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  • Shaun Baines

Kimberly Davis, Owner of Madville Publishing House

Kimberly is an accomplished writer and editor with years of experience in the world of making the written word pay. The next step? Opening her own publishing business. Find out what it takes to be a publisher and what she is looking for in your submission.

What is your goal in creating Madville Publishing house?

I love editing and working with writers. I was assistant to Paul D. Ruffin, the founder and director of Texas Review Press when he passed away in April of 2016. When he died, there was no one else to keep the doors of the press open, so I filled the gap. I enjoyed my time at Texas Review Press immensely, and though I knew from the time Dr. Ruffin passed away that it was only temporary, leaving there was bittersweet for me. For the two years that I sat in the director’s chair there (never titled as such), I devoted every waking minute to the press. When my time was up, I couldn’t just stop doing that work. I loved the authors and the work. I felt I owed it to myself to keep using those skills I’d learned there.

What I know is creative work, fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry, so that is what we are working with at Madville. Here’s our mission statement:

Madville’s mission is to present language in a playful, imaginative way. English is our first language, but we adore code switching and regionalisms from around the world. We publish poetry, fiction, and nonfiction that straddles borders. While our authors generally hail from the English-speaking academic community, our audience extends beyond the narrow confines of the academy into the popular market, particularly with regard to our fiction, where we have a tendency to stray into adventurous, fantastic, and dystopian realities.

Do you foresee any challenges in its creation?

Sure. There are plenty of challenges for all publishers in today’s market. I mean, the publishing business is the only one I know of where wholesalers can purchase your product then return the unsold portion after a few months and get a full refund. Often those books are damaged and can’t even be resold. Then there’s Amazon and Barnes & Noble. They only pay 50%, but that’s where the majority of book sales come from these days, so for the publisher and by extension, the author, to make any money at all, the book has to be exceptional, and the promotion has to be exhaustive.

The books we know that do the best are the ones whose authors really spend time and energy and sometimes money to promote. They give talks to their local Lions Club groups and Library; they set up signings and go on book tours. They attend conventions and talk on podcasts. We help them by mailing promotional copies to reviewers, writing reviews, blog posts, and social media posts, but the book won’t make it if the author is not willing to leave the house.

One other thing we have found is a great help to the success of any author is contests. We always nominate our books for any and all prizes it qualifies for. Being able to say your book is a prize winner is huge. It places you a step above the competition, and that attracts readers.

What makes you different from other publishing houses?

We bring solid book publishing industry know-how to the table. We are backed by a solid marketing and distribution team that handle our order fulfilment and reporting, so we pay our royalties on time and accurately. We may be a small publishing company, but we operate like the big guys. We don't warehouse our books in the garage or package orders on the kitchen table. I know there are a lot of indie publishers out there. Let’s face it, anybody with a credit card can set up an account with Kindle Digital Publishing and hang a shingle. However, when you do that, there is no guarantee of success, and the rules seem to change every day with self-publishing.

In addition, like the big houses, we vet our titles. Nothing is released through Madville Publishing that hasn’t been thoroughly edited. That means it goes through several preliminary readers—all of whom are well-respected published authors. We won’t place a manuscript under contract without this initial peer-review process. The manuscript then goes through several editors before it goes to press.

What are your own personal favourite books?

Forgive us, poets, but we love fiction. We are fiction writers ourselves, and that is where our hearts are. We lean toward dark, gritty, urban fantasy. It wasn’t our intention to go that direction when we started Madville Publishing, but that’s what we read in our “off” time, and guess what? Those are the manuscripts that seemed to fall into our laps, so we have several really fun, dark tales coming out.

We swoon over Neil Gammon, Brandon Sanderson, Jim Butcher, Patricia Briggs, Sir Terry Pratchett, Kim Harrison, Charlaine Harris, Brent Weeks, Douglas Adams, and Christopher Moore to name a few.

What are you looking for in a submission?

All we want at first is a simple query—not more than a page in length. Give us a bare bones synopsis and a carefully crafted author bio. We’d like to know about your publishing history. Have you had any poetry, stories, essays or articles published elsewhere? Have you won any prizes? Did you study literature or creative writing at college? (This is in no way a requirement. I’m just throwing these questions out as suggestions.) Keep in mind that this is our first look at your writing ability. If it’s sloppy, we definitely won’t ask to read the manuscript.

With poetry, we want complete collections with a unifying theme. It wouldn’t hurt to include a sample poem or two. However, don’t forget to keep an eye out for the occasional anthology call. At the moment, we are still accepting submissions for our Dancehall Poetry Anthology, edited by Janet Lowry:

For nonfiction, we want a brief, carefully crafted synopsis. Be sure to give us an idea of the tone of the work. Is it humorous? Is it contemplative? Is it uplifting? You get the picture. We need to understand why you wrote this book. Maybe it’s a memoir. Maybe it’s an essay collection on a theme.

For the fiction, we only want a page or two. Think five-paragraph theme. Intro with thesis statement, three body paragraphs to cover the main points, and conclusion. As with the poetry and nonfiction submissions, it needs to be well crafted.

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