Queered Fiction interview: December 2008

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Queered Fiction interview: December 2008

Postby FranW » 28 Mar 2010, 09:18

HH wrote:Forumites, lets have a big holiday welcome for Queered Fiction! :cheer: :cheer: :cheer:

They're brand-spanking new. (No, you pervs, not that kind of spanking.) Their focus is on gay/lesbian/bisexual science fiction, fantasy, and horror. They've got a couple of anthologies in the works, and will be expanding into novels soon.
Image Image

The basics:
Web site: http://www.queeredfiction.com/
Established: 2008
Owner/CEO: James Rasmussen
Sexualities accepted: GLB
Currently only open for submissions to anthologies
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Re: Queered Fiction interview: December 2008

Postby FranW » 28 Mar 2010, 09:18

HH wrote:As ever, HH has hypnotised the publisher into answering a series of questions.....

HH: What prompted you to start a publishing house? What's your background in publishing/editing/writing?

QF: QueeredFiction has been an old dream, not necessarily in the current incorporeal identity it has taken but certainly in vague concept. It's the current environment, which has made it possible, again, for those with the drive, desire and (not always) the skills to open their own publishing venture that has turned this dream into a reality.

My background in publishing goes back to the era (not so very long ago) of the advent of mass internet ezines. I founded, edited and produced a bi-monthly SF, Fantasy & Horror ezine (along with a partner) titled Electric Wine. It was semi-pro in that we paid our authors and sadly was also almost purely privately funded as almost everyone running an ezine has discovered the difficulties in garnering financial support and advertisers. It was, however, a successful venture in many ways, even if mostly along personal lines.

Since then, I've been involved in editing and proofing for my bread and butter, even if this is from a purely legal, medical, marketing and financial business perspective rather than in the publishing industry. At most my work is seen in board rooms and among analysts, certainly no bigger than circulars and information briefings. I've been chaffing for something more creative. Recently I took the big step of become a contractor rather than working within a company and it has broadened my views on what work I am interested in taking on as well as opening my horizon. I can focus on my dreams by focusing on my business, which is great.

I have had some writing published in the past and some in publication (no, nothing under James Rasmussen at the moment).

HH: "Queer Wolf" and "Queer Dimensions" have lovely covers. Who's your artist?

QF: I'm glad to hear they're appealing, there is nothing worse than a poor (or ugly) cover and the current versions must still pass the final test … the print test. While I don't necessarily judge a book on its cover, it's part of the advertising package. Despite its literary goals, a book is first of all in many ways an art product; if it's beautiful enough to catch your eye and have a moment of your attention, the blurb has a chance to draw you to the innards. Much like a body, the guts are better kept on the inside (more views on exposed covers to follow).

However, to answer the question, you would be speaking with the 'artist' in question. This isn't a role I am set on filling for QueeredFiction, but is one that I will fill so long as I am able to achieve the desired look. I have already received a few emails from freelance cover artists with samples of their work. Those that show the right skill level will be kept on file and brought on board when projects demand a greater level of talent and/or time than I have at my disposal.

To keep me honest with myself (creative ego is a bitch) I have a friend with a critical eye. Crushingly so; she slays villages with a few choice words or perhaps used to but now, like Xena, is reformed. She serves quite capably as the sheriff of cover design, ensuring nothing whimsical, without purpose or good design elements creeps in. (Her favourite terms are 'distracting' and 'tension').

Following on with more views, I'm also rather appalled by the lurid covers that seem the norm among a great many small presses. Certainly for the most part these are covers for ebooks and you're not likely to see someone reading a print form on the bus. As for those that do make it to print format, I'd have to borrow respectable covers to take them out with me when I fill up my stolen pleasure-reading moments. I'm not looking for a charge of indecent exposure, nor parents covering the eyes of their children in horror. Keep the sex between the pages, not where it makes for smutty covers you need to hide from the world in closets made for novels and anthologies.

