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Red Penguin Publisher Stephanie Larkin Offers Options To Traditional Book Publishing Models

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Even while electronic media gushes over the impact of… Electronic Media, millions of people over the world still love an antiquated notion called books. And though many mainstream book publishers have been consolidated into a few major imprints, there are still hundreds of small publishers and publishing services out there. One recently came to my attention as I researched publishing options for a friend’s memoir. I decided to transform my discussion into a conversation with Red Penguin Books and Web Solutions’ publisher Stephanie Larkin, whose latest book, “Shared Wisdom,” will be out at the beginning of March, 2022.

As its founder and president, Larkin has led the company for over 15 years, working with books of all genres and helping people to “unleash their inner author” through book publishing. She publishes over 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, along with most of the United States. Larkin has also authored “Write That Book!”, “365 Reasons to Celebrate!” and “Score with Social Media,” in addition to many ghostwritten publications. She speaks before groups such as professional organizations and chambers, artists and authors on topics ranging from small business strategies to leveraging the “power of the pen.” In addition to spearheading Red Penguin Classes — the educational wing of Red Penguin Books which offers online classes in writing and book marketing — Larkin teaches courses. Her topics range from small business management to sales and advertising in the Marketing Department at Nassau Community College, where she works with future entrepreneurs and marketing professionals. She 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 Covers,” a web show for readers, writers and lovers of books as well as on the “Once and Future Authors” podcast. Stephanie will be hosting a new show, sponsored by the Ahmedabad Book Club in India, which will feature writers and book lovers from around the globe. It will be released this spring. Q: You run a company that does print-on-demand publishing but it’s more than just that…SL: I run an independent small press publishing company. We publish about 120 titles annually in print, digital and audiobook formats. Yes, authors who are not interested in the added expense of bulk printing generally opt for print-on-demand. Nowadays, the quality of the two is nearly indistinguishable, as is the price differential, so it makes sense to set up books for POD rather than print thousands in advance and have the added expense/issue of fulfilling orders.Q: How do you find your clients?SL: My clients find me. Most come through referrals, or through one of our anthologies, literary journals, media events, or other exposure to our company. We’re fortunate to have quite a bit of public/social exposure.If the question is “what type of clients do we attract” — well, we publish everything from children’s books to paranormal romance, educational books to personal memoirs. Some people come to us for business-type books that will help increase their exposure and credibility in a particular field. Others have a wonderful trilogy of fiction books. Still others have a family history or passion project. We publish all sorts of books.Q: How do you determine your price points?SL: We have various packages and pricing models, depending on a number of factors, most especially the condition of the manuscript. Some authors have a finished manuscript, others are seeking guidance in working on their manuscript, and still others come to us to ghostwrite their book — thus at very different price points. 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 did 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 just one of them was red. That one stood out!I had a vision — when forming the company — of a lot of things that looked the same, but where one stood out from the rest. I considered the Crimson Cow, the Lavender leaf, etc. — but I liked the color red (it is a bold, powerful color.) Penguins were “in” (think “Happy Feet”!) and I was broke, so it was easy for me to print in black and white, then take a red sharpie and simply color one penguin red. That’s how we got the name!On May 21, 2007, Red Penguin Web Solutions was incorporated. I started the company out of a desire to assist small businesses, professionals and organizations with their websites, digital marketing, etc. There is a crazy sordid story involving embezzlement and intrigue that led to this decision but that’s a tale for another day!Over time, I was doing a lot more work for writers and the National Writer’s Union. It was at a conference of the National Writers Union where I was a speaker that I had an epiphany moment — watching the speaker before me, I suddenly realized “I should do that! I should offer book publication to our clients, since I so often send them away to fend for themselves after I’ve worked on their ebooks, websites, etc.”Thus, Red Penguin Books was conceived in 2017. Our first publications were launched on December 31, 2017. There’s a lovely story about how I decided which book would be published first — perhaps for another interview someday! I’m glad to say that our publishing division has grown exponentially each year.We’re now an independent hybrid press with several different imprints, publishing over 100 books each year. Our first book was my beloved step-father’s memoir which was handwritten and passed down to me. We published several books by Alberto Zuppi, an international lawyer responsible for extraditing Nazi war criminals and former Minister of Justice of Argentina.We’ve published many books whose proceeds go to various non-profits, including mental health issues, military families, suicide prevention, drunk driving prevention, sexual assault, etc.In fact we’ve published works from authors around the world and six different continents (everything but Antarctica) and have won dozens of book awards and Amazon #1 New releases among our authors each year. I’ve had multiple awards for my cable television shows “The Author Corner” and “Technically Speaking”. Most of all, I feel pride and joy from helping people change their lives and make their dreams come true through their publication.Q: As to publishing vs self-publishing? SL: Technically, self-publishing does not involve a publisher. The author does the editing, formatting, cover design, etc., and then “publishes” the book themselves. They use either a self-publishing portal (like Amazon/KDP – formerly known as Create Space), Book Baby, etc. A publisher does much the same thing but since there actually is a publisher, the person isn’t “self-publishing.” I could equate it to hiring a contractor to do your kitchen, or doing it yourself. In both cases, you end up with a kitchen. It’s a matter of who does what (plus, since the contractor presumably knows their stuff, you’ll end up with a better kitchen!) The contractor (like a publisher) probably doesn’t accept all jobs — only those he wants to do. We have our books available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Kobo (which, along with being the largest retailer in Canada also feeds into WalMart.) Also IngramSpark (which feeds into Baker & Taylor, the database/book repository for retail book stores and libraries) plus a host of smaller establishments. In addition, we have our books available for wholesale/bulk printing on order. A number of these books go to schools, corporate shipments, etc. While in my view, self-publishing is the opposite of publishing, I guess the same people who think that they want to be self-published in actuality want to come to me (or another small press publisher) to do all of the work, get the distribution, handle the marketing, etc. Clients who say they want to be “self-published” probably don’t want that at all since they haven’t the foggiest idea what to do. I generally advise writers that, if they haven’t self-published before, they’re probably looking at about 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 are getting into?”  But if the question is really, “Why do so many people want to BE published?” — well, that is 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 to your life outside of Red Penguin…SL: Before Red Penguin (heck, before the internet!) I was a musician and a high school music teacher. I’m still a musician. I play the piano, organ, guitar, violin, flute, sing, compose, direct choirs, etc. I also love to travel and have been to all 50 states and 23 countries so far (adding 6 more this summer.) I’ve been married for 25 years and am the mother of three amazing kids — a 24-year-old daughter who is an Air Force Intel officer, a 22-year-old son who runs our global and non-profit divisions and just returned from saving elephants in Sri Lanka, and an 18-year-old son about to graduate from high school.  (My kids travel far more than I do!) I also love animals, nature, wineries, theater, good food and, of course, books!

