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All You Ever Wanted to Know About Quartet Press

qp_logoQuartet Press is a new digital publisher specializing in romance stories. I love the people behind Quartet Press and believe that they are bringing technological, marketing, business expertise, and vision that we’ve not yet seen in digital publishing. But, I had some concerns that because these individuals weren’t long time romance readers that perhaps their definition of romance and mine were not consistent. I tried to ask the hard questions for which the readers here might want answers but if I didn’t hit the right ones, drop a note. I am sure the QP people would be happy to answer if they can.

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1)   What exactly are you offering?   I have read romance but is it spicy romance, erotic romance, fantasy romance, contemporary, historical, romance with were tentacle sex?

k2 (Kassia Krozser): As tempting as the were-tentacle romance sounds on paper, so far we haven’t encountered great execution. We are, however, very excited about the possibility of a story featuring a were-faux pug, though I suspect, for obvious reasons, said faux pug is more sidekick material than hero. We shall see. Nobody can resist a pug, right?

When it comes to reading, my personal tastes are varied, making me a typical romance reader. Which is one way of saying that we’re looking at different types and styles of the genre. And while this leads somewhat into subsequent questions, we’ll be looking for really good stories and paying attention to what our readers really like (or really hate). The trick is to offer enough variety to tempt readers while encouraging them to try something different.

DL (Don Linn): A good story that follows the basic arc (which is the basis of all literature when you cut to the chase) with believable characters and great dialogue gets me every time. I don’t care what you call it. That’s part of what’s exciting to me about what we’re trying to do.We can live within the genre but step out with new authors or subject matter without somehow breaking the bond of trust with the community of readers.

KM (Kat Meyer): Like Kassia and Don have said, we’re more invested in delivering great stories then we are on focusing on any one sub-genre. This makes it a little harder for me in some respects — I may have to spend a bit more time on wooing readers across the lines of their favorite sub-genres. But, I think if we consistently deliver fantastic writing and characters, we will find readership no matter what the sub-genre.

KB (Kirk Biglione): note, were-faux pugs and faux were-pugs are entirely different creatures.

2)   What will Quench be providing readers that they can’t get somewhere else?

k2: Every publishing company/imprint differentiates itself in editorial taste. Berkley, Samhain, Pocket, Harlequin (oh, the variety!), Loose-ID, and so on. Readers tend to gravitate toward publishers/imprints they know will give them something they’re going to love (though, you know, it’s not always a given!). While house styles — that certain something defining each imprint — evolve over time, the sensibility of the editorial team is what makes the books stand apart (in fact, it’s when publishers fall over themselves to capitalize on trends or styles owned by their competition, without having a strong perspective of their own, that the readers suffers the “been there, read that” syndrome).

All of which is a long way of saying that our editorial perspective will be the difference. We’re hiring very talented editors, and their eye for talent and great stories will be the thing that sets us apart from other publishers. The fact that our taste and style will differ complements other publishers; it would be boring for readers and authors if everyone offered the same style, same stories, same viewpoint.

KM: Another thing that Quench readers will be getting is a commitment to a quality reading experience. We’re investing heavily in editing – both developmental and copy editing. We are working with some very talented artists and designers to make sure the covers and formatting are far above par. And, we are going to great lengths to make sure readers can purchase and read our books how they want, with as little hassle as possible.

3)   You all come from very disparate backgrounds and other than  Kassia, aren’t long time romance readers. How can we trust that you  are going to be providing us actual romance stories?

k2: While I’ll let the others address this in their own way, the editorial team will be in charge of acquiring titles. As we branch out to other imprints/genres, we’ll be working with experienced professionals in those areas as well. I think it’s possible to have both fresh perspective  and familiarity with the genre.

KB: I see our disparate backgrounds as an advantage. It takes many different skills to build a digital publishing house. It’s true that we’re not all long-time romance readers, but I can assure you that long-time romance readers will be making all of the important editorial decisions.

