Friday, July 29, 2011

Author Branding: Will It Help Sell More Books? by Jennifer Hudson Taylor

What is author branding?
It's the reputation you build in the publishing community and to your readers of what kind of stories to expect when they see your name on the cover of a book.

Is author branding necessary?
If you want to build readership, yes. If you want to sell more books, yes. Readers who like westerns aren't typically interested in a science fiction book. For this reason, so many authors have had to create pen names for various subgenres. People work hard for their money and they can chose to spend it on a number of things. You don't want them to be disappointed if they take a chance and spend it on your book. If that happens, most likely they won't spend more money on anything else with your name on it, nor will they encourage others to do so.

Author branding is another way of target marketing. If you are promoting your book based on the book's contents, you are going to appeal to those who would like that particular book. Marketing and advertising is expensive. You don't want to waste your time and money trying to appeal to an audience who won't like what you write. You aren't likely to sell many books that way, and it doesn't make sense. So why wouldn't you create an author brand for yourself?

If you're like me, you might be hesitant to build a label around yourself because you don't want to be limited to writing one kind of book. I've already mentioned pen names as one way to get around this. Another way is to write the same subgenre for a decade or two and then rebuild your image. Lots of authors do this, and if you do it well, you won't lose readers, in fact you may gain more. 

For instance, a contemporary romance author may chose to brand him/herself as a romantic suspense author. That way you aren't losing readers who like romance and contemporaries, you're just giving them a new element to read along with what they already read. Keep the subgenres similar, but give readers more. This will ultimately lead to more readers, which will lead to more sells.

Do unpublished authors need an author brand?
Yes. Before you can sell books on a store shelf, you first have to sell to a publisher. You need to stand out among the masses of other writers. There isn't enough shelf space for all the wanna-be writers in the world, so you've got to find a way to stay out of the slush piles. There are a lot of good writers who sit in the slush piles year after year. Their works are good enough to be on the shelf of a bookstore. The difference is, their marketing proposals may not be unique enough or stand out and get noticed or they don't go to writer's conferences and network w.

At one time I believed it was true that good writing would get noticed. But with the competition the way it is today, the demand so buoyant, and the hectic schedule of the publishing industry, I no longer believe that's true. You still have to get someone to read your work in order for it to be noticed. That can only happen if you stand out in promoting yourself and your work whether through networking or the submission process, which leads write back to your proposals. 

You must make a good impression in your proposal and presentation of your work before an editor or agent actually sits down to read it. If your proposal doesn't stand out, they'll never turn to the first page of your manuscript. Alternatively, if they skip all the other and first flip to the first page of your manuscript, then the next thing they look for is your bio and your marketing and platform potential. Many look for a website or Google your name to see how active you are on the Internet.

Remember, an unpublished writer is selling to an agent or editor. These folks are looking for specific markets where they know they can sell something. While good writing has to go along with it, if an author has written something that's great, but the story isn't right for an open spot, then it still won't sell. Don't waste their time or yours. Sometimes a quick rejection is a good thing. It will give you a chance to get that manuscript where it belongs much faster than wasting time on an editor's desk where it isn't going anywhere. By building an author brand, you will be letting them know upfront what they are getting from you. This will help you appeal to the right agents and editors. Target market to the right publishers and you will sell faster.

Plus, publishers have less in their marketing budgets for new authors and mid-list authors. They reserve most of their budgets for the BIG name authors where they know their investment will pay off. Therefore, a new author will have to do so much more of their own marketing. By showing you are ahead of the game in your promotion and author branding, an editor will feel more comfortable taking a chance on you. This means if it comes down to your good writing as opposed to another author's good writing for one publication spot, you might have the edge since you have self-marketing potential. Editors are looking for authors they can build into careers for a long investment, not one-time book wonders.

Republished from Jennifer Hudson Taylor's Writing blog 

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Getting Published by Terry Burns

There's a concept we need to get a handle on,  "Publishing isn't a selection process . . . it is a survival process." 

Really?- Yes, I believe the biggest secret to publishing is the ability to get the RIGHT PRODUCT to the RIGHT PERSON at the RIGHT PLACE at exactly the RIGHT TIME.  There are bestseller quality manuscripts that will never be published because the only person who can write them never makes this elusive connection. They give up.

You see, the odds on all four of these ingredients being in place when we make a submission is not good, so even if we are pitching a wonderful project it is going to miss on one of these a lot of the time. That's when we hear the dreaded "Sorry, not a fit for us at the present time."

We all know some books that were printed that we wonder about.  The only reason for that is that it was the right subject and it hit the person, place and time.  Maybe we send a much better book on the same topic right after it has been purchased and is on its way to press.  Since ours is much better they'll stop the presses and do ours instead, right?

Wrong, hitting all four of these correctly is the whole game, miss any one of the four and it's NO SALE, no matter how good the manuscript is.  It's like a jigsaw puzzle that has several dozen pieces, and if one is missing the puzzle can't be finished - which means publishing doesn't happen.  MOST OF THE TIME these pieces are not all there.  We're hunting that elusive place where all the pieces fit.  

