Check out the awesome happening here at Women and Words today! Andi, our resident question asker, had the opportunity recently to interview Radclyffe from Bold Strokes Books.
Radclyffe often takes time out to discuss her work as an author, but we don’t hear as much about her role as President of successful LGBTQ publishing company.
Bold Strokes Books was founded in 2004 and hasn’t stopped growing since. Radclyffe is a driving force, not just with Bold Strokes, but with lesbian literature in general. She has worked diligently to break down walls and change the landscape of lesbian fiction. Her innovations and passion for publishing show in every aspect of her role as president of Bold Strokes Books.
I could keep going, but I think it’s time to get to the good stuff. Andi’s questions are in bold.
Howdy! Thanks so much for taking the time to answer some questions about BSB!
So can you give our readers a bit of history about Bold Strokes Books? You launched in 2004, but what factors made you decide to go into publishing?
I had been publishing my titles in a variety of fashions for a number of years prior to deciding to begin a traditional publishing company. In the process of publishing with several publishers, I had gotten experience working with editors, graphic artists, and other professionals and became interested in the process of creating a book. I also had positive experiences working with other authors online and a few collaborative projects and wanted to expand on those experiences. One of the goals of a publishing company, as I saw it, was creating a community and a structure that would support the development of authors and promote their work. That was one of the missions of Bold Strokes Books at its conception. The other was to utilize all the techniques available to us in publishing to produce quality works and bring them to the reading public. Those goals continue to this day.
Is there a story behind the name “Bold Strokes”?
I went through a number of names trying to find one that was memorable as well as represented something important about the company. I think the name speaks for itself :-).
So an author submits a manuscript to BSB for consideration. For our readers who are not authors, what process does a manuscript go through at BSB before an author is offered a contract?
Submission guidelines are available on our website under “Publish with Us“. As is noted there, we request that the entire manuscript be sent to us along with a summary of the story so that we have some idea what genre the work would fit into. We request a full manuscript because I think that’s the best way to give a fair evaluation of a work. While it is true that the first few chapters can give a good indication of the strength of a work as well as the timeliness and appeal of the plot, sometimes manuscripts surprise us as they unfold and it takes a complete reading to determine that. I review the synopsis and if it appears interesting, will read the beginning of the manuscript. As long as there are no obvious problems with the technical aspects of the work, we schedule the manuscript for a full review which includes my own reading, that of one or two editors, and readers who have a broad experience in LGBTQ section. I like to get reader opinions because I often find that what appeals to readers may not be what we as publishing professionals focus on. Once the work has been reviewed and we wish to publish it, the author is contacted and given the opportunity to review a contract.
So a manuscript is accepted and the contract is all signed (yay!) and now it’s time to get the manuscript in the publishing pipeline. For our readers who are not authors, can you reveal a bit about what happens to that manuscript to turn it into a book?
As soon as a title is contracted, we assign it a publication date (although that may change as this is usually anywhere from 5 to 15 months in the future) and an editor. The editor will then contact the author to introduce themselves and give the author a general timetable as to when they might expect to receive their first edits. Obviously, all the editors are working on ongoing projects so it is not unusual for a new author with an accepted manuscript not to begin working on edits for a number of months. Very early in the process, we ask the author for input as to cover ideas and/or design. This helps the graphic artist create covers that not only indicate the genre of the work but have some direct bearing on content. The author has an opportunity to review the cover mockups and provide input. We also ask the author at this stage to provide data for listing the books (a bio and a book blurb– which is basically the information that you would read on the back cover of the book). Once the edits are complete, which is near the end of the process, the work goes to a typesetter where it is properly formatted for printing or e-book conversion, and proofs are provided to the author to check for corrections, the works are proofread, and then go to press.
Since opening its doors, BSB has expanded in a variety of ways. In 2007, for example, BSB became the first LGBTQ publisher accepted into the Romance Writers of America. What made you decide to push for that?
Bold Strokes Books is a publisher member of Romance Writers of America, the Independent Book Publishers Association, the Mystery Writers of America, and many other publishing and author -related organizations. I think it’s critical for our authors and our titles to be viewed in the same way and at the same level as any other mainstream work is viewed. These organizations exist to help support and promote author works as well as to provide marketing platforms. The more visible we are, the more credibility our work gains and the more the authors benefit. Romance Writers of America, specifically, is an organization devoted to fostering author development and providing tools for authors to build careers as romance writers. They are author advocates and offer extensive and expert symposiums, workshops, industry fora, and legal/business seminars.
Can you tell us a bit about some of the things that BSB is engaged in outside the U.S.?
Bold Strokes Books as a publishing company supports, sponsors, and contributes to literally dozens of literary events throughout the year, both in this country and abroad. There are at least half a dozen events in the UK annually where we have a large readership and more than a dozen authors (the two largest being in Nottingham and London).We have an event coordinator in the UK who organizes these events and assists authors in acquiring panel presentations and readings. We have ongoing relationships with publishers in France and Spain who translate and publish selected BSB titles as well. In the US, our authors attend and are involved in panel presentations as well as signings and readings at numerous events in the United States including Saints and Sinners Literary Festival, BentCon, Mystery Writers of America, the Gay Northwest RomCon, Rainbow Book Fair in New York City, Decatur Book Festival, Provincetown Women’s Week, OutWrite, LonestarLesfic Festival, GCLS, and multiple pride events throughout the nation. We assist the authors in obtaining books, promoting, and marketing their involvement in these events.
BSB also conducts writers’ workshops. What got you interested in doing those and where are some of the places they’re held?
BSB holds a week long, bi-annual summer retreat for authors and associates where we can get to know each other, play a lot, and work a little (we hold daily workshops and critique sessions that are totally voluntary. If authors want to come and write – -great. If they want to come and swim all day, that works too. Each of our past retreats has drawn 60 BSBers and partners.)The Flax Milk Creek Writers Retreat is actually run by me and is only loosely associated with BSB. The online workshops are open to anyone who wants to sign up, although we fill up quickly and spaces are generally limited. This is a teaching forum on a private, dedicated web server so we can post segments of authors’ works and critique them within the group.
What are, for you, some of the best things about being a publisher?
Without a doubt, the best thing about being a publisher is hearing from authors that they had a satisfying and rewarding experience publishing their book with us.
Anything you’d do over if you could with regard to publishing?
Publishing is an organic process that’s constantly changing and growing. To date, I’m happy with the progress we have made and the directions we have taken. I only hope that I can continue to lead the company forward in a dynamic fashion responsive to the changing and ever challenging world of publishing.
What sorts of things are next on the horizon for BSB?
Our key focus in addition to author support and development is reaching new readers and making them aware of our authors’ works. We are constantly looking for new ways, new media tools, and new avenues to inform readers of our titles. Last year we radically expanded our marketing forum and have doubled our newsletter list, tripled our Facebook traffic, added new avenues for reviews, and increased our mailouts and special reader promotions. So this year – more of the same.
Thanks for the opportunity to speak to your audience! Radclyffe