Answers to Recent Questions from Clients

In the course of a normal work week—if any of my work weeks can be called “normal”—I get asked a question or two. Or fifty. And, while there are no stupid questions, or so I was told by my second-grade teacher, Mrs. Hoffmann, some questions prompt more illuminating answers than others do. So I’ve picked a few that clients and others have asked recently, along with my answers (cleaned up a bit, probably, to make me sound more polite and knowledgeable this time around), in the hope that they might help someone out there in Writerworld.

The novel I have just started writing requires 4 POV characters to work. Is this a problem, considering I am unpublished?

I don’t think being unpublished has anything to do with it (though, sure, there are some things—like writing in omniscient POV—that I don’t recommend for any but the most accomplished and established writers). But you’re right to ask the question because, unless you’re writing a Russian novel, it’s possible to have too many POV characters. Four could work if you’re careful and skilled—and confident—but I wouldn’t try more than that.

Why should I work hard to get just the right title for my book proposal when the publisher will probably change it anyway?

Well, yes, a publisher may eventually change it; but you can’t shop and sell it without a really strong title (and perhaps subtitle). Remember, you have one chance for your proposal to make an irresistible first impression on an editor. The title is a big part of that.

I just learned there’s another novel soon to release that has several similarities to mine. Is this reason for concern? Should I stop and revamp?

Whatever you do, don’t read it. And don’t worry about the similarities. Your story will be yours. It may (or may not) affect how that book’s publisher receives your proposal but shouldn’t kill your project.

Do I need to steer clear of pitching article ideas that are in the same wheelhouse as the book I plan to pitch?

On the contrary, write and publish all the articles you can in the same wheelhouse (though I don’t suggest compiling a book from your blog posts and articles; that’s a different story). It can actually help your case when you’re ready to pitch a book to be able to mention that you’ve published articles along the same lines as your book idea.

Are you able to explain why Christian publishers—who believe in an afterlife, obviously—cannot fathom ghost-whisperers?

This one made me chuckle. True, Christian publishers do believe in an afterlife. But they tend to be pretty careful about concepts—like ghost-whispering—that ignore, depart from, or conflict with orthodox Christian belief. In general, ghosts and ghost-whisperers would fit that description; and pitching a “ghost-whisperer” book to a Christian publisher suggests that the writer doesn’t fully understand the publisher or the market.

Questions like these remind me that, as a client recently said, “I have so much to learn!” We all do. Writing for publication isn’t for the faint of heart, nor for the person who believes he or she knows everything. Because none of us do. Except maybe my boss.


10 Responses to Answers to Recent Questions from Clients

  1. Avatar
    damonjgray December 18, 2019 at 5:44 am #

    Ignorance Exposure Alert: I don’t even know what a ghost-whisperer is. But Google is my friend. I’ll know shortly.

  2. Avatar
    Lori December 18, 2019 at 6:00 am #

    Thank you, Bob. I’ve often wondered about the title question as I’ve watched my carefully-crafted title vanish at the publisher.

  3. Avatar
    Debby Kratovil December 18, 2019 at 7:07 am #

    Took me awhile to figure out POV and meaning (or maybe I didn’t: “point of view” perhaps?) It’s always a good idea to assume there are those of us who could be ignorant of these things. Ghost-Whispers? I often refer to the “voices in my head” in my writing. If Joseph could get them (via an angel in Matthew) and Simeon (in Luke 2) and Phillip (in Acts 8), etc why can’t a Christian get them (and accurately attribute them to the HS using Scripture)? My New Year’s resolution every year is to listen more to the “voices in my head!”

  4. Avatar
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser December 18, 2019 at 7:18 am #

    There’s so much I could answer
    about my myriad tasks
    in life and love and cancer,
    but no-one ever asks.
    Perhaps this is a blessing;
    it keeps my workload down,
    for if queried I am guessing
    that I would go to town.
    I’m finding now that ere the end
    when days become too much to bear
    that I treasure every friend,
    and every chance to share.
    So if you’ve questions ’bout my labour,
    and you ask, you’ve shown me favour.

    • Avatar
      Mary L Mueller December 20, 2019 at 7:41 am #

      Wow Andrew, this captured me. So I will ask one question, or maybe two or three…What was your best lesson? And how/when did you learn it? What is your journey like today?

  5. Avatar
    Brennan S. McPherson December 18, 2019 at 7:35 am #

    Solid advice, Bob!

  6. Avatar
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser December 18, 2019 at 8:16 am #

    On ghost-whisperers…they were the deciding factor in my aceptance of Christ. They made me unerstand – forcibly – that there’s something to believe in.

    The silent whispered saving voice;
    can it be what it seems?
    The departed, now returned by choice,
    the angels of my dreams?
    There was one day a call to duck,
    but naught audible was said
    and I ‘scaped the steel (was it luck?)
    that would have taken off my head.
    In a fell place the world forgot,
    a dead friend bid me sleep,
    that I might rest (for I was shot)
    while he my watch would keep.
    What manner of man will Christ receive?
    for ’twas the ghosts made me believe.

  7. Avatar
    Jeff Flaig December 18, 2019 at 8:25 am #

    Regarding the person who is writing the Ghost-Whisper book, it has two problems that will cause Christians to avoid the book.

    Deuteronomy 18:10-12,
    10 There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch.
    11 Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer.
    12 For all that do these things are an abomination unto the Lord:

    Those are not ghosts that anyone is calling up, they are demons.
    The premise for the book would be objectionable to the Christian and would not be considered a Christian book.

  8. Avatar
    Peggy Booher December 18, 2019 at 6:17 pm #

    I’m not a client of yours, but often read your posts here. I appreciate the humor you sprinkle in your posts. I hope you can provide some perspective for me.

    I believe I have a calling from the Lord to write. As I look back on my life, that’s become more apparent. A few years ago I submitted a devotional to a magazine. It was accepted, and from comments on the blog, I can see God’s timing in it. Since then, I’ve submitted a few more devotionals and some short stories. I have a personal blog. I invested some money in online writing courses and recently bought a new Windows 10 computer so I could keep going online when support for Windows 7 ends next month.

    My question is: how do I handle the calling and money issues? God sends the call, but He gives no guarantee of riches if you follow that call. My dayjob doesn’t provide sufficient funds for everyday expenses, yet writing gives me great joy and I can’t ignore it. Any thoughts?

    Thank you

  9. Avatar
    Shulamit December 19, 2019 at 2:06 pm #

    Thank you, Bob! Your answer about writing a book “along the same lines as” blog posts and articles got me unstuck on an idea I’ve had for a couple years.

    Best piece of writing advice I’ve read all year. Here’s to a successful 2020 for all of us!

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