Sunday, 25 November 2007

Little Black Dress Books

Early this year I discovered a fantastic new range of chick lit books called The Little Black Dress Books. Set in modern cities such as London, New York and Paris, Little Black Dress Books consist of titles that are about chic and cosmopolitan women who have great jobs and fantastic lives and make an entertaining read. Small and chic, they are the sort of books that you can slip into your handbag while you are on your way to work, a night out or travelling around. Despite only being a relatively young series, Little Black Dress have a very powerful brand, what with clips on youTube, a very dynamic website, funny blog, a great and quirky logo as well as a group on Facebook. It does not take a genius to work out that all the stops have been put out on the marketing side, I caught up with Little Black Dress associate publisher, Catherine Cobain to get the lowdown on the books.

What is the concept behind Little Black Dress?
The concept of Little Black Dress is to provide sassy, entertaining and romantic fiction to the young women’s market. We love books that are modern, page-turning and fun, with clever, sparkling writing, zippy, original plots and of course, great heroines.

What is your role?
I am the Associate Publisher of Little Black Dress.

Little Black Dress reminds me of Mills and Boons – would you say there was any similarity between the two series?
I don’t think that there is a huge similarity between the two. I’m a HUGE fan of Mills & Boon and what they do, but I think the ethos behind Mills & Boons and Little Black Dress is slightly different. They are of course alike in that both are series publishers, focussing more on the brand than on individual titles or authors. But Mills & Boon are I think (if possible) more purely romantic than Little Black Dress. Some of their lines are more traditional than ours, and have more structured themes. Because we are very young and new as an imprint, we have a lot of scope to experiment with our books and in taking on writers – which is how we can publish such great quirky comedies such as
She’ll Take It, a hilarious rom-com about a kleptomaniac in NY.

Where are the Little Black Dress titles sold?
In mainstream bookstores such as Waterstones and Borders in the UK, on Amazon, and in supermarkets like Tesco and Asda. We are also gearing up to start selling direct from our own site in the future, , which will be very exciting as it will make them more accessible to readers who like to shop online. Plus we love our website! It’s a whole lot of fun.

I really like the viral marketing tactic that you took with Step on it, Cupid especially the youTube video. Do you plan anymore marketing activities like that? We didn’t actually do the viral marketing for Step on it, Cupid. We focus all our energies on promoting the Little Black Dress brand rather than individual authors, as we have more impact when we do it like this, and also we want to keep it fair for everyone on the list. However we always think it’s fantastic when our authors, who as you can imagine are all very clever and creative and savvy, create their own campaigns. That’s what happened with Step on it Cupid – the author worked for an advertising agency, who were able to help her in experimenting with a viral campaign in this way. We thought it was great too.

What sort of stories do you look for when signing up titles for Little Black Dress?
We look for original authorial voice, a fantastic story-telling talent, and often a good sense of humour – a lot of our books are romantic comedies. We love how inventive our authors are with their plots – we know that readers want to be entertained and diverted with original spins and angles on traditional themes. We like to keep our options open however – we don’t say ‘This is what we want’ or ‘This is what we don’t want’ as to do so would be to possibly limit our authors creatively, which we never want to do. It’s safe to say that our books are short, fun, very commercial, and usually – but not always! – have a strong love story in them somewhere.

Describe a typical heroine from the series?

We have all kinds. Clever ones, sassy ones, sexy ones, girls who need to discover themselves, women who’ve discovered themselves already and realise their life needs to change. Women looking for love, career girls, ladies who’ve just been dumped, funny girls, shy girls. This imprint is all about entertainment for the modern young woman, so we are always open and ready to receive new, original heroines who strike a chord with readers and who can be taken to the peoples’ hearts. I often think that a good heroine should be like a good friend – not necessarily perfect or saintly – indeed, often not – but the kind of woman you like and you care about and you want to go and have fun with on a Saturday afternoon or Saturday night.

The heroines seem to be based in the UK or US are there any plans to expand the countries?

That’s really because that’s where our submissions seem to come from. We’d love heroines from more countries, although unfortunately we don’t have the capacity to translate at the moment, so titles must be submitted in excellent English. Things featuring strong on our wish list right now include an Indian heroine and someone from Australia or New Zealand.

So how does it work? Do authors specifically write a book for the series or do you buy in an all published title that fits the brand?
We do both! If we buy a finished book from an author, we often buy another one or two unwritten titles from them as well, so that their writing career is assured for the next couple of years. However we don’t usually buy first-time authors on partial manuscripts and never on proposals.

What advice do you have for budding authors who fancy the idea of penning a book for Little Black Dress?
The most important think I ever tell an author is that you have to write primarily for yourself in the first instance. If you don’t love, care for, and believe in your heroine yourself, it’s unlikely anyone else will. Also, the publishing world is a tough one (even though we give our authors a lot of tlc) and it’s inevitable that any author anywhere will at some stage have a rejection, or a bad review, or even just meet someone who doesn’t like what they write. In order to have the self-assurance to survive this tough business, you have to be able to believe in yourself and your book.

Other useful pieces of advice are: read a lot! Try to analyse the way your favourite author has put his or her book together. Don’t let too many people critique your work – although it’s helpful, you don’t need to write by committee and you run the risk of entering the ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’ scenario. Plot your books meticulously and write synopses, even if you hate doing it! It will help you shape and fix your plot, and highlight any weak spots or bagging areas. Also, many people subscribe to the ‘write every day, no matter how you feel’ school of thought. Although I do agree with this to an extent, there’s also a time to give yourself a break. Sometimes you might need to give yourself a time out, as much to give ideas time to germinate and develop in a natural way as anything else.

Check out Little Black Dress's fantastic blog

They also have a fantastically funny email newsletter which comes out twice a month, you can sign up for at

Check out the brilliant advert for Step On It Cupid written by Lorelei Mathias below.

1 cool comments:

Chic and Charming said...

Sounds fun! I'll have to look to see where they are sold in the US