• May 5, 2010

    The 2010 Bad Poetry Contest


    Bad poetry lives!

    That's right, the time has come once again to put away childish things and break out with verbal arm farts. Stop the wordsmithing madness and start constipating on wrong rhythms and awful word choice. The 2010 Bad Poetry Contest is here. 

    For those not in the know, we deal with books and publishing 51 weeks out of the year, answering questions and offering insights to writers and those interested in the world of publishing. But one week out of the year (my birthday week), we set aside the topic of publishing in order to share something much deeper… much more meaningful… and very stupid. In the old British tradition of offering something falsely deep yet with a veneer of thoughtfulness, we hold a Bad Poetry Contest. Each year the readers send in truly horrible poetry, then a team of experts (me…and sometimes Mike, if he's sober and I can convince him to help) offers a thorough evaluation of each piece ("That sucks… but this sucks worse."). Eventually we come up with a winner, who is presented with a truly fabulous Grand Prize. One year it was a 45 record of Neil Diamond singing "I Am, I Said" (which contains these deep thoughts: "I am, i said, to no one there, and no one heard at all not even the chair." Wow. Sing to me, Neil.) Another year it was a very special book that had been sent to me in hopes of finding representation: Does God Speak Through Cats?  You see the theme here? We go for a mood of deepfulness and reflectivosity. And YOU need to participate. 

    This year's Grand Prize? A copy of what has been called "the worst self-published book ever." How to Good-bye Depression is the product of that great writing mind Hiroyuki Nishigaki, who added to its fame by creating this winning subtitle: If You Constrict Anus 100

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  • May 4, 2010

    The Worst of Contracts


    Dale wrote to say, "You've told us some things to look for in publishing contracts. What are some of the BAD things you've seen in contracts?

    First, let me say that I think it's great Dale wrote to me, so that I can legitimately use a joke about "Chip and Dale." I've seen some really, REALLY stupid things in book publishing contracts. Some examples: 

    1. A contract with no title listed and no description of the project. So you're on the hook for…who knows what?

    2. A grant of rights that includes everything, including if you ever decide to write or speak on this topic again sometime in this lifetime. (Keep this in mind when looking at the conflicting publications clause — it's reasonable to expect a publisher gets a window in which the author is focused on their contracted title. It's not reasonable to make that a lifetime ban on the subject for an author — something I've seen.)

    3. A description of the work so broad that you would be considered in breach of contract should you write a thank you note to your Aunt Agatha for sending you that bad Christmas sweater.

    4. An advance that needs to be paid back should it not earn out. Paid back?! This is an "advance against royalties," not a loan. For crying out loud — why not ask 'em to fill out an application? 

    5. Royalties that DROP when more copies are sold. (No kidding. Read the fine print.) Take a look at the contracts of some publishing houses — if your book is sold at a reasonable discount, they'll cut your royalty in half, leading the sales team to SUGGEST THAT VERY IDEA to accounts. Great plan. 

    6. Some contracts have words that basically say, "If we re-sell the idea to other people, we get to keep all the money." I've seen this happen a couple

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  • May 3, 2010



    Winter 2010 headshot No dance photos to dazzle you with this week. Unless someone from the
    Oklahoma Writer's Conference this past weekend has pictures
    of a few of us two-stepping it up at The Rodeo on Saturday night — a real live cowboy dance hall, complete with live bull riding.  Poor Bulls.

    We've recently landed several very cool deals I can't wait to mention … but we're still waiting on contracts – which means you'll have to wait for the news.

    Plenty of other stuff to mention, though…


    Chip is heading to Orlando this weekend where he'll be hosting a
    fiction writers retreat with Lisa Samson and Susan Meissner. If you're
    in the area for the weekend, contact the coordinator at tiffcolter at
    gmail.com – there is likely room for a couple more folks. Mention that
    you saw the last minute post on the blog and Tiff will let you know if
    discount is available.

    Sandra is making her way north this weekend (May 7-8) to join authors
    and faculty Northwest Christian Writer's Renewal in Seattle.

    Later today, May 4th, Sandra will be interviewed about God's role in
    her career over at www.christiandevotions.us. An archive of the show
    will be available in case you care to catch it later.

    MacGregor Literary author Janice Thompson officially debuted her online
    course "Becoming a Successful Freelance Writer" last week. Check out
    the course on her website – www.freelancewritingcourses.com or on


    Publishers Weekly called Gina Holmes CROSSING OCEANS (Tyndale) a
    "haunting tale that packs an emotional wallop." and warned readers to
    "keep tissues near."

