In 2005, we knew we could build a better mousetrap. Then, by October 2006, we did it. That fall we had two full-time employees and maybe five authors. Today, we have 27 full-time and 10 part-time employees. Our author list is more than 1,500 titles (in our Mill City Press division). In 2009, Hillcrest Media Group became the majority shareholder of Mill City Press. Hillcrest Media Group provided a powerful backend for Mill City Press and the technical expertise to grow and provide authors more and better services. For example, Hillcrest Media Group's patent-pending eBook conversion and publishing system (PublishGreen.com) has been integrated into Mill City. Being part of the Hillcrest Media Group family of publishing companies allows Mill City Press to offer much more than a single-focused self-publishing company ever could.
We didn't need venture capital groups, a bunch of MBAs, or the unlimited budget of a massive corporation in order to figure how to do it right. It was simple, really.
In order for self-published authors to have a shot, they have to be able to set their book's retail price at a level competitive with comparable titles in their genre. When we entered the industry in 2006, the printing markups were astronomically high - on average 75-100%. This one fact made it virtually impossible for authors to ever price their books correctly, thus crushing real chances for sales (other than to family and friends). Since almost every self-publishing / print-on-demand company uses the same printer, we knew exactly what everyone else paid. Instead of marking up printing by outrageous percentages, we did what no other company ever dreamed of doing -- we charged the exact wholesale price for print-on-demand. Yes, we chose to give up a profit center in order to help authors. Unlike other companies, we don't tell you that you can price your book at whatever you’d like (to make up for huge printing markups) and still get people to buy it. That's simply not the way the world works.
It's hard to believe that only five or so years ago, not one self-publishing company offered true 100% net royalties. Today, it's more common. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Again, our philosophy was simple -- the author is taking all of the up-front financial risk, so why shouldn't he or she get all of the rewards? A true 100% net royalty means that after third-party sales and distribution fees (e.g., Amazon's fee, a wholesaler's fee, printing fees , etc.), all the rest of the money made on the sale of a book goes to the author. Many companies copied our “100% royalties” but left out one important fact -- when they told their authors to calculate their “100% royalties”, these companies failed to mention that they were actually marking up the print cost by 75-150%. So, yes, authors were getting a 100% net royalty, but only after the publisher had double-dipped.
We have in-house graphic designers (who handle book covers and interior formatting). We have an in-house editing staff. We have an in-house PR department. Our marketing department is in-house. See a pattern here? We know what it takes to make a great book. We always provide our authors with industry-leading advice in order to give the author's book the best chance of success.
Every company offers print-on-demand distribution through online retailers. At Mill City, we go a step further and, for those authors who want and need that extra push, offer expanded distribution options that include pitching the author's book to wholesalers, retailers, and libraries. Most companies don't offer this because it's not easy. But, through Hillcrest Media Group, we are able to connect to dozens of wholesalers and retailers, and also provide our own website fulfillment service.
At Mill City Press, you can be published under one of our imprints or can publish under your own company name by getting your own block of ISBNs.
At the end of the day, whether you're self-published or a mid-list author at a major publisher, you have the same issue -- how to get potential readers to find out about your book. Mill City Press and our parent company, Hillcrest Media Group, continue to invest in and develop methods to target potential readers. We want online customers already searching for topics like yours to find and purchase your book. Hillcrest Media Group owns 1,200+ publishing-related domain names and in 2012 will be launching dozens of specialized directories for specific book genres. Our book directory, Published.com, is going to serve as a platform for connecting authors directly to bloggers. And, we have a partnership with a 100+ store coffee chain that is dedicated to marketing and promoting independent authors to a new potential consumer base.