Monday, December 19, 2011

Special Guest - Jeff Gerke

It is my pleasure to welcome author and editor, Jeff Gerke, to The Writers Alley today!

For the past two years at ACFW I've made it a point to sit in on Jeff's teaching- and let me just tell you, I've not been disappointed. This year I had the added bonus of having fellow AlleyCats Mary Vee and Angie Dicken to sit with me - AND THEN I had the wonderful opportunity to have an appointment with Jeff.

Great guy! Very encouraging - AND a fabulous teacher.

Where the Map Ends, features some great resources for developing your craft straight from Jeff's ACFW presentations. Character Creation for the Plot-First Novelist and How to Find Your Story are two of them.

His newest release, The First 50 Pages: Engage Agents, Editors, and Readers, and Set Your Novel Up for Success came out at the end of November. You can learn more about it here.

Known for publishing books that step on the fringes of reality through Marcher Lord Press, Jeff's guidance is for both the "expected" writers and those who think out-of-the-box :-)

He's also a fellow Mt. Dew drinker...just sayin' :-)

Without further ado - heeerrrrreeeee's Jeff:
1. Could you tell us a little about your new book The First 50 Pages and how you expect it to help aspiring authors?

I’m very excited about this book. I think it has the potential to help any novelist begin his or her book with excellence. I repeatedly found it odd that I could write a 200-plus-page book on 50 pages of a novel, but that’s what happened. Those first 50 pages are doing so much and bearing so much weight. They play an inordinately important role in whether or not any novel is going to be a success.

I was very pleased with how well Writers Digest promoted the launch of the book. I’m hoping it can help a lot of people better do what it is they’re wanting to do with their fiction.

2. Marcher Lord Press publishes books that are ‘outside the box’ types of books. What do you think some of the challenges are for authors who write in genres that the Christian market is just becoming open to? What are the benefits?

There have always been Christians who would read great Christian SF and fantasy (and other weird genres) if the books were there and if the readers knew about them. The problem had been that the books hadn’t been there. The problem now is that many Christians don’t know that such an animal exists.

So long as the traditional Christian book publishing industry serves the core Christian fiction demographic—white, Evangelical moms and grandmoms—they will continue to do best with books that appeal to that demographic as a group. Mainly bonnet and buggy books, but also the occasional female-oriented mystery, chick-lit, or contemporary women’s novel.

The corollary of this is that books that don’t appeal to that demographic will continue to be spurned by traditional Christian publishers. And so it should be: You don’t stay in business if you keep offering something your market says it doesn’t want.

Before this publishing revolution we’re now in, the biggest challenges for speculative authors and writers of other “unusual” genres was to get published at all. Now, with the old model sinking and the advent of all the indie presses (like Marcher Lord Press), suddenly the previously marginalized novelist is now in demand. The model is new, the money is lower (at first), and the sales numbers are lower (at first). But what they’ve always wanted—access to readers who desire exactly what they write—is now being handed to them.

And without a traditional house taking a 90% cut of the profits, the writer stands to really win. It’s a good day to be a novelist.

3. What top three tips would you give to aspiring authors who are beyond the ‘beginning’ phase?

1) Challenge yourself. You probably sense the areas where you are weak, and you probably shy away from story ideas that would reveal that weakness. Instead, create a challenge project for yourself that will make you master that area or the whole thing will fail. For me, at least, that’s the only way I get better at anything.

2) Keep learning. If you’re someone who can learn from books, then I have three fiction craft books that will help you [shameless plug!]. If you learn better from listening to someone teach, attend the larger writers conferences. ACFW is the best for Christian novelists. Also, I’m soon to launch, which will be like getting a complete Jeff seminar online.

3) To your perseverance and craftsmanship, add prayer. Yes, you should work very, very hard to improve your craft. But at the end of the day, you must lay your writing career at the feet of Jesus. Work hard to grab it by the tail. Pray hard to let Him do with it what He wants.

 4. In your class at ACFW you mentioned thinking of unique ideas for stories. With that in mind, what advice would you give to someone who has a unique story premise…but is told they’re a little too unique? Any marketing writing advice?

Yes: Stick to your instincts. Write the book that ought to be out there but that no one else is writing. Then go to the micro-presses—or even self-publish—to find ways to connect that book with the group of readers who will love it.

