Thursday, November 28, 2013

We Appreciate You!

It isn’t very often that we get the chance to take a few moments to say thank you to our readers, those without whom the book industry would not exist. Being avid readers ourselves, we know how important a good read can be, how it can make a bad day good or a good day even better. We so appreciate the continued encouragement of those who buy and enjoy our books, and we look forward to publishing many more for your reading pleasure.

To show our appreciation, for the next four days, from Black Friday until the end of the day on Cyber Monday, we are having 99¢ Reader Appreciation Days. Our ebooks will be just 99¢ for those four days (and some might even been on sale right now *wink*) to show how grateful we are for our readers and to take the opportunity to promote literacy by making our books even more affordable than usual.

Whether you’re hunting for a great book to help you relax during precious stolen moments as the winter holiday hustle and bustle gets into full swing, searching for that perfect book for the teen reader in your family, or contemplating purchasing books for your classroom or library, our 99¢ Reader Appreciation Days are designed just for you and readers like you. Readers to whom we very gratefully say…

Thanks so much!

The Staff at Martin Brown Publishers, LLC

Friday, November 22, 2013

An Interview with Jon Ripslinger

We'd like to thank Jon Ripslinger, author of seven YA (new adult) novels, for joining us today. His first novel, Triangle, was published by Harcourt in 1994, and his second, How I Fell in Love and Learned to Shoot Free Throws, was published by Roaring Brook Press in 2001. His third and fourth novels, Derailed and Last Kiss, were published by Flux, the young adult imprint at Llewellyn Books. Martin Brown Publishers has had the pleasure of publishing his most recent novels, The Hustle, Missing Pieces, and Who is Lori Darling?, all of which have met with praise from teachers, parents, librarians, and, most importantly, teen readers, for his realistic depictions of the complex challenges teens face and for his compelling story lines.

In addition to writing for teens, Jon has also written several magazine pieces for adults. Enjoy a sample of Jon’s writing by visiting his blog, One-Minute Romance, or feel free to follow him on Twitter at YAwriterRip.
Literary Trivia Bit:

How I Fell in Love and Learned to Shoot Free Throws was actually our literary agency’s very first sale many years ago. Its original title was Secret Slayers, but it was changed during the production process. We favored Full Court Pressure, but the editor had the final word.

MBP: From where do you get your inspiration?
My inspiration comes from incidents I've been involved with personally and situations that have aroused my curiosity. For example, while I was teaching high school English, I encountered many talented students who were squandering their academic and athletic talents, the inspiration for Derailed. I knew personally a young man whose father killed his mom, dismembered her body, and tossed the pieces into the Mississippi River, the inspiration for Missing Pieces. I've read YA novels that have dealt in depth with every conceivable teen problem: parental divorce, pregnancy, drugs, homophobia, self-mutilation, bullying, and suicide to name a few. But no novel I'd read dealt in depth with incest. Why not? Curiosity got the best of me. I researched the subject for over a year and the result is Who is Lori Darling?

MBP: How often do you write?
I write every day, though I must admit I spend less and less time on manuscript writing because keeping up with email, blog posts, and tweeting takes up more and more time. My best hours at the computer are from 7:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m. If I do any work in the afternoon, it's generally clerical.

MBP: How do you find your characters? Are they formulated from people you know or do you “people watch”? Do you use character sketches and, if so, do you find them useful?
I don't formulate my characters from people I know, though I do "people watch" and often give my characters gestures and mannerism I've observed in others. I begin with a character who has a problem he must solve or his life will be totally destroyed. In Missing Pieces, Kyle Donovan must discover the truth: Did his dad kill his mom? In Who is Lori Darling? Carl Mueller must rescue Lori—the girl he loves—from the abuse she is suffering at the hands of her father. I do write a character sketch for the story's main characters, which I find helpful to get the novel started. But I discover even more about the characters and get to know them much better as the story progresses and I watch them battle adversity at every turn.

MBP: How many novels, short stories, etc., do you now have in print?
I've published seven young adult novels—with more to come, I hope. During the 1960s-1980s, I published over fifty short stories in men's magazines that were popular during the era such as Mr., Man to Man, and Sir. Recently, I've published 18 short stories with Woman's World, a leading, weekly woman's magazine. My blog, One-Minute Romance, features over sixty 800-1,000-word romantic short stories, the only blog of its kind on the Internet, I believe. I might add that three of my seven published YA novels are with Martin Brown Pubs, a publisher I'm delighted to be associated with.

