Sunday, 25 July 2010


* Hi Holly and welcome to tall tales & short stories.
Could you tell us a little about yourself?

I grew up in Long Beach, California and always had three dreams: to explore the world, to be an archaeologist and to be a writer. I have two degrees in archaeology; my second degree from York was an MA in Medieval Archaeology which led to my settling in the UK as there isn’t much medieval in the US and to be honest, I always was wary about digging up Native American stuff.

I’d written stories since I could hold a pen, but it wasn’t until I moved to the UK that I began to write my first novel (now sitting in a bottom drawer gathering dust…really, it should stay there). I worked in museums and archaeology and kept on writing during my free time. When I had a particularly long lapse between contracts, I penned my second novel, The Faerie Conspiracies, inspired by a spate of extreme bad luck and shadows in the garden. I like to think it was my subconscious kicking my pen into action as the book won the runner up prize in the St John Thomas Awards for self-published authors.

Of course, a few other things happened when I self-published for the first time. I found that I enjoyed the process of seeing a book to print even more than writing and Wyvern Publications was born.

* What inspired you to set-up Wyvern Publications and could you tell us about the company and its philosophy?

When I self-published, I didn’t want to put me as the author, I wanted a company name. I’d seen it done with music when the band or artist was new and unsigned and I liked the look of it. I chose Wyvern because I’m a little nerdy about dragons – having the medieval background probably helped influence that.

You can’t just get one ISBN from Nielsen Data. You’ve got to buy a chunk of ten or more and register your publishing name, even it it’s just yours. I wanted to use the other nine ISBNs too! At first I thought I’d just help others in their road to self-publishing, but as more interested people joined in, the company grew into what it is today (and is still growing).

Wyvern Publications has four branches now. There is Wyvern Publishing which publishes teen fiction, Wyvern Magazine, which produces a writing magazine for teens and writers of teen fiction, Pixiefoot Press publishes children’s fiction, and Wyvern Editing provides an editing service for writers.

We aim to publish quality fiction, even if it doesn’t fall into the mainstream brackets of what a genre should be. Many authors complain that their work is of a high standard, has been recognised as such, but haven’t been signed because no publisher knows exactly how to categorize them. For us, if the book is of a high standard and holds our attention, it is worth reading and therefore publishing.

We started with Dragontales – Short Stories of Flame, Tooth, and Scale and now have an annual ‘tales’ anthology which for me, has been an absolute joy to produce.

I’m especially proud as one of our authors has had their short story shortlisted for the British Fantasy Awards (Justin Carroll’s ‘Careful What you Wish For’).

In May, we published our second novel: Aubrie Dionne’s The Voices of Ire. We are in the process of uploading the book for Amazon’s ‘look inside’ feature.

* What makes Wyvern Publications different from other publishing houses?

What really makes Wyvern special is having such a wonderful team. Everyone involved is a writer too and each of us has unique skills to add to Wyvern. We have award winning cover artists; Linda Gunn has had her art travel the world and has been published in art magazines worldwide and Aaron Pocock has won the Brian Froud Award for fantasy art. His work will soon be seen in the children’s book The Howling Moon by Raven Wyrstone (Pixiefoot Press).

Our art director, Berni Stevens has been a cover artist for many of the larger houses and before I knew her, I knew her covers! She’s just been given a book deal for her vampire novel, Fledgling with Black Rose Press. Dulcinea Norton-Smith makes an excellent assistant editor and she had a big hand in the SCBWI and loads of experience with many aspects of freelance writing. We’ve also just taken on an assistant editor for the magazine; Tim Reed who has his own experience with self-publishing and professional editing.

We also work closely with our authors to produce something everyone is proud of. We love supporting new authors and love shouting about it when they get contracts from other publishers too.

Each member of the team is part of Wyvern because they love producing good books. I think this is something you really find in small publishers.

* What led you to specialize in children’s books?

It’s what I love reading. It wouldn’t be any good if I chose a genre that I thought was boring. Children’s and teen fiction is full of magic and possibilities, raw emotion, and larger than life events. I get bored when I read adult novels as I always figure out what’s going to happen before I’m halfway through the book and trudge through only to find there was no twist. The only adult fiction I’ve enjoyed reading are classics by Bram Stoker, Wilkie Collins, Conan Doyle and Ellis Peters (okay, so those aren’t classics yet, but they will be).

* Which authors/stories did you enjoy reading as a child/teenager? How do you think they compare to the children’s/YA novels available today? What do you think children of today want to read?

I adored A Wrinkle in Time, Lloyd Alexander, The House with a Clock in its Walls, The Narnia Chronicles, Down a Dark Hall, Lord of the Rings, Watership Down, absolutely ANYTHING by Mary Stewart and loads more.

I still love those books and I love modern children’s and YA books too. I think the mainstream has become a little dull, but then when I pick up Skulduggery Pleasant, I’m smitten.

