2012, much like the first few years, was one of astronomical growth. We reached out to more and more authors, and those authors brought others. searches by myself or David Dodd would uncover someone with a lot of out-of-print books, and we’d reach out. Sometimes it took weeks to track down authors who’d simply not left a trail. We picked up amazing works from people like William Bayer, whose Janek novels had been made into made-for-TV movies, and whose novel Punish Me With Kisses was splashed across the sides of NYC buses and sold millions.
We began working with some agents, Dominick Abel, for one, who brought us the workds of Jonathan Lutz and Bill Pronzini, or at least some of them. He also respresented a number of other authors with large backlists, and that relationship has only grown over time, returning the works of Charles D. Taylor (Submarine Thrillers) and a number of True Crime titles that have done exceptionally well. We were branching out and trying to do more original works, but distribution was always a problem. Bookstores then (and now) preferred to order through Ingram or Baker & Taylor. The distributors wanted huge discounts and the they wanted the titles returnable.
The thing is, that system of 55% discounts was built on the NYC model of publishing. They order the book printed up front in large quantities and their cost per unit is much lower. They have years of analysis to tell them what the tipping point is where too many returns erases their profit. Bookstores are used to passing the risk back to publishers, ordering more than they know they can sell, and simplifying their process by not ordering direct. None of this has ever been in favor of smaller or independent publishers. Ironically, there has been a call over the years to support those independent bookstores who end up selling mostly the same titles as the bigger stores, but for higher prices.
2012 saw us bringing in Raymond Benson, and working through the huge backlog of the estate of Irving Wallace. More and more we were able to uncover hugely popular authors whose books had simply gone out of print and been (for the most part) forgotten. We started out doing mostly horror, but that quickly went by the wayside as we moved into thrillers, mystery, some romance, non-fiction, and even a few children’s titles.
We brought out the first volume in The Order of the Air in 2012, one of my favorite of all the things we’ve published. This came about because, since we were publishing the Stargate Books, we met and then worked with many of the authors who wrote the tie-ins. Two of those were Jo Graham and Melissa Scott, whose backlists we picked up. They brought us LOST THINGS – the first book in The Order of the Air – the audio is being re-recorded now by narrator Joshua Saxon. One of our early mistakes was allowing a series to have more than one narrator voicing the characters. I am going to push this series in this article, because I believe in it. It’s historical fantasy, a group of magicians, each with different powers, working together for balance. The series starts just before World War II. In the many volumes you’ll find Tesla, Nazis, the axe man of New Orleans, so much more. The characters are diverse, dealing with handicaps, a world that did not accept their choice of lovers, or their occult practices. It’s simply an amazing set of books. You can find them all here: THE ORDER OF THE AIR ON AMAZON. Do yourself a favor – particularly if you like LGBTQ friendly fantasy – magic – and history.
We also had very good luck during this period with early Bookbub ads, and with the Barnes and Noble Nook First promotions. Titles like A Cold Minute by a relatively unknown author simply took off. No explanation. The follow-up to that book? Of course not. For everything we learned, there was a new challenge, or a new question, and the books kept pouring in… We jumped from 21,000 and some change to 121,000 copies in 2012. I’ve removed the numbers from individual titles, because they are misleading. Bookbub promotions and giveaways skewed them. I’ve left the bestsellers list intact though. This was the first year things started to get crazy.
One cautionary note. This was also a year that cost me a ton of money. Independent publishers don’t necessarily understand business. Independent and growing distributors are the same. We were being paid by one of the big eBook distributors through Paypal. That year, the government started having online credit-card services and Paypal to submit 1099-K forms on anyone bringing in more than $10,000. We received about $16.000 from that distributor through Paypal. The 1099-Misc for specifically said that year (even warnings on the online tax submittal pages) that you were not to report money paid through those services. The distributor did. The IRS came back a couple of years later and said I had failed to report $16,000 in earnings. Despite notarized statements, hiring one of those legal “we’ll fix your taxes” companies, etc… this was never settled. It cost me years of money my family needed. At the time it was huge. I estimate I paid $30,000 before that was fully settled…
My point is, if you have a business and it is growing, pay attention. I did my due diligence, but unfortunately, that distributor did not, and it never cost them a cent. Growth is good… but it can be pretty frightening.
Despite that setback, Crossroad Press has never been, even for a moment, in the red, and though the day of the month we pay on varies at times, we have never missed a royalty payment. Point of pride.
Onward to 2013…