UPDATE: Scarletta is now called Mighty Media Press
Today I have the pleasure to post an interview with the publisher of Scarletta, Nancy Tuminelly. I hope people reading this will get to know a little bit about the in and outs of the publishing world–something that was a complete mystery to me when I started out. Enjoy!
Paul Czajak (PC): How did you get started in the publishing industry?
Nancy Tuminelly (NT): I was hired as an art director at a publishing company and fell in love with publishing! I LOVE working as a team with authors, editors, production managers, marketing, sales people, and the publisher to create a successful product delivery for intended audiences.
PC: With regards to manuscript submission, what makes a manuscript appealing to you?
NT: Differentiation and perspective that can attract target markets with a unique, memorable, and well-presented storyline concept that engages, entertains, and informs. It seems that there is not much that is truly new in terms of content, topics, and visual representation. But, the author’s vision to affect the reader and create a touching, memorable experience is key to critically acclaimed works, which we strive to attain.
PC: How would you describe the market for children’s books? Is it a hot market? Growing? Or still in flux?
NT: One thing is certain and constant…there is a never-ending children’s audience market. It grows with birth statistics…but what changes is the need for books/products/materials to build, support, and enhance literacy, creativity, imagination, inquiry, and problem-solving skills from the age children are exposed to and interact with books.
Is the market in flux? I suppose…but wouldn’t it be boring if it was predictable? The audience and buyer are more sophisticated; there are more options available to purchase children’s books and it remains very competitive. Critical is not just producing quality products but determining effective marketing strategies and making informed technology delivery decisions.
PC: Scarletta is a relatively small publishing company. Do you feel there are benefits to being small? What are the challenges?
NT: The benefit of being small is fluidity, agility, and the ability to make decisions and change directions faster and appropriately as needed. We are able to develop personal relationships with our authors and illustrators that we feel assist in producing high quality products. We listen. We think. We respect the expertise of those we work with to do the best job we can. We work as a partnership. We work hard to make a difference…and we LOVE what we do!
That being said, it is not all fun and games. It is a David and Goliath type of industry. We are very disheartened when inferior books succeed because of large marketing and advertising budgets. We also cannot afford large advances so we know we miss out on some opportunities. But, we were able to negotiate a deal for 2015 that typically the talent wanted much more per project but they LOVED the manuscript! Sometimes, the biggest guy doesn’t always win!
PC: What books in the Scarletta catalog are you excited about for 2014?
NT: I am excited about all the books we publish at Scarletta or we would not be producing them! Each one trips my trigger for different and special reasons. Here are a few examples:
—Monster & Me (2 titles in 2014) is just so exciting to develop as a branded series with ancillary products and licensing possibilities. It’s our first foray into seasonal titles as well as general season titles. The author [Paul Czajak] is fabulous to work with and the illustrator [Wendy Grieb] brings the words to beyond life! I laugh every time I read the text and laugh again when I look at the illustrations! The editor, art director, and marketing team are so jazzed and work together magically. It’s so fulfilling to see children’s eyes light up and their imaginations working overtime! Who says books can’t compete with TV?????
—The Shark Whisperer by Ellen Prager, illustrated by Antonio Javier Caparo is an adventurous, humorous and perfect middle school chapter book appealing to the boy audience. The characters are believable and realistic and the writer has conceived a five-book series that again builds and supports a unique, recognizable, and memorable brand. The author is totally engaged in the process and committed to marketing and promoting the product through her expertise, contact,s and connections to hit many markets outside of the standard sales outlets. We were very fortunate to contract the cover illustrator who we feel really hit the mark on the artwork and interior maps and icons.
—Garden to Table by Katherine Hengel is a wonderful book for middle school children to learn about growing vegetables and herbs through very visually robust and appropriately written step-by-step instructions. It gets kids outside, moving their bodies, as well as cooking in the kitchen. It teaches science, math, health, and literacy skills in a fun, informative, engaging, and unique manner that supports experiential learning.
These are just a few of our 2014 titles…but this gives you an idea of how passionate Scarletta is about what it publishes…I could go on for a long time!
PC: Final Question: As a new writer the publishing world seemed like a mystery to me. There were many things I didn’t (still don’t) understand. The biggest question I had when starting out was why it takes so long to hear a response. Can you give our readers who are new to the world of publishing a brief explanation on what a story needs to go through on your end before a writer hears “yay or nay”?
NT: First, most publishers receive hundreds of submissions. It is more than “I love this!” or “This is not good!” We first evaluate if it fits our vision, mission, and criteria. How well is it written and submitted…following the submission guidelines is important; providing a well written and articulate cover letter, synopsis, or prospectus shows that the author has done his or her homework about the publisher and the market. Our next step involves a fairly in-depth marketing analysis before it ever comes to my desk, as the publisher. I then look at editorial, design, printing, distribution, projections, marketing and promotion costs to produce the product before we make a decision to move ahead. Publishers typically do not realize a penny from the publication for about a year from contracting a book, paying advances, editorial, design, printing, marketing, and sales cost before income is received. Thus, making a decision to publish a book is a painstaking process.
Hopefully, in the near future, the length of time can be shortened from contract to publication date in the publishing industry. This is one thing that has not changed even with the rise of self-publishing and print on demand, which do not really affect traditional publishing models. Our 2014 titles were long ago finalized; our 2015 titles are almost complete and we are looking at 2016. Crazy!
PC: Thank you so much Nancy for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer my questions.
This interview was previously published on Paul Czajak’s blog, Ramblings of a Writer.
Bio of Nancy Tuminelly:
My love of art began at the age of 3 with obsessive coloring that continued to grow through middle school and high school. I went to a liberal arts college for 2 years that produced art teachers but at the time I didn’t think I wanted to teach. I then transferred to the Minneapolis College of Art and Design where I graduated with a BFA in Graphic Design and minor in Photography. I became involved in publishing in the mid 80s just as Mac’s and desktop publishing revolutionized the design industry. My husband/partner (technology guru) and I began our own design company, Mighty Media Inc., which specializes in design, production, book packaging, and early technology and works for local, regional and national publishers. The interactive division was very active in the late 90s through mid 2000s. We grew from a two-person firm to around 14 employees over the last few decades. I was one of the founding partners of Scarletta Press in 2005, which specialized in adult literary fiction. In 2010, I became publisher and restructured, refocused, and rebranded the company to include what I love most…..children’s books! Mighty Media and Scarletta Press function as sister companies today to service the publishing industry as well as select other design and technology client opportunities as we continue to love what we do and can’t stop!!!!!
Related post: Interview with Josh Plattner, Editor at Scarletta