Week Two…Business as Usual


Week two of Carina Press is in the bag, as the saying goes (and why does the saying go like that?). It was a week filled with fielding a lot of questions, spending copious amounts of time on the phone–every week will probably include that–and, joy of joys…spreadsheets! As I blogged on Friday about the acquisitions process, I spent two days inputting all of our submissions into a spreadsheet. Originally, we were going to have each team member input submissions as we read them, but I quickly realized that wasn’t going to work for two reasons 1) it made it hard to track down a pending submission if we needed to find information on it quickly and 2) part of my job is going to be providing statistics for acquisitions and submissions. Those statistics are going to become part of my written goals. Goals I must reach. No pressure!

Looking to the future, we’re committed to helping take digital publishing one more step into the future, attracting talented authors and avid readers! We’ve seen some amazing submissions come in–our submissions team was fighting over a particularly awesome-looking historical romance and I think at least three of them ended up reading (and loving) it. Those are the types of things we’re concentrating on and continuing to look forward to.

I’ve also been somewhat flattered to get a tremendous number of requests for interviews and guest blog posts. The challenging part of that is to stay interesting and not start repeating myself so much that no one ever wants to see another interview with me ever again, but instead finds something new in almost every interview. Like I said, challenging! On Friday afternoon, I did an hour long, crazy Q&A session on Twitter with Kat Meyer from Follow the Reader and a number of Twitter folk who joined in. The questions (and answers) flew fast and furious! You can find that Q & A by searching for hashtag #followreader on Twitter. Later in the week, Kat will be posting a blog post recap of our session and I’ll share that link when it’s available.

On tap for this week: beginning the process for hiring editorial staff, reading submissions and…a four day weekend! (for me anyhow, the rest of the team is in Toronto and they’ll still be hard at work) It’s Thanksgiving in the States. And yes, I do shop on Black Friday, I’m crazy like that. Who’s with me?

The Acquisition Process


Since we announced the opening of Carina, we’ve seen both direct queries and indirect speculation about how the Carina acquisition process will work and just what kind of manuscripts we’ll accept. There seems to be some concern that we’ll be accepting and publishing everything that’s thrown at us, so I thought I’d share with you how our acquisitions process will work.

When a submission comes in, we have nine people on the “preliminary” submissions team, who go through the inbox, read submissions and mark which of those should be passed on to editorial staff for a more complete read. (The submissions team consists of editors and online commerce people.) If one of those nine people reads the submission and finds it not to their taste, but believes it might have merit, it’s marked for a second review to determine if it goes to the editorial staff. The best part of having so many people reading submissions at this point is that we all have very diverse reading tastes, so there’s a reader for every genre showing up in our inbox! Books not passing this first stage will receive rejection letters.

Once the book is moved on to the Carina Press editorial staff, they read as much or as little of it as they need to determine one of three outcomes: acceptance, rejection or revisions requested prior to resubmission of the manuscript (revise and resubmit). A book being recommended for acceptance is sent back to the submissions team with an explanation of merit, editorial notes, market appeal, etc and the book, plus the notes, is reviewed either by me or one other on the submissions team. After review, it’s presented at our weekly acquisitions meeting for final approval before moving on to the contract stage.

At this early point in the Carina development, I’ll have my busy hands in every stage of a book’s submissions process, whether it’s acceptance, rejection, or revisions requested, so no book will get a response without two looks by our staff, one of them me, to ensure not just that we’re contracting the best books possible, but also that no hidden treasures get passed up!

I hope the more in depth look at what is, I think, a pretty detailed, multi-layered process, will help answer any questions about what our plans are for Carina as far as quality goes. Plus, I think if any of you know me, or my reputation, I’m pretty fierce about showing just how good digital publishing can be. But maybe I shouldn’t be convincing you. I should be going for the undersell, right?

As a small aside, some of you have been curious about how many submissions we’ve gotten in the week and a half since we’ve opened so I’ll share that info here, now that I’ve finally gotten the spreadsheet done and the info inputted: 300. We’ve had 300 submissions in ten days. Keep them coming!

Week One…Learning the Ropes


Along with the more mundane posts of answering questions and sharing information about Carina, I wanted to bring you along on my journey. Not only was Monday the official announcement of Carina Press, but it was also my first day as an official employee of Carina/Harlequin. Though I had been working with the digital team in the weeks preceding, it was purely in a consulting manner and more along the lines of them picking my brain (after my trip to Toronto, I was quite sure I had nothing left to share after a lengthy question and answer session with the team!)

No longer having to keep the secret of Carina’s existence was the best part of the week. Do you have any idea how hard it is to not tell people such exciting news for weeks (and months?). When I flew to Toronto, I couldn’t Twitter or blog about my adventures, couldn’t share the coolness of visiting the Harlequin offices (all those books! And the Harlequin artwork! So cool), meeting the digital team, seeing Bobble Brent in person, and fessing up about just where I saw that Buggati Veyron. Not to mention that during all those weeks, I was still attending writers’ conferences and the sheer number of people who asked me how I was doing, what I was going to do next and if I had a job yet was almost overwhelming. But through all of those lunches, drinks, dinners, meetings and the workshops I gave, I couldn’t breathe a single word to anyone about what was coming. I deserve some sort of metal for holding out against that kind of pressure, don’t you think?

