Friday, October 8, 2010

Six Questions for Gineve Rudolph and Cat Spydell, Editors, Mischievous Muse Press

Quote from our website:

"To the question, "What are we, as publishers, looking for?" The answer is simple: Truth. Honesty. A genuine voice. A voice that shakes our world, alters our perception, makes us laugh or cry, or long to see life through your eyes. We want to come away changed by your words, for a brief moment or for a lifetime. The only way to do that, whether the story is fiction or non-fiction, is to write from the inside out... so what ends up on the page is real for you and for your readers." Learn more here.

Gineve and Cat, please feel free to add any additional information you’d like the reader to know about your publication.

Mischievous Muse Press is a publishing house created by writers, for writers. We completely understand what writers go through and we are sympathetic. But we also expect excellence, because we know that writers can get hopeful and lazy when they think they have the next Great American Novel on their computer. We know that the best way to gain success in the publishing industry is for an author to strive for perfection in whatever work is submitted, and to keep submitting. As Richard Bach said, "A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit." That is our stand too, and we believe that those who persevere will eventually win.

SQF: According to a report by Foner Books (, “[g]rowth stagnated for booksellers in 2008, and overall book sales barely moved according to the government.” In addition, I’ve read a number of articles concerning the difficulty authors are having securing book deals. In your opinion, what is the current state of the print book market?

MMP: The difficult state of today's publishing market is what inspired us to create our publishing company. We are aware that the current state of the market makes it ridiculously hard to break into the publishing arena, and we also recognize a growing reluctance among larger publishing houses to publish anything that does not have guaranteed sales. There is also an alarming trend to publish only "known" non-fiction authors, i.e. people with an existing following, such as previously published authors, bloggers, newspaper writers, specialists in a certain field, or celebrity "authors" with highly-paid ghost writers. Focus on known authors excludes a tremendous number of fiercely talented writers who have little or no publishing credits. Mischievous Muse Press tries to break down the barriers by publishing excellent books that we like, fearlessly.

SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a manuscript?

MMP: Number one is a polished, completed project. Writers should submit only after their work has been professionally proofread and is ready to go to press. We like an entertaining read: grab our attention right from the start! We enjoy stories that are inspirational and offer hope, and we tend to steer clear of doom and gloom storylines as well as anything with repetitive graphic violence. The third thing we look for is multi-dimensional characters and plot. We like stories that read on many levels and have something to say beyond the average boy meets girl, or man vs. nature: in other words, stories that fascinate, inspire, and take us to new frontiers.  

SQF: What major mistakes do authors make when pitching their books?

MMP: The most common mistake authors make when pitching their book is not researching our company before they submit. As a part of that problem, one of the glaring mistakes writers make when querying is not getting our names right. That instantly tells us they didn't do their homework. Know who you are submitting to: all the answers an author needs are on our website!

Another mistake is saying too much or too little. Mischievous Muse Press submission guidelines ask for a "paragraph introducing yourself" and "a one page synopsis." We have gotten queries that have a single sentence and an attachment (which we will not open unless we requested it) and others that consist of four to ten pages. About two percent come in with a paragraph introduction and a one page synopsis, and those get read first and receive more consideration.

Another mistake writers make is submitting an email with the word "query" as the subject line. We have had hundreds of emails called "Query" or "Submission," with no other identifiable information. Authors should always include their name and the title of their book in the subject line when submitting, as well as the genre and word count in the introductory paragraph.

We have guidelines on our website, all publishing houses do, and it is important that authors do their homework! Read up on the publishers, find out who they are, what their preferences are, who the correct person is to submit to, and especially, what the company is about. Blindly submitting to a publishing press without knowing the correct criteria is like taking a final exam without studying. As they say, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

SQF: Of the books your company publishes each year, how many are by previously unpublished authors?

MMP: Most of our authors have had something published, maybe in a poetry journal or a magazine / newspaper article or essay or a short story, if not a book. We have a few "first time" authors whose manuscripts have been passed around the larger publishing houses and although well received, were rejected for various reasons (indefinable genre, too long / too short etc.). We have authors who have published a book or two with another company but wish to break away from the genre they are locked into for their next book. We have a National Endowment for the Arts author who is very widely published, so the range of what we take is vast. But being previously published doesn't really make a difference to us. If a submission is presented to us in a professional manner, and we are intrigued, we will ask to read the manuscript (we don't take unsolicited manuscripts --always query first), and the rest is simple... if we like the book we publish it, regardless of past experience.

SQF: What is your advice to new, unpublished authors looking for a publisher or agent?

MMP: Being a new author looking to get published can be intimidating, and the most important advice we can offer is to find the best local writing group you can and commit to attending. Once a week is best; it forces the writer to keep up with a minimum amount of pages per week.

It is crucial for an author to know what they are doing when looking for a publisher or agent, and talking to other writers is one great way to get that information. Other writers can share their experiences, stories, warnings, and triumphs, and being in such a group can give a new author the kind of support they won't find anywhere else. There are also online writing groups, and we recommend that writers attend writing classes and writing conferences. We would tell all new authors to "hone your writing skills to your highest ability, then learn about the business of publishing if you are serious about being published." With today's information available, there is no excuse for ignorance of the rules when submitting work to an agent or publisher.

SQF: What question do you wish I’d asked that I didn’t? And how would you answer it?

MMP: Perhaps a good question to ask is how important is it for an author to be enthusiastic about marketing his or her own book. The answer is... it's vital! We love it when authors come to us with an idea about how they can help with marketing. Publishers of all sizes have cut back their marketing budgets. We have an author who published long ago and never had another sale until we published her newest book. She said, "I wish someone had told me about the market. If I'd known it were up to me to promote it, I would have done all I could. I didn't know, and my book didn't get a second printing."  While Mischievous Muse Press books never "fall out of print" because we keep them in perennial circulation regardless of sales stats, it is excellent advice because with many publishing companies, a book often has about three months to make its sales quota, and if sales aren't sufficient, then efforts cease to market the book and the book is often pulled off bookstore shelves. An author should wear two caps, one as writer, and one as marketing genius and self promoter. Those two jobs combined are what make up the word "author."

Thank you, Cat and Gineve. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.

NEXT POST: 10/11--Six Questions for Lisa Marie Basile, Editor-in-Chief, Caper Literary Journal 

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