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Rich Christiano[Jeff Gerke]

Interview: Jeff Gerke

Jefferson Scott Gerke is the author Virtually Eliminated, Terminal Logic, Fatal Defect, and Y2K Resource Guide (cowritten with Shaunti Feldhahn.) More importantly for our purposes, he is now the publisher of Marcher Lord Press, a new publishing house specialising in Christian fantasy and science fiction. He has also established his fannish credentials at his web site, WhereTheMapEnds. Jeff holds a B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin, and an M.Div. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. We interviewed his author alter ego, Jefferson Scott, on the SF-CHRISTIAN list (before it merged with Christian Fandom) back in April, 2000. This time, Jeff was wearing his "publisher" hat, which had some plaster dust and paint on it, as he was busily preparing for the grand opening of Marcher Lord Press on October 1st. Shannon McNear and Greg Slade asked the questions, and here is an edited version of the question and answer sequence. You can find out more about Jeff at JeffersonScott.com.

GS: When we last interviewed you, you were living in Central Oregon and working for Multnomah. Can you catch you up on what you've been up to since? (How many states have you lived in, anyway?)

My goodness, a lot has changed since then. After leaving Multnomah I went freelance for awhile as an editor. After a couple of years of that I accepted a staff editor position at Strang Communications in Orlando. I had the opportunity there to spearhead the launch of Realms, still the only imprint dedicated to Christian speculative fiction at a sizeable publishing house.

After that, I accepted the role of fiction manager at NavPress in Colorado Springs. I still live in Colorado Springs. After my time at NavPress I went freelance again, and am doing that now. Shortly after I left NavPress I launched WhereTheMapEnds, which, like Christian Fandom, has become one of the premier sites for Christian speculative fiction.

And then a year after launching WhereTheMapEnds, I brought the Marcher Lord Press site online. MLP is my small, indie publishing house dedicated to producing the best in Christian speculative fiction. The site went live October 1, 2007, and the first books release October 1 of this year. Just a few days away!

I invite everyone to get over there and sign up for the prizes we'll be giving away on launch day. I've got dozens of amazing prizes (two just arrived today), plus the grand prize is a trip for two to Comic-CON 2009 in San Diego.

GS: In April, 2000, you had 1 2/3 kids. Any changes since then?

Yes, we now have 2 – a girl and a boy. Well, we actually have about 2.2 since we're deep into the process of adopting from China but still don't have our little girl yet.

GS: How did you choose the church you attend now?

We moved to Colorado Springs in mid-October of that year. We'd tried one church the previous weekend but weren't sold yet. I have a writer friend here in town – "dragon lady," Donita K. Paul – who invited us to the It's-Not-Halloween "harvest celebration" at her church. We went, loved it, met the pastor (dressed as a monk!), and decided to try it out that Sunday. We've been going there ever since.

GS: Now that's gotta be a fun church for a fan to be at, with Donita K. Paul and you both attending. I'll have to add it to my list of fannish tourism sites.
GS: What made you decide to start your own publishing house?

For years I worked within the Christian publishing industry, first as a novelist and then as leader of fiction departments, to try to make more room for Christian speculative fiction. After years of frustration (and a few successes along the way, too), I finally realized that the entire industry was targeted to a demographic that does not embrace weird novels.

So I began percolating about what could be done to reach the many fans of Christian SF and fantasy with excellent novels in those genres. I was thinking about this even as I was still at NavPress. By the time I went freelance I was convinced that the people who want Christian speculative fiction are not the people reached by the Christian publishing industry. Those people have stopped going into Christian bookstores, and they certainly don't shop in the Christain fiction aisle of Barnes & Noble.

So was born the idea of a small press with a different focus. Instead of trying to get into bookstores to reach people who weren't going into those bookstores anymore, I decided to target them where they are: online.

At its heart, Marcher Lord Press is all about bypassing the traditional CBA publisher/bookseller dyad and getting incredible Christian speculative novels into the hands of the people who crave them.

GS: How did you choose the name?

In British history, marcher lords were knights tasked with maintaining the borders with Wales and, to a lesser extent, Scotland. The Welsh were notoriously independent and posed an ever-present danger on England's western borderlands. The marcher lord stood in the breach to defend the homeland. He maintained vigil on the very perimeter of civlization, guarding the heartland from all invaders and, when possible, extending the reach and reign of the home country.

I loved the heroic imagery that came to me as I thought about it. I'm all about the courageous knight standing alone against an enemy onslaught.

I also liked the idea of expanding into new territory. Marcher Lord Press, I hope, will expand the definition of what constitutes excellent and successful Christian fiction, fiction that edifies the Church and intrigues unbelievers.

Launching Marcher Lord Press felt like striking out into the unknown and planting my flag in terrain far off the edge of the map. Add castles and knights in armor, and I'm so there.

The Marcher Lord Press icon symbolizes this heroic, proud, and slightly defiant tone.

GS: As fans, we have to cheer the idea of a Christian publisher working exclusively in science fiction and fantasy, but what makes you believe that you can succeed where other Christian publishers fear to tread?

Mainly because my business model is such that I can succeed where they fail. Their infrastructure is so large and their overhead so high that they can't do "cheap." Every book has to sell 10,000+ units just so they can keep paying the bills.

My model is completely different. My costs are very low – though you can see I haven't skimped on covers, typesetting, editing, or any of the other essentials. Where they need to sell several thousand units of a book just break even, I break even on something under 300 units.

By eschewing bookstores, I do away with tons of the costs and problems traditional publishers have to deal with. I don't have high costs for printing because I don't do 3,500 units at a time. If I have 20 orders, I print 20 books. That means I have no warehouse costs, no shipping to and from warehouses, no warehouse personnel costs. No sales force traveling the country trying to get Christian bookstores to spend some of their budgets to carry my books. And no headache of returns, drastic discounts, inventory, staff, benefits, or any of the rest of the mess that the big boys have to deal with.

It's a model designed to stay cheap and succeed on a lower number of sales.

There's also a difference in perspective. At a large Christian house, if they sell 7,000 units of a book they consider it a colossal failure. To me, there's something wrong with that picture. I like being in a position where if I sell 300 units of a book I've got a blockbuster on my hands!

GS: We've this discussion a few times, and you may have the solution (or a solution, anyway): instead of trying to change the existing industry, do an end run around it to reach fans directly. Here's hoping that you'll have such a thumping success that you'll force the industry to wake up and pay attention.
GS: You have announced three titles which will be available on October 1st. How long after that will it be before we can get more?

My plan is to release three novels a season in two seasons a year: April and October.

