Interview with Bill and Nancie Carmichael by Nichole Parks for Christian Communicator Magazine 1. How did your writing careers start? (Nancie) I grew up in a large family with no TV and we all were insatiable readers. My mother wrote poetry and published a few short stories. My older sister, Jayne, was a writer too and worked for a publishing house. (Bill) I was not as fortunate as Nancie in that we did have TV when I was growing up. But I still loved reading and “imagined” stories, even wrote one or two westerns as a kid. I found I had a gift and calling as a public speaker while in a Christian college and my writing really came out of my speaking. later, when I decided to write a novel, I had to lean a new craft at age 50. 2. Why do you write? (Nancie) I can’t not write. I am compelled to share what I have been given. 2 Cor. 1:3-4 says, “Blessed be the God…of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” As a relational person, I have a strong desire to connect with others; to know that I am not alone. I think too, that writing is a way to make sense of life. (Bill) I believe writing is a great expression of one’s creativity and my creative side makes me want to write. For me, writing is a great way to express the truths of God’s Word. I have often said that you never know who is being touched or influenced, even long after you are gone, by the words you write. 3. How do you strengthen your writing? (Both) The best way is to read good books and learn to recognize good writing. Editing is absolutely necessary! First, edit yourself and take out words and bunny-trails that don’t help the story or the piece. Welcome feedback and criticism, as it is helpful to your writing. Adopt the mindset that writing is discipline, work. It doesn’t just happen. First, think through what you want to say and make notes. Clear thinking leads to clear writing. Then say it. Don’t worry about eloquent or flowery words. Be honest, and say what you mean. Have thick skin. Ask others, both professionals and non-professionals, to critique what you write. Not just your mother or best friend (who will tend not to tell you the negative). Find people who will be honest and then buck up and accept those comments as constructive criticism to help you be a better writer. Rejection letters should be treated as paying your dues to help you go from a good to a great writer. 4. Who was the most influential person to encourage you in the writing world? (Nancie) My older sister Jayne Faulkner gave me my first lesson on how to edit a short story that I wrote. She helped me re-write the opener, showing me how certain phrases can give the story something to hook the reader. With her help, I published my first short story at age 16. My husband, Bill, encouraged me to start writing articles and reviews for Logos Journal and other publications that we were doing in the ‘70’s. Dan and Viola Malachuk (Founding publishers of Logos Journal, which eventually became Charisma), taught us a lot about publishing. 5. What is the greatest lesson you have learned so far in your writing career? (Nancie) Although the vehicles for writing continually changing, the message does not change. Good writing is timeless. Writing is a discipline. It’s work. It takes dogged persistence. I also learned how essential it is to nourish your soul—to feed your writing life. That means reading the Bible, listening to inspiring speakers, and being in prayer and journaling. (Bill) Publishing is a content-driven business and good content sells. Writing, like athletics or music or acting, is a natural gift…a gift that needs discipline and perseverance. There is no magic like word-of-mouth, and when writing resonates with the reader in a way powerful enough for them to talk about it to their friends and constituents, the magic will happen. 6. What verse, advice, or inspiration comforted you most when you received rejections? (Nancie) When one of my first books was rejected, my son Chris (a teenager at the time) asked me, “Do you believe in the message of your book?” I answered a tearful, “Yes!” And he said, “Then keep pursuing it.” I took his advice, and after I re-wrote the book, it was eventually published. (Bill) I have learned to take all “rejections” as positive steps toward the goal I have for my writing. I rewrote The Missionary six times before I partnered with David Lambert to finish the book. Each version, while rejected, was better than the previous one and I knew I was on to something. I see each rejection as just one step in climbing the mountain that has a summit. 7. How did you balance family and career? (Nancie) With five very active children, it was not easy! Deadlines definitely kept me on track, and that meant getting up early, or staying up late in order to write. But I also leaned how important it was to protect my family life and my relationships. If I lose that, I have nothing to say. I have learned to write out of my life—out of my relationship with God and with others. First things first. (Bill) My best time is to be creative in the early morning. Fortunately, I wake up early and my writing time is usually from about 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. before anyone else is awake and before the work day begins. 8. What was the transition from writers to magazine publishers like? (Bill) The hardest part was probably the business side of things with regard to the risks involved. Lots of friends cautioned us not to mortgage our house to finance the magazines we started. But we just knew that this was something God had put in our hearts to do and we had a few encouraging confirmations along the way to making that decision. Then of course, the transition to hiring staff, paying attention to budgets, developing long-term plans and a good work environment for the team are all learned skills that we had to employ. I thank God for men like Bob Hawkins Sr., who was the founder of Harvest House Publishers. He was a constant mentor and encourager to us. And my dad was self-employed my entire time of growing up, so it came naturally for me to exercise my entrepreneurial leanings. (Nancie) The transition came gradually out of writing and speaking. It seems to me that most people who gravitate to publishing are at heart writers. 9. What is the greatest lesson you have learned as a publisher? (Nancie) I’ve learned that every person has a story to tell, and life is endlessly interesting. God’s grace is indeed amazing, and it’s a privilege to help others tell their stories. I’ve also learned how important it is to be flexible about the process as publishing is changing continually. But these three ingredients to have a successful book have not changed: a. Write a really good book b. Know your audience c. Find your audience! (Bill) I echo what Nancie just said. I would add that only you can tell your stories from your vantage point. 