Hello everyone! This is our last agent/editor interview before Silken Sands Writers Conference begins this weekend. I’m excited and nervous all at the same time. Its going to fun but man I’m getting shaky about my material. But with editors as nice and intersting as our editor today I can’t be too nervous. So to everyone else here is Ms. Faber’s interview:
Sayde: Tell us what you think is hot and what’s not.
Ms. Faber: Oh, man. This is the question most agents and editors dread, because it’s so difficult to answer. Especially for the digital market, in which audiences tend to read widely and voraciously, with less interest in genre than in authors who can tell a great story. The digital world also tends to be a little more fast-paced, so we never know what trend is just around the corner.
But here are a few thoughts on the digital market based on what we’re seeing at Samhain. I think the erotic market is becoming saturated, and though there’s still room to break out really great authors, we’re past the days of seeing anything with an erotic label sell like hotcakes. Probably the biggest rising trend in digital is gay romance, in part because it’s not a subgenre offered by more mainstream publishers.
Traditionally, digital has been strongly associated with erotic and other niche genres, but I think there’s growing opportunity for writers of non-erotic, more mainstream romance. As devices like the Kindle and the Nook bring a larger audience to ebooks, there’s an increasing number of readers with more traditional tastes, looking for the kind of books they’re used to finding at brick-and-mortar bookstores. Books that have formerly been a hard sell to our core digital audience are finding popularity with the new readers who are discovering ebooks, as well as the readers who find our books in print.
Paranormal and urban fantasy continue to be popular sellers. Our readers love shifters, but there’s still room for vampires and other paranormal characters as long as the story is fresh. Contemporary is also one of our most popular genres for all heat levels. But Samhain is also eager to expand our offerings and build a larger audience for genres we haven’t been as well known for, such as historical and interracial, and the editors have expressed a particular interest in receiving more futuristic, science fiction, and space opera.
Sayde: What types of work are you most interested in seeing at the 2010 Silken Sands Conference?
Ms. Faber: Samhain is currently open to all subgenres of romance and erotica, as well as fantasy, urban fantasy, and science fiction with strong romantic elements. We accept submissions of 12,000 words and above and welcome all heat levels, from just kisses to no-holds-barred erotica.
Personally, I live by the Samhain motto, “It’s all about the story”, so I hope authors will pitch me great stories featuring compelling, realistic characters. I have varied reading tastes and edit a little of everything, so I’m open to any genre and heat level. I love to find things that are a little off-trend, different from what might be offered by a larger publisher, such as unusual settings, less popular historical time periods time periods, and non-traditional character types. I’m currently on the lookout for a good historical western, but I’d love something even more unusual, like pirates. I always love to see more paranormal and urban fantasy, and I’m dying to do superheroes. I have a lot of contemporary on my plate at the moment, but I’m always open to more and would particularly like to have more short (novella or category length) non-erotic contemporaries. And I have a growing interest in futurists and science fiction. But again, my interests turn less to genres than to stories. Some of my favorites are reunited couples, friends to lovers, mistaken identity, or stories that keep the characters on the move—in any genre.
Sayde: This question goes back to the “writer rumors”, but so many times I’ve heard that agents/editors will throw out a manuscript if they see grammatical errors. Personally, this is a huge one for me as I am grammatically challenged. Many times authors will edit and edit then send to a contest and have their manuscript ripped to shreds because they used “ing”, “ly” or “was” to much for the judges liking. Do you look for these issues when reading requested material or is it more about the story?
Ms. Faber: One of the most important skills for an editor is the ability to take off her editing hat and read the way a reader would. When I read submissions, this is what I’m trying to do. I’m not watching for correct hyphen usage or tallying up the number of misplaced modifiers—I’m trying to lose myself in the story. It’s my job to help authors tighten their writing, so I’m not going to be intimidated by a few awkward sentences or some excess adverbs—this is common for many beginning authors and even some who are more experienced.
That said, poor grammar can weaken an author’s style, and numerous errors will pull a reader out of the story. Authors should want to put their best foot forward with any submission, and that means turning in a manuscript that’s as well-written and error-free as possible. For authors who struggle with grammar and typos, I recommend finding a reliable critique partner or beta reader before submitting.
Sayde: What is your opinion on emarket vs. traditional print? I know this is a hot topic and we all appreciate whatever comments you can give us.
Ms. Faber: I feel authors shouldn’t have to look at the digital versus print question as though it’s an either-or decision. The industry is rapidly moving toward a future where we won’t be talking about digital publishing or print publishing—just publishing. Print publishers are working to expand their digital presence, and many of the larger epublishers have print programs as well.
