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Feb 4, 2021

Editor Spotlight Series - Rhonda Penders

Rhonda Penders spotlight
A warm welcome to Rhonda Penders, Editor-in-Chief of The Wild Rose Press. She and her business partner, RJ Morris, opened their publishing house in 2006 and continue to be the sole owners today. Penders has been on both sides of the query process and brings a special touch of compassion to authors. She believes that publishing is a team effort between the author, the editor, and the publisher.  

Penders has worked as a small town newspaper reporter, a confessional magazine writer, and is a published romance author. But it is her story “Feeding Squirrels with Dad,” published by Chicken Soup for the Soul; Alzheimer’s Caregivers Edition that is the work of her heart.  

Penders lives in Upstate NY with her husband of 36 years.  Her three grown sons live nearby on their own. Follow her on Facebook.

CM: How did you decide to co-start a new publishing company? Tell us about your journey at The Wild Rose Press. 
Rhonda Penders picture
Rhonda: This is actually a lengthy answer, but I will try to give you the shortest version I can. My business partner, RJ Morris, and I were both published authors and friends. We hated how long it took publishers to get back to authors on queries. Some big houses would take almost two years just to say yes or no. If they said no, you never knew why. It was simply “thanks but no thanks.” We also hated how there was this wall up between publishers and authors – you never could just talk to someone or email them. We decided we wanted a better experience for writers. 

Now, this is back in 2006 when e-books were not even really a thing. People weren’t e-pubbed, or if they were, it didn’t count as published. But we knew that electronic publishing was going to be big. It was going to be as important as print books. So with RJ’s brilliance in technology and my social skills, we put together a small publishing company. We had 6 other writer friends who agreed to help us out really only on a promise. It was basically, we are going to all do this for fun and if it turns into something, we will figure out the rest as we go. Now we are in year 15 and we kind of figured it out. So you might say we didn’t really intend to start a business; we just wanted the publishing experience to be better.

CM: How many authors/books do you work with per year?  
Rhonda: We never have a set amount. We don’t go into the new year and say we are going to publish X number of books and take on X number of authors. We set up our releases to be about 3 a week, so on average, we publish over 100 stories a year and generally, if I ballparked it, I’d say we take on maybe 25 new authors each year. 

CM: How do you acquire books? How has the process changed during the pandemic?  
Rhonda: Nothing has changed for us. We were virtual before virtual was cool 😊. Seriously, we have only ever taken electronic submissions. The biggest change for us this year, however, has been not attending writers’ conferences and talking with writers face to face. In normal years, we attend at least 10 a year across the country. Last year I did only 3 virtual conferences and I have 3 scheduled for this spring right now.

CM: Walk us through the editing process you go through with authors before a book is released. 
Rhonda: The process begins the same with all editors and authors – the book is reviewed, and if accepted, a contract is offered. But after that point, it really depends on the status of the manuscript. If this is a manuscript that needs a lot of editing, a lot of revisions, then there will be a lot of back and forth between the editor and author. However, if this manuscript comes in fairly clean and really just needs some tweaks and line edits, then it moves much quicker. Once editing is done, the manuscript moves to the production department, which handles formatting and galleys. It goes to final proofreading and then back once more to the author for his/her approval on the final version. The book is then moved to a production schedule and gets a release date. During all this, the author will be working with the art department for cover art and the marketing department on the book blurb and excerpt, release tweets and marketing plans. 

CM: Any noteworthy publishing trends in romance in the last five years?
Rhonda: We are definitely seeing more LGBTQ stories in romance and in mainstream fiction, which is a positive thing. We are seeing more stories of characters of different races and colors. However, all that said, we sometimes get called on the carpet for not publishing more of these stories – but we have to have submissions, and they have to be publishable before we can add them to our inventory. We won’t publish stories that aren’t worthy of being published simply because it fits the call for more stories in these areas. A good book is a good book. 

CM: An editor-author relationship is all about the people. What attributes do your best author relationships share? 
Rhonda: Authors need to realize that editors are on the same team they are. We all want the best for your book. They are human and they have feelings and handling the relationship professionally is important. They are not your friend or critique partner, and that’s a very important thing to remember. Sometimes writers think they can email their editor several times a day and ask questions and talk about their life and editors simply don’t have the time for all that. If it’s something to do with the book and it’s important then yes, they should email, but they should also remember the editor has several other authors to handle every day. Sometimes authors think they are the only book an editor is working on.

CM: What is the demand for stories set in a COVID-19 world?
Rhonda: NONE. We will not publish anything that takes place during the pandemic right now. We feel at our company that the world needs to escape all that and not read about it in our stories. I know there will be a time when these stories will be relevant and okay, but for the next couple of years, we are not taking any stories that have to do with the current pandemic.

CM: Name a book you recently read and can’t stop thinking about. 
Rhonda: We have a new series of books set in the fictional old west town of Wylder. The first couple of books in the series – The Wylder County Social Club and Wylder Hearts were phenomenal, and I find myself thinking about the characters again and again and eager to read more of the series and stay in the town of Wylder. 

CM: Is there something else you would like to share with our community? 
Rhonda: One thing that I’ve noticed with all the changes in publishing over the past 15 years is that authors used to be so happy to be talking with a publisher, contract with a publisher, and work with a publisher; now I find that many authors think the publisher should be grateful to them for allowing us to publish them. The attitude is very bad and makes for a difficult working relationship. This is still a professional business, and many authors have no problem with being demanding, rude and downright nasty because they feel we need them more than they need us. The reality is if you’ve come to a publishing house it’s because you want the expertise we can offer you and your work. You should treat it as any business relationship. As my father used to say, “you get more flies with honey then you do with vinegar.” Authors seem to have forgotten that adage. That’s not to say we want them groveling and eternally grateful that we contracted them, but a little kindness on both sides goes pretty far.


Wish List

Genres/sub-genres you’re acquiring:
  • We really really want to see more romances again this year. Authors seem to be writing other genres, and that’s great, but we really want to see more romances. 
  • Would also love more cozy mysteries.
  • We would also like to see some more really well written erotic romance. 
What you’re not interested in:
  • We will not even review anything to do with the pandemic. 
  • We will not review or consider anything we consider to do be adult porn. We publish erotica and erotic romance, but writers seem to think we want stories that are way past that. We won’t consider those.


The Wild Rose Press Author Examples
(This list includes affiliate links)
by Nicole McCaffrey - 2020
by Charlotte O’Shay - 2020

Do you accept un-agented submissions? Yes

Submission Instructions: 

We also have a program where we help authors who want to self-publish but don’t know or don’t have the tools to get it done. That program’s guidelines can be found here:

The Wild Rose Press turns 15 in 2021 and recently was awarded the title of “Best Publisher of the Year” by an annual independent poll of readers and writers. The company has won this title for 13 years.