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Editor Interview: Propertius Press

Q: Describe what you publish in 25 characters or less.

A: Books for the ages

Q: What other current publications (or publishers) do you admire most?

A: Atticus Press, Hub City Writers, University of Chicago Press, UNC Press, Forest Avenue, Press 53, Red Hen, Emily Bestler Books

Q: If you publish writing, who are your favorite writers? If you publish art, who are your favorite artists?

A: Lee Smith, Paulette Jiles, William Faulkner, Flannery O'Connor, Lauren Belfer, Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, Jane Yolen, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Kenneth Grahame, Victoria Holt, Jennifer Blake, Carole Cadwalladr, Andrea Wulf, Mary Wollstonecraft, Wallace Stegner

Q: What sets your publication apart from others that publish similar material?

A: We read and respond to each submission, no matter how long it takes, as we believe that every person is due the respect of being heard. We also take the time to work with submissions that have an excellent plot and character development, but may not be perfect as far as grammar and spelling. We're going to edit the work to be sure it's perfect, so we don't mind spending that extra time and effort on a work that merits that.

Q: What is the best advice you can give people who are considering submitting work to your publication?

A: Please do submit your best work. We aren't as interested in how many awards you've won or pieces you've published, as we research each author before we make an offer. People sometimes spend a lot of time on slick advertising or marketing sheets and submit those instead of an actual cover letter and synopsis, with precious little devoted to the actual work. Unfortunately, these submissions usually fall short of our standards.

Q: Describe the ideal submission.

A: A unique, well-crafted work is always going to get our attention. For creative non-fiction or biography, we will research your topic and not just take your word for it, so while attention to craft is important, accuracy is also. Fiction should be well-developed, with interesting characters. We don't mind a slow build. We're looking for an ending that is satisfying or thought-provoking; this is more important than a snappy, attention-grabbing first line.

Q: What do submitters most often get wrong about your submissions process?

A: Many submitters are clearly not interested in following our guidelines, or perhaps simply sending us the same submission they are sending to many other publishers, and make the mistake of supplanting a well-crafted letter and synopsis about the work with what is essentially marketing materials. Only about 1% of all our submissions result in success in the form of a completed offer, so think carefully about your work, and maybe not so much on the flourishes and presentation.

Q: How much do you want to know about the person submitting to you?

A: I do care about cover letters. I want to know why this work matters - not only to you, but to the world. Include a brief list of your previous works that illustrate your style, and how this work fits in or differs from them. We don't actually care how many books you've sold - we want to know what makes your work unique, powerful, and interesting. If a list of works helps to illustrate that, great. If not, we don't actually need that list.

Q: If you publish writing, how much of a piece do you read before making the decision to reject it?

A: It honestly depends on the piece. We usually do read every submission in its entirety, as we only ask for query and synopsis on most items, and then if interested, we request either the first fifty pages or the full manuscript, based on our interest. If the topic is clearly outside our guidelines, we may not read it all the way through because unless the submitter acknowledges that fact but presents the topic creatively, and the work fits our other requirements, we rarely pursue those works. We have made exceptions, however, and are glad we did. It's safe to say we read 90% of all the words submitted to us, just to be sure.

Q: What additional evaluations, if any, does a piece go through before it is accepted?

A: As previously stated, we fact-check and verify all works. If a book deals with a type of character or subject that's not readily familiar to us, we'll ask an expert or two on the subject to evaluate it. We will Google you, and see what the Internet knows about you. We read at least portions of something you've written that was published - our library cards are well-used, and we may very likely buy a copy if we really like it. We open a conversation to make sure you're real and genuine. We let you know the book is under consideration and we may ask you questions about it. We might even meet in person for coffee if you happen to be near an area where one of us lives. Only if all of these things add up to a positive experience do we extend an offer of publication.

Q: What is a day in the life of an editor like for you?

A: Although I used to print out everything we were seriously considering, I regret to say those days are gone. I read most things on my desktop or tablet now. I've even worked on items on my phone as the Submittable platform's mobile version gives me access to my templates and most of the features I need, and I can answer emails on my phone.

Q: How important do you feel it is for publishers to embrace modern technologies?

A: We like to think of ourselves as traditional, to the point of being Luddites. However, we are only able to exist due to technology, so we're grateful for that. We use the Submittable platform, and as previously stated, and use our computers, laptops, phones, etc. - not only for our own work, but to easily pass work between our team and our authors.

Q: How much do you edit an accepted piece prior to publication?

A: We do edit all submissions, sometimes substantively. Our authors do get to see all final copies before publication, but we hold the final decision. We do work with our authors to be sure they are comfortable with the final works.

Q: Do you nominate work you've published for any national or international awards?

A: We haven't really done this yet, due more to time constraints than anything. We might be looking into it in the future.