With Mojocastle Press, COO – Stefanie Kelsey
As one of the current co-owners of the paranormal author/reader group Just Another Paranormal Monday I recently embarked upon the endeavor of putting together two (2) Anthologies; one for Halloween and the other a Christmas Anthology for Charity. During the course of these releases I learned several important things, the first of which was: lunacy loves company and second, you can only flash the ‘I’m-new–forgive-me-my-idiocy-card’ so often.
So how do you make it all come together when you’ve no idea what you’ve gotten yourself into? Answer: Faith, hard work, great friends, amazing authors and a publisher/Chief-Executive Editor that is as knowledgeable as she is forgiving. That, and like the authors who have thrown their hat into this paranormal anthology ring with you – she never says die – unless she’s the one who pens the order herself.
As one of the main co-conspirators of these Anthologies I’ve learned to organize, delegate, create new ways of mass promotion; become a hand-holder, ego-soother, event planner, copy-editor, art reviewer, and on and on and so on. Yes, all that, just for myself!
With all of the other writers involved it was an educational event putting all of these stories together as they reached their final production. And, I must say that my respect for publishers and editors has grown immensely. This led me to this interview and the questions I’ve had along the way. Primarily – How do you do it? How do you get from point A) Our story idea, to point B) the final product? And how do you not go insane? So, I turned to my source of publishing information, my guru, if you will. She’s my hand-holder, my ego-soother, my COO, and Executive Editor at Mojocastle Press and best of all, along the way she’s become my friend.
So, Stef, what in the world made you decide to go from author – since you also write under the pen name Rian Monaire – to editor and then publisher?
Actually, I was an editor first. My first job was working for Wings Epress, then Zumaya. I actually only started writing because some of my authors dared me. I’m an Aries, so you can guess my reaction. I was promoted from editor to partner at eXtasy Books, and found I really enjoyed all facets of the publication process. So I struck out on my own with Mojocastle Press, and with my partner, Carrie, the cycle of insanity came full circle. I have been loosed on the world!
Authors are such solitary creatures - Have you worked with any that have been massive divas about getting their written word out the way they want it out?
I’ve had a few. Okay, a lot. Since getting sued on a massive scale isn’t one of my New Year’s Resolutions, I won’t use names...but you all know who you are. I have been called every name in the book, and some that were added to the book later. I will never understand why some people react violently to constructive criticism.
What sort of things go on behind the scenes that authors and readers would never think about that need to happen in order to get a book published?
The mechanics behind it are very time-consuming. After the edits and art are complete, then it’s the copyedit and formatting. I then send a galley to the author. After I get their corrections made, I copyedit again. I usually do one more galley check and copyedit before declaring the book ready. Then the conversion into multiple formats. If no issues crop up, this takes about an hour. But it’s rare this stage proceeds uneventfully. Once the formats are done, they are loaded to the cart and the webmistress gets them on the site. Last stage is loading them to third party sites, then promo and review sites. It never really ends.
Most recently we worked together on the cover art for the Just Another ParaNormal Christmas Anthology and there was some debate on how much Christmas to add to it. During this process I learned a few things on marketability – can you help our readers understand some of the thought process that goes into choosing the right cover art?
This is based on my personal experience and thought process. First, the art has to be professional looking. The cover art can make or break a book. Factors I consider:
1. Does it “pop”? Will it grab a reader’s attention?
2. Does it actually represent what’s inside the book? (I hate reading a book about a blonde heroine and the cover has a brunette). I also like it to not just be generic half-exposed body bits...I prefer more details from the book other than “Man gets naked in this story.”
3. Does the author love it? I can’t expect someone to promote something they hate, or are embarrassed by. They’ll have to stare at it for untold hours. They need to be happy with it from the get-go.
4. Does it have a hook that ties into current trends? Will it look outdated in a year?
5. And last, does it looks too much like art that’s already out there?
Since you’ve been in this industry, both as an author and a publisher, the trends for genre ‘featured genre of choice’ seem to change on a weekly basis. Vampires were the it monster of choice for many readers, then demons and angels and now Steam punk seems to be railroading its way through the market. Where do you see the current trends taking your readers and do you try to adjust your choices of story lines to publish in accordance with the current trends?
Trying to front trends will make you insane. I don’t go that route. Instead, my theory is instead of trying to guess what genre is the next big thing, I look for books in current popular genres that stand out. Vampires didn’t get played out because people stopped liking them, they got played out because all that was being pubbed was the same old song and dance. Write a vamp that’s fresh, new and with a fun twist, and it’ll still sell. I focus on helping authors find the genre they love to write and produce that fresh book. In a nutshell, don’t knock yourself out trying to guess what’ll hit...write in your comfort zone and make it new. Then promo the hell out of it and make your own trend.
Mojocastle is an e-book publisher as well as a print publisher – With the growing market in e-readers and the convenience of reading on the go through your I-phone, I-pod and other gizmos and gadgets, do you see more of the big name publishing houses ‘breaking into’ the small press market?
I say the same thing I said at the RT Convention when Harlequin announced their ebook line, “Amateurs.” I think they will, especially with brick-and-mortar stores closing. For us small press, it’s actually an asset; the more accepted the medium is, the easier our marketing becomes,
If you could give new or aspiring authors one crucial piece of advice when it comes to taking that leap and submitting their work – what would it be?
Check your ego at the door and put your best foot forward. Everything should be professional, from your cover letter to your emails. Nothing bugs a pub more than a diva with a sense of entitlement and a typo-filled submission.
What would you say is the most important thing you have learned since your first publication?
Not to let the bastards get you down. This industry is not for the weak, but it doesn’t have to be a war, either. Stay true to your ideals and all will be well.
Wow! Thanks, Stef so much for visiting with me today and sharing such a wealth of information. If you would like to learn more about the books published by this incredibly talented editor please visit Mojocastle Press at http://www.mojocastle.com