Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Fresh Expressions by Andy Scheer

“My man's got a heart like a rock cast in the sea ...”

The opening line from W. C. Handy's “St. Louis Blues” grabbed me last week as a watched an installment of the Ken Burns film Jazz. Whether those words are sung by Bessie Smith, Billie Holliday, or Ella Fitzgerald, they grab me every time. I'm not quite sure what they mean, but they carry an emotional punch.

Last week I was editing a lengthy nonfiction book by a writer who never met a cliché he didn't like. Page after page I encountered worn-out figures of speech.

Not having the assignment to rewrite the book, I could only apply Sol Stein's advice that “one plus one equals one-half.” So when the cliché pared two terms (above and beyond) I picked one. While the resulting expression wasn't fresh, at least it was no longer stale.

Listening to W. C. Handy's lyrics reminded me how much more effectively we can communicate when we make the effort to craft an original word picture.

A later line in “St. Louis Blues” says, “I love that man like a schoolboy loves his pie.” Nothing exotic, but certainly evocative. Perhaps even on the same wavelength with Jesus' parables, drawing on a distinctive but common experience.

Would that more writers craft phrases that make daisies seem stale.

Monday, April 29, 2013

How Do You Pick a Setting? By Linda S. Glaz

One of the things that’s hardest for me is getting my characters grounded in a setting. I know they’re in the kitchen of an old farmhouse, but how do I get that point across to the reader without a detailed account of the kitchen utensils?
I’ve noticed in a few contest entries, that I’m scratching my head, going back and rereading, and all in order to try and figure out where the characters are. Once I have to go back, I’m pulled out of the story, and no author wants to give their reader a reason to stop reading.
It would be nice and neat if we could envision a picture like above and know exactly what the characters are doing and where, but it isn’t always that simple. Settings can be in a place the reader has never been, or in a situation that makes the setting feel foreign.
My comfort zone wants to return again and again to a favorite place. Then I know where I’m at, but does it move the story forward or feel like déjà vu? Unless, of course, there is a particular importance for a certain setting to repeat itself.
How do you decide where you’ll take your reader, outside of the obvious settings that determine your genre. What makes you pick a porch swing over a cozy kitchen? A picnic over a formal restaurant? How and why do you make those relationships important to your story?

Friday, April 26, 2013

Marketing Is About Timing by Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Most of the time we finish a blog post and hit the button or we get an idea of something we want to share on Facebook and Twitter and we post or tweet. The majority of us don't take the time to think about when those posts and tweets will get the maximum exposure.

But think about it for a moment. 

People on the east coast of the US are not reading their morning email and social networks at the same time as people on the west coast because they are still sleeping three hours behind. There is even more of a time disparity on the other side of the world if we have international readers. Would someone be more likely to hit the delete button in the morning when they are wading through 100 emails rather than the afternoon when they are browsing through 20 or 30 emails? It's something to think about.

If you post something on social media, it risks rolling on and off your friend's and followers' newsfeeds before they log back on again if they aren't on when you post your news and info. Wouldn't you want to post at times that will ha

What about week days versus weekends? Which time frame will produce maximum results? Will it vary from our target audience whether we are targeting tweens and teens, Generation X and Y, or Baby Boomers? Business leaders or stay at home moms?

Believe it or not, marketers have conducted some studies on the best timing for posting things to certain social media sites and/or blogs. My advice is to not worry about this in your day-to-day social media marketing and blogging or it will drive you crazy. What I would suggest is to consider it on special campaigns and/or book launches. You can probably handle it for a temporary time and then go back to your daily activity.

Use HootSuite and your Blogger post settings to schedule posts and updates according to the infographic here

Schedule emails according to the infographic here

Have you seen these infographics before? Do you think they are helpful? Have you noticed a better time for response rates in your own marketing efforts?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Working the room like a county politician by Terry Burns

I just did a one hour workshop for the ACFW Richmond Chapter and a full day workshop for the Round Rock (Austin) ACFW Chapter. The one in Richmond we did via Skype, which was a first for me. It worked pretty well although the video was a little one sided. I could see them but they never did get the video of me.

The one in Round Rock was a whole lot of one presenter, but they were very interactive with a lot of good questions and input and the time went by very quickly. I did a segment on "how to develop a writer's personna" that was just the thing for a few of them. And of course, one on "Surviving your way to publication"

Then I went with "Editor and Agent pet peeves" that went over well. Those who attend conferences see programs on preparing a proposal and on doing the things they need to do to interest a editor or agent, but seldom do you see one on things to avoid. We had fun with that one.

