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Welcome To SORMAG's Blog

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

PANEL: Meet the Editor


Joylynn M. Jossel - Executive Editor Urban Christian
Karen Ball - Senior Acquisitions Editor, Fiction B&H Publishing Group


RhondaN said...


I have a couple of questions for JoyLynn:

What types of stories are you really looking for? Do you need more stories about singles? Married couples? Family dramas?

Urban is largely publishing women’s fiction? Are there any plans to branch out and do other things such as suspense/thrillers? or mysteries?

Thanks in advance for your time.

RhondaN said...

More questions for Joylynn and Karen:

How long is your turn around time from receipt of requested material to an acquisition decision? What are the steps in between?

I noticed many authors write sequels or spin-off minor characters into their own books. Is this something you like to see an author do? Is it suggested when a book sells well? I wonder about this, because in writing Christian fiction I think I want to write what my heart tells me to write, but I know this is a business also. What are your thoughts?



RhondaN said...

For Karen and Joylynn:

Do authors have any input into the cover design of their book?

Does the author write the blurb on the back of the book or are their blurb writers?

Shoba said...

Hi Joylyn and Karen,

My name is Shoba Mano. I'm an author of two contemporary romance novels with Christian elements. I'm Malaysian and my novels have an Asian setting and Asian characters. My second novel Prodigal Child was published by Treble Heart Books Arizona and it is set in Vietnam.

My WIP right now is a little different in that it is set in three different places - Cornwall, London and Thailand.

My question is whether there is a market out there for romance/mystery/paranormal novels set in Asia and if yes, how popular is the market?

Thank you very much.

Linda Beed said...

This question is for both panelists. What do feel is the be ideal working relatioship between author and editor.


Linda Beed said...

Let's try this again.

What do you feel is the ideal working relationship between author and editor?


Didalynn said...

My question is for either panelist. When deciding on whether or not to publish a book, what is it that you really look at? Do you tend to focus on just the story line and bypass mistakes in grammar or spelling? Do you give the new author a chance to correct certain things and then do a second review? I ask these questions because I am wondering how much time I really need to spend on my spelling/grammar. I use the computer spell/grammar check, (and I am really not that bad anyway), but I find myself wanting to edit as I am writing and it tends to distract me.


Joylynn M. Jossel said...

Good day Sormag Conference Attendees. I’m excited to address any questions and/or comments you might have for me today. I’m Joylynn M. Jossel and I have over 16 publications in print that include full-length novels, novellas, short stories and poetry contributions. I used to write under the name JOY also, but once I received my calling from God, I gave up writing women’s fiction, erotica and street lit to pen works that would give God the glory. I currently write children’s books under the name N. Joy. My first children’s book is titled The Secret Olivia Told Me and it’s published by Just Us Books. I’m currently working on my young adult series titled The Soul Sisters, and I just completed my first adult Christian fiction novel, Me, Myself & Him, which is written under the name E. N. Joy.

From the moment I said “Yes” to God; “Lord, I will do what you want me to do,” His promises just began to drop-literally drop in my lap, which is how I landed my position as Executive Editor for Urban Christian, a wonderful imprint that launched January of this year. You can check out the website at www.urbanchristianonline.net. I look forward to chatting with you all!

P.S. you don’t have to limit your queries to editorial ones...I’m game to address an issues you post (which will make this even a tad bit more exciting than it already is;-)

Joylynn M. Jossel said...

Hello Rhondan

Specifically, under Urban Christian, I am seeking stories of which God’s voice and message is so clear, that I know beyond a doubt that the Holy Spirit dictated the words through the author’s spirit. I don’t like giving the misconception that I am a seeking a certain type of storyline or formula, because I am not. I just want our reading fan base to get God’s word through the means of literary entertainment.

As far as Urban branching out to publish things such as suspense/thrillers or mysteries, they currently do that under their Urban Soul Line. As a matter of fact, my last secular Joylynn M. Jossel novel, titled WET, was a suspense/thriller/mystery.

