Sewing It Up with Christy Thornbrugh

If you have followed this space for any length of time, then you know I enjoy doing interviews with folks I like. Most of those folks are writers or publishers. Some of them, like Christy Thornbrugh, is neither. However, she is linked to the writing world that I am a part of. You see, back in January, my book A Stitch of Madness was published by Stitched Smile Publications. A couple of weeks later I received a very unique gift in the mail. It was a patch and it is so totally cool.

After receiving the patch, I wanted to get to know Christy a little better. I found out she is a genuinely nice person who truly enjoys helping people. One evening, we sat, she in her world, me in mine, and we chatted.

ASOM PatchEnjoy.

AJ: Christy, let’s start with a little bit about you. Tell me who is Christy Thornbrugh?

CT: She is a Wife and a mother. She is family oriented. A horror and zombie lover. I love to read and watch all horror and zombie movies. On Facebook I am admin of Zombie Book of the Month and the Mike Evans Fan Club.

I enjoy helping others when i can.

AJ: You enjoy helping others where you can? How do you help others?

CT: I volunteer at the school once a week for the teachers. I do what I can to help the author community by sharing and talking and buying books. A lot of my daughters’ friends’ moms cannot sew so I am always helping them with things they need fixed. I just volunteer my time when its needed. I baby sit for a friend of mine in the summer so she does not have to pay someone. She is a single mom who needs that money for her family.

AJ: Those are all great things, things that a lot of folks don’t do for others. Sadly, we live in a time where people are only concerned about themselves, so it is refreshing to see someone offer their time and services to others. If you don’t mind, I would like to focus on one of them.

CT: Yes, sir

AJ: You said “I do what I can to help the author community by sharing and talking and buying books.” It’s pretty important for authors to have folks who will do that. Why is it important for you to do it?

CT: I review as well. I did not realize how hard it was for authors to get people to find and buy their work, and then also leave a review. I really thought reviews were not a big deal, until I became friends with a lot of authors and I started to see how important it is for fans and friends to help them by getting the word out and let them know how important it is, as well as to share and review.

AJ: You are absolutely correct–reviews are crucial, and so is telling others about the books, Word of mouth can go a long way. But you do something that I have never seen before. You also incorporate your sewing into promotional items for these authors, correct?

CT: Yes, it is. I started to make embroidery patches as author swag. I made some patches for a friend of mine that he wanted of his grandpa and all his grandkids’ names. Then I got emailed and asked ‘what do you think you can do to make a patch for my book?’ It’s a blast working with everyone on them and working on ideas to create the best patch we can to represent their book. And the fans have loved it.

Embroidery by Christy LogoAJ: Do you get author input on the patches or do you come up with them on your own and run with it?

CT: I like to get author input on them. There have been some that say ‘I trust you. Let me see what you can do.’ They will say zombie something or another and ‘I work my magic.’ If i get a blank and cannot think of anything I will ask them what a major factor is in their book or what the fans love the most. If I had not read it have them tell me a little on it.

AJ: And you have become quite popular with this talent. People want these. Not just the fans but the authors, too. Am I right?

CT: Yes, sir. It seems in the last few months word of mouth has been doing wonders for me. I had a few others say ‘I have heard all about your awesome patches, tell me more.’ I just love it.

AJ: How does it make you feel to hear all this? I know you said you love it, but how does it really make you feel about your work?

CT: Honestly, I get scared and worried with every order that something is not right or it does not look good and that they will hate it. I think it’s an artist thing. But once they get it and say they love it I feel relieved and great. It’s a good feeling that I am making something people love and it makes them happy, so that makes me happy. I have patches now in the UK, Romania and Sweden. I tease my kids and say your mom is worldwide with her patches.

AJ: Worldwide is a great thing. You also just hit on something that I think every author (or artist, for that matter) struggles through: fear that something will not be right and people will not like it. Tell me, for you, what is that like?

CT: It’s a scary feeling, I guess I see imperfections on everything, but everyone else says they are perfect. I think it’s having people judge you and wondering if your work will be accepted

AJ: It is good to see someone who is not a writer understand that aspect. That is what we go through every single time we put something out for someone to read. It is scary. It really is.

Tell me about your favorite patch you made for an author.

Mark Tufo Patch Image for CT InterviewCT: That is mean. That’s like asking what your favorite book is that you wrote. Seems like I will make one and it will be my new favorite, and not saying to suck up but i truly loved your patch. I will have to go with the one I made for Mark Tufo, as his was the first author patch that I made.

AJ: Now, you make these for publishers as well, right?

CT: Yes. I already have. I made some for Stitched Smile Publications.

