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 cafĂ© 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

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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)
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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!

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!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Discovering Your Unique Voice: Part 2

After writing Monday’s blog, on 5 Ways to Discover Your Unique Voice, all I’ve thought about for the last two days is voice and what a unique voice sounds like.

On my bedside table and spilling onto the floor are forty-eight books, most of them novels, but I can also spot a few devotionals, books on early American history, and two Bibles. The novels fall into every category (almost) from women’s contemporary to romance to suspense to literary. Oh, and my dead Kindle is charging on top of one pile.

Have I read all of them? Most or parts of most. Books are my job, but they’re also my passion. My husband Mike jokes that when we move, one truck is filled with our household goods and the other with boxes of my books.

I give away tons of books, but just as many are given back to me, and I spend way too much money on hardbacks, trade paper, and mass market paperbacks. Not to mention the Kindle books I buy. Abingdon Press bought one of the first Kindles for me so I would stop killing trees by printing out proposals and manuscripts. And I forgot to mention the books filling two massive bookcases in our TV room and two more bookcases in my office.

But what does my collection of books have to do with voice? Everything. If you want to recognize a unique voice, you must read. You must read constantly, even though you are a writer. Writers read, and if they don’t, they miss out on the opportunity to read with a discerning eye. Compare how writers treat the same subject. Romance is romance, but the way the story is told (voice) can make it Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet or Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice or Nicholas Sparks’s The Notebook.

We are original human beings. One of a kind. Individuals. I advised you to remember who you were at the age of five. Your personality was formed then. If I’m going to dish out advice, I thought I should put it into practice too.

At the age of five, I was the youngest of three, laughed a lot, and made silly faces in the mirror to entertain my family. I started first grade that year and was thrown out of the hokey-pokey circle with my “boyfriend” because we put our hips in the circle and shook them all about. I think we shook them a bit hard and giggled a lot. Our teacher Mrs. Sun was not amused and made us sit out the rest of recess in disgrace.

When my turn rolled around for Show and Tell, I told the class that my mommy was going to have a baby. I don’t remember my exact words, but once again, Mrs. Sun was not amused, and I was asked to sit down. Since I talk with my hands, my “show” may have been too graphic for my teacher’s 1953 sensibilities.

Every teacher after that wrote on my report card, “Barbara does not live up to her potential because she talks too much in class.” I’m an extrovert. What can I say?

I loved music. I loved to dance, and in the third grade, I stood up in the cafagymatorium and conducted the orchestra along with the visiting conductor. My teacher called my parents to tell them how talented I was and that they should enroll me in special classes to nurture my abilities. My mom and dad were amused. I think I was a bit of a mimic.

Even now when I listen to a symphony, I either conduct in my head or choreograph whole ballets. I’m amused. However, if Mike drags me to a pro baseball or football game, I always bring a book. A $95 ticket is a total waste of money on me.

Before I left college I had attended twenty-seven different schools. It was not until my poor father was in his 80s that we discovered he was bipolar and that was the reason he couldn’t hold a job for too long. Childhood was a series of ups and downs and walking on eggs to make sure I didn’t cause one of his rages.

Of course, if I had to live with four kids in a 27-foot trailer without a bathroom, it might have made me a little crazy too. No offense to those who are bipolar. Our family is filled with people who suffer from depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, alcoholism, and drug addiction. But we’re quite creative. According to family history, Mark Twain was my paternal grandmother’s second cousin. Now he had a unique voice.

I could write a serious novel, and I have, but I’ve finally found my voice in that five-year-old girl who loved to laugh.



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 6, 2010

Five Ways to Discover Your Unique Voice

Voice seems to be the most difficult concept for writers to grasp. Yet just as each of you has a distinct set of fingerprints, you also have a unique voice.

Then why do writers cry, “I don’t know what voice is?” Why does one book sound exactly like another in the same category? Why do editors pull out their hair reading proposal after proposal looking for a unique voice?