Joylynn M. Jossel said...

Hi, Rhonda

Hello Rhonda

Urban Christian’s turn around time is anywhere from three to six months. In between that time I am praying and fasting in order to make a decision on a manuscript. Sometimes do I believe that a story is so good and will do so well that I purchase it for publication in the flesh without consulting the Holy Spirit? Yes…and sometimes it pans out and sometimes it doesn’t. But I am really trying to hard to work on my obedience and to heed to my spirit of discernment so that the integrity of the Urban Christian line is never questioned.

I, personally, never request or suggest that an author do a sequel or a spin off. Once again, I like for them to do what God tells them to do. And I’m not about to argue with Him;-) I can’t express enough that as true Christian fiction author, you MUST write what God deposits into your spirit to write. Have you ever heard of the term: “Try the Spirit by the Spirit”? The spirit of the readers will challenge you as an author.

Joylynn M. Jossel said...


I always ask the Urban Christian authors what their vision/cover concept is for their novel. I then relay that to the graphics department and they try their best to adhere to the author's visions. It doesn't always work out, but we do put forth the effort.

As far as the back cover text, your question said "blurb", but I think you meant the "synopsis" (that couple of paragraphs that tells what the book is about,) we also allow our authors to write that. We may tweak it up a bit, but the bulk of it is the author's words.

Fon James said...

Hi Joylynn,
It's so great to have you hear!

I noticed that several authors under UC were self-published prior to being acquired by UC. Does that feat have any bearing on the decision making process?

What are your thoughts on self-publishing, while shopping your manuscript around?

Also, are there plans for more young adult Christian Fiction from UC? :)

Thanks so much!
Fon James, author

Joylynn M. Jossel said...

Hello, Shoba

I like to believe that there is a market for every story out there, problem is, some publishers don’t. Urban Christian has a book on its roster titled Heaven Bound, of which has paranormal elements. The main character is half human-half angel. The only reason why your work wouldn’t fit our guidelines is because it’s contemporary romance with Christian elements. Our works don’t just have Christian elements, but is complete Christian themed. What I mean by that is (and this is from experience when I have received submissions in the past that are branded by the author as Contemporary romance with Christian elements) “Contemporary Romance” is the cake… “Christian elements” are the little sprinkles that are sprinkled over top the icing that decorates the cake. On our line, “Christian theme” has to be the cake. For example, we have a book titled Guilty of Love that is “Christian Romance” (not contemporary romance-it makes a difference).

But again, I’m sure there is a contemporary romance publisher out there who would be willing to give your work a try, especially if your previous works earned you a nice following. That alone would prove that the market is, in fact, out there. I hope my reply helped you, Shoba.

Fon James said...

Oops, I meant it's so great to have you here Joylynn(LOL)...but "hear" is applicable too I guess. It's great to have you "hear" us. :)


Joylynn M. Jossel said...

Linda, the ideal working relationship between an author and an editor is for both to understand that this relationship is comparable to that of a doctor and patient. The patient tells the doctor everything, and then the doctor, through his or her expertise, tries to fix any ailments. Most of the time the doctor is correct and the problem goes away. Then there are times when the doctor's diagnosis may not have been exactly on point. But after re-addressing the issues, both doctor and patient are able to come up with the proper antidote.

An author and editor must respect each other's roles. It shouldn't be a battle, but if there is to be one, the authors should pick their battles wisely. You’d hate to get battle scars over a misplaced comma, then come time to fight for the book cover or title, you’re too beat up and don’t have enough energy to stand a chance at winning.

As an editor, I’m fortunate to have been on both sides of the fence, so I can relate to how an author feels about their work. It’s their baby…and who would want somebody other than the natural mother breastfeeding their child? So I always emphasize to authors that my suggestions and comments are just that; merely suggestions and comments, and they can take heed to them if they so choose. If they choose not to take heed, then I tell them like one of my former editors told me, “If you choose to go out into the world with your slip showing, that’s your business.”

