Week One…Learning the Ropes

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Along with the more mundane posts of answering questions and sharing information about Carina, I wanted to bring you along on my journey. Not only was Monday the official announcement of Carina Press, but it was also my first day as an official employee of Carina/Harlequin. Though I had been working with the digital team in the weeks preceding, it was purely in a consulting manner and more along the lines of them picking my brain (after my trip to Toronto, I was quite sure I had nothing left to share after a lengthy question and answer session with the team!)

No longer having to keep the secret of Carina’s existence was the best part of the week. Do you have any idea how hard it is to not tell people such exciting news for weeks (and months?). When I flew to Toronto, I couldn’t Twitter or blog about my adventures, couldn’t share the coolness of visiting the Harlequin offices (all those books! And the Harlequin artwork! So cool), meeting the digital team, seeing Bobble Brent in person, and fessing up about just where I saw that Buggati Veyron. Not to mention that during all those weeks, I was still attending writers’ conferences and the sheer number of people who asked me how I was doing, what I was going to do next and if I had a job yet was almost overwhelming. But through all of those lunches, drinks, dinners, meetings and the workshops I gave, I couldn’t breathe a single word to anyone about what was coming. I deserve some sort of metal for holding out against that kind of pressure, don’t you think?

Yep, last week, finally sharing the news, was amazing. And the sheer amount of support and goodwill sent our way? No other word than wow will sum it up. But, alas, it’s not all glamour and glitz, this publishing business :P There was actual work involved last week. I’m fairly sure I generated more email and logged more phone time in that one week than I had in the entire month previous. Not to mention all the time spent visiting blogs, forums and Twitter answering questions and sending out thank yous. Maybe it’s most amazing that I didn’t develop carpal tunnel last week.

In addition to all that, I’ve been doing paperwork. And reading policies and procedures. I know, I know, you’re all jealous. But here, let me show you the packet of information I received this week compliments of human resources.  I swear to you, it’s four inches thick!

And even with all the excitement of a new job, there’s still the other side, the learning curve. The other members of the Carina Press team have all been with Harlequin for years (some of them 20+ years), they all work in the Toronto office together (I’m working from home, which is such a bonus!), just feet from each other, and other than Malle, I’ve only met them once. So they all have established roles, understand the ropes and are well familiar with both Harlequin and each other. I’m the new kid on the block, which is always both exciting and fraught with nerves and no small amount of trepidation. Just learning the new email system is hard, let alone the aforementioned policies and procedures! And we won’t talk about trying to get my Mac to play nice with the Harlequin system!

So last week and these upcoming weeks are for learning about my role in Carina Press, the duties I’ll have and how I fit into the team. They’ll also be for reading submissions (holy cow, the submissions!), contracting books, gathering an editorial staff, setting up a style guide, assembling an author welcome packet and making lists of my lists of things to do, accomplish and put together. Even with a company that’s going to be utilizing some existing backend workflow, there’s still a lot to be done, more little details than we ever realize that need to be covered, and always more questions and ideas popping up. It’s an exciting and busy time, and I wouldn’t choose to be anywhere else!

Answering Questions Part II

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First off, let me just thank everyone on behalf of the whole Carina Press team for your interest in and all the enthusiasm you’ve shown for Carina in the past week. It’s wonderful to know that so many of you are just as excited about the possibilities as we are!

Earlier in the week, Malle wrote a post, answering some questions that came up immediately after our announcement. Today, I’m going to recap some of her answers to questions posed in the comments of that thread, as well as answer some new questions. One quick thing before I start, when the blog was first put up, the comments were set to be “threaded”. We’ve set the comments to unthreaded (tell me I’m not the only one easily confused by those threaded comments?) but because we’ve done that, the previous four posts’ comments might look a little confusing and messy. Which is one of the reasons why I want to restate some of the answers Malle gave here. Also, we have requested that a subscribe-to-comments plugin be added to the blog, so everyone can track the comments more easily (including us!) and hopefully we’ll have that added next week.

Will a sample contract be available for viewing?

Malle: No, we won’t be offering a sample contract online — my legal department would shoot me. (AJ: but we will answer what questions we can about contract terms)

What rights does the contract take?