Both groups really got into the Q and A session, particularly after I said "If you don't Q, I won't A." I even used some of the Richmond Questions at the Round Rock workshop to help prime the pump. Interesting that the number one pet peeve and the first question by both groups ended up being the same thing. The question was "what is the most common mistake you see in proposals?" The number one pet peeve answered it as most editors and agents listed that as "not looking up submission guidelines before submitting in order to send what the editor wants to see the way they want to see it."

Both groups were interested in how you get the right agent and not just anyone. Snagging an agent at all can be a challenge, but I told them it was a lot like dating. I suggested they talk to existing clients, to ask questions and to look to see what they are selling. But above all it is a personality matchup. Different gents have different strengths and an agent that is perfect for someone may not be right for someone else. And it can have a lot to do with finding one that loves your work and feels strongly about getting it into print.

I was asked which was more fulfilling, writing or helping other writers become published? Actually I don't get to write much anymore and I often miss it, but when I started doing this I made the decision that I would have greater impact getting a substantial number of books out for a number of writers than I could have getting a couple out in a year myself.

I was asked, "you have a good reputation for getting first time authors published, what's your secret?" There's no secret, I have a heart for new authors and work with a lot of them. I don't take projects unless I can see in advance that there is a clear path for it. Not that I ever guarantee I can sell a project but I know some editors that I can take it to up front or I don't tie it up. Also I'm willing to take projects wherever they need to go to get the writer started. Not every writer is ready for a major publisher although that would be the writer's preference . . . and mine as well.

"What's your most frequent reason for turning down a prospective client?" It isn't a fit for the markets that I'm working in or it is just not a caliber that it is ready to submit. The writing is the most important part, but often the proposal or even the cover letter tells us that fit is not there even before we get down to the writing. Mostly it has to be a project that really hits a chord with me.

Like I say, good groups and good questions.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Honoring the Life and Writing of Brennan Manning by Diana Flegal

Saturday April 13th I was in Hamilton Ohio presenting at the Mad Anthony Writers Conference. Just prior to lunch, I was checking my inbox via my phone when I saw this FB post from David C. Cook Publishers:

ANNOUNCEMENT: Author and Friend Brennan Manning went to be with Jesus yesterday. As Brennan challenged us time and time again "Define yourself radically as one beloved by God. This is the true self. Every other identity is illusion.” Brennan was a true Ragamuffin in Christ and is now celebrating with the Beloved. Our prayers are with Brennan's family.

When I read this, I wanted to go off in a corner and sob rather than eat lunch and chat about writing. I had lost a wonderful friend. Brennan had held my hand and spoke words of love and grace to me the last six years of my life, six difficult years. I never met Brennan face to face. But I knew him. Very well. A friend had introduced us. She was downsizing her library and moving into assisted living. She told me to help myself to her extensive personal library. I didn't want to be piggish, but I was salivating. She mentioned Brennan Manning as a favorite of hers and I came home with copies of his Ruthless Trust and Ragamuffin Gospel. At a later date, I added The Signature of Jesus, The Importance of Being Foolish and Souvenirs of Solitude when I came upon a collection at Half-Price Books. I was rich.

In Brennan's memoir, All is Grace- Philip Yancey said in the introduction:  and yet by different routes we had both stumbled upon an artesian well of grace and have been gulping its waters ever since. 

Yes,  I too gulped Grace along with Brennan. 

Brennan is a master of the art of piercing the soul with a gentle scalpel... John Ortberg 
Brennan writes with unvarnished honesty, and profound spiritual insight...Gary W. Moom
I found deep comfort in realizing Jesus loves even me, a ragamuffin, just as I am. Michael Card
Brennan does a masterful job of blowing the dust off shopworn theology and allowing God's grace to do what only God's grace can do--Amaze. Max Lucado

In the forward of the Ragamuffin Gospel, Michael W. Smith said, "Here was the purest picture I'd ever seen of God's relentless pursuit of His raggedy creation. Not that I could sin more so Grace could abound (Romans 6:15), but grace abounded more because I could find it in the darkness as much as in the light. God wanted me just as I am. I am loved. Brennan took every cliche' I had ever spouted or had spouted at me and turned it into gold". 

Authors, never doubt the power of your words. Words produce life or death in your reader. Choose them wisely, for they will outlive you.

Thank you Brennan.  I look forward to meeting you face to face. In the meantime, may I share the love of Christ with others as you have shown it to me by your life.


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Begin Recovery by Andy Scheer

I just had to reconstruct three pages of editing.

While I didn't enjoy the process, it yielded an improved result. Maybe that's also been your experience.

