Monday, October 2, 2017

Interview with Vinspire Editor Dawn Carrington

Hello, Readers,
Today I’m pleased to share an interview with Dawn Carrington, president of Vinspire Publishing, and editor of my just-released young-adult historical romance, Playing by Heart. (If you haven't entered for a chance to win the novel, the link at the end of this post will take you to the giveaway.)

For those you who aren't familiar with Vinspire Publishing, here’s some info from their website:

“Started in 2004 by four professional women, Vinspire Publishing is a print and e-book publisher. All of our books, with the exception of our novellas, are available in print, and we offer a little bit of everything for the family including inspirational romance, historical romance, mysteries, romantic suspense, literary fiction, paranormal romance, non-fiction, young adult adventures, humor, and children's stories.”

And now for the interview with Dawn.

Dawn, thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule for this interview. To begin, can you tell us how Vinspire Publishing was founded and what your initial goals were for the company? Also, how have those goals changed over time?

Thank you for asking me to be interviewed, Carmela.

Vinspire Publishing first began as Vintage Romance Publishing in 2003, and it came about because my friends and I saw a need for more books from the bygone era. When we originally started, we were only publishing books set in the 1920s-1950s, but as time passed, we decided to expand to more historical romance. Another year or two later, and we opened our doors to the wide branch of genres we accept now.
Vinspire changed because you have to change to meet the demands of the readers. We still publish historical romances and historical books without romance, but we’ve also found readers that are looking for more young adult, more Christian fiction, and so that’s what we’ve done.

The company started with four people. How many do you employ now and in what roles?

We have nine people who are staff, and that would include my assistant, two readers, a senior editor, a cover artist, an illustrator (now that we’ll be accepting more children’s books), and marketing team of three. We also have a host of contractors we use for formatting our black and white books, formatting our children’s books, as those are two separate teams, preparing ads and additional graphics, preparing our videos, and uploading our books to Netgalley along with a host of other duties that we may need only once.

One of the things that enticed me to submit to you was the quality of your covers. When I handed a bookmark featuring the cover of Playing by Heart to an influential librarian I met at a conference, she commented on how the cover could pass for one put out by HarperCollins. Can you tell us a bit about how the cover design process works at Vinspire? Does one cover artist design all your covers?

It's always so gratifying to hear such praise about our covers. We have been very fortunate to work with Elaina Lee with For the Muse Designs. She designs all of our covers and tries to reflect the author’s vision.

We ask each author to fill out a cover art form which provides an idea of what they would like to see on their cover. Authors can even provide samples of other covers they like. Sometimes, Elaina is able to make their ideas a reality. At other times, they just won’t work, and that’s when Elaina and I will choreograph a cover.

Many times, Elaina gets everything perfect the first time, or it’s almost perfect with just one or two tweaks. So I say again how very fortunate we are to have this talented cover artist working for us!

Vinspire is typically open only to agented submissions. However, you recently accepted unsolicited submissions for one day. What motivated that decision? What were the results from that call? Do you think you’ll offer contracts to any of the authors who submitted?

Vinspire had been closed to unagented submissions for almost two years, working only with agents and through conferences for submissions. Once upon a time, all of our submissions came through authors without agents, and we’ve been blessed to have acquired books that have gone on to be bestsellers with us and authors whose careers have blossomed. So we decided to open our doors for twelve hours only and check out the talent.

The results were phenomenal. In fact, so much so that we’ve had to hire additional readers to get through the influx. We’re still reading through the manuscripts, and it’s already been six weeks. But we were right to open as, without a doubt, we’ll be offering contracts to some of the authors.

Did you see any common problems in the manuscripts that didn’t make the cut? What advice can you give those authors?

I would say the biggest problem we have seen in some of the submissions we will or have rejected is the failure to “catch” us in the beginning. Authors have one shot to catch an editor’s eye so it’s imperative to start the book where the story actually begins.

Unfortunately, many authors still feel the need to set up the story with long narratives that don’t give us the opportunity to invest in any of the characters. We want to dive into the story. Instead, the author tells us every little thing about the main character and the setting of the book, and ten pages in, we don’t know if we want to continue reading.

It’s kind of like going to buy a car, and the salesman extols the virtues of the vehicle and takes forever to get to the price of the car. If he tells you that first, you know whether or not you can afford it. Get the shock out of the way. That’s what you need to do with the book. Shock us. Awe us. Make us feel something other than boredom so we’ll want to read more.

You are an author yourself, writing as Rachel Carrington. How do you find time for your own writing on top of all your responsibilities at Vinspire?

I’ve always been extremely organized. A large part of that comes from having spent thirty years as a paralegal. You can’t do that job if you’re not organized. I make lists. I have set times for everything, including time to relax in the evening. In addition, I enjoy working. Having nothing to do is unfathomable to me. I like to stay busy because it gives me a sense of purpose.

Vinspire is very active on social media, including Facebook, InstagramPinterest, Twitter, and YouTube. Do you have any advice for authors trying to promote their work via social media? Is it worth the time for pre-published writers to participate in social media?

