Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Dish With Paula Guran Editor for Juno Books

I've been thinking for quite some time that I would like to start doing interviews with various people in the publishing world. dee and I already do interviews with authors, but I wanted to take a look at the other aspects of getting books out there as well. Since we at dee & Dee are big advocates of new authors, I thought it fitting to do an interview with a new imprint. So, I e-mailed Juno Editor Paula Guran to get the dish on starting up a new imprint, challenges that may have been faced in doing so, and what they look for when considering a book for publication. So read on for my dish with Paula Guran.

Chari-Dee: Could you tell us a little about Juno Books?

Paula Guran: Juno Books, although very new and still evolving, publishes fantasy
fiction featuring strong female protagonists. We've published thirteen books in the last nine months, all in trade paperback format. We are now moving into a mass market paperback format.

CD: JUNO hit the shelves in November of 2006 as an imprint of Prime Books/Wildside Press, why did they decide to launch such an imprint?

PG: Prime/Wildside had signed up with Diamond Book Distribution to nationally distribute their books. Wildside does mostly classic reprints; they also do a line of SF mass market paperbacks for Dorchester. Prime is critically well regarded for literary fantasy. There was also an imprint then, PointBlank, that did a few crime novels.

In discussion of what they might consider doing as far as books (other than what they were doing) with commercial appeal, the idea of "paranormal romance" came up. I wouldn't say anyone discussing it at that point really had any idea of what "paranormal romance" meant, but they knew it was popular. So, I don't think they really meant Juno Books to be what it is now, but they also didn't mean for it to be what they thought they were saying it was at the beginning.

CD: As the editor for Juno, could you tell us a bit of what your job entails?

PG: I read submissions, acquire books, and edit the books. I sometimes work with an author a little bit more than just "editing." I work with the cover artist to come up with art and with the cover designer. I write cover copy and other marketing copy for catalogs and the like. That is pretty much a normal editorial workload. Beyond that, I also do the Web site, newsletter, and some other promotional work. I do a little more with contracts than most editors. And I do some of the typesetting for
Juno Books titles.

CD: Were you already working for Wildside when they decided to start the

PG: No. They decided to do the BEST NEW PARANORMAL ROMANCE anthology early on and were contracting me to edit it. I was informally giving Sean Wallace a few ideas and trying to explain a little about paranormals.

This was around late March/early April 2006. They wanted to launch right away starting that fall. At that point they had acquired only three or four books. Then I suggested Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's A MORTAL GLAMOUR and, since Quinn is a friend of mine, helped set the deal up. I also suggested Sean look at Lorelei Shannon's RAGS AND OLD IRON. (Turned out Wildside had already done a hardcover of it.)

When it became obvious they needed someone to do the line they still weren't ready to commit to hiring anyone full time person. They hired me then on a per book basis. I would acquire books for them and oversee editing for a ridiculously low fee. That was something of a stopgap measure until I went full time on January 1 this year.

CD: What (if any) have been some of the challenges you have faced in
finding new authors and spreading the word?

PG: We've been fairly lucky in finding authors because we wanted a variety of titles and wanted books that weren't necessarily what the bigger publishers wanted. We also picked up some books to reprint from the 1980s that had been overlooked for the most part when first published. I called on writers I knew, as had Sean.

Then there's the writer-to-writer network. We've really benefited there. Catie Murphy, for example, spoke to me at a convention and then told Gail Dayton about us. Lillian Stewart had been published by Wildside and after I spoke to her, she mentioned us to Carol Nelson Douglas and
Sylvia Kelso...etc.

CD: Were there any surprises you encountered when starting the project?

PG: There are *so* many things I wish had been done differently at the beginning. Starting at least a year in advance to develop and research a line would have saved us from at least a few surprises that could have been avoided. Overall we were too wildly optimistic about a great deal including our ability to literally make that many books. It was a surprise to discover we were human and there are only so many hours in a day you can stay awake and work.

We've learned a great deal in the last year, so that may be another surprise -- how much we still had (and probably yet have) to learn.

One very nice surprise was the "Juno team." Stephen Segal, initially hired to manage Wildside's magazines, became Juno's cover designer. Sean Wallace, handles the production and business end of Juno. They are both in Maryland. I'm in Ohio, but we work very well together as a team. Tim Lantz, our cover artist is another integral part of the effort.

CD: What specifically are you looking for when you consider a book for

PG: Well, a guarantee it would sell a gajillion copies would be good. :-)

The givens are great characters, solid writing and plot, good dialogue,etc., but I think you probably want to know something more specific as to what I, personally, look for. One thing I look for is what makes the book distinct. What sets it apart from other books? What does the book offer a potential reader can't find elsewhere? Another important factor is plausibility: the fantasy world the author has created has to have internal integrity.

As for what *type* of book --

In the beginning here was no focus on what constituted "a Juno Books book," so I took my cue from what they had already acquired -- a variety of fantasy with strong female protagonists -- and went from there. Juno was afforded the luxury of experimentation.