So, how do we improve the odds?  How do we rule out sending to the wrong places?  How do we give our manuscript a better shot when it gets there?  I believe it means being brutally honest about our work, and about how it is going to be looked at.  This is no place for rose-colored glasses or unrealistic optimism.  Sometimes we have trouble really hearing feedback we get on our project because we think we pretty well have it nailed, but do we?

Or does it need some work in order to be the "right product"? Have we really done the research necessary to insure we are sending to the "right person" at the "right place"? If we have, then telling them what we found out that makes us feel it to be true is very valuable in a pitch.

Then finally is our pitch itself helping or hurting us? Does it present us as a seasoned professional (even if we aren't we should look like one)? If you need a little help on your pitch or your proposal I do have a book on the topic entitled "A Writer's Survival Guide to Publication" that can walk you through the process a point at a time. You can find it at Amazon or in the bookstore at my website at  - or there are a number of other good books on the subject.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Details, Details, Details, The Key to 3-D Writing by Andy Scheer

John Steinbeck reveals the secret in the first paragraph of Travels With Charley, the account of his 1960 drive “in search of America,” with a pick-up camper rig and a standard poodle:

"When I was very young and the urge to be someplace else was on me, I was assured by mature people that maturity would cure this itch. When years described me as mature, the remedy prescribed was middle age. In middle age I was assured that greater age would calm my fever and now that I am fifty-eight perhaps senility will do the job. Nothing has worked. Four hoarse blasts of a ship's whistle still raise the hair on my neck and set my feet to tapping. The sound of a jet, an engine warming up, even the clopping of shod hooves on pavement brings on the ancient shudder, the dry mouth and vacant eye, the hot palms and the churn of stomach high up under the rib cage. …"

Steinbeck writes about the urge to get away literally—but it applies just as much to how you can take your readers away. How to take them from their living room to another place, another time, another set of realities.

Did you miss the secret? Look again at what he says evokes that urge:

"Four hoarse blasts of a ship's whistle still raise the hair on my neck and set my feet to tapping. The sound of a jet, an engine warming up, even the clopping of shod hooves on pavement."

That's sensory detail. In this case, specific sounds. Not just a ship's whistle, but “four hoarse blasts.” Not just a horse's hooves, but “shod hooves on pavement.”

And notice the tactile description of the results. An “ancient shudder.” “Dry mouth … hot palms … churn of stomach high up under the rib cage.”

Searching for Specifics
Whenever I open a manuscript or a published book, fiction or nonfiction, I look for that rich sensory detail, those bits of specific description appropriate to the topic and treatment that will place a reader fully in the world the author has created.

Last night I browsed the opening page of False Claims at the Little Stephen Mine, a 1992 western by pastor and writer Stephen Bly.

     "A buzzing sound past his right ear and a simultaneous distant explosion tumbled Stuart Brannon from the back of his horse. Sage strained to bolt, but the rope, looped to a yellow pine log, held hard and fast to the horn.
     "With .44 drawn, Brannon jerked a '73 Winchester from the scabbard and then fumbled to unhitch his black gelding. At the sound of a second shot, Brannon and Sage dropped to the dirt.
     "The horse was dead.
     "Rolling on the ground, Brannon dove behind the log, not chancing a look over the top. A heavy, deep blue autumn sky teased of summer. Masses of white clouds rumbled along like prairie wagons trying to make the pass before the first snows.
      "Brannon didn't watch. He listened."

For now, don't even consider Bly's other techniques, the way he plunged his readers immediately into the action and how he used vivid, evocative verbs. Look just at the specific details—and how many of them appeal to the reader's senses.

But you say you don't want to write action-packed westerns. You want to write contemporaries, with a hint of romance. Fine. What sensory details do your POV characters, male and female, tend to notice? I recently read a general market story set on the Las Vegas strip, where the lead character is in charge of customer relations for a mega-casino. Here's a paragraph from early in the first chapter, in a short bridge scene after the incident that started the story rolling:

"The casino at the Babylon is much like any other. An intimate labyrinth, subtly decorated, windowless and, tonight, jam-packed with people all paying and praying for whatever it was they hoped to get in Vegas. A thin layer of smoke hovered over the crown, as the slot machines sang their come-on songs, and occasional shouts arose from the tables. Cocktail waitresses wearing painted-on smiles and little else darted in and out delivering free libations and collecting the empties. Young women paraded around in tight-fitting clothes they wouldn't be caught dead in back home. Pierced and tattooed young men, their jeans hanging precariously across their butts, followed the young women. ..."

Later the author has reason to zoom in. Readers get the specifics (including prices) of designer-name shoes, dresses, and jewelry she and the other characters wear. But for now, like a filmmaker providing an establishing shot, she offers layers of more general descriptions and trusts the reader's imagination to fill in the rest. And while her “Bablyon” casino is fictional, she takes advantage of her research and makes frequent reference of actual details to recreate the city for readers, whether or not they've ever been there.

Whatever story you're writing, that's your goal.

Monday, July 25, 2011

How Much is Too Much? by Linda S. Glaz

When do you lose your voice?
I’m not talking about singing ten solos for the church musical; I’m talking about your wonderful, delightful, nobody has the same as you—writing voice.

So, when and how do you lose it?

