Monday, November 15, 2010

So Long for Now!

Dear Blog Followers,

This post is in the form of a letter because that's how I've communicated my plans with my other friends and colleagues.

The Lord and I have had a few come-to-Jesus moments in the last month, and He finally won. My husband Mike is in 100% agreement.

After much thought, prayer, pushing, and prodding, I have cancelled all freelance work, workshops, conferences, and blog postings for this next year. In short, I'm retiring . . . for now.

Some of you may know that I battle fibromyalgia, depression, anxiety, and probably chronic fatigue syndrome, but what you don't know is that those conditions aren't under as much control as I wanted people to believe. Over the years I've learned to compensate and push through the pain and disguise it from employers and friends.

But I never know when I'll have a bad day or week, and when I do my life comes to a grinding halt. Not a good thing when I must work on deadline. Work stress has played a large part in exacerbating my problems.

Rest and restoration will be my bywords for the next year.

I'll finish out the 2013 contracts for Abingdon, and then after selling our house we'll head to Florida to live near our granddaughter. I wish I were there now walking on the beach.

I don't know what God has for me on the other side of this season, but the Lord has made it abundantly clear this is the right choice. A dear friend and author, Cynthia Ruchti, shared a Scripture with me that will carry me through.

"But we encourage you . . . to seek to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands . . . so that you may walk properly in the presence of outsiders and not be dependent on anyone."
--I Thessalonians 4:10b-11, Holman Bible.

I've never given myself permission to lead a quiet life; hard work is all I've known since I was 19. I'm now 62.

The NIV version of that verse reads to make it your "ambition" to lead a quiet life. I’m seeking a quiet and peaceable life. It’s a foreign concept in today’s world where position and money are the yardsticks of success. Yet Jesus encouraged His followers to store up treasure in heaven.

Interesting . . . my decision to retire comes during our 30-Day Prayer Challenge for the Christian publishing industry, which ends tomorrow. As I’ve prayed, I’ve changed, and I've observed a few major changes in the book business:

  • Christian books sales have dipped for the fourth straight month.
  • Summerside Press has been sold to Guideposts.
  • The sales of digital books are increasing.
In Christian Retailing, David Almack, U.S. Director of CLC International, which publishes books and runs CLC Bookcenters in the Philadelphia area and New Jersey, has called on book sellers to return to their first love.
"In our current economic environment, I have come to the conclusion that we must all become avid readers or we will die," he said.
He challenged book sellers to turn off their televisions, put down their cell phones, and take a fast from Facebook. I would add, if you don't read, how can you sell books?

Doom and gloom? Not at all. I think the CBA industry faces challenging times, but bold new leaders will emerge. They will take the baton and run the next lap of this race. Will one of them be you?

So long for now, dear friends. May the Lord bless and keep you and make His face to shine upon you. In Jesus name, amen.

Blessings,
Barbara

* * *

This is day #29 in our 30-day Prayer Challenge for the Christian book industry. What changes have you noticed? Please share your prayers and thoughts with us in the comment section below.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Mark Twain and the Topic of Weather

Recently, my friend and Abingdon author Rita Gerlach (Surrender the Wind) introduced me to a little known book by Mark Twain titled The American Claimant published in 1892. The only parts I’ve read so far are the prologue and his appendix, and I must confess, they are the most innovative I've ever read.

Now I know what you’re thinking. Editors tell you to never write a prologue. That’s because most authors use them as a back story dump, and most people don't read them. If you can write a prologue like Twain’s, have at it.

In this post, I’ll kill two birds with one stone—yes, a cliché I know—but quite apropos in this circumstance. Editors also tell you to never start a novel describing the weather. Who cares if giant raindrops reflect back your tears?

And an appendix is usually unnecessary in fiction. But I didn’t realize that Mark Twain felt as vehement about the topic of weather as I learned in his prologue. This is unusual, but I want you to read the whole thing. I needed a laugh this morning.

* * *
THE WEATHER IN THIS BOOK

No weather will be found in this book. This is an attempt to pull a book through without weather. It being the first attempt of the kind in fictitious literature it may prove a failure, but it seemed worth the while of some dare-devil person to try it, and the author was in just the mood.

Many a reader who wanted to read a tale through was not able to do it because of delays on account of the weather. Nothing breaks up an author’s progress like having to stop every few pages to fuss-up the weather. Thus it is plain that persistent intrusions of weather are bad for both reader and author.

Of course weather is necessary to a narrative of human experience. That is conceded. But it ought to be put where it will not be in the way; where it will not interrupt the flow of the narrative. And it ought to be the ablest weather that can be had, not ignorant poor-quality, amateur weather. Weather is a literary specialty, and no untrained hand can turn out a good article of it. The present author can do only a few trifling ordinary kinds of weather, and he cannot do those very good. So it has seemed wisest to borrow such weather as is necessary for the book from qualified and recognized experts—giving credit, of course. This weather will be found over in the back part of the book, out of the way. See Appendix. The reader is requested to turn over and help himself from time to time as he goes along.
* * *
How clever! How wry! How sardonic! Mark Twain in all his glory. In the Appendix to The American Claimant he offers the reader “Weather for Use in This Book.” Evidently, writing about weather was a problem in his era too.

Did I ever tell you that my paternal grandmother was his second cousin? Yep, Missourians all.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone! (And yes, I know the exclamation point police are on their way. I just heard the sirens.)
* * *

This is day #19 in our 30-day Prayer Challenge for the Christian book industry. Please share your prayers and thoughts with us in the comment section below.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Don't Forget to Vote Today

The future of our country may depend on your single vote. God bless America!

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Life of a Freelancer Takes Faith

This will be a short posting today because I'm feeling a bit puny, as my mother would have said, so I'm sacked out on the sofa watching Fox News and election coverage. I spent the last week working for Abingdon, and this weekend, I finished a children's book about Joseph. I have two other projects waiting in the wings.

Deadlines are deadlines. Delivery of a quality project is essential. If the work takes longer than you anticipate, you still need to come through for the customer. For me, it took rolling out of bed at 5 a.m. on both Saturday and Sunday.

My goal is to manage my time better and take weekends off. It might not be possible. Every freelancer I know works weekends, nights, early mornings, and rarely takes time off. When they have a lull in business, they play and pray for more work.

Tomorrow I'll finish up a short edit and the day after I start on a manuscript-length macro edit. I also have the possibility of writing a work-for-hire fiction book for teens. The pay is good, but I won't receive any royalty, and I have a feeling the deadline will be short. I can see more 5 a.m. start times even if I get the job. It takes faith to walk this road.

But enough about me.

Are you still praying for the CBA book industry? I expect to see movement in this area with all of you praying for owners, executives, editors, authors, marketing and sales people, production people, and book buyers and sellers.

These are tough times for the book business, but I have great faith that prayer makes a difference. We may not know the outcome in our lifetime, but I do believe the God of the universe has made adjustments because of our pleas. May He bless each and every one of you now and forever. Amen.

* * *
This is day #15 in the 30-day Prayer Challenge for the Christian book industry. Please share your prayers and thoughts with us in the comment section below.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

What Every Writer Wants

Lately, I’ve had a lot of conversations with authors who want one thing in life: to quit their day jobs so they can write full-time. Let’s look at the odds of that happening.

I don’t want to discourage anyone, but the truth is that there are at least 75,000 to 80,000 books published every year in America . . . maybe more. And this week I read that only about 200 or so writers make enough money to stay home and write full-time. I’d give you the source, but I can’t remember where I read that stat; I only remember that it slapped me upside the head with reality.

So should you stop writing? Of course not. But you do need to establish the reason why you write. Is it to get rich? To live comfortably and pay your bills? To serve God? Because you can’t NOT write? All or none of the above?

I started this blog to inspire authors to write the truth. Before you can do that, you need to wipe the scales from your eyes and look at publishing, especially CBA publishing, in the bright light of day. Take off your sunglasses and follow me.

You struggle for years to write your first novel, or your first seven, before you make a sale. Now you’re a debut author. If you’re fortunate, you may have a series planned that a publisher loves. But since you’re a new author they may not want to take a chance on whether you can deliver a manuscript every six months for at least three books (anything less is not a series). The editor acquires your first book.

Depending on the publisher, that first book may net you an advance of anywhere from $3,500 to $10,000. But remember, that money is called an advance because you have to earn it back for the publisher, and they want you to earn it back within the first year.