Malle: We will be buying all rights.

Is the contract negotiable?

AJ: My favorite saying when I talk about contracts is that they should be negotiable but all things in them are not negotiable. That applies here.

What are the royalty rates?

AJ: 30% of the original cover price on direct sales, 15% of the original cover price on 3rd party distribution. There is no net, no hidden fees, it’s all based on cover price.

So the books will be sold through 3rd party distributors?

AJ: Yes.

Will the books through 3rd party distributors be sold DRM free?

Malle: We will be offering the stories DRM-free on the Carina Press site and we will be offering the editorial to other vendors. If they wrap their own DRM on it, that will be their call.

DRM free? Really? You’re not just pulling my leg?

AJ: No, really, DRM free!

What formats will the books be available in?

AJ: At this time we haven’t finalized which formats we offer, though we do know there will be epub and PDF (did I mention they’d be DRM free?)

What about cover price? What will that be?

AJ: Again, this is something we’re still discussing, but cover price will in-line with other digital publishers.

And will you be offering print in the future?

AJ: No possibilities should be discounted. At this moment, we are focusing on digital but who knows what may happen in the future.

About submissions, what is your minimum word count, you don’t really say?

Malle: We’re looking for genre novels between 50 – 100 K. Willing to consider bigger single titles over 100 K. And I think there is a sweet spot for shorter books/novellas between 20 – 30 K. Angie tells me I’m wrong and that there is a lot of great material between 30 – 50 K. I wait to be corrected! So basically we are wide open!

AJ: And what she didn’t say is that yes, we will take as low as 15k. I expect a lot of amazing short submissions and a lot between 30-50k so I can say “I told you so” :P

How do you figure word count?

AJ: Computer word count. Pretty much all publishers, digital or traditional, are happy with computer word count in this age of technology.

And what heat level?

AJ: We’re looking for all heat levels, so there are no minimums and no restrictions. You can have no kissing up to whatever sexy stuff fits the story. As it says in our guidelines, we’re not looking for Penthouse Letters, we’re looking for great storytelling.

And you’ll consider m/m or other GLBT?

AJ: Absolutely, we welcome it and look forward to it.

Does my book have to have romantic elements?

AJ: Not at all. Well, unless it’s a romance. But though we will focus on romance, we will look at non-romance genres, including books without romantic elements at all.

A friend of mine got a “not quite right for this line” rejection from Harlequin. Will the editors forward those submissions to you for consideration?

AJ: Since Carina Press is a separate company, with a different pay structure, we can’t assume that authors want their submission to be published through Carina, so your friend should submit it directly to us herself. If she got a “not quite right” it might be just up our alley!

My manuscript is written in UK English, do I need to change that?

AJ: Not as long as it’s appropriate to the story setting. If your story is set in the US, you might want to reconsider the UK English!

I don’t live in the US or Canada, can I still submit a manuscript?

AJ: Absolutely! We will happily publish authors living anywhere there’s computer access (hey, alien friends, send us your best stories!), as long as the manuscript is in English.

Can I mail you a hard copy of my manuscript instead of sending it via email?

AJ: Sorry, no. Since we’re a digital-only company, everything will be done electronically, from submissions to edits. Submissions need to be made electronically, following our submissions guidelines, and the author must have or be prepared to have a program that can work with track changes (OpenOffice is a free option).

Do you only want books that will become a series, or will you accept standalone novels as well?

AJ: We’re interested in good storytelling, so if your book is a standalone, we want to see it. If your book is intended as part of a series, we want to see it.

What are your marketing plans? Will the author be expected to do all of the marketing?

Malle:  You’ll hear lots more about marketing plans as we move forward.

In our description we were trying to stress the small, independent publisher feel we hope to offer within Carina Press. We will be working together closely with authors on marketing efforts. We expect authors who want to participate in social media, etc. will most likely sell better. It’s part of the nature of this space. But by no means do we mean the author will be doing all the heavy lifting! Heck, that’s why we stress what an amazing digital marketing team we have. One that has years of experience.

Are you hiring editors, copyeditors or cover artists?

