Muse: Why did you decide to start a publishing company?
Kerrie: It was at the end of 2013. I had helped a handful of writers self-publish their books. So I knew the process well. I had a couple ideas of my own I wanted to get out there but I knew they would be hard to sell to a big publishing house.
Muse: So why not just self-publish yours? Why start a whole company?
Kerrie: Along with mine, I had a few friends who also had books that I wanted to see out in the world, but I felt they were in the same boat as my books. So, instead of just self-publishing my books, I started my own company, Hot Chocolate Press in order to publish a couple of my books, but also books from other authors whose work I was familiar with.
Muse: You must get inundated with queries from other writers.
Kerrie: No, not at this time. I’m not open to submissions. Maybe next year, but for now I am handpicking a select few authors to work with and slowly building my brand.
Muse: Do you have a place you store all the books you publish?
Kerrie: Currently there are 8 books in our catalog from 5 different authors. I don’t need a big storage room because I’m trying a different approach to my company. I’m blending traditional aspects like covering all the costs of the publishing, giving my authors royalties and partnering with them for the marketing, with more current practices of Print on Demand (POD) and ebooks. By using POD companies like CreateSpace and Ingram Spark, I don’t need to keep a bunch of books in stock. If a reader wants a Hot Chocolate Press Book, they can go to Amazon, order one, and then Amazon prints it and sends it out. I also have it set up so most of our books are available through any bookstore in the country.
Muse: What about ebooks?
Kerrie: All the Hot Chocolate Press books, except our newest cookbook release, are available on the various ebook platforms (Kindle, Nook and Kobo). We even have one, The Odyssey of a Monk, that is only available as an ebook.
Muse: Why did you pick the name Hot Chocolate Press?
Kerrie: I wanted to publish “feel good” type books. Genre didn’t matter so much as creating books that made the reader feel happy and inspired when they finished it. I needed a name to represent that. Hot chocolate is something that warms people up and makes them feel good. So Hot Chocolate Press was born; books to warm your heart, nourish your soul and spark your sense of adventure.
Muse: I am going to say one word and you tell me the first thought that pops into your head?
Kerrie: Crazy! Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t like I don’t want to market the books, but there are SO many ways to do that now. I self-published a book 17 years ago (before social media and the Internet) and at that time there were a few basic ways to market a book. Now, there are a ton of options. It can be a challenge to stay focused on a few and do those well and not get sidetracked and try to do everything. The biggest online marketing tools I use for Hot Chocolate Press are: Facebook, Pinterest, Goodreads and an email newsletter. Other things I have also done are, Books on a Subway and Fussy librarian.
Muse: What about reviews?
Kerrie: Reviews are great, especially on Amazon. Readers can really help authors by leaving honest reviews any time they finish a book. Not only does it help sell books, but other opportunities open up if a book has a good number of reviews.
Muse: What is the good part about having a publishing business?
Kerrie: Even though it can be a lot of work, I do love the whole book creating process; putting together all the pieces (great content, cover, ISBN, formatting, back cover blurb…) and then seeing them come together into a fantastic book. I also love working with other authors. I consider them a partner in the whole process, so they are with me every step of the way. They get to help with all the important decisions. It is wonderful when the book is finished and I get to hand them a copy of it and then we get to put it out into the world.
Muse: The Bad?
Kerrie: Being patient and not rushing the process.
Muse: The Ugly?
Kerrie: When I’m not patient and I rush the process, things can get ugly. Anytime I say, “Everything looks great with this book. I don’t need to send it out for a copy edit,” things go wrong. Last year, with my children’s Christmas book, I had a friend read it over and I thought that was good enough. After all, she is a writer and a teacher. Wrong answer. I put it out there and got comments from other dear friends who thankfully, pointed out all the mistakes I missed. So I had to un-publish it for a little while in order to fix all the mistakes and then re-publish the corrected version.
Muse: That sounds horrible. So it was just that one time?
Kerrie: I’d like to say yes, but the answer is no. Clearly after one year, I had forgotten what that experience was like. So, with our new cookbook, Granny Bob’s Homestyle Cooking, I didn’t have it professionally copy-edited like I usually do. We had it go through about 5 people this time and I figured, since it is mostly recipes, there wouldn’t be a problem. You think I would have learned. I made it live on Amazon. We then realized there were things we still missed, so I took it down in order to fix those mistakes. This is where it gets ugly; a few days later my author’s friend came back with 9 pages of copy edits that we still missed. Ugh. So, I slowed down, fixed those mistakes. Checked again and now a clean, edited version is available on Amazon. Lesson learned; ALWAYS get it professionally copy edited.
Muse: Finish this sentence, My biggest hope for Hot Chocolate Press in 2016 is____________.
Kerrie: My biggest hope for 2016 is that the audience for our Hot Chocolate Press books grows abundantly.
Kerrie Flanagan is the founder of Hot Chocolate Press (HCP), Executive Director of Northern Colorado Writers and a Freelance Writer with hundreds of published articles. You can sign up for the monthly HCP newsletter to receive up to date information on Hot Chocolate Press books, plus there are always articles, photos, inspiration and recipes to warm your heart, nourish your soul and spark your sense of adventure. Kerrie is also the author of Write Away: A Year of Musings and Motivations for Writers; Planes, Trains and Chuck & Eddie; and Claire’s Christmas Catastrophe.
Kerrie will give away a Granny Bob giftset to a U.S. resident: One copy of Miss You Once Again and one copy of the New Cookbook, Granny Bob’s Homestyle Cooking. Please leave a comment on this post before midnight (MT) Friday, December 4th, to enter. The winner will be announced here on Saturday.