Feb

25

2014

Basketball and Writing

by Dan Balow

Basketball

Next week is March and that means basketball “March Madness” around the country.  From high school to college, teams will compete in tournaments where excitement is at its peak.  

One of my hobbies is to work as the official scorer for the Wheaton College (Illinois) men’s and women’s home basketball games.  I started doing this back in the late 70’s, took some time away from it when our kids were young and then started up again in earnest about eight years ago.

I sit at the scorer table at center court, in a striped referee shirt and mark down in a book what happens.  If I am wrong, someone gets mad.  Players check in with me to enter the game.  Theoretically, whatever is in the book is true.    

The most interesting aspect of this work is that I need to be completely objective, show no emotion, be as helpful to the referees and coaches as possible and basically work so that no one in the gym even knows I am there.  A good game is where all the information is correct and no one gets mad.

Anyone close to me or who works with me, knows that I eventually make sports analogies to just about everything, from relationships to business.  (Even if the comparisons are a stretch!)  So, I figured, what better time to compare basketball to book publishing than on the eve of March Madness?

Here are some things that are true in basketball and writing books:

  1. You can’t play all home games – Your family and friends love you…the reader 500 miles away?  Not so much.
  2. Timing is everything – it is not what you do, but when you do it.
  3. Keep your head about you when all around you are losing theirs – emotion can either ruin you or drive you. Tense moments need people with cool-heads who respond to crisis.Decide now.
  4. Sometimes bad things happen – no one to blame, it just happened. You slip on some sweat on the floor and lose the ball.  Looking for blame is pointless. A printing press breaks down and your book is late. Relax.
  5. People make mistakes – referees, editors, proofreaders, sales people…agents.
  6. If you don’t play by the rules, don’t be surprised when someone gets mad – treat people badly or do something against the grain?  This is why the referee has a whistle and literary contracts have cancellation clauses.
  7. Adversity is an opportunity – You can tell a lot about a person by how they respond to adversity. It not only builds your character but also gives a tangible update to everyone on the current status of yours.
  8. Nothing happens exactly as planned – Detailed game plans are good until the opening tip…then it’s about responding to adversity. (See #7)
  9. Sometimes the other team gets hot – You do everything right, but the other player heaves in a 50 foot shot while falling into the stands. Great books sometimes don’t sell as much as popular books.  Get over it. (See #2)

Good coaches throughout all levels and types of sport know there are life lessons to be learned by them and taught to athletes.  If you speak with anyone involved in sports, their memories are fuzzy on game details, but crystal clear of the people they have known and lessons learned, like my incomplete list above. 

Anything to add?

Feb

24

2014

Defusing Contract Landmines

by Steve Laube

Laptop explodes

During the last six months we have run into some landmines buried within some small press contracts. In each case it was the author’s relationship with the publisher that helped land the offer, and so we proceeded to review the paperwork in order to protect the author’s interests.

In one case the small publisher was very grateful for our negotiations and contract changes. They plan to change their contract for all authors in the future. We were glad to help our client form that new partnership.

In two cases the publisher said they could not afford to hire a lawyer to review our requested changes to the contract and thus were unwilling to negotiate. We recommended the author walk away both times.

In yet another case the publisher wouldn’t negotiate and said, in essence, “take it or leave it.” We walked away. Our client terminated their relationship with us and signed the deal on their own.

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Feb

21

2014

Fun Fridays – February 21, 2014

A parody of the song “Blurred Lines” now called “Church Signs.”
Found at Jon Acuff’s “Stuff Christians Like” blog. Blame him.

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Feb

20

2014

Do You Like to Cry While Reading?

by Tamela Hancock Murray

Woman in tears

I’ll have to admit, I don’t like to cry. I don’t even like depressing songs. Instead I prefer things that are upbeat. For example, here are some of the lyrics to a song that helped me get through my teen years:

Flashlight.

Red Light.

Neon Light.

Spotlight.

Most of all you can funk. Help me find the funk….

Yoww

I think I found the funk!

["Flashlight" was written by Ronald R. Brooks, Gregory E. Jacobs, David R. Elliot, Bernard Worrell, William Earl Collins, and George Clinton Jr..]

Not that I can’t get serious. But I still like that fun song even today.

So now it’s your turn, if you like to cry while reading. What have been your favorite tearjerker books? I’ll give you a clue. Steve Laube told me that the marketing people at Bethany Publishing House wanted to mail a box of tissues with every copy of Deborah Raney’s A Vow to Cherish when it was first published.

So, what is your favorite tearjerker novel? 

