Monday, August 23, 2010

Susan Palmquist Interviews Zetta Brown of L-L Publications and Logical Lust




This month I got to ‘chat’ with Zetta Brown who along with her husband, Jim co own LL-Publications and Logical Lust and are based in Scotland. They’re firmly committed to the future of electronic publishing and both serve on the board of Epic Authors. Zetta gave me some great insights on what they’re currently looking for. Visit both their Web sites for more details www.ll-publications.com and www.logical-lust.com

Susan Palmquist(SP)-You’re both a writer and editor, which came first?

Zetta Brown(ZB)-I am both. I wrote my first novel at the age of ten. It was to be a trilogy. By my freshman year at high school, I had written the first two books and was half way through the third when I abandoned it. I couldn’t think of how to continue. I kept those manuscripts for years before deciding to throw them away—and I still regret the decision.

I didn’t get into editing until I was attending SMU in Dallas earning my degree in English/Creative Writing. I landed an internship with a literary agent through one of my professors. That gig lasted for a summer, and when I graduated, I started doing freelance editing assignments.

SP-You and your husband have two publishing companies LL-Publications and Logical-Lust. Do you run them together or is one your pet project and vice versa?

ZB-We run both companies together. We also have another company, JimandZetta.com (started in 2009), that provides ebook conversion services and other services for authors and publishers. All of these ventures have grown to the point where they require our full-time attention. I recently took on another editor, Leslie Brown (no relation!), to help. Other team members include Rachel McIntyre who is the senior editor at Logical-Lust and our cover artist Helen E. H. Madden.

SP-Which company was formed first and why the decision to add another?

ZB-My husband Jim founded Logical-Lust in 2003 when he was recuperating from a long illness. It started as a pet project to keep his mind occupied while he couldn’t work, but then it started to grow. LL-Publications came later but was structured to be the parent company because it has a broader scope.

SP-Tell us about LL-Publications and the types of books you publish.

ZB-LL-Publications formed in 2008 because we wanted to publish other genres outside of erotica and erotic romance. LL-Publications publish mystery, sci-fi, fantasy, horror, action-adventure, literary, and whatever else takes our fancy. We’re not interested in following trends but some of the topics may be trendy. We just want to publish interesting and entertaining books. Both of our houses are GLBT- and multicultural/interracial-friendly and we would love more stories like these across the board. We don’t publish inspirational/religious, children, Y/A, or poetry. And, although we tried, we don’t publish non-erotic romance at Logical-Lust.

Please note that we are not keen on publishing War and Peace epics at either house. If your manuscript is in excess of 100,000-120,000 words, consider breaking it up.

Another good thing with having your own publishing company is that you can publish what you like even if there is not profit in it for you. The Oil and Water...and Other Things That Don’t Mix anthology will come out in September 2010 and all proceeds will go to charities dealing with the Gulf oil spill crisis.

Like most publishers, there are certain topics we will not publish if the writing is meant to glorify certain behavior. However, we are not anal about being politically correct. This doesn’t mean to be an excuse for shock value or that the author is free to be totally offensive, but we are not going to penalize a book because the hero/heroine smokes, a parent spanks their child, or a racially intolerant character drops the N-word now and again.

SP-Any particular stories you’re looking for?

ZB-LL-Publications has been looking for mysteries for some time and I’m finally starting to get some good submissions. I’m also on the lookout for gothic suspense, thrillers, gumshoe, and more. Not everything has to be serious, either. Having a sense of humor is fine.

I like literary fiction, too, but do not confuse the term “literary” with “unreadable.”
Some may try to call it “experimental,” but I may call it what my friends Jeanie Johnson and Jayha Leigh at Beautiful Trouble Publishing would term a “hot mess.”

All we want to do is publish stories we like that we feel can have a wider audience. There is no set formula. Most people don’t read only one type of book—neither do we. Our tastes are eclectic and you may be surprised as to what we like. I recently accepted a mystery featuring two Victorian “spirit photographers.” Read some of our titles. Query us if you have questions.

For example, A Blonde Bengali Wife by Anne Hamilton is our first non-fiction title because it intrigued me. We hadn’t thought about publishing non-fiction until it came along. I may consider more but query first. The same can be said about historical submissions. Query first. If someone submits a historical, they better have their details sorted to be as accurate as possible.

SP-When you receive a submission what gets your attention?

