I wear a lot of hats, and it keeps me juggling to remember which one I should be wearing and where I laid it down, LOL! At my age, I should think of retiring, but that’s not going to happen anytime soon. I love what I do too much to quit.
So what do I do? I’m a wife of over 40 years, mom to two awesome grown and married kids, grandmother, horse lover/rider, gardener, writer, publisher, and very recently, an author with a made-for-TV movie. That doesn’t sound like much, does it?
First, my writing: I started in 2005 when the Lord dropped a word into my heart via a visiting pastor who prayed and told me he believed I should be writing and it needed to be published. The idea had never occurred to me before that, even though I was a prolific reader and enjoyed letter writing. Fiction was the furthest thing from my mind. Fast forward a few months (after praying), and I had several magazine articles written and accepted for publication, and an 80,000-word book written. That book released October of 2007 and was the first of 25 in the 11 years since then—historical romance, contemporary, and middle-grade horse novels.
In 2013 I discovered that things were changing at David C Cook. I’d had 6 books release with them, and one more yet to release, when they made the decision to discontinue fiction. They published my final book, but that was it. I was without a home, and a bit shocked, as I loved my time there and had hoped to continue.
But when the Lord closes a door, He often opens a window. We don’t have a lot of time here, but that closed door led to starting a publishing company for other disenfranchised authors who’d lost their home. That was my first thought, then I started realizing many houses were closing their fiction doors. There was excellent fiction being written by debut authors that might never find a home. I expanded my vision, and Mountain Brook Ink (MBI) was born.
A close personal friend, Kimberly Rose Johnson, lost her publishing home a couple of months prior to my starting MBI, when Heartsong closed their doors. She graciously decided to take a chance with me. Now, 4 years later, she has 7 books with MBI and a new contract for three more. We have several authors who took a chance on us that first year, and they’re still with us. We’re so grateful and thankful for God’s blessings along the way.
One thing that stood me in good stead was already having my foot in the publishing door. Romantic Times knew my name from reviewing my books, so we were able to have our authors’ books reviewed. Christian Book Distributors (CBD) carried all my books, so after working with their sales rep for a couple of years, they decided to carry all of MBI’s books. We put our books into Ingram, meaning our books can be purchased at any book store that uses Ingram/Spring Arbor as their distributor, including brick-and-mortar stores and online.
I also have a strong sales background, as that’s what I did in my ‘former’ life “BW”—before writing. I understood the need for a publicist, but I couldn’t afford to hire someone with the know-how to get the books out there. I decided I needed to put out feelers and see if I could find a young, ambitious, go-getter who wanted part-time work and was willing to be trained. The Lord sent me Nikki. I spent the first year training her to understand all things publishing—thankfully, she had already worked promoting authors via social media and building websites and blogs. That was a huge step up. I added the rest, and it’s been fantastic.
Nikki works closely with our authors, adding them to our website, rotating the new releases on our home page, sending out a large number of press releases, sending the books to Romantic Times, Publisher’s Weekly, and Library Journal for possible review. She sets up Facebook release parties, blog tours, guest appearances on a number of blogs, as well as writing training articles, helping authors understand how to set up an author page on Amazon and Bookbub, and emphasizing the importance of a newsletter. We purchase ads on a variety of spots when a new book releases, help our authors build reviews, and so much more. It’s a never-ending journey to discover what works, and we do our best to put those tools in our authors’ hands.
One of our accomplishments that’s brought us a number of new authors and agents is the Lord’s work in connecting me with a Hollywood producer. That was a miracle—the producer had read three of my Love Finds You books. They were making the Love Finds You movies at the time and wanted to expand. That didn’t end up happening, but because she loved my work, she asked me to work on a made-for-TV project where I’d write the book and they’d make the movie. I was given a three-sentence synopsis and Runaway Romance grew from that. She and I brainstormed on the phone a couple of times, and I added an additional thread to the book that didn’t make it into the movie.
As we built a trust relationship over the past three years, she allowed me to pitch an occasional book. So far, they’ve optioned three of my other books (one is in development and should be filming this summer) and two by my authors, Kimberly Rose Johnson and Angela Ruth Strong. We’re praying those come to the screen, as well.
Yes, I wear many hats—we hire a graphic designer, but I give input on covers. I work directly with our authors—training/coaching, answering questions. I do a lot of editing and proofreading, troubleshoot, go to conferences, acquire new fiction, upload books to online vendors...and so much more. It’s a lot of work, but we’re putting out exceptional fiction, which is a reward all its own.
We’ve had several of our books final or win awards, and our little company has been represented at four different west coast writer’s conferences, as well as gaining visibility with several agencies. One agent made the comment that we’re the best small press available to authors today. I honestly don’t know if that’s true, but it was a kind thing to say—I’m guessing there are other small presses that are just as good or better, and possibly this agent hasn’t come in contact with them yet.
So, I’d love to know—have you ever wanted to write a novel? Are you writing one now? Do you have one finished—or maybe two or three, and don’t know what to do with them? Do you have a plan worked out, or are you hoping something will ‘just happen?’ Trust me, that’s not likely.
The best advice I can give you is educate yourself. Go to writer’s conferences. Get involved in a strong critique group. Don’t simply hope. Work. Study. Show yourself a workman who need not be ashamed. Hone your craft. Find ways to make it shine. Purchase a Christian Writer’s Market Guide if you’re writing for the Christian market, and study it. Start small. Submit to magazines or online publications first and grow your resume. Get a social media presence going, especially a newsletter, as that’s critical to landing a contract. And most of all, write a good story—one that makes your heart sing, and one you know the Lord has given you to write, and you won’t go wrong.
Miralee is offering a signed print copy of Runaway Romance to one winner today! Please let us know in the comments if you'd like to be entered (U.S. entrants only for this giveaway).
Author Bio: Miralee Ferrell is a best-selling, award-winning author of Christian fiction with 21 books in both historical and contemporary in print. She’s a certified lay counselor as well as the publisher at Mountain Brook Ink. She loves country living in the Pacific NW with her husband Allen, her two dogs, two cats, and eleven chickens.
You can find out more about Miralee at www.miraleeferrell.com
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