1. Where did the name "23 House" come from?
It's a long story. Don't ask.
2. How do I submit a proposal to 23 House?
Read the guidelines page. Please read the guidelines page. It contains exactly what we're looking for at any given time, so let that be your guide. If it says that we want supernatural non-fiction, don't pitch a romance novel to us. Some proposals are so far off-base that it's obvious that the author didn't bother to read the guidelines, and we usually don't have time to even respond to those. If you have something within the bounds of our current needs, though, simply email a query and we'll go from there.
3. Why does your guidelines page talk about a marketing proposal?
Because that's as important as your book outline. It's a strange world, and an even stranger economy right now. Although our distributor can place books into Barnes & Noble and other huge chains, many authors simply aren't doing well in that environment today. Many of our authors make most of their royalties from specialty shops and smaller stores that carry their books and focus on their topics. Deciding how - and where - to sell your book is critical to its success.
4. I notice that 23 House did a book called "23" - is that where the name comes from?
Enough with the publishing house name! And no, the two aren't related, just a coincidence. An interesting one, granted, but a coincidence nonetheless.
5. Where is 23 House located?
Another tough question. The main office is in a historic 1861 home built by W. Frank Stilley in Jefferson, Texas, and the books are warehoused in a stand-alone, modern, climate-controlled building across town (it's a small town, which means about ten blocks away). The people who do work for 23 House telecommute, however, which allows us to keep office costs down, and also draw from a pool of talent literally spread around the country. If an artist is sending a cover illustration to an editor and attaches it to an email, it doesn't matter if they're down the hall from each other or across the country. Meetings take place by teleconference, and it's easier than you'd think to keep things operating smoothly - technology is wonderful. There are literally 23 House folks who work together in producing a book although they have never met in real life... although they know each others kids' and spouses' names, their birthdays, etc.
6. Why don't you list a contact phone number on your website?
The easy answer is to see #5 above - because everyone is spread around, it's just not practical. Communicating by email also gives us a written record of everything, making it much easier to track deadlines, progress, commitments, etc. Finally, if you do work for 23 House you can set your own hours. The main goal is to hit deadlines, which means someone may be editing a book at 2 AM, someone else could be doing cover design on a Sunday afternoon, etc. We even have part-time and as-needed folks that have other jobs as well.
7. That sounds wonderful - can I work for 23 House?
We get that a lot, and receive resumes every week. Everyone has come from a first-hand recommendation, though. At this point no one has joined the team by submitting a blind resume. We also have no turnover - it's such a great arrangement that no one wants to leave.
8. I found a phone number and called it... and got a recording about something called The Grove. So what exactly is this Grove thing?
Remember the 1861 home mentioned above? It's listed on the National Register of Historic Places by the Dept. of the Interior, and is also a Registered Texas Historic Landmark. The official name of the structure is the "Stilley-Young House," but it is also known as "The Grove" because of the grove of Native Texas Pecan trees that surround the house. It is open for tours on weekends, where the history of the place is shared with visitors... along with a few ghost stories. The founder of 23 House and his wife live there, as well. Come visit The Grove for a tour!
9. Didn't 23 House do a couple of books for charity?
Absolutely, and they are still available. We did three anthologies several years ago, with the profits all going to specified charities. One was Make-a-Wish foundation, another was UNICEF, the third was World Vision, and all profits have gone to those charities. When sales of the books waned after a few years, as books always do, we then combined the profits from all three into one charity: World Vision, which helps to feed the children of impoverished villages around the world, while teaching the people skills to be self-sustaining. Over a thousand dollars has gone to the charities.
Update: Because the profits from the Dead Set anthology are going to the Make-a-Wish Foundation for children, we've now folded everything from the previous anthologies into that charity as well. That way we only have to write one check, and it is a great kids' cause.
10. Does 23 House pay advances?
No, we don't; in fact, most small presses don't. That doesn't mean you're missing out on any money as an author, though. The way that advances work is simple, as you'll see with this example. Suppose that you are given a $5000.00 advance on a book. You won't be paid the first $5000 in royalties, since they're applied against the advance you received. Think of it as a loan from the publisher to the author. So after six months, let's say that your book earned $500.00 in royalties - you won't get that check, it is applied to the advance, and your "advance balance" would then be $4500.00. Six months later, if your book had earned $1000, then it would be applied as well... still no check for the author, though, and the balance would be $3500. This keeps going until the book has "earned back" the $5000 advance, and then - only then - does the author start getting royalty checks. While you might get a little money up front with an advance, it could be a few years before you saw another cent. 23 House has had books that sold like gangbusters, and others that don't move at all, and in the latter case it would be a problem for the publishing house. Random House can afford to write off a big loss - small presses can't. We therefore pay royalties religiously, and we don't make money unless the author does, and vice versa. It's a fair deal for everyone involved.
