Spotlight on Changeling Press; Margaret Riley

Changeling Press turns 20 in 2024. To celebrate, we’re featuring the Changeling Press CEO.

Meet Margaret Riley

An Interview with Holly Hewson at TRS with Margaret Riley, Publisher, Editor in Chief, and Submissions Editor, Changeling Press LLC

HH: Margaret, what inspired you to start Changeling Press?

Margaret: A blizzard. The blizzard of 2004 — tree fell on the transmitter nearest us. We lost power and Internet for a week. We have natural gas heat, so that wasn’t an issue, a generator to keep from losing everything in the fridge, Coleman lanterns, and a gas stove. Other than not killing ourselves shoveling snow, survival wasn’t an issue. But not being online or at work gave us lots of time to talk. About the past, about the future, and about my writing. We’d been watching my second online publisher implode, we’d just finished settling my dad’s estate, and for the first time in several years we had time to think. And really talk. My previous publishers knew a lot about romance, but very little about running a business. We had decades of business experience between us. But I’m also ADD, and I was terrified of the mound of paperwork we were about to have to deal with. Not so much of doing the paperwork, but forgetting things. Bill, my darling husband, is ex-military. He spent enough time filing flight plans and other Air Force paperwork that when he said “No problem. You figure out what we need, and I’ll get it done and keep it all organized,” I actually believed we could make it work. Twenty years later, we’ve never missed paying our authors, editors, or artists, and a good many of our original staff members are still with us.

HH: Can you walk us through your submission process?

Margaret: Sure! There’s a page on the website under HELP with the submissions guidelines. Started off a lot more complicated. Now it’s a cut-and-paste checklist. So the first thing I do when a submission comes in is look for the basics:

  • Did the author follow directions? If not, we’ll send it back and ask for a resubmit with corrections.
  • Is this a book we can publish? If not, that’s an immediate rejection. (We don’t publish true crime or autobiographies. I’m not going to spend time reading something we have no interest in publishing.)

If the genres, themes, and length are what we’re looking for, then I’ll take a look at the book. I’m looking for:

  • A great hook.
  • Sentence structure, grammar, and punctuation that lets me know we can work on plot points, rather than teaching fundamentals. (There are online classes for that.)

If the hook is solid and well-written, I’ll keep reading.

Next, I’m looking for:

  • Characters I want to know more about. That means I have to like them. Asshole heroes? No thank you. TSTL (Too Stupid To Live) heroines (like the girl in the horror movie running toward the sound of chainsaws)? Also a hard pass. We do not publish sweet romance or what I laughingly call “Head trip” romance — no Tragic Misunderstandings/Miscommunications, please. We publish primarily Women’s Action Romance series. Things need to attack, blow up, chase… something has to HAPPEN.
  • Plot arc VS Romance arc. Both have to be present. And plausible.
  • Heat level: Since we publish adult women’s fiction, the relationship needs a high heat level, and the sex needs to be integral to the plot. If the hero leaves for six chapters at the end of the prologue? That’s not gonna work. If all the action’s off screen, that won’t work, either.

Unfortunately by this point in screening submissions, most have been sent back. So when we find something that does work, we’re always very excited! From me, the work goes to one of our editors for a detailed read. Which editor depends on who’s available for this book’s main genres. The editor will either reject, accept, or ask for revisions — rewrites on problem areas.

HH: How do you go from an initial submission to a finished manuscript?

Margaret: Once we accept a new work, the book will go through initial edits, then proofing, line edits, production, then a post-production review. Typos happen. We work hard to hunt them down and kill them.

HH: Of all the books you’ve accepted for Changeling Press, which one is your favorite and why?

Margaret: I love them all! I think my favorite themes are MC Romance, Dark/Futuristic Paranormal, Sci-Fi, and Steampunk. This week. Subject to change without notice.

HH: What have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your publishing career and how did you overcome them?

Margaret: The crash of 2008 was notably bad, particularly because about that time readers were migrating to Amazon Kindle, so there was a learning curve, but as I mentioned, we came into this business with a good bit of experience, and we adapted. We’ve had some ups and downs, but our authors and readers stuck with us, and we’re pretty happy to still be doing what we love 2 decades later.

HH: What advice would you give to aspiring authors who dream of being published by Changeling Press?

Margaret: Read what we publish. Write the book. Submit the book (No one gets published “holding on” to a manuscript.) And follow directions!

HH: Changeling Press is known for its diverse genres. Is there a genre you haven’t written in yet but are curious to explore?

Marteeka: Not off the top of my head. I’ve pretty much written in all of Changeling’s themes. I think I even have a lesbian fairy couple. Over the last 19 years, I’ve reinvented myself more times that I care to think about. Here’s to hoping my current genre is around for a VERY long time…

HH: How do you see the future of digital publishing evolving, and what role do you think Changeling Press will play in it?

Margaret: That’s in our name! We’re Changelings. We adapt. And we love what we do!

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