KM: Suffice it to say that the editorial team – starting with Kassia — will have one heck of an impeccable romance pedigree. Expect some news on this in the very near future. The beauty of Quartet is we all have different strengths and we’re all very good at listening to each other.

DL: Our hope at Quartet is to be good listeners, to learn what this community values, to earn acceptance as a contributing member, to build a mutually rewarding relationship with its members over time. We hope they’ll be willing to take a chance on us based on our backgrounds, but we fully intend to earn their trust through our publishing program.

4)   Will Quench books be available at other vendors?

k2: Yes! It’s important to have books available where readers shop. Anything less is a disservice to our readers.

KM: Absolutely. We have partnerships in the works with a number of vendors. We’ll be making official announcements in the near future, but expect to find Quartet Press/Quench titles available at all major online book retailers, as well as the major romance book retailers, and in some up and coming online venues that we’re very impressed with and excited about.

5)   Why should a prospective author submit to Quench instead of  somewhere else or even instead of self publishing?

k2: Good question, and one every author should ask before submitting to any publisher. I’m sorry, but there’s so much more to publishing than throwing together a cover in Photoshop and opening a Paypal account. I’m big on authors checking their egos and focusing on what’s right for their careers. If you’re only in this business to say you’re published, without regard to what that really means, then your priorities are wrong. No career can grow from poorly written, poorly edited, poorly marketed books.

One point that I think is important, and without judging the business plans of others, we do not exist to publish books written by any of the Quartet partners. To my mind, it creates a conflict for everyone involved, and I’d rather not go there.

We’re focused on quality — this means good stories and professional editing. It means making sure our books look good and are readable in whatever format our customers choose. It means a commitment to marketing our books and authors. It means making sure the basics, like title management and royalties, are in place. It means, frankly, making sure the publisher is run like a business, even though books are creative endeavors.

I’m not one who raises her nose at self-publishing — I’ve been around too long to discount the success some authors find. But it’s not easy. Not only do you have to incur many of the out-of-pocket expenses generally covered by a publisher, including editorial, but you have to work harder to market your book. You have to establish relationships with retailers, you have to make sure you’re on top of sales and collections. All sort of things must be considered, and we sometimes see that authors who go the self-publishing route spend a lot of time and effort reinventing the wheel or trying to figure out processes that publishers have already mastered.

KM: Kassia covered it well, but I would add – Quartet is new, but none of us are novices. Each of us has a great deal of experience with publishing and digital content, and an even greater deal of commitment to creating a working model for digital book publishing.We are taking all the things that work in traditional publishing(vetting manuscripts, applying the highest quality of editing and production, identifying and engaging with the core target market of readers) and adding things that will make digital work even better (no hassle online purchasing, online communities and tools for readers, etc.). We’re invested in success for everyone involved: authors, readers, and us.

6)   You talk about having a community based readership, but I’m not  sure I know what that means?

k2: Community means a lot of things. First, of course, are the people who buy and read our books. We want to make sure the experience is the best possible for them (see question below). We want to make sure our books are available where the readers shop, in the formats the readers want. We want to make sure our readers can talk to us, our authors, and each other. I’m often frustrated by the fact that publishers don’t reach out and talk with the people who buy and read their books.

Beyond that, as you know, we are engaged and involved with the larger publishing community. We participate in conferences, workshops, discussions, and more on a regular basis. Through that community, we are raising awareness of the digital romance market and finding new readers — I personally believe that, despite all the growth and maturity of this marketplace, we are nowhere near reaching all readers. Look at the monthly ebook sales numbers. Look at how technologies like Twitter have given us (all of us!) access to different readerships and part of the greater publishing world.

When we talk about community, we are focused on all levels of conversation. People who read books love to talk about books. But they also love to talk about the things that surround books. So in some ways, the community we’re building isn’t just about Quartet/Quench/next imprint, it’s about talking with people who share our love of books, reading, writing, and publishing. (Also, funny pictures of cats!)

