What Stace had to say on Friday, August 31st, 2007
Epublishing: with Angela James, Executive Editor, Samhain Publishing

1.Do you have any comment on RWA’s recent re-redefinition of “Vanity/Subsidy publisher”?

I think I’ve pretty well beat this horse to death on various blogs and message boards, but at this point, I’m going to take a wait and see attitude as far as that’s concerned. I’ve conversed with several people on the board and I don’t get a sense of malice from their decisions. I do think that RWA in general and members of the board specifically (whoever they may be at any given time) cannot afford to be uneducated and uninformed about the ins and outs of epublishing and still make decisions about and for epublished authors, so I’m heartened by the task force that’s been formed for discovery.

Certainly we will do whatever we can to continue to present epublishing in a positive light among the general membership and board.

2. What do you think a writer should look for from an epublisher, and how should they expect to be treated?

I’ve heard this repeated more often recently, but an author needs to look for a professional publisher, not someone who wants to be their best friend or their family.

There is a huge list of things the author needs to know about the publisher before they sign on, which is a post all on its own (I believe Jane of Dear Author is tackling this in the near future) but an author wants to know a publisher will be enthusiastic about their work, will meet the terms of the contract, is looking to always grow their own business and reinvest money in it, and will be planning for the future of the company, and hopefully the author.

Authors should expect to be treated professionally, with respect and courtesy, but shouldn’t expect that the publisher will be able or willing to meet their every demand or to be available at a moment’s notice. Impractical expectations on both sides can sour a business relationship.

3. What are the most common mistakes made by authors submitting works for consideration?

Forgetting that publishing is a business for the publisher, not a hobby. Not putting their best professional foot forward, checking and triple checking for typos, following submissions guidelines and generally showing a general lack of disinterest in the basic things the publisher has asked for.

The other common mistake I see is not researching the publisher. Submitting work that the publisher doesn’t accept (like non-erotic to an erotic publisher), not knowing anything about the company (I hear this a lot when I do editor appointments and it doesn’t impress me) and never having read any of the work released by the publisher. All of this that I’ve mentioned is usually easily done, especially in the age of the internet. To not do it shows a lack of interest in treating your writing as a job and doesn’t convince the editor that you’ll be willing to put in the necessary work needed to make your book the best possible.

4. Although conservative non-fiction has a large following, lately I have picked up on a resistance to conservative leaning fiction. Two well known agents even stated such on their Blogs. This is informative, and it means if you write from a conservative perspective, it would be best to seek representation elsewhere. My question is how pervasive is this attitude among publishers and agents? Do the political views or leanings, in either direction, of the author or characters in a book influence your decision? Would you ask an author to tone such views down to make the book more palatable to a larger readership?

You know, it’s interesting, but I think we’ve found more of an issue with books with religious leanings than political leanings. We don’t get a huge amount of politically motivated submissions, but we do get a few that are religiously charged.

In either case, we’re still an epublisher and our motto is “It’s all about the story.” If it finds the right editor who believes in it and loves it, we would publish it.

5. With a primarily digital mode of publication, how do you decide how much to publish? Are all high quality manuscripts that meet the perceived needs of your customers published, or is there a goal for monthly or annual publications?

We don’t have a set number of books we publish each week. It’s different each week. We have a good number of editors and each editor is limited to a general range of releases per month. It’s up to them to make sure they’re filling their slots with books they love from both existing authors and the slush pile, and they tend to be pretty picky because they know they’re limited. So yes, we think they’re high quality and are proud of what we publish because of it!

6. When would you advise an author to seek publication with a traditional print publisher and when is it in their best interests to publish in digital format? The pros and cons are often debated among authors, and I was wondering how the actual publishers saw these issues.

Well, I don’t think I’d ever look at a manuscript that landed in my inbox and tell an author, “You know, you really ought to send this to NY instead of me.” I’m not that altruistic and I’d be a flat out liar if I said I was 😉 However, I attend quite a few conferences and I have been known to give an author’s name (or introduce an author) to both agents and editors for NY houses. I did both, actually, at RWA nationals. I have an author who sent a manuscript to an editor’s slush pile. I’d previously met the editor so when I saw her at RWA I mentioned the author had sent a book to her. She was…honestly puzzled and asked me, didn’t it bother me?

My answer was and is no. I realize that authors are interested in writing for NY. There is an opportunity for both a larger distribution and a different audience. It’s the same reason Samhain has partnered with Kensington for an imprint of our books. I genuinely like my authors and I want them to do well. Clearly I love their writing or I wouldn’t have signed them. It thrills me when they land a NY contract. Both because I’m personally happy for them but also because hey! Chances are their backlist at Samhain is going to see a happy bump as they make a name for themselves in the NY arena. It’s a win-win situation. Of course, I’m even happier if they want to keep writing for us, but I understand sometimes that’s not possible.