Yep, last week, finally sharing the news, was amazing. And the sheer amount of support and goodwill sent our way? No other word than wow will sum it up. But, alas, it’s not all glamour and glitz, this publishing business :P There was actual work involved last week. I’m fairly sure I generated more email and logged more phone time in that one week than I had in the entire month previous. Not to mention all the time spent visiting blogs, forums and Twitter answering questions and sending out thank yous. Maybe it’s most amazing that I didn’t develop carpal tunnel last week.

In addition to all that, I’ve been doing paperwork. And reading policies and procedures. I know, I know, you’re all jealous. But here, let me show you the packet of information I received this week compliments of human resources.  I swear to you, it’s four inches thick!

And even with all the excitement of a new job, there’s still the other side, the learning curve. The other members of the Carina Press team have all been with Harlequin for years (some of them 20+ years), they all work in the Toronto office together (I’m working from home, which is such a bonus!), just feet from each other, and other than Malle, I’ve only met them once. So they all have established roles, understand the ropes and are well familiar with both Harlequin and each other. I’m the new kid on the block, which is always both exciting and fraught with nerves and no small amount of trepidation. Just learning the new email system is hard, let alone the aforementioned policies and procedures! And we won’t talk about trying to get my Mac to play nice with the Harlequin system!

So last week and these upcoming weeks are for learning about my role in Carina Press, the duties I’ll have and how I fit into the team. They’ll also be for reading submissions (holy cow, the submissions!), contracting books, gathering an editorial staff, setting up a style guide, assembling an author welcome packet and making lists of my lists of things to do, accomplish and put together. Even with a company that’s going to be utilizing some existing backend workflow, there’s still a lot to be done, more little details than we ever realize that need to be covered, and always more questions and ideas popping up. It’s an exciting and busy time, and I wouldn’t choose to be anywhere else!

Answering Questions Part II


First off, let me just thank everyone on behalf of the whole Carina Press team for your interest in and all the enthusiasm you’ve shown for Carina in the past week. It’s wonderful to know that so many of you are just as excited about the possibilities as we are!

Earlier in the week, Malle wrote a post, answering some questions that came up immediately after our announcement. Today, I’m going to recap some of her answers to questions posed in the comments of that thread, as well as answer some new questions. One quick thing before I start, when the blog was first put up, the comments were set to be “threaded”. We’ve set the comments to unthreaded (tell me I’m not the only one easily confused by those threaded comments?) but because we’ve done that, the previous four posts’ comments might look a little confusing and messy. Which is one of the reasons why I want to restate some of the answers Malle gave here. Also, we have requested that a subscribe-to-comments plugin be added to the blog, so everyone can track the comments more easily (including us!) and hopefully we’ll have that added next week.

Will a sample contract be available for viewing?

Malle: No, we won’t be offering a sample contract online — my legal department would shoot me. (AJ: but we will answer what questions we can about contract terms)

What rights does the contract take?

Malle: We will be buying all rights.

Is the contract negotiable?

AJ: My favorite saying when I talk about contracts is that they should be negotiable but all things in them are not negotiable. That applies here.

What are the royalty rates?

AJ: 30% of the original cover price on direct sales, 15% of the original cover price on 3rd party distribution. There is no net, no hidden fees, it’s all based on cover price.

So the books will be sold through 3rd party distributors?

AJ: Yes.

Will the books through 3rd party distributors be sold DRM free?

Malle: We will be offering the stories DRM-free on the Carina Press site and we will be offering the editorial to other vendors. If they wrap their own DRM on it, that will be their call.

DRM free? Really? You’re not just pulling my leg?

AJ: No, really, DRM free!

What formats will the books be available in?

AJ: At this time we haven’t finalized which formats we offer, though we do know there will be epub and PDF (did I mention they’d be DRM free?)

What about cover price? What will that be?

AJ: Again, this is something we’re still discussing, but cover price will in-line with other digital publishers.

And will you be offering print in the future?

AJ: No possibilities should be discounted. At this moment, we are focusing on digital but who knows what may happen in the future.

About submissions, what is your minimum word count, you don’t really say?

Malle: We’re looking for genre novels between 50 – 100 K. Willing to consider bigger single titles over 100 K. And I think there is a sweet spot for shorter books/novellas between 20 – 30 K. Angie tells me I’m wrong and that there is a lot of great material between 30 – 50 K. I wait to be corrected! So basically we are wide open!

AJ: And what she didn’t say is that yes, we will take as low as 15k. I expect a lot of amazing short submissions and a lot between 30-50k so I can say “I told you so” :P

How do you figure word count?