I've already got one novel under contract for the second season and am narrowing things down for the other two books in that cycle.

GS: Looking at the books page of the Marcher Lord Press site, it looks as if the books are going to be hardcover, but the prices are more in line with trade paperback. Which format are you using?

Trade paper. Traditional Christian novels are 5.25" x 8.5" trade paperback, perfect bound. My printer didn't have exactly that size, so I went with 5.5" x 8.5" trade paper, perfect bound.

GS: Just so you know, there's somebody in the back wailing, "I want mass-market paperback!" (not in terms of number of copies printed, but in terms of the actual size of the book.) Is that ever going to happen?

Perhaps somewhere down the road. Personally, I'd be inclined to try hardback before mass paper, though.

GS: Looking at the list of books in your first batch, you're leading off with a brave choice: Hero, Second Class, by Mitchell Bonds. It seems to have a couple of strikes against it: it's a first novel, and it's a fantasy comedy. Shrek and a couple of other examples aside, most fannish comedies I've read or watched have fallen kind of flat. Can you tell us what it was about this book which convinced you, not only to buy it, but to lead off your entire line with it?

Every once in awhile over my years as a acquisitions editor (and now a publisher) I have read a manuscript and said, "I have to publish this." That's what I said when I read Mitch's ms. There's really no explaining it. I simply knew at the core of my being that this was a book I had to launch with. (I've said that again for one of the books I'm releasing in the second list, too – April 2009.)

When I was thinking of acquiring Mitch's book I had to face myself as worst critic: "Yeah, but you've already got a fantasy acquired. You were going to go with one fantasy, one SF, and one 'something else' for a nice variety, remember? Acquiring yet another fantasy isn't exactly 'something else.' What are you thinking?"

To which I answered, "Yeah, but I have to publish this, so be quiet. Besides, what's the point of owning your own publishing company if you can't publish what you want?"

When you read it, you won't think, "Eh, first novel, and fannish at that." You'll just love it.

Do we have room for an excerpt? Here goes:

Expendable Minions, or simply Minions, are one of the most useful tools at a Villain's disposal. It is the lot of Expendable Minions to die for little or no reason, and to do so cheerfully. They are cheap to buy, cost little or nothing to feed, and fight loyally to the death for their Villain.
They are usually weedy, sneaky-looking little creatures with large eyes and a fawning demeanor. They come standard with a chainmail shirt, black cloak, short-sword, and serial number.
Minions are the second-most plentiful and third-cheapest manpower resource available to the typical Villain. These creatures are average in almost all respects, making them ideally suited for jobs that require neither extreme intelligence nor overwhelming strength.
For high-end work, be it of brain or brawn, the discerning Villain is well-served to forego Minions and step up to Toadies or Henchmen.
Toadies-frail, spindly humanoids wrapped in black robes, with deep colorless black eyes and diabolically sharp minds-make good Counselors, Viziers, and Tax Collectors. If you need to brainstorm for your new nefarious plan, a Toady is for you. However, they lack even a vestige of physical strength.
Your foul plotting completed, your next step is to turn to Henchmen for the execution of your plans-and your (lesser) enemies. These troll-like creatures are far larger than Minions, usually standing head and shoulders above any human, and possessing more bulging muscles than any team of oxen have a right to. Their squinting eyes are usually shot with red from a perpetual bloodlust. Henchmen have brute strength in abundance and are able to rend villagers apart in a single snap. Henchmen make excellent Bodyguards and/or general-purpose Thugs. But they have the brains of a brick.
At the exact center of the spectrum between Toadies and Henchmen is the Expendable Minion. As their name implies, they are eminently disposable. They are often slain as therapeutic stress relief-or, with the option Cannon Fodder accessories, can be sent by the handful to soften up a Hero before the Villain takes a crack at defeating him. It is common knowledge that the easiest way to defeat a Hero who fights like a hundred men is to send a hundred and one Minions at him.
Any Villain serious about his sinister machinations will command an array of Toadies, Henchmen, and Expendable Minions in whatever ratios suit his style.
You can acquire a convenient twelve-pack of Expendable Minions for five hundred gold pieces at any Complete Villain Emporium in the Hereditary Evil Empire, Landeralt. Also available: the 101 Expendable Minions package.
GS: How did you get your hands on the manuscript? (Do you know Mitchell, or did you get it through an agent, or was it a cold submission, or what?)

It came in over the transom. Mitch's mom was actually the one to hear about Marcher Lord Press and urge him to submit his proposal. I'm much beholden to her!

So take heart, everyone who might want to submit to MLP: I acquired Mitch though he was unagented and unknown – and at that time only 19 years old!

GS: Does Mitchell have any appearances (book signings, panels at conventions, author readings, etc.) scheduled to promote the book?

I know he's going to be holding a signing at his church and is generating interest at his college.

Most of my marketing and promotional budget is going toward the big prize giveaway on Launch Day.

GS: Who did the cover? Did Mitchell have any say in the cover design?

Kirk DouPonce of DogEared Design did the illustration and the cover design itself.

Mitch loved the cover on first sight. Really, he's been given a cover the quality of which most writers go their entire careers without receiving.

Kirk read the entire ms. before deciding on the illustration and design. It is, in my opinion, stinkin' perfect.

And if you visit the Web sites of most indie presses, I think you'll agree that my covers are way, way better than the norm. Indeed, my covers are better than most of the ones I see on books from major publishing companies.

The cover for one of my other novels – "Summa Elvetica" by Theodore Beale – just won third prize at the covers contest over at Stepping Stones magazine.

GS: Wow! I've seen so many covers which give no indication that the artist has the faintest idea what the book is about. You believe in doing things right!

All the credit goes to Kirk. I didn't ask him to do this. It's just how he likes to work.

GS: The cover design calls Hero, Second Class, "The Hero Complex, Book 1." Does that mean that it's the first book in a standard fantasy trilogy (well, except for the content), or is it going to be an open-ended series, or what?

I believe Mitch has at least two more planned in the series.

GS: The second book you're launching with is The Personifid Invasion, by R.E. Bartlett. She hangs out on the CHRISTSF list, which I also read, so I'd be interested in this title even if I hadn't already read her first book. But it's kind of unusual for a series to start out with one publisher and then move to another. You can't do the usual things, like putting out a mass-market paperback of the first volume in order to drum up sales of the hardcover edition of the second volume among readers who just can't wait to find out "what happens next." How are you handling that disjoint?

I had hoped that Realms would put her first book, The Personifid Project, out of print and I could snap up the rights and put the two books out together. But that hasn't happened.

