Creative Byline Growing Its Base Of Customers

July 21, 2008
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HOLLAND — Globe Pequot Press and Orange Avenue Publishing have joined Creative Byline, a local Web-based service that connects writers and publishers. Creative Byline’s subscribers already include Dutton Children’s Books, St. Martin’s Press, Tor/Forge, Lyons Press, skirt!, GPP Life, Zest Books, Tor Teen and Starscape — an impressive list for a company that’s only 11 months old.

Creative Byline is an online manuscript filtering and sorting service that matches writers’ work with publishers’ criteria or genres. Founder Brad MacLean refers to it as “matchmaker.com for book publishers and authors.” MacLean spent two years researching the publishing industry before launching Creative Byline in September 2007. He sees it as a faster, less costly and more consistent way for publishers and editors to find the books they want and for writers to find the right publisher.

MacLean previously worked in product development at Herman Miller, where one of his roles was to figure out ways to develop products faster, get them to market more quickly and improve business processes. His wife is a writer who had her first book published in 2002.

“We talked about the business and how antiquated it was in terms of the number of manuscripts a publisher receives every year — 4,000 to 6,000 in the mail — and how few of them actually fit the type of books they publish. We decided there had to be a better way,” MacLean said. 

Publishers subscribing to Creative Byline receive manuscripts that match their criteria in terms of book genres and subject matter. Writers can identify publishers with the same interests and digitally submit their manuscripts for a fee of $19 for a full-length manuscript and $9 for children’s picture book. Eventually, the company will go to a membership fee instead, MacLean noted. Creative Byline only sells subscriptions at the publishing house level, rather than to individual editors. Depending on the size of a publishing house, a subscription runs from $750 to just under $10,000 a year, MacLean said.

The company has two sales reps in New York who call on publishers and demonstrate the Creative Byline Web site. The marketing effort is currently targeted at North American publishers, but MacLean anticipates it will become more international in scope. But if a publisher in the U.K., for example, found out about Creative Byline and wanted to subscribe, the company would bring them on board, MacLean said. At this time, there are about 25 other publishers considering subscriptions, he added.

On the writers’ side, the company markets its service almost exclusively on the Internet, MacLean said. It has already attracted writers from Canada, Great Britain, Ireland, New Zealand and Australia.

MacLean said Creative Bylines receives about five manuscripts per day.

Gary Krebs, group publisher for Globe Pequot press, said his company is always on the lookout for creative new ways to find exciting book proposals. His Connecticut-based company has published nonfiction works on health, style, fishing, nature, gardening, travel, art, reference and others.

“The subscription offers that and more — but with the immediacy of the Web,” Krebs remarked. “We look forward to seeing what creative romances develop from this unique system, which is like an online dating service for book proposals.”

Orange Avenue Publishing of San Francisco publishes nonfiction books for teens.

“We’re a publisher with a unique audience,” said Hallie Warshaw, publisher and creative director for Orange Avenue and Zest Books. “Creative Byline’s use of technology helps us target exactly the writers and subject matter that are right for us.”

St. Martin’s Press is one of the country’s largest publishers, with the publication of some 700 titles a year under eight “imprints,” or brand names. The company publishes a wide spectrum of books from college texts and scholarly monographs to fiction, romance, mystery, suspense, biography and cookbooks.

Dutton Children’s Books is one of the oldest children’s book publishers in the nation. Its books include the Winnie-the-Pooh stories. Dutton Books is an imprint of the Penguin Group (USA), which has 20 imprints in all.

“Obviously, we’d love to have every Penguin imprint be a subscriber because to us that would mean 20 individual customers,” MacLean said. “A lot of times a publisher wants to try it with one of its divisions, see how it works and expand from there.”

Tor/Forge, an imprint of Macmillan Publishers, publishes horror, thriller, mystery, science fiction, fantasy books and Westerns.

Presently, Creative Byline employs 12 “first reviewers” — former editors and literature professors and people who are experienced in critical review work.

A first reviewer reads manuscripts and decides which should be returned to sender, which need additional work and which are ready to be passed on to an editor. If a manuscript is not quite ready for publication, Creative Byline gives the author feedback on what needs to be improved, unlike a publisher. Most likely, the author is going to get his work returned with a mimeographed letter saying ‘Thanks but no thanks,’ MacLean said.

“That’s the advantage of submitting a manuscript through Creative Byline versus just sending it by mail to a publisher,” MacLean remarked. “In our system, if you get by the first review, you know that the publishers on our system have profiles that say exactly what they’re looking for in terms of manuscripts. There’s no guesswork involved.” 

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