P. D. Publishing interview: October 2008

Information about publishers of GLBT fiction.

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P. D. Publishing interview: October 2008

Postby FranW » 28 Mar 2010, 09:15

HH wrote:Roll out the welcome wagon for P. D. Publishing, who we're putting in the spotlight this week! :cheer: :cheer: :cheer: They publish in pretty much every genre, and have had the good taste to pick up stories by several of our forum members ;)

Here are the basic specs for P.D.:
Web site: http://www.pdpublishing.com/
Established: 2003
Owners/CEOs: Barb Coles and Linda Daniel
Acquiring Editors: Barb Coles and Linda Daniel
Substantive Editors: 4
Number of authors: 46
Number of books currently in print: 60
Accepts submissions from unpublished authors?: Yes.
Accepts unagented submissions?: Yes.
Accepts simultaneous submissions?: No.
Sexualities accepted: GLBT
Word length range accepted: 40,000 and up
Preferred contact method: email entire ms
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Re: P. D. Publishing interview: October 2008

Postby FranW » 28 Mar 2010, 09:16

HH wrote:The owners of P.D. were kind enough to answer some of my endless questions. And they've indicated that they'll answer yet more, so feel free to post on this thread, and I'll gently nudge P.D. to come on over and chat with us.

HH: Lesbian fiction seems nowadays to be mainly in the romance and romantica genres. Is this because it’s what authors are writing, or it’s what readers are buying, or both? Is there any type/genre of book that buyers/readers are telling PD they’d like to see more (or less) of?

PD: We believe a bit of both. Maybe it is a side-effect of the times, maybe all of us are secretly big ol’ mush-balls. Who doesn’t love a good romance?

We don’t get emails saying anything particular about genres. PD does have a large selection of romance, but that’s not all that we publish. We have been fortunate in that most of our titles have been selling steadily and solidly, romance or not! We are very happy to see our very first titles are still selling well even after 3 years in print.

HH: Is there any lesbian novel you read in the last year or two that just totally blew you away and made you think “Oh, gosh golly darn, I sure wish PD had published that book!”?

PD: More like, “WOW, I’m glad that this was published so I could read it!” PD is supportive to authors. In all honesty, when we reach for something to read, we have a healthy list of submissions waiting on us that we really don’t have the time to look elsewhere.

HH: PD seems to be pushing the envelope a bit in terms of length and genre. Frex, you’ve recently published a horror anthology, which I’ve not seen any other lesfic publisher do. (Brief pause here while HH plugs “Chilling Tales”, which features stories from at least three of our forum members. :cheer: Moondancer Drake! :cheer: Barb Clantonl! :cheer: Fran Walker!) Are these risky financial gambles for PD, or do you find that they’re uniformly profitable? What cool new surprises do you have
in store for your readers in the near future?


PD: Early on in PD’s creation, both Linda and I decided that if a story is submitted to us and we love it, we are going to publish it. The Growing was a bear at 350,000 words! The thing that worried us about this book was the cover price. Thankfully readers have not allowed that to turn them away from this wonderful epic.

Every title is a financial risk – even in the well-received romance genre. But we stand by our decision to publish what we like. We are in a position to try new things (like the flash anthology, poetry), so we do. We don’t want to be a stick-in-the-mud publisher. Let’s try new things and see where it leads!

Cool new surprises? We always keep our eyes out though so we don’t miss an opportunity! Our titles will soon be available as ebooks in pdf format through SCP. And we are starting (way way starting) to look into audio versions of a few of our titles to see how offering that format goes. Probably one thing that irks some folks about us and PD is that we investigate/analyze everything fully before committing. We don’t rush things – it’s the Southern Way. LOL!

HH: The number of lesbian publishers, like lesbian books, seems to keep increasing, but small presses don’t always make it in this competitive world. What advice would you give first-time authors looking for a publisher? Are there any particular criteria that set apart the successful publisher from the about-to-implode publisher?

