PUBLISHER SPEAKS OUT

A week or so ago, I wrote Mark Stepp, my publisher at Old American Publishing and asked if I could interview him for my writing blog. When he sent back the reply, I was so taken by the valuable information he shared in answer to my first query, that I decided to publish it in its entirety. Writers can learn a lot from his adventures as a writer, editor, journalist and publisher.
VB: First, would you tell me a little about your background in writing, editing and publishing?
MS: I studied professional writing at Oklahoma University under a fabulous instructor named
Foster-Harris. He forever changed my attitude about myself and my writing. I knew sitting there in his class that all I ever wanted to be was a writer. He made us write stories for every kind of magazine, including True Confessions. I suppose the two most important things he taught me was how to write a good query letter and how to accept a rejection letter without giving up on
writing as a career. He made me understand that no matter how good (or how bad) an article was, there was probably a market for it somewhere. He also taught me that it was better to write for a publication rather than trying to find one that wanted something I had already written.
I graduated college from Northeastern Oklahoma University. I went there for summer school and fell in love with their journalism department. They hired me as their alumni publication editor. A year later, I was an editor on the school paper and writing a weekly column. They opened a world of information about how to actually produce a newspaper or magazine, and I learned it all, from writing the news to handing it to the printer.
I began my professional career as a reporter and photographer for a small group of weekly county newspapers in eastern Oklahoma County. As a small town reporter, I found myself writing obituaries and covering social events for different organizations. But after a couple of months, the publisher let me work on the police and city beat, which mostly included attending town meetings and making the rounds of police and fire departments looking for news tidbits.
The pay at a small town weekly was miserly at best, so I supplemented my income by shooting
wedding photography and selling freelance photos to an international photography sales company named Globe Photos. Additionally, I worked a few hours per week for a monthly newspaper where I rewrote news clips from around the state and then laid out their monthly newspaper for them. While there I met a number of unsavory characters, including a group of ex-convicts who paid me to do freelance work for half a dozen monthly newspapers they were hyping through a telephone sales soliciting firm. When I realized their operation was a sham, I quit. But before that they introduced me to a woman who was the recently jilted girlfriend of state politician who was part of the Little Dixie Maffia. She would not even tell me her name because she was so frightened.
She met with me at a friend’s home and discussed the inside workings of the Little Dixie group
for nearly ten hours. I wrote so many notes that my hand ached for three days, but that insider
information helped me launch my career as an investigative reporter. I never told my boss how I
got my leads, I just began pursuing everything one story at a time.
From that small beginning, I went on to work as editor of The Wewoka Daily Times and as one
of the City Life editors at the Oklahoma Journal. Both newspapers are defunct today, as are two
small town weeklies I later owned and operated.
After nine years as a reporter, editor, and photographer, I wrote my first novel: a survival novel
about a group of futuristic settlers. It took me most of a year working on it part time. My agent at the time was very excited about the book and managed to get it to one of Robert Redford’s
producers. They said they wanted to turn it into a movie. They kept it for nine months and then,
one day, just sent the manuscript back to me–no note, nothing. Another lesson about rejection.
Currently, I am trying to finish a novel about my experiences with the Little Dixie Maffia, and
am attempting to market a western novel.
When I left the newspaper world, I used my connections to once again pursue a freelancing
career. That’s when I got involved with Odie Faulk through a mutual friend who owned Guffey’s
Journal in Oklahoma City. Odie taught me the publishing business. Or rather, he taught me how
to put an historical book about a city together while he was working on histories about Muskogee
and Tahlequah. He is not the best writer I’ve ever met, but he is certainly the most prolific. At the time I was editing small town newspapers and area magazines and then jobbing them out to local printing companies. I was writing and the money was good, but I liked what Odie was doing. Besides, not only was he having more fun than I was, he was also making more money as just a
writer.
His secret was simple. He would contract with a community, usually the chamber of commerce,
and then write a history about their city. Once the book went to press, then he solicited the
successful local businessmen about writing books on them and their companies. He told me once
that he could write a biography or company history in six weeks from start to finish. Finished for
him meant handing it over to Guffey’s Journal for typesetting. It sounded like a dream job to me,
except I was not interested in moving from town to town every six months, and I loved the
production of the business almost as much as the writing. So I decided instead to start my first
publishing company.
Next week: the rest of the interview.
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About veldabrotherton

I'm primarily a writer, but I also speak and teach workshops and co-chair a large critique group. My brand is SexyDarkGritty and that applies to my western historical romances, mysteries, women's fiction and horror novels. After almost 30 years in this business, I still have something to learn and attend conferences to network with other writers, publishers, editors and agents.
This entry was posted in editor, journalism, Little Dixie Mafia, Mark Stepp, Old American Publishing, reporter, Velda Brotherton. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to PUBLISHER SPEAKS OUT

  1. joyce4books says:

    Velda — This story is outstanding! Thank you for sharing it in your blog. I met Mark in San Antonio two years ago. The stories from his background are priceless.

  2. Thanks Joyce, glad you enjoyed it. He apologized for writing so long, but I thought it a super answer for writers especially.

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