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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?

10 Things Every Writer Should Do

by Karen Ball

 computer dog

I’m a list person. In part, that’s because said lists serve to bump my memory when it gets…um…lost. But I also just love lists—especially lists of things you should (or shouldn’t) do. So here, for your perusal, are my top ten things every writer should do every day:

  1. Stretch your word muscles. Learn a new word. Read a new writer. Do a crossword puzzle. Flip through the dictionary. Do the Reader’s Digest Word Power test. Something to test and strengthen your word skills.
  2. Spend at least 15 minutes in silence. No words, no music. Just…be still. It’s hard to hear the Master’s voice in all the chaos that fills our days. Purpose to spend at least a little bit of time—other than when you’re asleep—in silence.
  3. Read Scripture. Now, I’m not talking about your devotions. I’m talking reading them as a writer. See how the stories are told. Savor the beauty of the songs. Study the heroes and villains. There’s a wealth of gold to be gleaned in them thar pages.
  4. Learn something new about writing. Okay, how many books on writing do you have? And how many of them have you read? If you’re like I am, the percentage is woefully low. So purpose, every day, to read from a book on the craft of writing. Doesn’t have to be a lot. Even if you only read one page, you’re making headway. Of course, if you’ve read all of the craft books you have, CONGRATS. Now, go back and read them again. Just a little each day.
  5. Keep a Beautiful Words journal.  Whether you hand write these or use a computer document, keep a journal of the phrases in books that capture or delight you. Bits of writing that you find wonderful.  Add something new every day. Be sure to credit where it came from.
  6. At least once a week, add something from your writing to the Beautiful Writing journal.  It’s there, whether you believe it or not. A perfect word or sentence, a bit of dialogue. Add that to your Beautiful Words journal. Then, when you’re feeling discouraged you can go back and read them to remind yourself you’re not a hack.
  7.  Just DON’T do it! C’mon now, you know what I mean. Playing Angry Birds, wandering on Facebook, browsing sales…all those things we do instead of writing. If we spent half of the time we waste writing, we’d finish our books in record time. So stop it. Now.
  8. Step Away from the keyboard. I get that sometimes we’re on deadline and so we’re chained to the keyboard. But even on those days—maybe especially on those days—you need to take a break. Even if it’s only for 5 minutes. Set a timer for the time you will allow yourself, and walk away. Go outside. Play with the dog. Hug your child. Garden. Make a bouquet of flowers. Shoot at cans. Change the oil in your car. Whatever. Just give your mind a break. Every. Day. Trust me, your writing will benefit.
  9. Learn to release tension. We’re so good at tensing up, at letting deadlines and word quotas and plot issues and edits and staying on top of social media and blah blah blah get to us.  Happens to me all the time. Happened as I was getting ready for one of my trips last week. I was editing and wham! Anxiety over how much I had to do just slammed into me. So here is one tip for dealing with this kind of thing.
    1. Stop. Whatever you’re doing, whatever you’re thinking. Just stop.
    2. If you’re standing, sit down.
    3. Close your eyes.
    4. Put your hands in your lap and your feet flat on the floor.
    5. Recite your favorite Scripture to yourself. As you do so…
    6. Breath in, through the nose, nice and slow. Fill your lungs. Hold it for a second. And then
    7. Breath out, through your mouth, nice and slow.
    8. Repeat. At least five times.
    9. Remind Yourself Who is in control. Do you best at every aspect of this task, but remember, you’re not in control. Your job is obedience. The outcome is up to Someone far wiser. Remind yourself of that every day. Don’t let yourself forget it.

Okay, your turn. What do you consider one Must-Do for every writer?

Stories in Hiding Places

by Dan Balow

The Hiding Place

Since I blog on Tuesdays and the next April 15 to fall on a Tuesday is not for another eleven years, I felt like I couldn’t pass up this opportunity.

Corrie ten Boom was born on this date in 1892 and died on this date in 1983.  If Evangelicals were in the habit of naming saints, she would among them.

For those unaware of this great Christian woman, she and her family helped many Jews escape the Nazis during World War Two in occupied Holland.  The classic book, The Hiding Place (Chosen Books, 1971) and movie (1975) by the same name chronicled this dramatic story.

