Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Katherine Sandell Editor at Howard Books answers your questions!!!

Katherine Sandell
Please welcome a special guest, Katherine Sandell,  associate book editor at Howard Books, Simon and Schuster She'd looking for questions and is planning a fun day of answering them.

Hello Seekers and Seeker Friends! Happy Fall to you all!

I was honored when Mary invited me to come spend a little time with you today.

Happy, Happy, Happy
from Howard Publishing

I’ve always loved books and reading. As a little kid, the first book I read was Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss. More likely than not, my nose was always in a book. Not much has changed throughout the years. Reading is still my most favorite thing in the world. And I was somehow able to find a job that pays me to read. Can you believe that? Me either.
I work as an Associate Book Editor for Howard Books, a division of Simon & Schuster. We are located in Nashville, Tennessee and are most famous for publishing the Duck Dynasty Books including Happy, Happy, Happy and Duck Commander Family. Our fiction books hold a large piece of my heart too.
by Rebecca Kanner
I’ve been able to work with authors like Lynne Gentry, Stephanie Landsem, Kara Isaac, and

Beth Vogt. These ladies are fantastic—let me tell you.
But I am also a huge Fan-Girl. I cheer for Howard’s other authors, regardless if I am working on the book, and I champion for them any time I can—shout out to Rebecca Kanner (READ HER BOOKS!) and Tosca Lee (DITTO!).

Lynne Gentry
Editing fiction and non-fiction is completely different and oddly, I love both. But there is something about fiction that makes you feel more creatively involved. I’m so fortunate to have worked with such gracious authors who allow me to feel a part of a team with them as we work together to make the book the best we possibly can. It feels like a true collaboration in some ways. It’s very important to me to develop strong relationships with open communication between me as an editor, and the author as the creator. I honestly love my authors as people (there’s no better way to get to know someone than in Track Changes Notes in the rough MS!) and we cross that imaginary line to become Facebook friends and see insight into our lives away from the written word.
By Stephanie Lansem

Stephanie Landsem
My job doesn’t end with line editing a manuscript. I make it a personal mission to always do the best thing for my author’s books—no matter what—and to get the book in as many hands as I possibly can. I will ask the tough questions to my peers and brainstorm creative ways to market or spread the word or find possible endorsers. Honestly, if you see someone holding a book over her head on the corner begging you to read it because it will change your life—that just might be me!

And the coolest part about all of this? Is that I can’t believe this is my job. It never feels like work. It feels like an honor and a gift to work with passionate and talented people who create amazing stories. How lucky is that?
By Kara Isaac

Kara Isaac
I also work to acquiring new talent and spend many hours poring over hopeful book proposals. As you guys know, it’s a tough market right now—especially for debut fiction. Nowadays, a social media platform is crucial. If you have any connection for a possible endorsement, it’s a game-changer for potential authors. A suggestion? Get the endorsement as soon as possible, perhaps even before submitting the proposal. A great blurb from a well-known name makes a huge difference. I know this is tough, and it means taking that first step out of being shy, and asking for help from someone who has already walked this path and had success. Hopefully one day you will be able to pay it forward to someone too! I also look for something unique in a potential book—a fresh plot, strong compelling voice, and unique storyline.

I know that it can seem that my job entails saying no quite a bit for you potential hopeful writers. I
By Beth Vogt
wish I could say yes more often. Believe me. But when writing a letter of rejection, I do try to take the time to write personal comments and suggestions to give the author feedback. Most publishing houses have a very specific list we are shopping for. Often times, I may read a proposal that is interesting and well-written, but not a good fit for our current list. And it’s helpful to remember that just because your proposal may not be right for my imprint, does not mean that your book—your idea—your writing—isn’t good! Do not get discouraged.
Beth Vogt

Another key tip and I say this to all fiction writers across the board: networking is a must. Attend conferences. Make friends. (I know introverts, I know, this is hard! But it’s necessary!) Support one another. Create a group of special readers you respect to read your manuscript before you submit it so they can weigh in with their thoughts and suggestions. You’ll have a great group of support, which is invaluable, but you’ll also end up with a better book!

It’s such an honor to spend the day with you all.
If you leave a question, I will send fifteen questioners, one of Howard’s fiction books as a giveaway (as long as you make sure to tell a friend if you like the book!) I will also be choosing one lucky Seekervillager to win a special surprise fiction package giveaway so please introduce yourself--question or not!
 Winners announced in the Weekend Edition.

Day 20 of our Birthday Bash!


  1. Haha! I had to delete my comment because... TYPOS. See... I need a comment editor, too.

    Anyway, what I was saying was:

    Hi Katherine! *waving with both hands from Oregon*
    Katherine is such a great editor. I had a wonderful time working with her and Beth on my Austen Takes the South series. They're SO professional... and FAST. If I sent off a desperate e-mail at 3AM, I'd wake up to an answer. I loved that. I had to put them in the acknowledgements of each of my three books because they really deserved so much credit for the finished product. :)
    So great to see the Howard Books team taking the spotlight in Seekerville!

  2. I was immediately intrigued when I read that publishers have a very specific list of the stories they are shopping for. What factors are involved with determining what is on that list?

    Thanks for sharing your insights about being an editor and the great advice!

  3. Self-publishing has certainly come to the fore, how has this impacted upon you?

  4. I may have just shoved my computer at my husband and yelped, "See, that's Katie!" as if proving the existence of an imaginary friend :) I have had so much fun working with Katie and the Howard team. Close To You is the book it is because of their hard work.

    Don't put me in the draw for anything - I'm very well stocked from when I got to visit Howard after ACFW :) And *ahem* I kind of owe them a book in single digit days.

  5. Hi Katerine! What a great post! I too have been an avid reader from the time I was very small. What a dream job you have! What type of background or training does a person need to become an associate book editor?

    Another question, does Howard Books offer books to bloggers to read and review? I read and review books that I buy and that I have received from publishing houses. I enjoy promoting authors work and while I do not get paid for doing so, I get a great feeling of satisfaction in knowing I may have interested someone else in buying a book. I had to laugh when you said if we see someone waving a book over their head it might be you. Sometimes, if someone is standing close by me in a bookstore, I pick up a book I have read and begin talking it up. Several times I have been successful and the person walks away with the book in hand and purchases it.

