News You Can Use – April 17, 2012

Getting by on a Writer’s Income – Lawrence Block reflects on the challenges of the writing life. An excellent article from someone with a half a century of experience.

Microsoft Word is Dead – Tom Scocca in “Slate” makes a bold claim. I would vehemently disagree from the point-of-view of writers and editors and publishers. But he may be right when it comes to office collaborations and the like.

Mary Poppins Author Regrets Selling Movie Rights to Disney – A story behind the story. What we may have seen as a delight the author saw as a violation. Our family happens to have enjoyed both the movie and the original books.

—– Articles about the Department of Justice Lawsuit —–

One Bad Apple Don’t Spoil…on Second Thought – Bufo Calvin weighs in on the DOJ lawsuit

Agency is Dead, Long Live the New Agency – No, the article is not talking about literary agents despite some of your wishes. Instead Philip Hughes looks carefully at the DOJ lawsuit and asks some great questions.

Amazon E-book Pricing a Thorn in the Flesh – Fascinating look at a publisher that has willfully removed all their books from Amazon’s web site despite the risk of lost sales.

The DOJ Lawsuit Won’t Solve the Big Problem – Emily Bell in the UK sees the issue a little differently.

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Christy Award Finalists 2012

We are quite excited to announce that our agency has a number of finalists in this year’s Christy Awards. (Click here for the list of this year’s finalists.) Congratulations to all finalists. Below are our clients who have been honored and a link to their publisher’s site for more information on the book.

Susan May Warren – My Foolish Heart (Tyndale) – Contemporary Romance

Ronie Kendig – Wolfsbane (Barbour) – Contemporary Romance

Ginny Yttrup – Words (B&H Publishing) – NOMINATED TWICE – Contemporary Standalone & First Novel

Ted Dekker & Tosca Lee – Forbidden (Center Street) – Visionary – (we represent Tosca)

Lisa Bergren – Waterfall (David C. Cook) – Young Adult

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Implications of the Department of Justice Lawsuit Against Five Major Publishers

by Steve Laube

As you have heard by now the Department of Justice (DOJ) has leveled a lawsuit against Apple and five major publishers accusing them of conspiring to fix prices. There has been a lot written on the topic with varying degrees of understanding and a wide disparity of conclusions.

Authors are asking what this all means to them. And many are confused about the math involved. A great, and lengthy summary has been brilliantly composed at Shelf-Awareness. Read that article if you do not understand the details of the situation. It is important that every writer grasp the implications because it could affect how books are sold moving forward.

Already, three of the five publisher have agreed to settle without admitting guilt (HarperCollins, Hachette, and Simon and Schuster). And that settlement will take at least 60 days to finalize. This leave MacMillan and Penguin who have vowed to fight the suit. Such a fight could last years.

By the way, Random House was not named in the suit because they did not change their pricing policies until much later and thus cannot be accused of colluding.

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Fun Fridays – April 13, 2012

The Rejection Letter Generator Become used to receiving rejection letters from agents and editors. Test your own mettle. Develop immunity to snarky comments! Go to this site and fill one of the seven forms. The Rejection Generator Project I guarantee you will be rejected within seconds. So much better than …

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Finding the Right Critique Partner

by Tamela Hancock Murray

Recently I talked with a supervisor in a field unrelated to the publishing industry, who mentioned an employee. “I shudder to think of the advice he’s giving out. He has a general understanding of the subject matter, but not the skill set.” It struck me how applicable this statement can be regarding people who offer to critique manuscripts. In a previous post, I addressed the number of critique partners to consider. In this article, I’ll discuss quality, because not all critique partners will help you in the same manner.

A friend offering to critique your work is a gift because she is expressing interest intense enough to offer her time to read and comment upon it. But what if it is someone who is only an acquaintance? Some writers may think, “But what if the person actually wants to steal it and pass off my work as her own and sell it to a publisher?” Of course that is a risk, so be wise and make sure you know that the person is a legitimate writer and/or reader. Some organizations such as American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) offer critique groups to their members, so those writers are screened by virtue of membership. Consider sending an email to a mutual writer friend, go on Facebook and Twitter, or take any number of steps to make sure the person is a proven or at least an aspiring peer in the business.

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Are You a Storybird?

I’m always hearing about authors who get stuck. Whose creativity has hit a wall. Who have hit a point in the story that they’ve lost interest.

Or there are the down times. When emotions have them hogtied. They’re too sad or depressed or frustrated or overwhelmed to write.

Well, I don’t have a cure for all of those things, but I do have something that can help. It’s called Storybird, and it’s wonderful.

On Storybird, you can choose the most wonderful art, and then write a story. Short or long, funny or serious, it doesn’t matter. Just write what’s on your mind, what the art inspires.

