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When You Have One of “THOSE” Days

by Karen Ball

You know the days I mean. The days you ask yourself, “Whatever made me think I could do this?” or “Why couldn’t I just sell shoes?” or “Are you sure that’s how you spell it’s? It looks stupid. It’s, it’s it’s. That can’t be right, can it??”

Oh yeah, those days when the only words that come to you are “I quit.” When the only good thing about being a writer is that you can use suffering and pain and anguish in your work. When every call from your agent, note from your editor, review on a website, and comment on your blog leaves you wanting to climb the nearest tall building and JUMP!

Yeah, for those days, watch this:

Peace, friends.

It Takes a Committee

by Tamela Hancock Murray

Portrait of a group of panel judges holding score signs

One well-known and frustrating fact about seeing a book finally accepted is the looooooong process. Trust me, literary agents would like to see the process move faster, too.

Believe it or not, the fact that at most large publishers, a proposal must go through several rounds of review before a contract is offered is actually good for the author. Yes, you read that right. It’s good for the author. 

I got dumped
Let me back up to an experience I had writing for a newspaper years ago. I had a pretty good gig writing about real estate. Then, Chris, the editor who hired me, left. 

Soon afterwards, I overheard someone identify me as, “Oh, she’s someone Chris brought on.” 

Her dismissive manner of me and the way she emphasized his name told me my gig wouldn’t last much longer because the new guard wanted to bring on their friends. Assignments from the new guard evaporated within a month. I was fine, though, because I had several other writing gigs at the time and wanted to move away from writing about real estate, anyway. But I might not have felt as cavalier if this had happened while I was writing books.

Strength in numbers
As a book author, you do want your editor to love your work. But you don’t want your editor to be the only person at the publishing house to love your work, even if that advocate is the most powerful editor at that house. 

Why? Because even the top editor may decide to leave, for any number of reasons. Then where are you as an author with your only advocate gone? You may be left as an author with very little support for your current book, which is sure to mean terrible sales numbers and no future contract with that house. Not to mention, terrible sales numbers will ensure a difficult road to a contract with a different house.

All aboard!
The editor who’s excited about you and your work will do everything she can to ensure success for you at each meeting as your proposal makes its way through the chain. When the team of editors, along with sales and marketing people, understand you and your book and are rooting for you, they feel invested in you and your work. Having the team’s support is much better than one editor fighting the good fight alone.

And if your editor does decide to move on, good people at the publishing house will still be left to make your book a success.

Patience is a virtue
Indeed, this is yet another example of how the writing life tries our patience. And to use yet another cliche, good things come to those who wait.

Your turn:

How has being a writer tested your patience?

What is the longest you have waited for a response?

Did You Feel the Tremor in the Industry Last Week?

by Steve Laube

800px-Good_Friday_Earthquake_at_Turnagain_Arm

I know what it is like to feel the earth move under my feet having experienced the ’64 Alaska earthquake firsthand. (The above picture is from the neighborhood where we lived called Turnagain Arm.) Therefore I know the difference between a 9.2 Richter scale quake and a tremor that registers near 2.0 on the scale.

Last Thursday Amazon announced they were reducing the royalty payments for authors and vendors who use their ACX service to sell self-published audio books. The amount will change on March 12th for new contracts to a flat rate of 40% instead of the 50%-90% rate they currently pay.

No big deal, right? Sort of like a 2.0 tremor. If you blinked you missed it. And since many don’t have an ACX account to sell audio books they are unaffected. However this should be a reminder to all authors and publishers who use KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) that Amazon can change their royalty terms at any time.

This is the danger of putting all the proverbial eggs in one basket. If any author chooses to only utilize the economic system of Amazon for their sales they can be vulnerable to any changes. I once met a man who sold the foil that was used to make the dairy creamer packets for McDonalds. He had one client. His job was to search the world for the best price on foil. And he lived in terror of losing his client.

Be very clear, I am not suggesting that this is going to happen. Amazon’s 70% royalty rate on kindle ebooks has not changed. All I am suggesting is that it could.

Wanted: More Choir Members

Dan Balow

choir_5082c

At some point in their writing career, many Christian authors express a desire to write a book that would reach the un-churched. That desire is a completely honorable and wonderful goal, just as any believer should desire to represent Christ in their lives in such a way that unbelievers would ask them questions about the hope that is in them. 

