Today, we welcome Sedonia Guillone from Ai Press. If you’re an erotic romance author keen on traditional publishing, read on.
1. Please tell us a little about Ai Press and how you work.
Ai – pronounced ‘eye’, means love in Japanese. That’s the main theme of the stories I publish. Ai Press is a small, traditional royalty-paying publisher of e-book and trade paperback erotic romances in all sub-genres. I work in the regular way – from an author’s submission, to contract, editing and production to release. Because Ai Press is very small, there is the advantage of working closely with the author in a much more personal environment.
2. Does Ai Press only publish romances that are highly erotic with explicit love scenes, or do you publish tame romances too?
A romance for Ai Press doesn’t have to have a million hot love scenes. However, there should be at least a few in a novel length story. A novella can have 1 – 2 love scenes, but any and all erotic scenes need to blend naturally into the story. They can’t be plunked in for the sake of making the book hotter.
3. I know most traditional publishers receive countless submissions – how do you decide which manuscripts to reject and which to publish?
Mostly, I go on gut instinct. If I have a feeling that an author will be someone readers love, I accept the piece. When I reject a manuscript it’s because the writing is still at the beginning levels and the author really needs to take much more time to hone his/her craft before the story can really be considered.
4. What is/are your pet peeve/s as an editor?
I have two: 1. when an author doesn’t know how to work the reviewing format of MS Word. I have to keep sending the MSS back to them for not having accepted mark-ups. But this is very minor. Eventually, everyone learns how to use it. 2. The other pet peeve bothers me much more. When an author is upset with edits or sales and publicly mentions something on Facebook. Even when they don’t specify what they’re upset about, I always know they’re referring to Ai Press and I get upset. I encourage authors to speak directly to me when they’re bothered by something so we can work it out. If they still don’t come out and I know they’re upset, I’ll contact them personally so we can put the matter to rest.
5. What’s the one thing that will earn an author an instant rejection from Ai Press?
Basically what I mentioned in the earlier question on acceptance. If a manuscript is really in need of so much reconstruction that it’s realistically in the beta-critique partner-revision stage, then I really can’t accept it. A manuscript needs to be as polished as possible in order to prepare it for publication. The only other thing that would earn rejection is if there are unacceptable romantic elements that readers don’t want to read about. The specifics would vary manuscript to manuscript, but one glaring example would be an adulterous relationship between the hero and heroine that mirrors what people go through in real life relationships. If you read romance novels, adulterous situations occur, but the authors handle the circumstances in ways that the spouses involved are not damaged or a family with children broken up. A ‘realistic’ scenario like that in a book takes the book out of the romance genre and puts it more into mainstream/literary fiction where plotlines have more flexibility.
6. How can authors increase the chances that Ai Press will accept their manuscript?
By having a well-told story with well-developed characters and either a happy-after-after (HEA) ending OR happy-for-now (HFN) ending. I can’t emphasise enough, however, the ‘well developed’ part (i.e. deep characters with deep motivations, big hearts who suffer deeply and love deeply). Readers of erotic romance today have LOTS of choices on where to spend their hard-earned dollars when it comes to books. They really want an engaging plot with lovable characters and they won’t be fooled. I have made a few mistakes in this arena, thinking a certain kind of story would attract readers. It didn’t, even with the hot cover, and the main criticism of the story from readers and reviewers was the problem with development. The thing is, I saw the problem during edits and guided the author in that direction, but there was much more work needed to make it up to readers’ standards, so I’ve needed to get much stricter about plot and character development.
On the editor/publisher’s end, it’s also a big plus if you have a really polished manuscript without a lot of the amateur writing problems newer authors commit, such as overuse of dialogue tags, awkward descriptions of characters or scenes not woven artfully into the narrative, clunky phrasing of sentences, a million repetitions of words – all things that point to a manuscript in the too-early stages to be ready for publication.
7. In your opinion, what’s the best book your company has ever published, and what made it so brilliant in your eyes?
It would be really difficult to pinpoint one certain book. There have been a few books that were really popular and all three were in quite disparate genres. But I think what makes all the books in question brilliant is one common element: the author’s energy. Don’t underestimate how much of that comes through in the writing. In each case, the author has poured his or her soul into the characters with devotion and passion. The plotlines usually have some very raw elements, no holding back on the author’s part. That really appeals to readers whether they’re aware of it consciously or not.
