The Writing and Marketing Show

Crosscultural Writing and Publishing with MAI

November 03, 2021 Wendy H. Jones Episode 94
The Writing and Marketing Show
Crosscultural Writing and Publishing with MAI
Show Notes Transcript

Today's episode is different as I take a back seat and Kathrine Blessan interviews Tony Collins about MAI and the work they do to support writing for authors worldwide. 

Wendy Jones:

Hi, and welcome to the writing and marketing show brought to you by author Wendy H. Jones. This show does exactly what it says on the tin. it's jam packed with interviews, advice, hints, tips and news to help you with the business of writing. It's all wrapped up in one lively podcast. So it's time to get on with the show. And welcome to episode 94 of the writing and Marketing Show with author entrepreneur, Wendy H. Jones are very warm welcome to you yet again. Today we have a different type of interview because it's not mean it's going to be doing the interviewing, I'm going to introduce our guests. And then one of the guests, Catherine blessing is going to interview My other guest, Tony Collins, and they are going to be talking about cross cultural, working and talking about the work of MMI and Tony's new book about publishing, and more about both of them in a moment. And you'll realise why we're doing that because we're all about pushing the boundaries here. We're all about doing things differently. We're all about swivelling and turning and taking advantage of what is going on to bring you better shows each month. And I love being innovative. I love being different. And I love trying new things, as you know. So before then what's happening? Well, it's November, which means it's National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, as it's commonly known as, and I'm so excited, because yet again, I am doing NaNoWriMo, this will be my eighth year doing NaNoWriMo, which means it's eight years I've been a full time author, and I was writing and doing things before that. But it started properly with me doing it full time with my first NaNoWriMo. So eight years, I'm very excited about that. And you never know when the book will be out. So watch this space. My other news is killers curse is almost ready to print, press Publish. And it will be out in the next couple of weeks. I'm hoping in the next week or so very exciting times indeed for this author. So before we introduce our guests, I would just like to say it's an absolute pleasure to bring you the show each week. And I do so willingly. But it does take time out of my writing. If you would like to support this show, then you can do so by going to patreon.com. And you can spend just $3 a month, which is the price for tea or coffee. And it will let me know that you are enjoying what is happening and enjoy the show. So thank you for all those who do support me. Or you can do it as a one off with buy me a coffee, which is again $3. And it's just the price of a coffee. You can do that through my website at Wendy at Wendy jones.com. Sorry, no, it's not. That's my email address. My website is Wendy H jones.com. There you go. It's one of those days I can tell. But hey, we're still here. We're still working. So that's the main thing. And if you like my books, I've got series for children, children's picture books, I have adult train books, I have nonfiction fiction books for authors. You can get those through my website if you want signed copies or you can get them everywhere books are sold, and also in libraries. So let's get on with the show. Let me introduce today's guests. So Tony Collins has spent a lifetime working with Christian books. He started in the religious publishing division of hardened Staaten, where he trained under the deletable Edward England. And what were the authors such as Michael Green, David Watson, Jackie Poole, and Jordan Cullen Archerd. He then spent two years at all nations Christian College preparing to become a missionary publisher in Brazil. Those plans were struck down by the health of one of his children, but he was able to use the mission training he had received in setting up the publishing wing of Mark Europe, part of World Vision. He then joined the board of Kingsway, where he set up the monitor books in print, which he then purchased and set up as his own company. He has since worked for Angus Hudson limited lane, Hudson and SPCK. he calculates that he has edited and published over 1400 books. Tony is author of taking my god for a walk a book about walking the Camino de Santiago and the forthcoming they'll never read that how to make mistakes in publishing. He is married to the novelist and spiritual writer Penelope Wilcock, and Catherine who is going to be interviewing him is equally impressive. Catherine lives in Sheffield and is married to blessing from Kerala Indian and they have two children, as well as writing stories that touch on social issues and explore the space where cultures cross. Catherine is an English tutor and social entrepreneur. Her debut novel Lydia song was published by instant apostle in 2014 as well as trying to find a home for our latest novelist she is also a screenwriter, short story, writer and ghostwriter. So without further ado, let's get on with the show and hear from both Catherine and Tony. And as I say, I'm very much looking forward to this episode. And we've got Tony and Catherine with us. Welcome, guys.

Katherine Blessan:

Good morning, wherever you are at this time.

Tony Collins:

Nice to be with you.

