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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Guest Blog: Suz deMello: Herding Cats: The Joy and Challenge of Organizing a Boxed Set

Some of you may remember this Super Bowl commercial—it’s one of my favorites.

At the end of the commercial, here’s how the company, EDS, promotes itself:

In a sense, it’s what we do. We bring together information, ideas and technologies and make them go where you want. EDS—managing the complexities of the digital economy.

A few months ago, my primary publisher underwent a corporate contraction which, unfortunately, garnered an outsize amount of adverse publicity. Authors were concerned about a variety of events which might take place. On the yahoogroup I set up so we could privately exchange information, I read fear, worry, anger...but candidly, little action.

I don’t consider myself a leader. In fact, more than one group I’ve been in has lost steam and foundered, so often I wondered if I was some sort of Jonah, a bad-luck jinx. But I do prefer action, so after a while I proposed that we take the energy we’d been expending on negative speculation and focus it on something positive.

I proposed creating a holiday boxed set. Thus was born the Naughty Literati, a group of thirteen authors who have, as our website says, “come together to show off their epic talents in short stories filled with powerful eroticism and satisfying romance.”

Why short stories? The timeline was short, so I suggested short stories. That may change. And because some were leery of too much structure, I kept it loose. Although the conventional wisdom is that readers don’t like subgenre mixing—M/M mixed in with F/M, for example—I didn’t care. I’m not interested in telling anyone how to do her art. If someone wanted to write M/M, cool. If someone wanted to contribute a ménage story, equally cool. Although the Naughty Literati all came from a publisher of erotic romance, I pushed for no set heat level. I felt sure that there would be plenty of hot sex, but I wasn’t going to decree XXX or BDSM.

Because every writer in the NL is a professional, I felt comfortable with few rules and I think others are also.

It’s been sort of a “seat of the pants” undertaking—the organizational equivalent of being a pantser as opposed to a plotter. But because I have a legal background, and used to run a law practice, I tend to be highly organized. I tried to think ahead, to anticipate issues before they arose.

We benefited by being a group of highly motivated, talented, smart and responsible individuals. Each of us brings gifts others may lack. Nic Austin is a wizard with Photoshop and has created beautiful covers and logos, plus the blog and the website. Marianne Stephens is my right-hand gal, my co-organizer, my sounding board. I can’t begin to say how glad I am she’s there for me. Regina Kammer “concatenates” like nobody’s business. Everyone stepped up to edit, copyedit, promote...there’s a myriad of tasks to complete.

There were challenges, of course. Primary among them, for me, is my naturally strong personality. I’m dominating and have the paddle and floggers to prove it. I had to rein myself in, occasionally reminding the others, “Hey, I’m not the Queen. I don’t have a tiara or Corgis.” (Damn. I like Corgis.) And I had to keep people on task without, quite frankly, being an asshole about it.

Whenever there was a potential point of disagreement, I took the easy way out. I put issues up for a vote. I have to say that while many diss Yahoo, their polling feature has been invaluable, as well as files, photo storage and databases. Communication was relatively easy.

Initial challenges: creating a loose but meaningful contract. Getting everyone to sign it (thank you, Docusign) without being a jerk about it. I felt that the arithmetic associated with divvying up the royalties could lead to serious issues, so I persuaded everyone to hire an outside company for that very purpose. The same company has handled publishing and distribution as well, for a portion of the royalties.

What can I say right now, when we’re in the midst of promoting the first boxed set, except so far so good? And it is good. The boxed set is selling nicely. Even better, the mere existence of the group, with its intense focus, has energized us. For me, I had been strangled in the grip of writers’ block so long and tight that I often contemplated giving up.

Not any more. My story for the Valentine’s Day boxed set is coming along well, which is a very good thing since, again, we’re working with a very short timeline.

Lesson learned. Next year will be easier, and there will, I think, be more boxed sets from the Naughty Literati for years to come.

At this point we’re planning about five anthologies annually, each corresponding to a season plus, of course, Valentine’s Day.

It’s hard to pinpoint what’s been best about this experience. Falling in love again with writing has been a big deal for me.

But surpassing everything has been the joy of working with a group of such fantastic colleagues. “Heart-warming” is a word that’s overused, but the caring and commitment I see from the Naughty Literati truly does warm my heart.

The best Christmas gift EVER. Thanks, guys. Love ya!

Best-selling, award-winning author Suz deMello, a.k.a Sue Swift, has written seventeen romance novels in several subgenres, including erotica, comedy, historical, paranormal, mystery and suspense, plus a number of short stories and non-fiction articles on writing. A freelance editor, she’s held the positions of managing editor and senior editor, working for such firms as Totally Bound and Ai Press. She also takes private clients.

Her books have been favorably reviewed in Publishers Weekly, Kirkus and Booklist, won a contest or two, attained the finals of the RITA and hit several bestseller lists.

A former trial attorney, her passion is world travel. She’s left the US over a dozen times, including lengthy stints working overseas. She’s now writing a vampire tale and planning her next trip.

Find her books at
For editing services, email her at
Befriend her on Facebook:
She tweets @Suzdemello
Her current blog is

BLURB: Naughty List Anthology
Are you on the Naughty List?
Thirteen Naughty Holiday stories to warm up your winter

Suz deMello's story: Viking in Tartan
Medieval romance from the Highland Vampires series. A Viking raider brings change to little Clan Kilbirnie, especially to the chieftain’s daughter Rhona.

BUY LINKS: Visit for all buy links.


Rose Anderson said...

Best luck on your boxed set, Sue. And Happy Holidays to you too. :)

Cara Marsi said...

Congratulations on your boxed set. It's one I want to buy.

Sandy said...

What a cute U-Tube video, Suz. Good luck with your boxed set.

Paris said...


Great post on being pro-active. Good luck with the boxed set! Knowing many of the authors, I know readers are in for a treat:)

Suz said...

Thanks, everyone, for your kind comments. And thanks to RB4U for hosting me :)

vicki batman said...

Congratulations, Suz and crew, on the boxed set. There is nothing wrong with being in charge. Someone has to be --right?

Melissa Keir said...

I think when you can find a group that meshes like that, it's a dream! Congrats and all the best with your book bundle!

Sharon Hamilton said...

Bless you for doing this! After having gone through several boxed sets, and I have to say I've also been lucky, they are a lot of work. In the end, I thin they are worth it. I swore I'd never do another, and I committed to another couple of specialized ones for next year, so there you go. Can't live with them, can't live without them. Enjoyed your post.

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