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Feb

19

2014

Spring is Here!

by Karen Ball

[caption id="attachment_7939" align="aligncenter" width="456"]2014 spring flower A picture of a beautiful flower I took this morning in our garden.[/caption]

It started two weeks ago. Little green sprouts poking up through the frozen, barren ground. Ground that, thanks to a winter of record-breaking cold, was so hard just a month ago that not even my shovel made a dent in it. So you can imagine my delight when I spotted those bits of green pushing their way through that same, dead earth. I checked them every day, watching and waiting. Because I knew what was coming. And sure enough, last week those hardy green shoots boasted buds. With unseasonable frosts in the forecast, I worried they wouldn’t make it. But hallelujah! Not only did they survive, but this week they exploded in beautiful blossoms. Now, instead of empty ground, crocuses and miniature irises paint my yard with purple and yellow. And today, the daffodils and jonquils joined in, bringing a smile to my face and heart with the news:

Spring is here!

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Feb

18

2014

Adopt a Bookstore

by Dan Balow

bookstore2

Bookstores throughout the United States are going through the most challenging period in their history.  The combination of online purchase of printed books and the dawn of the eBook have combined to deliver a one-two punch to the business of book retailing.

For Christian bookstores, the challenges started over a decade ago when a substantial part of their business (in some cases over a third) began to disappear when music became a downloaded media (iTunes started in 2001) and retail sales of CD’s began to decrease significantly.  A second hit came when movies and video started to be rented and sold in numerous locations, then eventually becoming a downloaded or streamed media.  To a lesser extent, audiobooks becoming primarily a downloaded media was another hit.

Remember Borders?  They positioned themselves as a “media” retailer and the loss of music and movies put them into a spiral that resulted in their demise.  Of course, the fact that they were a publicly held corporation didn’t help.  Investors bail out fast when revenues drop and profit is marginal or nonexistent.  They were not able to make the changes necessary to survive.

Add all these pieces and history together and you have the story of the challenges to be addressed by Christian retailers in 2014. The Christian Bookseller’s Association is addressing the issues from the bookseller standpoint, but I have a proposal what authors can do.

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Feb

17

2014

How Do You Measure Success?

by Steve Laube

measuresuccess

A few years ago while talking to some editors they described an author who was never satisfied (not revealing the name of course). It this author’s latest book had sold 50,000 copies the author wondered why the publisher didn’t sell 60,000. And if it sold 60,000 why didn’t it sell 75,000? The author was constantly pushing for “more” and was incapable of celebrating any measure of success.

Recently there has been much ink spilled on whether Indie authors are better of than authors published by traditional publishers. Pundits have laid claim to their own definition of a successful book using number, charts, and revealed earnings. Following this dialogue can be rather exhausting.

I understand the desire to measure whether or not my efforts are successful. It is a natural instinct. If it is any indication, one of our most popular blog posts has been “What are Average Book Sales?” with thousands of readers.

In one way this is a wise question so that expectations can be realistic.

In another way it is unwise in that the cliff called “Comparison” is a precipitous one. I’ve talked to depressed authors who are wounded by numbers. I’ve talked to angry authors who are incensed by a perceived lack of effort by their publisher. I’ve talked to highly frustrated authors who wonder if it is all worth it.

Ultimately I can’t help but think this is all an exercise in determining a definition of success for the individual author. If you can measure it you can define it. That is as long as we know what “it” is.

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Feb

14

2014

A Valentine’s Day Message

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George Eliot wrote in the novel Adam Bede:

What greater thing is there for two human souls,
than to feel that they are joined for life –
to strengthen each other in all labor,
to rest on each other in all sorrow,
to minister to each other in all pain,
to be one with each other
in silent unspeakable memories . . .

In those beautiful words is a question. “What greater thing is there?”

I think I might have an answer. It is when those two souls are joined together in the bond of Jesus Christ. It is there, and only there, where the power, joy, grace, peace, and exhilaration of that unbreakable union soars among the highest places and slogs through the muddiest swamps. Together. Always.

To my Valentine, Lisa.

Steve

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Feb

13

2014

Rooting for the Bad Guy?

by Tamela Hancock Murray

Man with mysterious eyes

Last week I blogged about amoral protagonists. But what about protagonists who are unquestionably immoral?

Some general market books make their readers root for the bad guy. Think about accounts of bank robbers Bonnie and Clyde, written from their points of view. Or a book written primarily from the point of view of a courtesan, such as Amy Tan’s The Valley of Amazement. These books set the reader in a life where there is no Christ, yet the reader can’t help but feel sympathy for the protagonists by coming to an understanding of how circumstances combined by the moral failings of others set characters in one unhappy situation after another. 

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Feb

12

2014

Why I Read Romance Novels

by Karen Ball

Valentine’s Day is on its way, and that got me to thinking about that four-letter word we all use with impunity:

LOVE.

What a powerful word, one so full of meaning I could write a dozen blogs about it and still not exhaust the depth and breadth of all it entails. I’m grateful for love. For God’s love. For my hubby’s love. For my family’s love. For my doggies’ love. Love has blessed me more than I could ever deserve. But then, isn’t that the very nature of love—that it comes to us regardless of our so-called “worth.” And one area where I most enjoy the blessing of love is in writing. Whether poetry or novels, nonfiction or essays, I’m not afraid to admit that I love reading about love. And I especially enjoy–get ready for it–romance novels!

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