Hi Rachel and Aleksandr, thanks a lot for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer a few questions that we have about your new venture, Riptide Publishing.
AV: Hi Carole, thank you for having us over, it’s great to be here.
In a previous post, we've heard about how you both came to establish a publishing house--Riptide Publishing--together. Please give us a short introduction to Riptide Publishing and the books it offer.
AV: In short, Riptide Publishing offers gay and trans* fiction – so we publish a huge range of stories, from traditional m/m romances to literary fiction, because we believe that readers are ready and willing to read outside the box if the stories are good. So we’re offering good stories in that spectrum. Riptide is small, invitation-only, but we do have op
How has the experience (of managing a publishing house) been so far, since you opened your doors on October 2011?en submission calls and our authors range from old hands to hot, young talent.
AV: It’s been a ride. Things I thought would be easy turned out to be really hard, and things that I thought would be hard were no challenge at all. Basically, whatever we expected, this wasn’t it, it has surprised me personally at every turn.
In terms of the business, we were surprised by our own success, very much, but it’s a huge team effort with everybody working stupid hours especially in the set-up stage. That said, our models and ideas and concepts have held up pretty well, all told.
For me, personally, it’s a huge rush to build a business and see how everything works and I do like to think on my feet and reach out to people and juggle a million balls – something I know from my time in journalism, but it’s so much more satisfying if you’re working for yourself and so closely with the other partners and authors.
RH: Absolutely amazing. In a lot of ways it feels like always juggling five balls at once, even in your sleep, and desperately hoping not to drop them. But there’s tremendous satisfaction in managing that, and your partners can pick up the slack when your arms get tired. We’ve all been surprised and humbled and awed and just so grateful for the response Riptide has received from readers, bloggers, and authors. Makes it all so, so worthwhile.
How is it like working together managing a publishing house? I'm sure it must be very different from co-authoring a book!
AV: Actually, it’s like co-authoring fifty books that are all due next week. Communication is absolutely key. Thankfully, all partners are very good at that. Overall, we all have the same vision, and everybody brings their own individual strengths to bear. Rachel is a natural businesswoman, I wouldn’t want to have anybody else doing her job. Chris and I are both people people – she’s amazing in her network on the marketing side and I’m doing a decent job, I hope, on the author and editor side. Still, writing a book looks really easy now, like something you do in your lunch break.
RH: Yes and no. On the one hand, it’s a lot like co-authoring in that, as Aleks said, communication is key. We all basically live on our gmail accounts, probably exchange upwards of a few dozen emails each day that basically function like
office memos, since none of us share a physical location. As in co-writing, it’s all about talking things out, reaching shared understandings, and making compromises. Unlike co-writing, there’s often a lot less creative freedom and a lot more drudge work: you don’t get to flex your writing wings doing a proofing pass or spending eight hours uploading files to sell at third-party sites. But even those things move very smoothly between us. Certainly there have been some bumps in the road, some times when we didn’t all agree, but in the end, the shared vision and shared passion trump all, and have carried us through every obstacle and difficulty.
What does Riptide Publishing offer that other publishers don't?
AV: Other publishers offer great covers, very good royalties, developmental editing, close contact to the editor and a personalized marketing plan, too. But there are very few that offer all of those. Also, we are very open-minded about what we publish – we take shorter works than many, and we are also interested in trans* fiction and literary fiction, which in some houses might sit a bit oddly right next to the other offerings.
RH: While we certainly offer our share of more “traditional” M/M romances—Cat Grant’s contemporary Once a Marine, for example, or Brita Addams’s Romeo Club erotica shorts—we also see ourselves as a destination for the different. Like Aleks said, we have a particular interest in trans* fiction, which is notoriously difficult to place with a publisher. We take some very short stories—vignettes that do one particular thing exceptionally well, like Andrea Speed’s Josh of the Damned series, most of which are under 5,000 words. We take some very untraditional heroes, like Aleks Voinov’s unrepentant mafia killers in the Dark Soul series. We delve into the deeply literary and creepy, like with Peter Hansen’s First Watch (a.k.a. “Tentacles!”). It’s scary to move outside the traditional mold, to do something very different from what’s already out there, because you don’t really know if there will be an audience for it. But among the founders, those are the kinds of stories we love the most as readers—and also very often the stories we write as authors—and we wanted to create a home for things like that, a house willing and able to take all kinds of risks. Having the right editorial staff, the proper funding, and the right marketing strategies make that possible. So too does having strong traditional pieces that we know will pay the bills, even if our risks don’t. And that’s such an amazing position to be in—to have the luxury of exploring, of bringing tremendous new voices and styles and stories to folks without having to fret quite so much about the bottom line.
What can authors expect when they publish with Riptide Publishing? How about the readers?
AV: Being small, we respond very fast – the whole process is very transparent, and authors work closely with their editors. Stories that are submitted and accepted (and we turn down a lot, or send R&R letters) will get edited a lot. This includes things that many publishers out there don’t touch – we’re looking at characters, plot, pacing, tension, satisfying emotional arcs, and making sure that the book has no fatal craft issues left. This means, often, that the manuscript goes through five or seven editing passes. It’s a lot of work for authors and editors both, but the results are worth it.
Readers can expect tasteful covers that won’t embarrass them when they read them on public transport or if somebody finds their e-reader, well-edited text, and a wide range of quality stories. I’d say there’s something for everybody in our catalogue.
What’s your submission process? How long do the authors have to wait before they hear from you on their submissions?
AV: Since we invite our authors, the process is very short. At the moment, we’ve accepted stories in anything from half an hour (yes, that good, but of course short!) to about two weeks. As all partners have to okay an acquisition, it can take longer in some cases, but we’re usually fast.