Hmm, what do children of today want to read? I think each child is a little different, but definitely adventure, magic, and good strong storytelling with characters they can identify with.

* How would you describe your typical working day?

Eek! Is there such a thing? It really depends on what day of the week it is as I balance Wyvern with my job at Colchester Castle. I’m up at six, I check on the chickens at the allotment, I’m back at my computer by 8am and checking e-mails. I’ll save a whole day for submissions and sending suggestions back to authors and sometimes I’ll set a day aside for updating the website. Each day is so different and it also depends what projects are on. A lot of my time is spent editing a current work or prepping the magazine.

Work does tend to come in waves so it will be rush, rush, rush, then a lull. I’m an idiot. I’ll plan for more work when there’s a lull and then Berni and Dulcie will tell me to calm it down and enjoy the lull while I can.

* What are the greatest challenges of being Head Editor?

For me, I hate giving people rejections. I love giving good news, and even though we always strive to give a few pointers on where the submissions could be strengthened, it feels like I’m being horrible to someone. It’s a mixed reaction. Sometimes authors will write back with big thanks and tell us how it helped them and others will write and tell me that I don’t know what I’m doing and if I was intelligent enough I would have understood what they were writing about.

The other thing is worrying whether or not I really did a good enough job editing. You need a lot of confidence to edit other people’s work.

* Trials and tribulations of being an editor: What do you love about your work? What don’t you love?

I love making people happy. Sending writers a contract is such a high; watching those authors take their writing further is even better. I also love things coming together. There is a real sense of accomplishment when a book is seen to print and people begin to make good comments about the book on the reviews page of Amazon and other booksellers.

The downside is that it can be quite stressful when you have a deadline and you’re not sure if you and an author can come to a middle road on a project. This is rare, but sometimes the editing process takes twice as long as what was accounted for. Also, there are so many technical things that can go wrong. Sometimes my computer will reconfigure my Adobe and it will take me half a day to sort out my PDFs. When that happens, I feel like tearing my hair out and screaming out the window. Once, Dragontales dropped off the online seller’s lists. It took ages to come back on and all I found out that Nielsen Data had somehow mis-listed it, and then fixed it.

* When looking for that new manuscript what are the main things that grab your attention?

I must admit that the first thing to grab me is the writing. If I’m sucked in, I’ll keep reading with relish and then I’ll get too excited to read the rest right away; I’ll read the synopsis and then go back to the first chapters.

If the story sounds good and the writing is poor, I’ll write back with suggestions and an offer to resubmit. I’ve had such a range submitted. There are some very talented writers out there, but also many more who are in my opinion just on the verge of having a writing breakthrough. Unfortunately, we can’t publish all the great manuscripts, as we only publish one to two books a year in each imprint, so we have to select only the very best.

* What particular aspect of a manuscript, more than anything else, really appeals and why? Voice? Characterisation? Plot?

Of course plot is very important, but without the right voice, I won’t be sucked in. A big niggling point with me is point of view changes. I know it used to be done, but nowadays it’s frowned upon. Don’t change POV mid scene!

Character-led fiction is what always get’s my attention. It’s easier for readers to sympathise with the characters and the trouble they get into if they ‘feel’ what the characters feel first. I find third person limited or first person works best for this.

* Could you give us some idea of your tastes, the kinds of books you're looking to acquire and what really excites you?

That’s a tough question as sometimes I’ll read something completely new and find it’s too wonderful to pass up. Some people assume that with The Faerie Conspiracies and then Dragontales, we only publish fantasy, which is untrue. Dragontales has a mix of genres and Faeries is an urban fantasy set in ‘real world’ UK. I do love urban fantasy, such as Holly Black and Melissa Marr, but that doesn’t mean I’m expecting every submission to have the same elements. If a contemporary, fast-paced novel about a teen dealing with the tragic suicide of his sister came along I’d love that too as long as it was well written and had a solid plot.

* Would you ever consider a proposal for a series from a new author, or do you prefer stand alone books?

As a small publisher, we cannot offer contracts for a series at the moment as that would cut off anything new; so, stand alone books are preferred. However, that doesn’t mean we won’t publish a sequel if book one was received well. If we find an author who has a great series in them, we’ll look at book one as a stand alone and then take each book as an individual contract (unless circumstance changes and we are able to publish many more books a year than we do now).

* What kind of working relationship do you aim to build between you and your authors?

A good one. Our authors are key to our success and we want to treat them like gold. We’re always more than happy to work with new authors and develop their style into something that works. What we don’t want is someone who drops a manuscript and says: ‘Here. Deal with that,’ then runs for the door. We need authors who are willing to help promote their work and also work with us to create something magical.

* Would you take a risk on a manuscript that showed lots of promise but needed a lot of work?

