Thursday, September 4, 2008
Barbara Scott, Abingdon Press, Welcome to Seekerville!
As you guys all know, today we're privileged to chat-it-up with Barbara Scott, the Senior Acquisitions Editor for Fiction from Abingdon Press. Barb has promised to stop in from time to time today, stretch her legs from long hours of editing, sorting, e-mailing, reading, meeting, etc. to play in Seekerville. I promised her good food and great conversation. Or vice versa. Not quite sure which!!
To further that end I've got a lovely brunch laid for everyone and a full cafe'/cappuccino bar set up. If ya' didn't bring your mug, I've got plenty. Stop in, relax a while, chat with us and pour yourself a cup of chocolate velvet, hazelnut decaf or straight ol' 'joe'.
And there are some lovely See's dark chocolates because I hear dark chocolate is one of her weaknesses. As authors, we're not afraid to play on one's weakness, now are we????
Barbara Scott, Sr. Acquisitions Editor for Fiction, is actively acquiring new voices, as well as published authors, in the genres of contemporary women's fiction, contemporary romance, historical romance, historical fiction, mystery, action/adventure, and suspense/thrillers. Abingdon is not looking for literary, supernatural, or apocalyptic manuscripts. Barbara has more than 30 years experience in newspaper, magazine, and book publishing, including adult, youth, and children's fiction. She also has published two bestselling novels for Thomas Nelson with coauthor Carrie Younce, ghost-written books for well-known ministers, and written numerous work-for-hire gift books.
Barbara, welcome to Seekerville! Your bio for ACFW covers many pertinent points. I know when I put out a request for questions, genres was the most often asked. Since the bio covers that, let’s get more specific. Are you looking for a certain word count? Will the books be released in trade or mass paperback sizes? Do you prefer alpha or beta heroes? (Sorry, that one just slipped in. You know us romance writers. Sneaky little things…)
Thanks for the warm welcome, Ruthy. Love those virtual chocolates! Fiction lovers have such vivid imaginations that I can feel myself gaining five pounds just thinking about them. But on to your questions... ;)
Our fiction will be released in trade paperback (5-1/2” x 8-1/2”) and we’re looking at word counts of around 75 to 80,000 words, although I have some that go up to 100,000 and a couple in the 60 to 70,000 range. To keep our price point at $13.99, we’d like to stay below a 400-page novel.
As for alpha or beta heroes, they just need to respect their women and treat them as if they have brains. No chauvinists unless they reform by the end of the book or get their just desserts. LOL
You’ve been fast and gracious in your dealings with authors submitting proposals, sometimes responding within hours. Minutes… Do you ever worry that your turn-around time might make you the target of other editors whose turnarounds stretch into months and sometimes years? The upcoming ACFW conference is known for rather interesting pranks. Have you ordered extra locks on your hotel room door? Surveillance equipment? J If not, it might not be a bad idea. Assumed identities are helpful as well. Anybody got a Groucho mustache for Barbara?
You know, I have been looking over my shoulder a lot lately and getting these stabbing pains between my shoulder blades. Hm.
Since I was an author once, I know what it’s like to wait and wait for somebody… anybody...the guy at Starbucks…to get back to me. Not fun! Of course, I could always self-diagnose and say it has a lot to do with OCD. I must have a little Monk in me because I can’t stand a full email box.
Actually, I’m quite fortunate at Abingdon because we are consciously not booking ourselves in meetings all day. You’d be amazed at how much time most editors spend in pre-planning, planning, and post-planning meetings from development to pub boards to title and cover direction to marketing and promotions. And did I mention that most receive 75 to 100 emails a day? Try to keep up with that!
Barb, I’m a life-long, choir-singing Irish Catholic. Abingdon is a Methodist press, but rumor has it you’re open to Catholic stories and that’s uncommon in CBA. Tell us a little more about that, what you’d be willing to see and consider.
One thing I love about Abingdon Press is that we respect people of various faiths, cultures, and denominations. For instance, the protagonists in one new mystery series, which will debut in Spring 2009, are a liturgical Christian church secretary and the Jewish Rabbi from the synagogue next door…crime solvers extraordinaire! There will be ample opportunity for them to share their faith in natural, organic ways, just as we all do with our friends, but our rabbi will not be converting. Diversity is the beauty of our lives, and it’s only through dialogue with one another that we gain understanding.
