Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Betsy Teter, Executive Director, Hub City Press

From the website:

"Hub City Press is a non-profit independent press in Spartanburg, SC, that publishes well-crafted, high-quality works by new and established authors, with an emphasis on the Southern experience. We are committed to high-caliber novels, short stories, poetry, plays, memoir, and works emphasizing regional culture and history. We are particularly interested in books with a strong sense of place." Learn more here.

SQF: According to a report by Foner Books (, “[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?

BT: I can only speak from where I stand. Hub City began fifteen years ago as a hyper-local press, selling hundreds--if not thousands--of books in our home community. We’d sell at hardware stores, beauty shops, you name it. We have gradually expanded from there, recently picking John F. Blair as our distributor, so that we more easily reach regional and national markets. The book market is hand-to-hand combat these days, even for a press like ours that primarily focuses on one region of the country--the South. It requires romancing what’s left of the independent bookstore market, almost one by one. The chain stores have virtually shut down in the past year to smaller indie presses. Recently we’ve done something really out of the box—opened our own independent bookstore on Main Street in Spartanburg. There is money to be made in bookselling, and we’ll use those revenues to help fund advertising and underwriting for our books. It’s also given us a first-hand look at all the hard decisions a bookstore must make when it comes to stocking inventory. And what’s selling. Every time I see someone walk out the door with a poetry title or a small press book, I know it’s a big victory for an author or press somewhere out there in the wider world.

SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a manuscript?

BT: In our case we look for a book with a strong sense of place and an emphasis on the Southern experience—fiction, nonfiction, poetry. If you get past that one, obviously we are looking for a book with a high degree of craft. Thirdly, we are looking for a book that we can find a market for. Sometimes this means the author is a “new voice” from the South; other times it means the author has a track record or a strong network of potential buyers--sometimes in our own zip code.

SQF: What major mistakes do authors make when pitching their books?

BT: They send the wrong book to the wrong press. I rejected two electronic submissions within 30 seconds this week – one was a “how to” book, the other had no connection whatsoever to the South.

SQF: Of the books your company publishes each year, how many are by previously unpublished authors?

BT: Thirty percent.

SQF: What is your advice to new, unpublished authors looking for a publisher or agent?

BT: I can only speak for those looking for a publisher. Make friends in the wider literary world by attending writing workshops or MFA programs, and use those contacts when you submit a book. We always look harder at a book when an author we respect recommends it. That certainly doesn’t guarantee publication; it just means it goes into a pile we need to look seriously at.

SQF: What question do you wish I’d asked that I didn’t? And how would you answer it?


Q: What happens to authors who self-publish their books before they submit it?

A: They get rejected. Often everyone in their “network” already has a copy. We count on that network as the first level of sales for a title. If we can’t sell to the author’s friends and family, often we can’t make back our investment in a book.

Thank you, Betsy. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.

NEXT POST: 10/15--Six Questions for Dinty W. Moore, Editor, Brevity

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