Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Would You Read On? hosted by Diana L. Flegal

Welcome to our Wednesday edition of Would You Read On?. We appreciate you taking time out of your busy day to stop by our blog. 

Non- fiction submission:

Where’s the Bull?

“Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16 NASB).

“Animal Control?”
“Yes, this is Austin at Animal Control.”
“My name is _________. I live at _______ Ave, in front of the Christian Church. A bull is running loose in our backyard! Please come quickly!”
“All right, ma’am, we’ll have someone there right away.”
“Hurry, please,” I choked through panicky tears. Then I called my husband.
“Honey, a bull from next door has broken through our fence! Can’t you do something? I called Animal Control, but they haven’t arrived yet.”
“I’ll be right there, sweetheart. Don’t panic.”
Sitting on the edge of the bed, I tried to pray through the sobs. We’d only been married a few months. Our recent move to a suburb of Santa Maria on the California coast excited us. The two and a half acres our church and parsonage sat on what felt like a ranch to us city kids. At first, we had thought it sweet that the Catholic priests at the rectory next door allowed 4-H’ers to keep their animal projects in their pasture. Now I wondered if crazy was a better word to describe their neighborliness.
My imagination running amuck, I envisioned the headline: “Twenty-year-old Minister’s Wife Mauled by Runaway Bull.” Although I’d never met a bull in person, I’d seen enough movies to know if you came anywhere near one, especially if you were wearing red, you’d better get right with God.
“Where’s the bull?” the Animal Control men asked when Hubby answered the doorbell. He bravely led them around to the backyard. They were ready with large sticks, to protect themselves in case the bull decided to charge, and to herd it back to its own yard. These men were heroes in my eyes. I was already planning the letter to the editor I would write in their honor.

Last weeks contributor was David Stearman. David's first novel, Hummingbird, will be released this June by Trestle Press. You can find and friend David on FB.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Juggling Novels by Andy Scheer

Juggling Novels  by Andy Scheer

How many novels do you read at one time?

Whether because of timing, temperament, or a short attention span, I seldom have a bookmark in only one novel.

This week's reasonably typical. I'm currently reading three novels. Two are new releases, both from the library. One's an old favorite I felt like rereading. Two are hardcovers, one a mass paperback. Two are by big-name authors, one by a relative unknown. Two are about baseball, one about a lost treasure hidden by Christopher Columbus.

A magazine excerpt got things started. A few issues back, Sports Illustrated adapted the opening chapters of Calico Joe by John Grisham. I immediately went to our library website and put a copy on hold.

Or maybe the seeds for my current reading were planted a few months earlier. A received an email blast (I'm on his mailing list) from thriller writer Steve Berry about his upcoming release The Columbus Affair.

Meanwhile, as I packed for the Colorado Christian Writers conference, I tracked down a mass paperback, something I could read to help unwind at the end of the day. Perhaps because of its bright red spine, I was drawn to Baseball Cat by Garrison Allen, a 1977 Kensington release featuring a mystery bookstore owner as the amateur detective.

When I got the email notice that my copy of Calico Joe was available, I didn't go straight to the reserve pickup room. My eyes roamed the shelves of new acquisitions and the seven-day checkout “rapid reads.” And there was Steve Berry's The Columbus Affair. Just 419 pages, sure I can read that in seven days.

Along with Calico Joe and Baseball Cat. Good thing they're all different genres. And styles.

How about you? Do you take 'em one at a time—or are you a juggler?

Monday, May 28, 2012

Says it All by Linda S. Glaz

This beautiful photo says it all:
The sacrifices that both the men and women AND their families have given.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Congratulations to Hartline authors Lena Dooley and Linda Rondeau

Congratulations go out to Hartline clients Lena Nelson Dooley and Linda Rondeau.

Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference announces the winners of their second annual Selah Awards. The 2012 Selah Awards are open for authors of Christian works published within the 2011 calendar year. The awards were presented on Wednesday May 23, 2012 during the conference’s awards banquet. Presenting the awards were Alton Gansky, conference director, Edie Melson, conference co-director, and Eva Marie Everson, conference contest director. The winners are:

Children (Tie)
Michelle Medlock Adams
My Big Book of Prayers
Ideals Children's Books


Crystal Bowman & Ava Pennington
Do You Love Me More?
Standard Publishing

Bible Studies
Mary Englund Murphy
Joseph; Beyond the Coat of Many Colors
AMG Publishers

Inspiration & Gift
Jocelyn Green
Faith Deployed ... Again
Moody Publishers

Christian Life (tie)
Linda Evans Shepherd
When You Can't Find God
Revell Books


Dr. Betty Hassler
When Christ Sets You Free
Cross Books

Youth Nonfiction
Tanya Kilgore
The Grief Recovery Kit; A Young Persons' Guide Through the Journey of Grief
Aepisaurus Publishing

Youth Fiction
April W. Gardner
Lizzie and the Guernsey Gang
Astraea Press

Adult fiction was categorized into six subcategories.

