Yes, This Post Is About You

Almost every time we post a story or give a “don’t do this” example, we receive emails and phone calls. “Were you talking about me?”

Why, yes. Yes we were.

Actually, something you did may have reminded us about something someone else did, which reminded us about something else that happened years ago. I’ve been an agent for well over a decade, so I’ve seen lots of situations happen more than once. So I might be inspired to write about an event because the fact it’s happened more than once shows that addressing it will help a lot of people. Maybe even you.

If it makes you feel better, realize it’s a two-way street. People also write about agents. I may read a post and wonder if I’m the particular agent who offended someone. Maybe. Maybe not. But I can learn from reading posts about how I can be a better agent.

Think about your stories. Aren’t many of your characters composites of people you know? What would happen if you had to field phone calls from offended friends and relatives every time a character misbehaved in your book? How would you address an angry phone call from your sister-in-law? Or the dismay of a cousin? I suggest first, thank her for being one of your readers.

But any time you think we may be talking about you and this really bothers you, we don’t mind if you ask us about it. Recently I saw a post (not on our blog) open up communication between two people who went on to reconcile and forgive years-old wounds. But please don’t feel hurt or put upon if you feel we may be using a composite of you and several other people in regards to something such as how to write a letter. We aren’t mad at you. Seriously. We just want to help everyone in the publishing community.

And thank you for being one of our readers.

Your turn:
Have you ever read a post that made you squirm, thinking it may have been about you? Did you ask the writer about it?
Has anyone ever asked you if one of your characters was based on them? What did you do?

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To Conference We Shall Go!

The American Christian Fiction Writers’ conference ( is just around the corner (Sept. 18-23 in Dallas, TX), and I’m seeing increasing buzz online about all the fun attendees are going to have. It’s true, too. Writers’ conferences are a lot of fun, especially those focused on the Christian market. In fact, I’ve equated them to church camp because the feel is very much the same. It’s a delight to be with folks you haven’t seen face-to-face for months, even years. And there’s just no joy to compare with being surrounded by folks who love words and writing and reading as much as you do. So it’s little wonder that people are excited. Heck, I’m excited. I’m looking forward to copious amounts of hugs and laughter and coffee shared with those of like mind and heart.

And yet, for all the great fellowship and teaching we’ll find at ACFW and other writer’s conferences, allow me to give two cautions.

First, be strategic. If you wanted to, you could do things from dawn to…well, dawn! Between workshops and teaching tracks, general sessions and panels, spotlight sessions and late-night events, author and editor meetings, brainstorming and marketing sessions…you can find something to fill every moment of every day. I know that’s the temptation, especially considering that conferences aren’t cheap. After all, you want to get your money’s worth, right? As true as that is, you also need to make sure you’re not overdoing it. (Consider reading some of the related posts linked at the bottom of the page.)

Writers’ conferences are among the most exhausting thing I do, and I’m an off-the-scale extrovert! For most of you folks, who tend to tip the chart at introvert with a capital I, writers’ conferences can pretty much do you in. Not only can you end up physically exhausted, but your emotions can run the gamut as well. Hopes rise and fall, dreams come true and crash and burn, and egos are inflated, bruised, and decimated.

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News You Can Use – Sept. 11, 2012

Never Forget – September 11th

Publishers Forcing a New Genre – Books for 14-35 year olds? Mature themes but packaged younger. Thoughts?

How Much Time is Wasted at Work? – This page and infographic should make everyone pause for a moment. The average worker checks their email 36 times an hour…. Astounding. I would have thought it was more. J

Hats Off to Amazon – Read this article! Mike Shatzkin, as usual, writes an insightful article on the strategies of Amazon and the implications of the Department of Justice settlement among other things.

How Bestseller Lists Work…and Introducing the Amazon Monthly 100 – Timothy Ferris takes a stab at unveiling the mystery. You may have seen this in an earlier post.

Sue Grafton Apologizes to Self-Published Authors for Calling Them Lazy – Important to admit when one is wrong and accept the consequences. I would never call any writer lazy…except in your case…yes, you know who I’m talking to… <grin>

Don’t Use Gmail/Yahoo/Hotmail for Business Emails – If you are guilty of this, think about a change. I don’t think it is horrible for a writer to do this. But at least change how you are seen by the recipient of your email. It isn’t your email address that shows, it is the identity chosen when you set up the account. I once had an author send me an email but didn’t realize her kids had set up the account. So the e-mail showed in my inbox as coming from “mom.” Or another sent me a note from her account called “hot gramma.” Not very professional.

Mundane Routines Produce Creative Magic – An article length apologetic for working in your bathrobe.

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Do You Have a Backup Plan?

by Steve Laube

The question is not if your hard drive will fail, it is a question of when. At least twice a year I have a client who has lost their hard drive to equipment failure. There was a recent story of an editor at Wired magazine who got hacked via a security hole in his Amazon and Apple accounts. He not only lost data, he lost all the digital pictures of his baby girl. He wrote the article as a cautionary tale. As the editor admits, he knew better, but did not follow his own advice. So my question to you is, “Do you have a backup plan?”

Hit the Save Button Regularly

Many think that just hitting the “save” button is enough. Sorry. That only saves the file to your local computer. And if that computer fails, you are toast. While hitting the save button helps with immediate things it isn’t a long term solution. What if someone steals your laptop while you turned your back to refresh your drink at the coffee shop?

