Category: Choosing What to Publish

Interview with Historical-Fiction Author John Buzzard

This week Christina Slike of Cladach Publishing

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talked with John Buzzard, author of the new historical novel, That Day by the Creek.

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Here, in Q/A form, is their conversation:

CS:  Hello, John. I’m wondering what inspired you to write a novel based on the events of the infamous Sand Creek Massacre of 1864 Colorado?

JB:  I’ve been interested in the story since I was a child and saw the painting by Robert Lindneux in a book. Even at that young age I could tell something was wrong with Indians displaying the American flag while being attacked by American troops.  About five years ago I read Stan Hoig’s 1961 book, listed in every bibliography of Sand Creek publications. I couldn’t help but wonder what was the reaction of the Christian community in America at the time, especially the missionaries sent to the Cheyenne reservation.

CS: You blend fact and fiction skillfully. What offered you the most challenge in writing That Day by the Creek?

JB: Early on I realized I was writing an incredibly violent story for a Christian publisher and wondered if the climactic event of the massacre would survive the editing process. To Cladach’s credit everything remained intact. The atrocities I describe all came from eye-witness accounts and what is there is only a mere fraction of what occurred. Not to include the horrific acts would not do the story justice.

CS: Well, you weren’t graphic in your depictions. As you say, it is what happened. You balanced the tragedy with lighter fictional characters and scenes. That brings me to my next question: Which fictional character do you wish was real?

JB: Porcupine Pete, of course. It would be great to sit around a campfire some night with family and listen to his tales of living with the Indians and trekking through the Rockies. Surprisingly, he was an easy character to come up with. I didn’t want to just throw Josh out into the wilderness by himself. I don’t think he would have lasted out there too long.  Having a mountain man who is like a fish out of water while around government bureaucrats and politicians, but perfectly comfortable in the formidable mountains, seemed a natural choice. That’s how I came up with Porcupine. I am kind of curious how he survived wrestling that grizzly bear on a cliff edge.

CS: Porcupine Pete is my favorite character, too! What fun it would be to listen to his stories. … Then, of all the historical characters in That Day by the Creek, which would you choose to talk with, and why?

JB: I have two answers to that question. First is Making Medicine. During my research I found his biography, a real gem. I would love to hear his story and look at his artwork. Second is Silas Soule, even though he had a tragic end. Anyone who has been in the military knows what a serious offense it is to disobey an order from a superior officer, especially in the heat of battle. He was essentially ordered to murder women and children, and he refused, and ordered the men under him to do likewise.  In the end it cost him his life.

CS: Did you bring any of your own life experiences into this novel?

JB: I wasn’t sure how to describe the wedding between Josh and Sunflower, so I used details from my own. My wife Eva and I had a simple Catholic wedding in the Philippines at the hotel where we were staying. Afterwards, friends and family members brought in dishes of food and we had a real nice potluck.

CS:  Do you have plans to write more novels? Maybe a sequel?

JB:  Of course. I’m about four chapters into a historical novel about the Pleasant Valley Cattle War that took place in central Arizona in the 1880s. If Cladach Publishing asked me to write a sequel to That Day by the Creek I would certainly be interested.

CS: Sounds great. Here’s another question: Where do you write? Describe your writing space. What helps you focus and stay inspired?

JB: I have a spacious office at the house here in Tucson, aka “the man cave.” A large, L-shaped desk holds my computer and other accessories. Shelves are filled with books, CDs and DVDs. One shelf holds Bibles and concordances. The room also has a TV, stereo, and a hide-a-bed couch for overnight guests. Often the stereo is tuned to K-LOVE to keep a sense of spiritual peace in the room. The door to the rest of the house is always open, so my wife Eva or our German shepherd Rocky can enter at any time. I can’t stay focused on a writing project that starts to get boring. If it’s boring for me to write, it will be boring for someone to read. When the pace starts to slow, I add another element to keep things interesting, which usually keeps me inspired.

CS: Do you have any upcoming author appearances online?

JB:  Yes, I recently gave an in-depth interview to Christian romance writer Faith Parsons on her blog.

CS: Thanks, John. Readers can know you a little better now. We look forward to further stories and inspiring plot twists coming out of your time in the writer-man cave!

