When — and why — did you first fall in love with Westerns?
Scott, I think there’s a part of every country boy that yearns to be a cowboy. I grew up in a rural area, where I fished and ran around in the open fields, not ever knowing what these things called socks were, wishing I was a cowboy. TV was always filled with Western movies and TV shows — John Wayne, Randolph Scott, Audie Murphy, Elvis Presley and the rest loomed large in my life as they did in the lives of millions of others. John Wayne getting shot in the back in the movie “The Cowboys” caused me to pen a letter of complaint to the movie studio. As sympathetic as they were, they said they couldn’t do much about a 30-year-old movie — especially a movie where half the cast were either extremely old or had already passed on. At that moment, I vowed never to watch Bruce Dern in a picture again — a vow I kept until I saw his fantastic performance in a movie called “Nebraska” and forgave him. Elvis Presley made a movie called “Charro,” which I saw 15 times over the course of a year. My parents had records that told of tales of the trail from singers like Carl Smith, Tex Ritter, Johnny Cash, Eddy Arnold and Roy Rogers. Herein lies the tale that a boy who grows up liking two things — cowboys and publicity — will probably end up as a publicist for Western authors.
Who are your three favorite Western writers?
Now, that’s a question, Scott. I have read works from all of my clients, and it wouldn’t be fair to say any are favorites over the others. Let’s choose some classic authors who have written fantastic stories in their own inimitable way. Andy Adams comes to mind. B.M. Bower, Fred Grove. I could list a thousand others.
Which Western do you wish you’d written?
None at all — I would prefer to leave that to writers, and I’ll promote the heck out of the books they come up with. Now, there are books I wish had been bigger hits, and there are books that I wish I’d worked on, but none that I wish I’d written. I know for a fact that when I saw Paul L. Thompson on a list of authors signed by Outlaws Publishing, I knew that he would score a hit. I didn’t know at the time that he would become one of the biggest things in the genre.
What is the most recent Western you’ve read?
“A Sheriff to Kill For” from M. Allen. A fine, excitable yarn from an author who is growing in stature with each new release. Well worth checking out. I tend to alternate between Westerns and other books to give life a little bit of variety.
The “Desert Island” question. What are your three favorite Western books?
“Charro” – Harry Whittington
“Comanche Captives” – Fred Grove
“The Old Timer” – J.C. Hulsey
What are your three favorite Western movies?
“Shenandoah” – James Stewart
“No Name on the Bullet” – Audie Murphy
“The Shootist” – John Wayne
Of the books you’ve promoted, which is your favorite — and why?
Instead of picking favorites, I’ll explain something I was trying to explain the other day during an interview. All the books have been unique experiences. You can never quite tell which one will take off. I’ve picked some that I thought would be winners and some that would be losers; and I’ve been wrong on many, many occasions. I was talking to a friend of mine who was an executive at Decca Records. We are basically in the same business — his job was to sell records in his territory, and mine is to sell books. Neither of us could explain why some product takes off immediately and some sits at the bottom of the ocean. You can push and shove to try to move a book, but it has to have a certain magic to take off. Each of the biggest hits I’ve worked on have had that certain type of magic. Be it the cover, be it the title, be it the story— they’ve had something the market wanted, just as Decca hit gold when they put out “Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Haley. The big problems authors face is that they want what they want. They want a certain kind of look, feel or style, and that isn’t necessarily what the readership wants — and of course, the readership wins every time. If they don’t like the look, feel or style, they simply don’t buy.
What have been the most recent Westerns you’ve promoted?
Two major Western publishing companies — Dusty Saddle Publishing and Outlaws Publishing LLC — release many new hits each month. When there’s something new coming out of the chute for a known author like Cherokee Parks, C. Wayne Winkle or Paul Thompson, you have to get to work and roll those hits up the charts. Jim Stroud just scored a hit, and boy did he deserve it. G.P. Hutchinson just scored a hit with a short that had a life of its own. Special projects like the new Paul Thompson tribute collections and the new Bible story collections have all been recent successes. There’s been a slew of solid gold hits emanating from all directions.
Can you tell us anything about upcoming releases?
Well, there’s over 600 new releases in the can in various stages of release. Some of them are being edited, some are being rewritten, some are being readied for release, some are being reissued. A new Western novel from G.P. Hutchinson is on the way, and there are also new releases from Paul L. Thompson, a brand-new epic Western from Cherokee Parks and a brand-new hit from C. Wayne Winkle. John D. Fie Jr. also has a new one coming out shortly called “The Town Tamer.” There’s a lot of new material coming out that Western readers will truly enjoy. Watch out for the next release from Douglas R. Cobb. It’s going to be his breakthrough, if you ask me.
If you could go back in time, what would be the time and place in the Old West you’d like to have lived in for a year?
No, thank you — I love reading about the past, hearing about the past and being inspired by the past, but the innovation is taking place now. Now is the exciting time. We may have all kinds of strife going on in the world, but like Robert Schuller Sr. always said, “Tough times never last — tough people do.” There’s a lot of opportunity around today for those who are willing to look around and act on it. Don’t look to the past — look to the future.
How do you make the hits happen?
Interesting question — and one that could be a book in itself. There’s a formula that I came up with. Two stages. At stage one, it comes down to the title, cover and author name in conjunction with the quality of the story. If you can get these things right — and by right, I mean presenting something the audience wants, rather than something the author likes — you’ll like have the basis of a hit book. But to get that hit, you have to take the product, the good product, and give it exposure, which is stage two. The two stages work hand in hand — first you work on the project and then you work on the exposure. If you misstep on either side, you probably won’t make it. Now, I know it’s all too easy for a guy to preach about the rights and wrongs of promotion and how hard it is — so feel free to drop me a line and ask questions. “Why isn’t my book selling” has a long answer that leads to many more questions — and I’ll be happy to help you discover them. Just feel free to email questions to [email protected].