An Interview with Jeanne De Vita, Managing Editor for Musa Publishing - Behind the Scenes
Thank you Jeanne De Vita, Managing Editor for Musa Publishing, for agreeing to take time from your busy schedule and answer our questions.
Word on the street is Musa’s 3rd year anniversary is coming up and they have big things planned. Maybe Jeanne will share some information on that with us too.
So grab a cup of coffee, (or a glass of wine) as you read Jeanne’s answers to our questions and be sure to sign up on the Musa Facebook and Twitter sites to stay in the know on upcoming events!
How did Musa Publishing come about?
Musa Publishing began as a dream shared by four digital publishing professionals. The story we share on our website describes Musa perfectly—the four founders decided to create a publishing house that answered questions a lot authors, editors, and artists were asking. A publishing house can offer near-total transparency to its authors; an author with knowledge is an empowered author. These ideals are a rarity in any industry but especially in publishing. The founding directors set out to create a business that was transparent, accountable, and responsive to not only the needs of readers but of authors and staff.
I was brought on when Musa was about six months old and I’m exceptionally proud to be part of an organization that is as innovative as Musa Publishing is. We try to stay engaged with the conversations happening throughout our industry and to challenge ourselves as well as our authors to grow and change. We didn’t open our doors with one goal—profit—and charge ahead ruthlessly in pursuit of that.
We value diversity, we welcome new authors, we train emerging talent in editing and marketing. We rely on the values of respect, education, quality, ethical behavior to guide our decisions, while at the same time staying grounded in sound business principles. Do we want to sell books and lots of them? Yes. But we try to start every decision we undertake by asking what is good for the book and good for the author? Do we love the book? If the answer is yes, then we let that energy and enthusiasm fuel everything that follows.
When it comes to marketing, what's the hardest genre to promote/market? Why?
I wish there was just one genre that was the most difficult to promote. If there were, I think we could put our best minds and energy behind it and really attack the “problem.” In my experience, marketing books is like selling any other product. You only need to watch TV for a couple minutes, or scroll through a couple of websites before you see irrefutable proof that sales/marketing is so dynamic it can feel frantic. What works for one product and one demographic today might fall flat by the next quarter. Think of the money and creativity put into soft drink commercials. If ONE concept works to sell soda, why spend millions on ad placement, endorsements, theme songs, pop-ups, product placement, affiliate marketing, grassroots outreach? Selling books is just a different end product but the concepts underlying the marketing process are essentially the same.
Who is the target buyer? Where will you find that buyer? How can you compete for that buyer’s time/attention/budget/loyalty? What is the long term impact of this marketing outreach versus that one? How long will the product be viable and what window of time does a company have to “sell” the product? I’m not a marketing expert—but I spend a lot of time analyzing and studying our business. I think authors put a lot of pressure on themselves to sell, sell, sell. And I understand that—we all want not only to create great stories but to make money.
The best advice I can give to authors is to stop stressing. Corporate greats are asking the same questions and dealing with the same issues we are—the only difference is scale. The good news is actually also the bad news: there is no one right answer and the answers do constantly change. That is bad news because just when an author or publisher thinks they’ve “got it,” they probably need to change if they want to keep up. But the flip side of that is that there are many right answers, many things that work. The creativity and time you invest in marketing your book WILL pay off if you are persistent, take a long view, and approach the business side of writing with the same type of creativity and tenacity you approach storytelling.
If authors are NOT promoting and marketing their books, but want to start, what is the best way to get into the promotion groove?
I like to use analogies when I answer questions like this—I think they make tough answers easier to digest. In the case of starting a marketing program for your book, think of marketing like starting an exercise or weight loss plan. You may be able to see the results in your mind but getting up and holding a plank position for a minute may seem like an absolute impossibility.
Nothing is impossible. Nothing.
So approach marketing like you would losing weight. Have big goals that you undertake in manageable, sustainable steps. Do you hate blogging but feel your readership requires an author blog? Start small. Create the blog, enlist help from friends or colleagues, and post easy content—book covers, inspirational pictures you looked at while writing your books, easy to quote excerpts or provocative lines from your book. Use tags; make sure you’re maximizing the search-ability of your content.
Marketing doesn’t have to hurt. Just be realistic and listen to YOU. If you have bad knees and can’t run, don’t run. Walk, walk with weights, swim. This industry is so diverse. It’s a powerful time to be in publishing so like any other goal in life, half the work (sometimes more) is showing up. So if you don’t know where to start, that’s okay. Just start somewhere.
