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Thursday, March 29, 2012

I represent Cinderella by Terry Burns




This is just too cool not to pass on.

Yes, it is true, I do represent Cinderella. Intrigued? There's more.

I also represent Sleeping Beauty, Ariel the Little Mermaid, and Alice in Wonderland. Is that a celebrity lineup or what? How many agents can say they represent such an amazing group?

How could this be?

A new client, Jenny Hammerle, used to work at Walt Disney World-Orlando while she was in college and had the pleasure of being each of these famous ladies. Her time in the 'magic kingdom' may have played a role in the way she writes for young people. Her young adult series "Redneck Debutante" is already under serious consideration by a publisher.

Jenny will be a delightful addition to my client group and as to the other ladies mentioned above? I believe that does give me bragging rights on them.

But if you have always been holding out for Prince Charming? Give it up. She married him . . . literally.

The actual picture of the two is above.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Would You Read On? hosted by Diana Flegal


Thank you for joining us. Please leave a comment after reading today's First Page submission. Let us know if you would read on.

Chapter One

Monday

S-s-shut up and f-f-forget it! You’ve s-s-seen nothing and know nothing! G-g-got it?”

The whispered words radiated out in waves of malevolence, like heat rising from a country blacktopped road in midsummer. The air vibrated with a pregnant sense of malice, shifted, then swirled in ghostly forms around her.

An unexpected mental vision of a deadly snake intent on its victim slivered in her mind, and Tara Layne shifted her gaze to the ground, hoping no snake would materialize.

Was this Montana land holding its breath, waiting? Waiting for what would come next? Waiting to see what she would do?

A sense of evil washed over her, and she shivered. Parts of the blue sky peeked through the tree branches, yet beneath those branches the light seemed to have dimmed. Had it? No leaves stirred. The chirping birds, the clattering insects, hushed, as if an early evening had set in.

She leaned forward and strained to hear.

Nothing.

No more stuttering words.

Yet someone was out there.

Tara eyed the northwest forest. Brian Jamieson’s private hunting and entertainment grounds. She slowly spun in a circle. No sign of human inhabitants. As far as she could tell, Hickory, her pet mouse, was the only living creature around-other than herself.

Who had breathed those words a moment ago?

Someone close by.Would You Read On?


Last weeks submission was the First page of Stolen Woman, the first in a series of 3 Christian suspense/romance novels on international human trafficking and missions. Find out more at www.stolenwoman.org, or check out Kimberly's blog at www.stolenwoman.blogspot.com.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Observations about Platform by Andy Scheer



What must an author bring to the table to create a potentially award-winning nonfiction book?

In the past few months I had a chance to find out, as part of a team of judges reviewing entries in a prominent national contest for books published in 2011.

I can't speak about the winning book; the results won't be released for months, even to the judges. Not can I speak of all the entries; each judge saw only a portion of the books being evaluated. But I can discuss some patterns in the nineteen I assessed.

One element that jumped out, for nearly every entry, was platform. Consider the kinds these authors had.

First were the megachurch pastors. They accounted for six of the nineteen titles. One author/pastor was at the celebrity level—with a bio listing 100 million copies of his books in print. But all the others each headed a congregation larger than most towns in eastern Colorado. One was pastor of “the fifth largest church in America.” Another was pastor of “one of the fastest-growing churches in North America.” Not an easy platform to build.

Next came four books by national ministry leaders (one co-authored with a megachurch pastor). Each had a large national constituency built around their topics. They regularly spoke around the country, sometimes internationally, on matters related to their latest book. One author's bio said, “She speaks to over 500,000 teens a year.” I'd call that a platform.

Next came three books from people who were simply multi-published, nationally recognized experts and speakers on their topic. All three had been speaking and writing in their field for at least twenty-five years. If that's a platform to which you aspire, I hope you've already started paying your dues.

Next came three books by celebrities, each of a different flavor. Each was also a joint effort, co-written by a professional author. One was “written” by a United States senator, one by a professional athlete, and one by a former Planned Parenthood clinic director who made national headlines when she switched sides and was hauled into court. Most of us can dismiss the idea of achieving a celebrity platform built around politics or athletics (or other forms of mass entertainment). And do we really want the pain of getting caught up in a matter that attracts the national press? Platform at a price.