ZB-People who follow our submission guidelines and ask questions if they are unclear about something make a good impression on me. If they tell me how they heard about us (like we ask in our guidelines) that really, really earns Brownie points...Hint. Hint.

Authors who take a professional approach with regard to getting published I put to the head of the class. Publishing is a business and not a hobby. I wrote an article that was first published in the April 2010 Avoid Writer’s Hell newsletter called “Publishing and Professional Courtesy.” We have incorporated the article into our submission guidelines and it can be downloaded. We may be “small,” but we have certain expectations.

As far as content, our editors don’t just want a “unique” story. We want fully developed stories with rounded, three-dimensional characters. I don’t like reading stories where the only differences between characters are their gender, age, and eye/hair/skin color. People are different, and they had better sound different too. Another pet peeve of mine is when I read a book where all the characters sound alike. Men, women, children—they all use the same pattern of words and the same vocabulary. Writing dialogue is a skill that should not be ignored.

I look at how stories convey setting, atmosphere, description and whether or not I feel like I’m there. I look at how all these items are balanced—or not. A skilled writer can craft a short story or a novel providing just enough of each creative writing element needed to tell their story.


SP-How about Logical-Lust, any particular stories you’re currently looking for?

ZB-We are currently looking for novel submissions. We’ve done several anthologies, story collections, and short stories, but we really could use more novels. But I should warn people that we are NOT looking for vampires and shape shifters. We’re probably one of the few erotic and erotic romance houses that will openly state this. Unless you have something really unique and fresh to bring to the genre—or you have an established following that you’re bringing to us—we will most likely pass on it. The motto for both our houses is “taking the reader down a different path.” Vampires and shape shifters sell, but it’s a well-trodden path.

It needs to grab our attention on page one and move at a good pace, not plod along. Don’t overcomplicate the plot, and please don’t try and imitate another author’s style. Write the story you want to read, and if you find someone else who feels the same—you’ve made a sale!

If you are considering submitting a historical erotic or a historical erotic romance title, please send it to my attention. Our editor Rachel McIntyre prefers not to read historical, but I will...if the story interests me.

SP-You’re based in Scotland. I can only think of a handful of electronic publishers in the UK…I might be wrong. Do you think that’s about to change?

ZB-I think change will be slow and painful for UK publishers. Personally, I believe the UK publishing industry is just like how New York used to be with regard to electronic publishing. The UK publishers and the buying market, for the most part, are resistant or dismissive to the changes taking place. The attitude to electronic publishing in the UK is Dickensian—which is apt since Dickens was a countryman. But the publishers are going to get the same rude awakening that New York did. The Kindle has finally made it to the UK along with the iPad. It is time for the UK publishing industry to adapt or die, much like Darwin (another countryman, ironically) theorized.

SP-You publish both UK and US authors. Can stories be set anywhere, can characters be any nationality? How about British English versus American English spelling?

ZB-Stories can be set anywhere in any nationality but must be in English. A Blonde Bengali Wife is set in Bangladesh and scheduled to come out October 15. I recently accepted a novella set in Antarctica.

The differences between the US and UK language goes deeper than spelling. I discovered this while working at the University of Glasgow. I’ve found that the British will use more words and terms that may be seen as archaic in the US.

We do have a few house rules when it comes to US/UK punctuation (e. g. quotation marks), but we do not expect our British authors to conform US spelling.


SP-If we were thinking about submitting to either of your publishing companies and wanted to get a feel for what stories you acquire, what titles would you recommend we read?

ZB-Since we’re a small publishing company, we only have a few dozen titles rather than hundreds so it shouldn’t be too hard (or expensive) for people to sample what we have. Like I mentioned earlier, our motto is “taking the reader down a different path,” and this is what we want to convey in the titles we publish. Here’s what you can find at both houses:

LL-Publications:
I mentioned how Logical-Lust isn’t looking for vampire stories. This can be said about LL-Publications too. However, but one of our best sellers is The Great Right Hope, the first book of a trilogy about a vampire hunter. The author Mark Jackman has presented a unique storyline and characters that are fresh to the genre. This has been confirmed by the number of positive reviews it has received. If it had been like any other vamp novel, we would’ve passed on it. Its sequel, A Fistful of Rubbers, comes out later this year.

Perhaps one of our more controversial titles is Ordinary World by Tony McGuin that takes a twenty-first century approach to Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal.” This is not a title for the politically correct or the squeamish. If you’re a fan of British satire and dark comedy—read this.