DL: And for me, the community of readers (and writers and editors and reviewers and agents) is the big attraction to the Romance category. Since I’ve begun looking seriously at it as a business proposition, I’ve had the opportunity to meet a fair number of folks each of those group and I’ve never come across a more passionate, devoted,   enthusiastic, tech-savvy, professional, generous, smart and funny group of people in my life. And even though the publishers   and editors are obviously competitive, what I saw at RWA and what I’ve seen online is a sense of collaboration that results in a rising tide for all boats. What it shows me is that there’s an appetite for good books and a community that loves to talk about them. If it was just about the business I’d still think it was a good opportunity; but since it’s all those other things, it’s something I can get really fired up about as a long term thing.

7)   I know that you won’t be offering ebooks with DRM but how do you  plan to make it easier for readers to shop at your store? (Shopping is  a huge frustration for readers because of lack of usability).   Will  there be features for mobile users?

kb: Shopping for ebooks really is a huge frustration for any number of reasons.

Regarding format issues, besides offering DRM-free books, we’ll be offering multi-format bundles. When you buy a Quartet Press book directly from our website you’ll have the ability to download whichever format you need for that title, and you’ll be allowed to re-download books as many times as you need to.   We realize that the ebook landscape is still evolving rapidly and that the format you purchase today may not be the format you need tomorrow.

As you’ve noted, usability is a serious issue with most ebook stores. As a professional web developer, usability and accessibility are two issues I take very seriously. I believe that Quartet customers will be pleasantly surprised by the user experience we’re creating for them. More importantly, we’re   building our platform in such a way that we’ll be positioned to respond in a timely manner to both customer needs and new technology developments.

We’re exploring a number of different mobile features for both shopping and reading.

***

All the Quartet Press folks will have extensive bios on their blog.   The first one posted is Kirk Biglione’s, the Tech Guy. I thought in lieu of what they wrote for me, I would tell you what I thought was so impressive about their backgrounds and why I’m excited to see how QP will change romance digital publishing because I do believe that they will.

Don Linn is someone I met on Twitter while he was the Vice President and Publisher of Taunton, a woodworking, cooking, sewing, knitting, etc. how to business.   Don struck me as someone totally pragmatic but incredibly savvy about publishing.   I read his every tweet.   One day Don asked me for some romance recommendations and I gave them to him.    I had some inkling that the request was motivated by something more than just a request for pleasure reading.

When I read Don’s bio (something you’ll have the chance to do in the upcoming days), I was even more impressed. Harvard MBA, Wall Street money credentials, running an extensive family mini empire, and finally acquiring a publishing interest, making it profitable and selling it to Perseus Group.    If there was a businessman I would want on my team, it would be Don.

Kat Meyer is someone I met online via Kassia.   Kat hosts #followreader on Twitter and then posts these discussions that bring together readers and authors and publishers and booksellers about interesting topics of the day.   The greatest thing about Kat is that she really does listen and she really is interested in hearing what readers have to say.   Plus, the fact that she knows what she is doing having been in marketing for trade and academic publishings across the country for countless number of years means that she’ll know what to do with the information she is acquiring.

I have communication in my blood. My dad was a CBS news correspondent turned PR man, my mom was a teacher, and all of my four sisters work in careers that involved sharing information. Some might even accuse us of oversharing, but can we help it if we like to talk?

Kirk Biglione is known to me at Kassia’s husband. (Kassia is clearly the hub here. I’m sure I know Kevin Bacon through her).   Kirk is the guy who inveted Dura Sport (TM) Smell of Books (TM).   He is the know it all tech guy and frankly I do think he knows it all. I have high hopes for the technical capabilities that   QuartetPress will offer readers.   A little known fact? He’s the father of the Romance Wiki.   Even more important for we romance digital readers is Kirk hates DRM as much as we do.

