Overcome the Discouragement of Expectations

Guest post by Erin Taylor Young

Erin Young Headshot

Erin Taylor Young has a remarkable gift for making her readers laugh out loud even as she’s delivering hard truths about living a life of faith. Her down-to-earth writing style invites readers into the books that God has given her and sends them away refreshed and the assured that we’re not in this gig alone. Her first humorous nonfiction, Surviving Henry: Adventures in Loving a Canine Catastrophe, will release August 5, 2014. Which just happens to be my (Karen Ball’s) birthday. Now that’s a loyal client! Erin lives in the Southwest with her husband, their two sons, and the infamous—and, against all odds, still alive–Henry.



This is Henry, our dog. Not my husband.

I love my husband. Really I do. But there are occasions I’m tempted to take a sharp, pointy pencil and stab him somewhere non-fatal. Especially when I’m torqued over my anemic word count, frustrated by a recent edit, or discouraged by yet another rejection.

I’m venting why, why, WHY, and my hubby turns into a fixer. Worse, he’s a fixer with a PhD, so when he tells me exactly what’s going on inside me and how to change it—apparently it’s some stupid cycle between my situation, my brain, and my emotions—he’s right. I hate that.

Can I not just have five minutes to wallow?

Sometimes that’s exactly what we need. You know, like a good mud bath. People pay money for that.

Then again, people also get sucked into mud bogs and are never seen again.

The difference is in knowing what you’re doing in the mud and how to get out when it’s time. Which means understanding that cycle between situation, brain, and emotion is actually helpful. I’ll give you the elevator pitch though, so your eyes don’t glaze over.

We have goals. We try to achieve them. We fail.

Then we feel rotten because the mismatch between our goals and our ability to achieve them creates frustration. This is perfectly normal, and in fact a GOOD THING because it compels us to adjust our methods or our goals, i.e. get a grip on reality.

Sometimes it’s easy. Like that six-figure book contract with an eighty-city tour? Give it up.

Sometimes adjusting our goals is hard, because what if we did everything right? We wrote a great book, we’d be giddy over a puny contract, and the manuscript went to pub board at three houses. Then got rejected.

Our perfectly normal frustration makes us wrack our brains to figure out what we could’ve done differently, or what we can change now. But there’s nothing. So our brains keep cycling until we exhaust ourselves straight into discouragement.

And that, my friends, is a bog we can drown in.

Yet there are things we can change, and our why, why, WHY questions can actually help us find them.

For example:

If God is calling me to a writing career, why did I get rejected again?

No matter how much I claim to be prepared for rejection, if I’m asking why it happened, my little heart wasn’t ready to go there. I’ve just uncovered an expectation that needs to change, so I have to ask myself a new question. Am I willing to be rejected a hundred times without good reason until God deems my umpteenth try to be accepted?

Sounds depressing when I put it that way. But if my expectation is that I’ll be rejected until the one day that maybe I won’t be, then I can focus on the greater issue: obedience. God is calling me to be faithful to the task, without regard to public success. Changing my goal to obedience breaks the cycle of frustration and discouragement. I can even find joy in rejection because it means I’m moving forward, doing my job.

If God gave me a gift for writing, why is it so hard?

Um, right, somewhere I got the idea that using my gifts would be easy. Another hidden expectation that needs to die. A better question is am I willing to wrestle with this task, to work harder and then harder yet, because is there one person in the Bible who had a God-given task that was a cakewalk?

What if instead I expect a stinking hard task and acknowledge my weakness? Then I can focus on a greater goal—to bring glory to God. Because I know, and so will the world, that it’s only by his power, his purpose, and his grace that I’m able to do impossible things. Actually sounds exciting, right?

Why did that last edit/critique/contest entry have to be so humiliating?

Well ouch. No one should expect to be humiliated. But I can’t expect improving my writing to be simple either. Growth is not a warm fuzzy. The real question is am I willing to endure, to stretch, to press on no matter how painful?

We all love stories where tormented characters struggle their way through an epic journey to victory. The more times they’re crushed and still rise up, the more we cheer.

