Thursday, June 27, 2013

Show me the market by Terry Burns

People come up at conference interviews and tell me their book is truly unique, that there is nothing like it on the market.

Know what a publisher hears when we say that? “There’s no market for this book.”

The role of comparables in a proposal is to do just that, to show what we feel the market for the book is by saying the books we are referring to are aimed at the same readers we are writing for, and those books are selling. They serve to define and quantify the market.

So what if we do have a project that is really unique? What if we are blazing new ground?

If that is the case, we have to not only sell a publisher on the project, but we have to show them the market. We need a marketing plan that identifies the people we think will be consumers of the book, show that we have the means (or can show the publisher the contact points) to contact those readers to sell them the project.

The more unique a project is the more likely a pitch is to garner the dreaded line, “I don’t see how I could sell that.” I believe the right response is to lay the problem right on the table with a publisher and say we know the problem with a unique submission is to define the market more than with other submissions. Then I would go on to show the markets I felt were appropriate and my plan for selling to them.

Our potential success in pitching a unique project hinges on our ability to accomplish this.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Personal Preferences and Markets by Diana L. Flegal

  "Prefer the familiar word to the far-fetched. Prefer the concrete word to the abstract. Prefer the single word to the circumlocution. Prefer the short word to the long."
—Henry Watson Fowler

Seeing this quote again at the end of an editors signature in an email reminded me why we have so many agents and Publishing houses to represent and sell books to.

At The Worship Studio's Monday night small group here in the River Arts district of Asheville NC we are continuing to learn about the specifics related to our unique giftings. Pattie Ann Hale asked us this question last time we met: Do you tend to hang out with those with similar gifts or those that you minister to with yours?

It was interesting to hear the various answers. Many of us said we prefer to have as our best friends and go to people those that 'got us' and shared our similar traits. For instance if one person was a high energy gifted (Prophet or Exhorter) they preferred to be around high energy people. But we all did agree that we have a variety of good friends of many 'flavors'. Primarily because the body of Christ is comprised of such.

Publishers all have their  strengths. They excel at publishing and selling certain genres and are known for this. This is a guide to us agents as to how we choose where to send a manuscript to. One editor said she does not do icky. I am guessing from what I know about her she is a mercy or servant primarily. Tenderhearted and compassionate. When she rejects a manuscript- she is generally kind and offers suggestions and sufficient reasons so the author will have something to move forward with. I appreciate her so much. Another editor always compliments us on a well done proposal and the uniqueness of the title, stating he wishes he could take it on. Affirming and helpful. I am guessing he is an exhorter. Some editors send agents form rejection letters. Or a few words expressing it is not a fit. I am thinking they might be a ruler or prophet. Busy bottom line people. All excel at their jobs, use their gifting in a way that pays their bills and meets a need for others.

The downturn in the economy had many publishers trying new things. Houses that had been primarily built on nonfiction titles- tried fiction and romance in particular. But they soon found out they did not know how to market this genre as well as the nonfiction. Lately we have seen a few large houses go back to their roots and strengths.

As writers, sometimes you are told by others, "You need to try to write this or that- the market is hungry for it. And you try, but frustration is your reward. As an agent, I have my likes and strengths. As mentioned last week, I am not one for the 70,000 word nonfiction. Give it to me in 45,000 to 50,000 words or less. I am always after the bottom line or takeaway. In romance, I struggle with the flowery prose and prefer the short romances to the long unless you have captured me in a great story line. Even then, I tend to advise my clients to 'not over do it'. :-) For me it is all about the story.

This year as I speak to my authors and spend time in introspection and personal discovery, I see this as a theme. A reversion back to what we know is our sweet spot. The crazy market and economy had set many of us in panic mode. We prayed and tried new things. Now we are allowing ourselves to refocus, to trust God regardless of sales and publishing contracts, to write and represent what we are the best fit for.

How has this been your experience and how may we pray for you as you transition?


