Sydney Avey) with Lynellen Perry, the publisher of HopeSprings Books, the fiction imprint of Chalfont House.
You have a PhD in Computer Science! How did you get into publishing Christian fiction?
I formed Chalfont House Publishing in June, 2000, as a platform for publishing non-fiction ministry and Bible study materials that were developed by my mother and myself. A few years later, we added our first non-family author and just kept going from there! In 2012 we started talking about adding a fiction imprint, and the first fiction novel debuted in January 2013.
What is your vision for your fiction imprint, HopeSprings Books?
To become known as a source for good, true-to-life Christian fiction. The world can be a hard place and Christians are not perfect. While Pollyanna fiction has its place as escapism, I want to provide fiction about issues that people experience in their own life and that subtlety inspires them to make more Godly choices.
Along the way, I want to mentor debut authors and introduce readers to new talent. You don’t need to be a headliner speaker or pastor a megachurch to know how to write a good book. Publishing Christian books should not be limited to only those with a huge platform.
Where do small presses like Chalfont House fit in the publishing world?
The publishing world changes so quickly these days! I think that small presses will continue to grow as the large houses collapse under their own weight. Self-publishing will also continue to grow, but there will always be people who do not want to do all the work that is provided by a publishing house.
I fear that books will struggle in the future… they are not as interactive as social media and video, and reading requires more effort than watching video. Books will never go away completely, but I don’t think they will be the media of choice to the next generation.
I’m curious, where did Chalfont House get its name?
Chalfont is a surname from my mother’s ancestry. We wanted a name that was not too specific as to the type of materials we intended to publish, but we picked something too abstract. Ah well, live and learn.The obscurity of the name Chalfont House was a huge part of choosing a different name for our fiction imprint, HopeSpring Books. We wanted something more evocative, and easier to pronounce.
How do you find your authors, or do they find you?
We’ve had some of both! We’ve met authors at writer’s conferences; I’ve reached out to authors who placed in writing contests; others have seen our calls for submissions; and some authors are those whose books I enjoyed in the past but they don’t have a publishing house affiliation anymore for whatever reason.
How are you working to build the HopeSprings Books brand?
My focus right now is to build a foundation of authors who will write two books each year and stay with HopeSprings for at least seven years before moving to another press. Thankfully, we have enough submissions that we are able to be exactly as selective as I would like to be.
I recently read two different manuscripts that had good bones but I wanted some character changes. Neither author was interested in my changes, but that is the beauty of small presses; there is bound to be a publisher out there that likes a manuscript the way it is. It can be hard work to find the right press for your manuscript.
My perception is that the Christian Fiction market out West is smaller than the market in South and Midwest. Any thoughts on how we might open that frontier?
According to a report on 2010 census data, there are 15.8 million people who claim to be a “Christian” in California . With an estimated population of 37.3 million in 2010, that’s nearly half! However, Oregon and Washington have a much lower percentage of people who claim to be Christian. So it would seem that there is a market for Christian fiction. But compared to the Southern and Midwestern states that claim to be more than 50% “Christian”, the market is probably proportionally smaller.
I am thinking that it would help for more authors to do tours and speaking events in California cities besides LA and SF.
Will you be attending the American Christian Fiction Writers conference this year?
Yes, it will be my first time at that conference! My primary purpose is to meet authors, hear about their manuscripts, and raise awareness of HopeSprings Books. My secondary purpose is to keep learning about the craft of fiction writing so that I can continue growing as an editor.
What other events and conferences do you consider a “don’t miss”?
My definition of a conference to not miss is one that is affordable to attend. If a large conference like ACFW is too far away and too expensive, then go to local workshops and smaller conferences instead. You can learn at either one, and you may actually make better connections at a smaller conference than one where you feel intimidated or overwhelmed!
Note from me: Check out HopeSprings Books blog here. And also one of their authors, Elizabeth Maddrey, is updating her website soon. She's the author of three inspirational romance books: Wisdom to Know, Courage to Change, and Serenity to Accept. Her Amazon Author Page is here. (Disclosure - I'm reading her latest, Serenity to Accept, right now and it's good. Review coming soon.)