Are there some things, as an editor, that I feel really need to be changed although the author doesn’t want to change them? Yes…but on the same token, I, too pick my battles wisely.

Joylynn M. Jossel said...

I will bypass grammar and spelling, because even manuscripts that have had four sets of editor’s eyes will still have some errors in it, that’s life. I’ll be honest, I may get a manuscript in my hand that has a great storyline, but the author has absolutely no idea of the craft of writing, which means it will be far too much work for me to tend with. That is an immediate turn off, as I feel, with some issues, anyone who has ever just read a book before should have been able to pick up on. For example, that more than one character can’t speak in the same paragraph….or that a book can’t be one big paragraph-there needs to be paragraph indentions.
I have given authors a second chance…I do it on a case by case basis though, which goes back to what I said earlier about praying and fasting. I had one story that was just all over the place, but the storyline was so powerful and moving. I wanted the story, but I didn’t want to subject myself to all of the work that I knew it would entail. So when I took it to God, He immediately reminded me that to whom much is given, much is required. Right then and there I knew that if I was going to make the Urban Christian line successful, there would be some instances in which I would have to do far more work than normal.
I always suggest, especially when we are trying to be about our Father’s business, that we work with the spirit of excellence. I have authors on the UC roster who hire their own professional editors before turning their manuscripts in to me…now that’s taking pride in one’s work and turning in the best possible work they can. As an author, sometimes your set of eyes, alone, aren’t good enough to catch everything that could possibly prevent you from getting published. Even if you can’t afford a professional editor, allow two to three people read over it and provide feedback. And I ALWAYS suggest reading your manuscript out loud to someone. You’d be amazed at how your story “sounds” versus “reads”.

Joylynn M. Jossel said...

Hello, Fon James

Whether a book has been self-published or not has no bearing on my decision making process. As you know, Urban Christian’s parent company, Kensington, is one of the best when it comes to distribution; their largest client being Wal-Mart. Nine times out of ten, a book published under our imprint is going to get a much wider distribution than that of the book when it was self-published. It’s going to hit markets that the self-publisher couldn’t reach, so we don’t worry about the author having sold the book to the point where we won’t have anyone left to sell it too. We see it as an opportunity to allow others to receive the message God has in that book, who otherwise might not have received it.

When I landed my first book deal with St. Martin’s Press, it was for a novel titled The Root of All Evil. I self-published it at the same time I was shopping, it, which helped me land my deal because the publisher had seen several people on the trains in New York reading it. It also had some pretty good numbers, so the publisher knew that even if they didn’t buy and republish that book, I had a good following, so if they decided to publish any of my other works, those fans would purchase the books.

As far as plans for more young adult Christian Fiction, if others come through that we find publishable, we will consider them. It just so happens that only one, Living Consequences, has been presented.

Shoba said...

Thank you Joylynn. Yes your answer helped a lot. By the way, your guidelines specify that if you request for to see the first few chapters of the manuscript, then we are to send it by post.

Do you make any exceptions to allow email submissions if an author lives in another country?

Thanks so much for this discussion. It is truly inspiring to hear of an Editor who takes so seriously the guidance of the Holy Spirit. I too believe that no matter what we do or write, we must listen to the voice of the Spirit and many Christians tend to conform to the world in this area cos they think it is too hard to hear.

The temptation to be like the rest and do business the way everyone around us is doing it can be quite strong when we work in a secular environment.

But I feel if we remain true to our calling and sincere in our faith, we do hear the voice of God prompting, guiding, chastening and pulling us back when we try to run ahead of Him. Heh heh.

Thank you for reminding us to be true to our faith and by doing so true to ourselves.

Joylynn M. Jossel said...


Unfortunately, there are no exceptions to the submission guidelines. We will only receive them via hardcopy mail.

I'm so glad my response was helpful to you and I wish you much success!

