I am woman…
Renee Rocco, Owner and Publisher, Lyrical Press, Inc.
In the recent past, I was invited to a meeting with the male chief officer of a now defunct company. After a friendly greeting, the first question I was asked was “so, how does your husband feel about you owning Lyrical and you being here for this meeting?”. My response was to stand, re-extend my hand in greeting, and come back with “let’s begin again, shall we? Hi. My name is Renee Rocco, owner of Lyrical Press.”
What this male CO first saw when I walked into his office was not the owner of a publishing house. He did not see a colleague. By far, he did not view me as someone who actually outranked him, as he was an employee, whereas I am the owner of a company...a company on stable financial footing. His was not. What he saw was a woman. A wife. A mother. He saw these aspects of my person because I happened to be born with certain body parts he lacked. Bet you can guess what those parts are. By understanding and exercising what it means to be professional and assertive, rather than arrogant and aggressive, I reset the tone of the meeting and forced the man to see past my sex. I challenged him to treat me no differently than if I was a man. If I were born male, that CO would never have began the meeting asking me how my wife felt with me owning Lyrical Press or her opinion on his invitation for our meeting. But I am a woman, and a small one at that. I also happen to be feminine and naturally cheerful. I value a huge smile and a loud laugh. I used to think I had to alter my appearance and personality in order to fit more comfortably in an industry dominated by men. I felt I had to dress in a manner that downplayed my femininity. I tried to hide the very things I fought hard to love about myself. I quickly came to the conclusion I’d rather fail being myself than succeed acting like someone else.
I am female. I am feminine. I embrace these things. I relish my roles as publisher, wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, friend, writer, and cover artist. And for those who follow me on Twitter know, I also have a blast slipping into the role of Renascence Fair pirate during the summer. I wear these different roles with grace and confidence. I’ve earned that right after years of struggling to find the perfect balance for them all. Finding that balance meant mastering what it is to be assertive without crossing the line into aggression. It meant learning how to embrace being a woman and being feminine without being sexual. I had to stand my ground and forge my way without being defensive.
Finding my place in publishing also opened my eyes to the significant and groundbreaking contributions women made to this amazing industry. Women readers are a force to be reckoned with. Their love and loyalty of the romance genre makes it over a billion dollar a year business. In recent years, women-owned small presses ushered in a new age of reading with digital books. Female readers, eager and unafraid of progress, embraced this format. Regretfully, I don’t see much talk of this. True, I do find some wonderful articles about the fearless female contributions to publishing, but not nearly enough to merit the obstacles we’ve had to overcome by not only shattering the glass ceiling, but becoming major players in this industry.
Most of the powerhouses of publishing are, as Steven Zacharius of Kensington Publishing Corp often notes, foreign conglomerates. They also happened to be male-owned and operated foreign conglomerates. Then came Ellora’s Cave and Samhain, which hit the publishing industry like a beautiful storm. These female owned houses dared what not many before them had. They kicked open the door and let the light in on a previously hidden sub genre of romance: erotica. If it hadn’t been for them, and for the women brave enough not be ashamed of their reading preference, books like 50 Shades of Grey might not have gained the success it has. They dared to offer readers a format, which at the time, wasn’t even considered a ‘real’ book. Yes, I’m referring to ebooks. Romance readers the world over obviously rejoiced, considering Ellora’s Cave and Samhain’s instant and overwhelming success. They forged the way for a legion of other like-minded women, who all helped change the face of publishing. Women-owned small presses began popping up all over the Internet. This includes Lyrical Press.
I often get asked what does Lyrical offer that the ‘giants’ don’t? For one thing, a personal touch. From submission to expiration of contract, authors receive a personalized publishing experience. Not only is their editor on hand to help them navigate the publishing waters, but I am there personally as well. I make myself available to every author, staff member, and reader. For me, Lyrical is more than just a business. It’s a way for me to share my love of all things publishing. I’ve contracted and employed people who share this love with me. Authors get the benefit of NY style editing, with the rarity of a hands-on publisher. Readers have come to equate Lyrical with quality. From cover art and editing to formatting, Lyrical strives to provide our audience with a top-notch reading experience.
What sets Lyrical apart from other small presses is, we can stand shoulder-to-shoulder to the these powerhouses of the industry while maintaining that intimate aspect our author have come to expect. Without a ‘board’ or chain of people to answer to, I’m able to tailor Lyrical to our reader’s and author’s needs. This allows me to do more than merely listen when people talk. I can set new ideas in action. Case in point, as of November 2013, all Lyrical books will enjoy a simultaneous print and ebook release.
It’s an interesting time to be a woman in publishing. We roared and our voices reverberated throughout the industry and began a reinvention of what was once known as ‘traditional’ publishing.
So, I now say with pride, I am Renee Rocco, owner of Lyrical Press. I am equally proud of my femininity, and all the differing hates I get wear each day. As a strong, assertive, and powerful woman I can be all those things comfortably.
I am not afraid to roar…and do it in a really cute dress.