    May you all have a blessed day!

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

  6. What a treat to have you in Seekerville, Katherine. We are totally honored.

    How much fiction does Howard release per year.

    A wave to Stephanie, a recent guest in Seekerville and to Kara a friend of Seekerville.

    WOOT! on Kara's sale to Howard!!

  7. Look! Virginia came to visit too! Waving at our in her cave writing friend.

  8. Welcome, Katherine! How wonderful to work in a job that doesn't feel like work. I always wanted a job where I got paid to read. Did you work in another field prior to the book industry? Thanks for fielding our questions.

  9. Katherine, welcome to Seekerville! It's always great to read the insights of an editor. I'm sure once Ruthy joins us, she'll lay out a virtual breakfast feast for us.

    Question(s): What publishings trends affect your decisions when acquiring CBA fiction these days? For instance, at one time everything Amish was "in". What time periods/places are you looking for in historical fiction today?

  10. Katherine, do you have a hard time writing rejection letters? Do you ever give rejected authors leads to other venues they might try if you see a great story, but it just doesn't fit in your lineup?


  11. Hi Katherine, love your enthusiasm for your work! It's wonderful.

    Thanks for being on Seekerville and willing to answer our questions!

    Does Howard publish books set in other countries, like Australia? :) And what sort of fiction are Howard looking for at present?

  12. Hi Katherine,

    Thanks for all the great information about the book market these days.

    Have you always worked as a book editor, or did you do something else before this? If so, would you mind sharing?



  13. Hi Katherine,

    It's so nice to meet you! Thanks for sharing the great advice.

    I attended my first ACFW conference. I was so nervous, I was actually sick. I met a few nice people, and Beth Vogt was one. She took time to talk to me when she could have spent her time to networking with important people. I love her stories, and I'll always appreciate her kindness.

    Do you think Howard will look for more novellas in the future, or will you stick to traditional length novels. (I love the longer stories because I get to know the characters better.)


  14. Hi Katherine,

    I met Beth Vogt at the RWA Literacy signing. What a nice lady! And the covers of her books are lovely. Who wouldn't pick one up off of the store shelf?

    How do you feel about older main characters in your books?

  15. Good Morning Katherine. I love reading in the early morning while my husband is sleeping and then taking a walk. I guess you could say I'm a loner of sorts, but my thoughts flow for me and I have solved a problem or two in my writing as my mind wanders with nature all around me. Your fever and love of books came through in your column this morning. I write non-fictional and fiction. My favorite book as a child was The Wizard of Oz, that shows my age difference from yours. My question for you is: If you could meet and discuss writing with any author dead or alive who would you choose?

    Thanks for taking your precious time to share your editorial career and love of writing with all of us at Seekersville. Have a nice day.

  16. The sun is shining and Seekersville is having another day of celebrating their eighth birthday. Hooray. I hope everybody is enjoying the fun.

  17. Welcome to Seekerville, Katherine! I love the part where you love your job. Isn't that what making a career should be like? Right now, I read and review tons of books for publishing companies, yours included, besides working on my own novels, but my dream when I went to college and graduate school was to work in book publishing. I have a MA in Writing and a BS minor in marketing, but I don't have the experience, so no one looks at me. Any suggestions to get my foot in the door?

  18. Hello Katherine, what a fun post. Green Eggs and Ham was one of my earliest books too. :) When my sisters and I were a little older, my dad read the Chronicles of Narnia to my sister and me each night before bed. My mom modeled reading for us, and I fell in love with the written word as a young girl. :) I love reading your enthusiasm for your job. I'm guessing you are an extrovert . . . ? :)

    My question is: what is the most common thing you find in proposals from prospective writers that causes you to have to say no?

    P.S. If I win, please don't send me a Beth Vogt book; I have them all. :)

  19. Hi, Katherine! It's great to see you here. I love Stephanie Landsem's books! I read and review books on my blog, freelance edit for several authors-fiction and nonfiction, edit dissertations for students, content edit for a small publishing company, and write. What are some difficulties, issues, writers who are also editors might face from your perspective? One thing I've noticed is when I've written something and sent it to someone else to edit for me, I get frustrated because I feel like as an editor, there shouldn't be any mistakes, grammatically speaking. I'm not talking about content or loop holes or anything like that, just typos, wrong word usage, etc. What are some other things I should watch out for? Thanks for your time today and I'll be checking back to read your answers on the questions submitted. Thanks for sharing!

  20. Welcome, Katherine!

    I'm a freelance editor, so I really enjoyed your post on what you do at Howard. If you weren't an editor, what would you be doing? (I'm guessing it would still be related to books!)

    As a reviewer and blogger, I have read a number of great books from Howard. Do you feel that anything will change with your fiction line (and the amount you publish a year) due to the increase of self-publishing?

    Thanks for stopping by, and I look forward to reading your posts throughout the day.


  21. Hello Katherine! THANK YOU for ALL you do for these amazing authors! Does Howard ever host an "open house" for potential authors that they are considering having join the team?

    Have a terrific Tuesday!

  22. Thank you for sharing with us! My sister has always dreamed of becoming an editor so I'm excited to read your posts. Any advice I can relay to her?

  23. The story I am preparing to write during Nano, I am wondering if there is a market for. The heroine is wanting to go to the mission field but the mission board says she must be married. A man comes into her life pretending to be a Christian and they end up engaged, However at the last moment her true love arrives on the scene. She is saved from a horrible marriage at just the right moment.

    Thank you for this post. It helps to know some of what goes on at the publisher.

  24. Welcome to Seekerville, Katherine. Thanks for taking the time from your busy schedule to answer questions.

    What tangible qualities in a well-written story grab you?


  25. hi Katherine
    I enjoyed reading your post. Your love for books really shines through. I've been a voracious reader since, well, forever. As a child, I liked the Little Bear books and, of course, anything Dr. Suess. I'm hoping to pass on a love of reading to my six year old who is just now learning to read. He certainly sees mommy reading a lot on her Kindle. I wonder if he will grow up reading electronically or like the feel of a paper book, hmmmmm...

