Even though electronic media spring from the impact of… ELECTRONIC MEDIAmillions of people around the world still love an outdated notion called books. And although many mainstream book publishers have been consolidated into a few large publishing houses, there are still hundreds of smaller publishers and publishing services. One recently caught my eye while researching posting options for a friend’s memoir. I decided to turn my discussion into a conversation with Stephanie Larkin, publisher of Red Penguin Books and Web Solutions, whose latest book, “Shared Wisdom,” will be released in early March 2022.
As founder and president, Larkin led the company for more than 15 years, working with books of all genres and helping people “unleash their inner author” through book publishing. She publishes more than 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, as well as most of the United States.
Larkin is also the author of “Write That Book!”, “365 Reasons to Celebrate!” and “Score with Social Media“, in addition to numerous ghost-written posts. She speaks to groups such as professional organizations and chambers, artists and authors on topics ranging from small business strategies to harnessing the ‘power of the pen’.
In addition to running Red Penguin Classes — the educational wing of Red Penguin Books that offers online courses in book writing and marketing — Larkin teaches classes. Her subjects range from small business management to sales and advertising in the marketing department at Nassau Community College, where she works with aspiring entrepreneurs and marketing professionals.
It 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 Blankets,” a webcast for readers, writers, and book lovers, and the “Once and Future Authors” podcast. Stephanie will host a new show, sponsored by the Ahmedabad Book Club in India, which will feature writers and book lovers from around the world. It will be released this spring.
Q: You run a business that does on-demand publishing, but it’s more than that…
SL: I run a small independent publishing house. We publish approximately 120 titles per year in print, digital and audiobook formats. Yes, authors who aren’t interested in the added expense of bulk printing usually opt for print-on-demand. These days the quality of the two is almost indistinguishable, as is the difference in price, so it makes sense to set up books for POD rather than printing thousands of them up front and having the expense/ additional issues with order fulfillment.
Q: How do you find your customers?
SL: My clients find me. Most come from references or one of our anthologies, literary journals, media events, or other exposures to our business. We are blessed with quite a bit of public/social exposure.
If the question is “what kind of customers do we attract” – well, we publish everything from children’s books to paranormal romance, from educational books to personal memoirs. Some people come to us for business type books that will help increase their visibility and credibility in a particular area. Others have a wonderful trilogy of fiction books. Still others have a family history or a passion project. We publish all kinds of books.
Q: How do you determine your prices?
SL: We have different pricing plans and models, depending on a number of factors, most notably the condition of the manuscript. Some authors have a finished manuscript, others are looking for advice on how to work on their manuscript, and still others come to us to write their book – so at very different prices. Over the years, we’ve worked with hundreds of small businesses, professionals, and organizations, as well as authors on their websites and eBooks.
Q: Where does the name come from?
SL: 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 only one of them was red. This one stood out!
I had a vision – when starting the company – of many things that looked alike, but where one stood out from the others. I considered Crimson Cow, Lavender Leaf, etc. – but I liked the color red (it’s a bold and powerful color.) The penguins were “in” (think “Happy Feet”!) easy for me to print in black and white, then grab a red marker and just color a penguin red. That’s how we got the name!
On May 21, 2007, Red Penguin Web Solutions was incorporated. I started the business out of a desire to help small businesses, professionals, and organizations with their websites, digital marketing, etc.
Over time, I was doing a lot more work for writers and the National Writers Union. It was at a National Writers Union conference where I was a speaker that I had an epiphanic moment – looking at the speaker in front of me, I suddenly realized “I should do this! I should offer book publishing to our clients because I so often send them off to fend for themselves after working on their ebooks, websites, etc.
So Red Penguin Books was conceived in 2017. Our first publications launched on December 31, 2017. There is a great story about how I decided which book would be published first – maybe for another interview one day ! I’m happy to say that our publishing division has grown exponentially every year.
We are now an independent hybrid press with several different publishers, publishing over 100 books each year. Our first book was my beloved stepfather’s memoir which was handwritten and passed down to me. We have published several books by Alberto Zuppi, international lawyer responsible for the extradition of Nazi war criminals and former Argentine Minister of Justice.
We have published many books with proceeds going to various non-profits including Mental Health Issues, Military Families, Suicide Prevention, Drunk Driving Prevention, Sexual Assault, and more.
In fact, we’ve published works by authors around the world and six different continents (all but Antarctica) and won dozens of book awards and Amazon #1 new releases among our authors every year. I received several awards for my cable TV shows “The Author Corner” and “Technically Speaking”. Above all, I feel pride and joy in helping people change their lives and achieve their dreams through their publication.
Q: As for publishing vs self-publishing?SL: Technically, self-publishing does not involve a publisher. The author takes care of the editing, layout, cover design, etc., and then “publishes” the book himself. They use either a self-publishing portal (like Amazon/KDP – formerly known as Create Space), Book Baby, etc. An editor does much the same thing but since it actually exists East an editor, the person is not “self-published”. I could equate this to hiring a contractor to do your cooking or doing it yourself. Either way, you end up with a kitchen. It’s a matter of who does what (plus, since the contractor probably knows his stuff, you’ll end up with a better kitchen!) The contractor (like an editor) probably doesn’t accept all jobs – only those what he wants to do. We have our books available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Kobo (which, in addition to being the largest retailer in Canada, also powers WalMart.) Also IngramSpark (which powers Baker & Taylor, the book database/repository for retail bookstores and libraries) as well as a multitude of smaller establishments.
Additionally, we have our books available for bulk/bulk-to-order printing. A number of these books are for schools, business expeditions, etc.Although in my opinion self-publishing is the opposite of publishing, I guess the same people who think they want to be self-published in reality want to come to me (or another small publisher press) to do all the work, get the distribution, take care of the marketing, etc. Clients who say they want to be “self-published” probably don’t want that at all since they don’t have a clue what to do. I generally advise writers that if they haven’t published themselves before, they’re probably looking at 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’re getting into?” But if the question really is, “Why do so many people want to be published?” — Well, it’s so true! Everywhere I go people want to write books. I can’t walk into a room without meeting people like that.
Q: And as for your life outside of Red Penguin…
SL: Before Red Penguin (hell, before the Internet!), I was a high school musician and music teacher. I’m still a musician. I play the piano, organ, guitar, violin, flute, sing, compose, lead choirs, etc.
I also love to travel and have visited all 50 states and 23 countries so far (adding 6 more this summer.) I have been married for 25 years and have three amazing children – a 24 year old daughter who is an Air Force Intel officer, a 22-year-old son who leads our global and non-profit divisions and who just saved elephants in Sri Lanka, and an 18-year-old son about to get his high school diploma. (My children travel a lot more than me!) I also love animals, nature, vineyards, theater, good food and, of course, books!
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