With a publishing industry that is ever in flux, it can be hard for an aspiring author to figure out what information is relevant and what she needs to do to be successful. Recognizing this, literary agent Andrea Hurst and writer/blogger Cherise Hensley present a series of weekly interviews with publishing industry specialists. The AUTHORNOMICS Series features literary agents, editors, authors, marketing experts and more talking about their opinions on the publishing industry, writing, and what a writer needs to know.
AUTHORNOMICS Interview with Lynn Price
Since 2003, Behler Publications has been publishing best selling and critically acclaimed memoir/nonfiction about everyday people who end up doing extraordinary things due to a pivotal event that alters their perspective about life. Acquisitions Director Lynn Price looks for books where readers say, “I’m a better/more thoughtful/smarter person for having read this book.”
Bestsellers include Jan’s Story, by CBS journalist Barry Petersen, Finding Dad by Emmy Awarding winning and Better Connecticut TV host Kara Sundlun, Fancy Feet, by PNWA attendee Heidi Cave, and You Let Some GIRL Beat You?: The Story of Ann Meyers Drysdale.
In between her editing duties, Lynn is the irreverent voice of the Behler Blog, and employs two unreliable rescue beagles to serve as her secretaries.
How did you first get into book publishing as a career choice? What advice do you have for someone looking into this career path?
The short answer is that we were insane and looking to see how far we could go before our collective heads blew up. The longer answer is that I was publishing a novel through a now-well-known author mill publisher. I was grousing to my husband about how I could do a better job than these yahoos. He looked at me…and I looked at him…and asked, “Oh dear, are you thinking what I’m thinking?” Seemed he was, and Behler Publications was born…so named after one of my main characters, Erik Behler. Without him and that novel, none of this would have happened. What advice would I give? That’s easy: Get thee to an experienced mentor who’s well-established in the industry; raise a ton of money…and I do mean a ton; be very clear about your company’s vision and what genre you want to publish; understand that genre’s marketplace; get excellent distribution. It’s vital to know what you’re doing because you carry the literary futures of your authors, and it’s criminal to take their work and screw it up by not properly editing, marketing, promoting, and distributing their works. Being a publisher isn’t for the faint of heart.
Your company, Behler Publications, focuses primarily on memoir and biography. What is it about these genres that make them such fascinating reads?
I’m a sociology major from ‘way back, so I’ve always loved stories about what the common person does with uncommon circumstances. Life can drop some pretty dramatic events in our laps, and we can either let them rule us, or we can transcend our experiences and come out much more thoughtful, wonderful people. I draw so much inspiration from our authors and the incredible journeys they’ve traveled. Very humbling…and it’s an honor to be a part of their lives, if only in a literary sense.
Behler Publications is a member of Consortium Book Sales and Distribution. Can you tell us a little more about that relationship and how it has benefitted the company?
Love, love, love Consortium to pieces. They have allowed our footprint to grow ten-fold through their in-house sellers and regional sales teams. Each season, we have a marketing meeting that consists of about twelve Consortium folks – marketing, promotion, VP’s, catalog, etc. This is where we introduce each new upcoming title. We discuss cover art, the title, the hot points that make each book a “gotta have it.” They ask tough questions that really make me consider the marketability and size of audience of each title. It’s helped me a great deal with new submissions because I look at each new project with the inevitable questions I know Consortium will ask. Additionally, they have resources that aren’t available to the un-repped publisher. I’ve gotten some of our authors into exclusive conferences where they can meet and greet with the booksellers in a given territory – thank you very much, regional teams! It’s not uncommon to get an email from someone at Consortium saying they read an article and instantly thought of one of our books and I should send so-and-so a copy of the book. Beyond all that, they’ve gotten our books into bookstores all around the country – and that’s not an easy task, given the limited shelf space of most stores these days.
What is the number one thing you look for in a good memoir submission?
The subject matter comes first. I’m always looking for “the twist.” What I mean by that is, say, the medical memoirs are a dime a dozen, but if your topic covers something that few have written about, you’ll get my attention. For example, one of our new releases is A Chick in the Cockpit by Erika Armstrong. I fell in love with this story because here you have this powerful woman whose single-minded determination has her sitting in the captain’s seat of the big gun jets. But that same single-minded determination was also her undoing. It’s those polar opposites that make me sit up and take notice because it’s something that can happen to anyone. The second thing I look for is the quality of writing. You’ve got to know what you’re doing! Lastly, I look at author platform. I know it’s a dirty word, but for memoir, a strong platform is vital. You can have a great story, but if no one knows you, then it’s awfully hard to launch you in this media-driven world.
