"Although we do have a manuscript acquisitions editor, I peruse most of the manuscripts we receive. Occasionally I read the entire submission; often I only read a few pages. What definitely shortens my reading time is when it becomes painfully obvious that the author does not really know what they are writing about," Coffield said.
"Being a western book publisher, the biggest offenders that I come across, of course, are people who write westerns but really have no idea about the west, about horses or riding horses, or about western culture. I've even read western books that authors have self-published and then want us to re-publish (which we don't do, by the way). There are just too many dead giveaways in most of these books that the author doesn't really know what's what. The author may love reading westerns and watching western movies, etc., but they often have no personal experience with what they're writing about."
Coffield went on to say that some people can write successfully on a topic they've not had any experience with, but it's rare. "That's why the best books are written by people who've LIVED it, or have a very close connection with the topic," Coffield said.
"Authors need to remember, that when they're writing a western, or detective novel, or war novel, that there are people who have been there and know the subject! Researching something is NOT the same as living it. I once read a pathetic, predictable western that actually had been published by a publishing company in England where the author used the term 'draw leather' on almost every page. I have lived in the west my entire life and heard that expression maybe once. I'm not saying an Englishman can't write a western, but I'd say he/she could probably produce a better book if they stayed local. It was painfully obvious the book was not written by a person really familiar with the culture of the west."
"This is not to say the aspiring writer can't write a great book," Coffield hastened to add. "A person just needs to write what they know about. If you know about life in China, then center your book around that - not about someone living in Texas if you've never even been to Texas. If you've flown airplanes, base your novel around your knowledge. Better yet, write a nonfiction book about flying and airplanes!"
"In my opinion, for best results write what you know," Coffield said.
"I think one reason Jere D. James' books are so popular is because James walks the talk. The author is western born and raised, rides horses (and a mule), and lives in Arizona. James does not set books in New Mexico or Wyoming, but the author does know Arizona, and every Jake Silver book is set in a different location in Arizona," Coffield said,"and James spends months in each location while writing the book."
Although Robert Walton, author of Dawn Drums, is not a southerner, the fact is Walton spent 36 years teaching social studies and specializing in the Civil War era. His research for Dawn Drums was extensive, and as a result his book is riveting, factual, and real. Walton is not only a speaker on the Civil War, but also participates in re-enacting and still works extensively with students on this topic .
J.R. Sanders, author of Some Gave All (nonfiction) and the two-time, award-winning The Littlest Wrangler was born and reared in Kansas, home of some of the wildest outlaws in the West. Sanders' knowledge and gut feelings for the West shows in his writing, too. His intensive research, along with a love and knowledge of all things western, makes his books hard to put down. Sanders is also a western re-enactor. He knows period correct clothing, guns of the era, etc.
Besides being a singer, songwriter, poet, and actor, Rusty Richards also rode bulls in rodeo competitions. In addition he was best friends with Casey Tibbs, whose biography Rusty wrote. His firsthand knowledge of Casey and rodeo made his book a sure-fire hit.
Finally, P.A. Arnold, author of Getting a Handle on Herpes, was able to write such a terrific book about this topic because of her own experience with genital herpes. Arnold knows how herpes sufferers feel; she knows the problems they face and the self-imposed shame most impose on themselves. This first-hand knowledge is what makes her book so very helpful to those who have this virus.