Today on "Reality Check" we have an interview with Rhonda Penders, who is Editor-in-Chief of the independent publishing house The Wild Rose Press. Below, Rhonda shares some of her advice on getting published.
[ZB] Hi Rhonda! Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions. Let's start with you telling us a little about yourself and how you came to be Editor-in-Chief at The Wild Rose Press.
[RHONDA PENDERS] I am one of the co-founders of the company. My business partner, RJ Morris, and I opened The Wild Rose Press in May 2006. Due to her technical nature and background she became in charge of distribution, production, artwork, anything that happens after the book is through edits. I am in charge of anything that happens with a book prior to edits. This includes overseeing the editors, handling contracts, etc. So the title, Editor-in-Chief, is really a broad scope of duties.
[ZB] I see that The Wild Rose Press recently celebrated its birthday. Tell us more about the Press, how it came to be, and what challenges and changes you've faced over the last six years:
[RP] In 2006, a friend of mine began to talk about epublishing and ebooks, and how they were just starting to get some buzz. She had a technical background and I have a marketing/social background. She convinced me to try our hand at opening a small company – sort of a hobby for both of us – and see what would happen. Very quickly, the company grew, and now, six years later, we are home to over 1500 titles and 500 authors. We are worldwide, and we recently won the title of Best Publisher of the Year for the fourth year in a row (2011) in the poll the website Preditors and Editors conducts every year.
As for challenges, the biggest would be managing a company while also working full-time jobs and raising families. We intended for this company to be small for several years, but it had a mind of its own. Other challenges were continuing to improve our processes and procedures to also keep up as the company continued to expand.
[ZB] Unlike bigger houses, it is easy to see what indie publishers like to publish, and querying authors would be wise to take note. Can you give us a short list of your favorite authors (not necessarily in-house) and what you like to read or have read recently?
[RP] We’ve learned in this business that even though we only publish romance (across several subgenres, such as paranormal, sweet, erotic, etc.), individual tastes vary greatly. While I prefer a very steamy read with a great storyline and lots of characters, and I generally like a series of stories, another editor prefers no graphic love scenes, no secondary characters, and a shorter read. What I’m saying is that just because I love something doesn’t mean everyone will. The reason our senior staff is in charge of the lines they are in charge of is because of their expertise in that subgrenre of romance. Our Historical Senior Editor rarely reads anything except historicals. She knows that line inside and out. The important thing to remember when querying any publishing house is to make sure you write what they publish. We get a lot of queries for manuscripts that do not fit our romance-only guidelines.
[ZB] Is there an area of The Wild Rose Press that you would like to see develop?
[RP] With any company, you try to keep up with the latest in marketing and promotion. We’ve become quite good at blogging and tweeting on a regular basis, but we know there is so much more to learn and so much more we could do. I’d love to spend the next twelve months really diving into the entire social media realm and making absolute certain we are doing everything we can in these channels.
I’ve travelled extensively throughout the U.S. promoting and speaking, and I’d love to see us branch out overseas in the next two years for some speaking engagements at conferences across the pond.
[ZB] What is your personal editing philosophy and the editing philosophy of The Wild Rose Press as a whole?
[RP] The number-one philosophy – not just in editing, but overall - is that we treat our authors the way we would like to be treated. We started this company as "writers for writers,” meaning we have been there – we have been on the other side of the keyboard, and we know how we would want to be treated. Communication is number one in our company, and professionalism is right up there. Our deadlines are fast and we respond to every single email without delay (24 hours or less during the average workweek).
[ZB] You offer a critique group. Tell us more about it.
[RP] So often we would tell an author, “You really need to find a critique group and work with them on your story,” but they wouldn’t know how to do it. We started a Yahoo! loop to bring those authors together. We have a staff liaison who is there to help guide the process, but she doesn’t get involved in edits. She’s merely the matchmaker between critique partners.
[ZB] What would you say is the biggest adjustment an author has to face post-publication?
[RP] Promotion. The number-one problem most authors have is knowing how to promote, where to promote, what to spend their dollars on, and why they have to. In today’s world there is not a single author who doesn’t have to promote herself to some degree, and with a small press a lot of that falls to the author to handle. We have a promotional guidebook that we share with our authors. It is a compilation of tips, tricks, and suggestions from some of our authors to help them along the process.
[RP] I have to go back to promotion. You have to make sure you know how to do this and work hard at it. You can’t just write the book; you have to help sell it.
I also think a lot of new authors are jumping on the self-publishing bandwagon a bit too fast. Give yourself time to develop a following through an established publishing house before you try to venture out on your own. If you put out a book on your own and it’s not quality work, you will get a reputation very quickly for that. Make sure anything you put out there isn’t just to get a sale but to build your reputation as an author. Folks might buy one of your books because it's “cheap,” but they won’t buy the second one if the first one was not quality work.
[ZB] If you could give only ONE piece of advice to an unpublished author, what would it be?
[RP] Make sure that when you query a publishing house you are ready. Don’t send a small press your rough draft hoping they will review it and give you advice. Put only your best foot forward. This is a business; never forget that.
[ZB] Are you currently taking submissions? If so, where are your submission guidelines located?
[RP] We are always open to submissions for short stories and full-length novels. Our short stories and novels up to 65,000 words are electronic only, but if a manuscript is over 65K it will also go to print. Our guidelines are located on our website, www.thewildrosepress.com, under the “Write For Us” tab.
[ZB] Where do your Roses hang out? Where can authors and readers get to know more about the press and its authors?
[RP] We have several loops, and you can find links to all of them on our site. We have a blog on our site called “Behind the Garden Gate” where our staff members each blog about a different item in the company each week. Several of our authors come by to comment there as well. We are also at several conferences through the year, and love to meet writers face-to-face.
Thank you for this opportunity to share with you a bit about our “garden.” If anyone has any questions for me, you can reach me directly at: email@example.com