Finally came three books by people whose level of platform seems most nearly attainable.

One book, by a mother and daughter, relates “The Journey of a Child with Autism Who Cannot Speak but Finds Her Voice.” Of the author's three children, her bio says “two … are profoundly affected by autism.” But she is also “a venture capitalist investing in high-tech companies, and she sits on both corporate and nonprofit boards.” Maybe that helped her garner the front-cover endorsement by Tom Brokaw.

Another book, a daily devotional with stories from the Vietnam War, comes from a decorated war veteran and retired Marine Corps officer—who also served in the White House. He's a lay minister and is active with an international evangelism organization. He's a full-time writer, and this narrowly targeted book was his third published book. He built his unique platform through decades of dedicated effort.

The last book is the work of an author who may never occupy the spotlight. But his writing (and his effort to promote it) earned front- and back-cover endorsements from Randy Alcorn, J. I. Packer, singer/songwriter Andrew Peterson, and Wheaton College Professor of English Leland Ryken. The book is titled Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books. His back-cover bio describes  Tony Reinke as “a former journalist now serving as a theological researcher, writer, and blogger.” Checking Amazon this morning, his book has seventy-four customer reviews: forty-three with five stars and twenty-six with four stars. Its current sales ranking was 31,589. I hope that's enough to keep it in print.

What's your platform? It's worth working on.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Balance is Key! by Linda S. Glaz



That beautiful cup was from my youngest for my birthday. And I have to be very honest, that sums it up beautifully! If not for the occasional block, or the I-just-can't-face-that-story or edit again, my house would be deeper in dust than it already is. I save marker and drawing paper money. I just draw pix in the dust. Isn't that all part of being socially responsible? I'm going green!

Okay, that might be a bit of a stretch. But when we are juggling more than one hat, and most of us are, how do we do justice to all of the jobs?

My "don't quit your day job" takes me three days a week to a physical therapy clinic. If not for that job, I wouldn't be able to afford to be a struggling writer/agent. After all, I'm the newbie just getting started.

I get home around 6:30, cook dinner, wolf it down and am at the computer by about 7. Sending out projects for my clients and getting a few minutes in on my own works 'til sometime around midnight. Days off I'm on the job from around 9am-11pm with a couple hours off for good behavior (and to cook).

When the dust takes over, I finally leave the computer long enough to do a mini-makeover on my house. I know I've mentioned all of this in a blog before, but the cup allowed me to bring it up again. Even in a fanatic-driven job like ours, how do you all balance your life and still find time to get your writing/editing/critiquing in? Who, in your house, doesn't eat, doesn't get clean clothes, has to walk through cobwebs so that you can pursue the love of your life? Writing...I'm just curious.

Isn't that the cutest cup???

Friday, March 23, 2012

Discovering Your Author Brand by Jennifer Hudson Taylor

I once had an agent say to me, “I don’t think you know what you want to write. And you need to decide that or I can’t market you.”

I was stunned. What did she mean? I wanted to write historical romances and that’s what I’d been writing. Was she crazy?

Let me clarify the broad range of what I had written: a Civil War novel, a Regency, a Scottish Medieval, an Irish historical, and a prairie romance.

Not exactly one brand with one readership in mind was it? Yes, you could say that I was a historical romance writer, but how did that narrow me down from all the other hundreds of historical romance writers? Historical romance writers write both secular books and Christian fiction--some on the opposite ends of the spectrum. What would be different about me and my books? Pick a number and get in line. That’s essentially what I was doing to myself.

Choosing an author brand is sort of like choosing a career. It’s a very personal and individual decision. Regardless of how you came to be a writer, if you intend to sell your work, you need to be promoting it and thinking of how you want to be known.

When you hear the names Steven King, Nicholas Sparks, Nora Roberts, John Grisham, Rick Warren, or Jannette Oke, what comes to mind?

I think of the following:
Steven King – Horror thrillers
Nicholas Sparks – Love Stories/Drama
Nora Roberts – Romance/Women’s fiction
John Grisham – Court Dramas/Suspense
Rick Warren – Self-help Religion
Jannette Oke – Historical Christian fiction

What do you want people to think of you when they hear your name? It can’t be a long, drawn out paragraph that distinctly describes your writing like a company mission statement. It should be short and categorical, because that’s how your book will be shelved in the stores and listed online. Where do you think people will go to buy the kind of books you’re writing? This is important as you think about your author brand.