Your crit partners get first crack at it, well, after mom and any other person who will tell you how absolutely wonderful you are, reads it. Then, hopefully, an agent. And then, joy of all joys, an editor!

You are asked to make changes.

Some you like, some you don’t, but this is an editor talking—about YOUR book. So you make them. A few are really great and your novel soars to what it could have been all along, but then you’re asked to change the essence of your story.
And you know that by changing the essence, the voice will no longer be yours.

What do you do?

There’s a fine line between tweaking and destroying your uniqueness. How do you walk the fine line? When do you say enough?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Prioritize Promotional Events by Jennifer Hudson Taylor

While special events are a great way to promote your books, they can also be a drain on finances, time, and energy.  Therefore, you need to prioritize which events will be best for you and stick to your budget and schedule when unexpected opportunities arise.

Each event is different with varying purposes. You may attend some events for the following reasons: 1) sell books, 2) raise awareness about you and your book, 3)  to give back to the community 4) as a means to provide a ministry

Here are some recommended tips:
1) Before your book launch, plan your promotional budget for events and determine your top goals.

2) Keep in mind that events where books are not sold will require you to bring your own books and you may be required to rent space, table and chairs. You may have to buy meals if it is an all day event. Also, if it is out of town, there will be travel and lodging costs.

3) Browse local community calendars at the libraries, bookstores, chamber of commerce, church listings, festivals, etc for events that may have a tie-in to any kind of topic in your novel. If you have a nascar book, consider a nascar event. I write historical novels in Scotland, so the highland games are always great selling avenues for me. What topic or themes in your novels can you capitalize on?

4) Google writing conferences and workshops and send an email with your credentials, bio and links to offer your services as a speaker. Often, they will cover the cost of your travel, lodging, and pay you an honorarium, as well as allow you to bring and sell your books.

5) Some book signings are still worth it even if you only sell one or two novels. It you have a local book signing, you don't have to bring your own books, you don't have the cost of travel and rental space, and all it takes is one reader who may spread the word to 4-5 more people and help you pick up more readers. Even if people don't buy your books, they may go home and Google your name, so make sure you have a large sign or banner on or by your table. This is where passing out bookmarks, postcards, magnets and business cards are key.

6) Hold online events. You can host contests, giveaways, workshops, video Q&A, video interviews, podcasts, and digital book signings. New technology is allowing people to be very creative, accessible, and economical. Take advantage of these opportunities.

Any other ideas? Please share!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Bad Submissions by Terry Burns

It happens every day.

I open my inbox and there they are, submissions that shouldn't even be there. There's really no excuse for it. Our submission guidelines are very clear on markets that we don't work in at present. Not that we have anything against them, just that we can't spread ourselves that thin and have to make some choices. It says at present we aren't working in sci-fi or fantasy, in markets for children (below middle reader), poetry, short fiction, screenplays, scripts or magazine articles. It says we are probably not the right place for your literary fiction nor for books with extraordinary violence, profanity or gratuitous  sexuality. It's all spelled out.

So why do people send them anyway? They wouldn't apply for a job without reading a want ad or something that would tell them what the job is so they would know whether it was worth their time to apply or not. The submission guidelines at our agency as well as other agencies or publishing houses are our 'want ads' as to what we are looking to see.

Maybe it is a genre we would consider but it is simply not ready to submit. Maybe the word count is way too large for any market we work in or perhaps too small. It could be the formatting is just not professional or that it has far too many typos, grammar problems, opens too slow or doesn't have good story flow.  Someone sent it before it was ready, and such a submission just can't compete with others that are coming in polished to a fine point needing little work from an overworked editor or agent.

It could also be that it is just not unique enough. It is unfortunate that we often see a large number of people choosing to write very similar books at exactly the same time. Something probably happened in the news that gave each of them a similar idea. It isn't their fault that they have spent a huge amount of time writing a book that a thousand other people were writing as well. No way to know. Not fair. But the reality is that the first books to get to the market get the contracts then the market is saturated. Any time we start opening submissions that are too much like a bunch of others we are receiving, it tells us the market is not going to be there because everybody else is also receiving the same type of submissions.

It's hard for a writer to have someone pass on taking their work, but guess what? It's hard on us too. It's depressing to have to spend the morning turning down submission after submission, knowing that it isn't just a letter but the actual hopes and dreams of the author. Even when it something that should not have been sent in the first place it takes time to work and it takes a toll on us having to do it as well.

I don't understand why people don't check submission guidelines and send what editors and agents want in the manner that they wish to receive them. Failing to do so can't help but make the recipient wonder if the person who doesn't look at, or even worse ignores the guidelines, would be a difficult author to try and work with. I wonder about that when my guidelines say I don't take hard copy submissions and people send them anyway. Why?

I hate proposals pasted into an email. They are hard to read and generally it destroys the formatting. Some people WANT to receive them that way, but that information is readily available in the submission guidelines as to who wants it which way. A proposal is a single, well-formatted document that looks professional, not a dozen files attached or a link to a place online where you can find the information. We can't pitch a project that way so those are useless to us.

