Also, the hugeamous blog tour starts today *snoopy dances more* Double W00T!!!! And here at mah Place, it begins with the official ribbon cutting which I am so vera excited about. Vera vera. *more with the snoopy dances and the W00TS*
Let's get this Place a rockin' with a big ol' sit chat and a big ol' welcome to the awesome behind Riptide!
Hi guys! Welcome to my Place, make yourselves comfortable. I’m soooo excited you’re all here. Welcome back Aleks *smiles*, and yaaaaay Rachel… you’re finally here and I get to interview you! And Chris, so nice to meet you finally after all this talking we’ve done!
Rachel: Verra, verra excited to be here, as a certain someone might say ;-) You know I love the Place!
Aleks: Hah, brilliant. I love coming back to share the awesome news with you (and your readers!).
Chris: Thank you so much, Amara. I'm excited to be here with my partners in publishing. They usually have me in the back office working on schedules. Nice to come to such a nice, cozy Place.
I’m so over the top excited about this venture you guys. Seriously. You’re going to rock so hard. So tell me, tell me… what brought this about? Why did you start Riptide?
Rachel: In formal terms, we were responding to market conditions: we saw a need, and we decided we had the skill, the passion, and the business acumen to fill it. By which I mean we’d long been searching for a publishing house that offered top-notch editing, beautiful covers, author-friendly contracts, and great marketing all in one package; and that would also publish not just gay romance or gay erotica but also great gay and trans fiction of all stripes and in all lengths.
Aleks: As the German saying goes “opportunity makes thieves”. While Rachel and I were discussing self-publishing, we suddenly realized we had all the skills to be a “proper” publisher ourselves. Now, I’d played with the idea for a year or two, but suddenly the stars just all aligned—once we decided “yep, we can do this and we want to” we got all the other missing skills on board (covering the tech and marketing sides). All of a sudden, everything fit together. I kinda decided it’s a sign the gods are smiling on this venture and really want another high-quality gay/trans* fiction publisher out there that is a good home for its authors, and who am I to resist the gods? (You get smited? Smoted? Errr, thunderstruck for that. Bad idea.)
*laughs* Yeah, getting smited or… smoted… that would be bad. None of that please. We need you guys around for the books of awesome. *winks* Seriously though, I’m very excited you all are doing this. We definitely need some high quality gay and trans books. There is not enough out there. So, how did the 3 of you hook up and put this little dream team together?
Rachel: Aleks and I actually met about a year ago over a discussion of sexism. We sort of quickly discovered we were twin souls, not just as authors and readers but in a great many aspects in life. We got internet-married about six months later (but shhh, don’t tell his partner!), and have basically been inseparable ever since. He was a natural choice for co-launching a business like Riptide: brilliant, experienced, knowledgeable about craft and the industry, well connected, impassioned, and one of my very favorite people in the world to spend huge swaths of time with.
It was Aleks who introduced me to Chris, sometime around, oh, January or so. I looked on with envy as she walked authors (who were sadly not me) through the marketing process, getting their books and their names out there with what seemed like downright casual ease. Then I had the pleasure of working with her for a brief time myself, and that experience confirmed two things for me: 1) She is very, very good at what she does; and 2) The right kind of exposure can sell you more books in a week than you’d sold the whole last year combined. So when the Riptide idea was born, asking Chris to come onboard was a total no-brainer.
Aleks: Rachel burst onto the scene with Songs of the Fallen: Counterpoint, which made her ping up on my radar. Her enthusiasm and personality drew me in, and once I read her books, I realized what a huge talent she is. Also, in terms of marketing and business acumen, she runs circles around just anybody else I know. After I realized just how capable and cool she is, we became beta-readers (and wow, did she kick the shit out of my manuscripts and lazy habits – she’s a book doctor, too), then co-writers, and we kinda ended up hanging out together all the time anyway, brainstorming, sharing the dirt on the industry, sharing submission calls, the works.
I knew Chris from elsewhere (apparently I’m the “guy who knows everybody”, according to my partners… which seems my second biggest talent; it’s weird how natural making contacts and connecting the right people with each other is for me). I knew how good she is at promoting and keeping everything organized while guiding authors gently but firmly, she became available and I pounced. Rachel and I made her an offer She Couldn’t Refuse.