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Writing on the Cheap by Andy Scheer

I know writers who never scrimp on their tools: top-of-the-line Macs with huge screens, pricey ergonomic chairs and desks, and elaborate offices.

But recently as wildfires blazed a few miles away and I decided to take detailed photos of every room in the house, I realized how easy it can be to write on the cheap.

I don't mean just legal pads and pencils—as handy as they are for jotting ideas that come in the midst of another project. I mean outfitting a twenty-first century writing space.

In this past weekend's newspaper, an office supply store advertised a fifteen-inch laptop for about $300—just a bit more than I paid for my netbook three years ago. If I were editing videos, I'd need more horsepower, but for writing and text editing, I can't complain—especially since I connect to a seventeen-inch flat screen I got at a garage sale for twenty dollars.

What about software? That depends on your preferences and pocketbook. For years I've used the word-processing, spreadsheet, and presentation software offered for free download from Open Office. For any project I've ever tried, they're compatible with the products from Redmond, Washington. Recently I've been hearing I'd be even happier with the free office suite from LibreOffice. I like having choices.

But free software doesn't stop there. People say my GIMP photo editing software isn't as user-friendly as the program Adobe sells. But they also say it's just as useful.

Then there's virus protection and anti spyware and malware software. Same price. Unsure if free software is worth the cost? Ask a computer geek. If they're good enough for a programmer to use on his own machines …

Printers? I've had great success with the black-only laser printer from Brother that I bought for significantly less than a C-note. And it performs just fine with the fifteen-dollar compatible cartridges I order online.

Paper? A few times a year my wife and I visit a big office supply store, coupons in hand, and come away with several reams that end up costing a dollar each.

Desk and chairs? I'm fussy about those since I'm taller than many. But at garage sales in upscale neighborhoods, I've recently seen nice ones for ten to twenty dollars. As long as they're adjustable enough to get comfy, who cares about some scuffs? My eyes should be focused on the screen.

If you've splurged on your equipment, I hope you enjoy it—and that your sales more than cover your costs. As for me, I enjoy writing on the cheap.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Writer’s Blog from Joyce’s client, bestselling author, Ace Collins (A condensed version of this blog was recently on the Christian Writer’s Guild website.)

by Ace Collins

I was recently asked who was my career role model? I know the person who tossed that question my way certainly expected my answer to spotlight one of a few thousand bestselling, award-winning authors that I have followed and read over the years. Yet, my response likely created a bit of shock and surprise as I cited not a Twain, Hemmingway or Cussler, but rather a product of the famed Warner Bros. Studios and it wasn’t even a human. My role model was either born or created, that depends upon your viewpoint, on September 17, 1949. Much more than any writer I know, it is Wile E. Coyote who possesses the attributes needed by every author.

Wile E. is first and foremost inventive. He is constantly coming up fresh ideas to achieve his goals. He simply doesn’t stick to the same formula, but rather learns from his mistakes and moves forward with new approaches. He is not afraid of technology, but instead sees it as offering new and better ways of becoming more productive. He is therefore not stuck in the past but lives on the cutting edge.

Next Wile E. has such a strong desire to succeed that it allows him to overlook the obvious odds against him. Where others give up, he surges forward. He never takes his eye off the prize or allows a few failures to cause him to shift his career goals. He ultimately believes he will succeed.

Though Wile E. lives a fairly solitary existence that does not prevent him from consulting others as he looks to expand his knowledge and expertise. He not only seeks out the advice of the folks at Acme, but he had an extensive library that includes such works as How To Build a Burmese Tiger Trap, Hunting Birds, The History of Speed and How To Sail. In other words, he does his homework, he constantly studies and expands his mind and he is not afraid of teaming with others to reach his goals.

But maybe the most important thing I have learned from Wile E. is to never give up. He believes in his quest to the point where nothing will stop him. Therefore he will take risks that would seem completely illogical to a mathematical mind knowing that those risks often provide the greatest rewards and the best chance of finding true satisfaction. So he doesn’t see rejection as a sign of failure, but just another challenge to be addressed.