However, the inference by such statements as “preaching to the choir” is that writing to churchgoers is somehow less desirable.  I know the intent of those authors is to have their books used for pre-evangelism, but unfortunately, when most Christian authors use the term “cross-over” to describe their book, it is code for “leave out anything Christian”.  I am not sure this is a wise use of your time unless you are very gifted and unique writer.

Indulge me for just another minute before you start writing a reply, hitting me with examples of Lewis, Tolkien, Sayers, MacDonald, Bunyan, Tolstoy, Chesterton, etc.

First, God Almighty can and does use whatever he wants to get people’s attention.  I hear God even used a talking donkey once. Second, it is a matter of fact that the books that God has used most frequently for evangelism have testified strongly to Jesus Christ and the power of the Gospel to change a life.  Consider these:

Still Wanted: Writing that Sings!

by Karen Ball

iStock_000001066974XSmall

Anyone who has jumped into the waters of agenting knows they’ll be asked one question, over and over and over:  “What are you looking for?” Well, now that I’ve got a couple of years of this amazing work under my belt, let me build on what I said when I started. Back then, I said I was looking, first and foremost, for books that glorify God, then for writing that sings, that speaks to the heart and spirit, that uplifts and challenges. Well, that’s all the same! But there are a few clarifications I want to make.  First, here’s the not so good news:

What I’m Not Looking For

Children’s & Middle Grade Books: As much as I enjoy reading these books (that’s one of the only perks to never having had children—I get all the kid’s books!), I am not representing them. It’s not that I don’t see the need. It’s simply that I’m not experienced with these kinds of books. My work lo, these many years in publishing, has been with adult books. Now, I have worked with Young Adult fiction and nonfiction, but I already have some great clients in that category and am not, at present, looking for more.

And Another Thing, Your Baby is Ugly

by Dan Balow

Man relationship with computer shutdown concept

Have you noticed how much of public and private discourse so quickly moves from a simple disagreement to a personal attack?

I was attending a sporting event not long ago and the people sitting around me in the stands seamlessly moved from displeasure how their team was performing to calling the players, coaches and referees all sorts of names that had nothing to do with how they performed. 

Of course, anonymity (and sometimes adult beverages) is the key to bravery in personal attacks, so I doubt many would be so brave to confront someone in-person.

Anyone who has a message board or comment section to their blog knows the pain of responses that get personal and move from, “I disagree” to “You are an idiot and I hate you” within a few words.  In most social media interaction, we often need to remind people to keep it civil, because they simply can’t control themselves.

Is Christian Fiction Dying?

by Dan Balow

SONY DSC

Last year, a couple Christian publishers stopped publishing fiction.  Some publishers are nervous about it and in a wait-and-see mode. Others are excited about growth potential.  The answer to the title question is no, but it is certainly interesting to explore the reason behind such widely diverse opinions on the subject.

NOTE #1: For full disclosure, I am a member of the advisory board for the Christy Awards, had a substantial period of my time in publishing during growth years of Christian fiction and our literary agency is committed to Christian fiction and its authors (as well as non-fiction projects).  Therefore I have an interest in seeing Christian fiction grow both personally and professionally.

NOTE #2:  I am limiting my comments to traditional publishing only, not self-published novels.  

Here is why I think Christian Fiction is causing some publisher-confusion right now:

Embracing Change – Part Two

by Dan Balow

C

Last week in my post “Embracing Change,” I outlined the six phases that characterize the acceptance of change in our lives and world.  Today, I want to focus on some specifics that you need to consider to adapt to the future.

First, a recap of the six phases when confronted with something new:

Phase One – Dismissed as a fad by those who stand to lose the most or like the status quo.

Phase Two – Attacked as dangerous by those who stand to lose the most or like the status quo.

Phase Three – Accepting of the new thing, but reminding everyone that this too will pass and we will most likely move on to something else eventually.

Phase Four – Accepting that the new thing is important and we need to adapt to it but only in a limited way because it will never replace the status quo.

Phase Five – Seriously looking at creative solutions to making changes, some which are difficult and unpopular with those who still love the status quo.

Phase Six – View the new thing as an opportunity, whatever that means.  Begin to change the way we do everything.

I suggested that if you are not already at Phase Five, you should take stock of yourself and see what you need to get there.

In the world of publishing, what areas should be re-thought? For authors and anyone in publishing, some of them are:

Embracing Change

by Dan Balow

Stockholm

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)

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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