Missionary Max

Max Moment: Interview with Editor Trey Schorr

One of the most rewarding aspects of the whole Missionary Max project has been the privilege to work with the team at PublishNext. Their professional approach and careful editing have made The Astonishing Adventures of Missionary Max a much better story that what was originally published on this site.

Trey Schorr

Heading up the team at PublishNext is Trey Schorr. He has carefully guided the project from manuscript to e-book. He recently took time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions for our readers.
AKC: Tell us a little bit about yourself. In particular, what kinds of books do you enjoy?
Trey: My love affair with the English language began thanks to George Lucas. Star Wars novels got me reading during late Elementary School, and the recommendations and encouragement from some inspirational junior-high English teachers (Mrs. Bradbrook and Mr. Damiens) moved me first into the world of Tolkien (still my favorite) and then everything else. I became addicted to reading. Now, it’s sci-fi, fantasy, history, classics, or whatever comes highly recommended by friends.
What got you into editing?
I don’t remember when I first began editing; the shift from simply reading to making corrections happened so naturally that I didn’t even notice. When I did realize—sometime in college—what I had been doing without thinking, I decided to try to make a career out of it. So far, it seems to be working.
Do you have any words of advice for aspiring writers?
Early and often. Seriously, the best advice I can give to writers is, write. Don’t try to pitch an idea; if you’re just starting, no one is going to pay you to write a book. Write it first, then try to get paid. Of course, if you’re in it to get paid, you’re probably in the wrong field.
Aside from reading and editing, I understand you also enjoy live theatre.
True. My wife and I love to see plays, especially musicals. And we really enjoy acting when time allows.
You recently directed a stage production of “Annie.” What is the biggest challenge in putting together a major play like that?
The first thing you have to know before I can answer is that this production was put on by my church. Most people have negative connotations, or at least lower expectations, when they hear about “church theater,” but looking at it as objectively as I can, that show was phenomenal. An amazing set, stellar cast, and fun choreography combined to make it one of the best shows of my life (watching or participating).
Since it was a church production, you can probably guess that the budget was an issue. “Annie” was the biggest show we’ve ever done (with the highest royalties), and we felt the crunch in every area. We aim to make the show budget-neutral every year, hoping that ticket sales will cover the costs, and this year, we were a little worried that might not happen. But God blessed us tremendously, and we sold out every show—a thing I’d never heard of.
Budget issues weren’t the biggest challenge, though. That was the time commitment. In professional theater, hundreds of people get paid to spend hundreds of hours on each production. In community theater, people understand from the get-go the time and effort they’ll need to give, and directors aren’t shy about working them hard. Church is a different animal.
The actors realize that this is a service—we put on these shows to reach out to our community—so they are prepared to make some sacrifices. But most of them come in with little or no acting experience; they don’t realize how consuming a big production can be. The director has to find a balance between pushing them to excel and extending grace. The producer (our worship pastor) is fond of talking about having “healthy tensions” in our lives. I got to find out exactly what that means.
And the biggest reward?
Call me sentimental, but the biggest reward was when the youngest girl in the show, whom we had cast as an extra orphan, came up to me at the Wrap Party after I’d handed out thank-you cards to the cast. When she found out I had written a note in each card, she gave me a big smile and said, “Thank you.” I’ll never forget that moment.
What was it about the Missionary Max series that made you want to pursue it as a publishing project?
The Missionary Max manuscript came to my digital inbox by way of a friend whose opinions I respect. He said I would love it, and he was right. As soon as I started reading, the 1950s-comic-adventure writing style grabbed me. The descriptions were so vivid I almost thought I was reading a graphic novel, and the Indiana Jones-style action and antics kept my eyes glued to the screen. On top of that, there are clear Christian values and the church leadership subplot, which made the book perfect for our Engage Faith imprint.
Why did you think of doing it as an eBook series?
I mentioned that the book’s style made me think of 1950s comics. In my opinion, one of the most compelling features of a comic book is the anticipation of the next one. The reader is constantly in suspense about what happens next. The story can go on forever, and readers won’t mind. In fact, those who become fans start hoping it does go on forever. So I thought, “Could we build that kind of excitement with a book?” Doing this book as a serial was the perfect chance to try. The only problems were format and length.
Format and length?
Yes, printing a serial novel wouldn’t have worked. It worked for Mr. Dickens, but his serials got printed in the newspapers in the days when people read newspapers. If we had printed a serial of Missionary Max, each book would have been about 50 pages, and costs would have stacked up quickly, which would have translated into higher costs for readers. But eBooks offered a promising alternative: production costs could be minimized, and we could offer each part at a price that readers could afford. Then, the length. One book was certainly too short, and even two would barely justify calling the work a series. Andrew, you already had plans for a second adventure, and it didn’t seem hard to convince you to write two more after that. Once that decision was made, we dived right in.
How would you evaluate the process of publishing an e-book, as opposed to that of publishing a regular “paper” book?
EBooks have their pros and cons. The costs of publishing an eBook are much lower than those associated with print. Design takes less time. Obviously, there are no printing costs, and that means no warehousing or fulfillment costs either. What this meant for Missionary Max was that we were able to spend more time and resources on editorial work. Andrew, you’re a great writer, but I know you’ll admit that Max improved quite a bit through this process.
There’s no doubt about that. Like I said in the acknowledgements, you and Kiran took the writing to a whole new level. Now, what about downsides of EBooks?
Well, it’s certainly more difficult for the author, especially as more and more marketing responsibilities fall to authors. It’s true that authors have earned a reputation for plugging their books everywhere. But, you know, if they don’t, then who will? With eBooks, though, their marketing efforts are actually complicated by technology. Sure, you can do all sorts of marketing online, but an author can’t just drive around with the stereotypical case of books in the car trunk. And even considering the handful of eBook-only authors (who later ventured into Print-on-Demand) who have made millions, it’s much harder to earn respect with a digital file than it is with a dead tree.

