Kitty Honeycutt, Ravenswood Publishing
“Interview with Kitty Honeycutt of Ravenswood Publishing” by Joan Y. Edwards
I am excited to be able to share with you about Kitty Honeycutt, the owner and CEO of a relatively new (five years) publishing company called Ravenswood Publishing.
Thank you, Kitty for agreeing to do this exclusive interview with me. I am honored. Let’s get started. My readers are anxious to hear about you.
(1) Name 3 biographical facts that you believe are important and have made you successful. There are a few, but the ones that stand out, are the ones that people compliment me on all the time. Others tell me that I’m a kind person, that I have a true passion for books and authors, and that I am a hard-worker, dedicated to greatness. I’m also very spiritual and try to keep up a positive outlook on everything. Like with everyone, it is hard at times, but it seems to work well for me in most regards.
(2) Name 3 biographical facts that hardly anyone knows about you. Some people may know this but I’m sure not all do. I’m a die-hard animal activist. I believe that all creatures large and small should be respected and that nature as a whole is important in our every day life. I believe that there is a power in the universe that guides us on certain paths for a reason and we’re here expressly because we have a job to do and that every person no matter what they do or how they live has the direct ability to change the life of everyone they meet in some small or large way. This is why I always believe that you should try your very best to be the best person you can be and to love people for all of their aspects and never put them down for their differences. It’s all about embracing everything and everyone that comes your way.
(3) How did Ravenswood Publishing get started? I understand that your company started as GMTA Publishing…Great Minds Think Aloud. It all began back in 2010 when a friend of mine and I were brainstorming about starting a review team. We both had a deep love of reading since we were young and had been finding books we both loved and shared with one another. We were looking for something to occupy our idle time. I was in school working toward a Bachelor’s Degree in Business and Marketing and she was working at PetSmart in the Kennel overnight. There were times we’d spend the entire night on the phone just talking about books and television, since she lived in Texas and I lived in North Carolina; it was the only way we had to connect besides the Internet.
So, it just happened one night we came up with the idea and Great Minds Think Aloud was born. I began doing research for ways to get books to review and found an entire world that we’d never imagined. We had Indie Authors coming out of the woodwork wanting reviews and we loved them! After finding some of the most amazing reads and coming close to the end of my school career I began looking for a job. It was scarce here, as it was everywhere at the time and even with a college education it seemed I couldn’t find anything that would support my family and myself. My husband had been ill, he was going through serious health issues and couldn’t work so I had to figure something out.
It was a long shot and I knew it and at times it still doesn’t pay all the bills, but I started publishing. I took what I had learned from other publishers and authors and a body full of determination, I researched worked hard to learn how to format books for print and digital, and dove headfirst into the life of publishing. I can tell you… it wasn’t and it still isn’t easy and I’m still learning so much everyday but after almost 5 years it has come full circle and we now have over 100 authors, changed the name to Ravenswood because we’d originally just turned the review team over to publishing. We were getting a lot of mix-ups, some people didn’t know if we reviewed, published, or did both. When we shortened the name to GMTA, we had issues with people getting it wrong or not understanding what it stood for. When we told them, we were constantly met with that “face” or “silence.” I’m sure some of you can relate to that. Our logo was already a raven and had been for a long time.
So this past year at the beginning I decided to change it to Ravenswood after much debate, and we now house several imprints.
Chimera Imprint for Fantasy
Devil’s Tower Imprint for Science Fiction
Dark Serpent Imprint for Horror & Dark Fantasy
Howling Wolf Imprint for all New Adult and Young Adult
Sly Fox Imprint for Romance and Erotica
Black Hawk Imprint for Mystery, Drama, and Thrillers
White Stag Imprint for all Historical Fiction
Veritas Imprint for all Non-Fiction
We do plan to add imprints for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) novels of all genres and one for Metaphysical/New Age as we look to expand on as many genres as we can.
(4) What are the goals for Ravenswood Publishing? My goal with Ravenswood has always been to be the best independent publisher I can possibly be. We still aren’t a huge business with a lot of funds to do things the way larger houses can, but we work hard, we work efficiently and we do our very best to publish, promote, and help independent authors by standing behind them and giving them the tools they need to succeed.
