Intaglio Publications interview: April 2008

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Intaglio Publications interview: April 2008

Postby FranW » 28 Mar 2010, 09:29

HH wrote:I'm very pleased to turn the spotlight on INTAGLIO PUBLICATIONS, a lesbian publisher whose books most of us probably have on our shelves. Sheri Payton has been kind enough to provide up-to-date information on Intaglio.

Web site: http://www.intagliopub.com
Established: 2004. Purchased by Sheri Payton and Rebecca Arbogast 2007
President/CEO/Head: Sheri Payton
Acquiring Editors: Tara Young, Ruth Stanley, Verda Foster
Number of authors: 23
Number of books currently in print: 45
Accepts submissions from unpublished authors?: Yes.
Accepts unagented submissions?: Yes.
Accepts simultaneous submissions?: No.
Sexualities accepted: Lesbian fiction only
Word length range accepted: 50,000 to 100,000
Preferred contact method: query with synopsis, bio, and first three chapters by e-mail

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Re: Intaglio Publications interview: April 2008

Postby FranW » 28 Mar 2010, 09:29

HH wrote:Sheri Payton was also generous enough to answer an endless series of questions from "Insatiable Curiosity" HH:

Lesbian fiction has gone from brown paper wrappings to being openly displayed in mainstream bookstores. The number and variety of lesbian fiction novels being published continues to increase. What trends have you noticed as being most prominent, and what trends are you predicting, for lesbian fiction with regards to genre and erotica level? Is there anything that your readers just can’t get enough of, and is there anything they’re asking for that Intaglio hasn’t yet had the opportunity to publish?

Sheri Payton: I’m not sure that I would consider it a trend, but romance tends to be what most readers of lesbian fiction are looking for. I’ve been noticing a slight shift in the market toward fantasy and science fiction, which I find very exciting. To stay on the cutting edge of the market, a publisher must listen to its customers, be aware of any shifts toward or away from any sub-genre, and be open to change. For such a long time, romance has been the top seller for almost every publisher. However, as new authors emerge, I see a growing interest in some of the other sub-genres.

You have to give your customers what they want, and for such a long time, it’s been strictly romance, but there are so many good books out there with strong lesbian characters that are slowly finding a place in the market.


Is there any (non-Intaglio) book you read in the last year or two that just totally blew you away and made you think “Oh, gosh, I wish we’d published that book!”?

Sheri Payton: Yes, Selective Memory by Jennifer L. Jordan, published by Spinsters Ink. I love a book that leaves me saying, “Oh, wow, I didn’t see that coming.”

The new technologies of POD, e-books, and short press runs have given lesbian fiction great opportunities and visibility. However, they’ve also opened the doors to new publishers who lack experience and industry connections. For first time novelists, the decision of which publisher(s) to submit to can be bewildering and daunting. What in particular would you advise new authors to look for when considering a publisher?

Sheri Payton: It’s unfortunate that print on demand has such negative connotations associated with it. POD is an effective tool for any small press. There are many publishing companies of all genres that use POD and have produced quality products. I think it’s unfair to judge a publishing house by the method it uses to print its books. I’d suggest reading a few of the books produced by the publisher that you’re considering, which will give you a good idea of the quality. Talk to some of the authors about their experiences with their publisher.

While lesbian presses may appear similar on the surface, it seems reasonable to assume that each one services a specific niche of the market. What would you say are the particular strengths of Intaglio?

Sheri Payton: Intaglio’s strengths are found in the diversity of our authors. They all have a unique perspective and style that enables our company to offer a variety of titles that suits all tastes.

Approximately how many submissions do you receive each year, and what proportion of these do you accept for publication? How many new authors does Intaglio sign each year?

Sheri Payton: Intaglio is fortunate to receive a plethora of manuscripts that keeps our review board overwhelmed with work. We don’t have a quota to meet with regards to new authors or manuscripts. Our main objective when reviewing manuscripts is selecting quality manuscripts and not quantity. In 2007, we signed four new authors.

When you are deciding to acquire a book for Intaglio, what are the most important things you look for? What are your preferences, your pet peeves, your musts and must-nots? Given a choice between a clean manuscript that needs little editing and that is similar in quality and tone to several other books you’ve published, or a ground-breaking idea that will be a true diamond once it’s undergone a zillion substantial edits, which would you prefer?