Anyone in the creative field is apt to experience far more failure than success. We crash and burn much more than those who stick to the normal routes through life. Yet if we truly believe in our message then we press forward because we feel our stories are worth all the pain experienced in trying to get them to the public. In other words, we are like that coyote who is constantly trying to capture the prize; even a lifetime of rejections can’t keep us from continuing to do what we feel called to do. And neither should a few rejections keep you from your calling either!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Reasons Why Your Friend Requests & Follows Aren't Reciprocated

I hear it all the time, people complain that they follow others and send friend requests, but few follow back and their friend requests are ignored or rejected. After a while, they begin to feel like this social media thing is just a bunch of hype and isn't working--or at least not working for them.

Here is a perfect example: 
Recently, someone sent me a connection request on LinkedIn. I did not know this person and so I went to their user profile to learn more about them. Nothing. Since this person could have been anyone with any kind of issue--the obvious comes to mind--stalkers, predators, and men pretending to be women so they will be accepted and have access to certain profiles, etc, I rejected the request. Later, I found out this person is new  on one of my email loops. I don't pay attention to this loop due to all the chatter, and I end up deleting most of the posts, therefore, I didn't know about her.

You may be thinking that you are protecting yourself by not filling out your profile, but it can also work against you. Those of us who are trying to promote ourselves and our work will need to find a balance regarding how much information we need to reveal. If you have a hidden profile, it doesn't give people who don't know much information to make an informed decision on whether or not they want to give you access to THEIR lives. The key is balanced caution.

I thought it might be helpful if I gave a checklist of reasons why your friend requests and follows aren't reciprocated so you can take action to make your social media efforts more productive.

  • You're profile is empty, hidden or too vague. When people are trying to make a decision if they have something in common with you such as friends, interests, and if you post offensive things, they need to be able to see "something" from your profile. You can post a bio, photo and a few things of interest and what you do without giving away your life's secrets. 
  • You use an image of something else besides yourself. When people comment on your posts and connect with you, it helps to feel like they know who they are talking to.
  • Too many useless posts that do not inspire, help others, or educate and inform. It's called being too noisy and cluttering people's timelines, especially on Twitter. 
  • Too much self promotion. Your announcements and self promotion should range between 15% - 20%  of ALL your posts. Layer in the promotion and try not to make them consecutive. When you're in the midst of a book launch and a special campaign, the percentage may rise to 20% - 25% of your posts, but make sure this is for a limited time.
  • Posting spam. Don't repost and retweet without reading what you are sharing. If you start forwarding and sharing spammy posts, you will ruin your credibility with your followers and they will not be able to trust you. Also, don't post your announcements on someone's page.
  • You're posts aren't interesting. You need to make sure you target your reader's interest. Why did they start following you? Why are they following your competition? How can you change the angle of what you post to make it more interesting to your readers, where they will "get" the connection to themselves? Don't be repetitive. Spice things up and take advantage of trends and things that happen in a tasteful, not self-serving way. 
  • Too much automation. Some automation and scheduling ahead of time is expected and necessary. However, if you do not respond to people who send you direct messages, ask questions, or comment on your posts, it will become obvious that you are not engaged and automating your social media. 
  • You automate all your social media. If you post the same message on FB, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube and Google+, it's obvious you are on automatic pilot. People don't need to hear/read/see the same message 4-5 times on on the same day. If someone is being loyal enough to follow you on multiple channels, you should be courteous enough to post something different or at least stagger the messages at different times and on various days. 
  • You don't know the varying cultures of each social media channel. The kinds of posts that go viral on Twitter do not always have the same effect on FB and Google+ and vise versa. People are willing to tolerate more tweets on Twitter than posts on FB in a given day. Hashtags and @ symbols and abbreviations are used on all social media sites, but understood and used more effectively by Twitter.users.
  • People forget to be professional and courteous to others. You have a right to your opinion, but so does everyone else. Being offensive, controversial, argumentative, and unprofessional will make people reject, unfollow and unfriend you faster than any other annoying pet-peeve. 
  • Too quiet and inactive. If people see that you haven't posted or tweeted in a couple of years or months, most will unfollow you. Social media is meant to have a measure of socialization. If you fail to keep your end of the bargain then they won't be losing anything when they flush their friend and follow list to streamline their activities. Temporary silence is different, especially if you go on vacation, fast the  Internet, or take breaks for other reasons. Just post that you are taking a break and most people will be forgiving and await your return. 
What other reasons do you unfriend and unfollow that are not listed? Are you guilty of any of these? Are you more tolerant of something on one channel than another?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The hat by Terry Burns