11. Do you require agent representation?
No; we take submissions from individual authors as well as agents, and give them the exact same consideration. An author that we want to work with is presented the exact same contract whether that author has an agent or not. Our contract is very straightforward and simple, and is not open to a lot of wheeling and dealing. Think about it - would be we an honorable business if we gave you a higher royalty if you came in with an agent, rather than if you didn't? That would mean that we were being dishonest with the non-agented authors in that case, and since most of the people associated with 23 House are authors (and some have had one or more books published by the house), it would be the height of hypocrisy. Bottom line? Whether you are an agent or an author, feel free to submit within our guidelines. We'll be fair with you.
12. What do you charge to read a proposal or evaluate a potential manuscript? What does your contract say that an author will have to pay to get his/her book published?
Take note of this, because it's incredibly important... 23 House never, ever, never charges an author to pitch a book or read a manuscript that we're interested in, and our contract specifically states that you don't pay a single penny if we're publishing your book! But beware - there are unscrupulous "publishing houses" out there who are in the business of making money strictly from hopeful authors. You should be paid for your work, not paying a "publishing house" for the privilege of them looking at it.
13. How many books are in a 23 House print run?
There's no real answer - kind of like asking, "How long is a piece of string?" There is no exact number that we do on the initial printing; it varies depending on many factors, including sales projections, past performance of the author, perceived market demand, the printer that is being used for a particular book, etc. We typically don't discuss the print run numbers for two reasons. First, whether we print 500 or 5,000 it has no bearing on the author's royalties, or the wholesale or retail price of the book; it is something that is relevant only to the internal business of the publishing house. The second reason is very much for the same reason most businesses don't like employees to compare salaries. If Joe finds out that Jim makes $5,000 a year more than him, he might not understand and it would result in bad feelings all around. If one of our authors had a low print run and another had one much higher, the first might feel somehow slighted. It's therefore something that we keep only in our internal records. It's simply not relevant anywhere else.
14. Will my book be in a Barnes & Noble bookstore?
Since our distribution is through Ingram, the book has the ability to be in any stores. Whether a store will carry it is up to that store, and the competition is fierce in national chains. According to the Huffington Post, in 2013 for every single space on the shelf there are from 100 to 1,000 books competing (depending on the genre). In 2010, over 300,000 titles were released by U.S. Publishers - not to mention the almost 3 million independently published titles. Competition is intense. That isn't all bad news, however, because fewer and fewer books are being sold out of brick-and-mortar stores. One national chain folded just a couple of years ago, and another is closing 15% of its stores. Think back 20 years, and every mall had a music store that sold records (and then cassettes, and then CDs). I defy you to find one in a mall today - the retail music industry has changed that much. And so goes the publishing industry, from magazines to books to newspapers... things are changing that much!
15. If I sign a contract with 23 House, how long will it take for my book to be published?
Historically, I'd have to be honest and say, "A bit longer than we tell you." We tend to be optimistic with our publishing schedule, but at any given time there are a list of books in the works. Some are being edited, others are in layout and design, still others are in final production. Add to that the fact that we get a lot of manuscripts and proposals for consideration - a LOT of them - and although we do our best, delays often creep in. If a book takes longer than we expect, it adds time that will affect most of the books in the queue after it. The delays can mount, unfortunately, and although we try to reign in schedules whenever we can, we'll never sacrifice the quality of a book just to get it out the door. With that in mind, if we schedule your book for early Spring, as hard as we try to keep on schedule, it might actually be late Spring or possibly even early Summer before it is released. I hate to say that, but I'd rather be upfront with our authors.
16. Do authors get royalties on books that they purchase at their author discounts?
This is the worst question to answer, because it makes everyone here so FURIOUS at most other publishing houses!!! Believe it or not, most publishers put into their contracts that authors DO NOT GET ROYALTIES on books that they buy for the purpose of re-selling! The thing is, if a bookstore buys a book from the publisher at a 50% discount, and an author buys a book at a 50% discount, what in the world should it matter to the publisher where the sale came from? The bottom line is that a book was sold at a wholesale rate of 50% - why would the author get a royalty on one, but not the other? This is simply a way that publishers have of SCREWING their own authors and scraping a little extra money for themselves, WHEN THEY SHOULD BE TREATING THEIR AUTHORS FAIRLY AND ABOVE-BOARD, AND AS VALUABLE ASSETS TO THE COMPANY. THOSE CORPORATE BASTAR- [Hi. I'd like to take a moment to interrupt at this point. Clearly our Senior Editor who was writing this answer is extremely passionate about this topic, and is therefore incapable of replying to the question in a rational manner. The bottom line is this - although many publishers (large, supposedly reputable ones) do not pay royalties on books that the authors purchase at their discount, 23 House does. As an author, you get a royalty on every book sold, no matter to whom. Now I have to go - I hear furniture being thrown around in the next room...]
Ahemmm... let's continue...
17. What is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?
What do you mean? An African or European swallow? (Okay, so we're Monty Python fans...)