Tara Sutphen interviews
Robert Friedman has been in book publishing since 1974. Co-founded Hampton Roads in 1989. Founded Rainbow Ridge in 2010.
Published over a thousand books, including five New York Times
bestsellers. First publisher and discoverer of the world-famous
Conversations with God series by Neale Donald Walsch.
Milton’s Secret is his first published book. Robert has four children.
Robert Friedman has a B.A. in English from University of Virginia, and an M.F.A. in Writing from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He lives near Charlottesville, VA.
Robert Friedman, my publisher on “Soul Agreements” and I have become very good friends over the years. I love conversing over meals on our shared friends and fun stories. He knew Jess Stearn very well, and as many of you know Jess meant the world to me. How Robert describes Jess’ observations and antidotes tickle me pink. Robert has very much the understated humor and observations that Jess had. Always enjoyable you are Robert. Here’s some questions and answers on the publishing world according to Robert…
T: When you choose books…do you pick one because you like it and think others will?
R : I do have to like it, of course, but just as important is whether or not I think we can distribute and sell it. Sometimes we love a particular book but don’t think we can get the book buyers to take, or just don’t think we can reach the particular audience that would buy it.
T: What are some of the qualities you look for in books?
R: Uniqueness, good writing of course, an interesting voice, an engaging subject that may not have been written about before.
T: When did you get into publishing?
R: In the fall of 1974, with my first company, The Donning Company/Publishers. I co-founded Hampton Roads in 1989, and retired in 2009. Now I’m doing a small line of spiritual/metaphysical books called Rainbow Ridge Books, which is distributed by Square One Publishing in New York.
T: Tell me about your college education?
R: B.A. in English from the University of Virginia; M.F.A. in Writing from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro; and a couple years post-graduate work in American Literature at the University College of Swansea, University of Wales.
T: What area of publishing do you specialize?
R: Spiritual/Metaphysical/Self-Help, though I have published in almost all genres at one time or another. Even cookbooks.
T: Upbeat books or sad stories? Which are you attracted to and what do you think sells in the spiritual realm or genre?
R: I think books that are practical and help people to learn and do for themselves are my favorites. Good stories are entertaining in fiction and in certain non-fiction books, but I think the main purpose of any good book is to teach people something they don’t know and then give them the opportunity to make it work in their own lives.
T: How many NY best sellers have you published?
R: Five. Conversations with God, Book 1 (softcover). Conversations with God, Book 1 (hardcover Putnam edition); Conversations with God, Book 2; Conversations with God, Book 3, Excuse Me, Your Life is Waiting by Lynn Grabhorn; When Everything Changes, Change Everything by Neale Donald Walsch.
T: What are the spiritual qualities that you look for?
R: Books that promote oneness, a way to truth, not the way to truth, that demonstrate that we are more than our physical body, that we are evolving spiritual beings having a physical experience, that as the Beatles said, love is all there is.
T: Did you know when you published those books that they had a certain magic or charm?
R: Yes, one has opinions about that, though others may have different opinions.
T: Which books are a total surprise?
R: The really good ones that don’t sell.
T: And which books did you think would be popular — but don’t do as well as they should?
R: Too many to name.
T: Who are your mentors and inspiration?
R: Edgar Cayce, Jane Roberts, Richard Bach, Hermann Hesse, Raymond Moody, Neale Donald Walsch, many more.
T: Who was your favorite author or authors when you were young?
R: Albert Payson Terhune, who wrote all those books about collies.
T: Talk about loving what you do and that inner passion creates your path?
R: I feel as if I came to the planet with the purpose, which is to disseminate information about the true nature of the universe, who we really are and why we’re here. Publishing is one of the ways to do that job, and I have been very fortunate to be able to work in the art and business of publishing for so long.
T: When you suffer from doubt? Which spiritual teachers, quotes, reading’s do you turn to?
R: I re-read Conversations with God, which I think is one of the most profound and enlightening series of books ever written.
T: Do you believe you are on a spiritual mission?
R: As mentioned above, I feel that I do have a mission to fulfill.
T: Do you think your being a publisher is connected to a past life?
R: I believe we are living many lives simultaneously, and there are connections between in energetic ways. So, yes, a “past” or “future” life is definitely impacting this one, as mine may be influencing theirs.