We have a much better idea of what we want now, but I still don't want to slam the door on anything. SF, for example, is not high on my "most desired" list simply because it is not selling well right now, but I don't want to say "no SF" because there may well be something very special along those lines I'd be losing out on if I did.

Similarly, I am looking for more contemporary fantasy with kickassitude heroines, but I hate to stress that because folks may then think that is *all* I am looking for.

Past that . . . One practical issue: I took on a lot of unwritten or incomplete novels for the first year. It was the only way to get as many books as they wanted. Right now, I want completed or near-complete novels if at all possible. So, keep that in mind.

CD: Anything special an author should do when submitting to you?

PG: Read the guidelines. Sounds simple, but too many people don't -- or at least they don't follow them. Some other practical tips:
1) Make sure your name and eddress are on whatever documents you have
2) I like to know something about you as an author, but please don't
send me a lengthy biography or vitae.
3) Be patient. I am the only person reading and I do read everything,
so you may have to wait three months for a reply.
4) Please don't argue with me. If I happen to mention some reasons I
don't feel the ms. is suitable when I reply, please don't write me and
tell me I am wrong and that I should see such-and-such angle differently.
I may very well be wrong. Allow me to be so.

CD: Can you tell us a little about future books that will be
coming out from Juno soon? Any that you are really excited about?

PG: I'm excited about all of them! In trade paperback, you'll soon be seeing WIND FOLLOWER by Carole McDonnell and Gail Dayton's THE ETERNAL ROSE.
This is Carole's first novel and it is unique in many ways, it is a
fantasy that considers race, class, religious, and cultural divisions.
Carole considers it a Christian fantasy, but both of us are afraid to
call it that because it is *nothing* like what people usually consider
Christian fiction.

Gail's book is the final book in a trilogy. The first two volumes
gained many fans when they were published by Luna, but they dropped the
third book. We were thrilled to "save" it. Fans of the first two volumes
will be more than satisfied; new readers will be astounded.

Our first mass market is BLOOD MAGIC by Matt Cook (see, we DO publish
guys). It is written in first person with chapters alternating between
the "now" in and the past providing the back story. The heroine is an
anti-heroine in some respects -- she possesses a dark form of magic she
doesn't completely understand herself. After her twin sister is murdered
she uses that magic to avenge her death and flee. We know from the
first page she's a warrior involved in a bloody war against an inhuman foe
and as that plotline develops we learn simultaneously how she gained
her skills and evolved from a protected, well-bred girl to an
extraordinary women. There's no "romantic" element in the traditional sense, but
a relationship with a fellow soldier and a relationship she develops
with another woman is part of the story.

DANCING WITH WEREWOLVES: What happens when an intelligent veteran
author with a crackerjack sense of humor and a notable talent for mystery
asks herself, "Hmmm. What is it that make these paranormals tick?" Carole
Nelson Douglas figured it out and let her imagination go wild. There
are four or five themes going on here that might each have been
satisfactorily developed as a novel. Carole delivers it all and then some. Her
heroine Delilah Street is addictive. I honestly think this series could
be a best-seller, but we need people -- readers, booksellers, reviewers -- to spread the word.

With AMBERLIGHT by Sylvia Kelso, we have a fight on our hands. This
is a beautifully written feminist fantasy set in a fabulous city with
an unusual matriarchal society built around the women's control of a
unique mineral called qherrique. But one of our major retail channels
has decided, after reading a sample, not to stock the book. We don't
know why. The literary style -- which I find to be quite accessible
although it is a bit more challenging than, say, JK Rowling -- might
not have set well. The feminist aspect might have been problematical
but, again, we don't know if that is true.

Quite bluntly: not every book suits every taste and this is not
particularly a book meant for the average genre fan. It might even
make some males rather uncomfortable. This is a book that deserves to
be published and allowed to find its own audience. We want to publish
it in mass market format because more people will take a chance on a
book costing $6.99. So we are doing some unusual things in order to
get attention. We haven't the money to do a huge campaign, but we
have a firm belief in the book and a willingness to try our damnedest
on its behalf.

We also have some exciting debut novelists being published in early
2008 and I could catch you up on books we've already published...I really
could go on forever...

CD: Any last thoughts on your work so far for Juno?

PG: It's been very satisfying working with Juno Books on a very personal
level as well as professionally. I've been hired to do what I've
discovered I'm good at doing -- or at least I've confirmed to myself I can do
it. It's as if much of what I've been doing the last thirteen years --
and I've done a variety of publishing-related jobs both paid and unpaid
-- has value and meaning. (And that's not something I have always felt
was true.) Plus, I'm mature enough to know that you always have to
learn more. At this point in my life all that is particularly important.
Not everything we hoped would happen so far with Juno Books has happened,
but Juno has a huge potential; I hope I'll be able to help achieve at
least part of it.

I want to thank Paula for taking the time to answer my questions. If you have any you would like answered, feel free to post them here or visit the Juno Editor Blog.

Take Care

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