Saturday, February 14, 2009

Interview with Christina Brashear, Publisher, Samhain Publishing/Valentine's Day Contest

Happy Valentine's Day, all!

Today's interview is a long one, so I'll just get right to it!

Please joining me in a giving a warm welcome to. . .Christina Brashear!


Tell us a little about yourself, please.

I like pińa coladas and getting’ caught in the rain…

Okay, seriously now. First and foremost, I am a reader and I love romance the most. I’ve been in love with reading since I was old enough to hold a book. I’ve lived in Mississippi, the Philippines, New Jersey, Ohio (multiple locations), Alabama and now Georgia. Through all the moves, I’ve kept my favorite books with me, and bought more along the way. My husband, and the Air Force, can attest to this! I’m a mom and I trained my child well, she loves to read too. My husband and I will celebrate our 25th anniversary in a couple months; he’s my real-life hero. (I can’t believe it’s been that long. I seems just like yesterday we got married.)

Tell us a bit about Samhain Publishing.

Samhain is a company that is taking the Madonna approach; we are constantly looking at how to reinvent ourselves and be fresh and innovative so our readers don’t get bored. But, not change too much too quickly and annoy people.

We recently acquired the Linden Bay Romance publishing house and we are in the process of integrating it into the Samhain way. We aren’t ready to make any announcements about what is going to become of the imprint, we are still deciding what direction best serves the readers, the authors, and the house. We are also in the process of developing some additional lines, but they are nowhere near ready for unveiling. Our target date for having things settled is November 1, 2009.

Angela James is the Samhain Executive Editor, a position that oversees all of the editing throughout the house and its lines. She’s been with Samhain the longest, after Amanda and Donna (my sister), and is the spokesperson for Samhain. She gives great panel. Sasha Knight is the Managing Editor for Linden Bay. She’s a long time editor for Samhain and will continue to edit, but will also be instrumental in helping craft the new place in Samhain for LB. Donna Holland is our print production coordinator. She takes care of scheduling the title for print release, formatting and launching them. She’s doing a great job. Amanda Brashear is our accounting person. Everyone loves her; she’s the one who pays us.

We hired some new, in-house employees this past year. Tiffany, Jacob and Jelon. They help keep things running!

The romance genre, in addition to being the best-selling literary genre, is also one of the most crowded markets. How do you make sure that Samhain books stand out and get sales in such a heavily competitive field?

We work hard to get our name and links into places where people are going to see us and be curious enough to follow the link back. Our editors work hard to find the best of the best in submissions, stories that readers are attracted to. The Art Department works hard to make the first glimpse the reader sees is one that will compel them to at least click and read the blurb.

The best advertising though, is word of mouth. Not every story will work for every person, tastes are too diverse for that, but readers can count on a Samhain to offer well-written, well-edited books that are chosen because the story is compelling—not because it’s the trend of the week. Our reader base is growing steadily because of this.

About how many new titles does Samhain put out per month?

Roughly between twenty and twenty-six, I believe. We average between four to six a week plus having the first Friday for releasing previously published works.

What does Samhain Publishing look for in a manuscript, in terms of content and presentation?

Content. We look for a good story that engages the reader and makes them want to keep reading. We look for a well-written story that the author has taken the time to self-edit and polish. We don’t expect perfection, but basic grammar flaws and typos do stand out and mar the editor’s impression of the author’s professionalism. We look for authors who write well, but are also dedicated to building their writing career and promoting their work. It’s a joint effort.

Presentation. We have a submissions page that is pretty detailed in what the editors are looking for. We do take notice if a slush pile submission doesn’t follow the guidelines. The guidelines are there to help the author present their work in a professional manner that speaks to being serious about their writing career, and to help the editor give the work a fair reading. When a budding author doesn’t take the time to read these guidelines and follow them, it does make the editor question how well the author will be at taking direction and proposed changes to improve the manuscript.

One big mistake that happens at least once a month and makes me shake my head is this. An author will somehow dig up my email address—which isn’t anywhere on the submissions page—and email to me a query letter and sample chapters all in the body of the email for a book whose subject matter we don’t print, like a biography or something. Clearly indicates they didn’t even take the time to look at our site and see how we roll.

Our requirements aren’t impossible to meet, I promise. Take a look!

What does Samhain do for its authors in terms of marketing their work?

We have newsletters, Yahoo! groups, co-op ads in RT, and a marketing department spreading the work far and wide throughout the internet.

The marketing department is awesome. We have a Yahoo! group dedicated to teaching authors how to self promote and they are always listing free promotional opportunities for authors to participate in. Lisa will have guest lecturers come in and teach a class here and there.

We all know we're living in pretty rough times economically. Have you noticed a difference in of sales or submissions since this recession started?

We had a bit of a dip last fall, but we seem to have recovered from that. Submissions, on the other hand, have dropped off. Many authors have told us that they have had to go back to work or cut back in areas to make ends meet; they just no longer have the time they once did for writing. They still write, but it takes longer because they can only do it in snatches. And stress is not conducive to creativity.

