One of my favorite experiences from this past weekend at the Bridge to Publication Conference was meeting the owners of this promising, two-year-old publishing house. What’s fun about the name of the company is that it tells you how to pronounce their name: Duke and Kimberly Pennell. Pen-L Publishing, another small, mainstream house, releases Historical, Humor, Sci-fi/Fantasy, Suspense, YA, Westerns, and Literary as well as some nonfiction titles. For those who know Linda Apple, her newest, POW: Promises Kept was published through them.
Duke and Kim talked primarily about the relationship between publisher and author. They asked about the author’s goals, and whether they were in sync with the publisher’s goals, and took it long-term. What are your goals in five years, they asked. Ten? Twenty? How many books do you want to have written? How many sold? How are you willing to pay everything forward–are you willing to help/mentor other authors?
Some of the things they asked I wasn’t sure how to quantify, like how many names did I want on my mailing list, but their questions did get me to thinking about determining a long term plan and goals. So many of us can’t see beyond the first book written, but once that book is written–if you want to make a career of this–you need to know what’s next. And what’s next after that. And you need to understand what your goals are. If you’re just writing to record your family history for those who share your genetic code, your goals are going to be different from the author who wants to entertain the masses.
What I love most about these two is how funny they are. Kim is Duke’s straightman. I got the biggest kick out of them while they were speaking. Duke is just funny–there’s no getting around that–but Kim can zap in some zingers that’ll both keep him in line and send the rest of us into fits of laughter. They’re a fun couple.
I got to chat with them individually after the conference, and Duke and I swapped horse stories. He told me one I’m going to have to repeat here. Some of the details may be wrong because my memory runs on AA batteries, and they’re getting weak, but here goes:
Duke was directing a group of folks for a parade or something and asked one of the ladies if she could ride.
“Oh, I’m a good rider. A real good rider,” she said.
Apparently Duke didn’t believe her, so he stuck her at the end of the line and put her on the easiest horse they had. I’ll call him Jack, but I don’t remember his name.
The rules were simple: ride side by side with the person next to you and don’t run into the horse in front of you.
When the time came for them to move out, they did as told, each pair trotting down the road in front of adoring fans. Finally, it was the woman’s turn to start moving. He looked back at her, and she was “holdin’ the reins and doin’ the ‘Chicken Dance'” on the back of that horse. You know how it goes. The ol’ chicken squawk. If you flap your arms, your horse is supposed to go. When Jack didn’t budge, she just flapped harder. Those pointy elbows pumping air, trying to get the horse to move.
Like I said, Jack was an easy horse. Nothing riled him. He just twisted his head back and stared at her a moment, then lowered himself to his chest, with her on his back flappin’ those arms.
There she was, sitting atop a horse that was sittin’ on his belly, with her arms flappin’ and her stirrups flopped out on either side of him.
Duke rode back to check on her–I’m sure doing all he could to keep from laughing her off the planet–and she said, “Your horse is broke!”
Well, he had her get off the horse, and he put his foot in the stirrup, clicking at Jack as he threw his leg over the saddle. Jack rose while he was still mounting. Duke settled his butt in the saddle and sent Jack on a quick gallop back behind the parade, reined him to a haunch-sittin’ stop, spun him around a few times, and raced him back to a haunch-sittin’ stop in front of her.
“He seems fine to me.”
Oh my word, folks. Duke had me laughing so hard. My writing the story here doesn’t do justice to him telling it. If you ever get a chance to meet these two wonderful people, grab it. You won’t be disappointed. Oh–and if you have a manuscript they may be interested in, submit it. They’re open for queries again February 1, 2015.