Thursday, October 11, 2007

Interview With Paula Guran, Juno Books Editor

Paula Guran of Juno Books was kind enough to answer a few questions for Fantasy Debut. Juno Books has impressed me over the past few weeks, and my fellow bloggers and I have been all over their books, including WIND FOLLOWER, BLOOD MAGIC and DANCING WITH WEREWOLVES. Just from the outside looking in, it appears that this is a good time to be an author right now, because there are more options at quality presses like Juno Books.

I know you've answered this question elsewhere, but please tells us about Juno Books and what makes it different.

We publish fantasy with strong female protagonists. I guess that is what makes us different: that requirement for a leading character who is a woman. We have just started publishing our books in mass market paperback format. That also makes us a little different as not many small presses do mass market.

I understand you've recently ventured into mass-market paperbacks. Please explain why this is important for a new publisher.

I can't say it is important to any new publisher at all. It is important to us because we feel our books will sell best in this format and that it will also get our books into many more stores -- "market penetration."

I was impressed by the quality of WIND FOLLOWER as compared to some other small press books that I've covered.


From my emails with Carole McDonnell and my readings of your weblog, it appears that you wear many hats at Juno, at least editor and publicist. Please tell us about your work at Juno.

I'm Juno's entire editorial staff (with the exception of a copyeditor), so that means I read submissions and decide what to acquire and when to publish what is acquired. I edit the books and work with the authors to polish their novels. I'm also responsible
for the copy generated for a title -- the book's descriptions for various uses and, although I don't do it alone, the cover copy. I work with the cover artist to come up with the art. Editors are also involved with determining if a book is viable in a business sense. I go to meetings and conventions occasionally to represent Juno. I'm
the in-house editor for BEST NEW ROMANTIC FANTASY, our annual anthology, and once in a while something like WARRIOR WOMEN. That is all pretty typical for any editor.

Unlike most editors I also do the compositing for most Juno Book titles. That's designing and "setting" the book's interior -- what was once called "typesetting" but now involves no type as it is all done digitally. I designed and maintain the Web site (and blog there) and do an email newsletter. Right now we don't have anyone else doing
publicity, so I do that, too. And I handle the front-end of Juno's contracts. (But I have nothing to do with paying advances or royalties.)

I probably do some other things, too. I guess I do what needs to be done.

I was also impressed by your release schedule. According to your interview at Dee and dee (a link to this interview is at the end of this post), I gather that you've been busier than expected getting all these books out on time?

I think we overestimated our super-powers. Plus, although I know I'm busy, so are the other two members of the Juno team. Sean Wallace does production and deals with distribution and the like; Stephen Segal designs the covers and also does things like catalogs and ads. But Juno is not either one's main job. Sean is the publisher/editor of Prime Books and Fantasy Magazine and works on many other projects for the mother company, Wildside Press. Stephen is the managing editor for Weird Tales and other Wildside periodicals. He does everything from laying out magazines to drumming up advertising to making subscribers happy.

Ultimately, we've done a decent job of it. We've had to issue a few titles a little later than anticipated, but we are now caught up and getting the mass markets out on schedule. Going into 2008, primarily due to the change from trade paperback and learning what we could best market, we've dropped some titles and rearranged the schedule. Originally we had 24 trades scheduled for 2007. That became 18 books, four of which are mass markets. Four originally slated for 2007 were bumped into 2008 and we are re-printing one trade in mmp, so we are doing a total of 15 titles for 2008. I anticipate that number dropping to 12-14 for 2009. That's a good level. Maybe I can relax in nine or ten months!

Your cover art definitely appears to have a house style. Can you tell us about your artists and designers?

Timothy Lantz is the genius behind most of the art. We also have used two of Jennifer Reagles's pieces (for A Mortal Glamour and Dark Maiden). We also use stock photos or art once in awhile. The covers themselves are designed by Stephen Segal. Since he was hired to do magazines, not design book covers, I don't think even he knew how talented he was. That may also be somewhat responsible for the fresh "look" of the design -- perhaps he had fewer preconceptions.

Steve likes to say the cover designs are a group effort -- me working with Tim, Steve coming up with the basic ideas for a cover design (sometimes with suggestions from Sean), then Sean, Steve, and me bashing it around together. But I think most of the credit should go to Stephen and the artists.

In your newsletter, you mentioned that Blood Magic and Dancing With Werewolves will have special promotional displays at Borders or Barnes & Noble. How does a publisher make this happen?

The simple answer is: money. The chains do have to find the books to be acceptable-looking and since these are our first mmps, I think they wanted to be sure we could pull it off. But publishers do pay for these things. In our case it is a cooperative promotion done with out distributor, Diamond.

You've recently added some red ink to your submission guidelines specifying your desire for a strong female protagonist in your manuscript submissions. How often do you encounter submissions that completely ignore the guidelines?

Far too often. I really don't get it. I can't imagine submitting to any publisher without first looking them up online and seeing if they have guidelines. Then, if they do, *reading* them. Carefully. That's why they call 'em "guide" -lines. They are meant to help direct you. Even if you find some form of the guidelines elsewhere,
they may be outdated.

I've even had agents send submissions with male protagonists!

Got anything that you are burning to say on the subject?

I used to do a weekly e-newsletter -- one of the (maybe *the*) first weekly email newsletters -- that featured horror markets. Like any other market maven, I consistently told writers to read the guidelines and follow them. That is repeated in any advice for writers anywhere. If you haven't run across it, then you probably
need to learn more about publishing before you try to get published.

I understand, though, honest mistakes. Maybe it just wasn't clear enough before. That's why it is now "un-missable."

Perhaps what really bothers me is that so many people are so determined to become published authors -- yet they do absolutely no research. There's a tremendous amount of free information online and in books in your library (and, of course, in books that you can buy), yet it evidently never occurs to them to look for it.

Not reading guidelines is really the least of it. Over the years, I've seen abject ignorance about any aspect of writing and being published. There's nothing wrong with being ignorant! But there is something wrong with remaining ignorant when you can so easily become relatively knowledgeable.

Maybe I rant about this because 13 years ago I knew absolutely nothing, zero, zilch, nada about publishing or any genre. Totally ignorant. I learned. I read and asked dumb questions and kind people answered them. I made stupid mistakes and learned from them.

I guess I just can't imagine anyone NOT doing the simplest research.

End of rant.

This last year has been a huge learning experience for everyone involved with Juno Books. I imagine if we'd known how much we didn't know, we would never have started. But if we weren't open to admitting we needed to know more -- and learning it and adjusting -- we would never have gotten this far. I suspect we still have a great
deal to learn, but I also know we have the capacity to continue to acquire knowledge and apply it.

Read more of Paula Guran's interviews at Dee and dee Dish About Books and League of Reluctant Adults, and I found another one at Speculative Romance Online.


Tia Nevitt said...

Thank you, Paula, for participating in Fantasy Debut's first-ever editor interview. I hope you didn't find any of my questions impertinent.

Katie said...

wow. this is so great Tia! Congrats on your first ever editor interview. Very cool. :) I stop by the Juno book blog from time to time and she (Paula) always has good posts up about Juno or publishing in general.

Tia Nevitt said...

Thank you! Paula is in my Google Reader now.