Monday, August 10, 2009

Samhain editor Angela James

Welcome to our 2nd Anniversary Party!

All of us Killer Fiction gals are so thrilled to be celebrating two years of blogging here and thankful for all the great readers we’ve met along the way. To celebrate our blog birthday, we’ll be giving away prizes throughout the week, and we’ve invited a few special guests to come play with us.

To start off our week of fun, we’ve got a fabulous lady in the house, Angela James, Executive Editor of Samhain Publishing!



Samhain was launched in November of 2005 with a goal of bringing to compulsive readers books that allow them to discover new worlds and be taken on adventures through the creative minds of today’s brightest authors.

Primarily a digital publisher, Samhain also publishes print versions, which turn their stories—and beautiful cover art—into something to touch and hold and love. Their print books are available in Borders, Barnes & Noble and Chapters as well as other chains and independent bookstores. Though, their ebooks are available from their website instantly and a fabulous green alternative to print!

Some of Samhain’s notable authors include R. G. Alexander, Shelli Stevens, Lorelei James, and Lauren Dane, just to name a few.

Angela James is Samhain’s executive editor, publishing all genres of romance and erotica, as well as fantasy, urban fantasy and science fiction with strong romantic elements. She’s also the author of the Nice Mommy ~Evil Editor blog, which is a wealth of publishing and industry information.

Angela has been kind enough to come answer all our blog reader questions today. Please ask anything about writing, romance, the state of the industry, epublishing, or any burning questions you’ve been dying to ask an editor. (Just please no individual manuscript pitches. If you’re interested in submitting to Samhain, feel free to read their submission guidelines here: http://www.samhainpublishing.com/submissions)

So… fire those questions away!

40 comments:

Zita said...

Hi Angela,

What's your take on the eBook pricing debate?

Angela said...

Morning everyone, thanks for having me!

Zita,there are several different debates on ebook pricing, can you be a little more specific?

Neil O'Donnell said...

Hi Angela,

Do you see epublishing taking a major bite out of the print market anytime soon?

Kathleen MacIver said...

How many hours/week of marketing do you feel an e-author should do? How do you recommend finding the balance between marketing time and writing-the-next-book time?

Zita said...

Sorry, Angela. I was thinking of the price some publishers have set for ebooks, specifically that they are, in some cases, even more costly than paper books. Personally, I have found Samhain and Harlequin to be very reasonably priced when it comes to ebooks, but there are some out there that really are charging more for their ebooks than their printed books. Just what is up with that?

Angela said...

@Neil: Statistics released quarterly show that digital sales are rising, while hardcover sales are falling. There's a lot of discussion of whether digital sales "cannibalize" print sales. I'm not sure. I know, for myself, I don't read print anymore. I love the convenience of digital so if it's not in digital, I just skip it and move on to the next book. I think there are more readers doing this every day.

But at the same time, I think there will always be a market for print, especially as long as we have the format and device wars, until we can get cost leveled out and while publishers find their way through the digital waters.

Angela said...

@Kathleen

Oh, that's a hard question. In some cases, I don't think you can measure the quantity of marketing so much as the quality. It all depends on what type of marketing you're doing and who it's reaching.

As an example, I think participating in social media, like Twitter or Facebook, can be a form of marketing, even if you're not doing the "buy my book" marketing. But you're interacting with people, getting your name out there and when they see your book in the store (online or brick and mortar), just recognizing your name might make them more willing to buy it.

So balancing the marketing versus writing time is going to be an individual author decision. But I do think that most authors, especially those just starting or at midlist, need to look at doing some marketing as part of their business.

Angela said...

@Zita

I'm not a fan of the expensive ebook. I've complained about this on Twitter more than once. And I think both digital publishers and traditional publishers can be guilty of charging too much. At a digital publisher, I don't think paying $3 for 10,000 words is reasonable, and at a traditional publisher, I don't think paying $10 for a book that sells for $7 in mass market is reasonable.

Eventually, I hope that publishers across the board realize that setting too high a price only results in lost sales (and I think, in some cases, piracy) and will work out a plan to price the books reasonably.

Gina said...

