Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Tenacity Interviews - Max Anderson

Last time on the blog, we talked to a woman who was told: there's no room in the market for what you want to write. Well, today we are going to meet another writer who was told, "Sorry, there is no market for books for boys." Max Anderson rolled up his sleeves and went about proving those voices wrong. Let's meet Max:

Max Anderson was a producer on the nationally televised PBS special, Gospel at the Symphony that was nominated for an Emmy, and won a Grammy for the double album soundtrack. He has produced, directed, or shot over 500 national television commercials for True Value Hardware Stores. Mr. Anderson owns The Market Place, a client based video production-company for medical and industrial clients. In addition he is the owner of M V P Productions & Distribution. This company was established for the production and distribution of Christian films such as Tracy's Choices.

Mr. Anderson is listed in WHO’S WHO in Finance and Industry, Entertainment, Advertising, The Midwest, Emerging Leaders in America, The World, and WHO’S WHO In America (1999 - present)

In addition to his film and production work, Max Elliot Anderson has written thirty-five manuscripts for a chapter adventure series for boys ages eight and up. Seven of these books,

Newspaper Caper, Terror at Wolf Lake, North Woods Poachers, Mountain Cabin Mystery, Big Rig Rustlers, Secret of Abbott’s Cave, and Legend of the White Wolf have been published.

1) Max, you were published quickly in your career. But you face a different battle when it comes to publishing your work. Tell us about that.

For several months, one of the largest Christian publishers held a number of my manuscripts. For a time, it looked like this would be the place where I’d be published. Without naming the publisher, I had kept one of my online writer’s groups informed of my progress. Finally, the rejection came. The publisher was reducing their output, and my work wouldn’t be published by them.

This was a real setback, and I posted to the group, “The mother of all rejections.” Several members responded to that message, and one man asked to see samples of the rejected manuscripts. His name was Dr. Marvin Baker. Ultimately he and his associate decided to form a new company, Baker Trittin, in order to publish my work. The problem was that I continued to write far more material than they could release. After 7 books were published, I decided to look for other opportunities.

I found that the market was predominately publishing books for girls, because girls were our primary readers. My books were intended especially for boys. So the battle has been in convincing others in the publishing industry that there is a large and growing market for books like mine for boys.

2) How difficult was it to find an agent?

Finding my agent, Terry Burns at Hartline Literary, was relatively easy. Terry had also been on some of the same online writer’s groups with me, before he became an agent. With my early projects, I’d ask people if they wanted to read various manuscripts and comment on them. In some cases, those comments might be used on back covers to help promote the books. Terry asked his grandchildren to read one of the manuscripts, and he read it too.

So, when I began shopping for an agent, Terry was high on the list. He already knew my work, and he agreed to represent me.

3) Did things go smoothly once you had an agent?

We haven’t sold any projects yet. But as I said earlier, I chose to write for boys. My action-adventures and mysteries are intended especially for tween boys. The good thing is that girls like reading these books just as much, if not more.

Terry does an excellent job in researching the market, attending conferences, and connecting with editors. It’s important to understand that many publishers now use agents as a means to cut down on the number of manuscripts that come across their desks.

In my dramatic film production experience, I learned that girls would watch a boy’s story, but boys were not interested in a girl’s story. I used that same template for my writing. Kids have told me that reading one of my books is like being in an exciting or scary movie. Adults have said that the books are almost a new form that brings the highly visual world of film to the printed page.

In time, I’m hopeful the concept will attract the right publishing partner.

4) Which personal strengths did you use to remain tenacious in your quest to be published?

I’ve never been a quitter, refuse to give up, and grew up as a reluctant reader. I decided to do what I could in order to produce the kinds of books I would have liked as a child, so that other boys like me could begin to enjoy reading.

Once you have a clearly defined objective, it’s easier to press on toward that goal.

5) What has being tenacious taught you about yourself?

Tenacity is a term that defines me in part. I’ve learned that it helps me to fight off discouragement. I’ve written 35 manuscripts to this point. And I receive wonderful emails and letters from parents, grandparents, young readers, teachers, and librarians. My job is to help others catch the excitement that is in these stories, and get involved with me in reaching out to our boys. So many of them would rather watch TV, play video games, or hang out on the computer.

Tenacity certainly came into play as I wrote manuscript after manuscript over a three to four year period. Who else would do something like that without a publishing contract, agent, or anything?

Tenacity just helps me to stay on course.

6) Who believed in you the most? What role did they play in your ability to keep going?

My father was the author of over 70 books. When I decided to start writing, I felt like the last person on earth who should do such a thing. After all, I had grown up, in an author’s house, hating to read. I was 55 at the time I began writing, and my dad was in his early 80’s. I thought he might be critical of what I had written, but decided to share it with him anyway. We formed an immediate bond over this writing process and, before his death, he started calling me his writing buddy. That early mentoring made all the difference for me to keep going.

7) Where will your tenacity take you next?

During my military service, we used to say that the army was hurry up and wait. The same phrase carried over into all of my years in film and video production. Now I’ve come to see that publishing follows some of these same patterns. It seems to be hurry up and really wait.

I think that too many writers simply give up too soon. I’ve read biographies and comments from a number of authors that seem to indicate that it takes at least 10 years before an author is taken seriously by the market. That’s not to say that some people don’t rocket to the top with their first book. But there are many “over night successes” who have been methodically plotting a course for years before anything significant happens.

My life has been characterized by looking at the big picture, and being willing to wait for the right timing, even when others don’t see that same picture.


Grab your "big picture" glasses and, like Max, you can make your dreams come true - for yourself and for others as well!

I bid you good writing.


Lisa Lickel said...

Hi, Max, good to see you share your story here! My oldest son grew up reading Gary Paulson and Will Hobbs. There is a market out there. Keep plugging away.

lynnrush said...

Great interview, Bonnie! Thanks.

Shari Lyle-Soffe said...


I wonder sometimes how you do it. I marvel at your tenacity. ;o)


max said...

I appreciate these comments.

Thank you!

Linda Worden said...

Good morning, Max! I just returned from spending 10 days with my 4 grandchildren. The oldest 2 are boys ages 9 & 10 and I read to them each night while with them. We are into the books I loved having my mother read to us when I was a kid - THE SUGAR CREEK GANG stories. My grandsons wanted me to continue reading all the way to the airport before I left. I can't wait for them to be exposed to your books. One is an avid reader and the other a reluctant reader! God bless you and your imagination and your courage.

Marcus Goodyear said...

Very interesting interview! I'd love to hear more about the online group Max was a part of. Was this an ad hoc group or something like the Christian Fiction Writer's association?

(As an aside, Linda Worden sent me here.)

vjc said...

Hi, Max! It was great to "meet" you this morning on my blog and suddenly I find you here on Bonnie's too! Small world, isn't it?

A friend that was also a reluctant reader says she thinks it's partly because she couldn't "see the pictures" (get an image of the characters or settings) when she read a book. She was a teenager before she found a book that brought the pictures to life for her and now she, too, is an author. With your background, it sounds like you're ideally suited to bring the words to life for your readers.

Thanks, Bonnie and Max.