    What is your favorite fiction genre to read? Your favorite hero type?

    I love hearing the editor side of things. I especially like your comment about if one's work doesn't fit your needs, it doesn't mean the writing is bad. Always good to hear that again. Sometimes the creative ego is fragile... not always, but there are those days...

  26. Glad you stopped by, Katherine. Such great insight into an editor's passion for her job.

    You mentioned looking for unique ideas. Since many writers holed up in our caves don't see as many stories as you do, what plots or character types do you see too much of? I once pitched a story idea including a single mother with a special needs child because I thought to draw on my personal experiences raising my daughter. The editor told me she'd had three proposals that week with the same "unique" quality. Does unique mean rare or rather an emotional twist on the familiar?

    Thanks for giving us an inside glimpse. You've given me a greater appreciation for my editor(s).

  27. Hi Katherine,

    Thank you for your honest and encouraging post (I agree with DebH in appreciating your view that just because a manuscript is rejected doesn't mean it's bad writing/idea)!

    My question: Why do most contests or submission requests accept or ask for the first x chapters or first x amount of words?

    Thanks in advance!


  28. I've read most of these books you mentioned & to get paid to read! Awesome job :)
    Of the authors you mentioned who was the most memorable? Most fun? How about something
    fun you learned about one of them??
    I think I've got to get another Duck Commander book as I have only read their Christmas Story..

  29. Oh, this is marvelous! Katherine, thank you so much for being here today! First, that's a wonderful array of tips for authors, and second, thank you for the generous book drawings. You rock!

    I hope our day is peppered with questions and filled with coffee. Which I'm making for all of us RIGHT NOW.


  30. Wow! So many wonderful questions and comments already! I am working quickly to get to them all! But first let me say how lovely it is to be here and to see some beautiful familiar faces!

    Virginia Carmichael Munoz--So lovely to see you! Working on the Austen
    Takes the South series was so much fun! In fact, I plan to give away a copy of each of these excellent fiction stories. All three are clever and great reads. Highly recommend if you are looking for a fun way to escape.

    Kara! Oh sweet Kara! HI!!! Kara is mentioned above and lives in New Zealand and we are FAR from imaginary friends. She's an incredible writer with laugh out loud dialogue that I guarantee will make you laugh at loud. Meeting her after getting to know her through the various edits and track changes was a dream come true for me. I felt like a giddy school girl, and days like that are why I just love what I do. It's so fun!

    I can't wait to answer and address all of your questions. Be a bit patient with me, I need to get in the groove and have my morning Coke Zero :)


    First off, let me just say that I LOVE Howard authors -- from Beth Vogt to Deb Raney to Karen Kingsbury -- you guys publish GREAT fiction!! I have not yet read Lynne Gentry, Stephanie Lansem or Kara Isaac (waving at Kara, who is one of my favorite people from my past), but after Lynne was on Seekerville last month and I've seen Kara's cover, I'm sooooo there!!

    Excellent advice all the way around, especially "networking," not only for its good business sense but because writing is a lonely career where most of the people you hang with are fictional, so it's a true blessing to connect, pray, and encourage with others of our ilk and faith.

    Thanks for coming to Seekerville to make our birthday celebration ALL the better.


  32. Oh, man, I just read all of these questions....

    Great variety of info-packed stuff.

    I'm going back to revisions and will resurface, ready to see the answers. I love tips that help us be better authors and better businesswomen! And businessmen! :)

  33. I am an avid reader and am glad to meet you here! I admire your enthusiasm and am wondering if you are always enthused?? I think you have an exciting job! I can't wait to read Beth's newest.

  34. Welcome, Katherine! I'm also a avid reader, and so is my 89 year old mother. Basically anything I read, she reads. Sometimes she'll even read suspense! I had a job where I was paid to read - I did phone sales for a Canadian distributor of family values books. I'd still be there if circumstances hadn't changed. Now I work for free books....reviewing for them. Do you have a program for reviewers? It's great to have you here, and I enjoyed your post

  35. Welcome, Katherine! It's always a fun day when we have an editor as our Seekerville guest and to get your insider tips into the publishing world! Thanks for your generosity in giving of your time to answer everyone's questions today!

  36. Hi Katherine, what an awesome post!! I’m a huge fan of Howard’s fiction line. Every year they publish more and more gems!!

    Would you say that there is more of a market for historical or contemporary romance at the moment? I’ve heard some conflicting information about that, and would love to hear your take on it!

  37. Hi, Katie!
    How fun to see you here at Seekerville! I love our "Track Changes" conversations in my manuscripts. You are a superb editor and I'm always thankful for your insights. And I'm so excited for the release of Close to You, Kara's debut novel in 2016.

  38. Hello again Seekers and good morning, finally! I am at my desk and ready to answer your thoughtful questions!

    Hi Heidi Robbins! Yes, publishers look at each calendar year and have a specific list of books they are looking for to fill that list. We have an official list color-coded by season (Spring, Summer, Fall) and we look for specific areas we are light in or areas we are over-crowding the market. This is especially crucial in helping us plan specific release dates to make sure we are optimizing the best times to release books around Holidays, events, etc. We don’t want to release our fiction writers the same week so they compete with one another—those kinds of factors. So as we evaluate our list, we see the holes and places we are needing specific books and stories. So for example, if we acquired a historical fiction book that is releasing next Spring, we may shop for contemporary fiction to fill a different place in the market.

    Good morning Cindy W., I bet we would be friends if we met—avid book readers are my people! I studied English at the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia and received my Bachelor of Arts in English Literature. I took a job editing patient orientation booklets for hospitals when I first came out of school. It was a great job to learn to pay attention to details. But to tell you the truth, the best experience and training has been on the job learning from the brilliant editors I work with who graciously have allowed me to shadow under them and learn the trade. Editing is truly a craft, and the best way to learn is to watch! Yes, Howard publicity uses netgalley and mailings of galleys to various bloggers for reviews and promotions. If you’re interested, I’d be glad to forward your name on to our publicity department. I love that you feel the same way towards bringing others to love and appreciate good books. We are soul sistas my friend!

