"New Worlds Are Our Oyster."
October 2000 Issue
Isn't She Enchanting; or shall we say...Enchanted?ROMANCE NEWS
gets the scoop:
Barb S: What prompted your decision to get into publishing? Why did you choose the method of presenting your publications--electronic/print/both?
Silke J: I blame Anne Stuart. No, really, I do. It's all her fault. :-) Many years ago I read "Night of the Phantom" and that got me hooked on The paranormals. And then... then I couldn't find any. Something had to be done about this sorry state of affairs. (PNR Editor, Leslie T., is nodding her head at this. Anne's "A Dark and Story Night" was responsible for her plunge into paranormal romance.) "I wanted more and experienced the same problem finding them. Fortunately things are really changing in the industry.
I am a reader and writer of paranormal romance. I am also a section leader in Compuserve's Romance Forum. I live in the UK. The same complaint was voiced over and over again: "Where are all the books?" I was one of the biggest complainers, because in the UK, getting *any* kind of romance - other than Mills & Boon, or Silhouette - is hard enough. Getting paranormal romance is next to impossible. A few of us became rather involved, trying to figure out what's going on in the industry, only to find that less and less publishers accepted any manuscripts that were fantasy, futuristic or paranormal. It caused an outcry of "We have to do *something*!"
To start with, we looked into the *why* we can't find the books and contacted the publishers that did accept and publish paranormals. They told us the distributors aren't buying them. We went to the distributors, who told us that they can't buy what's not being offered. Back to the publishers, who told us they can't take the risk to offer something that the distributors won't buy. Picture me banging my head against a wall, making noises like "Arrrrggghh!!". I can't *buy* what's not on the shelf! They won't publish things that aren't being bought. A vicious circle and many, many disgruntled and disappointed readers and authors were the result.
At the same time I could be observed making the foolish statement "Well if they don't publish them, I will." Voices chimed in from all sides, saying "Well do it!" I started to look into publishing more seriously, discovered that we couldn't afford to print to start out with, but that electronic books were feasible. I had the skills for web design, formatting, cover design etc., but I was lacking the editing skills.
During the time I was looking into the feasibility of the venture, Bonnee Pierson contacted me, asking if I needed an editor. Did I ever! I'd *known* Bonnee for a few years, we worked well together, and instead Of acquiring "just" an editor, we went into a partnership instead. (When I Say "known"... I'd never actually *met* Bonnee. We had been talking online For several years. We met up approximately 9 months after the company was born.) The kiss of death for my spare time came in the form of my long-suffering boyfriend. He quoted Nike: "Just DO it!" He regrets that now, when he tries to pry me away from my monitor and gets a distracted "Yes dear, in a minute, I just have to fix..."
We've never looked back since, and last years "PRISM" awards were our reward. We scooped two third places, the first electronic books ever to final in a well known award. We have another one in the top three this year. Fingers crossed!
Barb S: We often hear conflicting things from traditional NY publishers on The paranormal market--that's it shrinking, that's it's steady--how do you view the market for paranormal stories? Have you found that certain types outsell others--werewolves over reincarnation etc?
was always told by NYC that "Vampires don't sell". Really?<insert
Another much liked book is "New Life Incognita" by Gracie C. McKeever. It's reincarnation with a twist. I think readers like it *because* the premise is so different. This is not your average "Woman reborn into another woman's body 100 years later". Oh no. This is the story of a young, black, male drive-by shooting victim. No. He doesn't get reborn into another young, black, male body. He finds himself in a young, white, WOMAN's body instead. Gracie deals with this beautifully and the book is a favorite with readers.
I firmly believe there is no "Werewolves sell better than Dragons". It really is down to the book, and the quality of the writing. Offer something that doesn't come around much. Like Gracie's New Life Incognita. Don't bore the readers with "Tried and tested". One thing I do find is this: Readers WANT the books that are... well... *different*.
Barb S: As a small, independent publisher, did you or do you find it hard To be taken "seriously"? By that I mean in terms of having your publications carried by the major booksellers, Barnes & Noble, Borders, Amazon?
Silke J: Oh yes, all the time. It's an uphill struggle to educate and convince retailers that your books will be successful and that there is no reason not to sell them. However, Stephen King's recent release helped everyone in this field. HE took it seriously enough, and Mr. King, if you happen to read this: Thank you for support like this. However, I would like to stress that you were pipped to the post by Diana Gabaldon (Hellfire). Pipped by neigh on two years... ;-) I do believe it's the continued support of the widely known authors that will help establish a more open attitude toward electronic publishing.
Barb S: With e-publishing and small presses in general, a lot of people may think that the quality of writing and the presentation in general is lower than what they've come to expect from traditional publishing houses. Can you tell us something about how you select books, what level of editing they receive?
Silke J: We are tough. Very tough. To make it onto Dreams Unlimited's list you have to keep us reading. If you can glue me to my monitor, make me curse When I want more coffee and I have to walk away to make some... then I most definitely want that book. Even if there are flaws in it. If you can't make me want to read on at page three... chances are the readers won't want to either. We select books from a reader's point of view, not with a view to "what sells". We don't care if the vampires are doing well, and then only buy vampires. We care about the book itself. About the story, the characters, the plot, the voice. If *we* don't want to put it down, then most readers out there will feel the same and it'll be one for the list. I cannot stress one thing enough: READ the GUIDELINES before submitting.
We *know* if you haven't. If you haven't... you go to the very bottom of The pile, if you don't get an outright rejection. We get up to 100 submissions a month. Very, very few make it through. The level of editing depends on the book - but first you have to make it that far. We only accept about 1% of what comes our way and you're in the running with writers like Parke Godwin. That does not mean we won't take a chance with new authors, because we do.
