Award Winning Author Winnie Griggs

 

 

 

 

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Lacy Williams,
Managing Editor, Redbud Press p

 

Williams WG:      Welcome, and thanks for stepping into my spotlight this month.   To start off, please tell us a bit about yourself.  

 

SA:      Thanks for hosting me, Winnie. I'm the Managing Editor for Redbud Press, a boutique publisher of inspirational romance. We've just launched our first books this March and are really excited as we work with authors to bring their stories to those avid readers who are waiting on them. This is my first stint as an editor, although I've worked in a leadership position on several multi-author anthologies that were independently published. I have a B.S. in Accounting from the University of Central Oklahoma. I'm an Oklahoma girl at heart and have only lived away from this state for part of one year. I published my first book with Harlequin's Love Inspired Historical line and have published nine more books and a novella with them, and self-published seven other works, one of which hit the USA Today bestseller list in late 2014.

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?

SA:      Um, my career sort of found me. Actually, my husband had said to me several times in the past few years, "Why don't you become an editor? You love books." And I ignored him and the little voice inside that said I could do it. Well, in early 2014, two of my closest writing friends (who are now my co-editors) and I came up with the idea for Redbud Press. We knew there were a lot of authors out there who wanted to write more than what their current publisher could handle, or wanted to write in another genre, or had more books in them but didn't want to indie publish. God opened a lot of doors as we started the business, both with authors who wanted to work with us and with industry contacts.

WG:      What genres/lines do you currently acquire works for?

SA:      We are a romance publisher, but we have two imprints. Our Hometown Romance is made up of frontlist (never-before-published) titles. They can be historical or contemporary, although our current lineup leans more toward contemporary. Our Timeless imprint is for backlist books (previously published books that authors have gotten rights back to). These books can be romance, romantic suspense, or women's fiction, but all need to have a strong romance element to them.

WG:      When was the last time you acquired the work of an author from the slush pile?

SA:      I haven't yet. Since we're a new publisher, we wanted to build our brand with authors that readers already trust. We sort of head-hunted the authors we wanted to work with and were blessed to have many of them sign on! We've signed only one new author for our 2015 releases (her debut book just came out - Saving Justice by Susan Crawford), and she was an author I'd worked with through my local writers' group, so I haven't had the joy of pulling an amazing manuscript from the slush pile yet.

WG:      Are you actively seeking out new authors, and if so, what would it take to catch your eye?

SA:      Soon, we will have a very short window for open submissions and authors should check our website (www.redbudpress.com) to see if they can submit. I'm talking very short. Six or eight weeks. We will mostly be considering multi-published authors for publication, however, if an awesome manuscript came across my desk from an unpublished writer, I would pursue it. Manuscripts that will make it out of the slush pile will have the romance as the main focus of the story, familiar hooks like reunion romance, single parent, firefighter/policeman/military hero, etc. I'm looking for characters that I connection emotionally with. There's something about them that I love-a wound or flaw that the reader will connect with that makes them real. A cohesive, strong story structure and a well-crafted story. Easy, right?

WG:      Do you think contest credits help an author further their career? Have you ever acquired a manuscript that you discovered via a writing contest?

SA:      I definitely believe contests can get an author published, because in my life as a novelist, that's how I sold my first book to Harlequin's Love Inspired Historical line. That sale opened the door for ten more books with them. Contests also taught me a lot about writing because of the feedback I received on my manuscript, so although I haven't acquired any manuscripts through this method, I believe in its viability.

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?

SA:      The best definition I heard was from agent Sandra Bishop, who defined it as, "Your personality on paper." When I teach writing classes, I usually explain it this way: if you received a Stephen King or James Patterson or Karen Kingsbury or Nicholas Sparks novel (pick your poison), but it had no cover and no identifying information on it, you would still know who the author is. That's Voice.

WG:      Have you ever considered penning a novel yourself?

SA:      Why yes, I have. :)

WG:      How would you describe your editorial style?

SA:      In our production process, I'm the line editor. I get to touch the manuscript after our content editor has made suggestions for the overall structure and the author has addressed those. I'm usually looking for places on the page where the character's motivation is missing or I want to see more internal dialogue so the reader really feels what the character does. I don't know that I've done it enough to have an official style yet. As an author, I never wanted editors to mess with my voice, so I try to apply the Golden Rule and be as light as I can while still achieving the end goal of a manuscript that will wow readers.

