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Part 2 – Interview with Gaynor Stenson, Publisher

March 5, 2010
Welcome back to part 2 of my interview with Gaynor Stenson of Vamplit Publishing. Today she’s providing advice for writers seeking publication and talking about changes in the publishing industry.

Don’t forget, we’re also giving away two of Vamplit Publishing’s eBooks (your choice) next Wednesday. Leave a comment to enter the drawing in today and/or yesterday’s post. A comment on both days doubles your chances to win. Only one eBook per winner though. I will randomly draw two winners and announce them in my post next Wednesday.

Advice for Writers

Why should an author consider a small publisher rather than self-publish?

A couple of authors have asked me what I can do for them and my answer has always been that I believe in them as a writer and will be as committed to your novel as you are. Self-pub always seems like a lonely place to me, beside which it’s big bucks you’re giving to savvy business people. If you are going down the self-pub route, I would advise you to do some sums on how many novels you need to sell to recoup your outlay. Look carefully at the fee and be aware that if you give your credit card details and haven’t read the small print, you could find yourself paying for extras. Don’t expect anything but basic proofreading for the set fee, as most editors charge much more because their pace is usually between four and ten pages per hour. I find that I edit between three and fifteen pages an hour.

  Part 1 with
Gaynor Stenson

Website & Submitions

Purchase Books & Smashwords

Writers’ Communities &


What services do you provide your authors as compared to a publishing giant or self-publishing agency?

For new authors, we offer a lot more than a big publisher would. Obviously I can’t offer what the publishing giants offer to their superstars, but I do offer one-on-one collaboration with an editor and we produce all the artwork for covers and any promotional material, we will even set you up a blog. Large publishers seldom offer so much to new authors and expect manuscripts to be presented in a highly polished format, with editing and proofreading already done. Some of our authors have proved to be networking goddesses’ and they have been keen to pass the love around, which is nice.

What are some of the warning signs you’re being taken advantage of in the publishing industry?

There are so many. Firstly, if you are paying up front, whatever the company says on its website, you are self-publishing. If you are asked for your credit card details in case of extras or if you go onto the website and there are thousands of books of low quality, your alarm bells should start to ring. Even if you are accepted by a large publisher, ask about claw back. This is where you only get your royalties after all the costs of production are met and is quite common.

What would you suggest to any author looking to publish?

Don’t get your mum or friend to read your novel and think that it is edited, unless said person is an editor, of course. Practice writing a query letter or email. I’m completely turned off if a query is full of grammatical or spelling mistakes. Think of your synopsis as a shop window, one that will get the editor to browse. Writing compelling prose isn’t enough, you need the whole package. I could write pages on this, but most importantly, think carefully before spending your hard earned cash. On her website, Anne Rice puts it quite succinctly: if you have to pay, it’s not publishing, it’s vanity publishing. However, there is a new breed of author for whom self-publishing is a viable option. If you have a disposable income and the savvy to pull it off, then give self-pub a try. If as an author you decide that you don’t want to go through the archaic and often cruel rigmarole of submission, think before you sign up with the big self-publishers. Ask yourself how much of what the self-publishing company is offering you can do yourself and if the answer is some or most of it, spend the money you save on marketing your novel and a holiday.

Since you have started a publishing company, what are some of the things you have realized writers are uninformed or don’t understand about publishers and the process of publishing?

Tricky question, writers don’t on the whole seem to realise this is a business. Last year I wrote twenty rejection emails in one day. My point being, that my business is new and I will give a writer a lot of leeway in their style (that can be fixed), but not their content. Don’t just blanket send your manuscript to every publisher you can find in The Writers’ Handbook, do some research. As a writer you should love to fact find, and that should not stop when you’re looking for a publisher. Send the right manuscript to the right editor and make sure your query and synopsis are outstanding.

One of the other things I think some writers don’t understand is that, new or old, big or small, all publishers expect the author to get out and publicise their own novel. What small publishers don’t have is a dedicated sales team to push your novels into stores, so if you find an outlet for your novel then tell your publisher. You need to find a way to build a relationship with readers and the internet has helped writers get out there and work their novel. All writers need a web presence for their novel.

What other advice would you give to writers who are serious about being published?

Don’t give up, but don’t ruin your life waiting to be a superstar. Being an author is a great thing, but enjoying the process of writing is the work of a lifetime. Seeing your novel in print or ebook format is important, but it is the writing which makes you special.