From the sidelines.

Where we don’t actually have to be that character…

Well that’s just boring.

What if we really are that character, living out the story God has for us? We can expect a knock-down, drag-out, good-versus-evil fight. We can expect an enemy who keeps shoving us into bogs. We can expect to fall, hurt, and be discouraged.

But the difference between discouragement and hope is the choice we make to hang onto the best expectation yet:

God. Is. With. Us.

So what can stand against us?

I’m not saying we’re all going to be published. I’m not saying we’ll all have a paying writing career. That’s not the point of our life story. The point is to rise up out of our bogs and do whatever task God calls us to because he makes us able. Because it brings him glory. Because it’s what we’re made to do.

And in all these things, we can expect to triumph.

Because that’s the way God wrote the story.


Here is the book trailer Erin created for the new book Surviving Henry:




Embracing Change

by Dan Balow


On September 3, 1967 the world changed. It was a day remembered for chaos and disillusionment, despair and confusion.  No, it wasn’t because the last episode of “What’s My Line?” aired on U.S. television.

The above picture is what happened in Sweden the day the country switched from driving on the left to the right side of the road.  Their neighbors, Norway and Finland had already changed, but alas, Sweden held out until they could wait no longer.

Predictably, throughout history, big changes have been viewed first with skepticism and then as a threat to the groups that stand to lose the most or simply like the way things are.

In 1876 an internal memo at the Western Union Company, who were making a lot of money with telegrams stated, “This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently no value to us.”

I wonder how that turned out?

H.M. Warner of Warner Brothers was making a lot of money in the silent movie business, so it was no mystery why he commented in 1927, “Who wants to hear actors talk?” (Expletive deleted)

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What is Crowdfunding? Is it Right for You?

Guest post by Nicole O’Dell

What is crowdfunding?

Crowdfunding is all the rage these days. And it makes sense because a successful campaign guarantees a successful product (book) launch since the necessary sales happen upfront. Or at least enough so that what comes later is gravy. How awesome is that?

But it can be a horrifying prospect to take your idea and present it to the public for a vote. I recently launched my own, and it was so difficult to press the launch button on my campaign page. It’s been an exercise in humility to remind myself that the success or failure of this one campaign is not a referendum on my self-worth. As writers, we’ve all had that feeling a time or two, no?

Not only had I spent years building my ministry and working within my passion for the parent-teen relationship, but then I spent months, weeks, and hours and hours of time on various aspects of the campaign and the product. It’s personal. And it’s scary. Oh, so scary!

It can be very risky for several reasons.

1. It’s public. I’ve equated the launch of my crowdfunding campaign with the horror of walking into church naked. It’s vulnerable. It’s taking something that means a lot to you and laying it bare for the world to see it succeed or fail. Imagine if your book proposals and the responses of all who saw them where just splayed on a public site. Eeek!

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Fun Fridays – January 10, 2014

was going to do my own video of this activity, but decided to take a nap instead.

There is a metaphor here, somewhere. Even the world class performers have to start with the basics. It is what they do with them that makes them world class. See what you can do with a few words this coming week. Dazzle!

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Two Basic Tips on Budgeting with an Irregular Income

by Tamela Hancock Murray

Senior man checking home finances

One challenge of writing books for a living is the fact that unlike many other jobs, you don’t usually see a cycle of paychecks appearing at regular intervals with predictable amounts. Instead, you may see a whoosh of money, followed by smaller amounts every few months triggered by actions on your part, such as turning in manuscripts and proposals. Only well-established authors will have this income augmented by royalty checks, and even then, those checks feel infrequent (to the author) and are unpredictable in amount.

This isn’t much of a worry if you’re not using writing income to pay bills, which do arrive on time every time, with startling regularity. But if you’re hoping to pay bills with this income, here are two basic management tips:

1.) Realize that your advance is a payment against future earnings. It is not a signing bonus. Once you accept the advance, your book must earn that advance back before you see any royalties. So while your advance may seem like a windfall, it is not.