So now I'm hoping that people who read the first novel will hear of the sequel. But even new readers won't be put off if they find the second book first. We worked hard to let The Personifid Invasion stand on its own, though there are several references to the first book, tying things off for readers of the first book and also telling readers of the second book that there's fun to be had in the first one, too.

GS: How on Earth did you manage to steal Ruth away from Realms? Aren't they mad at you?

LOL. Realms had right of first refusal for Ruth's second book, but declined to exercise their right. When they informed Ruth of this in writing, she was free to accept publishing offers elsewhere. So I snagged her!

GS: She hasn't been posting much on CHRISTSF lately. Have you got her slaving away on another book already?

Always. And right now I happen to know she's visiting a friend here in the States. Actually, I haven't given thought to another project with her. I'd like to keep publishing her, of course, but right now I'm concentrating on the launch.

GS: Who did this cover? Do you know about the process? It looks to me like one element used in the composition is a photo of an actual architectural model. Surely they used some existing model, rather than commissioning one just for the cover?

Kirk did the illustration as well as the graphic design on the cover. It's a 3D render. Isn't it great? He was taking a 3D illustration class and used this cover as a class project, getting professional and peer feedback on it all along the way. Kirk did an amazing job on all these covers.

GS: Obviously, you knew Ruth from Realms, so this would have been a very different acquisition process compared to Hero, Second Class. Can you describe it?

Yes, with authors I know I can just drop them an e-mail and say, "Hey, wanna do a book for me?" It's awesome. I'm friends with many of the novelists writing Christian speculative fiction today. At acquisitions time that can come in quite handy.

With Ruth, I knew she had a Personifid sequel already written. I dropped her a note and asked if she'd like to be one of the debut authors for Marcher Lord Press.

GS: Does Ruth have any appearances (book signings, panels at conventions, author readings, etc.) scheduled to promote the book?

Ruth doesn't like putting herself forward in those ways. She feels it's something God has asked her not to do. But I'm getting after her to at least promote the book in her circle of relationships!

GS: I just have to say that I'm flabbergasted at the sheer number and quality of the prizes listed on the MLP web site. How on Earth did you manage to talk so many people (authors who aren't signed with you, and even competing publishers!) into contributing such cool prizes?

Much of it is that I have good relationships with so many of the authors in these genres. I've interviewed them on WhereTheMapEnds and promoted their books in a number of ways over the years, so I think some of them see it as a way of giving back. Others are just my friends. Plus they're all just nice people!

The contributing publishers are looking for ways to promote their speculative books to you guys, the target market, so it's worth giving away a few free copies to hopefully get you interested in their products. And they're nice people, too!

SM: Hi Jeff, and welcome back to Christian Fandom! Thanks to both you and Greg for the cool interchange so far.

Thanks, Shannon. It's been fun!

SM: I'll be at the ACFW conference next week and look forward to meeting you! Several of us are excited about attending your Late Night Chat on Friday. Do you have any particular agenda for that? Promotion for MLP, of course, but otherwise, are you planning some formal discussion or just an informal meeting with Christian SFF writers and fans? (I've also finagled ABA fantasy writer Lars Walker into dinner with some of us Friday evening before the LNC... are you interested in coming, or do you have plans?)

Yay! Right now I don't have any agenda for the chat. Probably I'll be eager to talk about Marcher Lord Press. Since we'll be having our chat with like 10 days left before the launch, there's probably not much else I'll be able to talk about.

I don't know about dinner Friday night. I go where I'm told. ;-)

TR: How does Multnomah go about finding these new authors? What do you do to investigate the Christian credentials of your authors?

Multnomah receives thousands of queries and proposals every year. We have a system in place to bring the promising ones to the surface. Each editor sees about five or ten queries and/or proposals a month. We have an approval process that refines things even more. Only the best ideas and writers get published, but get published they do.

The genuineness (or lack thereof) of the author's Christian faith is usually quite clear in the proposal, whether the author intended to show it or not. Football fans can tell a non-fan right off, simply by terminology, assumptions, knowledge, and the presence or absence of a "right" feeling. Same with Christianity.

I still remember one proposal we received from someone who wanted to do a book called, "I Kissed Meat Goodbye." I kid you not. Jesus was a vegetarian, this author said, and so we should do this book. Hmm. Doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that one out. There's this perception that it's easier to get published in CBA (Christian publishing) than ABA (secular). 'Tisn't so. But some authors try to get their horror or whatever book published by tacking on a spiritual component. Won't fly.

There are times when an author with, um, different spiritual sensibilities makes it through the process. Sometimes this is something we know about: like when we publish Rabbi Lapin or Brennan Manning. Sometimes it sneaks up and bites us – or we think we can keep the fringe stuff marginalized, and find to our chagrin that we were wrong. It happens.

TR: I do not know Manning – what is he and what of his did you publish?

I don't really know his work, either. With 100+ books published every year, we can't all read every book we publish. Apparently he's a Catholic author who is somewhat controversial in Evangelical circles. Don't know why. We're putting out his Ragamuffin Gospel.

TR: Do you work with literary agents, and, if so, specifically "christian" literary agents? Do ever accept works that come in over the transom? Would you advise a would-be Christian fiction (or nf) author to retain the services of such an agent?

We do work with agents. It's funny how that's changed. When I was submitting my first novel in 1994, the feeling was that Christian houses would never work with agents. The perception was that agents were only out for money. But now we like going through agents, because if a proposal was good enough to get an agent's attention, we can usually assume it's better than the bulk of the proverbial slush pile.

I think the change is just the result of the explosion of Christian book publishing. With more and more proposals and queries coming in, any help we can get with surfacing the cream is appreciated.

As far as I know, we haven't worked with any non-Christian agents. They usually realize that they don't know the CBA market – no contacts there, doncha know. So Christian writers usually secure Christian agents. Alive Communications is the largest agency in CBA right now. Savvy Christian agents can do deals with ABA houses, but the opposite isn't always true. I'm sure we'll see more non-Christian agents hitting up CBA houses and authors as ABA houses realize that Christian books can generate real money – Amigo money.

But we do still work with over-the-transom submissions. Some houses will not. If the writer's guidelines say "No unsolicited proposals," that's often what they mean, though some will come right out and say "No unagented proposals." However, some houses will still consider unsolicited queries.

If a writer can secure the services of an agent, it's a good thing. But beware agents who charge reading fees to consider taking you on. A bad agent is worse than no agent at all. If an agent has good contacts in the right departments at the right houses, that will help you.

