New Victoria interview: February 2009

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New Victoria interview: February 2009

Postby FranW » 28 Mar 2010, 09:12

HH wrote:I'm delighted to feature New Victoria in the spotlight this week! Most of our forumites and readers will need no introduction to this venerable press, which has been publishing lesbian books for over thirty years. Recently, its establishers and long-time owners/editors, Beth Dingman Claudia McKay, retired and sold the publishing house to Patricia Feuerhaken.

New Vic, as it's affectionately known to its readers, has published many classics and many of our favourite authors, including Lee Lynch (well known to be HH's favourite!) :cheer: , Sarah Dreher, Jean Marcy, Leslea Newman, and Claudia McKay. What's in store for New Vic under its new ownership? HH has asked Patricia Feuerhaken, and she's been kind enough to give us an inside look at New Vic's past, present, and future.

First of all, the basics:

Web site: http://www.newvictoria.com
Established: 1976
Owner/CEO: Patricia Feuerhaken
Acquiring Editors: Carol Gouty
Substantive Editor(s): Assigned by project
Number of books currently in print: 87
Accepting submissions from unpublished authors: Yes.
Accepts unagented submissions: Yes.
Accepts simultaneous submissions: No.
Accepts multiple submissions: Yes
Sexualities accepted: L
Word length range accepted: 80,000 – 100,000
Preferred contact method: snail mail query with synopsis and sample chapters
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Re: New Victoria interview: February 2009

Postby FranW » 28 Mar 2010, 09:13

HH wrote:HH: Congratulations on buying New Victoria. Readers and authors alike are very happy to see this iconic press continue in business. You must be quite excited about the future. What prompted you to buy a publishing house?

NEW VICTORIA: First of all, I wanted to thank-you for asking New Victoria to be a part of “The Lesbian Fiction Forum”, it is a pleasure to be able to connect with everyone here.

When I read in the “Lesbian Connection” that New Victoria was for sale I picked up the phone immediately and spoke with Beth Dingman. Within a few days I was driving to Vermont to meet the owners and begin the purchasing process. I never hesitated, I just knew owning this press was meant for me. I couldn’t stand to see New Victoria go away, so I threw myself into it.


HH: What aspects of the publishing business have turned out as you expected, and what aspects have surprised you?

NEW VICTORIA: The biggest surprise was how difficult it is to manage tons of inventory in books. It was quite an undertaking to move them all from Vermont to Chicago. My Dad ran a printing business for many years and I worked with him, so that is the part I am most comfortable with.

HH: What’s your favorite New Victoria book? What’s your favorite book, period? And what book do you wish someone would write so that you could read it?

NEW VICTORIA: I have about five favorite New Victoria books, but if I had to pick one, it would be our most recent book, “Sparkling Rain”, because it is the first book that I helped to birth. It is a collection of stories by Japanese women who love women and it is the first time they have been translated to English. My favorite book, period, is “The Grapes of Wrath”, as it has a theme that seems to perpetuate itself in America. As for the book I wish someone would write, I would have to say, I don’t care what genre it is, but let it speak of real issues that are a part of lesbians lives. A lot of manuscripts do not have enough conflict to sustain the book, and as lesbians we have so many issues that can be explored.

HH: New Victoria has been publishing high-quality lesbian/feminist literary works for decades. Most GLBT presses now seem to fall into one of two groups: non-profit/grant-funded presses publishing literary books (Calyx, Sumach, Red Hen), and independent commercial presses publishing romance and/or genre novels (Bella, Regal Crest, Bold Strokes, Lethe). New Victoria has been known as a literary press but its establishers (and previous owners), Claudia McKay and Beth Dingman, noted in an interview published in “Out in the Mountains” that since there was less demand for literary books, New Victoria was having a hard time competing with presses like Naiad whose lightweight romance novels were more popular with book-buyers. Are you planning to move New Victoria toward the more commercially viable genre-fiction area, or do you want to remain a publisher of literary fiction?