First Novel
Linda Wood Rondeau
The Other Side of Darkness
Harbourlight Books

Jill Elizabeth Nelson
Mistletoe Mayhem/From: Season of Danger
Love Inspired

Historical Novel
Lena Nelson Dooley
Maggie's Journey

Suspense Fiction
Richard L. Mabry, MD
Lethal Remedy
Abingdon Press

Contemporary Novel (tie)
Christa Allan
The Edge of Grace
Abingdon Press


Tracie Peterson
House of Secrets
Bethany House

Romance Novel
Susan May Warren
My Foolish Heart
Tyndale House Publishers

The BRMCWC Selah Book of the Year is determined by the highest possible score earned by the submissions. With a perfect score of 120 out of 120, this year’s BRMCWC Book of the Year goes to:

Susan May Warren
My Foolish Heart
Tyndale House Publishers

Friday, May 25, 2012

Creating Facebook Apps to Promote Books by Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Now that Facebook has made so many changes to the timeline, and virtually eliminated Welcome landing tabs to prompt visitors into "liking" your page or making a purchase decision, we have to be more creative. One way to get around this obstacle is to create third-party apps promoting your books, campaign launches, and contests.

It's very simple--more so than it sounds. I found an awesome article on Social Media Examiner that explains in detail how to do this and provides a tutorial video that will walk you through the steps. You can set up one app for free, but you will have to pay a small monthly fee if you want to set up additional apps. Right now, for me, one is enough.

If you would like to see an example, go to Author Jennifer Hudson Taylor Facebook page and click on the app that says Jennifer's books. This is an example of what you can do and how you can integrate your blog/website onto your Facebook Page. All the links and buttons are interactive and people never have to leave Facebook, but they have access to all your books and how to purchase them right there.

Here is a link to the article:
How to Use Facebook Apps to Increase Fan Engagement

What are your thoughts? Will you try to set up a new app to further promote your work? Have you already? What service did you use?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Why not? by Terry Burns

My project is good enough to publish, why does no agent want to represent it or no editor want to publish it? The previous year no agent or editor had been interested in her project and the frustrated author asked the panel. Good question.

There are several things involved, and the first is competition. I’ve said before that we receive hundreds of submissions a month and a large number of them are good enough to be published. That means good is just not good enough, it takes exceptional. If your manuscript is really good but it is sitting there beside one or more that are simply better, that editor or agent is going to go with better. It’s just how things work.

That means it is not about judging you or judging your work, it is simply picking the best offering in the eye of the person making the selection. That brings taste into the discussion. The things that I really like might not be to someone else’s taste. I have editors that I really like and who like me, but I have never sold them anything. Our tastes are too dissimilar. I have other editors I sell to all the time because we have very similar tastes. This is the second factor an author is up against when submitting, is your work something that will appeal to the particular taste of the editor or agent. Not a question of whether your work is good or bad, but a question of fit with their taste.

The next factor is “does is fit the slot?” A particular editor is probably trying to fill a catalog slot. They are looking for something specific and an author’s work may or may not be what they are looking for at a particular time. Again, does it mean the manuscript is being judged up or down? No, it just isn’t what they are looking for at that time so out comes the dreaded, “This is not a fit for us” letter. You can multiply that times multiple editors for the agent. It’s our job to try and know what editors are looking for so we are asking the same question, “This is good, but does it fit what some of the editors we are working with are looking for?”

The kind of project that it is can affect whether it fits the slot. Projects that neatly fit in some genre, style or category are easier for an editor or agent to deal with. They are easier to sell, but such books also tend to be a bit average and are seldom a blockbuster or a best seller. It’s the project that stretches the envelope that becomes a bestseller, but they are also much harder to get placed as a rule. Some editor has to take a chance on it. And the agent has to know that editor who is ready to take a chance.

Not just any editor is in a position to gamble. A banker who makes very many bad loans is going to find themselves out of work. Editors who have too many titles that do not perform are in the same situation. If an editor has just hit one out of the park and is languishing in the limelight of bringing a best-seller to the market they are in a position to take a chance on something. Others are probably looking for proven titles that they feel comfortable the reader base that they sell to will be interested in buying. Agents are looking for what these editors are interested in publishing and we try to know what that is.

