The Novel Approach is pleased to welcome Elizabeth North and Lynn West of DSP Publications today. By now you’ve perhaps seen our monthly Genre Talk feature with Carole Cummings and the DSPP authors we’ve featured thus far. Carole and I have interviews and features scheduled through December of 2015, which we’re looking forward to sharing with you, but at Carole’s brilliant suggestion, I decided she had a great idea to pose a few questions to the brains behind the operation, and thankfully, they agreed.
I hope you enjoy our chat with Elizabeth and Lynn!
TNA: Hi, Elizabeth and Lynn, thanks so much for joining us today. Why don’t we start with the introductions? Would you tell us a bit about yourselves?
Elizabeth: I’ll introduce Lynn. Lynn West is one of the founders of Dreamspinner Press and was one of the first two editors employed by the press in January 2007. She was named Editor in Chief in January 2009. She has edited the work of more than a hundred authors, including many of the bestsellers in Dreamspinner’s catalog. She built the Editorial Department from the ground up. Lynn has been a professional editor in fiction, nonfiction, journalism, and technical writing and was a fiction and nonfiction author, a public relations writer, and an award-winning print journalist before that, so she’s got more than twenty years of publishing experience. I’ve heard authors say she’s really scary, but in truth, she’s looking out for their best interests, and they respect her for that.
Lynn: And I’ll introduce Elizabeth. A longtime lover of books and romantic fiction, Elizabeth created Dreamspinner Press in 2006 to focus on treating authors well, producing quality books that feel good to hold, and providing a happily ever after for all. Her gift is one of vision: she saw that the publishing industry was ready for gay romantic fiction to join the mainstream rather than being pigeonholed as a specialty genre. With extensive management experience and a master’s degree from Florida State University, she has guided the company toward a bright future, making authors’ and characters’ dreams come true and providing a great reader experience. Basically, she’s our guiding light, always pushing us to improve and grow and love personally and professionally.
TNA: Let’s talk a bit about DSP Publications, the newest press under the Dreamspinner shingle. How and why was DSPP conceived, and what is its mission statement? From idea to launch, how long did it take to get DSPP up and running?
Elizabeth: The story behind DSP Publications starts in early 2013 at Dreamspinner Press. Lynn and I were discussing the company’s wide and flexible definition of romance when I mentioned the fact that some books—usually historicals and science fiction and fantasy—didn’t perform as well as “pure” romances despite being excellent stories. I also noted that sometimes Dreamspinner had to decline extraordinary submissions because they simply didn’t qualify even within the press’s flexible definition of gay romance.
We invested six months of research time into the DSP Publications’ action plan before Lynn started building the editorial side and we started discussing selection options. In early 2014, Lynn launched a formal editorial calendar, and on Oct. 14, 2014, our first official publications were Infected: Prey and Infected: Bloodlines by Andrea Speed.
Lynn: A new imprint publishing genre fiction would also give us a vehicle to explore publishing other stories we really want to publish, romance or not. Those books we simply couldn’t put down, quality fiction that pushes the envelope to present immersive, unique, and unforgettable reading experiences, stories that beg to be told. Our tagline is Off the Beaten Path. Worth the Journey. Our books reach into a wide range of reader-favorite genres, including fantasy, historical, horror, mystery, paranormal, science fiction, and spiritual fiction. In keeping with the focus of Dreamspinner and Harmony Ink, DSPP books will feature characters within the LGBTQ+ spectrum.
TNA: More than a few of the books that have helped launched DSPP had been originally published by Dreamspinner. How did you go about deciding which authors and books would be perfect to help launch DSP Publications?
Elizabeth: After discussion, we felt that 1) certain publications in the Dreamspinner catalog presented extraordinary plot and characterization as a primary theme rather than romance, and 2) over time, we’ve seen that some publications like those, while still romance, might benefit from promotion in range of mainstream genre circles. These are books that we’ve always thought should have seen higher sales, but within the romance market, they just weren’t getting the attention they deserve.
Lynn: Each of the specialty genres—fantasy, historical, horror, mystery, paranormal, science fiction, and spiritual fiction—maintain unique representation in the fiction market. We can better serve our authors in reaching a bigger audience if we promote outstanding stories to a specific genre rather than to a minor segment of the romance market. We’re already seeing positive support from authors and readers across the board.
TNA: What is the criteria for a book to fall under the DSPP umbrella rather than that of Dreamspinner Press?
