Blue Feather Books interview: August 2008

Information about publishers of GLBT fiction.

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Re: Blue Feather Books interview: August 2008

Postby FranW » 28 Mar 2010, 09:24

HH wrote:Emily -- don't worry, the ladies here will have you sullied in no time!

So -- the individuals whose lack of business acumen were responsible for D2D's problems have never had any management responsibilities with Blue Feather, and are no longer associated with Blue Feather -- excellent!

Blue Feather distributes through Bella as well as through the major warehousers, and has relationships with indie bookstores -- excellent!

Turnaround time six weeks -- excellent!

You like spec fic but see there's not much market for it -- :mad: everyone says that! Regal Crest noted the same thing. The publishers say it doesn't sell, but all the readers seem to want it!

The various possible explanations that have been discussed are:
1. SF/F is more open to genre-bending than most genres, so readers can get their fill of SF/F with lesbian characters from the large/mainstream presses more cheaply in mass market paperback.

2. Lesbian SF/F is of too poor a quality (either with regards to writing quality or genre conventions) to appeal to lesbian SF/F fans.

3. Lesfic publishers are good at marketing their romance books to lesbian romance readers but have not yet figured out how to market SF/F books to lesbian SF/F readers.

4. There are only a few dozen lesbian readers on the entire planet who want to read SF/F, and every darned one of them is a member of this forum, so this forum is highly unrepresentative of the demand for SF/F in lesfic.

Editors -- sorry, I wasn't very clear. Does BF have one or two salaried editors on staff, or do they use various editors (to fit the author/genre) who might work for more than one publisher, and hire them a book at a time?
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Re: Blue Feather Books interview: August 2008

Postby FranW » 28 Mar 2010, 09:24

HH wrote:And, just in case you thought we'd run out of questions rofl

We know that every author-publisher relationship is unique, and we know that a Big Name Author can get a whole lot more concessions than a new Nobody author. But, for the aspiring writers here who are shopping around their first manuscript:


What's the average turn-around time from signing a contract to seeing the book in print?

What's the minimum royalty rate (on cover price) that BF offers new authors?

How much say (if any) would a new author likely have with regards to book title, cover art, and back cover copy?

Does BF send out ARCs to reviewers?

What review sites/magazines does BF usually get their books reviewed at?

Does BF ask for a right-of-first-refusal on subsequent books?

Does BF provide the author with free copies of her book?

Does BF nominate their books for literary awards (like the Lammies) and provide copies of the books to the judges?

Based on BF's past experience, what's the minimum number of copies a new author could expect to sell in the first year?

What makes BF special? What makes them stand out from the competition?

When you say you don't demand a happy ending, do you mean you're okay with a happy-for-now instead of a happy-ever-after, or do you mean you'd be okay with a book where everyone is utterly miserable at the end and is reaching for the razor blades?
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Re: Blue Feather Books interview: August 2008

Postby FranW » 28 Mar 2010, 09:24

Emily Reed wrote:
wildlx wrote:Do you know if you sell more books online or in bookstores?


Definitely online. Indie stores are closing down and cutting back. The economy is not at its best, and that affects their buying power. We're also a small company, and can't always afford the huge discounts bookstores demand. So definitely online, through Amazon, directly from our website, and our various distribution channels.

wildlx wrote:I'm a reader of SF/fantasy and I am also a demanding reader. That said, I would say that (IMO) a lot of what is being published in that genre by lesfic publishers is not good enough quality fiction. ....
So, could it be that the lack of demand is due to lack of quality? Or just lack of publicity of what you publish in the genre?


You make some very interesting points. To be honest, I have little spare time to read, and when I do I read stuff like Connie Willis, Bujold, Tepper. I'll tell you right off the bat -- Connie Willis doesn't publish with us. I wish, but no.

