Lawrence Knorr, founder and owner of Sunbury Press in Boiling Springs, Pennsylvania, will be at the GLVWG Write Stuff Writers Conference™, “2020 Vision”, at the Best Western Lehigh Valley Hotel & Conference Center.
Lawrence will be taking pitches on Saturday, March 14.
“Sunbury Press is a rapidly growing publisher of a wide range of categories represented by six imprints. We typically receive approximately 1000+ proposals a year, publishing roughly 50 of them (about 5%). We choose to invest in those opportunities that we feel have the best chance in the current marketplace. We are always seeking new titles to publish including: history, historical fiction, police procedurals, crime thrillers, horror, steam punk, young adult, current events, science, reference, art history, ANY local/regional history, humor, spiritual/metaphysical, self-help, professional, memoirs, etc. If we didn’t mention your category — try us anyway!”
Lawrence Knorr is the co-owner of Sunbury Press, Inc. and has been involved with book publishing since 2000. He holds an MBA from Penn State University, and is a Project Management Professional (PMP), and Certified Scrum Master (CSM). Lawrence’s 30+ year career in information technology, as a programmer, analyst, project manager, CEO, and Chief Information Officer has prepared him well for the “Age of Content” – the era of eBooks, data integration, eCommerce, and networks. Lawrence has taught business and economics courses for over fifteen years at local colleges and is the author or co-author over twenty books. He is also an award-winning digital artist. Lawrence often speaks or is a panelist at numerous writers conferences and book fairs.
He is currently working on Graves of Our Founders and Tigers for a Day. He previously published a three volume set of his Knorr grandparents lineage entitled Seventy-One Years of Marriage: The Relations of George and Alice Knorr of Reading, Pennsylvania.
Click “Continue Reading” for An Inteview with Lawrence Knorr
An Interview with Lawrence Knorr
By – Donna Brennan
This is Lawrence’s third time at the Write Stuff Writers Conference™, so he must be happy with the quality of the authors he’s met there in the past.
Q: You state on your site that you’re a traditional, royalty-paying publisher. How does that differ from the ads we see on TV or in magazines asking if we are an author with a book to publish?
It is like night and day. Instead of making money by selling services to authors, we only make money by selling books to distributors, booksellers, and readers. The first question we get from many authors is, “How much will it cost me to publish?” The answer we give them is, “Your time.” This means our revenue is on the back-end while our investment is on the front-end and ongoing. The vanity or services publishers collect their money on the front end, and as soon as the book is out, they move on to the next author.
Q: Can you explain the difference between a traditional publisher and a hybrid publisher?
A hybrid publisher charges for some services or requires a minimum purchase of books from the author. Alternatively, they might require the author to perform services for them in exchange for publication – like cover design or editing other books. Sometimes hybrid publishers are collectives of authors who work with each other to publish and then share in the expenses and proceeds.
A traditional publisher selects the material to publish based on its likely success in the marketplace and the quality of the work. They then proceed to prepare that product at their expense to industry standards. They then use the book trade to the fullest extent possible to sell books.
Q: Roughly, what percentage of the books submitted to you do you actually accept? How does that compare with other publishing companies (traditional, vanity, and hybrid)?
This past year, we received over 1200 manuscripts and proposals. We published 100 books. That’s an acceptance rate of 8.3%. We actually accept a little more than that because we don’t always come to terms with every author. Note that almost all of our submissions are unagented.
Vanity has close to a 100% acceptance rate. They want the revenue and will only reject the weakest of opportunities, usually for nonpayment or because there really isn’t a book there.
Hybrid acceptance rates are less than vanity and depend on the ability of the author to afford to buy so many copies or pay for some services. Hybrid publishers tend to have higher quality standards.
Traditional publishers have the highest quality standards because they make money by selling books. So, if you get into a traditional publisher, it is like winning a prize in a contest of merit. I can’t speak for acceptance rates at traditional publishers. Based on stories of piles of rejection letters for even high-quality manuscripts, it is likely that traditional presses are tough to get into.
Small presses are more open than the larger ones. Some only accept agented manuscripts. Some are niche and only looking for specific things. At less than 10%, we are probably in alignment with most small to medium presses.
