Friday, July 17, 2015

Interview With Anna Novak, Acquisitions Editor, BEYOND Words Publishing

1.       Anna, as an acquisitions editor at Beyond Words Publishing, what type of manuscripts are you looking for?  I'm looking for proposals and manuscripts that approach mind, body, spirit themes through a new lens, from new and old voices with fun and serious tones. I look for stories that inspire, ideas that create social change and personal growth. In the end, though, my primary consideration in acting as the acquiring editor for Beyond Words and since Beyond Words is a publisher on a mission to put books out into the world that encourage positive change, that's the core I look for in every proposal or manuscript I receive.  

2.       How would you describe the brand of Beyond Words?  I would say that the Beyond Words brand is about creating a holistic lifestyle that inspires positive change in the world. Its aim is to provide the resources and community to create a space that transforms and shifts lives by touching the heart of each individual. Is this the part where I say "check out our website?" If so:

3.       How did you come to your present position? What did you do leading up to this moment?  Love of books and, for me, curiosity are probably the two things that lead me to being an editor. I think that, like most editors, my passion for books originates from being a reader. I still point to Where the Wild Things Are as the book that started my love of reading. I think I was around 5 years old when I first encountered it and immediately  and permanently fell in love with all things book.

I'm also an unreserved learning nerd, I love to find out about new things and how they connect to the bigger picture, and I let that be the driving force in my higher education-- I basically jumped from major to major and indulged my inner nerd to the nth degree. In the end I received my undergrad in Liberal Studies, with a minor in writing. While in my undergrad, I found out about a masters program in publishing and that was it: I knew that's what I wanted to do. It was an area of expertise that allowed me to play in a profession that appealed to both my love of books as well as my interest in, well, everything. Fast forward 8 years and here I am. 

4.       What type of social media or speaking platform or media resume are you expecting an author to have in order for you to give him or her serious consideration for publication?  Everything. No, really. It's whatever is most suited to their audience. In other words, if Twitter isn't being used by their audience but their audience is super-active on Facebook, then I would want to see that the author really has a handle on that, to see stickiness and interaction happening where the audience lives, along with continued growth in that arena. A stagnant audience does not translate to book sales. I would also say that I like to see a minimum of three main forms of author-audience communication…at least two that are social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterist, blog, etc.) and one that is live (events, webinars, workshops, etc). On top of that, author connections and lists are really important as well. Who do they know, what media do they have contacts with…all of those things are great to see.

In straight numbers, for non-fiction authors who are experts in their topic, it's good to see social media numbers that start at a minimum of 20,000 likes/followers on social media and a slightly higher number of unique visitors to a website/blog. For fully branded authors, non-fiction or fiction, it would be reasonable to see three times those numbers.

That said, I have authors on my list that had to build their social media from scratch after acquisition. It does depend greatly on the quality of concept, what's trending, and the potential of the author.  

5.       What do you find rewarding and challenging about working in book publishing?  Yikes, this is a hard questionthere are layers of reward, I guess: there's knowing that somewhere out there are people I will never know who have read books that I acquired and edited and had their lives changed and there's also having a job that uses all of my brain, that pushes me to be creative and resourceful everyday, full-out.

There are also layers to what's challenging. I would say working in such a competitive market: between self-pub and pressures to produce, produce, produce, the book market is flooded and we're all trying to find books that can rise above the white noise. And then there's communicating with authors about the business end of publishing-- they have a dream for their books and the publishing marketplace isn't necessarily  conducive for making all dreams come true. A book that's not selling can be brutally disappointing for everyone, including publishers.

6.       Do you have any advice for a struggling writer?  Learn your craft (and never stop studying) and then learn the publishing trade (and never stop studying). The first has to do with being a writer. The second with being an author. There's a difference between those two identities. 

7.       What trends are you seeing in book publishing?  Did you mean trends as an industry or trends in topics? If you meant trends as an industry, there's a consistent trend of new technologies or formats being the "end of publishing" or the "end of reading" or the "end of books." I would like to start a trend that ends the "end of [fill in the blank]" mantra already. Like Y2K, it didn't happen and, if actual trends stay true, won't happen. The trend that is a trend to stay is publishing as an adaptive industry that shifts as needed to get books into readers hands. There is a reason it has been an industry in some way-shape-or-form for hundreds of years. Um, if it's not obvious, I have some frustration around the whole "end of publishing" trope. My soapbox aside, I think the opening markets in Asia and the Middle East will continue to grow, bringing a new dynamic into our very West-centric industry. 

If you meant trends in topics, then I would say that LGBTQ is huge. Narrative non-fiction on natural sciences and social sciences. Inspirational stories without any other agenda but to inspire. No-BS books…on everything from leadership and personal growth to dating and tidying up. And vampire-zombie hybrids, of course. 


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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2015

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