Bedazzled Ink interview: January 2008

Information about publishers of GLBT fiction.

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Re: Bedazzled Ink interview: January 2008

Postby FranW » 28 Mar 2010, 09:01

carrietierney wrote:
Baker wrote:One of the other things that bothers me is what rights publishers take. Some publishers take everything--not just rights they do exploit, or even ones they might, perhaps, might exploit, but the lot. How does Bedazzled Ink stand on what rights it contracts with novels? From personal experience, Khimairal Ink takes only electronic rights, yes?


Khimairal Ink asks for electronic rights for the four months an issue is current.

We publish books, we only ask for rights to publish books. So far our adult books have been trade paperbacks, so we acquire English language trade paperback rights. If you want to publish the book in French or Chinese, knock yourself out. :)

If you want to publish a hard cover edition, we can contract for that or you can contract with another publisher. We put out both trade paperback and hard cover editions of our children's books because of the school and library market.

That's it. Simple.
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Re: Bedazzled Ink interview: January 2008

Postby FranW » 28 Mar 2010, 09:01

carrietierney wrote:Now the thing we haven't addressed is writing.

Truth is, we very rarely see something we want to published because of the quality of the writing and/or storytelling. Noah Lukeman wrote a book called The First Five Pages and it addresses the fact that most submissions aren't read beyond the first five pages, often not beyond the first page.

We're not only talking about that catchy beginning to pull the reader in that everyone talks about. We're talking about grammar, story crafting, story construction, things like way too many typos . . . It doesn't matter how good the story is, it has to be written well, because good writing is the only way to present a story in a clear and satisfying way.

And if we see too many things in the first few pages that indicate the author hasn't spent enough time revising and polishing and proofreading, we're not going to spend time slogging through the poor grammar, wrong punctuation, misspelled words, awful sentence structure, lousy story construction, etc. just to see what the story is about.

There are enough writers out there who send work that we can read from beginning to end without cringing and we willingly overlook the occasional typo or grammar slip or wrong punctuation, because none of us are perfect.

The saddest submissions for me are the ones that look like highly polished first drafts. Well written, the grammar and punctuation fine, but the story is drafted out in endless exposition instead of shown in vivid action and dialogue. It's sad because the author spent her time polishing a draft rather than revising it into a living, breathing novel.

So, you can ask me all the questions you want about Bedazzled Ink, but there's still a chance that you'll submit your work and we'll say "no thank you."

You can research publishers and decide on one that looks perfect for you and they say "no thank you."

The most important thing a writer can do is concentrate on getting the novel written and polished until it shines. Many writers, unfortunately, think that just being able to write out a novel from beginning to end is accomplishment enough to look for a publisher. That's just the beginning of the process of writing a publishable novel.

There are exceptions. There always are. There are some people who can spit out darn near perfect novels that need just a bit of cleaning up before it's ready for publisher shopping. Most people aren't so lucky.

So who's willing to show me the first page of the novel they're thinking of submitting to a publisher?:cool:
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Re: Bedazzled Ink interview: January 2008

Postby FranW » 28 Mar 2010, 09:04

carrietierney wrote:
sbarret wrote:1 - If you got a full-length novel that had some of the issues discussed here (need to tighten prose, etc), but let's assume the story worked for you (characters, plot, etc) - would BI accept it or would BI reject with a polite (you've got some revising to do) rejection letter?


Most likely, yes, we'd accept it. Novels are uneven, even the best of them. They're long, they have a lot of words. It's hard to remember how to spell minor character's names from one scene to another much less produce wonderful polished prose from beginning to end.

Criteria -- most of the novel is wonderful polished writing with only a few spots that aren't quite as polished but is still better writing than 98% of the submissions we see. So there's nothing technically wrong with the way the words are put down -- the author has demonstrated she knows how to create sentences. It's just polishing up some rough bits to bring them up to the level of the rest of the novel.

This is the whole style and voice thing. Anything that doesn't match the style and voice around it makes the reader aware of the mechanics of writing and jars them out of the fictional dream. An author's voice lulls the reader into this dream and we do our best to allow this voice to sing evenly throughout the novel.

I always think of it as a string quartet playing along and every once in a while a brass quintet takes over for a few measures, sometimes in a different key. Jarring.

2 - If you did accept something of the quality you've seen here for a novel, would you work through all those sentence issues during the editing cycle (either line by line or by telling your new author - you need to do x, y, and z and then send us the manuscript and we'll do line by line after that)? Or would you focus on the most egregeous (sp?) ones? (I'm ignoring substantive edits for the moment because it's easier to correlate the examples with line edits.)


