17 October 2011

Interview: Riptide's Grand Opening Party - Aleksandr Voinov

When I was contacted by Chris from Riptide Publishing if I wanted to join in the festivities surrounding the opening of a new m/m publisher I scoured their website. What I found made me very excited! Next to the fact I found author names I enjoy reading in the m/m genre there was also a lot on background info that hit the excitement button. Over the course of this month the Riptide party will rock blogland and will be the sound off to many wonderful reads! This week I chipped in with interviews by Aleksandr Voinov and Rachel Haimowitz. In between the interviews I have guestblogs by L.A. Witt and Damon Suede.

Join in y'all for great convo's and fantastic prizes!!!


Q&A with Aleksandr Voinov

Q: First of all I want to congratulate you, Rachel Haimowitz and Chris Hawkins with the opening of Riptide Publishing. Of course everyone wants to know; How was the journey from idea to realizing a brand new publishing house?

Thanks, Leontine, for the congrats and for having me over. I think just about every author has briefly toyed with the idea to be a publisher – whether to self-publish or not is a viable question in these times when the technology is cheap and the skills are there. So, yeah, Rachel and I were talking about self-publishing a story or two and basically all stories where the rights are returning to us. Authors need to be savvy about running their backlists, and self-publishing can be a good idea.

Once that idea was in the room, we realized we had all the skills necessary to actually be a publisher – not “just” a self-publisher. We ran the idea past some friends (like Chris Hawkins, our marketing guru) and then Rachel crunched a lot of numbers and wrote a business plan.

I guess we were a bit shocked when we realized, yes, we can do this. We have the perfect team and skill set and we actually managed to sell the idea – the whole mission statement – to author colleagues and friends. It became big pretty quickly, and by now I’m less shocked and more “Hell yeah!” about it all. I really have the feeling that this is exactly what many authors – and readers – have been waiting for: great editing, great talent, great covers.

Q: Have there been challenges along the way that surprised you?

There’s a nice German expression that says “being scared of your own courage”. Yep, I was pretty scared, I have to admit. Starting a business is huge, and we’ve seen many publishers go under or never take off, so Rachel and I (and Chris) did a lot of business analysis and planning.

Learning from other people’s mistakes and failures and successes. Above all, I was nervous about not being able to deliver for our authors – many of our authors are serious names in the industry, so what if we can’t give them a better service than they are used to? You do lie awake at night, going through everything over and over again and building emergency plans and worrying about everything. So, yeah, that was the thing that surprised me. I’m usually a doer – I make stuff happen. Being so nervous and scared of my own courage was new.

Q: What is important for you, as one of the founders, to offer readers?

Quality stories with great editing and great covers. I’m reading a lot myself, and there are so many books out there that are… less than they should be. Or could be. Basically, most of the books and stories out there that I read make me think, “Damn, this could have been good if the author had had some help from a capable editor.” There are many books in the market that are almost good. So we want to offer stories that entertain, stories with plot, attractive covers (as a reader and writer, I’m sick and tired of awful covers) and ideally typo-free reading. I recently read the sentence “he road him hard” in a release from a mid-sized romance publisher. That ruined the sex scene for me, and I know that readers really don’t like reading stories that are teeming with typos and other mistakes. At Riptide, readers can immerse themselves in the story.

Q: Do you think pricing affects the buy behavior of a reader and in extension of that, what are the prices going to be of your imprints?

I do think pricing affects reader behavior, absolutely. Some publishers are selling novels for less than a cup of coffee at Starbucks (or whichever coffee chain store you visit). We’re not one of those publishers. I do think that readers are willing to pay a little more for quality. At the shorter lengths, we are competitively priced with other publishers. Once you get to the novel-length fiction and the longer novellas, that’s where it really costs a lot of money to edit properly.

I think our FAQ says it best: Pricing is based on book length. Rather than featuring only three or four price tiers, we have ten different tiers at Riptide. This ensures that the customer never overpays for a book at the short end of a wide price tier (for instance, some houses sell all books up to 15K words for $2.99, but who wants to pay $2.99 for a 5,000 word short?), and that the author is paid fairly for books at the long end of a wide price tier (for instance, some houses sell all books over 40K words for $5.99, even though it may take the author three or four times as long to write a 100K book as a 40K book).

