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Cheryl Pierson,
Managing Editor, Prairie Rose Publications

June 2015


Pierson WG:      Welcome, and thanks for stepping into my spotlight this month.   To start off, please tell us a bit about yourself.  


CP:      Hi Winnie! Thanks so much for having me here at your blog in the spotlight this month! It's MUCH appreciated! You know, ever since I was a kid I have been interested in words and I remember in elementary school how misspelled words jumped out at me, even then. Grammar and punctuation always came easy to me, and I never dreaded English homework-it was my very favorite. My B.A. is in English-I graduated from the University of Oklahoma.

I guess writing was a natural evolution as a career since I did it so much "for fun". I've done a lot of freelance editing over the years, and also edited for several small publishing companies including The Wild Rose Press, Western Trail Blazer, Publishing by Rebecca J. Vickery, and others. In August of 2013, Livia Reasoner and I decided to open our own publishing house, PRAIRIE ROSE PUBLICATIONS. We now have a total of 6 imprints in our publishing company, and just this week opened a new medieval line under the main PRP imprint. We are having such fun with this and for me, just helping others realize their dream is the best part of it.

WG:      Can you tell us why you decided to pursue a career as an editor and what steps you took to get you where you are today?

CP:      Well, as I said, it just came so naturally. I remember in grade school writing a paper that was two pages long when all that was required was one paragraph. Yes, some of my classmates looked at me as if I'd lost my mind, but to me those assignments were enjoyable, and so I poured myself into them.

WG:      What genres/lines do you currently acquire works for?

CP:      When Livia and I "opened the doors" of PRP, it was just the two of us. We've since added Kathleen Rice Adams as our Publicity, Promotions and Media Co-ordinator, but acquisitions and editing are the main hats I wear. So I take care of the acquisitions in all our imprints-Prairie Rose Publications, which is our historical romance line; Fire Star Press, which is our contemporary, fantasy and science fiction line; Tornado Alley Publications, which is our contemporary, fantasy and science fiction line for Middle Grade Readers, YA, and New Adults; and for those same age groups, Painted Pony Books which is our historical line; Prayers and Promises is our inspirational line, and we've recently added Sundown Press which is our imprint for fiction and non-fictional works-including self-help books, cookbooks, and so on.

WG:      Are you actively seeking out new authors, and if so, what would it take to catch your eye?

CP:      We have a LOT of new authors at PRP-and we've really been glad of it. One of our "newbies", Kathleen Rice Adams, is a nominee for the prestigious Western Fictioneers Peacemaker award in two categories-Best Short Fiction and Best First Western Novel. Prairie Rose Publications published both of those stories. A good story is what I'm looking for-in any genre. If the story isn't compelling, the reader is not going to care how handsome the hero is or how feisty the heroine is. The characters have to have a good storyline-they deserve it, and so does the reader! I love to see new authors' works, as well as the more established authors we publish-and we do a LOT of backlists.

WG:      Do you think contest credits help an author further their career? Have you ever acquired a manuscript that you discovered via a writing contest?

CP:      You know…I am not so big on contests. For one thing, it's extremely hard to find competent judges who can be unbiased and have the time to judge so many entries fairly. Twice, as a judge myself, I have been asked at the last minute to "please take another 4 or 5 of the entries" because someone backed out. The second time that happened, I stopped judging because I just didn't have the time to devote to it. I don't really look at what awards someone has won before I read their material. If they mention it in their query letter, I'm glad for them, but the work has to stand on its own merit when I read it for me to be interested in it. In other words, just because it has placed in a contest doesn't mean it's going to be automatically accepted for publication.

WG:      When asked what they look for in a new author, most editors and agents will mention a fresh and/or strong voice. How do you personally define voice?

CP:      When I pick up a manuscript and start reading, I get a sense of the voice of the author within the first page or two. Some authors work too hard (because we have so many writing rules) and cover up their own voice-or the way they might have intended to tell the story had they not had to worry about these "writing rules". I see that a lot.

My judgment of voice actually comes easiest when I read the dialogue the author has written. If it's stilted and there are no contractions, I know they've been worried about how their writing would be viewed. But people speak with contractions. If an author goes into minute detail with their description, that tells me something, just as if they gloss over the description. There are so many things that make up "voice" it's hard to pinpoint exactly what it entails. For me, it's an overall feeling I get from the characters, description, and dialogue when I'm reading each person's work.

WG:      Have you ever considered penning a novel yourself?

CP:      I have six novels published and numerous short stories and novellas, with four different publishers, including Prairie Rose Publications.

WG:      How would you describe your editorial style?