A Mountain-top Experience for Christian Writers at CCWC

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If you are a Christian writer, I want to encourage you to attend the  Colorado Christian Writer’s Conference. This great conference is just two weeks away, but there is still time to register. I will be at this conference and I would love to meet you there.  You can come for 1, 2, 3, or 4 days. You can stay in beautiful YMCA of the Rockies or commute. Come if you can! Here’s more information from the conference director, Marlene Bagnull:

Colorado Christian Writers Conference

A note of encouragement from Marleen Bagnull, Director:

  • Do you ever doubt your abilities as a writer?
  • Have you almost given up on getting published in today’s competitive market?
  •  Do you hate the “slush pile” and wish you could talk to an editor one-on-one?
  • Are you secretly terrified of the idea of building a “platform”?
  • Do you feel like you’re all alone in your writing adventure/struggle?
  • Is it really worth hanging in there for the long haul?
  • Is there a desire burning in your heart to write words that will potentially lead others to Christ?

7 Top Reasons You Need to Come to the May 11-14 CCWC

  1. Master the craft of writing. Okay, no one will ever achieve that lofty goal. There’s always more to learn. But as one conferee said, the Colorado Christian Writers Conference is equivalent to a semester college course in writing. A faculty of 56 editors, agents, and authors will provide instruction for wannabe and advanced writers of fiction from Christian speculative to historical, point of view and voice to making a scene. Nonfiction writers will find help for writing Bible studies, memoirs, articles, and much more. With 59 workshops and 8 continuing sessions to choose from, there really is something for everyone.
  1. Learn how to sell your work to potential publishers or explore the how-to of indie publishing. Whether you’ve received more than your share of rejection slips or have yet to get your first, two of CCWC’s eight continuing sessions that will provide the answers you need are: “Indie Publishing Boot Camp” and “Writing a Winning Book Proposal.”
  1. Face to face opportunities to pitch your work to editors and agents. In today’s publishing world the only way to connect with many agents and editors is through meeting them at a conference. Those who register for Thursday through Saturday are entitled to FOUR 15-minute one-on-one appointments with the faculty of their choice. You’ll find lots of helpful info on how to prepare and make the best choices by clicking on One-on-One at http://colorado.writehisanswer.com.
  1. Learn the craft of marketing/promoting your published work. Yes, it’s a craft, and not one that comes naturally to most writers. I’ve often said that the reason I quit Girl Scouts was the stress of trying to sell cookies. Whether or not you enjoy marketing, though, you hold the key to the sales of your book. And the good news is that marketing can be learned. We have a track of six hour-long marketing workshops and a continuing session on “Thriving in Today’s Publishing World.”
  1. Friendships with other writers. Writers connect deeply with one another faster than I ever have in the chit-chat before and after Sunday-morning worship services. A key verse that I’ve sought to follow is 1 Thessalonians 5:11, “Encourage each other to build each other up” (TLB). It happens every year at CCWC!
  1. Inspiration and encouragement to keep on keeping on. Louise Looney is well qualified to teach the workshop, “Still Climbing – Not Over the Hill.” Since turning 75, she has written four books.  Allen Arnold’s continuing session, “From Overwhelmed to Creative Breakthrough,” will provide a refreshing journey for anyone who feels disheartened. And, of course, we also offer eight inspiring keynote addresses and times of worship.
  1. And the Number 1 Reason to come to the Colorado Christian Writers Conference: Renew your faith and passion to “write His answer.” Each year Father meets us on the mountain and challenges and equips us to write about a God who is real, who is reachable, and who changes lives.

There’s still time to register and to request appointments. Housing is still available at the YMCA – Estes Park Center. Thanks to the Y’s spacious classrooms, none of the workshops or continuing sessions are filled. For much more info and secure online registration go to http://colorado.writehisanswer.com. If you need time payments or scholarship help, please ask. Email me at mbagnull@aol.com or call 484-991-8581.

Learning From Our Failures and Sins, So History Doesn’t Repeat Itself

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“History tends to repeat itself.” But some events in history were so evil, shameful, and tragic—that we should pray and work to see that they are never again repeated.

Within the worst of times, however, one can find a few good people who showed faith, hope, and love. Re-telling the stories of those people can offer us a vicarious experience of the past and perspectives needed in the present. This is true of our next historical fiction release, That Day by the Creek : A Novel About the Sand Creek Massacre of 1864, by John Buzzard.