I'm a third of the way though a client's 85,000-word nonfiction manuscript. Using tracked changes on a file that large puts a strain on my three-year-old little computer.

A few previous system freezes convinced me of the need to save this file often, usually after editing each paragraph. But this afternoon I let nearly fifteen minutes elapse before the attempted save that caused the system to lock up.

So instead of editing another page or two fresh, I revisited three previous pages.

Recreating the most difficult editing came easily. Because I'd pondered the solutions, they remained caught in my short-term memory. Likewise the obviously needed changes, such as removing excessive use of italics and splitting long, complex sentences.

But with the hard edits and the easy edits out of the way, my eyes caught a fresh glimpse at passages that were okay, but could still benefit from polishing.

First drafts of editing are like first drafts of writing. There's nothing like taking a hard, fresh look at your work, whether a week later, the next morning, or after a crash.

Monday, April 22, 2013

What a Time we Live in…Linda S. Glaz

In the most detailed novel, we couldn’t imagine our country under attack as it was this last week. We all woke up with the promise of a wonderful day. Then folks began to share the news. Boston Marathon had been bombed. Then Texas was host to a huge explosion. And then the manhunt.
I wanted to use my blog space today to remind everyone. Life does go on. Our country is still the greatest nation in the world. And we WILL overcome, as we have in times past. But what does this all mean to us as writers?
As writers, I realize our minds are whirring a gazillion miles a second as the stories inevitably form in our heads. Some guilt accompanies those thoughts, but for the most part, it’s just the writer in us that sees a story amidst such destruction and it’s not exactly something we can even help.
As authors, we are those entrusted to write down happenings. To create a written history of what we see, hear, and perhaps even feel. And while those these feelings are too fresh to become a story for most of us, in months, or even years down the road, these feelings will find their way onto pages. We will soften the edges ever so slightly so that a reader can connect without being overwhelmed with gruesome details…just enough lest they forget.
Corrie Ten Boom may have come the closest in her depictions of the camps during WWII. But still, Corrie recorded it for generations to come.
One day, not in the too distant future, a brave soul will have a wonderful, though horrific, idea for a story based on our pain of last week. And he or she will have the courage to tell that story through some character’s eyes. And the sadness and heartbreak will be able to be absorbed by many readers.
God bless writers who have the courage to tell the stories that will let the generations never forget!

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Platform Debate for Emerging Hybrid Authors by Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Lately, I've seen lots of posts on the emerging trend of more writers becoming self-published and traditionally published authors turning to a combination of self-publishing and traditional as new Hybrid Authors. There are excellent reasons that have been given for pursing both avenues of publication.

If you follow Digital Book World, they are a wealth of information for anyone interested in self-publishing ebooks. Lots of agents and editors have written blog posts defending traditional publication. A few weeks ago, I wrote an article listing advantages and disadvantages to self-publishing on Midlist Authors Avoiding the Sinking Sand. But what about Hybrid Publishing? What are the advantages of doing both?

Some of these authors have arrived to the Hybrid status by doing well on their own as self-published and catching the eye of a publisher that later offered them a traditional publishing contract. Others have gone in the opposite direction and worked hard to become traditionally published. Later these traditional authors released old books as ebooks when they earned back the rights to their backlist or came up with a unique idea that a traditional publisher didn't want to risk investing in and the author decided to self-publish it.

Regardless of how these authors arrived to Hybrid status, it is safe to say that many are finding this third option a successful route with less of the stigma that was once associated with it. As time marches on and a new generation of authors, editors, agents and publishers are raised up in the digital culture without the "personal experience" of how things once were in print only, I would venture to say that the old stigma on these Hybrid Authors may blend in so much that it disappears altogether.

Why do I say this? Because history does repeat itself. We have seen similar circumstances in various business industries, cultures, inventions, and technologies. What the older generations continue to resist and refuse to adapt, new generations will carry forward and perfect.

I am NOT saying that the stigma of poorly developed stories, lack of good grammar and editing will miraculously disappear or that all self-published books are like this, but what I AM saying is that Hybrid Authors have proven themselves in the traditional market. Unlike self-published only authors who have not proven themselves in the traditional market, Hybrid Authors have this validation and are branding themselves in a new light.

The key to their success will be the same as it is with traditionally published midlist authors: Platform, Distribution & Sales. 

If Hybrid Authors can be successful at building their platform and marketing their books to promote sales--they will be successful either way--but keep in mind that everyone's measure of success is different. For instance, I'm not used to living on a medical doctor's income, so my definition of success in relation to what I can live on may be less than a medical doctor who transitions into being an author. It's the same with a school teacher vs a corporate attorney.