NEW VICTORIA: Most definitely, literary fiction. Having said that, I want to publish great books, not just put out books to make money. I believe if we put out great books, we will continue to flourish. I really see it that simply. When I ask women what books they want me to publish, they overwhelmingly say they don’t care if I put out one book a year as long as it is a great book, worth reading. I believe it is very important to start building a literary legacy in lesbian publishing. I want the books I publish to indeed, say something.

HH: New Victoria has published a lot of great books, both fiction and non-fiction. Authors were attracted to New Victoria by the excellent reputation of its editor (Claudia McKay), its good distribution, and the physical quality of the books it printed. Are you continuing with the same distributors and printers that were used in the past by New Victoria?

NEW VICTORIA: I would if it made sense, but it doesn’t. We used McNaughton & Gunn for the last book, but I have found a much more economical local printer in Chicago that will work closely with us to take care of our printing needs. As far as distributors, in the past, New Victoria was plagued by bankrupt distributors, like Bookworld, who just closed their doors on September 28, 2007, without telling anyone and left thousands of our books stranded in a warehouse outside Nashville. I had to rent a truck and drive down to rescue them. We are currently distributing through Bella, Amazon and Alamo Square, and will be looking at new opportunities for distribution this year. I am not convinced that the old distribution business model makes sense anymore in this day and age.

HH: Obviously, the editorial staff at New Victoria will have changed, since Claudia McKay has retired. Who’s at the helm now as acquiring editor? What kind of experience does she bring with her?

NEW VICTORIA: It has taken me some time to find the right acquisition editor, but I’ve found her! Her name is Carol Gouty. An avid reader, Carol has read over a thousand lesbian books! I asked her to share her thoughts on what she looks for: “I read the work to evaluate what I call the "engagement factor". Is this a story or plot that will "engage" the reader and keep her attention and interest, regardless of the genre? I will make suggestions about character development and identify inconsistencies in plot or story line and comment on appeal to niche audiences versus a global audience. I believe that it is very important to be thoughtful and constructive in critiquing any work because the work is an extension of the author and something that is very personal. I never want to present comments in an offensive way. I want to provide comments that will assist the author in putting her best work forward and cementing a reputation as a great author. I also need to be factual and clear about opportunities for improvement because our company has to publish work that our readers will purchase trusting that they will receive a well edited, interesting or informative book that is worth the money they spend.”

HH: An acquiring editor’s tastes and choices in fiction at least in part determine how each publisher establishes its own niche in the marketplace; for example, Katherine Forrest and Jennifer Knight are creating very different “brands” for Spinsters Ink and Bold Strokes Books, respectively. Does New Victoria’s new acquiring editor have any strong preferences in fiction with regards to tone, voice, style, genre, length, etc? Is there anything in particular she’s hoping to receive in her submissions pile in the near future?

NEW VICTORIA: We are looking for quality lesbian feminist manuscripts that do not contain violence against women. In our culture, I understand that this issue is synonymous with being a woman, and that a scene may contain violence in some way for character development, etc., but we are not seeking to perpetuate this behavior in print for all of time. I want to see manuscripts that depict lesbian issues, or relevant feelings. A couple of examples. 1) Not a story about how a woman was raped, but a story about why and how she survived AFTER she was raped. 2) Not a story about how a woman was sexually abused by her father, but a book that depicts the devastating effects of that abuse. How her self esteem was forever crushed and if she did or did not realize her life’s dreams because of it.

No torture, no rapes, no depiction of brutal beatings or degradation of women in any form or fashion will be considered. I would love to see literary quality manuscripts showing up in my mailbox. I would say the most common errors made by authors is that they do not have enough basic conflict to sustain the book and almost every one needs more structure. I recommend the book my creative writing teacher in college gave us. It can be bought for pennies on Amazon and is the best book to learn structuring your novel from in my opinion. It is called “Structuring your novel: From basic idea to finished manuscript” by Robert Meredith and John Fitzgerald. If you want to write literary fiction, this book is for you. It does however require that you read seven classic novels, as they illustrate the process for you.

And again, we publish quality manuscripts in every genre, as long as they are about lesbians, written by a lesbian(s) and feminist in nature.


