The author of OC is looking for other authors to invent a new literary genre for his new library
Elizabeth Conte loves 19th century literature.
There’s just something about it, Conte said in a recent interview. Works from this era had a certain drama, romance, and literary flair that she did not see replicated in most modern fiction. She said she liked what this period of literature offered, but also realized that the average reader probably wasn’t chasing authors like Jane Austen and Elizabeth Gaskell.
Period dramas get their time in the TV spotlight, Conte acknowledged, through shows like Netflix’s “Bridgerton” and PBS’s “Downton Abbey.”
“There are all these historical stories of the Old World and [people] just eat, but we don’t get the same from the books,” Conte said. “We don’t see the same character development, long-term romances. It’s very ‘wham, bam; thank you ma’am’ the romances, not like ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and ‘North and South’… all those stories they keep remaking [in film].”
This is where Conte, a new author in business and marketing, said she saw an opportunity.
“Publishers own the market, but the industry is changing. There are so many self-published authors. The publishing world doesn’t satisfy the market and I think that’s what’s really cool about the independent market. There are a lot of niches and open territories for people who want things like that,” Conte said.
“I am a smart woman. I read a lot. I just didn’t find what I wanted. I don’t think what I’m asking is stupid or that I’m there. There are other people who must be like me,” she said.
This prompted her not only to write her own book – “Finding Jane”, released in March – but also to take the first steps to create her own publishing house, Jane writes the presswhich she says falls somewhere between traditional and independent.
She said she’s not a fan of the pace of the modern romance novel, adding that many books don’t give her a sense of escape.
“A woman like me is not going to read a romance novel. They meet; they fall in love; something is happening; they find their way back to each other,” Conte said. “I like long and developed stories and things that make me think that are not told to me. I like drama, I guess.
” Do not mistake yourself. We have a Romance and Women’s Fiction category and I was in both groups. [for my book] and I didn’t fit in. I wanted smart writing, beautiful prose and romance, but it had to be romantic not just romance.
This is the type of writing that Conte’s publishing house intends to target, a genre it calls itself “literary romance”.
She started writing “Finding Jane” in 2013 and finished in mid-2014. She began pitching it to publishers soon after and began working on another book.
She said her book, however, “fell through the cracks” because it didn’t fit neatly into the romance or historical fiction category.
“That got me thinking. “If I don’t come in, then let’s do it myself.” I think everyone starts a successful business doing this. I know there is an audience there. I don’t think it’s a crazy idea. I don’t recreate the wheel at all, but publishers don’t have that.
“I’m not competing with them and I’m starting something new. I hope they launch a category like this and I hope to prove that it exists and is successful.
Conte said she has studied the publishing industry and noted that the market for selling books is changing rapidly. Online sales are where the market is now, minus physical stores. Her own book is sold through Amazon and she strives to enter those physical storefronts as well, but recognizes the barrier between “self-publishing” and going through a traditional publisher.
“Everyone and their mom wants to write their book,” Conte said.
Self-published books have often been shelved as unprofessional, which Conte takes into account. This is where she thinks Jane Writes Press can step in to help improve quality and add a degree of professionalism to the freelance industry.
The bookstore has received a few requests so far, although Conte said they are still actively looking for other authors.
Editor-in-chief Michelle Morrow describes herself as a “book doula” and said the bookstore would provide the tools needed to turn a writer into a published author, but stressed it was not a vanity press where people had to pay to have their work published. .
“A writer can come to us with a very good book and it must meet our criteria. They have to be vetted and they have to be willing to learn and participate in the act of publishing their own book,” Morrow said. “Under our bookstore they have their copyright and all financial rights of ownership…because we believe that to write a book is to create a work of art.”
Morrow, who lives in Texas and met Conte about a year ago, knew from the start what she wanted in a bookstore.
“What if we could educate these authors, give them real skills and give them real things? A lot of what we meet are book coaches, who teach you how to do these things, but they never give you the secret sauce,” Morrow said. “We’re here to hold hands with our authors and give them the secret of the sauce, to let them know what we’ve done, what we’ve tried, and help them make good decisions, but at the same time they maintain autonomy.
“We want our authors to be empowered, because a lot of what happens when people find out, ‘Oh, you’re self-published? They look through the nose. So many times, self-published books get a bad rap. We’re here to say that you can have a truly beautifully done professional self-published book and… you [can] have… all the advantages of an editor but none of the disadvantages.
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