Thursday, May 19, 2011


Debra Dixon knows her way around publishing.  She's worked with major publishers, written ten books and contributed to twelve anthologies.  Her popular GMC:Goal, Motivation, and Conflict workshop spawned a book that has become a how-to bible for writers and is now in its nineth printing.

She’s also President/Publisher of BelleBooks/Bell Bridge Books.  In the last eleven years they’ve had an author on Oprah, sold books into foreign markets and seen their titles picked up by major New York publishers in subrights deals for mass market paperback, book club, audio and large print.  In early 2008 they launched the Bell Bridge Books imprint which covers SF/F, young adult, horror, women’s fiction, and more.  They now tackle a broad spectrum of genres and publish their titles in print as well as all e-book platforms (Kindle, Nook Apple, etc.)  They publish the popular Parker Blue Demon Underground series (young adult) and Kalayna Price’s Haven series. They’ve published work from NYT’s bestselling authors: Anne Bishop, Susan Addison Allen, Deborah Smith, Patti Henry, Sabrina Jeffries, and Jill Barnett.  This summer they’ll have original fiction from Jill Marie Landis and Sharon Sala.

For more about Bell Bridge Books, please visit and

Here at Book Blather, we adore all things “bookish.” You, Ms. Dixon, are the epitome of “bookishness” since you are a writer, a reader, an editor, a motivational speaker and one of the original founders of BelleBooks. How do you wear so many hats without losing your freaking mind?

I gave up sleep.  Well, most of my sleep.  It also helps that all of these things are connected and feed off of each other.  I don’t have to actually take my hat off.  I just have to wear it at a different angle!

I love “story” and I’m fascinated by structure and puzzles.  For me, speaking about writing is something I do because I love craft.  I love story.  I read because I love story.  Editing is all about story (and a few more things!) plus the puzzle of “getting it right.”  Publishing is about carving out a niche for fabulous books that bring an incredible story to the reader.  Publishing is also about structure.  Publishing is a puzzle.  Especially today  with the challenges we’re facing in the industry.  See?  All of these hats fit perfectly on my head.  I’m lucky to have found this path.

As a reader, if you could pick your three favorite books, what they be?

Seriously?  Three?  Are you crazy?  No.  What I can do is pick three that come to mind quickly.

I’m a big fan of Patrick Rothfuss’ THE NAME OF THE WIND.  I haven’t read his newest but not because I don’t want to!  I’ve just been too busy, but it is on my Kindle.  I’ve waited years for this new book.  His first was incredibly imaginative.  A completely serious “send up” of all things high fantasy while being an engrossing read that satisfied all my high fantasy expectations.

I remember being captured by (fittingly) I CAPTURED THE CASTLE by Dotie Smith (101 Dalmations).  It’s a brilliant piece of fiction, written in diary form, first person narrator, and written in the 1930’s-40’s.  I love the way she put words on paper.  This was her first novel, and it’s not a crackin’ action plot.  Just a charming coming of age tale.  There is a grim reality, but one that is made bearable by the narrator’s acceptance of that reality and how she sees the world.  This book would not be everyone’s cup of tea.  There is some romance, but not necessarily the happily ever after the romance reader might crave.   And who doesn’t want to read about living in a castle that’s falling down around your ears when your youth has nothing to do with being—maybe—the most mature individual in the place?

And, finally, there’s this chick, Marilee Brothers who has an amazing voice that I never forgot after reading only 8 anonymous pages in a contest.  Once we determined we’d be publishing YA fiction, I tracked her down with nothing but an odd character name and the name of the book.  God Bless Google.  Once I ran her to ground, that book became MOONSTONE.

Do you still find time to write? If so, what is your latest book?

Again, with the crazy questions?  I don’t have much time to write.  I do write about one short story a year either for our own Mossy Creek series or for something like WITCH HIGH which was a DAW anthology about a magical high school.

As a publisher, you must be extremely proud of Belle Books. It is growing steadily and was well positioned to jump into the e-book market. Care to make any predictions on the future of publishing?
My crystal ball is on order, and I cannot wait for it to get here.  But seriously. . . the future is here in terms of how we’re going to be reading.  That’s e-ink.  Readers are going to continue to evolve but Kindle has such a large jump on the competition that we have to consider them as the 800 lb gorilla in the marketplace.  Competition is a good thing.  So, 800 lb gorillas are always a little troublesome when you look into the future.

I think that by the time the middle of January, 2012 rolls around, we’re going to see even Big 6 publishers heavily dependent on the e-book channels for the majority of their revenue.  Amazon is reporting that ebooks are outselling paperbacks.  (Ebooks have been outselling hardbacks for a while.)  Obviously, shelf space will shrink.  Print runs will continue to drop.  They’re dropping already.  We might as well face it.  I think most publishers will continue to publish books in print.  We all want to have the book available however the reader wants to buy, but the reality is that the market driver in fiction is the ebook.