Shoba said...

I understand. Thanks Joylynn :)

I have another question, if you don't mind. You mentioned that you write novels as well as novellas. As an editor which do you think are more popular with the readers and why?

Joylynn M. Jossel said...

Novels are more popular because readers hate for a book to end, especially if it's a really good one. When it comes to novellas and short stories, I often hear readers complain that they were just getting good and into the story when it ended. Because, of course, when we are dealing with novellas/short stories, as writers, we can't often show and tell as much as we would like to due to the word count limitations. Readers miss this.

Then you have those readers who complain that they don't have the time to get through a full-length novel, so they prefer a quick/short read. But, again, the full-length novels are most popular.

Shelia E. Lipsey said...

Hello Attendees! My name is Shelia E. Lipsey. I am blessed to be part of the Urban Christian imprint. I want to let you all know that Urban Christian has proven and is proving that God's stories need to be told and shared with the world. I thank God for the vision he placed with the publisher, Urban Books. As for the Executive Editor, Joylynn Jossel, I must say that she is an extremely genuine person. You can see and hear the voice of God leading her whenever you talk to her or read her correspondence. She is a reminder to me how God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things. When we sometimes think we want to go right, he might very well send us left. If we trust him, and allow him to lead us along His path, then we won't go wrong. Joylynn has a difficult job and a great responsibility, and you can believe that her work and her words are true. God Bless you, Joylynn!

Fon James said...

Ok great. Thanks for your response Joylynn. Very good information! That's the track I am currently on...self-publishing and shopping. And you're right, being distributed in Wal-Mart is a great feat for sure!

I did take the SORMAG conference opportunity to pitch my young adult novel, "Back and Forth," to you, so it's encouraging to know UC is up for considering additional YA titles.

Fon James

Joylynn M. Jossel said...

Shelia, as author of one of the very first books that launched the imprint, I am honored to read your thoughts. Your posting is confirmation that my walk in God's will is not in vain. The Urban Christian authors have truly been walking in the FOG (Favor of God). Hank Stewart has won an Emmy Award, Dwan Abrams has been chosen to appear on the reality show "The Ultimate Author", Kendra Norman-Bellamy has made Essence and an abundance of great things are happening for other UC authors such as Sherri Lewis who is a Black Expressions Best-seller and Brittney Holmes who had also dominated the number one selling spot on Black Expressions Kids Corner.

I’m proud to confess that we are like no other Christian fiction imprint, as we pray together; we touch and agree on a lot of things, and we lift each other up. Most importantly, we are not ashamed to magnify God and glorify Him together. Do we want our books to sell well? Yes. The book publishing business is just that-a business. But at the same time, we know that what is more important to our Lord in heaven is not how may books we sell, but how many souls we save through our books.

sherryle Jackson said...

My name si Sherryle Jackson. I am also on the Urban Christian imprint with a book to be released in December. I cannot say enough about the UC family and Joylynn. It was so important as a first time author to be nutured the way I have through this process of publishing. Writing Christian Fiction is a ministry. I'm systematically reading all out titles and being blessed by them. Editors are not the only ones who need to fat and pray.

sherryle jackson said...

That is "fast" and pray.

LaShaunda said...


I want to thank you for taking time to answer our questions.

LaShaunda said...

I received an email stating Karen Ball is on vacation, so she will not be able to answer questions today.

Joylynn M. Jossel said...

The pleasure and honor was mine. I pray that each individual in attendance is able to take something away that will bless them!

Joylynn M. Jossel

l.cote said...

Hi Joylynn,
I'm so happy to read your posts.

I listed Urban Christian on my Christian Fiction Publishers List for the first time this year. I'm always excited about a new market for aspiring authors.

I'm sure you'll agree with Carol Johnson at Bethany House when she called the insprational market as "Exploding.":-)

Joylynn M. Jossel said...

Hi, Lyn, and thank you for recognizing Urban Christian among all the other wonderful inspirational imprints.

