Publisher Laura Baumbach - Behind the Scenes
The kick-off of Behind the Scenes brings an interview with Laura Baumbach, the owner of several publishing houses. I met this talented, busy lady several years ago. When she opened Passion in Print Press, I made a note to contact her if I had a project that might fit.
Laura, as the owner of three different publishing houses, you must stay very busy. Can you share with our readers how this came about?
Seven years ago I became frustrated that none of my publisher at the time would do print format of m/m. I could tell from my emails I was receiving that there was a need for it in the market place, plus not having print meant not being able to enter a large number of contests or be considered for some awards. Print was very necessary at that point.
I wasn’t thinking on a large scale at the time when I created ManLove Romance Press aka MLR Press. I planned on publishing only a few top authors, close peers in the m/m romance category. However, about four months after we started, I was queried by a big name gay mystery writer looking for a new publisher, Richard Stevenson. We chatted and discussed publishing issues and we signed each other on. After that point I knew the press was very much needed by readers and authors. There was no looking back.
Featherweight Publishing, our YA and Children’s imprint started when my then 10 year old son wrote a book for children. It was a way I would nurture and encourage the next generation of authors. A year or so later Passion In Print, our traditional romance imprint opened up to give some of our established MLR Press authors who wrote both categories a place to publish without looking for a new editor or house.
How many books does each house publish each year? Do you have a maximum number cutoff or does it depend on submissions?
MLR publishes around 250 titles a year. We release 2-4 titles a week with special themed months where we do one a day for a period of time. PIP averages about 35-40 a year. FW comes in at about 25 titles a year. Picture books for children are very expensive and time consuming so we limit the number per year. The YA number is growing. Not all the titles are print. Only titles over 65,000 words go to print.
All three houses publish in both eBook and print books. What is the percentage of sales in eBooks vs. print books?
When I started the press, it was 50-50. Seven years later it’s now print 5% with ebook grabbing the remaining 95% of the sales market.
What qualities do you look for in a manuscript submission?
Probably the same as every romance publisher. A good, well thought out, compelling story, characters a reader can like or at least relate to, engaging dialog, a convincing romantic relationship that evolves throughout the story, passionate intimacy and humor if the story calls for it.
What criteria do you have for the editors you hire for the houses? Do your editors work across the various genres each house specializes in or stay within that house?
Editors have come to us with many levels of experience from zero to well-established. Our first MLR editor was Judy David, an amazingly talented and insightful, experienced editor. She trained our current executive editor, Kris Jacen, bringing her up from proofer to editor in under a year. Judy retired a number of years ago and Kris was the perfect editor to take the reins. She is my right hand and mentor to all our other editors. She is indispensable to the presses. Some of our editors worked their way up the rank like Kris and some are authors learning to work the other side of the editorial fence.
I prefer editors who do not write but we have several editors who are also very good authors. In those cases they have to be able to separate the ‘editor’ in them from the ‘author’ and not impose their own voice in the manuscript. I think ours do that very well. It’s a talent.
Yes, some of our editors do edit for all three houses and no, some prefer to stay in a category. They all pitch in if the job needs done when necessary.
Rolling Stone Magazine’s What’s Hot column named you as 'A pioneer of the M/M romance genre' in October. 2010. Do you see a growth in that genre and at your MLR Press?
The Rolling Stone article was a massive surprise. I can remember when one of my PIP authors came onto the loop and announced she had seen my name in the magazine. I was stunned. I went out and bought all the copies our little town had in it. *g* I’ve worked for over a decade to bring M/M erotic romance to its rightful place beside traditional erotic romance. I can’t tell you how thrilling it was for me to have that work recognized.
Yes, a huge growth in the category of romance. It’s large enough to sustain an entire publishing house devoted to it that is growing. A lot of the first growth was people testing out if they could write in the genre. Over time those authors drawn to it for the possible financial benefits and not the story have drifted away for the most part. An author has to be devoted to the storyline and character to be successful at writing anything. Most readers who give our category a try find they fall in love with the passion, intimacy and devotion of the characters. Love stories are intense and m/m love stories tend to be more intense than traditional romance by virtue of the added obstacles their relationships face. It’s all about the love.
What is the future vision for all your publishing entities?
Growth and success, I hope. 2013 looks like it will be a stellar year. To start out with MLR has a ‘Bloody March’ planned with m/m vampire stories by the dozen. Lawan Williams, the editor for PIP has a lineup of awesome anthology submissions calls in the works. I see more authors joining us and a growing readership. We plan to continue to be an outlet for authors’ imaginations and for readers to find what they are looking for in any erotic romance category. We are going to just keep doing what we do best -- work within the framework of the romance community while working a little outside the box.
Columnist Lizzie T. Leaf: Award winning author, Lizzie T. Leaf enjoys writing Paranormal/Fantasy with a twist of humor. Her Magical Love series is available in print and eBook at Passion in Print and other sellers. Beyond Magic, the first book in the series won the 2012 AOE Best Paranormal/Fantasy/Sci-Fi. The DEAD series is available through Musa Publishing where she also has two Christmas novellas including Making Christmas, the LRC Best Historical winner and the 2012 Aspen Gold Best Novella winner.