Rochelle Fernandez worked as an editor across books, magazines and websites for ten years before becoming the Associate Publisher for Voyager, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers Australia. She tweets at @roch_town and can be found on voyageronline.com.au.
1. You have just completed your first year as commissioning editor at Harper Voyager Australia. What preconceptions did you have about the position when you first took the position, and have you made any significant changes to how Harper Voyager publishes or promotes new titles?
I was a bit intimidated by the idea of the whole speculative fiction community when I first took the role, because I know how important Voyager was to the readers of speculative fiction in Australia and how high their expectations were, and I had some pretty big shoes to fill!
The biggest change to how Voyager publishes now is the launch of our digital-first imprint, Impulse. We are publishing many more authors in ebook-first or ebook-only as a means of developing a readership and trying out stories that might not necessarily find a print-book market. This has also led to much more experimentation both by author and genre and we are actually publishing a lot more authors than we have previously because we don’t have the constraints of printing.
2. Your first print acquisition for Harper Voyager, ‘Bound’, book one of the Alex Caine series by Alan Baxter was launched earlier this month. What was it about this book that attracted you, and does it reflect your vision for Harper Voyager going forward?
I had heard Alan speak and was familiar with his self-published stories, so when his agent (Alex Adsett) sent through Boundfor consideration I was really excited. The pace was the first thing that attracted me: it is pure page-turning fun. It had a great hook (A cage-fighter with special powers trying to get rid of a book that has attached itself to him) and it was just so imaginative.
My vision for HarperVoyager going forward is that we will continue to publish the best science fiction and fantasy in Australia. The best epic fantasy, the best urban fantasy, the best paranormal romance, the best science fiction — they’re all so different, but I want them all to be as page-turning as Bound, in their own way.
3. I note you have made yourself available for author pitches at a number of genre conventions recently. Has this been a fruitful way to discover new authors? What advice do you have for authors who still want to be ‘traditionally’ published?
Pitches have definitely been a fruitful way to discover authors — many of my Impulse (digital first) acquisitions have been from pitches. It’s really important that authors feel comfortable talking about their story and what’s unique and fantastic about their story in the first instance. And pitching also identifies authors who have thought about their readers and where they sit in the market which is crucial to publishers. I want our authors to have a relationship with their readers and know who their book is for. I also look for authors who are prepared to engage actively with their readers via social media and through events.
4. What Australian works have you loved recently?
Bound, of course! And the new Jo Spurrier — North Star Guide Me Home – a brilliant conclusion to the Children of the Black Sun trilogy. I also enjoyed Max Barry’s Lexicon although being a word-nerd I would have liked more exploration of the persuasion words!
5. Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?
I’m very focused on ebooks – moreso than I was five years ago. I analyse what’s working in e, look at the charts, what the prices are, what ratings and reviews a book is getting. I’m also more conscious about an author’s digital footprint – nowadays authors, especially speculative fiction authors, need to have direct relationships to their readers – they need to be active online and collaborating with us to promote themselves. In five years I think we (Voyager) will still be publishing original, authentic Australian science fiction and fantasy in print and on whatever platforms readers are reading.