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So Long, 2013…HELLO, 2014!

by Karen Ball

happy new year dog

2013 was an amazing year full of ups and downs, gain and loss, joy and sadness. I lost 3 dear friends, one of whom was in his 30s, one of whom was just a few years younger than I, and one of whom I’ve known since I was 2 years old. We in the industry lost so many–some, like wonderful agent and friend Lee Hough and the amazing Diann Hunt–far sooner than any of us wished. The joy? They all were solid in their faith in Christ, so we’ll see them again. But saying good-bye is never easy. Thank God for his peace and comfort. And HOPE!

Professionally, it’s been a whiz-bang year. It’s always such fun to discover and sign new clients, and it’s even more fun to see clients, existing and new, find publishing homes! As I’ve walked through the many steps on this publishing journey with clients, from the blissful “We’ve received an offer!” to the turbulent “Whatever made me think I could write??”, I’ve been reminded why I love this industry so much.

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Exceptions are Exceptions Because they are Exceptions

by Dan Balow

Dollar in the bag

You can self-publish a book, sell 10,000 copies in the first week, 50,000 in the second week and be a millionaire in three months.

You can write a book and mail it to a publisher, they publish it without meeting you and you become a wealthy household name.

An antiques dealer can knock on your door and offer you $250,000 for your end table that you bought last summer at a garage sale for $5.

You could be called out from the stands, given a basketball and offered a million dollars if you make a basket from seventy-five feet away. And you do.

These things could happen. But they are exceptions. Exceptional exceptions, but exceptions nevertheless. Planning your life or career around them would be rather futile and frustrating.

The Oprah Winfrey Show was the Holy Grail for publishers when she started her book club in 1996. Her endorsement of a book made it an instant bestseller. Do you know how many books she selected over 16 years? Seventy-two…that is 72.

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Steve Laube Buys Marcher Lord Press


Below the following announcement is a question and answer session with Steve Laube.

 (January 1, 2014 – Phoenix, AZ) Steve Laube, president of The Steve Laube Agency, has agreed to purchase Marcher Lord Press, the premier publisher of Science Fiction and Fantasy for the Christian market. The sale was finalized on January 1, 2014.

Laube has long been a champion of the genre, going back to his days as an acquisition editor at Bethany House Publishers. Jeff Gerke, the founder of Marcher Lord Press, said “I could not have found a better person to buy the company I started in 2008.” Marcher Lord Press has a backlist of about 40 titles with many of them nominated or winning both Christy and Carol awards for being the best in their genre.

The new Marcher Lord Press will be run as a separate company from Steve Laube’s literary agency. The agency, founded in 2004, has four agents and over 150 active authors (www.stevelaube.com) with contracts for nearly 1,000 new books. Gerke will focus his efforts on his freelance editorial and publishing service business and his own writing.

“The plan is to continue with what Jeff started and release between 4-8 new titles in 2014,” Laube said. “I have long believed that this genre has been underserved in our industry despite its inherent ability to tell ‘Fantastic’ stories of philosophical and theological depth.”


Q & A with Steve Laube

Why Marcher Lord Press?

I have had a passion for Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy ever since my days as an editor for Bethany House Publishers in the 90s. I first fell in love with science fiction as a kid reading Mysterious Island by Jules Verne and the Pellucidar books by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Fiction can portray the power of the Gospel through great stories of redemption, hope, and grace. Science Fiction is a unique genre that attempts to answer the philosophical and theological questions of “Who are we?” and “Why are we here?” In most Fantasy novels there is an implicit story of good versus evil where good triumphs. In addition the whole genre has the opportunity to build worlds never before explored (to quote the famous line: “To boldly go where no man has gone before.”). The boundaries for creativity in  storytelling are limitless. No other genre can do that quite the same way.

Aren’t you competing with the same publishers to whom you sell your client’s proposals?