    More to come!

  39. Good morning Katherine and thank you so much for visiting us in Seekerville and for your helpful advice. Wow, Lot's of great questions already. Mine have already been asked. So please enjoy your day with us.

    Ruthy brought coffee. To go with it, I will offer a nice sideboard of Bagels and cream cheese for a morning treat. There are sweet cream cheeses and veggie cream cheeses. I also set up a lovely tray of fresh fruits. So enjoy.

  40. More Answers! :)
    How much fiction does Howard release per year? Howard releases around 25-30 Fiction Titles a year.

    Did you work in another field prior to the book industry? I did actually. After editing medical patient orientation books, I worked for a local bank in operations and loans. (I used to get in trouble for reading during slow times!) It really is a gift to love what you do, and it’s something I don’t take for granted. So my advice and encouragement is, find what you love, and keep finding a way to do it! Side note, one summer I edited children's math books as a way to make some extra cash in high school. Editing math books is not NEARLY as much fun as editing fiction/non-fiction!

    Hi Barbara Scott! Thank you for the welcome! Yes, we are constantly looking at trends for acquisitions for CBA fiction. We have some incredible Amish authors—Elizabeth Byler Younts and Serena B. Williams *READ THEM PLEASE!* Often times, I will go and take a cruise around Nashville’s local Lifeway to see what is popular and people are wanting to read in terms of Christian fiction. I’m noticing a bit of Old Hollywood revival going on right now. Time slip novels have become more popular. I think, more than anything, we look for a story that has something completely unique and different and stands out from the pack. That certainly was the case for Kara. Her fabulous editor, Beth Adams, knew right away that her hook, a love story taking place on a Tolkien tour guide in New Zealand, would get people to pick up the book right away.

    Hi Blogger Kate—nice name! I try not to get emotional or involve personal feelings when writing a rejection letter, but I also take the time not to be general, which I know isn’t helpful. I know these books are the potential author’s babies. I understand the time and care and heart and soul that go into them. I try to offer my suggestions and any advice I can offer that is helpful. Just because the story may not have a home for Howard, does not mean I don’t want to see it make its way in the universe.

  41. Katie, good morning. You beat me here.
    Thanks so much for coming on.
    I won't add to your question load. :)
    But I will say an editor's skills are so interesting and helpful. I'm amazed when I get editorial notes and they are catching things I completely forgot, threads I dropped, leaps of logic that are outlandish.
    It's a real talent to see the big picture and know what's working and what's not. A good editor is worth his/her weight in gold.

  42. Virginia, that's great to know Katherine was one of your editors!

    Katherine, welcome! I'm so happy to meet you today. I'm still smiling from your comment about and author and editor getting to know each other through track changes! That's so true!! I love how an editor's personality can come out in those comments, love the back and forth. :) It truly is fun.

  43. Thanks for the great answers, Katie!

  44. Thank you, Katherine. Good tips.
    I think I've got the networking part down, after all I'm HERE, but the other part of social media is hard for me. I have found it hard to get "followers." Had a blog but nobody came, am on LinkedIn and post but don't get a lot of hits, am on Facebook and get good buzz but only from people I would know anyway. My next project, aside from the actual writing, is to get a Facebook author page. So I have little trouble making friends, but the platform part is a challenge. I'm not shy about asking for endorsements if the author in question has already said something nice about my work. Usually that's through a contest or a critique I won on this site. Fortunately, I am In It For The Long Haul.
    Like some of the writers who already spoke, I am interested in what historical periods you or your company favor for historical fiction. I'm shopping around an "Oregon Trail" series. I know, I know. But 400,000 people made the trek, and that's a potential 400,000 different stories. My other series is New York City after the First World War and centered on a settlement house in Hell's Kitchen, so there you have it. I don't "write to the market," but I'd love to know what periods your company prefers/buys.
    It is raining in NH today. A cold, dark, drippy autumn rain. We had a killing frost over the weekend. I barely got my plants covered. I hate this. In case you were wondering.
    Kathy Bailey

  45. I also love "Track Changes." My crit partner and I use it as we swap chapters. She's in Arizona and I'm in NH, so we do it all virtually.

  46. Wonderful post, Katie. As someone working on my first novel, I appreciate hearing editors' comments on what they are looking for. I don't usually have time to read every comment, but everyone's questions are so interesting that I want to read them all today.

    My question is this: I know that an author has to be careful not to write something that is too much the same as other books that are out there. So how come there is so much Amish fiction? Isn't there a point where you want to look for something different? And what subjects might be so different that you would be excited to see that topic come across your desk?


  47. Katie, thanks for being with us today. You mentioned one of my favorite authors, Stephanie Landsem! We met at ACFW a few years ago and had coffee together, along with Frank Peretti! Who could forget such a great way to spend a morning!

    You're a UGA grad! How 'bout those DAWGS! Loved going to the games when my daughter was an undergrad there. Are you from GA?

    Thanks for the endorsement tip...and to get the endorsement before submitting the manuscript! Something to remember, for sure.

    Care to share you thoughts on the suspense genre, especially romantic suspense?

    Thanks for the generous gifts you're providing today!

    Everyone's excited about the ACFW conference being held in Nashville next year. Hope to see you there!

  48. Hi again! Back to answer questions—I was just working with Howard’s incredible Editor-in-Chief Ami McConnell on potential book covers for our author Palmer Chinchen’s next book, Carry Me Halfway. Ami’s been instrumental in helping mentor me and taking me under her wing.

    Howard does publish books in other countries, like Australia! We have our own sub-rights contact at Simon & Schuster who sells the rights of our books in different languages. It’s super-fun to see the books we love and publish arrive in different languages! During our sales meetings we hold an international sales meeting, which is so fascinating and interesting to me. I love hearing which of Howard Books are popular in different areas of the world.