Seventy years ago, in early 1944, an informant told German soldiers about a secret room in the ten Booms family home in Haarlem, Holland used for hiding Jews so they would not be sent to concentration camps. (The picture above is the entrance to that secret room, now preserved)

The Nazi’s raided the house and arrested the entire family.  After a stop in a nearby prison camp, Corrie and her sister Betsie were eventually transferred to Ravensbruck concentration camp in Germany, about 50 miles north of Berlin. 

Shortly before she died in December 1944, Betsie told Corrie, “There is no pit so deep that He (God) is not deeper still.”  They would become words burned into Corrie’s soul and the souls of people who heard Corrie speak in the 70’s after The Hiding Place released and became an international bestseller.

Twelve days after Betsie died, Corrie was unexpectedly released from the camp in what was discovered later as a “clerical error” on the part of the Germans.

During my freshman year at Wheaton College (IL), Corrie came to campus to speak at a mandatory 10:30 am chapel for students on November 12, 1974. Forty years later I can still see the little 82 year-old woman speaking quietly to 2,000 wide and teary-eyed college students and faculty…giving testimony to God’s love, grace, forgiveness, faithfulness and mercy.  And for a brief moment, self-absorbed college students got a taste for what it meant to completely surrender to Jesus Christ.

John and Elizabeth Sherrill wrote The Hiding Place, but according to some accounts, they came to hear about Corrie in the mid-1960’s while researching another book, God’s Smuggler, the story of another Dutchman, Andrew van der Bijl (Brother Andrew) which was published in 1967.  Brother Andrew and Corrie travelled for ministry together.

I started out wanting to write about Corrie ten Boom on the date she was born and died, because she is a Christian hero in our definition of the word, but undoubtedly, in God’s as well. (Sometimes those two definitions are not the same)

But once I had a chance to revisit her life and consider her impact on the Christian publishing world, as well as that of John and Elizabeth Sherrill, I was reminded that the greatest stories are those where God is involved throughout a journey and often unseen. Sometimes the plot and characters are unexpected and the outcome is even more surprising. 

God is in the process of writing our stories every day and giving those of you who write, new material, often from unexpected places.

Corrie ten Boom once commented on how we should trust God’s faithfulness and work in our lives through all circumstances when she said, “When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don’t throw away your ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer.”

Be still, and know that I am God.  (Psalm 46:10)

Music to Write by

by Steve Laube

Latino student wears earphone using a laptop while sitting on a sofa

Some write in silence. Some write with music in the background. Some write with music playing through their headphones (or earbuds).

I’m curious as to what you, our readers, listen to while writing. Or if you write in silence. In the comments below let us know your favorites. Maybe we can discover some new musical inspiration together.

I read somewhere that Stephenie Meyer, author of the Twilight series, credits the group Muse as her inspirational background music. She even provides a playlist on her web site of the songs she listened to while writing Eclipse. (Here is that playlist.)

Years ago Ted Dekker mentioned that he listened to hard rock while writing his intense thrillers.

When it comes to music I am wildly eclectic. Most of the time my work day is silent. It can be a challenge to find the mute button when the phone rings. But when I feel the need for some background music to cover the hum of the fluorescent lighting I go in multiple directions.

1) A classical Baroque station on Pandora radio. I could listen to Bach and Vivaldi all day.

2) Solo piano music. I have a playlist of 90 albums that would play continuously for 26 hours without repeating a song. Artists like George Winston, Liz Story, Kurt Kaiser, and Jon Schmidt.

3) A contemplative contemporary artist playlist. The playlist is entitled “Thoughtful Music.” It includes artists like Vienna Teng, Melody Gardot, A Fine Frenzy, Charlotte Martin, Natalie Cole, Imogen Heap, Natalie Merchant, and Sara Groves.

4) Other days the mood trends toward acapella music with artists like Glad, Rescue, The Real Group, Take 6, Manhattan Transfer, and The New York Voices.

But if I need to let off some mental steam the playlist gets a little louder. This one includes artists like Flyleaf, Red, Fireflight, Skillet, Hoobastank, Linkin Park, Muse, etc. Or classic rock from Boston, Queen, Three Dog Night, Blood Sweat and Tears, Chicago, etc.

What do you play when the Creative Mood is in full swing?

Why an In-the-Know Agent is Your Best Partner

by Tamela Hancock Murray

businesswoman on the phone

Even in the tightest market, new opportunities develop. Not only can authors keep up with these opportunities by being well-connected themselves, but this is just one part of your career where partnering with a great agent is key.

