Thursday, January 13, 2011

Six Questions for Judith M. Ivie, Publisher, Mainly Murder Press

From the website:

"Mainly Murder Press (MMP) is a traditional publishing company, not an e-publisher. Our niche is mystery novels with an emphasis on New England-based stories by New England authors. However, mysteries authored by others, even if the stories are set outside the region, will also be considered for publication." Read the complete guidelines here.

JI: Mainly Murder Press publishes one new mystery each month. Synopses, sample chapters, and marketing plans for manuscripts between 50,000 and 70,000 words are accepted for consideration during July and January of each year. If, after reading the first three chapters, our preliminary readers agree that they would like to see more, the full manuscript is requested.

SQF: There’s been quite a bit written about the demise of the paper book and the decline in the number of books published. What is your view of the current state of the book and the book market?

JI: I believe the printed book industry is alive and well. However, the new computer technology has enabled almost anyone to jump into the business, many choosing to exploit aspiring authors by publishing anything submitted for a price. It's reprehensible, but it's not illegal, and as a result, a lot of baaaaad books are being "published." Writers, as well as prospective book buyers, need to be more discerning.

SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a manuscript?

JI: A lively, entertaining mystery ... respect for the rules of grammar and punctuation ... a good fit with our primary readers, who generally are not fans of graphic sex and foul language.

SQF: What major mistakes do authors make when pitching their books?

JI: Most authors would prefer to leave the marketing of their titles to others and focus on their writing, but that's not possible these days. There is very little money to be made in fiction under the best of circumstances, and gone are the days when publishers could keep marketing professionals on staff to devote full-time to promotion. Authors must be prepared and willing to participate actively in the marketing of their titles and must include specifics of their proposed promotional activities with their submissions. Publishing is a team effort in today's ultra-competitive environment.

SQF: Of the books your company publishes each year, how many are by previously unpublished authors?

JI: About 60% of the titles we published in 2010 were by previously unpublished authors.

SQF: What is your advice to new, unpublished authors looking for a publisher or agent?

JI: Understand that writing/publishing is a business, and most publishers operate within specific niches. Do your homework, and make sure your submission fits each publisher's requirements. If you're seeking publication of a fictional work by Random House, you must first acquire an agent. If you submit to small presses, an agent is superfluous. Be aware that the best story in the world will not fly in today's competitive marketplace if it is poorly written, spelled, punctuated, and edited in general. Be a competent craftsman, as well as a creative writer.

SQF: What question do you wish I’d asked that I didn’t? And how would you answer it?

JI: If your manuscript is under consideration, or has been accepted, by a publisher, don't spend the ensuing months on blogs and Facebook questioning the publisher's policies or complaining about sales. We read them, too, and such communications brand you as unprofessional. Instead, consider how you can contribute positively to the process. Learn the business, do your part well, and build your career on a strong foundation of knowledge. Remember, we're all in this together. Your success is our success, and vice versa.

Thank you, Judith. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.

NEXT POST: 1/17--Six Questions for Michael Kannengieser, Fiction Editor, The View From Here


  1. I especially agree with the statement that "Understand that writing/publishing is a business, and most publishers operate within specific niches." a lack of research and an unprofessional approach by an author typically diminishes their chances for publication. Excellent interview.

  2. Glad you enjoyed the interview, Michael. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. Great questions and answers. More new novelists need to be aware of the small press option. A book needs to be just as polished as anything submitted to an agent, but a small press can give more individual attention and care to each author, and with a niche publisher like Mainly Murder, a book is more like to reach a particular target audience.

    Also Judith makes a very good point about the whining. Authors who whine online are damaging themselves as well as their publishers.