Monday, July 4, 2016

Understanding Your Marketplace by Sandra D. Bricker

If you’ve read my column for any length of time … or have gotten to know me through my reader page on Facebook … you already know I was raised by strong and patriotic parents. My mom was a Navy nurse who met a handsome Marine Corps officer when he was one of her patients, and they both instilled in me the profound impact and importance of American citizenship. In fact, I couldn’t accurately count the times when Officer Dad reminded me that freedom doesn’t come without a price. In fact, he taught me, anything of substance rarely does. “If you’re chasing a significant dream,” he said, “be prepared to invest everything you can in catching it.”

In celebration of this extraordinary holiday – and the exceptional parents who educated me on its value – I thought this would be a perfect column in which to address the importance of Doing the Work toward achieving this writing dream of  ours. My best advice? First and foremost: Educate yourself. Get to know what’s going on out there in the publishing world to best determine where you fit into it.

If you’re here at Seriously Write … if you know me and my books … if you’re a regular to this column … then I assume that the dream you’re chasing lies in the Christian fiction marketplace. It’s been a volatile journey, hasn’t it? Especially in these last few years. Our community has been shrinking and changing by often-disturbing leaps and bounds. But a few warriors (like Love Inspired, Barbour, Tyndale) have managed to stay in the game. And by the very grace of God, new opportunities are beginning to shine their light at us from deep within the jungle. One of those lampposts – and an especially joyous one, for me – is newly formed Gilead Publishing. [Click here to read the Publisher’s Weekly story about their launch.]

Since Gilead is a fresh alternative for writers of Christian fiction, and also because they will soon be my own new publishing home when they launch in October with a Christmas novella collection (Sleigh Bells Ring) I’m part of – along with Lenora Worth, Barbara J. Scott, and Lynette Sowell – I’ve asked Sue Brower, their VP of Editorial, to answer a few basic questions so that I can share information with all of you eager authors out there.

Without further delay … help me welcome Sue Brower!

Sue Brower is leading acquisitions for Gilead Publishing, a new, innovative, traditional book publisher focused on producing quality fiction that will appeal to adult readers who enjoy stories written from a Christian perspective. She has over twenty-seven years’ experience in the Christian publishing industry as a marketer, editor, and agent working to connect authors and readers for a great storytelling experience. Sue is interested in hearing from the agents of writers who have completed manuscripts of 80,000 to 100,000 words. Gilead Publishing is a fiction-only press. This includes novels for women and men in the Contemporary, Romance, Historical, and Mystery/Suspense categories.

Sandie: Sue, for those of us called to write Christian fiction, the last few years in publishing have been astonishing as the road has narrowed very quickly. Gilead's dedication to creating a new outlet is pure joy (and an answer to many writers' prayers!). Can you tell us the "inciting incident," the how/why of focusing on a fiction-only platform?

Sue: I don’t think there was an “inciting incident” so much as a long, thoughtful process for our publisher, Dan Balow. Over the course of several years, he had been researching opportunities for a start-up business in Christian publishing. He was reminded by a New York Times article that Christian fiction had once been a thriving category—one that every publisher wanted to have a hand in. Now we’ve had a number of companies leave the category creating a gap in frontlist offerings. There are fewer publishers, and even those must stretch resources to cover a variety of categories—non-fiction, academic, children’s book, curriculum, and Bibles—so Gilead Publishing was founded to focus entirely on fiction. It’s been a successful model in ABA, and we expect it to be successful in CBA.

Sandie: As you know, I couldn’t be more excited about that! I found it interesting that your mission statement specifically includes opening doors for mid-list authors. Can you tell us a little about that decision?

Sue: It’s based on the recognition that some of the industry’s best writers are publishing in niche markets where they may perform better over time, rather than right out of the gate. And because the writing tends to be strong, they can benefit from long-term recommendations as the book passes from reader to reader or is discovered in the library.

Sandie: Although Gilead will have offices in Wheaton and Grand Rapids, will your staff be strictly located in one of those two cities, or will you have a virtual roster of employees working across the country as well?

Sue: Gilead Publishing has a very small infrastructure. Our editorial staff is in Grand Rapids, and pretty much everything else is done out of the Wheaton office, including marketing and production. However, we use freelancers from all over the country to create covers, edit our books, and complete the interior design. One of the biggest benefits of this structure is that we can match our “employees” with the different types of books they excel at. Some are better at Sci/Fi and Fantasy while others may have a more romantic flare.

Sandie: Speaking of that romantic flare … on a personal note, I've been tossing around the idea for the novella collection you ultimately contracted for almost a year, never quite sure what to do with it or how/if it might come together. Can you discuss what appealed to you about the collection, and what role it might play in the overall launch of this new, exciting line?

Sue: As I was thinking about our first titles for Gilead Publishing, I wanted manuscripts that would be a representation of what our line is going to look like in the future; what type of authors we would be acquiring. Oh, and they had to be something retailers would be motivated to buy for the Fall season. I thought one of the best ways to do this was to create two Christmas collections in the most popular genre—Romance! We planned for one historical collection and one contemporary collection. Usually, this takes a little more time and thought to put together, but my dear friend Barbara Scott (former Abingdon editor) told me about the brilliant collection you were working on. It had all the right elements; contemporary romance, great writing, four heartwarming Christmas stories, a mixture of established authors: you, Lynette, Lenora, and Barbara. Best of all, Sleigh Bells Ring was nearing completion and I could have it by May 1st, my deadline to begin editing. What more could I ask for?

Sandie: And what more could we have asked for? We were so thrilled when Barb created that bridge between our project and your new adventure. Can you tell my readers about what will come next?

Sue: Our fall list was rounded out with Cowboy Christmas Homecoming by Mary Connealy, Julie Lessman, Anna Schmidt, and Ruth Logan Herne; Cardiac Event (romantic suspense) by Richard Mabry; and Finding Margo (contemporary women’s fiction) by Jen Turano. Lest you think we are only publishing romance, we have also signed historical World War II fiction from Liz Tolsma, women’s contemporary from Deb Raney, and Amish from Barbara Cameron.

Sandie: Many of those names are writer buds of mine, so I’m really excited to share the Gilead line-up with them. I know they’re as excited about Gilead as I am. Thank you so much for joining us today, Sue, and here’s wishing you and your family a spectacular Independence Day celebration.

Readers, if you have any specific questions about Gilead, feel free to use the Comments section to ask them. I’m sure Sue would be happy to answer.

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SANDRA D. BRICKER was an entertainment publicist in Los Angeles for 15+ years where she attended school to learn screenwriting and eventually taught the craft for several semesters. When she put Hollywood in the rear view mirror and headed across the country to take care of her mom until she passed away, she traded her scripts for books . . . and a best-selling, award-winning author of Live-Out-Loud fiction for the inspirational market was born. Sandie is best known for her Another Emma Rae Creation and Jessie Stanton series for Abingdon Press, and she was also named ACFW’s 2015 Editor of the Year for her work as managing editor of Bling! Romance, an edgy romance imprint for Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. As an ovarian cancer survivor, Sandie also gears time and effort toward raising awareness and funds for research, diagnostics and a cure.