Next, what do you like to write? If you’re a new writer, what do you like to read? If you can narrow this down to 2 or 3 genres, consider which one you could write for thirty years without getting tired of it. Then consider the other subgenres as elements in your books.

I’ll use myself as an example. In addition to writing, I research family history. I've been all over North and South Carolina researching historical archives. I’ve lived in the Carolinas my whole life, and my family roots go back 250+ years. I know the historical culture here, the changes that have evolved, and how the area is today. I'm familiar with the types of families and ethnic backgrounds that immigrated here. I know the land, the climate, cities, towns and rural areas, as well as the slang language of old and of today.

God has given me the gift of writing and a love for the history and culture here in the Carolinas. I love the idea of making the history of the Carolinas come alive again. While some of my stories involve a setting in the Carolians, others bring characters to the Carolinas or have native Carolinians migrate to other places. This way I’m not limited to a time period or place, but incorporate one place into many other places through historical immigration and migration. I can include the elements of romance, suspense, mystery, and most importantly, my faith.

Therefore, I've adopted the tagline, Historical Christian fiction set in Europe & the Carolinas.

What are YOUR plans regarding your author brand? How important do you consider author branding to be?


Thursday, March 22, 2012

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT by Joyce Hart

Congratulations to client Dr David Clarke who was featured on the Focus on the Family program today. To hear
go to www.focusonthefamily.com  and click on today’s program, "Cultivating Spiritual Intimacy in Your Marriage."

Writing an exceptional book by Terry Burns


I have been leading an online workshop for the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) on "Writing to Reach the Unbeliever", and I have been very pleased with the way people have been able to take from each post  what they need whether that is the type of book they are interested in writing or not. I will continue to try to address the subject I’ve been tasked with presenting, but hopefully it will continue to address a broader need if that is what is required.

In the course we’ve talked about the fact that the story is what is important, that we can’t give any message to anybody if we can’t keep them invested in the story so if down the road if they do encounter some faith content they will simply have to stay with the story. This is a subject that is important to all stories, however, not just to reaching nonbelievers. At the conference I just left I made the point to the group that I get several hundred submissions a month and obviously can’t take that many. I know a lot of writers feel that most of what is being submitted is not really that good,  so they are not really up against  that much competition, but I’m afraid that is just not true. Much of what I am seeing are good books, many worthy of being published. But I can’t take on that many. Other agents and editors are seeing the same thing, large numbers, much more than they can handle.

This means a good book is not good enough. It has to be exceptional. That’s what we are looking for, that book that stands out from the other submissions the way a llama would stand out in a flock of sheep. (An illustration I used at the last conference) At another conference I told all the attendees that a good book was just not good enough and of the hundreds that heard me say that one young lady came to her appointment the next day and said, “I don’t want to pitch my book, instead, could you tell me how to make it exceptional?”

How indeed? The obvious things, good writing, good editing, good story, but it takes more than that in my opinion. Those are things that make a good book, not an exceptional one. So what then?

We’ve worn our writer’s hat and have written a good story. We put on our editor’s visor and edited it (or had it edited) until it sparkles. But there is another step that many writers do not do. Filming a movie, all of the scenes that are going to be shot at a particular location are all shot at once, no matter where they will fall in the film. The director ends up with a lot of miscellaneous scenes and it doesn’t become a movie until he goes into the cutting room to cut them, assemble them and make them into the movie. 

To me, that’s what writers are missing, we have written a whole book worth of scenes, but have we assembled them into the final book? The material is all there but are the scenes in the right order? Do they need to be cut? Do they wrap up nice and neat like little short stories, or do they need to be broken so that some of the scene is continued further in the story to keep pushing the reader forward? If we need a glaring example of how this concept works all we need to do is watch a soap opera or two, they have this concept down to a science.

What we are talking about is not the story or the writing, that is all there. We’re talking about the flow of the story, how does it move and breathe and push the reader forward? If there are convenient places to put the book down to go do something else that is a problem and we ought to fix it. Nice neat little endings on scenes can be just such places.

Do we FORCE the reader off the first page? I don’t mean interest them, I mean leave them no choice but to turn the page. Judging first pages to see if they left us no choice whether to go on or not. I told them the big key was unfinished. Start something that doesn’t finish, an action that does not complete, curiosity unsatisfied, a question unanswered, anything that requires turning the page to complete it.