Chris – I've known Aleks the writer from afar, as I'm a huge fan. I knew of Rachel and had read Anchored, so from that standpoint, they weren't unknown to me. I was taken aback when Aleks im'd me one day and asked me to join him in a chat room. When I got there, Rachel was there and Aleks gave her the floor. Rachel prefaced the conversation with compliments about my marketing experience and then invited me to join them as a partner in the Riptide venture.
I got the low-down on their concept, vision, and what they saw as the future of their endeavors. I was between jobs and jumped at the chance to work with them, and here we are.
Nice. Now… I’m curious, how’d you come up with the name? It’s perfect!
Rachel:We did a lot of brainstorming, and frankly came up with some pretty silly things. (Actually, we have a big document full of failed taglines that we’ll share with ya’all some day, including gems like “Now with 50% More Tentacles,” which, oddly, actually turned out to be true.) In the end, it was Aleks who hit on the name Riptide, and I fell instantly in love with it. It carries such power, such a sense of masculinity. A force of nature you’re powerless to resist—a current that sucks you right in. And, as you can see, it certainly lets us riff on the ocean theme!
Aleks: It just struck me. I looked at all the other names in the industry and I have to admit I don’t like very many of them (and none enough that I’d go down a similar route). They are either hard to pronounce, kinda meh, really only focused on the sex (I’m still waiting for Orgasm Press, Jerky Cock Books, and Vaginal Spasm Publishing) or “high-concept”, means their names don’t really mean anything at all to the casual reader. Other names are really twee and somewhat embarrassing.
*Amara chokes on her coffee*
I wanted something that pulls you in. Something that expresses the raw power behind the team we have assembled. Something dynamic, powerful, masculine, new, different, fresh, and compelling. Bang, there it was: Riptide. When the domain was free, we grabbed it. And the others loved it, too, which is important. The name/idea informs everything, from all the in-jokes (“Get wet!” and other stupid taglines we threw around) to the design of the website. It’s still the source for jokes and such. Seems nobody can write an email to the rest of the team without using nautical images (“Let’s get her on board!”, “Wow, I’m drowning in interview requests!” and so on).
Well, gotta say I’m awfully glad you stayed away from “Vaginal Spasm Publishing”. *laughs* *shakes head* OMG you kill me. *whispers* Dooood. I’m trying to do a for realz interview here. *tries to regain some composure and look serious*
Ok. I’ve been watching you guys, little stalker that I am, and wow, you have been sooooo busy, what with the submissions, editing and all the promo stuff. Are you having fun among all that hard work? Best/ most fun part of it for you?
Rachel:It is definitely hard work—I’ve been putting in 80-hour weeks for months now, not a single day off, no vacation in sight—but you will never hear me complain about it. (I save all the bitching for Chris and Aleks ;-p) The reason for that is that I absolutely love what we’re doing here, and I am humbled and privileged to be working with such amazing authors and artists and editors. This may sound corny, but I think the best part is actually having an excuse to spend so very much time with my partners, whom I love dearly. The second-best part is a tie between getting to see our authors’ books months before everyone else, and getting to help our authors improve their books and their overall craft and, by extension, the genre we all love so much.
Aleks: Oh, if we didn’t have fun, we wouldn’t be doing this. (And of course, you don’t mess with the gods.) But seriously, yes, I’m having fun. I’m the “guy who knows everybody” anyway, so acquiring new authors and talking to “our” authors is natural to me. I’ve been teaching creative writing for around ten years and I work as a business editor after my four years in journalism. So writing, editing, and getting stuff ready for production before the deadline is what I’ve been doing anyway, and I very much enjoy coaching writers. At Riptide, I can do what I love and get paid for it—at least once the press is making money.
There are so many rewarding aspects of it all, but building a business with a great team and providing a good home for authors is huge. Putting out great books and helping authors with their careers is very rewarding.
Chris – I'm having a blast, but no doubt about it, it is hard work—sometimes fourteen to sixteen hours a day. The lists I have are unreal and the three of us keep our talk windows open for quick questions. It's an amazing experience getting to know bloggers and having them so excited to participate in our launch. We can sense the great need for what Riptide offers the genre of gay fiction and all that I've read convinces me that we have some of the best.
A major bit of fun and reward is our authors. We have a First Wave that is top notch. I deal with each and every one on a daily basis and they've never told me to take a flying leap when I've asked them to answer literally hundreds of interview questions for this blog tour. They've all worked so hard to meet my deadlines and then written to ask if there is anything else they can do. I truly love them all and they make my job so much easier.
