How I found a publisher - An interview with author, Jack Walker
firstwriter.com – Sunday October 28, 2012
Jack Walker recently acquired a publisher using firstwriter.com's database of publishers. We asked him about his writing, and how he found success.
fw: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us, Jack, and congratulations on having found a publisher for your book! What kind of novel is it?
JW: It’ called The Church Choir Murders. It’s a Romantic Mystery.
fw: What made you think of writing a murder mystery about a church choir?
JW: I served as Director of Music and Worship at Brentwood Presbyterian Church in West LA and decided to write about something I knew. I have also spent my life writing music and there is a lot of that knowledge represented in the novel.
fw: What gave you the inspiration to write it?
JW: I usually read two or three books a week. One morning I was reading a Nora Roberts book in my bubble bath and when I finished I glanced at the back fly and saw that she had 280 million books in print. I threw it over the side and said, “I can write one of these”. I finished the first draft in exactly four weeks. It was the most fun I’ve ever had. A daunting three months later I had my sixth draft, joined your group and began to submit it. I might add I joined the Westside Writers Group and got great feedback from them and their leader Wes Alderson.
fw: Had you done any writing before?
JW: I’ve spent my life writing songs, musicals, jingles and scores to films which have been published and were seen and heard in them and for which I was paid. I’m seventy-three, so it has been a looong history. A lot of it can be found on my website; www.spiritunes.com. Although I’ve written articles and other small projects, I’ve never written a novel nor even thought about it until the fateful morning.
fw: Once you'd finished it, what did you do to try and get it published? Did you approach agents first, or publishers directly?
JW: I started submitting to both through the agents and publishers in firstwriter.com's lists. Not one literary agent responded. I began getting hits at publishers on the strength of my one page synopsis. Knowing the need to “get in the door” I kept the synopsis short as if it was what you would read on the inside front fly of a book. Three publishing senior editors answered my query and turned it over to the editor in charge of the division they thought it fit. Those editors asked for the first thirty pages and although I got good responses it wasn’t until your new listing of Itoh Press that I finally got asked for the whole book and a publishing contract was offered.
fw: Did you try any other methods besides firstwriter.com?
JW: I guess I got lucky because you were my first signup and I didn’t need to look any further.
fw: What did you find most useful about firstwriter.com?
JW: I guess the new publisher InstantAlert emails you send out. That’s where I got the best response.
fw: How did you send out your approaches?
JW: I did only online queries. They’re pretty strict about what to send. I guess my research has been my reading addiction which gave me a great knowledge of the genre I chose which was romance, but with a story around it that is compelling. Make no mistake, this is not great literature that I write, but if you’re into romance novels, I think it is engaging.
fw: How many publishers and agents did you approach?
JW: Probably ten or more literary agents which went nowhere and five or so publishers who all responded. Again I think it was the engaging quality of the synopsis. I did research how to write a synopsis and one of those sites suggested it should be short like the inside fly on a book. I had at this time a four page boring, recap of the book.
fw: How did you deal with the rejections?
JW: Having spent my life submitting songs, etc. I knew the odds. In music I would finally get someone who liked what I had to offer for every ten to twenty submissions. In this case almost all of the publishers responded and all were gracious in their rejections and not in a condescending way.
fw: Why do you think you were successful with your approach to Itoh Press in particular?
JW: They are new and I seemed to strike a chord with them. They have already agreed to publish my second novel.
fw: How have you found the publishing process? Was it difficult to have other people tampering with your work?
JW: No, in fact I received great editing. As I expressed in the acknowledgements, the editor “baby stepped” me through the whole process. The book is on Amazon and Barnes and Noble and their ebooks.
fw: Do you have any advice for other writers trying to get published?
JW: As I expressed in my second book it’s the old conundrum: you can’t get an agent until you’re published and you can’t get published until you have an agent. I somehow skipped the agent part. I’m also going to share my synopsis, which I feel was the number one reason I got published:
The Church Choir Murders
Ken Lockard is 31 and runs a detective agency he inherited from his uncle who adopted him when his parents were killed in an auto accident. He is a singer, a songwriter and has become wealthy when his uncle dies and leaves his Solvang ranch, the agency and a seven figure inheritance.
He meets Jenny at their local Starbucks and is immediately smitten. She on the other hand has just gotten over a relationship and has promised herself that she will wait at least 6 months before she will consider another one. When Ken finds out she sings in a local church choir, he joins to be near her.
Soon everything is in turmoil with the suspicious death of one of the choir members and the ensuing death of another member at the choir’s annual Choir Retreat. All hell breaks loose with threatening phone calls, break-ins and murder attempts on Ken’s and Jenny’s lives. Through it all Ken courts Jenny and tries to break down her wall of resistance.
The story roars to a conclusion with a kidnapping, failed murder attempt and the pair and Jenny’s parents being run off the road near Solvang, California. Who is behind all this? Does Ken finally wear down Jenny’s resistance? Will one of the many possible suspects be brought to justice? What is the big secret that has brought all of this on?
All these questions will be answered and more by the story’s end. In the meantime you will be taking a trip through the church choir activities and performances, a true intriguing romance, a church choir retreat, some hot sex and all of the musical knowledge you learn from Ken and the choir director, Jack Wilson.
fw: How are things going with the second book?
JW: I’ve just submitted my second book which was inspired by one of my songs and in the process of the book I wrote a second song. I’m going to make both songs available to be downloaded at my website.
fw: Good luck with everything, Jack – and thank you again for taking the time to talk to us!