CP:      I don't do a lot of plot reconstruction. I focus mainly on making sure the characters act in a way that doesn't make people say, "Oh, he wouldn't do THAT!" or "She would never say THAT!" That takes readers out of the story, and then you lose them. One thing that really takes ME out of a story is a lot of misspelled words and punctuation errors, so I really strive to be sure that those are all corrected. But many times, I send newbie authors to an independent editor for the punctuation, grammar and tense agreement problems before I ever look at it. I just don't have time with all the hats I wear to go through an entire manuscript and put periods inside the quote marks (yes, I do still get some scripts like that!)

WG:      What is your involvement with the author's creative process? With his/her career planning?

CP:      Writing is what each author makes of it. Each person has different goals and different abilities. Some are not "good" with social media. Some have more money to spend on advertising. Some feel like it's just good enough to get the book out there. Livia and I make it clear we are not a promotions company-we're a publishing company. We do have a lot of tips and resources that we can help authors with if they're interested to make the most of their new career-most of the newbies don't know where to begin, and we offer a ton of support through our company in every way possible. We also offer one of the most competitive royalty rates in the industry at 80%/20% authors/PRP.

WG:      What do you see as the main strength you personally bring to the table as an editor?

CP:      Understanding of people and the process of publishing from start to finish-since I'm also a writer, myself. I've been doing this for so many years, it's second nature to me now. And I'm so glad to be able to help authors-both the newbies and the experienced ones. I suppose most of us have "war stories" of being taken advantage of by an unscrupulous publishing company, agent, or editor somewhere along the line, me included. I don't want that to happen to anyone else, if we can help them! I know a LOT of people and am willing to help them all, if possible. (Also, those misspelled words still just jump out at me-and the plot holes have to be resolved somehow!)LOL

WG:      Are some/all of your submissions read by someone else in house before they reach you? If so, what sort of feedback and/or screening do you expect that reader to provide?

CP:      No, we are a small company. In our submissions guidelines, I specifically state that we do light editing, because we really do expect that with the market as it is today, submissions should be in tip-top shape when they come across my desk. There are tons of people who submit manuscripts, and if I get one that is rife with misused words, tense agreement problems and so on, I reject it and move on to the next one. If an author doesn't care enough to make sure words are correctly spelled or used, then what kind of story is she going to write?

WG:      Realistically, what is the normal timeframe for your response to queries? Partials? Fulls?

CP:      I send an e-mail immediately when I receive it and let the author know it's going to be at least a couple of weeks to a month before they'll hear from me. Goodness, I remember when I was a newbie author and manuscripts had to be copied and mailed, and then you might not hear anything for a YEAR. We have come a long way!

WG:      Given that you feel an individual author's manuscript is marketable, how important is it that you personally like the work in order for you to pursue acquiring it?

CP:      It's not important at all. I realize that there is a huge market out there for genres that I don't particularly enjoy, but as I always say, if we all liked the same thing, we'd be lined up at Barnes and Noble to all buy the very same book-the ONLY book they had to offer. I know there are authors who have sold a ton of books that I wouldn't be interested in, but that doesn't mean that other people aren't.

WG:      What input do you personally have on the cover art selected for the manuscripts you acquire? What level of involvement do you feel the author should have in this process?

CP:      At Prairie Rose Publications and imprints, Livia Reasoner does 99% of our cover work. There are very few covers we use that are not her renditions. The author has a LOT of say in their cover-more than most companies allow. We work with them WITHIN REASON. Most companies pay lip service to what an author really wants on the cover, but the cover is created and put on the book, and if the author is unhappy with it, too bad. At PRP, we don't want our authors to be unhappy with their covers. A book is such a part of an author-it's hard to be proud of something so important if the cover isn't what the author has envisioned. Livia does a wonderful job of working with our authors, and she does beautiful covers.

WG:      Do you feel that writers' conferences provide significant value to you in the way of personal contact with your authors, other authors (either published or unpublished), and/or other industry professionals? Do you receive any value from other offerings such as the presentations, pitch appointments, and/or networking opportunities?

CP:      Truthfully, I know that some people live for conferences and the "coming together" with other authors that it provides, but I'm not one of them. Again, it's up to the individual. Just like critique groups/partners. I am not a proponent of critique groups…but, for some people, they work. Same with the conferences. I'm sure conferences are especially important to newbies who need the bolstering and confidence-building that comes with meeting other authors, but I don't really feel that they are a necessary "tool" for writing.

WG:      Do you visit the websites and blogs of authors you work with or of authors you are considering acquiring? If so, is there something in particular you look for that potentially impacts your view of the author and their work?

CP:      Yes, I always do that. Authors I work with need to know that PRP supports them. We also have a blog that we encourage our authors to blog at monthly, as well, and we do a lot of giveaways! Curiosity drives me to go to the websites of authors I'm considering acquiring, just to see how they interact with others, what kind of professional "face" they are putting out to those who, like me, are curious about them, and it's just a good way for me to get to know them a little bit.

