20 October 2011

Interview: Riptide's Grand Opening Party - Rachel Haimowitz


Q: First of all I want to congratulate you, Aleksandr Voinov 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?

Thank you very much! Mostly it came out of contract and craft discussions. Aleks and I had been talking a lot about both of those things as we bounced from publisher to publisher looking for one who could provide the best of all worlds: great covers, great marketing, great editing, and great contracts. We realized we were hunting for a unicorn, basically. Most houses do at least one of those things well, but pretty much none of them—at least none we’d found, anyway—do them all as well as we’d have hoped.

This led to sort of a lightbulb moment one day, when we were like, hey, you know? We could probably do this. We had a lot of the necessary skills between us: I edited in Manhattan houses for years, including major independents and a Big Six house. Aleks had edited for years in the business sector. We were both pretty intimately familiar with the publishing industry in general and the M/M industry in particular. Aleks had a ton of connections. I had a ton of business experience (I owned and operated a business for seven years, managing a double-handful of staff and wearing all the hats at one time or another). We knew all the ins and outs of what makes a contract good or bad. We knew the production process. And god knows we had the drive and the heart.

So I wandered off to draft up a business plan, and realized that, yes, this will work. Our success or failure does hinge entirely on a reader’s willingness to pay for a quality product—depending on length, our books may be $1 to $3 more than most other publishers in our space would sell a book for—but we firmly believe that readers are smart and are hungry for brilliantly crafted, well edited, and beautifully packaged books that don’t make them want to hurl their Kindle across the room in frustration. The reception Riptide’s been getting—from industry professionals, authors, book bloggers, and readers—seems to indicate we were right about that assumption. We seem to have hit a nerve, and it’s amazing and humbling and wonderful to see so many people so excited about what we’re doing here.

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

Interestingly enough, the sailing’s been generally smoother than I ever could have dreamed it would be. Everyone’s been so receptive and so eager to work with us. It’s been amazing.
The biggest challenge for me has been time. Getting fifteen books ready all at once while simultaneously launching the business side of things and also trying to get an under-deadline release of my own out has resulted in a lot of 80-hour workweeks. But it’s all so exciting and I’m so passionate about it, I hardly notice. As Aleks and I like to joke—I can sleep when I’m dead. Or, you know, sometime after October 30 

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

An unfailingly impressive reading experience. No bad plots, no unrelatable characters, no awkward prose, no ugly covers, no bad editing. We’re bringing Manhattan quality to the M/M space.

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?

In a way, yes. A reader’s much less likely to take a chance on a new author if their book is $9.99 than if their book is $.99. On the other hand, 99% of the time, you get what you pay for. When you buy a $2.99 novel, it’s a good bet you’re wasting your three bucks on a poorly-edited book you won’t terribly enjoy.

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 doesn’t make much sense to cater to trends, because by the time you see, “Oh, vampires are selling really well,” and you set about acquiring vampire books, and put in the three to six months it takes to edit and produce them, and finally get them out to the reader, the trend is over. Now you’ve got three vampire stories and suddenly everyone’s sick of them.

So what we look for is simply great storytelling. If it happens to have vampires, that’s fine—just make sure you bring something new to it. We actually do have four separate stories with vampires in our initial fifteen releases, but none of them are actually vampire stories, if that makes sense. One’s an action-packed cyberpunk thriller (A Chip in His Shoulder); one’s a hilarious, pun-filled short (Sucks & Blows); one just happens to feature a vampire amidst all kinds of other crazy (and very funny) things popping out of a hell portal in the parking lot of a Quick-Mart (Pretty Monsters: Josh of the Damned #1), and one’s a moody atmospheric piece that bounces through time (Divinity). None of them are vampire stories in the traditional sense—no tragic heroes, no woe-is-me love stories, no sparkles.

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?

That’s our line of erotic-focused short stories. We have two lines of shorts (stories under 10,000 words). The Wet Dreams are erotica—quick little bites of burning hotness. The Ripples are everything else; they may have erotic elements, but the erotica isn’t the focus.

Q: What is up and coming with Riptide Publishing?

We’re releasing fifteen stories this year amidst a gigantic three-month-long Grand Opening Celebration. We’re rolling out with some very exciting “First Wave” authors—fan favorites like Lori Witt, Kari Gregg, and Damon Suede; and absolutely stunning new talents like Peter Hansen and Rhianon Etzweiler. We’re hard at work on our lineup for 2012 and 2013—most if not all of our First Wave authors are writing new pieces for us, and you’ll also be seeing some very familiar faces joining in on our Second Wave. All in all, it’s a very exciting time, and I have to admit to doing a little fangirl squeeing at some of the authors who we’re signing on for next year. Keep an eye out!

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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.

Have you got a question to ask Rachel Haimowitz? This is your moment! Ask away in your comments ;)

17 comments:

  1. Hi Rachel! Great answers but I have 2 questions for you.

    I agree you get what you pay for (generally) but how will you entice readers to take a chance on a new author? Especially when taking that chance will be more expensive. Looking at your announced stable I see authors I know without a doubt do not work for me so I can't just trust the publisher will give me a great author. Do you have any strategies to get readers to take a chance on authors other than the $9.99 book?

    Also do you have any concerns about opening a publishing house with books that will consistently cost more than other publishers with the current problems with the world economy?

