Note: This interview is from the March/April edition of my newsletter, Brushing Wings.I’m pleased to welcome Dawn Carrington, owner and editor-in-chief of Vinspire Publishing—the publishing company that made my novel, Goldeneyes, a reality. I’ve written several books since Goldeneyes, and hopefully my writing skills have improved with each one, but I will always think of that one as the book of my heart, and I’ll always be grateful to Dawn for making it happen.
Welcome, Dawn! I know you’re crazy busy, and I appreciate your willingness to visit with me—and all the Brushing Wings subscribers. I usually introduce an inspirational author in each edition of this newsletter. But variety is the spice of life, to use a cliché. I’m also interested in how things look on the other side of the writing industry, and I’m sure others are as well. So let’s talk about that.
First, give us the lowdown on Vinspire Publishing. How did it come to be? What prompted you to start a publishing company?
I, along with three partners, began what was then called Vintage Romance Publishing in
2003. We didn’t launch until February 14, 2004. We all four came from very different backgrounds. Two of us were already published in fiction, one was a poet, and the other a customer service specialist. We were all friends and unique women that brought something special to the drawing board.
Ebooks weren’t really all that popular yet in 2003, but my partners and I had an interest in getting into the digital arena because I had already been published electronically. I can’t think of one aha moment. It was more a series of “let’s think about doing this” that finally became “let’s do this.”
Those well-thought-out, slow “processes,” are usually most successful.
As I mentioned before, I’m aware that you lead a very busy life. Take us through a day in the life of an indie publisher.
Unfortunately, there is no typical day, but here are a few things that can occur over the course of the week, and this is not just what I do. This is what takes place with our staff as well.
The morning usually starts in a rush of e-mails, putting out fires, so to speak. Then it begins.
Returning phone calls. Negotiating contracts. Approving cover art. Working on the website. Editing. Proofreading. Marketing. Publicity. Networking. Streamlining. Thinking outside the box. An occasional lunch. Graphic design. Reading incoming manuscripts. Preparing contract packages. Working on ad spots. Writing guest posts for blogs (like this one!). Print layouts for paperbacks. Royalties. Updating the budget. Updating numerous spreadsheets that house our author contact information, royalty rates, contract expirations, and more.
As I said, there is no typical day, and not all of the above happens every day, but I can tell you it’s always interesting. Usually, there is work being done around the clock. Thankfully, I’m not the middle-of-the-night person who’s working!
Whoa! I’m exhausted just thinking about it. And, on top of all that, you’re an author too. Has the publishing experience changed the way you write in any way? And how do you find time to fit it in with everything else?
I don’t think it’s changed the way I write as much as it’s given me insight that not every author has. When I indie-published a few of my books, I already knew how to set them up for release, who to use for the cover art design and the editing, the best price to utilize, and when I could expect the royalties to be sent. That’s calming, and I’m considering utilizing some of this information in future Hubpages posts to help authors who don’t have the inside track.
How do I find the time? I’ve said this many, many times, but I never get tired of saying it. God blessed me with an inquisitive mind, a double dose of imagination, a brain that only shuts off for sleeping, and the ability to write extremely fast. Sometimes I may only have twenty minutes at night to write, but I can write anywhere from one to two thousand words in those twenty minutes. My goal is to write every day no matter how much or how little. So as long as I go to bed knowing I’ve gotten my words in, I’m good.
Good? From where I'm standing, you’re amazing! :)
Today’s editors have a different kind of “slush pile” than those a few years back. If your slush pile were still in paper form, how high would the pile be stacked on your desk?
Probably midway to the ceiling. We can cull our slush pile down fairly easily as we have an auto responder that lets people know if we aren’t accepting the genre (as stated on our submissions page), the submission will not be read. It might sound cold, but it eliminates wading through what we’re not looking for plus it helps the writer to move on to another publishing company that is interested.
As an author, I appreciate that kind of thinking. I’ve watched Vinspire go from Vintage Romance Publishing to Vinspire Publishing; seen a couple of website overhauls; witnessed your constant efforts to bring about wonderful things for your authors. What is the biggest change that has transpired within the company in the past five years? And where do you see Vinspire five years from now?
Our biggest change was transitioning from a company that only accepted historical romances to one that accepted almost all genres yet still maintained that family-friendly read.
In regards to where we’ll be five years from now, it’s interesting because I’ve been asked that many times, and my answer changes depending upon the day I get asked the question. I can tell you I do still see Vinspire Publishing alive and thriving. I don’t necessarily see us as a big conglomerate because that’s not what any of us want. We want to be a solid, stable publishing company that is a haven for new authors and a home for established authors.
I like that. What key ingredients do you look for in a manuscript?
Strong characters, established conflict, and a voice that is distinct. We appreciate polished manuscripts where the author has taken great pains to correct spelling and grammar. And finally, the dialogue needs to be natural and captivating.
What is the one biggest mistake authors make when submitting their work?
Not reading our submission guidelines or following them. We have dozens upon dozens of submissions for genres we aren’t accepting or have never accepted. We even receive submissions for screenplays. In addition, we receive submission wherein the query letter is attached to the e-mail rather than included in the body of the e-mail. We’re not opening any attachments unless your query letter interests us. So a lot of books get rejected or that alone.
New writers, take heed… It’s so easy to make that kind of mistake, which actually means (in my estimation), a bit of laziness on the author’s part. If your book is important enough to write, it’s important enough to do your research and get it into the hands of the right publisher, at the right time, and in the format and manner they require.
I know some of my readers will be wondering, so I have to ask: What are you currently looking for in the way of submissions? What do you absolutely not want?
We are currently open to Highlander Romances and Regency Romances. We don’t have nearly enough of those in our catalog, and we’d like to build that up. Rather than keep a full open-door policy, we open to various submissions throughout the year so we don’t miss any exceptional work.
As far as what we absolutely do not want, well, obviously anything outside the family friendly theme. We’re not looking for, nor will we ever accept, erotica, horror, steamy novels, and anything with gore and graphic violence.
Thank you again for making time to be with us, Dawn. I’ve enjoyed chatting with you.