Today we are interviewing Lisa Orban, author and founder of Indies United Publishing House. Her new publishing house has just celebrated its first anniversary and already boasts over a dozen talented authors among its ranks.
So you were a retired grandmother who had been bitten by the Indie bug. What inspired you to start your own publishing house? That’s a really big step.
In 2005 I published my first book, It’ll Feel Better when it Quits Hurting, and when I hit the publish button, I had no idea what I was in for. Publishing a book isn’t intuitive, there aren’t any obvious rules to it, and I had a huge learning curve indeed to traverse that I didn’t even know was there. But, I was lucky, as I was stumbling around, several people who were impressed with my book, but could see I was lost, took me in hand and helped me get through my first year as a new Indie author. If it hadn’t been for them I would probably still be stumbling around and now I am paying their kindness forward.
By the time I had published my eighth book, I knew the ins and outs of publishing in a way that would have made my head spin when I first started and probably would have sent me scurrying away before I ever hit publish if I had realized what I was getting myself into. But it was a hard fought education, traditional publishing houses look at Indies as the unwanted stepchildren of the publishing world, tolerated but unwanted. Vanity publishers were ever on the prowl for the next hopeful author who, like me in the beginning, had no idea what publishing entailed or how predatory vanity publishers could be. And we all learn that our individual voices don’t carry very far in the din of advertising where everyone is shouting to be heard above the others.
Individual Indies can’t compete with big houses when it comes to advertising or reach, we don’t have million dollar annual budgets and we don’t generally have the connections. And it doesn’t matter how good your book is, if you can’t get your book out there in front of people, you’re simply not going to be read.
And then a little over a year ago, the idea formed of creating a co-op of authors who could work together, combining their voices and social media presence all under one roof,could have a chance of getting the attention for our books we each strive for, but rarely achieve. One voice in a million will not be heard, but a dozen, a hundred or more, all working together, could stand out above the crowd. Something like that could begin to compete with more traditional houses, while bringing more diversity of stories to our readers than any one traditional house would even consider.
We could offer help, guidance, and support to new authors and help refine already established Indie authors who joined us We could build a community of writers where we each supported and encouraged each other, shared information and helped each other find their stride without having to stumble as I did, as so many of us have. I envisioned something more than a house, I wanted to create a home for authors.
I started bouncing the idea off of others, and in the end, decided this was a viable idea and after months of planning we opened our doors on September 12th last year.
I couldn’t help but notice that your book “It’ll feel better when it stops hurting” was based on your own life experiences. In the book synopsis, you indicate that your life had been akin to an episode of Jerry Springer. Could you tell us a little more about that?
Do you remember the old Jerry Springer shows where throughout the episode they would flash something like, “Have you or someone in your family ever attended an ex’s wedding? If so, contact us with your story and you might be on the next show” – “Why yes, not only did I attend my ex-husband’s wedding but I was a bridesmaid in it!” (True story, it really happened and you can read about it in Wine Comes in Six-Packs) That’s pretty much my life right there, just one long Jerry Springer episode that’s lasted my entire life.
Have you always wanted to be a writer or did you get the urge later in life?
I’ve always been a storyteller and my friends loved to hear whatever tale I was spinning about some horrible thing that had happened, and they’d laugh and tell me, you should really write these down and turn it into a book, people would love it.
And so, one day, I sat down in front of my computer and started writing the stories my friends had loved the most, and it just ballooned out from there. My memoirs are really just a series of stories, tied together with some background for context to take people for a ride on the rollercoaster that has been my life.
So tell me, what is the philosophy behind starting a publishing house for Indie writers?
There is power in numbers and together we are stronger than any of us could ever be on our own.
It seems like a lot of your work is mentoring new writers that show promise. What is a normal day like for you?
A normal day? I don’t have normal days, I work with writers! LOL
But I guess my normal day starts out with checking my email and answering questions, giving out advice, collecting information that someone has sent about their book, updates, or dealing whatever else I might have waiting for me in my inbox. I then check all my social media and respond to people who have interacted with me since I was last on. I then go through my to-do list for my authors, adding new books, updating the site, creating new advertising, setting up for a book launch, getting all our social media out, checking on paperwork, then checking my email, social media, answering questions, updating author files, on some days I upload everything to assign ISBNs to an author’s book, submit our books to the Library of Congress, on other days I help with blurb creation, or other miscellaneous tasks needed to keep everything rolling in a continuous rotation until I call it a day.
How do you manage alone, or do you have help?
I’m happy to announce that Indies United has recently partnered with a university and we have an intern who will be working with us for graduation credit for the rest of the year. I also on occasion ask for help from one of my authors who may have a particular skill set that is useful for a project we are working on. We have beta readers who help sort out the good from the needs more work incoming book submissions. But, for the most part, I work alone to get all of this done, at least for now.
What is your definition of an Indie author? How are they different from the rest of the self-published authors out there? Also, what do you look for in potential writers wanting to join IUPH?
I know this is a question that has been much debated. My personal view is a self-published author is someone who wrote a book, published it, and now just waits for the universe to reward them without any more effort on their part. An Indie author is someone who is dedicated to their craft and is willing to continue to learn, grow and adapt as the industry changes around them. An Indie author is someone who takes pride in their work and is willing to go the extra mile to create a fully finished book.
At Indies United, we are looking for authors who are dedicated to their craft.
Have you reached a point where Indies United is keeping you too busy to write, or do you have some projects under development currently? If so, tell us about them.
I’m sad to say, here lately I haven’t had a lot of time to write, but I have started on the third book of my memoir series, Good Friends Bring Shovels. When I first started writing the second book, Wine Comes in Six-Packs, I had all these stories from the same time frame and it started to get out of hand. My solution was to divide it in half, with Wine Comes in Six-Pack focusing on the stories around my relationships and Good Friends Bring Shovels around my friendships.
I had hoped to have it ready for release in October, but that’s not going to happen. I work on it around everything else I have going on, and summer activities distracted me when I should have probably been writing. But, on occasion, I should probably leave my office and experience the outside world. I mean, how else am I going to write the fourth book if I have no new stories to tell?
How does Indies United work? (How is it different from publishers like Penguin Putnam and how is it different from self-publishing?)
Unlike most traditional houses, our focus is on our authors. Our authors are involved in everything we do here and have a say in what direction we are going. We are run as a co-op, so we don’t look at new incoming authors as possible risks, but as assets to our collective.
Our authors retain the rights to their books and control of their distribution channels and all their royalties go directly to the author from those channels, not through us. Since we do not collect a percentage of their royalties like most traditional houses, we instead, have a small fee for each ISBN we assign and an even smaller monthly advertising fee of $5 (USD) that we use to promote our author’s books.
But our authors are free to publish as they wish with us, under any genre as long as it’s well-written and doesn’t violate our ethics clause. Our authors publish when they are ready, and on their time schedule, we don’t impose any deadlines for a final product. A book is finished when it is ready and not a moment before. And we try to give our authors much of the same freedom many of them enjoyed as Indie authors, but with the added support and help of our collective.
What plans do you have on the horizon for Indies United?
Right now, we are focused on our upcoming book launches and getting our new authors settled into our collective. But, we hope to continue adding authors and well written books for our readers to choose from. We hope to begin working with libraries in the near future to get our books added to their selections and get into more bookstores as we grow bigger.
Where can writers learn more about the service you offer
If they go to our Frequently Asked Question page on our website at www.indiesunited.net/faq they will find the answers to most of their questions, and at the bottom of every page is a link to contact Indies United directly.
When you are interested, you can find Indies United here
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