Sheaf House and Marcher Lord Press

(When it rains blogs it pours!) - (Also, I acciDENTally posted this on Frank's blog too) oops!

That's right! In order to keep authors informed I now present you with two publishers which aren't exactly new.

Sheaf House as been around for a while as an e-book publisher but has in the past few years moved on into print. MLP(Marcher Lord Press) is new but Jeff Gerke is not. He's been around for a while working as an editor for several CBA affiliated publishers!

These two publishers seem to be operating the same way. They deny being traditional publishers and they admit to be filling gaps in Christian Publishing. I won't get into why the gaps are there, that's an entirely different issue. :)

So what's important to know about these two new efforts?

Glad you asked.

* They aren't affiliated with the Christian Booksellers Association.

* They both say they are not traditional publishers

Why is this important? Because if you're looking for a traditional publisher, this is not the route you want.

What makes a publisher tradtional?

Three very important things.

1. They pay an advance.

2. They pay STANDARD royalties. (There actually is a rule of thumb.)

3. They have a distributor who utilizes Baker & Taylor or Ingram in their wholesale capacity or they use Baker & Taylor or Ingram as their distributor.

Why are traditional publishers sought after?

* They CAN, with their set-up, give you the absolute best chance to get in the bookstores. (except for CBA affiliated bookstores as they primarily only take books by publishers affilated with the CBA/ECPA.)

*They CAN, with their distributor, ensure that your book will get the best chance it has to sell.
But most people aren't patient enough to go this route and it's understandable.

That's when publishers like Sheaf House and MLP step in. Just keep in mind, while they can get you sales on-line, they do not offer you the BEST chance at getting in a bookstore, CBA affiliated or otherwise. They don't have the level of distributorship to do this. Publishers who operate as these two do, often de-emphasize the importance of this but they are no substitute for a traditional publisher if that's what you're looking for.

I myself find Sheaf House particularly interesting because they claim to want to support speculative fiction. I would like to put one word out about that. I've seen their company as recently as today described as an CBA/ABA publisher.

First off, they are not a CBA affiliated publisher and secondly their is no such thing as an ABA publisher.

I'm not sure what the accurate name for their type of publishing is, perhaps small press but neither Sheaf House or MLP fit the criteria to call themselves traditional. Good thing is, neither one of them do. That, IMO, is what makes them a class act! :)

They are an alternative to traditional publishing but they can't offer you what traditional publishers can. And traditional publishers are not all bad. In fact, very few of them are.Here is the about me page to both publishers.

Notice that since both of these houses tend to cator to the Christian Publishing Industry they both use the terms CBA and ABA to talk about markets and publishers. This won't really be significant to anyone reading but it should be. CBA is a niche market of the Christian Publishing Industry and ABA isn't a market at all.

Links to these two publishers follow:



Another interesting thing about Sheaf House is that they just published Michelle Sutton a fine reviewer and an upstanding member of the ACFW!
Wonder if her book will be eligible for BOTY?
Hmmmmmm . . .


Deb said...

I'll defer the definitive comment about Sheaf House to the publisher, but there are several points that need clarification.

The owner/publisher, Joan Shoup, has not been at this very long. She herself calls SH a "start-up". Their first book has just been released, and Michelle Sutton's, the second, is not due out until August '08.

SH is a small press doing short print runs, not an e-publisher. And Joan is known to be spec-fic friendly by her own statement on her blog--she is after fiction that doesn't fit the increasingly restrictive (and decreasing in number) mainstream Christian pubs (publishingdream.blogspot.com). She is considering my time travel romance as I write this (G).

Joan is well respected, has a long background in publishing, and started her own house because of the lack she perceived of quality, not-in-the-box Christian fic.

Any remaining errors in this post are mine. I hope Joan will soon weigh in on SH and what it is and is not.

TWCP Authors said...

I hope she doesn't fill obligated to weigh in. LOL I welcome what she's doing along with what MLP is doing. I just like authors who are seeking traditional publishers to know how to tell the difference and why there is a difference.

Traditional publishers offer all authors the BEST chance at getting in bookstores. (except of course bookstores affiliated with a niche market, duh (the duh was for me. LOL) These publishers like Sheaf House and MLP only offer a slim chance.

No big deal since both of these houses state that up front. I am concerned when an author affiliated with either of these houses infers as Michelle does (for whatever reason which I'm sure is innocent) that they are a CBA/ABA publisher.