A friend of mine puts it succinctly, "the cover is an advertisement" … you want it bared to as may eyes as possible without them flinching and looking away. Keep them fascinated and intrigued enough to want to go out and find your book, even pass it on to friends without it exchanging hands under cover of darkness, concealed in brown paper bags.

HH. The QF webpage suggests that you intend to publish novels in future, and you've mentioned that you're open to both lesbian and gay male stories. Will you be publishing both lesbian and gay male novels? If so -- this is going to sound like a weird question, but besides the plumbing, are there differences between gay male and lesbian novels? I.e., are there differences in terms of reader expectations, proportion of sex/romance in the story, marketing, etc? Does the readership overlap much?

QF: Starting with the preamble; 2009 is an anthology year for QueeredFiction. It is a 'prove your credentials' approach, building an awareness among authors of the imprint to the point where they feel comfortable bringing to QueeredFiction something more time consuming and personally valuable than a short story. Rather than glut the market with a slew of titles like some small press publishers have chosen to start out, my business view is for a more thoughtful entrance and hopefully I've already given that impression to the author-audience. I have no visions of empire; if I can't be proud of what has been released, I'm not in the right business.

To the question at hand then, the simple answer is yes. I plan to publish queer novels – which to my mind embraces lesbian and gay (in itself gay isn't exclusively m/m by definition nor is queer, both being words in popular culture which have relatively recently acquired their homosexual connotations).

I think there are a great many misconceptions when it comes to queer fiction; I read straight fiction without gagging (I know it's really, really tough but I persevere *grin*) and certainly a great deal of the queer market isn't queer readers but readers full stop. (Certainly there are some who will not read queer fiction because it is queer, but hey, you can say the same of any genre or subgenre for varying reasons.) These queer (but not queer) readers are not looking for something alien in queer fiction, but something universal, the special bond between two (for succinct example) people that goes beyond blood; blood may be thicker than water, but love is taffy. It may be unexpected, it may be different … but it's not something any reader is going to have difficulty understanding; queer isn't a species unto itself. The plumbing, as you put it, is different but at heart human emotion is human emotion and we may love differently, but we don't love differently.

Dare I say it: No, there isn't a difference between straight, lesbian or gay fiction.

Now if you look at the romance market, the demand for more sex and outright erotica is growing … I think it is easy to spot the trend and note that it is starting to spill across genres; sex is getting more explicit everywhere and turning up in unexpected places. Still, like anywhere you have divergent tastes so … as they always tell any author (and rightly so) don't write for the market, or the next big trend, write your passion and your readers will follow.

HH. Gay/lesbian fiction has (thankfully) become more acceptable and thus more widely published. From small presses like Lethe to large publishers like Tor, gay characters are featuring in fantasy novels. Books like Swordpoint (Ellen Kushner), Vintage (Steve Berman), and Wicked Gentlemen (Ginny Hale) are getting a lot of favourable attention in literary circles. Is there a particular niche or sub-market that you want QF to fill?

QF: Well QueeredFiction is a specific imprint where you'll always get:

- - your SF,F&H queer and not just the occasional character slipping in here and there i.e. not a marginal book among the many titles of a large publisher;
- - a small press that purely focuses on SF,F&H.

It is a combination that I feel makes QueeredFiction a niche publisher. There are a number of queer small presses, and a number imprints specifically devoted to the various genres, but not one I've identified that targets very specifically queer SF,F&H.

HH: What's QF working on now, and what's coming in the near future? What kind of books do you expect you'll be looking for once you open for submissions?

QF: Currently it's the forthcoming Queer Wolf anthology; rereading pieces that are potentially strong stories but require more judicious editing than you tend to want to see in a short piece. There's the forth-forthcoming Queer Dimensions anthology which seems to be a great deal more popular with the author community thus far; submissions are three times greater than for Queer Wolf at this moment in time. Of course, this could simply be that QueeredFiction is getting a wider circulation on its submission calls.

After our SF anthology, the brainstorming and conceptualising of our horror anthology (yes forth-forth-forthcoming) is underway. (Feel free to throw out ideas.) Another Queer Legends anthology (Queer Wolf tackles the werewolf) is on the cards. There's also a less easily classified project that I have in mind which may or may not come to fruition. Don't ask and I shall not have to breathe a single 'no comment' your way.

