In this alumni interview, Prof. Denning speaks with David Neth , an MS in Publishing graduate who has furthered his publishing career as assistant editor at Western New York Heritage and the author of the Under the Moon Series.
David Neth is the assistant editor at Western New York Heritage and the author of Under the Moon Series (The Blood Moon is the first book in the series ). He is a 2013 graduate from the M.S. in Publishing program. He lives in Batavia, NY, where he dreams of a successful publishing career and opening his own bookstore.
Professor Denning: Hi David! Could you tell me where you currently work and what is your title? Also can you please tell us a little about your author experience, a bit about your own writing and also your company.
David: I’m the assistant editor at Western New York Heritage, a quarterly history magazine for Western New York. Our staff is very small, so I’m involved in basically every aspect of the magazine process and have even been able to write several articles for the publication. This month we launched our brand new website (www.wnyheritagepress.org), which is also part of a whole rebrand we’ve been slowly implementing since I started last year. As an author, I released my first book, The Blood Moon, in August with the next book coming in February. I’ve been working on The Blood Moon since I was 15, so it was such a great feeling to finally see it in print. Being that I self-published, I’ve essentially been a one-man publishing company by laying out the print book, formatting the ebook, and finding a designer for the cover and an editor.
Professor Denning: What work is involved in self-publishing a book? Can you describe some of the work that you do and how do you reach your audiences?
David: The beauty of self-publishing is that you can be a part of as much or as little of the production end of publishing as you want. I needed to assess my strengths and weaknesses as a publisher. I can edit as best as I can by myself, but the nitty-gritty copy edits really need to be looked at by a professional, which I found on the Editorial Freelancers Association’s website. Likewise, I have very limited artistic ability, so I needed to commission the cover to be designed as well. I used 99Designs, which allowed me to post a brief of what I was looking for and designers then submitted samples that I narrowed down to the final one. Right now, I’m not focusing on reaching audiences as much as I am on expanding my catalog. However, my books are still available on major retailers such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBooks, and Kobo.
Professor Denning: Why did you decide to self-publish instead of the traditional route? How did you arrive at the decision?
David: The idea of self-publishing actually came to me when I was still in high school before the Kindle was released. At the time, the stigma was “anyone who has enough money can self-publish.” It wasn’t until I was in Professor Soares’s General Interest Books class that I realized that self-publishing had changed dramatically. At the time, my thinking was that I could self-publish just to make a couple bucks and if a traditional publisher picked it up, I might be lucky to turn out like Andy Weir or E.L. James. Shortly after I finished the program at Pace, I discovered KBoards, a forum for Kindle readers. The Writer’s Cafe is a portion of that forum where self-publishers discuss the industry and what’s working and what isn’t. There are so many success stories out there of independent authors making a decent living off of publishing their books, which inspired me to pursue self-publishing as a career rather than a hobby.
Professor Denning: Can you talk about the process? Tell us a bit about the advantages or disadvantages of self-publishing.
David: Once I have an idea for a book, I usually plot it out, write the first draft and do a couple rounds of edits (maybe 2-3 more) myself before I send it to my copy editor for another round of edits. When I get it back, I do 1-2 more edits and then I typically have someone read it over who has never read it before to clarify what needs further explanation. At that point, I’m usually talking with my designer about my vision for the cover while I’m formatting the book as an ebook and a paperback. Once I have the cover and the book is formatted, its usually about three months before release and I put it up for preorder and announce it on social media and to my mailing list.
The biggest advantage is control. I’m the deciding factor in every aspect of each book I put out, whereas with a publisher, you might not have as much say. The downside to that is that I’m not really sure what I’m doing. An established publisher has experience and knows what types of books readers are looking for. A self-publisher doesn’t necessarily know any of that. But my thinking is, everyone has to start somewhere! The major disadvantage to self-publishing is that I’m paying for all of this myself, which can be costly and holds me back from pursuing different marketing ideas because of lack of funds. Also, as a self-publisher, I don’t have the audience readily available to market to. When you’re first starting out, it seems like you’re screaming into the wind. But little-by-little, your audience will grow.
Professor Denning: I understand that you have your own blog. Can you tell us a bit about that?