Why? Because editors don’t always put out a call to every writers’ loop when they need proposals. Most don’t have time to become inundated with lots of proposals that won’t work. Instead, editors go to their friends, the agents. An experienced agent with a healthy list of talented authors will send editors appropriate proposals.  

A well-connected agent with a stellar agency is likely to learn:

When there is hole in an editor’s schedule. Writers miss deadlines for many reasons. That’s when your agent can help you fill that hole. This can be the start, or continuation of, a fabulous relationship between you and a grateful editor.

About a new line. Agents are often the first outside of a publishing house to learn about a new line. This can help you be among the first authors to submit a proposal.

About unexpected needs. Editors will often let agents know they are expecting to need certain categories of books in the near future. This knowledge also gives you a chance to be an early contender.

That a house is changing direction. Publishers’ web sites and Amazon listings are informative but even the most up to date only reveal what has just happened. You want to look to the future because your book will be published in the future. That’s why, based on a web site, it may seem like a great idea to submit, say, a chick lit book to a house. But if that house has decided to move in the direction of WWII novels, your agent is more likely than any of your other business partners to know this. Your agent can keep you from submitting a fantastic proposal — fantastic for last year.

A key person is leaving. Just one key person’s departure may not only affect individual authors, but might even impact the future direction of a publishing house. Knowing personnel changes sooner rather than later will help you stay ahead in the game.

This doesn’t mean agents, even extraordinary ones, are the first to learn every bit of important news — but we are privy to quite a bit. And this does not mean that just because an author is among the first to submit work, that her work will be accepted over proposals arriving later. But being in the know early is still just one of many good reasons to partner with a great agent.

Your turn:

What are some other reasons you think it’s a good idea to partner with a wonderful agent?

Have you ever been able to submit a work early based on your agent’s inside knowledge?

Or do you disagree? Do you think authors are just as effective as agents in learning news early?

Writing That is Powerful, Not Preachy!

by Karen Ball

dog_forgive_me_face

Thanks to Shirley Buxton for asking in the comments of my blog on writing that sings, “Can someone help me understand how to show spirituality without being preachy?”

Why, yes, Shirley, I can. At least, I can tell you my perspective.

It’s the difference between telling people how they ought to live, and showing them. It’s not spouting Scripture when someone is hurt or struggling, but coming alongside them, sitting with them, holding them, asking how you can help. It’s entering into their struggle and being Christ to them, acting as he would.

Think about it. When Jesus shared spiritual truths with the crowds around him, how did he do it? He showed those truths through a story. He didn’t say, “You faithless fools, God tells us to use our talents for him, not withhold them!” No, he told a story… “A man was going on a long trip. He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them…”

Whether you’re writing nonfiction or fiction, the way to communicate spiritual truths is to show it, not tell it.

Consider the following paragraph:

Forgiving in marriage is not an option. It’s a command, straight from Jesus. If your spouse had done or said something that hurt you, forgive them. If you’ve done or said something that hurt your spouse, ask to be forgiven. You don’t have a choice. Jesus tells us in Matthew 6, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” And a verse or so later, he says: ““If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” If you’re a Christian and you aren’t forgiving your spouse, you are in the wrong. And God won’t forgive you. It’s as simple as that.

Okay, feel beat over the head a bit? Yeah, me, too, and I wrote it! That paragraph is preaching. Telling you how you’re supposed to behave, and that you’ll regret it if you don’t. All of which may be true, but not many are drawn to right living by that kind of presentation of truth. Now, try this…

I’d only been married a few days when I made a shattering discovery: the man I married, the man I saw as a knight in shining armor, could do and say things that hurt me! It didn’t matter whether or not he’d intended to hurt me, all that mattered was he’d done so. And then I made an even more shattering discovery: Forgiving your spouse is hard. When I said I do, I knew he’d be there to shelter and protect me, to love me unconditionally. He wasn’t supposed to hurt me!

It’s hard, isn’t it, letting go of expectations, loving someone for who they are, warts and all? But here’s the thing. When we don’t forgive someone, we put them—and ourselves—in a kind of prison. I found that out all those years ago after nursing a hurt for days. I was miserable. Don was miserable. Even the poor dogs were miserable! Life at the Ball household was not much fun. Then, one evening, God tapped me on the shoulder and reminded that—ahem!—Don was not the only imperfect human in the marriage. And that love wasn’t about not hurting each other, it was about forgiving and surrendering my hurts to Him. When I finally did that, oh! the freedom that washed over me! My heart was light, our home was warm again, and I swore I could fly.

