by Elizabeth Lonseth
Rod Morris is a senior editor at Harvest House Publishers in Eugene, Oregon where he acquires and edits fiction and nonfiction. With an impressive resume (28 years with Multnomah Publishers, senior fiction editor at NavPress, mentor and member of the editorial board of Jerry B. Jenkins’s Christian Writers Guild) his workshop on “Dialogue Do’s and Don’ts” seems like a must for any fiction writer at the conference.
Q: It is exciting that the OCCWF is growing rapidly and our conference is bigger each year. Many new authors are not sure how to prepare for their fifteen-minute consultation. Do you have any suggestions? What is the best way to peak the interest of an acquisitions editor?
Rod: Get to know the people you will be talking to. You don’t want to be pitching a book to someone who has no interest in your book. Spend time on each publishing houses’ website, know their requirements. I don’t usually take the time to read a proposal in a fifteen-minute consultation, but having a good proposal is important. It will help you quickly summarize what your book’s about, and if I’m interested, I’ll ask you to send me the proposal. It’s important to have a compelling big idea. Even if it is a topic that a lot has been written about, have a fresh perspective, a unique way to approach the topic.
The most important factor is — who is your audience? Who are you currently talking to? How are they receiving your message? What can you to do expand your audience? Which brings us to the word I do not like to use; platform. An acquisitions editor wants to know if you can market your book. The author is the one responsible for marketing. This can be hard for authors, as many are solitary people.
Q: In novels, there has been a lot of interest in Amish stories the past few years. What will be hot this year?
Rod: Amish is still holding its own. I thought it would have peaked by now, but it is the strongest.
Q: What do you think will be the next popular wave in fiction writing?
Rod: Don’t think publishers know, they will be surprised as much as the readers. Historical Romance is our strongest genre with Amish being the strongest in that category.
Q: Is there any particular genre that you don’t represent at this time that you are looking for?
Rod: Suspense and Contemporary Women’s Fiction are two areas Harvest House would like to broaden into. Because these are two categories outside of our core, any book we might consider in these genres needs to have a strong voice and engaging writing. We would hold any proposal to a higher standard than we might require of Historical Romance. In fiction we are not looking for fantasy or speculative fiction. In non-fiction we are not looking for memoirs, gift books or children’s books.
Q: You will be speaking on Dialogue Do’s and Don’ts at the conference. Any teaser you want to give us?
Rod: Dialogue is so critical for effective fiction writing. If the dialogue doesn’t ring true the story won’t ring true.
Q: The Internet has drastically changed many professions. In your experience, as an editor for over thirty years for respected publishing houses, how have e-books and self-publishing impacted traditional publishing houses?
Rod: In a broad scope it has certainly affected the bookstores. Borders, which has been around for 40 years, filed last week for bankruptcy protection. Many mom-and-pop stores have also closed because so many people are ordering books on the Internet.
E-books are the biggest factor affecting traditional publishing. I don’t think anyone knows what it will look like three or four years from now. There has been a significant increase in e-book sales. Some are predicting that in the next three to four years, it could be 50/50 in the sales of printed books to e-books.
The Internet has mostly affected the sales and marketing departments of traditional publishers. As an editor I have not been affected as much. Acquiring and refining content is still acquiring and refining content. How the content gets to the reader is the biggest change. All of Harvest Houses’ new titles are available as printed and e-books.
I am of the age it is hard to imagine a world with no printed books. People in their early 20s have grown up with a digital world; it is their native language.