Every now and then, I pester my creative colleagues with five questions about their work. Most of these folks are friends, a few are secret enemies, and one has been blackmailing me for years.
I met Margaret Curelas while paying a social call on Bryan Hades in Calgary. Margaret was one of Bryan’s two new staffers at Edge Publishing. Not too long after, Margaret launched Tyche books, and I started running into her at book launches and conventions. She and her allies were the first I saw selling ebooks on cards, so you could make the sale right there at the convention. And she is often at the center of Steampunk Balls or book launches nearly indistinguishable from bake sales.
Along with SG Wong, Axel Howerton, and Andrew Foley, Margaret is joining me for a series of Writing 101 Panels at the Calgary Expo next weekend. Join us, and learn more of the secrets to Margaret’s publishing success.
1. What’s the biggest creative lesson you’ve learned since “graduating” from editing to publishing? What creative challenges have surprised you?
My biggest creative lesson and my creative challenge are the same thing: my creativity has to be channeled in very different directions than I’m used to. Sure, I approve expenses and decisions that lead to producing a good-looking book, but a lot of creative energy also has to go toward the business end of publishing. I need to find creative ways to market and promote, creative ways to raise awareness of authors and books, creative ways to engage readers.
2. Can you give us an example of creative marketing and promotion?
Daily blogging about the book. Similar to a blog tour, but the posts were all on the Tyche blog. When Masked Mosaic came out, Claude [Lalumier] and Camille [Alexa] suggested twice a day posts about each story, so for the better part of a month there was a constant stream of information about the anthology, its editors, and its contributors. Finding artwork to go with all those posts was a challenge! We did something similar last summer with Heritage by David L. Craddock—twenty-one posts leading up to the release of the book which explored the characters and magic system and featured interviews with the cover artist and author.
Last spring we threw a steampunk tea party to promote Hustlers, Harlots, and Heroes. In addition to featuring recipes from the book, there was a science corner where physicists ran demos, which was a fun way to nod at the scientific history presented in the book. It was a fun celebration of all things Victorian.
3. How much of the Tyche line reflects your vision, and how much of it do you “discover” through the vision of your authors?
My vision and the line have evolved a lot over the past few years. Early books were an odd combination of exactly what we envisioned (e.g. What Kings Ate & Wizards Drank, which was contracted before we announced our existence) and “luck of the draw,” books like City of Demons, which came through the slush pile. Some of the books have been selected because I wanted to work with particular authors. Over time, a definite trend of books featuring female leads has developed; the more I publish, the more I receive, and since I believe female-led books are important, that is a trend I’m nurturing. Two-thirds of my line this year will have female protagonists. But overall I publish books that I enjoy reading—the importance of which can’t be underestimated, since I read each book half a dozen times, easily, before it’s even published.
4. Every time I go to a convention, you’re there! And you have parties and events. How do you make the investment of time and energy pay off?
I enjoy attending conventions, so most of the pay-off is that I get to go to panels, get stuff signed, visit with sff fans, writers, and artists, and generally have fun at the convention.
5. You’re the first person I saw selling ebooks on cards that the buyer could redeem at home on the computer. Why haven’t we seen more of that from other publishers? Is there a downside?
I think the biggest reason we don’t see more ebook cards at conventions is that the people shopping at conventions prefer print editions. My print books far outsell the ebook cards at conventions—and when some download companies require a minimum purchase amount, resulting in stock that just gathers dust, or charge high download fees, the ebook cards just aren’t cost effective. Plus, you’re always going to get the person who sees that you have ebooks for sale, hauls out their phone, and buys it on Amazon. Great that a sale was made, but obviously the author—and I—make more money off a direct sale.
Keep an eye on upcoming books from Tyche.