Do chapter endings hook to reader to go to the next chapter? Are there any dead spots in the story where the book can easily be put down? Are there passages of text or description large enough that they are slowing the story down too much at that point? Then there are those scene endings, do we tie them up with a nice little bow or use them to push the reader deeper in the story?

To me the difference between a good story and an exceptional story is the way it flows, how we are controlling the pace of the reader to decide how fast they read, the rise and fall of the story. 

This is not the mark of a writer, it is the mark of a master storyteller.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Would You Read On? hosted by Diana Flegal


Thank you for stopping by our blog today and for letting us know if you would read on.

First Page:

A
sha shivered despite the intense heat. Why had she never considered the brutal fact that she, too, might get caught? Stolen. Sold. Bartered over like one of the pieces of blood-dripping meat in this filthy market.

Someone was following her.

Back home she would not have noticed, but weeks in India had taught her to be wary. All the noise and clamor along the busy Kolkata street could not distract from the shadow that appeared, then retreated whenever she turned to find its source.

The person following her was not very good at the game of stealth.

That fact, however, did not make the predator any less dangerous.
Who was it? And why was she the target?

Slipping around the nearest corner, a whisper of wind teasing her shawl out behind her, Asha skirted a wandering goat, then turned quickly down an alley to the left, hoping to lose whoever was on her trail.

She was already late. But better to make Rani wait than to put her in even more danger.
If that were possible.

Could there be any danger worse than what her friend had already experienced? Sixteen-year-old Rani had traveled to the city following the promise of a well-paying job, only to find herself deceived, stripped of all freedom, stolen from all that gave her dignity or hope.

Stolen and sold. Asha could not stop her body from trembling.

She flattened a shaking hand against the wall. Edging forward inch by inch, she angled her head to glimpse around the corner without revealing her face.

Was he gone?

Would you read on? Thank you for your comments.

REVEAL : Last week's contributor was author Linda Rondeau. You can learn more about Linda at her blog This Daily Grind or on FB. Linda is the founder of Pentalk a FB writing community.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

How Many Typos by Andy Scheer



How many typos does it take to create a bad impression?

It depends. Are these typos in your manuscript, in your sample chapters, or in the front of your proposal? Do they appear in your cover letter or even in your query?

I've been screening queries for three decades. In publishing, it's a fact of life: No legitimate publishers can accept everything that comes their way. Within their target market (no matter how broad or how specialized), they can accept only the best of the best that comes their way.

So gatekeepers need quick ways to assess what doesn't measure up. Both in the material and in the writer who stands behind it.

For me, typos send a signal. The earlier they appear in the process, the louder the signal. In any full manuscript, I expect some typos. (I've also been proofreading for three decades.) Even in those three sample chapters I expect a few.

But they better not appear in the first page, the first paragraph, or especially the first line. Ditto in the proposal itself. The earlier they appear, the louder the signal.

When the signal sounds loud and strong, I ask two questions: Is the writer not competent? Does she just not care?

This past week I received this query. (To protect all parties, I've made the title generic.) Count the mistakes in the first seven lines:

Although "Book Title" was not specifically written for the Christian market, it's upbeat theme, lack of graphic violence, clean language and Scripture-quoting characters may appeal to the average Christian reader.
If so, please read further:

If you're looking for an intriguing historical novel that blends German spies, witty Irish sailors, old-World Danish characters, colorful West Indian characters, and a heroine right out of Jane Austen's "Northanger Abbey", then "Book Title" is right for you.

I didn't spend much time with this query. But counting violations of Chicago style, I quickly found five. (If you find more, sound off.) Quite a first impression.

How many typos does it take to sour the gatekeeper on what you send? Sometimes just one—when it's in the spelling of the recipient's name. That hasn't happened since yesterday morning. As I scanned that query, I quickly saw the pitch was for a category the agency website clearly says I do not consider. Sometimes first impressions prove true.

Please, edit and proofread not only your manuscript, but also your proposal. And pore over every word of your cover letter and query. First impressions count at least double.

Based on what gatekeepers see, they assess not only your topic, but also your competence as a writer. Don't give them an excuse to draw the wrong conclusion.