Q&A: Sarah Peed

As publishing evolves and writers turn to digital outlets to create and distribute new works, major publishers like Random House Publishing Group, a division of the newly formed Penguin Random House, have committed to finding these new authors and delivering exciting fresh content to today’s most tech-savvy readers. Sarah Peed is the associate editor at Hydra, Random’s new digital-only sf/fantasy imprint.

Why did Random House decide to do digital-only imprints? Why separate by genre (Loveswept, Alibi, and Flirt)?

We felt that digital-first imprints would create opportunities for our authors to reach an exploding audience for great digital genre fiction. We separated by these different genres (romance, mystery/thriller, new adult, and sf/fantasy/horror) because these categories are the hard-hitters of the digital domain. Readers in these genres are migrating to digital in the largest numbers, and we know there is a huge audience for our authors to reach. The imprints we have developed speak directly to the readers who love particular kinds of books, and we know we can connect authors directly with those fans through the programs we are building.

Why is it important to focus on digital publishing as a separate market from print?

Random House wants to deliver excellent and compelling content to our readers, regardless of format. However, there is a section of readers who read either entirely or mostly digitally, and we’re hoping to connect with them in innovative new ways using these digital-first imprints. Digital publishing is an important piece of the ever-expanding market, and to ignore it is to disregard an entire swath of digitally focused readers.

What are current publishing plans for Hydra?

We’re just getting started. Released June 17 is Apocalyptic Organ Grinder, by William Todd Rose, a thought-provoking, postapocalyptic novella that reinvents the zombie story. Blackwater Lights, by Michael M. Hughes, is an atmospheric debut novel that combines the eldritch horror of H.P. Lovecraft with the supernatural thrills of Dean Koontz, out July 16. And, finally, coming October 28 is Mark Onspaugh’s brilliant dark fantasy The Faceless One, which follows a ragtag group battling an ancient and vengeful Tlingit god. We accept both agented and unagented submissions, continue to build the list, and expect to have several more titles throughout this year and into 2014. You’ll have to stay tuned to see what’s next!

Do you think there will be any eventual print-on-demand for these titles?

The most exciting opportunities for authors is in digital, and we are pursuing that head on. That said, we are committed to doing whatever is best for each title and that may include additional formats.

What are your thoughts on sf/fantasy/horror today? Are there any subgenres rising or falling?

Sf/fantasy/horror has always held a special place in my heart—obviously!—but I think this is an exciting time because we’re reaching more people who would normally pass on space odysseys or epic quests. This has, of course, been helped along by titans like Game of Thrones and Star Wars, but they are also gateways to the magic that is sf/fantasy/horror. These genres are spellbinding and revolutionary and allow you to “stuff your eyes with wonder,” as it were, and that we’re welcoming more people to the club is absolutely exhilarating.

In terms of today’s subgenres, I’d say that urban fantasy is a heavy-hitter, and I’m hoping for more space operas to break onto the scene. Vampires seem to be going out of vogue, and demons/witches might rise to take their place. No one really knows any definitive answers, though; for me, it all boils down to the characters and whether or not I want to follow them through their trials and tribulations. If you don’t have great characters, then your subgenre doesn’t matter.

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  1. Fantastic interview and fine words of wisdom. Thanks Sarah, once again you’ve made my day!