The jury is still out on how print is going sell. It has dropped a bit, but as we gear up for the Fall '09 Season, the early numbers the sales team predicts are higher than I would have guessed. I’ll reserve judgment until the buys come in as to whether things are truly looking up. The bookselling industry has seen lulls before and people just don’t stop reading. They may cut back, but they come back and pick up what they missed if the titles are still available. That’s the great thing about POD/PTO, we don’t have to take books out of print as soon as the booksellers pull them from the shelves. With the internet, you can order them anytime you’re able.

In my opinion, the companies that survive this year will be better off for the crunch. They will have gotten back to basics and are running tighter cleaner ship.

According to a recent article in Publishers' Weekly, HarperCollins has begun doing "video books." What are your feelings about video books, and is this something you could see Samhain doing a few months or years down the line?

I read books, I don’t watch them. I certainly am not going to pay for an advertisement about a book. I won’t say that I have completely ruled it out, but from what I understand as it is being presented today, I have no interest. We could have brainstorm and think of a cool way to modify it into something a customer would find worth paying for, but I haven’t any ideas right now.

Has the popularity of devices like Amazon's Kindle and Sony's eReader helped sales for Samhain?

Yes. I believe that we have new readers to ebooks because of cool new gadgets. Especially because of the Kindle’s Whisper Net making buying so easy. People just discovering Samhain write asking about titles missing from the Kindle store (which are only missing because there is a glitch in the Kindle acquisition system, that’s why some books are missing or have cover art missing, the system isn’t picking them up as it should. They are working on it). I take the opportunity to educate the reader on how they can get DRM (Digital Rights Management)-Free books from MBaM (MalwareBytes Anti-Malware, made by BrotherSoft) and how to put them on their Kindle. I never waste an opportunity to show people that you can get great books DRM-free and at a great price!

I love gadgets. I used to think a phone was just for making calls. Now I play video games, something I never did when I was young. So the iPhone has helped the video game industry acquire a new customer. Kindle and Sony and the iPhone are breeding a whole new group of customers.

Also gaining popularity in the US are books for cellphones, which have been popular for years in Japan but are just now catching on here. Will Samhain be getting into that market as well?

Our titles have always been available for smartphones, or phones that can contain content such as Palm or Blackberry. Mobipocket has been offering it for years. But I do see the potential for expanding that into other cellphone arenas. We are always open to new sales channels.

Where do you see Samhain Publishing, 5 years from now?

I see us still here, that’s for sure! LOL!

In five years, I plan to have at least one title out in mass-market if not more. I see us with more lines, besides romance. Samhain began as a general publisher, I intend to work us back to that. eBooks are the future, I don’t want to limit us to one genre only.

Where do you see the romance novel industry, as a whole, 5 years from now? Where would you like to see the industry go?

I see romance just rolling on through the times of our lives, reflecting society through each year, as it always has. I would like to see it being more accepting of all genres and relationship types. The thing that makes the US so great is the pluralism of our society; why restrict romance to just contemporary and historical man/woman relationships. If it’s not your cup of tea, you don’t have to buy it and you don’t have to read it. Skip on over to the genre of your choice!

I’d like to see a movement among the companies dedicated to e-publishing to work together to raise awareness and build the industry, rather than treating each other as competition and an enemy. That’d be nice.

Yes, I am a Pollyanna.

Do you have any advice you'd like to share with our readers?

Read. Read for fun, read because you enjoy it, read to alter your mood. Try something new every once in a while, you never know what you might like if you don’t experiment. I grew up reading historical and category romances. Who knew I’d love space operas and cat shifters so much! I am really enjoying some of our m/m books too. I don’t get to read as often as I like. I plan to read K.A. Mitchell’s latest book this weekend. I really enjoyed her title Regularly Scheduled Life. I am also going to read J. L. Langley’s regency space-opera The Englor Affair. I had fun reading the first one, My Fair Captain.

What’s great about being the publisher is, when the books are finalized and come in for formatting well in advance of the release date, I can sneak out there and load them onto my Sony. *g* Since it’s Valentine’s weekend. I think I’ll go out and snag Shelli StevensTheirs to Capture, it looks really hot! And, Dominique Adair’s final Jane Porter book is in too.

It’s good to be the publisher!

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And it's good to be an interviewer, too! Thank you sooooo soooooo much for interviewing with us, Christina!

As always if you have any questions or comments for me or for Christina, please post them in the comments!

And for one special Beauty. . .she knows who she is:


Happy Valentine's Day to my closest, dearest friend, the greatest lady I have ever known. . .there is no one like you in the world, and I'm grateful beyond words for knowing you, for the magic and wonder you bring to my life, and for the honour of being in your life.

Everyone else, have a happy Valentine's Day and spread the love!

Pandem
http://vagabondsaint.wordpress.com
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VALENTINE'S DAY CONTEST!!!!

