JB Howick – Author Interview

What is your most recent book? Tell us a bit about it.

Blow Us Away! Publishers’ Secrets for Successful Manuscripts

I’ve spent years publishing books, vetting manuscripts, and talking with authors about how to perfect their art. This book gathers that experience into a single volume. It explains the book industry, explains how publishers vet manuscripts, tells authors how to assemble their manuscript proposal for publishers, and the basic expectations they should have when approaching publishers.

Tell us something about yourself.

I was born and raised in Utah and graduated from the University of Utah with a degree in Electrical Engineering. At first blush it would seem an unusual starting point for a publisher, but my experience as an engineer has helped my career as a publisher considerably. Engineers are trained to solve problems with economy, to think things through, and to consider how the application of a solution will impact the customer. These talents all translate to marketing, designing, and promoting books! During my career as an electrical engineer I developed skills in technical writing, marketing, and advertising. In 2003, when the opportunity came to combine my talents with the literary talents of my family, we opened WindRiver Publishing, Inc. Since then we have branched into four imprints focusing on homeschooling and child development, the general trade market, the general Christian market, and the regional LDS market.

What inspired you to write this book?

Two things, one good and one not so good. The good thing is the joy and happiness I hear in the voices of authors I’ve worked with over the years as they learn about the book industry and their craft. Many new authors are missing only a little bit of information to help them overcome the gigantic hurdle of their first published book.

The not-so-good thing is the remarkable number of manuscripts that could be a good publishing investment but fall through the cracks because of poor presentation! As we’ve grown, our ability to search for these diamonds-in-the-rough grows less and less, and it’s frustrating to know that we’re rejecting projects with high potential because of poor cover letters, a poor synopsis, or incomplete submissions.

I would like to see more of the great products floating in the submission ether to find publication, which is why I wrote my book.

How did you publish this book?

Oddly enough, this book is technically “self-published,” even though the corporation elected to publish it (I have little doubt my family was unreasonably biased in my favor…).

What do you believe is the hardest part of writing?

For myself: organization! How to best compile the mountain of data that can benefit authors? When to be verbose, when to use fundamental topics to develop complicated discussions. But, as I’m fond of saying, if it was easy it wouldn’t be any fun.

What are you reading now?

Terry Pratchett’s Unseen Academicals. In many ways this question is unfair. I’m constantly reading submissions, but Terry’s books are for pure pleasure.

What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?

1. Understand the book industry. Take the time to educate yourself in the process of developing, marketing, promoting, distributing, and selling a book.

2. Plan on rewriting your book many times. This is especially true for fiction. Few authors can keep all of a lengthy book’s details in their head well enough to develop proper foreshadowing without rewriting several times. Most characters and sub-plots won’t take shape until several times through the book. It’s the only way to get the story depth and color that we publishers crave.

3. Plan on field testing your book, and go out of your way to avoid family, friends, coworkers, and acquaintances. Find strangers! Put up a poster in your local library asking people to read your book and comment on it. Use this process to refine your target audience and to discover what people really think about your book. Some will love it. Some will hate it. Most will be in the middle. All these opinions are valuable.

4. Finally, remember that you have a 3-6 minute window to sell your product. Not just to me, the publisher, but to “them,” the consumers. Nobody is going to read your book cover-to-cover before deciding to buy it, so publishers aren’t going to read it cover-to-cover before deciding to reject it. That first vetting pass is critical. You have 3-6 minutes of my time. Blow me away!

What are you doing to promote your latest book?

1. I’m developing a series of YouTube seminars that focus on a half-dozen of the more controversial issues my book describes.

2. I’m developing complimentary articles to post online at sites like Authors’ Den and Write.net.

3. I’m taking advantage of wonderful people like Cathy Stucker who are willing to give me a little air time for the cause of expanding the book industry, author opportunity, and literacy!