AJ: So, this has become kind of like a side business for you, then?

CT: For some reason I still see it as a working hobby. I do it out of my house. I wanted something to help my family so I can stay home with my kids

AJ: A working hobby is a good thing, as long as you continue to enjoy the hobby.

CT: I do enjoy it a lot.

AJ: Since this is a working hobby, do you take orders?

CT: Yes. I take small or big orders. It does not matter to me. As long as it’s something I can do I will. There is a T-shirt shop in our town and I do embroidery for them. Also here in town, friends or people who hear about me will bring things for me to embroidery for them. I have a Facebook page and a Etsy shop.

I get orders from FB friends as well. They want something special on a hat or shirt or their own patch of some kind.

AJ: What is the largest order you have ever had?

CT: The largest order from Facebook was 100 patches. The largest order from a business in town was about 75 hats and 20 shirts

AJ: Wow. With orders that large, it probably takes a while to do. How long does it take you to do one patch and does it go faster after you’ve done a certain patch a few times?

CT: With it just being me both those took 4 or 5 days each. I am lucky to have understanding customers with things like that. Depending on the size and detail in a patch it can take about 30 mins or so to do one. But if the order is more than one I use a larger hoop and my machine can do more than one. Most of the time I can fit 6 patches in one hoop so that takes out the set up time for it.

I set up stabilizer, get the patch material in in the hoop, then stitch it out. Then I add the iron on backing to it and trim and seal (burn) the edges of each patch so they don’t fray or fall apart.

AJ: That is a lot to do (or it seems like a lot).

CT: It does seem like a lot. it’s steps that need to be done. Just like with your writing. You need your editor and betas and I am sure other steps but it just takes time to make each one great.

AJ: How long have you been doing this and what got you into it?

CT: I have been making patches for authors for a couple of years, but I have been embroidering for twelve. I started sewing when I had my first daughter, who is thirteen now. I started making her clothes and things and I wanted to add more detail so got a small cheap machine. And grew from there

AJ: And you have been doing it ever since.

CT: Yes, I have. I’ve been teaching my girls to sew now.

AJ: And do they enjoy it as much as their mom?

CT: No not really. LOL. But they like the fact that they can make something their selves with help. It was funny, though, when my teen had a home economics class, they did a sewing project this year. Everyone asked her questions and how to do things when the teacher was busy, since she knew how to sew already

AJ: Nice. Christy, we’re going to wrap up here soon, but would you mind telling me how and where we can order your work?

CT: Embroidery by Christy Facebook Page

My Etsy page.

Email -tigger15623@hotmail.com

AJ: Outstanding, Christy. Before we go, is there anything else you would like to tell everyone about your working hobby?

CT: I would just like everyone to know that I do my best to make what they want. Each item is made by me. I do my best to keep prices affordable. And that they should feel good when ordering for me as it’s not going to a huge company that needs to pay for their three houses. It helps pay for my kid’s lunches, school supplies, clothes they need and things for them.

AJ: Very nice. A small business with small business needs.

CT: Very true

AJ: Thank you, Christy, for your time. I’m going to let you get back to doing what you love to do.

CT: You are welcome. Thank you for your time and allowing me to share my embroidery.

Y’all, give Christy a shout out, a hello, an order or ten. She’s a classy lady with a big heart.

As always, until we meet again my friends, be kind to one another.

 

 

Discussing Damnation Books with Angela Meadon

It seems writers are more and more vulnerable now than ever before. With most things being done through e-mail and online these days, and with so many smaller presses popping up around the world, it’s hard to tell which ones are there for the writers and which ones are there for themselves.

Let’s not kid ourselves for even a minute here: businesses are designed to make money. If they’re not making money, then they are losing money, and if they’re losing money, they won’t be around for long. The publishing business is just that: a business. And publishing companies, large and small, want to turn a profit like any other business out there.

Things are a little different with publishers. They have two sets of clientele. The first set of clientele is the readers, the people who will purchase the books from the publisher. Without the readers spending their money, books don’t move and when books don’t move, the publisher takes a loss. The other set of clientele? The writer. As important as the reader is, without the writers there is nothing for the publisher to sell. The writer is vital to the publisher. Without them, publishers close shop, go home, do not pass go and do not collect two hundred dollars.

So, why is it that so many publishers don’t do right by their authors? I’m not going to get into all of the Permuted stuff today. That’s a dog that’s snapped its chain and bit the mailman quite a few times over the last couple of years. But what I am going to get into is a blog post by Angela Meadon. You can find the blog post here: http://meadon.co.za/go-to-hell-my-experience-with-damnation-books/. I encourage you to go check it out, before or after you read the following interview with Mrs. Meadon.

