Karen L. Syed is the president and CEO of Echelon Press, LLC. Every day is a new success story for her as she continues to grow herself and her business. She has seen eight of her own novels published (writing as Alexis Hart), along with numerous articles and short stories. As a former bookstore owner, she garnered a nomination from Publishers Weekly for their Bookseller of the Year award. She is a member of EPIC, GLBA, SinC, MWA, ALA, YALSA, and ITW.
What is the initial spark that brought Echelon Press to life?
I am one of those people who writes from the heart and my work always seemed to fall through the cracks of placement. To dark for this, to light for this, no real place to belong. Everyone loved my writing and my stories, so we decided we wanted a place for those writers who have great stories in them, but the traditional industry would not take a chance on them as new writers. We wanted to be a stepping stone.
What is the mission of Echelon Press?
To introduce fresh voices to readers who are generally overrun with cookie-cutter stories.
What genres do you publish?
Whatever I like. It pays to be the boss. We do a lot of commercial fiction, things that fit into any category, and then some. Our big genre is mystery, but we do pretty much all the genres, and even some that most people aren’t familiar with. Our newest acquisition is a steampunk novel for our Quake line.
What makes a good Echelon Press story?
Heart. For us, when we pick a story we want to feel the emotion of the characters as well as the author. No matter the genre, it has to engage the reader and make them feel, horror needs to make the readers think about their own fears, romance needs to make their hearts sing, mystery needs to leave the reader on the edge of the seat. It has to be extraordinary to pull the reader in.
What are the top three reasons a book might be rejected by Echelon Press?
The biggest reason is failure to submit a clean manuscript. Writers seem to think they can just write a story and it will get contracted and they will get an editor who will fix all their mistakes. That is fiction people!
The next reason would be the failure to draw the reader in. If you have a 300 page manuscript and you use “was” 2198 times, “were” 987 times, “knew” 389, and “seemed” 493 times your manuscript is excessively passive or weak. We know that those words are necessary, but numbers like these (and these are actual counts from a rejected book) draw the reader away from the story and become repetitive.
The other thing that will get you rejected, straight out of the gate, is if you do NOT follow the instructions on our submission guidelines. No one seems to take our request for a marketing strategy seriously. If you don’t follow instructions you get rejected without comment.
Electronic publishing: how successful are you in the selling of your e-books?
It is getting better every day. Venues like Fictionwise and All Romance eBook have been very beneficial for us. Readers and authors alike should realize the convenience and value of eBooks. People fear that eBooks will replace the printed book, but that will never happen. It just won’t. eBooks are an alternative for readers who need a break. I travel a lot and cannot carry all those books anymore. I love my Palm T/X and it allows me to carry numerous books at one time. Many of my readers are beginning to see the value for them as authors, because they actually make higher royalties on eBooks. Reads can benefit from eBooks because some companies like Echelon keep our prices lower. Our highest priced eBook is $7.00.
Electronic publishing: predict its future success; do you see more people turning to electronic books
I honestly believe that if people stop fearing the worst they will see the opportunities available to them. While the traditional publishing industry hovers in limbo, ePublishing continues to grow and blossom. I can’t predict what will happen, but I can say that if authors open their minds and allow themselves to be a part of this growing industry they can actually benefit from the experience of publication, which will prepare them for more traditional routes. For already published authors, it is just as viable for publication as any other format. The only reason ePublishing is questioned is because authors question it. If authors and publishers got behind it 100% readers would eventually see the value.
How are you using the internet to market/promote your books and your company?
Social networking is the best thing since sliced bread. The Internet is incredible. It opens up doors that would be impossible to even see. We have tried print ads with no success, we have tried radio ads and interviews with no success, but the Internet has brought us readers and customers from all over the world, literally. We are finding HUGE success with Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace. We are reaching 1000 times more readers in a shorter amount of time and at virtually no cost. I think the difference with us is, I try to train the authors not to just shamelessly promote, but to build some kind of relationship. It might take a little longer, but it is working wonderfully.
What three books are selling well at Echelon Press right now?
Our overall top seller is THREE STRIKES YOU’RE DEAD by Robert Goldsborough, followed by THE BRIMSTONE MURDERS by Jeff Sherratt, and MURDER OFF THE BOOKS by Evelyn David.
How might authors learn more about your submission guidelines?
The only way is to visit our web site. It is important that you read the entire page before submitting—you don’t want to miss anything!