Wendy Jones:

Oh, it's lovely to have you both. And you know, this is a first for the podcast, we've never had to three people on including me, although I'm not going to be very big part of this, as I've explained to the readers or listeners listeners already. And so Tony, where are you sitting in the world? Where are you?

Tony Collins:

I'm based in in Hastings on the south coast of England, or the south coast of England. Right. So that's several 100 miles from me.

Wendy Jones:

And where are you Catherine?

Katherine Blessan:

I'm in Sheffield. So it's roughly in the middle of the UK.

Wendy Jones:

Right? We could have made up in Sheffield to do this because we're kind of you know, you're halfway between us. So that works out? Well. We're going all the way up the east coast here. I think my geography is thr pits. Anyway, it's a good job. I'm better at doing podcasts, and I am a geography and writing. So guys, I'm going to hand over to you and Katherine, you're taking control of this interview, and Tony is going to be an amazing horse. So for once in my life, I'm going to shut up and say over to Katherine.

Katherine Blessan:

Hello. Okay. Well, thank you for that nice introduction, Wendy. And so for those of you who don't know, I'm on I'm on the ACW committee. And my role in ACW is as an overseas support, which essentially means connecting with overseas members of ECW, as well as supporting media associate International, or EMI. And their mission in encouraging homegrown Christian literature and not in non western nations. So we're going to be talking quite a lot about EMI today. So I'll just tell you a little bit more about them and their mission. So ma AI are passionate about providing high quality, publishing and writing training to developing nations and nations which are traditionally close to the Gospel. And they believe that to be truly effective, and empowering Christian literature should speak to the heart of the cultures from which they emerge, rather than being exported from from the West in a sort of, you know, very pre packaged sort of way. So, Tony, I recently found out that you've got a very long history of doing training with EMI, would you like to tell us how you first got involved with them, and why you believe MAI's work is important.

Tony Collins:

Okay. Back in 2004, I was working for a chap called rod Shephard as part of my work with a company called Angus Hudson limited. And I was one of the editors and publishers on that team. And Rod knew that if you push me, I can speak French. And so he came by my desk one day and said to me, I'm Associate I'm working with an AI and he went on to explain a bit about what an AI does. And then he said, We need somebody to run a training course in Benin, would you be interested in how to be a training course in French? So I gave a chorus of sent and then I got a phone call from John mouse, who is the president of MPI. And before I knew what I was doing, I had been signed up to to run a course the following year. Shall I go on and say something about how that would panned out? Because it's quite, it's reasonably interesting.

Katherine Blessan:

Yes, definitely. I mean, I was going to I was going to ask you a specific question related to your first experience of training, but you can go ahead and tell us about that now, if you like.

Tony Collins:

Okay. Well, basically, MFI runs courses all over the world as you observe indicators. And this was the first time that they had run a course in Benin. And to my embarrassment, I didn't actually know where Jeanine was. And it's a very it's a it's a long, narrow country, just in case there are any listeners who are as ignorant as I was. It's a long narrow country on the southern coast of West Africa. It's a former French colony, it used to be called Dahomey and it was once a centre of the international slave trade. And it gained independence from France in 1960. And then there was there were many years of turbulence. Then Benin established a republic In about 1990. So I looked all this up and I found it interesting. And so I set to work to to prepare some materials about the public the work of a publisher and to to prepare them in French. And there are dozens and dozens and dozens of questions which I I needed to address. So for example, I needed to ask myself questions about how you translated copyright law production schedules, or marketing priorities or design parameters, footnotes, and everything else. And anyway, so I got myself prepared. And in due course, the tickets arrived, I had to go via Paris because there's no flights directly from England to Benin. And so I arrived on a Saturday night, andI was met at the airport by John Mouse, just so you can visualise the event. The the crowds of returning people from Benin are small dark people. John mouse is a very tall white Westerner. And he stood out from the crowd. And so we stuck our our bags into the back of the local Track, track run by a local pastor. And off we set back to his house. Shall I go on and tell you exactly how badly things turned down from there.