I suppose it boils down to the fact that I turn very few projects down. A lot of what is coming in takes itself out of consideration. Some days we get more than others, such as today, which prompted this little epistle. But then there is the submission that is beautifully prepared and formatted, that tells me why the person submitting thinks I am the right choice for it, what it is and the word count. I'm interested. The 2-3 page synopsis tells me it might be a unique story idea. I'm intrigued. The first page pulls me in and and by page ten I am invested in the story. I'm hooked into asking for the full. The flow, the voice and the story do not let me down.

Those are the submissions we are digging through the pile looking for. And that's what the clients I represent used to make me a believer in their work.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Interview of new agent Andy Scheer by Diana

Joyce Hart and the entire staff of Hartline Literary Agency welcomes Andy Scheer to our Agency. Andy brings to Hartline a wealth of experience as a publishing professional since 1976, and we are delighted that he has accepted a position as agent with us. 

With 18 years on staff with Moody magazine (12 years as  managing editor), 8 years as managing editor for the Christian Writer’s Guild, and currently a free-lance writer and editor, Andy is a frequent instructor at writing conferences. A journalism graduate from Colorado State University, he also attended Denver Seminary. Andy writes:
As the Writers Guild’s first reader/screener in their Operation First Novel and Operation First Book contests, I am convinced of the importance of grabbing the reader with the first sentence and paragraph. Too many manuscripts show a good concept but lack the craft not only to keep readers engaged, but also to hook them in the first place. I sympathize with publishers’ insistence on looking only at material that’s been screened by agents who can find the grain of wheat in a stack of chaff.
I personally enjoy mysteries and writers who are able to immerse me in a story and transport me to another time and place. So I particularly like (in the general market) the work of such writers as Tony Hillerman, Aaron Elkins, Elizabeth Peters, Lawrence Block, and Patrick O'Brian.
A voracious reader, I also tend to read multiple books. I currently have open three nonfiction titles: The Spirit of St. Louis (Charles Lindbergh), Guns, Germs, and Steel (Jared Diamond), and Hold the Enlightenment (Tim Cahill--a great adventure travel writer). In fiction, I’m re-reading The Name of the Rose (Umberto Eco), I just finished Coyote Waits (Tony Hillerman), and because I was attracted by the author photo on his website (he’s standing in front of a 1936 Cord automobile), I’ve just started reading Farraday Road by Ace Collins.
In my spare time I enjoy hiking with my wife, photography, antique automobiles, and jazz music from the 1920s and ’30s.  The picture is of Andy and his wife on a hike in the Rockies.
Andy lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado, with his wife, Carol, in a multi-generational home that includes their daughter, son-in-law, an incredibly cute granddaughter, their lab/chow mix, and Andy and Carol’s lab/bloodhound mix. Their son just graduated from college, moved out, got married, and began a job as a computer programmer.
Andy's first writers conference representing Hartline as an agent will be the Heart of America Christian Writers Conference, Kansas City, MO November 10-12 ( where he will be taking author appointments. In fiction, Andy will be looking for a well-told story, and in nonfiction, a felt need with a strong platform.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Do Your Characters Smack of Reality? by Linda Glaz

I just returned from a visit with my wonderful mother-in-law
who has been quite ill. She’s Polish through and through, has
always been a tough cookie, and her stature was such that I have
to admit to having been a bit intimidated by her early on
(I’ve since learned she’s not a tough cookie, but a cream puff).

Now, with illness seemingly winning a battle I never thought she’d
have to face, I watch as this formidable woman, just as my mother
did fifteen years ago, has lost weight, lost energy, and lost her drive.
Her mind, still sharp as a tack has allowed our visits to be a lot of fun,
but I watch as she fights a terrible disease, and I know in my heart,
this is one fight she probably won’t win.

I had the drive home to mull over all the change I saw in her this visit,
and I realized that she’s taught me so much over the last 30 years,
but even in illness, continues to teach me.

We can talk all we want about our characters changing from scene to scene,
and even mention how a person might suddenly seem frail, but do you take
your character from being a robust, active individual, to losing all but
their spark? How far do you allow your reader to get to actually know what
the person is going through?

My mom passed away fifteen years ago, and while she was always a svelte
and beautiful woman, scleroderma and the effects of it on her body left
her a mere 81 pounds. The disease changed more than just how it ravaged
her system, it changed how she looked at what was left of her life. She,
like my mother-in-law now, taught me what really mattered: family, faith,
and the dignity that can be had while fighting a losing battle.

Both of these precious women have taught me so much, and I want to be
able to put their life lessons into my characters. I want them to live
on through the eyes of many of the wonderful women who I expect to grace
the pages of my books. They will never live up to Barbara and Irene, but
I’ll do my best.

Study individuals and draw from them. Listen to the elderly concerning
what life is really about. Listen to the young to understand exuberance.
Spend time with newlyweds to remember what budding passion is all about.
Don’t miss an opportunity to discover the realities of life that should
be part of each of your characters.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

An Author's Life Through a Spouse's Eyes -guest post by Jennifer's husband

Guest Post By Dwayne Taylor

So you you want to be an author? Ready for the money, fame and glory?

Well let me give you a reality check.

