"Akashic Books is a Brooklyn-based independent company dedicated to publishing urban literary fiction and political nonfiction by authors who are either ignored by the mainstream, or who have no interest in working within the ever-consolidating ranks of the major corporate publishers. Currently, Akashic Books is not accepting new submissions. Learn more here.
SQF: According to a report by Foner Books (http://fonerbooks.com/booksale.htm), “[g]rowth stagnated for booksellers in 2008, and overall book sales barely moved according to the government.” In addition, I’ve read a number of articles concerning the difficulty authors are having securing book deals. In your opinion, what is the current state of the print book market?
JI: For Akashic, as a small company, we've always struggled to sell books. The economic downturn affected all book publishers, but it is, honestly, an industry that is used to struggling to make ends meet. I think there is still a great market for books--printed and electronic--there are just, unfortunately, too many books written, not all of which should be published, which is why it continues to be hard for authors to find homes for their books.
SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a manuscript?
JI: Strong, likable, believable characters; an engaging story line; and a well-edited presentation of the story (it doesn't need to be perfect, but should be pretty clean and not a first draft).
SQF: What major mistakes do authors make when pitching their books?
JI: I find it frustrating when we're pitched a book that clearly doesn't fit our publishing program. I like when authors have taken the time to research companies and have a sense for what type of books the company is looking for. If the company has, for example, never published a self-help book, it's probably not the right company to approach if you're the author of a self-help book.
SQF: Of the books your company publishes each year, how many are by previously unpublished authors?
JI: It varies, from 1 to 5/year roughly out of the 25 we publish.
SQF: What is your advice to new, unpublished authors looking for a publisher or agent?
JI: I'd reiterate the above in #3. Research companies and agents and only approach those who you truly believe are looking for/have experience with your style/genre of writing.
SQF: What question do you wish I’d asked that I didn’t? And how would you answer it?
JI: I couldn't think of anything more to add here.
Thank you, Johanna. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.
NEXT POST: 8/2--Six Questions for Abigail Beckel and Kathleen Rooney, co-Founders, Rose Metal Press