AJ: You can send your letter of interest, resume or portfolio to generalinquiries@carinapress.com

Whew! Is anyone else exhausted after that marathon Q&A session? Now I know you’ll tell me what I missed, so bring on the follow-up questions! If necessary, I’ll do one more post to recap anything I missed.

Answering Questions

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So much went right when we announced Carina Press yesterday that we didn’t notice comments weren’t appearing at the blog until this morning. They are live now, but I thought I would answer some of the most popular questions in this blog post.

First, there is supposed to be an automated response from the Carina submissions inbox saying we’ve received your submission. It wasn’t working yesterday or today. It will soon. For those of you have already submitted (and there are many of you, thank you!) we will send you a reply in the next couple of days so that you know your manuscript arrived.

A few of you queried your book idea a.k.a pitched on the blog. Please send your query to our submissions inbox: Submissions@CarinaPress.com

Please also note that we would really appreciate it if you could delete the automatic subject line (carina submission) and instead add the story title, author name and genre. This helps us organize, read and follow up on submissions faster.

A potential writer wanted to know if Carina Press eBooks will be sold on the eHarlequin.com website.  No, we will be building a bookstore for Carina Press and selling through other eRetailers. Why? Because Harlequin offers a very specific promise to its readers and Carina Press is open to a much wider range of editorial.

Another reader wondered what will happen to Harlequin’s existing original eBook programs like Spice Briefs, Silhouette Nocturne Bites and Harlequin Historical Undone. These programs will continue publishing as they have been. I know people can be a little confused about Carina Press versus Harlequin but just think of it this way: what was Harlequin is still Harlequin.

An aspiring writer wondered how long after submitting to Harlequin can she submit to Carina Press. We ask that you wait for your answer from Harlequin. Turn-around varies from imprint to imprint but if you haven’t heard anything after three months, please contact the editorial office and find out the status of your ms. You should always receive a response.

Some people are concerned about our statement that we will not be publishing print editions. Please read our answer carefully: “At this time we have no plans to publish print books.”  Notice the key words, at this time. We are not making any promises at this time. The future, however, is wide open.

The question continued about how can an author promote her titles and be involved in book signings? The answer is digital marketing and social media (I know, social media is part of digital marketing, but it also needs to be pulled out on its own to show just how important it is). Authors can do a lot of promotion without a physical book. We’ll be talking a lot about social media in this blog space and with Carina Press authors.

A very astute reader told me, nicely, that I used the wrong term in my I’m so excited post. The correct military terminology is Hoo yah!

Today,  I am smarter because of a former Navy office INFP-type who shared her knowledge. Hoo yah! I love my job.

Welcome to Carina Press

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Hi!

We’re going to be taking turns updating this blog to share a behind the scenes look at Carina Press. Our love books and of all things digital has led us to launch this new initiative and we couldn’t be more excited at the possibilities. Who is this “we” that I keep referencing?

We are members of Harlequin’s Digital Team. With a unique blend of editorial and marketing expertise, together we’ve developed a powerful website and store, established the preeminent eBook publishing program that includes original content and utilized social media to build better relationships with readers.

Launching a digital publishing house that takes advantage of our unique skills is our logical next step. There are hundreds of fantastic stories out there that for one reason or another don’t yet have a home. Our intent is to give them one and provide the authors behind them with opportunities to play an active role in this exciting and ever-changing digital space.

I’ll introduce you to more people as we move forward (and we are going to have some exciting people announcements), but I’ll start with some of the key players who have been involved in this exciting project. 

First and foremost, I’m delighted to announce the hiring of Angela James as Executive Editor of Carina Press. Angela brings a wealth of experience and passion for digital publishing and great stories.

Angela James, Executive Editor. Angela has been an avid reader for as far back as she can remember, and started reading her first romances in fourth grade—when she’d sneak a Harlequin category romance or two from the brown paper bag where her mom kept her stash. She’s been reading romances of all genres since then, and though she’s since moved her reading to digital copies, she’s still a voracious reader of romance, science fiction, fantasy, mysteries, fiction and cookbooks. Angela is the newest member of the team, but comes to Harlequin and Carina Press with seven years of experience in the digital arena, after working for various digital publishers.