So you see it isn’t black and white, it isn’t a simple this is good or this is not good, it’s subjective. All of these factors come into play plus a lot of others I haven’t gone into. The largest factor, however, is for the author to write an exceptional book, to do a great edit or it (or have one done) so it can compete well against the other titles, and to go through the work when it is finished to insure that it flows beautifully from cover to cover. When those comparisons are made, we need to put ourselves in the position of being the top title.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Would You Read On? Hosted by Diana L. Flegal

Welcome to our Wednesday edition of Would You Read On?. We appreciate you taking time out of your busy day to stop by our blog. 

Chapter 1:
Amazonian Rainforest, Venezuela
Will Oakley squirmed in his slumber.
Tap-tap. Tap-tap.
Shut up! Can’t a guy get a little sleep?
Tap-tap. Tap-tap.
His eyes flew open to velvet darkness. I can’t…I can’t move!
Disconnected thoughts whirled in his mind as he writhed, squirmed, and jerked--all useless. He stopped and forced a long, slow breath.
Get a grip. Pull yourself together. But it was hard. Thinking was hard, like stumbling through a fog.
As he glanced about, vague shapes emerged from the inky void: his hands; his feet…tied to stakes? Beyond lay an empty syringe. What the?
His senses returned; a rumble of thunder, the hiss of rain on the roof. Above, a lattice of palm-thatching faded into view.
A native hut. But the Boras wouldn’t…
Tap-tap. Tap-tap.
Gunfire. That’s gunfire!  And screaming? He shuddered at the heart-bending cries.
Will shook his head, everything was hazy, then suddenly it came to him: terroristas. It’s the Voc del Pueblo, killing resistant villagers execution-style.
He struggled frantically against his bonds. No, go…. Stop.  Think Will! The rain...
Yes, the earth was rock-hard, since it was the tag end the dry season. But evidently the VPs hadn’t expected this little downpour. Rivulets of water wove their way through cracks in the roof above, making little puddles, softening the ground.
You can do this. The storm’s on your side. Take your time. Make a focused effort.
He took another breath and gave it a long, slow, controlled heave. Was that a little movement?
Yeah. C’mon baby…

Would you read on?

Last weeks contributor was Lynn Donovan. Thank you Lynn for being courageous. We hope the comments from our readers was a help to you. If you want to learn a little more about Lynn, her Twitter account is @MLynnDonovan and her LinkedIn account is M Lynn Donovan.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Wooden Legs and Mustaches by Andy Scheer

If you've ever watched Mary Poppins, you've received fair warning about dangling modifiers.

Been a few years since you've watched it? Let me remind you of this key example of grammatical humor.

Bert the chimney sweep (played by Dick Van Dyke) tells Uncle Albert (played by Ed Wynn), “Speakin' o' names, I know a man with a wooden leg named Smith.”

“What's the name of his other leg?” Uncle Albert says.

A classic case of a dangling modifier, when a word or phrase wanders too far from the term it should stay close to—and attaches itself to a stranger—with strange results.

But in all my years of editing, I've never caught a full-grown wild one, a dangler the likes of a leg named Smith. Sure, I've caught my share of textbook examples like these:

Being in a dilapidated condition, I was able to buy the house very cheap.
Walking down Main Street, the trees were beautiful.
I saw the trailer peeking through the window.

All mildly amusing and in need of rewriting, but nothing worthy of Bert and Uncle Albert. But this past week, I finally caught a whopper.

Consider this sentence from a fiction manuscript:

A receptionist escorted them to the office of the canal security director, a poised man with a thin mustache named Madrid.

What were his sideburns named?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Johannes Gutenberg/Laughing at Us? By Linda S. Glaz

No, I don’t think he’s turning over in his grave. I think he’s laughing at us. A pioneer in his day, he must be thinking, “Did you really assume this was the end of it?”
And I have to say, most of us did. We thought the printed word was the beginning and ending of the mass communication that changed society.
Gutenberg’s press, considered by most to be the most influential change of the second millennium, brought not only books, but communication of events to the masses. No longer was word of mouth or letter the only means by which a group of people could hear about changes in society. No longer could kings and despots prevent knowledge from trickling to the masses.
I attended a writers’ conference 12-15 years ago at which one of the secular publishing giants’ Sr. Editor spoke. When asked about “electronic” books for our computers, she laughed. Holding her hands in the shape of a book, she said, “Smell the paper. Smell the ink. Take this with you wherever you want to go. The printed book will NEVER die. Never even have its profits reduced by more than mere fad. Computerized books? A passing fancy.” Or something to that effect. None of us saw the Kindle, the Nook, and others just around the proverbial bend.
BTW, she no longer is senior editor there. Like many of us “oldies” she just didn’t see it coming. The last year and a half have been overwhelming: to readers, to writers, to agents, to editors. Changes are happening so fast, I can put together a proposal for a client one day, and learn the next that the house I was sending to has morphed again. And the proposal is now obsolete at best.
Not since Gutenberg printed the first word has there been this much change. I realize computers ushered in this amazing technology, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that the printed word has NEVER changed this much in nearly 600 years. 600 YEARS!!!!