    I love hearing the support for ACFW. Beth Adams and Ami McConnell attended for Howard this year. I’m so glad several of you were able to meet Beth Vogt. She’s a rockstar isn’t she? Always gracious, incredibly talent, and smart as can be. Howard publishes both novellas and longer novels. We’ve published several books with author megastar Dee Gist including Tiffany Girl, It Happened at the Fair, and Fair Play. If you are interested in a long epic story to take you away, Dee is excellent.

    Hi Suzanne Baginski! Thank you for such an interesting question. If I could meet and discuss writing with any author dead or alive who would I choose? I would have to say John Steinbeck. East of Eden was one of those books that changed my life, and I’d love to have a quiet conversation with him. I also love to hunt and fish so I think Hemingway and I would have some fun.

  49. Good morning Katie.

    Thanks for the insights of your editing world, and what you'd like to see in an author.

    Question: What's the best way to submit to Howard Books?

    Thanks in advance!

  50. Hi Kelly Bridgewater (&Margaret Douglass’ sister!), I would suggest you still just keep doing what you are doing. Review lots of books, go to networking events, and apply to publishing houses to get your foot in the door. So often it is about meeting the right person at the right time. And not giving up!

    Jeanne T, I am SO NOT an extrovert. Team Introvert all the way! I’m not shy, which is good, but I definitely need to re-charge with alone time. You raise such an interesting question. The most common thing I find in proposals from prospective writers that causes me to say no would be not enough of a social media platform (Collective groan, right?). It’s just so important, especially for debut authors. And my suggestion would be, start networking and making contacts before submitting your proposal. The way the Internet is, it can be relatively easy to contact other strong female voices in the Christian market. And more likely than not, they have felt the same as you at some point and someone was kind enough to blurb or endorse them and so they will be happy to pay it forward. If not, ask someone else! Don’t give up. But if I have a strong blurb already written on a proposal, it gives the debut author a much better chance.

    Hi Sally Shupe! You already have a piece of my heart in that you love Stephanie Landsem. She is a great writer isn’t she? I admire you so much that you also write and edit! I haven’t written in my spare time in a long, long time, but I imagine it is hard to turn off the editor brain and the writer brain! I have to turn the editor brain off when I read for fun. And yes, I read for fun! As often as I can!

    Hi Leslie McKee! If I wasn’t an editor, I would absolutely still want to be doing something book related. I am a professional reader (Ha! As I like to think of myself) and so perhaps I’d like to read books for review. That would be fun! And yes, self-publishing has changed the industry—especially for fiction. We are still seeing many fiction proposals though. I think for writers, being able to self-publish is a great tool. But I also think publishing houses offer a great deal with a professional editing, marketing, publicity, and art design. Plus we are able to make connections within our house of fiction authors. We are currently looking for less debut fiction because it is hard to sell nowadays (because of self-publishing). And the fiction we are considering need to have strong platforms or hooks that make it stand out.

    Caryl Kane, I’m intrigued about this open house idea for potential authors! Do tell me more!

    This is so much fun! Keep the questions coming!

  51. Sandy! I love your post. Yes, that’s true, there sometimes seems to be an oversaturation in the market of certain trends. And Amish fiction sells like hot cakes! In dealing with hot trends in publishing, Howard still tries to find a unique twist. Our Amish writer, Elizabeth Byler Younts was raised Amish as a child and after her parents left the church; she still grew up among her Amish family. We like to find ways to make ourselves stand out.

    “Track Changes” and comments are the best part of the editing experience. It’s like entering a safe world between author and editor to combine forces to make the best work possible. Plus it’s a fun way to get to know each other’s personalities outside of the novel with humor/antidotes. Right Beth Vogt!? I just received an email from her about her next book that she’s painstakingly worked so hard on! Her editor, Beth Adams is a fiction editing genius and I’ve learned so much from watching her. It’s so rewarding when a great story gets made even better when we put our heads together.

    I need to run to take a quick lunch break—I have a sweet darling furbaby, a black pug named Stanley—and he gets awfully grumpy if I don’t come and say hello at lunchtime! Be back in a bit!

  52. Hi Katherine :

    Howard Books publishes what might be the best Annual Sampler books with their new author releases. I'm just dying to know how that is working. Would you recommend that the Seeker authors put out such a Sampler of their Indie books? (I sure would.)

    I also noticed that you have one of my favorite authors: Sandra Byrd. Does Howard Books publish YA and New Adult books? Sandra is one of the best in YA and New Adult.

    BTW: Tosca Lee has a free Kindle book today, "Ismeni: An eShort Prelude to The Legend of Sheba". It's 52 pages long so it is not so short. It's a real novella.

    (If Tosca Lee reads this I just want her to know that every time I see her name in print, I can hear Tosca saying, "Mario, Mario", just before she jumps to her death at the end of the opera. I think Tosca is the most memorable name in romace.)


  53. Katie, how much romance is too much in CBA historical fiction and what is too little? Different publishers seem to have diverse standards. Personally, I lean toward the Julie Lessman model. In some sweet romances, you're lucky if they kiss at the altar. LOL


  54. Back again Seekers. Stanley says hi. Back to some of your questions:

    What tangible qualities in a well-written story grab you? It’s all in a good hook! If I’m drawn in, I won’t want to put a book down. Well-developed characters also are essential. If a writer is able to make me feel a certain way towards their character and evoke some kind of emotion from me, that’s great. I also like to be surprised in plot.

    What is your favorite fiction genre to read? Oh man. I honestly am a book lover. I will read any and everything and find value in it across the genre board. I love time slip fiction. I love a good historical fiction. We published the fantastic Allison Pataki (another Beth Adams find!), and her historical novels are so well-written. I like contemporary fiction with great dialogue (Beth Vogt and Kara Isaac!). I love Beth Vogt’s Destination Wedding Series because I love reading about weddings, falling in love, and exotic locations. My favorite hero type is the reluctant hero, who is flawed, but loveable all the same!

    Why do most contests or submission requests accept or ask for the first x chapters or first x amount of words? I think this is protection for the judges who have to read all of the submissions.