Here’s the set-up for you: Mrs. Meadon’s book A Taste of You was published in December of 2012 by Damnation Books (DB going forward). At the tail end of 2013 she receives a royalty check from DB (instead of having the money deposited into her PayPal account, per the contract). She receives three more checks at one time. The problem? For her to cash the checks it would cost her money. A back and forth takes place between DB and Meadon and to make a long story short, she hasn’t received some of the royalties due her. If you want all the information, please read her blog, as linked above.

If you need to go ahead and read Meadon’s blog, do so now. We can wait.

Let’s get started.

AJ: At the beginning of your blog post, Go To Hell: My Experience with Damnation Books, you state “I want to break this down for you though, so that you can see how an author can do all the right things and still make bad decisions that end up hurting her in the long run.”

During this experience, where do you feel you made bad decisions that ended up hurting you?

AM: My biggest mistake was signing with Damnation Books in the first place, but I’ll go into that in detail in response to your next question.

I’d say another way I went wrong was in not sending those checks back to Damnation immediately. I didn’t trust DB to pay my royalties correctly after I received those checks. So I hung onto them for too long in the hopes that they would serve as a backup plan. I was wrong. They are worthless scraps of paper to me. I couldn’t deposit them because of the fees to do so. I should have sent them back.

My other big mistake, I think, was not seeking legal counsel for this matter. I felt like the case was fairly obvious, that DB was clearly in breach of contract, and that Kim Richards would do the right thing. I was wrong. But, legal advice costs money and how much are you prepared to spend to recover $50?

AJ: I asked that question first because, upon doing a bit of research, it appears DB doesn’t necessarily have the cleanest resume out there. It appears they have a bit of history with not treating their authors well. They had a spotty history up to that point and you considered that history before making your decision to go with them. At any point before signing the contract did the thought come up that maybe you shouldn’t go forward with them?

AM: Absolutely.

I saw a call for submissions from their “Submissions Editor” on Linked in and knew that A Taste of You fit the bill, I read up on them in all the usual places; Absolute Write, Preditors & Editors, Writer Beware. It seemed to me, at the time, that DB’s biggest problem was enforcing kill fees in their contracts and releasing books with bad covers.

However, from the responses that DB had given in these forums, it seemed like they had gotten their house in order. The complaints were more than 3 years old, and there was nothing recent that was cause for worry (that I could find). I decided that I would submit and see what happened. I wouldn’t be committed until I signed the contract, and if I wasn’t happy with the contract I wouldn’t sign. Simple, right?

The contract I have with DB is a solid, fair contract. I didn’t see any problems with it when I signed it, and I still don’t.

AJ: Let’s switch gears for just a second. DB stated they would market A Taste of You, but I’m guessing by what you wrote in your blog that they’ve done very little, if any, marketing. In your opinion, have they done any marketing for your book?

AM: They have listed it in a bunch of online book stores, and have sold a few copies at conventions they attend.

There was a poster at some point, which I think they used at a con, that had a whole lot of books by their lady authors on it.

I am not aware of any reviews they secured, or any other marketing they may have done.

AJ: The full basis of the argument between you and DB revolves around the royalty payment and how some of the payments were delivered. Instead of going into your PayPal account, according to contract, you were sent a check. I know you had a lot going on at the time and you didn’t think about it, but then you received three more royalty checks. Did this throw up a red flag for you? Or was it after you realized it would cost you about ten dollars a check to cash that you became concerned?

AM: I was concerned as soon as I received that first check, but I figured it would make a cute memento of my first ever published book.

Then there was radio silence for a long time, and I finally received all the checks in one go in the middle of 2014. I must point out that DB was never the best with timely royalty payments or statements. It would cost me $10 per check to cash them here. My bank can’t cash them all together. Cashing or depositing them would eat 80% of the value of the royalties.

Furthermore, I was concerned that cashing them would be tacit consent of receiving royalties by check. That was something I definitely did not want.

AJ: DB asked you to send the checks back and they would put the money in your PayPal account. Why did you hold the checks at first?

AM: As I mentioned in Q1, I mistakenly thought that having the checks might be a backup for me, in case Kim didn’t pay the royalties she owes me. I didn’t realize that Kim would withhold the royalties while she waited for the checks until she explicitly said so on the 12th of August. By that time our postal service was on strike.

AJ: Throughout the process DB asked you to send the checks back. You held onto them. Some folks might look at that as you being difficult, as if you held the checks ransom. Others, including yourself, would say you held onto them for leverage to make sure you received payment.

