Industry Interview: Champagne Book Group by Cassiel Knight

Today’s Industry Interview is with J. Ellen Smith, Publisher/Owner of Champagne Book Group, an independent small press located in Calgary, AB Canada. CBG books are available in electronic and trade paperback forms. Established in December 2004, CBG threw open their cyber doors in April 2005 with four titles. Since that time, and with the belief that ebooks are the future, they have continued to grow and now boast authors in all corners of the globe. As of recently, I’m proud to say that includes me. My first book with them, Blood on the Moon, is an October release. You can find more information about them, see the terrific books and enjoy the lovely covers at Champagne Book Group.

Please join me in welcoming Ellen and Champagne Book Group to See Jane Publish!

What made you decide to become a publisher?

Call me a disgruntled reader. I got tired of reading the same thing over and over, just with the details slightly skewed. I wanted to read something fresh and original, which I wasn’t finding. Then, as an author with one too many bad experiences behind me, I figured there had to be a better way. One day over vanilla lattes with a friend, who had listened to me moan and groan for years, the idea of creating my own house was born. It wasn’t for another year or so that the ‘idea’ was brought into fruition.

You’ve recently changed your name/logo. Why did you decide to change? What’s the significance?

The logos for each imprint are still the same. We still have Champagne Books (our romance and mainstream fiction imprint), Carnal Passions (the erotic romance imprint) and our newest imprint, BURST (science fiction and fantasy). Since all three imprints are managed by the same executive team, it only made sense to ‘group’ them, hence the Champagne Book Group. The logos for each individual imprint are still the same; however, we’ve got the corporate logo for the book group now.

Could you please tell us specifically what types of books Champagne Book Group publishes?

Genre fiction. We do not publish non-fiction, biographies, children’s books, short story collections. We do publish romance and all its sub-genres, erotic romance, mystery/suspense/thrillers, science fiction and fantasy.

If you could get your hands on more stories in a certain genre – or with certain characters – what would it be?

Historical highland romances are high on our list. We’re also looking for steampunk as well. Our Carnal Passions line is looking for good quality, erotic romances in all the subgenres, specifically male/male and ménage.

What are you absolutely not looking for?

Right now our needs are pretty wide-spread, so the best way to explain what we’re not looking for is to simply say ‘non-fiction’. The proliferation of YA vampire romances has been so strong lately, that we are not looking for those either.

Will you be doing both e-books and print books? Where can you find Champagne Book Group books?

As a digital publisher, we focus first on the electronic book, and then if there is enough interest, the book goes into print.  Our eBooks are widely distributed in all the major online stores, and our paperbacks are available on our website, Amazon and Lulu. Those that have high demand get moved into increased distribution for availability in bookstores.

Most new writers have visions of agents and New York publishing houses dancing in their heads. Can you tell us some of the advantages of signing with a digital/small press publisher over a New York publisher?

I can’t imagine that a new author (or any author for that matter), can call up the publisher of Simon and Schuster just to say hello and to ask for help with a problem. They can with a small press. We tend to be a little less formal, a lot more hands-on, and much friendlier than those huge corporations. While submissions times aren’t near as quick as they used to be with small press, they still may get their book out faster than waiting in line at NY, and they definitely have more input into editing and cover design.

What do you look for in a prospective writer?

We look for someone who writes well, spins a great story and understands that the work isn’t done with typing ‘the end’. On submission, we ask authors to send along a ‘promotions plan’ which, hopefully, gets their head wrapped around the idea of promoting their work once it’s available for sale. We want authors who are good to work with and who don’t fight the entire process. We want authors who aren’t afraid to take the initiative.

After you receive a query/synopsis – approximately how long does it take you to reply to the author?

The acquisitions editor confirms that the query has been received within a few days if she’s busy, but she tends to be on that one fairly quickly, so you’ll likely hear that she’s received your query as soon as she’s seen it. Then it is 1-2 months for her to review all the initial submissions. Should the complete manuscript get requested, expect another 2-3 month wait. Our submissions email is very busy, so if those time parameters have come and gone, it doesn’t hurt to email to see where things are. But please only do so if you’ve 1) never heard if your submission was received, 2) it’s been longer than 2 months for your initial query or 3) it’s been over 3 months since you sent in your complete manuscript.  DO follow our guidelines for compiling your submission package. If you do not stick to the requested format, your submission will be deleted.

Most authors seem to feel it’s the publisher’s responsibility to do the marketing – that all an author should do is write. In your opinion, how important is marketing and what’s the writer’s responsibility in this area?

Who knows your book better than the author who wrote it? That’s the person who should be out there yakking it up the most. Marketing is very important, but there’s a definite difference between marketing and promoting, although many authors use the terms interchangeably. Marketing is broader in scope, and promotion is just one tool used as part of an overall marketing strategy. While promotion is important to marketing success, it does not constitute an entire marketing strategy on its own.

Basically, the marketing mix is composed of the 4 “P’s”—product, price, place and promotion. Obviously the author has no control over price and placement, which means the price of the product and where it is sold, that’s the publisher’s job. But promotion is the method that is used to let customers know about the product.

So, again, who better to let customers know about your book?

Across the Internet, the most common expressed concern is the perceived lack of quality control in eBooks. Would you like to comment on where Champagne Book Group is with respect to performance in this area?

I think this perception is changing as eBooks go more and more mainstream. Yes, there is still a lot of junk out there since so many people feel that they can produce an eBook and get it for sale without much effort. But the reality is, everyone needs a good editor and everyone needs good cover art.

Since Champagne opened in 2005, we have strived to keep our quality high, which we have done with several editorial reviews prior to publication. We don’t put out a lot of books per month because we want to be able to maintain that high standard.

As a publisher, what is the best advice you can offer a writer on how to be successful in the business?

First of all, develop thick skin. You’ll be criticized and critiqued over and over. Listen to what is said about your work and use it to improve. Then write what you know, and what you like to read, and write every day. If you can find a writer’s group, use one. If you can’t, find an online critique group–peer interaction is not only extremely helpful, but keeps you from feeling that you’re alone. Lastly, once you’ve got something out there for the reading public, don’t hide. Be visible. Take a look at what some of the successful authors in your genre are doing and never, ever stop learning and growing as an author.

Please tell us in one sentence – why we should read Champagne Book Group books/authors.

Quality fiction at fantastic prices.

Anything else you’d like to say?

Dear God no, I’m exhausted!

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Posted on April 19, 2012, in General and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Thanks very much for the kind words. It’s hard work, but definitely a labor of love. And I absolutely love all the people that I get to work with.

    Ellen

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  2. Great interview! Terrific information! Thanks Kim for asking such great questions and to Ellen for her frank and forthright responses.

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  3. Great interview with a very professional publisher. I’m delighted to be one of Champagne Books authors.

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  4. Thanks so much for joining us, Ellen. Good information for writers and readers looking for a great read.

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  5. Great advice, great interview…exemplary publisher! As one of Champagne Book Group- BURST Books authors- I can say Ms. Smith walks the talk. Whether you’re looking for a publishing house to submit, or an excellent book to read, Champagne Book Group is it!

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