    Of the authors you mentioned who was the most memorable? Most fun? How about something fun you learned about one of them? I love this question. Honestly, I love every single interaction I’ve gotten to have with most of my authors at Howard. Seeing my name specifically shouted out in Virginia’s book was a moment I will never forget. I’ve loved being a part of Lynne Gentry’s journey. I’ve watched her grow through The Carthage Chronicles series and seen her writing improve with each book. And it’s was a great moment for her to receive a Romantic Times Top Pick for her final book in the trilogy. She also hosted a Facebook Book Launch for Return to Exile and that was so fun to participate in. She had an entire team interacting with her fans. I loved it. It's gratifying when other people start noticing what you’ve believed all along!

    I adore reading Stephanie Landsem and am her ultimate Fan-Girl. I was brainstorming with her about her Seekerville post I recently have worked on two non-fiction titles, Sky Lantern by Matt Mikalatos and Angel in Aisle 3 by Kevin West with John Frederick Edwards and both books were so enjoyable to work on—largely because of the kindness of the authors.
    Am I always enthused? About books, I think I’m a bit of a nerd about it, but yes. I have a passion for it. I always have. And I think I always will. Always enthused in all areas of life? No way! Hehe.

    Would you say that there is more of a market for historical or contemporary romance at the moment? I think the best thing is a combination time-slip! At least, for my personal reading, that’s what has interested me.

  55. Hi Katie, Great article. So, if a person can't attend the AFCW. because they teach school, what would be a great second choice for a summer conference?
    I think we have all the Duck Dynasty books so if I win please send me something else. I must admit that I've some how missed your other Christian writers. I'll have to check them out.

  56. Good afternoon, Katie! Thanks so much for your time here, and so many questions I would ask have already been answered. But here's another -- where does legal suspense fit into the market right now? When I graduated with a B.A. in English Literature, my dream job was editor, just like you. But even as I detoured into law school, the love of writing didn't wane. (BTW, law school is really just reading and writing. Each case we studied was a short story, and then we analyzed it in writing. All but one final exam was essay. Yippee yahoo! Seriously.) I'm going to be published in romantic suspense, which is fun to write. But legal suspense is still a huge draw for me. Thoughts? Thanks for your time here, and thanks for the giveaways!

  57. Hi Kaybee and high five! Yes, you are here! You are being a champion for your craft. Don’t give up! It’s frustrating I know for hopeful authors to submit their work, only to be told they need a platform. And like you said, it’s HARD to build a platform. Sometimes it just is luck, but you have to put yourself in that position by working on it as often as you can—even if the results are slow. Keep connecting to others. Keep creating ways to interact with readers. Gain a loyal base who will help champion your writing with you. Howard doesn’t publish a specific historical period in terms of fiction, but I do think the Oregon Trail is a hot button right now and you should explore that. Simon & Schuster just published a non-fiction popular book on it, so that tells me it’s a topic people have interest in. And as you said, the history is rich in ways to create strong narrative stories. I’m sorry it’s a rainy, cold day in NH! Nashville is having a beautiful crisp fall day. I find I like to read more when it’s dark and cold outside. I love hunkering up with a good book or manuscript to edit on days like that.

    What's the best way to submit to Howard Books? We do not accept unsolicited proposals, so all submissions must come through an agent.

    Vince, thank you for the compliment about the Howard Annual Fiction Sampler! Funny you should mention it because we are working today on our 2016 Summer Annual Fiction Sampler. It’s such a great idea to bring all of our talented authors together to cross promote and give a sample to readers so they can be exposed to new writers. And yes, absolutely, the Seeker authors could and should try to produce a Sampler of their Indie books. I adore Sandra Byrd as well. We published a series of Tudor books with her and historical fiction. She’s fantastic at creating a story! Howard does not publish YA or children’s books. We are exploring the New Adult genre (which personally, I love!). I would love to see more of the New Adult submissions for the Christian marketplace. I think there’s a great felt need for in the CBA. We are publishing Sadie Robertson’s first fiction book next year, which I think is a brilliant idea.

    And YES, thank you for the Tosca Lee love! And go download "Ismeni: An eShort Prelude to The Legend of Sheba”! You will not be disappointed. Tosca is so fabulous because of the research and dedication she brings to her books. Iscariot, her biblical novel about Judas, shocked and surprised me as she showed an entirely different perspective of Jesus’ betrayer. I found myself challenged and conflicted on how I felt towards Judas and his relationship with Jesus. It’s a must-read!

    Barbara Scott, this issue of romance can be tricky when dealing with the CBA. My rule of thumb is if it’s questionable, take it out. We are fortunate to have Chris Long, a CBA Key Accounts Manager who knows if the CBA will take certain content and phrases, so I often go to him if I am uncertain. I think sweet affection and romances are acceptable. But nothing too suggestive or offensive.

    Debby Giusti—Yes, GO DAWGS! I was born in Marietta, Georgia. My family moved to Tennessee when I started high school. I went back for school. Athens is such a beautiful city. So much music, art, and culture!
    I love reading a good suspense novel! I admit, suspense is the first genre I run towards, but I love Glenn Meade, one of our incredible suspense authors. He knows how to create such brilliant plots and tension that make it impossible to put the book down. Meghan Carver, I too love a good legal thriller too. Could you do romantic legal suspense? That’s an interesting idea!

    I cannot wait for ACFW in Nashville next year. If any of you all come, please make a plan to say hi!

    Another great conference is the Christian Writers Conference at Mount Hermon. http://writers.mounthermon.org/

  58. Great to see you at Seekerville, Katherine! I enjoyed meeting Beth from Howard at ACFW. Do Howard editors attend other conferences?

  59. Katie, what a fun job you have. Reading! Your personality sounds just right for helping authors create a better book. Your passion to truly be part of a team to publish the best possible book comes through in your post. Very encouraging!

    Question: What makes a "unique storyline" Howard Books would be interested in for the inspirational romance market? (Tough question, I know, but that is the one that popped into my mind.)

    Thank you for sharing your expertise with us today and for your generous book giveaway!

  60. Katie, definitely can't forget the romance! :-) See you at ACFW next year.

  61. HI Katie,
    Thanks for the great post.
    Is there a hero or heroine that stands out as your favorite?

  62. I love reading all the questions and answers. Katie thank you so much for talking with us today! We appreciate it sooooooooooooooo much.

