Conference Proposal Requests

The recent ACFW conference (attended by nearly 700 writers and industry professionals) has writers, agents, and editors in overdrive as we all attempt to follow up on conference proposal requests. Writers are working feverishly to get proposals to editors. Some are thinking, “Surely the editor who seemed so excited about my proposal is checking email at least once or twice a day looking for it. I must, must, must get the proposal out today!”

Not so fast

Our word is our bond, and we feel responsible when we promise to submit a proposal as soon as we can. Accountability is to be commended. Editors and agents appreciate conscientious writers. However, most of us are looking for a writer’s proposal under certain conditions, and those conditions are usually quite urgent in the careers of writers already established with us. From my perspective, conference requests are different. Here are a few examples:

1.) The editor seemed so excited! Why did I get a email form letter rejection ten minutes after I sent my proposal?

This writer received what I consider a courtesy request. Think about it: no one likes to reject someone face-to-face. It is not easy to tell a person you’re not interested in a novel she’s worked on for months, perhaps even years. And it may be that you never showed them a stitch of your actual writing but only a one sheet or gave a pitch in a hallway. The softhearted editor probably liked the writer as a person, but used the quick form letter rejection to convey a hard truth after the fact.

2.) The editor seemed so excited about my one-sheet! Why did I get rejected?

The reasons are legion (see #1), but a one-sheet, while useful, has its limitations. Writers spend considerable time on one-sheets, honing to perfection. And the plot promised on the one-sheet is indeed delivered in the book — a plot perfect for the editor’s house. However, if the writing doesn’t sparkle, a perfect plot will not garner a contract.

3.) The editor seemed so excited by everything about me! Why haven’t I heard back from my submission after all this time?

Cyberspace is both an exhilarating and frustrating place to work. Few have any idea what it is like on the editor’s side of the desk. During the conference they can focus on the event and the people in it. But back in the office there are dozens of pre-existing issues and new hurdles that prevent the editor from responding immediately. The new submissions are rarely at the top of any editor or agent’s to-do list.

Perspective

At any conference, we’re running on coffee/diet soda/no sleep/adrenaline/unfamiliar food and we all want to make the best impression we can upon one another. And we are all pretty pumped. Editors and agents want to find the next bright star, and we want to be excited about you and your work.  So please forgive us when reality’s glare forces us to send you bad news after you return home.

My best advice is to be sure to follow up on any and all conference requests with your most superb work. Your agent will help you ensure your work is the very best it can be to submit to editors. When you receive feedback, take it seriously. Continue to write and hone your craft. Even if a conference doesn’t result in a contract this time, you have still made valuable and meaningful connections with writers, editors and agents. Persistence and willingness to learn are key. Any conference is only a part of the larger picture in your career. That’s my perspective. What’s yours?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a Comment

What Makes a Christian Book “Christian”? (Part Three)


So, there I were, surrounded by publishing professionals, faced with the question of whether or not we liked–or respected–our end consumer: the reader.

Publishing folk are a freaky bunch. They love to think and debate and share ideas and dissect and explore. Get a whole room of editors going and nothing is sacred. At the same time, everything is. At their core, publishing professionals recognize–and love–the power of words. Spoken, written, sung from the rooftops–words contain the power to create and cultivate, encourage and empower…or decimate and destroy. These particular folks also love God and His Word. So their drive is work on books that impact lives rather than books that just entertain.

So, what did they say, these learned, insightful, imaginative folks? At first, nothing. They stopped–really stopped–to consider the answer to whether or not they like the reader. Publishing pros are great at pondering.

Read More

News You Can Use – Oct. 4, 2011

The Future of the Book – An essay by the atheist and bestselling author Sam Harris. Do agree or disagree? His thought are provocative.

Things We Know and Don’t Know About E-books – A brilliant assessment by Mike Shatzkin.

The Future of Books – a Dystopian Timeline – John Biggs writes this depressing prediction of the demise of books for TechCrunch. Do you agree that all publishers will die in 2019…a mere 7 1/4 years from now?

How Amazon Controls the Entire Publishing Industry – If you’ve been following this topic the article isn’t news. But if you haven’t “pay attention.” We are.

The World’s Smallest Book – See the picture at the end of the tweezers. And the publisher printed 300 of them? Really?