We accept manuscripts that don't require a lot of editing. That's a basic criteria for us.

Other publishers may chose to sign a roughly written story and expend a lot of energy bringing it up to snuff, but that's not doing the author a favor, because most of them just keep writing the way they do and expect an editor to make it publishable. Basically the editor is the author, because the real voice and style of the writer comes out in the final edits of a work.

So we do a line edit . . .

--we change certain things to the house style sheet (which is Chicago Manual of Style, 15th ed)

The nit picking about punctuation in these posted samples are just conforming to the general American style sheet -- and yes we make sure everything is American, not British. We're an American publisher and we can't rely on the author to know everything about British editorial style for us to leave it as is. It's about house consistency throughout all of our books. I'm editing a book by a British author right now and converting to American style as I go.

--we correct typos and the occasional misspellings

No one's perfect and a lot of us are lousy typists (raises hand) and lousy spellers (the dictionary is always open on my desktop).

--we correct the occasional grammar and punctuation error

Again, no one's perfect. Also if an author makes the same grammar or punctuation error throughout a work, it's just a missing bit from her writing knowledge. Once I point it out and explain it, the author adds it to her knowledge base. It's a continual learning experience for all of us.

Overall, I'm trying to suss out where BI's quality level is at for submissions and what level of editor support happens after acceptance. I know you've covered it somewhat in this thread, but now that we have some examples with feedback, it's easier to see what would pass or not (esp. if your answer to #1 is everything posted so far needs revising before BI would consider it) ;)


All the samples posted here are at what I call the nit picking stage as far as the writing is concerned. You have all demonstrated the basic mastery of the mechanics of writing. So instead of having to concentrate on the correcting the basics, I can concentrate on regular copy editing.

I can't re-iterate how rare it is to see manuscripts as high a quality as the samples you've posted here. I even had a workshop last year covering many of the problems I see in 98% of not only submissions but of the work posted freely to the Internet.

Much of this has to do with writers reading only what is freely available on the Internet and imitating that writing. There are enough poor writing habits, bad grammar, incorrect punctuation, and ubiquitous tropes in the canon of online lesbian fiction to fill a lexicon, or rather expand the Turkey City Lexicon. It's literary inbreeding of the worst kind.

Now remember we're just talking about the mechanics of the words on the page but that's 90% of the battle.

We haven't discussed story crafting, etc. You can submit a beautifully written story that is boring, predictable, unexciting, sleep-inducing, uninteresting . . .

Writing a novel isn't about the mastery of writing mechanics, it's about the story and the method of story-telling. It's about the subject matter. It's about word choice and pacing and POV and all that good stuff.

Once an author passes the "can she write?" test, the way she handles all these other things determines whether a submission is accepted or not.
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Re: Bedazzled Ink interview: January 2008

Postby FranW » 28 Mar 2010, 09:05

carrietierney wrote:
HH wrote:Carrie, you're a goddess. We can't thank you enough.

To get some idea of your personal reading tastes: What are some of your favourite books (lesbian and/or spec fic)? What books have you read recently that you would have loved to publish if the ms had come across BI's desk?


Okay. Here's where it gets confusing and a wee bit more complicated.

I'm just the working grunt in the company, all stories and books have to be approval by the boss. If I love something and she doesn't, we don't publish it.

Ours tastes are the same in certain ways and very different in others.

We both read a lot of spec fic, it's what we like to read. The boss reads lesbian fiction so she's more of the expert for that genre. I've read enough of it to understand the genre. We both read a lot of children's books because we also have a children's imprint.

I read submissions with the technical eye--is it written well, do the mechanics of story-telling allow for clear and flowing prose, does the plot make sense. The boss reads the submissions like a reader.
Together we come to a consensus.

As an aside, it's amazing how many stories are based on the fact that no one will talk to each other. Many stories match the Idiot Plot definition from the Turkey City Lexicon: "A plot which functions only because all the characters involved are idiots. They behave in a way that suits the author's convenience, rather than through any rational motivation of their own."

My favorite books? Ammonite by Nicola Griffith, The Belgariad and The Malloreon by David Eddings, the Sun Wolf and Starhawk books by Barbara Hambly, The Deed of Paksenarrion by Elizabeth Moon . . . right now I'm in the middle of Vatta's War series by Elizabeth Moon. I think it's clear I like to read action and adventure for pleasure.

