from the eBe newsletter
Barbara M. Hodges: Tell us a little about yourself.
Lida E. Quillen: After attempting such occupations as air traffic controller, real estate agent, apartment manager, etc., I have found a field of endeavor that is challenging and personally rewarding. I enjoy writing and by 1995 I had garnered publication credits in over twenty print publications with my short stories, poetry and articles. I've also completed the first five chapters and a chapter-by-chapter outline of the rest of the book for five different novels. These are best described as a dark fantasy set in another universe, a contemporary urban fantasy, a fantasy set in the Old West, an epic fantasy set in another universe and a supernatural murder mystery.
After I discovered the Internet, my fiction writing slowed to a trickle. There is something seductive about having 20mb of space to fill with your own creative works. I had fun building a personal website dedicated to beginning writers who plan to write and sell their work. I wanted to share what I've learned along the way to becoming a published writer.
BMH: How did you get into publishing, and why?
LEQ: When I first discovered the Internet in 1997, I was amazed at the number of highly talented and yet unpublished writers I kept meeting online. I could feel their anguish and frustration at not being able to break into print. I decided to do something about it and created Twilight Times ezine in July 1998 to showcase great writing and to give these writers an outlet.
Next I started listening to writers who could not get their novels published. In January 1999, I started Twilight Times Books to present the works of talented, but under-published novelists. I am committed to providing an outlet for brilliant authors with books that deserve to see print.
I enjoy giving talented authors their first break and watching them develop as writers. Fortunately, I also enjoy the publication process. We have authors, editors and artists from countries around the world. A new book from an author in Denmark might have a Canadian editor and cover artwork from an artist in Australia. Finding the best editor for a particular author, commissioning the artwork, bringing out the book in various formats, sending it around to the distributors, handling the marketing and promo, etc. is all part of the publication process - a most interesting and challenging endeavor.
BMH: Is Twilight Times open for submissions at this time?
LEQ: Yes, Twilight Times Books is open to submissions from July 15 to August 5 each year. We normally open to submissions two or three times a year.
We have expanded our guidelines to include more non-fiction titles and will be actively seeking the following genres - SF/F, literary, magic realism, mystery, New Age and paranormal. We would like to see more SF/F, mystery and YA submissions.
At Twilight Times Books our mission is to promote excellence in writing and great literature. We're dedicated to enhancing the prospects of getting great literary, New Age and SF/F books into the hands of readers.
BMH: What is your submission process?
We accept electronic submissions and prefer a query letter together with a bio, synopsis, marketing plan and the first chapter in the body of an email message. If we are intrigued by the story concept, then we request the entire work as an RTF or Word 97 file that will be evaluated by our submissions editor. We do try to respond to submissions within two months. Overall the quality of submissions has improved greatly since we have moved to print publishing.
BMH: What as a publisher, is your biggest headache concerning submissions?
LEQ: Quite often a writer has made a good start on a novel, but it simply is not sufficiently polished for publication. It is a little frustrating for me to have to turn down work that otherwise has excellent potential because the writer did not invest additional time to really make the book sparkle.
BMH: Do you belong to any organizations?
LEQ: SFF.Net, which is a "watering hole" for authors, publishers and editors; Association of Authors & Publishers; EPIC (Electronically Published Internet Connection); Publishers Association of the South; Small Press Co-op; SPAN (Small Publishers Association of North America) and The Writers Collective.
BMH: Have they been a help to you?
LEQ: We signed with The Writers Collective as an associate member. This gave us a jump start on distribution and marketing as we can tie in with their distribution channels - Fidlar Doubleday for fulfillment, Baker & Taylor for wholesale, distributors for national distribution, offset printers for larger production runs, book data to Muze who sends the info to booksellers, etc. They have streamlined the process we need to be following when ramping up production of our paperback books.
I have also benefited by participating on various publisher email lists. Some great info was posted recently on the self-publishing list. Some of the lists to which I subscribe:
BMH: What are your feelings on e-books and their future?
LEQ: With epublishers, your book can be accepted, published and available to readers in about four months or less. Very few epublishers will pay an advance. However, reputable publishers will provide editing, artwork and a certain amount of promo at no charge. A few publishers are starting to charge for these services, but I hope this is not a new trend. The cross-genre and/or lesser-known incarnations of SF/F are best served by electronic publishers. Ardent readers cannot get enough of their favorite time travel, vampire romance, paranormal and etc. sub-genres. As ebook readers/devices improve in functionality and come down in price, a ready-made audience will snap up these non-traditional books.
In addition, authors on the web are acquiring new skills. We are starting to think in terms of multi-media effects due to the influence of surfing experiences. The manner in which the words appear on the page (HTML coding), non-linear (embedded hot links), visual (graphics, borders, backgrounds), music (wav, mp3 files) and so on, have an almost subliminal effect. We spend hours in front of a computer screen, researching and interacting with literally hundreds of people worldwide on a daily basis. All these experiences cannot help but affect the way authors will write in the future.
I foresee there will be incredible advances in technology. In two or three years, you will never be lost because your cell phone will have a built-in GPS (global positioning system). You will be able to download info to your cell phone, PDA or other hand-held device from the Internet at DSL speeds. Continued advances in technology will open up the ebook market to millions of new readers. The publishers who are able to stay the course will reap the benefits.
BMH: What do you feel is the biggest marketing and promoting tool for publishers?
LEQ: The most important marketing tool for publishers is to publish first-rate books. Small press publishers need to establish standards of excellence.
