When Christine Svendsen’s first book was turned away by publishers, she launched her own publishing company.
Now, four years later, she’s got a stable full of award-winning lesbian authors and her own award-winning books published under the pseudonym Isabella via Sapphire Books.
“Believe in yourself. Rejection isn’t the end of a story, it can be a beginning,” Svendsen said. “Looking back, I didn’t think in terms of what if this doesn’t work? I only thought of the possibilities.”
Svendsen took time out of her busy schedule to share the secrets to Sapphire’s success with us.
What do you do and why?
I’m the publisher and an author at Sapphire Books Publishing. I started Sapphire Books Publishing in 2010. We publish lesbian novels, written by lesbians. Our authors include Linda Kay Silva, Kim Pritekel, Beth Burnett, Karelia Stetz-Waters, Linda North, Lynette Mae, Riley Adair Garret, Lorraine Howell, Rhavensfyre and Stephanie Kusiak.
What did you do before you started your company?
I do the same thing now as I did when I started Sapphire Books, I work as a community college instructor in California. My current job affords me the luxury of working remote for most of my work load. The flexibility allows me to set my own hours, which really helps with the publishing company.
How did you come up with the idea for your company?
I had submitted my first manuscript to two publishers and was rejected by both. One said they weren’t looking for my type of story at that time. The other company wanted me to completely rewrite the story and resubmit. I thought long and hard about rewriting it. After talking to my wife, I decided that I’d try and publish it myself.
I researched self-publishing, looked at all the options and decided to start a publishing company. I’d always thought about growing the company at some point, but that was in the future. When Linda Kay Silva, a popular lesbian author, left her publishing company, I sent her an email. We met and discussed writing, publishing and motorcycles. It clicked for us and the company took off from that point. We’ve signed some really awesome writers. I have to say that I’m thrilled to work with some really talented ladies.
What do you find most rewarding about owning your own business?
I get to work with some amazingly talented women. They write books that blow my socks off.
Where do you see yourself / your company in five years? Hopes / dreams / plans?
Sapphire Books isn’t going anywhere. We’re in it for the long haul and plan on adding to our already growing list of fantastic authors.
What resources would you recommend to someone who is contemplating starting her own business?
Research the industry. Do your homework and ask questions. Learn everything you can and even then there will still be things that surprise you, so plan to be surprised. Roll with it, flexibility is important in today’s business world.
Social media is starting to play a huge role in business and it’s important that you treat social media as a tool in the business tool box.
Go to conferences, meet people in your industry and make sure to check out the competition. See what they are doing right and notice what isn’t working. IBPA and SPAN are great resources, if you really want to get into publishing.
Finally, be persistent.
What’s the process for an aspiring author to get published with Sapphire?
First, write your book. Polish the manuscript. Send the best work possible, you only get one chance to make a first impression. Sapphire isn’t the traditional lesbian publisher. We don’t have a formula. I like to think we publish great books that a lot of other publishers wouldn’t touch. For example, we’ve published books that were over 500 pages, most publishers in lesbian fiction won’t publish long manuscripts. We’ve published some truly scary books about serial killers and fetish killers. We also have published erotic books, Sci Fi, paranormal as well as romance. We just signed an author who writes the Happy Lesbian Housewife blogs and she has been referred to as “the love child of Erma Bombeck and Chelsea Handler,” so we are pretty open as long as they have strong lesbian characters, written by lesbians. Writers can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What would you say is the single most important key to sustaining a business long term?
Have a plan and be flexible. I can’t say that enough. The industry is constantly changing and we need to change with it.
What obstacles did you face in establishing your company and how did you overcome them?
I think the biggest obstacle I faced was being taken serious, both as a writer and as a publisher. I won an award for my first book and that started the ball rolling. When we signed Linda Kay Silva, a lot of people started to take notice.
After that, we signed some pretty awesome talent and our authors started winning awards, which moved Sapphire Books up on the list to be noticed.