And we are living in the time.

Gutenberg was a deal changer. He understood the concept that nothing remains the same.
Are YOU ready to jump on board and be part of the change, or will you be left behind with your hands in the shape of a paperback, digging your nails in, refusing to give up the smell of musty paper?

I, for one, old as I am, have embraced the changes.
I just wish I knew what lurked around the corner. I don’t like to be surprised!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Comparing Email Newsletter Services by Jennifer Hudson Taylor

If you're looking for a service to provide email newsletters to your readers, here are three comparisons for Constant Contact, Vertical Response and MailChimp. I've used all three.

When I was first trying to decide which email service I wanted, I read up on the comparison reviews of many services and settled on trying these three. I'm glad I did, because I've found uses for all of them. I have since dropped Constant Contact, and now I continue to use both Vertical Response and MailChimp. I've discussed why below.

All three services have customer support, but I feel that Constant Contact is the best at this. They all provide email templates, but allow you to customize your email brand your personal look. You can include photos, videos and social media links to all three services. In short, they all provide the basics of what you will need to send out an email newsletter. The rest of your decision will come down to pricing and personal tastes. Additionally, all three provide ways to upload, download and convert your existing database, website coding that allows people to subscribe to your email newsletter, and spam filters to make sure fewer of your emails land in people's spam folders.

You can click on the images below to get a better view of the charts. 

Constant Contact
This is one of the most popular services, but it is also one of the most expensive. They require a monthly fee whether or not you use their service each month. I send out a quarterly newsletter and cannot see the benefit in paying a fee for the months I'm not using their service. This is the main reason I decided not to keep using them. Their prices are tiered, depending on how many contacts you have. The more you have, the more expensive it gets.

For these expensive prices, you get great customer support by phone, by email, and they hold free workshops in several places. I attended one of their workshops in Charlotte and learned some interesting things. They have more templates to choose from than the other two services, but they limit your photo usage to 5 photos. You have to pay more if you want to insert more photos. This is a problem if you want to archive your newsletters and make them available online. If you swap out your photos, it will leave a white box with a tiny red X in the place of now missing photo. This is the second reason why I stopped using them and why I call them expensive. They provide excellent reporting as to how many emails bounced, were opened, unsubscribes, new subscribers, links clicked on, and other detailed analytical info you might find helpful.

Vertical Response 
This is the one I use most often since I only produce quarterly newsletters and they allow you to pay as you go. They also provide a monthly service fee that is conveniently priced a couple of dollars less than Constant Contact. There isn't a limit of 5 photos. I've been allowed to used as many photos as I wanted without having to pay extra. However, unlike Constant Contact, I have run into a problem with reaching a limited number of words in my email and was forced to scale back. I haven't had this problem recently, so they might have fixed it. They have a good number of templates to choose from.

This is a great plan to get started with until you build up a large subscriber base. Why? Because it is free. They call it the Forever Free Plan. For up to 2,000 subscribers you can send out up to 12,000 emails each month. Few of us send out that many emails. We would drive people nuts! You do miss out on a few perks and they list them on the site, but for the most part, you get most of everything you need.

While I use Vertical Response for my quarterly newsletters, I use MailChimp to send out emails to Influencers. This list is much shorter and it is less than quarterly, since I only send it out when I have a book release. This way Influencers get a chance to see the book cover, a video book trailer if it is available, and all the visual details. And it's free!

If you want more of the bells and whistles through MailChimp, below is their pricing fee for Pay As You Go service, as well as a monthly service. When you compare the number of emails and subscribers vs Vertical Response, the latter is less expensive.

The left side is Monthly Fees. The Right side are Pay As You Go Fees

Have you used any of these services? If so, what are your thoughts. What other services have you tried?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Oh please, by Terry Burns

Give me a break. I get several hundred emails a day, it comes with the territory. Lots of them require some sort of response. So I give it whatever consideration it needs and send the response and the email bounces, or up pops some sort of spam protection that requires me to fill out some form or jump through hoops or something. Or perhaps instead of the information I need in the email it points me to a bunch of online sites where I can spend time browsing through stuff looking for what I need to see.

