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Category : Conferences
I can try. Someone in a group setting asked me to describe what I was looking for, and since I was afraid I'd have to start doing drugs if I had to face a bunch of writers who wanted to tell me about their Amish romances, that's what I came up with. I'd love to say I labored over it, but… well, it's not bad. I do a lot of literary fiction — probably more than most of the other CBA agents who attended. But I've learned that literary fiction sells best when it's tied to a high concept, rather than another one of those "Christian woman faces a difficult struggle which allows her to ruminate on her crappy life" type of literary novels. And I'm moving more and more toward the general market, so… that's what I said.
Now. How would I define it? Um, how's this: I like contemporary fiction that doesn't easily fit into some common genre category, but still offers a big enough story to make me pay attention. I suppose I need it to sound more artsy. Literary novelists sometimes have to be reminded that (a) I have to like your lead character if I'm going to keep reading, and (b) there has to be a big enough story to actually have a book, and (c) it has to seem enjoyable enough at the front end that I'll want to read the whole thing. Therefore I tend to look for those things in literary fiction. When you look at some of the literary novelists I represent (Lisa Samson, Susan Meissner, Claudia Burney, Gina Holmes, Ginger Garrett, Joyce Magnin, even Kimberly Stuart, who is lighter than the others but
There has been a ton of buzz in the media about the just-completed American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) conference. It was big (more than 600 writers, about 700 people attending), it was fun (Susan May Warren teaching a line dance to 100 people at her pizza party stands out), and it has become influential (lots of media there — I had interviews with a national magazine and a large newspaper). A few things that stood out for me:
-As noted yesterday, Sandra Bishop of MacGregor Literary won "Agent of the Year." Congrats, SB! Well deserved.
–Jenny B Jones, an author we represent, won two "Book of the Year" Awards, in both the "Contemporary Romance" (for her novel Just Between You and Me) and the "Young Adult" categories (for I'm So Sure).
-Other authors we represent who were finalists in various categories included Vickie McDonough (a two-time finalist in the "Historical" category, plus a finalist in the "Short Contemporary" category), Joyce Magnin (in the "Long Contemporary" category for her fabulous book The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow), Susan Meissner (one of the great novelists in CBA today, for White Picket Fences), Mindy Starns Clark (for Under the Cajun Moon), Darlene Franklin (for A String of Murders), Janice Thompson (also a two-time finalist, for Pushing Up Daisies as well as Love Finds You in Poetry, Texas), Rachel Hauck's Sweet By and By in the "Women's Fiction" category, Lynette Sowell (for All That Glitters), and Jill Williamson (for By Darkness Hid - which we didn't represent at the time, but Jill is now represented by Amanda Luedeke). So a great night for our authors.
-By the way, the Book of the Year Award is now The Carol Award, named for longtime Bethany House fiction director Carol Johnson, who had significant influence on the direction and growth of Christian fiction over the past 25 years. In a very touching moment,
Recently a friend said to me "it must be so cool to get paid to read
manuscripts for a living." I knew then that he really had no idea what
my job entailed. Reading manuscripts and reviewing proposals is an
important part of what I do, of course. But, honestly, it's just the
beginning of what can be a long process.
For me, sometimes reading manuscripts is soothing. It reminds me that
there is always the possibility of finding something fresh, or a
potential perfect fit for an editor, or simply a gem I want to
seriously consider. Other times it's stressful because I wonder how
I'll ever find time to help with another project. But, it ebbs and
flows, and all works out in the process. Publishing is a lot of things,
but one thing it most certainly is is a process.
Sometimes I think writers forget this.
For example, right now I'm working on submitting a project I've been helping an
author shape since January 2009. Yep, you read that right. 18 months of
work. Admittedly the author is a busy mom and works full-time, so it's
been a bit of an off and on process for her. But, I believe in her work
and her message, and I know when the time is right, we'll be ready. For
some authors I represent, patience (on both our parts) is the primary
speed. For others, sometimes, we have to hasten things a bit.
I'd love to hear from some of you who are willing to share how long it
took you to get published. I mean from first submission to book on the
shelf. Just to give some perspective. Anyone willing?
While we wait for your responses, here's a smattering of NEWS for you:
A COUPLE NEWISH BLOGS by a couple editor friends of ours we thought you'd like to check out:
Nick Harrison – Harvest House Publishers Nick
A heapin’ hunk o’ questions came in while I was on vacation, so let me catch up with them.
