Friday, November 01, 2013


Ask the publishers questions

Gwen Hayes - Entangled

Suzanne Hartmann – Castle Gate Press

Andrea Wilson - Divine Garden Press.

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Rae Lori said...

Hello to the panel!

My question is: For an author aiming their submission package to your house, what is the best thing (or things) they can do to catch your eye?

Suzanne Hartmann said...

That is a very good question, Rae Lori. The answer may vary somewhat from one publishing house to another, but the best thing you can do is write a excellent story, one that stands out among the many an editor reads week in and week out. At Castle Gate Press, when we start accepting queries in January, we will be looking for stories with engaging characters and plots that hold the reader's attention. Since we are a niche publisher, however, the main thing that will catch our eye is a story that matches our vision. So when we see a well-written manuscript (any genre with a Christian worldview) that has a twist of the fantastic--a hint of speculative fiction--we'll want to see more.

Gwen Hayes said...

Hi Rae Lori,
I'll echo Suzanne's comment that the story is king. Make sure it's ready and polished, too.

The things that stand out to me in a query are conflict, premise, and tropes. Sometimes, people mistake tropes for cliches, but they are not. Tropes are what make some stories auto-buys! For instance, as a reader, I'm a sucker for Byronic heroes. If a book talks about a moody, broody hero, I'm intrigued. If he lives in a castle, it's a sale! LOL. So find the tropes in your story--big brother's best friend, opposites attract, amnesia, secret baby, dukes....whatever they are, play them up.

Ana'Gia Wright said...

What is the typical turn around time from the time an offer is made to the author and they sign a contract to the date of publication? How long does the actual publishing process take?

Andrea Wilson said...

Rae Lori,
I agree with Suzanne that the answer will differ by publishing house. There are several things that I personally look for when I receive a submission. 1) Professionalism. I love to see that an author has submitted a well constructed query letter that includes all required aspects of the letter. Most publishers will let you know in their guidelines how to submit and what to submit. An author who follows the directions and submits what was required in the instructions will gain my attention. 2) Content. Also as Suzanne stated, I am looking for books that fit within the company mission and vision. I would encourage all authors seeking a publisher to take the time to research a potential publisher to make sure that publisher wants what you have to offer. 3) A unique storyline/concept. I am an avid reader, so I get tired of reading the same book over and over again. I love hearing about books that have something new or highly needed to the industry. 4) Quality writing skills. I am looking for authors who are good writers. Usually after reading a few paragraphs, I can assess an authors current skills and potential. Authors who are interested in getting their work published should submit work that is well polished, as grammatically correct as possible, and demonstrates quality writing skills.

Andrea Wilson said...

Ana'Gia Wright,
Turn around time and publishing will depend on the actual publishing house. At Divine Garden Press, we typically draw up and submit the contract to the author within 30 days of the publishing offer. Once signed by both parties, we establish a publication date based on the current state of the manuscript. Most of our books are in print and available to the public within 8-12 months after signing.

Gwen Hayes said...

Hi Ana'Gia,

I can't say there is a typical time frame because Entangled has so many lines with differing production schedules. And some of our books are acquired on proposal.

A lot of factors go in to choosing a release date...and many of them have nothing to do with the shape your book is in. It's a carefully choreographed dance of titles that complement each other without cannibalizing each others sales.

Some of the things that will affect when your book is put into a release schedule will be other don't want your book to be too similar in plot or trope to a book releasing at the same time. Sometimes, we have a hole in the schedule that we need to fill for a particular month...sometimes we already have too many books.

We do shoot for a "range" if there are not extenuating circumstances. In my line, an editor and author will generally work with each other on the first two passes for about two months. Then, as editorial director, I read the manuscript for quality assurance for my line--sometimes a book is awesome, but doesn't fit the parameters of category romance for whatever reason, so that is when we try to make sure we're good to go. It goes back for another pass and is due for copy edits about a month after that. After it goes to copy edits, it should be released about two months later.

Suzanne Hartmann said...

Andrea's point about checking the guidelines for the publishing house you're submitting to is important enough that it's worth repeating. You can have the most fabulous manuscript with perfect grammar, but if it's sci-fi and you submit it to a house that only publishes romance, you're still going to get a rejection. I can't state it strongly enough: make sure you do your research before sending a query to any publisher. Sending the publisher what they're looking for will go a long way towards decreasing the number of rejections you receive.

Savannah J said...

Good afternoon everyone! Savannah J here. I currently publish my books under my own publishing house. I've been approached by several authors and was asked to publish them under my name/publishing house. I am reluctant, because to publish my own work is one thing but to publish another is a whole new thing for me. Now, I did publish one person and he was satisfied with the finished product but my answer lately has been no when approached. My question is, do you all function as Traditional Publishing Houses? And if so, where did you go to research the how too's of traditional publishing?

Ebony Tanya said...


My question is...I am a self published author and I have been playing with the idea of switching over to publishers and literary agents. Is it best to stay a self published author, or link up with a company? What can a publishing company guarantee me that self publishing cannot?

Gwen Hayes said...

Hi Savsnnah, I'm not a publisher. I am representing Entangled Publishing. So I don't have a lot of practical how-to advice.

My un-practical advice is that you need to choose how much time you want to devote to other people's writing, I guess. Because as a publisher, their writing careers will need to be more important than yours to serve them well. And to make sure you talk to a lawyer about setting up your business to protect your own assets.