David: I started the blog as a way to offer advice to other self-publishers who might not be as established as the ones on KBoards. A lot of times, someone will ask a question on the forum and someone else who has loads of readers will respond with their experience, which is great, but not necessarily realistic for those just starting out. It’s a way for me to help out fellow indie authors. Not just that, but it helps me organize my thoughts and define the direction I want to take as an author.
Professor Denning: How do you think technology will continue to impact the Publishing Industry?
David: Technology has obviously been a huge impact on the industry, just within the last eight years of the Kindle. Slowly, as self-publishers release books that are in line with those from a traditional publisher, I feel like the line between a traditionally published book and a self-published book will be blurred. Beyond that, I think authors in general will experiment a bit more with technology by releasing digital components to their books or even just releasing books outside of the standard “book” guidelines. I had a professor in Buffalo who published a “book” as part of a multimedia website. You never know what’s going to be a trend and what isn’t and I think the Internet expands the possibilities endlessly.
Professor Denning: Where do you see yourself in the future — 5 to 10 years into your career?
David: Ideally, within 5-10 years I’ll be able to make a living off of my books. Eventually I’d love to create my own publishing hub in my hometown by expanding into my own small press and publishing works by other authors. I’d also love to open my own bookstore. I’m not sure exactly what that all looks like yet, but it’s a dream I’m working toward.
Professor Denning: Please tell me a bit about how your educational experience at Pace prepared you for your publishing career.
David: Like I said before, it was because of Professor Soares’s class, among many others, that made me realize that self-publishing could be a very profitable career. Her entrepreneurship class helped ignite my desire to create a startup, which is essentially what I’m doing with my books. Beyond being an author, the program helped me learn the realities of the business. Now I’m applying that to Western New York Heritage as the organization goes through its rebranding. My boss looks to me for advice on what we should do to fully immerse ourselves in the digital world and to attract readers my age.
Professor Denning: What were some of the highlights of your graduate experience?
David: The biggest highlight for me was meeting people who shared the same passions as me. Being from Western New York, there aren’t very many publishing opportunities here. It wasn’t until I went to NYC that I realized that publishing is exactly where I want to be. The other students I had classes with were all so inspiring. They knew what they wanted to do and they were hellbent on getting there. I loved that drive! Now, almost two years later, I love it that I can stay connected with these people and we can encourage and support each other through social media.
Professor Denning: Did you do an internship(s) while getting you degree? Can you tell us a bit about your experience(s)?
David: My first internship during my time at Pace was with Psychology Today as an advertising intern. Ultimately, it wasn’t what I was looking for, but it helped me figure out that editorial is definitely where I want to be. My next internship was with Elite Traveler Magazine working in the editorial department with a Pace alumni and alongside another student. I enjoyed that internship a lot better because I got to see a whole new side of magazine publishing. My second week there, I went to a photoshoot for the cover, which was incredible. I got to put together “the wall” where the pagination was decided. That type of immersion is exactly what I was looking for in an internship.
Professor Denning: What was your topic for your thesis paper? Do you have any advice or tips for students currently writing theirs?
David: The title of my thesis paper was “Magazines in the Digital Age,” which fits in perfectly with what I’m doing currently at my job. My advice to students now would be to start early and pick a topic in the area of publishing you want to work in. While I enjoyed working in magazine publishing—and the research I did for the paper is certainly helping me today—my passion was in self-publishing. If you write about something you’re passionate in, your work will be a lot easier because you’re writing about something you enjoy.
Professor Denning: What advice would you give students entering the field to do to set themselves apart from other applicants? Do you look for anything specific on a resume or in an interview?
David: One thing that has definitely helped me through undergrad and grad school were my internships. By completing internships, you’re showing employers that you have a vested interest in the industry and are a hardworking individual. This is especially true if internships aren’t required. Besides looking good on a résumé, you’ll have more confidence in yourself and your ability to do the job if you’ve had previous experience with it. That will show once you’re hired and may even help you achieve greater things with whatever job you land at.
Professor Denning: Is there anything else you would like to share?
David: If there’s anyone interested in self-publishing, I hope my website (davidnethbooks.com) is a great resource for you! If you have any further questions, feel free to contact me!
Professor Denning: Thank you for doing this interview with us!