Friends, don’t let hurts in marriage fester. Don’t let them weigh you down and imprison you. Let them go. Forgive. And know the beauty of God’s freedom, not just in your marriage, but in your heart.

When you show truth in your writing, you draw people into the experience. They live it with you or with your characters, and they learn alongside you. In the process, they may even change.

So writing with power means you don’t hit people over the head with Scriptures, you don’t give a sermon, you don’t stick in a conversion scene unless it’s a natural outgrowth of the story. Writing with power means you show what’s right, through story or illustration, through your character’s journey.

So that’s my take. Now, how about you all? What do you think makes the difference between preachy writing and powerful writing?

What About Medium Stuff?

by Dan Balow

Asphalt Road

Today I stand in support of medium stuff.

There is no argument that big important things deserve our undivided attention. There seems to be some disagreement over small stuff…do we sweat it or not? According to the Stan Jantz and Bruce Bickel’s book, God is in the Small Stuff, we probably need to be paying close attention to those things.

I am concerned with those things in the middle…the medium stuff. There are no books or seminars on medium stuff. In fact, if there were books and seminars on medium stuff, no one would buy or attend. That’s the problem with medium stuff, it’s boring.

In an automobile wheel, there is the “big stuff” tire, which gets all the glory and has blimps named for it and TV commercials touting it’s virtues and then there is the air inside the tire (small stuff) which is checked frequently to make sure it is doing OK and there is just the right amount of it. (Air actually has it’s own alarm light in newer cars, making it think it is really big stuff)

But it is the medium stuff…the axle and rim without which a wheel is not a wheel.

For people, businesses and ministries, focusing only on small details can be distracting or at best counter-productive. In publishing, this could be comparable to thinking that if the grammar in a manuscript were correct, it will sell well.

Likewise, big stuff can be made our focal point to such an extent that we forget the small things. Like a great book (big stuff) released without proofreading (small stuff).

The medium stuff is the fabric that keeps it all together.

It’s the printing press that prints the books. It’s the truck that carries large barrels of ink to the printer. It’s the chemical plant that manufactures ink. It’s the paper plant that manufactures the paper for books. It’s the computer servers in who-knows-where that send eBook files to anywhere on the planet. It’s the metadata coordinator entering information into the spreadsheet and uploading to customer computers. It’s the book buyer for a retailer or reseller who makes a decision to purchase a book for the store.

These are medium things. No fanfare. They are just there, making things happen.

Editors are medium stuff. They might get a mention in an acknowledgement page, but no parades.

So what is my purpose today with this tribute to medium stuff?

I was thinking of some ministries and those friends who work for them. Ministries like Media Associates International (littworld.org) who organize training and mentoring for Christian publishers around the world. Or Mission Aviation Fellowship (maf.org) who fly people and supplies to places to do ministry. Or ESL teachers living in China and rights and licensing professionals orchestrating publishing of content from one language to another.

Medium stuff. It takes their commitment behind the scenes to make something better. Like Aaron and Hur holding up Moses’ arms.

A problem for medium stuff ministries is they don’t get the financial support as much as the big stuff. Training, education, transportation and logistics aren’t very glamorous pursuits.

So, for all those medium things in the world, I honor you today.

Okay, medium stuff, stop reading this blog and get back to work, you are important and we can’t live without you.

I is for ISBN

by Steve Laube

724682-xsmall

978-0-310-32533-8

978-0-7814-1042-7

978-1-61626-639-4

No, these are not the plays being called by a quarterback during a football game. They are the ISBN numbers on the back of three different books by three different clients. Kudos to the first person to identify the three titles in the comments below.

Origins
Back in the mid-60s a major British bookstore chain (W.H. Smith) decided to move toward a computerized inventory system and needed a standardized numbering system to identify which books were which because different books might share the same title. Over time they implemented the BSN or Book Standard Number system.
Other retailers in other countries saw the benefit of this and joined together to created an International group that would administrate this effort. Hence the “I” for International Standard Book Number (ISBN).

Originally it was a 10 digit number. But in the early 2000s there was concern that they might eventually run out of numbers with the proliferation of books being published. So in 2005 they changed to a 13 digit number beginning with a 978 prefix. Once that inventory is exhausted we will start seeing ISBNs beginning with 979.

