Wednesday, October 17, 2007

J. Ellen Smith visits the Diaries

The Morgan Diaries were lucky enough to run into J. Ellen Smith, owner and publisher of Champagne Publishing, at the local Starbucks. We weren't stalking! We'll keep saying that until the Restraining Order says different. After we agreed to pay for her Orange Cream Frap and a pumpkin cream cheese muffin, she allowed us to ask her a few questions. We later found out it was a delaying tactic until the police arrived to escort us away. But we got the interview and Morgan O got a new pair of handcuffs from a very nice police officer (who looked suspiciously like Dylan McDermott - rawr!). All in all a great day for The Morgan Diaries.

TMD: Ellen would you mind telling our readers a bit about Champagne, other than the little bubbles in fancy wine which tickles our fancy. (Morgan O loves those bubbles just a tad too much...)

Ellen: One day, while having vanilla latt├ęs with a friend, we sat and complained about the latest thing we'd read. Same plot, same formula... ho hum boring. We chatted a while about the types of books we'd like to read. It was around that time that the idea that would become Champagne was born. Several more months of research ensued, and then it was time to either put up or shut up. I'd been saying for two years that I could do it, and I decided that the time had come.

Champagne Books came into being in early 2005, initially as a romance only publishing house, and has since moved into acquiring other genres. It's been fun adding a whole new mix to our author loop because we now have some very creative guys that come to our chats and take part terrorizing... er... chatting with the readers.

TMD: As a Canadian based publisher, have you noticed whether or not trends between our two countries seem to run in the same direction?

Ellen: The trends are very similar. You must remember that in this day and age of the internet, the boundaries that used to block many outlets are no longer there. We interact with readers and authors all over the world, and that is what drives us.

TMD: With so many e-publishers folding, how has Champagne managed to stay competitive in this turbulent market?

Ellen: Good question! Let me know when you figure it out, okay?

Seriously, we continue to turn out a quality product. We're quite picky about editing and books that do not meet our standards simply do not get contracted. Our editors are dedicated to creating bestsellers, and sometimes that makes the editing process painful on both the author AND editor, but it is all worth it in the end. Our cover art is probably some of the best in the industry, and that is in part thanks to our amazing art director, who has steadfastly refused to bow to pressures to compromise his vision for us. He is absolutely, 100% in charge (except for those times when I am) and I trust his judgment implicitly.

We keep our prices competitive and don't rush to move faster than we're prepared to go. And then there are the authors. Champagne authors are some of the finest that I know, and I'm so proud of each and every one of them. Without our fine stable of authors, we wouldn't be where we are today

TMD: With so many publishers turning more toward Erotica, than straight romance, do you feel there is still a place in e-books for a purely romantic novel?

Ellen: Definitely. And our sales prove it every day.

TMD: Another question along that vein. For the past few years paranormal romance has dominated the majority of e-book sales. Do you think this is a fad, or do you see it as a viable extension of the market like Historicals, Suspense, and Contemporary Romance?

Ellen: I used to think it was a fad, but it's turning out to be a bona fide subgenre of the romance genre. Our paranormals do very well, especially ones that include shape shifting, DNA altered stud muffins, or cats that talk. Science Fiction romance is another strong seller for us.

TMD: Champagne has attracted an amazing array of authors who consistently put out well crafted stories. Do you feel a close bond between a publisher and its authors is a vital component in making a company successful?

Ellen: Thank you!

I would have to say that yes, I do believe it's important, especially in the early days. When we first opened with a handful of authors, we were all striving toward the same thing. All working hard to be recognized. While we are still moving in the same directions today, it is harder to maintain the same degree of 'closeness' as our house grows. As that happens, we rely on our editor/author relationships to pull through the tough spots, and of course we have a wonderful author liaison lady (Kat) who takes care of a lot of issues that I am not able to get to anymore.

But my authors always know how to find me if they truly need me, and know I'll never turn my back if they've got an issue, need to brainstorm, or just want to vent.

TMD: With your company based in Canada, how do you manage to stay competitive with American publishers when it comes to the print side of the industry?

Ellen: Quite frankly, I don't consciously try to stay competitive with American publishers. I stay competitive within our own small press field by simply paying attention to trends, watching prices and keeping our costs as low as possible, so that higher print costs are not passed along to the consumer. I communicate quite regularly with other small press publishers which also helps with competitiveness, consistency and whatnot.

TMD: Every publisher has established a Yahoo Group to aid in promotion. How important is the reader/author relationship in the epublishing industry?

Ellen: It's VERY important. E-readers are an extremely loyal bunch once they find an author(s) that they like, but often the way they find them is through the social channels such as forums, Yahoo Groups, chats, etc. These types of promotional opportunities are crucial for an author to establish him/herself in the field.

TMD: As a veteran of the epublishing game, where do you see the industry heading in let's say the next five years?