I would love to see Ravenswood become a large publisher someday, but I never want to lose the virtues and sense of family we have now. My authors and I are close, we share one another’s lives as well as our work and I have a strict rule that we treat one another, not as rivals but as helpmates and friends. No one is allowed to bully one another; we help one another even if we are writing in the same genre. It’s not about competition; it’s all about making a statement and working together toward a common goal, which is to make Ravenswood and its authors stand out in a world that is literally full of authors and books just waiting to be discovered. We want to be among those that are discovered and appreciated first!
(5) What was the first book you published as GMTA? As GMTA the first book was by a very talented man named Doug Lucas, it was “Conversations with a Dead Man” it was and still is a wonderful book and I really enjoyed the author. Unfortunately, as GMTA began to grow, we found that quality of editing and proofreading was the most important thing and when we put new stipulations for such in place we lost Mr. Lucas as he felt that his books were just fine they way they were. This is not to say they weren’t, but we had to conform as a business and do things the right way so we had no choice but to allow him to part ways. We wished him well and always will of course.
(6) What was the first book you published as Ravenswood Publishing? Now the first book with Ravenswood… that’s hard because they are all with Ravenswood now of course and it’s hard to remember the first one that actually came in at the time of the change but I’d have to go with my best guess as being Reece Bridger’s first novel “BUAN: The Perfect Mortals.” All books have since switched over to the new name of course, but I think his was actually published under the new name as the change had taken place.
(7) What are the ten top-selling books for Ravenswood? Oh wow, putting me on the spot here. Well… if I had to go by the top ten I’d say in no certain order right now that they are:
D. Lawrence-Young’s – “Anne of Cleves” & “Catherine Howard”
Daniel Diehl’s – “Merlin Chronicles:” Revelations, Book 1,
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,Book 2, Out of Time, Book 3
Savannah Ostler’s – “Happily Ever After High School”
Torrence Sassetti’s – “Through the Plaguelands”
Dani K.’s – “Footballers and Louboutins”
Jean Fournier Johnson’s – “A Fearful Lie”
Roger Rapel’s – “Cindy, Where Are You?”
Daniel Diehl’s – “Nothing Left Sacred”
Mike Sandifer’s – “Pablo Taco”
Linda M. Crate’s – “Blood & Magic”
Now I have to clarify, these are top sellers so far. I expect to have more coming out soon, and I’m very excited about all we have in store for the readers.
(8) What distribution channels do you use for your books? We use them all pretty much. Our books are spread all over the usual channels such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, Smashwords, Google Play, Baker & Taylor, Blio, Page Foundry, Sony & Diesel, Txtr, Scribd, Oyster, Flipkart, Overdrive and our print books are always available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository and pretty much all the places that pick them up through Createspace.
(9) How does one of your books get in a bookstore? To be quite honest, some make it into stores and some don’t. To have a percentage overview I’d say maybe 20% or so. The thing with getting a book into the stores is, it takes a lot of work and a lot of wishing, hoping and praying. Bookstores are hard to get your books into when you’re a small press with a stable of Indie Authors. A lot of the Indies out there will understand when I say that because I know they have all worked hard trying to get their own books into the stores. It’s not easy. To be quite honest, you have to be lucky enough to have a book that someone of note is going to pick up and pass on to the Big Wigs, or you have to fork out tons of money to practically pay your way in. It’s hard, very hard.
(10) How do you market your books? I spend endless hours doing mostly online promotions. My work hours are all over the place. Believe it not though, online is where you’re going to find the majority of your readers. Times aren’t like they once were where you go into stores and pick up a paperback, a lot of readers have gone digital and that’s largely where the market is. Not to say there isn’t a market for paperback, but digital in general sells more because of how much inexpensive they are and how easy they are to carry with you when you go on trips.
People look for the easiest ways to do things now and when you can carry thousands of books on a reader with you anywhere versus carrying one or two paperbacks, it kind of makes sense. Marketing is a skill, and it takes a lot more than just putting your book out there and wishing for the best. You have to spend a lot of time putting your authors out there and they also have to be willing to put themselves out there. It’s all about building a fan base. As an author you have to present yourself to your public and interact. If you don’t or can’t do that then they are never going to get to know you or your work. I do a lot for my authors on the promotional front, but if they don’t work for themselves as well, they know they aren’t going to sell near as many books. That’s the way it works! Promotions are what you make them, and as much as we can do for our authors, they have to work equally as hard to do it for themselves.
(11) What do you expect your authors to do to promote their books? Authors need to create a presence. I expect them to work as hard as I do to promote their books and make contact with their local stores and media in order to let people know about their creation. They need to be prepared to build a fan base and present their work to the masses like we do. The best thing to remember is that we all have different contacts and the key is to spread the word to all of them by working together to cover as much ground as we can.