Finally is Kassi Krozser after whose name  I mentally append the words “One of Us”.   Kassia has been reading romance since forever.   She’s worked in the fim industry in her real life, but has reviewed romance books, runs the very popular booksquare.com and is considered to be a pioneer in the digital book industry. I don’t have much to say about Kassia because I think her long time contribution to the romance community is something that needs no introduction.   Really, the most important thing to know about Kassia, from my standpoint, is that she knows romance, loves romance, and will deliver romance to us.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

25 Comments

  1. Kalen Hughes
    Aug 05, 2009 @ 10:35:21

    Wow. This looks great. Can’t wait to see what comes of it . . .

  2. Fae Sutherland
    Aug 05, 2009 @ 10:46:38

    I’m still curious about Quartet’s royalty payments, whether they are indeed going to be based on net, not cover price, and how they calculate net. I asked on the Quartet blog FAQ post and never got a response.

    I realize those terms would be spelled out in a contract, but many authors, myself included, prefer to know this kind of thing before we submit and potentially put our MS on hold for weeks/months.

    I wish Quartet the best, it sounds like they have a great team and a great business plan, not to mention are already building a great author list! :)

  3. Kassia Krozser
    Aug 05, 2009 @ 10:47:20

    Ah, you brought tears to my eyes (and not just because you called out Kirk’s work on the RomanceWiki — the hours of swearing will always be a fond memory for me!). Thank you so much for this interview and the tough questions.

  4. kaigou
    Aug 05, 2009 @ 11:31:03

    Is it Quench, or is it Quartet? The name changes suddenly, early in the article, and then switches back to being referred to as Quartet, with no explanation. I actually went back to the top intro and yep, the image says “Quartet,” so did perhaps the wrong interview get appended onto the intro paragraphs? About which point then someone called it Quartet again, and then Quench…

    Maybe something for those of us who don’t have access to the subtitles? Because it’s not really obvious why the company has two names, and whether one refers to an imprint or a sub-section, or what. The end result is that it feels rather unprofessional (for all the other good stuff) if the interviewees themselves can’t figure out what to call their company. I’m sure that wasn’t the intention, but that’s the impression.

  5. Jane
    Aug 05, 2009 @ 11:34:13

    @kaigou: Quartet Press is the name of the business and Quench is the imprint. I’m sorry that I didn’t make that more clear in the post. It is no different than Penguin being the name of the publishing house and Berkley being an imprint (along with Jove, NAL, Signet, Ace, ROC, etc. just to name a few).

    It’s standard in the industry to have different imprints.

  6. kaigou
    Aug 05, 2009 @ 11:37:56

    @Jane: I’m well aware of imprints! But those are also established imprints, that is to say, at some point, the publishing company said, “we are X and this is our new imprint, Y,” and eventually folks learned to associate Y with X. It’s that introduction that was missing in the article, is all.

  7. Kassia Krozser
    Aug 05, 2009 @ 11:38:03

    Thanks Jane for the explanation (and I’m sorry for the lack of clarity in our responses): Quartet is the parent company, while Quench is the romance line.

  8. katiebabs
    Aug 05, 2009 @ 11:40:37

    Can’t wait to see what Quartet has in store. Good luck!

  9. Kassia Krozser
    Aug 05, 2009 @ 12:02:28

    @ fae — I’m sorry about not responding (I’ve answered this question a few times in various forums, including the blog, but didn’t respond directly to you). I don’t like to use the word “net” without a clear definition. We pay royalties based on the amounts actually received from various retailers, which is why, yes, we’ll strongly encourage sales on our website versus other venues, and why we’ll offer books in file formats compatible with ereader devices directly from the site.

    (As an aside, this is also the trend for traditional publishers such as Random House, though their royalty rates for ebooks are lower — it’s going to be a while before the market settles entirely, but right now the big houses are looking at 25% of net; tomorrow, this could be different!)