Some agents will only take you on for a single project. She might be your agent for book X, but nothing else. Other agents take on the whole writer and simply try to find publishing homes for whatever her author wants to write. Those are the best kind, especially if they have good contacts and good reputations.

I know it's difficult to find out who the good ones are if you're on the "outside,#34; but it can be done. Consider dropping publishing houses an e-mail asking for a few recommendations. If the house likes to work with an agent, that's a good sign.

TR: Do you accept recommendations for new authors from existing ones, known Christian leaders, pastors, etc.?

We'll consider anyone. The whole world is free to submit us a query letter. There's a kind of preference hierarchy, of course. Bestselling household name authors (Dobson, Lucado, Swindoll, Peretti, Jenkins, etc.) are most favored. Popular speakers/authors are next (Tony Evans, Andy Stanley, Gary Chapman). Personalities in other fields are attractive as well (Christian musicians, especially; some sports figures). Then there are those in the next tier: the promising prospects – radio personalities with nationwide shows, public speakers with large audiences, and so forth. Next come experts in their fields, coming with a unique message. Last of all come those with an incredible message or story.

The three things we look for in an author are big name, fantastic idea, and great writing, in that order. We'll take a big name with a lousy idea and terrible writing, but we'll never take a no-name writer with a zilch idea, no matter how the sentences sparkle. So you can start seeing what you're up against in breaking into publishing.

Fiction writers have it a little easier. A reader (and thus a bookstore and thus a publisher) might take a chance on an author she's never heard of if the novel seems interesting. But who's going to buy a book on, say, the end times if it's written by Joe Blow Pastor? In non-fiction we want authorities, experts. Especially experts we've heard of and trust.

TR: You said you are lousy at keeping this newly discovered christian talent around? Why is this? What kind of money can a successful Christian novelist writing for Multnomah make?

You have to know that the typical Christian novelist – including many you've heard of quite a bit – don't make it as writers. They're pastors or housewives or lawyers. Even authors with multiple books and copies sold in the 100,000s don't make a living writing. Only a very few – like maybe Jerry Jenkins and Frank Peretti and maybe a handful of others – can actually quit their day jobs.

But on to your real question. Multnomah pays more than do 70% or so of the CBA houses. The big boys in fiction: Tyndale, Zondervan, Word/Nelson, Waterbrook, and Bethany, probably pay more. Multnomah is primarily a non-fiction house. Novelists wanting to get their start sometimes find a friendly spot with us, but if their books take off, other companies with bigger pocketbooks come calling. Multnomah hasn't always shown the willingness to make counter-offers that keep the novelists home. We do that more often with top-selling non-fiction authors.

A typical advance for a first-time Multnomah novelist will probably be in the $7,000-12,000 range. I got $5,000 for each of my three novels. It's a pittance compared to some, especially if you're trying to support your family with it. But I was just glad to be paid at all.

Now I hear that YA novelists (authors writing for kids) get about $5,000 per book, which seems pretty good for a 125-page novella.

TR: I assume because they feel that they can sell more copies of YA books?

Maybe, but maybe not. It may just be that expectations for advances have changed. Five thousand dollars was probably on the low end for an adult novel's advance, even back in 1994. But now that's probably up around $12,000-15,000, so $5,000 for a book one-third as long ought to earn one-third as much.

TR: What types of fiction are you currently publishing now? If a genre is labelled "Christian X", etc., what is done to verify the Christian credentials of the novel in question? How do you deal with critics from the Christian community, WRT things like sex, language, violence, etc.?

It's an eclectic list. Some romance, some Al Lacy westerns, some historical, some contemporary. Mostly first-time authors. We've got Randy Alcorn's Lord Foulgrin's Letters coming out, which we hope to be big for us, and Sharon Ewell Foster (I think I got her name right) has Passing by Samaria coming out, a book that NAACP has really gotten behind.

The fiction editors here pick what books to publish, though they all go through a final deciding body of VPs and higher. Hopefully a book will have Christianity and Christian issues and Christian characters at its core or it won't get published. However, I've already mentioned the story of the Jewish boy trying to avoid capture by the Nazis. There are a few secondary characters who are Christians. They help the boy. But Christianity is not at the heart of this book. I voted against it in committee, but lost.

The sex, language, violence thing is very tricky. There's always the debate between the realists and the conservatives, for lack of better terms. The realists say, "Well, that's how this character would really talk." The conservatives argue that they came to Christian fiction to get away from how the world really talks. I try to find creative ways to show someone's depravity without spelling out their curses and following them into brothels. There will always be this tension, and I think it's healthy. No matter what you write, someone's going to be offended. So you might as well be sensitive to the Holy Spirit, listen to your editor, and just go for it. Write it the way it feels right. But be teachable and humble.

TR: Do you ever run into conflict with your authors as to what level of such stuff would go into any particular book?

Usually not, but it does happen. The typical Multnomah author is pretty conservative, so we're usually safe. But we're going after some less conservative authors, and sometimes they want to stretch the boundaries. When it happens, we get to have the final say. If a book is going to blow up in our faces, we fix it or we can it, though that costs a lot.

GS: How many do they have in print in total right now? (And can you provide the authors and titles?)

That might boil down to my three technothrillers: Virtually Eliminated, Terminal Logic, and Fatal Defect.

TR: Did your working for Multnomah help or hinder you in your attempts to get them to buy your stuff? Can you use other houses when Multnomah is not interested?

This is an interesting question. Every house has editors who also write. The skills are complementary. Every house has a different policy. Some say you cannot write for the house you work for. Others say you cannot write for anyone else (helping the competition, don't you know.) Others say you can write, but only if it's in an area you don't work in: i.e. if you're a children's editor, you can write adult fiction, but not children's books. Or vice versa.

At Multnomah, there's nothing set down in writing. There are rumblings that sound like leadership doesn't want us helping the competition, but nothing is formal. Some editors here take a don't ask, don't tell approach. I tend to think I need to give Multnomah right of first refusal. If they don't want the project, or if they say they might want it in two years, I feel I'm free to shop it around. In the case of the YA books I'm developing, I'm good to go, because M. doesn't publish YA.

And yes, there is a strange dynamic at work when I present my own ideas. They know me and they want to be nice to me, but they also need to be free to evaluate the idea on its own merits. Sometimes I think I should just leave the room while they talk about it. So far, they've shot down everything I've presented. No, that's not entirely true. They approved one in a lower committee, but I withdrew it before the final committee saw it. I lost interest in the project. Long story.