Not going to happen.

I've already seen what I need to see, I see someone who does not bother to look at and comply with  our submission guidelines. Or someone who does not care enough about their writing career to provide a nice clean way to respond, maybe one that they do not use on casual email so it doesn't require all sorts of protection on it. Editors and agents are inundated with mail and are not going to spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to respond to somebody. We're going to spend that time on people sending us great projects and are carefully providing us with what we want to see the way we want to see it, exactly as we carefully lay it out in those submission guidelines.

Yes, I did intentionally pick my 'stern' picture to use here. I just spent a significant amount of time responding to a guy and pointing him to another person who would be better for him to send his proposal to in our agency. But he'll never see that response because the email bounced back to me. It says his server doesn't accept an email from me. OK, I did my job, I answered it.

The only thing I hate about it is he will never know that I offered him a better opportunity for his book. He will just think I'm one of those jerks that don't answer emails.

So be it.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Would You Read On? hosted by Diana Flegal

Welcome to our Wednesday edition of Would You Read On?. We appreciate you taking time out of your busy day to stop by our blog.

This weeks contribution is a fiction title:  
Destiny. It’s all Zeke ever heard from his mother.  She spoke about his destiny. She prayed about his destiny. She never let him forget his destiny. But, did he really believe in destiny? All it ever got his mom was an early grave.

Today, he determined if destiny was his guiding force, then destiny was a mean school-yard bully. After this morning’s fiasco, he no longer believed…in anything.

Forced out of his apartment at six-thirty this morning, he had nowhere to go but his car. Not that it was their fault. The giddy, goofy, oh-so-in-love couple who could not wait to move into his apartment had no idea he would be there.

He had no idea this was coming.

Okay, to be fair, it was Angela’s apartment. He’d never put his name on the lease, but he had lived there, with her, for four years. They were married for three.

That changed today. Their divorce hearing was at nine o’clock. How could he be ready for this? How does anybody prepare for what was happening today?

Apparently, Angela knew. She’d already sublet their apartment. Obviously, she was moving on.

Why couldn’t he?

             His 2001 Suzuki Swift was crammed full of his meager belongings. He worried about the legality of driving with this much stuff in his car. What choice did he have? He could only see out the windshield and driver’s side window. The other windows were blocked by everything he owned. Well everything he could throw in a box, trash bag or laundry basket and cram into his humble hatchback. 

Would you read on? Post your comment below

REVEAL: Last weeks contributor was Timothy Fish. You may get to know more about Timothy at his website and on FB. Thank you Timothy for being bold and courageous!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Appointment Expectations by Andy Scheer

I sure hope two people I'm scheduled to meet at the upcoming writers conference have a good attitude. If not, I'm in for some painful half-hours.

I hope they realize they requested and paid for a critique—not an inside track for a double-length appointment with an agent who'd be holding his breath and hoping they'd sign a contract.

Having accepted the responsibility to critique their fifteen pages, this Saturday I gave each at least a half-hour in reading, assessing, and making comments about problems large and small.

I hope the writers realize that's not what I'd have done if I'd been wearing my agent hat. If that had been the case, I'd have given neither more than a couple minutes, if that.

I can't speak for my colleagues, but I don't have the luxury of investing large blocks of time with projects with no potential--or ones that aren't nearly ready. And beginning with the cover letters, I could see that neither was.

It's not a good sign when you have to re-read the cover letter's first sentence to confirm what it's trying to say. Or when that letter for a nonfiction manuscript barely hints at the intended audience. Or that the manuscript's opening anecdote doesn't get to the promised topic (something about spirituality for busy people) until page nine.

And it's not a good sign when the novel's cover letter not only contains Random acts of Capitalization, but also botches the Name of the Writers Group to which the author belongs. (I've spoken at the group's conference, so I know its name.) And things go downhill fast when a vaguely worded opening paragraph leaves readers open to misconceptions that aren't set straight until the middle of page two.

So with an eye toward my years as a mentor for the Christian Writers Guild, I hope to spend those half-hour appointments learning where these people are in their writing career, then pointing out places where they can strengthen their craft. I hope they're prepared to learn and listen.

I still cringe when I remember an appointment years ago at another conference. After I pointed out multiple point of view problems on the opening pages that kept me from entering deeply into the story, I feared the author would burst a blood vessel or punch me in face.

I know not all editors or agents see eye to eye. Still, a conference appointment or critique session offers a rare opportunity to receive feedback from multiple professionals. 