MBP: Are you a plotter or a pantser?

: I'm a pantser. That is, I don't outline the entire novel before I start. I write it from the seat of my pants. I have the main characters in mind. I have in mind two or three disasters for the middle of the story, and I know how I want the story to end, though I don't know exactly what will happen in the climax, only that the ending will be happy or, at least, bittersweet. I start with the first chapter that introduces the main characters, gives the lead an immediate goal, creates tension, hints at the main story problem, and ends unpleasantly for the lead, forcing him to act. At the end of Act I, Act II, and Act III, I create a disaster for the lead that he must overcome. By this time I know what will happen in the climax and write it to the best of my ability. Writing from the seat of my pants requires a lot of rewriting, but that's the only way I can write a novel.

MBP: About how long does it take you to finish a novel?
: Funny you should ask. I keep a record for each book that I write. This is the timeline for Who is Lori Darling? I began researching material for the book in 2009. In 2010, it took me five months to write the rough draft. During that time, I sat down at the computer exactly 70 times to work on the story. Each session lasted two or three hours. The next question is how long does it take to publish a book? I revised the book five times before presenting it to three different readers, personal friends of mine. I revised it after each one of their readings. Then I had the book professionally critiqued by Kimberly Ivy, a well-known romance author. I let it sit for several months, revised it once again, and then presented it to Martin Brown Publishers, LLC, where it underwent further revisions and was published in 2013. The entire process from researching to publishing took four years. A writer needs to be patient and persistent.

MBP: Do you have a favorite setting?
: I'm a small town, rural person. I've spent a lot of time hunting and fishing Iowa's cornfields and lakes and also boating and fishing on the Mississippi River. My wife and I, when our six kids were young, spent summers camping in Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. The rural, wilderness scene is what I know best, and it's what I stick to while writing YA fiction. The Mississippi River, especially, presents a lot of opportunity for mystery and intrigue.

MBP: What point of view do you use? Who narrates your stories?
I write from a first person male point of view, generally past tense. But Who is Lori Darling? is a story told in the present tense, which I liked because while writing the book I felt as if I were actually the lead character, Carl Mueller, battling to save his girlfriend.

MBP: What’s your favorite part of writing?
I totally love rewriting the rough draft. That's when I have a chance to mold the story into the vision I had in my mind when I started. It's energizing to see the story improve with each rewrite and to see the characters and theme emerge in ways I hadn't dreamed when I started.

MBP: What’s the most difficult part of writing for you?
The most difficult part is getting the rough draft written. On a good day I'll get maybe five or six pages. Sometimes only two. Maybe one. I've learned to write whatever comes to mind—everything—and to go back and edit later, rather than to try editing as I go along. A lot of stuff I throw out. But there's always something worth keeping, if I keep polishing.

MBP: What’s your favorite element of fiction to work with—character, setting, plot/conflict, theme, or point-of-view?
I don't have a favorite. I think they all blend together. I'm not thinking of one or the other while I'm writing. But if I had to pick a strong point, I'd say character and conflict are my best elements.

MBP: What are your favorite books?
: I don't have any favorites, but I can tell you which one launched me into a YA writing career—Judy Blume's Forever. I read it sometime during the 1980s. It's the story of a girl who thinks it's okay to have sex with her boyfriend because she thinks their love is so strong it will last forever and they'll marry one day. But they break up before summer's end. She's devastated and struggles to move on. After reading the story, I thought I can do that. My wife and I have six kids. I'm a high school teacher surrounded by kids every day. I can do that! And so I did. But not without tons of failures and rejections. I didn't sell my first YA novel, titled Triangle, until 1994. Patience and persistence.

MBP: Of your books, which one is your favorite or the one you are most proud of?
: My favorite is Who is Lori Darling? The book tackles the serious but seldom-talked-about issue of incest in a realistic but sensitive way, exploring the mindset of the perpetrator, the victim, and the young man who loves her. The story's message is clear and important: Victims of abuse can survive but only if they tell someone. I would simply die of pride if an abuse victim wrote me and said she had read my book, decided to tell someone, and her decision helped her a great deal or maybe even saved her life. How rewarding would that be!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Thank You from MBPubs

We would like to take a moment to express our appreciation to those both in the industry and not who contacted us after hearing about the recent tornadoes that hit the Midwest to make sure we were safe and to offer their assistance if we needed it.
Although there was major damage just blocks away, ours was limited to some small branches on our property. We know we were very lucky, and right now we’re assessing the best way to contribute to the relief efforts in our community while avoiding interrupting those already in progress.