Q: As I said earlier, this is your third year with us. In the past, how many manuscripts did you request to have sent to you from our attendees?
Every time I have come to your conference, I have left with a lot of goodwill and creative ideas. We have published several books by your attendees. I’d say our acceptance rate is a little higher when meeting face to face. It helps to look the author in the eye and sense the passion behind their writing.
I find the advice I’ve given willingly has been helpful to many attendees and is a way to give back to aspiring writers who someday may be the big names in the industry. So, regardless of whether we sign an author, we are always willing to offer an opinion or provide advice.
Q: I’ve been told by other editors and agents that very few of the authors they’ve met at conferences ever follow through on requests for submissions. I’ve heard it was as low as five or ten percent—a statistic that amazed me. Has that been your experience as well?
I’d put it at more like a third submit in my experience. It’s definitely not below 10%.
Q: Why do you think that might be?
I am not sure because I can’t speak for the others. I do know I have been to conferences where we had more appointments than most of the other agents and publishers. It’s probably because we are generalists and publish so many categories.
Q: What advice would you give to authors who might be nervous or unsure about submitting their work after it was requested? What about those authors who “just want to do a little more editing or rewriting first”?
A former supervisor of mine once said, “postpone perfection!” I knew I had to get something done that was good enough to get to the next phase or the next round. That is certainly the case with writing. It’s hard enough to write a full-length manuscript. For many, it is even tougher to try to share it with someone. It is such a reflection of the writer – so much went into it. Do know that we screen for writing quality and readiness for publication, but we certainly do not expect a proposal or draft to be perfect. In the worst case, we’ll send the author away with instructions concerning what to repair.
Q: How many of your published authors have you met at a previous Write Stuff conference?
A handful for sure. Each conference has had one to three who have signed with us.
Q: I see you now have created category imprints. What are you looking for with each of these?
Three years ago, as our list reached 500 books, we were struggling with brand identity. We decided the best path forward, rather than shedding a number of categories and becoming a niche publisher, we decided to diversify and expand. Here’s what we are looking for:
Sunbury Press – This is the primary nonfiction imprint. Most of our nonfiction falls under this imprint, especially history, biography, memoir, science, and religion. We also do some self-help and other topics.
Milford House Press – This is our primary fiction imprint. Mainstream fiction falls under this imprint, including mystery/detective, thrillers, suspense, espionage, YA, middle-grade, and historical fiction.
Brown Posey Press – This is our literary fiction and creative nonfiction imprint. Under this imprint, we are publishing novels, short stories, and some poetry. We are looking more for art rather than formula. Our target market here are people who love to read great stories or are moved by social causes. That’s not to say the other imprints aren’t well-written or great stories. You just know it when you see it. For instance, To Kill a Mockingbird would comes in here, and The Hunt for Red October would slot in above at Milford House.
Hellbender Books – This is our horror/science fiction/fantasy imprint. These are stories that keep you up at night or are based in other worlds entirely or are dystopian in nature.
Ars Metaphysica – This is our mind, body, and spirit imprint. We include nonfiction paranormal, spiritualism, and occult topics in addition to spirituality not based on a particular religion. We also include metaphysical fiction under this imprint.
Oxford Southern – This is our science and academic imprint. Books under this imprint are typically peer-reviewed or of that level of quality. This imprint is for well-researched topics and are primarily sold to academics.
Distelfink Press – This is our Pennsylvania Dutch imprint. We publish manuscripts related to the Pennsylvania Dutch culture. We will consider fiction and nonfiction.
Verboten Books – This is our imprint for content that is controversial and out of the mainstream. We tend to put our humorous material here.
Speckled Egg Press– This is our dormant children’s imprint. We are not adding to this at this time due to the high cost of printing larger format color books.
Q: When you say “royalty-paying,” what percent is typical, and how often do your authors get paid? Do you offer an advance as well?
Advances have gone the way of agents, newspapers, and magazines. Because we deal with a lot of new or emerging authors, advances are not usually discussed. This is because advances are nothing more than prepayments of future royalties – kind of like a payday loan. They have to be earned back. Unless an author has a proven track record of earning royalties consistently, they are not likely to be offered an advance.
