Red Penguin Publisher Offers Options To Traditional Book Publishing Models
by Brad Balfour
Even while electronic media gushes over the impact of… Electronic Media, millions of people over the world still love an antiquated notion called books. Though many mainstream book publishers have been consolidated into a few major imprints, there are still hundreds of small publishers and publishing services out there. One recently came to my attention as I researched publishing options for a friend’s memoir. I decided to transform my discussion into a conversation with Red Penguin Books and Web Solutions’ publisher Stephanie Larkin, whose latest book, Shared Wisdom, will be out at the beginning of March 2022.
As its founder and president, Larkin has led the company for over 15 years, working with books of all genres and helping people to “unleash their inner author” through book publishing. She publishes over 100 books a year of all types and genres. They range from business to fiction, memoirs to mysteries, children’s books, textbooks, and more. The authors hail from six different continents around the world, along with most of the United States.
Larkin has also authored Write That Book!, 365 Reasons to Celebrate! and Score with Social Media, in addition to many ghostwritten publications. She speaks before groups such as professional organizations and chambers, artists and authors on topics ranging from small business strategies to leveraging the “power of the pen.”
In addition to spearheading Red Penguin Classes – the educational wing of Red Penguin Books which offers online classes in writing and book marketing – Larkin teaches courses. Her topics range from small business management to sales and advertising in the Marketing Department at Nassau Community College, where she works with future entrepreneurs and marketing professionals.
She also hosts The Author Corner – a chance to meet authors you want to read — airing on Verizon, Optimum and QPTV. These dialogues are also featured on “Between the Covers,” a web show for readers, writers and lovers of books as well as on the “Once and Future Authors” podcast. Stephanie will be hosting a new show, sponsored by the Ahmedabad Book Club in India, which will feature writers and book lovers from around the globe. It will be released this spring.
You run a company that does print-on-demand publishing but it’s more than just that…
I run an independent small press publishing company. We publish about 120 titles annually in print, digital and audiobook formats. Yes, authors who are not interested in the added expense of bulk printing generally opt for print-on-demand. Nowadays, the quality of the two is nearly indistinguishable, as is the price differential, so it makes sense to set up books for POD rather than print thousands in advance and have the added expense/issue of fulfilling orders.
How do you find your clients?
My clients find me. Most come through referrals, or through one of our anthologies, literary journals, media events, or other exposure to our company. We’re fortunate to have quite a bit of public/social exposure. If the question is “what type of clients do we attract” – well, we publish everything from children’s books to paranormal romance, educational books to personal memoirs. Some people come to us for business-type books that will help increase their exposure and credibility in a particular field. Others have a wonderful trilogy of fiction books. Still others have a family history or passion project. We publish all sorts of books.
How do you determine your price points?
We have various packages and pricing models, depending on a number of factors, most especially the condition of the manuscript. Some authors have a finished manuscript, others are seeking guidance in working on their manuscript, and still others come to us to ghostwrite their book – thus at very different price points. Over the years, we’ve worked with hundreds of small businesses, professionals and organizations, as well as authors on their websites and ebooks.
Where did the name come from?
We were originally a web company – Red Penguin Web Solutions – and our motto was “STAND OUT with Red Penguin!” Our first logo/website looked like an iceberg filled with penguins, and just one of them was red. That one stood out! I had a vision when forming the company of a lot of things that looked the same, but where one stood out from the rest. I considered the Crimson Cow, the Lavender leaf, etc. – but I liked the color red (it is a bold, powerful color.) Penguins were “in” (think Happy Feet!) and I was broke, so it was easy for me to print in black and white, then take a red sharpie and simply color one penguin red. That’s how we got the name!
On May 21, 2007, Red Penguin Web Solutions was incorporated. I started the company out of a desire to assist small businesses, professionals and organizations with their websites, digital marketing, etc. There is a crazy sordid story involving embezzlement and intrigue that led to this decision but that’s a tale for another day! Over time, I was doing a lot more work for writers and the National Writer’s Union. It was at a conference of the National Writers Union where I was a speaker that I had an epiphany moment. Watching the speaker before me, I suddenly realized “I should do that! I should offer book publication to our clients, since I so often send them away to fend for themselves after I’ve worked on their ebooks, websites, etc.”
Thus, Red Penguin Books was conceived in 2017. Our first publications were launched on December 31, 2017. There’s a lovely story about how I decided which book would be published first – perhaps for another interview someday! I’m glad to say that our publishing division has grown exponentially each year. We’re now an independent hybrid press with several different imprints, publishing over 100 books each year. Our first book was my beloved stepfather’s memoir which was handwritten and passed down to me. We published several books by Alberto Zuppi, an international lawyer responsible for extraditing Nazi war criminals and former Minister of Justice of Argentina.
We’ve published many books whose proceeds go to various non-profits, including mental health issues, military families, suicide prevention, drunk driving prevention, sexual assault, etc. In fact we’ve published works from authors around the world and six different continents (everything but Antarctica) and have won dozens of book awards and Amazon #1 New releases among our authors each year. I’ve had multiple awards for my cable television shows “The Author Corner” and “Technically Speaking”. Most of all, I feel pride and joy from helping people change their lives and make their dreams come true through their publication.
As to publishing vs self-publishing?
Technically, self-publishing does not involve a publisher. The author does the editing, formatting, cover design, etc., and then “publishes” the book themselves. They use either a self-publishing portal (like Amazon/KDP – formerly known as Create Space), Book Baby, etc. A publisher does much the same thing but since there actually is a publisher, the person isn’t “self-publishing.” I could equate it to hiring a contractor to do your kitchen, or doing it yourself. In both cases, you end up with a kitchen. It’s a matter of who does what (plus, since the contractor presumably knows their stuff, you’ll end up with a better kitchen!) The contractor (like a publisher) probably doesn’t accept all jobs – only those he wants to do.
We have our books available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Kobo (which, along with being the largest retailer in Canada also feeds into WalMart.) Also IngramSpark (which feeds into Baker & Taylor, the database/book repository for retail bookstores and libraries) plus a host of smaller establishments. In addition, we have our books available for wholesale/bulk printing on order. A number of these books go to schools, corporate shipments, etc.
While in my view, self-publishing is the opposite of publishing, I guess the same people who think that they want to be self-published in actuality want to come to me (or another small press publisher) to do all of the work, get the distribution, handle the marketing, etc. Clients who say they want to be “self-published” probably don’t want that at all since they haven’t the foggiest idea what to do. I generally advise writers that, if they haven’t self-published before, they’re probably looking at about 100+ hours of work – after the book is written.
My honest answer to the question “Why do so many people want to self-publish?” is “Do they really know what they are getting into?” But if the question is really, “Why do so many people want to BE published?” – well, that is so true! Everywhere I go, people want to write books. I can’t walk into a room without meeting people like that.
As to your life outside of Red Penguin…
Before Red Penguin (heck, before the internet!) I was a musician and a high school music teacher. I’m still a musician. I play the piano, organ, guitar, violin, flute, sing, compose, direct choirs, etc. I also love to travel and have been to all 50 states and 23 countries so far (adding 6 more this summer.) I’ve been married for 25 years and am the mother of three amazing kids – a 24-year-old daughter who is an Air Force Intel officer, a 22-year-old son who runs our global and non-profit divisions and just returned from saving elephants in Sri Lanka, and an 18-year-old son about to graduate from high school. (My kids travel far more than I do!) I also love animals, nature, wineries, theater, good food and, of course, books!
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