Aug 5 2009
Quartet 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.
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.