How we buy books will no longer be heavily weighted by going to the bookstore to “see what is there.”  Our buying methods and habits will change.  They’ll have too.  They already are.  We’re going to lose a lot of bookstores in this bloodbath.  Bookstore shelves will be repurposed to other merchandise that works well with a small mix of titles.  We’ve seen implosion before. It happened in wholesalers about ten years ago  when market conditions forced consolidation.  This sort of change happens quickly.  I think this will happen much more quickly than Big 6 and consulting pundits are predicting.

Authors with brand names may try getting into the game with original fiction and “self-driving” books as opposed to putting out “publisher driven” books.  We’re seeing a few do that already. (Connie Brockway has announced she’ll be in the driver’s seat for her next original, and won’t be partnering with a publisher.)  We’re seeing a great many published authors doing the “Reprint Rush.”  (i.e. rushing to get their backlist up ebook form)

Despite all this opportunity for authors, I don’t think quality publishers are in any danger whatsoever.  There is a reason Amanda Hocking signed a contract with traditional publishing.  Trying to do everything by yourself interferes with the writing.  Most writers actually need editing.  (Crazy, I know.  But there you go.)  Most writers aren’t equipped or don’t want to do the kind of marketing publishers do.  Technology is changing every day and writers don’t necessarily want to keep up with who’s got what format where and if they need to turn everything around again to the new industry best practices.  I could write for days about what publishers bring to the table.

Most smart writers who aren’t Dan Brown or Nora Roberts with a readership already queued up are going to continue to want and need traditional publishers to help them drive their careers so they can get to that broad readership.  The “unknown author coming out of nowhere” is a great story, but of the million books put up every (every!) year now. . .that is not the common story.  “Unknown author makes it big” is the uncommon story.  There were one million traditional and nontraditional books published in 2009 according to Bowker.  And that’s before everyone jumped on the “I’m publishing my own book bandwagon.”

The noise out there is deafening.  Publishers help writers put out books that are ready to be loved and help cut through that clutter.

Are you open for submissions? What are you tired of seeing?
We are open for submissions for the most part.  We occasionally close for submissions because the queue of people waiting is just too long for us to even get to agented submissions in a reasonable time frame.  Right now we really aren’t looking for women’s fiction and general fiction.  Just temporarily.  That will change.  My queue of Fantasy/SF/YA and Horror is back to being quite long.  I’ve just been to a conference and was pleasantly surprised with the quality of the pitches, so my queue just got longer!

I’m tired of seeing unoriginal urban fantasy or romance pretending to be a fantasy/paranormal.  When the world building and mythology is lacking, you can’t cover it up with dialogue and action.  An urban fantasy is first and foremost a very rich world in which the character operates and is operated on by the rules of that world.  The writer can’t hit pause and ignore the world for chunks of the story.

What would you like to see more of?
Personally, I would love to see epic fantasy, strong urban fantasy, gaslight or fantasy steampunk, great science fiction with characters you care about.  In Young Adult I’d like to see some inventive, edgy books.  We publish a broad range of books at Bell Bridge, which is our multi-genre imprint (*not* Southern like BelleBooks).  Other editors are looking for mystery/suspense, etc.  But my list is the SF/F/H/YA list.

Any advice for new writers? (Hint) A good answer here would be “Buy Goals, Motivation and Conflict by Debra Dixon.” Anything else?

Yes. . .exactly.  You all need to buy GMC:  Goal, Motivation and Conflict. No editor will every pay you money for a book unless you’ve actually read GMC.  It’s a must have.
The other advice I have is to finish the book.  Such simple advice.  The more you write, the more you understand.  FINISH THE BOOK.  There is a pot of gold at the end of that rainbow.  Key learning takes place when you commit to a plot and a character and see them through to the end.

The last advice I have it to read.  Read widely.  Read out of your genre.  If you want to bring something fresh to what you love, find more things to love.  Expose  yourself to the reader expectations of other genres.  How do their genres start?  How do those genres use point of view differently than yours.  Why is lit fic celebrated for its prose?  Find out what you can learn from other books.  Spend some time not just reading and loving, but also analyzing.

As a publisher, what  part of your job do you like best? Your least favorite?

As a publisher (not editor), I’m involved in 1,001 things that will never interest most writers, but for me, I like the ever changing landscape.  Solve a problem?  Wait ten minutes.  There’ll be another one.  This is an industry that keeps you on your toes, your brain engaged and takes no prisoners.  I like a challenge.  

My least favorite part of the job as Publisher is saying, “No” to opportunities.  We’ve been around quite a while.  We got here because our company has great folks with great minds and an inexhaustible supply of passion for what we do.  Even so, any company has to control its growth.  That means saying no sometimes.  I don’t like the “no.”   Even when it’s in our or my best interest!


  1. Thanks so much, Debra. I'm so grateful to BB for allowing me to breathe life into Allie Emerson and making the Unbidden Magic series a reality. It's been such fun!

  2. You'll always be special since you were one of the first books I bought for Bell Bridge!