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Publisher Review

Publisher Review – Mundania Press

I was vetting a book submitted via my Debut Informer form, and I thought I’d go ahead and do another Publisher Review. This time, I am reviewing Mundania Press. Here are my findings.

  • Website geared toward readers or writers?Readers. There are nine new releases front-and-center, and at first glance, the covers look pretty good. This is definitely a presentation that puts the reader first.
  • Visibility of submissions link?Visible on the menubar, but does not call a lot of attention to itself.
  • Submissions Currently closed. When they are open, they are picky about following their formatting guidelines. Selective is good. Royalty rates are generous, but I don’t know if that is off cover price or sale price.

I spend a lot of time looking at the way the site presents itself because I will only consider publishers who are looking to sell books to readers, not make money off writers. Yes, every publisher makes money off writers, but the question is are they doing it in an exploitative way? Mundania Press is definitely showcasing their writers and trying to sell them to readers.

  • Does it look like a serious business venture?Yes. Tis is a well-designed site and there is a full staff shown on the About page. Does not appear to be run by hobbyists.
  • How well are they publicizing their author’s work?Looks good. They have a nice page for each book, and someone is paying attention to the reviews because the lists of excerpts can get extensive. The also have excerpts.

A hobbyist isn’t going to spend a lot of time on the website or scouring the internet looking for reviews. In this case, I have not had contact with their editorial or publicity department, so I can only judge their publicity from their website and how much I see on the web about them from a Google search.

They have a Facebook page, and they keep an active Blogspot blog, but their Facebook widget is cut off on the right. The posts are up-to-date, but the sidebar contains dated information. The Facebook page is also up-to-date. I found an undated interview that referred to May of 2005 as being in the future.

Mundania Press seems to be well-regarded. I found announcements about them at Romantic Times Book Reviews, a few reviews at BSCReviews, and a review at Graeme’s Fantasy Review. These are all sites I respect.

  • Covers – Professional or Amateur? Mixed. Some of the covers are awesome, and some look too computer-generated. Overall, I liked the covers.
  • Availability of booksAvailable, but not timely. I could not find their most recent book at Amazon, and their second-most-recent book was missing the cover at Amazon. At Barnes and Noble, the most recent books were not available, except the Bad-Ass Fairies anthology. They have a Fictionwise bookstore, but again, their most recent book was not available there. Offers returns to bookstores, and they have distribution arrangements.
  • Price of booksGood. The price of trade paperbacks is on par with major publishing houses.
  • Is an excerpt available?Yes, but not every time.
  • Is the excerpt professionally written and presented? The writing is ok, but nothing held my interest. I think some more attention could be paid to the dialog.

Finally, I scrutinize the product, itself. I had a hard time finding the most recent release anywhere but mundania.com. They do eventually make it to the online bookstores, but I’d prefer to see the books available for pre-order before the publication date rather than a month or two afterward. Do they keep newly-released books exclusive to Mundania at first? It’s possible.

  • Random impressions – Freebies and Calendar pages have no content. Has a large selection of books that appear to be good quality. Their reputation is clean. They were originally started to publish some of Piers Anthony’s novels, and have published dozens of authors since then. Their anthologies appears to generate some good exposure for them.

My possible ratings:

  • Highly Approved – I would review one of these books.
  • Approved – site meets my stringent requirements.
  • Cautious – has red flags, but nothing onerous.
  • Disapproved – You don’t want to associate yourself with these guys.
  • Avoid – I don’t even want to send web traffic to these guys, they’re so bad.

With Caveats – This will enable me to give a higher score to a publisher, but to add a caveat.

My rating for Mundania Press:

~*~ Approved, With Caveats ~*~

Mundania Press looks to be highly selective; they are doing a great job with their presentation and their covers, and they genuinely are trying to get good books out. I’d like them to explain the delay in making books available elsewhere–even a simple statement saying something like, “For a limited time, available only at Mundania Press” would help; otherwise it looks like inefficiency. They need to fix the “under construction” parts of their site, and keep their blog sidebar up-to-date. I would be happier seeing them a little more “out there” in terms of exposure for themselves and their authors. I was only able to find their Twitter feed then I Googled the Publisher’s name, and even then, he doesn’t tweet anything. Twitter is a great publicity tool, especially since it is so easily fed elsewhere like Facebook.

Since I may have simply caught the publisher at a bad time, I’ll revisit it in six months or so.

I would review one of their books, but only if I liked the excerpt and if the publisher sent the book (which demonstrates commitment on the part of the publisher). I do confess that I don’t like their name. It makes me wonder if the books they publish won’t be . . . well, mundane.