Please remember that the number is not the bar code. The bar code is generated by the number and is embedded in the funny lines. You can have an ISBN without a bar code but not a bar code without some sort of number.

Confusion
In the mid-2000s I was part of a meeting in New York with the Book Industry Study Group (BISG) that discussed this transition from 10 digits to 13 digits and the retail implications. The challenge was that many bookstore computer systems were programmed with a field only 10 numbers long and could not accommodate the 13 digits. It was a programming problem that took some time to implement across every retailer.

For example, did you ever notice that the old Borders bookstore chain put price stickers on the back of their books that covered the bar code and the ISBN? They used their own in-house proprietary numbering system to avoid all the confusion as the industry was going through multiple changes. Plus they sold more than books which created another problem.

Note that the “B” in ISBN is for Books. Non-book items like music, clothing, etc have a different set of numbers called the UPC (Universal Product Code). And it is a 12 digit number!

Confused yet?
For a long time some non-book retailers would not carry a book unless it had a UPC code on the back or on the inside front cover. This is no longer a problem, but 15 years ago, if a publisher wanted to sell books in Wal-mart they had to print a UPC bar code and a ISBN bar code on a book. Some mass market paperbacks have a bar code on the inside cover for that purpose.

You may vaguely remember noticing the clerk opening the cover of the book and scanning the inside bar code at the register and not the code on the back of the book. Now you know why.

Anatomy of an ISBN
What do the numbers mean? Or are they random numbers sequentially generated?

Look at this ISBN … 978-1-61626-639-4
There are five parts to the number (note the dashes in the above number?)

The first three numbers mean “This is a book.” In the international rules the prefix is supposed to identify the country of origin. But since all books are supposed start with 978, and eventually 979, the committee named this country “Bookland.” Believe it or not.

The next digit refers to the country, geographical area, or language area of the book. Usually either a 0 or a 1.

The next five numbers refer to the publisher or imprint. When I was the national buyer for a bookstore chain I got so used to dealing with ISBN numbers that I could identify a publisher by its ISBN without seeing the book. 031032 was Zondervan. 080285 was Eerdmans. 155661 was Bethany House. (But those never appeared on a Trivial Pursuit card, so the information was useless outside of work. Unfortunately I still remember them.)

The next three numbers identify which title this is.

The last number is a check digit. Why? My guess is to avoid issuing sequential numbers which would create numerous data entry errors. If you are a math whiz go to this link for the check digit calculation formula. Beware. Looking at the formula too long may be hazardous to your health.

Do You Need an ISBN if Self-Publishing?
To further confuse the issue, if you self publish and plan to only use Amazon’s Kindle format, you don’t need an ISBN because Amazon will issue you an ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number) for your product. But realize it keeps you inside the Amazon economic system. The number cannot be used anywhere else.

If you want to sell your book elsewhere, like a bookstore or to a library, you must have an ISBN. Plus you will need one for your paperback edition and a different one for your ebook edition. (The jury is still out if you need separate ISBNs for your Kindle-mobi edition and your ePub edition. Many are choosing to only have one for all ebook formats.)

ISBNs can be obtained from Bowker in the US and from CCIS in Canada.

Be the Life of Your Next Party
The next time you are at a party and want to amaze your friends, take a book from the shelf, turn it over, and take your audience on a thrill ride through that little 13 digit number. You’ll be glad you did.

Publishing A-Z series:
A is for Agent
A is for Advance
B is for Buy Back
C is for non-Compete
D is for Dispute Resolution
E is for Editor
F is for Foreign Rights
G is for Great
H is for Hybrid
I is for Indemnification
I is for ISBN
J is for Just-in-Time
L is for Libel

Book Proposals I’d Love to See

by Tamela Hancock Murray

beautiful red rose flower on black background

By God’s will and pleasure, during my career as a literary agent I have been successful in representing authors writing Christian romance, Christian and general market trade book fiction, and Christian nonfiction.

My interests have changed very little since my first blog post for The Steve Laube Agency, “Happy to Be Here,” but here’s an update for you:

Do you still want to see Christian romance novels?
Indeed I do! I’m happy to say that this is one area of Christian fiction that continues to thrive and enjoy an enthusiastic readership.