In the mid to late 19th-Century, tensions were building between civilizations, political factions, and people groups competing for land, resources, and power. Westward expansion was thrilling and offered opportunities—land to tame, farms to establish, towns to settle, gold and silver to mine, territory to claim for the United States, a state to organize and add to the Union. But all this encroached on the centuries-old way of life of the Plains Indians. As treaties were made and not honored, more and more military presence moved into the Territory, ambitious opportunists rose to power, fears, misunderstandings, and violence increased.

In That Day by the Creek, set against the backdrop of the Civil War and Frontier struggles, a young seminary graduate answers God’s call to come west and minister among the Cheyenne Indians. His name is Joshua Frasier. He is soon caught up in the action when he is recruited as a chaplain in the Colorado militia led by John Chivington. Through the fictional character of Joshua we meet the major historical figures of the era, including John Evans (first governor of Colorado) Silas Soule, Black Kettle, etc.

Joshua even marries into the Cheyenne tribe and comes to appreciate most of the Cheyennes as “friendly” Indians who just want peace, to be able to trust the White leaders who have made them promises, and to provide for their families by access to their ancient hunting grounds and rivers.

In telling this important story, John Buzzard’s writing style is straight-forward and unsentimental, and the well-paced action keeps you reading as conflicts build to that fateful day.

Sand-Creek-Front-Cov-WebThe true events on which this story is based are heart-wrenching, not an episode of American history to be proud of. John Buzzard deals with the historical people, issues, and events with a clear eye, the informed perspective of a researcher, and the heart of a person of faith who sees individuals as nuanced and flawed, but also sees that even when evil seems to get hold of groups of people and have its day … a faithful few are planting seeds of love, truth, and forgiveness that will survive and bear fruit.

That Day by the Creek brings history to life and reminds us not to allow fear, distrust, and anger to escalate to the place where we would ever again experience such a day as That Day by the Creek!

Ten Best Books I Read in 2015

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Here’s an eclectic list of books, varied in subject, genre, and form. I like to find the best in popular books, old and new, and find hidden gems that are less-well known but sometimes even more worthy of being found on a “best-seller” list. Perhaps you’ll discover a new favorite among these:

(In no particular order)