When deciding how to price our tiers, we took into account the time and expense that goes into producing each book at Riptide. Unlike many other e-publishers in the M/M space, we provide Manhattan-quality developmental editing, line editing, copyediting, and proofreading for each book we produce. We also provide professional layout, hand-coded file conversions to eliminate irritating artifacts and layout errors in your e-book, and gorgeous cover art. All of these things mean that Riptide’s production process is as much as fifteen times more expensive than at other e-houses, and consequently, our cover prices are a little bit higher (but not fifteen times more!). However, we’ve learned through experience that quality sells, and readers appreciate the respect we show them by not producing a sub-par product.

Our pricing tiers are as follows:
Short stories
Under 5,000 words: $.99
5,000 to 9,999 words: $1.99
Novelettes
10,000 to 14,999 words: $2.99
Novellas
15,000 to 24,999 words: $3.99
25,000 to 34,999 words: $4.99
35,000 to 44,999 words: $5.99
Novels
45,000 to 59,999 words: $6.99
60,000 to 74,999 words: $7.99
75,000 to 89,999 words: $8.99
90,000+ words: $9.99

Q: I’m always wondering if publishers and authors notice trends in the M/M subgenres. What readers buy the most and do you anticipate on that?

It’s received wisdom that contemporaries sell the most copies, so most publishers are looking very much to acquire contemporaries. Sex outsells no sex. M/m outsells mixed ménage, novels outsell novellas, and novellas outsell short stories.

At Riptide, we don’t really care. As writers, we know that people write what they are passionate about. So I’d much rather publish a gay horror story that the writer poured their heartblood into than a lukewarm contemporary. We really only care about the quality, regardless of length or genre.

The problem with trends is that they are unpredictable. Before Harry Potter, would anybody have thought that a book series about kid wizards would sell a gazillion copies? Before Gladiator, the big historical movie was dead. I think you have to do what you’re passionate about, and the readers will follow.

Q: I took a sneak peek in to your press kit and came across a cover stating it was ‘A Riptide Wet Dream’. What does this entail?

Wet Dreams are short stories whose primary focus is erotic content. Other shorts—which may contain erotic content but aren’t erotica—are called Riptide Ripples.

Q: What is up and coming with Riptide Publishing?

Well, we’ll have the big launch with a number of stories in October, then we’re partying for three months and publishing one story per week over that period.
Right now, our launch line-up looks like this (subject to change):

Opening Day: October 30, 2011

Grown Men by Damon Suede
First Watch by Peter Hansen
Master Class by Rachel Haimowitz
Sucks & Blows by Storm Grant
Dark Soul vol. 1 by Aleksandr Voinov
Romeo Club #1: Surprises by Brita Addams
Once a Marine by Cat Grant
Pretty Monsters by Andrea Speed

November 7
Divinity by Bryl Tyne

November 14
A Chip in His Shoulder by Lori Witt

November 21
Dark Soul vol 2 by Aleksandr Voinov

November 28
Collared by Kari Gregg

December 5
Romeo Club #2: Rubbed the Right Way by Brita Addams

December 12
Blacker than Black by Rhianon Etzweiler

December 19
Dark Soul vol 3 by Aleksandr Voinov

After December 19, we take a break for the holidays and begin new releases again on January 2.

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And our very active Goodreads group, with lots of fun activities for both readers and writers:
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The Giveaway: From October 1 to December 31, Riptde authors and editors will set sail on a massive Grand Opening blog tour!

We're gearing up for three months of games, prizes, interviews, chats, and scavenger hunts, and we'd love to have you along! At each stop along the tour, we'll be giving away great prizes - tons of books from our authors' backlists, swag by the boatload, gift ceritficates to All Romance Ebooks, and entries into the Grand Prize drawings for a Nook, a Kindle, and an iPad.

I would say; Let your curiosity run free and ask Aleksandr Voinov a question that has been burning on your tongue and demands an answer ;)

29 comments:

  1. Hi, Aleksandr.

    You're a fairly new author for me but I'll correct that very soon. Your works sound great and I look forward in reading them.

    Your book covers are wonderful. How much input do you have in creating them?

    Thanks,
    Tracey D
    booklover0226 at gmail dot com

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  2. Thanks for the breakdown, Aleks.

    adara adaraohare com

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  3. I am a little curious.

    Are the authors given a chance to give an input on their book covers?

    Is there any chance of Riptide ebooks be sold at other resellers ie ARe, Rainbow, fictionwise etc?

    Thank You

    monica
    moniqee(@)hotmail.com

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  4. Hi Leontine, Hi Aleks. Great interview. I'm just cruising by with a howdy. *Waves* Howdy. :)

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  5. I like that the prices of the books are based on length. I always feel really cheated when I pay seven dollars and I get 20000 words.

    sabrinayala at gmail dot com

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  6. I'm intrigued by the business model you present and am excited by all the great sounding releases you have coming up. I'm hoping to see more books with disabled (or scarred) characters, so do you think you could write one for me Aleksandr? LOL. Does there seem to be a popular storyline theme amongst the recent submissions to Riptide?

    joderjo402 AT gmail DOT com

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  7. Great interview Leontine. Very informative.