*nods* That’s awesome. What’s been the biggest obstacle or challenge?
Rachel: No question: time. I hear that clock ticking louder and louder each day. Good thing I work best under pressure J
Aleks: Working out procedures and the Best Way To Do Things. Building a business from scratch is a bit like assembling a Lamborghini from parts. It’s a huge project, every nut and bolt has to have its place and you don’t want any leftover pieces when you get in the car to take it for a spin. Thankfully, Rachel is a natural-born CEO and I’m a natural-born second-in-command. There’s no conflict there, so everybody just takes their role and is happy there. So, yep, the complexity of the task. If you’re building a business, you have to do it right (for the sake of our authors and the sake of the team), which includes business plans and money calculations and distribution of labor, and celebrating successes and dealing with setbacks if and when they happen. Personally, I refer to this as my third career, so my time management skills have been stretched to the limit. Being full-time employed and also still writing my own stories while serving Riptide—all that makes for a long, full day.
Chris - Undoubtedly, not having enough hours in the day. I have to balance family time with work, but as long as I have my trusty laptop, I can work even while we're watching evening television.
A publisher with standards as high as Riptide's doesn't simply set up shop and begin releasing books right out of the gate. We've been working on every aspect of this business for months, honing everything to perfection. The conversation we had on taglines comes to mind. We spend two or three days discussing taglines – writing them down on a shared Google doc, laughing when Aleks got raunchy or when Wet Dream was suggested for our shorts and it oddly stuck. I think I got one or two in there, and as it turns out, we're using several of them in various places because we didn't want to part with them.
Ha! Love it. So, really guys, there’s a lot of publishers out there. What sets Riptide apart from the rest?
Rachel: Our focus on quality. We are relentless in the editing process—just ask any one of the authors who’ve already been through it. If they’re still crying/rocking in a corner/sucking their thumb, just give them a gentle nudge ;-) To the last, they’ll tell you they’ve never been edited quite so thoroughly or well, and have never learned or grown as much in the editing process as they’ve learned and grown with us. Or at least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it J
That’s a lot of talk about authors, I know, but in the end, all that editing translates to a better book for the reader. A better read, a better experience, a story you’ll want to pick up again and again. No plot holes, no characters who are TSTL, no giant expository info-dumps, no stilted dialog, no awful typos ;-) And since it’d be a crying shame to take a gleaming manuscript and wedge it between ugly covers, we also work hard to offer gorgeous cover art and beautiful interior layouts.
Aleks: Rachel mentioned the quality and the editing. I want to add: our sense of fun and our fair treatment of everybody, from cover artist to author to reader. We’re not taking advantage of anybody, we pay the highest royalties in the industry, we have excellent covers and we’ll never treat readers like idjits who can’t tell a good book from a bad book. We don’t believe that gay (or trans*) sex in a book is enough to sell it. I think readers are getting tired of all the shoddy books out there. In the end, we’re proud of what we’re doing and we support our authors in building a career. We’re hoping to be their long-term partner—not just for a book.
It’s an interesting beast. We’re all fun and approachable and sometimes plain silly (just follow us on Twitter—plenty of goofing off going on there), and we’re laughing a lot and have huge ambitions, but all this is rock-solid and backed up with real skill, many years of experience and some damn high standards. Among the publishers in our industry, we’re like Google or Apple before they turned into multi-billion dollar businesses (and minus the scary bits of either). Loads of fun, new ways of doing things, and we haven’t even started yet. We have Big Plans.
Chris: What sets Riptide apart is the degree to which we go to make the Riptide experience a rewarding one for our authors and readers. Some publishers have promotions directors, but the promotion centers on the house. At Riptide, we go the extra two miles for our authors. With each release, the author will embark on at least a week-long blog tour, arranged by me. They’ll visit blogs with high traffic and receive a great deal of exposure right from the start.
We’ll have a presence on major review sites and the Riptide staff will arrange for author chats and interviews, freeing our authors to do what they do best—write. We are committed to promotion with and for our authors—something quite different from most epublishing houses.
Each story, be it a short of 5,000 words or a tome of 100,000 words, receives scrupulous editing. Our editing isn't for the faint of heart, and if an author has thin skin, maybe they ought not accept the invitation to submit Riptide. However, at the end of the process, they will have a story they can be proud of—from the cover to the last period on the last page. I guarantee that everyone walks away from the edits a better writer.
