A friend of mine founded a publishing company this year, and it was very interesting to witness every step along the way, e.g., the creation of the website, the first e-books being sold, etc. Since Ylva Publishing is a German publisher, I learned some interesting differences between the German and the US publishing industry.
Continue reading for an interview that I did with the publisher. Don’t worry, I translated the interview for you. :-)
Why did you decide to start your own publishing house?
At first, I planned to self-publish my stories. Then I talked to a few fellow authors, who didn’t always have the best experiences with their publishers. That brought up the question: Why don’t authors team up? Why not establish a publishing house that focuses on cooperation and gives authors more input and control?
Unfortunately, I didn’t have the time to get one of my own stories ready for publication, but I hope that will change in the next two or three months.
Why did you pick “Ylva” as a name for the publishing company and what does it mean?
It wasn’t easy to find a good, catchy name. I wanted a name with meaning. Ylva is an old Swedish name and means “female wolf.” Since I love wolves and their personality traits and since I have a friend whose name is Ylva, I asked her if I could use the name for my publishing company. She was honored.
We have a beautiful logo that reflects the name.
What types of books does Ylva Publishing publish? Just lesbian fiction written by lesbian authors?
We publish fiction. Not just lesbian fiction, but literature from women for women.
The focus is on romances, which nowadays sell best and will allow us to also publish fantasy and historical fiction.
I would also welcome English manuscripts, and we’re open to translating English books and publishing it in German. Our novella, “Richtig verbunden,” will be translated into English too.
Most importantly, we want to publish just good, believable books, not kitschy “chick lit.”
Is there a length restriction for the books you publish?
In addition to novels, we publish novellas and short stories of 5,000 words or more. When it comes to maximum length, it depends on the manuscript. Length alone doesn’t make a book good or bad. If a book has 200,000 words without any dragging parts, I would consider publishing it, possibly in two volumes.
What makes a novel good?
A good book contains a story that I haven’t read a thousand times before. Oftentimes, plots are repeated over and over, especially in romances, just with different names.
“Zwei Seiten” and “Richtig verbunden” have original plots that I haven’t read before.
Another problem is that sometimes, plots are unrealistic and the characters are too attractive, too intelligent, too perfect. I would be interested in a story in which two older women fall in love. Books that show normal people.
What makes Ylva Publishing different from other publishers?
What I want is a “We,” not an “I.” We want authors who identify with the publishing house, who are involved in every step of publishing, beyond just delivering the manuscript. At Ylva Publishing, authors have input on choosing the cover for their books, marketing options, and planning the locations for readings. I’m always open to suggestions and ideas.
What can readers expect from Ylva Publishing?
The blessing and curse of e-books is that nowadays, anyone can publish an e-book (through Amazon). Unfortunately, that goes at expense of quality. At Ylva Publishing, we want that to be different. Editing, layout, formatting, and cover design need to keep to the same high standard as with paperbacks. Readers who pay for e-books have a right to high quality without paying an arm and a leg for an e-book. I want to master this balancing act.
For print editions, we won’t use cheap methods of printing and binding that will cause the book to fall apart after reading it twice. Our covers—for e-books and paperbacks—are created by a professional graphic designer.
What can authors expect from Ylva Publishing?
Our authors receive fair royalties—for e-books 20% (of list price minus sales tax), for paperbacks between 5 to 10%, depending on the number of books sold.
Authors also receive at least five free copies of their books.
Ylva Publishing provides the author with information about the number of books already sold and keeps every step of the publishing process as transparent as possible.
What advice can you give authors who want to publish with Ylva Publishing?
I suggest giving the manuscript to two or three people with good language skills before you submit it to us. As with job applications, no publisher will accept a manuscript if there are ten spelling or grammar mistakes on the first page.
Authors should also realize that the true work—the editing—starts after the manuscript has been accepted by the publisher.
What are the difficulties of being a small press?