Gwen Hayes said...

Hi Ebony,

As a self-published and traditionally published author, I understand where you are coming from.

One thing to ask yourself is how much you enjoy the parts of self publishing that are not the writing. If the answer is "not very much" than going with a publisher is a much more palatable choice. But if you like the control, you might get frustrated with dealing with a different companies time table etc.

The things that a good publisher can offer you that you can't do for yourself (but could hire out as an up front expense) are: professional editing, professional cover art, a promotional plan,relationships with vendors like Amazon that you can't achieve on your own, and distribution (depending on which publisher you go through.)Things like Kindle Daily Deal are hard to do achieve as a self-published author.

Intangible things a good publisher can offer are reputation, built in fan base based on other conglomeration of authors, credibility if you are having a hard time being "seen." Many of Entangled authors benefit from being able to release books concurrently with authors who already have a good fanbase...things like that.

Keep in mind that a bad publisher offers those things in reverse, so choose carefully and mindfully. If you choose a publisher with a bad reputation for publishing sub-par books...guess what you just lumped yourself in with. :(

Savannah J said...

Hi Gwen, thanks for the advice. I have a relative who is currently completing his first book and he is interested in partnering with me to grow Savannah J Publications. If we take on publishing others, I will limit it to one or two and put together a team, that way it won't take up so much of our time. I'm sure as you've suggested an attorney can help with the questions I have. Thank you!

Andrea Wilson said...

Hi Savannah,
I am an author who is also a publisher, so I can relate to your concern. It took me a few years to decide to both start my own house and take on other authors for the very concerns you have. I didn't want others' books to monopolize my time, and I wasn't sure about dealing with other people. I agree with Gwen that you must first evaluate the current amount of time you have for the writing business and marketing your own books. If you barely have time to do this for yourself, how helpful can you be to others? Also, consider what you have to offer authors. Indie pub companies are a dime a dozen these days. If someone is looking for publishing, you can simply refer them elsewhere UNLESS there is something you offer (or want to offer) that's different than the rest (your competitive advantage). You also need to have a clear idea of the vision for your company. Will you just publish anything or are you looking for a specific genre or book type? These questions are important because at the end of the day, it is a business, and the more you understand exactly why you are becoming a publisher of other, the better equipped you'll be to be successful in it. Don't just publish others because they want you to do so, do it because you want to do so. As far as traditional publishing goes, Google is your best friend. Everything you want to know about any kind of publishing is just a search away. But before making a decision, ask yourself do you really want to be a traditional publisher? There are other kinds of publishing options, so investigate all of them before deciding. Traditional publishing puts all of the risk on the publisher, so you need to be prepared for this before signing anyone. Hope this helps!

Savannah J said...

Hi Andrea, good talk, thank you. The authors who've come to me have done so because they trust me but I have said no for a number of reasons. Number one, I don't want the liability. I have learned people say one thing but when the direction of the wind changes, so do they. If I do expand, it will be after I retire from my day job which will be soon and after I do more research. I understand the time piece. I hosted a literary festival for four years and as soon as one was over I began planning for the next year. It completely monopolized my time. I'm thinking about just acting as a consultant and helping new authors with the publishing process. The authors I've turned down, I've referred to other publishing houses that I'm familiar with and would do business with myself.

Your advice is very helpful and gives me good food for thought. I thank you again for responding to me.

Suzanne Hartmann said...

Ebony, here are some questions to ask yourself that may help you with your decision: 1)What do you want to accomplish with your writing? and 2) Can you reach those goals through self-publishing?
Regarding what a traditional publishing house offers that self-publishing doesn't, I agree with Gwen that cover and editing are some of the most important benefits of going the traditional route. If you've had comments about your cover art needing a little extra spark, or discovered many typos, missed commas, etc., a traditional publisher will offer professional quality in both of these areas.

Andrea Wilson said...

No problem. I think consulting is a great option. It's low risk and (hopefully) less time. I had the same issue of people begging me to publish their work when I wasn't a publisher because of the trust factor. However, you cannot let others' problems become your own. It's funny because now that I'm actually a publisher, I have not published any of the people who originally came to me about publishing. A couple of the biggest problems you will face when it comes to helping people with publishing is their lack of commitment and unrealistic expectations. People often want a lot, but are unwilling to do what it takes to reach their goals. They will expect the sun, moon, and stars from you, but nothing from themselves. Whether you become a publisher or just a consultant, decide early on what you are looking for in clients and what you will not tolerate. I've seen many authors turned publishers who regretted their decision to take on authors because their authors were difficult or lazy. Even with consulting, a difficult or lazy client will make your job hell. Set up you boundaries in advance and make your expectations clear from the start. Good luck!

Savannah J said...

Andrea, at the risk of sounding unprofessional, "you ain't never lied!" The gentleman I published a couple years ago wanted me to do his second book. He did very little to help himself the first time and was worse to work with the second time, and so, I fired him. My cousin who came to me and asked for help is totally different.

I've been in the medical field for over 30 years, so taking on other's problems is something I learned not to do a long time ago. My job is to give the tools (advice and direction) needed to succeed, it's up to the individual to put in the work.

I've become pretty intolerant of lazy and slothful persons in my middle years and have no problem letting individuals know what I will and will not accept.

Judging by your comments, it seems I'm on the right path in my thinking which is good. I appreciate your input. Blessings!

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