Also, do NOT expect miracles. I spend a lot of time and energy helping authors set realistic goals. Yes, there are overnight best-sellers. Yes, there are miracles—they happen every day in life and in book sales. But no one should publish a first book with the expectation that he or she will pay the mortgage from those sales any more than someone should “expect” to win the lottery just because he or she bought a ticket.
Success in any undertaking—school, work, exercise, dog training, hobbies, relationships—is about a consistent, sustained effort in the right places over time. So dream big and work big, but don’t ever forget to take a long view and be patient.
What genre/subgenre/niche is Musa most excited about acquiring?
We have editors who acquire in every genre, and we’re looking for sharp, innovative, diverse stories in just about every genre (we presently don’t acquire nonfiction and honestly, we’re pretty darn vampire-weary these days.)
We have a strong new imprint called Eros, which publishes erotica and erotic fiction. We welcome all subgenres for Eros—spec-fic, GLBTQ, historical, ménage, shifter, BDSM. We’re really proud to have some best-selling, talented authors in our erotica line and we want to see lots more!
We put the bios and appetites of our acquiring editors on our website, so authors should check back frequently for what we’re most excited about.
What genre/subgenre thrive the best at Musa?
I think romance and erotic fiction are the bread and butter of a lot of publishers, including us, but some of our best-selling books are speculative fiction, YA, and GLBTQ. That’s part of the fun of acquisitions—finding a book I love, giving it my energy and soul, and then watching it move readers just like it moved me. We have a lot of books under contract that really bend genre boundaries and I’m excited to see how those books excite readers.
Though still focused on eBooks, I understand Musa is going to also have print books in the future. Can you share some information on this?
Yes, I’m happy to share this! Musa Publishing has in the past offered most of our authors an opportunity to purchase limited edition promotional paperback copies of their books at a discounted rate from one of our approved vendors. The rules around how those books could be used/sold have been expanded.
Musa Publishing is still an eBook publisher but we recognize the value of finding readers where they live and many readers still live with paperback books, so many of our titles are now available in trade paperback format on our website and on digital retail sites. We plan to add more titles to our paperback inventory but we still believe in and will work toward promotion of eBooks as a whole.
Where do you see for the future of Musa in the next year? The next 5 years?
Success and setbacks. Growth, lessons, change. Good ideas, great ideas, and ideas we improve upon over time. I imagine that Musa, like other healthy companies, will plan for the best, prepare for tough times, and constantly re-commit to our guiding principles in the day to day.
I expect to see strong additions to staff, specifically in acquisitions and marketing.
And always, always, amazing books. The stories are why we’re here and our focus will remain on the books and our authors.
Musa is turning 3 in October. Are there special events planned for the anniversary? If so, where can readers find more information?
We do! We have parties, special releases, and lots of giveaways planned, so readers and authors should follow us on social media—specifically Facebook and Twitter—for details. We also have a monthly newsletter with free book offers and genre-specific interviews and news, so signing up for the newsletter is one of the best ways to stay connected without having to look far.
Do you have anything else you’d like to share with our readers about Musa and its objectives for the future?
Absolutely. Musa is like any other business. We are made up of real people with personalities and families, talents and dreams. We get sick, we work long hours. We mis-step, we get it right. Sometimes we have small victories and other times we hit it big.
Readers will find a really diverse inventory of books that reflect the complexities of our society—gay characters, paranormal stories, stories about love and sex, family, history. We have inventive speculative fiction written by some of the best voices working in the genre and we have erotic fiction that is technically well-written as well as smokin’ hot.
We welcome authors who are just starting out as well as authors whose backlist could fill a pickup truck. Our royalty rates are among the highest in the industry, our technical editing depth is exceptional, and our staff is open, available, and creative.
Statistics suggest that as many as eight out of ten new businesses fail within the first two years. Musa is thrilled to celebrate our third anniversary not only strong but energized, excited, and grateful. We have a passionate team, amazing stories, and a bright future ahead of us. It’s not just our brand, we’re truly inspired.
To check out Musa’s books and submission guidelines
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Columnist Lizzie T. Leaf: Award winning author, Lizzie T. Leaf started life in Kansas, continued her growing in North Carolina, and currently shivers through the winters in Colorado.
Since discovering the fun of writing paranormal, she plays with creating vampires, faeries and other immortals. When she needs a touch of reality, her Contemporary Erotic Romances come into play. Her most recent release is Nordic Heat, available at http://amzn.to/1owng5k
If she’s not creating mischief for paranormal beings, or getting under the covers with her erotic heroes, she can be found exploring the other genres she wants to write. She also served as the 2012 President for the Heart of Denver Romance Writers and is the 2014 VP of Programs.
Lizzie loves to read, spend time with her family and travel with her best friend husband during her free time.