Ben Larken’s horror Pit-Stop won the 2009 EPPIE for Best Horror and he’s gaining a strong following. His latest book The Hollows is the first of a series and he has another series starting this year called Pillar’s Fall.

And we have several stories by the award-winning, best-selling author Darrell Bain who has a very imaginative mind and his latest title OOPS! is due out in August.


Logical-Lust:
We have something for just about everyone at Logical-Lust spanning across many subgenres and ranging from m/m to orgy to everything in between. Our anthologies have been popular since Logical-Lust began in 2003. We’ve been lucky to work with some of the most talented writers and editors of erotica like Jolie du PrĂ©, M. Christian, Cole Riley, and D. L. King.

Our anthologies include:

Eternally Erotic
Eternal Bonds (BDSM)
Eternal Noir (dark and supernatural erotica)
Swing! Adventures in Swinging
The Cougar Book
Best S & M Erotica Vol. 3
Spank! (September 15)

A future title is Too Much Boogie – Erotic Remixes of the Dirty Blues. This anthology will be filled with stories taking their inspiration from the “dirty blues” songs from the 1920s-50s that were full of sexual innuendo and double entendres with song titles like “Shave ’Em Dry” and “Big Long Slidin’ Thing.”

Our cover artist, Helen E. H. Madden has a collection of fantastic erotica called Future Perfect, and Brenna Lyon’s short story Time Currents won the EPIC’s eBook Award in 2010 for the Best Fantasy Erotic Romance.

This is just a small selection. Visit our site and take your pick!

While you’re at it, I won’t begrudge anyone who checks out my erotic romance novel Messalina – Devourer of Men or my literary short story Devil Don’t Want Her.

SP-Judging from your Web site, you really get behind your authors regarding promotion and marketing. What can an author expect from you once their book is released?

ZB-We help authors who help themselves. Writers who believe that self-promotion is beneath them and promotion is solely the publisher’s responsibility are fooling themselves. If you can’t bother to promote your book, why should we bother to read it, let alone publish it? We don’t have the time, money, or patience to stroke egos, but we will do everything we can to help those who are serious about reaching their audience. Some of our best sellers are by authors who published their first book with us so there is really no excuse for a book not to sell—unless the author stops selling it or the publisher drops it.

We require authors to show us a preliminary marketing plan. If you don’t know what to do, we provide a sample in our submission guidelines. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but we need to know the author has given at least some thought to promotion. Spending hundreds or thousands of dollars is not required to create a decent campaign. Word of mouth is free.

Authors who continually promote themselves and their work will eventually see results in steady sales and royalty payments, and this can be said regardless of how or where a book is published. Selling books takes work.

We schedule a few events via AuthorIsland.com and GoodReads.com, and we’ll try to arrange for a few book reviews. We’ll provide the author with some promotional items, and we’ll even help them enter contests like EPIC’s eBook Awards Competition™ or other venues for recognition if possible.

We also have our newsletter, The Modern Reader, and our blogs for each house that our authors can use.

These are some of the things we can offer to get the book launched. Beyond that, it’s up to the author.

SP-I noticed you publish short stories and I know lots of writers are finding it harder to find homes for these shorter works these days. What are you looking for and what’s the word count?

ZB-We’re open to submissions so anyone interested should read our guidelines or email the appropriate editor with a query. Generally speaking, titles of less than 40,000 words will be offered as ebooks only. We consider short stories and novellas in the same way as we do novels.

Short stories – up to 10,000 words
Novellas – 10,001 – 39,999 words
Novels – 40,000+

LL-Publications contact: editor(at)ll-publications.com

Logical-Lust Publications contact: editor(at)logical-lust.com

Please be sure to replace (at) with @ otherwise the email address won’t work. Some people do forget!

And our newsletter The Modern Reader now comes out about every 6-8 weeks and it’s aimed towards readers and writers. It contains news from both our publishing houses. Although there is nothing explicit, some people prefer not to have news about erotica and erotic romance so there is a short version that only covers LL-Publications. We try to have a giveaway with each issue. The newsletter is available by subscription only. Send an email to subscribe(at)ll-publications.com and let us know if you’d like the full or short version.

13 comments:

  1. It is so exciting what you are doing, Zetta.
    I am always happy when someone outside of the New York Publishing scene sets up shop and starts doing it their way.
    And in Scotland.
    I'd like to have you on "Book Talk, Creativity & Family Matters" to discuss you and your husband's work.
    http://www.anjuellefloyd.com
    Contact me @ SheWrites or e-mail and let me know.