I am still passionate about Christian romance novels. I respect and honor the fact that the editors of the romance lines are very specific about their needs and wants. They look for hardworking, dedicated, talented authors who are able to write a fresh story within the romance novel framework. Does this describe you? If so, I’d love to partner with you!

What about other genres of fiction?
As those following the industry are aware, the trade book fiction market has contracted in recent years, but I have never experienced an easy time for authors to break in to trade fiction. As with modeling and acting, more people want those jobs than there are jobs available. This is a perennial fact.

However, I am always seeking a tale well told that I believe deserves a place in CBA. My personal tastes will always veer to heavy romantic elements. To wit, if my husband has a movie on television and I don’t see any women (e.g., cowboys sitting around a fire or a bunch of guys on a boat), I find something else to do until the movie is over.

But as long as there is a heavy romantic element, I’m open to all sorts of stories.

Are you open to general market fiction?
Yes. But the story must be so clean you’d be willing to share it with your most devout friend or relative. Nothing that would dishonor God or disrespect the faith of the church, as defined by The Apostle’s Creed, is welcome here.

Are you still open to nonfiction submissions?
Yes, and I continue to be highly selective. The importance of author platform here is magnified a thousandfold in comparison with fiction. I need to see an author who’s already connecting with his or her audience so I can show publishers the author has gained respect and credibility with current readers and will be a great partner with the publisher in expanding reader base. Nonfiction readers are looking for insight, consolation, help, knowledge, and encouragement. An author needs to come from a position of authority when delivering a book to these readers.

Platform must be accompanied by a great idea told in dynamic writing. Tell me why you have an audience eager to read what you have to say on your topic, and why. I love books that  make me want to read them even when the topic doesn’t apply to me. Now that’s a well-written and engaging book.

And in today’s market, that’s what you need.

Do you have a lot of slots open for new authors?
God has seen fit to allow me a client list that is fantastic beyond my wildest dreams. However, I am humbled and honored by authors who take their valuable time to learn about me and afterwards feel led to submit their ideas to me, especially when CBA is blessed by so many talented literary agents.

Although we are not perfect in our level of response (meaning it’s OK to follow up if you don’t hear from us), my assistant and I do consider submissions from new authors. I am thrilled to work with promising new as well as established authors. You can send proposals via email to ewilson@stevelaube.com (please visit the guidelines for specifics).

Are you still happy to be here?
Why yes, I am!

The Core of Writing Well

by Karen Ball

D

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned I’m trying to learn how to make latte art. I’ve got the moves down…kinda. Hey, I’m a racquetball player—was, in fact, one of the top players in college—so I can do wrist action like a pro. But guess what I discovered? Having the moves doesn’t do you any good without the perfect foam. That’s the core of the beauty and creativity in latte art.

But foaming milk, my friends, isn’t just for creating those beautiful bits of art. According to The Milk Frothing Guide, the perfect foam “enhances and elevates the sensory experience of coffee, and espresso in particular.” Those beautiful bits of latte art aren’t the goal. Rather, the goal is to enhance and elevate.

I love that.

And it got me thinking

Having all the right moves as a writer—having the right look, knowing how to market or work social media, being at all the right places, and reading all the right books–without the perfect core, our works won’t accomplish the true goal: to enhance and elevate the hearts and minds of our readers.

This may seem like a no-brainer, but too often I hear writers say to me, “Just tell me what’s selling, and I’ll write it.” Rather than take that route, I encourage writers to share their passion. To stay true to what God is telling them to write. And to do that, you have to know your core.

And here’s the fascinating thing: my core is likely different from yours. What one thing sparks everything else? I’m going to trust that, for all of us, the heart of our writing is serving God. But what is it about your work, about your words on the page, that is at the core of who you are as a writer?

For me, it’s authenticity. Though I write fiction, I never want to craft a story that doesn’t resonate with both the beauty and the struggle of real life. So let me ask you: what is the core of your writing? And how are you ensuring you honor that core in what you write?

Peace, friends!

One last note: in my research to create the perfect foam, I found an utterly delightful—and often hysterical—website, which I mentioned above: The Milk Frothing Guide. I’m pretty sure this author’s core is “Make ‘em laugh!” So if you’re in the mood for a fun read—LOVE the bit about milking a buffalo!—or if you’d just like to see how writing humor is done well, check out the pages at  http://coffeegeek.com/guides/frothingguide.

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