You won't make tons of money. Fame is probably not going to happen. And glory only lasts for a moment. Once your book is read, readers head for the next great book that just came out, leaving a fading memory of your book now collecting dust on their bookshelf .

Being married to an author (Jennifer Hudson Taylor), I can tell you that there is a tremendous strain that it will put on your family and your life. You will need the complete support of every member in your household (yes, even the dog). Without family support, you will not have the time, energy, or presence of mind to do what an author has to do to be successful.

My wife works a full-time job. She gets up at 5:30 am and leaves for work at 8 am, not returning home sometimes until 7 pm. So, writing time is early morning and late at night. Oh but wait, she has to make time for the family, too. Now the writing time window is even smaller.

Then there is research, networking, promotion, marketing, building a platform for yourself and so on and so on.. So where does an author find the time to be a parent, spouse, or have any kind of social life? Well, they don't, unless they have that family support that I was speaking of.

An author that works full-time needs a supporting family that is going to make the meals, clean the house, do the shopping, mow the lawn, care for the kids, be understanding, make sacrifices and most available to the author when the author has time to be available to the family or just needs the love of the family.

When tons of rejections start rolling in and you feel like giving up, you're disappointed, and depressed, only the support of a loving family will be able to build the author's confidence back up to keep them motivated to continue on.

The family must look at publication from the perspective that this is not only the author's dream, but it is a family dream. It isn't always easy and there are many bumps along the way, especially if you have children. Children don't understand deadlines, thought processes, interruptions, or the fact that you're on a roll. When they want mom or dad, they want mom or dad right then and there. As a parent you want to be there for your children. So, this is where the author must learn to have patience, understanding, and the ability to turn on and off their creative thought process.

Fortunately, my wife is a master at this. How she squeezes in so much quality time for our daughter in such little available time, I'll never understand.

My advice for those up and coming authors is to sit down with your family and discuss what it will take to make this dream a reality. Decide if being an author is a career move, a hobby, or just a desire to have your name on a book cover. Then consider the consequences of making it happen. Make your family aware of the sacrifices each of you will have to make along the way. Understand that it will be a life change for the entire family. It takes years before you actually get published as it took my wife over 10 years.

In the end, if you and your family are truly dedicated to making this dream happen, it can. You may be a one book wonder or you may be on your way to a successful career, but there is one thing I can guarantee. The first time you walk into a bookstore and see your book, it will not only be a rewarding experience for the author, but for the whole family, because in some way, they will feel that they had a part in making the dream become a reality.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Issue with Ghost Blogging by Jennifer Hudson Taylor

As with Ghost Writing the practice of Ghost Blogging is becoming an increasing phenomenon these days--especially in the corporate world.

What is it?

It's when someone hires another blogger or writer to write their blogs for them and they slap their name on it as if they wrote it themselves.

Many people feel this is deceptive and and unethical.

I believe it is expected in the corporate world where many CEO's don't even answer their own email and phone calls and haven't written their own letters for years. It's "understood" that their Secretary or Administrative Assistant is writing their letters, emails, and responses.

The issue with blogging is that it's suppose to be a modern tool for transparency and a way to personally connect with one's readers--whether those readers are clients, patients, customers, students, or fans. Busy people claim they don't have the time to blog like clockwork on a regular schedule. Yet, they feel "obligated" to blog because everyone else is doing it, like their competitors, and it truly is a great promotional tool if utilized effectively.

So what about authors? Is okay for us to Ghost Blog or are we deceiving our readers? Shouldn't we be spending our time writing those great novels that our readers can't wait to read next? Don't we have an obligation to meet the deadlines looming over us like a big fat cloud that is turning darker by every minute we don't get something written? The temptation could be great for some of us--especially if we just need to get past a deadline for a short month or two.

I believe an author should carefully consider the advantages and disadvantages--and Christian writers should seriously pray about it. I have made my personal decision not to hire Ghost Bloggers on my personal blog--my main blog, but I do have guest bloggers who use their own name to blog. However, I wouldn't think twice about hiring a Ghost Blogger for my Today in Carolina History Blog, which is no longer active, since all I do is post historical events that took place on that day. I'm not really writing. I'm not giving writing tips, marketing tips, opinions or any insight into my personality or life--only stating facts.

If you do decide to hire a Guest Blogger, I would like to caution that if your readers find out, you may risk them feeling betrayed or deceived. You also risk losing them as readers on both your blog and your books. A certain amount of trust in you as a leader, as well as your knowledge and authority in authorship could be broken.

What are your thoughts? How do you feel about Ghost Blogging?

Thursday, July 14, 2011


I am so pleased to announce that two of my clients, Carrie Turansky and Suzanne Woods Fischer have both been named as finalists for the prestigious Carol Award conferred by the American Christian Fiction Writers.

Carrie is one of three finalists in the novella category with her A Trusting Heart in the Christmas Mail Order Brides collection from Barbour - Rebecca Germany, Editor.

Suzanne is one of three finalists in the long contemporary category with her novel The Choice from Revell - Andrea Doering, editor.

