I have the honor of presenting Sasha Knight from Samhain Publishing in our continuing Publisher Showcase series! So let's get this ship off the launch pad and get into orbit!
Would you like to share a little history about Samhain Publishing?
Pronounced sah-vin by the Scots, sow-in (sow like cow) by the Irish and sam-hine in English, Samhain is the Irish word for November. And November 2005 saw the launch of Samhain Publishing, Ltd., founded with a goal of bringing to compulsive readers books that allow them to discover new worlds and be taken on adventures through the creative minds of today’s brightest authors.
Over the last four and a half years we have worked hard to make Samhain one of the top epublishers in today’s market. Our books are available at digital bookstores all over the web, and we also publish print versions available in Borders, Barnes & Noble and Chapters as well as other chains and independent bookstores—but always remember that if you simply can’t wait, the digital version is just a click away!
Who are your key personnel?
So many people work hard to make Samhain a fantastic publisher that I could take page after page just mentioning names and all they do for Samhain. Plus, we couldn’t exist without the authors who write the wonderful stories readers clamor for. But I assume you’re asking about the staff. We have a great crew who you can read about on the About Us page on our Samhain website. http://www.samhainpublishing.com/about
What are the most common reasons a novel (especially a Science Fiction Romance novel) is rejected?
The most common reason a book is rejected is the writer doesn’t know their craft. Simply put that means poor grammar, stilted writing, implausible storylines, plot holes, info-dumping, starting the book with page after page of unnecessary back story, unlikable characters or ones I can’t—or don’t want to—relate to. There are many more reasons, but these are the ones I see over and over again.
I also want to mention cover letters. I can’t tell you how many times I see basic typos and misspellings in a cover letter. Looking back over the last five slush pile submissions I received, three of them had obvious typos in the cover letter—and in one of those the author misspelled the title of the book. I wish I was joking, but I see this more often than you’d believe. Remember, authors, you want to make a good impression from the beginning, and that includes a polished, professional cover letter. Don’t over-share personal information. Be professional, be courteous of the editor’s time, and polish, polish, polish. Don’t give us a reason to dread looking at your submission—make us excited from those very first few lines.
What are the biggest mistakes new authors make?
If you’re talking about authors who haven’t been published before and who are looking to break in, it’s everything I stated in the above answer. If you’re talking about new authors who have just signed their first contract, it’s not realizing or appreciating the level of work that goes into releasing a book. Don’t get me wrong, I love the shiny newness of a brand-new author who is so excited about their first book contract. I love that enthusiasm. But I’ve seen some who come in thinking that they’ve already done the hard part—they wrote the book—and they won’t have to do many edits, they won’t have to promote the title, they won’t have to do anything but sit back and cash their huge paychecks. Be prepared to work and work hard, edit, revise and rewrite, then promote, promote, promote—all while writing your next book.
What do you look for in a Science Fiction Romance submission? What grabs your attention, makes you sit up and want to read more?
The same thing I look for in any submission. I want to be wowed. It’s as simple and as complicated as that. What wows me? A well-written story featuring characters I want to spend lots of time with. A strong and unique author voice that makes me sit up and take notice. In Science-Fiction romance, I want to see strong worldbuilding. The worldbuilding is such an essential and important part of this genre, if it’s not there, or it’s lacking, I’m probably not going to offer a contract. I don’t want cookie-cutter characters, plots, or worldbuilding. Make it unique, make it believable. Make me want to sit in the pilot seat, fly through the stars, or walk the streets of your world.
How far do you read into a submission before you know if the novel is right for you?
I can read a few lines of a book and know it’s wrong for me, but for new authors I haven’t worked with before, I read the entire book before I know it’s right. Now, I might get a buzz along my spine, the breathless anticipation of what’s to come from reading just the first couple chapters, but I will read all the way to the end before making a decision, because, sadly, books that start well sometimes fall apart.
Do you have recommendations or requirements regarding "heat levels" of submissions?
Write the heat level the story—and characters—demand. Don’t try to write hotter just because you think that’s what publishers are looking for. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been reading a fantastic story, the characters are exciting, the worldbuilding fantastic, and then out of nowhere the story devolves into a sex romp that completely doesn’t fit the characters or the plot, making me go “wha--?” and ripping me out of the story. On the opposite side of the spectrum, I’ve read books where the author builds the sexual tension between the characters so hot that the story demands a sex scene, and then the author either closes the door on the sex or ignores it. Both of these can be story killers. Make sure to stay true to the characters, and to the promise you’re making to the reader.
Tell me about a few of your favorite/best-selling Science Fiction Romances novels. What really stood out in these stories that made them unique? (They can include covers, blurbs and links here if they’d like)
In January and February of this year Samhain released six space opera novellas that came about from an anthology call I held last year. I love each of these stories because they’re all different, from fun space romps (Hearts and Minds by J.C. Hay, Beyond Meridian by C.C. Bridges, and Moonlust by Kallysten), dark explorations of sexual desire on foreign worlds (Crimson by Ethan X. Thomas), and breathless action-adventure in space (Metal Reign by Nathalie Gray and The Mythmakers by Robert Appleton). Not to mention Kanaxa’s cover art for each of these stories absolutely blows my mind. I had a fantastic time doing this anthology and look forward to the print volumes releasing in November and December of this year.
What are you looking for right now? What kinds of submissions would you like to see pop up in your e-queries? Anything you’re dying to see more of? Steampunk? Futuristic? Space Opera? Any dream novels?
I’m looking to be wowed, in any genre. My steampunk romance anthology call closed on April 30 and I’m reading through the submissions now. This is the fun part—it’s like Christmas morning, so many exciting stories to unwrap. I also just contracted my very first cyberpunk novel, and I’d love, love, love more of those. And more post-apocalyptic (or apocalyptic!) please. I rarely see any submissions in these genres, and I want more!
My dream novel? I’m a huge fan of Joss Whedon’s Firefly, and my favorite movie last year was the new Star Trek. I would love stories in a similar vein (no fanfiction please!) If I were to receive a well-written sci-fi romance story—preferably the first in a continuing series--where each story explored a relationship between crew members aboard a ship as they explore the universe, planets, fight the baddies, etc., I would probably hyperventilate with excitement. So I offer this challenge to all the writers at the SFR Brigade. Make me hyperventilate. Wow me. I’m ready.
Thanks for giving us an insight into Samhain Publishing! Breaking orbit… It's okay, I'm a leaf on the wind!
Sasha Knight, Senior Editor
Sasha Knight loves words. Her parents swear she came out of the womb speaking and took up reading soon after, so it should come as no surprise that she grew up to become an editor, allowing her to spend her days playing with words. In 2005, Sasha joined Samhain Publishing, Ltd. as a full-time editor. In addition to her administrative duties, she maintains a full-time editing schedule and edits more than 50 authors…and she’s always looking for more.
When she’s not editing, reading submissions or wading through thousands of emails, Sasha relaxes by watching TV. She’s an avid fan of Joss Whedon and thinks that Firefly was one of the best TV shows ever. She also loves Doctor Who and is torn between her love of David Tennant and Matt Smith, and ranks Steven Moffat up there with Joss Whedon among the best TV writers ever. Sasha loves to travel with her family, an e-reader full of books always at her side.