Editing can be as much or as little as the book requires. Sometimes there is a great story, but it needs a lot of work to iron out a lot of little details. Sometimes there is one that needs very little, only a gentle steering in the right direction. Basically, the authors "voice" is left alone, but we are blessed with a superb editor-in-chief, Bonnee Pierson, who is fabulous at finding every bit that may need fixing, without making the authors lose their story. It also helps a great deal when the editor is a reader of the genre they edit, which so often is not the case. It's the book that counts, not your name of the author.
Sure, when a well known author comes along with a submission, we may look at it twice, but if it's not up to our standards, we don't contract it. And even if your name is very well known... you still go into the same pile as those whose names are currently new. The only authors who may get "preferential treatment" are those currently contracted to us. With them, we guarantee to read an entire book when it is submitted, because we know they can come up with the right kind of story. Everyone else goes through the normal "test read" first, which may well end at page 3. We owe it to the readers to publish only the best, and that is what we continue to do.
Barb S: Do you feel that having "known" authors such as Stephen King and Diana Gabaldon or Nancy Gideon participate in electronic and small press publishing that it will help the industry or will fans of those writers simply pick up the "name" author's works then go back to the traditional print houses for other reading?
Silke J: It will most definitely help. See comments above. I do think that their names help a lot to get readers onto a site and try a book. Then, when They like what they get, they aren't afraid to try another. It also has a lot to do with how customers are treated by the retailers. If a reader encounters a problem, there has to be someone on hand to help them, or they will never try again. It is very important, and it is also often where things fall down.
The big names will tempt readers to try, but it is up to the publisher, Or retailer, to make them want to come back for another. Make it a painless, enjoyable experience, not something that scares them and readers will reward the effort with loyalty.
Barb S: I would assume that one of the drawbacks in being a small publisher is the lack of corporate advertising dollars. How have you managed to "get the word out" and entice readers to try your books?
Silke J: We attend a lot of conventions, because the best way to educate is to show. It takes the worry out of technology that is often new and scary for readers. It gives an opportunity to ask questions and get straight answers.
We advertise on the web and in magazines. Our authors do a lot of Promotion too, ranging from attending conventions to being interviewed on TV or radio.
We get the word out via reviews, which is still one of the most effective ways of advertising in this genre.
We do promotional sales to increase name recognition and to promote "Trying a new way of reading". It is new. It's been around for years, but to most people it is new. That's where our efforts center: Getting people to try. We at Dreams Unlimited believe very strongly that once a reader tries one of our books, they'll be back for more.
And last, but by no means least: Word of mouth. Our readers tell their friends. We have had orders from readers who bought a book and then Came back to buy several more of the SAME book, to give to friends because They liked it so much. That in itself tells me more than an increase of individual customers. It tells me that we are doing something right. Because people are back, over and over, grabbing the books as they come out, Simply because they liked the ones they already have. And this is often Regardless of genre.
Okay... winning a couple of awards like "Best Book" and "Best Publisher" in the 1998 P&E contest, the PRISM awards finals, having a short story final in the Sapphire awards... it all goes to raising the awareness that it's "out there" and worth reading. It's advertising in itself. The best kind out there, because the books were judged against PRINT and they were not found lacking because they were electronic books, far from it.
In the PRISM awards, the two third places trail-blazed straight past many, many traditionally published books. That doesn't mean those books were bad. It means "Time and Time Again" and "Time Rider" were... better. ;-)
Barb S: Some readers feel that e-books should be priced lower than print books. What are your thoughts on this?
Silke J: I believe the same thing. I see e-books out there priced at $16 and I Have to wonder why. The costs are not the same, and the reduced costs should Be passed on to the consumer and the author by way of increased royalties And lower prices.
I do understand why some are priced the way they are. It's to do with middlemen taking a large slice of the pie. If I have to pay 45% to a distributor, that means there isn't much left for the publisher, or the author, often barely enough to cover cost. Hence the price is increased, and this increase is passed on to the consumer. I disagree with a middleman getting such a large slice of the pie. I don't mean there mustn't be anything in it for the distributors, after all, they need to live too, but why does it have to be such a large percentage? It's not as if there are physical storage costs involved, as there are with printed material.
This is not going to endear me to the distributors, but frankly, if the books can be priced competitively, we'd sell a lot more of them, resulting in a bigger slice of the pie in the long run for all involved. Trust me, the publishers and authors would dearly love to sell the books at less than $5, but it's often not possible.
Barb S: I've noticed that some books printed by the smaller print companies tend to be more expensive than those printed by the NY publishers, how has that been received?
Silke J: Since ours aren't, I couldn't tell you. I can say this however: A large print run will ultimately result in a lower end price, simply because the cost per book is less. Small Press Publishers often cannot commit that Kind of up-front capital, hence the print runs are smaller, the cost per book Is higher and this cost has to be recovered. Barb S: Would you like to give us a preview of upcoming paranormal offerings? Silke J: Uh-oh... now you want me to spill all the beans?
We've just released a new vampire series: "The Vampire Apocalypse - by Katriena Knights. If you count Fantasy As well... "Waiting for the Galactic Bus" and the sequel "The Snake Oil Wars" by Parke Godwin were released coming out in June (much to the delight of Parke Godwin fans, I hear through the grapevine) "Earthchild" by Katriena Knights is another futuristic, released in September. This follows in the footsteps of "Starchild" which was released at the beginning of the year. Several other titles come out this summer, though they are not paranormal. "Cajun Hot" by Nikita Black was steaming up monitors across the web in May. "Cast A Long Shadow" by Holly L.M. Lane hit the virtual shelves in June, as did the re-release of Terry Campbell's "Intimate Investor". Another book, "Draegon's Lair" is currently in edit.
Unfortuanately Dreams Unlimited has closed their
doors. They will be missed but we
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