8. What sub-genres is Ai Press specifically looking for at this point?
At this point, M/M (especially with a jock/nerd pairing), M/F/M ménages (especially with a married couple who bring another man into the mix and the situation is agreeable for all involved). Good YA romance is also welcome, especially, but not limited to, M/M.
9. What word lengths are more likely to be accepted by Ai Press?
At this point, a minimum of 40k. Once an author is published with Ai Press, then shorter works of theirs will be considered.
10. How does Ai Press market its clients’ books?
I have a VERY small advertising budget at the moment, so I rely mostly on social networking: blogs, Facebook, Twitter, as well as word of mouth.
11. How did you become involved in the publishing industry?
I started as an author and my boyfriend encouraged me to become a publisher back in 2005 because of my entrepreneurial nature. I lacked the confidence at first and then, five years later after much more experience and knowledge, I took the plunge and formed Ai Press.
12. What do you think is your greatest achievement in the publishing industry?
Well, it’s only been a few years so far, but, for me, just getting Ai Press up and running and building an inventory of quality erotic romances and authors is a great achievement in and of itself. The frosting on the cake for me is having nabbed a famous author, and one of my favourites ever, John Burdett, to publish a short story with me.
13. You’re a published author too – please tell us about the type of books you publish.
Through Ai Press, I publish M/M romances, historicals, ménages, paranormals, YA, erotica and yaoi fiction. As an author, the majority of books I write now are M/M romances, many of them yaoi-inspired fiction, many of which can be found at Ellora’s Cave, Red Sage and Total-E-Bound.
14. Please tell us a little about your upcoming book, Men of Tokyo: Forbidden Cravings.
This title is part of my White Tigers series (currently available from Total-E-Bound), an M/M erotic romance that I began writing back in 2007. It’s really a prequel, as it goes back a bit in time, before the events of the main books of the series. Men of Tokyo: Forbidden Cravings is a twincest, my first of this genre. Writing it has been a strange, but interesting, experience. The heroes in this book, though, had appeared in all the other stories and it was time to tell their story. There are fans waiting for me to finish. I cordially invite you to check out the books on the White Tigers fan page – http://www.the-white-tigers.com. There are sexy snippets and a bit of hot artwork!
15. What first inspired you to start writing?
I’m not sure, really. I’ve always had the tendency to write, even as a small child, and I always loved books. My parents encouraged me to read and read to me every night, so I’m sure that helped. But if you believe in reincarnation as I do, then there is the possibility I carried the tendency into this lifetime and chose parents who would encourage me to read and write.
16. Do you have a favourite author, or one who inspires you, and why does he/she inspire you?
I have a few favourites, the primary one being Christopher Isherwood. He is one of the best writers in the English language I’ve ever read and the perfection of his language is completely inspiring, as was his life. Other authors who have a similar effect on my writing are: Mary Renault, John Burdett, Jade Lee, Saul Bellow and Qiu Xialong.
17. Do you have any advice for new authors specifically, and authors in general, from a professional point of view?
Yes. The main thing that jumps to mind is to be professional. Be an author who editors want to work with. Make sure your work is clean and always be courteous with your editor. Realise they are on your side and want to make your book as good as possible too. Don’t dismiss what they say out of hand even if you disagree. Reflect on the suggestions a while and see if they begin to make sense. There is a balance between keeping your work as you want it to be and making sure it’s readable for an audience who is not inside your head with you.
18. Do you have any advice for new authors specifically, and authors in general, from a fellow writer’s point of view?
You know, my advice as a fellow author is the same. Be professional. Be courteous. Be meticulous and try to be objective about your writing. Oh, and hone your craft. Hone! Hone! Hone! There is always room for improvement. Buy a copy of Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, study it carefully, apply the lessons and go back to it from time to time for refreshers. Write from your heart, of course, but if you’re planning to try to publish your work, make sure that the story in your head is revised so that your vision comes through to your readers. It’s no good to share your work if you haven’t taken the time to craft your story in such a way that your vision doesn’t come through.
19. Where can readers purchase your clients’ books?
From Ai Press, Amazon, Barnes and Noble online, Kobo, All Romance Ebooks and Rainbow Ebooks.
20. Where can readers purchase your books?
Ellora’s Cave, Total-E-Bound, Loose Id, Ai Press, Amazon, Barnes and Noble online, Kobo, All Romance Ebooks, Rainbow Ebooks, Sony, Google Play and Apple. Please come and visit my website and blog for lots of sexy snippets and interesting titbits: www.sedoniaguillone.com