We've just published our first sci-fi novel, Merker's Outpost. No, it's not "To Say Nothing of the Dog," which is a masterpiece, but I think it's a very high-quality book, and easily on a par w/ the sci-fi I've read by, say, Nicola Griffith. Who has written, IMO, some very good books, lest I be misunderstood! If you read it, I think you'll agree it's high-quality. I can't attest to the quality, or lack thereof, of other books in the genre, since I haven't read them. But just from my interaction with people at the GCLS, when we were discussing books (or I was trying to sell books, depending on who you ask...) I would say, "Oh, and we have this, if you like sci-fi", and more often than not, the answer would be "Well... that's not really my thing."

Another thing, I think, is that really good sci-fi is a hard genre to write. You have to be so much more imaginative than when you're writing a "plain ol' romance" novel. To invent new species, or a new planet, or something alien, and yet keep it interesting and believable enough, that's hard to do. There's a lot of really crappy mainstream sci-fi out there, too.

Damn, you've gotten me on the soapbox, here. :soapbox:

Hope that answers your question!

Em
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Re: Blue Feather Books interview: August 2008

Postby FranW » 28 Mar 2010, 09:24

Emily Reed wrote:
HH wrote:And, just in case you thought we'd run out of questions rofl


Why on earth would I think that?? :dunno:

What's the average turn-around time from signing a contract to seeing the book in print?


That really depends on how clean the manuscript is when submitted. If it needs a lot of work with a substantive editor, it'll take more time than if it's a tight book, and only needs a line edit. It also depends on our editors' availability, and the publication schedule for that period.


What's the minimum royalty rate (on cover price) that BF offers new authors?


Sorry, that's information that I can't disclose here.

How much say (if any) would a new author likely have with regards to book title, cover art, and back cover copy?


A whole lot. In fact, we've never had a submission that was untitled, and I've never thought "Damn, that title needs to change." As for the cover art -- it's an interactive process between the graphic designer, us, and the author, and we don't have any authors who are unhappy with their covers, yet. In fact, if an author comes to us with a ready made cover, we'll usually be quite happy to accommodate her.

Does BF send out ARCs to reviewers?

What review sites/magazines does BF usually get their books reviewed at?


We do indeed send out copies for review. Always to JAW, of course, and right now we're looking at opportunities for reviews in magazines like Curve, with a broader readership. We're working hard on improving our promotions, and that's where Jane's contribution to Blue Feather will be most substantial.

Does BF ask for a right-of-first-refusal on subsequent books?


Ah. We have some non-binding verbiage about first options, but no, not really. We believe that if an author isn't happy with us and wants to look elsewhere to publish, we'll all be happier if they can do that, and we don't indenture them for life. So far we haven't lost any authors owing to that policy, so either they're happy, or they're too lazy to graze in other pastures...

Does BF provide the author with free copies of her book?

Absolutely, and the author can buy as many copies as they like at wholesale price, as well.

Does BF nominate their books for literary awards (like the Lammies) and provide copies of the books to the judges?


You bet we do! Blue Feather pays the cost of nomination and provides the copies required for the judges.

Based on BF's past experience, what's the minimum number of copies a new author could expect to sell in the first year?


Hmmm. Tough to answer off the cuff, and exact numbers are not something I can disclose, but barring the rare exception, I wouldn't quit my day job for the royalties.

What makes BF special? What makes them stand out from the competition?


I juggle! :eyebrows:

But seriously: I think what makes us stand out is our quality, and I don't mean only the book quality. We're not a big press, we'll never be on the scale of BS Books or Bella Books, and we don't want to be. But our authors are our friends, and we're like a family. Caitlin and I are always available to anyone by phone or by email, and I think our authors appreciate that. If you were at the GCLS, you'll have seen all our authors hanging at the Blue Feather table, hanging out with us after hours, at the dance, all the time, really. It could be that it's the same with other publishers, I don't know, but that's how it is with us.

Oh, and we have spiffy T-shirts and hats that our authors get for free <g>


When you say you don't demand a happy ending, do you mean you're okay with a happy-for-now instead of a happy-ever-after, or do you mean you'd be okay with a book where everyone is utterly miserable at the end and is reaching for the razor blades?