  10. Fae Sutherland
    Aug 05, 2009 @ 12:09:28

    @Kassia Krozser:

    Thanks for answering, Kassia! I must have missed the answer elsewhere, my apologies.

    I appreciate your candor, I was mostly concerned because I know of a couple epubs who pay on net who use it as a catch all way to pay their editors/cover artists etc before giving the author their cut. Your way I have zero issue with, secondary retailers take such a large cut.

    Thanks again and best of luck to your entire group! :)

  11. Kassia Krozser
    Aug 05, 2009 @ 12:12:36

    @fae — I’m always happy to address these issues. And, yes, that is why I am very specific in defining terms. Net means different things to different people, yet in the context of royalty payments, should never include the deduction of distribution expenses.

  12. anon
    Aug 05, 2009 @ 12:45:07

    Will you consider gay romances? I didn’t see it mentioned in your submission guidelines. I hope that’s because you want us to take it for granted that you do.
    :)

  13. Kat Meyer
    Aug 05, 2009 @ 12:50:31

    Thanks so much for the interview, Jane. It really had us all thinking (and, well – talking/writing – perhaps more than you were anticipating in fact). Your blog, and your work in general (all around the web and at conferences, etc) are incredibly valuable sources of information and fantastic hubs around which some very important conversations take place. (plus, you’re just way cool)
    We are all quite honored to be invited to participate/hang out with you.
    ~ Kat

  14. Jessica
    Aug 05, 2009 @ 12:55:28

    Sigh. I am very disappointed to see in your submission guidelines that “We don't believe rape, necrophilia, incest, bestiality, and/or pedophilia are romantic.” as these are my favorite themes in romance, especially when perpetrated by protagonists with were-tentacles. ;)

    Seriously, as a reader, all I care about is … when are the books coming and who is writing them? When will we know? Is your website the place to check in?

  15. Helen Burgess
    Aug 05, 2009 @ 13:05:44

    On the subject of pugs, at New Years, a neighbour said he would like one, my reply was that people were meant to grow to look like their dogs not get a dog to match their face – I think a few too many lemonades were to blame (thats my story anyway)

  16. DonLinn
    Aug 05, 2009 @ 13:20:07

    Will you consider gay romances?

    Yes. As Kassia pointed out, a well-crafted story is our only real requirement at this time. We’re really pretty open with respect to sub-genres.

  17. Moth
    Aug 05, 2009 @ 14:54:52

    a well-crafted story is our only real requirement at this time

    So…you guys would consider YA manuscripts with a strong romantic plotline?

  18. Lori
    Aug 05, 2009 @ 14:55:43

    So what’s the rumor about Don Linn and pirate shirts?

  19. Kassia Krozser
    Aug 05, 2009 @ 15:01:47

    @lori — apparently the pirate shirts are only for special moments.

    @moth — we’re not pushing into YA specifically at this time, but will be happy to read your query. The key for us, with the Quench imprint, is the romance, so please send something!

  20. Sharron McClellan
    Aug 05, 2009 @ 15:32:49

    For one or all of the four:
    I truly believe that a talented editor can help make a good book great. So I'd love to hear about your editing experience and what it means for Quartet.

  21. Kassia Krozser
    Aug 05, 2009 @ 16:17:25

    @sharron — I am a huge believer in the power of a good editor, and while I am doing some editing (something I’ve been doing for many years), we’re also hiring very strong editors. Different types of editors bring different skill sets (developmental, line), so it’s not just a matter of hiring someone to “edit”, it’s a matter of making sure we’re matching the right talent to the right job.

  22. Fae Sutherland
    Aug 05, 2009 @ 16:27:10

    Damn, if Quartet keeps up being so awesome, I might have to break my “Wait a year” rule on new epubs! *starts to ponder what might suit*

  23. Heather Massey
    Aug 05, 2009 @ 17:46:30

    Great interview!

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