Almost as exciting as the thrill of discovering a new science fiction romance is the discovery of a publisher that releases books in the sub-genre.
Enter Desert Breeze Publishing, which opened its doors at the tail end of 2008. I first blogged about Desert Breeze in December 2008. The company publishes romance ebooks in multiple sub-genres. What distinguishes Desert Breeze from other digital romance publishers is its decision to exclude erotica and erotic romances from its offerings (and authors of GLBT/multiple partners/BDSM romances should look elsewhere).
It’s an interesting niche to exploit, and of course the fact that the company has been actively seeking science fiction romance stories piqued my curiosity from the start. However, as a new publisher, Desert Breeze also has much to prove to both readers and authors. When Skiffy Rommer Natalie Hatch alerted me about this interview, I decided there’s no time like the present to blog about the publisher in more detail.
While giving the company’s Web site a closer look, I discovered that the information raised some questions for me. In light of that, I contacted owner and Editor-in-Chief Gail Delaney (author of THE PHOENIX REBELLION) and asked her to make the case as to why aspiring and established science fiction romance authors should submit their works to Desert Breeze Publishing, and why readers should purchase its titles.
The Galaxy Express: Desert Breeze has expressed a strong interest in acquiring science fiction romance titles. Are there any specific story elements or types you’d like to see (e.g., space opera, post-apocalyptic, steampunk, superhuman, etc.)? Are there any overused tropes or clichés you’d like to avoid encountering in manuscript submissions (from either the SF or romance side)?
Gail Delaney: I am a firm believer that to truly give justice to science fiction, you need to do it on a grand scale – either a novel of substantial length or better yet, a series. I love space operas and post-apocalyptic themes. I haven't read much steampunk myself, but that being said, I'm not opposed to being 'won over' by the right submission. I want to see science fiction that has been clearly thought out, researched to the extent that the science and the story are plausible, and I want strong character-driven storylines.
As far as things I don't want to see…
Science fiction isn't about how bizarre or 'out there' you can make your settings or cast of characters. It's about well developed storylines and elegant story arcs that draw the reader into the book. Not – and no pun intended – to alienate them by making the setting so bizarre they can't get past it to enjoy the book.
I also don't want zoomorphism when the author creates their alien races. Making a man look like a cat, or a dog, or a lizard doesn't convince me they're alien. However, if you provide a humanoid-type race that has branched off to some other evolutionary branch than humans that provide them with psychic abilities beyond the capability of humankind – that I can accept. Or different physical traits due to different environmental influences. That I can see as well. But just adding animal characteristics isn't appealing to me.
On the romance side, my greatest pet peeve is the 'misunderstanding' as a ploy to keep two characters apart. If half a book of angst could have been solved by one character asking the other a simple question… or by clarifying a point… but they don't… that I just find frustrating as a reader.
At Desert Breeze, we're also looking for books that focus on the development of the relationship between the characters. I don't want their growing relationship to be solely based on their physical need for each other. There is no doubt that physical attraction is a necessity when building a romance – but it shouldn't be the sole focus.
TGE: Please name a few of your favorite science fiction romance titles. What is it about these stories that appeal to you?
GD: I'm going back a few years, but I really enjoyed the 2176 Series of books, which were written by several different authors in the genre, including Susan Grant, Liz Maverick, Patti O'Shea and Kathleen Nance. I enjoy novels that explore the potential of our future as the human race should certain twists occur in history. The 2176 series does a very good job of doing that.
I also generally enjoy Linnea Sinclair. She writes intriguing science fiction with a nice balance of romance.
I also enjoy the Underground series by Esther Mitchell. Her stories are gritty with an edge that keeps me completely enthralled. I also like the way the relationship between her characters don't begin and end with any given book – but they are allowed to grow and change, sometimes almost to the point of breaking, through the course of the series.
TGE: Please tell us about your editing background.
GD: I began just as a critique partner for several other authors many years ago. I've studied creative writing and English, so I was able to help my peers with several aspects of their writing – including structural changes such as passive voice etc, to make their writing stronger.
After becoming published myself, I was offered a position as a staff editor for a publishing company. After several months working as a general staff editor, I was promoted to Executive Editor and Acquisitions Editor (Specifically for the science fiction and futuristic lines). Unfortunately, my time in that position ended abruptly when the publishing company unexpectedly closed and filed bankruptcy.
Now, I wear several hats… including Editor-In-Chief and Acquisitions Editor. I've been told by more than one author that I edit their books like no other editor they've ever had. I don't believe that editing ends with fixing typos or bad grammar. Editing a book involves buffing and polishing that book to a fine shine.
TGE: How would you describe the Desert Breeze Publishing brand?
GD: It wasn't the tagline we originally began with, but over the months I've begun to use this phrase more and more… 'Desert Breeze Publishing… classic romance in not so classic settings'.
In the last few years, the concept of 'romance' has evolved into highly explicit, highly erotic tales of how quickly and how often two (or more) characters can get into bed. And I'm not about to argue the popularity of these novels. But, we want to offer books that are character-driven stories of the growth of two people – together – as they fall in love and build something better with two. Sometimes, they're werewolves. Sometimes, they're vampires. Sometimes, they're aliens from a planet not so different from Earth. Sometimes, they're just regular people. Thus the 'not so classic' part of our statement.
TGE: What is your specific plan regarding harnessing social media resources to raise the visibility of your brand online? In other words, how will science fiction romance readers and authors know where to find Desert Breeze Publishing? Please provide specific examples of the tools that you have already used. Feel free to provide existing links demonstrating the company’s online presence.
GD: One of the biggest challenges in using social media is determining what really works, and what doesn't. What once worked, what's working now, and staying on the lookout for potential resources in the future.
For instance, Yahoo Groups is a dying beast. It's great for us to use to keep in contact with our authors, but as a promotional tool, it has lost its effectiveness. MySpace provides a spot for people to look… but it's not successfully interactive. The current 'winner' is Facebook because of the ease of use and ability to interact actively with our 'fans' and readers. (Desert Breeze Facebook page)
We are always seeking potential places to attract readers, and do not limit ourselves to online media to do so. We are currently looking into some print magazines for the genre – specifically science fiction – and hope to have some print ads in the future.
TGE: In general, how much marketing and promotion do you expect authors to execute?
GD: It once was an accepted myth that once the author put pen to ink on a contract, the publisher would take it from there. And perhaps once upon a time that was true, but even in 'traditional' publishing, that is no longer the case. Authors need to make themselves visible, and since people have become so intricately linked to the Internet, they expect to be able to connect on some personal level with authors.
My minimum requirement is a well planned, executed and maintained web site. An ebook author MUST have an online presence with a website. Beyond that, I strongly recommend social media such as Facebook, Twitter and/or a blog. Some of my authors have begun doing monthly newsletters with great success.
Another great way to promote is to cross-promote. Organic advertising. Interview another author on your blog. You link to them and they link to you. Post comments at blogs. Follow authors. The more you're out there, the more people see you.
I do not expect my authors to put out large chunks of money for advertising and promotion. The truth is that very few people – whether in ebooks or traditional publishing – make a lot of money as an author. There are avenues and resources to be used for promotion that won't break the bank.
We are very communicative with our authors, and encourage them to share with their peers anything they may find that works for them. Or new resources they've discovered. The best way to learn in this business is to learn from each other.
TGE: In the FAQs, Desert Breeze states that “we do not consider the terms of the contract negotiable. No changes will be made to any contract clauses.” Why is that? I was surprised to read that, especially in light of the fact that other well-known digital publishers are open to negotiation on at least some of the terms.
GD: Just as there are some companies that will negotiate their contract, there is probably a comparable amount that will not. Our business model at this time – as a newer company – is to be consistent with our contract for all our authors. The only time our contract is changed is when we contract an author who has representation with an agent simply because certain stipulations must be made to allow them to meet their contractual obligations to their agents.
I do not make decisions regarding the running of my company based on what others do, I base it on what is best for us and for our authors. As an author first, I view everything I do from both sides of the table. How would I feel about this decision as an author? How is it beneficial to me as an author and as a business owner?
Have I had authors choose not to sign with us because of my firm stance on this? Yes. But in truth, the number is miniscule in comparison to the authors who have chosen to be with us because of our philosophies and benefits as a whole. When we developed our contract, we applied that same philosophy. Every point is designed to benefit everyone involved. And while I won't change the wording, I will discuss our decision to have a certain point applied to the contract with any author offered a contract.
TGE: Regarding royalties, the FAQ states that “All books sold via our storefront will pay the author 35% of net…” Why net and not a percentage of the original cover price?
GD: This comes down to number crunching and the fact that different third party distributors take different sized pieces of the pie. In the case of the particular percentage you quote, this is applicable to all sales from our storefront. In this case, net IS gross. We don't have to give anyone else any part of that book sale. So, if your book sells for $5.99 at our storefront, Desert Breeze 'nets' $5.99 and you get 35% of that.
When we sell books at another site – just as an example, let's say Books on Board – the book sells for the same price to the reader. But BoB takes a 50% commission on each book sold… which means that Desert Breeze Publishing receives $3.00 rather than $5.99. We pay 40% of that $3.00 to our authors. The compromise we offer with the net being lower here is that the author gets more of that particular piece of pie we're left with. 40% versus 35%.
The truth of it is that we – and other publishers – are businesses. While we all – publishers and authors included – would love to be rolling in the dough, the reality of it is that we have to find a balance that keeps us running. If we can't run, no one sells books.
TGE: On the Submissions page, you state that you are not seeking novellas or shorts at this time. Why not? Are you going to consider releasing any science fiction romance anthologies in the future?
GD: This is actually going to change in the future. As of right now, I've stopped reviewing submissions for a short time. We are solidly scheduled through all of 2010. When I open submissions again – some time around July of 2010 – I am going to open up options for novellas. Science fiction anthologies will be themed, and for now, I am doing them on a by invitation basis. In fact, we will have an anthology titled Borealis that will release in October 2010.
TGE: Have you released any science fiction romance titles yet? If so, please tell us about them. Are there any forthcoming titles?
GD: As of January 2010, we are actively releasing two science fiction series. The first is the Chronicles of Kassouk series written by Vijaya Schartz. The first book, White Tiger, was released in August of 2009 and the second book in the series, Red Leopard, will release in April of 2010. Kassouk is set on a far away planet where Humans have colonized, but we aren't recognizable as the human society that left Earth… and we are now governed by an alien race known as the Godds.
I have also re-released a futuristic series I wrote with another publisher (the publisher who I mentioned earlier that filed bankruptcy). The series name is The Phoenix Rebellion and is mostly on Earth in our not too distant future.
P.I. Barrington is writing a near-future/suspense series called Future Imperfect set on Earth in the near future. The first book, Crucifying Angel, is available now and has received some truly wonderful critical acclaim, and the second book, Miraculous Deception, will release in June of 2010.
Coming in 2010 is a series by Jennifer Hartz called Future Savior that will release throughout 2010, 2011 into 2012 and has a strong fantasy/Christian theme that we are very excited about releasing.
As I mentioned, we are solidly booked for 2010 but as we open submissions again I would love to see us have a science fiction romance release nearly every month.
TGE: Is there anything else about Desert Breeze Publishing that you would like to share?
GD: Goodness, I fell like I've rambled on quite enough. :)
Thank you so much for having me, and for opening your blog up for this interview. I invite anyone who has any questions or would like to know anything at all to feel free and email me at EditorInChief@DesertBreezePublishing.com
Ms. Delaney, thank you very much for taking the time to answer my questions.
Additional Information about Desert Breeze Publishing
Desert Breeze Blog
Desert Breeze on MySpace
Desert Breeze on Facebook
Desert Breeze Connections Yahoo group
An Interview with Desert Breeze Publishing