Interview with an Editor Series: Angela James, Samhain Publishing
Samhain Publishing exploded onto the romance and erotic fiction market in November 2005. In little less that a year and a half, it had multiple books selling 5,000 copies or more rendering it eligible for RWA recognition. Samhain received that just last week, in March 2007. Angela James is its Executive Editor and long time fellow blogger. She’s come to share her thoughts on editing and books.
Can you briefly describe what an editor does. I think that readers assume that you get to do what we all dream of doing and that is get paid to read for a living. I suspect that the truth is less romantic.
A content editor at Samhain has responsibility for reading submissions, writing the acceptance/rejection letters, assisting the author with blurb writing and polishing, content edits and finalizing the manuscript after copy edits, which includes putting the book into it's proper format, inserting excerpts to the back of the book and making sure it's ready to go for final formatting. We do that in addition to being the main contact person for the author to ask questions of, give advice and sometimes just provide a little reassurance.
I wouldn't say the job is glamorous, but it's fun and can certainly be satisfying. I don't think anyone who doesn't love it probably works as an editor–"whether it's epublishing or NY–"because it's more of a calling than a cushy job. But it's never dull!
How many romance books do you release each month? (ie. is there a set amount released in month and under what imprints?)
At Samhain, we have releases every Tuesday, generally anywhere from 4 to 6. While the majority of our releases are romance at this time, we are a general publisher so we also provide women's fiction/mainstream, horror, erotica, fantasy/sci-fi and YA.
Are there any trends you see growing, expanding or contracting? What do you think is driving these trends? As an ebook publisher, you are more easily able to respond to changing trends or to take chances. Do you see trends change quickly?
Because of the nature of epublishing, which allows us to publish a book not because it's hot right now, but because we love it, we don't have to worry as much about trends as NY publishers. It's one of the advantages of epublishing. We can publish not just what the majority of readers enjoy, but also what there's a smaller market for, and do it because we love the book and want to see it get a chance to reach readers.
Speaking outside of the romance genre specifically, one thing I have noticed is the increasing number of adults reading YA labeled stories, if that's something you could label a “trend”. Right now, erotic romance is still hot–"especially those books featuring multiple partners/mÃƒÆ’Ã‚ ©nage ÃƒÆ’Ã‚ trios–"as is paranormal romance. M/M does well in sales, as do interracial romances and westerns.
What is the most interesting story of how you came to buy a manuscript?
I'm not sure how interesting it is, but I once saw a comment on a blog by an aspiring author, who had some misconceptions about epublishing. I responded with some corrected information. She emailed me, humbly apologizing and asking if she could submit something for consideration. I ended up accepting her manuscript and that author has gone on to write for several epublishers in the past year. I think it just goes to show that you can make a convert out of the greatest disbeliever.
How much time do you spend actually reading as part of your job?
Quite a bit, I release 4 to 6 books a month, so editing/reading manuscripts and submissions is a large part of what I do.
Do you get to read for pleasure? If so, do you have favorite authors?
Oh yes, I end every day with reading for pleasure, for the most part (though there are times when I end the day with reading submissions). Some of my favorite authors include JD Robb, Julie Garwood (her historicals), David Eddings, Elizabeth Haydon and Clive Cussler, to name a variety. My keeper shelves are two high, two deep.
What are you looking for in terms of a romance these days? Any particular themes? periods? subgenres? Are you buying outside of romance for Samhain?
We're always buying outside of romance for Samhain. As I said above, we're a general publisher, we're looking for most everything. As for particular themes, I say the same thing in every interview I give. We're all about the story (it's our motto) because we can be, so we're looking for good books first and foremost. Well-written, polished, with characters and a story that grabs you and won't let go.
We're always interested in publishing more inspirationals, westerns and futuristics. I've recently been discussing further developing our multi-cultural/interracial genre. We'd like to publish more of the genres I've mentioned, but lower submission numbers for those specifically have meant fewer publications in those areas.
I specifically am still on the hunt for a great space opera (a western flavored space opera is my dream), something in the cyberpunk/steampunk genre, and a fast-paced action-adventure romance. I've been asking for something like those since we opened our doors, and I suppose I'll keep asking until someone comes through for me!
I do want to mention that we are temporarily closed to submissions, with a few exceptions (including by invitation from an editor via email or through editor appointments at RT and RWA). Further details can be found on the submissions page of our website.
Do you think readers today are more accepting of rule breaking romances (pushing the envelope) or are we still very traditional in our buying habits? Is the ebook purchaser different from the traditional print purchaser? Do you see differences in the print sales v. ebook sales?
I think it depends on which rules you're talking about and how well it's handled. As an example, we recently published a mainstream romance, Finding Home by Lauren Baker and Bonnie Dee. The book features a 17-year-old hero. For whatever reason, in the past it's been acceptable for a heroine in a historical to be 17 (or younger) but a hero/heroine in a contemporary seems to come with a stigma. But people who have read the book talk about the talent of the authors and the excellence of the story in making them not just move past his age, but accept it. I think it's all about how the “rule” is handled in the story.