The digital market is growing exponentially, and I think it has something to offer almost any author, no matter where she is in her career. It offers a less intimidating, more personal environment to writers starting out, or a chance to build and audience and a platform before approaching a larger publisher. For established authors, it can offer more creative freedom—the chance to write a short story or novella or try out a new genre. It’s also becoming a popular way to make old, out-of-print books accessible to newer fans. And for some authors, it can be a career in and of itself—some authors make excellent money off their ebooks.
I wouldn’t be at Samhain if I didn’t believe digital was the future, but the truth is it’s still a distant future. Ebook sales currently make up only 3-5% of all book sales, and while the market is growing quickly, we’re still years away from ebooks becoming the preferred format. The best way to reach the largest audience is still through print, and as such, Samhain has developed an extensive print program. Our print titles are distributed through Ingram and can be found on the shelves of numerous brick-and-mortar bookstores, including Barnes & Noble and Borders. To date, our print sales for 2010 are up 68% over last year, and we’re exploring many options to expand our print reach. We’ll continue to be a leader in digital, but we want to reach readers no matter how they choose to read, and be a publisher of stories, not of formats.
Sayde: I know that when I am researching an agent or editor, I Google them, check their Facebook page, and tweet them. I read their posts and blogs. I try to see if their tastes would lean toward my writing style or not. And I try to get a feel for their personality to see if we might “mesh well” if the opportunity ever arose. If you have a manuscript on your desk, do you ever check the same accounts for that author? Do you ever check to see what he/she is posting? If so, have you been influenced by what you’ve learned?
Ms. Faber: I often check to see if the author has a website. Author promotion is increasingly important, especially in the digital market, and authors who are already building a name for themselves have a leg up. Plus, a website can give me more information about an author’s publishing history and goals than I’ll get from the query letter. If there’s a link to a blog, I might check that too—for more details on what’s going on in the author’s career or just out of natural curiosity. I rarely look further into social networking, though I’m reasonably active on Twitter and lurk around a lot of popular blogs and message boards, so I have received submissions from (and even signed) writers whose names I was familiar with.
As I said, checking out websites is mostly about information-gathering, so I don’t have any particular expectations, though I’m always glad to see a site that’s clear, professional, and easy to navigate—features I think are more important than a flashy or expensive design. If anything, I find these visits tend to reinforce my interest—if I’ve really connected with an author’s voice enough to check her site, there’s a good chance we share a similar sensibility and I can expect to enjoy her approach to her website and blog as well.
But authors should keep in mind that unprofessional behavior—posting rejection letters or other private correspondence, badmouthing others, sharing the intimate details of your sex life or continually ranting about politics—is a real turn off to editors. Readers, especially the digital audience, tend to be in tune to the online romance community, and it’s going to be difficult to build an author who does nothing but offend her audience. As an editor, I don’t want to take on an author I’ll have to rein in, who lacks business savvy or who I fear will be difficult to work with. Unprofessional behavior of any kind is a huge red flag.
Sayde: If an author has queried you and you’ve rejected that query/partial and the author emails you asking for details on why you’ve rejected their ms, what is your process here? Do you give specific reasons on why the manuscript may not have been for you?
Ms. Faber: Samhain uses a standard form rejection letter. I know how eager authors are for feedback and helping authors is my favorite part of this job, but the sad truth is that I just don’t have the time to respond personally to every submission. I can send a form rejection in a matter of seconds, but writing a truly helpful rejection can take hours. It requires a much deeper analysis of the book, the ability to articulate the specific problems, and the time to compose a constructive response.
I occasionally write personalized rejections—when I have the time and something constructive and encouraging to say to the author—but if I don’t respond personally in the original rejection, I won’t when asked for further details (and I have a form response for those emails, too). It’s not personal, and it doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like to see more of the author’s work; it just means I wasn’t able to pinpoint a way to make the story better that I could express quickly and concisely.
Sayde: As a final wrap up could you tell us some of your pet peeves in the industry? Or is there anything happening in the industry you’d care to comment on or discuss? We’d love to hear some of your views and opinions on the state of the craft and the market.
Ms. Faber: One of the hot topics in digital is the prevalence of piracy and the use of DRM (Digital Rights Management) to control it. I have a lot to say on the subject—including some pet peeves—that I’ll be happy to discuss at the agent/editor panel, at the workshop I’m participating in, or any other time you happen to catch me at the conference. Not to leave you hanging, but I have to save something to say this weekend. Thanks for a thoughtful interview!
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