Examples are posted each week on the publisher forums of reviewers who will not review small press books, bookstore chains that will not carry small press books and even wholesalers that are reluctant to carry the books. Why? They have seen any number of books in which the quality of the writing was less than desirable. This is due in part to certain subsidy publishers who have flooded the marketplace with books of inferior quality
Epublishing is still a new and evolving endeavor. As epublishing houses move from ebooks to print books, we will see novels that were perfectly acceptable ebooks that do not look nearly as acceptable as a print book. When this occurs, each publisher will need to re-evaluate her publication process. Do you want to publish great stories from new authors that are a little "rough" around the edges, or do you want highly polished works that any NYC print publisher would be pleased to publish?
BMH: How is a marketing dollar best spent in your opinion?
LEQ: A small press publisher does not need to take out ads in major newspapers and magazines. Set up an online postcard system your authors can use to promote their books on the Internet. Offer a catalogue as a download from your web site. Do send media kits to top reviewers. Send postcards, flyers and/or brochures to targeted specialty shops and book catalogues.
Small press publishers should do more to support and interact with the independent bookstores with targeted mailings and follow-up with phone calls.
Study the excellent free articles at such web sites as the following:
Midwest Book Review,
The Tool Shed in the Cat's Backyard,
and especially "Creating and Executing a Book Publicity Plan,"
My new book, Practical Tips for Small Press Publishers, is a guidebook with advice for the small press publisher that contains dozens of low-cost promo and publicity opportunities.
BMH: How big a part do you feel good reviews play in sales?
LEQ: From what I am hearing on the publisher forums, good reviews play a very important role in sales. Most publishers generally see a direct correlation between a favorable review in major media such as NYT Book Review, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Washington Post, etc. and increased sales.
BMH: What does Twilight Times do to promote their authors, and what do you do to encourage your authors to promote themselves?
LEQ: ARCs are sent to noteworthy reviewers, press releases and news stories are sent to the author’s local and regional newspapers, libraries, bookstores, associations and etc., news stories are posted online to newsgroups, readers’ bulletin boards and appropriate readers email lists.
We encourage our authors to join email lists such as online-authors, MurderMustAdvertise and publishingandpromoting for networking and sharing promo ideas. Dozens of promo and marketing tips are provided to our authors each month.
Recent tips to our authors include (but not limited to) the following:
For those of you with recent ebook releases and/or those of you currently promoting your book(s), feel free to send a postcard announcement to friends, relatives, etc.
Check out "A Multi-Dimensional Approach to Building a Writing Career" by Sean Murphy
Getting on the Air, Part I by Brian Jud,
Getting on the Air, Part I by Brian Jud,
Radio and Live Broadcasts on the Internet,
Jim's Word - links of interest to writers,
Writers Resource Center,
U. S. Media links,
Expressions is published monthly and open to submissions all year round. They welcome your participation and almost anything you’d like to contribute. Send all submissions in the body of an email – no attachments please - with "Expressions" in the subject line. Submit to:email@example.com,
Take advantage of the free ad space and links for writers and editors:
BMH: What about a web site? How important is it to be easily negotiated?
LEQ: A well-designed web site is very important. Potential customers can quickly lose interest if the site is difficult to navigate. You also need to offer something of value for free from your web site. For example, I have an ebook freebies page, a page with descriptions of ebook devices and a recommended reading list for small press publishers.
BMH: How many new releases do you plan for 2004?
LEQ: Actually, we have sixteen books in various phases of production with release dates starting in June 2004 for the paperback books. These include SF/F, short story collections, humor, literary, New Age, mainstream, and mystery and suspense novels.
BMH: Where do you see Twilight Times five years from now?
LEQ: First of all, I’d like to note how far we have come. Twilight Times Books was established January 1999 as an epublisher. In 2004, we will evolve from an Internet epublisher to a small press print publisher. TT Books is currently expanding into paperback books and will be seeking new distributors for both ebooks and print books in the coming months.
Let me bring you up to date on recent events at TT Books. Alex Roces' novel, The Moon Child, was chosen as book of the month for the National Bookstore, a chain of bookstores in his home country of the Philippines. Plus they have agreed to promote the book through an advertising and marketing campaign with all expenses paid by National Bookstore. I believe there are fifty bookstores in the chain, but all they are initially ordering is 300 books. Guess English language books don't sell all that well there.
Cynthia Ward gave a speech and sold twenty-five pre-release promo books and twenty diskette ebook versions of Sometimes There's a Dove.
Several of our titles are now available from Fictionwise with more additions each month. Fictionwise offers our books in eight different formats. Jerome and the Seraph, the first book in a series about the "quantum cat," was no. 2 on the bestseller list for fantasy books and Dragon's Moon (a Dream Realm award finalist) was no. 1 in YA ebooks at Fictionwise for several weeks.
In other book news - a Romanian language version of Eyes of Truth has been printed. Both the author and I have received copies. They did a first class job. The Romanian publisher has three other books of ours under contract and will be interested in additional books if these first four do well there.
I found all this very encouraging. I had to give some thought as to a "business plan" for TT Books. I decided I do not want TT Books to be known as an epublisher for much longer. In 2004, I will establish TT Books as a traditional small press print publisher. We will continue to publish ebooks, but the focus will be on print books. For the record, Twilight Times Books will not be a "POD" publisher. We will be using both digital and offset printers.
By second quarter 2004, TT Books will be functioning much as a small press print publisher, whether we call ourselves that or not. At that point I should be able to offer a few free print books for the author's personal use.... We already offer a standard royalty. We pay all expenses pertaining to publication of ebooks or print books, including preview galley copies to reviewers (just started this for the print books), edits, copy edits, press releases, as well as the formatting, design, artwork, interior layout, actual printing, etc. of the book. That is pretty much the role of a mainstream publisher.
So, small press publisher in 2004 and perhaps mid-list publisher (initial print runs of 5000+) by 2010.
Lida E. Quillen