Aleks and Rachel have knowledge of the publishing business and business in general. They research the market, and they know the genre inside and out. Rachel is such a savvy business person, it's astounding how her mind works. She's tough and demanding, but never asks anyone to do anything she won't do herself. Aleks is out there talking to folks on Goodreads and Twitter while balancing a full time day job, edits, and writing, and he still has time to answer any question I ask, or advise on something. He's a great cheerleader too, always telling us what a great job we're doing.
I’m not quite sure what they'd say about me, though, because I've really added to their workload with interviews and blog posts for the tour. I kind of came in, guns blazing, and put everyone to work.
What advice would you give to authors that hope to publish with Riptide?
Rachel:Craft, craft, craft. Stories are a dime a dozen, but a strong voice is a precious gem. I don’t care how brilliant your idea is; if your prose is not in absolute tip-top shape, you won’t get past the submission box.
Aleks: Please, don’t rush your submission to us. We expect fully-edited stories that are the best that you can make it. Give us your best work—editing will tickle out the rest and make it even better. If the story is meh and the craft has huge issues, we will send a—helpful, constructive—rejection, or a “revise and resubmit” letter. I’m rejecting and R&R’ing about 50% of what we’re getting. We’re not playing around, we look at any story on its own merits, even if they come from Big Names. And—if you’re not ready and willing to get edited to the bone, don’t submit anything to us. Even the best author needs editing, and, having been through the editing process at Riptide myself, it is a humbling experience, but it’s made me already a better writer.
Chris: If you get the call, it's because one or more of us has read your work and liked it, then added you to our list of potentials. My advice—when you get the call, bring you’re A-game. Polish, polish, polish. No story is bought with the idea that it can be fixed to be its best. If there are fatal flaws, you'll get one of Aleks' letters detailing the flaws. We want only the best and that will never be compromised.
What's your dream-team author that you would LOVE to sign on at Riptide, but seems totally beyond unlikely?
Rachel: Josh Lanyon for me. He’s brilliant, funny, savvy, successful, and just plain nice. He does a lot of good for this genre, and I love books that straddle the line between romance and something else. When an author’s book could just as easily be shelved in the mystery section as in the gay romance section (well, the theoretical gay romance section, sadly), I’m much more likely to enjoy it than a straight-up romance. And boy does Josh do that well.
Aleks: Oh dear, what a question. I’ve been in touch with some of those and do hope that some will send subs once they are done with their current projects. My wishlist – the “oh gods, please” list, as I call it is, in no particular order: Kirby Crow, Manna Francis, Kate Cotoner, Erastes, Alex Beecroft, Jamie Craig, Josh Lanyon, J.S. Cook, Barbara Sheridan, Heidi Cullinan, just to name a few. (My list has around 20-30 names.) Actually, all those authors are also “auto-buy” authors. If I can recruit 50% of those, I’d die an accomplished, very happy publisher. I did say we had big ambitions. But I’d be just as happy to find Hot New Talent out there, and we have a great mix of established old hands and fresh new voices in our First and the soon-to-be-announced Second Wave of authors.
Chris: I'd love to see Erastes and Alex Beecroft as part of our Riptide family. Damn, those two can write!
Oooohhh. What great additions they would make! Wow.
Alright, so how many books do you plan to release each month?
Rachel: We’re a small press and always will be, because quality takes a lot of time. Even a 5,000-word short is likely to spend about 10 hours in edits. A 100,000-word novel is likely to spend more like 150 to 200 hours in edits. Since we only have three editors on staff, we can’t exactly bang out five books a week. Our 2011 release schedule is fairly busy—we’re putting out fifteen titles between October 30 and December 19—but starting in 2012, we plan to release about 100,000 words a month, however that might shake out. So that might mean one novel, one novella, and one short, or three novellas and a couple shorts, or whatever.
Aleks: As much as we can put out without cutting corners on the quality, so right now about 2-4 releases a month, I’d say. The crucial bottleneck is in editors. There are very few people who can do both developmental editing and line-editing in our industry. Rachel and I work so well together on a story because we’re Siamese brain-twins. Anybody we’d bring on board would have to see things similar to us. Thankfully, we’ll be joined by a third editor in November who fits the bill, and I’m in talks with a freelancer or three to take some of the workload. Once we can grow in a sustainable way, we will. But a great many businesses go under not in the start-up phase but when they start to grow and end up growing faster than they can support, so we are very watchful of that.
