SEPTEMBER 2015 SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW
Erin Taylor Young,
Acquisitions Editor , Redbud Press
WG: Welcome, and thanks for stepping into my spotlight this month. To start off, please tell us a bit about yourself.
ETY: Thanks for inviting me, Winnie. I'm delighted to be here! I'm an acquisitions editor for Redbud Press, a boutique publisher of inspirational romance. I also serve as the author liaison. We're still a relatively new company-our first books came out in March this year. I love getting to work with authors to help bring the stories of their hearts to readers. I guess you could say that heart issues are a bit of a theme in what I do these days. Aside from Redbud Press, I'm also working on a new project with Karen Ball, a literary agent with The Steve Laube Agency. The project is called Write from the Deep, and it's a podcast and website resource to minister to writers' hearts. Karen and I will also be co-writing some books in conjunction with the project.
WG: Can you tell us why you decided to pursue a career as an editor and what steps you took to get you where you are today?
ETY: Redbud Press came about because of conversations between myself and two of my close writing friends-basically we saw a need. There seemed to be a lot of authors who wanted to go indie but didn't have the know-how, or who wanted to expand their digital readership, or write more books than their publisher could take, or write in a different genre. We wanted to help meet that need, and we saw God opening doors for us to do that. With much prayer and thought, we jumped in.
WG: What genres/lines do you currently acquire works for?
ETY: Redbud Press currently has two imprints. Our Hometown Romance imprint publishes 45-65,000 word romances with a strong sense of setting and community. While the stories can be contemporary or historical, the romance must be the primary focus. Our Timeless imprint features 45,000-110,000 word books that we bring back to the market for a new generation of readers. These are previously published books where the rights have reverted to the author. The romance thread needs to be very strong in Timeless books, but they don't have to fit squarely into the romance genre. A bent toward romantic suspense or historical, etc., won't exclude a great story from consideration.
WG: When was the last time you acquired the work of an author from the slush pile?
ETY: We haven't yet. I don't have anything against acquiring work from the slush pile-I'm looking forward to great finds there. But we're just not old enough to have a big pile. Our first year of acquisitions has basically operated through invitation. We had some connections with authors we wanted to work with as we built our brand, so we only opened submissions for a short time. As our line expands, we'll open submissions for longer periods and look to acquire at more conferences as well.
WG: Are you actively seeking out new authors, and if so, what would it take to catch your eye?
ETY: Though we have limited openings for debut authors, we're always on the lookout for a fabulous, can't-put-it-down story. We love to find authors who have a God-given passion for what they do, and who are gifted and enthusiastic about reaching readers with their story, and who are willing to dive in with marketing efforts.
WG: When asked what they look for in a new author, most editors and agents will mention a fresh and/or strong voice. How do you personally define voice?
ETY: I define voice as personality on the page. To me, that's what makes the story come alive. It's distinct and recognizable from the first sentence, and when I find it, I'm usually smiling before the sentence even ends.
WG: Have you ever considered penning a novel yourself?
ETY: Indeed I have. I started out in this business as a writer, and I wouldn't want to give that up. I write humor, both fiction and nonfiction, and am a storyteller at heart. My debut book, Surviving Henry: Adventures in Loving a Canine Catastrophe, was published by Revell in 2014. It's a true-life story about a rogue torpedo of a dog who broadsides our family with love.
WG: Are some/all of your submissions read by someone else in house before they reach you? If so, what sort of feedback and/or screening do you expect that reader to provide?
ETY: At this point, we don't use first readers. During times when we have open submissions, proposals and manuscripts come straight to me for evaluation. The first question I'm asking is whether the book is actually a true romance (as opposed to a story that just has a romantic thread), and the second is whether the writing is ready for publication. The majority of rejections are due to one of those two factors.
WG: Realistically, what is the normal timeframe for your response to queries? Partials? Fulls?
ETY: We like to allow 8-12 weeks, but often it's only a few weeks. We don't have open submissions year round, so when we're open, I'm ready for it and can move them through our process fairly quickly.
WG: Given that you feel an individual author's manuscript is marketable, how important is it that you personally like the work in order for you to pursue acquiring it?
