Chatting With The Pros

By John Gilstrap

Top left is Ann Hawkins of John Hawkins & Associates. Center bottom is my editor, Michaela Hamilton of Kensington Publishing.

I don’t think I’ve posted this here already, but if so, it’s probably worth another look from people who are interested in an insider’s view of the traditional publishing game. In this video from my YouTube channel, I sat down with Anne Hawkins, my agent, and Michaela Hamilton, my longtime editor at Kensington Books to get industry professionals’ views on the kinds of topics that are often discussed here on The Killzone.

I thought it was a bit of a coup to get everyone together at once, so the video is admittedly a bit long, but I also think it’s well worth the time. If you want to jump around, here are links to the individual topics:

00:00 Introduction

02:00 Do editors and agents work well together?

04:09 Managing author expectations

05:16 Do publishers nurture new authors?

08:33 The slush pile: What happens with unsolicited manuscripts?

10:16 Do authors need agents?

10:53 Deal points: the author’s advance is only one consideration

12:53 Deal breakers, clients from hell, & you’ve got to do your research

16:12 Traditional publishing is starving for new writers

19:09 What it means for an author to have a platform?

23:20 Are conferences important?

I hope you find something useful in the video. If nothing else, you can watch really great people hanging out with me.

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About John Gilstrap

John Gilstrap is the New York Times bestselling author of Lethal Game, Blue Fire, Stealth Attack, Crimson Phoenix, Hellfire, Total Mayhem, Scorpion Strike, Final Target, Friendly Fire, Nick of Time, Against All Enemies, End Game, Soft Targets, High Treason, Damage Control, Threat Warning, Hostage Zero, No Mercy, Nathan’s Run, At All Costs, Even Steven, Scott Free and Six Minutes to Freedom. Four of his books have been purchased or optioned for the Big Screen. In addition, John has written four screenplays for Hollywood, adapting the works of Nelson DeMille, Norman McLean and Thomas Harris. A frequent speaker at literary events, John also teaches seminars on suspense writing techniques at a wide variety of venues, from local libraries to The Smithsonian Institution. Outside of his writing life, John is a renowned safety expert with extensive knowledge of explosives, weapons systems, hazardous materials, and fire behavior. John lives in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia.

15 thoughts on “Chatting With The Pros

  1. This is gold, John. At just under one-half hour, I don’t think it was a bit long at all, what with three extremely interesting people giving a peek behind the curtain. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Thanks, Joe. I’ve never crossed species like this before–video on a blog–but rather than boiling it down and transposing their wisdom to the page, I thought it was helpful to hear the passion in their voices. The love for what they do.

    • Glad to hear it. Michaela Hamilton is a pretty big name in the mystery/thriller community. I figured people would like to see the face and voice that go with the name.

  3. Great interview, John. Managing expectations is key for any author, be they traditionally published or indie like myself. Really glad to see them emphasize that. As an indie, I agree with them about the importance of editing. I always work with an editor, and also have a group of beta readers, several of whom provide copy edit input as well.

    Thanks for sharing it here!

  4. Wow. Just finished watching this. Such an eye-opening look behind the scenes. You’ve also motivated me to watch more of videos.

    Thank you

  5. Good stuff, John. My main takeaway is how important relationship building is in the publishing industry. And also that most business is conducted in the bar. If you look closely in your video frame, you’ll see me looking over your shoulder and eavesdropping with a single malt in hand.

  6. Great stuff, John.

    I’d already watched it a couple of months ago (I think), but it was well worth my newbie time to dive in again.


  7. Pure gold, John. Thank you for making and sharing! I immediately subscribed to your channel. I’m looking forward to catching up on what I’ve missed.
    A level of commitment and study of the industry on part of the WRITER is crucial, in my humble opinion.
    I laughed out loud when Michaela said, “I say, ‘Have a nice life’!” to those who don’t want to do that work. Agreed! Unless those people are willing to spend the money on staff who will do it for them, that’s just not how the industry works.

    I loved to hear Ann say that it’s “not true” that trad publishing is dead. Although I’ve been dipping my toes in the indie waters, I still yearn for that key to the Forbidden City. I’ve done my homework there, I have all of the pieces; I just need to finally hit on the right agent. Didn’t someone say in a previous post, “40 submissions, 40 rejections”? [paraphrasing from memory] I’m still there, tacking them onto a nail on the wall.

    I also wholeheartedly agree with what she says about self-editing being absent from so many indie works. I’m not casting aspersions on indie, either (see previous mention of toe-dipping); merely that my experience with “new” indie authors has been dismal. Many were not ready, and that goes right back to my opening statement. There is a commitment and a study to the craft that must happen first. I wish more were like Dale here!
    In the world of trad pub, that goes for learning the chain of command as much as how to self-edit. Blogs like TKZ and your YT channel exist for the very purpose of teaching. It burns me quite a bit to be confronted with writers who just want to throw words on a page, but don’t care to learn what an agent does, or the difference between a query letter and a synopsis.
    That attitude makes it that much harder for the rest of us to even be noticed among the masses.
    But I don’t mean to wax negative. We all have to start somewhere. Perhaps you could pour me a drink and I’ll toddle on to the next post? Cheers!

    • Thanks, Cyn, on all counts. When I was first starting 25 years ago (!!) I’d have given a lot to have access to blogs like this one. Just to interacts with people who had walked the walk would have given me confidence, I think. I’m troubled by how much plain WRONG “facts” about the industry are floating out there in Facebook groups and such.

      As an aside, one of my favorite thriller writers, who I’m honored to also call a friend, Stephen Hunter, was my only in-person contact during my first-novel days. He told me that he never received a rejection letter for his his first book. He credits that to the fact that he wrote it before there were word processors. He said that the process of typing and retyping a 400-page manuscript to produce a clean copy that was worthy of submission served as a kind of natural selection. It made me laugh at the time, but as the years go by, I think more and more that he might be right.

      So you know, I poured that drink for you drink and it’s here waiting for you. I might have to drink it myself, though, if you can’t pick it up before the ice melts.

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