Small Press Spotlight
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Welcome to Small Press Spotlight, where we are pleased to introduce some of the smaller publishers offering romance fiction. This time we welcome Ponder Romance, a Canadian publisher specializing in contemporary romantic fiction. Publisher Pamela Walford tells us the story, and author Ellis Hoff shares her experiences working with Ponder Romance. Welcome, Pamela and Ellis!

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Pamela, tell us how Ponder Romance got started.

We started about five years ago. My sister Mary (Barton) and I decided to quit talking about publishing and start doing it. We’d always wanted to start a line of romances, but we wanted to try and bring something unique to the genre.

Did you have a mission in mind when you started out?

Yes. Over the next three years we put together a picture of what we thought a Ponder Romance should be. We poured through every strain of romance from mainstream to series and everything in between, charting similarities, differences, aspects we liked or disliked; searching for what we might do differently.

We felt that if the story itself was strong enough to stand alone, adding romance would only make for a more highly charged read. This was part of our reasoning behind hiring Submissions Editor, Jeannine Barbour. Romance is not her preferred choice of reading so if a manuscript can capture her interest, we know the story will be great and all we’ll have to do is ensure the romance is as equally strong or better.

We also looked at the hero and tried to determine what was the one thing a woman desires most in a man. We think we’ve found it, but would rather readers discovered it on their own because it makes the hero more fun for them, although it is something we help our writers with. We believe the Ponder hero is a man every woman could want, and judging from our readers’ responses to him, I think they agree.

And there’s no point creating a fabulous man, if the reader isn’t given the added pleasure of relating to his woman. We felt a Ponder heroine should be a woman every reader wishes she could be, partly because her man is so wonderful and partly because they have no trouble understanding her and her motives.

I realize these characteristics may not sound so unique, but there is a subtle difference in a Ponder Romance, and as one reader put it, “A Ponder Romance must be experienced to be understood.” The difference was the motivating factor behind our Write Your Heart Out contest. We receive many manuscripts, very well-written ones, but often the heart of a Ponder Romance isn’t present. We wanted writers to read our novels and then try writing one of their own, or at least the first three chapters and synopsis of one.

We’ve also tried to develop a covers for our books that reflect the mood of the story. We use a flower to depict the heroine’s personality. On Oh Susannah, it was a rose in the process of blooming, like Susannah herself, opening up to love again. For Autumn’s Eve the hardy fall-blossoming aster appeared to suit the independent, strong Eve Barron, and the fiery, exotic but very delicate hibiscus seemed appropriate for Petra Logan in Sand Pirates.

In what format are your books published?

Originally, they were trade-size for the Canadian market, but our books for the American stores are standard mass-market format. There are no plans at present to e-pub.

Do you do print-on-demand?

No, we feel it's too difficult to keep the stores adequately stocked by print-on-demand and consistency in quality is easier to control through a standard print run.

How are your books distributed?

We have three distribution/wholesale services at present. General Distribution Services takes care of our Canadian distribution, while The Bookmen and Ingram Book Co. will service the American markets. We also sell through Amazon.com and ChaptersGlobe.com

How do you advertise? Where do the dollars go, primarily?

One of the greatest challenges is creating an awareness of our Ponder Romances. While a large portion of our budget goes towards paid ads, press releases and media solicitation, a substantial amount is also put towards our web site, www.PonderPublishing.com, which we use to attract writers and inform readers about us, using a variety of means, including draws for books, pewter bookmarks and our Write Your Heart Out contest from which we hope to find our next new author. We also have cardstock bookmarks and our biannual newsletter, "Ponderings", which is circulated through some bookstores and our mailing list.

Tell us about the authors you've contracted.

Our newest writer to join us is Ellis Hoff from Minnesota, author of Sand Pirates. We feel she’s brought to Ponder Romance a writing style that is quite unique. She was a lot of fun to work with, and very easy-going, particularly in light of our flying her up to Winnipeg on two separate occasions and virtually chaining her to the computer while we squeezed out every last drop of creativity from her.

Although, not writing novels for us, we consider Dominick Miserandino part of the Ponder team. We publish his witty little romantic essays in the Ponderings newsletter and there is an idea floating around that the next issues might include a Q&A advice column written by him.

What releases do you have out or soon out?

Our first two Ponder Romances, Oh Susannah, by Selena Mindus and Autumn’s Eve, by Jordanna Boston, have been in Canadian bookstores for a few months. We launched them into American bookstores, along with the Sand Pirates debut, May 30th. They’ll be available in Waldenbooks and Barnes & Noble and others.

What is the price range of your releases?

Our books are priced according to word and page count, but we try to bring them in under $6.00 US if possible. Oh Susannah is $4.55, and Autumn’s Eve and Sand Pirates are $5.25.

Do you have a website with more information?

Yes, it’s www.PonderPublishing.com.

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Ellis Hoff is the author of Sand Pirates, a new contemporary romance from Ponder Romance. We asked her about her experiences.

What led you to a small press? Were you previously published by a mainstream house?

Not having been published by a large or mainstream press, and without any first hand information about the publishing end of the business, I did what I imagine most new writers do; I bought a copy of The Writer's Market and began reading submissions guidelines. "We are not accepting unsolicited mnauscripts at this time" seemed a common theme except for the lines that were very specific about what they were looking for and, in most cases, did not match what I'd written. I found Ponder Press on the Internet and, after requesting their guidelines, thought my manuscript fit well into thier criteria.

What's it like writing for a small press?

The support and enthusiasm of Ponder's staff has been truly heartening. I've talked to other writers who've published with larger publishers and they were blown away by the attention I've received throughout the entire process of getting this novel ready for print. I knew the press was small, but I'd never know it from the way business was handled. Phone calls are always returned, deadlines met. I've got to say, I'm impressed. I wouldn't hesistate to work with Ponder again.

Do you receive advances and royalties?

I did receive an advance that, from what I've read in industry publications, is standard. The royalty payments spelled out in the contract I signed are also fair.

Tell us about your experiences promoting a small-press release.

Ponder Press has invested a lot in advertising to promote the title as well as their company, more than I would have expected considering their size. They've done extensive market research. It's been evident to me since we began working together that they are determined to bring a high quaility product into the market place and willing to do what it takes to get noticed. So, not only do they have a strong philosophy, they're willing to invest in it. They've also made this a fun experience for me; we're all going to the Romnatic Times convention this year and I can hardly wait! For me its been a really great experience. After all the energy they've put into this project they don't seem to be wavering so I can't help but feel they'll make my book a success.

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Ellis and Pamela, thanks for your time! Readers, we have reviews of Sand Pirates, Autumn's Eve, and Oh, Susannah on our Contemporary page.

July 26, 1999


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