  1. STONE BY STONE: Tear Down the Wall Between God’s Heart and Yours by Jasona Brown (WhiteFire, 2015) – I’m part of a group of prayer ministers in my church. We spent several months this past year reading and discussing this book and praying together over personal issues that came up. Stone by Stone brings to light obstacles in our hearts that hinder us from freely and fully receiving God’s love and living in wholeness, in the joy of the Lord. Topics covered include:guilt, unforgiveness, lies believed, trauma, and unhealed memories. I enjoyed the conversational style of the author, the way she so transparently shared her own story, and the way her compassion for hurting people comes through.
  2. A GUIDE FOR LISTENING AND INNER HEALING PRAYER: Meeting God in the Broken Places by Rusty Rustenbach (NavPress, 2011)  –  As the title indicates, this is a comprehensive guide. It includes personal stories from the authors life and examples from other people’s lives as well. I recommend it to anyone desiring to remove barriers to intimacy with God and to be free of negative emotions that have plagued you for years, to experience release, freedom, and healing of emotional wounds. This book can lead individuals step-by-step in that healing process, and it can equip groups like the one I’m in, to facilitate a listening and inner-healing prayer ministry for the wounded people the Lord brings to us.
  3. THE LANGUAGE OF GOD: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief by Francis S. Collins (Free Press, 2007)  –  Science has not been my forte. But this is a fascinating book.  Like many Christians, I had some skepticism. Can you really believe both science and the Bible? Collins, a pioneering medical geneticist who headed the Human Genome Project presents a clear and sincere personal testimony of coming to faith in Jesus. He also discusses scientific discoveries in an easy-to-follow way that I actually enjoyed. He says we don’t have to choose between science and God. Especially helpful is Collins’ explanation of how and why a Bible-believing Christian may accept the theory of evolution.
  4. SHE WALKS IN BEAUTY: A Woman’s Journey through Poems selected and introduced by Caroline Kennedy (Grand Central, 2014) –  I love poetry and have a collection of poetry books. Some are antiques that belonged to my great-grandmother. Some are tomes I studied in college. I turn to poetry in times of deep emotion and it helps me walk through those times. Well, for my birthday last year I received a Barnes & Noble gift card. I decided I wanted a current volume of poetry. I remembered seeing a small “Poetry” section in our local B&N. When I went there, that section had disappeared, but a few poetry books were squeezed on half a shelf somewhere at the bottom of the “fiction” section. Sad. The pickings were slim. But She Walks in Beauty stood out to me. After scanning the topics (“Falling In Love” “Marriage” “Work” “Growing Up and Growing Old” “Friendship” “Silence and Solitude”) I bought the book. It didn’t disappoint. Ms. Kennedy included poems by some of my “old” favorites, such as Frost, Yeats, Browning and also introduced me to contemporary poets. She even included Christian mystics such as Teresa of Avila and poetic passages from the Bible. The poems cover nearly every aspect of a woman’s life. To me the best parts, though, were Ms.Kennedy’s insightful, personal, and beautifully-expressed introductions to each subject group of poems.
  5. SOLDIER’S HEART: A Novel by Michele McKnight Baker (Heritage Beacon, 2015) – I read this Civil-War era novel in manuscript form. Many fiction manuscripts have crossed my desk through the years. But few have made as strong an impression on me as this one did. An agent sent me the manuscript. During 15 years of acquiring manuscripts for Cladach, only twice have I failed to win a contract for a book I really wanted to publish. Soldier’s Heart is one of those. The characters, the setting, the time period, the twists of plot, authentic conflicts, and the theme of generational sins and reconciliations make Soldier’s Heart an unforgettable read. What we now call PTSD, often diagnosed in military personnel returning from war, used to be called “soldier’s heart.” If you enjoy Christian historical fiction—read this novel.
  6. ALL THINGS BRIGHT AND BEAUTIFUL by James Herriot (Bantam, 1974) –  One winter day I felt like reading something cozy and familiar; so I perused the well-worn volumes of my personal library and pulled some James Herriot books off the shelf. I first read his warm and wonderful series of Yorkshire-vet tales in the 1980s. The Chicago Tribune (according to the back cover) said this book was “bursting with love, laughter and the joy of life” and a “soul-satisfying autobiographical book. Human beings just naturally respond to a writer as lovable, wholesome, eloquent, humorous and well-stocked with anecdotes as James Herriot.”  I agree. Worth keeping for decades and reading over again.
  7. ALL WE LIKE SHEEP: Lessons from the Sheepfold by Marilyn Bay Wentz and Mildred Nelson Bay (Cladach, 2015) –  I read this book more closely than any other on this list, since I edited it! When Marilyn first sent her completed manuscript, which I had agreed to publish, I had just read a couple of James Herriot’s books. He describes so vividly his experiences with sheep and other farm animals. I looked forward to more such stories from a sheep farmer I knew, right here in Colorado. During the revision process, I asked authors Marilyn and Millie, “Do you enjoy your sheep? Do you love what you do— the farm, the outdoors, the mornings and evenings, the barn, the pastures, etc? Your choices of words, images, vignettes will help me experience the sheep farm vicariously. I want to smell the sweet hay, to hear the lambs bleat, to feel a newborn lamb, the bite of a chilly midnight during lambing season. I want to laugh and cry with you as you deal with rogue dogs and coyotes, search for a lost lamb, watch your flock come running as they recognize your voice.” Marilyn and Millie caught the vision of “creative nonfiction” and accomplished the feat of writing their shepherding experiences as stories with dialogue, sensory details, and emotion. In an entertaining way, the authors “show us” as well as teach us why the Bible says we are all like sheep.
  8. YOU CAN’T MAKE THIS STUFF UP: The Complete Guide to Writing Creative Nonfiction—from Memoir to Literary Journalism and Everything in Between  by Lee Gutkind (Da Capo Lifelong Books, 2012) Speaking of creative nonfiction (as I did in #6 and #7 above)—a style popular in journalism today, and the style I prefer for memoirs and other nonfiction—this is a definitive book on what it is and how to write it. I read this book in preparation for a workshop I presented at the Writers on the Rock conference. A secular, colorfully-written book, by the expert on the subject, that includes many examples and exercises. I read the Kindle version.
  9. THE UNCONTROLLING LOVE OF GOD: An Open and Relational Account of Providence  by Thomas Jay Oord (Intervarsity Press, 2015) –  I have some of my preacher father’s and some of my preacher grandfather’s theology books that were handed down to me. I’ve acquired and studied other, more recent theological books, mostly written from the Wesleyan-Arminian perspective, as well as broader Evangelical and even a few Reformed works. In recent years, have enjoyed books by N.T. Wright and Jurgen Moltmann. I heard about Thomas Jay Oord before I knew of his many books. Since we had mutual acquaintances, I responded to Mr. Oord’s request for readers to review his then-forthcoming book, The Uncontrolling Love of God. I read it in pdf form. This book provokes thought and lays out a convincing case concerning why evil happens even though “God is love.” You can read my Amazon review of the book here.
  10. LES MISERABLES by Victor Hugo (Penguin Audio, 2009) I own three video/DVD versions of Les Miserables — an old movie, a more recent movie, and a stage musical production. The story—with its timeless themes of justice, mercy, and redemption—always inspires and the music lifts me. I wanted to read the book, but haven’t yet tackled that thick volume. Instead, I started an Audible membership and downloaded this Audible/audio version of the great classic. My husband and I listened to it on a long road trip and enjoyed this abridged, well-narrated version of the book. An accessible way for tired or busy eyes to devour and relish great literature.