It's a very misleading statement. To the best of my knowledge neither of these houses are CBA/ECPA affiliated and don't want to be. I know you don't want to be. LOL

How cool would that be if they took you on?!!!

Yes, I'm rooting for you.

If they do, ask them if your book can be considered for the BOTY. I know you already know the answer. See if they know.

Oh, and no they're not an e-publisher but they used to be. I did say that in the original blog, didn't I?

Now I have to go back and look.

TWCP Authors said...

Okay, the last comment and this one was from me, Sue Dent. I forgot to log out of the TWCP account. Arrrrgh.

Deb said...

I'm told based on one-on-one communication with the ACFW book of the year coordinator that no small press need apply for that honor. They've adopted the RWA's bar to entry at 1500 copies sold of a single title not the publisher's own work. Since Joan's house will not have sold that many by September, I doubt Michelle's book will qualify no matter how excellent its quality.

And it promises to be a horking good read. She's an excellent writer; I've been privileged to see some of her pre-pubbed work.

This is my main beef against these restrictive rules: quality alone should tell. Michelle's book, sold to Harlequin or any other house, would be essentially the same book in the same author's voice. So what's the issue? Why bother limiting entry to a single group of publishers? Or limiting the type of books that can enter unless you have an unspoken agenda?

I rest my case.

TWCP Authors said...

Congratulations to both these organizations. Writers and readers of speculative fiction can only benefit from additional presses willing to take the risks that the large ones won't.

I think it is wise for both to step gently into the publishing arena. Once a baseline of success has been achieved, they can then look into distribution. However, distribution costs money, naturally, and eats into profits.

And, distribution still carries no guarantees of being placed on book store shelves. Book stores need to be lured into doing so . . . if the novel is not in demand or well known, few stores will be willing to give it much of a chance. It is a waiting game until the press has made a name for itself and is "trusted" by book store owners/ buyers.

--cyn (the real TWCP) :)

Sue Dent said...

LOL at Cyn. It was an acci-DENT!!!

Oh, I've already been told that no book can enter the BOTY unless it is published by a CBA affiliated publisher. But the ACFW has yet to make this distinction public. I fear it's because it isn't true. I think they'll accept whoever they want which is fine so long as they make that clear. They haven't yet--at least not to the public.

CSFF had no trouble complying when given a similar scenario. Intially they said they toured all books except those by self-published and independent presses.

Now they've changed that to simply say books published by legitimate traditional publishers. Then they added to that, "or whoever our commitee deems is appropriate to tour."

Doesn't matter that the added part sort of negates the first part, they added this to their site so no one would have to wonder.

I just think any Christian publisher stepping into the arena needs to be very carful how they represent themselves. If they aren't affiliated with CBA they should make sure that's brought to light.

Sheaf House and MLP are definitely on the right track but they could be severely knocked off track by saying they're a CBA/ABA publisher.

They both formed because the CBA/ECPA content restrictions were too evangelically conservative to let good stories of all genres get published. It doesn't make sense to say you're looking to provide this niche market with good books they'll never touch. So far neither house has said this. But they do often refer to the Christian Publsihing Industry as the CBA market and the secular publishing industry as the ABA market.

It can get very convaluted and confusing. No one outside the Christian Publishing Industry, including CBA affiliated publishers and authors use these terms to mean just that.

It's reflective of CBA/ECPA NOT asserting that they are the niche market that they are.

Deb said...

You're absolutely right, IMO. Why come above the radar scope if they can fly comfortably (and unchallenged) below it?

And we're sloppy. We use CBA and ABA as though it were a dichotomy, and as though these terms explain everything one needs to know about Christian fiction and everything else. We should get away from this bad habit.

Anyone want to nominate some other verbal shorthand?

TWCP Authors said...

The terminology around the publishing industry is a fascinating subject on its own.

I've noted that industry folks do not use these terms -- they don't call mainstream books/ publishers ABA nor Christian books/ publishers CBA. They understand the difference and do not use the terms erroneously -- why do so many in the Christian publishing industry (or hopefuls, for that matter) do it?

Now, I have to admit that I prefer to communicate with precise vocabulary so that my intentions/ statements are clear . . . so it's probably my pet peeve alone.