I don't find the ebook purchaser much different from the traditional print buyer, no. I think the only difference is that the ebook purchaser has gotten addicted to the adrenaline rush of instant gratification, as well as all the advantages that ebooks provide. Right now, the books that do well in ebook seem to also be the same that do well in print, as far as I can tell.
We’ve heard some about the loss of young readership or the inability to gain that young readership. Is that changing? What are you doing to try to attract the younger readers?
I think, by their nature of being electronic, ebooks will continue to grow and have an advantage with the younger generation, who loves their gadgets as well as the instant gratification the internet can provide.
We’ve heard some about the loss of older readers because of lack of content which is reflective of their lives, specifically baby boomers? Is that still the case? What are you doing to attract older readers?
Perhaps surprisingly, many of our readers are in the age bracket of thirties and up, including baby boomers. I can speculate that it's because those are the readers who have been around longer so they are looking for the different books that haven't had a chance in more traditional publishing settings. But ebooks also offer the advantage of convenience–"not just in storage, but also in font size. By their nature, ebooks are adaptable and customizable to the reader's needs, and this seems to be an advantage for older readers who have to squint to read smaller print.
Do you have a favorite way of spending time away from books?
I have a two-year-old, she likes to have my attention when I'm not reading or working. But I also enjoy sewing and belly dancing.
What is the worst part of an editor’s job?
Writing rejection letters is never fun. You know there's a person on the other end who's got their hopes and expectations up and you're sending something that's going to take that away.
What is the best part of an editor’s job?
Giving an author their very first book contract ever. There's a freshness and enthusiasm about an author signing their first contract. Getting to see the giddiness and excitement in those first months of their career is a huge rush. I'm always sad to see the initial glow wear off.
Have you considered writing a book yourself?
No. It takes great skill to craft a compelling story and dynamic characters and I'm happy to be the one to help polish those, rather than create them!
It seems there are two very diametrically opposed growths: erotic romance and inspirational romance. Are those fringe trends or will they become more mainstream?
How long has erotic romance been growing? For years. I think it's already shown it's not a fringe trend. Plus, I believe, if you look at even those romances that aren't erotic romance, you'll find that the popularity of the erotic market has had an impact on them. The language is sexier, a little more explicit, rawer. Romances have evolved to embrace more of the “sexual revolution” and many women (and men) don't want to see the bedroom door shut or the scene fade.
In the same vein, inspirational romance will always have its fans. Faith isn't a fad, so I don't see the readers of more faith-based romances disappearing, either.
Which books are you proudest of having worked on in your career?
Do you know how many of my authors read this blog? What a difficult question to answer without excluding someone. But I will say that when Samhain launched, three of the launch books (and the only three that are still available for purchase, since rights to Lora Leigh's Nauti Boy was bought by Berkley) were edited by me. It was a both exhilarating and frightening experience, to pave the way, and I'm proud of those books because I think we made a good showing out of the gate.
Samhain was recently awarded RWA Recognition. How is that meaningful?
RWA is an organization for authors, run by authors. One of the organization's goals is to look out for best interests of its members. By maintaining a list of recognized publishers, they're letting their members know that those publishers have solid contracts, have gained letters of recommendation from agents, and have gained a certain sales level. Some authors will only submit to and write for RWA recognized publishers.
Authors who write for RWA recognized publishers gain some specific benefits, including PAN membership (Published Authors Network), though I can't comment on those benefits, as I'm not completely familiar with all they entail.
As a publisher, it allows us to take part in RWA conferences, most specifically the yearly national conference, to do editor appointments at RWA national/hear pitches from authors, give workshops and participate in publisher events. We feel that gaining RWA recognition also lets our current and prospective authors know that we have a business plan and that we are working to build the company and stand out in the crowd.
While you are probably excited about all of the books that you have in your catalog can you share with the readers a few that we should be anticipating? Any new authors or existing ones that have exciting projects for 2007?
I am excited about all the books we have contracted for 2007.One in particular that stands out is Lucy Monroe, who is going to be doing something different for her–"she's releasing two inspirational novels with us in 2007 under the name L.C. Monroe, in addition to a sexy historical romance as Lucy Monroe. We were thrilled to be able to give Lucy the opportunity to publish these inspirational titles, which are a departure from her signature sexiness, but still deliver compelling stories.
This summer, we're featuring the Midsummer Night Steam short stories. 24 sizzling erotic romances by a collection of today's hottest authors, as well as several debut, never-before-published authors, including the infamous Dionne Galace (Bam). In the fall, we'll showcase a sexy romance anthology, I Dream of Dragons, which I'm looking forward to, because we had a lot of new authors submit their stories for consideration.
I think our whole lineup is pretty exciting, from the newest fantasy by Lilith Saintcrow, m/m manlove by Ally Blue, hot erotic romance by Maya Banks and tantalizing stories from New York authors Shelley Bradley, Jaci Burton, Larissa Ione, Charlene Teglia and more. Add in some hot new talent debuting throughout the year in every genre from futuristic romance to women's fiction, and there's a lot to look forward to.