We are very proud of these ladies and proud of the recognition that they bring to themselves and to our agency.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Spiritual Growth through Writing-by Diana's client Katherine B. Hyde

I suppose it's a truism to say that each person finds, within the life appointed for him or her, his or her own particular path to growing in Christ. But lately it's been brought home to me how many opportunities the writing life offers me for growth in virtue.

First along the path comes humility. Each of us has that moment when we come out of the closet with the writing we've slaved so hard over and which, despite many misgivings, we really believe at some level is brilliant. Then someone reads it—someone, that is, who cares more for integrity in the work than for our feelings—and we find out how very far from brilliant it actually is. There may be some spark there, but it's been all but buried in adverbs, clichés, and purple prose. (I never dreamed how many clichés existed in the English language until I began trying to write without them.)

As we work to improve, the humbling comes at higher levels—instead of critique partners, we get agents and editors telling us our stuff stinks. Those who have attained the holy grail of publication have the privilege of being humiliated by critics and Amazon reviewers and bookstore customers who shun their signing table as if it were an IRS auditor's desk. But it's still the same thing: You're never as brilliant as you think you are.

After the early lessons in humility comes the really big lesson: patience. It takes months, often years, to finish a novel. Then you have to wait for people to make time in their own full lives to read it and give you feedback; then you go back and work on it some more. Lather, rinse, repeat until your hair falls out.

Finally, you think the book is ready to see the light, and you start sending it to agents. These days, a month seems to be the minimum response time; two to three months is not uncommon, and many agents never respond at all. Even with a book that is absolutely ready for the big-time, finding an agent can easily take a year or more. Then the agent has to find you a publisher—and if agents are tortoises (no offense intended!), publishers are giant sloths. If and when the book is finally sold, you may have to wait up to two years before it is published. And let's not even talk about how long you wait to get paid.

Somewhere along this journey, you may easily stumble over that big rock in the road called "the market." Maybe your book is the best thing since prepared mustard, but nobody is buying your genre right now. Or your vision seems a little ahead of its time and no one wants to take a risk on it. Sooner or later, someone—probably an agent or editor—is bound to suggest that you write something more salable. This seemingly innocent suggestion can be the Demon of Man-Pleasing in disguise. This is where you have to renew the commitment I hope you started out with: You are going to write to please God, not man. If you're not writing to please God, you may as well chuck it all in right now.

And that leads to the last and biggest lesson I'm going to talk about today: letting go. Humility, patience, and pleasing God are all part of it: Ultimately, you have to let go of the reins of your own writing career and abandon yourself to the will of God. Where you may have started out praying, "Lord, please let this agent like my book," or "Lord, please send me some good news today," or "Lord, please let me meet someone at this conference who will help me get published" (I've been through all of those), eventually you have to come down to something much more humble: some version of "Lord, Your will be done." My personal version at this point is, "Lord, prosper my writing according to Your will." And it wasn't until I began praying that way that He did begin to prosper it.

Lest anyone think I'm speaking from outside the battle, let me hasten to point out that all these lessons are continually being drilled into me, and I don't expect the learning to stop this side of the grave.

What spiritual lessons have you learned through writing?

Stop by and visit Katherine at her blog where she talks about writing, 'God Haunted Fiction'.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A call for a new breed of agent - by Terry Burns

Last month I used this blog to talk about all of the changes at Hartline and we continue to work on restructuring as agent Diana Flegal makes a move to establish a field office in Ashville NC and Kathy Myers joins us at the agency as Joyce Hart’s executive assistant.

This month I’d like to talk about WHY they are occurring. My good friend, Pulitzer nominee Jory Sherman, wrote a blog recently on a call for a new breed of agent. ( ) It is interesting to note that at the time he wrote the blog Hartline had already begun to address some of the items he talks about.

He takes note that “legacy publishers are no longer promoting either midlist books or their authors, so the writer must promote and publicize their books in order to compete in today’s competitive market.” We did recognize some time ago the need to be more proactive on the behalf of the author as advances have gotten smaller and more and more houses don’t offer them at all. It’s true royalties have increased, but with a lot of publishers cutting back on promotion for smaller authors as Jory suggests we felt the need to offer the author more assistance on the sales and promotion end of the effort.

Our first response was to establish a client group for the discussion of PR and marketing, where they share tips, talk about what works and about what they have tried that doesn’t work. We stopped short of actually beginning to usurp the work of publicists as he suggests, I for one simply don’t have the time with the task of wading through all of the submissions I have to go through. The task of working the slush pile and culling submissions was passed to us by the editors at houses some time ago. And the need to continually research the constantly changing market and make submissions on behalf of our clients eats up the majority of the time.

Hartline chose a different route, adding an in-house publicist to work with our clients at no extra charge. Jennifer Hudson Taylor works with our authors as soon as they sign with an agent to start developing that all-important name recognition. When they sign a publishers contract she helps them prepare for the release of the book, and when they actually have a book released works with them on PR, sales, and promotion.

Jory suggests that literary agents are becoming obsolete since the writer can now directly publish their own book, but as Mark Twain said, “the rumors of my death are greatly exaggerated.” I recently surveyed over 400 editors at various mainstream and Christian publishing houses and asked them if they would be willing to take on a print project that had already been published as an ebook. 70% of them gave me a flat no as they don’t do reprints whether it is hard copy or ebook, and most of the remaining responders said they would look at one but it will have to have significant (multi-thousand) sales and the book would then have to be removed from any listing so the ebook rights could be in the publisher’s contract. Will this change? Maybe, but it is the situation at present.