PD: An author should always be aware! Ask questions. A publisher should not be hesitant to tell you about themselves, about their process, about their ideas/goals for the future, about themselves. Contact authors in the publishing house, ask them questions about their experience with the publisher. Does the publisher pay royalties as contracted? Does the publisher make the author pay for printing their title? How happy are the authors with their relationship with the publisher? How do the authors like their finished title? Don’t be afraid to investigate a publisher.

However, do not assume that the publisher is going to open up and tell you everything about business decisions! There are many things an author does not need to be privy to – “Secret’s in the sauce”.

We’re not sure that there are any particular criteria that sets apart successful from failing publishers. We think those things would be visible only behind the scenes. Folks might have started to feel as if we (PD) were imploding since we have not put out a new title in a few months. This is definitely not the case! As our authors know, Linda started a new job this past August and it’s taken a lot of our time and energy away from PD. We accept the “real life” bumps in the road that authors experience and hope they accept ours.

HH: Each lesbian press seems to find its own niche-within-the-niche, because each publisher and editorial group has its own strengths. One press might find their best sellers are novellas, while another might make its name with literary fiction or erotica. What is PD’s particular niche within lesbian fiction that readers and authors see as the PD "brand"?

PD: We think PD’s “brand” is being universal – all inclusive. We have lesbian romances, gay romances, sci-fi, fantasy, drama, mystery, action-adventure, etc. We’ve got everything covered! All great manuscripts should be in print, not just blockbusters.

HH: New authors are often interested in “their odds” with a publisher. How many books do you publish each year? Do you plan for this to increase, decrease, or stay the same? How many submissions do you receive over the transom each year, and from those, how many first novels do you contract?

PD: We don’t intentionally limit our yearly publishing schedule. Unfortunately we DO have to keep in mind that contracts do not work this way (much to our lawyer’s relief) and we have to supply a publication date in that document. Our motto has always been, when it’s ready (the book), it goes (to the printer). Our first year, 2005, we published 9 titles; second year, it was 12; third year, it was 25; and, so far, we have 11 titles published this year.

Submissions seem to have exploded each year! This year we have already topped 100 submissions. We would guesstimate that first novels versus sequels would be 50-50. It’s not something we keep track of – we just track the number of titles contracted. It doesn’t matter to us if you are a first time author or one of our returning authors. We love you regardless! :o)

HH: When you are deciding whether to acquire a book from a new author for PD, what are the most important things you look for? Many editors have pet peeves or formatting or craft issues or types of story content that automatically turn them off a submission. What are PD's biggest "DO NOT's" -- frex, DO NOT send us incest stories, or DO NOT use second person future
tense, or DO NOT single space your manuscript, or DO NOT...?


PD: We are very proud to be able to say that we read all of PD’s submissions. This year, with Linda’s new job, we’ve enlisted some help with some pre-reading and analysis to help speed up the process.

All submissions received by us go through a quick preview before being placed in the submission queue. So when we open a submission and scan it, we cringe at strange formatting. However, that is an easy fix and one that will not garner an automatic rejection. We definitely DO NOT want to read about incest, pedophilia, bestiality, smut, etc; and since we won’t read it, we won’t print it.

Submitted stories should be in good taste. Sex scenes for the sake of having sex scenes is another turn off. We want the sex scene to be a natural occurrence with the characters and within the story line. PD has a wide range of sex scenes in our titles, from fade-to-black to hot and steamy. The scenes need to fit – that is all we ask.

Too much narration is a HUGE turnoff! We want to experience the story not have it recited to us. Good character development is a must. The characters should be “real”, flaws and all, enough that readers connect with them.

HH: What do you 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?

PD: There is nothing in particular that we look for in an author other than having the desire to work with us in polishing their manuscript for printing. Attending conventions, having a personal webpage, past publications do not add or subtract in our opinion. Not everyone is able to have a webpage or travel, it should not be a pre-requisite to be published.

