Hello Space Cadets! Today, I wanted to offer you a gift in the spirit of goodness, inspired by everyone who made my recently passed book releases a reality. It still feels like a dream, but I appreciate you all getting into the trenches with me. I don’t do want to pester you guys, so let’s get to it! Today I bring you an interview with Chris Kennedy. Chris works at his own publishing house, which he humbly named after himself. I know most of my readers are also writers, so here is a chance to learn from another successful author and discover the publishing house that might print your next big idea!
To help you appreciate why I chose to interview him, let me tell you more about Chris. He is a bestselling Science Fiction/Fantasy author and speaker. Chris Kennedy is also a former naval aviator (we forgive him for not going Army) and elementary school principal. Chris’ stories include the “Occupied Seattle” military fiction duology; “The Theogony” and “Codex Regius” science fiction trilogies; and the “War for Dominance” fantasy trilogy. You can also get his free book, “The Death of Atlantis,” at his website.
Chris has been called “fantastic” and “a great speaker,” he has coached hundreds of beginning authors and budding novelists (including yours truly) on how to self-publish their stories at a variety of conferences, conventions and writing guild presentations. He is the author of the award-winning #1 bestseller, “Self-Publishing for Profit: How to Get Your Book Out of Your Head and Into the Stores,” as well as the leadership training book, “Leadership from the Darkside.” You can find out more about having him talk to your group here.
Chris lives in Virginia Beach, Virginia, with his wife and family. He is currently working with the Navy to help shape Navy training processes for the year 2025. He is the holder of a doctorate in educational leadership and master’s degrees in both business and public administration. On a more personal note, like so many in the Indie Writing Circle, Chris is very willing to mentor new writers (though they all likely regret accepting my friend request!) through his social media presence. He’s an overall decent fella, the kind you’d enjoy doing business with.
Now for the man, the myth and the legend to speak for himself!
Why did you decide to forgo a more traditional name for your company? Most Indie Authors try to create the illusion of the Big Five publishers by giving their publishing house a separate name.
Hi JR, first, thanks for talking with me today. Hopefully, I can help out your readers. With that being said, it’s funny you would start out with that question, as that is my biggest regret, and the first thing I would change if I started all over again.
Why did I do it? Mostly because I didn’t know any better. I needed a name to give to Bowker for my first set of ISBNs, and I didn’t have anything thought out. Why would I change it? Because even though the stigma has abated, somewhat, from self-publishing, there’s no need to slap people in the face with it. Would I have done better with a different name? I don’t know, but I wish that I had come up with something cool like, “High Orbit Publishing: Our Books Take You to Outer Space.”
Now, however, I don’t feel like going through the effort to change it, and I have a number of imprints I publish under (like the Seventh Seal Press imprint of CKP that publishes the Four Horsemen Universe books). Maybe I’ll rename and rebrand myself sometime in the future…but probably not.
I’d like to talk about your work publishing your other authors at Chris Kennedy Publishing. How did you come to this position of being ‘the boss’ for other creative types?
There were actually two things that happened, nearly simultaneously. On the non-fiction side, I was part of a marketing program with a number of people who had non-fiction books they had put together. They didn’t know how to publish their books, and they were either too busy or didn’t want to learn how to do it themselves, so they asked me to do it for them.
At the same time, I partnered with Mark Wandrey for the Four Horsemen series of books. When he pitched me the idea of joining him, part of the plan was for me to publish both of our books. Several other fiction authors saw I was doing it for him, and asked if I would take them on, as well. As my support folks had the capacity (editing, cover design, etc.), and I believed in their books, I took them on as well.
You’re an author, with several successful novels under your belt. Tell us about your works and how your writing pulled you into the publication business.
It all started with my first book, Red Tide. I never wanted to be an author, but one day I had an idea and a little time, and the book just kind of “happened.” Once I had it, though, I liked it, thought it was pretty good, and wanted to get it out to readers. How did I get involved in publishing? 80 agents and publishers said, “no” to my story, and I finally got tired of hearing the word (from the small percentage that actually answered; most did not).
I looked at what was needed to self-publish, and I quickly realized I needed a plan. Happily, though, as a 20-year military officer, planning was something I could do. I built a plan and took the story through the processes necessary to turn it into a book. The hardest thing I ever did was to push the “Publish” button on Amazon, but once I did, a funny thing happened…people bought it.
As of January 13th, I will have 12 full-length books published and over a million words in print (and I now love writing), in addition to three short stories published both by themselves and in anthologies. Of the 12 full-length books, 10 are fiction and two are non-fiction. By the time you amass that many books, or even a fraction of that number, you’ve become pretty involved in the publishing business.
As the owner of Chris Kennedy Publishing, what are you looking for in submissions?
I’m looking for great scifi and fantasy stories that are ready to go. Unlike some of the bigger houses, it’s all about the story, not that it has to have a certain message or have the right characters involved. It’s all about the story.
How do you decide which books to sign and which ones to pass on?
In addition to the story (which should be pretty polished by the time someone sends it to me), I also look at the platform the author has, and how they intend to market the book. No matter where you go these days, an author is going to be chiefly responsible for marketing their books, so it’s important for them to have an idea of how they’re going to get it done.
What types of publishing do you offer? (Tradition Publishing, Co-Publishing, Self-Publishing)
I currently use all three types of publishing, depending on the book/author. If I am fairly sure that a book will be successful, a traditional model may be appropriate; otherwise, there may be some co-publishing involved. I also do some consulting for those authors who are self-publishing and just need a little advice and guidance on how to be successful.
What sub-genres of science fiction do you prefer? Are you open to other genres as well?
I’m fairly open to most types of scifi, and fantasy as well, as long as the story’s good. With a recommendation from someone I know, I might also look at other genres (I just took on a psychological thriller), although those genres don’t play as well to my marketing strengths and mailing list (which is something I made clear to the author when he first approached me.)
With that being said, as I mentioned before, Mark Wandrey and I just started a new universe about mercenary service in future mech wars. We have opened the universe up to other writers, and if someone is interested in writing in that universe, they would probably get a bonus point or two. If anyone wants more info on what is canon in the universe, they should email me.
How does someone submit to you?
They can send the first couple of chapters to me at chris[dot]kennedy12[at]gmail[dot]com. I have a lot going on right now, but can always make room for a great story.
After a new author has signed with you, and the novel is done with the last editing pass, what do you expect of your authors? What part of the process do you cover?
Depending on the publishing model and agreement used, I can (and usually do) cover everything, although I have a couple of authors who already had their own covers that they wanted to use (these are subject to my agreement; I will not publish a bad cover). What do I expect of authors? I expect them to spread the word on their books. I will do my part, but the author has to do his/her part as well. If you just want to turn it in and move on to writing the next one, I’m probably not the right publisher for you.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Two things. First, start building your platform as early as possible. It doesn’t matter whether you go traditional, self-pub, or some hybrid of the two, you’re going to need a platform. Somewhat related to this, you should start talking about your book early, as the books I’ve seen that have failed are usually due to a marketing failure. The right time to start marketing a book isn’t when it’s released; the best time to start is four months prior to release.
I hope you all had a great time getting to know about Virginia’s best publishing house! Don’t be afraid to say hello here or on their own website. They’re always quick to respond when not searching slush piles for the next big thing! And for proof of their ability to handle a stressed-out author, Chris Kennedy is friends with my fat arse! Quick, give that sailor a medal!!
Until next time, stay frosty and don’t forget to keep your powder dry!
–> As usual, all images came from the Google’s “labeled for reuse” section or are screen grabs taken by JR Handley for use under the Fair Use Doctrine.