I’d like to thank Kirk Cunningham, principal consultant, founder of Cunning Relations & head publicist at Jolly Fish Press for answering my questions about his latest venture in the publishing world. This interview is packed with lots of wonderful advice. Since I have decided to self-publish Letters For Ellie, this is perfect timing as I will be seeking out some author services. I hope you enjoy it!
Tell us about the birth of Cunning Relations. Cunning Relations is, in many ways, the step-sister of Jolly Fish Press, a rapidly growing publishing house based in Utah. They’re not directly related, but a good portion of our team is made of JFP personnel.
It’s from these select JFP personnel that Cunning Relations was born. We were constantly approached by authors looking for advice or help, yet we were powerless to give them any coordinated assistance. That’s why we decided to start Cunning Relations. It allows most of us to maintain our current jobs in the book industry yet, on the side, offer authors the services all in one place for an affordable price.
What are your core services? Each book and author needs different support, but in general, this is what we offer:
- Editorial: content editing, copyediting, proofreading, ghost writing.
- Design: cover design, ebook and print book layout, ebook conversion, website design, cover touch ups
- Production: book trailer production, film interviews, photography
- Publication: eBook setup, print book setup
- Publicity & Marketing: social media support, publishing plan, reviewer management, press release kit, book tour package, representation & branding
Each author who purchases at least one service from us will receive free general publication consultation sessions. We do this to ensure each client achieves success.
How much experience does the staff of Cunning Relations have with promoting books and authors? Our publicity & marketing team is about the best resource an author can utilize. Each member has proven themselves through numerous successful blog tours, reviewer campaigns, well-received press releases, extensive book tours, and sound marketing plans.
With various author services popping up on the web, what sets Cunning Relations apart from the pack? The core of Cunning Relations is that we sincerely care about the success of our client authors. Of course, many companies will say this, but for us, it’s 100% true. For most of our team, Cunning Relations is a beloved side project where they can help one or two authors achieve success at a time. This allows each member to focus on their client and provide them with the necessary support they need in addition to the service they paid for.
Other than that, the main difference between us and other author services firms is that we are not aggressive. If you come to us for help, we will not push all of our services on you. In fact, we will only offer services we think you need, and will try to convince you otherwise if you are requesting a service we don’t think will benefit you.
Describe for us what a typical consultation would look like. Whenever an author contacts us for help, we’ll send them information on all of our standard services and preliminary prices. After this, we set up a consultation session to get more information on the author’s book, goal, and publication status. From there, we will customize our suggestions and propose a package. Should the author be interested, we’ll arrange payment and begin right away on the services they purchased.
How do you measure the success of publicity for your clients? Publicity success is difficult to measure, especially when a solid campaign is run on all fronts, not just through a handful of services. On our end, however, success comes when our client is both happy and has achieved success or is that much closer.
Let’s say I want to self-publish my novel and I have no skills beyond writing the most amazing novel and blogging every now and then. What can you do to help me? First off, we would set up a consultation session to find out more about your goals and budget. Once we have a good idea of what’s in mind, we’ll customize a service package we both agree on. Each package is different, but in general, there are a few absolutely necessary areas:
- Publication/marketing plan—We will work with you to setup a detailed publication plan. That means, we’ll decide the “how, when, where” of publishing your book. This includes a marketing plan, where we’ll help you plan out your marketing schedule and goals.
- Editing/Copyediting—Even the best writers need an editor. We’ll connect you with one of the best.
- Cover design—This is where most self-publishers are weakest. We have an award-winning design team who will work with you to create the best cover for your book possible.
- Layout—Layout is important for eBooks, and crucial for printed books. We will help you with both.
- Social Media Support—At some point in your journey to publication, we will run our 8 week social media support service. No matter what level of social networking you’re at, we’ll help you build your following, learn the ropes, and develop you into a book-selling brand.
- Launch marketing campaign—Press releases, blog tour, book tour, you name it. We’ll make sure your book releases with as much buzz as possible.
I notice you do book cover designs. How closely do you work with your clients? Does the author get to have any input? The cover process is simple, and the author has plenty of opportunity for input. In short, our designers will work with you to decide on a cover idea, review the concept, review the draft, then the final cover will be ready.
Would you ever turn away a book that would be considered controversial? Most of the time, no. We wouldn’t usually turn away a controversial book. However, each book needs a different treatment. Our editorial & design services will usually not be a problem for controversial books, but our publicity & marketing campaigns may need some tweaking.
Self-publishing your novel takes a lot of time and effort. You are basically the editor, publicist, designer, etc. In traditional publishing more and more the author is asked to do his or her own marketing. What 3 things can authors do right now, regardless of the way they decide to publish, to help them be successful?
- Social network. This is a no-brainer, yet many authors have a hard time understanding what it means to really “social network.” It doesn’t mean you create a blog/twitter/facebook and post every once in a while. It means you make a conscious effort to brand yourself, reach out to writers, readers, and book industry professionals, make connections, and overall make yourself well-known and well-liked.
- Connect. Similar to social networking, but it focuses more on direct connections, whether face-to-face or online. It’s all about who you know, especially in the book industry.
- Master your business. Unfortunately, all creative content producers (authors, musicians, artists, etc) have to become business-minded. Once you understand your business, however, you’ll be much happier and more successful. Research it, attend conferences, talk with professionals. Know the book business, and you’ll learn how to make money with your books.
Where do you think book publishing is headed in the next 5 years? Within the next 5 years, I personally expect to see a rise in subscription services, a slight (not huge) increase in eBook vs print, a plethora of hopeful POD and eBook publishing startups that will quickly fail, and an increase in respect for self-publishing.
The increased respect is something I believe must be earned rather than given. There are many good reasons why traditionally published books are usually valued higher than self-published books. The main reason being, in my opinion, that self-published books usually don’t receive the same treatment as traditionally published books. There’s a glaring lack of editing, professional design, quality printing, effective marketing campaigns, and more. Once these treatments are recognized as necessary, self-publishing will quickly be seen as simply another avenue to publishing a book that requires up-front investment but offers higher profit margins and more control.
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