Constructing a book or a proposal takes considerable work. Those who've done so can rejoice in how much they've accomplished. So I hope they don't despair—or punch someone out—if they get the news they still have a ways to go. At least they've been shown the way.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Raven Hair and Violet Eyes by Linda S. Glaz

Unless she has raven black hair and violet blue eyes, and he has the fabric of his shirt straining across broad shoulders, we don't know our characters' appearances all that much. But time is better spent on deep POV you say.

Well, yes. I do think deeper POV has brought our characters' internal dialogues to life, but at what expense? Let's take Jane Austen, for example. You knew her characters inside AND out. In genre fiction, all the characters I read look alike in my mind. They are simply in different situations. Now, I'll grant you, on occasion we get a good description of a character, but I'm finding it less often than ever before.

Instead, he will have (and I'm guilty of this, too, so don't think I'm not including myself) a jagged scar through his brow, corded muscles along his neck and shoulders. She will have a perfect bow-shaped mouth. They might both have piercing eyes, lines that fan from their eyes. Well, you get my point.

I think it's time for us to spend a bit more time our characters' externals to equal the time we spend on them internally. I want a character to leap off the pages so well that I could pick them out of a crowd.

But that's just my take...

Friday, May 11, 2012

Why You Need to Produce Email Newsletters by Jennifer Hudson Taylor

If you're already actively promoting yourself through blogging and social media sites, you may be wondering why you need to provide a separate newsletter as well. One of the main reasons is because it provides one of the best avenues for direct access and target marketing.

While people on social media sites have direct access to you by commenting on your posts and sending you direct messages, they often don't take advantage of it. Your news posts roll on and off their newsfeeds so fast that they may never see some of your news and announcements. You can't send all of them a direct message or it will be considered spam, and doing this could get your account suspended.

People use social media in varying ways. Some hop on and check it several times a day, while others once a day, and some may go several days between logging on. Just because you have a number of friends and likes doesn't mean they are interested in YOU and what you have to offer, instead many are hoping you are interested in THEM and what they have to offer. Others are looking for friends, but they may not have an interest in what you do or your marketing books to them.

Providing a newsletter, whether monthly or quarterly, gives you tangible names and emails of people who have an interest in what you're providing--the types of books you write. If they weren't interested, they would not opt-in to receive your email newsletters, or if they are already readers, they wouldn't be buying your books. This is your target audience. Your newsletter is delivered directly into their inbox and they aren't likely to miss it as they would on a social media site. It feels more personal when they have something delivered to them and they don't have to go looking for it or stumble upon it.

A social media post is only limited to 140 characters on Twitter and a bit more on Facebook. You can post 1,000 - 2,000 words in an email newsletter, including photos and videos. There are few limitations. It will sit in a person's inbox until they have time to read it in detail, after the kids go to bed, early in the morning when getting their coffee and checking their email, or after they return from vacation. The sense of urgency isn't as demanding as it is with social media. I hate it when I see something on someone's feed, and I don't have time to respond or read it. Later on, I'm forced to go digging for it on their timeline and by then I may not find it.

Blogging is a better advantage in being able to post as many words and images as you want, but people either have to remember to return to your site, bookmark it, or subscribe to it on a reader feed or have it delivered to their inbox. This is more like receiving an email newsletter, but some you don't necessarily know who they are or how often they read your blog posts.

If you use an email newsletter service, you have a general idea of who is receiving it--at least their name and email address. Also, you can see how many people click to view it, which links they click on, how many subscribe and unsubscribe each month. You can view an overall report on what topics and posts appeal to people the most and target future topics accordingly.

Next week, I'll compare and discuss the advantages and disadvantages between using email newsletter services such as Constant Contact, Vertical Response, and MailChimp.

In the meantime, do you already send out an email newsletter? What is your experience? What would you advise to someone who is considering starting an email newsletter?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Do I need an agent? by Terry Burns

I've talked about this before. If an author is comfortable representing themselves, comfortable with the process of negotiating contracts, has the contacts with publishers etc, then maybe it is not necessary. Some of my western writing friends have sold to those publishers that publish westerns during their whole career. They feel no need to have an agent now.

One person pitched me to be his agent, but after listening to it I asked him if the main reason he wanted the book was to sell it at the seminars he gives around the country and he said yes. I asked if he saw the book also selling well in bookstores and he said he doubted it, that it really needed to be the companion book to his presentation. So then I asked why he wanted to give me 15% of it if he was going to do all that? And why he wanted a large publisher and give them a larger percentage when he could self publish and make all that money himself. He didn't need an agent.