HH: Most lesbian publishers nowadays seem to use freelance editors, most of whom are authors themselves, for the substantive editing of the books they acquire. Who is/will be doing the substantive editing for New Victoria’s fiction and non-fiction in the future?

NEW VICTORIA: At this point, I try my best to find an editor that specifically loves the genre the book is written in and fits with the project. Any editor considered must be a lesbian and have the credentials to do the job. If an author knows an editor that they like working with, for instance, I will consider them along with any other editors to find the right fit as long as they are qualified. As far as copyediting, I have the pickiest grammar expert you could ever find to final edit books and try to bring those errors to a minimum.

HH: New authors are often interested in “their odds” with a publisher. How many books do you expect to publish each year, and how many new authors are you expecting to sign? Do you plan for this to increase, decrease, or stay the same?

NEW VICTORIA: We have two books to publish this year, and one of them is by a wonderful new author. So you have a good chance of being accepted! I am sorry to say that several of New Victoria’s authors have passed away. Including Anna Livia, Tee Corinne, and Brenda Weathers, so of course as the older generation ages we will need to find new writers. I also have a backlog of manuscripts from the transition that we are looking at.

HH: Many authors nowadays choose to use self-publishing or subsidy-publishing services. If an author cites such a previous publication in her cover letter, does it bias you against her submission?

NEW VICTORIA: Not at all. If anything, to me, it shows her dedication, desire and love of writing. I will always judge the manuscript by the content and writing ability, not any preconceived notions. I will judge an author by the quality of her work.

HH: What does New Victoria look for in an author? Are there things writers can do to make themselves stand out, as well as their manuscripts? Does it help an author if she has a web page, or has published short stories, or attends conventions and meets the editors in person, or has nonfiction publishing credits? Are there any educational or career achievements that you correlate with desirable authors?

NEW VICTORIA: Like any profession, we all have credentials that we are measured against. If a writer can put together a query package that includes her bio, a synopsis and sample chapters, I give her more credibility than a sloppily written cover letter that is giving me an opportunity to publish the next Harry Potter or Star Wars epic. I think if a writer can put together the query package, that she is at least a serious writer and will be able to produce an edited manuscript in a reasonable time frame. I definitely associate an authors’ professionalism with the quality of her work. Great authors need little editing. Mediocre writers need lots of editing. Now there are probably some writers who work only on computers and that send manuscripts on c.d.'s for us to read, but you have to get your foot in the door first, you have to have a great story. If you have a great story, we will help you edit it.

HH: What sets New Victoria apart from other lesbian publishers? Why should an author choose New Victoria? And, the most frequently asked questions: what is your starting royalty rate, what rights do you ask for, and for how long?

NEW VICTORIA: What sets us apart is our history. New Victoria has been around for 30+ years and we will be here for another 30. Also, if you look at the books that New Victoria consistently publishes, they are all books that I think any author would be proud to find herself in company with. Authors like Tee Corinne, Leslea Newman, Lee Lynch, Kate Allen, Meg Darcy and everyone’s favorite detective writer Sarah Dreher.

Our royalties are paid at 10%. We retain the right to print, publish and sell your work while it is in print.


HH: Does New Victoria’s contract place any restrictions on its authors’ ability to publish with multiple presses, such as an options clause or a no-compete clause?

NEW VICTORIA: Yes, we usually retain the right of first refusal of an author’s next manuscript before they can shop it anywhere else.

HH: Is New Victoria likely to open up to email submissions in future, or do you expect to limit submissions to snail-mail for the foreseeable future? (That’s something our international authors will be interested in, as snail-mailing submissions from overseas can be prohibitively expensive.)

NEW VICTORIA: I would consider e-mail queries in the future, especially from women overseas. If we ask to see the entire manuscript, then you can send it on c.d. and that’s fine, we can print it here, but it just behooves the writer to send a paper submission because it can not be ignored quite as easily as the electronic format can before we print it. Everyone at New Victoria likes to cuddle up with a cup of tea or coffee to read a manuscript, so this really is just about our personal preference, not a rigid guideline.

HH: Tell us about one or two of the books New Victoria has slated for release in 2009.