As much as some people might hate it, social media is a necessity in today’s publishing world. It’s one of the best ways, besides a newsletter, to reach your audience.

Promoting doesn’t have to be hard. I have said this countless times to our authors. You can do a lot in ten to fifteen minutes a day, especially on social media. As long as you’re not just shouting “buy my book,” you can get people interested in what you have to say.

For instance, on my personal Twitter account, I share writing tips, promoting tips, articles I’ve discovered that would benefit authors, links to helpful marketing blogs, positive messages, and videos that make me laugh, cry, or feel something. Yes, I include information about my books occasionally, but, more often, I invite people to follow me on social media or to subscribe to my newsletter. I believe it’s more important to give than it is to receive, and authors can make a difference in their own marketing efforts if they don’t narrow their focus to just selling their books.

Pre-published authors need to be involved in social media so they can follow authors and industry leaders and join in the conversations. They can learn what to do and what not to do. Many agents, editors, and publishing houses share writing tips and calls for submissions on social media like we did with our one-day-only submission event. If an aspiring author wasn’t on social media, they missed that call.

It’s important, though, to have a balance. Don’t spend so much time on social media that you neglect other aspects of your career. Continue to educate yourself about the writing process and marketing. Learn how to grow your career. Get involved in writing groups offline and become a part of this community.

Vinspire Publishing is up against a lot of competition: the “Big 5” publishers and their imprints, other small publishers, and authors independently publishing their own work. How do you reach potential readers in the face of all that competition?

This might sound odd, but I don’t see other publishers as competition. We’ve always believed there are readers for every book no matter who the publisher is, and when you think about it, few people purchase books based on the publisher.

Reaching readers is an ongoing process that involves encouraging them to try a new author and to come back after their first purchase. It’s all part of the marketing process.

Some books sell better than others. It’s a simple fact like some shoes sell better than others. But we don’t give up on a book. If you take a look at our social media, you’ll see we constantly promote books no matter how long they’ve been in publication.

I think a big part of being successful in any aspect of life is having a “never give up” attitude. We have been in business for almost fourteen years, and we’ve made it this far because we’ve been tenacious about reaching out to readers, and we have some great authors that have that same spirit.

Do you have any tips for staying positive in the often-challenging publishing business?

I have a quote on the wall in my office that says “always believe something wonderful is going to happen.” That’s how I try to live my life. Staying positive takes effort, but it’s worth it when you realize that there is so much negativity in the world that people grasp onto the positive when they see it.

Like I said above, it’s important to have a “never give up” attitude. We only get one chance at this life, one chance to make a difference, so we have to make every moment count.

If an author is struggling because their book isn’t selling the way they thought it should, I encourage them to think about where they were a year ago. Maybe they didn’t even have a book published then. So, by having a book in publication, they have become an author, and they are taking steps forward. As long as you’re making forward movements, you’re succeeding.

Never compare yourself to anyone else because your journey is different. Maybe you’re not supposed to be a New York Times Bestselling author. That might be difficult to hear, but there are different levels of success. An actor who hasn’t won an Emmy isn’t any less of an actor. So you’re not any less of an author if your book hasn’t won an award or you haven’t reached the pinnacle of the sales charts.

Thank you again for the interview, Carmela. It was a pleasure!

Thank YOU, Dawn. I especially appreciate your advice about not comparing yourself to anyone else. I think that's something we're often tempted to do.

Readers, I hope you found this post helpful and encouraging. If you'd like to receive updates on Vinspire Publishing's books and giveaways, be sure to sign up for their newsletter at the bottom of the home page of their website.

And don't forget to enter for a chance to win an autographed copy of Playing by Heart if you haven't already done so. See my last post for details.

Remember, always Write with Joy!


Courtney McKinney-Whitaker said...

Great interview, Carmela and Dawn! I've had a hard time staying "positive in publishing" lately, and this advice is very helpful.

Carmela Martino said...

Yes, this is a tough business, Courtney. Glad you found Dawn's advice helpful!

Rosi said...

Terrific interview with lots of good information. Thanks for the post.

Judith Ingram said...

An interesting, informative interview! I especially liked Dawn's comment about the quote on her wall that says “always believe something wonderful is going to happen.” That's a great vision to uphold as she helps authors put their work out into the world. Thanks for these insights, Carmela, and best of success with your new book!

Carmela Martino said...

Rosi and Judith, glad you found the interview informative. Thanks so much for stopping by!

Anonymous said...

Love this! Well done, ladies!

JKBovi said...

Great interview! Full of information and positive inspiration! Thank you for sharing

A.J. Cattapan said...

Great interview--and such good encouragement for authors!

Carmela Martino said...

Claire, Kay, and A.J., I'm happy you enjoyed it. Thanks for stopping by!

Ellen Reagan said...

Interesting interview, Carmela. Thanks for the inspiration!

Carmela Martino said...

Hi Ellen ~ Glad you found it interesting!

Danielle H. said...

I enjoyed reading this interview and found encouragement to keep writing.

Carmela Martino said...

Danielle, I'm pleased you're encouraged to stick with it!