TR: Does Multnomah have any sort of policy with regards to genre fiction, like so many titles per year per genre, or is it strictly on a manuscript-by-manuscript basis as to whether they think something will sell, regardless of genre?

Not really either. There's nothing written down, but the novels we publish tend to fall into major camps depending on the three fiction editors' likes and dislikes. Each has a different set of preferences when looking at potential books. Within those sets, there is a freedom to try new genres, but that only goes so far. An editor might love a proposal, but if it's in a genre Multnomah either hasn't done before or has had bad luck with, the thing will probably get canned. And I keep trying to push the envelope there, both with my proposals and with other writers' proposals I bring to the committee. So far I'm 0-12, but I keep trying.

TR: Who's on the committee – just editors? Is Multnomah a for-profit concern, or a non-profit ministry?

We're for-profit.

The first committee is made up of everyone in the Editorial staff: editors, managers, VP, and support staff. Some wonderful discussions. The final deciding body is made up of the President, the Executive VP, and the Editorial VP.

TR: So you really have no in-house Perettis, novelists who repeatedly publish their works with Multnomah and spurn offers to go elsewhere?

Many of our authors prefer Multnomah. We try our best to offer in relationship and a feeling of family what we can't always pony up in cash. But sometimes authors do go to other houses, and sometimes it is over cash. We can't judge, because they may have financial obligations we know nothing of or may be donating their advances to a ministry or may sincerely believe the other house will do better with a book they feel especially passionate about. We have some authors who stay with Multnomah simply because if it ain't broke... Al Lacy is a good example.

Publishing houses have reputations. They have character. I should say they are perceived or expected to put out certain kinds of books and stay away from other kinds. Some houses are known as doctrine houses, serving the seminary community. Others are known as fiction houses, primarily. Others deal mainly with well-known speakers. Those characters change over time.

TR: Between the time a book is presented to an editor for consideration, how long to decide definitely yes or no to publish? If it is accepted, how long to get it to press?

Depends. Usually if I read a query I like, I'll present it at our next weekly editorial meeting. If they like it, it will go to the next meeting of the final deciding body (the publishing committee). They meet twice a month or so. It is sometimes several weeks before a book comes before that committee. Even then, sometimes they want further development, which could take any number of weeks. Some books are no-brainers. If Max Lucado comes to us with a book idea, we say yes. He doesn't go through committee. Most everybody else does.

Then, once a contract is authorized and signed, it takes about 9 months to get a book to bookstores. We're pushing to have 12 months, because when things are rushed, errors are more likely. Sometimes we can "fast-track" books in 4 months or so, but that's asking for trouble.

TR: Who owns the firm? Publicly traded, or privately held? Connected with some denomination or christian organization? Seems I recall hearing of something called the "Multnomah School of the Bible" out your way – any connection?

We're privately owned. No denominational connection, but we come from a conservative-to-moderate Evangelical orientation. Multnomah began as Multnomah Press, which was part of Multnomah School of the Bible in Portland. That organization was purchased by Questar Publishers in 1995 and moved to Sisters, in Central Oregon. The new company became Questar Publishers and retains no formal connections with the school.

TR: Is all this management, including the president, on site with you in Portland, or are you answering to corporate HQ in NYC or elsewhere?

We're in Sisters, Oregon, and yes, everyone's on-site. Very nice.

TR: Do your sales people call on Barnes and Noble, etc., or do they come to you?

We have salespeople assigned to B&N and other chains. Our guys go out to their buyers.

TR: What assistance with their writing does Multnomah provide to writers who have had a ms. or proposal accepted?

The less help they need, the better. The more writing we need to do for them, the slower the project moves. And the higher the possibility that the author won't be pleased. Sometimes, though, if a Big Name who can't write wants to do a book with us, we'll do whatever it takes to produce a book. The bigger the name, the more we're willing to do, because it's money in the bank. We have editors on staff who do a lot of writing. I think I'm being groomed for that kind of thing.

I know I've talked a lot about money in these conversations and not much about ministry. I'm sensitive to that. But the bottom line is, unfortunately, the bottom line. We do want to make money (to stay in business) and extend the kingdom of God mightily. If we don't do the one, we can't do the other. Sometimes we put out books that actually hurt us financially, but are deemed important enough to justify it. Those that are close to Multnomah's core mission. Theoretically, we put out the moneymakers in order to afford to put out the important ministry books.

GS: Looking at it from the outside, it almost seems to me that CBA publishers are half ashamed of the genre fiction they put out. I have written to the public relations addresses on the web sites of several (including Multnomah), asking what SF titles they have available, and never get a reply. Would you say that Multnomah has a "problem" with publishing genre fiction?

I think that's a bit sweeping. Palisaides, our line of romance novels, is nothing if not genre fiction. And we have quite a few westerns and various series. One editor in particular is really looking for literary fiction. Those can be in almost any genre.

But again, we're all shackled a bit by the we-tried-that-once-and-it-didn't-work mentality. Publishing is a risky business. Venture capitalism, if you will. You make a bad decision – publish an unpopular book – and everybody loses. So I think Multnomah as a whole is a little gun-shy when it comes to SF or men's or thrillers or whatever other category you might throw out, if we've not had success there before.

I think writers look at publishing companies and see rich, faceless firms just doing whatever they want and thumbing their nose at the world. That's not true. Publishing companies have to make money to stay afloat. That's the bottom line. We're influenced by the market just as any other business is. True, we should publish some books as a part of our Christian mission – whether they make money or not – and we do, but you can't do too many of those and keep all your employees paid. Sad as it is, publishers have to look at the bottom line with potential books. If your idea is good – even great in some respects – but won't sell in the bookstore, most houses are going to pass.

And houses change. I think Multnomah's gotten more conservative with fiction in the last few years. I'm pretty sure that if my books came to committee now, they'd never make it past the first level.

But if you think it's bad to not be able to get published, consider what it's like getting published but having the books fail miserably. Now neither publisher nor bookstore is going to take a chance on future books by you. It's better to be an unpublished "nobody" than a published "loser." Which is why I may write under a different pen name in future books.

TR: What does Multnomah do to sell its books? What do they expect you as an author to do in this regard?

Every book is different, but typically, it goes like this. There is advertising in trade and consumer magazines. There are radio interviews and sometimes TV interviews. Sometimes they do book signings. Bigger books have bigger budgets. Usually this just means more of the above. Multnomah's not into author tours these days. The sales force goes out to their buyer contacts with the entire catalogue of new books, and tries to secure shelf real estate for every title. Multnomah has a great sales force.