Elizabeth: While we have general guidelines, the truth is it comes down to the experienced opinion of our submissions staff. If it’s not a romance, it’s definitely not Dreamspinner, but as many people have commented in the past, Dreamspinner has a very flexible opinion about what qualifies as romance.
Lynn: One thing we’ve considered a great option for DSPP is speculative fiction. Readers love fantasy and science fiction series full of vibrant characters and developed worlds. They love twisty and involved mysteries. They love addictive tales of horror and suspense. Especially in science fiction and fantasy, books featuring characters of a wide variety of sexualities really started publishing in the 1960s, and some of those books—the Darkover series by Marion Zimmer Bradley, The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula LeGuin, The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov, and The Forever War by Joe Haldeman, to name just a few—are now classics of literature. The audience is there, and has been there for a long time.
TNA: If an author would like to make a submission to DSPP, how would s/he do so? Are you accepting open submissions at the moment?
Elizabeth: DSP Publications is not accepting open submissions at this time. The editorial calendar is already booked completely through 2015 and into first quarter 2016. We’re keeping the publication schedule very small and we’re being very picky.
Lynn: We’re focusing on authors we have strong relationships with, as well as picking and choosing standout submissions to Dreamspinner that don’t fit the Dreamspinner model. So if you submit a specialty genre book to Dreamspinner, it’s possible you just might hear from us about DSPP.
TNA: Since the launch of Dreamspinner Press, what are some of the most surprising and impressive changes you’ve seen in the evolution of the Gay Romance/Fiction genre?
Elizabeth: Surprising and impressive are two different answers. I was most surprised by the interest in translation into some of the smaller markets: Turkey, Hungary, Greece, and Israel. The most impressive thing I’ve seen in the evolution of Gay Romance is the growth of the number of readers. In the last five years, we have seen a 3007% increase in readers—and that is only through our site. In terms of market growth, that is a phenomenal figure.
You didn’t ask, but the most satisfying change I’ve seen, is the change in perception of gay couples and marriage. When we began, same-sex marriage was legal in one state and a handful of countries. When one of our books ended in a happily-ever-after that included marriage, reviews tended to label it as unrealistic. Now that dream is a reality in 35 states and 18 countries. We still have a long way to go, but the progress is satisfying.
We are new to the gay fiction genre, so those answers will have to wait a year or two.
Lynn: The growth in volume of submissions in particular stuns me. It shows me what a huge audience is out there and that we’re providing an appreciated service.
TNA: What can we readers look forward to in 2015 from Dreamspinner, Harmony Ink, and DSPP? Any news you’d like to share with us?
Elizabeth: Harmony Ink in particular is maturing. After several months of market research, sales analysis, and feedback from the imprint’s direct audience, we’re refining the theme of Harmony Ink to “Teen and New Adult” fiction, which is growing out of the Young Adult market. The strongest support for this is coming from the teens themselves. Feedback reflects that the target age group for Harmony thinks that Young Adult is for kids, ages ten to twelve. The bulk of Harmony selections do hit the mid-teen to new adult age group. This also lines up with what you see in brick and mortar retail bookstores: Teen Fiction sections. This supports a trend we’re seeing among our authors: starting a Teen and New Adult series and then following those characters into adulthood with books that are moving to the Dreamspinner imprint.
Lynn: We’re continuing to grow and deepen editorial work at Dreamspinner Press. Our Senior Editor system, now three years old, is hugely successful in building strong and sustainable author relationships. We’re seeing more authors excited about developing their work with focused macro editing. We’re also continuing to develop genre editing. For example, we now offer a specialized historicals editing stream headed up by a Senior Editor with strong experience in the genre and supported by editors with history degrees and experience. We’re slowly expanding this genre editing into fantasy, paranormal, and science fiction.
DSP Publications is slowly growing into more and more new genre fiction publications to augment best-selling series from well-known gay romance authors spreading their wings into the larger markets. We’re already getting a great response from presales at Amazon: for example, John Inman’s horror suspense novel Willow Man ranked as high as #3 in Hot New Releases and #8 in Bestselling Horror/Gay & Lesbian three weeks before its official publication date. Our authors are working really hard, cooperatively and individually, on developing both their promotional efforts and recognition of the imprint name. They’re so excited about DSPP!
TNA: Thanks so much for being here with us today, Elizabeth and Lynn. It was great spending some time with you.