I like reading things that break the mold, especially in lesbian fiction. Sometimes, a happy ending just doesn't work. I admit than when I'm in a razor blade mood myself, I don't always want to read that kind of book, but I don't subscribe to the "If it isn't a happy ending I'm not reading it" school of thought. To each their own. De facto I think all of our books to date do have happy endings -- girl gets girl sort of thing, even if there's angst on the way. But we've just accepted a submission that's of the former kind -- the whole way through I was expecting the happy ending/resolution, and it didn't come, and the ms was that much better for it.

And damn, HH. You have me spending way too much time looking for emoticons and surfing the forum. When I should be working and when I should be resting. Am I sullied yet? :cool:
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Re: Blue Feather Books interview: August 2008

Postby FranW » 28 Mar 2010, 09:25

wildlx wrote:
Emily Reed wrote:We've just published our first sci-fi novel, Merker's Outpost. No, it's not "To Say Nothing of the Dog," which is a masterpiece, but I think it's a very high-quality book, and easily on a par w/ the sci-fi I've read by, say, Nicola Griffith. Who has written, IMO, some very good books, lest I be misunderstood! If you read it, I think you'll agree it's high-quality. I can't attest to the quality, or lack thereof, of other books in the genre, since I haven't read them.

:hmm: Well, Nicola Griffith's Slow River is a favourite of mine, so being on a par with it would mean very-high quality to me. There is an online version of Merker's Outpost (which I haven't read). How different is the printed version? This leads to some of the questions HH has put regarding editing.

Emily Reed wrote:But just from my interaction with people at the GCLS, when we were discussing books (or I was trying to sell books, depending on who you ask...) I would say, "Oh, and we have this, if you like sci-fi", and more often than not, the answer would be "Well... that's not really my thing."

Most people at GCLS are readers of romance not of SF. Maybe a SF conference would be better.

Emily Reed wrote:Another thing, I think, is that really good sci-fi is a hard genre to write. You have to be so much more imaginative than when you're writing a "plain ol' romance" novel. To invent new species, or a new planet, or something alien, and yet keep it interesting and believable enough, that's hard to do. There's a lot of really crappy mainstream sci-fi out there, too.

Not just that, but to have a theme, which is something that is missing in a lot of lesfic SF, which actually is only romance in a Star Trek-like universe. Now it is my turn to be on a :soapbox: ;)

Emily Reed wrote:Hope that answers your question!

Thanks for answering!
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Re: Blue Feather Books interview: August 2008

Postby FranW » 28 Mar 2010, 09:25

HH wrote:Yup, I agree with Kimi: WisCon is the place to go if you're peddling lesbian/feminist SF.

Here's a new one that we've not discussed before, and that I've been thinking about:

For most genre-specific publishers, the acquiring editors (and everyone else) are fantatics about that genre and read it widely. The editors at houses like Tor, Baen, and DAW are like walking history books of the genre and often win editor-awards in F and SF. The folks at Harlequin practically have to demonstrate their ability to make their bosoms heave and their eyes twinkle before they can get a job. Etc.

Obviously, no one can be an expert in every genre. Are there any lesbian presses whose acquiring editors have anything more than a passing familiarity with SF, H, or F? Could the reason that most spec fic readers find that lesbian spec fic doesn't quite 'cut it' is that neither the authors nor the editors are familiar enough with the genre to make sure that the books avoid tropes and cliches, and meet with genre conventions?
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Re: Blue Feather Books interview: August 2008

Postby FranW » 28 Mar 2010, 09:25

HH wrote:We've noted that Lethe Press seems to be the up and coming GLBT spec fic publisher, and Bold Strokes seems to be moving heavily into lesbian romantica. Emily, where do you see Blue Feather being in five or ten years? What do you want Blue Feather to be "known" for?

Also, how do you think e-books are going to feature in the lesbian fiction world? There are lots of e-presses popping up, but most seem to survive only if they focus on erotica, and even the biggest ones like Ellora's Cave can't outsell the independent print presses. Most authors with the standard lesfic publishers seem to find that maybe 1% of their sales are e-books, with 99% still being the trade paperbacks. Do you think that the e-book trend will grow? Stand still? Die a slow and horrible death like 8-tracks did? Or do you think that lesfic presses will, like many F/SF publishers are already doing, move to making e-books free as a way of enticing readers to try new authors (who they will then go on to buy in paperback)?
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Re: Blue Feather Books interview: August 2008

Postby FranW » 28 Mar 2010, 09:25

Emily Reed wrote:You do pick your questions so that I actually have to think, huh?

