Friday, February 27, 2015

My Thoughts Concerning Family Christian Stores by Joyce Hart

There have been numerous articles about the Family Christian Stores (FCS) Chapter 11 bankruptcy. It is upsetting that the largest chain store company in the U.S. has to reorganize in order to stay in business. They owe $40 million dollars to Christian publishers & vendors. Apparently their total debt is $100 million. This chain was bought by a Christian company that promised to give all of its profit to other ministries. Another strange part of this is that the person who wants to buy the chain is already an owner, through a non-profit company. The sale price is reputed to be $78 Million of which only $28 million is cash. 

Besides owing Christian Publishers $40 million in invoices, the petition asks to keep the product brought in on consignment without paying for it. That’s another $20 million owed to Christian Publishers and Vendors. 

I read an article about Barbour Publishing in Uhrichsville, OH and it said that Barbour has laid off some of their employees and that Tim Martins, President and CEO, stated that it was partly because of the FCS Bankruptcy. Will this happen at other publishers?  I surely hope not, but it could happen when FCS owes one company $7.5 million and another one $2 million. Plus, how many small companies do they owe amounts like maybe $100,000 or $50,000. This could devastate a small business, perhaps put them out of business. What will this do to the industry. I believe CBA publishing will survive, but there will have to be adjustments in several areas. It will affect publishers and authors in an already tough industry.

At the same time Family Christian Stores does not plan to close any stores or lay off any employees. Will this only profit the owners of the FCS? Will I want to buy my Christian product at my local store anymore?  I’m a very good customer at my local store, have been for many years. I even received a gift one year for being a top customer. I don’t know if I’ll feel comfortable trading with them. This is hurting the industry that I love. 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Personality and Taste by Terry Burns

How does personality and taste enter in to getting published?

Actually it is very important. A number of years ago I was at a conference at Texas A & M and sat in a workshop on communication. That was in the 70’s and he gave an illustration that has stuck with me to this day.

He said to imagine that we had a box with index cards in it. (OK, today this would probably be a computer file.) On these index cards were written the sum total of our life experiences and background. A card would have our family background and upraising, another our education, our faith and beliefs, and on and on with all of the aspects of our life.

Now imagine that everyone has such a box. Before we write something, or communicate with anyone in any manner we thumb through the box and frame our communication according to the cards, we frame it in terms of our knowledge and life experiences.

The problem is that the person or persons that we are trying to communicate with have totally different boxes that they will thumb through and will use to decipher our writing or message. We will be successful in our writing and in our communication to the degree that we are able to find common ground with the maximum number of people.

That puts a whole new face on it, doesn’t it? But let me be more specific about submissions for publication. I’m likely to want to work with a project if the author and I find this common ground. They seem like a person I would want to work with. Then there is the project itself, is it something I really relate to? Do I like it, enjoy reading it, or more importantly do I really want to try and get it into print? That’s where personality and taste enter in, I relate to the author and to the project.

But it doesn’t end there. If I take it on I am then faced with finding the right acquisition editors. Again, are they people that I relate to well, is there a personality fit? More important do we have similar tastes? Just because I really like something doesn’t mean it fits a particular editors taste and they like it as well. Cultivating these editors with similar tastes is an ongoing process.

The most important thing is stellar writing, but the path to publication is through people. And there personality and taste matter.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Writers, Ask Yourself the Hard Questions by Diana Flegal

With the permission of my Pastor, Nick Honerkamp, I want to share points I gleaned from a message he gave us at New Covenant Church a while back titled, The Meaning of Work.

Consider the key principles in Acts 7:13 Key that tie our work to our calling.

Every human has a 1) vertical calling (intimacy with God), 2) a common calling (love one another), and a 3) specific calling (work). Unfortunately, you cannot turn to a specific verse that says you are called to be a plumber, mechanic or artist. Number 3 is dependent upon fulfilling numbers 1 and 2.

If you submit to communion with God (vertical) and communion with your fellow human beings (common or horizontal) you will then find your identity (work). It is impossible to find this without the Holy Spirit illuminating it.

As they fasted and prayed, the Holy Spirit told them to separate Paul and Barnabas out for a specific purpose.

When God calls us, it is by name and specific (unique). God put in us a need to eat, which forces us to work. We then discover our value.  Note: Age never disqualifies us. Till our last breath we can be useful.

Work: provides us with meaningful activity, shows us what we are good at, and gives us clues to our calling. All of our struggles with work are good.

My struggles showed me a lot of things about myself. I now know; for me to enjoy my work there must be a mission attached to it. I am a ‘helper’ and ‘reformer’.  (A recent personality test I took confirmed that for me.)

In the past I was determined to please others with my work.  And in that determined effort I lost, to a large degree, the quirky unique person God made me. It was hard to deny who I was ,and there certainly was no joy in it. I am now in the process of regaining what the enemy has stolen. Perfectly positioned in Asheville, N.C. to do that. 

As with most helper/ reformers, I also want you to find your sweet spot, your unique gifting that will take your writing to a higher level, or lead you into your specific unique calling.

As a writer, that struggle might be placing your WIP (work in progress) in the night stand drawer and writing the story you know you are meant to write. Regardless of what others tell you will sell. Then rewrite it, and rewrite it, until it is polished.

For someone else it means you need to acknowledge you are a reader and not a writer. Like myself. I am an appreciator of words. And I have found a way to work with that.  An agent helps writers find a publishing home for their polished work. Another one like me might become a professional book reviewer, or a social media expert who promotes writers in the market place.

Struggle. Listen to the constructive criticism.

You desire to tell/write your personal story. After several failed attempts, it could be you are to hire a ghost writer. Same desire, better outcome.  

