An Interview with Tyndale Editor, Jan Stob
How long have you been an editor with Tyndale?
7 ½ years. Time flies!
How much and what kind of suspense and mystery does Tyndale publish?
We will probably publish approximately 10 suspense titles this year. We currently have political suspense, legal suspense, military suspense, international and romantic suspense. I'd like to acquire more in the suspense category.
What makes a suspense or mystery proposal (as well as any other kind of proposal) jump out of the slush pile for you?
A unique hook, a compelling opening, and great writing will get my attention. I've looked at many proposals that are well-written but they lacked originality. On the other hand, I've come across some fresh ideas but the execution wasn't there.
What elements would do you recommend a writer include or avoid in a suspense or mystery manuscript for Tyndale?
I would encourage them to continue to raise the stakes. Look at your protagonist's conflict and up the stakes. Make the reader care about your characters. Avoid anything that slows the pacing of the story. You want your reader to keep turning pages.
When you first look at a proposal you’ve received, what one or two things do you notice that make an immediate positive or negative impression?
I want to see a proposal that is the author's best effort. I don't want to see a first draft or a rough concept. Show me your best work.
What are some of the things that have annoyed you the most about proposals you’ve received?
An unoriginal concept.
What do you read first, the synopsis or the chapters?
Always the chapters! I have to be drawn into the story and begin to care about the characters before I can read a synopsis.
What would your ideal new Tyndale author be like? Is there a certain amount of previous experience Tyndale prefers in their new authors? How about previous sales numbers? Are those important?
My ideal author? I would say that an ideal author would have a passion for words, the desire to grow in their craft, and a strong faith in Christ. And...of course a great sense of humor and realistic expectations would be helpful.
We are currently publishing authors who have a publishing history as well as several first-time authors. Unless, the author is already a best-selling author with a solid fan base, the hook and the writing ability are more important to me than their previous experience.
If an author has a publishing history, I will want to see sales numbers on previously published titles. They are important because retailers will often purchase based on an author's previous numbers. However, we will also consider whether those numbers are impacted by a price point...marketing push...timing...etc. Any information the author can give on the front end, saves us from having to chase down these details.
How do you see the future of the suspense and mystery genre in the CBA?
I think we're going to continue to see it grow. Readers love stories that keep them on the edge of their seat and looking for the next clue. I hope we see some new sub-genres emerging with fresh, new ideas.
The ACFW conference is coming up, and some of our readers will be making appointments with you. What can a writer do to make that appointment a positive experience for both of you?
Relax. Be yourself. And bring chocolate. Look for sound-bites to explain what you're writing.
What is your biggest turn-off during a conference appointment?
Turn-offs? I don't know! If I have to choose something it would be having someone try to squeeze 20 minutes of information into a 10 minute meeting. After taking back-to-back appointments, I can guarantee that my brain will not be able to keep up and my eyes will glaze over. You may have the most fascinating proposal ever written but it will be lost on me. Sadly, this says more about me than it does about you. I strongly recommend that you work on trying to explain your story as succinctly as possible. See if you can explain your story in 30 seconds. Give me time to ask questions. If I want to know more about the story, I'll ask.
One last thing, take the opportunity to get to know the authors and agents. I've made some great friends at conferences. Last year I met a conferee at ACFW who I met again at the Colorado Christian Writers Conference. We hung out together and have kept in touch. I am still trying to forgive her for risking my life and dragging me up the side of a mountain in shoes that weren't meant for climbing. And okay, it was more of a hill than a mountain...but the point is, go to the conference, learn, pray, and make friends!