The author is welcome to do whatever he or she can on his or her own to make the book sell. Of course they want you to keep your appointments for interviews or signings. But some books, especially the "smaller" ones, aren't going to get much attention at all. So anything the author can do to drum up interest, the better. It helps everyone. It's possible to feel like the red-headed step-child of a publisher (believe me, I know.) Other books get more fuss. The writer has to have a heart of stone to survive. Which of course good writers never have.

GS: Do you have any book signings or appearances at conventions scheduled?

Nothing right now. Every now and again I hear rumblings, but they usually don't coalesce into anything. I'm a member of a Christian novelists' e-mail list. Several of us live in the Pacific NW. We're trying to get a group signing going in Portland, possibly in August.

A wise man once told me that a book is like a tomato. When it's new to the shelf, it has a certain beauty and attractiveness. But that quickly fades and newer tomatoes are brought to the front. Right now, since my latest book came out in 1998, I'm a pretty old tomato. Not a lot of interest in my books these days.

To stay at the front of the shelf, you've got to keep putting out produce. So far I've not got anything major on its way to market. I've got a short story in "The Storytellers' Collection," a compilation of short stories coming out this summer from Multnomah. And I'm working on an idea for a YA series, as I mentioned. It's this full-time job thing. I've also got a new baby due in June, so my free time will be less than zero.

I am going to the Write-to-Publish conference in Chicago this June. I'll be there as an editor, but I might just sneak into a few workshops as a writer.

TR: Is "Christian fiction" a large enough tent to include fiction which lauds virtues Christians hold dear without making conversion or spiritual fulcrumism a plot element?

Good question. I can only answer for myself and for Multnomah. I personally don't need to have someone get saved in a book to call it a Christian novel. If you've read my three novels, you've seen that no one gets saved until book 3. That's more realistic, I think.

But then how far do you go the other way? Can a book be considered Christian fiction if it just doesn't have cussing and sex in it? No. Not for me. If there's no difference (besides those elements) between a Christian book and a non-Christian book, I say it's not Christian fiction. I want to have some Christian element at the core of the book. Those writers who try to tack spirituality on to a story just to try to get published in what they consider an easier market can be spotted a mile away. I want fiction from the Christian worldview, fiction in which Christianity is at the heart of the story and/or the hero.

But not everybody agrees, not even at Multnomah. We are preparing a novel about a Jew trying to escape Holland in WWII. In my estimation, there's no Christian component to the story at all. But the committees all liked it, so it's going forward. It's great writing. I might even read it. But it's not what I call Christian fiction.

One of my themes is the absolute superiority of Christianity, rightly lived, over every other worldview or approach to living. All of my stories need to show that – not overtly, goodness sakes, no, but at the core of the tale.

TR: How did you approach this salvation in your novel? Does your denominational preference affect it?

Well, I suppose it would have to. I mean, my character is of a certain denominational bent, as am I. Of course we always think our way is best and right, don't we? If you're asking how I approached it in the story, it was like this: This character had been the "co-star" of all three novels. He'd been with my hero, who is a Christian, through thick and thin, seeing him respond well or poorly, but always within the context of Christianity. He'd taken baby steps toward Christ in the first two books. Some things challenged how he'd always thought. Then, in book 3, I have my hero witness to him. I thought he'd earned the right to do so by then.

I wanted the character to get saved at the outset, and then to have lots of problems. I'm always bothered by Christian fiction that has the person getting saved at the end and then living happily ever after. In my experience, it's when a person becomes a Christian that the real problems begin. The enemy's not going to lose one of his own without a fight. The difference is the resources the person now has to call upon.

If you're asking how I approach the plan of salvation, I guess I just sat down and wrote it. It has elements in it that I've used in my own life, and some I've never used but always wanted to. I'm sure it shows my theological bent quite clearly.

TR: Good point. I imagine you receive some pretty sugary, sappy, drippy, and generally outright horrible submissions at M. How do you structure rejection letters, and is this different depending upon whether you perceive the author has real talent and could get published, or whether he is a dreck-monger who should have his keyboard smashed up?

Nice imagery. Your hunch is right. When we get submissions that are clearly inappropriate, we send out a standard rejection letter. I've got a bulging file full of these – from Multnomah and the rest – for my own projects. Just part of the biz.

If I see a project that shows promise, but is not suitable for us for whatever reason, I'll often jot off an e-mail. Perhaps because of said bulging file, I have a real heart for writers on the outside trying to get in. What I usually say is something like this: You've got real promise; now go out and get Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, do everything in it, and send your proposal back to me later."

There are some projects that must be handled with care. Friends of Multnomah, someone's Aunt Ruth (that's for all my fellow Veggie Tales fans out there), or authors represented by agents can't get form rejection letters. They usually get rejected all the same, but with a little more TLC.

If you get a rejection letter that is at all personal – a note pencilled in the margin of your query, an encouraging Post-It, etc. – you'll treasure it. It's also often a sign that you're beginning to get warmer.

EG: LOL! Poor Aunt Ruth <G> I would imagine that being a writer, it might make it more difficult to edit. Do you find that editing non-fic is easier, because you write mostly fic? Or am I wrong there? :)

This was my hunch, too, when I started. I was afraid I wouldn't be able to distance myself from someone else's fiction, that I would impose my own style on their writing, trying to make it over in my image. Non-fiction is "safe" in that way. It's easier than you might think to get into someone's voice – for non-fiction, anyway. But now I think I've figured out how to stay distant from the book I'm working on. I think I'm ready to edit fiction. Just haven't gotten the opportunity yet.

TR: If the editor on whose desk novel x has landed is ambiguous about it, can he ask a second editor for a second opinion?

Definitely, but this rarely happens. The second editor has a stack on his or her desk, too. If I'm too close to a proposal, like if I know the person or something, I'll have someone else look at it. But usually we just believe that God made sure the proposal landed on the desk of the editor He picked for it.

We don't have time to anguish over every manuscript that comes in. If a proposal is great, it's pretty clear. If it's terrible, that's clear, too. If it's so-so and doesn't strike us as interesting, we usually give it to the editorial secretary to send out the standard rejection letter.

TR: How do you as editor decide whether sufficient Christian elements are in the book to style it a "christian" book?

Again, if a book doesn't have some element of Christianity at its core, for me it's not a Christian novel. I like books with Christian sub-plots or likable Christian minor characters, but that's not Christian fiction to me. No one has to get saved for it to be a Christian novel, mind you. But at its heart it has to deal with some aspect of living as a Christian in this hostile, alien world. For me.

You'll find that editors are just folks, and sometimes your novel will get passed or picked depending on whose desk it happens to land on. God is most certainly involved in those "coincidences."