What are some of the biggest mistakes you see memoir writers make?
Far and away, most authors don’t do any research about their competition. They sit down and bang out their story, never knowing if the subject matter is highly impacted because they haven’t read any books in their topic. This would be the cancer stories, aging, divorce, addiction, death…the bookshelves are loaded with them. This is because authors don’t take the time to learn about the industry they want to be a part of. It’s frustrating because the Internet is bursting with writers sites and forums that are geared toward educating the new writer.
You are also the author of The Writer’s Essential Toolbox, winner of the 2010 USA Book News Literary Award. What prompted you to write this book?
I used to do a ton of writer’s conferences, and gave a lot of seminars about the tips and pitfalls of sitting on my side of the desk. I constantly had authors asking me why I didn’t write a book about these seminars, so I finally sat down and did it.
What qualifies a book to be included in Behler’s Get It Write Series? Are there plans to add more titles soon?
I would LOVE to have more books in this series. These are more like research books for the writer. For example, David Page’s Body Trauma still sells well because many writers are looking for one-stop shopping to cover medial issues from A to Z. I referred to it many times when I wrote my novel. The Writer’s Guide to the Courtroom: Let’s Quill All the Lawyers by Donna Ballman is a fabulous reference tool for anyone writing courtroom dramas. I would love to see subject matter on law enforcement, medical/fire rescue, really…the possibilities are limitless. The important thing for writers is to get it right. If you blow a medical procedure because you didn’t do any research, then your readers are going to give you the hairy eye. Writers have to over research in order to know what to include and what to leave out…and the Get It Write Series is geared to help with that.
What sort of topics do you cover on your Behler Blog?
Anything that has to do with writing and publishing. The main goal is to help writers be successful, and if there’s a topic I can cover from my side of the desk, then I’ll do it. Of course, I also talk about our fabulous books!
What can you tell us about The Scream Series and how it helps authors navigate the world of publishing?
Well, the Scream Series started as a tongue-in-cheek bit about the frustrating mistakes I see over and over again. After I began thinking about all the common mistakes that make me (and countless other soulless editors) want to mainline Drano, I decided to break it up into a series. The topics I cover are seemingly little things, but they’re also things that will earn a quick rejection letter. Authors should be well-versed in the do’s and don’ts of writing a query letter, and the series was merely an extension of things to avoid.
What’s next for you? With two books already under your belt, do you plan on writing more in the future? Any new author releases to look forward to?
I am currently working on a romantic comedy that has a good commercial appeal. Once I finish it (IF I finish it), I’ll be agent-hunting just like everyone else. As for new authors, YES! We have a wonderful new book coming out titled, FRIGHTFUL: The Incredible Bond Between an Autistic Boy and His Chicken by Kristin Jarvis Adams. It’s about Alex, who was autistic, and had spent twelve years in and out of the hospital. But his fifteenth trip changed everyone’s lives forever, and Alex needed Frightful, his Araucana chicken and best friend, more than ever. With the aid of two iPads and Facetime, Alex communicated with Frightful from his hospital bed and helped doctors understand his lifelong and debilitating pain. I love this story because of the value it places on animal therapy and how it can open the doors of communication for the autistic community. Alex being on the verge of death adds to the drama because they need him to communicate, but he can only really do it through Frightful, his chicken. And Kristin, his mother, served as interpreter. An amazing story with an amazing outcome. Look for it in 2017.
Thanks for interviewing with us, Lynn!
Andrea Hurst has over 25 years experience as a published author, developmental editor for publishers, and skilled literary agent. She works with both major and regional publishing houses, and her client list includes emerging new voices and New York Times best-selling authors. Andrea represents high profile Adult Nonfiction and well crafted fiction. Her clients and their books have appeared on the Oprah Show, Ellen DeGeneres Show, Good Morning America, National Geographic network and in the New York Times.
Cherise Hensley has an M.A. in English from the University of Idaho, where she taught composition courses. She graduated from Whitworth University with a B.A. in English and marketing and also has a copy editing certification from UC San Diego. She has interned with Andrea Hurst Literary Management as well as the Rock & Sling literary journal and has been involved in the production of other print media such as newspapers, magazines, and yearbooks. Cherise is a teacher, an editor, and a writer, who loves discovering new books to distract her from everyday life.