How do you do that? Your agent will negotiate a royalty rate, and most publishers will give you an escalating advance as an incentive to sell enough copies to pay back your advance. For instance, you may be offered 12% for the first 10,000 copies you sell; 14% for the next 10,000 copies, and 16% for every copy you sell after 20,000. That’s just an estimate. Some publishers set the escalating percentages much higher. The average CBA title sells about 4,500 to 5,000 copies. Publishers who pay you a $10,000 advance want you to sell twice the average or more.

Let’s say your book sells for $12.99, and you make 12% of the net amount (about half of the retail price) or about 78 cents per copy. Actually, it may be less depending on what your percentages are for selling into markets that demand a higher discount from the publisher. That’s why an agent is worth the 15% you pay her or him. After paying your agent you may make about 65 cents per copy . . . or less.

But you don’t get the entire amount of your advance up front. Normally, it’s paid out in thirds, although some are now dividing the advance into fourths. Abingdon still pays the advance in two checks.

Let’s say you are paid 1/3 of a $9,000 advance at contract signing: that’s $3,000. The next third will not be paid until the editor accepts your manuscript. You’ll be living on about $1,000 a month until you finish your second book. The last $3,000 will be paid on publication, which may be 9 to 12 months down the road.

You won’t see a royalty check for about 18 months—that is if you see one at all. Remember, you need to sell enough copies to earn out your advance before you are paid any royalties. You also may have high returns, and those will be subtracted from your total sales.

Can you quit your day job and live on $1,000 a month? Add it up. It takes most writers at least 6 to 8 months to write a book. Unless you want to live in a tent in the woods and eat off the fat of the land, you better keep working.

Of course, if you have several successful books that pay you regular royalties, you might consider a full-time occupation as a writer, but be prepared to supplement your income by teaching workshops, selling books at conferences, and helping other writers for a fee.

I can hear your wheels turning. “But you quit!” Yes, I did, but I jumped off a 1,000-foot cliff without a parachute. If it weren’t for the Lord’s peace that passes all understanding, I’d crawl under my desk, suck my thumb, and sob while I rocked to and fro.

For the moment, I’m still receiving a small stipend from Abingdon until I wind up the contract stage of the 2013 acquisitions. At the beginning of October, I made a $1,000 for editing a manuscript. Yesterday, I took on a work-for-hire assignment to write a children’s story for $500, and an author called me today to read her initial chapters for my opinion. That will pay me another $100 for four hours of work.

My husband’s Social Security pays our house payment, and I’m responsible for paying the rest of the bills: utilities, credit cards, medical, taxes. In January, I’ll collect my Social Security, which is $500 less than what I would have made if I had waited until I was 65 to draw it out. That’s slightly more than $1,000. But the government will deduct $1 for every $2 I earn. By then my work at Abingdon will have expired.

If you see Mike and I living in a tent on a beach in Florida, drop by and say hello. But I trust the Lord has a plan. I have contacts, and those contacts know the quality of my work. God has plenty for me to do. And that’s the truth.

* * *

This is day #10 in the 30-day prayer challenge for the Christian book industry. Please share your prayers and thoughts with us in the comment section below.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Network, Schmepwork

Half your life as a writer will be spent in networking. Maybe more. The days of Hemingway sipping espresso in a Paris café while he scribbled his first draft are gone. Of course, his main network time was spent drinking all night with F. Scott Fitzgerald and running around Spain, watching bullfights and fly fishing. No one can deny that Hem lived life.

I yearn for those days when kids still played baseball after school until dark, or we could spend an afternoon lying on the grass watching clouds scuttle across the sky. Our best writing came after daydreaming in a swing, drinking iced tea and staring into space. Now we feel guilty if we spend five minutes daydreaming in the shower.

Today writers network instead. We’re consummate multi-taskers. Some of you set timers on your cell phones or watches to remind yourself to sign off Facebook or stop Tweeting how many pages you’ve produced.

We’re addicted to social networking, e-mail, and a thousand other ways to postpone the inevitable: starting at a blank page. Hemingway used actual paper. Imagine that. We use a computer screen with a blinking cursor that silently screams “hurry up.”

Yet I know writers who are able to balance their marketing, sales, and networking efforts while giving birth to another manuscript. I’m amazed. They can produce two or three books a year. I’m even more amazed.

We’re writing what the market wants to read. But, just for a moment, think about this: What if you decided to write a book that you wanted to write . . . one that continually nudged you over the course of years? Maybe God wants you to produce the next great American novel rather than write something in a popular genre.

A few agents and editors want to slap me about now. Because once you’re in the game of publishing, you will be expected to churn out at least one or two books a year to satisfy your audience.

After agent Rachelle Gardner recommended Betsy Lerner’s book The Forest for the Trees, I ordered it and just finished it last night. I highly recommend it; you will find yourself between its covers.

In the last chapter Lerner writes, “Publishers are concerned that the business model that has long served their business will no longer work. All this is disheartening for writers. It’s no wonder that some are tweeting for their supper. . . . I fear that we are dancing on the deck of the Titanic.”

But you know me: I look at life from the perspective of a glass half-full. Publishing is changing, and no one in the business (CBA or ABA) has figured out where it’s going or what to do about it. Remember that old cliché that if you’re digging a hole and it’s only getting deeper, stop?

This is day #8 in our 30-day prayer challenge for the Christian publishing industry. We can’t go back to the lazy days of the fifties. As authors and publishers we need to embrace the digital age. It’s here to stay.

But frankly, I think if publishing execs spent a little more time daydreaming, they might just find the way out of this mess. What do you think?

* * *

This is day #8 in my 30-day prayer challenge for the Christian book industry. Please share your prayers and thoughts with us in the comment section below.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Engaging the World on the Internet

Last night I spied on enemy territory. I actually listened in on blog conversations where Christianity is an anathema. These people were quite sincere in spouting their opinions, but none of them had any facts—truth—to back up their assertions.

If you haven’t been published yet, consider engaging the world on the Internet. Your impact is immediate: no editors, no Pub Boards, no book buyers to please. Think about it. Put on the armor of God, pick up the sword of the Spirit, and like Caleb and Joshua, go spy on the giants in another land on the Internet.

Do you remember the story of the spies that Moses sent into the Promised Land? Only two—Caleb and Joshua—came back with a bold and courageous report that the Israelites could take out the bad guys. The other spies were afraid of the giants in the land. So the whole tribe of Israel had to wander through the desert until the older generation who remembered Egypt had died off.

Why do we write? To preach to the choir? If the Christian book industry is in trouble financially, what will you do if the number of bookstores continues to decline? What will you do if there is so much competition for publication that you could be waiting in line for years before you have a book published?

Did you know that one online magazine article might touch the hearts of 50,000 readers, but your first book might only sell 4,000 copies?

Now is the time to pray for God’s will in your life . . . not your own. Can you lay down a dream to pick up God’s dream? If you are called to write a book, then write it and stop worrying where you will sell it once it’s written. God will open doors you can’t even imagine.

But if you are more in love with the idea of being a writer than the actual writing process, now is the time to admit it. Pray for God’s will in your life. Is He instead calling you to write magazine articles or to post on your blog?

Now for a really wild idea. Is the Lord calling you to spy on enemy territory and take the land He has given you? Consider listening in on a blog for awhile and when you see error, refute it with the truth in love. It’s a big world out there.

* * *

This is day #4 of our 30-day prayer challenge for the Christian book industry. Please share your prayers and thoughts with us in the comment section below.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Authors: To Thine Own Self Be True

Does anyone remember that old TV game show called To Tell the Truth? Since 1956 the show has appeared in some form over the course of six decades.

Here’s how the game was played: A panel of four “celebrity” judges would attempt to guess the correct contestant with an unusual occupation or experience. Two other people would pretend to be that person and were allowed to lie to the celebrities’ questions. The “real” person had to answer the questions truthfully.

This morning I awakened at 4:30 a.m. and lay in bed contemplating truth. Yes, I know . . . weird. As a writer this is not an unusual occurrence. Anyone know what I’m talking about?

We’re in the Grand Rapids, Michigan, area this weekend checking on the house we had to leave more than two years ago when I was laid off from my job and we moved to Nashville for my position at Abingdon Press. The house still hasn’t sold.

We’re staying in a Comfort Inn on 28th Street near the airport and they begin breakfast service at 4:30 for those people catching early flights. I dressed quietly so as not to wake Mike or Riley, our Chihuahua (some watchdog he is), and took the elevator to the breakfast room. There’s nothing like the smell of coffee in the morning.

These may seem like disjointed thoughts, but as the prosecutor tells the jury on Law and Order, I will show that all these facts prove my contention that the witness is telling the truth about her occupation and experience. Join me in the courtroom.

* * *

Prosecutor: Isn’t it true that in your capacity as an acquisitions editor that you’ve been traveling around the country since mid-August?