I most certainly agree with Carol. I read in Fortune Small Business Magazine's Feb 2006 issue that sales of religious books are expected to grow 50% over the next five years according to Book Industry Trends 2005. This only means one thing to me; that folks are starting to realize that Jesus really is coming!!!!!!

Joylynn M. Jossel

Shoba said...

Amen. Thanks Joylyn for this wonderful discussion and you too Sheila for sharing your experience at Urban Christian with us.

Shelia said...

I'm stopping in a little late but wanted to say I've enjoyed the conference.

I had a few questions before logging on but after reading the correspondences I think Joylynn has answered them all.

Karen B. said...

Well, friends, talk about a day late and about 50 dollars short! My most abject apologies to you all for missing the day of the panel. Yes, I was on vactation, but there was internet service there. Just one problem: I forgot my computer. I know, I know, how does an editor and published author forget her computer?? Well, I can give you a host of reasons, but the most on-target explanation comes from a little sign that I have in my office: “Of all the things in life I’ve lost, I miss my mind the most!” Generally, I can deal with my short-term memory issues with humor. But at times like this, when I miss a commitment, I feel terrible. So please, forgive me.

I’ll go ahead and answer your posts, but please feel free to email me at Karen.ball.bh@gmail.com if you have questions that I don’t address.

Okay, here goes:
First, a brief intro. I’ve been an editor of Christian fiction for over 26 years, and have been blessed to work with most of the best-selling Christian novelists out there, including Francine Rivers, Karen Kingsbury, Gilbert Morris, Angela Hunt, Lori Copeland, Robin Jones Gunn, Terri Blackstock, and others. I’ve worked in-house for Tyndale House, Multnomah, and Zondervan, and when I was freelance I worked for most of the major Christian publishing houses. Currently I’m senior acquisitions editor for B&H Publishing Group, the publishing branch of LifeWay, the largest supplier of Christian materials in the world. It’s my immeasurable delight to be immersed in story, both in my work as an editor and in my task as a published novelist. If I’ve learned anything from this gig, it’s that we all have to remain teachable and hold onto that sense of humor!

Now, on to the questions:

From Rhonda:
Turnaround for submissions: Ummm…how does “eternity” sound? I’m kidding, of course, but I know it can feel that way at times. And I admit that currently it can take a number of months to hear back from David Webb, my boss, and me. Some intrepid souls have waited a year or more. Believe me, we don’t like that any more than you do. We’re working to knock our response time down to six weeks at the most, but because we’re in the process of building a fiction line from the ground up, we have to focus the majority of our time on the books we have in the pipeline. I’m hoping that we’ll hit the six-week response by the end of this year at the latest.

Sequels with secondary characters: In publishing, general and Christian, we find that series work well when you take a secondary character from the previous book and build a story around him/her for the next book. So yes, we like to see authors do this. However, that being said, standalone novels are becoming more and more of a trend, so I’d encourage you to write what your heart moves you to write!

Do authors have any input into the cover design of their book? Sure! We welcome input from authors on covers. However, final say rests with the designers, marketers, and editors. It’s our job to know the market well, and that means understanding what works with retailers as well as the consumer. But we want authors not only involved, but IN LOVE with their covers.

Does the author write the blurb on the back of the book or are their blurb writers? Both. We ask the author to take a first pass, then the editor and marketing folks will work with what the author turns in to ensure it strikes the right chords from a marketing perspective. What’s that you say? You’re not a copywriter? Ah, but my friend, NO ONE knows your story as well as you do. And that’s what we’re looking for: the heart of your story. Those core elements that will draw readers in. So just write what you can, and we’ll take it from there.

From Shoba:
Is there a market for romance/mystery/paranormal novels set in Asia and if yes, how popular is the market? Well, I can’t speak to paranormal, but yes, there’s a market in the Christian fiction segment. How popular is it? It’s new and growing, so I wouldn’t say it’s huge, but it’s definitely there. Would most publishers be interested in a novel like this? Yes, I think they would as long as the writing is strong enough.