What about you? Do you think you could build your platform and market your books enough to be self-published, an Hybrid Author, or a midlist author? Do you think the stigma of self-publication will go away or is already diminishing? How much does marketing and platform pay a role?

Other Sources:
Expanding Options for Publishing: The New Hybrid Author
New York Times Article on Authors Going Indie Fails to Mention Main Consideration in Publishing
Why Big-Time Authors Jump Ship
5 Surprises About Self-Publishing
How Can I Make More Money Via Traditional or Self-Pub?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Open to New Clients - by Terry Burns

Am I open to new clients?

I get that a lot.

I get an email asking that question and they most of the time they could just skip to the next step, go to our submission guidelines at www.hartlineliterary.com and just send me a proposal because that's what I'm going to tell them.Oh, occasionally they say something in the note that causes me to know that there is no point in sending it, but a quick check of the submission guidelines can tell people what those situations are as well.

Many wish to check me out with my clients before they send and I encourage them to do so. I don't post the email addresses of clients but if the person knows one or more of them I believe they are all happy to tell about their experiences. If the person doesn't know one of them I still don't give out the addresses but if they will ask me I will ask my client group if 2-3 of them would like to initiate the contact from our end. Usually they are happy to.

I am getting quite picky, however, so be sure you send your best. I get a lot of really good things sent to me and I can just take a few. It can be a great project and I just don't connect with it, or maybe I don't see the market for it or feel I have the right contacts to get it to market. And I have a great group of people in my client group, people that connect closely with one another and support and pray for one another. I look for people that I can see fitting in with those terrific folks.

We do think career over here and try to help our authors grow. Over 80% of my clients have published since they signed with me no matter what we have had to do to make that happen. I'd like for that to be 100% but I know that will probably never happen. Doesn't mean I'm not shooting for it. It also has a lot to do with the goals and aspirations of the individual author and whether those goals are realistic for that individual work. And it has to do with the fact that I don't just sign projects then try to sell them, I see if I have a clear path for the project or I don't put it under contract.

That doesn't mean I guarantee to sell anything. But it means I do see solid potential or I don't take it. Am I open to new clients? Yes indeed . . . if it's the right project.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

7 Fear Removing Thoughts for Beginning and Stuck Writers by Diana Flegal

Returning from teaching at a recent writers conference I realized the thing I really accomplish in presenting my workshops is to remove the element of fear and get the writer to begin or continue in their journey.

While I highly recommend attending a writers conference for all of its benefits, I have listed below some fear removing thoughts for beginning and stuck writers to consider.

  • Every well published authors journey began with the first step, followed by the second. BEGIN
  • Editors and Agents are regular people passionate about words. As my Daddy used to say, "Everyone pulls their pants on same as you do. One leg at a time." Befriend and learn from them. Follow their blogs. FEAR NOT and FOLLOW
  • There are scads of free writers resources and helps available online. Google your need. Example: How to Write a Magazine Article. Your idea can be shaped and made print worthy. NO EXCUSES
  • Set realistic goals. Do not attempt to leap tall buildings in a single bound before you excel at the basics. Be patient and hone your skills. Writing is a journey not a sprint. PACE YOURSELF
  • Share your writing with other objective writers. LEARN from constructive criticism.
  • Rewrite as often as you need to. Write like mad. Write in the morning, evening, and in-between times as well. PRACTICE.

Please add to the list any fear busters you might think of to offer to those beginning or stuck in their writing journey. Always remember to be kind to others you meet at various spots along the path. Creatives are fragile. FRA-JIL-LE as my son and I like to say. Do not break them, I need the wisdom they have and look forward to learning from them once they sit and write it all down.

Happy over the hump day!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Where'd That Come From? by Andy Scheer

Yesterday I pulled a late-nighter.

I was on deadline for a book editing project. My normally reliable computer had decided it was time for my word-processing software to begin freezing—requiring a system restart each time.

Because the nonfiction project tipped the scales at just under 34,000 words, I'd scheduled myself to nibble away at the manuscript each day over the course of a month.

So by the time I finished editing the back-matter and began my final polishing pass through the entire manuscript, it had been some time since I'd reviewed much of it.

I knew that as I'd gone along, I'd used Track Changes to mark for the author the places where I felt an expanded example would help.

But I wasn't prepared for the surprise some of those insertions brought me. It's not that they were off-topic. Just the opposite. As the writer examined different fiction genres' special demands for dialogue, setting, research, and the like, I'd been able to pull examples out of my hat.