 

Boutique Publisher

Boutique

I received an email from someone who casually commented that Cladach is a “boutique publisher.” That struck me as a fitting descriptor of what we hope to offer to our authors, customers and readers.

What does the word “boutique” bring to your mind?

These words come to my mind: Unique, Hand-picked, Entrepreneurial, Personal, Artsy.

In my mind I picture many of the shops I’ve walked into while sightseeing and browsing in charming, coastal and mountain towns. These places offer something that WalMart, as predictable and cheap as it may be, can’t. As you step in the welcoming entrance, all the senses are soon pleased. You breathe the aroma of potpourri, and you’re enticed by complimentary samples of coffee, herbal tea, or truffles. Beautiful music plays unobtrusively in the background. Color, artfully arranged merchandise draws your eye and causes you to “oooh” and “ahhhhh.” You feel a sense of appreciation for the evident care that went into selecting the articles of clothing, gift items, handmade pottery, and other specialty items. You assume this boutique shop is an expression of the owner’s taste, and if you find their style appealing, you have a sense that you can trust their choices of items offered. You may think, “I’m glad I could experience this place! I want to take something home with me to remember my stop in this little town,” or perhaps, “I want to buy something to take back to my friend or family member, just to share a bit of this experience with them.” You may find the items offered so unique that you feel you must buy something, because you may regret it later when you are unable to find this particular, pleasing item again. The shop owner, who may even live upstairs, engages you in conversation. When you complete your purchase and walk back out onto the sidewalk with a custom-printed bag in tow, you have a smile on your face and a spring in your step.

Cladach is a boutique publisher in the sense that we want to offer an alternative to over-hyped, mass-produced, predictable books that cram the catalogs and warehouses of huge publishing conglomerates. We are picky and look for style that is artful, content that is meaningful and might give you an experience outside the box. We can offer ingenious, personal, one-of-a-kind books by authors both “down home” local and fascinatingly cosmopolitan. We can try new trends without being faddish. Quality matters to us and reflects our personal convictions. We hope our books give you an opportunity to step off the trafficky, noisy street and breathe deeply of heavenly scents; taste morsels of truth, goodness, and beauty; and give you the experience of delightful, soul-lifting discoveries.

Are You Ready to Publish a Book?

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Think that’s a glamorous hat? Think again. As a “boutique” (small, custom, picky) publisher, I wear this hat often, and at first glance it may seem to give power and appeal. Over time, though, it brings me to my knees.

With my acquisitions editor hat on I must make decisions to enter into contractual agreements with writers based on perceptions and best guesses. First impressions of an author or manuscript are subjective. I may like the person, writing, or idea based on personal preferences and interests or their persuasiveness and ability to engage me with their written expression.

