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Editor Interview: Bitingduck Press

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

A: Anything about science

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

A: I love what Dover Books has done to make technical books accessible in print, and hope to be able to contribute to that effort electronically.
I also admire small presses that have succeeded in recruiting the best writers and producing beautiful books. One example is Red Hen Press right here in Pasadena.

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

A: Fyodr Dostoyevsky always takes top slot. I enjoy many other 19th and 20th century Russian/Soviet writers as well, particularly Bulgakov.
Fiction: Sinclair Lewis. Anthony Burgess. Michel Tremblay (in French; not sure about the translations).
Non-fiction: Rebecca Skloot is a wonderful new discovery. Berton Roueché. Thomas Hager.
There are many more.

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

A: Our goals are technological as well as literary: we want to change the way e-books are seen, bought, and shared.
At the same time, we don't want to see e-books cheapened by the ease of publishing. Each book should be a work of art, as with print. The cover art, the interior presentation, and of course the text--all should be prepared with the greatest care and skill.
We also really have a soft spot for geeks who have written fiction, who usually have no time to navigate the submissions/publication process. If you're a physics grad student with a story about your evil advisor, we want it now!

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

A: Read the submissions guidelines carefully. If your submission ignores the guidelines, we won't read it.
Please don't send rough drafts. Work and re-work your book until it's ready.
Don't forget the cover letter, and make sure to personalize it. We want to know why you're the best person to write this book.

Q: Describe the ideal submission.

A: The 17th draft of a novel about a particle physicist who uncovers a nefarious plot at the South Pole, written with perfect grammar, impeccable pacing, compelling characters, and accurate science. Hey, I can dream, right?

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

A: Oddly enough, a significant number forget a cover letter.
We also have a "special request" at the bottom of the guidelines to check that they've been read. Many miss this.

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

A: Since we have a limited marketing budget, it really matters if the author is willing and able to sell the book to whatever the target audience may be. So it really helps to see previous credits, blogs/social media, and marketing ideas.
It's also important to get an idea of who the person is and why he or she has written the book, and what he or she expects from the book.

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

A: It really depends. Some books start out great and then fall apart 30,000 words in. Most commonly, though, a few paragraphs suffice to know whether it's right for our vision and whether it's properly edited.

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

A: At least 2 of our editors have to agree on a piece before it's accepted--usually it's 3. If the decision isn't unanimous, we may shelve the book for a while or ask the author for revisions. If 3 of us love it, then we ask the author a few questions to ensure that we're a good fit.

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

A: When a submission comes in, 90% of the time I decide quickly it isn't for us, either because major parts are missing or because it is a genre or topic we simply don't handle. When a submission is good but I'm not sure if it's for us, I'll read at least 10-20 pages and then forward on to 2-3 other editors for opinions. Usually the speed of their response tells me how much they like it--if they love it, I hear back almost before I finish sending! When it's clear we all (or several of us) like something, then we discuss other potential issues: how long it will take to get the manuscript into shape; if the manuscript presents any particular formatting difficulties (images, indexing, etc). When we have a good idea of how long it will take us to get it ready, we think about how it will fit into the rest of the upcoming catalog predicted for that date.
When we're pretty sure we like it, I (or another primary editor) send the author a note to get an idea of whether we'll work well together. Authors who will not accept editing or changes get identified pretty quickly at this stage. Authors with realistic expectations, a willingness to discuss and revise, and an engaging personality (even through e-mail) are the kinds we like to sign.

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

A: It's absolutely critical and it's what we're all about! The sales of ebooks are now surpassing those of print books. E-readers are more and more capable, allowing for color, video, mathematics, cross-referencing, and more. We're all nerds here at Bitingduck, so we're exploiting our savvy to make the coolest e-books possible. We do absolutely everything electronically and refuse to touch paper. This is especially convenient because we travel a lot--if you sent a paper manuscript, it would probably sit in a mailbox for months.