It’s likely that few of our readers have heard of PublishNext. Why don’t you give us a snapshot of what the company is all about?

PublishNext is primarily a “ghost publisher.” Our goal is to help authors become independent publishers. We help the new publisher to set up an imprint, and we handle all aspects of production, distribution, and fulfillment for that imprint, leaving the new publisher free to focus on other things, like acquisitions and marketing. This model works best with speakers, pastors, professors—people who are looking to augment their existing professional brand with their books.
Some authors, though, are simply looking to get a book out to readers. For these authors, we offer self-publishing services through Cedar Forge Press. The benefits here are production speed and author control.
In addition to ghost publishing and self-publishing, we also accept some books, like Missionary Max, for our traditional, royalty-based publishing model. These books can generally be found under our specialty imprints, Engage Faith, Excite Kids, and Aeon Academic.
Besides the Missionary Max series, what are some other projects PublishNext is working on?
We’ve recently published a book titled At the Foot of the Snows. It’s a phenomenal account of the Watters family, linguists who brought the gospel to a remote people group in the Nepali Himalayas. I could talk all day about this book, but I’ll let the sales record do it for me: we published the book in mid-November, and we had to order a second printing before Christmas. Check out their Facebook page for more details, including some of the book’s incredible vintage photos.
Brian C. Jacobs is currently writing the third book in his Enigma Squad series, The Case of the Tiger on the Toilet. The series about a group of junior-high detectives is being published under Excite Kids. The first book, The Case of the Old Man in the Mailbox, came out in October 2010, and we just released the second, The Case of the Bike in the Birdcage, in March of this year. Book three is due out in summer 2013.
We actually have quite a few projects on our plates and on the horizon, but we’re always looking for more. If you’re looking to become a publisher or to get published, or simply want to ask about publishing, we’d love to hear from you. Contact us at http://publishnext.com/contact.html.

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The Astonishing Adventures of Missionary Max, Parts 1 and 2 are now available for Kindle and Nook!

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