In the blog/ article I put up Thursday at the LGG, Dr. Simon Morden uses the description: the ghettoisation of Christian writers. Authors fall so easily into this trap by following the lead of the big boys. Perhaps it is because the ECPA is what all Christian authors have been told to aspire to -- the myth that "we're the only game in town" perpetuated by the ECPA itself.

Time to open our eyes and check out the new guys on the street -- the Marcher Lord Presses and the Sheaf Houses and the Tsaba Houses.


Sue Dent said...

AND the TWCP's. Sheesh, pat yourself on the back. Okay, I'll do it. No, come back! I wasn't gonna smack ya that hard. Yikes! Put that bat down.

Hey, Deb, do this. It's amazing. Go to goole and search on ABA publisher. Then search on CBA publisher. Notice that the only time these terms are used is when Christian's are talking about the publishing industry.

They've been programmed to talk this way by listening to those who've failed to mention why they use these terms.

And how do you explain terms that don't make sense even if you're using them just between publishers. You have CBA affiliated publishers and then you have Christian publishers who aren't affiliated or are affiliated with other orginizations. Perhaps their own.

As far as ABA publishers or market, there never has been such a beast. Sheaf House explained to me that when they say this they mean targeting bookstores that are ABA affiliatd. Well, this certainly made them look smarter to me but even at that, this doesen't even encompass ALL of Independent Bookstores, just some and why don't they want to market to the bigger booksellers.

The truth is that they most assuredly do but it would be helpful if everyone used the correct terminology. Not just those outside the Christian Publishing Industry.

Sheaf House and MLP seemed to have a much better grasp of this than some of the other houses I know that use these terms. :)

I'm so excited for you though. I hope it works out. You can keep 'em straight. LOL

Sue Dent said...

Okay, I meant google this and not goole this

And Sheaf House and MLP "seem" not "seemed"

Good grief!

Jefferson Scott said...

Greetings, all.

Thanks for talking about these small presses. As publisher of Marcher Lord Press I'm especially interested in such discussions.

My I please make a few clarifications? First, MLP is not a CBA publisher (nor an ABA/BEA publisher). At least not in the sense of being a member of the CBA organization. But in terms of being a Christian (as opposed to a secular) house, then MLP is that. It's a Christian house, and some people therefore say it's CBA. I'm okay with it in that sense.

Second, I'm pleased to see that Sheaf House is open to Christian speculative fiction. It's definitely a need in the Christian fiction industry (notice how I didn't say "the CBA"?).

However, the original blog post seems to indicate that Sheaf House is interesting because it is focusing on speculative fiction (implying that MLP is less interesting because, supposedly, it is not focusing on speculative fiction). Perhaps I've misinterpreted?

Anyway, please pay a visit to www.MarcherLordPress.com. If you do, I believe you will see that MLP is doing nothing but Christian speculative fiction. It is associated with its sister site, www.WhereTheMapEnds.com, which is one of the premier sites dedicated to Christian speculative fiction.

Third, you say that Sheaf House specializes in short print runs. I think you were perhaps making a distinction between actual print publishing and e-publishing? I don't know if SH is truly doing short print runs or is using POD, but it's an important distinction. Not in the sense of making one better than the other. Not at all.

Traditional publishers make long print runs in the tens or hundreds of thousands, hoping to sell them all but planning to warehouse what hasn't sold yet.

Smaller houses may specialize in short print runs, which are runs in the hundreds or thousands. Again, they hope to sell them all but they have to store what hasn't sold yet.

POD (print-on-demand) gets a bad rap, possibly because it has for so long been associated with vanity publishing. However, POD is simply a technology, not a philosophy.

With POD, you don't print thousands or even hundreds. You print simply the number you need right when you need them. If you have orders for 54 units, you have the POD printer company print 54 units and mail them to the customers.

MLP is using POD technology to avoid the large print runs, warehousing, shipping, and returns involved in large or short print runs.

Fourth, you say that SH and MLP are not your best chance for getting into bookstores. That's certainly true. But it seems to imply that SH and MLP might offer pretty good (just not as good) chances of getting into bookstores.

I can't speak for SH's model, but I can say that MLP isn't even trying to get into bookstores. Not one. It's a different model that bypasses the bookstore industry altogether.

Fifth, you say MLP doesn't pay an advance and doesn't use normal royalties. Well, it's true that MLP doesn't pay an advance (I do actually pay a very, very small one), and it's true that my royalties aren't normal.