7. Can you share any sorts of revenue targets you have in mind when purchasing a manuscript? I assume that you need to sell a certain number of copies before the time spent acquiring, editing, and publishing is worth it financially. What is that approximate point? What percentage of manuscripts make this cut-off?

Grr. You ask hard questions ? Right now, we don’t not take a book just because we think it won’t sell well. One of the things we’ve accepted, as a newer company who wants to build a catalog and a reputation as a general publisher, is that some books will sell astonishingly well and others won’t. It’s a balance but if we don’t publish those books, we can never gain a reputation for having not just great erotic romance or great romance, but great fiction/fantasy/action/young adult as well. So we fall back on our motto, “It’s all about the story.” when we’re reading submissions because if we love a book, we’re going to sign it, whether we’re going to make huge royalties or not. We’re just lucky that we love books that sell well too 😉

8. By far the most famous epublishers currently are focused on erotic romance. I would guess that far more erotic romance is bought in ebook format than in print. First, is this guess accurate? Secondly, what prospects do you see in the short to midterm for other genres in eBook format? Will we soon see non-romance mysteries or fantasy or manga taking off? Will we see it with your company?

I can’t really answer the question of whether more erotic romance is bought in ebook format than print. I would guess the answer is yes, but I’d also say that far more erotic books exist in eformat than print, so it follows that their numbers would be higher, so I don’t know if anything would be proven just by saying more erotic books are bought in eformat. We’d have to do some scientific, mathematical stuff. At that point, if you’re looking for me, I’ll be the one cowering in the corner and whimpering.

I have high hopes for both the fantasy/science fiction market as well as the young adult market in ebook format, because I would hope that those are two groups of readers who’d be more open to the technology of ebooks.

This is going to sound strange coming from the executive editor of a publishing company, but when I see pirate sites providing downloads of ebooks, it gives me hope. Because it’s not just one genre of books, like romance, being pirated, it’s many, many genres. So that means there are readers out there who want books of all types in ebook format. My personal positive twist on pirate sites. Just call me Mary Poppins.

9. Is there such a thing as a best seller list for e-books?

For ebooks overall? No such thing exists. For Samhain ebooks, we do have a bestseller list that showcases bestsellers for the previous three week period, on our sister company My Bookstore and More. Though I should point out that we don’t sell just Samhain books, so a book from another publisher could potentially make that list.

10. Since marketing and promotion are a shared venture with publishers and authors, what do you see as some of the best venues and tools to establish the name and work of a new writer?

Name recognition is so important because of the wealth of ebooks available. Sometimes it’s not only about what you do, it’s just about doing.

I like blogs but there are so many that I don’t think every author can (or should) have a blog. But they can comment on them, making sure they fill out the link part with their website address. And not just the regular round of blogs in the romance community. Comment on unusual blogs. Craft blogs. Political blogs. Mommy blogs. People will follow links to names of people they don’t recognize. There’s a wide variety of blogs out there and you never know who you might intrigue into buying a book—just from being a visitor to their blog.

That leads me to having a website. Such an important tool for promotion. And the website? It needs to be professional looking. First impressions do count. Think of it as though you’re visiting a daycare for your child. If you walk into the daycare and it seems horribly disorganized, with something spilled on the floor and kids running in every direction—and you can’t find the one thing you’re looking for (the teacher) are you really going to give them your money (and your child?) Um, no. Your website may be the first exposure a person has to your work. Make it neat, make it professional and provide buy links, excerpts and contact information. The pictures of your cleavage or your dog? Really not necessary. Especially on the home page.

There are such a variety of other promotional things I could talk about: chats, banner ads, conferences, ads in print magazines, etc. but everyone’s mileage may vary on each thing and we could spend all day debating the pros and cons of each promotional tool. I think the most important thing is that the author try the different things and actually do promotion.

Thanks so much for taking the time to do this, Angela! Much appreciated!

6 comments to “Epublishing: with Angela James, Executive Editor, Samhain Publishing”

  1. Kate Thornton
    Comment
    1
    · August 31st, 2007 at 8:13 am · Link

    What an excellent blog you have here – chock full of information and the excerpts are wild! Thanks so much!



  2. Demon Hunter
    Comment
    2
    · August 31st, 2007 at 9:40 am · Link

    December,
    Thanks for doing the interview. That was much needed information! :*)



  3. Angela James
    Comment
    3
    · August 31st, 2007 at 10:39 am · Link

    Thanks for having me, December!



  4. kirsten imma saell
    Comment
    4
    · August 31st, 2007 at 11:35 am · Link

    Yeah, the pirate sites seem to be a rite of passage for any creative medium. And it is telling regarding the quality of ebooks: if they were crap, no one would bother to steal them.

    -kis



  5. December/Stacia
    Comment
    5
    · August 31st, 2007 at 4:10 pm · Link

    Thanks, everyone! And thank you, Angela!



  6. Sam
    Comment
    6
    · September 1st, 2007 at 2:30 am · Link

    Super interview – thanks!!!



Leave a Reply










XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Subscribe without commenting