Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Interview with Editor and Publisher Suzanne James

Suzanne James is an accomplished author and publisher and editor with Enspiren Press as well as CEO of Grace Publishing Media. Suzanne is experienced in the ins and out of not only publishing, but marketing, as well, and she offers several books and online courses to help aspiring writers. By visiting her website at you can sign up to receive her free monthly newsletter filled with lessons, contests, and book news. I got the chance to catch up with the very busy Suzanne James recently and ask her a few key questions.

CM: What is the biggest mistake you see from aspiring authors over and over again in trying to sell their books to a publisher?

SJ: The biggest mistake is in the synopsis.The writer talks about the situations that happen in the story, and not about the story. The publisher doesn’t care that the character’s house burned down, that they moved to LA, that they got a job in a company owned by the mob.The publisher wants to know the important things – how the character changed, grew, and handled the situations.

A synopsis that tells me the book is great, the characters are well developed and everyone who reads the book loves it is useless. Publishers need to know what genre the book is. If you don’t know how to write a synopsis, then pay someone to write it for you.There is too much riding on a manuscript submission.

I would say that 20% of all submissions spend so much time telling me what happens in the story that I never learn what the story is about.

CM: What do you see for the future of publishing as far e-books, genres, trends, etc.? We all know paranormal/fantasy is huge right now – do you think its popularity will last?

SJ: The ebook industry is growing fast. The younger generations are comfortable reading from screens. As the cost of printing continues to climb, shipping costs skyrocket, and as small publishers grasp larger segments of the market, the book buyers will embrace ebooks.

Genres and trends come and go. The genres that are selling well now may not sell in five years. Writers should never write for a genre or trend. They should write the stories in their heart. However, if you want to write a story that sells then focus on the characters and not the situations in the story. The most famous novels focus on the characters with events playing a secondary role.

CM: What is the one thing which would cause you to unquestionably reject an author’s work submitted to Enspiren or Grace Publishing?

SJ: The simple answer is grammar. Authors are wordsmiths. You wouldn’t hire a hairdresser who doesn’t care enough about themselves or their careers to take courses. A writer who cannot write in active voice, with good sentences, is not a wordsmith. They don’t care enough about their future to create their best work.

That said, I have turned a blind eye to a manuscripts with poor prose if the author wrote a compelling story about people. Look at all the great authors, King, Cook, Grisham. They write about people and how the events in the story change them. New writers make the mistake of writing about situations with the characters just floating through the plot as if they are the props, not the other way around.

I was talking to a freelance editor the other night about when I worked as a junior editor for a publishing house. We didn’t really read manuscripts, there wasn’t time. We just looked for red flags, overusing the word ‘was’ and ‘had’, overusing tags, spending too much time writing about settings instead of people, narrating the story instead of painting pictures.

CM: What is your favorite read of all time and why?

SJ: Dicken’s A Christmas Carol is one of the best written books of all times. The character development and growth is perfect. Its structure is perfect. I just love that book. My list of favorite books, my A list, has more than 100 books on it. I love reading.
CM: Can you tell me what book(s) you’re currently working on writing?

SJ: I am working on my first character driven story, Montana. It is a story about mail-order brides in 1850. I chose that time because things were very primitive. I’ve had fun researching it. My friend is going to take pictures of a grass fire on the prairies for the book. I am not primarily an author so I don’t have a lot of time to write. I spent the last two years working on two reference guides to help writers edit and rewrite their novels. I based these books on problems faced by the 2000+ writers who’ve taken my courses in the last 7 years. I tried to focus on the writing aspects that cause the most problems. I rewrote my Scot Historical The Pledge just for fun. I really enjoyed getting back to writing.

CM: Please share one moment that was a defining point in your life.

SJ: The defining point in my life would be when my husband suggested I take a fiction writing course at the local university. I had been writing for two decades, for fun. I never realized that the instructor had 15 books published and had a contract in New York. Training under the ‘old style’ and learning the old methods of writing became the foundation of my writing career.

CM: And, finally, the most important question of all: chocolate or vanilla?

Chocolate – lots and lots of chocolate.

Thanks, Suzanne, for taking time out of your busy schedule to share your insights. You can read the latest on Suzanne and her various business pursuits by visiting the following websites:

1 comment:

  1. I had fun with this interview. I hope we can chat again soon.