Saturday, July 2, 2011

A visit with Sunny Frazier, Oak Tree Press Acquisitions Editor

Sunny Frazier is a mystery writer and acquisitions editor for Oak Tree Press. She speaks to writers groups and offers advice online to a group she calls her posse. She also dabbles in astrology, which has become the basis for her mystery series.

Sunny, what does an acquisitions editor look for in over the transom submissions?

First, I look to see if it's a genre we publish. We concentrate on mystery, romance, paranormal and Westerns. Next, I look at word count. Books are cost effective to print and sell between 55,000 and 85,000 words. Next, I google the person and see if they have any presence on the web. I want to know what they've done up to now in regards to their career. Then I look over the synopsis to see if it will fit in with our line. I will do a search to see how many cuss words are in the book, if there is a strong religious or political angle. We're looking for entertaining reads, not sex or violence.

Once I get past that, I look to see the level and quality of writing. I expect proper formatting, good grammar and spelling. Finally, I'm ready to read the story for plot and characters. 

What are the biggest mistakes writers make when submitting to a small press?
Usually, they lack any sort of knowledge of the publishing world. They have no expectations of marketing or the amount of work they will have to do to make a profit. They've heard stories of huge advances, big royalty checks, book tours. A small press doesn't have that sort of money or resources. It's usually just a handful of people running the company. Often they think they are being ripped off because their expectations are so unrealistic. I try to weed those authors out ahead of time.

What in your writing background prepared you to serve as an editor?

My degree is in journalism, so writing has always been a business for me. I write for an audience, not for my own pleasure. I understand many people want to think of writing as an art, but I think in commercial terms. I've applied that to acquisitions. Can this book sell? Is this author flexible?Where is the target market? How do I reach it? I factor in everything before I make recommendations to Billie Johnson, the publisher.

How did your interest in astrology come about and how have you incorporated it into your work?

I discovered astrology at 19 from a strong reaction when I saw Alexandra Mark's book <i>Astrology for the Aquarian Age </i>in the dusty window of a book store in El Monte, [California], where I worked as a telephone operator. Everything in the book just made sense, although it involves lots of numbers and calculations--not my strong point. I put it all away when I joined the Navy (they don't exactly approve of such things). I really kept it under wraps for a long time, but every once in awhile I'd sense someone would need their chart done. The word got around in the sheriff's department where I later worked. Many of the deputies wanted their horoscope done to see if they would die on the job. Women wanted to see if they would find love.

To write about astrology was a tough decision. Would people take me seriously or think I was a kook? I figured if I was going to put it in my mysteries, I would come clean about what I physically experience when I cast horoscopes. Some are so difficult, so sad, that I have to go to bed to recover. It's not all fun and games. It's telling people things that they might not be prepared to learn. It takes a toll on me. In order for my character, Christy Bristol, to ring true, I had to go pretty deep inside myself and try to find a way to explain it to readers without losing them in jargon. 
What are the most frequent questions asked when you talk to writers’ groups?

"How can I get published?" and "How much money do you make?"

How did your posse come about and how many members are there?

It started when I found people who queried me had potential but no clue as to the publishing industry. I market and research anyway, so I thought "Why make them navigate that maze?" I collected emails and started sending the group to sites that I found interesting or informative. I believe I can take 5 years off of a writer's career path if they just follow the lead. The title "Posse" is part of my law enforcement mentality.

There's 40 of us who ride together.  

What’s your current work n progress?

I'm working on the 3rd book in the Christy Bristol Astrology Mysteries: A Snitch in Time. As with the others, it has a real law enforcement story behind it. I'm also examining the friendship between Christy and her sidekick, Lennie. I also want to see if astrology can be used as a profiling tool.

What’s your work schedule like? And do you have a day job?

I'm retired. I get up, feed the cats, read my email and then pick up where I left off on the manuscript. I rest when my eyes get tired. I do acquisitions in the afternoon and sometimes late into the night. I work seven days a week and holidays. I don't have family obligations, children to worry about or a husband/boyfriend who needs my attention. The cats have to go outdoors if they become obnoxious. They don't know how to dial the SPCA to complain. 

What about your social media links?

I blog at Buried Under Books and the Oak Tree Press blog, monitor Facebook, Crime Space, Book Blog, She Writes, Authors and Publishers, a total of about 35 sites. I don't twitter, have no cell phone and screen my calls. I don't allow visitors, although I can be persuaded to go to lunch if a friend is buying. My time and energy is invested in the authors who query me, authors at the publishing house, my publisher and the Posse. Sounds boring, but I couldn't be happier.

1 comment:

  1. I'm one of those writers Sunny mentioned. When she invited me to join the Posse, although I'd been writing for forever, when it came to marketing, I was pretty much clueless. I've learned so much from Sunny and the other Posse members. This is a group of writers who truly do help and encourage each other.