Katherine Blessan:

Yes, badly, according to yourself. Well,

Tony Collins:

it was a bit of a shock. Because we sat down to this. This was Saturday night and the course started on a Monday. We sat down to supper, and I could follow I find I could follow the local compensation easily enough. And that was fine.The problem was, as it's transpired for us that actually I prepared a course for publishers. Yeah. The audience of about 40 people were booksellers. And so quite different. With less than 48 hours to go before I had to fill a 14 hour schedule over two days, with material of absolutely scintillating interest, which should keep people on their toes. I realised that I was speaking not only was I speaking in French today, and speaking in about a subject about which I knew almost nothing. I've never been a bookseller. I mean, I've gone into bookshops. But that's about the limit of my expertise. So these people knew far more than I did about their subjects. And I was expected to teach them teach them. And so teach humility. I was I was completely at a loss. And so I just I had to, to start very quickly to I apologise to my pastor, the pastor and said, I'm sorry, I can't participate in the front, the church service the following morning, I'm going to have to focus on this. And so I set to work and think trying to think off the cuff very quickly in making notes, scribbling this away in French, trying to reconstruct, restructure the entire course, to think about new discussion questions, to think of exercises. You know, what were the peak selling times? What are they? What was the local reading habits? What are their customers favourite authors? Who were the local influences? Could they expand their customer base? Could they go to local schools to do work with local radio stations, all this sort of stuff? And come Monday, I was there I was in the hot stuffy classroom with 40 people eagerly awaiting my attention. I really didn't know what I was talking about at all. So that it was I mean, I have to say that this was the I should emphasise this was really the first time that me I had had it had anything to do with be mean. Yeah, it wasn't their fault. It was it had been a breakdown in communications. And subsequent courses were very much better run.

Katherine Blessan:

So it's all fascinating things in it. So fascinating information. And it's always interesting to feet for people to hear about how things go wrong, as well as what, what happens. What goes well, as well. So what role do you think ma i have to play in the field of encouraging diverse voices in writing?

Tony Collins:

Well, this is a really interesting question. Because what I've discovered in I mean, I've run courses in very quite a number of countries now. And one of the things that seems to be consistent particularly in Africa as not, not quite so true in other places, but perhaps the world. But in Africa, there seems to be a huge degree of reverence for me white male American preachers, particularly those who belong to the prosperity gospel side of things, yeah. And so there is a commensurate distrust of all people speaking with any degree of understanding from within their own culture. You know, so Burkina is, is stuck at a profit is not a knock out on the Save in his own country. It's that issue. And so I discovered that though I mean, many of these Americans, I mean, you know, goodness me that may not be racist. But many of these ministries are very well funded. And there is a sense that, you know, I'm taking this Gospel out to the world. But in practice, what's happening is that they're actually swamping local Christians with very well prepared glossy materials from the west. And people, people in these countries have learned to be deferential towards the Western preachers. Exactly, yeah. But that is, that is really the heart of the problem. And whereas the vision of MMI is to is to foster indigenous, Writing, Publishing and bookselling and that is it, I think, I mean, I used to be I trained as a missionary, that is exactly where we need to be.

Katherine Blessan:

Absolutely. And sort of getting away from that colonial mindset, which, essentially, essentially, it is that sort of deference to, to the west. So what were some of the biggest challenges that you faced, when engaged in cross cultural training, maybe just give us one or two examples okay.

Tony Collins:

This, this idea, this, this challenge of, of self doubt, and lack of confidence is a really big issue. I came across this in in Mali, where I was running a course and Mali is very much it although it is independent from France, it is still very heavily dependent on French culture in some respects. And this was, I noticed this in particular in regards to the book cover design. Because the traditionally French books, this is less true than used to be, but they used to be the case that's French books, especially those with an educational dimension, had extraordinarily dulled typographical covers, you know, sort of black lettering on white on a white background kind of covers. And all of the local books, which have been produced in Molly's I found had exactly the same cover design. Now, Marley is a place of immense vibrancy and colour and energy, smells and music and sounds, you know, it says, it's a it's an assault on the senses due to pieces like Molly. None of this is reflected in the cover designs. I mean, the people were beautiful clothing, they were not immune to beauty. But the cover designs were dull. I mean, other problems that I found, you know, it's one of the okay. I mean, it is a truism in Britain, that problems of ego can get in the way of Christian ministry. And so you find, particularly male leaders believe that they have a mission from God. And it's actually it sort of amplifies their own ego. Yeah. And quite a lot of this has been imitated in parts of Africa, I found. So you will find books where the back cover wording was three times too long, and went into exhaustive detail about the talents of the author. Whereas if you look at a cover wording for a book published in Britain, or indeed in America, it's likely that the paragraph about the author will be very short. And I this kind of an ego trip is something that I did to come across freely, quite frequently. But there's there's a lot of very basic problems which arise when you're trying to start publishing books, in cultures, which are less used to the parameters, which you'd normally follow. And so the idea of setting up a publishing contract was I mean, I, I've, I've been the guest of a very able lady in Burkina Faso, who was running her own publishing house, but she hadn't actually established contract with any of the officers she published? Sure. I mean, I suspect that she's corrected that now because I took her through the what you need to do. Issues of copyright in wholesale lifting of materials from other books is a is a commonplace. Basic things like infrastructure are such a challenge to publishers in West Africa. One of the people that I've worked with in West Africa is a chapter for Dr. Julie, Uber, runs the publishing house, a Christian Centre, Christian publishing centre, in the Ivory Coast and put the well. And he wants to send books from his publishing house in the Ivory Coast to Marley, which is next door in terms of countries. The likelihood is that the books will get stolen on Route. Yeah, unless he sends them via Paris. You know, which is just absurd. The infrastructure that just the road structure is really, really difficult. So I mean, basically counting. I mean, one of the problems that I came across is that civic unrest is a real challenge. I mean, I was running a course in Brazzaville in the Republic of Congo. And we had to move to the location of the course, recently, we had to move the location is that about 10 years previously, there, there had been a violent Civic, civic unrest in that area. And one of the participants in the course, had lost a close family member in the civic unrest at the location where we were running the course. So we actually had to move across town, so that the poor poor gentleman could bring himself to a centre course.