(12) What are major problems of being a small traditional publisher? What are your strategies to overcome them and succeed? Being a small publisher is not much different from being an Independent Author. On my end however, at times, it’s harder because I’m representing hundreds of authors at one time instead of only focusing on one or two. I can’t afford to play favorites and I do the same for all my authors by way of promotion and never do anything for one that I don’t do for another. Being a small press means lacking the funds that some of the larger presses have to afford promotions that costs a lot of money. We don’t have that ability but we try hard to make up for what we lack by pushing, driving and keeping our presence alive. Our focus is on the readers and getting our books in their hands. That’s what matters most.
(13) What are three advantages of being a small traditional publisher? Advantages would be that you don’t have to worry about conforming to set standards and working for yourself you can push a little further and do your own research to find your own mediums for promotion. You have a bit more freedom, especially where the authors are concerned. They have a lot more freedom publishing with us than they would publishing with a larger press.
Most of the larger presses don’t give the author the ability to make decisions on their cover art, the interior formatting or much of any of the process of publication. We do, they have a lot of say-so in what we do for or with their books. They also get the attention of the publisher in general, instead of a second party. I work hands on with my authors; a lot of the larger presses can’t say that. Many authors never see the big boys/girls that sit behind the executive desks, but here they get to know me, as the owner of the business and the publisher of their books.
I also have a strict rule that any editor that we recommend are not allowed to change the author’s stories. These are their stories, not ours, not the press, they are the creation of the author and with us they remain that way. Our authors always maintain full rights to the work and they can rest assured that we’re not going to take their book and turn it into something unrecognizable from what they wrote.
(14) What are three suggestions for writers who wish to be published? Polish, this means making sure that your manuscript is ready to be seen by the publisher in question. Never send out a first draft manuscript to a publisher. It literally takes years to write a book. Some think that you can write a book in a month, two months, or even three. In reality, if you are a true writer and you have pride in what you do, you know that it takes a much longer to be satisfied with your story and what you’ve done with it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve written something only to go back and rewrite, rehash, and re-do.
Secondly, make sure when you submit that you follow the specific directions of the house. Never submit blindly and without thought; that’s the sure way to get a rejection.
Finally, prepare yourself for rejection. You are going to get them and it will take a while to find the place that’s right for you, and you for them. Don’t get discouraged and don’t go off on a tangent when you do get rejected. Accept it with grace, and forge ahead. Know that it’s not personal, it’s business and sometimes we win and sometimes we lose. But we are always led to our true home, where we belong, eventually.
(15) What are three facets of great writing? Create, Embellish, and Polish. I’m sure I don’t have to explain. The main thing is to be sure what you’ve written is not just what you’d want to read, but what you know other people will want to read as well. As a writer you have to delve not only into your inner mind, but also into the minds of the many readers that are going to pick up your work. You have to be sure that what you write is going to find an audience that will love it just as much, if not more, than you did when you created it.
(16) What are three signs that a book is right for you? We have a process. We ask for a query first with a full synopsis or outline about the book. At first, we don’t want to read your entire manuscript, but we want to know enough about it that we can make our best decision to whether it’s right for our house.
We look at the story overall. As a publisher, we ask the following questions:
What audience will find this interesting?
Who will the readers be?
Will the readers be intrigued enough to go beyond the first chapter? Does the story have the ability to sell and be marketed easily?
If we like your query and see the quality of the story, we then ask for the first 3 to 5 chapters of your manuscript. As we read them, we look for the same things we looked for in the query, we also look for writing ability and style, the ability to tell a story convincingly and fluidly, and of course the ability to string sentences together with ease.
If you pass this phase, we ask you for the full manuscript so we can read a little more to be sure we are ready to make our decision, then we contact you and let you know whether we have decided to accept you or not.
If accepted, we send you all the information to sign with us that you need, if not we send a standard rejection, something simple and to the point.
We realize that a lot of authors want to know why we rejected them, but we reserve the right not to embellish on the ‘whys’ because we really can’t give you those answers. Perhaps your book was not what we were looking for, or perhaps we felt it was not written well enough and needed extra work. We like to leave those questions for the author to answer for themselves by going over their manuscript again and trying to figure out the ‘why.’ The reason is simply that some things have to be realized by the writer and creator and not by the general public as a whole.