    Take care.

    And thanks Linda for such a wonderful interview.

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  2. Yes, thank you, Linda, and thank you, Anjuelle! Jim and I believe that indie publishing--like indie bookstores--are vital to the industry. We are the ones taking the risks on the talent NYC doesn't want to touch. Just like with ebooks and digital publishing--it's the indie publisher that has been driving ePublishing forward for more than a decade. And I'll be contacting you soon about your offer! LOL

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  3. Wonderful interview! Zetta, you and your husband are definitely doing great things! And, you are so right about promotion. You have to get the book out there any way you can think of. I'm already telling people to be on the look out for the Oil and Water..and Other Things That Don't Mix anthology. :)

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  4. Hi Zetta,

    This is one of the best in-depth interviews on a publishing house I have read in a long time. Not only do you give us the 'grit' of what you are looking for, you don't make it feel impossible to submit something to your two houses. I think that a lot of publishers strike 'fear' into an author's heart when they state what they will and won't do, but you have explained this so well.

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  5. Zetta,

    GREAT interview! You and your Husband are obviously very dedicated and very passionate about what you do. I love that you are outside the norm and embrace that fact! I am thrilled to be part of the Oil and Water Anthology and can't wait to see the final product! People that use their passion to help others while also making a living doing what they love....well that's just good karma. Best of luck to both you and your hubby!

    Amy
    www.themanyshadesoflove.blogspot.com

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  6. Enjoyed the interview, Zetta. Thanks for letting me know about it. Your publishing house is intriguing. I admire you for being brave enough to go it on your own, much less in another country. Am interested in hearing more about Scotland.

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  7. Great interview, Zetta! I love those leading questions where you can expand and just incidentally, sell a few books! I don't often write short stories, but I will keep an eye on topics you suggest for anthologies, just in case I get inspired!

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  8. @Cherie - I know you're starting to get published more, and the best thing you can do--apart from always learning about your craft--is to have a sense of business. If you take your writing seriously and expect others to do so, then you should have no fear in seeing the business/professional side. You represent your work and vice versa and deserve to be taken seriously.

    @nevealane - Thank Susan for that! Her questions weren't so much "easy" in that they allowed me to address some real pertinent issues that I and other indie publishers face.

    There is a community of indie publishers and we face the same things as "the big dawgs" do, just on a different scale. If you treat your submissions like you would a job resume, it shouldn't matter if the publisher is in NYC or main street. Apply with your best work and put your best foot forward. That's really all we ask--oh, and that you follow our submission guidelines! LOL

    @Amy - Yep! My hubby is the one who started it all (the crazy man!). He now has his hands full with our ebook conversion business so I'm heading operations for the publishing. And yes, we love being our own boss and doing what we are passionate about :)

    @Emily - I hope you do stop by our site(s) and see what we have. We really do publish what we like to read and hope others feel the same.

    @Fiona - Thanks! I've had the idea for the dirty blues anthology for several years, and it wasn't until this year that I was able to do something about it. Fortunately, author/editor Cole Riley is on the same wavelength and he says he is getting some excellent submissions.

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  9. I've used Jim & Zetta's conversion service to turn my rights-reverted print novels into files that the Kindle conversion don't mash to pieces, and I just want to let anyone reading know that I highly recommend their service.

    Thanks for the interview, too. It was most enlightening.

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  10. Lovely interview, Zetta. I agree with many of the other comments that it seemed accessible, thorough, and informative. Thanks so much for sharing, and thanks for interviewing, Susan!

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  11. @Linda - We're glad to be of service! Jim is the brains behind the operation :)

    @Emerald - long time no hear! Thanks, and I'm glad you were able to stop by. Emerald has a story in both THE COUGAR BOOK and SWING.

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  12. Great interview, Zetta! You and Jim have dived head first into the business and have really been getting a lot of interesting things out there. I can certainly attest to the personal treatment your anthology editors receive and with all the work you've been doing, I know your business will continue to grow.

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  13. @D.L. - Hey, it's authors and editors like you that make us look good and help introduce talent to our doors :) Jim and I are both authors. We've seen and heard the horror stories from both sides, and we try to avoid the minefields. You can't please everyone all the time in this biz, but we can empathize.

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