If you are ever interested in helping those who have faced a natural disaster, please remember the following:

1.      There are many opportunities to help those in need and those who are helping those in need. Seek out legitimate local and established national relief agencies who can guide you on how best to contribute your time, skills, or monetary/food/clothing donations.
2.      Although you might have good intentions, follow the guidance and directions of trained relief and emergency personnel when directed to stay away from affected areas. This will assist in making sure their attention can remain on helping those most needing servicesThank  instead of directing pedestrian and vehicular traffic.

Our thoughts are with those currently dealing with the aftermath of this weekend’s severe weather, both down the road and in nearby states. Thank you again for your concern for us, our family, and our business. It is much, much appreciated.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Updated Needs and Guidelines

We've updated our needs list and our guidelines for those writers interested in submitting their work to us. They are pasted below, will also be available on our new site when it launches (NOTE: These are our most updated needs and guidelines), and are posted on our Needs and Guidelines tab here on our blog for your convenient reference. Please feel free to contact us with any questions.

Martin Brown Publishers offers an eclectic mix of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and novelty books. Our readers' tastes range from the traditional to the wildly quirky and beyond. We seek books that are resonant, compelling, informative, and/or entertaining.
~We are acquiring in all genres, with special interest in the following: romance (all sub-genres); women's fiction; inspirational nonfiction.

~We offer advances on selected projects.
~Please send a query letter with your name, a description of your completed book (title, word count, and genre, a brief synopsis), your publishing credits or writing background/preparation, and contact information to: editor [AT]

~Please do not send attachments unless requested, as unsolicited attachments will be deleted without being read. Our response time is 2 to 4 weeks.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Contracts: When to Sign on the Dotted Line

What we and most publishers offer authors is a standard, boiler-plate contract. What boiler-plate means, in general, is a document that assumes to covers all needs.  
A boiler-plate document is like a restaurant that offers burgers a certain way. If you want your burger dressed differently, then you have to specify what you want, or don’t want, on it. What we expect when we send out contracts is authors are professionals and being so will come back to us with a list of changes or additions they feel they would like to see in a contractual agreement. At this point, negotiation begins--not after the contract is signed.

Everyone ALWAYS has the right to negotiate any contract. This is standard procedure. If a publisher says they won’t negotiate, then, at that point, it’s up to the individual to ask him or herself if this is a company he or she wants to work with.

A contract is a legal instrument governing BOTH parties mentioned in the contract. Contracts, not word of mouth statements, protect BOTH parties and therefore are invaluable if questions or disputes arise at a later date. Therefore, it is vital that a contract be in place. It is also vital that there be a complete understanding of what’s inside this vital document between all parties mentioned in the contract.  
The main crux of any contract, literary or otherwise, is to explain what each party is responsible for and must do, or not do, to comply with the contract. It’s that simple.

The bottom line is read, understand, ask question, and negotiate before you sign. If you don’t understand, get legal advice. After you sign, in many cases, it’s too late to say you didn’t read or understand this or that particular clause and so this particular publisher is not recommended because he or she has a bad or unfair contact.  

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Roll of the Dice?

Publishers are, in a sense, gamblers, especially those who pay large advances. They speculate on the unknown and untried in hopes their gamble will generate enough return to pay for their investment plus a profit.  Publishing is, after all, not a charity but a business. 

With an advance, most authors feel they are already successful, so it’s felt the publisher who paid their advance will do everything necessary to market their book. It’s easy to assume this as to do otherwise would seem foolish after making a large investment.

 What most authors don’t realize is if their book fails to make back monies paid them in advance against future royalties, their publisher has little incentive to publish that next book.  So if the book fails, in many cases, so does the author’s future.

Wise authors who have gone on to be continually successful realize marketing is essential and something everyone who participates in the process MUST do. If there is any doubt about this, there are many, many examples of those who thought otherwise and failed.

It’s also true small indie publishers who don’t pay advances can take bigger risks. However, also true is the fact that if little or no promotion is done, both author and publisher fail when the book fails. So rather than stand around wondering whose job it is to market, doesn’t make sense to take it upon yourself to make sure someone is doing it?