If an author/book idea passes that first, subjective threshold, it must hold up under business scrutiny. Tough questions should be asked, analysis and forecasting applied. Is there enough demand for a book like this? If so, can we and the author reach the market for this book? Is it well written, engaging, and unique enough to compete with similar books? If it floats, is the author ready and able to sail with it? Is this project financially feasible? Does it really fit in Cladach’s niche of literary waters?

If we answer too many questions “No” or “We don’t know,” and this process shoots too many holes in the potential project, it will sink before it starts with us. What we don’t want is to prepare a book, like a boat, to launch upon a sea of published books and then watch it sink. This has happened.

With some projects we know that we are testing the waters and risking storms at sea, but we believe in an author or project so much that we are willing take the risks. If we do that too often, though, we cannot stay in business/ministry.

Some book projects we take on with excitement, but the sales peter out. Others catch wind in their sails and continue to sell week after week, month after month, year after year. With the benefit of hindsight I can see that the following factors make a difference:

  • What other titles has the author published? For instance, if her other titles are poorly-edited, self-published books, this author’s reputation is hurt and that hurts the sales of even the title that we have carefully edited.
  • How actively connected is the author with the book’s prospective audience—even before he is published?
  • Is there a waiting audience/demand for this book—even before it is published?
  • Does the author have an ongoing means of reaching that audience? And can Cladach also effectively reach them?
  • Is the author’s personal life—health, relationships, finances—in order?

In my mind this begs the question: “As a writer, when are you ready to have your book published?”

Writers who have something to say and long to be published authors, tend to become impatient. Your preparations to publish involve much more than finishing a manuscript and writing an effective book proposal. You need also to:

  • Find/identify/make connections with/get to know the audience for you and your book. (Start this ongoing process, in fact, even before you write the manuscript.)
  • Get your finances in order. It can cost $ to publish and market effectively, even when you publish with a traditional, (large, small, or micro) royalty publisher.
  • Resolve, as far as you can, personal issues. Working as a published author takes time, energy, commitment, and the support of people around you.

As my mother used to say, “Work as if everything depends on you. Pray as if everything depends upon the Lord.” In the final analysis it does. And that brings me to my knees in the uncertain but enticing waters of acquiring book rights and taking publishing risks.

Evaluating the Past and Planning for the Future

Today I’m wearing my Analyzing/Forecasting hat.

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Larry has finished compiling 2014 book sales data from the careful records he keeps throughout the year. He lays before me a stack of neatly-columned reports. Now I take a deep breath, find my Financial Analysis hat, dust it off (most of the time I leave this side of the business to Larry) and sit down to focus on the telling numbers.

Each author will receive a statement (usually accompanied by a check) listing how many of their books sold last year, how many were returned, how many were given away as samples and review copies, the gross and net income we received for those sales, and the amount of the author’s royalties for 2014. I read through each line of these reports before they are sent to our authors.

In addition, Larry has print-outs for me of income, expenses, inventory, etc. I look these over, too, and bring my questions back to him. He patiently provides answers and makes adjustments where needed.

I’ll be glad to get back to the creative side of publishing. But I know that looking at these numbers and columns and net sums, is critical. Trends jump off the page at me and color my thinking about future decisions for Cladach.

First, I thank the Lord for the thousands of copies of Cladach books sold in 2014. They sold through online retailers, wholesalers, events, bookstores, our website, and through the efforts of the authors. From our warehouse we send out varying quantities of paperback books almost every day. We love sending them out to reach buyers and readers, because that means they will minister to people, encourage them, instruct them, inspire them, help them see God at work in our world, help them experience Him more.

Then, I bring to the Lord our successes and our failures, and lay them at His feet. We have prayed over the acquisition, development, production, and marketing of each book. We are human, though, and make mistakes. Some of our titles have kept up regular demand and sales for years. A few have struggled to earn back the money we put into producing them. Most of the latter are excellent works by talented and sincere authors. Somehow, though, a few of those haven’t “grabbed readers.” We will keep trying, because we believe in these titles and these authors.

Next, I acknowledge the trends: For instance, with fiction titles, generally more e-books sell than paperback books. With all our titles, the more the author is active in marketing their books and connecting with readers, the more their books sell. Authors who have a “platform,” ministry, are well-known as an expert in their field, have several books published, and are active daily in some aspect of marketing their books — their books sell the most copies. This has to influence my decisions in acquiring future titles/authors.

