around the world. And we would like any potential client that turned away from us because of this issue to please reconsider joining us.”)
Incidentally, I recently posted on the main page about the fact that four of my titles are on the shelves in Taiwan and are now also in China and India! Please take a look at that notice, since it shows how much SBPRA is doing for its authors!
Promised Version of Lawsuit Resolution:
Florida Literary Agency – Publisher Reaches Settlement on FDUTPA Litigation with Florida Attorney General
Robert Fletcher, CEO, successfully overcomes damaging allegations and declares that a settlement is a victory when dealing with any government agency.
Boca Raton, Florida (PRWEB) February 12, 2014
“Anytime a business settles litigation with a government agency with no admission of guilt and no violation of the law, it can be considered a victory,” said Robert Fletcher, the CEO of a group of companies that have been dealing with government litigation for over six years. “Unfortunately, most consumers believe that litigation equals guilt, but that simply isn’t true. Had we been guilty of anything, this particular no-admit clause would not have been in the settlement agreement.”
“Whereas the Attorney General and the Settlement Defendants enter into this Settlement Agreement without any admission either of guilt, or that the Settlement Defendants have violated the law.”
“This suit should never have been filed,” Mr. Fletcher continued. “If the litigation had any merit, they would have pushed it harder and not taken six years to deal with it. Furthermore, Theresa Edwards, the attorney who filed against us was asked to leave her job for ethical and competency issues and we believe that the former Attorney General, Bill McCollum allowed the suit to get more votes in a failed attempt to get re-elected. Mr. Fletcher went on to say that, “Settlement was the best action for our constituents as it allows us to concentrate on the future and not continue to pour money down the legal drain hole of America’s quasi-political legal process. Most importantly, we want our authors to realize that this litigation did not include our current businesses. The suit was only directed at older companies that had a completely different business model and had already been dissolved”.
Mr. Fletcher concluded by looking to the future. “With this settlement, our family of authors and employees can rest assured that our business principles are sound and fair. I am extremely happy for our authors, clients, and employees who have had to deal with the uncertainties of this misguided litigation for the last six years. We have now formally put this behind us and we feel stronger than ever. Let’s get back to business. We have our clients’ books to publish and sell and distribute around the world. And we would like any potential client that turned away from us because of this issue to please reconsider joining us.”