Katherine Blessan:

So I imagine that was very challenging, a very challenging experience. I've come across that extreme the whole experience of the attitudes towards copyright when I was living in Cambodia, I lived in Cambodia for a couple of years, working as a, as a teacher at a Christian missionary International School. And over there, well, at least at the time, when I was there, which was 2000, between 2006 and 2009, on and off. Books were photocopied wholesale. So even our textbooks, we even we used to go to the local photocopier, and photocopy 25 copies of X book, in order to ensure that all the students within the class had photocopies had copies of the book that they were that they needed. And I remember thinking, Well, surely we shouldn't be doing this. But at the same time, there was often there was no other easy way of getting books or getting books in bulk into the into the country. So it was really the only practical way I think, at the time, I don't know if they've changed it since even at this school that I was working at. And I don't blame them at all because of because that's kind of how things were at the time. And it's almost like they didn't have the same copyright laws in place within the country. I know that copyright. Copyright is an international law is an international thing, isn't it? But I guess it depends on how they choose to apply it within the nations themselves. So although it was shocking you it's amazing how quickly you got used to that as a culture. Which I think is fascinating.

Tony Collins:

Yes, it's a real challenge this and of course, by extension, book piracy, where people simply photograph the setting of books and then churn them out, you know, take the cover design, and just just reproduce them locally. I mean, book piracy is a big issue and the society of authors and the Publishers Association. I both have significant teams tried to deal with it.

Katherine Blessan:

Yeah, no, that's really good. And it's been some 17 years. Tony, since you first started your connection with EMI, would you consider doing further training overseas now at this stage in your life?

Tony Collins:

Possibly, but I would prefer to do it by zoom if I possibly could. I'm a I'm a member. So this is me waving a flag. I'm a member of the Green Party and as a member of the Green Party, I'm really trying to discourage international flying. And so I would be less less comfortable with boarding aircraft these days and there have been in the past now that there are alternatives that we can use. The other thing is that some of this stuff can get quite demanding than the last time I went to it. to Africa, which was to Burkina Faso. I came back really quite ill. And I'm unwell for some time. So it's so for that reason, too, I would be more cautious. I mean, if you can do it via zoom, then let's do it by zoom.

Katherine Blessan:

Absolutely. I don't. I mean, there is something in my mind, though, there's nothing that quite beats being amongst people within their culture, and sort of absorbing the atmosphere around you. But at the same time, I totally take your point. And so listeners can find more about stories about your experiences from with EMI from reading your latest book, they'll never read that how to make mistakes in publishing. Would you like to tell them more about this book, and where they can get hold of it?