But for the most part a person pitching publishers themselves need to restrict that activity to smaller houses that are comfortable working directly with the author. Most larger houses require an agent. They know we are going to go through several hundred submissions a month looking for the projects we will submit. That's several hundred submissions they won't have to go through so that is why they have gone to dealing with agents only. Sometimes if the author meets them at a conference the editor will invite a submission but chances are if they are a house that say 'agent only' the house themselves will help get an agent involved if they find they have interest in a project. Those are no-brainers for us of course.

So writers get an agent to represent them to the publisher, to handle the negotiations, to be a buffer for them to the publisher if problems arise. When we send a submission we are in essence putting our stamp on it which makes it something of an endorsement. In addition we are in essence selling a client our contacts. All agents have contacts in common, but we all have contacts that are different as well. We don't sell books to publishing houses, we sell to editors that we have established relationships with. Personal tastes enter into this. I have an editor that so far I have never failed to sell her a project I have decided is a fit for her. Our tastes are that similar. There are other editors that have connected on deals because the project appealed to both of us. Of course, I also have a couple of other editors that are very good friends of mine but we have never connected on a project. Our tastes are very dissimilar.

On occasion I realize I have used all of my contacts to no avail for a client. In such a case I have gotten with the client and released them from their contract to allow them to get with a different agent with a different set of contacts who might could get their book placed for them. I have had new clients come to me after being with another agent for the same reason.

Finding the right agent is a bit like dating. I'm looking for projects that are well written, where the content of the project appeals to me, and where I think it is a good fit for the contacts that I have. The potential client is looking to see if they are comfortable with me as a person and they too are interested in seeing if I seem to be operating in areas that would be a fit for their project. A good fit means a good working relationship.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Would You Read On? hosted by Diana L. Flegal

Welcome to our Wednesday edition of Would You Read On?. We appreciate you taking time out of your busy day to stop by our blog. Kindly comment if you would read on or not.

This weeks contribution is a fiction title: 

There was a day when all the host of heaven appeared before the Lord, on his right hand and on his left, and Satan stood among them. “Where have you come from, Satan?” the Lord asked. “Which of my servants will you accuse today?”
Satan stood before the Lord and said, “I have been going from place to place throughout the whole earth. I have seen many who do not fear you, who will not call upon the name of the Lord.”
“Yes, this has long been true, but there are also many who fear me, who worship me and pass on their faith from one generation to the next.”
“In my journey,” Satan said, “I came upon a small town in the United States, in the State of Texas, in the very heart of those who call themselves Christians. They call the place Burning Cedar, as they should, because they have done evil before you and you have given them over to those who would destroy them.”
“For a time, but even now, I hear their cries for deliverance. But that is not why you have come. You have often seen people turn to me when they face hardships.”
“In the town of Burning Cedar, there is a family that has served you for many generations and even the man Stephen Barak is numbered with your saints and written in your book. His father is a deacon in Burning Cedar Baptist Church. His grandfather persuaded many to follow you. His great-grandfather obeyed you and started three churches. But I have watched Stephen and he does not obey you. He hears your voice, but he does not obey.

Would you read on?

We also welcome other courageous authors to share their fiction and nonfiction first pages for critique. Email: with your submissions.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Unexpecteded Consequences by Andy Scheer

Fiction touches lives. If you suspect otherwise, just visit an archery shop.

An article in the Denver Post this weekend, titled “They're All Aquiver,” reports how teens and pre-teens who've read The Hunger Games and want to be like Katniss Everdeen are thronging to archery stores and ranges.

Whatever Suzanne Collins's purpose in writing these stories, it likely had nothing to do with prompting kids to learn about bows and arrows. But once stories are released to the public, there's no telling the effect they'll have.

I suspect that in 1958 when Ian Fleming was writing Dr. No, he was simply providing a hint of characterization when he had his character ask for a martini "shaken and not stirred." Ever since, as Jerry Lee Lewis sang, there's been a whole lotta shakin' goin' on.

A generation of novelists later, recreational diver Clive Cussler invented a Bond-like character whose adventures would take place in and under the water. Early in the series Cussler had his hero, Dirk Pitt, check his wristwatch. Having a keen eye for specificity, Cussler looked at his own left wrist, then typed that Pitt was wearing an orange-faced Doxa diver's watch. Today if you attend the annual convention of the group that collects Cussler's books, at least half the people are wearing orange-faced Doxas. In an early novel, Pitt gets caught in a rip-tide. Rather than struggle against it, Pitt swims perpendicular to it until he escapes its grasp. In the decades since, the author has gotten multiple letters from readers who got caught in a similar situation, remembered the scene from Pacific Vortex, and swam to safety.