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Book Reviews

Live From The Hotel Edison Times Square Chronicles Presents Four Award-Winning Musical Theatre Writers Who Turned to Writing Books

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I am so pleased to announce our guest for next Wednesday’s show on April 17th are four award-winning musical theatre writers who turned to writing books.

For a veteran musical theatre dramatist, getting a new musical on is rarely easy, even at the healthiest of times. But when a pandemic stops everything cold—and a restless creative spirit is driven to both keep writing and reach an audience—what can be done? Well, four musical dramatists independently decided to meet the challenge head on with the same answer: Write a book! But their creative paths to near- simultaneous publication would be as unique as the rave-reviewed books themselves. And when they realized that their musical theatre backgrounds cast them as an equally unique quartet…they decided to come full circle back to the theatre community …to tell that story…the story of how their incredible books came to be…which in its way is also a universal story; a story for our time. A story of taking stock, taking a deep breath, taking new steps…and turning the page. Here are our writers:

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David Spencer is an award-winning musical dramatist, author, critic and musical theatre teacher, whose work has been produced in the US, Canada and England. His most well-known credits as lyricist-librettist are two musicals in collaboration with composer Alan Menken: The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, based on the novel by Moredecai Richler (original cast album on Ghostlight Records) and Weird Romance (co-librettist: Alan Brennert; original cast album digital-on-demand from Columbia Masterworks). He made his professional debut writing the acclaimed colloquial English-language adaptation of La Bohème for the Public Theatre; and as composer-lyricist wrote scores and orchestrations for Theatreworks/USA’s young audience versions of The Phantom of the Opera and Les Misérables (librettist-director for both: Rob Barron). His published books are The Musical Theatre Writer’s Survival Guide (Heinemann), the acting edition of Weird Romance (Samuel French)—and, pulpsmith proud, Passing Fancy, an original novel based on the TV series Alien Nation (PocketBooks). He recently completed a draft of his first straight play, Spirit Run (story by him and Jerry James).

David is an ex officio steering committee and faculty member of the BMI-Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop, where he taught for over 25 years, and has also taught at HB Studio, Workshop Studio Theater in New York; and Goldsmith’s College and BML in London.

His book is The Novelizers: An Affectionate History of Media Adaptations and Originals, Their Astonishing Authors—and the Art of the Craft

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 Stephen Cole is an award-winning musical theatre writer whose shows have been produced from New York City to London to the Middle East and Australia. His off-Broadway musical with Matthew Ward, After The Fair, was nominated for the Outer Critic’s Circle Award for Best Musical and was subsequently produced in London to great acclaim. The Night Of The Hunter won the prestigious Edward Kleban Award and was produced in New York City, Dallas, and San Francisco, where it was nominated for several Bay Area Theatre Awards. The award-winning 1998 concept CD features Ron Raines, Sally Mayes, and Dorothy Loudon. Saturday Night At Grossinger’s has had successful runs in Texas (starring Gavin MacLeod), Los Angeles, and Florida. Broadway legend Chita Rivera toured in Casper, and Hal Linden and Dee Hoty starred in the world premiere of his musical adaptation of Dodsworth. In 2005, Stephen was commissioned to write Aspire, the first American musical to premiere in the Middle East. This experience resulted in another musical about the creation of that show entitled The Road To Qatar!, produced to rave reviews and awards Off-Broadway, in London, and at the Edinburgh Festival, garnering a Best Musical nomination. Among his other produced shows are Rock Odyssey, which played to hundreds of thousands of kids for ten seasons of productions at the Adrienne Arscht Center in Miami, and Merman’s Apprentice, presented in concert at Birdland in New York City, followed by an all-star cast album on Jay Records, and an acclaimed premiere production in Sonoma, CA in 2019. Stephen’s latest critically acclaimed musical is Goin’ Hollywood. Stephen’s published books include That Book About That Girl and I Could Have Sung All Night, the Marni Nixon story, currently in development as a feature film from Amazon. Stephen has also written several published stories and his real-life friendships with Ethel Merman and Mary Martin resulted in this, his first novel. Visit www.stephencolewriter.org.