Check them out: Mundania Press.

New Feature! Publisher Reviews – Small Beer Press

An email from Kimber An has inspired a new feature: Publisher Reviews!

When someone asks me to review a book that is through a publishing house I never heard of (not that Kimber did this), I have distinct criteria. I decided to go public with these criteria in the form of Publisher Reviews. I will review two types of publishers here: Small Presses and E-Publishers. (I will not be reviewing my own publisher, Carina Press.)

Rather than tell you how I’m going to do this, I’ll illustrate it with my first victim: Small Beer Press.

Disclaimer! I have already agreed to review novels through Small Beer Press. I was familiar with them when I accepted the review copies, and I was familiar with the editor. I didn’t vet them like I would an unknown. Therefore, I am going to put them through the process now. However, my initial impression is already highly favorable.

Here are the criteria I look for:

  • Website geared toward writers or readers? My answer: Readers.

If it looks like the website is trying to attract writers instead of readers, then that’s a big red flag because it could mean that their customers are writers instead of readers. If they’re just launching, that’s different. But once they have a product to show, I expect it to be front and center.

  • Visibility of submissions link? My answer: Nonexistent. Submissions link is buried in the About page. Furthermore, no submissions are accepted — writers must query by mail.
  • Submissions – terms, exclusivity, rights purchased, etc? My answer: Unknown. Publishers usually don’t make all this available, but sometimes they have a FAQ. I don’t see one here.

The harder a publisher is to submit to, the more impressed I am. This tells me that they get lots of submissions, so they must make the writers jump through some hoops in order to submit. Of course as a writer, I find this irksome, but as a reader, it impresses me, and in this case, I must act as the reader.

  • Does it look like a serious business venture?  My answer: Yes. This is definitely a professionally designed webpage, and a lot of thought went into it. Also, the fact that they also run a well-respected magazine — Lady Churchhill’s Rosebud Wristlet — is highly in their favor.
  • How well are they publicizing their author’s work? My answer: Could use improvement. They pack a lot of information on the page, including a bunch of blog posts. The three most recent releases are at the top, followed by a blog posts, and then a lot more books. I almost overlooked those books on the bottom.  However, there is a Books link at the top of the page, and I didn’t miss that. I would be happier to see another row of books along the top. They appear to be trying to cram too much “above the scroll”.

Also, in this case, the editor contacted me about reviews. This is an automatic plus, because the bad publishers would never do this.

  • Covers – Professional or Amateur? My answer: Professional. It looks on par with literary books by major publishers. Were I one of their authors, I would be pleased with their artwork.
  • Availability of books online – On Amazon and elsewhere? My answer: Readily available.

Books should be available in more places than just the publisher’s website.

  • Price of books – my answer: Typical to a bargain.

Lots of POD novels are overpriced. Small Beer Press had some excellent prices for trade paperback and hardcovers.

  • Is an excerpt available? My answer: Occasionally.

If a publisher is unwilling to put any excerpts online, then I tend to conclude that there’s a good reason for this — they don’t want you seeing it until it’s too late.

  • Is the excerpt professionally written and presented? My answer: Well written, but presentation unknown. The two books I have now have crisp black text that is easy to read. However, I cannot get a sense of the typography and layout from the website alone.

This is not necessarily a red flag, I’m mainly looking at the quality of the writing, here.

  • Random Impressions: I think the link to Kelly Link’s site on the front page ought to be removed. It looks out of context here, and it’s also available in the About page.

Rating

I’m going to be rating publishers on a five point scale:

Highly Approved – I would review one of these books.

Approved – site meets my stringent requirements.

Cautious – has red flags, but nothing onerous.

Disapproved – You don’t want to associate yourself with these guys.

Avoid – I don’t even want to send web traffic to these guys, they’re so bad.

With Caveats – This will enable me to give a higher score to a publisher, but to add a caveat. For example, I might rate a publisher Approved, With Caveats.

My rating of Small Beer Press:

~*~ Highly Approved ~*~

(Now I need to make graphics for these ratings.)

I had a great opinion of Small Beer Press from my first contact with them, and my scrutiny of them for this post has not changed that initial impression. You could be proud to have your book published by them, and I would be willing to bet that they put out some well-written, thought-provoking novels and nonfiction books. In fact, you’ll know for sure next month, when I post my first review.

They also have an imprint for children’s books (age 10 and up) called Big Mouth House.

~*~

Publisher Reviews will be an irregular feature, but when I get a few of them done, they will appear automagically on the sidebar. My next review will be coming quite soon, and it won’t be nearly this favorable.

Check them out: Small Beer Press