On The Future of Publishing

What are your opinions on the evolution of publishing, especially in regards to ePublishing. Where do you see the industry in the next 5 to 10 years?

It’s times like this I wish I had a crystal ball, but that would take all the fun out of life. I personally think ePublishing is going to be enormous, as reading has become very sexy again and, although the market share is still small, the year on year growth, even through the recession, has been amazing. Kindle ebook sales went through the ceiling this Christmas and the instant fix that ebooks give the reader is addictive, so I believe we will see an exponential growth in the industry over the next 5 years, as the price of readers decrease. The market has always been mostly women, but with the advent of a gadget, who knows, the whole reading demographic could change in the next ten years. I remember reading, about ten years ago, that the horror/fantasy market was dead, but look what’s happened. I think, when things settle down, e-publishing will find its place. Once this generation of readers hit middle age and e-readers are sold on their ability to enlarge text, we will find a whole new market, with a disposable income and the spare time to read. I know I prefer to read from a screen where I can adjust the text size; up to now readers of a certain age have had to settle for large print editions and availability may be limited and the cost prohibitive. Libraries will be able to stock every book ever written and, instead of making the twice-yearly trip to goodwill or charity shops to clear space on our shelves, we will be able to store all of our books on a nice clean e-reader.

How do you feel about some the recent competitive moves between Amazon and Apple in regards to selling ebooks? How will this effect your company? How do you see it effecting authors?

For us it’s all good, we like the idea of competition. We are working with an apps developer and all our titles will be available on Apple – Dance on Fire by James Garcia Jr is already available from the Apple bookstore. This is possible because the apps developer takes a small cut for every ebooks sold and Apple only take a very reasonable 30%. We also use Smashwords for our conversion and our ebooks are now available in Kindle format without us having to pay Amazon the 65% of purchase price they expect. I have nothing against Amazon and if I’m looking for a book, I usually look there first, but I see blogs with affiliate links to Amazon and I keep wanting to recommend Smashword’s affiliate programme which gives authors and publishers the chance to set their own rates. So a blogger who has links to books they’ve recommended can earn up to 80% of the ebook price. As a small, British publisher I think competition between the large stores is a good thing. I hope ebook stores, such as Smashword, who charge the publisher or author a very reasonable 13% of list price to sell your novel, get a larger slice of the sales pie chart. Converting readers to buying from diverse sellers can only be helped by larger companies fighting it out. If you are considering self-pub, we are working on an ebook for authors on how to publish their novels free of fees. It will take the author from typing The End right through to setting up a website and marketing their books again for free.

I’d like to finish on a positive note, which is sometimes hard as the odds are against you, but the fairytale ending is out there for any writer to find. The changing face of publishing is opening up new opportunities and you can only take advantage of them if you’ve a positive attitude and a belief in yourself as a writer.

18 Comments leave one →
  1. March 5, 2010 8:21 am

    So much great information and advice, Gaynor, and so much I hadn’t heard before. Thanks for sharing your perspective with us.

    • March 5, 2010 3:32 pm

      Thank you Supriya it was a pleasure to be interviewed by Wendy, this is a great site and I wish you all success with it and your writing.

  2. March 5, 2010 1:57 pm

    Thank you for all that wonderful information, Gaynor. I think I recognized some publishers I’d once (foolhardily) considered and I’ll stop ignoring the warning bells.

    • March 6, 2010 6:00 pm

      Hi Furtboy

      I hate that I always come off sounding like the voice of doom and gloom, because it isn’t all bad out there. Self-Pub can be grate and it is possible to take your novel all the way, just not as easy as it seems. Good luck with whatever you decide to do.

  3. March 5, 2010 2:18 pm

    Great interview, Wendy! And thanks so much, Gaynor, for answering so thoroughly and opening the eyes of many new writers on what they can expect to face in the industry. I wish you and your company huge success in the coming years. I have a feeling how you are doing things is going to be the model after which other new publishers try to shape themselves!

    • March 5, 2010 3:27 pm

      Thank you CJ. I am following your career with great interest; you are the epitomy of a new breed writer, who are going to make it and are not afraid to knock down a few doors to get there. Good luck with the Amazon competition and the agent, I’ve only read a couple of chapters of your novel and I’m absolutely certain it’s perfect for today’s market.

      • March 6, 2010 2:24 pm

        Very kind of you, Gaynor, and thank you! While I didn’t make it to the next round in the Amazon contest, I’m not too disappointed overall. I’m hopeful with the same kind of hard work you’ve done, that I’ll make soon.