Mike wrote to ask, "Could we talk about making money through publishing in ways other than writing books? Like manuscript critique, reading submissions for publishers, writing reviews, etc. Do you think there’s value in these sidelines?"
There’s certainly value in these endeavors, Mike, but in most of them there’s not much money. Let’s put these publishing activities into two categories: the EXPERIENCE group, and the INCOME group…
In the EXPERIENCE group, an author finds ways to get more involved with the industry, learn about the craft, and make connections. To that end, he or she can write book reviews, create a column in a local newspaper, review movies or restaurants, read submissions for an agent or editor, participate in a blog, send an e-zine, regularly post articles on a web site, and send in a short piece for a book of collected essays (like the Chicken Soup or God Allows U-Turns books). All of those are great ways to get some experience and exposure. None of them will pay much.
In the INCOME group, a writer can set up an editorial service, offer to critique manuscripts for a fee, do copy editing for publishers (who are always looking for good copy editors), create magazine articles, do some collaborative writing, help authors strengthen their proposals, do contract evaluations (if you know what you’re doing), or take a job with a publishing-related company. That could mean working part-time doing office work for an agent, or helping a marketing company with author tours, or even taking a job at Barnes & Noble. When I was a free-lance writer, I wrote study guides for people. I have a friend who works for a travel company and writes traveler-related stories. Another friend puts together a newsletter for one of America’s largest home builders, another is paid
I just got back from the best writing conference I’ve ever attended — the Calvin Conference on Faith and Writing. It took place at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, and featured bestselling authors such as Haven Kimmel, Kathleen Norris, Yann Martel, Phyllis Tickle, Rob Bell, Francine Rivers, and T. Davis Bunn. Pulitzer Prize winners Michael Chabon and Edward P. Jones spoke, as did Pulitzer nominee Robert Finch, and National Book Award winner Katherine Paterson. And (probably due to a clerical error) me.
There were fascinating presentations, all done by smart people with really big titles. Mary Louise Bringle spoke on "From Despair to Healing: Theological Insights from Fiction," and others did things like "Graphalogia" and "Writing as Catechesis" and "How I Learned to Draw God." Meanwhile, I did my usual "the right way to sharpen a pencil." I also gave people tips on saving money by using toilet paper instead of kleenex. In case there were charismatics in the audience, I pretended to speak in tongues and heal somebody.
Anyway, they do this every other year at Calvin. One of the reasons I like it so much is because of the quality of writer they get. Haven Kimmel is one of my heroes, so the fact that we got a chance to sit down and yack was special. (Her most recent book, She Got Up Off the Couch, is about her mother, who rose from poor roots to become an English professor. So when I got to sit and have a conversation with her mom, I was thrilled. And charmed.) Davis Bunn proved once again to be the nicest Southern Gentleman still living. Phyllis Tickle is always nice to me, though I have no idea why. So is the poet Luci Shaw, even though I’m never smart enough to figure out what she’s saying. Being able to chat up very smart people is always nice, though they generally just stand
I’ve got a bunch of notes and questions regarding writer resources, so let me try to get to several of them today…
On MONEY: Patricia wrote to say, "Thanks for your recent blog post about earning money. So if a book doesn’t ‘earn out’ its advance, is the balance applied against the next book?"
It is if your contract is cross-collateralized — that is, if all your various book advances are "basketed" into one deal. If not — if each book is on a separate contract — then no, your advance cannot be applied to your next book.
On REMAINDERS: DeeAnn wrote me to ask, "What does it mean to ‘remainder’ a book?"
That’s when the publisher sells the remaining copies of your book to a book wholesaler for less than the cost of printing. It commonly happens when your book is going out of print, or when they’re down to the last 1000 copies or so, and the publisher wants to be rid of them. The books might have cost $2 to print, but they’ll sell them for $1 apiece to somebody who will buy the entire remaining stock, just to get them out of the warehouse.
On SELF-PUBLISHING: Gene wants to note, "The latest issue of Writers Digest is filled with ads for self-publishing. I’m on my second agent, still trying to get published, but it takes SOOOO long. How can you convince me not to go to lulu.com and have my book for sale on Amazon tomorrow morning? When will the traditionalists speed up the process?"
You’re right — there are a ton of self-publishing companies. Some are good, some are not. Be careful. The problem with self-publishing is not the speed, it’s the sales. If you write a book, you have to make sure the book is good (and if publishers are all turning you down, there could be a message there, Gene). You also