Save to an External or Portable Backup Device or E-mail Service

Keeping your files on an external drive or a USB thumb drive is okay. But what if you lose the thumb drive (they are so small!)? Or what if you forget to take the external drive with you…and your computer is stolen from your office, along with the external drive?

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By Tamela Hancock Murray

Of late, several popular Christian and secular bloggers have posted about unplugging for a time. I have enjoyed reading their ideas because I realize the importance of rebooting every once in awhile.

Years ago I read an article that said if being laid up with a broken ankle for six weeks sounded good to you, then you are too stressed out. At that moment, I knew I had to change my life. And I did.

Today, my work doesn’t feel like work to me. I greet each day eager to see what each email will bring. Nor do I dread vacations, because I love spending time with my husband and family. But since vacations are brief and rare, I try to unplug a little each day. I don’t say my ideas and routines are perfect, nor will they work for everyone. They are a mix of determination and time management:

Protect your time with the Lord.

I have a place set aside in a room where I cannot see a clock. I read the Bible, and keep on hand a book of my choice that I find challenging and edifying enough that I look forward to reading it. I have just started a book on personal godliness by Puritan writer John Owen, edited by James Houston (acquired by Steve Laube when he was an editor at Bethany House Publishers). When I’m too busy, it’s tempting to make this time quick. To force myself to slow down, I light a candle and say special prayers, including the Jesus Prayer, which is, Jesus, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner. I also say the Lord’s prayer, The Apostle’s Creed, sometimes other prayers, and my own prayers.

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News You Can Use – September 4, 2012

Amazon Buys 1,000 Backlist titles from Dorchester – As expected Amazon won the bid for defunct publisher Dorchester. Add these to the 3,000 titles they bought from Avalon in July and you have a serious number of romance backlist titles to offer.

Jonah Lehrer’s Plagarism Worse than Originally Thought – Charles Seife analyzes numerous “Wired” articles and the Lehrer’s blog and discovers a pattern. Beware lest anyone put your blog or articles under a microscope.

Publishing is Broken, We’re Drowning in Indie Books, and That is a Good Thing – Lengthy article in Forbes magazine about the state of the industry. Worth the time to absorb what he is trying to say. See the next link for a different perspective.

Self-Published Authors are Lazy –  Interview with Sue Grafton where she rendered a very unpopular opinion. Plenty of digital ink was spilled in response.

Today’s Christian Woman is Back in Print – Fascinating strategy launching this Fall. TCW coming back in a print edition, as well as online. See the new web site in beta form:

ipads and Kindles Allowed to be on During Take Off? – It may happen soon! As long as they make everyone turn off their cell phones I’m looking forward to the relaxation of these rules. I just cannot fathom sitting next to someone talking on their cell phone for an entire flight.

How Do Authors Benefit from Agents? – Rachelle Gardner, once again, writes a brilliant post. If you don’t follow her blog, you need to.

The Publishing Process in GIF form – In case you missed this last week (it went somewhat viral), Nathan Bransford created a delightful visual description of the entire publishing process.

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Paid Book Reviews?

by Steve Laube

You may have read or heard of the NY Times article where an author admitted to using a now-defunct service that wrote positive online reviews for a fee. Unfortunately I was not surprised. There have been many attempts to game the system over the years.

One man bought thousands of his books in various locations to launch it onto the NY Times bestseller list (Read a report about it here). And here is a link to a recent article which helps authors strategize how to get on the bestseller list. I remember back when I ran a bookstore a well-known author refused to let our store run an event’s booktable because we did not report our sales to the New York Times.

Having a system to create fake reviews only reduces our confidence in the reviews we read online. In fact there are laws in place now whereby a reviewer must reveal whether or not they got the book for free in exchange for a review. (Here is the Federal Trade Commission guide concerning the “Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.“) is a great source for bloggers to get books in exchange for honest reviews.

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Covering the Cover Letter

This is the last installment of my proposal series. You may think it strange to write about the cover letter last, but usually, it’s the last part of the proposal an author writes. Our own Steve Laube has already written about the cover letter here.

His tips are so wonderful that I asked him if I should even attempt this post, but he encouraged me to write from my perspective. So here are key points I like to see in a cover letter:


1.) Title and genre of book: I can immediately discount horror and erotica. Saves everyone time.

2.) Target market and word count: While part of an agent’s job is to identify markets for your work, you still should do enough research to understand where your book might fit. A 250,000 word novel aimed at Love Inspired Historical shows you have no idea about today’s CBA marketplace.

3.) Story summary highlighting primary conflict. For example: “Set in Chicago in 1905, Party Time is the story of a political party boss who must fight his attraction to a suffragette.”

This is enough to tell me that I’d have to hesitate since the title is questionable for CBA and for the Christian market, a Chicago party boss is not a sympathetic hero.

4.) Past Sales: But, if you mention that your last CBA romance novel sold over 100,000 copies, I’d ask to see Party Time anyway. Those sales tell me you may possess enough talent to make the party boss the most dashing romantic hero ever.

On the other hand, if you are a new author, it’s fine not to belabor the point. I will figure this out since you didn’t mention sales history. (And this early in your career, I recommend writing about the type of heroine and hero everyone agrees deserve true romance).

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