by Lucy Zhang, US East Blogger jaBlog!
Michelle Halket is the founder of Central Avenue Publishing. She used to work in account management and market research, both of which have aided her in her publishing company. She has a master’s degree from the University of Waterloo.
Currently, in addition to publishing quality books, Central Avenue Publishing distributes books published by ireadiwrite Publishing, Saberlee Books, and their romance imprint, Everheart Books. The company has also embraced Ebooks, following the modern trend of digital media.
What got you into the publishing business?
Unlike many in the publishing industry, I didn’t work in it before. I’ve always been an avid reader, and the idea for this company actually started with a conversation about six years ago that it should be easier for authors to get their work out there. Ebooks were in their infancy, and being a technophile, I found the whole idea of a low cost, environmentally sound way to publish books really intriguing.
The first iteration of Central Avenue Publishing was ireadiwrite Publishing, which was basically a DIY type of venture where we would take anything that anyone submitted and put it into the various ebook formats and sell it on our website. Within six months, I wanted a change. I wanted to feel really passionate about what I was helping to put out into the world, and so we adopted a more traditional publishing model.
What things do you look for in an author’s writing?
For me, there are three elements to a book: writing, characters, and plot. A great book is great in all three of those areas. You could have a book which has realistic and developed characters and engaging, original plot lines but lacks in the writing department. With editing, it can still be a good book. So for me to publish a book, the author should have built at least two of those elements well, and we’ll work together on the other element.
How has market research and account management given you experience and a leg up in the publishing business?
I think that having a more analytical brain enables me to step back and view a situation in context with what else is happening in areas that affect reading and book trends, like technology and the way people read, create, and share. Being able to step out of a project is important. Authors can get very wrapped up in themselves and their work and are often unable to do this without help. So while they may write something that they’re passionate about, it may not be the book that will resonate with readers, or they may envision a cover that isn’t on trend and won’t get noticed.
I hope I can bring an aspect of objectivity and clarity to the process. Publishing is an old business, and I believe the people who are doing well in publishing today are those who are thinking differently from the way things used to be done. Perhaps not having a background in publishing is helping me since I’m not accustomed to the way things used to be done. I don’t know yet though—we’re only five years old, and while things are going well, we still have lots of challenges.
If you had to choose one book that every young writer should read, what would it be?
One of the pivotal books I read when I was starting this business is The War of Art by Stephen Pressfield. I think it demonstrates very clearly and succinctly the struggles that writers must overcome.
What do you enjoy most about publishing?
For me, I love going through the whole process of bringing a group of 100,000 words to being a fully printed book. It’s kind of like having a child. You foster it along and then let it go into the world. But specifically, by far my favourite task in that process is cover design. It’s my chance to be creative.
What has been your biggest struggle in publishing?
Our biggest challenge is trying to get distribution into bricks and mortar stores. With paper books in decline, and fewer bookstores around, it’s near impossible to find anyone to represent our print titles. That said, I often wonder if it’s worth the effort. After all, the majority of our revenues come from digital, and all signs point to continued success in that segment.
What influenced your decision to speak at the Junior Authors Conference, and what do you plan to speak about?
I met Laura last year through one of our writers, Darlene Foster. We both live in the Vancouver area, and I was honoured when she asked me to speak to the group. I will be talking about what the different publishing models are and about what an author needs to get started and how to know which publishing form is right for each author.
You can purchase tickets and register for the Junior Authors Writers Conference in Richmond, BC on Saturday, October 18th in the LTC Store. Financial need scholarships are available thanks to our sponsors.