I don’t usually post author interviews, but Maria Zannini’s Touch of Fire is somewhat of a special case. Touch of Fire is the first book I have critiqued all the way through that has made it to publication. Though I haven’t had a chance to read the polished version yet, I enjoyed the early version and am sure the polished one will be even better with her edits. I can tell you that Maria has talent in droves as well as the drive to get things accomplished, as shown from her book now available as an ebook and as a paperbound in Winter 2009. I will post a review when I get my hard copy, or maybe sooner depending. (I’m getting a new Palm that makes reading ebooks easier.) It will be worth your while to wander over to Samhain Publishing and check out this fantasy romance novel. Maria also offers marketing information, interviews, and fun anecdotes on her blog, experience that led her to take over the newsletter for Online Writers Workshop. (Links to the novel and Maria’s site are at the end of the post.)
The other reason for the interview is as an extension of one of the panels I was on at BayCon (a science fiction reading, watching, writing, costuming, filking, and what have you convention in the Bay Area, CA, that I’ve gone to for years). I was asked to talk about small press, something I have some experience with since I copyedit for Dragon Tooth Fantasy Ebooks, and my short stories were all published by small presses. However, I have no novel experience as an author. With that in mind, I asked Maria to tell us a little about her recent encounter with a small press that led to the start of her career as a novelist.
How did you find your publisher? What led you to submit to Samhain?
It was a complete fluke! A friend of mine told me about a hook contest Samhain Publishing was running. I had five whole lines, but that’s all I needed. Once my submission was chosen as a finalist, I offered the editor a partial. Well, wouldn’t you know it, she wanted the whole thing! I burned up my keyboard getting her a full manuscript in five weeks.
What would you say is the highlight of your experience working with your publisher?
It’s definitely been the editing. My initial fear was that an e-publisher might not have the same diligence in editing as a traditional publisher, but that was far from the truth. My editor was no soft sell. The book went through two full edit passes with her and then it went on to a line editor who made sure my threads were complete and I made no silly mistakes.
What would you say has been the hardest part?
LOL! For me, that would have to be the cover art. I loved it, but I was on pins and needles while waiting for the cover concept. Since I’m also an artist, I tried to be very specific on what I wanted to see. The artist, Anne Caine was terrific and she tolerated me like a saint. I was very happy with the final version.
Can you describe some of the marketing plans for Touch of Fire?
The marketing director at Samhain constantly updates the authors on promotional opportunities, advertising specials, book tours and conferences. Having spoken to a few of my friends who are published through traditional publishers, I know that’s not always the case. Many times the author is on his own. With Samhain, it’s still up to the author to do the legwork, but I appreciate having someone on the inside telling me what’s available.
My personal marketing plans for TOUCH OF FIRE include blog tours, business cards, workshop presentations, and a little advertising. I look specifically at the quality of the marketing as opposed to the quantity. As I get closer to the print release of the book, I will probably boost my web presence and increase my appearances.
What are your plans going forward with this publisher?
I don’t like to plan too far ahead because publishing is in such enormous flux. Traditional publishing houses are now including very specific contract clauses for ebook versions of their print books, so I suspect there might be more competition with the smaller presses in years to come. But there will definitely be other books through Samhain. They’ve treated me very well.
Making the choice to go small press vs. large press is a difficult one for many writers because they don’t understand the difference and the pluses and minuses. What advice would you offer a writer on the verge of making this call?
A lot depends on your comfort level. Small press can be pretty beneficial, especially to new writers. Not only do they take more interest in your welfare, but they’re more hands on. In my case, TOUCH OF FIRE not only comes out in ebook, but it will go to print in Winter 2009, selling in traditional brick and mortar stores.
While some authors with big presses have the luxury of PR and extra ARCs, it’s almost always for established authors or those with power agents. So in the end, I think most of us are still in the same boat. We have the same obstacles and opportunities as anyone else in that store. A lot depends on how much effort the individual author puts in.
Anything else you want to share?
I had my reservations in the beginning about small presses, but it’s been a good experience for me. When you’re brand new and that amniotic fluid is dripping all around your feet, it’s nice to know there’s someone there to show you the ropes. I feel protected and more importantly to me, I feel in control. I like that.
Buying information: http://www.mybookstoreandmore.com/product_info.php?products_id=973
Publisher information: http://samhainpublishing.com/romance/touch-of-fire
MySpace Page: http://www.myspace.com/mariazannini
OWW newsletter: http://sff.onlinewritingworkshop.com/index_newsletter.html