People may not remember me, but they tend to remember the hat. And it’s such a beautiful hat. I have a lot of them but it is the top of the line that I only wear at conferences and special events. It is part of my persona, part of how I present myself to perform the role of a literary agent.

Ladies love when I tip my hat to them and often comment on it. It was how I was raised and is a common act where I come from. This act of showing respect is handed down from the days of medieval knights who used to raise the visor hiding their face to show friendliness. That's also where the military salute came from.

I was at a conference in Canada and they were interested that I wore my hat at meals. I told them that came from the days when guys used to hang their hats on pegs by the front door, but when they started getting stolen a lot they started wearing them to eat. Also, good western hats are very expensive and since it harms them to set them brim down they have to be set upside down on the crown. The floor can be dirty in public eating places. If there is a nice safe place for it I will probably remove it. I told them it was part of a “hat etiquette” and that caused an impromptu workshop on just what was involved in “hat etiquette.”

Yes, we do tip our hats to ladies and remove it to talk to one. We don’t tip our hat to men as that would be akin to calling them a woman.

No, we do not wear our hats in church and remove it at any other time and clutch it to our chest if we pray. For some religions just the opposite is true and the head must be covered in a church. A woman may wear a hat in church.

Yes, we remove them in a theater for obvious reasons.

No, we don’t wear them in the house.

Yes, if we are in trouble we toss them in the front door. If it is not thrown back out it is safe to follow it in.

No, we don’t wear them in an elevator, unless it is very crowded.

Absolutely we remove it for the national anthem and when our flag is passing as well as when a hearse passes in a funeral possession.

Yes, in a church a woman may wear their hat as well as for the above occasions. Why the difference? Historically, men’s hats are easily removed but women’s hats have been not so easily removed. If a woman is wearing a baseball hat or a hat similar to what a male wears they are subject to the same rules as men except they don’t tip their hats to anyone.

No, we don’t toss them on a bed, that is considered bad luck. I don’t know the origin of that one.

Removed hats are held in such a way that only the top and the brim are visible, never the lining.

No, I mentioned we do not set them brim down. That can ruin the shape of the brim which is usually lower in front and back than on the sides. Also, there is a gentle curve to the hatband that causes it to conform more comfortably to the head and that can be damaged by setting it brim down.

Yes, we have to send it through a scanner at an airport.

No, we don’t like to, those things are dirty.

Yes, they keep off the sun and the rain but we don’t like to get our best hats wet. Who wants a speckled hat and if they get wet enough, well, they are felt after all and we sure don’t want a floppy hat.

No, it is not good etiquette to touch another person’s hat.

Yes, some of the ‘rules’ are regional in nature and vary in different parts of the country. And in parts of the country some of the rules don’t seem to apply to baseball hats.

No, we do not wear them at an outdoor wedding. We do occasionally have western weddings where the groom wears his hat and if that is the case the audience may follow suit.

Yes, we tip the hat as a response when a lady thanks us for rendering assistance or some courtesy.

