Today it is my pleasure to be hosting a guest post from Cate Pearce, author of the Black Crown series from Hansen House Press. The second book, Defenders of the Black Crown came out last week so please do check out the series. Today Cate is talking about her experience with publishing with a small press.
Traitors of the Black Crown
Three women will betray the black crown. A Knight. A Duchess. A Queen.
Raena Schinen narrowly escaped when the Queen’s guard murdered her entire family. If Raena’s survival is exposed, she’ll be next. For fifteen years Raena has hidden as a male Knight, “Sir Rowan”, consumed by her vengeful desire to assassinate the Queen.
The moment Raena is close enough to exact her revenge, she is unexpectedly exiled to a foreign land. There she serves the common-born Duchess Aven Colby, whose suspicious kinship with the Queen further threatens Raena’s delicate secrets.
Just as they become united in a common goal to curb a looming invasion, unexpected heat and romance blossoms between “Sir Rowan” and Aven. The peril demands they set out on a journey to form clandestine political alliances, risking the Queen’s wrath, and drawing Raena and Aven closer together.
But no one in the kingdom could have imagined the sinister foe rising from below the surface. In order to save themselves and those they love, Raena, Aven, and the Queen must recognize who are the oppressors and who will unite against the Black Crown.
Defenders of the Black Crown
The Queen is dead.
A new enemy is rising to power from beyond the coastline.
Raena, an heir to the throne, takes her place as ruler of Candor. But she cannot reveal her true identity as a woman or she will surely be executed.
Avenna, once a duchess, returns to her life as a commoner. She hardens her heart and leaves her true love Raena, but will a heinous assault reunite them?
Sylas, a Lord displaced, is forced to lead the refugees and prisoners out of the Boen slaughter. He may be the only one to stop the next war between dwellers of the ocean and the land.
And Bell, the noblewoman, finds the way to command a kingdom is sometimes through gaining the ear (and the bed) of a King.
In this second book of the Black Crown series, Raena, Aven, and their allies learn that it will take more than power and titles to overturn years of oppression, but they might die trying.
Perspective on my Small Press Experience – Cate Pearce
Now that my second book is nearing release, many writers and friends have asked me: “would you still recommend publishing with a small press?”
My answer is never simple. It is both “yes” while also clarifying with the disclaimer: “but it’s not for everyone.”
My name is Cate Pearce and I’m the author of the Black Crown series. My first two books in the series (Traitors and Defenders) have both been published through Hansen House, as well as my short story Adia’s Garden featured in the anthology, Elixir: Stories of Hope and Healing. Hansen House is a niche publisher, featuring authors/books that fit in the LGBTQ category. Most of their work falls into the sci-fi/fantasy genre, but not all. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of small presses out there. Many of them are like Hansen House; publishing only in one genre or one category. Many of them only accept submissions during a certain short window. Many of them publish fewer than twelve books per year.
If this is starting to sound daunting? It could be to some authors. On the flip side, I have dozens of writer friends who have been trying unsuccessfully for 2+ years to get a contract with an agent who will sell their novel to a traditional publisher, so all routes can appear daunting when you consider that none of them are “easy”…or fast.
The key to knowing what type of publisher is best for you is having realistic information about how the process works. And I’ll be honest, it sure seems like the least information is available about small presses! I suppose it could be because they all differ, but they also do have things in common. I’ll take you through the commonalities I’ve found over the past 3 years of working with a small press, but please bear in mind that not everything from my experience will be universally true.
- Submitting to a small press requires organization and a LOT of research. You will likely have to search for a publisher in your genre, then visit their website or online listing to find out when and how they are accepting submissions. Most of them will be on a database site such as Duotrope, but not all, and you should always check the publisher directly for their updated submission guidelines.
- Small presses could have a very small staff. When I signed with Hansen House, it was a one-woman operation. Since then, the staff has expanded to include several full-time and part-time employees, as well as contracted partners, interns, and volunteers around the world. This can lead to frustration if an author expects things to move at a certain pace, or has a personality conflict with the staff. The best thing to understand is the trade-off of getting a lot more creative freedom. Such as…
- Small presses typically give an author far more input on their work. Hansen House will only create covers the author is happy with. Some presses won’t make any edits (developmental or line/copy) without the author’s approval. I’ve heard that some small presses will even work on a publishing timeline that is entirely up to their author. All of this can be very appealing if your book is unconventional in style or subject matter.
- You may only be signed for one book at a time, which gives some authors anxiety as they try to plan for the future. For me? This feels liberating. If you like to write in several genres, you have the freedom to search out more presses until you find the perfect “fit”. Essentially, you won’t be “locked in” if you want to explore self-publishing or traditional pub with some of your work.
And finally, what I think is the most important factor of all:
- Working with a small press is a complete relationship, in addition to a business. The people in indie publishing don’t have the leisure of churning out books they don’t believe in or see as quality. By the time you are signed, the staff likely want to see the success of your book, and they may love it or feel a sense of ownership over it, just like you do. You will likely spend several hours a week talking to the staff of your press, whether it’s an editor, an intern, a cover designer, or maybe another author.
Of course, here is the part where I tell you why I think Hansen House is the best press out there (at least among the LGBTQ+ presses). HH is still incredibly selective with what they publish, featuring quality over quantity. They take time to carefully edit each book and give thorough feedback on plot and character development. From acquisition to the release date, HH is very hands-on. I have heard stories from authors (at other presses) of often feeling like they are sitting around and waiting for release, sometimes feeling as if no one has thought about their book for months. Fortunately, that has not been my experience, and I believe the products from Hansen House are a testament to that quality.
Please check out a few of the following titles from Hansen House: Windfall and Between Wind & Water by Shawna Barnett, Not Your Type by Elizabeth Jeannel, A Song of Silver and Gold by Melissa Karibian, Trials of the Innermost by Jonathan Fuller and Kristina Kelly, Elixir: Stories of Hope and Healing, and my works, Traitors of the Black Crown and Defenders of the Black Crown by Cate Pearce.
GROWING UP, CATE THOUGHT SHE WAS “THE ONLY”…
“The only” girl who preferred boy’s clothing. “The only” girl who wanted to play pirates and ninjas. “The only” girl who didn’t want to be the princess, but save the princess.
Raised in a rural, fundamentalist Christian, homeschool, borderline-cult, Cate’s view of the world was limited. But it was through classic works like Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night: or What You Will that it (gradually) clicked, and Cate realized she was not “the only”, after all! As an adult, Cate is a happily-adjusted, married lesbian, but still disappointed by the lack of LGBTQ+ representation in popular fiction. To remedy this, Cate decided to write the books she always longed for.
Cate’s writing incorporates the themes of her own story and others like it: giving voice to those who are often-quieted. She does this through building elaborate, original worlds with heroine Knights, ninjas, angels, slayers, supers, time travelers, and starship crew. Cate doesn’t stay with one specific sub-type for too long, as her passions and interests change often. She draws inspiration from Star Trek, Dungeons & Dragons, Battlestar Galactica, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, GI Joe, Neil Gaiman, Patricia Highsmith, the Chronicles of Narnia, and her experience as a disaster/emergency management expert.
In high school, Cate wrote her own version of Twelfth Night where the girl stayed in-love with the girl. Years later she spun this inspiration into her first novel, Traitors of the Black Crown, an epic fantasy where (spoiler alert) the girls stay in-love.
Cate lives in western WA with her wife, two small children, and a dog.
Purchase Links: Traitors of the Black Crown
Preorder Links: Defenders of the Black Crown