I love hearing about new publishing companies. It not only means more opportunities for us writers, but also more books for us readers to enjoy. Today you’ll get to hear about Embrace books that will launch in the New Year. Here Executive Editor, Jane Holland gives us all the details about this new venture and tells us what she’s looking for.
Susan Palmquist (SP)-For those who haven’t heard of Salt Publishing, can you tell us about the company and when it got started?
Jane Holland (JH)-John Kinsella, a well-known Australian poet, launched Salt as a poetry magazine back in 1990, which rapidly turned into Folio Salt, publishing books of international poetry and poetics. In 1999, an experienced designer and director at Cambridge University Press, Chris Hamilton-Emery, came on board, soon followed by his wife Jen Hamilton-Emery.
The business was re-launched in the UK as Salt Publishing [http://http://saltpublishing.com] and that initial partnership has expanded to 14 team members with Salt offices across the world. Salt now publish more than 80 print books a year, mainly poetry, essays and literary fiction, with an author base that includes a number of award-winning, internationally acclaimed writers. One of their most recently published novels, Alex y Robert, by American novelist Wena Poon, was the BBC Radio 4 Book at Bedtime only last week, and one of their poets, Sian Hughes (The Missing) has just won the prestigious Seamus Heaney Centre Prize.
SP-How long have you worked for the company and what’s your role there?
JH-I’ve been working with Salt since 2008, when I began editing their online arts journal, Horizon Review. [http://www.saltpublishing.com/horizon/issues/01/index.htm] I’d previously run Blade Press back in the mid-nineties, and had published some work by Chris Hamilton-Emery there. He started publishing my books at Salt in 2006, so when he asked me to edit Horizon, it was an easy step into the editorial side of things again. I was also a commissioning editor for poetry at Salt, but am now Executive Editor at Embrace Books.
SP-And tell us about the new Embrace line, how did that come about?
JH-Salt had been planning to move into commercial fiction for some years, but hadn’t been sure how to introduce the change into a largely literary list. After various negotiations, we decided to launch Embrace Books as a separate enterprise, publishing romance and erotic romance to begin with, plus a broader range of fiction within our historical and lesbian fiction lines.
SP-What type of romances are you looking for? What’s the word length?
JH-Since we’re aiming to expand into a wider range of popular genres, we’re avoiding overly-strict guidelines at this stage. Contemporary, historical and paranormal romance are all welcome at lengths between 50 and 65K. Longer historicals are also being keenly sought, with or without a romantic element, up to 150K. More detailed guidelines are available at our site. Additionally, we have a series called Saffron which encompasses different types of lesbian fiction, not only romance and erotica but non-fiction too.
SP-You have two heat settings, Red Velvet and After Dark. First of all, do they both tend to be hotter than most romances?
JH-Not at all. Red Velvet is ‘sexy and sophisticated romance’, which can be hot but doesn’t necessarily mean they’re rolling about in the hay every five pages. But it does mean we’re not so keen on sweet or comic romances where the action might stop at the bedroom door, or where the sex has too light-hearted a feel to be truly engaging. Most of our acquisitions to date have been for Red Velvet, and their heat levels vary. After Dark is a far hotter series and does require frequent and explicit sexual action, though the sex shouldn’t overwhelm the storyline.
SP-Does After Dark require a happy ever after? And how does a writer decide what line to submit to?
JH-After Dark doesn’t strictly need an HEA, but they are still romances, and downbeat or depressing endings are not what we’re after. Happy, independent heroines doing what’s right for them are what we want – even if what’s right for them is lots of hot sex! Right now, I’m happy to look at submissions where the writer isn’t sure which series their book would belong to. It’s an art, not an exact science, and I’ve had several romances submitted where the author has said After Dark is the line they’re submitting to, but the action isn’t anywhere near hot enough for that, so I’ve considered it for Red Velvet instead. We’re also happy to look at m/m romances in the After Dark category, which is a growing sub-genre within romance, and welcome m/m stories with strong emotional intensity.
SP-How about novellas, are you actively seeking them?
JH-Yes, absolutely. Between 15 and about 40K in any of the above categories and heat settings. We’ve had no paranormal submissions at all, by the way, so are very keen indeed to encourage those, both as novels and novellas. We also look at short stories from 6-15K, though these would have to be very strong – and hot – indeed. These lengths are all approximate; there’s no need to cut if you over-run by one or two thousand, for instance.
SP-You’re a UK publisher. Do settings need to be British? And how about British spelling or is American spelling okay too?
