I was cleaning out some computer files this week and ran across the interview I did a number of years ago. It still includes valid information, and I'll update some of it as well, so thought I'd share it here in two parts today and tomorrow.
How did you get started publishing the Christian Writers' Market Guide?
I had been doing my column in The Christian Writer magazine (forerunner of The Christian Communicator) for a couple of years when I got a change to go to Florida with my husband (who was going on business). Since I had never met the editors at TCW, and we were staying nearby, I rented a car and went to spend the week-end with the executive editor and his wife. I was getting ready to teach at a conference and wanted some new market info to give out, so asked the editor if he would pay for the mailing to some publishers—since I could also use the info in my marketing column for him. He agreed, but the topic kept coming up during the week-end, and finally he said, “Why don’t you send out a few more questionnaires, put it together in a market guide, and I’ll publish it for you?” Sounded like a good idea at the time. Little did I know that it would change the course of my life for more than 25 years.
Can you share any inside secrets that you've learned by talking to those on "the other side?"
I think most writers are under the impression that there are “inside secrets” when it comes to getting published. The truth is that you can find out exactly what publishers are looking for by carefully reading their guidelines and studying their sample copies or catalogs. The last thing publishers want to do is make this process a secret. The problem is that most writers don’t take the time to seriously study those available resources, so make the process harder and less productive than it should be. If you have publications that you are serious about breaking into, I suggest you subscribe to them for a year, read every issue cover to cover, and determine how and where you can best fit in.
What do the publishers say that authors do that drives them nuts?
It comes back pretty much what I said above, most authors simply don’t make any effort to learn anything more about them than what they find in the market guide. They would love it if you would actually read some of the books they have published in your genre or subject area to get a feeling for their tone or approach to the topic. They also get upset when writers don’t follow their guidelines. Although most publishers want to see basically the same kind of information in a proposal, each publisher puts its own twist on the process and they expect you to follow their guidelines carefully. They are especially interested in the market research they expect you to do for them. Let them know how your book fits into what is already available in the marketplace.
Of course, you cause them all kinds of headaches when you miss your deadlines, don’t send them what your proposal promised, or are reluctant or resistant when it comes to the editing and rewriting process. You never want to be labeled as a “difficult author.” Publishers rarely give those the opportunity for a second book.