LUMBERTON — While established authors from across the country were signing books and chatting with fans at the third annual Book ‘Em Writers Conference and Book Fair on Saturday, Mike Simpson was there scouting for the next big thing.
Simpson is the owner of Second Wind Publishing, an imprint based out of Winston-Salem. The company currently represents about 90 authors, many of whom were originally discovered at events like Book ‘Em.
“The reason we started Second Wind is because we wanted to help people refine their work and get published,” Simpson said. “The people who started this company were all authors who got passed on by other publishers. We all got those rejection letters that didn’t explain anything.”
Simpson said that he typically receives about 15 to 20 manuscripts from aspiring authors when he attends industry functions. Of those, only a couple will make the cut.
“If we turn down a manuscript, we make sure to tell a person why,” he said. “We don’t do authors any favors if we don’t explain what’s wrong with their work.”
By noon, Simpson had already stumbled across a draft he felt had potential. It was a memoir by Eric Locklear, a local cancer survivor who hopes to share his inspirational story with the world.
“His stuff is really quite good,” Simpson said. “We’re interested in Eric for a number of reasons. First of all, he writes really well and has a compelling story. Secondly, he’s from this area. We’re an international company with a special interest in North Carolina-based authors.”
Second Wind operates under a traditional, royalty-based business model. It distributes books through conventional brick-and-mortar retailers, as well as digital outlets such as Amazon’s Kindle store.
The company’s back catalog comprises more than 180 titles, with 50 more on the horizon.
At next year’s conference, Simpson might be flipping through a manuscript from Holly Sullivan.
Sullivan traveled from Ladson, S.C., to pitch her book, a work-in-progress expose on human trafficking, to publishers at Book ‘Em.
She’s about 40,995 words into the project, which she’s been writing in fits and spurts over the past five years.
“I got distracted from the book during college, but I’m shooting to finish it by the end of the year,” Sullivan said. “Right now, I’m here making the rounds and trying to find out what publishers are looking for. I want to find out what I need to do to get my foot in the door.”