Me: Yes, that’s true.

Prosecutor: And isn’t it also true that you’ve helped other writers understand their craft and clarify their mission in life?

Me: Yes, Sir.

Prosecutor: Could you tell the court how this lifestyle has affected you?

Me: Do I have to?

Prosecutor: You are sworn to tell the truth. Judge, please instruct the witness to answer the question.

Judge: Please answer the question.

Me: (Sigh) I’m tired.

Prosecutor: Would you please elaborate for members of the jury?

Me: I fall asleep when I’m driving sometimes, and I ache all over from sitting in a seat for hours at a time.

Prosecutor: Isn’t it true that your fibromyalgia flares up and you have periods of anxiety and depression from the stress?

Me: Do I really have to get into that?

Prosecutor: Might I remind the witness that you have sworn to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Me: Yes, that’s true.

Prosecutor: What’s true?

Me: The part about my physical and mental condition.

Prosecutor: Ah! So you admit it’s true?

Me: Yes! I said it’s true.

Prosecutor: Let’s move on to your spiritual condition. Have you spent time in prayer? Do you regularly read your Bible?

Me: Mike and I have taken a “prayer walk” almost every day for this last month. I recall Scripture, but I’ve neglected my Bible reading. I mean I read my Bible, but usually before I close my eyes at night. Usually a Psalm.

Prosecutor: I see. A “prayer walk.” What does that mean?

Me: We pray while we walk. We praise God for His glorious creation. We pray for our nation and those in authority over us. We pray for friends and family and our world. We pray for the Abingdon authors and . . .

Prosecutor: I think the court understands. Do you pray for your occupation?

Me: Yes . . . a lot.

Prosecutor: And what have you deduced from your prayers.

Me: That the Lord is calling me to leave Abingdon Press as of December 15.

Prosecutor: What does He expect you to do if you sever your connection with Abingdon?

Me: Good question. To rest, to write, to edit, to pray. And . . . something else is coming . . . something good. I just don’t know what it is yet.

Prosecutor: To continue to travel?

Me: Not so much.

Prosecutor: I have no further questions, your Honor. It's up to the jury to decide whether this witness is telling the truth.

* * *

Now pretend you are the jury, dear readers. After hearing the evidence I intend to step out in faith. Will you as well be true to what God is calling you to do? Will you follow Him in faith? That may mean taking a job, or volunteering, or continuing to spend your time writing.

For the next 30 days I ask you to pray with me for the Christian book industry, for our roles in it, and whether the Lord might be calling some of us to sow, others to water, and still others to reap the harvest. What is He calling you and me to do? Will you join me in prayer?

Blessings on your day!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Roving Editor Is Out to Lunch

Literally. So I don't have any words of wisdom to post. It's Pub Board day, so I'm preparing my presentation and then having lunch with the Editor-in-Chief. The meeting starts at 1 p.m. CST in downtown Nashville, and I have no idea how long the marathon session will last. I'm presenting the Spring 2013 list, and believe it or not, I've prepared a Fall 2013 list.

As always, there will be give and take, lots of discussion and input from representatives in editorial, production, accounting, marketing, sales, and even the print buyer. Really? Really.

I'm not proud. I need your prayers for wisdom and for the Lord's leading in what we should publish. Some authors will be disappointed; some will be thrilled with the outcome. I will weep with those who weep, and I will laugh with those who laugh, because that's who I am.

Whatever happens in the meeting, I need to walk in knowing that I believe in every project and communicate my passion to those who will sit in judgment of every author's work.

Thanks for backing me up on the spiritual side. You're the best!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Guess Blogger Kay Marshall Strom: Writing Secret Revealed!

Like Solomon, I've had to decide this week how to cut the baby in half. Lest you call the police, let me explain. I'm in the process of deciding who will make the cut for the Spring 2013 list at Abingdon Press: so many great books, so little room.

Since I need prayer time, some reading time, some listening time, I've decided to make this the last blog for the week and introduce you to another Abingdon author, Kay Marshall Strom, through one of her past blogs.

Kay had written 34 non-fiction books before her agent sent me her first novel proposal, a historical series titled Grace in Africa. You've already seen the first book in the series, The Call of Zulina, released last Fall.

The second book, Voyage of Promise, has just released and been selected for inclusion in Booklist's top ten Inspirational Fiction Books. It also will be featured in the November 15 issue of the American Library Association's Booklist Magazine.

I urge you to look for her books about the beginnings of the slave trade on your bookstore's shelf. Kay's passion is to end the slave trade today. Yes, the problem still plagues our world and has more than doubled since the late 1700s when this series takes place.

Now, here's Kay on her secret for writing . . .


 * * *


All the time, at writers’ conferences and on airplanes and just out doing my shopping, as soon as people find out I’m a writer, they want to pull me aside and whisper conspiratorially, “So, what’s the real secret to writing?”

 
Sigh! If there were one great secret, don’t you think it would be sold in a book for $99.98? Or presented at a one-day seminar for $599.99? Or at least written up on a blog?

 
Oh, right . . . that’s what I’m going to do right now on this blog.

 
Okay, here it is:

 
The secret to great writing . . .
 
is . . .
 
WRITE!

 
No, really. It’s true. Too many people spend the majority of their time talking about writing, reading books about writing, wishing they could write, dreaming about the writing life . . . you get the idea. But the fact is, writing is work, and to be a writer one must write and write and write some more.

 
That’s not to say that instruction doesn’t help. It most certainly does. Which is why, having made the point about actually writing, I want to go ahead and suggest these . . .


Six Rules For Great Writing

Kay Marshall Strom



1. Keep your sentences and paragraphs short. It is true that short sentences and paragraphs feel comfortable while long ones feel threatening, and also that short ones give the feeling of something one can manage while long ones feel overwhelming, not to mention the fact that a shorter sentence is easier for readers to follow than a long, long, long confusing sentence in which they tend to get lost and wonder how it all started. Whew! Break up that sentence! When you have a longer sentence, follow it with a short one. And surround a long paragraph with shorter, punchier paragraphs.
 
2. Prefer the simple to the complex. The preponderance of didactic scriveners who lucubrate their discourse with rubbish is abominable. I know! You see what I mean, then? Often people argue with me on this point, insisting that their novel or whatever is aimed at an educated audience. Well, I am a college graduate. I’ve read plenty of college textbooks in my life. But I can assure you, it’s been a long old time since I’ve curled up in front of the fireplace on a rainy night with a cup of cocoa and a college textbook! Write to express rather than impress.

3. Show, don’t tell. Yep, you’ve heard this one before. But it’s so true. In movies and on TV, we can see what’s happening. But a book author must paint the pictures with words. You can do this with anecdotes, with good dialogue, by writing out a scene rather than just telling us it happened. ”Show, don’t tell” is important in both fiction and non-fiction.

4. Tie in with the readers’ experience. If your reader can’t comprehend what you are saying, you may as well not say it. Here is a good example: “BP must set aside $20 billion for those who suffered damage and loss in the horrendous oil spill.” Yes. Um-hmm. Here’s the problem: that word “billion” is constantly being thrown around, but it is outside our actual experience, so it means little to us. How much more effective if you tie it to something to which we can relate: A billion seconds ago, it was the year 1959. A billion minutes ago, Jesus walked on the earth. A billion hours ago, our ancestors lived in the stone age. Yikes!

5. Give your reader something to take away. Remember, you are writing for your reader, not for yourself. You may feel better for having poured out the agonies of your gall bladder surgery, for instance, but what is in it for the reader? Why not reshape your personal experience article to something like: “10 Ways to Help Your Loved One Recover” using your experience as background?

6. Write, write, and write some more! Keep on writing. Everyone gets better and better. No one gets worse and worse.

 
There you have it. The writer’s big secret!

 

 
To write is to write is to write is to write is to write is to write is to write is to write.”
 
--Gertrude Stein


Find more inspiration from Kay Strom at her blog titled Kay's Words.  Here's the link: http://kaystrom.wordpress.com/

* * *

Please let me know how today’s blog has helped you. This becomes a two-way conversation when you post a comment. Often I jump back on the blog during the day and will answer your questions or respond to your comments. I have both published and unpublished authors who read The Roving Editor, and we’d love to hear from you so that we can learn from your experience. Let’s talk!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Power of Your Words

In 2003 I read a powerful novel by my friend Nancy Rue titled Pascal’s Wager. The book takes place in modern times on the campus of Stanford University, which I know well, since I received a certificate from the Stanford Mass Media Institute in film in 1983.

