HM Ward, arguably one of the most successful indie published authors in recent years, may have sold over 5 million copies of her books in less than three years, but she has been anything but stingy about helping other authors. Ward has made it her mission to lift other indie authors up and that includes launching a new publishing company called HM Ward Press.
In their first joint interview, Holly, as her friends call her and her husband and business partner, Mike Ward reveal the details of the project they've been keeping hush-hush for months.
Okay, so now I'm excited. When will you launch this new press?
HM: We already have two authors under contract now. We'll hopefully release the first book after RWA. The whole concept behind the press is that these are co-authors. The first author is Stacey Mosteller. She is published. No one we're working with is new. They're proven authors. They're great writers. Most will be New Adult titles but some will be Middle Grade.
Mike: So, right now, there are two authors that are under contract, that she's tapped on the shoulder. They're thrilled to do it. It's a very different paradigm than anything traditionally done.
Can you tell us about the first book that will be released?
HM: It is a New Adult Contemporary Romance. It's what every reader is looking for when they read Damaged or Stripped or the Arrangement. It does not include any of the characters in the first books. These books are totally standalone. They're not intended to be a series, not upfront. Obviously, the potential is there for anything, but that's not how they were originally intended.
Mike: That's part of the reason why these may have not been put out already by Holly alone because if they didn't fit with her previous series that she was already immersed in, it had to be put aside for the time being. And this is a way to still get those stories out.
And how will the creative process go for the co-authors?
HM: The creative process is very similar to James Patterson's co-author program but the publishing process is very different. I have a backlist of concepts and stories that I've been building and never fleshed out or released myself; just because of time-restraints. I did a book every two and half weeks last year and I still didn't get everything out that I would have liked to. Some stories have been very well fleshed out, thoroughly outlined where I've built out the whole concept but just didn't put in the time writing them.
Mike: She has tapped a couple of people on the shoulder where they are great authors, where they write fast, they write in a similar style, they are exactly what her readers are looking for. She's providing these co-authors with the first thorough outline, going over the whole story with them, talking about the ideas the characters, what the story is going to be like when it comes alive. The co-authors are going to take that very first draft, and Holly will go through it, they'll be a process of revisions back and forth, and Holly will take it the final step, doing her own writing, whatever she hasn't already worked into it through the revision process, and then that book will be released.
So, tell me about the business behind HM Ward Press. Who gets the rights to the books? How are the royalties split?
HM: HM Ward Press is buying all rights outright. So, we own the rights, we own the book. The co-author gets full credit as co-author for their contribution, but one of the key differences is that they're getting paid a livable wage for their contribution, for really making the story happen. It's higher than the average advance from the Big 5 for genre fiction writing and that's the goal, to maintain that. So, right off the bat, they're going to get more upfront than they would if they published anything on their own.
Mike: And then following that, once the book releases, they'll continue to earn based on how it performs. They would earn additional bonuses on top of whatever they were originally paid. They'll earn far more than they ever could traditionally. There are no royalties. It is 100% transparent. The author, upfront, knows exactly what they're getting, they can watch the book perform and they'll know what they're going to get back out of it, they're much more immediately invested in how it performs, there's no waiting to earn out or months for royalty checks.
So, what are the advantages of co-authoring with you, instead of just doing a book themselves?
Mike: The way it's working right now, Holly has her fingertips on the pulse of indie publishing. She knows who's out there and so she's looking for people that write well, write fast, that have a similar style, that her readers would want to read anyway. Her readers are always looking for something new. They want what she's putting out, but people can still read a lot faster than she's able to write, and it ends up being win-win for the co-authors, for the readers, and maybe the publishers will make note of it. The co-authors are also getting the advantage of working with Holly, a talented successful author who is just a great resource for anybody that's in indie publishing, they get access to her fans and her readers and they're going to get paid substantially better than they would if they tried to become traditionally published.
Holly: There's so many talented authors out there where they're just going to be buried. It's the slushpile that moved from the editor's desk to Amazon. It's not a matter of querying, or approaching us, I'm personally tapping people that I know my readers are looking for.
How many books will you be releasing a year?
Mike: We're still ramping up and because it is so time-intensive for Holly, hopefully it'll be 4-6 books in the first year, and will increase from there. We'd love to see that output double the second year.
So, how will you promote these books?
HM: The same way I market mine--social media, web, email, etc.
Mike: Holly is in a unique position. Her readers want more. As long as it's an HM Ward book in style, and feel and content, it's more of a matter of getting the books out there to her fans than a matter of advertising or marketing.
Are you worried about oversaturating the market with HM Ward books?
Mike: At this point, I'd love it if Holly was able to slow down a little bit. She's had her health issues, she's incredibly busy, she writes tremendous hours, and if it got the point where she was comfortable slowing down where the readers wanted to see her slow down then maybe ... but, I just don't see that happening. They want the titles. They're reading a book a week. And Holly, even being Holly, can't write that fast.