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Invitations to Agents and Publishers at the Florida Writers Annual Conference Are Made with You, the Writer, in Mind

August 4, 2013

–by Veronica Hart

Ronnie in black and redIt’s a balancing act for FWA to decide which agents and publishers to invite to the Florida Writers Annual Conference. On the one hand, we want to introduce new faculty, so members have a variety of opportunities. On the other, we welcome agents and publishers who have a track record of publishing FWA authors. The goal is to provide our members the best opportunities for success.

This year’s Florida Writers Annual Conference, “The Greatest Writers Conference on Earth,” is no exception. We have new publishers and returning publishers.

One of the returning publishers is Double Edge Press (DEP), a traditional publisher owned by Rebecca and Neal Melvin. The Melvins have attended our annual conference five times, and as a result of conference interviews, have published 15 books by FWA members. The Melvins were kind enough to give us a pre-conference interview.Rebecca Melvin

FWA: You’ve been to the Florida Writers Association conference several times since 2008. Why do you like coming to the FWA conferences?

Rebecca: We are always happy to see authors who are dedicated to learning every aspect of writing. Our first year here we found and published three authors. I can’t imagine there is any better conference with such enthusiastic, focused and dedicated writers. I like that the writers have taken the time to come meet with us face to face. Their extra time and effort earn our respect.

And I am pleased to say that five of our fifteen FWA member authors are RPLA winners.

FWA: Several attendees have told me over the years they have avoided interviewing with your company because you mention the word Christian in your description of works you are seeking. What do you say to that?

Rebecca: This started when I tried to market one of my books to a Christian house. The book was not “clean” enough for them, but on the other hand, it was too Christian for a mainstream publisher. At about that time, we began considering options for a publishing house that emphasized good writing but would not shy away from questions of faith. We want a fully rounded catalog with some books that are pointedly Christian and focus on spirituality, but other books that are just bang-up good stories and are compatible with a Christian World View. We’re probably not going to be jumping on the vampire, werewolf, or zombie bandwagons anytime soon. The main thing authors need to keep in mind when asking themselves if they have something we may be interested in is: does it meet the minimum threshold of being compatible with a Christian World View?

Neal Melvin - Double Edge Press headshot

Neal: As long as it’s not devil worship, we’ll look at anything.

Rebecca: We also like to see manuscripts that have been carefully edited for formatting, spelling and typing errors. This is true for nearly all publishing houses – the less proofreading and editing needed for the work, the more likely it is to get a second look. It’s difficult to find the story when you’re busy with too many errors.

The best investment a writer can make is to hire a professional editor once he believes his story is perfect.  What they learn from a good editor is going to serve them well not just on that manuscript but on all their works going forward.

FWA: How did you begin your publishing career?

Rebecca: I worked for a publishing house in Pittsburgh. At the time it was a vanity house, the one where the author pays for everything. I learned the entire process from editing, proofing, and formatting. It was a good background; however, that was in the early eighties and the world of publishing has changed. The one constant, though—which cannot be stressed enough—is careful editing and proofreading.

I started a business called Cutting Edge Literary, where I edited and wrote query letters for authors. Many of these authors were from an online Christian community, and their works were running into the same roadblocks as my own: too Christian for mainstream, but not “by the book” for straight-up Christian publishers, meaning no curse words, no sex, saccharin sweet. One day, one of my authors said to me, “You do everything else, why not go ahead and publish the books you’ve worked on?”

After pondering it for a while, and doing a lot of research, I made the decision to try it.

Neal: There I was, working fifteen hundred miles from home when I got a call. “Dear, we’re starting a publishing company. Let’s buy a printing press.”

“Where do you think we can put it?”

“In the dining room.”

“Floors wouldn’t support it.”

“What about the basement?”

“Not the basement.”

She realized there would have to be another way to get the books printed. So there I was minding my own business when all of a sudden I became a partner in the publishing business. Double Edge Press.

Rebecca: He is head of the steering committee. When I wanted to buy the printing press, he steered me away from that. In all honesty, though, his input has been invaluable. For someone who was dragged into this kicking and screaming, so to speak, he does keep us on track and, most importantly, profitable.

FWA: What is new in your business now?

Rebecca: We’ve recently signed with Midpoint Trade Books, which will move us up into the big leagues because they work with all the major book retailers, including the big box stores. This will give our works the opportunity to be consistently on store shelves at Books-a-Million, Barnes & Noble, Target, Walmart and every other player you can think of, instead of just being sporadically ordered in. But it has been a difficult transition. We’re going from lean and mean to having all the delays one can always expect when dealing with “big business.” Even when the process is moving smoothly, it has essentially doubled the timeframe needed to take a book from contract signing to release date.

FWA: So how many books a year do you publish?

Rebecca: To date we average five new books a year. Our focus is on producing high-quality books that we personally love to read and for which we believe there is an audience out there waiting. Once this new distribution process is complete, we hope to increase our production because one of the upsides is it takes a lot of the sales responsibilities off of my shoulders and onto theirs, leaving me more time for the production side of things. And as we grow larger, we’ll have the ability to outsource more of the process and further increase the number of titles we put out each year.

To see what Rebecca and Neal publish, visit their website at: www.doubleedgepress.com.

“The Greatest Writers Conference on Earth” will be held October 18-20, 2013, at the Orlando Marriott Lake Mary. See the FWA website, floridawriters.net, to learn more, to register, and to make your agent appointments. Also check out the full set of FAQs. Questions? Contact ConferenceMarketing@FloridaWriters.net.

Veronica Helen Hart (Ronnie) is not only one of the 15 FWA members who became a Double Edge Press author (Elena: The Girl with the Piano) but also has won two RPLAs (The Prince of Keegan Bay and Escape from Iran). For FWA, she’s the faculty chairperson for the 2013 conference, on the Board of Directors, a Regional Director, and a Writers Group Leader. Check her out at www.veronicahhart.com

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