What are the top 5 elements that you look for in a query letter? Also, the top 5 elements in a manuscript?

Angela said...

@Gina

Query letter:
1)Genre
2) Word Count
3) Title
4) Your real name and your pen name
5) Relevant publishing credits

Manuscript:
1) Grabs me from the start (ie doesn't start with a bunch of backstory/start in the wrong place)

2) Relatively free of typos, missing words, etc. A spelling error in the first paragraph will raise my eyebrow. But it doesn't have to be perfect, just moderately clean.

3)Good character development and motivation.

4)An interesting story/plot that captures my attention.

5)All plot and story threads well-developed and wrapped up (for a stand-alone book)

Susan Lohrer said...

Hi Angela,

Can you give us an idea of how well (or poorly) mainstream contemporary romance e-books sell vs. steamier e-books?

Angela said...

@Susan

It depends on two things: the publisher and the book/author. Some publishers really only move erotic romance.

I've found that some authors do very well with a contemp, non-erotic romance. Lauren Dane and Jaci Burton immediately come to mind. I think erotic romances still are an easy sell, but that contemporary romances have a market, especially if well marketed to the reader.

Terry S said...

Hi Angela and happy anniversary Killer Fiction,

I'm a digital reader who has legally purchased every ebook I own. I don't share ebooks other than as a recommendation to friends about a really good book they might like to buy for themselves...much the same way I might recommend a library book.

While I recognize piracy is a problem, sometimes I get the feeling there is almost a Chicken Little "the sky is falling" paranoia about it by many authors and publishers. Well that, and the feeling all digital readers are automatically being tarred with the piracy brush, not just the actual offenders.

Your thoughts?

Angela said...

@TerryS

Oh, piracy. You like to live dangerously by bringing this up :P

There was just a conversation about this on the Samhain author loop, and one thing I said is that authors need to stop thinking of every download of their book as a lost sale. Does piracy result in lost sales? Yes, absolutely. But many (many) people file sharing dl books because they're there, and they're free. Not because they were otherwise going to buy them.

I do think that the more well-known books and authors lose a higher percentage of sales to piracy (ie more people will be looking to purposely pirate a well-known author than one they've barely or never heard of).

Piracy happens. It's going to happen. I don't believe there's any way to eradicate piracy and I think authors have to compartmentalize the piracy issue so they don't let it take over and eat their brain, believing all those are lost sales. You'll drive yourself nuts.

I think authors, and publishers, need to provide a fairly priced, easy to use, convenient to keep/store/reuse digital file as the first step in combating piracy. Don't make your legitimate customers into criminals because it just makes them less likely to return.

Oh, and Terry, I don't think any reasonable person would object to casual sharing of your ebooks. It's how new fans are created!

Anonymous said...

Hello Angela,

Do you believe there's a decent sized market for ebook genres besides erotica, menage, bondage, etc?

For example, what about straight paranormal, light fantasy, historical ...

Thanks!

Dara England

Angela said...

@Dara

Yes I do. As an example, outside of romance, I'd point to Baen's digital program, which has been around for years. And I think, with the growing interest in digital publishing from the media, within publishing and by booksellers, that we'll see that market for all genres continue to expand.

Kathleen MacIver said...

I've got another question.

Does Samhain list any sort of average sales numbers of authors? I know that "average" is a tricky word, but something like, "Debut authors' novels range from 50 to 200 sales in the first month, with 50% of genre A authors being in this range and 50% of genre B authors in the that range."

I suppose non-debut author's averages would be interesting, too, but if an author has sold with you before, then they wouldn't necessarily be looking for this information.

(Of course, there'd be a disclaimer that this was no guarantee, and that authors' promotional efforts signficantly affect sales performance.)

Melissa Blue said...

Hi, Angela!

What do you think is the make-up of a successful author?

Also, as an editor what are the top five (yes, I'm totally stealing the idea) mistakes a writer makes with their submission?

Angela said...

@Kathleen

No, we don't list anything like that.

Angela said...

@Melissa

I think the most successful authors, like Nora Roberts, treat writing as their business, publishers as their business partners, and their writing career as a small (or large in the case of Nora) business and act accordingly at all times.