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  8. Thanks for stopping by, everyone! Thought I could answer a couple questions for you:

    @moniqee & booklover: The authors have HUGE input over their cover art. We start by having them fill out a "cover art request form": a multi-page questionnaire that covers everything from their characters' physical appearances to book themes and settings. They also get to pick their artist of choice (we have six on our roster and are willing to look at outside artists as well if an author particularly wants someone), and a second choice in case the first one isn't available. The CAR goes to the chosen artist, who will do some cover mocks (sketches, speedpaints, or quick photo layouts, depending on the cover style). If the mocks are approved by marketing and the editors, they get sent to the author, who chooses his or her favorite and has an opportunity to make as many comments and change requests as they want. The comments go back to the artist, who addresses them, and that process repeats until we have a finished product. With paintings, there's an additional step where the final approved painting goes to our art director for fonting and cover design, which again involves the author deeply. We will NEVER release a book with a cover the author doesn't absolutely love. Being authors ourselves, we know it's hard enough to promote a book as it is; promoting a book with a cover you don't love just makes it that much more unnecessarily difficult.

    @moniqee: Our books will be distributed at all major etailers: Amazon, B&N, ARe, Rainbow Ebooks, TLA, Goodreads, etc. on release day. However, if you want to pre-order (to take advantage of the contests and get the book two days early), you must do that on our site.

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  9. All: Sorry - this site was blocked at work, so I couldn't check in earlier (the bank has pretty weird ideas about what contitutes "porn" - book reviews count, clearly).

    Anyway, here I am. :)

    Tracey - I'm a bit of a control freak when it comes to my covers; so far I was lucky with my own. At Riptide, we're doing everything we can to make sure that the author is happy with the cover - basically, we want them to love it so they can promote it while actually BEING excited rather than having to pretend to be excited. :)

    Adara - you're welcome! Any questions, just ask!

    Monica - Lots and lots, actually. We have a really exhaustive Cover Art Request form (CAR), which can take a while to fill in, but so far, our authors are pretty happy with their covers. I'm certainly happy with the Dark Soul covers. :)

    Hi Amara - nice seeing you here!

    Hi Sabrinayala - No, we're giving as much information as we can; that includes "warnings", genre, length - everything *I* would want to know before I plunk my cash down for a book. If you check out the book on our websites, you'll see you can get as much (or as little) info in terms of warnings as you want. Try this:

    http://www.riptidepublishing.com/titles/dark-soul-vol-1

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  10. Hi Joder - Oh, my characters are certainly all messed up - psychologically or sometimes even physically. Kendras of Scorpion starts out with a broken foot, and I've just crippled another soldier (German, WWII). I'm certainly NOT going easy on them. :)

    Hi Kassa - Thanks for stopping by!

    Hi Rachel - Long time no see. :)

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  11. Joder - Almost missed you second question. Right now, we do seem to have a fair amount of vampires, but we're covering a wide range, from noir sci-fi romance to light horror to sweet contemporary to edgy and intense BDSM. We've also acquired a trans* novel, so we're not just doing gay and m/m stuff, even though that's so far most of what we get.

    For example, I've just acquired a literary gay short story, a steampunk novel (with angels) and hope to sign a good old ghost story/sweet romance very soon. Basically, if the story rocks, we take it, as long as it fits into Riptide - and our range is wider than most publishers'.

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  12. Thanks for telling more about the publishing :)

    luciatea01 (at) hotmail.com

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  13. Great interview, and thanks for sharing all this info with us Aleks. I really like your thoughts on publishing and reading something an author really puts energy into vs. not so much. As a reader and hopeful author, your price scale seems incredibly fair, however, do you think some people may shy away from the 9.99 price and see it as "too high" for an ebook?

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  14. I think your covers are beautiful and I a person who had bought several books for the cover. For me is important.

    mariaml254(at)yahoo(dot)com

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  15. I'm with Amara, I'm just swinging by to say "Howdy!" My brain is too fried to come up with any actual questions right now...

    tracykitnATyahoo.com

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  16. I love the price breakdown for the books. It's frustrating when u buy a book and don't feel u got your moneys worth

    Sarahs7836(at)gmail(dot)com

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  17. Great interview.Thanks for the release dates and the pricing breakdown.

    elaing8(at)netscape(dot)net

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  18. This is all great. I love that you are giving us a glimpse 'backstage' as it were.

    marypres(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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  19. Lucia - thanks for commenting! Any questions, please ask. :)

    Alex - I do think that passion translates onto the page, unless the author is incredibly good at masking her/his ennui. I think the $10 threshold is the psychological barrier, really, but we'll see if the pricing works. There will be ways to get discounts on that (and loyalty rewards), so it's not carved in rock.