  63. "there’s no better way to get to know someone than in Track Changes Notes in the rough MS!"

    This is SO true! lol

    Chiming in late today, but am so excited that Katie spent the day in Seekerville. I think I've got just enough time to read through the comments before I'm off and running again. :)

  64. BARBARA SCOTT SAID: "Personally, I lean toward the Julie Lessman model. In some sweet romances, you're lucky if they kiss at the altar. LOL"

    BARBARA!!! I knew I liked you, girl, because we obviously have a lot in common in the romance-preference realm! ;) I read a book once where the hero finally kissed the heroine on the last page in front of seven people after he proposed. It was a sweet story, but when we're up against a society where 50 Shades of Gray is so widely accepted and applauded, sometimes you have to fight fire with fire. And since God created romantic "fire" and passion as so beautifully illustrated in the the best romance novel of them all, Song of Solomon, I lean toward writing books with more realistic sexual tension that teaches young women (and older) how to apply God's precepts in their morality. Both are needed in the CBA, in my opinion -- sweet and "salty" -- to hopefully broaden the scope of spiritual influence on a world that desperately needs it.

    Thanks again, my friend, for your sweet comment.


  65. I laughed out loud in recognition of the truth in this: "there’s no better way to get to know someone than in Track Changes Notes in the rough MS!" I can't wait to share that sentence with several writer friends. Your words will bring all of them a big smile today.

    Thanks for sharing from your experience. Now to read comments ...
    Nancy C

  66. Wow, thanks for all the answers, Katie. So much knowledge shared! And tips for a lot of good reading, too :-)

    Nancy C

  67. I love reading about your job.
    What is your biggest pet peeve when editing?

  68. My goodness, Katherine, I just saw you went to UGA! I live 30 minutes from there in heavy Bulldog country. :)

  69. Wow, so many questions and answers today. Thanks so much for taking the time to answer them!

  70. Katherine...I would love to be on the list to review...I do use NetGalley, but really prefer paperback. Thanks!

  71. Hi Katie,

    Thanks for sharing so much information with us. I'm also a UGA graduate and love to cheer for the Dawgs during football season.

    Have a great evening!

  72. Thank you all for such wonderful comments and questions. I've loved spending time here in Seekerville today. I've had a lovely time!

  73. Internet was out all afternoon. :-( I enjoyed reading all your informative answers, Katherine. Thanks so much for spending today in Seekerville!


  74. Katherine, thank you for all of the editor's insight! My question is: what do you like to see on the first page of a MS? What really grabs your attention?

  75. Katherine, Go Dawgs! I'm a fellow UGA alumni. My questions are basically a recap of everyone else's. What turns you off to a story as an editor (i.e, writing devices that are overdone)? And to the flip and positive side of that, what do you appreciate in the manuscripts you receive? What writing craft books do you recommend? What are your three most recommended inspirational novels? Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to help those of us trying to become better writers and become traditionally published.

  76. I can imagine the answers already but let's hear them anyway :-)~ What's the best and worst part about your job? Oh, and how did you first get your job?

    Wonderful "talking" with an editor...I've read many author interview so it's certainly different reading an editors. Get a different perspective on all the behind-the-scenes stuff that goes into all these great books! Thanks for sharing today on Seekerville, enjoyed reading today's post!


  77. Hi again Seekers! A few more answers:

    What is your biggest pet peeve when editing? Oh man, I think when authors try to over-write and the prose feels forced and choppy. That's not fun. Or if word choice is lazy. There are so many better ways to say something was "amazing."

    What do I like to see on the first page of a MS? I'd say strong insight into the character on the first page is what draws me in. If a manuscript opens with that strong character, I am usually hooked. I like to think of it as meeting someone for the first time. When we meet a stranger, what makes an impact? The visuals of their clothing and appearance and way that they smile or shook your hand? Their mannerisms? How they treated you or lead the conversation? Same thing applies in when the reader is first introduced to the character. What kind of impression is he or she making?

    I love seeing all of the Bulldog fans on here! UGA! Randomly, did any of you UGA Seekers have Charles Doyle as a professor? Charlie and I have remained best friends since I've graduated school. It's by far, one of my favorite friendships I've maintained throughout my life. We email as often as we can, on a daily basis (although we've both been slacking lately). He's a gem of an English profession and person. What turns me off to a story? Confusion and lack of clarity! It can be frustrating to try to piece together a story that's muddled. Outlining definitely helps with that problem. Having a trusted group of readers is also helpful to bring attention to plot problems, confusion, and inconsistencies you as the writer may overlook. It helps to have fresh eyes read the story.

    There is so much I appreciate in the manuscripts I receive. I truly do appreciate the effort and work it takes an author to pour their heart on paper. I know the time, energy, love, passion, and effort that goes into every single page. And I have a respect for that.

    For writing craft books: I love On Writing by Stephen King; The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman; Writing Tools by Roy Peter Clark.

    My three most recommended inspirational novels? I plead the fifth. I simply cannot choose three. And I'm being completely honest when I say any of Howard's fiction authors make the list for me.

    The best part of my job? Well, by now you guys must know that! I get to read! A lot! And interact with amazing people. The worst part of my job? It hurts when I cannot make a book as successful as I'd like. I know authors stress about platforms and marketing and getting the word out for their books, but as an editor, I feel the same way. It's hard to not have control over the success of a book, especially when you believe in the author and the work. But that's also part of the magic of book publishing. There is no one secret. Sometimes a story becomes popular just because various things fall into place. And when that happens, it's wonderful, but there isn't a step-by-step recipe to make that happen every time. So all I can do is give each book my all and hope that one day, it'll have an impact on a reader.

    Interestingly, it was by complete fate and God's hand that I got a job with Howard Books. Our VP Publisher lives in the same condominium complex as me and we've been friends for years. He always joked that I should come work for him because I always (ALWAYS) had my nose in a book whenever he saw me. When the stars aligned and my banking career was coming to an end, he scooped me up and the rest is history! So keep dreaming. Keep pursing your paths. It all works out in the end exactly the way it is supposed to.