I hadn't particularly realized I was doing it. I'd just been applying the principle of FOKSIC (fingers on keyboard, seat in chair). But there on the screen in front of me last night I found an insertion about the use of symbolism in Frank Herbert's Dune—a book I've not read in thirty years. I'm grateful I had that in me, along with all the other memorable books I've read.

Amazing what you can accomplish a little at a time—especially with a looming deadline.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Bait on a Hook! by Linda S. Glaz

As a writer, have you ever felt like a lowly worm on a hook?
A friend recently told me she had received a contract for her work (which was nowhere, and I mean nowhere, ready for submission).
She asked me to have a look at the contract before she signed it, after having been assured by the publishing house that they only took the top few submissions that they received (remember, not even remotely ready for submission). Red flag.
The contract said they were a royalty paying house with absolutely no cost to the author. They also said that no one but the author should look at the contract. Hmmm….red flag number two and waving frantically.
Now, this story is adorable, and I hope one day she’ll be able to connect with a wonderful publisher, but this wasn’t the moment she’d been hoping for.
I’ll now become more hypothetical so as not to upset anyone’s apple cart. Let’s say that further in the contract they wanted her to use exclusively: their editors, marketers, publicity group, or some other extraneous individual for whom she would pay an exorbitant amount of money. Red flags, red flags, red flags all fluttering wildly in the breeze!!!
They had fed her ego with a big, fat worm, and reeled her in like a juicy trout. What were they actually offering? A publishing contract for which she would pay and pay dearly.
I want to say no one falls for this, but sadly, the hook, line, and sinker works more often than not. As authors who have been told no so many times, this looks like a great deal.
My heart breaks when I see folks headed down this path. They hear, “Your book is amazing,” and then long for that contract. But what are they actually getting? A vanity press no matter how it’s dressed up to look like a traditional publisher.
Bait on a hook, or bait and switch, whichever you prefer to call it.
Well, she was smart enough to have other eyes on the contract, and once she realized she was the worm and they were reeling in the line, she decided to wait a tad longer.
There’s no substitute for the real thing. Don’t let ego get in the way of polishing your work until it’s “ready” for submission. There are no short cuts.
Take your time and edit, polish, and edit some more.
There lie your best chances to success!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Are You Operating in Your Sweet Spot? by Diana Flegal

Vocation: the place where your deep gladness and the world's hunger meet
Fredrick Bulchner

My Pastor, Nick Honercamp, just completed a series on Worship and Ministry, wraping it up relating it all to our J.O.B.'s

When I saw this quote in a book I am currrently reading, I thought it complimented those recent messages.

He is definitely talking about operating in your sweet spot and your giftings.

Max Lucado's book, The Cure for the Common Life is one of those books that inspire a shift in one's life, changes the operating parameters- shakes things up and it never goes back to being the same. I like reading books like that. I am blessed to sit in a church each week and be challenged like that.

deep gladness meeting the worlds hunger I want to be all over that one. I have known that in snatches, and feel that my vocation as a literary agent could be described like this, sometimes. It has the potential to be that more often. I am asking God and the Holy Spirit to fine tune me to cooperate more fully so I might realize this on a daily basis.

How about you?

When you are writing, are you there in a place of deep gladness?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Twenty-dollar Proposals by Andy Scheer

I groaned when my wife brought me the Express Mail envelope.

Without opening it, I was nearly certain the sender had wasted his money. He'd gone to a lot of work, a considerable expense, and also made more work for me. Not a win-win situation.

Inside I found a neatly done cover letter, a brief proposal, and a fifty-page fiction sample. Without reading it, I was nearly certain I'd soon be sending him a rejection. What a shame.

By simple arithmetic, any writer contacting an agent for the first time has the odds stacked against him. Agents receive far more proposals from potential clients than they can possibly represent.

The work of deciding whether to decline becomes easier if the writer proposes something in a genre outside my expertise. Or if the sample chapters are laced with material I find offensive.

But in this case, the writer simply hadn't paid attention to the information on the Hartline website that four of the agency's five agents “accept ONLY e-mail submissions.” So I was expecting the proposal wouldn't cover — at least in any depth — the required information. It didn't.

Not surprisingly, the fiction style didn't impress me. The prose felt flabby—loaded with telling and double attributions (both a tag and a beat) for every line of dialogue, plus funky punctuation. I didn't enjoy spelling out my major reasons why I thought the piece was not yet ready for publication, but I felt the writer deserved at least some return for his twenty-dollar investment.

I just wish he had invested his postage money in a book from Writer's Digest, learned more about the craft, then emailed me a proposal — for free.