    Maria - I completely agree. I got stuck with some very luke-warm covers in my own writing career, and I do see the difference that a good cover makes to overall sales. At Riptide it can take weeks before we have the perfect cover for a story.

    Tracy - Hi Tracy, great seeing you again. :)

    Sarah - Exactly. I've vastly overpaid for badly edited, very short stories. I think that only breeds ill will - if I've been ripped off once, how likely am I to buy more from that author/publisher? Me? Not very likely.

    Elaing - You're welcome. Any questions, please ask. :)

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  20. Thank you! Rachel and Alek for your wonderful comments.

    I am really happy that the authors are given the prerogative to choose their own covers *__*

    I was hoping there are more benefits for the riptide buyers. I am more of coupons/discounts lover.

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  21. What book have you read that you will never forget and why?

    patoct@yahoo.com
    Pat L.

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  22. @moniqee: The authors are pretty happy, too :D Which is very important to us.

    Re: discounts, we have a Bonus Bucks feature that's essentially a 10% to 20% rebate on all your purchases: Whenever you buy a book on our site, you earn 1 Bonus Buck for each $1 you spend, or 2 Bonus Bucks for each $1 you spend on a Riptide Ripple or a Riptide Wet Dream (those are our $.99 and $1.99 shorts). And yes, it's rounded up, so if you spend $5.99, you'll of course get 6 Bonus Bucks, not 5 :) When you earn 50 Bonus Bucks, you can exchange them for a $5 gift certificate to our site, which you can spend for yourself or gift to someone else. There's no limit to the amount of Bonus Bucks you can earn.

    We'll also be featuring volume discounts for book clubs after our official opening, so if you have a group of five or more readers who all want to read a book at the same time, you can receive a discount--and still earn Bonus Bucks--on your bulk purchase, as long as it's all made in a single order. (You can also request that the book's author make a virtual appearance at your club, and we'll do our best to make that happen.)

    By and large, though, we're not a discount publisher; we're more the upscale boutique than the neighborhood Wal*Mart. But we do have loyalty programs in place to encourage and reward those readers who choose to shop with us directly and repeatedly, rather than at third-party sites.

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  23. Loved learning about this new publisher and can't wait to read their new books :-)

    smaccall AT comcast.net

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  24. Thank you Rachel for the explanation.

    I dont mind buying directly from the publishers' site which I did for Amber Allure and Samhain since they reward readers like myself with better discounts than the resellers.

    I hope you dont mind another question. This time is on the Bonus Bucks.

    There is this one annoying thing over at Silver Publishing, yes they too reward with bonus bucks ( if you preorder earlier - the bonus bucks are slightly more ) but each time when I use my bonus bucks to deduct the total, their system somehow will minus one/two bonus bucks from the new books I bought. example I was suppose to get 12 bonus bucks if I pay in full. if I used my bonus bucks to deduct the total, they will only give me 10 bonus bucks instead. T__T

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  25. Hi Moniqee. Silver's Bonus Bucks system actually makes a lot of sense, because otherwise they'd be rewarding bonus bucks on bonus bucks, which sort of becomes an infinite loop that ends up being pretty costly to the publisher and the authors. The idea is to reward you for spending money onsite, which they do, but bonus bucks ARE the reward so it makes sense not to give an additional reward for you spending your reward.

    That being said, I actually am not sure how ours shakes out, but I will ask the developer and hit you up when I have an answer. Since on our site you cash in bonus bucks for a gift certificate, and bonus bucks for gift certificates are rewarded when the certificate is purchased rather than when it's spent, you won't get bonus bucks on your bonus buck purchases.

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  26. I think those price points will enable a lot of readers to try books especially if the author is new to them.

    Cambonified(at)yahoo(dot)com

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  27. We certainly hope so, though not all our authors have written shorter works. But the excerpts on the website are nice and long--generally longer than a Kindle or Nook sample allows for--and should give a reader plenty to chew on to decide if they like the taste :)

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  28. Riptide sounds like a dream for writers and readers alike :)

    And I really like the pricing policy!

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I love to hear all your voices and opinions so thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.