AJ: Computer word count. Pretty much all publishers, digital or traditional, are happy with computer word count in this age of technology.

And what heat level?

AJ: We’re looking for all heat levels, so there are no minimums and no restrictions. You can have no kissing up to whatever sexy stuff fits the story. As it says in our guidelines, we’re not looking for Penthouse Letters, we’re looking for great storytelling.

And you’ll consider m/m or other GLBT?

AJ: Absolutely, we welcome it and look forward to it.

Does my book have to have romantic elements?

AJ: Not at all. Well, unless it’s a romance. But though we will focus on romance, we will look at non-romance genres, including books without romantic elements at all.

A friend of mine got a “not quite right for this line” rejection from Harlequin. Will the editors forward those submissions to you for consideration?

AJ: Since Carina Press is a separate company, with a different pay structure, we can’t assume that authors want their submission to be published through Carina, so your friend should submit it directly to us herself. If she got a “not quite right” it might be just up our alley!

My manuscript is written in UK English, do I need to change that?

AJ: Not as long as it’s appropriate to the story setting. If your story is set in the US, you might want to reconsider the UK English!

I don’t live in the US or Canada, can I still submit a manuscript?

AJ: Absolutely! We will happily publish authors living anywhere there’s computer access (hey, alien friends, send us your best stories!), as long as the manuscript is in English.

Can I mail you a hard copy of my manuscript instead of sending it via email?

AJ: Sorry, no. Since we’re a digital-only company, everything will be done electronically, from submissions to edits. Submissions need to be made electronically, following our submissions guidelines, and the author must have or be prepared to have a program that can work with track changes (OpenOffice is a free option).

Do you only want books that will become a series, or will you accept standalone novels as well?

AJ: We’re interested in good storytelling, so if your book is a standalone, we want to see it. If your book is intended as part of a series, we want to see it.

What are your marketing plans? Will the author be expected to do all of the marketing?

Malle:  You’ll hear lots more about marketing plans as we move forward.

In our description we were trying to stress the small, independent publisher feel we hope to offer within Carina Press. We will be working together closely with authors on marketing efforts. We expect authors who want to participate in social media, etc. will most likely sell better. It’s part of the nature of this space. But by no means do we mean the author will be doing all the heavy lifting! Heck, that’s why we stress what an amazing digital marketing team we have. One that has years of experience.

Are you hiring editors, copyeditors or cover artists?

AJ: You can send your letter of interest, resume or portfolio to generalinquiries@www.carinapress.com

Whew! Is anyone else exhausted after that marathon Q&A session? Now I know you’ll tell me what I missed, so bring on the follow-up questions! If necessary, I’ll do one more post to recap anything I missed.

Answering Questions


So much went right when we announced Carina Press yesterday that we didn’t notice comments weren’t appearing at the blog until this morning. They are live now, but I thought I would answer some of the most popular questions in this blog post.

First, there is supposed to be an automated response from the Carina submissions inbox saying we’ve received your submission. It wasn’t working yesterday or today. It will soon. For those of you have already submitted (and there are many of you, thank you!) we will send you a reply in the next couple of days so that you know your manuscript arrived.

A few of you queried your book idea a.k.a pitched on the blog. Please send your query to our submissions inbox: Submissions@CarinaPress.com

Please also note that we would really appreciate it if you could delete the automatic subject line (carina submission) and instead add the story title, author name and genre. This helps us organize, read and follow up on submissions faster.

A potential writer wanted to know if Carina Press eBooks will be sold on the eHarlequin.com website.  No, we will be building a bookstore for Carina Press and selling through other eRetailers. Why? Because Harlequin offers a very specific promise to its readers and Carina Press is open to a much wider range of editorial.

Another reader wondered what will happen to Harlequin’s existing original eBook programs like Spice Briefs, Silhouette Nocturne Bites and Harlequin Historical Undone. These programs will continue publishing as they have been. I know people can be a little confused about Carina Press versus Harlequin but just think of it this way: what was Harlequin is still Harlequin.

An aspiring writer wondered how long after submitting to Harlequin can she submit to Carina Press. We ask that you wait for your answer from Harlequin. Turn-around varies from imprint to imprint but if you haven’t heard anything after three months, please contact the editorial office and find out the status of your ms. You should always receive a response.

Some people are concerned about our statement that we will not be publishing print editions. Please read our answer carefully: “At this time we have no plans to publish print books.”  Notice the key words, at this time. We are not making any promises at this time. The future, however, is wide open.

The question continued about how can an author promote her titles and be involved in book signings? The answer is digital marketing and social media (I know, social media is part of digital marketing, but it also needs to be pulled out on its own to show just how important it is). Authors can do a lot of promotion without a physical book. We’ll be talking a lot about social media in this blog space and with Carina Press authors.

A very astute reader told me, nicely, that I used the wrong term in my I’m so excited post. The correct military terminology is Hoo yah!

Today,  I am smarter because of a former Navy office INFP-type who shared her knowledge. Hoo yah! I love my job.