When it comes to thinking ahead to a time when QueeredFiction has opened up to accepting unsolicited novel manuscripts … I wouldn't want to limit myself, authors or readers by hedging off more than the specifics of make it SF, F and/or H and make it queer! (I certainly don't need to mention that it ought to be great, strong fiction regardless, do I?)
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Re: Queered Fiction interview: December 2008

Postby FranW » 28 Mar 2010, 09:19

sacchigreen wrote:I remember Electric Wine! One of my favorite e-zines to read, and to write for (under my alternate name at the time). Very good people.
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Re: Queered Fiction interview: December 2008

Postby FranW » 28 Mar 2010, 09:19

HH wrote:So, we've established that

(1) James as an editor has good taste: He accepted Sacchi's stories, and he (very rightly) rejected mine. (This was back in my truly-abysmal-writing days.)

(2) He can whip up some pretty nice cover art.

(3) He's got some experience in the biz, esp the spec fic world.

And all this is very good, because, as I recently remarked (ranted) to someone recently, "Publisher is not an entry level job."

So, the next questions: printing, distribution, and marketing. James, I hope you'll join us and talk a bit about your business plans. Offset or digital printing? Distribution? Projected sales? Target market? What can a novel author expect from QF?
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Re: Queered Fiction interview: December 2008

Postby FranW » 28 Mar 2010, 09:19

QueeredFiction wrote:Christmas, New Year out of the way; check.

Hi everyone. Happy New Year! I'm here for the inquisition - er meet and greet. I am glad to hear that Electric Wine has a solid reputation among the forum members; it was certainly a labour of love. I hope to answer any questions directed my way in a timely fashion, but of course it has to fit into an already tight schedule.

That said I’ll jump right in; you've got rather a varied collection of questions there, HH. The answers to most I would imagine would be pretty standard among modern small presses. We are all taking advantage of the fact that technology has brought the presses back into the hands (so to speak) of the little guys.
QueeredFiction will be using digital printing; we're going the POD route (it makes sense for a start up small press not to have thousands locked up in physical stock sitting in a warehouse, when this money could be put into the promotion and marketing of a title) with distribution through Ingram. So titles will be available through book stores, online and bricks and mortar (in theory, of course demand is the only certainty of getting a book stocked in every book store). I could dream up projected sales figures, but I prefer my fantasy less numerical. It depends on the success of a book among readers and that's not so easily predicted. Truth is, unless you’re publishing Stephen King (or authors of his ilk) predicting sales is not an easy task.

Our target market is speculative fiction readers. I don't believe that QueeredFiction has a restrictive ‘queer only’ market when it comes to readers, as m/m and f/f fiction can have a broader spectrum audience than merely queer readers alone. This is another element we consider when looking towards the design of our covers; we don’t want to restrict our reader audience, why would any publisher want to insolate themselves from readers in that way?

What can novel author’s can expect from QueeredFiction, you ask. (It's jumping just a wee bit ahead for us, QueeredFiction will only be looking towards opening for novels in 2010.) Aside from the usual professional courtesies, the usual benefits of working with small press publishers – that is to say, a more personal approach, a commitment to promoting author’s titles for longer and generally a less restrictive relationship. If you want to narrow the questions down for the nitty gritty, I’d be happy to revisit them, HH.

And I’m off again; at the moment I’m stuck into Queer Wolf. The anthology has a number of fantastic tales (and tails) but now that we’ve gathered up the best of breed, it’s time to get into the thick of grooming them for the show. There’s a pink moon that has got to rise and we need to get on with the schedule.

James Rasmussen
http://www.queeredfiction.com
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Re: Queered Fiction interview: December 2008

Postby FranW » 28 Mar 2010, 09:20

HH wrote:
QueeredFiction wrote:QueeredFiction will be using digital printing; we're going the POD route (it makes sense for a start up small press not to have thousands locked up in physical stock sitting in a warehouse, when this money could be put into the promotion and marketing of a title) with distribution through Ingram.

