I started Hard Ball Press out of desperation. My first four crime novels had gone out of print because either the publisher had shut down, or they had decided not to issue a paperback follow up to the hardcover. So in the early days of print-on-demand, I began to put out my own novels, and then went on to publish those of others under my own imprint: Hard Ball Press.
My youngest son, Chris, who is an outstanding writer, inspired the name. When he was a boy, he drew a self-portrait from looking at his image in the mirror. On the T-shirt it said, HARD Ball.
I found there was great need for another independent publisher. At labor conferences, I often ran into authors who’d been rejected by mainstream publishers. They asked if I would be willing to release their books. Why not, I figured. Their work, like mine, represented a tale of social justice, which advanced our cause in the world.
From the beginning, I’ve given my authors the best royalties I can afford. They purchase books to sell at a 40 percent discount, which rises to 50 percent after they’ve bought 100 copies. I pay them 15 percent of list price for books that I sell at full price; 10 percent of list price when I sell to a bookseller or school at a discount; and 7.5 percent of list price when Amazon prints and ships their book.
I hire a freelance artist to design the cover. The author and I approve the artwork when we’re both satisfied. For a crime novel about a postal worker, I told the artist that I wanted a gun, bullets, a bottle of whiskey, and stamps. She came up with a brilliant cover; in fact, it’s one of my favorites. For a historical novel about coal mining, I paid the Abraham Lincoln Museum for the rights to reprint two images, and the font looks chiseled out of rock—a nice touch by my freelance book designer, who sets up the cover, spine and back for digital and electronic printing.
Hard Ball authors agree from the beginning to collaborate on the marketing, so we work together to find reviewers, radio-show interviewers, etc. Authors send me names and addresses, and I print and ship books. I follow up with phone calls, emails, etc., and have won some outstanding reviews for several releases. My first nonfiction book won Best Book in Labor Education from the United Association for Labor Education, and a new spiritual novel, Passion’s Pride, was selected by Go On Girl! Book Club as its summer sci-fi/fantasy recommendation. And now I’ve started to publish children’s books that teach the next generation about the fight for justice.
Tim Sheard is a member of the NWU’s New York Chapter. Peruse his virtual bookstore at www.hardballpress.com