WG:      Do you approach submissions by agented authors differently from those without agents? Does your familiarity with/opinion of the agent impact this?

CP:      We haven't worked with agents so far. Our contracts are very simple and straightforward and VERY fair, so that hasn't come up.

WG:      What piece of advice or 'pearl of wisdom' would you like to offer authors who are considering submitting a work to you--or to any editor for that matter?

CP:      Be sure you have your manuscript in tip-top shape-the best it can be. We see so many manuscripts that, to give yours an "edge", you need to have the margins and spacing right (as per the guidelines on the submissions page), and you need to be sure that you don't have misspelled or misused words. There is no excuse for that with the internet at our fingertips. Be sure your subjects and verb tenses agree. Make sure your punctuation is correct. Again, if you're not sure, Google it! In short, the easier it is to read, the easier it is for me (or any editor) to focus on the story itself.

WG:      What sort of misconceptions/ unrealistic expectations have you encountered from authors about what an editor's role is that you would like to correct?

CP:      Well, that's an easy one! LOL "I'll let the editor fix it. That's his/her job." Uh, no. Again, in today's world, there are so many authors waiting to tell their stories that your manuscript must be as clean and correct as possible to make your editor interested.

WG:      How important do you think self-promotion is to a writer's career? If so, is there a particular area of promotion that you feel is most effective?

CP:      Giveaways and social media are VERY important. A lot of authors don't like the idea of giving their book away for free, but this is a very cheap way of building interest and a readership-which is important at all stages of an author's career. Everyone (except my husband ) is on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and so on. These are all great ways of getting the word out about an author's work. AND FREE! Blogging is also important. It gives your readership a place to go to connect with you and interact.

WG:      I love to collect quotes, all kinds of quotes - inspirational, quirky, motivational, profound, etc. Do you have a personal favorite you'd like to share?

CP:      Yes, and it's one I've always taught my kids from the time they were little ones: "To the world, you may be one person; but to one person, you may be the world." If we just stop and think about this, we can apply it to humans, but also to animals. If we don't speak up for and treat other humans (and animals) well, there will be no one to speak up for us. We teach others by our example. It doesn't cost anything to be kind, and it could mean everything to someone- even life or death-you just never know.

WG:      What do you do to relax and have fun?

CP:      I went on a cruise with my older sister just before Christmas. I had never done that before, and I just loved being able to be totally carefree and relaxed. But I paid for it when I got home with all the work stacked up and waiting! LOL

WG:      Other than your client's work, what do you enjoy reading?

CP:      I really enjoy reading alternate history, for one thing-a relatively new genre. "What would have happened if-Lincoln hadn't been shot? Or if the South had won the Civil War?" etc. Lots of fun. Also read a lot of western and regency romances.

WG:      What are your favorite movies and/or TV shows? Why?

CP:      TV Shows-Present: NCIS, both the original and NCIS New Orleans. I really love the mix of characters in both of those shows, and the plots. Also love that they haven't gone to the point of YUCK in being way too graphic with the blood and gore.

TV Shows-Past: Oh, where do I begin? All those old westerns-loved Bonanza, Alias Smith and Jones, The Rifleman, Rawhide, and Lancer. Then there was Fantasy Island and The Love Boat, Bewitched…these are all just "fun" shows and good entertainment. Stuff the family could all watch together and enjoy.

Movies-I loved To Kill A Mockingbird, Gone With the Wind, and Field of Dreams. Huh? Nothing in common? But wait-there is a common thread. Each of the main characters in these movies has to reach down inside themselves to come to an understanding about what's really important. Well, we HOPE Scarlett realized what was important! LOL

WG:      Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on your life? In what way?

CP:      I would have to say To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. That is one of the most beautifully-told stories, ever. In my mind, that's the "great American novel"-I just don't think it can ever be topped. I've read it several times, and each time, I discover something new that I hadn't noticed before.

WG:      Before we close, is there anything else you'd like to mention about yourself or the publisher?

CP:      Livia and I have been truly blessed to discover each other as friends and business partners in the establishment of Prairie Rose Publications. We hope to make it as author-friendly as possible and we ALWAYS welcome submissions to all of our imprints. We look at our authors as "family" - and no matter how large our business grows, that is one thing we value and will always maintain.

WG:      Is there a website you can point us to where folks can go to learn more about you and/or your publishing house?

CP:      Sure! Kathleen Rice Adams has been a godsend to PRP with her skills and expertise in getting this website looking so gorgeous!

WG:      And finally, thanks again for taking some time to 'stop by' this month!