The Everywoman

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.

You can learn more about Karen at her blog, and you can go to Echelon Press to view/purchase the exciting titles she publishes.

The Interview

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!


  1. Great Interview, I’ll admit to immediately going to my WIP and checking how many times I wrote was/were/knew. LOL!

  2. I enjoyed reading the interview and I have two questions.

    Since becoming head of your own publishing empire, how do you find time to write?

    How has your new job changed the way you view your writing? Has it made you dismiss one story idea in favor of another because of marketing potential?


    Linda Andrews

  3. Linda, outside of article writing these days, my fiction has fallen to the wayside. I do still keep track of ideas and such, and I dabble in short stories.

    It is more difficult to think clearly and focus on my own stories now that I have so many other people’s stories running in my head. Plus, I do tend to lean more toward shuffling an idea that might work for this particular company because of the marketing strategy.

    But I tell authors all the time, don’t write to market, there is always something you can do, but it never hurts to have something in mind, it’s kinda like a turn on a road map, you need it, but there might be another path you could take to get to the same place.


  4. Kristy-that is what will make you a stronger writer. Good for you!

    Martin, I have had the following books published. The first one was published in 1999…I think.

    Moonlight for Maggie
    Crazy for You
    Child of Hope
    Lost and Found
    Wings of Love
    Cursed Comes Christmas (w/ 2 co-authors)
    Dark Shines My Love

    I have had shorts in the printed editions of
    Romancing the Holidays (Devlin’s Wicked Wish)
    Crumbs in the Keyboard (The Value of Human Life)
    Men of Entice (Too Fast for Love)

    Other short stories in eBooks include
    An Angel’s Wish
    Thief of Hearts
    Seducing Cupid

    And my a plethora of articles on a variety of topics.


  5. Hi, Karen! Just stopped in to say “Great interview.” For anyone skimming the comments, I met Karen in San Diego at a writer’s conference and was immediately impressed by her willingness to tell writers how reality works. The hobby-writers in the room were disappointed and depressed that they weren’t going to be supah-stahs. The real writers got a twinkle in their eyes and took careful notes, so they would know how to approach a publisher.

    Go, Echelon!

    Gayle Carline

  6. Great interview! I agree with Gayle. I met Karen at the San Diego Writers Con and I too was impressed with her bold yet caring attitude. It is so rare to see that in this industry. Karen is someone that will tell you like it is and that is always impressive. She has something really special going on here. Everyone should sit up and listen.

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