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by Barbara Sheridan
Leslie Tramposch: Managing Editor - Sara Reyes: Marketing and Publicity
To submit articles of interest to our readers Email Barbara.

August 2000

Are You an AVID Reader?


Barb Chats with Avid Books Publisher
Colleen Schulte

Barb S: What prompted your decision to get into publishing? Why did you choose the method of presenting your publications--electronic/print/both?

Colleen: As a frustrated author, I saw that many great books were being turned down by the large publishers in NY--and that, in my opinion, there were many of the same-old, same-old being published by them. I saw Avid Press as an opportunity to bring books written from the heart to the consumer. Plus, I am a huge paranormal fan--give me a ghost or or some weird reincarnation happenings, and I love it--and I've had a hard time finding enough books to meet those needs. We chose ebook distribution initially for the same reason many other small publishers have: the lower cost of production and distribution, and the fact that it is a new field, an exciting new industry, and we wanted to be in the heart of it. But, we almost immediately decided to add in print versions of many of our titles for the simple reason that we knew we'd have a broader consumer market, since ebooks aren't widely accepted yet. So, in the interest in following our "mission"--to bring fresh fiction to the market--we decided to go for as wide a distribution as possible.

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?

Colleen: I think that there is a very strong--albeit small--consumer base that likes paranormals. I get emails from readers telling me, the publisher, that they "love those time-travels"--and I get a lot of paranormal submissions--which also tells me that writers like to read as well as write them. I think that the actual number of people who read paranormals may not be large enough to influence the market as a whole, but those readers are loyal, voracious readers of paranormals--and they are a market we want to cater to.

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?

Colleen: Uh, yes. That is the hardest thing we've had to face--and it is very frustrating and demoralizing at times. is no problem; and any of the on-line stores don't have a problem listing our books (they might be listed with a ship date of 3-4 weeks, or as a special order--but we're listed)--but to actually get the books on the shelves of the chains is another matter entirely--and one we haven't been successful with yet. We're working hard to show Waldenbooks, Borders, and Barnes & Noble that we can move books--through signings and special orders---but so far, we haven't been able to get on the shelves everywhere. So, any of your readers are more than welcome to walk into a chain store and ask for our titles--ask them to order one for you, and one for their shelves!

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?

Colleen: I am a voracious reader, and I read initial submissions the same way I look at books when I am browsing in a bookstore--and I judge them the same way. If the storyline isn't intriguing enough, or the writing isn't good, or I think to myself "here's some of the same-old, same-old"--I don't buy it, or I don't request the complete manuscript. I'm not talking about a huge hook that has to pull me out of my chair and into the story so fast that my head spins . . . but intriguing, well-developed writing. And when I request and read a complete manuscript,

I am also often interspersing those "work" reads with "pleasure" (ie, published) reads . . ... and, again, I judge them the same way.

If the book or manuscript doesn't keep my attention, or I see through the lines in the plot too soon, or it's too predictable, or the characters don't work . . . that book or manuscript is never finished, and is subsequently rejected. And one thing about hooks, while you've got me on my soapbox: don't try too hard. I hate hooks where the author has tried too hard--and I find them in both published and unpublished books. Just start the story where something interesting is happening--it doesn't have to be in the middle of a murder, or a bad dream that masquerades for a real event, or some other highly-emotional scene. Just don't try too hard!

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?

Colleen: I think what Stephen King did--if nothing else--was to define "ebook" for the general population. Now your Average Joe knows what it is, and that is the first step in making the books more readily available. BUT, I don't think that until ebook readers are more cost-effective and simple to use, and light, and portable, etc., etc., that the ebook market will really take off. However, we plan to be there when it does!

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?

Colleen: Our authors are tireless. They are wonderful and amazing, and it would almost seem that being a good promoter is a requirement to be an "Avid Author." Seriously, anyone who knows anything about publishing these days will tell you that the author has to do a lot of self-promotion to get anywhere--and that is especially true for small press authors. We work with our authors and encourage them to work together to do self-promotion; and the advertising dollars that we do spend are carefully chosen for maximum effect. It also helps that all of our books are fabulous, and reviewers consistently seem to agree with me on this . . . so the good reviews (ie, free publicity) really help.

Barb S: Some readers feel that e-books should be priced lower than print books. What are your thoughts on this?

Colleen: Sure, because they have lower production costs. The downloads should be priced very low; and the diskettes or other physical forms of ebooks should be priced a bit higher. All of our ebook downloads are priced $2 less than the print versions.

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?

Colleen: Our paperbacks, which are mass market sized, are priced commensurately with NY published books--ie, between $5.50 and $6.99 for a mass market paperback. The pricing is very difficult for small publishers because of the economies of scale that we *don't* have . . . .but I've found a way to price our books that I believe is competitive--and we haven't had any flak on that (except from one event where one of our single-title romances was being signed next to a category romance--and both books were priced accordingly). Many other small presses publish trade paperbacks, either through print on demand or other small print runs--thus the higher price (because of the size of the book). That may be where some of the feedback about pricing is coming from. I've seen small press books priced from $8.95 up to $15.95, and they were various sizes of trade paperbacks. We chose to do mass market sizes because of the lower price point, and because of the wider distribution opportunitities.

Barb S: Would you like to give us a preview of upcoming paranormal offerings?

Colleen: (Gasp) Not now; my fingers are killing me! However, you could post to the list to ask for any author who has a paranormal to give you a quick two-liner and a pub date . . .
~~~~ Colleen Schulte Chief Administrative Officer Avid Press, LLC





Featured in this Issue:

Interviews with:
Linda Colwell

Rosemary Laurey
Romance News:
with Avid Publisher
Colleen Schulte
Photos from RWA D.C.



Avid Press has since
closed their doors.
They will be missed.

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