  4. March 7, 2010 11:17 am

    Another great piece — thanks for featuring this in two parts, Wendy and Gaynor. Very good information about the publishing industry, as people tend to think that it’s just as easy as setting pen to paper and then your book gets published and you’re rich and famous. Lots of hard work and wrangling in between the two! Interesting and exciting how the publishing industry is changing. Thanks again!

    • March 7, 2010 2:17 pm

      Hi Nicole

      I think I’m right in saying that overnight success is a long hard road for an author. Some of the changes are good Nicole, but I did my usual internet nosy the other day and from all the small publishera that started over the last five years, the new ones popping up now all seem to charge the author up front. I posted on my blog, a post I wrote and forgot about, when Harliquin started their self-pub business. I was dissapointed in a company that had always had such a good attitude to authors had jumped on the self-pub bandwagon. The biggest change for the future, I think, is not e-publishing, but the change in how publishers make their money; from the past on book sales and in the future it will be on the writer’s ability to pay to publish and this seems to me like a step backwards not forwards. That’s why I’m supporting Smashwords, if you are going to self-publish I would suggest that you start with them. What about editing and artwork? Well there are lots of highly skilled editors and artist out there trying to make a living too. So as an author you can pass on the love and you will get a more individual service than if you pay for an all in service.

  5. Harley D. Palmer permalink*
    March 7, 2010 1:47 pm

    Wonderful information! It is great to be able to see the other side of the picture – it puts things in perspective for me as a writer.

    I don’t want to assume, but I was looking at the Vamplit website. They say they accept “fantasy” – does that include ALL fantasy or only dark/urban fantasy? The theme of their sight and looking at a few of their titles makes me seem to think so. I write High Fantasy so I wanted to check to see if I could add Vamplit to my list of options. *smile*

    • March 7, 2010 2:29 pm

      Hi Harley

      Do we publish High Fantasy? Yes. One of the first manuscripts we accepted was Rise of Deadhand by Rick Moscatello, which we describe as an Epic Fantasy. I have another three Epic’s due for release late spring early summer, so yes we do. I know the site is a little dark, but at the time I wanted to put off romance writers, not because I don’t want to publish romance, I don’t though, but because there is so much romance out there and we were looking for manuscripts that didn’t conform. I hope this is helpful, Harley, and good luck with the novel.

  6. April 1, 2010 10:39 am

    Just read part one and part two is just as interesting.
    I feel better much better informed.
    Also I have to say that I appreciate the honesty and feel I have been given quite a good glimpse into publishing today.
    I enjoy writing in the gothic tradition but with a huge emphasis on decadence. Vampires, the ones I love writing about are corrupt, dark creatures who are the ultimate hedonists. Self-seeking and soul destroying they exist in their own unending endless night. Death is life to them and are they ever enjoying it!
    Anyway, before I start to ramble, let me just say thank you for a great interview!

    • April 1, 2010 12:05 pm

      So glad you also read part 2 too! Love your take on vampires. I hate that they’ve turned into heros in a sense.

      • April 1, 2010 12:20 pm

        thank you and thank you!
        me too!
        we don’t want to date ’em, they’re demonic, bad-asses!

  7. April 1, 2010 4:20 pm

    Hi Carole

    Thank you for reading the interview. I keep starting an article titled Necrophillia vs Bestiality and while the focus is on the anti-hero rather than the stereotypical heroic human we will all have to read our fair share of sparkly vampires. I have nothing against a vampire being the hero, but he has to have killer instincts. I don’t think it works when he’s the boy next door as well as when he has a moment of ephipany and is changed. Hopefully the next step in the vampire evolution will be from bodice ripper to throat ripper.

  8. April 1, 2010 4:51 pm

    sounds like an interesting article!
    can’t really even say I like heroic vampires. i just want them to be the demonic creatures they were.
    yes! from bodice to throat ripper! absolutely!

    • April 3, 2010 8:01 pm

      I am known for my catchy titles Carole my favourite so far has been ‘Alien Vampires Ate My Granny’ which is an article on how to get attention with an interesting title.

  9. April 4, 2010 6:10 am

    that is FABULOUS!
    catchy titles–yeah! well that one gets me alright!
    Hmm, I thank i feel inspiration coming on for a story about a former boss of mine:


    Like a very bloody sequel to the Devil Wears Prada. (wink)!

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