RH: We did just start some open calls when we opened at the end of October, and I’m looking forward to seeing what comes over the transom, so to speak. We’ve given ourselves six weeks or thereabouts to respond to those submissions, and we’re likely to need every last second of that time. We also have some folks with long publication histories reaching out to us, and we try to get back to them within a few weeks. But as Aleks says, for those authors we invite, we’re quite eager to work with them, and we don’t like to keep them waiting.
What genres and heat levels are you looking for in the submissions?
AV: All sub-genres of gay/trans fiction, all heat levels – that includes no sex at all. We do do pure erotica, but once it has a certain length, we want more than strung-together sex scenes.
RH: To me, a good story’s a good story regardless of genre or heat level, but we all certainly do have our hobby horses. Aleks is particularly interested in military and historical fiction. I’m particularly interested in fantasy, soft SF (but not hard SF; I have no taste for the dense high-tech stuff), cyberpunk, magical realism, westerns (please, someone, get me some gay Deadwood!), and 100% realistic BDSM. Our editorial intern, Callie, has a particular soft spot for steampunk—and yes, she can absolutely pitch a manuscript at an acquisition meeting. We’re all hoping for more trans* submissions. I suspect we’re developing a reputation for the dark and the strange, which is fine—I don’t mind being known as the place you go to look for something off the beaten path—but we do want people to know there’s plenty of room for lightness and humor and exceptionally well-done traditional pieces at Riptide as well. Humor especially, actually; we have a surprisingly large percentage of humorous stories in our initial offerings.
Which debut authors from Riptide Publishing should look out for in the future? Please tell us a little about their works.
AV: Well, I have two favourites: Peter Hansen’s “First Watch” is creepy, literary and sexy, and he’s definitely somebody to watch, not only for the marvelous worlds he creates, but just for everything. Characters, intelligence, and sheer brilliance of style and execution.
Rhi Etzweiler is pretty new and should be mentioned, too. While we did co-write one book for Carina, Blacker than Black is Rhi’s first solo book, and it’s going to make waves; it’s lyrical, sincere, engrossing and atmospheric, with very strong characters.
Both writers are stylistically so good that they could give anybody else in the genre a very good run for their money, so both are extremely hot in my view.
How do you foresee the world of epublishing?
AV: It’s going to grow. The big publishers might catch up eventually, but indies have up to ten years of experience in the space and are navigating these waters extremely well, so I would imagine that the cutting edge remains with the indie publishers for the foreseeable future. People will attempt to cash in (like Penguin’s freshly-launched e-publishing service shows), and all the rules that we thought were sacred and hewn in rock will be changed. It’s extremely dynamic, really interesting, a game-changer.
With the advent of technology, it becomes increasingly easier for authors to self-publish. Why should an author submit her manuscript to you (or to other epublishers) instead of self-publishing her work?
AV: Self-publishing is absolutely a valid option. I’ve looked at it, Rachel has done it, and many people are using that channel extremely well (like Josh Lanyon, who is publishing his backlist via Amazon direct).
Basically, however, every author needs editing (both for content and spelling/grammar). You need a good cover, ideally a marketing plan, and the book needs to look professional or it might be rejected by the reading public. This costs money and is also pretty time-consuming. A good editor charges more than many are willing to pay, a good proofer too, and uploading the files everywhere and maintaining a publisher account at all the big e-tailer sites is just a load of hassle. A publisher takes care of all that, which makes it definitely the easier option. But of course there are many self-published authors who do an excellent job on all counts.
What advice do you have for authors wanting to publish with Riptide Publishing?
AV: Be ready to be edited. Some authors have never had any content editing and are surprised, even shocked, when their clean manuscript comes back with hundreds of comments. I started in traditional print publishing, so having a comment like “these three chapters are weak, because… Please rewrite!” was normal business for me, I never thought it could (or should!) be different. In our space, few people look that deeply into a text, so we’ve had authors receive their very first set of developmental edits from us and were surprised. Some loved it, others didn’t love it quite as much. But it’s inevitable – we do have an old-style editing process.
RH: What Aleks said, times a billion. Editing is not a fuzzy lovey process. It is by its nature inherently critical, sometimes stunningly so. Just remember we loved your book enough to buy it in the first place J For those who are hoping to get in via an open submission call, bring your best game. Polish to a high sheen. Stories with craft issues are auto-rejects. Stories with developmental issues may be worth taking on anyway if the writing is pristine and the voice is strong.
What amazing thing or lesson have you discovered/experienced in the course of establishing and/or managing Riptide Publishing?
AV: I just love the people involved in this. From our authors to our blogger contacts, to readers leaving comments and encouraging us, and last but not least the other partners – it’s all about the love of books and stories, so working together like this toward an ambitious, idealistic goal is just really good fun.
RH: Miscommunication is terrifyingly easy and can be an incredibly powerful destructive force. I’m learning to slow down a little and be a lot more precise when conveying ideas. You might think an author would be inherently good at this—after all, we make our living conveying ideas—but it’s an entirely different animal in the real world and something that, as a bit of a loner, I wasn’t accustomed to at all. The second big lesson for me has been about time. Apparently, it’s quite fluid, and likes to squish and compress on you in direct correlation to the number of critical deadlines on your plate.
But beyond any of that, the amazing discovery, day after day, is our authors’ heart and talent, determination and hard work. It’s wild to joke on Twitter with Andrea Speed about a rampaging mustache and have her find enough inspiration there to turn that into her next Josh of the Damned monster (look for The Night of the Mustache this February). And on a similar note, it’s equally amazing to see the readers respond with such joy and enthusiasm to that talent and heart.
Any last thing you’d like to say?
We invite your readers to visit our Riptide website, read the blurbs and excerpts and hopefully they will find titles that pique their interest. Thanks so much for hosting us!
Thanks a lot, Rachel and Aleksandr!