However, "not normal" isn't necessarily a bad thing. If you were to go with a traditional publisher your royalty rate would be around 16%. MLP authors get 50%. So, yes, not normal--but in this case it's much better than normal.

And, because the advance is negligible, the author doesn't have to wait until the advance is earned back by the publisher before getting his or her royalties.

I hadn't heard about Sheaf House before this blog, so I'm grateful for it for that reason, too. I wish Joan and SH every success. We're part of how the entire publishing industry is being redefined.

The existence of our houses represents a win especially for fans of Christian speculative fiction. Please patronize both houses.

Marcher Lord Press launches, God willing, on October 1 of this year. I invite you to get on over to the site and sign up for the prize drawing we'll be having on that day. Trust me, you'll like it. It's a trip!

Plus, for every person who signs up and tells me that YOU referred him or her, your name goes back in the prize hat another time.

Thanks again, folks.

Jeff Gerke
Marcher Lord Press

Deb said...

I sincerely commit (here, in public, yes) not to use the term CBA ever again. It obviously "does no' mean wha' you theenk it means" (Inigo Montoya).

You can quote me ! (G)

Sue Dent said...

Well, hello Mr. Jeff Gerke! So much to say. LOL But that's why I posted your About page. Everything you've said here, is there. Nothing wrong with saying it again though. :)

and some people therefore say it's CBA. I'm okay with it in that sense.

In no sense, oustide the Christian publishing industry is this term used. By saying or implying that this means you're a Christian publishers, just gives the impression that a niche market is in fact representative of the entire Christian publishing industry. Some seem to be okay with this. I'm find it difficult to be okay with this. CBA only means you are affiliated with the Christain Booksellers Association.

the original blog post seems to indicate that Sheaf House is interesting because it is focusing on speculative fiction (implying that MLP is less interesting because, supposedly, it is not focusing on speculative fiction). Perhaps I've misinterpreted?

Yes you did misinterpret. LOL Sheaf House is interesting because they are trying to feel the gap CBA afffiliated publishers have left and many other small presses are doing this as well and I'll list them too. (hey, there's TWCP in fact.) I did fail to mention that MLP's only focus is Speculative Fiction which does make the a little more interesting to folks like me. Sufficed to say, a LOT of houses now cator to Speculative fiction. MLP I think is the first to specilize in this area. YAY!

Third, you say that Sheaf House specializes in short print runs.

I think Deb brought this up. I have looked at Sheaf Houses site and I've look on absolute write to find that they used to be an e-publisher but have now moved into print. As far as whether they use POD technology or not, I don't know. I just know they're not a true traditional publishers. But neither do they say they are.

Fourth, you say that SH and MLP are not your best chance for getting into bookstores. That's certainly true. But it seems to imply that SH and MLP might offer pretty good (just not as good) chances of getting into bookstores.

Sheaf House seems to infer you'll have a chance at getting you in bookstores. MLP states plainly on the about page, that they could care less about this. No real inferrence. Just the facts.

The biggest fact reamins that neither house is an authors BEST chance at getting in bookstores. So, if that's what you're looking for, the type houses won't get you that. :)

Fifth, you say MLP doesn't pay an advance and doesn't use normal royalties. Well, it's true that MLP doesn't pay an advance (I do actually pay a very, very small one), and it's true that my royalties aren't normal.

What I said was a true traditioanl publisher pays standard royalties and advances and has a relationship with one of the larger distributors. (that's how they get in bookstores.) I didn't mention your royalties or even Sheaf Houses because Sheaf House doesn't list theres and yours are on your about page. The reason I mentioned at all was to make sure everyone knew neither house was a true traditional publisher. Which is only important for those who are looking for this.

I hadn't heard about Sheaf House before this blog, so I'm grateful for it for that reason, too. I wish Joan and SH every success. We're part of how the entire publishing industry is being redefined.

There are quite a few others I'll be listing too. So be on the look out for my exciting news. I don't think it's so much about redefining an industry as it is in fixing one. CBA affiliated publishers have neglected to let everyone know that they're in fact a niche mareket with conservative evanglical guidelines. Even now they maintain they're not in most cases.

Because they've been looked at for so long as the only ones, traditional Christian publishers have failed to be noticed. Now these publishers can get the attention they deserve.

Deb said...