A few years ago, we moved to quarterly royalty reports and payments. This was an improvement from semi-annual.
Our rates are more generous than most traditional publishers. One of the things we do a little differently is to offer 20% of list price for direct sales from our website to readers.
Q: How long after someone submits their work to you should they expect to hear back from you?
This has varied over time. It all depends on the category and our needs at the time. We are currently filled schedule-wise for most of 2020. So, most submissions will sit for six or more months. Do know, however, we check every month, and if something comes in that is really in demand or something we have been looking for, the turnaround can be much quicker.
We try to give everyone an answer, either way.
Q: If they don’t hear back within that time frame, should they send a follow-up email?
Six months is a good point to give up and send a note. However, if something is happening in the world that has made your work more timely or in-demand, feel free to point that out anytime! We are not in the business of rejecting manuscripts. We are in the business of selling books. So, we appreciate it if someone helps us to do that.
Q: Do your wait times vary by imprint? Which is most likely to accept new material?
Distelfink Press probably has the shortest wait-time, especially for nonfiction.
Sunbury Press and Oxford Southern are also quick to respond to nonfiction.
Regarding fiction, historical, and mystery/detective stories are more likely to be on a faster track.
About 80% of our slush pile is fiction.
Q: Since you have editors on staff, how polished should our manuscripts be before we submit them to you?
Just because we have editors on staff does not mean we are willing to rewrite a manuscript. We take the approach of editor-as-coach. Our editors will assist the author in making necessary changes and revisions. In other words, they don’t spend all of their time marking up manuscripts. They are more likely to point the author in the direction of an editing tool that can help them with this manuscript and any future writing they might do.
We have entered an era where there are many high-quality and functional editing tools. We use them at the Press, and encourage our authors to do so as well.
To answer your question specifically, we are likely to reject a manuscript that has not been run through the basic quality-checking functions in Word or has thousands of errors flagged by a tool like Grammarly.
Q: How involved do you get with the marketing of authors’ books? Do you offer advice? Do you help authors get together for events?
Just about all of our employees at the press play some part in marketing. The marketing work begins soon after contract signing and continues for the life of the publishing relationship. So, we are very involved. Remember, we only make money by selling books.
There are, however, activities that are best managed by the authors themselves. For instance, the authors manage their appearances and schedules. Authors should be building their platforms and developing a mailing list of readers/fans.
Generally speaking, we handle the marketing to the book trade and publicity to the media. The author handles direct interactions with readers, performs interviews, and makes appearances as they are able.
Many authors deal with multiple presses or have some self-published books in addition to those with publishers. So, individual publishers rarely focus on author promotion and instead focus on book promotion. The exception to this is when an author is exclusive with a publisher and has multiple books.
Q: Once you publish an author’s work, how likely are you to publish another book from that same author?
The chances increase considerably. If the subsequent book is part of a series we had been planning, then nearly 100%. The only reasons we would turn an existing author away have to do with the book market and the author’s prior success or lack thereof.
If an existing author presents a concept that is not in alignment with what we are looking for at the time, we will decline. Likewise, if an existing author’s work has not performed well, we will eventually cut ties.
Several times a year, we analyze our authors’ performance over the prior rolling 36 months. We divide our authors into A, B, C categories, just like most firms that make and sell products. The A’s are the top one-third sellers. The B’s are the average sellers, and the C’s are the bottom third. Working up from the bottom of the C-list, we will often review the author’s works to see if there is something that can be corrected or improved. If not, or the author has lost interest, they are likely the first to move on and be replaced by a new author with fresh material.
Just remember, as a traditional publisher, we are a business that depends on sales. So, we need results to keep going. Probably the best endorsement an author can get is that they have been with a traditional publisher for many years. This means, not only is their work high quality, but is selling consistently.
Lawrence Knorr has authored or co-authored over 20 books, mostly on history or biography. He is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), the Sons of the American Revolution, and numerous other historical organizations. He enjoys most writing about the formerly famous and his beloved Pennsylvania Dutch culture. He is a lifetime Penn State alum.
“Do the right thing. It will gratify some people and astonish the rest.” – Mark Twain
Lawrence Knorr at Sunbury Press: http://sunburypress.com/our_team/