T: I am an Author through your company with the book, Soul Agreements – but I’m tied to you also through Jess Stearn. And you published a book for him when and the name of it is?
R: Elvis’ Spiritual Journey, which he wrote with Elvis’ former hairdresser. An interesting book, but not that impactful unfortunately. Most Elvis fans didn’t care much about his spirituality.
T: What Advice would you give a budding writer?
R: Read voraciously, learn your craft, never give up if you have the fire in the belly to write.
T: What do you see as the formula of winning words and works?
R: There is no formula, there is only writing truly and from the heart.
T: When you see a winning writer, do you believe it’s karma or just good luck, good work ethics, or good marketing?
R: By winning, I suppose you mean commercially successful. I think a winning writer is one who writes well, writes truly, writes from the heart, and doesn’t necessarily have to make a lot of money from his/her writing.
T: Is book selling a lot about marketing?
R: It can be, but many books make it only on word of mouth. Nobody really knows why one good writer sells and another good writer doesn’t. Sometimes writers can spend even a million dollars on marketing, and still not sell.
T: Talk to me about the book you wrote?
R: It’s called Milton’s Secret: An Adventure of Discovery through Then, When, and the Power of Now. I co-wrote it with Eckhart Tolle, and it’s about teaching children some of Eckhart’s principles about how to live in the moment. It’s also very practical in dealing with life’s difficult situations.
T: And about your friend and fellow author who wrote with you?
R: Eckhart is too well known for me to describe him. Suffice it to say that he lives his work, that he is a kind, gentle, very spiritual man who is one of the great teachers on the planet.
T: How do you feel authors do when thrust into the public really fast?
R: Some do fine, others can’t take the notoriety. Depends on the author and how well they are able to walk the talk.
T: How can they best handle the adulation or the popularity?
R: By centering themselves and recognizing just how dangerous the ego can be.
T: What are attributes that you feel help a person to succeed as a person in the public eye?
R: Again, everybody is different. Doing quiet mediation every day will certainly help. Knowing who you are, and that you are no different or better than the lowliest bum on the street may help too.
T: Is there a work ethic, a formula that you see that helps a writer be successful?
R: Every writer needs to find their own best rhythm and work habits, and then have the discipline to follow them.
T: What are your upcoming projects?
R: A new line of books called Rainbow Ridge (see http://www.rainbowridgebooks.com); a documentary I am co-producing with Neale Donald Walsch called iGOD; and a film based on Milton’s Secret, being produced by Barnet Bain.
T: Will you co-write or write on your own?
R: I’m open to both.
T: Is it just the quality of my writing or does my appearance/age/personality matter?
R: Quality always matters most. Some publishers don’t like to publish senior citizens because their careers won’t last as long. Sad, but true. And if you’re a movie star, you will get published, even if someone else has to write it.
T: Can I submit my work to more than one agent / publisher at a time?
R: Yes, until you sign with an agent you can shop all you like.
T: Why won’t they tell me why they haven’t accepted someone’s work?
R: They simply don’t have the time. Too many people are submitting to them. They’re not obligated to tell everyone why they don’t want to take them on.
T: How long should I expect them to take to reply.
R: Don’t know. Depends on the work load. Unless a book comes through an agent, they may never reply.
T: Many writing venues seem to want only works from already published writers. How would you suggest one begin if no one even wants to consider my work?
R: Be persistent. It takes time to find an editor who likes you work. Publishers don’t reject manuscripts, editors do. Sometimes an editor in the same publishing house will reject something and another editor will buy it.
Thanking Robert Friedman for sharing his wisdom and experiences with us.
“You have the need and the right to spend part of your life caring for your soul. It is not easy. You have to resist the demands of the work-oriented, often defensive, element in your psyche that measures life only in terms of output — how much you produce — not in terms of the quality of your life experiences. To be a soulful person means to go against all the pervasive, prove-yourself values of our culture and instead treasure what is unique and internal and valuable in yourself and your own personal evolution.”
~Jean Shinoda Bolen
Robert Friedman hugged by Marla Maples and Tara Sutphen in Malibu, CA
Robert Friedman with Dee Wallace, Richard Christian Matheson, Marla Maples & Tara Sutphen