Those old voices that have kept the “odd” novelist marginalized for so long are now going away, and the world is better for it, imo.

Earlier this year I still heard traditional publishers looking down on small presses and self-publishers. Then at a writers conference last month I heard someone from one of those traditional houses say, “Contrary to popular belief, traditional Christian publishing is not dead.” I was secretly delighted, because it represented an acknowledgement that the old power bloc had lost control. Now the cat’s way out of the bag, and it’s not going back in.

Fun question and right up your sci-fi alley ;-) “If you were a bionic toad that needed to find a radioactive mushroom in order to turn into a giant half-unicorn, half-man warrior to save the world of Ganderthol… how would you go about locating the mushroom?”

I would already know where all the mushrooms were, because I’m a bionic toad with a penchant for organizing and cataloguing. So I’d go right to the correct mushroom. Besides, I’m toad-ally awesome.


Thanks, Pepper!


Thanks so much for stopping by the Alley, Jeff. May you have a Toad-ally awesome Christmas


Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

What a great post! It is exciting to know that there is a place for fiction that is not necessarily mainstream. You know, Pepper has a book that might be a good fit. Something about vampires???

I've been hearing about Lord Marcher Press and am curious. What type of fiction is the Press's best sellers?

Jim Callan said...

Good interview and good advice. And his last comment about the traditional publishers losing control has to be encouraging to many writers. Thanks for the help.

Jeanne Takenaka said...

Pepper, what a fun interview. :) Jeff has so much knowledge, and I appreciate his take on things. :)

I especially loved the tips for aspiring writers who are beyond the beginning stage. I'm still more of a beginner than not, but I plan to really think through his challenge to strengthen weak areas.

Thanks so much!

Mary Vee Writer said...

Thanks Pepper.
Jeff's enthusiasm is catching and his advice/instruction invaluable. He cares about writers and seeks to nurture them along a successful path.
I count myself blessed to have met him at the ACFW conference this year.

Pepper said...

Yep, I pitched that boook to Mr. Gerke....
He wants to see it when I finish.

It's definitely an outside-the-box one :-)

Pepper said...

Glad you stopped by, Jim

Pepper said...

He's a great encourager and one of the best teachers at ACFW. Definitely worth listening to his advice.
I'm already trying to take from this interview and learn how to strengthen my weak areas too.

Pepper said...

Loved sharing that memory with you, Mary :-)

Tina Pinson said...

Toad-ally awesome, huh? Good interview. I have gone to the site and looked through the writing helps. Lots to glean from.

I keep going back to see when and if the submissions will open again. Unfortunately I missed the last couple of conferences.

Will Marcher Lord Press be holding any more contests?

Sarah Forgrave said...

Awesome interview, Pepper! I also sat in on Jeff's session at ACFW this year and promptly went out and bought his book Plot Versus Character. What a goldmine!

Thanks for sharing your insights and advice here, Jeff. Great stuff!

Laura Frantz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Laura Frantz said...

So glad to see Jeff here! We've never met but I've long been a fan ever since I stumbled across his "Where the Map Ends" site and got a crash course on what to expect after publication. Now I see how true his words were - and how funny and wise!

Love how you said you need to lay your writing at the feet of Jesus. Amen and amen.

I'm so excited about his new book! Guess I'll give myself an early Christmas gift and order. Thanks, Pepper and Jeff, for a great interview!

Casey said...

I'm late, but I'm here! Great post from Jeff with wonderful publishing wisdom. Even the toad question. ;)

Jeff Gerke said...

Hi, guys; thanks for all the great words of encouragement.

Sherrinda asked what type of fiction is MLP's bestselling. That would be fantasy. Jill Williamson's "Blood of Kings" trilogy, which includes the Christy Award-winning "By Darkness Hid" and "To Darkness Fled" are my best-selling books. SF is a good second for me, including ACFW Book Club selection "A Star Curiously Singing" by Kerry Nietz.

And Tina asked if MLP will be holding any more contests like Marcher Lord Select. That will probably happen, but with some pretty sweeping changes. MLS was a great experiment, and I love just going out and trying things. But some tweaks will help us meet more of our goals for the contest. Not sure when that will happen, though.

Thanks again, you guys!