Will you be offering print books? Or are you going to be strictly ebook? *whispers* say yes print books please *grins*
Rachel: We will. No hard dates for when we’ll be starting, but our print program will be in full swing by next summer. At that point, books long enough to go to print (60K+) will be released simultaneously in print and ebook. All our collections will go to print too, and we’ll do open calls for those, so it’s a great way to become a Riptide author. We’ll also release shorter books in print from time to time based on a number of factors.
Aleks: Yep. The business plan says mid-2012. All the research has been done and we’ve crunched the numbers. We do like print, a lot, and think many readers like both print and ebooks.
Oh, you know that excites me. I just want it to be known that I’ll be wanting them all. Signed please. Let’s just call this a standing order. *winks*
What’s one thing you want everyone to know about Riptide?
Rachel:You’re gonna love it here :)
Aleks: Yes, making great books is as much fun as it looks. :)
Chris: We're here to stay!
Ha! Awesome. I’m so excited you guys. For you, and about you. Thanks for coming to chat. I can’t wait to witness the awesome that is Riptide, you’re definitely rockin’ my sox so far. I’ve said it a gazillion times I think, but I have to say it again… well done guys, congrats to you.
Rachel: Thanks so much, darlin’! All those claymores and hand grenades mean more to us than you may ever know. *hugs!*
Awww, thanks m'dear. *laughs* I'm vera glad to hear that, cuz... you know... I kinda suck at containing them. *hugs*
Aleks: Thank you! We’re humbled and spurred on by all the support we’ve been getting—from authors, readers and bloggers, and seeing how excited everybody is really pushes us harder to deliver on our promises. Thanks so much for highlighting all our authors, the team and the Riptide.
My pleasure darlin'. It's been lots of fun! I am soooo excited to ride this wave. Vera vera! :D
Chris: This has been such fun, I think I'll stay awhile. Okay, maybe not, I hear my friends here reminding me of my spreadsheets and schedules. Amara, you are a lovely host and I'll be lurking about, admiring your adoring following. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all the love and support you shower on Riptide. We promise not to let you or or readers down. *spreads hugs about then slips back into the war room*
You're so welcome honey. We'll have to do this again.
*hugs you all* You guys rock so hard. We’ll need to get together again. This was fun.
Now... go make us all some great books! *smiles* Later taters!!
Okey dokey, now for the next part of the big day... the winners of all those awesome giveaways!!!!
For the daily giveaways...
Day 1 Andrea Speed... -Maria-
Day 2 Peter Hansen... Midia
Day 3 Rachel Haimowitz... Heather C
Day 4: Storm Grant... Alex
Day 5: Brita Addams... Adara
Day 6: Cat Grant... Brenda Cothern Books
Day 7: Damon Suede... jayhjay
Day 8: Aleksandr Voinov... SusieQ_Too
And the winners of the Party Packs....
#1: Swag package...CAS
#2: First Wave Sampler... Beatrice
Congratulations everyone! I posted your names on the party page next to the package or book choice you won. I'll be sending your emails out today and hooking everyone up so you can get all your goodies!
Thanks soooooo much to everyone that came and made my little pre-party such a huge success. It was so great to get to hang out with all of you. And an uber big thanks to Aleks, Rachel and Chris, and all the Riptide authors for letting me host this little shindig. You guys rock so hard. Srsly. You are full of awesome.
Make sure you check out the other pages linked up there on the menu up top, there's all kinds of details about the blog tour. My Place's schedule, all the contests and giveaways, etc. All the Riptide authors will be cruising thru here for the next three months and hanging out for a bit. I'll be doing interviews, posting exclusive excerpts, book reviews, more giveaways. As was with the party, all commenters will also be entered several end of tour giveaway packages as well as the end of tour grand prize giveaway of the Kindle, Nook and iPad.
Much more upcoming Riptide awesome hittin' my Place. Much Much.
I'm off to get ready for my first tour visitor, the lovely Brita Addams. She'll be here on the 3rd and I've still got much to do.
While I'm doing that, the Riptide Blog Tour banners up top and over on the side bar will get you to the Riptide tour page for the other stops.
Have a fantastic day!