Read More

Bestseller List News – October 3, 2011

Some of our authors have recently hit the bestseller lists! Congratulations to all.

Harvest of Grace by Cindy Woodsmall hit #22 on the tradepaper fiction New York Times extended bestseller list for August 28st. And is #2 on the ECPA “Multi-Channel” bestseller list for October.

Forbidden by Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee (Center Street) hit #17 on the hardcover fiction New York Times bestseller list for October 2nd and will be #31 on the extended list for October 9th.

Log Cabin Christmas an omnibus of novellas (Barbour) hit #34 on the tradepaper fiction New York Times extended bestseller list for October 2nd. The collection included our clients Kelly Eileen Hake, Liz Tolsma, and Deb Ullrick.

Still House Pond by Jan Watson (Tyndale) is #10 on the ECPA Christian Fiction bestseller list for October.

A Whisper of Peace by Kim Vogel Sawyer (Bethany House) is #15 on the ECPA Christian Fiction bestseller list for October.

Double Trouble by Susan May Warren (Tyndale) is #16 on the ECPA Christian Fiction bestseller list for October.

Read More

Always Learning

During the Summer of 1978 the #1 hit on Christian radio was the classic “He’s Alive” by Don Francisco (click here to listen). That same Summer I attended a Christian music festival in Estes Park, Colorado and decided to take a class on songwriting being taught by Jimmy and Carol Owens. I settled into my chair near the back of the room with notepad ready.

Just as the class was about to start a bearded man slide in the chair next to mine….notepad at the ready. To my astonishment it was Don Francisco. (I recognized him from his album cover.)

Here was a singer/songwriter who had the number one hit in the nation…taking a class on songwriting! What did he think he needed to learn?

Read More

Loving to Laugh


At least once a week I’m asked if romantic comedy is currently marketable. While sometimes this category seems hot and then cold, I’d say that sharp, witty, well-executed romantic comedy can find a good home no matter what the publishing season. Note that I take the adjectives I used seriously. This is not a category that most writers can whip off with little effort. Successful writers of romantic comedy are gifted with the ability to find humor in everyday situations and the talent to share that humor in an entertaining way. The writing must fly like a magic carpet. The reader is looking for a fun story.
One successful writer of romantic comedy is Gail Sattler. Here is a great tip from Gail:

Read More

What Makes a Christian Book “Christian”? (Part Two)


So what are some of the answers I’ve been given to the question “What makes a Christian book Christian”? Consider the following:

Written from a Christian world view Story offers hope Core of the story shows importance of faith in Christ

Similar to the things you all wrote in your comments (though I think your responses went far deeper.) But I’ve also been peppered with the following critical comments regarding Christian books:

It’s safe It doesn’t challenge the status quo It doesn’t leave anything unsettled, everything’s resolved Quality doesn’t match that of ABA books Easy answers Doesn’t make readers think Affirms readers beliefs and perspective
Read More

News You Can Use – Sept. 27, 2011

Why You Still Don’t Have a Literary Agent – A good post about query letters by Jeff Rivera

The Best Writing Advice I’ve Ever Received – by Donald Miller (author of Blue Like Jazz)

The Power of a Book Bargain – Atlantic Magazine explores the effect of ebook pricing on the prices of all books. Do you agree or disagree? Sounds like fodder for a future blog post.

Ten Questions a Writer Should Ask BEFORE Quitting Their Day Job – from Writer’s Digest

33 Tips for Bloggers – Good stuff!

Changing Our English Language – Infographic (If you can’t see it, click through to the blog for the image.)

Read More

ACFW 2011 Report

This past weekend nearly 700 novelists, editors, agents, and industry professionals gathers in St. Louis for the 10th annual American Christian Fiction Writers conference.

It is always invigorating to be with so many highly creative people and to be a part of the discovery and development of tomorrow’s bestselling authors.

I had over 30 one-on-one appointments and editor meetings, taught three classes, and had dozens of “hallway” meetings of all kinds. Our agency had 47 clients in attendance too. This was the first time Karen Ball, Tamela Hancock Murray, and I were together at the same event since they joined the agency. What a blast! It is so great to have them as a part of our agency.

Read More