HH: Do you make any specific requests of your authors such as setting a minimum/maximum number of books they should publish with you each year, wanting them to not publish under the same pseudonym (or under any name) with competing lesbian presses, asking them to use a different pseudonym for each genre they write in, etc?

PD: Absolutely not. PD contracts stories, not authors. We do not pressure our signed authors about anything. Yes, that even includes getting the edits completed. We keep our focus on making their relationship with us as stress-less as possible while putting out a high quality book. Let’s face it, having your manuscript edited is stressful, being pressured to change into something that you do not desire is horrible.

HH: Often lesfic publishers talk about being “family” with their authors, but authors know that when they sign a contract they’re entering into a business engagement (and that you *don’t* do business with family!). So, from the author-wearing-her-business-hat: Why should an author choose PD instead of any other lesfic press? Do you have a set contract, or do you negotiate individual contracts with each author? And, the most frequently asked questions: what is your starting royalty rate,
what rights do you ask for, and for how long?


PD: Boy, are we the WRONG publishing house to talk to about doing business with family – we published Barb’s brother’s book last year. LOL! BUT, we agree to a point about the statement. We are very open with our authors about the State of PD Publishing – to a point. They do not need to be privy to PD’s innermost workings, dealings, and decisions; and honestly, they shouldn’t be asking us those types of questions in the first place. Do you grill your doctor, restaurant, auto mechanic about the decisions they make about their business? No, as long as good quality service is provided.

Why should an author choose PD? We don’t think we could claim a unique answer to that question. We’re sure everyone would claim to be the best at publishing quality books. We’re sure PD is not like other houses, but we don’t really know how other publishers work their houses. We can tell you that PD is committed to quality over quantity. We don’t care if it takes longer to edit a manuscript. We are committed to our authors. We can’t tell you many of the specifics about our contract as you have asked (secret sauce recipe), but each of our contracts are unique to each author. They all start at the same point, a single boiler plate contract, but usually end up tweaked – mutually agreed upon by both parties, of course. We DO NOT require our authors to pay for ANYTHING concerning the publication of their book. Publishers are to take that financial risk; that’s part of being the publisher. We pay for the cover artwork. We pay for the editors. We pay authors their royalty on cover price, not on how much the book is sold for by the bookseller or how much net the book sales bring in.

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 towards (or against) her submission?

PD: No, it does not. Not at all. We don’t contract authors, only manuscripts, so we don’t mind where authors have published in the past. If the story is great, we want to publish it.

HH: What are your favourite aspects of being in the publishing industry? Which bits annoy or bother you?

PD: There are a lot of most favorite aspects. Finishing a title for publication! Contracting a new title. Opening that package with the galley in it! Hearing from an author when they have received their author copies. Seeing our titles in our local bookstore. Paying royalties (yes, we’re crazy, but we think about how the author will react when opening the envelop and seeing the return on all of their hard work).

Bits that annoy us: Business taxes are due in March! Not having a deserving title chosen for an award we have submitted it for. Having to have a “real job” that pays the mortgage is the least favorite aspect. Anyone have the winning lotto numbers?
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Re: P. D. Publishing interview: October 2008

Postby FranW » 28 Mar 2010, 09:16

laraz wrote:As an author with one P.D. title already (and another coming next year), I can attest to the care and attention Barb and Linda, and all the editors at P.D. offer to make the manuscripts the best they can be. And I'm quite happy with the royalty arrangement too. *g*

I selected P.D. precisely because they had "a great story" as their core requirement, and no limitations on angles, flavors, no narrow definition of niche for the genre. I had experienced these negatives during the earlier submissions process with other publishers.

The editing process is fluid give-n-take, consultation and reasoning for changes rather than ham-fisted dictation. Authors still have veto power, but when you learn how to be a better writer, it's my advice to listen to what's being shared.