5 mistakes made in submissions? Hm.

1) Sending it before it's ready to be seen by an editor/agent. In other words, it hasn't been thoroughly self-edited by the author, or seen by critique partners or beta readers.

2) Starting the book in the wrong place. So many submissions I see, the first pages, the first chapter, sometimes even the first few chapters are unnecessary, more setting up the story in the author's mind than anything the reader needs to see.

3) Infodumping. See #2 but it can still happen in the middle of a book as well.

4) Not giving all the necessary information in the query letter, giving life history in the query letter and addressing the query letter to the wrong person.

5) Sending a nasty follow-up email in response to a rejection. This is a small, small publishing world and burning your bridges like that is not a great idea!

Kathleen MacIver said...

I was afraid you'd say that.

For those of us on the writing end, it's nice to know whether selling your story to an e-pub would mean selling it for a potential $20, $200, or $2000. That's one of the important questions when we're trying to decide whether to sell our unsold-to-NY manuscript to an e-pub, or shelve it and see if later, when our writing skills improve and we've sold something else, we can break it out, fix it up, and sell it for $2,000 or more later on.

And one element of the equation in determining how much you might make on an e-pubbed book is the site's success in gathering customers and traffic, formatting and editing books so readers come back, etc.

I suspect this is one reason why RWA is holding the $1,000 requirement...not so much because e-pubs offer less money, but because they're not up front about how much money you can realistically expect to earn. And advance does, at least, give you that much.

Your thoughts?

(I read the notes and tweets from the rogue session at RWA, so I'm not asking for a repeat...I simply don't recall anyone addressing the "offering realistic numbers for realistic expectations" issue.)

Angela said...

@Kathleen

I agree with you. We did talk about this during the rogue digital session, actually, though it's entirely possible it didn't make it into anyone's recap. Simply put, I said that a book at a digital publisher could sell a few copies or it could sell thousands. And that not every book, at whichever epublisher you choose, is going to make $1000. But not every author publishes a book expecting to make that $1000, but they publish it because they want to get it out there in what feels like a legitimate way to them.

I'm not sure if I'm saying this well, it's harder to say when written out, but essentially I'm saying no, not every book will make the author $1000 but not every author has that expectation. The expectations of publishing are different for different authors, and digital publishing allows those authors to publish their work, despite what RWA thinks or the limited slots at a traditional publisher. These are books that wouldn't otherwise get published if every publisher operated exactly the same business model, exactly how RWA thought they should.

All that said, what I tell people who query me about certain genres is to research a publisher, look at who's writing in the same genre at that publisher, and write and ask them if they're happy with their sales. I think it's probably rude to ask specific sales numbers, but asking questions like if they're happy with the experience, the sales, and would they do it again are something most authors are willing to answer.

Kathleen MacIver said...

Thank you. That does sound like a good way of approaching that question.

Christie Craig said...

Hi Angela,

Christie Craig here just to say thank you so much for coming to Killer Fiction on our anniversary celebration.

CC

Angela said...

Thank you, Christie! I'm a fan of your contemporaries and am lucky to have friends at Dorchester who will always send me ARCs :P

Aimee St. Claire said...

Hi Ms. James :)

Do you feel writers should be sensitive to trends in publishing or simply write whatever inspires them?

Thank you so much for your time - and for great books!

:) Aimee

Jane said...

Hi Angela,
How do your print sales compare with your ebook sales?

Angela said...

@Aimee

I think authors should be aware of selling, but write what inspires them. I don't think anyone should force themselves to write to trends. It ends up sounding like you're forcing yourself to write to a trend!

@Jane

Compare in what way?

Jane said...

Are most people who shop at Samhain purchasing ebooks instead of print?

Angela said...

@Jane

Oh, I see. No, people who come to the website are buying mostly digital. We do have a very healthy print program, though. But we think of ourselves as a digital-first publisher (both in the fact that our books go to digital publication first, and in the fact that we want to promote the digital books over the print aspect).

Christie Craig said...

Angela,

Thanks so much. And I'm tickled you're getting my ARCs.

CC

Gemma Halliday said...

Thanks so much for being here, Angela! Great info!

~Gemma

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