10. How did you create platforms for yourselves as writers? (Nancie) There’s a lot of talk about “platform” these days, and I think it’s getting a little out of balance. I believe that a true, strong platform must begin organically, authentically. We need to work more on our lives—on learning, on listening, on distilling truths from God’s Word. Then we can speak and write out of that life, and really have something to say. That is what creates a platform. More than “platform,” I prefer the word “network,” because every person has a network of friends, influencers or followers. We start where we are, with the message that we have. We have an authentic voice as long as we are giving our followers, or friends something of value, meeting some felt need. But if we are just “using” them to buy our book, to promote us, it isn’t authentic. It becomes more like a pyramid marketing scheme. (Bill) In regards to our own book writing, it helped that we published magazines and had already created a large group of subscribers. This provided a natural platform that had taken years to build, and when we transitioned to books, a lot of people followed us. While you may not have the same opportunity, you do have the opportunity to develop a following…through blogs, your website, short stories, magazine and newspaper articles, etc. Two best-selling authors in the Christian market today (Stormie Omartian and Emilie Barnes) started by writing articles for one of our magazines. Because of their magazine articles, both eventually signed contracts with Harvest House and went on to write dozens of books that have sold millions of copies. 11. In what ways have you seen the publishing world change in regards to the house/author ratio of promoting a novel (and author)? (Bill) New technologies have leveled the playing field. It used to be that the gatekeepers (publishers) had to approve of you in order for you to get a foot in the door, and the same for literary agents. But now, anyone can “publish.” I think it will continue to be a content-driven business that separates the good from the bad and the mediocre. But it does give everyone a chance. Blogs, online articles, even eBooks are cheap to produce these days. But every would-be writer should keep in mind that it is still a team effort. Woe to the person who decides to publish something that is not edited by another set of qualified eyes. Your pattern of words, sentence structure, writing rhythms, fiction mechanics and basic grammar is a reflection of your craft and of you. So never let something escape into the full public eye without a good editor and without applying yourself to the mechanics of good writing! (Nancie) I wholeheartedly-agree with Bill. I would add that every serious author needs a website. And social media and Amazon are changing everything with regards to the delivery systems of our books. 12. How are you marketing yourself now? (Nancie) While I’m reluctant to market myself, if I have a new book, I realize I have a responsibility to help market the message in the book. Publishers love authors who have a good marketing or network system. Writing a book is a little like having a baby. After you have the baby, you have a responsibility to “raise it”—to see that the book finds readers. I write a blog on my website and use Facebook, Linkd In, as well as Twitter to get my message out. (Bill) Social networking is a strong key today. It used to be that marketing was dependent on spending a lot of money on things like magazine ads. That has all changed. While social marketing is essentially free, money-wise, it’s not free time-wise. It takes time and education to use social networking effectively. The more time you spend in creating fresh material that you give away online to others and the more time you spend in online interaction and building relationships, the larger your following will be and the more success you will ultimately have as a writer. 13. Can you explain partnership publishing? (Bill) Partnership publishing is a hybrid idea that would be considered a cross between “self/vanity” publishing and traditional publishing. There is an article posted at our website that explains all of this in detail. You can access that article by using this link: http://www.deepriverbooks.com/noteworthy/the-7-distinctions-of-deep-river-books.html. In many ways, partnership publishing carries with it all the benefits of a traditional publisher but asks the author to share the risk with some sort of financial commitment. We at Deep River Books ask the author to purchase a minimum number of books with the initial print run. These are sold to the author at discount so they can in turn re-sell them to their friends, constituents, and sphere of influence in order to recoup their part of the investment. We then pay for everything and take equal risk in terms of distributing copies into the retail bookstore trade that we hope will sell. We then pay competitive royalties to the author on what sells. 14. What triggered you to start a partnership publishing house rather than opening a traditional publishing house or self-publishing house? (Nancie) We started out trying to help a few good authors get published and realized that there was a need in the publishing world to help lesser-known authors who have a good message get their books published. In the past 13 years, Deep River Books has been able to help hundreds of good authors get published and leverage their message and story. (Bill) The market has changed and in many ways what we have been doing for 13 years ia the way publishing is trending. There really is no such thing as “self-publishing,” in view of the fact that every book needs a team. Someone to edit, another to design, another to print or digitize, another to sell and distribute, etc. No one person can do it all effectively. Our niche is wrapped up in a phrase we often use, “We don’t just publish authors, we mentor them.” This is something that we as a couple have always done, beginning way back when we started publishing magazines in the late 1970’s and have continued to do. We feel that mentoring is one of our strong gifts. 15. Do you have a favorite part of the partnership publishing journey? (Nancie) It gives us immense satisfaction to help authors get their message to readers, whether digitally or in print, and to help them maximize their message. It is wonderful to meet them in person, usually at a book show or other places, and see how God is helping their book become a vehicle to help tell their stories of grace that can encourage others. (Bill) Nothing pleases me more than to see a new author thrive under our program and see their title start to take off with good sales. We then help them get the attention of a traditional publisher. Some of our authors have gone on to sign multi-book cash-advance contracts with major Christian publishers after “paying their dues” with us. We celebrate whenever this happens to one of our authors!