TR: Do you estimate that there will be an audience for this book [about a Jew trying to escape Holland in WWII]? How will it be marketed?

I hope there's an audience. It is good, perhaps even literary, fiction. There is an audience for that, though it's not as big as for the crowd pleasers like the Left Behind books. I don't know if it will be marketed in any way differently than how I described in an earlier message: advertising, interviews, and sales.

TR: Do you know any houses that would publish a PG version of, say, The Green Mile or Saving Private Ryan? Could any of these houses have marketed to the ABA? And since the subject is SF, what about a PG version of The Mote in God's Eye, by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle?

I believe Christian houses are getting bolder when it comes to literary fiction. But remember, this will only happen as publishers discover there's a market for it. If they put a few out and they don't sell like crazy, future books like them will not be likely.

I have a novel I want to write that shows houses' reticence. (Go to www.nappaland.com, click on Sneak Previews, and then on "Grasping at Angels" to read what I've done so far.) I sent this to all the big houses. Without exception I got very polite letters back praising my writing to the sky – but declining my proposal. They were saying, "Send us anything but this!" One editor said, "Our readership isn't ready for the Christian 'Braveheart.'" They all know it's good, but they all suspect it'll sell about 1,000 copies max. That represents a sizable loss for them, so they regretfully decline.

TR: What non-fiction genres does Multnomah publish?

We do general Christian living, parenting, marriage, spiritual disciplines, men's and women's issue books, weight loss, social issues, relationships, humor, and more. Very general Evangelical publishing. I'd like to see us get back into more meaty doctrinal books, though you can't argue with the success of books like the Stories for the Heart series. Got to pay the bills somehow.

TR: How many copies of Christian a novel does Multnomah have to sell to make money?

Good question. Usually this depends on how "big" the house expects it to be. If it's hoped to be a really big book, we'll give a larger advance to the author and spend more for advertising and publicity. Therefore we'll have to sell more copies to make that back. Smaller books need to sell fewer to make back Multnomah's investment – but have a harder time doing so because less marketing effort has been put into making it take off.

I think my books needed to sell about 9,000 copies each to break even. First printing was 10,000, so we pretty much had to sell out of the first printing before I ever saw a royalty check. So far, we're not even close. I get royalty statements every quarter, but there's always this pesky minus sign in front of my royalty payment amount.

TR: How long will they keep your book in back-list before pulping or remaindering the rest of the copies and putting it out of print?

Good question. Multnomah decides based on sales. If sales for a title have absolutely stopped, it will go on a recommended OOP (out of print) list. Sales looks at the list to see if they think a new cover or something would breathe life into anything on the list. Then editorial looks at it for similar cues. If Sales doesn't think they can sell a book even with a new cover, we usually pass, too.

One of my books is teetering on the edge of going out of print. Terminal Logic is clinging to life, selling in the double digits every quarter. I actually received my OOP letter, but they said it was a mistake. I'd almost like it to go OOP so the rights could revert to me and I could shop it around again. I'm partial to that book, possibly because it's been beat up on so much.

EG: What does pulping and remaindering mean?

MVP: Pulping: Just what it sounds like. The books are ground up into paper pulp and recycled. Or otherwise destroyed.

Remaindering: The books are dumped at a steep discount to some place that sells discount books. I think Crown is one of these. I believe the author gets little or no royalties on this sale of remaindered books.

Used to be, authors could build up a stable of books, and even if they sold only a little, a trickle of sales of a lot of books could add up to a decent living. Not any longer.

GS: In Virtually Eliminated, you quite thoroughly develop Patriot's motivation. Did you do this simply to help us identify with him, or did you intend us to sympathise with his motivation to some extent?

We like to think bad people are just bad. Evil. Nothing like us. But it gets stickier when we begin to understand them, and stickier still when we start wondering if maybe they're right and we're the ones who are wrong. I wanted to play around with that dynamic in VE. At the time, I was feeling a little sympathetic to the villain's perspective, myself. I'm not there anymore, but I did want to send a yes/no/maybe? message. Life is ambiguous. Sometimes we want our fiction to be nice and neat. Movies like that leave one feeling good – if a bit empty. I tried giving a little graytone to the black and white scale we all prefer, but which is usually wrong.

TR: What was the reaction of the editors to your doing this? Of the readers?

Had no editorial concerns. We did get one letter from a Japanese American saying that he and others had suffered because of the kind of thinking he saw in my books. I wrote a letter apologizing to him. I probably wouldn't write that book the same way again if I had it to do over.

TR: If you were asked to give advice to a teenage christian who wanted to get into christian sci-fi writing, and wanted to know what training/experience to get, what would you say?

What I say to every amateur novelist: Get Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne & King and do what they say. That's the quickest path to skill I've yet seen. As for the training, just live life. Get educated so you can get a good job that will support you as you try to make it big in fiction. Read a lot. Learn to think analytically about novels: what could've been done differently to make it better? Write a lot. Read books on writing.

TR: How should a budding young author seek to have his practice writing efforts evaluated?

Wow, tough question. I think the better question might be: should a budding writer have his efforts evaluated. Of course I'm jesting, but I know how terrifying it is to let someone see your writing, especially your fiction. It's your baby. And not only that, but you rightly suspect that you've revealed more about your deepest self than you even realize, and you're sure everyone will see right through you. Standing naked before a jury of your peers just about gets the feeling across.

For some writers, it's too much. To survive, you have to have a combination of a soft heart and thick skin. Of course it's not possible, so you just get hurt and try to work up the courage to be vulnerable to pain again the next time.

Now on to your question. Before said budding writer ever let his writing be seen by anyone else, especially a professional "anyone else," I would implore him to take it through Self-Editing for Fiction Writers.

(I know you're saying, "Will this guy ever stop about that book?" Well, sorry, folks, but that little tome says everything I would say a hundred times better than I could say it. Funny how people can complain when something isn't difficult enough!)

If that writer doesn't want to take the time or apply the discipline to go through such a book, then I can already tell you his writing's substandard. But if Mr. Budding Writer does send his writing through the ropes of that book, then I think he can feel more confident letting someone else see it.

Try to get it before a professional (for free, if possible). An editor would be best. Fellow writers, if they are insecure, can sometimes crush young writers. I had that happen to me. The guy had published a few articles, so I thought he was a real pro. He crucified my writing – and, I might add, my hopes – with his little red pen. Took me years to get over it.

I don't know. Maybe it's best that you don't show your stuff to anyone, except maybe to acquisitions editors at magazines or publishing companies. On the other hand, if you can find a talented, secure, mentor type who will tell you the truth in love, you've found a wonderful thing.

