- by Lina Gardiner
Welcome to our Industry Blog, JoVon. We look forward to reading the answers to our questions.
Out of curiosity, what do you do for relaxation?
Baking: stress baking, affection baking—even baking for forgiveness. Baking’s combination of science and creative rhythm puts me at ease. The cruel irony is that I live grain-, egg-, and dairy-free, yet nearly all of the baking I do is traditional. Luckily the people I’m surrounded by are happy to help manage my habit.
What are you reading (for pleasure) right now?
My kitchen science experiments have extended to fermentation, so my nose has been stuck in Delicious Probiotic Drinks by Julia Mueller. Foodie books aside, I love escaping into romatasy (that delicious blend of romance and fantasy). A colleague recommended Thea Harrison’s Elder Races series, which I somehow overlooked, and I’m burning my way through the second book in the series.
Is there a “next trend” in Montlake books?
At Montlake, we’re always looking to publish unputdownable romances that readers love, and at a great value that allows readers to experiment with new authors and subgenres. Programs like Kindle Unlimited and Kindle First allow us to share authors like Nancy Naigle and Terri Osburn with readers looking for something new. In terms of “next trends,” in 2015 we have our eyes on hot billionaires and mobsters. We’re also excited to see writers push the boundaries of subgenres and take familiar tropes and turn them upside down. A Dark Lure (July 2015), by Loreth Anne White adds ever more depth to her romantic suspense by infusing a chilling tale with breathtaking literary prose and rhythms. Another upcoming romantic suspense that turns a trope upside down is Camilla Monk’s debut novel Spotless—a sexy contract killer isn’t new, but a sexy contract killer with OCD? Delightful!
I’ve never met a Montlake author who didn’t say Montlake was the most author-friendly traditional publisher in the business. How did Montlake accomplish that?
We share the same customer-focus as Amazon, which means that at Montlake we consider authors our customers. Our day-to-day decisions about our business are driven by a focus on author happiness and how we might improve the experience of publishing for authors. Montlake authors seem to really appreciate that.
Do you attend writers’ conferences? If so, which ones?
This year I personally attended RWA’s national convention and Montlake made an appearance at both RT and RWA conventions.
Are there other ways to get work in front of you other than through an agent?
In addition to agented submissions, I review self-published novels, recommendations from Montlake authors, and contest finalists.
Can you tell us about Crowd Source Platform initiative? How does a KDP author submit her books for this program? When will it be unveiled?
That’s Kindle Scout, a new reader-powered publishing program that Amazon launched on October 14 where authors can submit their full-length books and readers have 30 days to nominate those stories they want to see published. The program is separate from Amazon Publishing and Montlake, but I’m excited to see how authors and readers engage with this new publishing option. The site will soon open to readers to cast their nominations for the novels they’d like to see published.
Are there any plans to hold contests to find new authors?
Not that I’m aware of. Kindle Scout, which I mentioned above, is another great avenue for new authors to get noticed. While it’s not a contest, it’s a program where readers nominate books they want to see published by Kindle Press.
What in particular are you looking for, and what subgenres do well overall for Montlake?
Montlake publishes a wide array of subgenres and we’re always open to books that push and test the boundaries between genres. We have done quite well with contemporary romance and romantic suspense. Montlake readers have loved stories with strong, memorable heroes, like Mason Callahan from Kendra Elliot’s Callahan and McLane series. He originally appeared in Elliot’s Bone Secrets novels, and was such a strong hero that he needed his own series. We’re seeing readers fall in love with heroines who can hold their own—Tiffany Snow’s Kathleen Turner is a good example. Heather Burch’s contemporary romance One Lavender Ribbon was a breakout hit for us, and seeing how the book has touched readers’ hearts has been a career-defining moment for me (if you read the customer reviews, grab a tissue!). It’s the type of book that stays in your heart, and I’m constantly on the lookout for books with that kind of magic.
What kind of marketing push could an indie author expect to receive from Apub if they published a manuscript, i.e. not a reissue, with Montlake?
I can’t speak to the marketing plan for every original book we publish, because it will vary. I can tell you that all of our books receive customized, targeted Amazon marketing and promotions, and our authors are enrolled in and compensated for participation in audience-building initiatives like Kindle Owners’ Lending Library and Kindle Unlimited.
What is the status of the Avalon authors at Montlake? Is someone working specifically with these authors to get their books out there?
Montlake authors with books previously published by Avalon are part of our family. As with all of our authors, they have access to an Author Relations Manager who helps them to navigate the publishing experience, and they have the opportunity to directly submit new manuscripts, which are evaluated by our editors.
Is there any advice you’d give NINC members who’d like to submit to Montlake?
Even if NINC members aren’t interested in Montlake, I think this is good advice for any writer who wants to publish a book:
- Chat with published authors to learn about their publishing experience.
- Understand what you want in a publishing partner. Whether you’re working with an agent, self-publishing, or in the process of figuring that out, knowing what kind of help you’d like with your career and your book is the best first step.
- Fine-tune your book. This doesn’t mean that you necessarily need to hire a developmental editor or that you need to hang on to your manuscript forever, but you may want to explore reading critique groups, or finding early readers who understand craft and can help you develop your story. Once your manuscript is out “there” (wherever “there” may be), you will want to make sure it makes a great first impression.
JoVon Sotak is an editor for Montlake Romance. As a child, JoVon would sneak books under the covers to read with a flashlight and took great, unhealthily competitive pleasure in the school’s read-a-thon, after which her family stopped pledging a per-page rate. Without shame, she brought her Kindle and the same competitive glee to a year-long Facebook reading showdown in 2010. After burying the competition in romance novels, she has not been invited back. JoVon started wrangling content more than a decade ago, first as a writing instructor and writing coach at the University of Nevada and later as managing editor for QuinStreet, Inc. JoVon joined Amazon Books in 2011 as a site merchandiser and transitioned to Amazon Publishing in 2013.
Thank you, JoVon!