I'm currently reading His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman. I wished we published that.:roll:

The boss reads lesbian romance and prefers ones without sex scenes or ones that are suggested rather than explicit.

The thing to keep in mind is many writers and readers equate lesbian literature with romance. We don't. We have no problem with stories that have lesbian protagonists that isn't a romance.
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Re: Bedazzled Ink interview: January 2008

Postby FranW » 28 Mar 2010, 09:06

carrietierney wrote:
For the benefit of the novel writers on the forum -- do you have any tips for back cover blurb writing? As an example, a huge number of readers commented that they'd not expected to like Baker's Broken Wings because it sounded stupid, all fairies and dryads and flying carpets. We've been discussing this in Baker's subforum and we've no idea how a back cover blurb could've been written that would have been an accurate representation of the book and not sounded like a naff fairy book. Do you have any insights there?


We don't presume to be experts at blurb writing. It's something that has to be done, so we do it and hope we do an okay job. I do have a librarian background, so I've read hundreds of blurbs in my time and I've read what the experts say a blurb should be, so I'd like to think that knowledge helps.

But blurb writing is one of the hardest thing we do as a publisher and it's an extremely collaborative process.

I'm going to tell you how we do it before I comment in another post on the blurb on the back of Broken Wings -- mostly the reason is, the writing is so small and so hard to read against the multi-colored background, I have to get out a magnifier to read it.

Just as an aside. If I was in a bookstore, looking at this book, I would be extremely frustrated that I couldn't easily read the blurb on the back. That could cost a sale as much as it not accurately representing what the novel is about.

Our blurb writing process starts out with me saying, "I want to register the ISBN for Book Z, I need a $%^#^* blurb for it."

The usual response is, "You come up with something and I'll tweak it (translation, "rip it to shreds")."

I then write the author and say, "We need to write a back cover blurb for your book, wanna give it a first shot?"

The author, after all, understands the book better than any of us and may just have a hidden talent at this blurb writing thing.

So the author comes back with something, usually too wordy, but containing an essence of good blurb stuff.

I fashion it into a rough blurb, send it to the boss who rips it into partial or complete shreds. I pick up the pieces and re-paste them together and send them back to the boss. She says, "great, except this word would be better here and take that word out."

We go back and forth until we have a blurb.

Now what is the content of the blurb?

The purpose is to lure the reader into buying the book. Too much detail puts them off, because they don't want to concentrate too hard while browsing in the store--they mostly skim the words, looking for interesting things to jump out them.

A blurb isn't a summary of the book--I've seen some that are the kind of summaries some publishers like to see in queries that even give away the ending.

A blurb captures the essence and theme of a book. It hones in on the main character and sets up the situation or situations she has to face in the book and then leaves it open ended so that it invites the reader to read the book.

The simpler, the better because the potential buyer is skimming the words.

Zee Brodie can’t seem to walk down the street without being reminded of her days as the notorious outlaw, Hellcat. Never mind that she paid her dues in Yuma prison and is now the Deputy Sheriff of Cochise County. Life for an outlaw-turned-deputy is never going to be tranquil. When Zee and her prisoner seek shelter in the home of the enchanting Miss Christie Hayes, the encounter imperils both Zee’s life and her heart.

Jame, an Emoran princess and assistant arbiter, takes on the most difficult case at the military compound in Ynit: arguing for the rehabilitation of former Supreme Commander, Tigh the Terrible. Between Jame’s changing feelings for her childhood sweetheart and pressure to return home, and Tigh’s rejection of the family business, they become kindred spirits in their struggles against family and societal expectations. Will they be able to break from their inherited paths and achieve their dream of a future together?

The Festival Quest for the lighting of the wishing tower has always been considered too difficult. Now twelve-year-old Caidy and her friends have to solve the riddle and figure out how to light the wishing tower with, yuck, dragon drool. Even worse, arrogant Renmar boasts that he already knows the answer. Caidy just has to succeed at the Festival Quest or she won’t fulfill her lifelong dream of becoming a warrior of the city of Andagor.

Meet seven nice girls of science fiction–a corporate detective, a couple from a long forgotten colony, the last woman on Earth, an outcast teenager, a reclusive archaeologist, and a soft-hearted assassin. Now see them cope with murder, prohibitions, survival, loneliness, relationships, and revenge. Tyree Campbell deftly blurs the lines of what it is to be a nice girl in an out-of-this-world collection of stories.
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Re: Bedazzled Ink interview: January 2008

Postby FranW » 28 Mar 2010, 09:06

carrietierney wrote:
Sweet Cheeks wrote:I've been thinking about this all day... How do you determine the difference between voice and extraneous words or description?


