Dog Ear Publishing’s Ray Robinson interviewed by Alisa Parenti on MarketWatch
Consider what Dog Ear Publishing, with 10 employees, publishing only around 50 books a month, is up against:
- Self-publishing has morphed from a field teeming with small operations to one dominated by just a few mammoth operations
- As they try to expand their market share, their competitors produce thousands, even tens of thousands of books per month
- Of their three largest competitors, one is an Amazon.com company and the other backed by a venture capital firm.
- Adding irony to the odds they face, the largest self-publishing company in the world is located just 10 miles from their office
“I get calls from authors who say they were told by our local competitor that we’re just two guys sharing a desk working from our basement. Well, we’re certainly smaller than our competitor but we all have our own desks,” says Dog Ear Publisher Ray Robinson.
But then it gets fun for Robinson.
He counter-punches the second-hand slight with a litany of reasons why his company is different. He explains why the author should take a close look at factors like how much it will really cost them to produce their book, and how much they will keep from book sales. Can they get someone on the phone when they call? What are the backgrounds of the people who run the bigger companies? “These are truly the keys to self publishing. Authors need to know how to compare apples to apples when reviewing self publishing companies,” says Robinson. “And that’s where we win every time.”
Unique in the self-publishing world, Dog Ear’s principals actually have publishing backgrounds. Publisher Miles Nelson has an extensive graphic design and printing background, and Robinson was previously a book packager for traditional publishers. Alan Harris, another publisher at Dog Ear, an acquisitions editor for a major, traditional publisher. “Our 56 years in traditional publishing gives us the unique perspectives that our competitors just don’t have,” says Nelson.
“Traditional publishers have the skill sets to create quality books, that’s why authors are and should be interested in them,” adds Nelson. “But we do too; we know the entire publishing industry. Very few, if any, other self-publishers can say that. Most of the CEO’s of the largest companies come from high-tech, Internet backgrounds.”
Then there are the nuts and bolts differences.
“Dog Ear is the only self-publishing company that doesn’t make anything from the book sales of their authors,” notes Robinson. “Many other companies retain ownership of the files used to print an author’s book; Dog Ear doesn’t. Hidden fees are a constant source of complaints about self-publishing companies. ‘Set up,’ fees, back cover copy, Library of Congress control number fees, ‘custom’ back cover copy, the list goes on and on. Dog Ear only has publishing packages and printing costs.”
On the Dog Ear website visitors are invited to call and “speak to Ray or Miles.” In self-publishing this is almost unheard of.
“Two of our biggest competitors don’t even publish phone numbers for authors to call,” remarks Nelson. “They don’t want to talk with authors at the front-end and actually answer questions unless the author is armed with a credit card and ready to pay.”
So is the ‘David’ of self-publishing slinging arrows that bounce off their competitors, or actually making headway?
“We’re growing the old fashioned way,” adds Nelson. “We don’t have anywhere close to the resources of the other big companies, so we focus on one author at a time, giving the best possible service, and getting valuable ‘marketing dollars’ from every satisfied customer who then spreads the word. It will take time, but the huge self-publishing companies, in my opinion, have created a void in the industry, a customer service void, and Dog Ear is filling it.”
“They have the capital, but we’ve got the heart,” Robinson proudly asserts. “We’re not going anywhere, and we can sleep well at night knowing we’re treating our authors as we would want to be treated.”
Dog Ear Publishing specializes in self-publishing, print on demand services and book distribution. Located in Indianapolis, Indiana, Dog Ear Publishing opened its doors in 2004. Dog Ear Publishing is small but it packs a big bark and an even bigger bite.