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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Interview with Zondervan's Sr. Acquisitions Editor, Sue Brower, Part II

What else would you suggest an aspiring writer do to increase their chances of getting discovered?

· Put together a plan and strategy for getting published. Who do you want to write for? How can you get to meet the editor of your dream publisher? Do you need an agent? How are you going to get one? Which writer’s conferences are appropriate and needed and which are an excuse to put off writing?

· Write, re-write and write some more. I see some very simple mistakes that turn me off of a proposal. Please, please, please, give it a good proofreading! Show me that you care about your work and that this is the most important thing in the world to you.

· Know what consumers want to read. I know it’s much more creative and fun to write the story of your heart, but when you want to get published, you should write what the consumer wants to read. Once you’re John Grisham or Stephen King, you can take a break once in a while and write that book of your heart. By then, people will read it because they love YOU!

Do you think a new author should start by writing the easier-to-place books, (like sweet romances, etc.) even if it’s their heart’s desire to write an epic historical?

I like the way you put that-- “easier-to-place” books. Remember that these books will linger throughout your career and when you have as many bestsellers as Nora Roberts, the publisher is going to want to go back to those books and re-release them now that you’re a big star. So first of all, NEVER let something go into print that you are not proud of.

The main benefit of the ETP books is one of economics. You are a writer and you need to make a living off of your craft. An additional benefit is that with each book experience you will get better and better. I do look at the writer’s previously published books in my analysis of whether I want to acquire them. So, I guess I would say yes, it does benefit an author to start by writing some ETPs.

Each book will get better and before you know it, you will be ready for the epic AND you will have something to show (a portfolio, of sorts) to the prospective editor or agent. THE ONE THING TO KEEP IN MIND! Don’t expect that your fans will automatically follow you to that big epic. These are two different consumers and the fan of shorter, sweet romances may not have the time, interest, or patience for an epic. They may follow, but you can’t expect all of them to.

Describe a dream author’s attributes.

Take a look at every author on the Zondervan list. They are all dream authors! Honestly, I have the best job in the world because of the authors that I get to work with. They are:

· great writers
· professional (meet deadlines, return phone calls)
· confident
· open-to-partnership (editorial and marketing give and take)
· enthusiastic
· great believers of the Zondervan mission

Who do you like to read?

I like to read authors that spark my imagination and take me to a different place and time. It’s mostly popular fiction, books you would likely find on the bestsellers list. Every once in a while, I will pick up something like The Thirteenth Tale (and I loved it) which I picked up because it was a recommendation of Barnes and Noble. I read both secular and Christian fiction and rarely will you find me without a book in my briefcase.

What should aspiring novelists be reading?

I guess a lot of editors would send you to the “how to write” books. These are good, but I think an aspiring novelist needs to set their goals first. To do that, you need to determine what (literary/popular/genre) you are going to write. Then you need to read the bestsellers in type of fiction you want to write. Figure out what’s selling and what consumers seem to like reading. Then I would send you to a broader list of age old favorites. If the genre you are writing is not there, it should tell you something about how easy it will be go get published. An aspiring novelist should do a lot of reading, but again, don’t let it become procrastination. The more you write, the sooner you will get published.

What genres are you actively pursuing; and must an author be agented to query?

Zondervan is actively pursuing in the Contemporary and Suspense categories. We will look at established historical and romance authors. We do not accept any unsolicited or non-agented proposals. However, if we meet with you at a writer’s conference and ask for a synopsis or proposal, we consider it solicited.

What are you most encouraged about when it comes to CBA fiction?

I am most encouraged that the writing quality continues to get better with every new book. I am also encouraged that Christian fiction is being sold in more channels of distribution and is now available wherever the consumer wants to shop for books.

Least?

There’s never enough shelf space in the fiction section! I am also seeing resistance from the retailer to stock new authors. I understand it’s a matter of economics, but it does make it different to break out new voices. We do see the same authors over and over make the bestseller lists and it would be nice to see some names on the list.

What new trends do see in the way of fiction?

Wow! There is so much positive to talk about in terms of publishing overall. As we move forward and there are more and more ways to deliver content (audio, download, print, etc), I think there may be opportunities to make niche titles more profitable and viable. It will also make it a very crowded market and the quality of content will vary widely. There is a good book called The Long Tail by Chris Anderson that can help you to understand the business side of book publishing. It is encouraging to the aspiring writer because he talks about how the Internet has transformed our world and the near limitless choice that it provides to consumers. Books that were not economically feasible in the past are now feasible.