Eek.

Voice is the distinctive style an author writes in. It's hard to explain because it's just an essence that clings to the way an author puts words together, the rhythm of the sentences, word choice, little habits, quirks . . .

It's how you can tell Mozart from Haydn. Their music looks alike on the page, the basic styles are much the same, but the moment the music touches the ear there's no question who wrote it.

I think you might mean style. An author can alter the style of a story, yet the voice remains intact. We've actually published two really good examples of this with Into the Yellow and Other Stories by Barbara Davies and A Nice Girl Like You by Tyree Campbell. These are both story collections and each story is a different style, yet very much the voice of the authors.

So when an author changes style how do we know it's a style and not extraneous words or description?

I'm going to give you the opening of three different stories by the same author, Tyree Campbell.

1.
How did they cope with solitude, those sainted recluses of yesteryear? Francis, Jerome, Columba. Even Luther in his monk’s cell (though no saint he). Of the sounds of night what spectres did their solitary minds fashion? What phantasms did the daylight bring them? What did they see?

I must know. Because . . . how does one distinguish between an
hallucination and the Devil?


2.
In Troyes she splurged, purchasing one of those colored party bulbs that flicker all night like a string of fireflies in the wind, an ampoule de fete, as it read on the box, this one a deep ruby color. On certain Troyenne streets the color might have had additional significance, but not in the stone-and-thatch cottage near the east bank of the Othe south of Aix-en-Othe, where she lived. No one would see it there. She could turn it on with social impunity, reveling in her solitude.

3.
“She just sat down at the corner table,” said Big Gooey.

I braced myself with a slug of bootleg Jameson’s before turning my head discreetly toward Tsebieh. “She looks human,” I said, after he had wiped the counter around my drink with a flourish. The maneuver failed to repair the maculate condition of the faux hardwood.

“DNA splice,” explained Big Gooey, as he probed his ear with the point of a tusk the size of my forearm. He looked strong enough to
have removed it from the creature while it was still alive. His mustache bristled, the last twitch of a sepia burrowing animal that had crawled onto Gooey’s lip only to succumb to his breath. “Experimental thing. She shoulda died.”


Three different styles, but all have Tyree's fluid voice.

If we can grasp the style from the beginning of the story, we won't think that it's overwriting, etc.
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Re: Bedazzled Ink interview: January 2008

Postby FranW » 28 Mar 2010, 09:07

carrietierney wrote:
dejay wrote:I'm not asking for specifics here, just a generalization. Has there ever been a book published by your company or another that you thought would do great and it didn't? What do you think causes the mis-step when this happens? Is there a way a publisher protects themselves against that?


First off, if a publisher could predict what readers will buy, they would acquire nothing but best sellers. Publishing is a gamble. We put money and time into something without really knowing if it will sell enough to break even much less make a profit.

I can't tell (well I can check wholesale orders but that doesn't cover all sales), any more than any one else, if a book by another publisher is doing great as far as sales are concerned. Publishers and authors can hype a book to the moon and back, and it can win awards and get sterling reviews, but all this may not actually translate into sales.

Sometimes it's the book that doesn't have much hype, that is one of dozen in the catalog, that is the surprise steady seller.

All a publisher can hope for is their books will sell enough copies to make a profit and be a steady seller throughout the life of the contract.

And on the other side, have you ever read a book and wondered what the hell they were thinking when the publisher's contracted it?


I'm going to be brutally honest here . . . in lesbian fiction I think that all the time. That's why I rarely read lesbian fiction. When I read a book, it's for pleasure and I don't want it to remind me of what I do for a living.

I don't want to a read a book that has me reaching for a red pen every other sentence. And frankly, it upsets me that publishers take money from the reading public for these books. Worse yet, the publishers don't seem to be aware of the poor quality of the books they publish.

No book is perfect. Typos slip through. I don't think I've read a published book that didn't have at least one typo in it. But those are honest "we're only human" errors.

Too many lesbian books are being published in the rough draft stage, meaning they weren't near ready to be submitted to a publisher, much less be published. The fact that a publisher accepts them says volumes about that publisher and sends a "stay clear of them" warning to writers.

Having said all this, there has been some improvement in the editorial quality of published lesbian novels in the last few years and some publishers now have good editors who can bring books up to par.

