Saturday, October 13, 2012

An Insider Look at the Publishing World

This is the first interview in a new series I’m doing with the people who work behind the scenes of publishing. Those who accept the books, promote them, edit them, etc., the inner workings of the publishing houses. We so often see only the finished books, or hear the authors either praise or bitch about their experiences, I thought it might be nice to showcase a cross-section of the professionals who make all the books happen.

My first guest is Penny Adams, the Vice President and Acquisitions Manager at Toronto publishing house XoXo Publishing™, so let’s get to the interview.

1. How long have you been handling day to day operations at XoXo Publishing™, and what does your typical workday involve?

I have been with XoXo for  two years now. I started off as the acquisitions editor and am now the C.O.O.  . My typical work day begins bright and early answering emails, , contacting various staff to see how things are progressing; from edits to formats to covers.  . At some point I get to the submissions as that is still my main job. As I cannot possibly read that much I will look at the first few paragraphs. If it looks like a decent read, I will then pass it on to a couple of people that will read it and give me an honest opinion. If they disagree then I have to read more and make the decision to publish or not.

2. On average, how many manuscripts does your house vet in the run of a month?

On average it’s about 100  per month.

3. What is the most frustrating aspect of your job, in terms of the authors who are submitting to you?

When and author sends a ‘sample chapter’ with instructions to go their blog and or they paste most of the story in to the body of the email. There seems to be a lack of common sense and a complete lack of professionalism in far too many cases.

4. What is your most rewarding experience (to date) in this business?

The amazing people I have met, and have made friends with. I love this business and the learning process that goes with it. I came in knowing nothing and still consider myself a novice, but one that is more than willing to do what it takes to make this a very successful company. 

5. If you could give aspiring authors one piece of advice to always keep in mind, what would it be?

Follow the submission guidelines to a T. There is nothing more annoying than reading a very good cover letter then glance down at the attachment and see it is in the wrong format.

6. In your experience, what is the biggest failing with regard to authors and their understanding of what’s expected from them when the contract is signed?

Many do not realise this is a business.  . As such your book is a product, one of many that we have. We will do what we can to get your product out there. What are you, as an author going to do to drive people to buy your book? The name of the game is sales, and we are all sales people of a product that being a book. If you are in it for fame, do not apply.

7. Be blunt, what is your pet peeve about being in publishing? And, in reverse, what is the part of the business you like best?

Everyone thinks they are a writer.  . That is true in less than 5% of the books that are submitted for consideration. When I get a book that is repetitive, full of spelling and grammatical errors I   simply want to scream. Sadly with those same submissions comes an ego the size of a football field and they appear to have a sense of entitlement, like they are doing me a huge favour by submitting their masterpiece. They treat the business like it’s a game to be played.  . On the reverse side, I get the professional author. They are helpful, understanding of the business and while we may not agree on everything, we agree to disagree and end up finding a middle ground. I love working with those people, they are true rare gems in this world.

8. Since we’ve discussed your most rewarding experience, what has been the one that made you want to forget your professionalism and just “react”?

Oh there are many but the one thing that will do it for me, is an unjustified attack on our authors and or staff. At that point I just want to throw the gloves down and have an all out brawl. 

9. All publishing houses have problem authors, if you were to have the chance to tell your authors as a group what NOT to do, what would you tell them?

Do not come to me with a problem and then run to the owner of the company hoping for a different outcome, or vice versa. We do our best to treat everyone fairly. The divas and divos quickly get put on the termination list. We have over 100 current authors and more coming in every day. I don’t care if you are a best selling author or a brand new one, you cannot quit learning this craft, there is always room for improvement. Support your fellow in house authors. If they are blogging take a second of your time to stop in and say a few words. If they have a contest, repost, they will do the same for you.  . One of biggest sources of support  besides family and friends are the people in the same business as you. Don’t overlook that valuable resource.

10. What do you feel are the trending genres in your business at the moment?

Sweet romance is on the rise. BDSM of course is also on the rise . Vampires and werewolves are not as popular but are still holding their own. Sensuous romance  remains timeless. 

In closing, if you have any general comments or observations you’d like to make, please feel free to add your personal remarks.

