Carolyn McCready lives in Eugene, Oregon, where she cheers on the Ducks and loves film, music, cooking, and travel. She’s also an avid reader.
With her schooling in education and English, she originally intended to be a teacher, but a summer bookstore job changed her plans. She remained at the bookstore for ten years, working as store manager and the book and Bible buyer. Her expertise led to her become the Vice President of Editorial at Harvest House Publishers.
Carolyn is now an executive editor with Trade Books for Zondervan Publishers, a division of Harper Collins Christian Publishing. She has worked with such authors as Lysa TerKeurst, Stormie Omartian, Kyle Idleman, Rachel Macy Stafford, and Shauna Niequist.
On Friday, May 15, at the 2015 Northwest Christian Writers Renewal, Carolyn will meet with writers in group appointments. If you want to show her your work, please follow the guidelines concerning what she would like to see and what she’s not looking at right now.
She will also serve on a marketing panel with Grace Fox, Jim Rubart, and Dennis Brooke.
Kirk Kraft’s Interview with Carolyn McCready
Kirk: Could you tell us a little about the progression of your publishing career and your current role?
Carolyn: My degree is in education and English, and I expected to be a teacher. Along the way, though, life took one of those turns that can change everything. I took a summer job at a Christian bookstore, working for a wonderful store owner. I planned to be there for the summer and find a full-time teaching job the next year, but I learned that my love of books and the joy of connecting people with the perfect books for them made this a great job for me. I worked there for ten years and became the store manager and book and Bible buyer. During that time I developed relationships with most of the major publishers and worked for Zondervan as a dealer advisor.
I was offered the job of editorial director at Harvest House Publishers, as they were looking for someone who understood the retail marketplace and was familiar with the full breadth of books available. I was also, of course, an avid reader and loved the prospect of working with writers and seeing their ideas become wonderful books. I eventually became the VP of Editorial and was with Harvest House for fifteen years. It is a wonderful, focused, family-owned Christian publisher, and I learned so much during that time concerning what publishing is all about and what it takes to make a book. It does take a village
After that I took the job of Executive Editor with Zondervan and am thoroughly enjoying my role of acquiring nonfiction trade books. I still live in Eugene, Oregon, but I travel regularly to Grand Rapids to work with my colleagues at Zondervan and around the country to meet with authors.
Kirk: How do you know a story is a winner when you read it?
Carolyn: I love reading fiction although I don’t acquire much in that arena. But with fiction, it is usually a combo of a great voice, engaging characters, and a story that makes me want to turn the page. I’m looking for something fresh, as so much of the fiction we see—and even publish—feels the same. It’s like watching the pilot of a new television show or the beginning of new movie—sometimes it just hits, and you feel it. It grabs your attention, and you want to spend time in that world. It can even be in a very typical genre but still stand out. You know it when you read it.
Kirk: What is the biggest mistake you see writers make in their submissions today?
Carolyn: I think the biggest mistake might be not understanding what editors need to help their publishing team decide to publish a new book. We need to see that you have a great idea, a significant—or at least growing—platform, and strong writing skills. The platform issue is very important, but it doesn’t have to mean that you are the pastor of a large church or a speaker for major women’s conferences. You do have to show that you are working hard to gain a following and that you have made progress in that arena. Speaking, blogging, writing for magazines and newspapers, leading workshops on your topic—all can be really important to a publisher. Then give us a marketable topic (and the reasons that it is—do your research!), and finally, and very importantly, hone your writing so it’s as strong as it can be.
Kirk: What would you say are the biggest myths in publishing?
Carolyn: That you must have a large platform to get published. It certainly helps—and you will hear that from every publisher—but there are certainly exceptions. Sometimes it’s all about a great story and good storytelling. Look at Heaven Is for Real!
Thanks again to Kirk for letting us share his interview with Carolyn.
To request an appointment to meet with Carolyn McCready, sign up today for the 2015 Northwest Christian Writers Renewal.
Diana Savage, a graduate of Northwest University and Bakke Graduate University, sold her first article when she was still in college, and she’s been writing ever since. Now the principal at Savage Creative Services, LLC, she is also director of the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal conference. Her latest book is 52 Heart Lifters for Difficult Times.