It is true that those who go straight to ebook can also set up an account and self-publish to get a print copy via POD technology. But Publishers Weekly points out that over 80% of all books published today sell 100 copies or less. This number is primarily fueled by all of those suthors who have self published or feel they can go straight to ebook without help. Sure, some are doing it and doing it very successfully but apparently the large majority need some production, sales and marketing assistance.

While Hartline has chosen to not be involved in the production of books in this manner, we have instead allied ourselves with several providers that we feel give the author the most bang for the buck, assist in the contract, insure that it is well produced and supported in a manner that will give the author a chance to rise above the huge number of titles coming out now. And of course the PR and marketing help is there for them as well.

We don’t counsel and assist the client to take these steps as long as we think we can secure a contract for them at a “legacy publisher” as Jory termed it. But when the client does think it is time to consider other options, we help them to do it right and in a manner that assures they won’t get lost in the herd. While they can net a larger percentage on sales if they do it all on their own, it appears to us that they will actually end up with a larger return if they have the assistance to do it right and promote it properly.

Will we continue to evolve as he suggests? Who knows? A couple of years ago I would have scoffed at the idea that we would be taking that we are. The rate of change over the past few years, primarily due to emerging technology is amazing and we have no idea what else is in store for us. But we love a challenge and expect the future to be most exciting.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Word-word-word! The same word over and over... by Linda Glaz

Does this annoy anyone else?
Here I am reading a book that’s been recommended by oodles of people and the same word continues to pop up line after line until the author finds another favorite word a few lines or chapters later and beats that dead horse with a rod.

The handsome cowboy walked her to the door. His hand caressed her hand before her hand reached for the door. But his hand got to the door handle first. She stepped back and allowed his hand to open the door. Inside the door, he took her face in his hands and said good night, handing her safely into the comfort of her home. His hand closed the door.

Someone. Let me scream.

And I read similar scenarios all the time. Why isn’t the author catching that in a full read through? Why aren’t her crit partners? Why isn’t the preliminary reader, the editor, the final reader noticing? Does anyone else even care or is my OCD showing? I do care! It is annoying, unprofessional, and just plain ridiculous to think anyone wants to read the same word over and over. No doubt one of the first things, other than really poor grammar (the grammar has to be really poor, because I am definitely NOT the comma police) and punctuation that I notice.Now, I’m not talking about an occasional repeat, but the sentence above isn’t that out of place in a lot of books I’ve read recently. Not chapters in a proposal, not chapters for critique, but published books. And how about extraneous words like—mmmm, this one:
It doesn’t matter if it isn’t the exact right word as long as it means the same thing that it should. It isn’t the word, but how it’s used. It can be used many ways as long as it’s correct. It, it, it, it, it.

And even when the little two-letter darling isn’t needed, it’s used. And before you laugh, yes, I’ve seen it used that many times in one sentence. I’ve no doubt been guilty of the same thing before editing (hopefully not after). But why does an author allow, and yes, I say allow, his or her work to be seen by a professional before the work has had a strong read through? Any author reading her work out loud will catch most of these glitches.

What are your pet peeves when you read a book? You plunk down your hard earned cash and find you can’t really connect because the read is bogged down with small idiosyncrasies that draw you out of the story and make you crazy. Again, speaking for my eccentric self, but I don’t think I’m alone here, right?

There’s one golden opportunity to connect with an agent, editor, and especially with a reader. Make the most of that chance!
Anyone care to share?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Should writer's study movies? by Terry Burns

Today I'm taking my agent hat (the really nice silver beaver stetson) off and I'm putting on my writing hat ( the battered sweat-stained Stetson). Yes, I'm thinking more as a writer. You see, I collect movies that I think have a particular lesson to teach to writers or that I think contain some good examples for writers. Today I'm going to give you a top ten list in my mind of such movies.

My personal favorite writer movie is "Sixth Sense" with Bruce Willis. It made the list when I was so thoroughly fooled by the plot resolution and had to immediately watch it again to see if I had been fooled all along or if they had simply lied to me. Going back the clues are all there, they simply push me gently to make false assumptions, which I did. This would be an important skill for a writer.

I guess I would give second place to "Deathtrap" with Michael Cain and Christopher Reeves. I got to see it off Broadway and a road show version as well as the movie. In it, an old experienced writer (Cain) is undergoing writers block and is attempting to steal the work of Reeves (and kill him) as he mentors him. The mentoring is great for writers watching, but the  amazing constant plot reversals is the real lesson. 

3. If we are studying plot reversals and gently misleading the reader or viewer I would submit that the next things to study are virtually any movie by Alfred Hitchcock. He was an absolute master at giving us a minimum of visual clues and engaging our own imaginations. He scared an entire generation to death with a shadow on a shower curtain and a little cake coloring in a bathtub drain in "Psycho"  with Janet Leigh.