As a writer shopping around for a publisher, you have to examine the published work of publishers with the same critical eye an editor looks at a submission and look for much the same things as an editor. You have to ask yourself if you want your book to be alongside books of questionable quality.

Some writers just want to get published so badly they ignore the reputation of a publisher and often what should be a good experience turns into a hellish one . . .

Even getting published by a publisher with a good reputation can be hellish . . .

It's a tough biz. Not for the faint at heart. :cool:
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Re: Bedazzled Ink interview: January 2008

Postby FranW » 28 Mar 2010, 09:08

carrietierney wrote:
Baker wrote:Hear, hear, too!

Carrie, do you have any theories why lesbian publishers accept such books? I have my own theories about why authors submit rough drafts, but I'm mystified why publishers accept them. Is it that the quality of the submissions they receive is so low that they are picking the best?


Actually I do know the reason and it has to do with the history of uber publishing. If you weren't around back in 1998 when the first uber publisher Justice House was founded to publish Melissa Good's Tropical Storm, and the rise of the first few uber publishers--only one still in business today--then you're bound to be mystified about it all.

It's a story that should be documented because it's an interesting and unique slice of popular culture.

Is BI more selective? Still, if you don't have a schedule of X books per year to put out, I suppose you can afford to be more choosy, yes?


First off, we're not a lesbian fiction publisher. We're a mainstream publisher with a lesbian imprint. Our selection process for Nuance is no different than for our other imprints.

We do not accept books that need major or minor editorial overhauls to be publishable. There are enough really good, well-written books that require only the basic editorial tweaking for publication and since we publish only a few titles a year, we've been able to acquire them outside the slush pile and without trawling the Internet for them.

So yes we're extremely selective. Even for Khimarial Ink. I've always said, if we only have one good submission in time for the next issue, then that will be the only story in that issue. We're not going to compromise on the standard of quality we set, just to fill out an issue.
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Re: Bedazzled Ink interview: January 2008

Postby FranW » 28 Mar 2010, 09:08

carrietierney wrote:
sbarret wrote:Relating to the prior post, what makes a book a 'steady seller'? I don't mean crystal ball magic, but earlier you mentioned a book could sell in the mid-hundreds or the mid-thousands. So would a steady seller sell a few hundred a year for the length of the contract (3-7 yrs, whatever the range was?) to inch its way to that thousands target?


A steady seller is a book that keeps selling throughout the life of a contract, instead of selling when first released and then petering down to almost nothing.

For us a steady seller is a title that sells an average number of copies a month, instead of 20 one month and 0 the next three months, for instance.

How many books have to sell for the publisher to break even? (ballpark estimate I guess).


Do you mean to break even on a single title? For a small publisher like us, several hundred copies.

And relating to BI - (and point me to it folks if this has already been answered) -
what sort of long-term goals do you folks have for your company?


We plan to be around for a long time. That's why we've kept our operations small and manageable.

How do you view BI's long-term viability? (That is - lesfic publishers come and go. With BI being fairly new and fairly small, how do you address the wary writer who wonders if you'll still be in business 5+ years from now)?


Well, as I keep saying, we're a mainstream publisher with a lesbian imprint. No one can make any guarantees for the future. Even established publishers have gone under. We plan to be in business for many many years.

All you have to worry about is the publisher stays in business for the life of your book contract. We don't have option clauses that chains you to us forever.
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Re: Bedazzled Ink interview: January 2008

Postby FranW » 28 Mar 2010, 09:09

carrietierney wrote:
sbarret wrote:You've mentioned that BI is not a lesfic publisher but a mainstream publisher. How does that affect your marketing/distribution (if any)? Does for instance, the mainstream imprints prop up the presumably lower sales of the lesfic imprint?


Actually, it's the other way around. Remember, small publishers do best when they're filling the reading needs of a niche market. Lesbian fiction is a small market with a nice sized book buying readership. There are also only a few publishers of lesbian fiction, so there isn't a lot of competition for the readership's money.

The mainstream imprints are more labors of love until we're around long enough to get name recognition in that much larger world of publishers and readerships.

The exception will be our sports imprint, which I hope we'll be unveiling soon. Right now we're concentrating on women's sports, and, like lesbian fiction, followers of women's sports have a strong Internet presence and are anxious to buy the rare book on the subject.

Also nonfiction sells much, much better than fiction. So I wouldn't be surprised if our nonfiction offerings become the books that help subsidize our fiction. In fact, that's the norm in publishing houses -- nonfiction supports fiction.
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