    Carla Stewart's upcoming June title, CHASING LILACS
    (Hachette/Faithwords) is also receiving a lot of attention. In addition
    to being reviewed in Library Journal, receiving a starred review in
    Publishers Weekly; mention in Library Journal; Reviews in PW (a starred
    one), Library Journal, and Christian retailing.

    Irene Hannon's AGAINST ALL ODDS (Revell) remains within the top 20

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  • May 2, 2010

    What a novelist needs to know about marketing


    Jay asked, "In your view, what are the essential things a novelist has to understand about marketing?" 

    I talk about marketing a lot, Jay, so let me see if I can simplify it…

    1. YOU

    Author, YOU are responsible for your marketing. Not the publisher. Not the agent. You. The publisher and agent will both help, and they ought to bring something to the table or they aren't doing their jobs. But the book is yours – nobody else knows it as well as you do. Nobody else is as enthusiastic or as committed to it. Nobody else has as much riding on it. So give up any illusion that the publisher is going to take over your marketing – I'm just not seeing that very much any more. If you don't take charge of your marketing, it won't happen. 

    Just reading over those words, I realize that, for many authors, this is tough to hear. But I'm serious — I never hear an author say, "Gee, I'm thrilled with the marketing my publisher is doing on my book." Instead, I generally hear authors grousing about the crummy marketing or the little work being done. And my response from now on is going to be to tell the author to change his or her perspective. Start being appreciative of the few things your publicist gets right. Start saying "thanks" more for the fact that your publisher is doing ANYTHING. And then just go do the rest of it yourself.

    2. PLAN

    To do that means you're going to have to educate yourself. Just as you've had to learn the ropes of how to write well, I think most of us are going to have to learn how to market well. You'll have to pick up a couple of marketing books, maybe attend a marketing class or seminar, and do some digging to figure out what makes a good marketing plan.

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  • April 30, 2010

    Three Spiritual Disciplines for Writers – A Guest Blog


    We're enjoying a happy day here at the office — three authors named as Christy finalists, Irene Hannon hitting the bestseller list for the third time in a row, the big online launch party for Gina Holmes' fabulous debut novel CROSSING OCEANS. A good day all around — and the perfect time to invite an author I represent to do a guest blog. Keri Wyatt Kent, who has written several very thoughtful books, checks in with her ruminations on the spiritual side of writing. You should check out Keri's books REST and SIMPLE COMPASSION — fascinating stuff…

    Those of us who dare to write about the spiritual life face a daunting challenge—how do we practice what we preach? How do we keep our writing authentic? As we “write for God,” how do we tend our own souls?

    Spiritual disciplines are simply practices of faith that create some space in our lives for God. If you have ever sat down to read your bible or pray, you’ve engaged in spiritual disciplines. But there are many other disciplines that will help us to grow, while ultimately improving our writing.

    It’s important to listen to God’s direction on which disciplines are needed in our lives. God may call us to embrace solitude and silence for a season. He may ask us to build trust by giving.

    The most commonly practiced disciplines are study and prayer—also called solitude or quiet time with God. Writers need these. But here are three other spiritual disciplines that I have found a particularly helpful as a writer:

    1. Community. But we also need the balance of authentic community. Writing is a solitary venture—we bravely face a blank page, alone but for the thoughts in our head. We need the discipline of setting aside our work to connect with others—and not just via Facebook. God may speak to our hearts, but we need to test those leadings with

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  • April 30, 2010


    Dennis Hillman, Publisher at Kregel, offered an excellent response to my post about "what is reasonable in a book contract" a couple days ago. If you're interested in a publisher's perspective, go to the comments section and read his thoughtful response.

    And BIG NEWS: Three authors I represent are finalists for the Christy Award (the books of the year awards in Christian publishing). Lisa Samson's THE PASSION OF MARY MARGARET is in the stand-alone novel category; Mark Mynheir's THE NIGHT WATCHMAN in the "suspense" category; and Kaye Dacus' STAND IN GROOM in the "contemporary romance" category. Congrats to Lisa, Mark, and Kaye!

    And one very cool side note… Jeff Gerke, publisher at startup Marcher Lord Press, also saw one of his books named as a Christy finalist. To me, that's a very cool thing — one of the new, small houses up against the Big Boys. Gotta love it. Congrats, Jeff. 

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  • April 28, 2010

    Amanda (Chip's assistant) steps in…


    Let's talk a bit about what I call The Christian Connection.

    I've seen it one too many times: Some Christian writer with big-time aspirations discovers that Chip, one of the top agents in the business, is also a Christian. Ba-da-boom, the query is sent, the correlation made, and the aspiring author sits back patiently awaiting Chip's acceptance.

    And then they're rejected.

    They slump in their chair, defeated. Demoralized. Because it was meant to be.

    And now they'll have to venture out into the cold, dark world of the eternally damned.

    Give me a break. 