WG:      What is your involvement with the author's creative process? With his/her career planning?

SA:      Redbud Press has an editorial team and we also outsource the copy editing. If one of our authors wants to brainstorm for a manuscript or series idea, we're open to that. We provide education in the form of webinars (recent ones include newsletters and Pinterest strategies) that transcend publishing just with us. We want to provide information that will help authors develop their career, no matter where they are publishing.

WG:      What do you see as the main strength you personally bring to the table as an editor?

SA:      Identifying weak areas in the manuscript and getting to a final manuscript that the author (and readers) 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?

SA:      We do have an acquisitions editor, Erin Taylor Young. She and I both receive manuscripts, but I do see each one before a final decision is made.

WG:      Realistically, what is the normal timeframe for your response to queries? Partials? Fulls?

SA:      Eight to twelve weeks.

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?

SA:      I'm a romance junkie. Always have been. I read across genres and I like a lot of different things. If I didn't like a manuscript, it probably wouldn't be a fit for us as a romance publisher.

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?

SA:      You're just discovering all my facets here, Winnie. :) I actually create the cover art for our books. The author's level of input depends on the contract we sign with them. Ultimately, we know how important it is to have the right cover art because it's what the reader sees first and can result in a buying decision right then. We want the author to be involved as much as possible.

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?

SA:      I have learned something at every writers' conference I've attended. I think writers' of all levels, whether unpublished, published or multi- multi-published, need to keep learning. Learning craft and industry, and conferences are one of the best places to do that. I do enjoy getting to see my authors face to face and touching base with them in a real setting instead of just via email.

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?

SA:      This hasn't been an issue yet.

WG:      Do you approach submissions by agented authors differently from those without agents? Does your familiarity with/opinion of the agent impact this?

SA:      I have worked with both and don't see much of a difference-probably because we're new. For me, working with the author and starting a good relationship with their agent has been key.

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?

SA:      Do your homework. Make sure you've read the submission guidelines. And write a great query letter.

WG:      What sort of misconceptions/ unrealistic expectations have you encountered from authors about what an editor's role is that you would like to correct?

SA:      Since I've worked with mostly multi-published authors, this hasn't been an issue. Many authors have worked with several different editors and know that each relationship is a little different. And my role with each author is a little different, based on where they are in their career and what they need from me.

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?

SA:      I think the best thing any author can do for themselves is start building a newsletter list. I've promoted a lot and also tracked what works, and the number one thing across all channels (my self published books and traditionally published books) has been newsletters. Having that open door of communication to the reader is vital, and can help keep your career afloat even as the industry changes.

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?

SA:      My kids are fanatics about Disney movies and with having small children and running this publishing house and writing, that's about all we watch. So the only two I can think of are "To infinity, and beyond!" (Buzz Lightyear, Toy Story) and "Hairy baby." (Bay Max, Big Hero 6).

WG:      What do you do to relax and have fun?

SA:      My hubby and I like to sneak away for date nights when we can find a sitter. We enjoy going to OKC Thunder (NBA basketball) games occasionally and just eating out at an adult restaurant.

WG:      Other than your client's work, what do you enjoy reading?

SA:      I read widely. Contemporary romance, fantasy, young adult.

WG:      What are your favorite movies and/or TV shows? Why?

SA:      Pride and Prejudice, 1995 version (I actually have a dog named after that Mr. Bingley) and While You Were Sleeping. I love the family dynamic and, of course, the romance.

WG:      Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on your life? In what way?

SA:      Probably Janette Oke's early works. They were my first brush with Christian fiction when I was a teenager and I've loved it ever since.

WG:      Before we close, is there anything else you'd like to mention about yourself or the publisher?

SA:      Just that if writers want to sample our work and see what we're looking for, we do have freebies on our website if you sign up for our newsletter. Currently it is two novellas, but it may change in the future.

WG:      Is there a website you can point us to where folks can go to learn more about you and/or your publishing house?

SA:      www.redbudpress.com

WG:      And finally, thanks again for taking some time to 'stop by' this month!

SA:      Thanks for hosting me, Winnie! It's been a pleasure.

 

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