Tony Collins:

Okay, well, let me deal with a simple business. First, it's been published by Malcolm down limited, and it's coming out in February. And so if you are able to get to a bookshop, or to be a customer of Eden, or even indeed, of Amazon, and it'll be easily available, if you wish me to send you a signed copy, and I can do that, too. The book itself, arose out of a conversation that I had with John mouse, as the President of in AI. And he said, I was telling him some of the stories that I've encountered over the course of the years. And he said, Tony, you really ought to write some of this down. And I thought, actually, you know, there's, there's some truth in that. So since I have made such an immense number of errors in the course of my life as a publisher, and I've I've published many books, which probably shouldn't have seen the light of day I've published, I've missed bestsellers. I have reprinted books too often. I've just done an amazing number of, of really bad eras. And I thought it's much more instructive and much more entertaining to listen to people confessing my sins. Yes. I thought I'd do that.

Katherine Blessan:

Yeah, no one wants to hear hear all about how everybody, how people are perfect, do they? So yeah,

Tony Collins:

That option wasn't available. Thanks. absolutely.

Wendy Jones:

Thank you very much guys. So that's been absolutely fascinating. That was an easy podcast. For me, it was great. I have to do this more often. So thank you to both of you. Katherine, I do have a question for you. Right at the very beginning, you said ECW. Can you explain to the listeners what ACW is, please?

Katherine Blessan:

Yeah, sure. So ACW stands for the Association of Christian writers. And we were about 1000 members, well, roughly, is 1000 member kind of Facebook, very active page at the minute. And there are about seven 700 to 800 actual paid up members. And they we represent writers from all different types of writing genre, whether it be fiction, nonfiction, you know, Christian devotionals, through to educational materials. And there are even some script writers amongst us as well. So it's representing anybody and everybody who considers themselves a writer, there are even people who, who mostly write hymns and, and, and other kind of Christian song material or worship material. So it really does cover the whole vast spectrum of Christian writers, writers who consider themselves or sorry, Christians who also right.

Wendy Jones:

Excellent. Well, thank you for that just so that people know. Sorry, Tony, you look like you want to say something there. Am I right?

Tony Collins:

Yes, I was going to just to add a comment. In my work as an agent, I am very, I find that the association of Christian writers is an immensely valuable group to belong to. I mean, there are very bright bunch of stars and very full of, of entertaining ideas. But there are also if I want to find a writer for a particular subject or on a particular with a particular skill set. That's where I turn to first.

Wendy Jones:

Yeah, there's some phenomenal writers in ACW. And we're all members. There you go, guys. So that's three people here are members. So you've got at least three members.

Katherine Blessan:

Absolutely.

Wendy Jones:

So thank you very much to both of you. And Catherine, we know where we can get Tony's books, where can we get your books, or find out more about you?

Katherine Blessan:

Yeah, well, you can have a look on my website, which is www dot Katheryn with a K and N E, and then bless them, which is b l e double S. A n.com. And you can also find me At on Twitter, on twitter handle at Kath lesson, if you so wish. And you can find me on Facebook, as well, you can find my author page, which is also just called Katherine bless on. And if you want to buy my books you can. You can buy them in any in any good book store really online and in person as well. You might have to order them in if it's not available in the shop itself, but you can definitely get them anywhere. In fact, I only have one full book at the minute, which is Lydia song. And then I've got some contributions to anthologies as well, which are also available. One is

Wendy Jones:

What about Write Now.

Katherine Blessan:

No, I;m not in Write Now

Wendy Jones:

Are you in Write Now, Tony?

Tony Collins:

Oh, yes. I've got an article on how to catch your editor.

Wendy Jones:

There you go. So if you go to if you buy the book Write Now, it's jam packed full of useful information. Myyself and Tony are in it. And I've got chapter on hybrid publishing. There you are.

Katherine Blessan:

I've recently read it. It's called Write Well

Wendy Jones:

Write Well, sorry.

Katherine Blessan:

But it's absolutely an absolutely fantastic resource. And I'm not just saying it because because it's an ACW Publication because I didn't I didn't have anything to do with it. But it's, it's it's brilliant. I've done a very good review of it on on Amazon. So I was thoroughly impressed.

Wendy Jones:

Yeah, thank you very much to both of you. And I hope you have a great day. And thank you to the listeners. And I'll be back next week with another fabulous show for you. Until then keep reading keep writing. That brings us to the end of another show. It was really good to have you on the show with me today. I'm Wendy H Jones. And you can find me at Wendy H jones.com. You can also find me on Patreon where you can support me for as little as $3 a month which is less than the price of a tea or coffee. You go to patreon.com forward slash Wendy H Jones. I'm also went to H Jones on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. Thank you for joining me today and I hope you found it both useful and interesting. Join me next week when I will have another cracking guest for you. Until then, have a good week and keep writing keep reading and keep learning