Sheri Payton: Each manuscript is judged on a case-by-case basis. As I previously mentioned, quality is paramount. An editor’s responsibility is to work with the author to tighten up or enhance the story—not rewrite it. One of the hardest tasks I face is writing the rejection letter. However, if a manuscript has potential, we will take the extra time to advise the author of ways to improve her manuscript and will invite her to resubmit at a future time. If she’s willing to do the work and the rewrites are much improved, we will reconsider the manuscript.

A “must-not” is a poorly written cover letter. Cover letters with misspellings or not following the submission guidelines send up a red flag. Submitting a manuscript to a publisher is very similar to a college grad submitting a résumé for a job. That first impression is often the only chance you get to make a positive impression. A poorly constructed cover letter will often land the entire submission package in the reject pile.


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?

Sheri Payton: The first thing we look for in an author is the ability to write a good story. The second is her attitude toward her writing. If an author acknowledges that every book is a learning process and is willing to improve her craft, then she’s a keeper. Attending conventions, Web pages, and other published projects are a feather in the cap, but the attitude of an author is what we find most valuable.

Nowadays, more and more authors are choosing to self-publish or vanity-publish. Do previous self- or vanity-published novels cited in a cover letter bias you against (or towards) a potential author who submits a manuscript to Intaglio?

Sheri Payton: I would not be biased toward someone if she self-published a book in the past. If a submitted manuscript is well-written and grabs the reader’s attention, we’ll certainly consider it. I think anyone who has gone the self-publishing route has a better understanding of how much work and expense goes into producing a book, or at least I’d hope so. And again, the author’s attitude plays a major part in the decision process. If she’s willing to work with our editors and use the editing experience as a learning tool, then we found an author we can move into the future with.

What aspects of your job do you find most exhilarating and satisfying? What aspects are most challenging and daunting? And which ones do you wish you could wave a magic wand and never ever ever have to deal with?

Sheri Payton: The answer to this question could be a novel in itself. The most challenging and daunting is trying to please everyone and still manage to run a business. The decisions that Becky and I make affect the whole team, so we have to consider everything we do carefully.

As far as the magic wand goes, instead of making something disappear, I’d like to make more hours in a day. Better yet, I’d make myself require only one hour of sleep a night. Publishing is exhausting, as well as exhilarating. I can’t tell you the last time I just lounged around on my sofa in front of the TV. I’m at my computer until I can’t keep my eyes open any longer. I’m pretty certain that Len Barot of Bold Strokes Books and Linda Hill of Bella Books must only sleep one hour a night, and it’s in front of their computers.

The most exhilarating thing about this job is how all the members of the Intaglio team come together. We’re genuinely proud of one another. We’re always thrilled when a member of the team receives praise or an award. Actually, it’s more like a family than a team.


What advice would you give someone who aspires to be an acquiring, substantive, or copy editor with a lesbian press? How would they find out about such job openings, and what kind of credentials or experience are necessary?

Sheri Payton: Word of mouth is important in any community. If an editor has previous editing experience with an author at a press, she might ask the author to facilitate an introduction to the publisher or editing director. We have prospective editors proof a final manuscript.

Communication skills are just as important as editing skills. Authors, as a whole, tend to be very protective of their work, and feedback from editors has to be presented in a constructive manner. For authors, new and established, it’s a learning process. The Intaglio editors are expected to communicate “how” something is done, but also “why,” so the author can learn and grow as a writer.


A huge thank-you to Sheri for volunteering so much time, effort, and information! :yahoo:
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Re: Intaglio Publications interview: April 2008

Postby FranW » 28 Mar 2010, 09:29

HH wrote:There seems to be two camps of thought with lesbian readers. One is that all lesbian fiction is great :cheer:, and that critiquing any published work is disloyal and unsupportive to the lesbian community, and that lesbian books and publishers are waaay better than their mainstream counterparts. The other is that the vast majority of lesbian fiction is crap :bleh: but we buy it and read it because we're desperate for books with proactive lesbian characters, and for gossake why can't lesbian presses publish books that are as good as mainstream but with dyke instead of het characters?

Who's right? Where does lesbian fiction fit into general fiction with regards to quality, quantity, and variety? What's working, and what's not? What needs to change, if anything?
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