If a manuscript is good but has some big issues, then we’ll flag the issues and ask the author to resubmit. If the issue is a particular style, or small grammatical problems, we’ll take a deeper look at the book and make suggestions with the aim to publish if and when the problems were corrected. No book or short story is print ready when it comes to us, so we don’t expect a perfect manuscript, but we do need solid writing and plot. Also, we need that extra factor that makes us fall in love with the story.

* Do you accept unsolicited submissions? What is the best way for an author to approach Wyvern Publications?

We prefer unsolicited manuscripts. I had an agent phone me once and he didn’t seem to know what he was doing. He even said that he didn’t really like the book, but it looked like what was selling!

Our contracts are very straightforward and there is no need to have an agent who will only take a cut. The best way to approach Wyvern is to submit via e-mail as stated on the publisher’s website. The submissions page will tell you if we are accepting and what we are accepting.

Always use a Microsoft Word attachment, and put in the subject line what you are submitting: Magazine submission, Pixiefoot Press sub, anthology submission, or Wyvern Publishing.

For novels, we ask for the first three chapters, a full one page synopsis and just a little bit about the author.

* Do you have any submission preferences or things that annoy you?

I don’t like being told how well the book will sell if we publish it. I’m all for a good marketing strategy, but when an author implies that receiving his or her manuscript will change Wyvern for the better, it takes a lot for me to overcome my budding dislike and desire to toss the submission on the slushpile.

I always prefer that the author submits to the guidelines – Times New Roman, 12pt, double spaced, etc. I also prefer e-mail submissions as I know I can contact the author right away with suggestions if I need to and make them right on the submission without having to post anything.

* What is one thing you wish every beginning writer knew?

Only one? That’s hard…hmmmm. I think the top thing is to use each rejection as a motivator to keep trying. Especially if there are suggestions and points made; those authors can re-work their manuscript and make it even better and then make the rounds again. Every author feels like giving up or that their work isn’t worth peanuts… even the published ones. It’s important to keep writing through the self doubt and honing those writing skills and then keep on submitting. Never give up.

* What are the most common mistakes you see in submissions?

Point of view changes are a big one, writing in an outdated style (this tends to happen more in Pixiefoot submissions when I get ‘fluffy bunny stories’), getting the target age wrong, or not having a target age at all (‘my writing is ageless,’ some authors tell me, ‘I don’t need a target audience as it will appeal to all.’ They are of course, very wrong), and sometimes authors who forget to proofread before they submit.

* Words of wisdom and advice do you have for writers interested in submitting to Wyvern Publications?

Always check the website for submission guidelines and updates.
Always keep an open mind to suggestions, try, try, and try again.
Read the winning fiction pages and get a feel for what we like in style and subject. All the fiction will be very different, but the thread in common is the high standard of writing. When you’re writing like Kirsty Ferry, Alice Godwin, Justin Carroll, or Aubrie Dionne, I’m more than likely going to fall in love with your work.

* Extra info:

Wyvern also holds regular competitions. There are two flash fiction competitions every year which are free to enter. The winner gets a free book produced by Wyvern (author’s choice as long as it is in stock).

There is also a short story competition – with a £5 entry fee, the winner gets £100 and is published in the magazine and online.

Lastly, there is the First Chapter Novel Competition. Entry is £10 and the winner receives a publishing contract and a £350 edit. Authors are not obliged to sign the contract, but it is offered.

* Wyvern Editing:

We started the editing service as so many authors wanted an affordable service that understood the children’s/YA market. We are pleased to have on offer a special ‘First Chapters and Synopsis’ edit that looks at the first three chapters of the author’s novel, synopsis review, and cover letter for the submission onslaught.
There is a very wide range of services, so it is advised that the authors look at the website or e-mail for a quote.

Wyvern Publications, Wyvern Publishing, Pixiefoot Press, Wyvern Editing, and Wyvern Magazine can be found at:


 Queries may be sent to:


Aubrie said...

I really enjoyed this interview! As an author at Wyvern, I'd like to say how much I enjoy working with Holly. She's worked so hard with me to make my book shine. Thank you Holly!

Tracy said...

Hi Aubrie
Great to have you here and glad you enjoyed the interview.
Good luck with book, the cover is beautiful by the way.
Tracy :)

Aubrie said...

Thank you! Your blog is beautiful. I love the background with the woman looking through the book shelves. I'm a follower now. :)

Tracy said...

Thank you for following Aubrie and I'm glad you like the blog. It's still a work in progress but I'm getting there... slowly. :)

Lou Treleaven said...

Thanks for another great interview, Tracy. I wondered what the required word count for the vampire anthology is? I couldn't find it on the Wyvern site.

wyvern said...

All 'tales' anthologies have a 2000-5,000 word count :)

H said...

thanks, I really enjoyed that. The interview really gives Wyvern character - a nice one, real integrity.

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