Thursday, January 20, 2011

Six Questions for Denise Bartlett, Chief Editor, Gypsy Shadow Publishing

Gypsy Shadow Publishing publishes high-quality, well-written manuscripts in a variety of genres. The editors are looking for short stories, short story collections, novellas, novels, poetry, poetry collections, and non-fiction works. Learn more here.  

GSP is the daughter of necessity. Two authors of e-published books found themselves without a publisher after their publisher went out of business. We decided to take our profession as writers and editors to the next level. We are outspoken and fervent about helping others achieve the dream of getting their works published, as well as selling good and great writing to the general public. Both Denise Bartlett and her business partner, Charlotte Holley, possess a high degree of dedication to, and enthusiasm for, authors and books.

SQF: There’s been quite a bit written about the demise of the paper book and the decline in the number of books published. What is your view of the current state of the book and the book market?

DB: All of us love books—and the entire market is changing. For years, publishers through their acquisitions department and editors have given the reading public books they believed would sell. Quite often, books were written by formulas the publishing companies felt would make them money.

The entire industry is at a new juncture. Electronic books can be published for minimal costs and these books can test the market for all types of writing and writers. Books which sell well electronically can be printed as Print on Demand at such a reasonable price, risks can be taken to get books out there that are not restricted by the editor's formula for what sells.

The most exciting result is a shift which causes the consumer to make the decisions on which books will be best sellers. Small publishing houses can make a huge impression on the market by giving consumers quality e-books and POD books from first time authors and writers whose works don't fit in an established genre.

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

  1. I want to be courted with a short, vivid plot description. The author is the key sales person of their work and the first big sale is to the acquisitions editor. I want a stylish, succinct summary of the story or subject matter. It's important to have an idea of what the writer believes they are presenting.
  2. Secondly, the manuscript has to grab me. If I pick out a short story submission of 5,000 words to evaluate and I read the whole thing then and there, you can believe I will contract the work. On longer manuscripts, I want to be drawn into the story and smile when I see that author's folder.
  3. I am all about people and quality work. I must feel the subject matter or story is something I am interested in, something we can work together to shape into a better book. My authors will hopefully find themselves developing as better writers as we carefully edit their work. I want their manuscript to be a polished version of what they brought to me, one which carries out their plot description with flair and confidence while maintaining their distinctive flair.

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

DB: Rejections come much quicker for those who do not do their homework. Don't expect a publisher to branch out into other genres, other lengths or new subject matter just for you. If a publisher states they do not accept poetry collections, they will reject yours. As a writer, confused and boggled by the requirements of publishers, I did not understand why a publisher had to be so picky! The arrogance of asking only for Western novels placed in California during the 50 year period surrounding the Gold Rush escaped me. I felt they should at least take a look at my Texas in the 1830s book. Understand this—editors and publishers know what they want and what they can sell. Don't waste your time or theirs.

Be respectful. Be positive. Take the time and make the effort to present the words in your manuscript in as close to finished form as possible. Please don't do this by formatting the book excessively. It is going to be an e-book first, and very little formatting is allowed on the e-book readers.

Proofread. Correct spellings. Use the right word. Weed out the word 'that'. Read it aloud, if that is what it takes.

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

DB: GSP e-published about seventy-five works by forty-five authors in our first year. Of these, about fifteen of the authors were previously unpublished. We also put seven books into print, two of these were by previously unpublished authors.

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

DB: Read. Read books about style, books about publishing, books about plot and characters, books about writing. Read books in your genre. Then write and rewrite and reread and rewrite, using the techniques you are learning in your reading. If you want to be a professional, then be one!

These days, with the advent of the Internet, sell yourself by blogging, tweeting, putting up a website, a Facebook page for yourself and pages for your books or series and MySpace pages. Learn to communicate and then hone those skills. Constantly seek out ways to improve. Then, when you submit a book or solicit an agent, you will know who it is you are presenting to the world and you can show them your efforts in a dynamic and expressive way.

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

DB: I can get past a lot of things in a manuscript, but the first thing I look for is evidence of integrity and willingness to follow instructions. Every publisher has a set of Submission Guidelines. These are written for a reason. If the author does not follow the guidelines, it will be evident to me very quickly and quite often lose points before I have read more than a page of the actual manuscript.

Secondly, sell your book to me. I cannot emphasize this enough. Editors get a lot of submissions. Make yours stand out. Your cover letter is a sales letter. Keep it bright and fresh, envisioning sitting in front of the movie producer and selling the rights to a best seller, if that is what it takes to get you excited enough to write a great synopsis. Don't leave yourself out either. You are the most important connection the editor and the reader have to the story. If we can't work together on this creative journey, it might end before it begins.

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

NEXT POST: 1/24--Six Questions for Patty G. Henderson, Publisher, Black Car Publishing

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