  78. Hello my name is, Deanne Patterson .Katherine Sandell, welcome it is a true pleasure to have you here today. Your job sounds fascinating. I am sure it is fun to work with up and coming and established authors. What are the hot types of books you are looking for on the list right now ? How often after submitting a manuscript that gets rejected and then a person rewrites and rewrites and resubmits does a book get accepted for publication ? Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions and chat with us : )

    Deanne Patterson

  79. Thank you, Katherine and Vince (you know your opera!) for the shout-outs! Sending love--

  80. Hi Katherine - thanks for all the great information and I would love to be included in the drawings.

  81. "New Adult" is something I'd love to see more of!

    I don't know if you're still taking questions, but I'm a Library & Information Science student and one of the big buzz/trends I keep hearing about is the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign --Is featuring more ethnically diverse characters in CBA fiction something that you can see for the future in CBA?

  82. Katherine, I would love to have you pass my name on to your publicity department to possibly be a book reviewer for Howard Books. Thank you so much. My email address is below.

    Cindy W.
    countrybear52 AT yahoo DOT com

  83. Hi Katherine,

    When I commented earlier I also wondered if you had a book reviewer program for bloggers. Cindy had already asked about that, so I asked something else. Would you also be willing to pass my name on to your publicity department to possibly be a book reviewer for Howard Books?

    Thank you!

    Becky I.

  84. Hi Katherine,
    I'm seeing this post a day late, but there are so many good things here that I had to chime in...I hope you see it! First, I am a huge fan of Howard Books and so many of your authors, especially Stephanie Landsem and Sandra Byrd (both of whom I met through the Historical Novel Society). Second, I was thrilled to see that Howard will be publishing Kara Isaac's book! I recognized the unique story line instantly--I judged it in a contest a year or two ago and absolutely fell in love with it. I can't wait to read the whole thing! Third, "How 'bout them dawgs!" I went to UGA for my first two years of college. It was a while ago, so we wouldn't have had the same professors, but several of the English lit courses I took there are still vibrant in my mind. Many thanks for spending time at the Seekerville blog. I learned so much from you today!

  85. Hi Katharine,
    I'm a lurker just beginning to learn that becoming an author is a whole lot more difficult than writing a good story, so I really appreciate all of the things that I learn on Seekerville.
    My question is about self publishing. Will a publishing house look at a book after it has been self published or is self publishing (kindle type) sort of a death sentence in the eyes of a publishing house? Thanks

  86. Hi Seekerville
    This question is not directed towards Katherine, but I still had to ask. My newsletter is always dated a day past when the bulk of the comments are added to a post. Is this because it originates in a different time zone? (I'm in Central)Today's newsletter is dated Oct 21 1:22 AM. Or is it because the server sends in small batches? Sometimes my blog newsletter takes a full day to send.
    I was just wondering because I always seem to be the late comer.
    By the way- thank you so much for this newsletter. I look forward to it every morning after my prayer time.

  87. Hi Seekerville and Kate! Thanks for this great post. I have two questions:

    1. If you really love a book proposed to you, but it doesn't fall under the "chosen lists", what happens? Will you include a suggestion for the author as to how to get it published? Or will you rally for it and still get it published?

    2. I buy most of my Christian books online, because I just can't find a bookstore that carries a large quantity. (I actually made it a mission to document if there are Christian books available whenever I step into a bookstore.) How does a publishing house like Howard gets their books in bookstores? And specifically local secular (not Lifeway) bookstores?

    Also, love Barbara Fox's question!

    Many thanks!

  88. O, I forgot to introduce myself. I'm Annie and I'm a blogger/reviewer on my blog Just Commonly (http://justcommonly.blogspot.com). I love books and is a widely known book nerd amongst my family and friends. I'm not a writer though, but I love to encourage and spread the word of authors and books I've enjoyed. Thanks!

  89. I hope I can phrase this question right.. Is there an author you have met that you were blown away by their personality? Like you weren't expecting them to have that type of personality? HOpefully that makes sense...

  90. Hi, Katherine,

    I'm intrigued by the writing/publishing process, so this was great for me to read. When I was young, I thought I might be a writer, because I was such a reader, but I found out how hard it is to do it well. So for now I am a reader & reviewer (www.bookkisses.blogspot.com) and we'll see what happens in the very distant future. Does the "list" of things that Howard books is looking for change with time, or is it pretty well set?

  91. Hi Katherine,

    Thanks for such an awesome post! I have 2 questions:

    1) What does Howard look for in nonfiction books?
    2) What path did you take to arrive at your position at Howard?


  92. Hello,

    I was curious how you track trends in publishing. Interviews, data, do you use surveys? Just wondering.
    Becky B.

  93. I didn't read all the posts, so maybe someone asked, but are there story lines that you see all the time that you'd rather not see again or ones that you wished you saw more often?

  94. Oh, dear, I'm coming late to this post. My question relates to the fact that I saw several Biblical Fiction writers in the list - Stephanie Landsem, Tosca Lee, Rebecca Kanner. I've completed my first book, a Biblical fiction. I had thought publishers tried to avoid signing writers whose readers might overlap. Is this working well for Howard Books and for these writers?

  95. Hi, Katherine!! Am wondering what qualifications one must have to secure a job such as yours?? I always enjoy reading posts by editors, while I'm not a writer - I love promoting Christian writing and it's authors in any way I can: reading, reviewing, online promo, giving books as gifts, attending book signings, requesting libraries order Christian books, etc..

    Please enter my name in the giveaway drawings!!

  96. Hello Katherine! I know I'm a few days late to this post, but taking into account your unique position in the book publishing industry, I'm dying to know: what trends in Christian fiction do you see coming to the fore in the next few years? P.S. I'm crazy jealous of your job! :-)

  97. Hello Katherine! I know I'm a few days late to this post, but taking into account your unique position in the book publishing industry, I'm dying to know: what trends in Christian fiction do you see coming to the fore in the next few years? P.S. I'm crazy jealous of your job! :-)