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Interview with an Editor Series: Angela James, Samhain Publishing

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.

Seize the HunterCan 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!

Emily VeingloryHow 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/mà©nage àtrios–"as is paranormal romance. M/M does well in sales, as do interracial romances and westerns.

Charlene TegliaWhat 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.

Nothing PersonalWhat 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.

Finding HomeDo 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.

221.jpgWe’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!

258t.jpgIt 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.

The Ocean's ShadowSamhain 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.

SteelFlowerThis 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.

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

30 Comments

  1. Teddy Pig
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 04:49:00

    Thanks Jane,

    I have heard nothing but great things about Angela James.
    Good information on Samhain. I have spent gobs on their books and will continue top notch writing and great covers.

  2. Nicole
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 07:08:52

    Samhain is now the place I go first whenever I want some instant ebook gratification. I often find really good stuff there.

    Also, just finished Steelflower by Saintcrow and really enjoyed it. I hope it’s the first in a new series.

  3. Angie
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 07:15:12

    Thank you, Jane, for the chance to share more about Samhain.

  4. Beth Williamson
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 07:19:18

    Angie ~ great interview! As an author, my experience with Samhain has been phenomenal. I’m a devoted fan of the books, the artists, the editors, and Crissy. I’m very proud to be part of such an amazing publishing house. :)
    And about the western-flavored space opera, I like that idea. Ya know, i lurv Firefly. Must think on that one…

  5. Teddy Pig
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 07:33:37

    What? Not one word about my buddy J.L. Langley?

    *sob* She so rock’s! It’s all Samhain’s fault for making me love her so.

  6. Teddy Pig
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 07:36:12

    Oh everybody grab that Go Fetch! book.

    That is the funniest werewolf romance story ever.

  7. Larissa Ione
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 07:49:36

    Awesome interview! I have been SO impressed by not only Samhain’s products, but by the editors and publishing process. The Samhain loops are so welcoming and energetic. I’m constantly amazed, because so often on publishing loops, the tone is depressing.

    I love Samhain!

    And Angie, thanks for mentioning me. Am wiggling in my seat! :)

    Beth, I ADORE Firefly! Write something like that. Immediately! *g*

  8. Sela
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 07:58:25

    Great interview, Angie. Thanks to the Ja(y)nes for doing this!

  9. Jackie
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 08:27:15

    Great interview, Angie — and congrats again on the RWA status!

  10. Emily
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 08:52:04

    I was distracted from reading the interview by seeing my cover. (subliminal message: It’s the second one, king of dragons, buy it now). My experience with Samhain as a reader and a writer has been excellent. Their selection is quirky but always worth the price of admission IMHO.

  11. Jaci Burton
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 08:54:54

    Samhain is a quality organization from publisher to editorial to the highly talented author pool and the always welcoming readers. I couldn’t be happier to be part of this organization.

    And Angie rocks ;-)

  12. Gabriella Hewitt
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 09:39:03

    Awesome interview!

    So glad to be part of Samhain. Hopefully, I fall into the category of hot new talent debuting throughout the year ;)

  13. Karen Scott
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 10:21:48

    One thing that I have noticed is that more well known authors seem more willing to write for Samhain, than EC these days, why do you think that is, considering that Samhain is basically the new kid on the block in comparison?

    I do know that some pretty good authors have been turned down by EC, but have been able to find a home with Samhain, which probably explains a lot.

    Like a few others have mentioned, I love buying at Samhain, it’s quick and easy, and the website doesn’t make my eyes hurt. Oh yeah, the books aren’t bad either.

  14. Charlene
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 10:34:35

    Terrific interview! And woo, there’s my Viking cover. *g*

    Samhain is a fantastic organization, well run, and growing!

  15. Bianca D'Arc
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 10:49:02

    Glad I stopped by here today! Great interview, Angie!

    Just have to say I’m very proud to be a part of the Samhain family. In addition to writing, I also read a lot of ebooks and can honestly say I’ve never, ever, read a clunker from Samhain. ;-)

  16. Patrice Michelle
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 11:03:12

    Great interview, Angie! I’m happy to be part of Samhain. I’ve been very impressed with the professionalism and energy.

  17. Angie
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 11:04:36

    Ya know, i lurv Firefly. Must think on that one-

    I actually know someone who has a work in progress (a la Firefly, which she loves) and she keeps telling me to stop asking for western space operas because she doesn’t want the darn competition. Oops ;)

  18. Jane
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 11:05:55

    I suspect that this is a very stupid question, but is Star Wars considered to be a Space Opera?

  19. Beth Williamson
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 11:11:04

    I actually know someone who has a work in progress (a la Firefly, which she loves) and she keeps telling me to stop asking for western space operas because she doesn’t want the darn competition.

    One can never have too many Cap’n Tightpants stories. ;)

  20. Angie
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 11:12:04

    I would certainly consider it as such, yes, since it fits the elements of space opera. Larger than life, well-developed characters, romantic elements, very good/evil characters, and large, otherworld settings. Very bold, colorful, descriptive and easy to visualize details (harder to say that about a movie since the visualizations are done for you, but you get what I mean). Dramatic and big is how I think of soap operas, but not necessarily overly so.

  21. bam
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 11:53:46

    Angie, thanks for giving me the awesome plug. My first experience with Samhain was a pleasure, and all the authors only have good things to say. I look forward to a great continuing relationship.

    Cap’n Tightpants melts my drawers! OMG, I started writing this futuristic m/m, but had to stop when I realized it was a thinly disguised Mal/Simon fanfic. :(

  22. Meljean
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 12:06:29

    Bam, for god’s sake … don’t stop writing that! Just post it on your blog.

    Agree with all of the wonderful things said about Samhain. I’ve been turning to them first more and more lately when I need a quick fix — and they have quite a few authors that I follow.

  23. Vivi Anna
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 13:09:33

    I’m proud to be part of Samhain. I have nothing but awesome things to say about the whole process and Angie does indeed rock. She really helped me with Of the Moon, polishing it up to make it shine!

  24. Shannon Stacey
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 13:30:16

    I’ll jump on the Samhain-loving bandwagon. It really IS all about the story, and that’s a wonderful thing for such a schitzo muse as mine. No content requirements or restrictions…love it!

    Mal/Simon fanfic? Hmm…not so much Simon for me. But I don’t think I’d like Mal/Jayne fanfic any better. Nor Wash or the Shephard. Huh. Mal/bounty hunter from the last episode? He was cool.

  25. Jean Marie Ward
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 17:37:02

    Great interview! Glad to see you at DearAuthor.com, Angie. Thanks, Jane!

  26. Christyne Butler
    Mar 19, 2007 @ 20:04:19

    As another one of Samhain’s 2007 debut authors, I can say without a doubt how excited I am to be a part of this wonderful publishing family.

    Terrific interview Angie!

  27. Mechele Armstrong
    Mar 20, 2007 @ 07:06:50

    Terrific interview! I’ve been watching Samhain since they started and been impressed at every turn.

  28. N.J. Walters
    Mar 20, 2007 @ 09:38:01

    Great interview, Angie!

    Everyone at Samhain Publishing is professional, enthusiastic and just plain nice! I’m proud to be a part of this wonderful company.

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