In honor of Valentine’s Day, we will be giving away a copy of two e-books and one paperback book, so be sure to leave a comment here in order to be eligible to win!

The books up for grabs today are the following:

PORTRAIT OF A KISS by T.D. McKinney (e-book)
www.tdmckinney.com
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/TDMCKINNEYNEWSLETTER/

THE CHOSEN by C.A. Milson (e-book)
http://authorcamilson.wordpress.com/

PAINTED SOUL by Mary Quast (paperback book)
http://www.maryquast.com

PLEASE NOTE: By entering this contest you are in agreement that you will not permit the e-book you win to be copied, sold or transmitted from your computer to another computer through any means, which include, but are not limited to, upload, file sharing, peer-to-peer, bloggers, reader or any other computer or device. Furthermore, you agree that you will not offer this e-book as a prize in any contest without the express consent of the author. Such acts are illegal and violate the U.S. Copyright Laws. When finish reading the e-book, it must be deleted from your computer.

*******

Good luck to all the participants. We'll draw winners sometime later tonight, so be sure to check back to see if you have won!
Gracen & Sarah

Image was copied from photobucket and is not the property of The Deadly Vixens or any of its members.

14 deadly screams:

Margay said...

That was a fantastic interview! I wish I had a question, but you were so thorough, I can't think of any at the moment!
Margay

Sarah Mäkelä said...

Great interview, Christina! It's great having you with us. I learned quite a bit about Samhain. =) Thanks for stopping by.

Carrie from Wisconsin said...

Another great interview by Pandem!

Great questions and great answers!

I always enjoy learning from publishers and now I am going to have to check out Samhain!

Happy St. V's Day everyone!

Gee, I'm a tad excited, can't you tell?

Carrie

Gracen Miller said...

Thanks for interviewing with us, Christina! You have me interested in checking out Samhain now.

Hope you and everyone have a very happy Valentine's Day!

And good luck to all the contestants!!!

Judy said...

Great interview and post. It was very informative. Sounds like Samhain is a good place to do business with. I know they have been around for a long time. I hope everyone has a happy Valentine's Day. Please everyone eat a chocolate for me: I AM ON A NO CANDY DIET ( it is called diabetes:(

Julie Robinson said...

What a wonderfully informative interview, Christina. Thank you for the personal touches, which make for more interesting reading than 'just the facts.'

Thanks, Gracen and Sarah, for having Christina on your blog today. Samhain just goes with Valentine's Day!

Julie

Ebs said...

Great interview and a lot to think about. Our industry is in the middle of something spectacular and I think a couple of years down the road will see wonderful things for readers and authors who have embraced e-books the way they already embrace print books.

I'd like to take a little detour and thank the Deadly Vixens for inviting me to participate in their Valentine's contest. Terry and I really appreciate this chance to join the Vixens on their great blog. If you'd like to know more about PORTRAIT OF A KISS, the e-book they're offering, the first chapter is up at http://www.tdmckinney.com for you to read. I wish everyone the best of luck and wish you could all win a copy but I'd go bankrupt providing them. LOL. Happy reading whatever you read.

T. D. McKinney aka Ebs

macbeaner said...

what a great interview! And the books sound really cool as well!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Debby said...

I love Samhain books. Theya re among my favorites

Daun Ann said...

Great interview and information. Thanks for sharing your day with us.

Happy Valentines Day.

Gracen Miller said...

Sorry, I am so late announcing the winners. I was out on a date with my husband in honor of Valentine's Day. :D

So....the winners are:

Portrait of a Kiss -- MACBEANER

The Chosen -- JUDY

Painted Soul -- JULIE ROBINSON

Congratulations to all the winners and thanks to all the contestants!!!!

All winners, please e-mail us at thedeadlyvixens@yahoo.com to claim your prize!!!

PLEASE NOTE: If you have not claimed your winning book within one week, then a new winner will be picked from remaining contestants. There are no exceptions to this rule.

Christina M. Brashear said...

Thank you all for being so kind and thank you to Pandem and The Deadly Vixens for inviting me to be here. I had fun answering the questions, too much fun. I had to go back through and whittle them down. I get a little chatty on the topic of Samhain, My Bookstore and More, and the industry on whole. *blushing*

If anyone has any questions or suggestions, Samhain welcomes all feedback. We strive to make our house the best place for readers to find their fiction fix. Your feedback helps us work toward our goal.

You can reach me at crissy[at]samhainpublishing.com. I can talk about ebooks all day. :D

If you have any specific questions about editing, submissions or what we are looking for please write to editor[at]samhainpublishing.com. Angela James, Executive Editor, and her assistant Imogen manage this area and are your go-to persons, they are fabulously knowledgeable and much more articulate than I.

I hope everyone had a great Valentine's Day!

Julie Robinson said...

Woohoo! Thank you Deadly Vixens. After being out of town since yesterday afternoon, this is a wonderful surprise :-)
Julie

Minx Malone said...

Great interview! Samhain is one of my favorite place to buy books for my Kindle.

Minx