Always remember that many great books were rejected only to become some of the very best books in the world. Don’t take a rejection personally. Take it as a stepping stone to another direction or even a chance to make your story better by having that time to go over it again before submitting to another house or even re-submitting to us.
(17) What are your current submission guidelines? The best way to find out is go to follow this link on our website: http://www.ravenswoodpublishing.com/submissions.html. All submissions accepted now will be published after 2015.
(18) What kind of books are you looking for? Children? Adults? We have discontinued our picture books for children sadly. We found that they did not sell as well as we had once hoped. We had no choice but to stop publishing them. We do still take on middle-grade with black and white pictures but we are no longer taking on new projects with full color pictures.
Right now we are looking for Horror, hard-core Horror. We have a few who have recently signed with works in that genre. We are also looking for Non-Fiction, LGBT, and Metaphysical/New Age works. We’re always looking for Fantasy and Science Fiction.
(19) What kind of books do you reject? (Subjects, Quality) We do not take any poetry at all. We are reluctant to take memoirs unless they based on fact with a storyline base. Memoirs in general don’t sell well unless the person writing them is very well-known or they have such an interesting story to tell, something to the point of being out of the ordinary. So we usually shy away from these works.
(20) Is there a demand for eBooks? How is Ravenswood Publishing meeting this customer demand? I wouldn’t say there’s a demand for eBooks so much as there is a demand for good books to read. The true demand is for quality literature of any kind whether it’s digital or paperback. At Ravenswood we focus more on quality than quantity, that’s why even after almost 5 years we’re just now tipping over the 100-author mark. We don’t look for authors either, we allow them to read about us and come to us, we never chase. We feel if authors read our interviews and like what they read, then they’ll seek us out and we’ll move forward from there.
(21) Where can people buy Ravenswood Publishing books? Our books are available online everywhere. We make sure to put our books on ever vendor we can possibly find in the hope that we’ll get noticed and the readers will see what we have to offer them.
(22) Is there an online catalog? There isn’t really a catalog, and we hope in the future we can take the time to begin doing mailings but you can always find our books by going to our site: http://gmtapublishing.com/ourbooks.html
(23) What has given you the greatest feeling of satisfaction and pride? My authors, the business as a whole. We may not make tons of money and be taking trips and making movies, but we’re working hard and doing what we love. I love books and authors, I love literature and any day I can work in that field is a win for me. My authors are creators of worlds and characters, they are entertainers in their own right and I feel a sense of joy in knowing that I can help them bring those worlds and characters to the public and see the reviews that are born from an amazing read. That’s what makes it all worthwhile to me.
(24) What are three quotes that keep you going and you believe would help others, too? I’ve found many quotes over the years and I could go with a lot of the old tried and true but one, which stands out most of all, is fairly recent. It comes from the Game of Thrones series made famous by George R.R. Martin. His character Jojen Reed states, “The reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.” I think this best describes the need for literature as a means of living beyond and even escaping the world we normally live in if even for an hour a day.
Another would be Don Marquis quote, “Publishing a volume of verse is like dropping a rose petal down the Grand Canyon and waiting for the echo.” This quote to me is extremely true and though I may have my own way of interpreting it I feel it means that you work hard on your novel, you put it out there dropping it into that vast chasm in the hope that it will create the echo that brings it to many readers far into the valley beyond.
Then I do have my own quote that I’ve used before on writing in general. “Stories are like pearls, it takes time to cultivate them, just as it takes the oyster many years to create that one perfect stone that can become a part of the most valuable piece of jewelry in the world.”
Thank you, Kitty Honeycutt of Ravenswood Publishing for sharing your wonderful insights about writing and publishing in this interview. I know my readers are going to absolutely love it and you!.
Thank you also for believing in me and my writing and illustrating by agreeing to publish my story of Larry, the Terrifying Turkey.
Winners of the GIVEAWAY were announced in the comments and in a separate blog post. Please leave a comment for Kitty. She’ll respond, PLUS IF YOU LEAVE A COMMENT between now and midnight next Sunday night, March 29, 2015, I will enter your name into a drawing to win 5 free ebooks of your choice from the Ravenswood Publishing site. I will announce the winner on Monday, March 30, 3015. Now that’s a wonderful gift for the lucky winner. Thank you, Kitty for offering this great prize.
Connect with Ravenswood Publishing:
Twitter is @RAVENSWOODPUB
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Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards
Copyright © 2015 Joan Y. Edwards
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