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Today, my special guest is Annie Melton, publisher of Etopia Press.
First, please tell me about your publishing house, Etopia Press. For example, how long have you been established? Who are your editors? How did Etopia come into being?
Etopia Press was one of those "someday" kind of dreams, you know, like wanting to travel when you retire or wanting to move to a bungalow on the beach when the kids are grown. The kind of thing that you don't even really think about in too much detail because it's just not part of your day-to-day reality. Until one night when I was talking with an author friend and commiserating about the state of publishing, and e-publishing, and how I had all these great ideas and had done every job description in the book from writing and editing and cover art and marketing and accounting… and it just exploded like a bolt of lightning. As I was talking about it, the idea just burst out of its "someday" container and birthed itself into reality, and there was no way I could put it back. I said to my friend, "Did I just talk myself into doing this?" And she said, "OMG, you're serious…I think you should go for it!" The company started itself right then, and took on a life of its own. The name and logo came to me that night as I was laying in bed wondering what the hell had just happened, and the next day, I registered the URLs. All the rest has just been me running to keep up with it.
Apparently, it wants to launch itself this December. Who am I to tell it no? ;-)
1. What types of manuscripts are you actively seeking?
Well-written ones. We're actively seeking all categories of genre, general, and literary fiction. I know--that sounds broad, and there are those who say you need a niche, but I disagree. I love all kinds of books, and there are readers out there looking for a wide variety of styles and content. Some say there isn't enough of an audience for anything other than erotic romance, and that may have been true before e-readers began to approach critical mass. Now that there are a growing number of readers with devices who can search by keyword instead of bookstore shelf or newsstand rack, I don't think niche matters.
2. What types of stories do you feel your readers want?
Stories that offer a little variety from everything else that's out there. I don't feel my audience is one specific demographic, but is made up of lots of kinds of readers. I come from a literary background, but over the years (decades? Am I getting that old?), I've become involved with many different genres and categories of books, and I love lots of them. A romance novel isn't going to be the same as a horror novel or a literary short story, but as long as each individual work is a really good example of what it's trying to be or to achieve, then it's going to work for us, and we’ll do our best to get it in front of the right readers who will also love it.
3. Are there any genres which you feel are overdone and why?
Not really. Trends come and go like skirt lengths, but I don't think individual genres really do (although, they do sometimes morph into and out of other things, à la urban fantasy). Right now there's talk in NY publishing about Romantic Suspense being a "hard sell." I think that's poppycock. Maybe readers are just tired of what's on the shelf at the moment, rather than the entire genre. My goal is to put a wider variety of books on the shelf in all categories, or in the cracks between categories, where UF and PNR were a decade ago. It's a lot easier with no shelves.
4. What do you look for in a manuscript?
Good tight writing, strong mechanics. If it's a genre piece, a solid understanding of the genre conventions, and either a well-structured plot if it's a plot story, or a well-shaped character arc for a character story (and of course, enough of those in either case). I want to be sucked into your world and compelled to remain there until you let me go. If it's a romance, I want to fall in love with your hero. Give me a richly-drawn world, where I can taste the dust in the wind as your cowboy rides off to stop the heroine from getting on that stage, or feel the salt spray on my face as your pirate's schooner races over the waves in pursuit of the heroine’s frigate. If it's a horror novel, I want to jump every time the cat makes a noise in the next room. If it's a suspense or thriller, I want to be unable to put it down at 3:00 a.m., even though I know the next day is going to be rough. I want to be entertained. If it's a more general or literary piece, I want compelling prose, regardless if it's spare or lush or brash or transparent, and a definite thematic progression throughout the story, clear or subtle, depending on what the story is trying to do, that will make me experience what you're so compelled to share with me. Show me who you are and what you think and feel, human to human, in a way only you can. Make me say wow…
5. What would cause you to reject a manuscript?
I hate saying "reject," it sounds so… personal. There are lots of individual things that'll make me pass on a manuscript. Weak mechanics, clichéd or amateurish prose, meandering events instead of a real plot, flat characters, no conflict, too much telling and not enough showing. No one's perfect, and sometimes we can help guide a writer to improve certain aspects of the story if it's only lacking a little bit of something here and there. But many times, all this stuff is present in the same manuscript, and that just means the author isn't far enough along on their writing path.
6. What is the relationship between your authors and your editorial staff?
We use a roster system, which mean the editor has a list of authors that belong to him or her, and the author submits to their editor directly. Unless there's just a huge personality conflict, we feel this allows both the editor and author to work together with some kind of continuity. We also think it helps to develop a relationship between author and editor, so the author can trust that the editor knows their style and their personal preferences, and is working in their best interest. Often, the author and editor develop a close working relationship, sometimes, a friendship.
7. How are your covers created, and do your authors have a say in the cover art?
We have a team of terrific professional cover artists. We have a very detailed cover art and marketing form that the author fills out, with all kinds of details about the story and characters and marketing information, and the artists use this to guide them in the types of things they need to consider to design a beautiful cover that will also be a good sales tool for the book. The authors have a say, based on the information they add to the form, and they're shown a draft of the cover to get their feedback before the cover is finalized. And our art director, who works with both the artist and author to get a good cover for the book, is also an award-winning cover artist. So our authors won't be disappointed.
8. What type of marketing assistance do you offer your authors?
We help in lots of ways, from aggressive distribution to the most up-and-coming sales channels, help with promotions, reviews, site memberships, advertising, etc. We don't believe it has to all rest on the author, but at the same time, we recognize that it's a partnership, and both author and publisher have a role to play. But we don't just send them out there with an ISBN and put their book on the home page for a week and say, "Good luck!" like some publishers do.
9. Where can authors find out more about Etopia Press as well as your submission guidelines?
Easy! Just go to http://etopiapress.wordpress.com/. There's information about us, our staff, our authors and upcoming releases, and of course, those all-important submission guidelines! And there's more coming soon!
Thank you for being my guest today and giving me this useful information about Etopia Press.