As I read her novel, Nancy’s words transported me twenty years into the past, and I walked the campus along with her characters. I remembered my experiences there as though they had happened yesterday: sitting in a booth sipping coffee, the smells in the antiseptic halls of the medical center, the soaring architecture of the buildings, a forest of eucalyptus trees.

The novel so inspired my friend and author Gwen Ellis and I that we adapted the book into a screenplay, which has never been produced, but our faith and friendship deepened as we worked on the script. The words of Nancy’s book had power to move us to action.

Why did Nancy title her book Pascal’s Wager? For that matter, what is Pascal’s Wager? How did Pascal’s words shape society’s dialogue about the existence of God?

Blaise Pascal was a 17th-century French mathematician, who had a mystical experience of Christ that caused him to give up his mathematical pursuits and instead live his life drawing closer to God through philosophy and theological studies. Basically, Pascal’s Wager is this:

Even though man cannot prove the existence of God through reason and science, a person should toss the dice and wager that God exists. If God doesn’t exist, the person has lost nothing; if God does exist, the person has won eternal life. (See Note 233 of his work titled Pensées written in the latter part of his life as he worked on a treatise of Christian apologetics.)

How does Pascal’s Wager relate to the power of our written words? Pascal, a mathematician, had his life planned out, but his encounter with the living Christ changed him forever. He wrote words that have lasted for centuries. Nancy Rue’s words moved at least two people to action. Your words matter too. What will they accomplish?

Here’s what Pascal wrote about the power of words:
“Cold words freeze people, and hot words scorch them, and bitter words make them bitter, and wrathful words make them wrathful. Kind words also produce their image on men’s souls; and a beautiful image it is. They smooth, and quiet, and comfort the hearer.”
Your words have power. Let them inspire and comfort your readers.


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Please let me know how today’s blog has helped you. This becomes a two-way conversation when you post a comment. Often I jump back on the blog during the day and will answer your questions or respond to your comments. I have both published and unpublished authors who read The Roving Editor, and we’d love to hear from you so that we can learn from your experience. Let’s talk!

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Truth Shall Set You Free

What is truth? If I want to inspire authors to write the truth, I should understand its properties. We should have a mutual understanding of its definition.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, truth is “fidelity and constancy [archaic forms]; sincerity in action, character, and utterance; the state of being the case: fact; the body of real things, events, and facts: actuality; often capitalized: a transcendent fundamental or spiritual reality; a judgment, proposition, or idea that is true or accepted as true (truths of thermodynamics); the body of true statements and propositions; the property (as of a statement) of being in accord with fact or reality; chiefly British: true; fidelity to an original or to a standard; in accordance with fact: actually.”

Yet, today, I hear people on TV and in conversation say that “my truth is not necessarily your truth.” If truth is fact, how can that be?

I started my search for truth in high school, and it led me into numerous metaphysical movements, cults, alternative religions, other world religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism, the concept of reincarnation, other spiritual realities, and metaphysics, plus so many more I can’t even name them all. Let me put it this way: If it went bump in the night, I wanted to know why.

But for all my searching for truth, I found only confusion and misery. If everyone had their own truth, then how could one movement or religion claim only they knew the truth passed down from “ancient masters.” The answer given was that I was not enlightened enough to understand.

Arguments over truth have consumed humankind from the earliest recorded times. An entry in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy from June 13, 2006 [http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/truth/] states that “The problem of truth is in a way easy to state: what truths are, and what (if anything) makes them true. But this simple statement masks a great deal of controversy. Whether there is a metaphysical problem of truth at all, and if there is, what kind of theory might address it, are all standing issues in the theory of truth.”

Theory. Huh. If truth is fact, why do people argue over its meaning? Truth is truth: fact, reality, fidelity, constancy.

One day the disciple Thomas asked a question of Jesus after the Lord comforted His followers by saying that He was going home and He would prepare a place for them and they would know the way to this place.

Confused, Thomas said to Jesus, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” John 14:5-7 NIV

Jesus is the truth. He is fact. He is reality. He is fidelity. He is constant. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He died on a cross, was laid in a tomb, and rose bodily three days later. The tomb is empty. What other path of enlightenment can claim that their leader—their ancient master—rose from the dead and showed his (or her) wounds to friends, family, and followers?

Jesus appeared first to Thomas so that the disciple could see with his own eyes the Lord’s nail-scarred hands.

I had known the truth as a child. But I forgot, or maybe the other voices screaming at me from their metaphysical money booths shouted Him down. In 1982 I found the truth. It . . . He . . . has never failed me.

Christian fiction contains more truth than the realities of life in our confusing world. Grasp that fact, write from the truth in your heart, and you will not need to include a conversion scene in your novel. His Holy Spirit will show the truth in your stories to those who have eyes to see and ears to hear.

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Please let me know how today’s blog has helped you. This becomes a two-way conversation when you post a comment. Often I jump back on the blog during the day and will answer your questions or respond to your comments. I have both published and unpublished authors who read The Roving Editor, and we’d love to hear from you so that we can learn from your experience. Let’s talk!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Book Sales

Editors usually attend sales conferences and may even present your book to a room filled with sales reps who cover key accounts, independent bookstores, special sales, chain stores, big box stores, and catalogs. There are other marketing channels, but let’s keep this explanation simple.

Even after a contract is offered, editors talk about your book to the sales reps they meet in the hall or at lunch or at meetings. By now, the reps have heard about a hundred other books in process at the publishing house. The key is for the editor and marketing manager to keep reminding them of your book.

A long time ago, I worked for seven years as both an inside rep and a field rep for the McGraw-Hill College Division, selling textbooks to professors and acquiring their manuscripts. Selling books is a grueling marathon, especially since sales territories are usually large. Lots of travel is involved. Reps talk on the phone a lot. They stay on top of orders because if they don’t, a buyer might forget to order your book.

Before the sales reps hit the ground running, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and a few other publications need the ARC (advance reader copy) six months in advance so that your book has a chance to be reviewed. These reviews start buzz and alert book buyers about future titles. Buzz is good.

This isn’t true in every house, but Abingdon sales reps want ARCs with final covers for every fiction book and they want them by sales conference. Our sales conference for the Spring 2011 list was held earlier this month. At the sales meeting, the reps heard details not only about fiction, but non-fiction, academic books, gift books, devotionals, Bibles, and other products.

As soon as the conference is over, the reps start calling on their accounts. Deals are made. Pre-sales numbers are tracked. The first print run will be determined by how much the book buyers like your book. We want them to like your book a lot.

How does a sales rep keep all that information in his or her head? They don’t. That’s why they have catalogs and folders. But what really sells a book is enthusiasm and a story. Your story about why you wrote the book. It should be short and carry an emotional punch.

When reps sit down with book buyers, they have a limited time to cover dozens of books in numerous categories. What will make the sales reps remember you? What story can they tell about your book?

Here are a few suggestions: Send an email through your editor, thanking the reps for their efforts on behalf of your book. Include a couple of anecdotes about how this story impacted your life or the lives of others who have read it. Tell them God stories about how He inspired you to keep writing. Keep it short and heartfelt.

Sales reps rarely get a note of thanks from authors. Make it a practice. The editor or marketing manager will forward the email to the sales director or his assistant who will then forward it to all the reps.

For the sales conference, can you afford to send some type of treat from your region of the country? Or baked goods from a recipe in the book? Or? Think creatively. Talk to your marketing manager about what you might be able to do for the reps.

After the sales conference, follow up with another email, assuring them of your prayer support. List whatever the Lord puts on your heart: safe travels, good health, safety for their families when they are on the road, favor with buyers. No one needs our prayers more than sales reps. They have the pressure of meeting financial goals and numbers for each book, including yours, in addition to the physical stress of travel. It’s a tough job but rewarding.

Experienced authors: Please share any experiences you’ve had with sales reps. One of the greatest honors is to be invited to speak to them at the sales conference. Let’s pray that the reps from every Christian publishing house will be inspired and encouraged this season as they help to put your books into the hands of readers.

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Please let me know how today’s blog has helped you. This becomes a two-way conversation when you post a comment. Often I jump back on the blog during the day and will answer your questions or respond to your comments. I have both published and unpublished authors who read The Roving Editor, and we’d love to hear from you so that we can learn from your experience. Let’s talk!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Marketing 101: You and Your Marketing Manager

Editors rarely attend marketing meetings, although marketing managers sit in on Pub Board meetings and help decide whether the publishing company will offer you a contract. The editor is your champion. The marketing manager wants to know if you have a platform and where she can place your book for maximum exposure.

In other words, marketing managers have the power to give a thumbs up or thumbs down on your project, but editors have no control over marketing strategies. I can’t speak for all houses, but that’s the process I’m used to.

