A Conversation with Lida Quillen
Publisher and Founder of Twilight Times Books
Last week I introduced you to Lida Quillen, founder and owner of Twilight Times Books, an independent publishing house that publishes critically acclaimed literary, mystery, science fiction and fantasy books. Today, she talks about her decision-making process, her take on which books deserve publication and why, what happens when she offers an author a publishing contract and her best advice for unpublished authors.
Welcome back, Lida. We love having you here! You've said before in previous interviews that you are committed to "providing an outlet for brilliant authors with books that deserve to see print." How do you decide which books deserve publication?
I prefer literary works that are exemplary, that transcend genres and/or are beautifully written. I am *highly* selective as to what I will accept for publication. Out of 300 submissions, I might accept two manuscripts for publication.
A good example of the type of novel I am currently looking for is Jerome and the Seraph by Robina Williams. This book combines mythology, classical paintings, quantum physics and the afterlife.
Barbarians at the Gates by Christopher Nuttall is an exceptional military SF novel.
by Christine Amsden involves magic, mystery and romance in a coming of age
Gate to Nowhere by Leanna Sain is an award-winning novel that combines mystery, romance and time travel.
Knight of Flame by Scott Eder is an exceptional contemporary fantasy.
Reunion by Ken Lizzi is a post-apocalyptic survival novel that involves parallel worlds.
I’ve often said that if someone enjoys reading, then they will enjoy most of the books we publish, whether the book is in their favorite genre, or not. I’ve seen any number of reviews that say, for example, “I don’t particularly like SF, but I thoroughly enjoyed Monkey Trap…” or “I’m not a big fantasy fan but I couldn’t put Cassie Scot down…” or words to that effect.
So you've found a book you love and you've offered an author a contract. What happens next? What does TT Books expect from the author? What can the author expect from TT Books?
Normally we bring out the ebook first and the print book several months later. The cover artwork can take up to three months to complete. Edits can be simultaneous but figure a minimum of four months before your book is released as an ebook. We send the ebook version (pdf arc) around to gather reviews prior to bringing out the print version.
Also, immediately after the ebook version is released, I send your book off to an editor (yes, again) prior to print production. I have found nearly all books, even well-written ones, can use a bit more polish.
re: editing process. I have an editor go over the manuscript. Then the file goes back to the author with notations and suggestions. The author sends the manuscript back to me. I then assign a copy editor who goes over the manuscript. The file goes back to the author who makes the changes (or not), then sends the file to me for final edits. At TT Books the author generally has the last word on changes.
Then, we go through this process all over again for the paperback versions. The main thing is I need a print galley review copy to send around to the pre-publication reviewers such as Booklist, ForeWord Reviews, Library Journal, Publisher's Weekly, etc. three or four months prior to the official release date.
Our initial print runs have been small, 500-750 books, while we test market our books. We can ramp up print runs as needed if reader demand warrants. For example, we printed 1700 copies of Monkey Trap with an offset printer two weeks after the release date. Hudson Lake, had an initial print run of 2500 books.
re: marketing. We feel the most important marketing tool is to publish first-rate books. Our books have been professionally edited and display attractive cover artwork by professional artists.
Twilight Times Books is currently listed in the Literary Market Place. Over the past couple of years, we have accumulated info on several hundred independent bookstores that are willing to carry books from small press publishers and have been sending out targeted mailings.
We have an online media room where members of the media, booksellers and retailers can download flyers, sell sheets, reviews and chapter excerpts in pdf files formatted for print. Our catalogue is also available as a download.
Media kits and press releases are sent to major publications and galleys/advance review copies sent to top reviewers such as American Library Journal, Booklist, ForeWord Reviews, NYT Book Review, Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, Washington Post, Boston Globe, Chicago-Sun Times, Oregonian, Seattle Times, etc.
We gather names and contact info for the Community Relations Managers for the Barnes & Noble bookstores in regions where our authors reside and send them targeted promo packets.
We have been sending postcards, flyers and/or brochures to targeted specialty shops and various book catalogues. 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.
What about authors who haven't been published yet? What advice would you share with authors who are struggling to put their work out there?
In order to be successful, I strongly recommend that an author is active on social media even before they attempt to publish their first novel. Readers like to know the “story behind the story,” so to speak. Fans will enjoy reading about the author’s trials and tribulations such as finishing the book, signing with a literary agent or publisher, cover art reveal, etc. Get your fans, book bloggers, etc. involved and invested in your writing endeavors.
Until a couple of years ago book publicists used to send review copies to the major magazines and newspapers. Now publicists send review copies to the major book bloggers.
Find critique partners, Beta readers or pay a freelance editor to go over your manuscript before you submit your work to a publisher or before you self-publish.
One of the best marketing tools these days is to have two or three books in a series ready to go before you publish the first one.
Thanks again for answering our questions, Lida. We really appreciate your time. And to our MB4 readers, Lida will return next week to talk about a hot topic among writers these days: Book marketing and what you can do to impact your sales.
See you next week!
About Lida Quillen
Lida E. Quillen is an author, editor, publicist and publisher. She is the founder and owner of Twilight Times Books, Paladin Timeless Books and Twilight Times ezine and current owner of Futures Mystery Anthology Magazine.
About Twilight Times Books
The mission of Twilight Times Books is to promote excellence in writing and great literature. TTBooks is dedicated to enhancing the prospects of getting great fantasy, historical, literary, mystery, science fiction and Young Adult books into the hands of readers.
Twilight Times Books will be open to submissions from February 15th to March 5, 2015. Send a cover letter, synopsis, first chapter and marketing plan in the body of an email message. The subject line must begin with ttb or ttbooks.
Lida E. Quillen, Publisher
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org – or – email@example.com
*****Dora Machado is the award-winning author of the epic fantasy Stonewiser series and her newest novel, The Curse Giver, available from Twilight Times Books. She is one only a few Hispanic women writing fantasy in the United States today. She grew up in the Dominican Republic, where she developed a fascination for writing and a taste for Merengue. After a lifetime of straddling such compelling but different worlds, fantasy is a natural fit to her stories.
When she is not writing fiction, Dora also writes features for the award-winning blog Murder By Four and Savvy Authors, where writers help writers. She lives in Florida with her indulgent husband and two very opinionated cats.
To learn more about Dora Machado and her award winning novels, visit her at www.doramachado.com , email her at Dora@doramachado.com, find her on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter.