Weekend Interview: Paula Guran, Juno Books Editor

1. Aside from the fact that Juno Books is publishing Personal Demons, which is arguably the only thing anyone needs to know, what can you tell us about them?

Well, we do publish OTHER books, too. We publish a variety of fantasy with strong female protagonists. We've just switched from trade paperbacks to mass market paperbacks because we discovered that people are cheap and would rather risk $6.99 than $12.95, even if it does have a nice cover.

2. You post a lot of funny stories about submissions on your blog. Got any others to share? Any pet peeves?

Oh, man...let me put it this way: In the first guidelines I ever wrote, years ago, I requested "erotic horror." With a female editor's name on it and a PO Box...I got some real pervs. I have nothing against pervs--in fact I prefer my close personal friends be perverted -- but this stuff was really skanky.

Most of the really good stories, though, are too long to tell here.

With Juno it's not bad. I just tend to get ticked at one thing. We want novels with female protagonists. Simple. But for some reason a lot of guys -- and until recently it was all males, now I can add one female agent to that list-- think "female protagonist" means male protagonist with female sidekick or whatever. Or that they are the exception to all rules.

There are also those who don't quite get it in other ways. One guy proposed a series with each book featuring a beautiful evil woman. Each "heroine" was avaricious, without a single redeemable quality, and immoral then came to a miserable, unhappy end facing eternal damnation. He was sincere. Really thought it was a great idea. Or,
"Hi, I've written six novels in my trilogy about elves, wizards, dragons, and fairies and so far I have 63,000 words. How much will you pay me?"

3. Everyone hears about pre-orders. Could you explain a little about how important they actually are or are not?

Mmmm. Like for pizza or what? Assuming you mean for books...pre- orders by individuals on Amazon might mean the difference between Amazon taking four copies or 400. Otherwise, other distributors (like Baker & Taylor and Ingram) order from our distributor; the chains (and some other places) also order direct from them. In theory, this means that all these orders should come in long before the release date. This helps us determine how many copies we are going to print. We are especially aware of this right now because Juno is new. We have no track record and are still learning about mass market (and so is our distributor). So we get a little nervous if the buyer at chain A told us months ago he'd take 6000 copies for sure...but no order has ever come in.

But, of course, this is theory. The machine rarely runs smoothly.

Then there are expectations for a certain author. Let's say PERSONAL DEMONS was coming out from Ace. Hey, they are *Ace* and the chains are going to automatically order a certain large number because other Ace titles similar to yours have sold X number of copies. Or say that this was not Stacia Kane's first book. Borders and Barnes & Noble know exactly how many copies of your last novel sold and where. In
most cases, they are going to base how many copies they order on that record.

4. Aside from answering emails from your writers bugging you to do interviews, what is a typical day for you like? Is there even a typical day?

Nope. Other than broadening my beam sitting in front of a computer screen for the most part, it varies. I work from home so that means I work all the time. I do a variety of jobs for Juno. (That's a nice way of saying that, really, there needs to be at least two more people doing this.) I do have to concentrate on a single task at a time to accomplish it sometimes -- like, for instance working with a manuscript. That doesn't mean I won't be interrupted by a phone call or that I may not interrupt myself by doing something like answering these questions instead of what I am supposed to do.

5. What do you think the advantages are of publishing with a smaller press?

You keep me employed?

Okay, past that most important point, the are different advantages for different authors. Our senior-sister imprint, Prime, made its rep by publishing high quality often edge-y fantasy literature. Stuff the biggies wouldn't touch as it wasn't commercial enough. So, those authors would never have been published except for a small press. Of course some of them won awards and got recognition and sold books and
*bingo* the biggies are suddenly interested. Which is cool.

Established authors can use small press for doing something new their regular publisher doesn't want from them or a less-commercial project like a collection.

We are also able to take *some* risks and experiment. Juno's first year was probably too much experimentation; now we have a better idea of what we want, what we feel will sell. But we are still willing to do a book like "AMBERLIGHT" because we believe in it without having to fire ourselves.

First-time authors probably get a better shot at a chance, too. We are publishing a lot of debut writers.

Another advantage is that your book usually gets published on a faster schedule.

And, for us anyway, you actually get edited. That should happen with any publisher big or little, but I'm not sure it is as common as one would hope. I may not be the best editor in the world, but I do care.

Sometimes you can get more attention promotionally from a small press. That being said it is also harder for us to get attention sometimes and we have a limited budget. We do, though, try to be cooperative about complimentary copies and sending out review copies and such.

We also at least consult with the author on cover and cover copy. That doesn't mean the author will win, but we do take their opinions into consideration.

6. Word on the street is that demons are the new black when it comes to urban fantasy. Does that make you feel like a visionary for choosing to publish Personal Demons? What else do you think might be up-and-coming, and what are you starting to feel has worn out its welcome?

Hey, did you know that Kelley Armstrong is publishing a book called PERSONAL DEMON at almost the same time as PERSONAL DEMONS? Weird, huh? I had no idea. Does being clueless mean you are a visionary?

I really have too much to say about where I think urban fantasy is going to say it. Also, since I'm probably one of the few people actually stupid enough to spout off about it, I find things I say are sometimes eerily repeated back to me later. Now, I don't know if this is my great visionary genius or whether stuff just gets passed around until it comes out somewhere else. So, like if I say, "I think that frog princes are the next trend..." and then in a month later someone tells me, "An associate editor at Big New York House tells me they are looking for frog prince novels..."

You tell me? Maybe it is just coincidence? Or maybe it is a real trend?

I do think you are going to see more misguided efforts by publishers who have no idea what they are doing trying to jump on the bandwagon. Instead of reading the stuff and trying to analyze what the readers see in it, they are out there looking for frog prince novels. I think you are already seeing too little attention paid to the quality of the writing, too much of the same thing or an effort to be different
for different's sake with less than spectacular results. Once in awhile now I am coming across something that probably was a convincing pitch, but lacks in execution. You don't know whether that was lack of talent, lack of time, lack of editing...

That being said, there are readers who want the same story over and over and who don't see poor writing as an impediment to the story.

As for wearing out welcomes...you never know. Everyone knew there was no market for vampires in 1974.

7. How important is individual promo for an author? Is there anything you do or don't think is particularly effective, aside from "write a good book"?

You mean author-generated promotion?

Five years ago I would have said it wasn't that important. Ten years ago I would have said most self-promotion was not only ineffective, but actually counterproductive and that you risked being considered unprofessional if you overdid it.

Now I think it is crucial.

Probably nothing that sells a book is totally ineffective, but I do sometimes see authors who spend a lot of money going to conventions in order to "play author." Some cons are more than worth the investment. Others aren't. Same with print ads. There are some effective places to advertise and some that aren't.

I do think having a Web site or blog of some sort is important. It needs to have basic information about you and your work, contact info, look decent, not be full of ranting and raving (unless that's your schtick), and be kept up to date.

8. I'm totally stealing this question from Anton. Why should people pre-order Personal Demons?

Well, it helps on Amazon :-) But if they really want to help, they'll want to rush right out and buy copies as soon as they hit the stores. Your local Borders has three copies? B&N has more? Buy 'em all! Go to every store in town and snatch them up.

Trust me: snatching up the copies is not wasted money or effort. PD is funny and exciting and sexy with great characters you'll love. Well, if you are a total loser you might not like it...but surely everyone here has exquisite taste?

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions, Paula!


Popular posts from this blog

Rangers Lead The Way

Miriam Kriss: Vampire