So here’s the deal . . . don’t ask your editor about the marketing plan for your book. We don’t know. By the time marketing strategies are implemented for your potential bestseller, acquisitions editors have moved on to future lists; sometimes we’re working two years ahead. For instance, on October 12, I’ll present the Spring 2013 list to Pub Board.

If editors are fortunate, an author or marketing manager will pass on one of your reviews or tell us about your book launch, but we have no idea what specific ads your book has appeared in or what publicity or media opportunities you might have or how much money is/was spent.

Bottom line? Get to know your marketing manager. Coordinate your efforts at the beginning of your campaign. If you want to send an ARC (advance reader copy) to a particular blog for a review, or contact local media, or even hire a publicist, you don’t want to cover the same territory as your publisher.

But please don’t bug your marketing manager with a daily email or phone call. She can’t do her job if all she does is answer your questions. Make contact when it’s imperative that a copy of your book needs to land in the hands of your reviewer by a certain date. The more important the reviewer, the more time that person needs to read your book and give you a thoughtful review.

It’s important that you find out when the marketing manager needs information from you about your marketing plans. Yes, plan to market your own book as well. The days of long book tours, expensive hotel rooms, and chocolate-dipped strawberries are over, unless you’re a million-dollar author.

Make friends with your marketing manager and supply her with the information she needs on the date she needs it. If you’re responsive and professional, your positive attitude will convince the marketing manager that you’re an author who can handle a radio or TV interview.

Fiction sells by word of mouth. If you’re a new author, prepare yourself now. Learn to speak to groups, even small ones. Set up a website or blog or visit other websites and comment on blogs.

Get to know bookstore owners. Engage in social media. Write blog or magazine articles. Do it now and you’ll be ready to hop on the marketing train when your book is published.

People in publishing will notice your efforts.

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Please let me know how today’s blog has helped you. This becomes a two-way conversation when you post a comment. Often I jump back on the blog during the day and will answer your questions or respond to your comments. I have both published and unpublished authors who read The Roving Editor, and we’d love to hear from you so that we can learn from your experience. Let’s talk!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Life Happens . . . Even to an Editor

I got up late this morning even though I planned to write my blog early. Yesterday, my husband Mike decided for the first time to mow the hill in our front yard with his ride-on mower. It flipped back on him and we spent the afternoon in the E.R. No broken bones, thank God. You’ve already heard of my adventures on the way home from ACFW.

Life happens. We plan our days to accomplish something important, but forget to set our alarms; a loved one is injured, and we rush to the hospital; a neighbor goes into early labor and asks us to take care of her small children.

Life. Minutes and hours tick away on eternity’s metronome. Scripture says our lives are but a breath. We only have so many days, so we cram them full of busyness.

We pick our kids up after school and drive them to ballet, or swimming, or soccer, and they fall asleep before their heads hit the pillow. When do children play? They carry planners with them from first grade on. Their lives are so filled with scheduled activities that they lose the ability to dream and create.

I’ve tried every time-management system available. None of them helped me plan for life’s unexpected emergencies.

Life will never follow our well-constructed plans. People are a messy, chaotic bunch of souls. We can either have panic attacks or we can roll with the punches and pray for a better day tomorrow. Then tomorrow comes, and a friend needs to cry on our shoulder.

We need to make plans for the future, but we need to live fully in the present. Our lives are in God’s hands. When we get to heaven, I don’t think He’ll be handing out gold stars for keeping all our appointments and finishing all our tasks. Instead, I think He’ll be pleased that we smiled at a child, or encouraged a friend, or bought a homeless man a McDonald’s combo meal and a large sweet tea.

Our words please Him. Our writing pleases Him. But our obedience pleases Him more. If the Lord has called you as a writer . . . write. If you don’t meet your word quota for the day because you were busy living life, I don’t think He’ll mind. Keep writing when you can.


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Please let me know how today’s blog has helped you. This becomes a two-way conversation when you post a comment. Often I jump back on the blog during the day and will answer your questions or respond to your comments. I have both published and unpublished authors who read The Roving Editor, and we’d love to hear from you so that we can learn from your experience. Let’s talk!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

An Editor’s Tale of ACFW

Today’s blog may be shorter than usual but I thought you would want a view of the conference through the eyes . . . or feet . . . of an editor. I drove to Indy on Thursday and headed for the airport to pick up two authors: Joyce Magnin, the author of Charlotte Figg Takes Over Paradise, and Christa Allan, Walking on Broken Glass.

A simple task, right? Wrong. A double-wide mobile home had gotten stuck between two railings on the overpass of my exit to the airport. What to do? The nice man in the state trooper’s uniform knew what to do. Keep moving.

I give the second state trooper a little more credit. I rolled down my window, and since he was already dealing with one hysterical woman (the one stuck on the exit) he was used to a deer in the headlights look. He told me to get off the road, turn around, get back on I-70, and exit at the airport.

Faith kicked my hysteria in the posterior, and I moved on. Adventure runs in my veins. After all, I’m distantly related to “Dr. Livingston I presume,” the great missionary doctor people thought had been lost in the jungle. He wasn’t lost. He knew where he was all along.

Authors were picked up on time, we checked into the hotel, and the marathon began. On Thursday, I paced myself. How can you mess up registration, picking up an appointment schedule, and dinner?

Over the next two days, I met with 30 “scheduled” conferees, and received innumerable escalator and elevator pitches, Starbucks pitches, and between hither and yon pitches. Also lots of wonderful conversations with people who only wanted to say hi—even some of you who have followed my blog.

By Saturday night at the Abingdon author dinner at P.F. Chang’s, I was on a roll. Energy high. Still awake. My laughter button working. I was running full tilt.

On Sunday night after my self-editing workshop and the awards banquet, my feet were swollen to twice their size, I felt as old as Moses, and I was facing a six-hour drive back to Nashville the next morning at 6 a.m. Reality kicked in.

But I finished my race and passed the torch to Rick Acker, author of When the Devil Whistles. He’s younger, and I thought he could stay up longer that night.

After saying good-bye to Joyce, Christa, and multiple award-winning author Jenny B. Jones at the airport on Monday morning, I sailed away in my 2002 Camry that I named Silver Streak that morning. All this without a drop of coffee in my veins.

By this time dawn had broken, but I could barely keep my eyes open. Silver Streak raced off the freeway at the first Golden Arches she saw. I thought an Egg McMuffin and a soda would do it. Not so much. (I don’t like McDonald’s coffee. Sorry Mickie “D”.)

I hit the road . . . back north instead of south. Before I could turn around in commuter traffic, I had made a 20-mile mistake. Eventually, I made the loop on I-65 and headed south. Only 265 miles to go.

More yawning, but now, I’d become a danger to myself and the public. I pulled off at a convenience store and gas station, changed into tennis shoes, which I couldn’t tie because of the swelling, drank a venti-size bold roast, and decided it was naptime. I laid back my head and snoozed for an hour.

Before I got home, I had poured at least five large caffeine  drinks into my body. Next time I’ll fly, or Mike will come and act as relief driver.

Wait! The conference. Yes, it was the best ever with 620+ conferees and more divine appointments than I can tell you about. They say my author Cynthia Ruchti, outgoing president of ACFW and author of They Almost Always Come Home, walked those halls early every morning, praying for the event and the conferees. The Lord was pleased, and He was present.

If you ever have a chance to attend, pace yourself. Don’t attend every workshop. Meet people and make lifelong friends.

Now it’s your turn. Were you there? Tell us your stories. What was the highlight for you?

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Please let me know how today’s blog has helped you. This becomes a two-way conversation when you post a comment. Often I jump back on the blog during the day and will answer your questions or respond to your comments. I have both published and unpublished authors who read The Roving Editor, and we’d love to hear from you so that we can learn from your experience. Let’s talk!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Cross-pollination: A Logical First Step to Networking

This is the last day of the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) Conference in Indianapolis. Since I won’t return to Nashville until this evening, I’m continuing Guest Blogger Week. I hope it’s been fun and beneficial to read such inspiring blog posts from some of my talented authors.

Linda S. Clare
Today’s guest blogger is Linda S. Clare, whose debut novel The Fence My Father Built has received wonderful reviews. Unknown to Linda, I had been using the word cross-pollinate to describe how Christians should help one another as writers. She had adopted the same word. Hm. Do you think God is trying to tell us something?

Here’s one of the many 5- star reviews posted on Amazon.com:

The Fence My Father Built by Linda S. Clare is a poignant novel about finding where you belong. Muri Pond is taking her two children, Nova and Tru, home to her father's home in the desert area of Oregon after the loss of her job and the end of her marriage. She grew up never knowing Joseph Pond, but after his death, she finds she has nowhere else to go, so going to his home makes sense.