I just wrote a Storybird because I was upset with myself for letting a friend down. In fact, that friend was Steve Laube. I forgot to send him my blog post for the agency site. And I knew he was disappointed in me. Thing is, I’ve forgotten to send the blog post before, too many times. Fibro has shot my short-term memory full of holes. So when I get stressed or overwhelmed, I tend to forget things. Even important things. I don’t like it. In fact, I hate it. But I can’t change it. So I’ve learned to work around it, using notes and alarms on my computer, and enlisting the help of friends and family. But when it affects something important, like making sure I do what I’m supposed to for Steve, I feel terrible.

So when that happened, I went to Storybird. And I wrote a story. For me. For Steve. For all of us who struggle with changes we don’t like. And it helped. A lot.

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News You Can Use – April 10, 2012

Pew Research Findings on E-Reading – If you want a sense of what’s happening, read this article. Then once you’ve digested it, read Mike Shatzkin’s evaluation of the data. Together the articles may take an hour to absorb.

The Perfect Elevator Pitch for a New Job – Interesting article with applications for a writer creating the perfect pitch for their book idea

Five Best Bluetooth Headsets – A link for you techies out there. If you have a favorite vote in the comment section.

Judging a Book by its Cover – A 17 minute lecture from the TED conference by a book cover designer (Chip Kidd has been a designer at Alfred A. Knopf since 1986). At turns amusing and enlightening. If you are an author and want to get inside the head of a designer in an entertaining way, consider watching.

Five Great Movies about Writing – Have to admit never seeing any of these. Am I an uncultured sloth? Don’t answer that question. Instead add your two cents in the comments below.

Infographic on how the Internet is ruining our brain:

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21 Influential Books

by Steve Laube

There is a shelf in our living room where I have placed the books that had the most influence on my spiritual growth. I call them my “Punctuation Marks” because in a metaphoric way some books were a comma, some an exclamation point, and some a period or full stop.

The beauty of having them all in one place is the visual reminder of those moments where God reached out through the pages of creative people who listened to the call to write and thereby touched me. It is a large part of why I have been involved in the book business for over thirty years.

Here are the books in no particular order:

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Any Name Will Do?

Have you ever been asked by an editor to change a character’s name in your novel? If so, I promise you are not alone. It happened to me too. One thing I used to like about writing books is that I could christen my characters with names I thought whimsical but my husband would have never let us call our children. But a writer still has to be careful.

Same Syllables

Awhile back, I ran into an issue with names bearing the same number of syllables. I once named the sisters in my novel Norma and Mabel. I was able to distinguish between them in my mind, but my critique partners got them mixed up. And they were nothing alike! But based on their advice, I changed their names and am so glad I did.

Alliteration

Sometimes it’s hard to resist naming characters with the same letter of the alphabet, especially siblings. But three brothers named Zach, Zed, and Zeke, for example, can confuse your audience. It is easy to throw off your reader by minor characters sharing too many name similarities. If Barney is your main character, and then you have a minor character named Barnabas with one speaking line readers may wonder if Barnabas and Barney are related.

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Reader Expectations

Guest blog by Robin Lee Hatcher

Robin Lee Hatcher and I (Karen Ball) have been friends for a lot of years. One of the things I most respect about her is the respect and love she has for her readers. She doesn’t write just for the sake of telling a good story. She writes to uplift and encourage her readers, to remind them they’re not alone in their struggles and challenges. Robin tells stories right from the heart, and her readers love her for it. With good reason.

So welcome, Robin, to the Steve Laube Agency Blog. I can’t wait to see what you’ve decided to share with us!

And in case you are wondering, best-selling novelist Robin Lee Hatcher is known for her heartwarming and emotionally charged stories of faith, courage, and love. She makes her home in Idaho where she enjoys spending time with her family, her high-maintenance Papillon, Poppet, and Princess Pinky, the cat who currently terrorizes the household. Her latest release, from Women of Faith Fiction, is Heart of Gold, set during the Civil War in the gold camps of Idaho.

Robin can be found on the Internet in the following places:
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/robinleehatcher
Write Thinking blog:http://blog.robinleehatcher.com
Twitter: @robinleehatcher
Web site: http://www.robinleehatcher.com

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I write genre fiction, and I say it without apology. I write what is often called “popular fiction” (to which I always want to ask, “Why would I want to write unpopular fiction?”). My 65+ books fall into such genres (or sub-genres) as historical sagas, historical romance, contemporary romance, and contemporary women’s fiction. All of my books since 1999 are also Christian fiction.

Writers of genre fiction often bristle when someone says the word “formula.” To many, that equates to saying all of our books are the same, that if you follow some predefined formula anybody could write one. But all historical romances, for instance, are not the same. The journeys of the heroes and heroines are unique to a book’s plot and to a writer’s style and voice. There isn’t a formula to be followed. (Sometimes I wish there were!) So if that is the meaning when someone says “formula,” then I’ll bristle too.

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