From Linda:
What is the ideal working relationship between author and editor? Good question! I think one word embodies my ideal working relationship with an author: Symbiotic. A strong author/editor relationship is one of encouragement and mutual respect. I learned long ago that my role as an editor is to support, encourage, and come alongside the author. This is the author’s book, not mine. My focus is always to help that author develop his or her craft, to draw out the very best writing that author can create. I am, in essence, a sounding board and at times a mentor. The author’s job is to be teachable. To know and understand her story and voice, to stand firm when it’s important, but to be willing to let go of what may be holding the story back. I always tell authors anything I suggest in my editorial review is just that: a suggestion. They’re free to discuss, debate, or deny. In the end, it’s vitally important that we finish with not just a powerful book, but a solid, enjoyable relationship. And, eventually, a friendship.

From Didalyn:
In evaluating manuscripts, do you focus on the story and overlook grammar, misspellings, etc? Of course the story and craft are what matters most, but I will say that constant spelling or grammar problems don’t bode well for an author. How much time to you need to spend on those things? As much as you can to become as proficient as you can. It’s part of the writer’s job. Sure, copyeditors catch a lot of those things, but writing isn’t just about craft. It’s about knowing and performing the basics, too. As for editing while you’re writing, STOP! STEP AWAY FROM THE RED PEN!! I don’t ever allow the editor out to play when I’m writing. You’re correct that it distracts, because those are two very different functions for the brain. Just write when you’re writing. Then go back and do the edit. If you’re really not strong in grammar and spelling, then have a friend or family member who is strong in those areas read what you’ve written. Believe me, it will benefit you in the long run.

I think I’ve hit on the questions left for me. Again, if you have other questions, please just email me. I’ll get back to you right away.

Thanks, LaShaunda, for doing all that you’re doing. I think this online workshop is a great idea.

Peace to you all.


fabulous40 said...

Hi Joylynn and Karen,

I'm interested in getting into editing and proofreading, how would I go about doing that???? I'm a reviewer for SORMAG and write articles for WWW.grandladybaskets.com
quarterly and I'm an avid reader.

Shoba said...

Hi Karen,

Thanks for joining us today. Hope you had a lovely vacation. I have a few questions:

1.What genre are you presently looking for?

2. Do you accept submissions directly from the author or only through agents?

3. Any tips on how to secure a very good agent?

Karen B. said...

Fabulous40, breaking into the editing and proofreading world is almost as hard and getting a book published. There are a host of freelance editors out there already, most of whom have worked in-house, so have built a reputation. And that's what matters most: a solid reputation with publishers and authors. What I usually suggest is that you contact an editor and offer to do a macro edit, or even a full edit, for free. No guarantees they'll give you a try: I confess I wouldn't. But only because there are already a number of freelance editors I trust, and I send any farmed-out manuscripts to them. But it could be worth a try.

If you're looking to get on in-house, a lot depends on your education and training. You may have a better shot with a journalism or editing degree, but even then it's tough, Usually what you have to do is start as an editorial assistant and work your way up the ladder.

I don't mean to be discouraging, but I always believe it's better to give folks the reality.

And Shoba, here are my responses to your questions:

1. Most any genre in Christian fiction.

2. We accept them from authors, but please understand they'll go through the review process, which means they won't come to me unless our first-pass reader considers the writing outstanding.

4. Write a very good novel. Make that an outstanding novel! Seriously, the only way to get a good agent (or, for that matter, editor) is to send him or her a manuscript so strong s/he can't put it down.

Hope all that helps!


fabulous40 said...

Karen, thank you so much for your candid comments, although the information was disappointing I really appreciated the truth. It helped me to realize that editing will be a goal put on the back burner for now. I had no idea how hard it was to get into the field. I have a new appreciation for the position. Thanks again.

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