TR: What is your opinion wrt the changes in the Christian book industry, specifically the mergers, chain bookstores, etc., and buy-outs of Christian houses by large secular media concerns? What do you see as the future of the industry?

Always in motion is the future. I'm afraid I don't have any opinion on the mergers and whatnot. I hope it translates into more interest in Christian fiction. As for the future, I think small presses, e-publishing, and especially on-demand publishing are really going to blow the book industry wide open. Won't necessarily make books better, just as having camcorders didn't make everybody into Spielbergs, but it will make them more available. That's the beauty and the danger of the Internet: the availability of whatever you want.

TR: Do you suspect some of these new mostly electronic options might put Multnomah out of business?

No. As I mentioned before, people will always want to hold a book in their hands.

TR: Is Multnomah active on the web?

Yes. Check us out at www.multnomahbooks.com, www.authortalk.com, www.foulgrin.com, and www.christian-fiction.com. Those are all Multnomah sites. There are more I'm forgetting.

TR: Is it contemplating actual web publishing efforts?

A little. Tentatively. I mentioned previously that we're looking at electronic and on-demand options for a pre-OOP option. We're looking at digital audio books, too. E-books will be a few more years down the road for us, probably.

TR: What is the house policy for dealing with a book that is in print, if the author falls into some scandal or should repudiate the faith?

That depends. If it's a clear case of immorality or spurning the faith, then we'll probably just act like Joseph and seek to put the book away quietly. We'll usually eat all the returns that will come pouring back from bookstores.

If it's just a controversy, a case of interpretation, with good Christian thinkers on both sides of the issue, we'll usually stand by the book and the author. We have one series of books that seems to surface in the news every few months. And guess what? Every time it does and articles protesting it are written, sales shoot up. People want to see what all the fuss is about. We don't seek controversy, but sometimes we don't mind when it comes.

TR: How important to your business is the CBA annual convention and your association with this organization?

The CBA convention is the huge trade show for the Christian publishing industry. There bookstore buyers from all over the world come to see what's available in the entire industry. But I think it's just as much for the publishers than for the buyers. Each one tries to show up the others. (It's usually all done in fun.) Bestselling authors abound, new banner products are announced, publicity stunts and freebies are common. Each publisher spies on the others. It's great fun.

Lots of deals are made there – and not just for authors. Editors, salespeople, and PR folks sometimes make deals to go work for other houses. Houses assign guides to their authors, but the guides function as much as guards against the advances from other houses as anything else. Agents find it convenient to basically shop products around to the entire industry in person in one short week. A real boon for agents, actually.

I really don't know anything about membership in the organization. I think that's mainly for the bookstore buyers, but I really don't know.

TR: As a writer of christian sf/fantasy, how do you research your efforts? Do you attend sci-fi conventions, read fan/sf trade literature, participate on listservs (other than this one), chat rooms, etc.?

If you want to write "fantasy," whether it's space fantasy or medieval fantasy, you don't need to do much research at all. Make it all up. If you want to do a fantasy that feels like a historical medieval book, or if you want to do actual science fiction, you'll need to do a ton of homework.

For my near-future technothrillers, I was reading graduate school AI textbooks, interviewing geneticists, driving long distances to play with different VR gear, etc. Even so, I've had readers write to me and tell me all my technical mistakes. That's the joy and the danger of writing about something you don't know from your own education or life: You don't know what you don't know, so you're likely to get something wrong.

For me, half the fun of writing is the research. I love learning and discovering. That's why I wrote my three books. I wanted to know more about VR, more about AI, and more about genetic engineering. And, so long as I'm learning about it, I might as well write a book about it. Especially since my imagination doesn't leave town when I'm researching. The kernel idea for Virtually Eliminated went something like this: "Ooh, what if two guys, separated by thousands of miles, duked it out hand to throat in virtual reality?"

I've read very dry medieval tomes for my medieval and fantasy research. Right now I'm reading NASA studies and university lab transcripts to research my interstellar ark idea. You have to to give your writing the ring of authenticity. Plus, I'm just interested.

I will say that many of the folks in SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) – medieval faire types – are extremely knowledgable about all things medieval. Some of these guys are the genuine article, real experts in their fields. If you're considering writing in this genre, look up your local SCA chapter (you can also find them online). There is sometimes some real social and lifestyle junk to get past with these folks, but once you do, you can find some real help.

I haven't been to any SF conventions and I don't read comix or trade cards or anything. I'm only on one listserv besides this one: a group for published Christian novelists.

EG: I'd have to say that TL is my favorite of the three... probably because that's the one I found first... So as soon as something goes out of print, the rights revert to the author again? If that were to happen, would you rework it?

The rights revert after a set number of months, usually six. If there is a good reason to release the rights early, or if the author simply asks, the publisher is usually agreeable to releasing them early.

As for revisions, the only thing I would do is fix the few typos that slipped through. Of course I would push for a better cover (for Terminal Logic, at least) and a style of covers that makes it more clear that the three books belong together. Of course, that would only be if all three books went out of print. Another thing I might work on is electronic publishing or some kind of on-demand situation.

EG: Thank you for answering all our questions :)

You're welcome. Thank you all for inviting me here and for asking such insightful questions. I've heard that this interview will be edited and posted to the Web. If so, I think it could be a great resource for Christian writers.

A final request. If you've found anything I've said useful, would you do just one of the following for me, please?

1) Go buy (not borrow or check out from the library) a copy of one of my novels. Virtually Eliminated, Terminal Logic, or Fatal Defect. If you already own them all, buy one for a friend's birthday. It's sales and word-of-mouth from folks like you that really help a "small" book take off.

2) Go to your local Christian bookstore and look for my books on the shelf. If they're not there, ask the manager what happens if someone places a special order but then decides he doesn't want what he ordered. If the manager says they would put the book on their own shelves, please go ahead and order one book copy of each of my books. That way, a bookstore that wouldn't normally carry my books would now carry them. How can they be sold if they're not in the store? (As I'm typing this, it feels a bit dishonest. Hmm. Let the Spirit guide you.)

3) If you see one of my books in a bookstore, turn it face out. People are more likely to pick up a book whose cover they see than a book whose spine is all they can see. (And grab the customer next to you, the one browsing for a novel, and recommend mine to her!)

4) Go to Amazon.com and write a review of one or more of my books.

Thank you all for a fun time. God bless your lives!

Signing off...

Jeff Gerke
a.k.a. Jefferson Scott

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