Ellen: I think we're going to see more and more electronic books. Our youth have been raised on technology, and reading on an electronic device is becoming commonplace. The market is going to explode in the coming years, and I look forward to seeing it when it does, but in the mean time, I do think that readers enjoy a printed book in their hand. I doubt that will change in quite some time.

But hey, did you ever watch Star Trek and see those nifty devices that Picard and company carried around? Won't be long before everyone has something as smart as that.

TMD: Is it true you can tell a Canadian likes Moose Head by the antler marks on his thighs? <<= blame this one on Morgan O, she's from Alaska.

Ellen: Well I don't know about those folk up there in Alaska, but remember this, Canadians dismiss all beers under 6% as "for children and the elderly."

TMD: Ellen, thank you for joining us at TMD and not leaving in spite of that last question. Before we're handcuffed…I mean tie up this interview, do you mind telling our readers some of the upcoming events they can find Champagne's authors attending?

Ellen: Oh certainly! We have a live chat coming up at FAR (Fallen Angel Reviews) on Halloween, so I would like to invite everyone to come out for an evening of spooky tales, masquerade games and the occasional vampire visitor! Come early, stay for as long as you'd like because once we get chatting, the Champagne crew is hard to shut up. Chat starts at 9pm EST.

Now do remember, if you need bail money, my number is..... never mind. I have no money. I keep giving it to all the authors.

TMD: Thank you again for joining us and the offer of bail money, but I think Morgan O worked something out for us. For our readers if you’d like to check out some of the fabulous books offered by Champagne Publishing we’ve included the addy to their website below, as well as the addy to the Champagne Yahoo Group so you can keep up to date on all the new releases coming up.


Maithe said...

Hi guys!

Yes, it is true that Champagne books has very good authors. I have been keeping an eye on them and I can honestly say I like what I see. I wish you and your authors the very best in now and in the future.


Dawn D said...

Hi Morgans!

If this is a small sample of all the bounty we have to look forward to you're gonna have to beat me off with a stick - on second thought I might like that *wink*!!

We'll I'm off to check out Champagne Books website & see if I can pre-spend some of my bday money on more books - because hey you can never have too many!! If I run out of room on my bookshelves I just toss hubby into the basement & have him whip up another bookcase! LOL

Dawn D

Valerie said...

Hehe....great interview, I loved it. Hey Dawn, my hubby just made me a new bookcase!! But there is really hardly any space any more for another one and mine are almost all full...buahahaha!!!


Morgan O'Reilly said...

Oh Wow, a new bookcase? I'm so jealous! All my old books are still in boxes from the move, the ones are falling out of the tiny bookcase I commandeered.

The interview with Ellen was much fun. She's a good sport and not one "eh" in the whole interview!

Uh, Dawn, save a little money for Halo's release next week!

Maithe said... thinks you guys have too many books. I think it is time for me to go raid your bookcases. *evil grin* Yup, sounds good to me. *brings-out lock picks and black bodysuit*

KMTolan said...

Just commenting to re-enforce the part about Champagne Books moving beyond Romance (not that I have a problem there!).

Ellen signed me on for Qurl, which is mainstream Science Fiction. I can speak from first hand experience that her editors are as professional as they come - and I have the bruises to prove it (grin).


Ciara Gold said...

Awesome interview, E. I enjoyed the comments as much as I enjoyed the questions. Makes me proud to be one of your authors. :-)

Jenna Leigh said...

Whohoo! Great interview Ellen! I can't help pointing out that my two books with Champagne have had: handcuffs,(Braless), shapeshifters, and a talking cat (The Last Legacy). I'm on fire! LOL!

Seriously, though, I cannot say enough about how wonderfully I've been treated at Champagne Books. It's a great place to work, but to me, it's more like a family.

There's even a crazy aunt we keep in the attic who is always talking about about killin' people. *coughs* Lori the Killer Clone *coughs*

Kimber Chin said...

What impresses me about Champagne is the lack of boxes.

What I write (business lessons taught in a sexy romance setting) doesn't fit in any box so other publishers wouldn't even read past the cover letter. Ellen and her team at Champagne did. Not only that but they're "taking a chance" on publishing it.

In other words, she's keeping true to her mandate to give readers something different.

Ellen said...

Thanks, y'all are saying the sweetest things.

Simply put, I run Champagne the way I would want a company to run if I were an author in it. It's nice to have the staff accessible when I've got an issue. I want the high standards or else I wouldn't feel like I'd accomplished anything by being published there. And I want to see artwork that I'm proud of.

To date, our acceptance rate is about 8% of all submissions. So yes, I would hope the authors at Champagne DO feel special. Because they are.


Anonymous said...

The chances Ellen takes on her authors is because she knows a good book when she sees one. Which makes me sound immodest, but I'm not talking about me, but about her talent for picking winners. I'm grateful Champagne Books exists and I certainly have been impressed with the editing and cover art. Jane