Wednesday, November 9, 2011

My Interview with Joyce Shor Johnson of Pugalicious Press

Pugalicious Press is one of the newest small presses to come onto the children's literature scene. They make their home in New Hampshire, where there is a rich history of iconic literary voices. Both Joyce Shor Johnson and Jennifer Carson are Acquiring Editors. Together they make up Pugalicious Press.

K: I’m honored to welcome Joyce Shor Johnson to my blog today. Hi Joyce! You've already announced your first book, HAPENNY MAGIC by New Hampshire author, Jennifer Carson, available March 21, 2012. (Note: Jen's one of my crit partners, and I've read HM--it's wonderful! For an interview with Jen today, visit Laura Pauling's blog.) 

K: Can you tell my readers how and why you decided to start your own press?

J: We wanted great books! There are so many wonderful manuscripts that are not being published because they may not fit into the catalogs of the typical big publishing houses. These are the books that we want to make available, the books that large publishers won't take risks on. We started Pugalicious Press in order to reach out to readers: kids, parents, teachers, and librarians, and give them stories full of well-developed characters, adventure, fun and heart. With world turmoil and hard economic times still ahead, we believe that children need to be able to enjoy positive themes that have a positive impact on the world we live in. Not just focusing on death and zombies.  Don't get me wrong, I love zombies, my heart bleeds for their inability to be human.

K: What a great philosophy--I think I'm going to love your books. What has your response been like so far? Any surprises?

J: The most terrifying moment was actually opening up for submissions and dreading that no one would submit to us. Then seeing the time stamp on the first query being 12:02 AM was our oh yeah, this is real moment. So far, we have requested a dozen full manuscripts and have two authors we are extending contracts to just as soon as I hit the send key. As for surprises, initially we received an enormous number of submissions from Australia. I guess they love the pug down under! Ahh... that sounds kind of dirty-minded but I think you know what I mean!

K: LOL--love it! How long did it take to get the press off the ground?

J: Once we made the decision to do this and had the complete backing of our families, it seemed to all fall into place rather quickly. Both Jen and I had been seriously researching and considering launching small presses on our own. When I heard from a mutual writer friend that Jen was thinking about launching a press as well, I called her to see if would be interested in combining our talents. We've been in the dog house together ever since.

K: I think you both made a great decision--knowing you both, I think you're going to do great work together. By the way, where does the name come from?

J: We are both dog lovers. She has big yellow dogs and I have a goofy looking pug. We chose the goofy one because it is fun and everyone remembers the name. It has recognition and that is half the marketing battle.

K: As a MG/YA writer, I love that you're dedicated to MG and YA--are you looking for anything in particular in those genres? Anything you're expressly NOT looking for?

J: Our main focus is on fantasy, high adventure, historical fiction, and (a very small number of) dystopian (but only if it has a fantastical element). We are not accepting picture books, chapter books, poetry or non-fiction submissions.

K: Sounds like a lot of my readers will like your variety! Can you give us a little preview of what's coming up next for Pugalicious?

J: Next up is THE CASTING, A middle grade historical adventure about a girl in 350 AD Ireland who wants to be a bronze caster. We are also planning a historical themed anthology of short stories for young adults. We will be putting out a call for submissions just after the new year. So keep checking the blog for the announcement.

K: We'll be on the lookout! Thanks for the heads up! Anything I've missed that you want to share?

J: We hope that writers continue to submit to us. One of our goals is to give feedback with all correspondence, particularly rejections. Just because we reject a manuscript doesn't mean that it won't someday warrant merit. It might just not be ready and we want the writer to keep working at their craft. With our various levels of involvement with SCBWI, we repeatedly hear writers voice the frustration of not getting feedback on why something was rejected. As writers ourselves we understand this need and hope to be able to give some modest feedback on big issues we may find. There may come a point where we can no longer do this as the volume of submissions increase.

Please understand that we are truly a publishing company, but a small one. So if you are looking for big $$$ upfront, we can't offer you that. What we can offer a solid contract and a truly unique publishing experience where you can be an active participant in the creative process of bringing your book to market.

K: Thanks Joyce! I love that you're so diligent about wanting to give writers feedback. Good luck with everything you're working on--I know you're super busy! And thanks for taking the time to join me today!

If Pugalicious Press sounds like the kind of publisher you want to work with see their submission guidelines at You can also visit Joyce at her own blog.


Laura Pauling said...

Great interview! This covers all the bases. I'm so excited for both Hapenny Magick and The Casting!

Jennifer said...

Thank you, thank you Kris for all your support!!!

Kristine Asselin said...

Just wait for payback, Jen!

Just kidding, so happy to do whatever I can to help. Can't wait to see the book!

Joyce Shor Johnson said...

Thanks, Kris. Your questions really made me think about our goals and who we want to be. I'm very excited to be doing this. I appreciate all of your support.

Heather Kelly said...

This is very cool! :) Thanks for the insider information.

I don't know if you guys are taking questions, but if you are: Did you have any hesitation about getting into this publishing climate? And are you getting into the digital side of publishing, or are you doing just the paper side of things?

And--I love that you have taken this risk. I'm applauding your venture!! :)

LynNerdKelley said...

This is soooooo cool! Congratulations on the opening of your publishing company, Joyce. I like the name Pugalicious Press. I'm a dog lover, too! I was also wondering the same thing that Heather asked, about whether you're getting into the digital side also.

I wish Pugalicious Press great success in all your ventures. Sounds like you've got the heart and soul it takes.

Nice interview, Kris!

Joyce Shor Johnson said...

Hi Heather and Lyn,
Great question - Yes we are! And it will be across platforms for eReaders. There is no time like now to be a seasoned writer looking for a small press to call home. We are very excited about all of the wonderful possibilities available to our authors.