Inside a Publishing Company

by Steve Laube

I just returned from three days at the Write! Canada writers conference outside Toronto. During my time there I presented a six session lecture series on the Complete Publishing Process: From Idea to Print.

When the entire process is compressed into a short series like that it becomes evident how many people are involved in the publishing of a book at any given publishing company.

Recently Random House did a 10 minute video interviewing a number of key people in-house who are involved in the acquisition, editing, design, marketing, and sales of a book. Having worked for a publisher (Bethany House Publishers) this video made me smile as I remembered many of the great people I was privileged to work with (many of whom are still working there!).

What thoughts does this video invoke for you?

If you are self-publishing, how much of this are you doing yourself?

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Fun Fridays – June 15, 2012 – Weird English Language Quirks

Fun Fridays – June 15, 2012

Weird English Language Quirks

What is another word for “thesaurus”?

Have you ever run into someone who was combobulated, gruntled, ruly or peccable?

If a book about failures doesn’t sell, is it a success?

Did you know that “verb” is a noun?

If a word is misspelled in a dictionary, how would we ever know?

Why isn’t phonetic spelled the way it sounds?

Have you experienced requited love?

Why is the word abbreviation so long?

How can you look up words in a dictionary if you can’t spell them?

If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?

If two mouses are mice and two louses are lice, why aren’t two houses hice?

If Webster wrote the first dictionary, where did he find the words?

Is there another word for a synonym?

Have you ever said, “The present is a good time to present the present?”

Shouldn’t there be a shorter word for “monosyllabic”?

Why can’t you make another word using all the letters in “anagram”?

Why do fat chance and slim chance mean the same thing?

Why do overlook and oversee mean opposite things?

Why do people use the word “irregardless”?

We say something is out of whack. What is a whack?

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My Book is Like…

When I posted about writing great book proposals, I noticed a trend toward anxiety about the market comparison section. This is understandable since authors need to strike a balance between, “I am the next C.S. Lewis,” and “You don’t want to read this, do you?”

Aspiring to be like…

Most of the time, newer authors don’t think about comparing their work to the work of others in the proposal. Some do venture to compare themselves to classic authors in the query letter, and that can help the agent or editor orient herself to what you are writing, especially when your work isn’t of a specific genre. Do couch your words with care, however. “I compare my work to that of Francine Rivers,” reads differently than, “I greatly admire Francine Rivers. Reading her books has helped me aspire to touch hearts and souls with deep, emotional stories.”

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Do You Have Perfect Pitch?

Thanks so much for all the ideas for my mini-conferences. I’ll put those together soon.

Speaking of conferences, while I was at a writer’s retreat awhile back, I was struck, as I always am when in the company of writers, by the power of the right word used in the right way. On the first day of the conference, I had group meetings with the writers. This is where a group of writers come in, sit at a table together, and each takes a turn pitching his/her book to me to see if I would be interested in representing the author. I had six groups, each lasting a half hour, made up of anywhere from 5-7 people each. So folks had a total of 3-5 minutes to engage me in their project.

It’s the writer’s conference version of speed dating!

The cool thing is, a good number of those who came had such a strong understanding of their project and of the market that they were able to hook me in the first few words. Now that’s doing your homework! For example, one woman told me right off the bat her book was romantic suspense, what the main story line was (in a sentence), and what the conflict and spiritual takeaway were. That took about 45 seconds of her 4 minutes, so from there I asked questions about the story and focus and she was able to relax and just talk. I ended up asking her to send me the proposal. Don’t know if we’ll pursue it–the writing is what tips the scales, of course. But I was impressed with her well chosen descriptions. And if I’m considering two manuscripts and all things are basically equal, I’ll always go with an author who is, first and foremost, teachable, and then able to communicate the heart and soul of her story quickly and effectively.

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News You Can Use – June 12, 2012

Content Abundance – What Do We Do About It? – A question every author, every marketer, and every publisher is asking. When there are one million titles on Amazon and you click a key word search, how do you find what you want?

11 Tumblr Tips for Power Users – Remember to type tumblr (without the “e”) if you visit their site.

The History of Air Conditioning – I’m sorry I had to include this. We live in Phoenix where Summer hasn’t quite yet officially arrived because it is still under 110 degrees. At 105 we just smile and admit that it is warm. But practically, if you are writing a novel set in the 50s and don’t properly describe your character’s attempts at cooling off, your story will not ring true. (You may need to register for free to view the entire article.)

Don’t Reply to Bad Reviews – Joan Stewart, publicity expert, explains why.

Internet Trends 2012 – An awesome presentation consisting of 112 Power Point slides. Wow.

Wondering What to Read This Summer? Follow this incredible Infographic to pick out some classics. I must admit I’m not familiar with some of the contemporary choices. Gives me something to explore!

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Quote the Bible…Carefully

By Steve Laube


In talking with readers it is interesting to ask whether they bother to look up a Bible citation or question whether a Bible verse has been quoted correctly. Very few actually verify quotations or citations. But maybe they should. The Word of God is powerful and should not be taken for granted. There are many readers who admit to skipping over Bible verses when quoted in full. The thought is that they are already familiar with those words and that they want to get into what the author is saying. Ironic isn’t it?

In the editing process one of the jobs of the copy-editor is to verify the accuracy of quotations and citations. And not just Bible verses. I once had a magazine editor ask me to prove that a quotation I cited was verbatim and not paraphrased. It took me a full day at the library to find that book again, make of copy of the quotation, and send it to that editor. (A tip for your research…write down the source, including the page number, otherwise you may never find it again! Some are using their smart phones to take a picture of the page and file the photo in Evernote.)

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News You Can Use – June 5, 2012

Six Tough Truths About Self-Publishing (That the Advocates Never Seem to Talk About) – Rob Hart writes an insightful and cautionary tale.

22 Rules of Story Telling According to Pixar – This is an excellent article for every novelist to read.

10 Great Science Fiction Novels for People Who Don’t Read Sci-Fi – I have to say that I agree with only four of their choices. Such is the nature of reading and recommending fiction! (Of the 10 I would choose Card, Bester, Shelley, and Herbert.)

Are Books Becoming too Long to Read? – A stimulating article that makes you think twice about the length of your books. I do see a trend in NON-fiction toward shorter books. Fiction is still a matter of taste and storytelling ability.

How Fast Do You Read? – Staples.com provides a quick little test including a comprehension quiz at the end. How fast are you?

A Summertime graphic for you to enjoy:

 

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The Synopsis Tells the Tale

Because the synopsis is so critical to a proposal, I decided to write this spin-off of last week’s blog, “Keys to a Great Synopsis,”  in hopes of helping authors not only write more effective synopses, but to impart a bit about the fiction market, too.

When I read synopses from authors, much is revealed. For instance, I see:

Cozy mysteries that are meant to be romance.

Gothic plots presented as historical romances.

Women’s fiction that the author intended to be romance.

Mysteries masquerading as romantic suspense.

In the submissions I see, these are almost never flipped, so to my mind, this suggests the romance market in particular is one that many authors seek to understand, but don’t quite get. Hence the near-miss plots. I think this may be because the romance formula is strict and authors seek to offer readers something unique so without realizing it, they can stray into other genres. An eternal truth about romance novels is that editors and readers do want fresh plots. However, they also know that the romance story has set guidelines from which writers must not venture. Plots can hit the edges of the box but not punch holes. In my view, what the author must understand about the Christian romance reader is that she seeks to be assured that even in our coarse culture, a godly woman unwilling to compromise her faith and the accompanying physical and spiritual virtues can find a Christian man to love her forever.

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