Technically the answer is “yes,” but practically the answer is “no.” Few publishers in the Christian market publish the science fiction or fantasy genres. And yet we continue to sell our clients to those who do well with these books. Patrick Carr, for example, just agreed to a new contract with Bethany House. Lisa Bergren’s YA titles are published by both David C. Cook and the Blink imprint of Zonderkidz. Chuck Black has a new adventure series releasing this Spring from Waterbrook/Multnomah and Evangeline Denmark has just signed with Blink.

In addition, Marcher Lord Press (MLP) releases only 4-8 titles per year. The readership of the genre are enthusiastic and voracious. Thus I don’t see MLP being competition in the larger sense of the word.

One publisher talked with me last Friday and applauded the move saying “We need champions of great fiction in our market.”

Isn’t this a conflict of interest with other agents?

I don’t see that as a problem. The agent community is a small one and we tend to know each other and respect each other’s abilities. I look forward to helping authors find their place and their voice in a niche genre. Our own agency’s agents will have the chance to sell to the imprint because it is set up as a company separate from The Steve Laube Agency. Amanda Luedeke with MacGregor Literary addressed this in her blog last Thursday.

Isn’t this a conflict of interest with authors? Are you only going to publish your agency’s authors?

The goal is to publish the best. Nothing changes in that regard. There are some tremendous writers already in the MLP catalog and I hope to continue those relationships. We will also be looking for new voices as well as those that are already established.

We will consider both agented and unagented submissions. The submission guidelines are found on the Marcher Lord Press website.

What about books published under the Hinterlands imprint of Marcher Lord Press and the recently released Amish Vampires in Space?

These are actually two different issues and should be treated separately. I chose not to purchase those assets and agreed to have those publication rights sold elsewhere or revert to their respective authors.

Hinterlands was created in 2012 as an imprint of MLP to publish science-fiction and fantasy stories with mature content and themes (i.e. PG-13 or R-rated language, sexuality, and violence). That imprint and all those titles have been sold by Jeff Gerke to a third party and will likely reappear under a new publishing name in the near future.

Amish Vampires in Space was not part of Hinterlands and is a well written book (no surprise considering Kerry Neitz is the author). Jeff Gerke, Kerry Neitz, and I discussed this prior to my purchasing MLP. While we have differing opinions on its publication, ultimately it would not have been a book I would have published had I been the publisher. The title has reverted to Kerry and the book is still available for sale in most major online outlets.

What is your vision for the new Marcher Lord Press?

A “Marcher Lord” was a noble warrior who served as guardian of the borderlands. That definition is a perfect metaphor for the Science Fiction and Fantasy stories published by MLP. We will continue to build the company on its existing foundation and through the power of great stories explore the boundaries of imagination. It is there where heroic adventures, sacrificial living, and redemptive characters are found.

Initially it will be business as usual. The people and resources already in place will remain unchanged. There are plans for a number of new releases in 2014 including the debut novel by Nadine Brandes called A Time to Die (which you must read) as well as the continuation of other ongoing series by John Otte, Morgan Busse, and Stuart Stockton. MLP has been and will continue to be the premier publisher of Science Fiction and Fantasy for the Christian market.

A Thank You

I would like to thank Jeff Gerke for the hard work, actually his blood, sweat, and tears, that he put into founding and building Marcher Lord Press into the company it is today.

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A Year in Review

by Tamela Hancock Murray

2013, 2014 Green Road Sign Over Dramatic Clouds and Sky.

This year has been one of success and career growth for me. I am humbled and grateful to work with outstanding writers and the best editors in the business.


As with every year, the needs and expectations of publishing houses continue to change and grow. Publishers are maintaining and even exceeding past quality to offer readers the best Christian books possible. This means that each year, new writers face more challenges to break in, and established authors must be vigilant in writing fresh stories to meet the criteria of The Steve Laube Agency and the publishers we work with. But the writer who’s willing to work hard and hone craft, and to be cheerful even when times get tough, stands the best chance of successful publication.


I enjoyed being on faculty at the Florida Christian Writers Conference and ACFW this year. Once again, both conferences proved to be top notch and I enjoyed meeting authors and keeping in touch with publishing friends. ICRS was another highlight, as always, for the same reasons.

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