A year ago, I was a literature student with the vague idea of wanting to be an editor one day, while trying to set my expectations of getting any job in that area low after everyone told me how hard it is to get into the business. But then, in a lucky coincidence, I saw an author I like announcing a new book and discovered that her publisher is not actually located in the US or some other unreachable place, but in Germany… less than two hours away from my home. And now I’m here, at Ylva Publishing, a gem of the lesbian fiction publishing world. Not getting coffee, but talking about submissions and working with manuscripts. Not to mention getting half a heart attack every time an email from an author I adore lands in my inbox. Fangirling about books. Hard. Every day.
First impressions of lesbian fiction publishing at Ylva’s HQ
What does it look like at Ylva?
Little bits of geek culture are thrown into the interior. Funny calendars and comics are stuck to the walls. There’s a variety of sweets. And book piles are stacked everywhere, even up the stairs to the second level.
What does it sound like?
There’s typing. There are Skype calls. There’s the neighbor’s dog barking. We have our eighties power-ballad playlists. There is the pitiful sound of us carrying tons of books up three flights of stairs. And when the neighbor starts to saw wood in his garden for hours, we blast Madonna his way.
Knowing what’s out there in lesbian fiction publishing
One question I was asked when I started was: “How do you find the books that you want to read?”. And my answer must have been something like “Uhm, through lists of queer books on Tumblr or recommendations of people who have similar taste in books as I have, I guess…”
I mean I can’t simply walk into our small city bookshop and expect them to have the sweet young-adult love story between two girls that I’m longing for. And only browsing Amazon has resulted in some really disappointing purchases in the past. I didn’t even use Goodreads back then, so I was even more limited than I should’ve been. But it was only then – standing in the office of Ylva Publishing, starting my internship – that I realized it never really occurred to me to look for books right at the source. And that was a big mistake. My Goodreads To-Read List went from zero to hero since I started to sign up for lesbian fiction publishers newsletters.
The importance of the right marketing (especially in the world of lesbian fiction)
Just because a book is amazing, it doesn’t mean it will be a hit. Before this, I lived in my rose-colored reader bubble, thinking that if a book is really good, I will definitely hear about it at some point, and that it will naturally become popular enough online to reach me. But so many great stories stay underappreciated – and now I know that the reason for that might have been because they weren’t marketed right.
I think marketing might be one of the most important parts of publishing – besides editing. But there’s only so much a publisher alone can do for a book. If you want a book to be successful, a lot of that attention-waving also needs to come from the author, the person people connect the books with.
Editing, and what a manuscript really is
Doing editing work after being a reader for so many years feels weird. First of all, I had to rethink my mental concept of what a manuscript
is. Those texts are works in progress. They need to be modified and corrected and seen as projects rather than the masterpieces by your favorite authors.
On the one hand, that makes you feel like being a tiny screw in a large machine. I’m playing a little part – one of countless steps and control measures involving many other people before this project will lead to a real book. But on the other hand, it also feels like someone put their infant in my arms and is trusting me to get him to sleep. Yes, I might have studied childcare for years, but I’m still allowed to freak out a little at the responsibility when faced with the actual thing, right?
Joining the pack
I’m really happy I get to spend time with the Ylva Pack, to see the inner workings of the lesbian fiction publishing world and to contribute a little bit to their work. The team consists of people as caring and capable as the characters in their books. As both a reader and someone soon to be part of the pack – as an editor of its German titles – I’m very excited for the projects coming up.
And, of course, it helps that now I’m always up to date on what my favorite authors are working on!