It’s interesting to see how different books sell better through different sales channels. Some sell consistently through wholesalers, others simply don’t, but they sell well on Amazon. Some titles we mostly sell directly to the authors, who have ways of selling direct to customers. We give authors a generous discount, so they can actually make a lot more money on these sales than they can make with royalty income from Cladach’s sales. It’s a win-win, and most importantly, hope-giving books reach readers.

Perhaps I’ll share more trends in future posts. For now, I’ll hand the data/reports back to Larry and give attention to things I enjoy more: words, ideas, design, promotions, and the people behind the numbers. … I have a hat for that!

Meeting Authors at Colorado Christian Writers Conference

A mountain view at YMCA of the Rockies during CCWC

This week, Thursday through Saturday, we (my husband and I) will be present at Colorado Christian Writers Conference in Estes Park, Colorado. We look forward to this event—just an hour’s drive from our publishing office. I will be wearing my Acquisitions Editor “hat” hat-3as I meet with prospective authors and consider their queries/proposals. I enjoy meeting writers and hearing their stories, each one unique and usually heartfelt and sometimes downright inspired.

While I visit with each writer in 15-minute appointments during those three days high in the Rockies, I will also be trying to listen to a still, small voice, silently asking Him to give me wisdom, discernment, and guidance, to help me really hear the heart as well as the mind of each person who has poured out their insights, experiences and passions on paper.

One author I met last year at CCWC – Jimmie Kepler

We have found six of our authors at this conference: Donna Westover Gallup, Kyleen Stevenson-Braxton, Gayle M. Irwin, Loritta Slayton, Templa Melnick, and Marilyn Wentz.

Will this week see another name added to the list?

 

 

 

Tantalizing but Tricky! : Query Letters

As I said in the previous post this is my most difficult publisher hat to wear:

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ACQUISITIONS EDITOR

I receive queries and proposals daily, both through email and snail mail. This publisher’s hat may seem glamorous, and I admit to a certain curiosity and gambler’s hope that in the slush pile I may discover the “next bestseller”—but, alas, I must say “No, thank you” to the vast majority of author queries.

So, you may ask: what makes me say “Yes” to an author’s book proposal?

First of all, the first sentence of the query letter must “grab” me with this writer’s giftedness, creativity, and unique slant on the subject. I barely have time to read unsolicited queries, so if you start out with the impersonal, boring, and obvious, I probably won’t even finish reading it. For instance, please don’t start (as many do) with, “Dear Editor, I’m writing to you in hopes that you will publish my book …” I already know that! Dive right into the gist of your passion, message, and/or quest—as any good nonfiction book or novel does. For instance, here are the first sentences of a query letter that recently grabbed my attention:

Ms. Lawton:

This story does not begin on the day Spring-baby Westbay throws a rock at Amen: a simple-looking donkey who knew Adam and Noah, Abraham and Moses, Jesus Christ, the Apostle John, Saint Francis of Assisi.  Nor does the story begin when Spring-baby’s father jilts her by dying far away from home and rebuke.  The story begins in the beginning – when death itself comes into the world and initiates its nefarious plot against Spring-baby’s dad amongst countless others.

Gadly Plain (a novel of 59,000 words told from an omniscient point of view) follows the struggle of a twelve year old girl as she grapples with one of life’s most mind-wrenching questions: Is death really the end? …

Not surprisingly, I kept reading this one to the end, then asked for sample chapters, then just had to read the entire novel, then offered J. Michael Dew a contract. And voilà! the first literary novel in Cladach’s fiction line was born:

Gadly Plain

Okay, there were a few other steps to the acquisition process. The manuscript was sent to a few readers whose input I value, and their responses were positive. I then had several phone conversations with the author. We negotiated a royalty contract. But the process started with those first few sentences hooking my interest.

I must add, though, that I have received some amazingly-written queries/proposals that caused me to ask for the manuscript with great expectancy only to be disappointed that the writing of the book did not match the quality of the professionally-prepared proposal. At writers conferences and from freelance editors and book doctors you can get help writing a proposal that will blow off the publisher’s socks and whet their appetite with tasty tidbits, making them want to express mail a contract offer to you. But the manuscript that follows had better offer real meat to chew on, flavor in every bite, and new taste twists presented on the plate in a memorable way.

 

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