Hmm. I'd argue the opposite. Without titles selling multiple thousands of copies each, the publisher won't have enough profit to sink a lot of money into promotion and marketing. And without a distributor that has an actual marketing team who goes into bookstores and convinces them to stock your books, sales will never reach more than about a thousand copies per title. And without print runs that provides for cratefuls of copies, it's hard to get in with a distributor. (Ingrams is a warehouser, not a distributor, yes?) But yeah, doing print runs and selling them via distributors takes a lot of capital up front.

POD as a business model can work well if you've got good, targeted promotion to your niche readership, and if your authors have some name-brand recognition and a built in readership that will pull in sales, and if you can get your books in front of the people who are going to buy them. With lesbian fiction, that generally means making sure the books are available through StarCrossedProductions, and getting in with Bella Distribution. Very little lesfic that gets published is sans romance/sex, so the straight readership for those books is pretty minimal, I think. M/M erotica has a huge straight-female readership. I've no idea how gay male fiction gets promoted and sold -- is there a gay male SCP and Bella equivalent?

(Maybe I should 'port that last question over to the Lethe Press thread.)

Lesbian publishers keep saying their readers tell them they want romance, not fantasy or SF, but I think they're asking a selected readership group -- those who read lesbian fiction to validate their own lives (and thus crave romance/erotica), and who attend lesbian-only conventions and/or hang out on lesbian-only online groups. I do agree that there is likely a readership for GLBT F/SF that has not been tapped. AFAIK, not a single lesfic publisher attends WisCon -- what is up with that? :dunno: And there does seem to be a growing demand for horror, too. (I mean horror proper, not vampire love stories.) So, I think there is indeed a niche that needs a queer spec fic press to fill it. And I hope QF does brilliantly well.

I'm guessing that by "less restrictive" relationship you mean you don't have a heinous contract that takes all rights for the length of the copyright, has a never-ending and all-encompassing options clause, contains a no-compete clause, etc? (Wee tip: this should be a benefit of working with a small press, but in lesfic it actually is not something you can take for granted. Over half the lesfic contracts I've seen are more punative than those from Tor, Baen, or Random House.)

Can you tell us what are the basics of your contracts for short stories in anthologies and (prospectively) for novels are/will be?

I like the way the covers for your first two anthologies have a definite matching theme. Can you give us a wee hint what the horror one will look like?
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Re: Queered Fiction interview: December 2008

Postby FranW » 28 Mar 2010, 09:20

Baker wrote:Hello, James.

QueeredFiction wrote:Our target market is speculative fiction readers.

There are a few readers on this forum who will be happy to hear about a queer press concentrating on this genre. (As HH says, few lesfic presses print spec fic books.)

How do you plan to reach your target audience? Don Saker's does the Queer Fiction Sampler to give away at Wiscon, which is one of the few queer promotions to a specifically spec fic audience I've heard about.

QueeredFiction wrote:Aside from the usual professional courtesies, the usual benefits of working with small press publishers – that is to say, a more personal approach, a commitment to promoting author’s titles for longer and generally a less restrictive relationship.

Would you care to explain this a little more? What do you mean by a more personal approach? Also, what is your policy towards selecting editors? (I'm trying to get at what criteria you use to select people to edit QF books. This is one area in lesbian publishing that is woefully hit-and-miss: I've seen editorial input range from a paragraph of vague suggestions to a detailed analysis plus countless annotations on the MS.)
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Re: Queered Fiction interview: December 2008

Postby FranW » 28 Mar 2010, 09:20

QueeredFiction wrote:Keep in mind that the keyword for QueeredFiction is start-up. It’s not Rome standing before you…yet, but we will certainly be building that infrastructure in 2009. We intend creating a larger distribution/retailer network, listing with such folk as your StarCrossed Productions, Genre Malls and the like. Generally, however, you don't approach distributors and wholesalers until you have a book to show them and while Bella does welcome small press publishers with only a single title on their catalogue, most wholesale distributors want a significantly larger number of available titles. Traditional book distribution is normally something that independent small press publishers grow into, not start off with. We do not intend remaining firmly attached to our POD publishing model either, it is simply a good place to start building from. That said, QueeredFiction titles will have detailed listings for Ingram, Baker & Taylor, Amazon.com, Amazon UK, Whitakers/Bookdata, Gardners, and others.