Abingdon has created a stir in the waters with this opportunity, especially opening their doors to new authors and unheard voices. What helped forge that decision? Do you consider new authors a risk or an opportunity to draw new readers?
Cool!! Let’s stir a little water together. I’ve had this conversation with editors and agents for years. Especially in the bigger houses, it’s difficult to take a risk on new writers. This may come as a revelation, but the average fiction book in CBA only sells 3,500 to 5,000 copies. That’s not enough for the financial models of some larger publishing companies, so editors need to find authors with established track records. It makes it difficult for a new author to break in, but it’s not impossible. Realistic expectations were built into our publishing model, which allows us to open the door for those writers who have been working at their craft but are not yet published. New authors are a risk, but they are also an opportunity. Together, we can beat the bushes for those readers who have never read Christian fiction and are looking for engaging stories.
From talking with you, I know that Abingdon Press Fiction is interested in agented submissions at this time. You’ve been added to the list of ACFW editors for the upcoming Twin Cities conference and I know a lot of our guests are planning to attend. Other than the ladies’ room, (we’ve all heard those stories and no, people, it was never ME!!!) is there any place you’d like aspiring authors to ignore you, pretend they don’t see you, or, at the very least, pretend they’re not authors, LOL!????
I’d rather not throw open the doors to unsolicited manuscripts because then you’d never hear from me. I’d be answering mail all day. However, if I open up an opportunity at a writers’ conference or on a writers’ blog, you don’t need an agent to send me a short query email. In fact, I’m signing up two authors who read Brandilyn Collins’ blog and asked if they could send me proposals. Voila! Dreams do come true!
And yeah, those bathroom encounters can be embarrassing. So just smile and let me wash my hands. I might have an appointment with another conferee and need to get out of there. Oh, and my hotel room is off limits. But you knew that, right?
A few years ago Nav Press branched into fiction after a long and successful ministry in non-fiction. Have you or your staff studied Nav Press’s strategy to ponder what you might do differently? Similarly?
My understanding is that Nav Press has a new administration that decided to go back to their roots of serving the Navigators. Naturally, fiction would no longer fit their mission. You’d have to ask someone from Nav Press for more information.
Barb, as a strong, long-established press, Abingdon has inroads into various sale venues. Can you give us a breakdown of your future fiction marketing strategy? I noticed that Cokesbury, the retail arm of Abingdon, offers books and study materials, etc. from numerous publishers, not just Abingdon. Insourcing from other publishers makes good economic sense for all concerned. Will the fiction line be available through Cokesbury as well as traditional ABA and CBA bookstores? Do you ever use mass retail outlets like Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Sam’s Club, etc.?
Abingdon Press has a big advantage in that we’ve been around for a long time and have a solid reputation. It’s amazing how fast the word has spread to the publishing trade. Our fiction will be available in all Cokesbury stores, as well as ABA and CBA bookstores, and our reps also will be calling on other major accounts.
Barb, you’ve got to be excited about launching a new line, being the ‘go-to’ gal. Do you have a personal goal for this line that you’d like to share with us? And does the line have a name yet?
Excited?! More than excited!! We just closed our Fall 2009 list, and I had to restrain myself from jumping on a desk and singing the Hallelujah Chorus. I’ve never had this much fun in my life! My personal goal is to be another Maxwell Perkins, the editor who encouraged and nurtured writers like Hemingway and Faulkner. My main motivation in life has never been money, although I certainly need to be successful to keep this job, but rather I’m motivated by my passion for discovering great stories, meeting authors who become my friends, and touching readers’ hearts and minds with books that make them want to know and love God.
For now…we’re Abingdon Press.
Barb, thanks so much for being here. I know our Seekerville buds are looking forward to your visit. The Seekers appreciate your time, your expertise and we're totally appreciative of the fact that you took our Myra off of Unpubbed Island with her contract for A Perfect Christmas. Gives me more coconut macaroons, having her gone an' all. And yes, I saved you some, drizzled with dark chocolate per your request. I tucked them away because, well... we get lots of women visitors here and you know how THAT can be.