What accomplishment, writing, agenting, publishing, etc, industry-wise, are you most proud of?

Being an Acquisitions Editor for Fiction is something I never dreamed I would be able to do. It’s the best job in the world!

What’s your best advice for aspiring novelists?

I tend to be more business-practical when talking to an aspiring novelist. I advise you to know the market and your consumer in particular. Then I advise that you begin by writing in a genre that sells. Going to writer’s conferences is beneficial emotionally and educationally, but don’t let these forays take you away from the ultimate goal—putting words to paper. And lastly, be confident in yourself. Even if you are scared to death, put on a good show like you are interviewing for a job that you’ve waited all your life for.


Parting words?

Everyone has an opinion, and I have just been lucky enough to share mine. I have a business background, and I have always spent a lot of time analyzing things before making a decision. So, when I talk to writers, I may not address the same creative issues as other editors might. To me, if you want to get published, you need to treat it like a job. Day-to-day, most writers do not have the luxury of writing to satisfy their own muse. Unfortunately, we are talking about a product; one that meets the needs/wants of a consumer so that it keeps the publisher in business and the author fed.

If books are a just a commodity, why do we do what we do? Because once in a while, we do have the opportunity to publish something just because it’s beautifully written, or because a combination of words and scenes moves us to tears, or because it just needs to be published. This is what makes us get up every day and write or edit or market or sell that wonderful thing called story.

16 comments:

  1. What an informative and encouraging interview! Thanks Sue and Gina.

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  2. Thanks Gina and Sue for a great interview. Sue, you are so blessed to have a job that you love!

    As an aspiring author, I feel the same way! Well...that's about a future job, but I can still identify with it! :-)

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  3. "...that wonderful thing called story."

    Love that phrase.

    Thanks Sue and Gina, for a wonderful interview. I gleaned some things.

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  4. Great interview, Sue and Gina. The advice to make the most of conferences shouldn't be underestimated. I had the privelege of shaking Sue's hand in Dallas. Also got to hang out with Gina for a bit.

    See? Right there, it's worth the price of admission. (Oh, and I got to compare flip-flops with Mike Duran. That basically changed my life.)

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  5. Thank you. I enjoyed learning from you both. Your questions led to very helpful answers.
    Angie

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  6. Thanks Sue (and everyone who's commented). I'll pick up Anderson's book. Thanks for the recommend and for taking the time to share what you know.

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  7. Like what you said about not publishing anything that I'm not proud of (or won't be in years to come.)

    Thanks for sharing such wonderful nuggets.

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  8. Well! Blogger finally let me back in. :-)

    Sue, thank you for sharing all you have. I enjoyed sitting with you one lunch during the ACFW conference in Dallas last year (it is last year now). Your advice about ETP books is encouraging. The more I read and the more I write, the more I'm certain what I want to write. Thank you for your wise advice and encouragement.

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  9. Thanks for a fabulous interview, Sue and Gina!
    Camy

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  10. Thanks for these wonderful interviews with Sue Brower. I liked this quote:
    "I am also encouraged that Christian fiction is being sold in more channels of distribution and is now available wherever the consumer wants to shop for books."

    That's great news! I'm starting to see more Christian fiction available at my local library, which is good. And I think gift stores should carry more books, especially ones that reach niche markets. A cookbook I worked on is selling very well in some local antique shops!

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  11. Loved the interview. I learned a lot and was so excited about the passion Sue has about her job. So cool.

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  12. Thanks for your wisdom, Sue. We love reading what editors have to say. I like Write, re-write and write some more. Amen. That is my number one rule.

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  13. It was very benefical to hear an interview from a more business oriented professional. She seemed to have that "bottom line" tone but we as authors need to be reminded of this reality. I appreciate her frankness. However, life is too short for me to spend time writing in a genre just because it's selling. I rather work my butt of doing something my heart is in.

    Great interview!!

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  14. Ditto all the previous comments. Thank you both for the interview.

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  15. Although I discovered this interview with Sue much, much later than I would have wished, I just want to say how interesting and encouraging I found these days' worth of Novel Rocket reading. Sue has parted the veil and shined in some light in a way that others haven't quite achieved. Thanks for this.

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  16. Thank you for your insight and advice!

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