Bottom line. If something is not working, try something else. Bob Newhart keeps it simple here with his advice: Stop it! PLEASE take a moment to watch this entertaining video. It might change your life’s path.

Your square peg was never meant to be pounded into a round hole.

If you know you are a writer, then keep at it regardless of the rejections or what your Uncle Louie says. But if you are not succeeding, allow yourself to ask the tough questions. Maybe it is a misplaced desire or perhaps you are in the infancy of your writing journey and have much to learn before you will be ready to publish.   

You can view and listen to Pastor Nick’s complete message here. I highly recommend it.



Tuesday, February 24, 2015

What's Your Brand? by Andy Scheer

When readers, reviewers, editors, and bookstore buyers see your name, what comes to mind?

The topic of branding isn't limited to writers in the realm of Tom Clancy, Nora Roberts, Clive Cussler, or Mary Higgins Clark. Or even those who write fiction.

This morning's email from a specialty publisher reminded me once again how branding doesn't have to be large-scale and nebulous. It can be highly focused and quite down to earth.

The promo encouraged me to purchase Organic Growing with Worms by David Murphy. “Australia has long been recognised as World leaders in growing and using worms,” the press release said, “and David Murphy is their guru.”

As someone who is far from being that book's target reader, I never suspected Murphy's brand was “worm guru.” But there was the evidence, six previous titles on the topic:
Worms for Everyone
Worms for Worm Farmers
Worms for Farmers
Worms for Greenhouse
Worms Gardeners
Worms for Waste Managers

He supposedly has a loyal following, including an “Australian farmer who … writes of doubling his carrying capacity in a few years and at the same time eliminating all fertiliser purchases” and a “big South African cropper [who] reported a trebling of her millet crop!”

What can this mean to you, with no aspirations to be the next worm guru creating “the best book on worms ever written”?

First, be grateful that you're free to be you, whatever your writing interests.

Then, whatever your writing style and expertise, make the most of them. Write – and market yourself – accordingly.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Just What is the Answer? by Linda S. Glaz

Is everyone just playing it cool with the 15% drop in Christian fiction, or are they hiding behind a mask of “let’s keep all the worries in-house?”
I don’t think folks would be completely forthcoming if they said they were not worrying at all. When any drop occurs, most everyone scrambles a bit to try and understand what went wrong. What can be done to turn it around? How will it affect OUR bottom-line? Then we all try to remember that God is in control. In fact, it becomes a favorite mantra. And for good reason.
After a few well-meaning blog posts, authors call their agents, send urgent emails, cry on each others’ shoulders. Will we ever get published? Who will want our work if X closes and Y cuts back? What’s going to happen if they all close down?
So it begins: another round of looking into the crystal ball. It may be that from time to time this agent or that, this editor or that, will have a truly awesome equation that they believe shows the industry’s compass. And time and again, some of those same folks have been right. Some very wrong.
The one thing that I continue to harp on to my clients is: write what you love, what you are called to write. Write the absolute best that you can. No quick or rushed work. Pour your heart onto the pages. Leave nothing behind. Then let your agent do his or her best to get your work into the right hands.
How do you feel as unpublished authors about the direction of the industry?
How do you published authors feel?
Any well-educated guesses about how this will all play out? Will we see it create more of a blurring of the lines between inspirational and secular fiction?

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Work Behind the Scenes by Terry Burns

There are a lot of things about being an agent that I really like. First and foremost is probably helping writers get their work out in front of readers, particularly Christian writers. I don’t mind making a little money in the process but that’s not why I do it. I like helping debut authors get started and often rank high on the list of agents placing debut authors. I probably do too much of that if I want to make any money at it, but again money is not why I do this.

I like presenting to conferences and workshops. Way back when I took a test to see what my special gifts are and one of them was the gift of encouragement. When I work these events I’m always looking for a good project to represent, but more than that I’m doing it to encourage writers.

I look at lots of submissions, several hundred a month, and this is a two edged sword. I like seeing what people have to offer, marvel at the creativity I get to see. But I hate having to tell them I can’t represent them. I get quite a bit that is really not ready to go, but I also get a lot of writing that is good and I wish I could do something with it. But it is either something I just am not working in a market for it right now, or even though it is good, it isn’t good enough to compete with other projects that are being submitted at the same time. That’s a shame but it is how the business works.

I’m also sorry that I can’t give them an in-depth response on why and on what they could do to better it. I’d love to be able to do that, but I just don’t have time to critique hundreds of submissions. It just isn’t possible.

I’m not crazy about doing the business part, and neither are authors. My clients depend on me to do a lot of things they want to do, but some things they have to do for themselves. Fortunately there is an awesome lady in the central office, Elizabeth, that does a bunch of it for me and I greatly appreciate it.

Another hard part I don’t think many people realize or appreciate. The simple task of keeping track of all the balls that are up in the air. Now you have to understand that my degree (and the graduate work that I did) is in business with a minor in accounting. My personal books are a full set of double-entry books that I have kept since the 60’s. I have good records.

I carry that over into being an agent. The central office helps me keep track of the money as it all goes through them. But the double-entry bookkeeping has carried over into tracking projects. I keep two databases: one is alphabetical by client where I track all of the submissions that I have out for them and the other is by editor/publisher where I track all of the submissions made to them. That gives me a check that hopefully keeps me from dropping the ball on something that has been submitted. Unfortunately something still falls through the crack now and then and I really, really hate it when that happens.

I do the same thing with incoming submissions. I do respond to all submissions so if somebody hasn’t heard from me in 90 days they should follow up because I usually respond much sooner than that. Again, that log is to help me keep from dropping the ball, but again it happens now and then.

I don’t want to do all this record keeping but even more so I want to keep these dropped balls at a minimum. Just thought you might like to know a little more about what’s happening behind the scenes.