Eventually, you did send them back (around January 7th). Two questions here: Do you believe DB received those checks and are just denying it to keep from paying you what they owe you? Do you wish you had kept the paper checks, even though they were pretty much useless to you?

AM: I can’t speculate about what Kim is doing. I wouldn’t be surprised if she has received them, but I don’t know.

Actually, I wish I’d sent them back right at the beginning. All things being equal, that’s where I made my biggest mistake in this matter.

AJ: Do you think if you would have sent those checks back when DB first said to, would things have been any different? If so or if not, why?

AM: Again, I don’t like to speculate. In my heart-of-hearts I’d like to believe that Kim would have paid the checks to me, but my brain tells me she wouldn’t have.

She said she would pay the royalties all to me at the end of June. She didn’t. It took her until the end of October to pay royalties that were due in June, and September

I can’t believe that Kim is withholding these royalties simply for the paper checks. That doesn’t make sense when you consider that she could have cancelled them (I understand this would have cost her money, but she made the mistake and the onus is on her to rectify it) and I offered to void them and send her photographic proof.

AJ: At what point did you consider DB to be in breach of your contract?

AM: The minute she sent me royalties in check form without my mutual agreement in writing, which is the requirement in our contract.

AJ: In light of the issues a few years ago where authors were told they would have to pay a termination fee of up to a thousand dollars, did you consider trying to get out of your contract or were the possibility of termination fees in the back of your mind?

AM: That termination fee is in the front of my mind. I would rather wait out my contract than try and buy my way out of it.

AJ: You were accused of cyber bullying by DB. That’s a pretty heavy accusation. Do you think this was actually reversed, that DB was doing the cyber bullying?

AM: I don’t think that anybody was doing any cyber-bullying. I think that’s a buzz-word that DB threw in to the conversation to try and scare me into silence.

Since I released our email conversation, however, I know of at least one person who has emailed Kim to insult her and that makes me very unhappy. That was not my intention. I know I left her email address in the emails, but that address is publicly available on their website.

AJ: You brought this out into public with your blog. What do you hope to accomplish by doing this?

AM: I want people to see how DB flaunts contracts. The contract between an author and her publisher is the only thing regulating the relationship when all other avenues break down. If either party is unwilling to honor the contract, all kinds of abuse can take place.

DB has a long and sordid history of this kind of abuse. I want it to stop. I want other aspiring authors like myself to see how their excitement for their first sale can cloud their judgment. I want authors to know what they are getting into if they sign with DB, or any other publisher with a similar track record.

AJ: Are you concerned that by bringing this situation out into the public domain like this that you could be labeled as a difficult author to deal with?

AM: Of course I am, and I would absolutely hate for that to happen. I have learned from my mistakes here. I know what I’ve done wrong.

I think the fact that there are many other authors with similar stories about DB may stand in my favor though. DB doesn’t respond to politeness, or legally worded letters, or anything really.

AJ: We’ve seen this type of question before, but in light of your experience with DB, what advice would you give other authors when pursuing a publisher for their work?

AM: Besides the obvious (Google them and look at what Absolute Write, Preditor & Editors, and Writer Beware have to say), I’d say trust your instincts and don’t sign with somebody you don’t like and trust. Don’t let excitement cloud your judgment. I knew DB was a little off right from the start, but I was so thrilled at being offered publication that I rationalized my way into a deep hole of disappointment.

Don’t do that. If one agent/publisher is interested in your book, another one will be.

AJ: After this experience, would you consider working with other small presses again, and if so, how would you go about selecting one to publish with?

AM: I would, of course, if they would consider working with me.

I would follow my own advice: Research, and relationships, and a solid contract.

AJ: Is there anything else you would like to add?

AM: I’d like to thank everybody who has shown me support in this matter; your kind words have helped me keep my head up through it all.

Thank you Jeff, for this opportunity.

If anybody has any questions, you know where to find me.

Publishers and writers should be in this business for the same reasons: to give the readers a good product. Yes, we want to make money, but taking advantage of writers isn’t the way to go about it. Sadly, there are quite a few publishers who act like the writers need them, when in truth, they need us just as much as we need them. It’s a relationship built on trust and when that trust is gone, such as the situation Angela Meadon is dealing with, well, it’s difficult to gain it back.

As writers we have to remember that not all publishing companies do business this way. We just have to find the ones that do it the right way. Also, as writers, sometimes we make mistakes in this process as well. We have to recognize our mistakes, as Angela has done and as DB should, and move forward from there. As I said earlier, this business is all about relationships, as are most businesses. How we do business is how we will be known.

As always, until me meet again, my friends, be kind to one another…