JH-I love British settings, especially rural settings with taciturn farmers or self-made men as heroes instead of jet-setting billionaires, and think they’re about due for a comeback. But obviously we’d be publishing a very limited set of books if we only took books of this kind. The important thing is that the setting fits the characters and their love story. Within that, we look at any setting, whether British, European, US, Australian, or further afield. Main characters do not need to be white, of course, but all books must be in English.
Talking of which, spellings do not need to be British, and will not, in general, be changed if they are not. This may be a British-based publisher but the books will be sold to readers around the world, including the US. However, in the special case of historicals – we have a dedicated Regency line, for instance – where a short romance is set in period England, the spelling really needs to be British, as does the dialogue. Otherwise it risks jolting a reader out of the story. Though longer romances have a slight leeway on that.
SP-I know many people will think UK romance publisher and be reminded of Mills and Boon. How will the Embrace line differ from M & B books?
JH-Basically, we are not in any way category-driven. We do have series guidelines to help authors decide what to send us, but we’re not looking to put authors or their work into a box. Indeed, we encourage submissions that don’t quite fit anywhere else, as these often represent the most dynamic, genre-changing ideas. If you’ve written something a bit ‘different’ and don’t know where to send it, try us first!
When Mills & Boon was an independent company in the romance boom of the 70s and early 80s, authors were taken out to lunch at the Ritz and made to feel very special indeed. At Embrace, we can’t promise even a pot of tea at the Ritz – though you never know! – but we can promise that each book will be treated entirely on its merits, rather than in a ‘does it fit the line?’ way, and each submission will be replied to promptly and with feedback where appropriate. Waits are short and we are not at this moment sending out any form rejections – though that may change. Titles will all be available digitally at first, with selected titles going to print. Currently, the opposite seems to apply at M&B.
SP-When will the first title be launched and can you tell us how many books will be published per month?
JH-Our launch estimate is mid-January 2011. That date is not set in stone, however, especially as I’m still hoping to have some paranormals or sci-fi romances to launch with – paranormal authors take note!
At this stage we are not planning to publish a monthly romance series but to work as general fiction publishers do, launching titles in a rolling programme as each book becomes ready. But that may change.
SP-Any tips for writing for Embrace? Anything you’d especially like to see?
JH-The obvious, which is excellent writing skills. I can forgive minor structural or character-building problems if a writer has a natural skill for grabbing a reader from the get-go. You can improve the mechanics of writing a novel through careful mentoring, but if a writer doesn’t demonstrate any talent with language in the first few pages, it would be like re-spraying a car when the engine doesn’t even turn over.
As for things I’d especially like to see by way of submissions, that would be Regencies and paranormal – the latter is a very broad church for me, by the way, encompassing sci-fi, future worlds, fantasy, light horror, cyperpunk, Steampunk etc. I don’t mind cross-genre writing either, such as Regency vampires or time travel historicals. But consistency is vital. Be aware of your genre(s), stay focussed on what you’re doing and keep the rules of your world constant throughout. It may help when sending highly complex sci-fi or paranormal mss to include or offer a glossary of terms or characters alongside it.
SP-Anything that will get an instant rejection?
JH-Poor writing is an instant turn-off, which includes an inability to use punctuation correctly. (Please note, it’s the author’s job to deliver a work written in standard English, not the editor’s.) Deeply unpleasant main characters, or unacceptable sexual behaviour that would cause real pain or distress or rightly be considered illegal or grossly offensive by most people. An incoherent or non-existent plot. This isn’t literary fiction, where anything goes; commercial fiction needs to have a strong, recognisable plot and characters with whom a reader will readily identify.
SP-And here’s something most of us writers are always anxious to know…how long can we expect to wait for a response?
JH-Right now, not long at all. Six weeks is the aim, and more likely within a month. Once we’ve launched, however, and are receiving more submissions, that time will probably extend to 8-10 weeks. If you’ve sent work and not received a reply within a month, it’s perfectly acceptable to send us an email enquiry. I’m a published writer too and know how irksome it can be, waiting on a response that never comes. Ultimately, we intend to engage a team of editors to allow those wait times to remain low as we expand.
SP-Is there a Web site where we can find out more about the line and read the full submission guidelines?
JH-Certainly. Just prior to launch, a shiny new sales site will go up for you all to admire. Right now, we have an easy-to-navigate website for authors and readers to see what we’re about, and to guide submissions. That’s at http://embracebooks.co.uk
We also have a more informal blog, with newly acquired authors posting as well as the editorial team, at http://embracebooks.blogspot.com/
To view the work of our partner design company, The Cover Factory, you can visit Salt Publishing at http://http://saltpublishing.comor a new promo site, still under construction, at http://www.thecoverfactory.co.uk/