    We all know finding the right agent is about more than your personal belief system. It's about how you interact, what your expectations are, what work you produce, and whether you feel any chemistry. Authors who rely on the Christian Connection generally miss this whole concept. And I'm really fine with that. I am. It's their loss.

    What I'm not fine with is how the Christian Connection communicates a general fear of interacting with the unsaved.

    I feel it in the twelve exclamation points that follow each reference to Christianity. I see it in the continual reminder that God's will must be at work, bringing two like-minded professionals together like this. And it bothers me. Aren't we to be salt and light?

    But what if my agent swears?! Drinks?!! Cheats?!!! Or does all three while I'm meeting him at a club in Las Vegas?!!!!

    Here's the bottom line. Chip likes representing other Christians. He really does. And there are times when the connection is there and there's no doubt that he should represent another Christ-follower. But  when it comes down to it, well … If Tony Dungy (former coach of the Indiana Colts) put each and every Christian football player he ever met on his team, do you think they would have won the championship? Do you think they would have even come close?


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  • April 22, 2010


    Ack. I forgot to mention that Gina Holmes, an author I represent and whose first novel, CROSSING OCEANS, is just releasing, also made the list of 101 Best Websites for Writers. Gina is the founder of Novel Journey, a GREAT site that I should have mentioned anyway. Congratulations, Gina! (And, um, sorry for not mentioning you before…) You can find Gina's wonderful site at www.noveljourney.blogspot.com .

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  • April 22, 2010

    Agent Questions (and cool news!)


    Darlene asked an agent question: "I've been working with an agent I was introduced to at a conference, but I'm not sure she knows what she's doing…nor do I know what she should be doing for me. It seems like I basically did the deal myself. Can you help me?"

    Sure. A good agent should (1) give you career advice, (2) introduce you to people you don't already have connections with, such as editors and publishers and marketers, (3) offer wisdom on book ideas and writing, (4) help give guidance on your marketing, (5) negotiate your contract [and do a good job of it], (6) ensure contract compliance, and (7) be your insider — the person who knows the industry and offers some experienced wisdom, serving as your advocate when necessary, taking on the hard issues and conversations when necessary. I suppose many times the agent also serves as the author's friend and encourager, though that doesn't always happen. If you ended up basically doing the deal yourself — well, that's a shame. It happens sometimes, but you probably need to have a conversation with the agent and clarify expectations, Darlene. 

    Bobbie asked this: "How do agents feel about writers following up on a query or proposal submission? What is an acceptable time period to wait before following up?"

    Well, I TRY to get back to people within three weeks. The fact is, I’m often much faster. But I'll admit that I hate having people send me short notes in order to remind me that I’ve failed them (“I sent you my proposal a month ago!”). Those folks have forgotten that I don’t owe them a reading. If I agree to read their proposal, it’s because I choose to. (Sorry if I sound cranky, but I got two of these today, from two people I’ve never heard of. My first reaction is to say something snarky like, “Okay, if you’re

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  • April 20, 2010



    P4110239SOME FUN NEWS


    My son (aka Abe Lincoln) and his 3-4-5 grade classmates wowed a crowd of 300+ guests last week with their orations and period dances during the performance of a Civil War Peace Cotillion. 



    Until the day of  dress rehearsal, my son wouldn't let me hear his oration of The Gettysburg Address nor watch him and his classmates rehearse the complicated dances he and his fellow classmates practiced (often on their own time) for months before the two hour live performance.

    P4110262 I find it simply amazing what kids P4110253can do when we raise the bar! He knows more about the Civil War now than I'll ever pretend to know!


    Dan Penwell, the longtime publisher at AMG Publishers and a wonderfully
    gentle man, passed away yesterday after a long bout with cancer. Dan
    was a fixture at many Christian writing conferences, offering wisdom to
    anyone looking to talk with a longtime publisher professional. He'll be


    Christian Fiction Library
    says this of a few recent releases by authors we represent:

    Janice Thompson's romantic comedy, Weddings
    by Bella
    is "full of laugh-out-loud moments … and
    sure to appeal to fans of Adriana Trigiani's more secular Lucia,

    In their review
    RITA® Award winner Irene
    Hannon's In Harms Way, LJ said
    Hannon is a "master at
    character development" and said new readers will want to go back and
    read the first two titles in the series (Against All Odds; An Eye
    for an Eye

    Called Riva Riva's Heading Home
    "essential for parents and teens who want a YA story with elements of
    romance that aligns better than many popular YA novels with their moral

    here's what they said about debut author Carla Stewart's
    Chasing Lilacs: "
    nostalgic debut is perfect for readers who enjoy Christian
    coming-of-age stories."


    Here's what Susan Meissner

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