NEW VICTORIA: The first one is a new mystery by a New Victoria veteran author. The Second is a new novel, by a new novelist that involves a secret kept by one of our country’s first families.
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Re: New Victoria interview: February 2009

Postby FranW » 28 Mar 2010, 09:13

Baker wrote:Very interesting answers. Thanks for taking the time to respond to HH's "interrogation".

I hope you have the time to respond to some of our questions and comments.


NEW VICTORIA wrote:Most definitely, literary fiction. Having said that, I want to publish great books, not just put out books to make money. I believe if we put out great books, we will continue to flourish. I really see it that simply. When I ask women what books they want me to publish, they overwhelmingly say they don’t care if I put out one book a year as long as it is a great book, worth reading. I believe it is very important to start building a literary legacy in lesbian publishing. I want the books I publish to indeed, say something.

I hope you flourish on the idea of quality over quantity. I suspect I am not alone amongst members of this forum who share that opinion. New Vic has published Lee Lynch, so that is definitely a step towards building a legacy. :-) I'd be interested to know how you define 'literary fiction'.

NEW VICTORIA wrote:And again, we publish quality manuscripts in every genre, as long as they are about lesbians, written by a lesbian(s) and feminist in nature.

Lesbian and feminist do not always go together, sadly, but it's good that you include the latter as something you're looking for in mss. Do you ask a writer to confirm that she identifies as a lesbian before you make a decision about a ms? Would you reject a ms on the basis of the author's sexual orientation?

NEW VICTORIA wrote:I would consider e-mail queries in the future, especially from women overseas. If we ask to see the entire manuscript, then you can send it on c.d. and that’s fine, we can print it here, but it just behooves the writer to send a paper submission because it can not be ignored quite as easily as the electronic format can before we print it. Everyone at New Victoria likes to cuddle up with a cup of tea or coffee to read a manuscript, so this really is just about our personal preference, not a rigid guideline.

I can understand wanting a physical copy to read, but speaking for myself here in New Zealand, I really do appreciate it when a publisher allows me to submit electronically. If I lived in the USA where I could send submissions book rate, it wouldn't be a problem, but shipping material from halfway around the world can get expensive.
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Re: New Victoria interview: February 2009

Postby FranW » 28 Mar 2010, 09:14

HH wrote:
HH wrote:HH: Tell us about one or two of the books New Victoria has slated for release in 2009.

NEW VICTORIA: The first one is a new mystery by a New Victoria veteran author. The Second is a new novel, by a new novelist that involves a secret kept by one of our country’s first families.


Has anyone seen anything more about NV's 2009 releases? There's nothing slated on Amazon, and the website only says:
Coming Soon!! Brand New Lesbian Novel about one of America's # 1 family's. A page turning knock-out by a brand new author.

Both the lack of a specified release date and the appalling misuse of English :roll: don't bode well.


New Victoria wrote:I recommend the book my creative writing teacher in college gave us. It can be bought for pennies on Amazon and is the best book to learn structuring your novel from in my opinion. It is called “Structuring your novel: From basic idea to finished manuscript” by Robert Meredith and John Fitzgerald. If you want to write literary fiction, this book is for you.

I've recently acquired this book and have found it to be poorly written, sadly outdated, and overall fairly useless. YMMV, but I'd recommend Self Editing for Fiction Writers or Beginnings, Middles and Ends for authors looking to improve their novels.
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Re: New Victoria interview: February 2009

Postby FranW » 02 Jan 2011, 14:03

Updating: There don't appear to have been any new releases from this press in over 2 years, and the "latest news" on the website is over a year old. Presumably this press has, sadly (though predictably), gone under.

"Publishing House Owner" is not an entry-level position.
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Re: New Victoria interview: February 2009

Postby ElaineB » 03 Jan 2011, 00:52

Oh, that's sad.
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Re: New Victoria interview: February 2009

Postby FranW » 03 Jan 2011, 06:24

It's dreadfully sad to see such an iconic press go silent. But I'm afraid I didn't expect much else, given the complete lack of experience of the new owner and her staff.
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