Malle Vallik, Director Digital Content & Social Media: Malle’s background and expertise is in combining innovative editorial with digital and was named one of the top 50 Women in Publishing by Book Business Magazine. Malle loves reading commercial fiction, everything from romance to fantasy to thrillers. She’s incredibly excited by the range of editorial Carina Press will publish. There are no rules. Malle proudly watches more television than most people will admit but will happily give up some tv watching for submission reading.You can follow her on twitter.com/mallevallik.

Brent Lewis, Vice President Digital & Internet: With an extensive publishing background, Brent was recently named one of the top 40 online marketers in Canada. He has also managed Harlequin’s international digital businesses. He’s passionate about hockey and Arsenal Football team. He admits to having read more than one romance novel.

Eleanor Elliott, Director Digital Commerce: Eleanor has been working in the digital space for 14 years, the last 10 of which have been at Harlequin, and currently leads the charge on eHarlequin.com. An avid reader since childhood, Eleanor loves getting lost in a great story and always has multiple books on the go. Her favorites genres include sci-fi, fantasy, and historical romance. She is incredibly excited to be working on Carina Press.

Aideen O’Leary-Chung, Manager Digital Commerce: As a member of the Harlequin team for 10 years, three of them as part of the Digital team, Aideen has been thrilled to be allowed to indulge in her love of books – historical romance, thrillers and contemporary romance being amongst her favorite types of books –  under the guise of working. She can’t wait to seeing what previously unimagined genres our authors will create within Carina Press! In the rare instances when she’s not reading, she’s watching TV, corralling two small boys or doing all three at the same time.

Angela, Brent, Eleanor, Aideen and I have been working like crazy behind the scenes creating a business plan, developing the Carina Press brand and logo, writing editorial guidelines, setting up the submissions inbox, and have begun work on the Carina Press bookstore. Every once in a wheile, we would stop and smile at how easily most hurdles were overcome, do a little happy dance about what a great idea Carina Press was, and how happy we were to be creating it, and then we’d go tackle the next hurdle.

Today is the day we’ve been working toward: our “birth” if you will, and the start of editorial acquisitions.

Tomorrow will be about marketing plans, acquisitions, covers.

Today we’re celebrating.

My life as a marketing double agent

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If you know me at all, you know that being covert is not a characteristic often associated with me.  I’m terrible at it , (yes, I do know my heart is sitting on my sleeve – thanks for asking) so it’s ironic that I should have been tasked with creating and implementing a marketing plan for Carina Press and not be able to tell anyone what I was doing!

My double life began with an innocent inquiry email about the Romantic Times BookLovers Convention. They wanted to know if we would be interested in sponsoring one of the lunches for the 2010 Convention.  Would we? It was serendipity. The Convention is timed just prior to the launch of Carina Press, the perfect place to introduce romance readers to our new passion. I booked it immediately…and the caginess began.

Once the booking was confirmed, they wanted a description of the luncheon. I just knew that if pressed (and frankly with very little coercion) I would be compelled to blurt out, “We have a new business! It will feature genres like steam punk and be only digital format and have new releases weekly!” Not an option. Well, having seen every James Bond movie ever made, I was ready. I responded with an email cloaked in vagueness. “I’ll have to get back to you. We haven’t finalized our plans”. Ha, that would teach them to scope for information. 

My next move in this marketing chess game (played by one) was to book print ads. I sent the inquiries, booked the spaces and then…the dreaded question. “What should this ad be booked under?” They know I’m from Harlequin. Why would they ask such a question? What did they know? I was certain that this level of detail hadn’t been required in the past. Again, I played it cool, responding to book it under Harlequin for now, content to be determined. I would not be forced to share my secrets.

But it was clear the pressure was getting to me. Between muttering about constellations in my sleep and drafting emails with promotion ideas that couldn’t be sent, I was desperate for November to come. And now it has…so be prepared, I might be emailing you with some crazy ideas and I certainly welcome a few of yours.  I may still be a double agent but at least everyone’s in on it.

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