I do hope & sincerely pray that SH and MLP create a lot of buzz and succeed beyond their highest dreams of prosperity.

However (and this is fairly big) having been associated with both an e-press and a small press with POD/small runs, I can say from experience that bookstore placement is important. No sooner did I announce a release on a readers' loop or to friends and associates, than they said, "Terrific! When can I waltz into Borders or B&N or Books-a-Million and pick it up?"

They did not want to order it online. They did not want it as an e-book. They did not like green eggs and ham...

Oops, sorry, that's a different tale.

If I could advise ANY small press or startup, the first thing I would recommend is for them to diligently seek a good distributor and large chain store placement. For some reason, despite Amazon (who takes so deep a discount, I'm told, that most small presses can't afford to work with them), people still love to amble around their local brick-and-mortar store and see your book available for sale with all the others.

My take.

Sue Dent said...

But getting the relationships with the distributors that can offer authors the BEST chance of getting into brick & Mortor stores is EXPENSIVE. That's why you'll see many non-traditional presses downplaying this aspect of getting a traditional publisher by saying that it doesn't matter.

It does matter and traditional publishers are sought after for this very reason.

And here's something I didn't point out about Jeff's comments. You're lucky if a traditional publisher gives you 16% on royalties. It's usually far less. It's the standard. Why so little? Because they have the potential to sell a lot.

And LOL at you and your CBA self. I'm proud of you if that means anything. CBA used in its proper form is fine IMO. But to use it when referring to a publisher who is not CBA affiliated is just not accurate and is not only misleading but something I think CBA needs to hear about. CBA stands for Christian Bookseleers Association and that's it. They're a niche market and if you don't pay the money to belong, I doubt seriously they want you using their name.

But then, that's just what I think.

Anonymous said...

CBA affiliated publishers have neglected to let everyone know that they're in fact a niche mareket with conservative evanglical guidelines. Even now they maintain they're not in most cases. -- Sue Dent

This tactic used to be called "Sheep in Wolves' Clothing"; camouflage your "conservative evangelical" credentials until the mark is deep in the trap; then drop the camouflage, bring out the Bibles, and start with the high-pressure Witnessing (TM).

During the Satanic Panic of the late Seventies/early Eighties (thank you, Mike Warnke), our D&D club was on alert for anti-D&D "Sheep in Wolves' Clothing" infiltrators.

TWCP Authors said...

Ken, I enjoy reading your responses! My husband is an old D&D gaming geek (it was one of the few "racy" things his mother allowed he and his sister to do) so I laughed at the idea of Christian evangelists infiltrating D&D groups. I can just picture it. Since I didn't know Warnke from a hole in the ground (though Frank says that he does), I decided to Google the name and came up with this old article (1990): Christian Comedian and Author of The Satan Seller Ex-Satanist Mike Warnke Fabricated Story, Critics Charge.

Of course, this fear-mongering still occurs today and is often put into action by ultra-conservatives who, in my opinion, play upon fears to keep straying subjects in line. Nothing rallies the troops like a common enemy striking at the foundations of the cause.


Anonymous said...

I've got a copy of Selling Satan, the book-length expansion of the Cornerstone exposure of Warnke as a fraud. Quite an eye-opener, considering how much damage the Satanic Panic did before it ran its course.

And the aftershocks continue:

This article from the online game zine Places to Go, People to Be details the gamer reaction to The Satanic Panic, including the rise in Dark Fantasy gaming and the fact that "Christian" came to be spoken in the same tone and context usually reserved for "Nazi".

This article from the Youth Specialties website asks "Christianity has redeemed many other fringe youth cultures—we're prepared to become all things to all people .... But how many of us will be brave enough to enter the world of ... 20-sided dice, miniature dragons, and 2 a.m. pizza runs?" (Note the beginning of the article, where two Christian gamers meet at a Christian summer camp, each dancing around the subject like they're trying to make sure the other isn't a secret police informant before they reveal themselves.)

On a Christian Furry Yahoogroup I'm on, one of the listers reported a relative crowing with glee at the news of Gary Gygax's death -- "Now he knows all about Hell!"

And my writing partner (a burned-out country pastor) told me of a Christian father's overreaction to learning his son played D&D -- involuntarily commited the kid to a Teen Challenge halfway house and upon his release forced him to choose between a D&D manual and a Bible.

You see, I've spent a LOT of time in the trenches.