I cannot stress enough, if someone wishes to be published, before you even dream of sending work to a publisher, get some beta readers. If you have close friends who are avid readers and are not afraid to be honest, that might be your most valued resource as a writer. They have to tell you honestly what works and what does not. Check your ego at the door and hone your craft. Today’s best seller can be knocked down and off the charts in a heartbeat to never see another book sell again. Be true to yourself while writing, write what you love. Study, learn and keep on studying and learning. You can only get better. Never ever assume because you were published once that it will happen again. Always check the publishers guidelines just prior to submitting.  What was on there last week may not be on there today. Ensure your information is current and up to date.

Thank you, Penny. Future interviews will features editors, owners, and at least one cover artist - this entire series of interviews will be compiled next year as a special feature issue of Sensual Treats Magazine, as well.


  1. Great interview you two!! I can't wait for the next one.

  2. Penny thank you, this is an excellent interview and thank you Denyse.

  3. Excellent questions Denysé and very informative and honest answers Penny. I especially like the advice to keep working on learning and honing your craft, that there's always room for improvement. Thank you both.

  4. Been trying for awhile to post but thanks to my international keyboard I had to switch over. I wish to extend my congratulations to Sensual Treat Magazine, Denyse Bridger for this fantatico interview with Penny Adams. I'm very proud to be a part of XoXo Publishing as an assistant PR.

  5. Penny, as always you shoot from the hip. Your advice has always been appreciated and taken to heart. It has been exciting to see all the evolution taking place at XoXo. Looking forward to the rest of the interviews Denysé will be conducting. Cheers.

  6. Dear Penny,
    I am pleased that sweet romance is on the rise. I agree about reading and re reading submission guidelines. The cleaner the manuscript the better reception the writer will receive. Also when an author thinks of all of the reading an editor does why not make it easy for them to keep reading.
    Thank you for enlightening those authors published with XoXo Publishing and those who hope to be for the first time or again that we all have our part to do in the success of a book worthy of publication for readers to purchase and enjoy. Because that is the end result we as authors and publishers/editors want the best product that is possible to offer to the public our best and that is what I see you doing.
    Yours truly,
    Annette Bower
    XoXo Published author.

  7. Great interview. I like the idea of what XoXo Publishing look for in their books. Sounds good to me as a reader and soon to be published author. Keep up the good work XoXo Publishing.

  8. Fabulous interview, thank you, Penny! As we know a lot of work has obviously gone bringing XoXo Publishing to the level we are experiencing now. I’m proud of my loyal staff and authors. Let’s bring XoXo Publishing to the next level as successful team.
    XoXo Publishing

  9. As an author, legal professional having represented others in the entertainment industry, and who has delivered public comment on some of the topics exchanged here, I am very encouraged by the overall concept for providing insight into the publishing profession. And what a great starting point! Launching the concept of providing behind the scenes insight by interviewing Penny Adams ... Sheer Madness! Ah hem ... Now, I have to affirm, with all sincerity that Penny's response to these great questions very well reminds me ... no send me into Flashbacks regarding both good and not-so-good experiences for me over the past sixteen years... Experience that measures to pretty-much what Penny levels at us here... And, what I most appreciate given her response, is her consistency and fairness... As a blunderer and as one who has tried hard to be a professional I so appreciate Penny's energy, abilities and gut determination to fundamentally treat others with honesty and fairness... a rarity in any modern field of endeavor. XoXo Publishing is so very fortunate to have her ... The publishing industry is so fortunate to have her ... This Interview not only provides insight into the publishing industry, but provides us a visit with a very special person in the publishing industry. Thank You for all you do Penny ... and, Thank You for sharing what makes You, XoXo Publishing and the Publishing Industry a very special universe ... Especially when all the Submission Guidelines align ... ;-) Most Sincerely...

  10. Thank you all for your kind remarks. It almost brings a tear to my eye or maybe that is just my tear duct malfunctioning again.

  11. This is the only interview I have actually read from beginning to end. Most of them I get bored after the first few questions or I lose interest because the questions are way off topic or the answers aren't very informative. This is how all interviews should be in my opinion. Great job ladies and thank you.

  12. Thank you, everyone. I agree, Penny did an amazing interview, and my sincere thanks to her for her time and thoughtful insights.


Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.