When I was helping with my cover art, I remember learning about PD's cover art policy. They state a preference for non-people covers. Now that I'm working on the second novel, and have heard back on the cover from the first, I've realized it gives PD books a wider appeal this way. A straight reader might read the book more readily because they don't have to feel awkward about the cover art if it's seen on their desk at work or something. And that, I think, is all to the good for the growth and wider acceptance of the literature. Heck, I've learned that the design of my cover was one reason the teachers at a high school were able to get it approved for their Senior English literature unit.

I was just explaining to a PR firm today that meteoric rise isn't all it's cracked up to be -- it can leave you strung out and overextended. Steady today and careful, orderly future planning is more my style... another way P.D. and I fit together nicely.
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Re: P. D. Publishing interview: October 2008

Postby FranW » 28 Mar 2010, 09:16

HH wrote:
PD wrote:so far, we have 11 titles published this year.
(snip)
This year we have already topped 100 submissions.

Doing the maths in my head, this suggests that PD publishes about 10% of the submissions they receive. Does anyone know (or can a PD author ask PD) if this is pretty average for the lesfic industry?

The numbers sound extraordinarily skewed to me, but I'm better versed in the fantasy genre. For example, the small (POD) press Mundania has noted that they get about 5000 submissions each year, and only about one percent of them are sent on to their editorial board for serious consideration (the other 99% received a form rejection).

Y'all?
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Re: P. D. Publishing interview: October 2008

Postby FranW » 28 Mar 2010, 09:16

PDPub wrote:Sorry, but the math cannot be done that way. Though it would be nice if math was so easy.

The 11 titles we published this year were not submitted this year. We don't have THAT quick of a turn-around time!

Though, your question did make me curious enough to go through the listing of submissions for this year and count how many we accepted. So far, we've accepted 21 out of 107 submissions of 2008.

I don't know if it is "industry average" or not. If we like it, we'd like to publish it, regardless of industry numbers or standards.

Take care,
Barb
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Re: P. D. Publishing interview: October 2008

Postby FranW » 28 Mar 2010, 09:16

HH wrote:
PDPub wrote: We think PD’s “brand” is being universal – all inclusive. We have lesbian romances, gay romances, sci-fi, fantasy, drama, mystery, action-adventure, etc. We’ve got everything covered! All great manuscripts should be in print, not just blockbusters.


As an update to this, one of PD's authors has recently posted on her livejournal that her latest ms got rejected from PD: "Most of their issue is on marketability...having a story about a bisexual male is a bit of a stretch.... They suggested I take a secondary character (a lesbian) and make the story about her." She later added, "They say they are not equipped to market bi or gay fiction that has no sexual content."

So aspiring authors with a non-erotic novel featuring a bisexual protagonist -- or perhaps any non-lesbian protagonist -- will probably find PD a hard sell in the current market.
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Re: P. D. Publishing interview: October 2008

Postby FranW » 28 Mar 2010, 09:17

laraz wrote:Not positioned to sell non-lesbian would be a stretch to conclude. PD publishes gay male. I think this particular rejection may have more behind it than just the sexuality of the character(s). I'm surprised about the sexual content claim. PD has always stated to me that they want 'whole lives.' They do publish stories with soft sexual content (fade to black) as well as explicit sexual content. But also Nicole Pollifrone's poetry volume "Wonder" had no sexual content.
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Re: P. D. Publishing interview: October 2008

Postby FranW » 28 Mar 2010, 09:17

HH wrote:The author specifically stated that PD requested she revise the story to make a secondary lesbian character into the POV character, and that they said "they are not equipped to market bi or gay fiction that has no sexual content."

It seems unlikely, therefore, that this is an isolated incident. And it would take some very creative rejectomancy to believe that this is a strangely-worded rejection based on story quality rather than protagonist sexuality, particularly as the writer is one of their house authors.

The logical conclusion is that PD is strengthening their focus on lesbian fiction -- and, thus, that non-lesbian fiction is likely to be a hard sell in the current market.
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