A Book Publisher “Experiments” With Print: Christina M. Brashear, owner of e-book publisher Samhain, on her unconventional business model.
Macon, Ga.-based Samhain Publishing has found its niche in the world of book publishing, despite the fact that most of its titles aren’t resting on bookstore shelves. The e-book-minded publisher has only tread lightly in the world of traditional print publishing since it first opened up shop nearly three years ago.
While print versions of the company’s line of popular romance and erotica fiction are now more commonplace, Owner and Publisher Christina M. Brashear says these traditional books haven’t changed the main focus of providing electronic versions of Samhain’s titles. The publisher has achieved such success selling e-books to loyal readers, according to Brashear, that later this summer she will begin selling other publishers’ digital editions alongside Samhain’s titles on My Bookstore and More (www.MyBookstoreandMore.com), a retail Web site that Brashear also owns.
Brashear spoke with Book Business Extra on her approach to selling books.
Book Business Extra: Beginning primarily as an e-book publisher, what advantages did you see in also offering print versions of some of your titles?
Christina M. Brashear: You do get an idea of what is or isn’t going to do well in print by how well a book does in e-book form. I have found that booksellers who read e-books will write and ask when certain titles are going to go to print. I know those titles will do well and can plan an appropriate print run.
Extra: What challenges have you faced as you have started to delve into print?
Brashear: … I like being “green”—e-books don’t get returned and aren’t destroyed. [With print,] you have to plan carefully so your print runs are on target with the demand. Most of our titles stay in [print on demand (POD)], which can be a hardship because of the stigma attached to [POD]. … We gamble on certain titles and have print runs made based on what we project they will sell. We try to print enough to satisfy the first few months of orders, and then allow POD to fulfill on a continuing basis. If the book is very popular, we’ll go back to press and order additional print runs as demand necessitates.
The next toughest part would be learning to work with the industry schedule. In e-books, you can do things in a shorter time frame and make changes on the fly. With print, you’re planning January 2009’s schedule in February of 2008.
Extra: What did you learn from working with Amazon and Sony to offer your e-books in the formats that their e-readers—the Kindle and the Reader, respectively—use?
Brashear: … All the e-books are picked up by Amazon from Mobipocket, so there is no additional work on our part. I love that. Mobi and Amazon are the easiest of all the processes we have in place right now. We’re in the process of working with Sony to get the titles into the store. It’s not as smooth of a process as Amazon, but Amazon had the benefit [of a process] being already in place. Sony is new—a new device using a new file format. We hope to get everything worked out soon.
Extra: What challenges has the company’s rapid growth presented?
Brashear: … We’ve been on a hiring binge in the corporate offices—trying to address the problems of spreading the workload so the staff doesn’t burn out and collapse into a pile of quivering flesh on the floor. It’s a challenge to keep up with the old duties while incorporating the new, and not let anything slip through the cracks.
Leasing office space is the biggest change due to growth. It does not matter what your top or bottom line is, when someone in the business arena realizes you work from home, you are instantly discounted as not being a legitimate, real business. I miss working from home, but in all honesty, I couldn’t see hiring admin staff and having them in my home. We have a great location. We’re on the 15th floor of the tallest building in Macon, and we look out over this beautiful, quaint city.
Extra: What are the advantages of owning My Bookstore and More?
Brashear: With Samhain as a wholesale-only company, we don’t have to worry about frog-marching people back to the Samhain site to make the most money. I can list many various sites from which people can buy the e-books. We do this now for print, but we plan to [do this as well] with e-books in the next incarnation of the site.
My Bookstore and More was developed as a sister company to Samhain, so that Samhain could focus on the publishing of books and working with authors. Having [the site] as a totally separate entity from Samhain allows us to sell more than just the Samhain titles. We can sell any publisher’s titles by any author, though we have yet to really expand that side of things. That’s coming this summer, once we launch the new, more robust site. We manually add books [that our] authors tell us are available by them through other publishers. But we will be developing an interface with Ingram, so we can automatically update our available products with the latest books available.