Bonnie S. Calhoun
the Founder and Publisher of Christian Fiction Online
Magazine . She is also the Owner and Director of the Christian
Fiction Blog Alliance which is the parent organization for
Introducing Barbara Scott and Abingdon Press
Today I welcome Barbara Scott to our magazine. As the Senior Acquisitions Editor for Fiction, Barb has consented to tell us about her great publishing house and what she does there. Take it away Barb!
Thank you for giving me a forum to discuss our publishing house.
To our knowledge, Abingdon Press is the first mainline denominational publishing house to offer fiction that will appeal to a broad Christian audience. When we surveyed United Methodist church members, we discovered that 59% of mainline congregations have book reading groups and 14% of our congregations have fiction-only book reading groups. We realized that we could reach those groups with inspiring stories of God’s grace and love by launching a fiction line.
One distinctive of our fiction is that our authors will explore the gray areas of life—those situations that all of us may face…situations that may have no clear-cut solutions. Rather than evangelize the reader, we want to engage their hearts and minds in a dialogue about an authentic faith in Jesus Christ, without preaching at them or pounding them over the head with doctrine or trying to convert them by the end of the book. The novels will illuminate the human condition and the expression of God’s love and grace through the genres of biblical fiction, mystery and suspense, romance (contemporary and historical), history, and inspiring stories of people interacting with characters of other religious faiths.
Abingdon Press fiction will take Wesley’s “middle way” to build forbearance and mutual understanding in the church between conservatives, moderates, and more progressive Christians, initiating conversations on everything from social justice to the quirky and funny stories of everyday life. Like John Wesley, the United Methodist church (our owner) is both evangelical and progressive.
And we reflect that progressive attitude in our publicity and marketing plan that looks like a schedule for the invasion of Normandy. It begins with publicity. Space ads appear in Publishers Weekly, along with the release of a fiction catalog and bound fiction sampler, which will be used by sales reps at major conventions (including library conventions) reading groups, reviewers, etc.
Advanced reader copies are given to key accounts (buyers), handed out at conventions, go out in mailings, used for blog tours, reviewers, etc. More trade ads appear: Christian Retailing, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Ingram Advance, and Ads also appear in places like the ICRS convention--the International Christian Retailing Show. We’re contacting reading groups in the United Methodist Church and through other means.
We have a broad distribution plan, which would include discount stores like WalMart, but they typically will not pick up a fiction book until it’s been successful in other channels. Or they know the author. Sell-in numbers can be big, but if the novel doesn’t sell through in the chain’s small window of time, returns can be just as big. So stores like WalMart are a mixed blessing in the current economic circumstances. Let’s all pray for bestsellers!
There’s lots more, including getting books into the hands of influencers, websites, downloadable discussion guides, author interviews, and the authors’ own PR work, which will include book signings and contacting every uncle, aunt, cousin, or kindergarten friend, who will spread the word.
One thing we can say about the current financial times is that we’re all in the same boat. Publishing sales are down significantly, but nonfiction has taken the biggest hit. Fiction in the general markets has slipped, but not as badly as nonfiction. I guess we all want to escape into a good story. However, Christian bookstores are really feeling the pinch. Do your local Christian bookstore a favor and go buy a book. Most stores are carrying less inventory, so if you’ve heard of a book you’d like to read, ask them to order it for you.
I could mention a lot more, but since I’m just the acquisitions editor, marketing, publicity, and sales people engage in activities that I never hear about.
As the acquisitions editor part of my job is filling lists. Although some editors are responsible for filling three or four lists a year—Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall—or some combination thereof, so they’re always on the hunt. Since we’re a small staff, we’ve decided two—Spring and Fall—are all we can handle right now. This Spring, I hit it hard looking for Fall 2010, and beginning in July at ICRS through September, I am acquiring for Spring 2011.
Another area of mine is editing. The schedule for editing is daunting, from macro edits (In the editorial process, a macro edit is the first step. I read the manuscript and look at the “macro” issues to suggest changes in character (motivation, inconsistency), plot, pacing, etc.—the big stuff.) to substantive (content) edits and then to checking the copyeditor’s changes.
Oh, and I’m responsible for generating contracts, making sure authors get paid, and acting as the liaison with the designers on covers. Plus making suggestions for trade ads and giving input on marketing plans. Not every editor gets involved in all aspects, but sitting on a small team, I’m involved at many stages. In between all that, the author and I are communicating on a regular basis, and I’m fielding any questions that might arise during a rewrite.
Abingdon Press Fiction team: Our Abingdon Press fiction team consists of myself, Barbara J. Scott, Sr. Acquisitions Editor for Fiction; Paul Franklyn, Executive Director of New Business Development; Susan Salley, Publisher for New Ventures; Tammy Gaines, Finance Director; Mark Yeh, Sales Director; Eddy Thornhill, Business & Marketing Manager; Peggy Shearon, Publicity and Assistant Marketing Manager; Dick Malone, Cokesbury; Rebecca Burgoyne, Editorial Manager, and Jenny Youngman, Development Editor.
Public Relations Firm for Fiction Launch: Wynn-Wynn Media, Jeane Wynn, jeane [at] wynnwynnmedia [dot] com.
Barbara Scott, Sr. Acquisitions Editor for Fiction at Abingdon Press, 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, as well as numerous gift books. She and her husband, Mike, live in the Nashville area with their 5-pound Chihuahua, Riley.