In many of his westerns, Stephen Bly had a character rant about a situation to the hero, whether Stuart Brannon, Tapadera Andrews, or Brady Stoner. Then Brannon (or Andrews or Stoner) would say, “Are you bragging or complaining?” I remember that not just because it's a great line, but also because I often hear it quoted around my family supper table.

If you ask Jerry B. Jenkins, he can tell you lots of stories about the origin of what was envisioned as a single book (that might sell 50,000 copies) but became a multimillion-selling series that thrust him and Tim LaHaye onto the cover of Newsweek. But Norm Rohrer chronicled the most amazing consequences of Left Behind in his nonfiction book These Will Not Be Left Behind, in which he relates the stories of some of the thousands of people who read the books--and had their lives changed eternally.

If you're a writer and a Christian, no doubt that's your deepest desire for your readers. Some aspect of your stories will affect people. You just never know who and how.

Monday, May 7, 2012

I HAVE LICE?!! By Linda S. Glaz

That’s right. You get the note/call from the school. “Hello, Mrs./Mr. So and So, you’ll need to come pick up your child. Yes, she/he has lice.”
Lice!!! I have a clean house—relatively clean. A clean child—most of the time. How did she get lice?
Okay, I don’t have lice. Whew, dodged that bullet yesterday, but I did get hacked this weekend. And you know what? I felt like I got the call from school!
I felt dirty, violated, and it almost made me scratch!
I DON’T OPEN ATTACHMENTS, oops! I guess as an agent, I DO open attachments and there isn’t really a solution to that problem.
Ran three security scans, changed my password twice, and sent notices to everyone in my contact list (mistake # 1,895) because now AOL thought I was ACTIVELY spamming people on my list after all the changes. Sooo? AOL locked me out. They told me to sign in so I could get information about being locked out.
Really? Did they think I hadn’t tried signing in???
What a weekend. I don’t think I need to tell you what I would like to do to people who have nothing better to do with their time (how about getting a real job?) than to mess with peoples’ lives online. (thinking horrible torturous things J)
So, I sit here with a fine-toothed comb, trying to clean my computer of any possible nits that might reproduce. I’ve used the security shampoo many times since it happened and will continue to do so until I’m sure I’ve ridded myself of the real insects, the nasty, mean, useless hackers who find it amusing to mess up peoples’ lives with lice!
Wow! This surely was an uplifting blog, right? Let me end with,

Friday, May 4, 2012

Keep Readers Engaged, Think of The Avengers by Jennifer Hudson Taylor

We spend so much time building a platform and concentrating on gathering higher numbers of followers, fans and readers that we don't want to lose their interest between long works of fiction. While there are several ways to keep your readers engaged, I want to mention three of the most important.

1) Write a daily or weekly Blog

2) Keep them updated on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest

3) Write a short story or a couple of scenes that lead to the next big novel release.

It's the third option I want to concentrate on, especially since you're probably already doing the first two options. You could write novellas in between your large works, as I have done, but those will be totally unrelated to the characters in your long novels. Now I'm starting to get a lot of requests for a third book in my Highland Series. Several people are asking for Leith's story.

If you have a good series going that people don't want to let go of, you and your publisher will want to capitalize on that. For instance, if you have a single title book and would like to write a follow-up that isn't contracted, you might want to keep a log of reader emails, reviews, and social media comments from those who have requested you write a second or third book, or have requested you write about other secondary characters and give them their own story. Once you start building up a large database of requests, you can submit them with your proposal for follow-up books.

If it will be a while before the follow-up books release, in order to keep your readers engaged with the characters, you could write short scenes and make them available as ebook downloads for newsletter subscribers or for all your readers on ebook formats. These scenes could lead up to the next big novel release. Be sure to discuss it with your editor and make sure your publisher approves of your ideas.

If readers download these scenes and really like them, once they realize that there are other books available, you'll continue gaining readership that will build for the next big book release, plus they will go back and read the other books. This is another marketing tactic that is a bit unconventional, but effective if done well. We can learn from Hollywood and the movie industry.

Think of The Avengers!

Today is the big release of The Avengers, but since 2008 they've released five other movies with the same characters leading up to the big finale movie. These build-up movies were Captain America, Thor, Iron Man I and II, and The Incredible Hulk. Fans loved them and want more of the same characters. Tickets will be selling out everywhere today. (Yes, I'll be in line!)

So what are your thoughts? Have you tried anything like this? Do you think it would be effective?