And finally, yes, a good hat can last many years and is often passed down to children or grandchildren. The wearing of hats seems to be making a comeback but the younger generation has grown up without knowing this etiquette in many parts of the country. In our part of the country . . . not so much.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Common but Anointed for Spiritual Service by Diana L. Flegal

We have been discussing writing from our unique gifting and what that might look like.

Yesterday when I walked into our local large box bookstore, I scanned the shrinking selection on the shelves, gravitating to the ones that held my particular interest, ignoring many others.

So many titles, yet I will like and benefit from just a few.
Why? Because I am a snobby reader. We all are. Readers and writers come in varied ‘flavors’. There is room for us all. There is a need for us all.
Janice Elsheimer in her book: The Creative Call, say: “…if you have a sincere desire to use the gifts God has given you, and you are willing to do your part, God will be faithful to do His. Your part is to honor and develop the gift in you- His part is to help you find the time and resources to do that and to use what you create to His glory.”  It is not arrogant to believe you have a talent worth sharing.
Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor will not be in vain. I Corinthians 15:58
Nick Honerkamp recently said in a message on ‘anointing’, “The anointing of God separates the common from the holy… brings the presence and purpose of God to everyday common stuff...for a holy purpose”.
For some the purpose of their words is strictly to entertain. To provide a temporary escape for the reader from the stresses of everyday life. They might accomplish this with  humor or a mystery/suspense. Either way- for the time one is reading they are not thinking about their troubles.
Another writer shares his personal struggle in a beautifully transparent memoir, coming alongside one who is suffering that valley now, offering them hope that they will come out the other side.
Another frames a historical romance in various geographical locations, reminding the reader of God’s creative genius and that He is a God who initiated His love to us through a divine love story.
Another writes about steps to personal healing and wholeness in a Self Help or Christian Living guide or helps us lose weight with a cookbook, or writes a poignant devotional that starts ones morning on an encouraging note.
All good things, all fine endeavors. But your particular gifting and life experience will lead you toward one form and another brother or sister down a different path.  We need to celebrate those differences, and make room for them all. One is not more holy than another. Each has its place. Yes, even the debut authors still writing clumsy sentences. They will refine their writing along the way.
We need to stifle that critic. Just as we do not get the chance to choose our physical family members, we do not choose the members in the body of Christ – God has set each one in- with a holy purpose and call- and we need them- and need to honor them for their gifts and strengths. It might not be your bent, but that is okay. Every joint supplies. Iron is needed to sharpen iron.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Sensory Writing by Andy Scheer

I woke up the past two mornings smelling smoke.

The trouble is, I'm not at my sister and brother-in-law's camp in the middle of Michigan's Upper Peninsula—a place where that scent evokes memories of campfires, marshmallows, and watching the first stars emerge.

Instead I'm living in northeast Colorado Springs, a few miles from where thousands of acres and hundreds of homes have burned in our second summer of wildfires.

The past two nights as the winds shifted, a cloud of smoke descended over the city with the scent of raw destruction. A scent I once enjoyed now sets my nerves on edge.

In the past few weeks in other communities, people I know have encountered days of flooding and killer tornadoes—events with a signature of scents, sounds, and textures that will always remind them of the events they've just endured.

No wonder, then, that the most powerful writing uses sensory imagery beyond the visual.

I reflect on a novel I just trudged through—largely because new examples of British naval fiction in the age of sail are so scarce. The author was careful to get the nautical details right. Each time a ship changed course, the crew reset the sails. He gave me the statistics of the ships and their crews. But he failed to convey a true sense of place.

Through hundreds of pages I never smelled salt air, or gunpowder, or an infected wound in the overcrowded sickbay. I never tasted salt pork, weevil-filled ship's biscuit, or a glistening, gelatinous pudding. I never felt a freshly holystoned deck or listened to a battered fiddle screech out a shanty.

And I never really connected with the story.

Maybe I'm just unusually attentive to sensory details. But I don't think so. When I read your story I hope I can hear it, smell it, taste it, and feel it.