Until she finds out that his home is a trailer with a group of cobbled together additions and is occupied by her quirky aunt and uncle and their potbellied pigs. That's only the beginning of Muri's trouble, however. Joseph left a fight over water rights with the town's best-loved citizen in which Muri quickly finds herself trapped in as well, plus Nova has no intention of living in the middle of nowhere. Clare puts Muri in the middle of an impossible situation and every turn of the page only seems to turn up the heat. Her writing is powerful and deeply human. I hope she writes more fiction soon! —Christina Lockstein, Oconto Falls, WI, “Christy’s Book Blog”
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By now, even the beginning novel writer knows they'll need to market both themselves and their book once it's published. Some writers believe if they promote themselves, they must step on other writers' toes and that marketing is something like muscling your way to the head of the line. Nothing could be further from the truth.

As daunting as it sounds, all marketing and book promotion starts out as networking. I'd like to encourage you wherever you are in your writing journey to do what I call cross-pollination. For Christian writers, this term has even more significance. Instead of regarding fellow writers as competition, embrace them. Help them thrive, and your career and books will thrive too.

When I first started promoting myself as a writer, I started blogging, joined FaceBook and Twitter—you know the drill. I had exactly one follower for my writing blog, Linda Clare’s Writer’s Tips, http://GodSongGrace.blogspot.com. One.

Then I did two simple things. First, I focused on my blog. I teach writing, so I’ve quit waxing poetic on random subjects and now post brief writing tips several times per week.

Second—and here’s the cross-pollination part—I started asking others to follow me. My followers have increased in a big way.

When my publisher, Abingdon Press, gave my novel, The Fence My Father Built, a free Kindle promotion on Amazon, I contacted every writer I could and asked to swap publicity. The only authors who said no had serious health issues in their lives. But those who did were happy to help me, and I was happy to return the favor. The promotion was wildly successful thanks to all my new author friends spreading the word.

So, how can you grow your traffic/friends/followers? Cross-pollinate!

Bees know this secret. Instead of sticking with one flower or always returning to the same place, they cross-pollinate lots of flowers and places. The bees benefit, the plants benefit, everyone benefits. And we end up with the honey.

If each writer looks up 10 other writers’ blogs, FaceBook and Twitter accounts and signs up to follow, friend, or whatever, we all win. The more you follow another’s pages, the more followers you’ll begin to see on your own.

Most writers and pros I know are busy bees, pollinating readers in Christ’s love. We're committed to the Cross.

As you implement this simple, free way to help get the word out about you and your work, please let me know if your traffic increases. Email me at Lindas352@comcast.net. For now, get out there and cross-pollinate. Bzzzzz.

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Please let me know how today’s blog has helped you. This becomes a two-way conversation when you post a comment. Often I jump back on the blog during the day and will answer your questions or respond to your comments. I have both published and unpublished authors who read The Roving Editor, and we’d love to hear from you so that we can learn from your experience. Let’s talk!




Sunday, September 19, 2010

Shelley Gray’s Sales Story for A Texan’s Promise

This weekend while I meet with dozens of aspiring authors at ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) and attend the conference in Indianapolis Thursday through Monday, I thought it would be fun and beneficial to invite some of my talented authors to share their experiences and inspiration with you.



Shelley Sabga

Today’s guest blogger is Shelley Sabga, who writes Amish novels under the nom de plume of Shelley Shepard Gray. Shelley has enjoyed great success writing about the Amish and visits Amish communities in Adams and Holmes Counties in Ohio several times a year.
A busy wife and mother of two, she spends her days writing and keeping track of her teenagers. Her two dogs keep her company while she writes in her basement in southern Ohio. Please visit her website at www.shelleyshepardgray.com to find out her latest news, or become her friend on FaceBook.




There are some things I never tire of. Things like a hot cup of coffee, talking to my children, or sitting on our back deck with my husband. And, of course, I really love getting a phone call from my agent.

See, usually the only time Mary Sue calls me instead of sending an email is when she’s sold one of my books. I’ve been with her for eleven years, and every time I see Mary Sue’s name on my Caller ID, I get a little thrill. Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to have received quite a few of those lucky phone calls.

But earlier this year, I had one of my favorite calls from her ever. Mary Sue called to tell me that she’d sold A Texan’s Promise.

A Texan’s Promise is a historical romance set in Texas right after the Civil War. It’s the story of Clayton Proffitt, my Best Hero Ever, and Vanessa, the woman he takes to Colorado when she’s in danger. They leave on horseback in the middle of the night, and every time I think about their story I sigh.

I wrote A Texan’s Promise on weekends and in the evenings for fun. Ever since my dad made me watch Gunfight at the OK Corral with him, I’ve loved westerns. My dad passed away years ago, so writing westerns and thinking about my home state of Texas makes me think—for just a little while—that he’s nearby.

Now here’s some more information about A Texan’s Promise: I loved it. And, for the life of me, I couldn’t sell it.

Oh, it came close to being sold several times. It came really close. Editors asked me to change sections of it. Over five years, I rewrote it, made it tighter, made it better, and then was disappointed again. Three times it went all the way to different publishers’ editorial boards.

But it never quite got the okay. It was always a little too romantic. Or a little too historical. Or a little too . . . (insert adjective here). You name it.

Every few months, I’d get a call from Mary Sue, telling me I’d sold another book. Hooray! Then she’d tell me the bad news. After much deliberation, yet another publishing house had decided to pass on A Texan’s Promise. But she wasn’t giving up.

However, I kind of did. I’ve been around long enough to know that not all books I write will sell, or that all proposals I submit will be accepted. And that’s okay. So, with regret, I put my hopes for this book away. Now, I didn’t think writing it was a wasted effort. I’d enjoyed writing the book, and I’d learned a whole lot of interesting trivia about guns, horses, and Civil War veterans. I’d also learned a lot about myself and about rejection with this book. There’s something to be said for that.

Then one day I received an email from my agent, saying there was a chance that Abingdon Press would take a look at it. I actually told her that it had been rejected by them. But then Mary Sue reminded me that when Abingdon had rejected the book, they weren’t in the market for historicals. But now they were. So off it went again. To say I wasn’t hopeful about a positive outcome was something of an understatement. Besides, I was under contract for a few other things. I had books to write, not dreams to fulfill!

Then, one Friday night, my cell phone rang. I was actually in a room at a bed and breakfast with my critique partners, having a writer’s retreat. I almost didn’t take the phone call. But, of course, there was no way I was ever going to ignore Mary Sue!

And that’s when she told me that she’d sold A Texan’s Promise. The folks at Abingdon Press liked the book!

To say I was happy is kind of an understatement. I hung up the phone, gave a little shout, told my critique partners and smiled. I was stunned.

Yes, God is good. He gave me the ability to write, and the ability to dream too. He gave me wonderful people in my life to support me and to work with. And He gave me Mary Sue, the agent who truly never stops believing in me.

So though A Texan’s Promise is officially the thirtieth book of mine Mary Sue has sold, it is truly one of my very favorite books, and it has one of my very favorite “sales” stories. The book was inspired from time spent with my dad, was written just for the simple joy of putting my imagination to paper, and was sold in spite of myself.

I’m forever grateful. And I’m thrilled to be a part of the Abingdon Press family of authors.

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The Rest of the Story

What Shelley doesn’t know is that I fell in love with A Texan’s Promise from the moment I read the first page. I had to finish it, even though we weren’t in the market for historical fiction. So I set it in my precious little stack of manuscripts I wanted to publish someday and acted like a squeaky door in Pub Board, reminding everyone that historical romances, especially those set in the West, were hot. Finally, they listened, and the rest is history. I still sigh when I think of Clayton Proffitt, a true American hero. If only all men were as good and true as Clay.


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Please let me know how today’s blog has helped you. This becomes a two-way conversation when you post a comment. Often I jump back on the blog during the day and will answer your questions or respond to your comments. I have both published and unpublished authors who read The Roving Editor, and we’d love to hear from you so that we can learn from your experience. Let’s talk!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Rejection as a Stepping Stone

Good morning, everyone! Today I will meet with more than a dozen aspiring authors at the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) Conference at the Hyatt Regency in Indianapolis. While I’m away from my home in Nashville, I thought it would be fun and beneficial to invite some of my talented Abingdon Press authors to share their experiences and inspiration with you.

Author Rita Gerlach
Today’s guest blogger is Rita Gerlach, author of the historical romance Surrender the Wind. She and her husband Paul live in the Baltimore area with their two sons.