4. Perhaps his best in my mind is "North by Northwest" with Cary Grant and Eve St Marie. This one has witty dialogue and maintains an absolute breakneck pace. A great study in how to keep the reader/viewer into the story without respite.

5. A close one to that would be "Vertico" with Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak. This one is the exact opposite of the above with slow, surreal scenes that nonetheless that shows how to keep the reader/viewer glued to the storyline

6. "Murder 101" with Pierce Brosnen. He was a college professor lecturing on how to write a murder mystery even as the steps he was lecturing on was happening to him in real life. It's an excellent writer's movie as it actually shows story structure plot point by plot point.

7. "Adaptation" with Nicholas Cage and Meryl Streep is a story of a writer hired to adapt a bestselling book to the screen only to find it is absolutely un-filmable. The insights of the writer in the movie is terrific for those struggling with the craft. [storyline]

8, "Delirious" with John Candy is a study in rewrites. It's kind of a goofy thing but it is a good study in plot development. 

9. "Stranger than Fiction" with Will Ferrell is a study in narration (that only he can hear) and really shows us what the text we write (as opposed to dialogue and action) really is to the reader. [narration] 

10. "Funny Farm" with Chevy Chase shows a writer dealing with writers block (a favorite topic for writers) and how easy he was to distract from his task [writers block]. 

There are a dozen other Hitchcock movies such as "Rear Window" or "The Birds" that could have just as easily made the list. Some other movies that make various top ten lists for movies for writers include "Finding Neverland," where Johnny Depp plays playwright J.M.Barrie and is a fascinating look how storylines are developed as he comes up with his play Peter Pan. [storyline] "All the Presidents Men," "Almost Famous," "Capote," "Factotum," "Frida," "The Hours," (Saundra and I hosted the author of that bestseller at a conference although we didn't really care for the book and haven't seen the movie) and "Stone Reader". Some of these I have seen (or read the book) and some I haven't.

I spend my day immersed in writing or writing-related tasks. To "turn it off" I have to watch something that can get my mind off it. If I can do that and still learn something about my craft, more the better. I do collect these DVD's and I'm always on the lookout for more. Is there anything you would recommend for the list?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

An Upstater in New York City by Diana's client Jean C. Gordon

I’m a native Upstate New Yorker. Upstate is quite different from the Downstate NYC area. Upstate we have dairy farms, mountains, lakes, and lots of villages and hamlets with fewer than 5,000 people that aren’t near any major cities. My family lives on a small farm near the Albany/Greene County line, where my son-in-law raises organic hogs and vegetables.

As an Upstater, I have a personal mission to introduce others to my part of New York State. All my books, including my upcoming Love Inspired books (January and November 2012) are set in Upstate New York. But last week, I ventured down to the City for the Romance Writers of America National Conference.

I left from the Albany Amtrak station, which is actually in adjacent Rensselaer. I had a pleasant ride down the east side of the Hudson River and arrived at Penn Station in New York City about two and a half hours later. From Penn Station, I set out towing my suitcases behind me for the Marriott Marquis, which MapQuest said was a 0.6 mile walk, half the distance I usually walk at lunch break. It seemed much longer. MapQuest didn’t account for the extra mileage dodging people.

I stayed in a suite with five writer friends. Here’s the view of Times Square from our window. My first event at the conference was the annual meeting of the Faith, Hope, and Love online chapter of RWA and the music service following it. Can some of those ladies sing! Next was the annual book signing with more than 500 authors. I went around and tried to find all of the Love Inspired authors to introduce myself and say hello. Afterwards, I went out for pizza with about 30 of the Love Inspired authors. It was lots of fun meeting and getting to know everyone.
The remaining three days of the conference, I attended some great workshops, including “Can You Do That in an Inspirational?” presented by fellow Love Inspired authors Margaret Daley (moderator), Winnie Griggs, and Lenora Worth and editor Emily Rodmell as well as PAN (Published Authors Network) workshops on the state of publishing, digital publishing, and estate planning for authors. I found the last one particularly because it ties into my day job as financial writer.

I was also invited to attend the Avalon Books party on Wednesday evening and the infamous Harlequin Party on Thursday. The Avalon Party was at the Avalon office, which I’d never visited before and have wanted to do. Here are fellow Avalon author Roni Denholtz and I standing in front of our books on display at the office.

I went to the Harlequin Party, which was on the Starlight Roof at the Waldorf Astoria, with a friend Melissa McClone, who writes for Harlequin romance. We met upwith another good friend historical author Michelle Willingham. And I saw my Love Inspired editor Melissa Endlich, and her assistant Rachel Burkot, who I had lunch with earlier in the day. Everyon e danced nearly nonstop. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to walk the next day.

I didn’t sleep in too late Friday morning because I had another adventure planned: a trip on the New York Ci ty subway. My copy edits for my January book, Small Town Sweethearts, were due Friday, and I thought I’d deliver then personally. It went smooth as can be. Here’s the subway station, Harlequin building and the lobby of the Harlequin suite.

Friday n
ight was the big RITA awards. My friend Melissa was a finalist in the short contemporary romance category. Unfortunately, she didn’t win, but she didn’t seem to mind. Saturday morning, I took the 10:15 train back home. I was ready to get back Upstate.