The German bureaucracy is complicated. There are a lot of details you have to take into consideration while founding a publishing company. If you really do it the right way, it’s not as easy as some people say. My experience as a secretary and library assistant come in handy.
You also need a sufficient start-up capital if you want to run a publishing house in a professional way. Advertising is expensive.
The biggest problem at the moment is finding ways to make the publishing company more well-known and to find new authors and manuscripts that meet our quality standards. It will probably take two years for Ylva Publishing to become more well-known and for people to realize that we’re here to stay.
All in all, everything has gone better than expected. I wasn’t sure how well e-books would sell in Germany. It was very encouraging to see that we recouped the costs for the e-books within seven weeks.
What’s most rewarding about being a publisher?
The feeling of having created something, like a carpenter who creates a beautiful cabinet. As an author, I know how it feels to finish a novel—to have created a world and characters and to know that people are reading it.
Having published the first, second, … book as a publisher feels the same way. That’s why I like working closely with authors. Authors and publishers share that feeling. The author writes the book, and I distribute it. Author and publisher work together to “give birth” to a novel.
How do you think publishing in Germany differs from publishing in the US?
The legal situation for e-books is clearer in the US than in Germany. In Germany, e-books fall into a gray area. On the one hand, they’re treated like paperbacks and therefore have to keep to a fixed book price. On the other hand, they’re treated as electronic media, so instead of the reduced sales tax of 7% for print books, readers have to pay 19% sales tax for e-books.
That’s why German publishers are less flexible in the pricing of e-books. Due to the higher sales tax, they can’t afford to sell e-books much cheaper, even though the cheaper prices are part of what makes e-books interesting for readers.
At the moment, e-books are taxed at 3% if you sell them through Amazon, because Amazon’s headquarters is in Luxembourg, but it’s not clear yet how things will be handled in the future.
Another difference is the higher interconnectivity and communication between authors and publishers in the US. There are conferences, events, and awards for lesbian fiction. I would like to see more of that in Germany. In the German-speaking region, I don’t know of any forum or mailing list [for authors of lesbian fiction]. That makes it harder to find good authors.
Is publishing in the US more profitable for authors than publishing in Germany?
That’s not necessarily true. Some German lesbian novels sell 3,000 to 4,000 copies. That’s surprisingly good. Sales figures aren’t much lower than in the US.
Where can readers find/buy books from Ylva Publishing?
At the moment, just through Amazon in the Kindle/Mobi format, but after mid-June, you can also get our books as epub or pdf through the e-book wholesaler Ciando.
Most profitable for the publisher is it if readers buy their books directly through the link on our website.
How does Ylva Publishing promote and market their books?
Large-scale advertising is only worth the effort once we have a longer backlist [= list of older books available from a publisher].
In the future, I will distribute flyers on CSDs [Christopher Street Day, an annual European LGBT celebration and demonstration similar to Gay Pride] and have a table at lesbian spring meetings. Since even people who wouldn’t normally buy the books liked our logo, I also want to offer mugs and pens with our logo.
What direction do you think the publishing industry will be going?
Many people think that e-books will ruin the publishing industry. Personally, I don’t see e-books as a bad thing but simply as something new. I still like to hold a printed book in my hands, but I love my e-reader when I travel or when e-books are on special offer.
The publishing industry experienced challenges in the past and will do so in the future. The question is “do I embrace them, or do I hate them?” I love book trailers, for example, since they involve readers through different senses.
What are your plans for Ylva Publishing in the next year?
Okay, seriously, I am planning on publishing the first paperbacks next year at the latest. I want a slow, but continuous growth. One day, I want to publish twenty good books a year and see my company logo in bookstores. In twenty years, I want to live on the Norfolk coast with my wife and two dogs and conduct business from there.
The culmination would be to see one of our books made into a movie—a literary production like “Tipping the Velvet.”
Thank you for a great interview!
Check out Ylva Publishing’s website