Recently, I had the pleasure (along with my husband Mike) of having dinner with Rita, her husband Paul, and Larry and Loree Lough. Paul and Mike kept us in stitches the whole night. Rita and I compared notes and agreed that living with them is a bit like living with Robin Williams, only our husbands are Christians. I think they are gifts from God to encourage us when we forget that the Lord is directing our careers.

The next day, Rita and Paul drove us to Harper’s Ferry, and we toured the area where her next series—Daughters of the Potomac—takes place. Did you know the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers flow together at that point? You could actually see the change in water.We stood on a high cliff above Harper's Ferry, and I could almost see Rita's main character sitting on a bench and dreaming about her future.

Later we had lunch at a little outside café with faded red umbrellas and red-checked tablecloths. Since our Chihuahua Riley is such a well-behaved dog, he was allowed to have lunch with us. Not that he ate anything. That’s how he keeps his svelte figure. ;-)


Now for Rita’s guest blog . . . be inspired!

On a recent forum post on ChristianWriters.com an aspiring writer wrote about her feelings and view on rejections. I thought I would share my response to her in hopes that it will encourage those of you who are in the doldrums.

Dear Cowgirl Poet,

As I read your post, my heart went out to you. I've been in that exact same place where rejections seemed an endless circle. Please be encouraged and know that the piece on rejection that you wrote may only be temporary. There are two things a Christian writer must have in order to succeed besides a tough skin—persistence and patience. Persistence is continuing to write, improving the craft, sending out queries. Patience comes out of humility to God by turning over your writing career into His hands.

You wrote that rejection is a “non-stop part of a writer's life.” It is true for the moment. You will face rejections. However, the day you land your first publishing contract, rejections will fall to the wayside. Oh, you might get a rejection from your editor on a new proposal, but you can ask what you can do to make the manuscript better, what can you change to meet her expectations. As you grow as a writer you'll begin to view rejections as stepping stones to something better—to make you a better writer, to make your manuscript the best it can be, and to put your work into the right hands.

I had been writing for several years and found a print-on-demand company to publish my first three novels. Easy. They'll accept any book that comes their way. There were downsides to POD, and they almost, if I had allowed them, defeated my career. I refused to give in and prayed that God would release the works of my hands out of the hands of ungodly men. A few weeks later I had my contracts canceled, and it was one of the best things to happen to me.

I started a new historical and thought I had finished it. So I started sending out queries. One Christian agent whom I highly respect told me, “In my opinion, this is not finished.” Those were all the words he gave me. Of course, I wished he had said more, but I had to revisit the manuscript.

Then one July day a year later, I sat down at my desk and asked the Lord to show me what He wanted me to do with this book and with my career. I have a little verse sitting in a frame on my desk that says, “Commit your work to the Lord.” And so, that is what I did. If He wanted this novel published, it would be, and I had to be patient for the right door to open.

Fifteen minutes later I saw on Brandilyn Collins' blog that her friend Barbara Scott had been hired as the new acquisitions editor at Abingdon Press and that they were starting a fiction line. Barbara was only announcing it on Brandilyn's blog at the time. Historical fiction was one of the genres she was looking for. I sent her a query, and she requested the manuscript.

I was offered a contract and Surrender the Wind came out in August 2009. In November I was offered agent representation. Last week I signed again with Abingdon for a three-book series. Oh, and one of the books that I had begun to write as a standalone, Barbara rejected initially, not because the writing was bad but because of how it would not fit in their line. I asked her if I could make changes and resend. She said yes. In the shower one morning (I pray a lot in the shower) the Lord showed me I needed to tell the story in three novels. Thus the series. Barbara looked at the proposals and loved them.

I'm not posting this to toot my own horn. I am nobody special. I just want to share my testimony and hope it encourages you to look at rejection in a different light. Rejections are stepping-stones to something better. When an agent or publisher turns you down, tell yourself they were not the right fit for you and move on. Commit your work to the Lord and He will direct your path.

I want to send my thanks to everyone that has read Surrender the Wind, to those who were gracious to host me on their blogs, and those who wrote reviews. It's been a great year! Watch for the new series due out early in 2012 . . . Daughters of the Potomac.

Blessings,
Rita Gerlach

* * *

It's been one year since Abingdon Press officially released Rita’s historical novel of intrigue and romance entitled Surrender the Wind. Recently, a reader in the UK sent Rita this message.

Hello Rita, just finished reading your book Surrender the Wind. What can I say? It was absolutely amazing—the best book I've read for a long, long time—[with] intrigue, suspense, passion, love. I've never ridden so fast on a horse as I did with Seth. God certainly gave you a gift. Keep using it. From Deborah (England)
* * *

Please let me know how today’s blog has helped you. This becomes a two-way conversation when you post a comment. Often I jump back on the blog during the day and will answer your questions or respond to your comments. I have both published and unpublished authors who read The Roving Editor, and we’d love to hear from you so that we can learn from your experience. Let’s talk!

And please visit Rita’s website at www.ritagerlach.com/ and her blog at: http://inspire-writer.blogspot.com/.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Word "Oops" Doesn't Exist in God's Vocabulary

This week while I attend the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) Conference in Indianapolis Thursday through Monday, I thought it would be fun and beneficial for you to invite some of my talented authors to share their experiences and inspiration with you.


Today’s guest blogger is Bonnie Calhoun, who has coauthored a new fun suspense novel Deadly Accord with Michelle Sutton. Bonnie is the publisher of the Christian Fiction Online Magazine and runs the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance. She is also the Northeast Zone Director for ACFW. Check out what Bonnie is up to at the websites posted at the end of this blog.

Bonnie S. Calhoun



For any of you out there who are aspiring to be a published author, or have just recently gotten your first contract, I know the majority of your brain power is being expended dreaming about the journey you are embarking on (I know . . . *sigh* . . . I ended with a preposition).

I’m here to tell you that it is everything that you are dreaming about: well-wishing friends, long lost relatives who now want to claim you because you have a published book, people that “get” your stories, and people that “don’t get” your stories.

But there’s another side to publishing that you probably never thought about: cover art discussions, title discussions (don’t ever try to set a title in stone, ‘cause someone will come along with a big hammer and smash that rock to pieces and come up with a much better title), macro edits and content edits, and enough kinds of edits to make your head swim.

But never fear! All of these changes are not meant to hurt you but rather to help you be your upmost finest as an author! And that brings me to my actual subject today.

Fear!

Now that we’re here at the ACFW conference, my burning desire is to address the fear and anxiety that comes along with attending the conference. I have heard all of these remarks at least once:
“What will happen to me since I didn’t get the appointment that I wanted?”
“I’m crushed because that agent didn’t like my work.”
“That editor didn’t even seem to be paying attention to me?”
“I’m going to throw up again; I’m so scared and nervous about pitching my work to strangers.” (No kidding. Someone said that on their Facebook page!)
People! We are children of the One True and Holy God. Father did not create us with the spirit of fear. There is one word that I am absolutely positive is NOT in Father’s vocabulary. That word is “Oops!” (accompanied by a smack to the forehead.)

Nothing that we do, or that is done to us, or even that happens to us at the conference, takes Father by surprise! When it’s your turn to shine, He will get you there no matter what circumstance has to be overcome. All things work together for His glory, and there is no way on God’s green earth that His plan for your life and your writing can be thwarted.

Yes, I give you the option of being nervous meeting new people, but remember when you go in to meet those people, Father’s Holy Spirit is right there inside of you. Just take a deep breath, and tell Father you are ready for however He orders your journey.

www.christianfictiononlinemagine.com, www.christianfictionblogalliance.com, and www.bonniescalhoun.com.



Please let me know how today’s blog has helped you. This becomes a two-way conversation when you post a comment. Often I jump back on the blog during the day and will answer your questions or respond to your comments. I have both published and unpublished authors who read The Roving Editor, and we’d love to hear from you so that we can learn from your experience. Let’s talk!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Cross-Pollination: A Logical First Step to Networking

No Mile Along the Journey Is Wasted

Good morning, everyone! It’s a little after 5 a.m. in Nashville, and I still haven’t washed the Sandman’s visit out of my eyes. This week while I prepare for ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) and attend the conference in Indianapolis Thursday through Monday, I thought it would be fun and beneficial for you to invite some of my talented authors to share their experiences and inspiration with you.