ETY: That's an interesting question. I'm not sure I look at it in quite that way. I personally like all the books we publish, but perhaps there are differing reasons why I'll like each one. Maybe one has a character I particularly relate to, while another has a plot that connects with me more directly, while another has a fun voice that makes me laugh, and another is a pure treat in its craft. But at the end of the day, if the art of a good romance is there, that's what counts because that's what our readers want.
WG: What input do you personally have on the cover art selected for the manuscripts you acquire? What level of involvement do you feel the author should have in this process?
ETY: All the editors at Redbud have input in the cover design, plus we also utilize a consultant. We design the covers in house (our managing editor has many talents, and cover design is one of them!) and typically brainstorm concepts together. We love that the authors have input. They know their story best, so the information and ideas they provide are very helpful in the process.
WG: Do you feel that writers' conferences provide significant value to you in the way of personal contact with your authors, other authors (either published or unpublished), and/or other industry professionals? Do you receive any value from other offerings such as the presentations, pitch appointments, and/or networking opportunities?
ETY: I'm a big fan of writers' conferences. I love to go to them and network, learn, teach, and meet new writers. And it's great to talk to our authors in person!
WG: Do you visit the websites and blogs of authors you work with or of authors you are considering acquiring? If so, is there something in particular you look for that potentially impacts your view of the author and their work?
ETY: I like to see that an author, especially a debut author, knows who she (or he) is. That she's comfortable online and knows how to build relationships with readers.
WG: Do you approach submissions by agented authors differently from those without agents? Does your familiarity with/opinion of the agent impact this?
ETY: We're happy to work with both agented and unagented authors. It makes no difference to the selection process. We want to focus on building good relationships with everyone we work with, authors and agents alike.
WG: What piece of advice or 'pearl of wisdom' would you like to offer authors who are considering submitting a work to you--or to any editor for that matter?
ETY: Know that God is in control. If He's given you the task of writing, your job is to do it faithfully. Do it with excellence. Do it in obedience. Therein lies your freedom, because God is in charge of the results, including when, where, if, or how you get published. Delight in simply being faithful each day.
WG: How important do you think self-promotion is to a writer's career? If so, is there a particular area of promotion that you feel is most effective?
ETY: I think it's vital for authors to start building a mailing list as soon as they can. Newsletters have a far better rate of conversion (readers buying your book) than social media channels. If people are joining your newsletter because they like your material, then they want to hear from you when your next book is out.
WG: I love to collect quotes, all kinds of quotes - inspirational, quirky, motivational, profound, etc. Do you have a personal favorite you'd like to share?
ETY: "People don't need your words, they need your heart." This is something Karen Ball said at a writing conference. I love it because, really, what are stories-and people-without heart?
WG: What do you do to relax and have fun?
ETY: Taking a Sabbath every week is vital to me. I like to unplug and devote a good chunk of the day to prayer and quiet thinking. I also love to hike in pretty places and take photographs. Other than that, I hang out with my family, watch the occasional movie or football game, and play with Henry (our lovable, but mentally unbalanced, dog).
WG: Other than your client's work, what do you enjoy reading?
ETY: Jane Austen is definitely one of my favorites, but I also read across a variety of genres from fantasy to YA to historical to random nonfiction titles that capture my interest.
WG: What are your favorite movies and/or TV shows? Why?
ETY: I'm a sucker for old musicals and other feel-good movies. I guess to me it seems like there's so much grief, hardship, and trauma in the news that I'd rather not watch films about it too.
WG: Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on your life? In what way?
ETY: I love to read through the Bible every year and memorize Scripture. Doing that has profoundly changed my relationship with God.
WG: Is there a website you can point us to where folks can go to learn more about you and/or your publishing house?
ETY: You can learn more about Redbud Press at our website www.redbudpress.com and get a feel for what we publish by signing up for our newsletter and getting our free books.
Writers interested in the Write from the Deep podcast project can visit this website: www.writefromthedeep.com.
WG: And finally, thanks again for taking some time to 'stop by' this month!
ETY: Thanks for hosting me!