Emily, where do you see Blue Feather being in five or ten years? What do you want Blue Feather to be "known" for?


What I really want Blue Feather to be known for, and I'm not being facetious here, is quality. I want our books to be recognized as good no matter what genre they are. I want a sci-fi fan who picks up a Blue Feather sci-fi book to feel they had as good a read as a romance fan who picks up a romance novel.
In fact, I really don' t want us to be "typecast". And business-wise, we can't afford to be. We're not as big as Baen, or any of even the small mainstream presses, so we can't afford to only publish, or mainly publish, only one sub-genre.

Also, how do you think e-books are going to feature in the lesbian fiction world?


The simple answer is, I don't know. <g>. Or rather, I don't know enough about the field to give a learned answer. My main concern is the security issue -- it seems to me that even with digital protection, it's easier to spread e-books around than it is to spread hardcopies.
For myself, nothing replaces the feeling of holding a book in my hands, and I don't take a laptop to bed. A lap, maybe... But I digress. I haven't had any firsthand experience with the Kindle, or similiar devices, but I've heard amazing things about them, so maybe e-books will take off. I do too much reading and editing on the computer, in both my jobs, to want to read e-books.

Why do you think it is that erotica is the only genre that's remotely viable in e-book format ? I didn't know that, btw. And the whole debate about will or won't the people then buy a paperback -- the jury's still out on that, I think. It's the same question as do we ask our authors to remove their work from online forums, since if people have read it for free they won't buy the book.

Damn, now I'm making up my own questions to answer :dunno:
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Re: Blue Feather Books interview: August 2008

Postby FranW » 28 Mar 2010, 09:26

HH wrote:
Emily Reed wrote:Why do you think it is that erotica is the only genre that's remotely viable in e-book format ?

My guess is: People tend to buy e-books only when (a) they're waaaay cheaper than the print version, or (b) it's not available in print. Erotica, especially m/m erotica, has a small but hungry audience. Most large presses aren't publishing erotica, either because there's not a big enough market to make it financially feasible or because they don't want to alienate their core readers by "tainting" their image (esp when it comes to m/m).

Kinda the same reason that lesbian romance is only viable with small presses.

Okay, here's a new question: where do lesfic writers learn to write? I come from a spec fic background, so I learned to write first through the Critters online critique group, with thousands of people hammering "get rid of the adverbs" and "gratuitous apostrophes suck" and "no deus ex machina endings ever ever" into my head. Then through dozens of how-to-write books. Then at the Viable Paradise workshop. But where do lesbian romance writers learn to write? Where do they get their million words of crap out of their system the way fantasy writers do in Critters?
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Re: Blue Feather Books interview: August 2008

Postby FranW » 28 Mar 2010, 09:26

Baker wrote:
Emily Reed wrote:Not sure what you mean by in-house editors -- as opposed to freelancers? We have several editors who are extremely competent. And that's not easy to find. Every single ms, besides the edit, gets at least two proofings, as well. Makes for a long publishing process, but better books, in our opinion. We're not a large company, we don't publish a ton of books a year. We'd rather publish less books, all of them high quality

Who are the editors? Karen Badger's Yesterday Once More credits 'Barbara' with editing in the acknowledgements. Some lesbian books credit the editors on the copyright page, and that's nice to see. Have you ever considered doing that?

Editing in lesbian fiction in general--I'm not talking about any one publisher--seems to be...uneven. So, I'm wondering if Blue Feather have any requirements they look for in a person they consider as an editor? You say that they're extremely competent. How do you judge this? Do you get much reader feedback on this?

I know authors for whom the level of editorial input--and whether they can learn anything from an editor--is an important part of their decision of who to publish a manuscript with. What hard, cold facts about the Blue Feather editors and editorial process can you give us that might persuade authors that this is something they might have confidence in if they signed a book with Blue Feather?
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