It’s simple, my dear Watson. You have a voice, but you’ve played nice for so long with your smiling church mask secured firmly in place that you don’t know who you are. To express your voice, you need to “know thyself.” Hmmm. Where have I heard that before?

Voice expresses your unique personality. To find it, you must dig deep into the corners of your soul and dredge up the pain and sorrow you’ve tried so hard to forget. You must remember the joys of your childhood and the quality of the air—the scents, the sounds, the sights. You get my drift.

“But, what if no one likes the real me,” you ask. Are you a child of the Living God? Did He knit you together in your mother’s womb? Does He love you? Then be true to the person He designed you to be.

Okay, I promised you five ways to discover your unique voice. Here you go: 
  1. Chose different words and cast about for a unique topic to write about than the author who’s written a best-seller. Populate your setting with characters we’ve never met. Take us to places we’ve never been. We don’t need another Lisa Samson. We need you. Lisa is popular because—you guessed it—she has a unique and wonderful voice. Let your personality shine through in what you write.
  2. Find your passion. Don’t write another mediocre romance just because you can. If you love romance novels, discover your niche. Sandra D. Bricker, who is brilliant and funny, found her voice in her distinctive style of humor. Read and laugh your way through Always the Baker, Never the Bride (Abingdon Press, September 1, 2010 release) and you’ll understand. She chose to write romantic comedy.
  3. Express honest emotions. There’s nothing worse than reading a book that manipulates your emotions. However, if those emotions flow out of the wellspring of your author’s heart—your experiences—they will touch your readers’ souls.
  4. Communicate your stories with authenticity—the truth of who you are. Why do you think politicians are unpopular? Because politicians all sound alike and promise voters the same things. Voters have a difficult time discerning who is a liar and who is telling the truth. Inspire readers with the truth. Fiction can be more real than life.
  5. Spend time daydreaming and remembering your life experiences. Your personality was established by the age of five. Can you remember who you were then? Do you let your individuality shine through in your narrative, dialogue, characters? Would anyone know who you are by reading what you write?
You have a voice. Use it. At first it may be painful and sound like rusty pipes to your ears, but you’ll get used to it.

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 3, 2010

Keep Your Divine Appointments at ACFW

One of the questions I’m often asked is, “How do I get published?” There is no simple answer.

When you arrive at the American Christian Fiction Writers annual conference in Indianapolis this month, keep your heart open to hear the still small voice of God. The secret to hanging up your shingle as a Christian book author is to keep the divine appointments that the Lord has set for you.

If you’re sitting in a workshop that falls flat on your ears, slip out the back and into another class. As creative writers you plan and prepare for this once-a-year conference, marking the workshops you need to attend, but the plans that you have made may be preempted by God.

During mealtimes sit at different tables and network with the people you meet. It’s an interesting phenomenon, but at every conference I’ve found that the Lord directs people with similar interests to sit together for a meal and conversation.

Join a group for coffee or sit in the lobby with a new friend. We always assume that we’re sent to a conference for our benefit, but what if the Lord wants you to encourage a writer who’s ready to give up the dream?

Year after year I hear the most amazing stories about how someone first came to be published. It might have been because they met an agent, editor, or another author in the hallway and struck up a conversation.

One night at dinner an author told me his inspiring story about attending his first writers’ conference where he received a harsh critique of his work. Convinced that his desire to write the best Christian boys books was nothing more than a pipedream, he left the critique room and strode down an empty hallway toward the outside door.

All that stood between him and the door to giving up his dream was one small woman—an agent who just happened to block his way. She encouraged him to continue writing, and he has written several devotionals for boys, who are often neglected in the Christian publishing world. The author’s name is Tim Shoemaker.

When you feel discouraged or depressed and don’t know why you even came to the ACFW conference, remember Tim’s story. And don’t forget to keep your divine appointments.


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!