Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Interview With A Publisher

Today I am going to be asking questions of the head editor at 23 House Publishing.  So please welcome Mitchel Whitington to the hotseat as I ramble on...

Q: Do you have a niche market for publishing or are you open to anything goes?
A: 23 House is open to consider most anything. We’ve done several mainstream fiction titles this passed year in 2011, but we’re talking to an author for a potential 2012 title that is more niche than we’ve ever niched before. In general, we’re looking for a book which has a specific marketing plan behind it. Simply writing the best novel in the world won’t do it in the marketplace today.

Q: What makes your books different from others on the market?
A: That’s easy – our authors! Our average author is a seasoned writer who has only published a book or two at most, so they’re eager to please their readers and help create the best book experience possible for their readers.

Q: Why did you decide to become a publisher?
A: It just kind of happened. As a writer, I was attending a conference in Oklahoma City over a decade ago, and saw a book stored on a small floppy disk and they called it an “ebook.” I bought it, read it on my computer, and realized that this was the wave of the future. No publishing houses were doing ebooks at the time – they were mostly self-published – so 23 House was born. Ebooks waned without a standardized reader, and so the house evolved into standard book publishing. Which now, interestingly enough, includes ebooks.

Q: Are you open to submissions and how would a person contact you?
A: We are open to submissions for 2012, but the proposal has to be unique, exciting, and it must have a marketing plan. If you tell us that you’ve written the best western of the year, that’s not enough if you don’t have a plan for selling it. Our writer’s guidelines are on the website – www.23house.com – along with contact information.

Q: What is your favorite and least favorite book genre to publish?  Why?
A: I don’t know that there’s a favorite vs. non-favorite. Fiction is infinitely harder to sell than non-fiction, but by the same token, good fiction can be rewarding.

Q: Do you write?  If so, how long have you been writing?
A: I do – in fact, I had a “road to Damascus” conversion into being a writer back in 1979. I was reading Stephen King’s The Shining one evening, and our basset hound Fred had to go outside. We lived on a wooded lot, so as I walked Fred I became frightened in the dark among all those trees. Suddenly, I realized it was King’s words affecting my emotions, nothing else. It was at that point I realized the power of words – to entertain, to educate, and to bring forth emotions in the reader. I knew at that point I had to become a writer, and I’ve been writing ever since.

Q: What do you have planned – book related – for the future?
A: Our publishing calendar for 2012 is already filling up, and we have some solid titles already in place… quite diverse, in fact. We have a supernatural WWII novel that will be a movie in 2013, regional ghost books from different parts of the country, a Christian end-times sci-fi trilogy, and another book that hasn’t been signed yet which is a complete and total departure for 23 House. It’s going to be an exciting year!
Q: Tell us an interesting tidbit about you on a personal note.
A: I love the Friday the 13th series of movies. In fact, I took a girl on a date to see the original one when it came out in the theaters years ago, and later married her. I guess if she hung in through that, I figured she was a keeper. Anyway, as a fan of the series (I own all the DVDs) I noticed there was a continuity issue between  the end of Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan and Friday the 13th Part IX: Jason Goes to Hell – there is no clear explanation as to how Jason gets from New York back to Camp Crystal Lake between the two movies. A few years ago I started writing a fan-fiction novel to resolve the issue. Since I was writing using other people’s trademarked characters and such, there’s no way that I could ever publish it or sell it. I make my living as a writer and publisher, so it made no sense to continue. Still, I allow myself to drag it out every now and then to spend a few hours on it. Maybe I’ll finish it one of these days, but what I’ll do with it, I don’t know. As I write this, I’m starting to realize how bizarre it all sounds… okay, forget everything I wrote; what I meant to say is, “Interesting tidbit? I make my own soap.”
Q: Where can we find out more about you and your publishing company?
A: We have a lot of information on the company website: www.23house.com . There are also entries in Writer’s Market and other trade listings, but the most current info is on the website.
Q: Any tips to share with writers?
A: In the world today – and I hate to say this – marketing is as important, if not more so, than writing. You could write the best romance ever written, have it published, and placed on the bookstore shelves. If no one knows your name, and there is no buzz about your book, then it will sit there and eventually be returned to the distributor. I know that I’m sounding like a broken record about marketing, but you have no idea how important it’s become.
For years I would ground myself by walking into a bookstore and simply looking around. There are thousands of books on the shelves, all written by authors across the country who have been vetted by agents and publishers before their work was in print and in the distribution channel. Some years ago the average published author in America made about $3,000 a year from their writing. For every John Grisham, there are thousands of starving artists (in this case, writers). It helped me to keep in mind how much competition there was, and how hard I had to work.
In 2012, the publishing industry is not only different than it was ten years ago, it is different than it was one short year ago. Any writer – literally anyone – can get a book printed and sold on Amazon. Competition for readers’ dollars has increased EXPONENTIALLY. The challenge is not only to write a compelling book, but to be able to effectively present it to the audience of buyers.
Q: Anything else you'd like to share?
A: We live in a MAGICAL time – things are changing every day. There are people who cling to the old ways of the publishing world by their fingernails, denying the change taking place, and hoping their words can speak things back into an existence of years past. But that is not the case. New writers, who will be the Kings and Grishams and Ludlums of the next incarnation of publishing, are the ones who seek out and embrace the evolution of the written word. They will immerse themselves in social media, take advantage of every aspect of modern technology, and keep their finger on the pulse of the public.
Instead of ruling the publishing empire, publishers will soon become facilitators and coordinators, providing editing, layout, design, and distribution – the path to power is shifting to the authors themselves. It is important – no, crucial – to stay on top of the cutting edge of the publishing world. In doing so, you can ride the crest of the wave to success!

I'd like to thank Mitchel for taking the time to allow me the interview and I hope you will check out his company site: www.23house.com, if not to get published, at least for some really great reads to purchase.

Until next I blog...

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