    Thanks! It was great meeting you and talking your ear off :)

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  2. Hi Kassa! It was great meeting you at GRL :D As always, some thoughtful questions from you.

    In terms of enticing readers to try new authors, we subscribe pretty firmly to the idea of giving away enough of a book to let a reader know how they'll feel about it. The excerpts on our website all generally represent somewhere between 10 and 20% of the total word count of the title, which on a $9.99 novel would equate to several chapters. By the time you've made it through 10,000 words, you'll know whether or not the other 90,000 words are worth that $9.99 to you.

    Many of our authors also write shorter pieces, so you can experiment with them for $.99 or $1.99 or $2.99 before you dive into a pricier novel. This isn't the case with all of them, of course, but with some.

    Lastly, while we know no one book is a fit for every reader, we do hope that our emphasis on quality (and also the care we put into writing blurbs that accurately reflect the story) will mean that if the genre and the style interest you, you know you'll end up with a great read.

    As for concerns about the economy, it's certainly there, but not something we've chosen to let frighten us off. I think one really great novel at $9.99 that you'll read and love and re-read is a much better value than two or even ten novels at $5 a pop that you DNF or have to grit your teeth through, so in a way I don't think our product is all that costly. Also, at several title lengths, we are price-comparable or actually cheaper than many presses with whom we share the space; it's mostly just for long novellas and long novels where you see the price bump, and that's because a long novella or long novel takes so very much longer to write and edit than a short one.

    Plus, at least for me, even when things are tight, good books are one of the last things to go. I'd much sooner skip a meal out or a movie or a new pair of sneakers if it means I can buy that new book I've been eyeballing, and I know many readers who feel the same. Not even a bad economy can crush a book-lover's passion for a great story :D

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  3. I always love your interviews. You sounds like an amazing person.

    sabrinayala at gmail dot com

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  4. Hi, Rachel.

    Great interview (as always); I really enjoyed reading it.

    I look forward in reading the works by Riptide Publisher's authors.

    Thanks,
    Tracey D
    booklover0226 at gmail dot com

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  5. I'm very excited by this new endeavor! Do you see your pricing changing over time as you get a larger following? Also, are there particular themes that you believe are waning in popularity and what theme is the next big thing?

    joderjo402 AT gmail DOT com

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  6. I'm so excited about this new publisher and can't wait to read their books :-) Always on the lookout for quality writing and editing!

    smaccall AT comcast.net

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  9. I like to know more about Riptide's "backstage".

    mariaml254(at)yahoo(dot)com

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  10. @Bookishly Awesome: Aww, *blushes*, thank you!

    @booklover: Thanks for stopping by, Tracey!

    @Joder: I don't think that's terribly likely to happen, but it's possible that if we manage to tap a sufficiently large audience, we'll be able to. The problem with niche audiences in general is that the reader pool is so very small that you can't really ever achieve economies of scale; in M/M, even the most successful books--like, Josh Lanyon successful--rarely sell more than, say, 8,000 copies, and most sell significantly fewer than that. We have some ideas for introducing new readers to the genre, though, and if they're successful enough, it may allow us to hit those economies of scale.

    Re: themes, that's a tough call. You probably hear this a lot, but we're less interested in a particular genre or trope than we are in a really well-told story. A reader might be sick to death of vampires, but if an author brings a new twist to the old tale and tells it brilliantly, they might be able to entice that reader back. So even if something seems played out, we'll consider stories with those themes. But some themes that do seem a little played out to me are shifter insta-love, vampires, and time travel. In terms of up-and-coming, *punk is hot right now (cyberpunk, steampunk, dieselpunk, etc.) and probably will be for a while yet. This is happy for me, since I absolutely love those stories to pieces.

    @Bookwyrm: Thanks so much for the kind words!

    @Maria: Aleks will be doing a few more interviews over the course of the year, and there's usually some amusing "backstage" tweeting going on at @riptidebooks :) Thanks for commenting!

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  11. Congratulations on the upcoming launch of Riptide! I definitely agree that the reader experience is important in a story. To me it's balance of great characters, plot and writing.

    Cambonified(at)yahoo(dot)com

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  12. @Na: Totally agreed. If any one of those elements are missing for me, the whole book falls apart.

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  13. I look forward to the offerings of Riptide Publishing,there can never be too many pub lishers as far as I am concerned.I loved seeing you at New Orleans,I was there with my husband. You reminded me of one of the 1960's Flower Children with your braids and bell bottoms, and since I remember that era I know what I'm talking about.I was actually too shy to introduce myself by i love your series Belonging,and look forward to more.

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  14. Great interview...

    It sounds like u gave a great prices in place and I've already preorder some new to me authors which is usual I tend to wait for reviews. And I couldn't agree more about books being the last thing to go. I've been unemployed for the last few months and I still
    Manage to scrape together some money for books but back to work nxt month yay ... And back at my old job I must be mad

    Sarahs7836(at)gmail(dot)com

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  15. @arl215: Aww :) I don't usually wear bellbottoms, but the braids are a regular feature; my hair's too curly not to keep contained if I ever want to comb it again. I'm sorry we didn't get to speak at GRL, but maybe next year? You know the old joke: Don't be shy--I don't bite unless you ask nicely :D

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  16. @Sarah: I hope the job's not too bad? Thanks so much for joining us on our launch, and happy reading!

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  17. Thanks for all the behind the scenes peeks, Rachel. =)
    adara adaraohare com

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