Today’s guest blogger is Richard L. Mabry, MD, a retired physician and medical school professor who achieved worldwide recognition as a writer, speaker, and teacher before turning his talents to non-medical writing after his retirement. He is the author of Code Blue and Medical Error, the first two novels in The Prescription for Trouble series from Abingdon Press; one non-fiction book, and his inspirational pieces have appeared in numerous periodicals. He and his wife, Kay, live in North Texas. He’s one great guy, and his stories reflect his decades of medical experience. You’ll love his romantic suspense! Visit Dr. Mabry at his website: www.rmabry.com. Heeeerrrrreeee's Richard!

Richard L. Mabry, M.D.

My children must have hated some of our family road trips. From the moment we were out of the driveway with me behind the wheel, I was focused on my goal: getting there. Bathroom stops were grudging, food consumed at a gallop. It couldn’t have been easy for my sweet, patient wife. After it was much too late for the “kids”—who could no longer be called that—to reap the benefits, I discovered that the journey is as much a part of the trip as anything.

Some writers approach their art in the same way. Work really hard, keep your eyes straight ahead, never stop to look at the scenery, pay no attention to the people you encounter along the way, think only about “getting there.” But it doesn’t have to work like that…and that’s good. Because taking time along the way is never wasted. The journey is a wonderful part of the trip.

Like a lot of neophytes, I attended my first writer’s conference hoping to catch the attention of an agent or editor, submit my work, and be published soon thereafter. By the second day, I’d given up that idea and started to enjoy the experience of meeting fellow writers, becoming acquainted with well-known authors (who, I discovered, were pretty much real folks), and finding that editors and agents weren’t so fearsome and some of them were even fun. I was beginning to focus on the trip, not the destination. And the people I met along the way were some of the nicest I’ve ever encountered.

For years I worked to learn the craft, but I also decided to work on becoming a member of the writing community. I kept in touch with the people I’d met. I made a point of speaking to writers, editors, and agents as our paths crossed again. Some of them even remembered my name. There were times that I attended a conference or a meeting for the sheer joy of fellowship, with no hope of achieving anything other than refreshing my soul and recharging my writing batteries.

Did anything come of this? One of the editors with whom I became friends at my first conference ended up being my agent. My relationships with established authors allowed me to approach some of them for possible endorsements. Several of the same editors who passed on some of my early work (and, in retrospect, with good reason) rejoiced with me when I told them I had a contract. And a myriad of fellow writers, at various stages along their own road to publication, were nothing but gracious in their congratulations. All because I’d taken the time to relate to them as friends and colleagues, not as someone whom I could use to achieve my goals.

So, to all of you who are on the journey to publication, wherever you happen to be located right now, please remember to pull into a rest stop from time to time. Meet some people. Enjoy the fellowship. You’ll find it’s one of the neatest parts of this thing they call writing.


And the great reviews for Richard Mabry keep rolling in. Here’s one from writing guru and author James Scott Bell after reading Code Blue:

“A healthy dose of mystery, with ample injections of suspense and romance. Richard Mabry’s splendid debut novel is just what the doctor ordered.”


Please let me know how today’s blog has helped you. This becomes a two-way conversation when you post a comment. Often I jump back on the blog during the day and will answer your questions or respond to your comments. I have both published and unpublished authors who read The Roving Editor, and we’d love to hear from you so that we can learn from your experience. Let’s talk!



Monday, September 13, 2010

Guest Blogger Cynthia Ruchti Asks "What If . . . ?"

Today’s guest blogger is Cynthia Ruchti, President of the American Christian Fiction Writers Association, who also writes and produces the daily 15-minute radio broadcast The Heartbeat of the Home and is editor of the broadcast’s Backyard Friends magazine. Her debut novel, They Almost Always Come Home, published by Abingdon Press, has received rave reviews, including this one by Colleen Coble, author of The Lightkeeper’s Daughter and the Rock Harbor series: “A stunning debut novel. Exquisitely written. Highly recommended.”

A writer wields a “what if . . . ?” as a top chef wields a Santoku knife. To a novel, “what if” has the effect of a starting pistol for a runner. It propels a story forward, launches characters off the couch and into a scene, makes the plot pick up its knees, and stirs up some dust.


Cynthia Ruchti and Barbara Scott at the Christy Awards


We know that. We authors value the scintillating possibilities in a good “what if.”

Applied liberally to a story, “what ifs” turn ordinary into exceptional and make readers buy reading light bulbs in bulk.

What happens when we apply “what ifs” to our writing lives and in particular to [ACFW] conference week?

What if the Lord wants me to wait longer for my next contract because He has a life-changing lesson in the wait?

What if the conference isn’t about finding opportunities but about seeking Him?

What if the writer friends I see at conference need my prayers more than my brainstorming abilities?

What if I paid the price of a hefty mortgage for the privilege of discovering my WIP [work in progress] has a major flaw?

What if it isn’t my newly released novel that impresses people but rather my patience with an overworked waitress?

What if this year I am less awed by the big name authors and more awed by the Name Above All Names?

What if I jettison some ego so I can fit in more Fruit of the Spirit?

What if making a sale and making an impression bowed to making Him known?

What if my great idea isn’t publishable and the book of my heart isn’t the apple of any editor’s eye?

What if I spend the whole conference waiting for an unrealistic expectation and miss the God-carved moments?

What if the attendee who tazers my nerve endings is the very person God assigned me to bless?

What if I give more than I get? What if I pick up my cross rather than whine about its splinters?

What if I spend as much time at conference on my knees as I do on networking?

What if His plan for me includes not winning an award, not having an invitation to send a proposal, not securing an appointment with my top choice? What if He’s smarter than I am about what I really need, what my career really needs? Yeah. What if?

What if the Lord didn’t give me an editor so my book would find a publishing home, but so I would find a forever friend?

Books—and the writing life—get more interesting when writers ask “What if . . . ?”

Visit Cynthia at www.cynthiaruchti.com and www.hopethatglowsinthedark.com.


Please let me know how today’s blog has helped you. This becomes a two-way conversation when you post a comment. Often I jump back on the blog during the day and will answer your questions or respond to your comments. I have both published and unpublished authors who read The Roving Editor, and we’d love to hear from you so that we can learn from your experience. Let’s talk!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Apply Triage Techniques to Your Manuscript

Some writers have been destroyed by bad critiques and are so demoralized they never pick up a pen (or keyboard) again. Usually, critiques are offered at writers’ conferences or workshops on the first few chapters or fifty pages of a manuscript.

Critiques should be given in a professional manner. If you receive a critique that you feel contains snarky, rude, or offensive remarks, ask a few trusted friends to read the notes. Your sensitivity to criticism might cause you to read an emotion into the comments that was never meant.

But if your friends also feel the observations were out of line, report the incident to the director of the conference. You need to grow a thick skin in the publishing business, but in the Christian arena, there’s no room for so-called experts who take potshots at other writers.

I’ve critiqued many manuscripts. Some were excellent. Some were good. Some needed a lot of work. Some had so many mistakes that it was difficult to know where to start on my notes.

This past weekend one of my author friends and I had a conversation about the proper way to critique a manuscript. I asked her, “How do you handle a critique on a manuscript that’s bleeding to death?” Her response? “I triage.”

Triage is a practice used by medical professionals or soldiers on the battlefield to determine who will survive and who will not make it. The walking wounded are asked to move to another area so that medics can determine who is incapacitated and cannot move. Some of the wounded are conscious. Some are not. Some are bleeding profusely. Medics stop the bleeding first to determine the extent of the injuries.

In a similar way manuscripts go through a form of triage. We suggest how to stop the bleeding. We look for a few major errors that if treated first can help the manuscript live another day. The author receives a report with suggestions on how to tackle those key areas that need the most attention.

If your piece is one of the walking wounded, it’s easier to spot a problem area and offer suggestions on how you might fix it. The piece has no gaping wounds, but it may have been hit by shrapnel and needs a good self-edit to dig out the parts that don’t belong or to flush out too many adjectives or adverbs, or correct head-hopping syndrome in your POV. Surgery is minor.

Just like a physician or medic, the one who critiques your manuscript has a responsibility to help you, not to harm you. You should be given clear suggestions, and the expert also should tell you what you did right. If your manuscript has legs, that’s a big plus, and the person helping you should encourage you to work hard on the rehab of your manuscript.

Here’s a tip. Reexamine a critique you received in the past. Through the prism of your current experience, decide what comments were valuable and which ones were not. Do a triage of your own. Take the helpful criticism and use it to resuscitate your piece. Then throw the snarky comments in the trash.

Please let me know how today’s blog has helped you. This becomes a two-way conversation when you post a comment. Often I jump back on the blog during the day and will answer your questions or respond to your comments. I have both published and unpublished authors who read The Roving Editor, and we’d love to hear from you so that we can learn from your experience. Let’s talk!