Publishing Q&A: Panel discussion – RWAus14

Panel participants:

Joel Naoum – Acquiring Editor, Pan Macmillan

Alex Adsett – Agent, Alex Adsett Publishing Services

Lucienne Driver  – Agent, Knight Agency

Kate Byrne – Senior Commissioning Editor for Headline Publishing Group’s romance imprint, Headline Eternal, in the UK

Jim Azevedo – marketing director at Smashwords


Questions submitted:

What’s hot, what’s not, and what’s the next big thing? 

Joel – could be anything, they publish what they like.  Not after really Australian focused stories atm (international stories).  Particularly looking for new adult, erotic romance, contemporary romance, regency romance, paranormal and sci-fi/fantasy.

Alex – seeing a lot of motorcycle stuff.  everything genre, particularly after sci-fi romance and crime romance

Lucienne – young adult are looking for edgy, contemporary, non paranormal.   Personally likes edgy, but there are agents within the Knight Agency there are people who take sweet

Kate – contemporary going well.  Paranormal and suspense

Jim – romance dominates smashwords, currently 7 of top 10 are romance.  70+ of top 100 are romance.  Recent top list had 25 romances, 7 from Australia.  Write what you want to write


More questions below

What should you submit when asked to submit pages, if the page cuts off mid sentence, or the required word count doesn’t match up to the scene? 

Joel – generally don’t do word count,

Alex – not interested in 50 pages of world building

Lucienne – first pages, if your best writing is in chapters 3 – 6, your structure has a problem

Kate – doesn’t usual get partials, gets full manuscripts.  Would suggest the section that shows off your writing best.


Is Social media a pre-requsite nowdays?

Jim – online sales can pre-order, which can catapult a book to the best seller list upon release

Kate:  Having an online profile is good, she will check for new authors.  Onlne presence is part of the whole package deal now

Lucienne – be a real person, have fans support your work instead of doing it all yourself.  Don’t only have ‘I have a new book out’ on your feed, people will tune out

Alex – be a real person, but love what you do; go to conferences and treat it as a business

Joel –


What is the long term effect that Amazon will have on other publishers?

Joel – in Australia, 60% of ebook market, bigger in other countries.  Dependent on them for sales.  Amazon is propping up part of the e-book business in order to get market share – greatful in the short term but terrified of what they will do in the long term

Alex – like the way they have shaken up the industry, but worried about long term effect.  Support publisher, support local book store (industry as a whole, not just in Romance)

Lucienne:  algorithms, reach out to audience, customer base etc – done really well, others can learn from it.  Have maximised direct to customer approach

Kate:  can learn from the way they promote genre

Jim – Smashwords is kind of friends with Amazon.  In 2007-08 Amazon brought ebooks to large audience with kindle devices.  Smashwords have been trying to distribute to them, but can’t do it large scale must do it individually – only have about 200 titles with Amazon, whereas can distribute large numbers to the other ebook companies.   Need to distribute yourself far and wide, to be as findable as you can.  If you are only with Amazon you are restricting your footprint


How do you source reviews? 

Joel – mostly from the internet:  blogs, facebook, twitter, review sites

if you get a bad review, let your publisher know – some people are consistently 1 star reviewing books they get for free, don’t like Romance etc – should be blacklisted

Alex – word of mouth.  Also, sometimes you can use a bad review in a good way (depends on what is said)

Lucienne – have to take ownership of your career.  get to conventions, meet bloggers and reviewers.  but noone can talk about your book like you can

Kate – all online reviews in UK.  More bloggers doing

Jim – don’t source them but readers can provide them (stars and comments).  Can be very valuable for the author.  Other merchandising managers will use these to see what comments are there; and readers will use them to find new authors.


What new clauses are appearing in contracts? 

Lucienne – have always had to be careful, still the same.  Always issues with ‘non-compete’ clauses eg no other book within 6 months, no other book that can compete with it etc, can’t publish with anyone else until your last book under contract comes out (may be 18 months).  Very useful to have agents at this time.

Alex – definitely watch non-complete clauses.  Watch for reversion clauses – if the publisher has the rights for 70 years after your death, you want to make sure it is managed.  Old clauses usually had 1 – 2 years of not published, but with ebooks they are always in print.

Lucienne – make sure how your current ebooks are handled when rights revert.  in contract they are allowed to continue to sell old stock, and pass royalties on to author.  You may not get royalties if they still have up an ebook

Joel – stick to reputable companies, there are a lot of dodgy ones around.

Alex – ask questions, try to negotiate a contract, if they are not willing to move on small things they will not respect your work.  A lot of dodgy, fly-by-night

Lucienne – make sure who gets copyright.  Author always should, unless it is work for hire etc in someone else’s universe (eg Star Trek etc)

Kate – nil response

Jim – Smashwords authors retain all rights


How much information is too much / not enough for authors to share online? 

Alex – no guidelines, but make sure the hashtags are relevant to your book or it will just be wasted

Lucienne – as much as you are comfortable to share, however try to kind of match your writing style

Joel – be yourself, people can tell if you are not authentic.  Don’t overdo it

Cherry Adair (from the floor) – don’t put images of your children up.  People can figure out who / where they are, and it isn’t safe

Kate – regular updates, don’t go silent for months and then say ‘my book is coming out today’


Is there any hope for science-fiction? 

Lucienne – yes, has new author who has been optioned for a movie.  If it is an amazing story it will sell.  for sci-fi you may need to do more submissions but if it is a great story it will sell

Joel – sci-fi is currently owning media and social space now, all movies and tv shows etc.  Definitely room for sci-fi romance

Kate – in the UK romance and sci-fi/fantasy have been different publishers, not sure how much cross over there will be in the future


Submissions – partial or whole? 

Joel – always complete, he likes to be able to read the whole thing if he is interested, without having to go back to the author

Alex – wants to read a whole manuscript

Lucienne – hard to sell from a partial, always need to have a complete manuscript

Joel – if it is a series, don’t need to have written them all.  Don’t buy off a proposal

Jim – Smashwords also needs complete manuscripts, won’t take partials


Will Smashwords make print on demand available? 

Jim – not aware of any plans at this stage, but it might happen in the future


Are Angels over?  and what about Shifter romance, is that still going? 

Joel – shifters maybe

Alex – not into angels, shifters

Lucienne – just sold a 3-book angel series.  If it is really amazing, come from a different angle, then it can sell.  Audience wants a shifter story every time there is a discussion – still room

Kate – angels, shifters, vampires are core of paranormal, will definitely see it come back

Jim – everything is in for self publishing.  Write what you want – it might get picked up later if it sells


If an ebook is available (world wide), will a story sell in a different company in print format? 

Kate – would want ebook rights, so not likely

Joel – Momentum buys ebook rights, so would be hard to buy but it can / has happened a few times.  If an ebook goes crazy, they may pick up a print right and look at the back list

Lucienne – if you self publish, your sales will be recorded.  It creates a track record that publishers will look at as part of your background writing.  You can offer to take down ebooks and give them digital rights as part of a contract.

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