Your guess on ‘less restrictive’ is spot on. Our contracts only ask for electronic and paperback print rights, which we are going to use, for a set period. There is an option to renew but this is by mutual consent. We certainly don’t ask for first refusal rights on everything related to what you’ve submitted to QueeredFiction or anything you ever write. To detail the ‘basics’ of a contract is a bit like studying for a law decree by reading only excerpts from your textbooks; anyone who wants to review a sample contract can email me a request (jamesrasmussen_at_queeredfiction_dot_com) and I’ll forward a PDF of our Anthology Contract. This contract will most likely have only very minor amendments (such as number of provided author book copies; copyright registration) made to it when QueeredFiction opens for novels.

Horror cover art … are you asking because you’re going to submit something suitably queer and horrific to QueeredFiction, HH? Our Horror Anthology has gone a step further since that initial set of questions you emailed though and we’ve got a title and a working cover to go along with it. (Note that we haven’t purposely themed our covers, although we’d like a ‘QueeredFiction cover’ to stand out as such.) The open period for submissions for our Horror anthology will be from 1st March 2009 to 31st May 2009; the title is ‘Blood Fruit’. We are now also contemplating a Gothic Horror anthology!

Click the cover for guideline details. Click the cover.Image Click the cover. Click the cover for guideline details.

Hi, Baker. Thanks for the gruelling questions…I feel like I’m Random House! :yikes:

QueeredFiction is planning on reaching that audience via advertising, promotions and marketing to speculative fiction conventions, magazines and online groups. Reaching out to that target audience isn’t something that QueeredFiction will be doing before we have released our first Anthology, 'Queer Wolf'. Advertising before you have the product to sell loses you more sales than it gains you. Memory isn’t what it used to be, nor is patience in our modern society of instant gratification and if interested reader’s can’t grab the title that lured them across in the first place (or at least pre-order it), they’re likely to forget about the book.

Personal, as in, you’re speaking to QueeredFiction as opposed to just an arm or a leg; you’re dealing directly with the ‘executive’ level. From an author’s perspective, you’ve got the ear (or eye as it may be) of the top level and you don’t have to be JK Rowling to get that kind of attention from us.

QueeredFiction isn’t currently looking for editors. We’ve had some interest and people have submitted their CVs and we are holding onto their contact details, but we’re simply not currently expanding permanent or freelance staff. Can I just say again, our keyword here is start-up. Our projects are timetabled to our current size and needs.

In general though many publishers use freelance editors, either because these editors approach them with an interesting project or because they maintain a small permanent number of editorial staff and need the occasional extra pair of red pens. If the former, the publisher is presented only with a final product and has very little to do with the editorial process; while the latter has a lot to do with personal style and house requirements; or are we talking competence?

From a publishing perspective, you’re presented with a CV and perhaps some samples of the body of works edited by the perspective employee – you don’t see a raw manuscript covered (or not covered) in annotations, corrections and notes. All you have to go on is the working experience and the final product/s. This doesn’t really tell you how much work the editor needed to perform to polish up a raw novel.

Editing varies from author to author and even from story to story. It’s simply not one homogenous flow of ink on page (pixels on screen) and can even vary from chapter to chapter or page to page in a novel. Sometimes you throw out a paragraph, page or chapter, sometimes you question logic and plot twists, sometimes you nit pick the grammar, sometimes you sigh in relief and turn to the next page (which you’ve probably already read several times). If you’re asking me to give you an idea of what QueeredFiction would expect from an editor then that would be to assist an author to bring their manuscript as close to polished and perfect as is humanly possible.
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