Writing Craft

How to Make Me Stop Reading

Once upon a time, I finished every book I started reading. I had to. I felt an obligation. If I didn’t finish it, it wouldn’t “count” as a book I’d read. Right?

Then, maybe ten, maybe twenty years ago, I changed. I think I realized how many books there are in the world that I want to read and how little time I had left in life to read them. And I reasoned that plowing through a book I’d lost (or never found) interest in out of some sense of obligation or compulsion was just crazy. So I stopped.

Thank you, Jesus.

Now, in my personal reading, I know what I like and what interests me; so if I start reading a book, it’s already cleared a hurdle. But whether I’m reading for pleasure, personal growth, or professionally, if the first chapter, first page, first few lines don’t drive me forward, I may stop. If at any point, my interest flags, I might slog on for a while. But if my interest doesn’t revive pretty quickly, I stop. Life is too short. The measurement for me is not “can I keep reading?” but “can I not stop reading?”

Along the way, some things may ruin an otherwise-worth-reading book, proposal, or manuscript. For example, a glaring and avoidable mistake, like a recent novel I started that placed a Salvation Army kettle manned by a Santa Claus in the middle of a residential block. (Salvation Army bellringers aren’t Santa Clauses, except in the rarest circumstances, and why would it be in a residential neighborhood?) I’ll also stop reading if I don’t love any characters. Or if the action makes me say or think, “Oh, sure.” Oh, and clunky dialogue. And too many or too glaring point-of-view mistakes. And if I find myself getting confused and it lasts for more than a few lines, I stop.

I realize this may all sound petty. I’m okay with that. I’m old and grumpy, and who knows how much time and how many books I have left to enjoy?

So, how about you? What makes you stop reading?

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Writers Groups

Writers need good, personal support structures because so much of the work is done in solitude. Christian writers conferences, whether they are held online or in person, are part of this structure, as one receives training; exposure to different ways of thinking; critical review; advice from people with experience they …

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Cover Bands Don’t Change the World

by Steve Laube

I had been reading and thinking about creativity when I came across the title of today’s post as a chapter by that name in a book called The Accidental Creative: How to be Brilliant at a Moment’s Notice by Todd Henry (2011). It stopped me in my tracks. I knew he was right. A cover band plays other people’s music. Often it is a new interpretation of a familiar song and sometimes it is a direct copy, like a tribute band. While popular and entertaining for the moment they rarely have lasting impact.

What sells in our market, also known as “trends,” moves like a chased rabbit, very difficult to capture and quickly shifting its path. To our detriment we often chase these trends in order to find success. After thirty years in the book business I’ve seen this happen time and again. Hot trends of the past include non-fiction books on prophecy, angels, spiritual warfare, Bible promises, heaven, and even martyrdom. In fiction it has been novels that revolved around prairie romance, supernatural battles, and chick-lit. While imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery it betrays original thinking.

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Today Is a Good Day to (re)Read

by Steve Laube

What was the favorite book you read, cover to cover, in the last year or so? Why is it your favorite? (It can be fiction or non-fiction. Faith-based or not.) Feel free to tell us in the comments about yours.

Read it Again

Now that you’ve identified the book. Read it again. As Vladimir Nabakov wrote:

“Curiously enough, one cannot read a book: one can only reread it. A good reader, a major reader, an active and creative reader is a rereader.” – from Nabokov’s speech “Good Readers and Writers” (pdf link) delivered in his 1948 Lectures on Literature (Amazon link).

That may seem like an overstatement. After all we have only so much time in a day. Why am I suggesting this?

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A Is for Agent

by Steve Laube

I thought it might be fun to write a series that addresses some of the basic terms that define our industry. The perfect place to start, of course, is the letter “A.” And even better to start with the word “Agent.”

If you are a writer, you’ve got it easy. When you say you are a writer your audience lights up because they know what that means. (Their perception is that you sit around all day thinking profound thoughts. And that you are rich.)

If you are an editor, you got it sort of easy. Your audience knows you work with words and all you do is sit around and read all day. In my editorial days I was often told, “I’d love to have your job.”

But tell someone you are an agent and there is a blink and a pause. If they don’t know the publishing industry they think “insurance agent” or “real estate agent” or “secret agent.” Or if they follow sports or entertainment they think “sleazy liar who makes deals and talks on the phone all day.” I resent people thinking that I talk on the phone all day. (Hah!)

Even at a writers conference I always have someone ask, “What is it that you do?”

Deal Maker

An agent works on commission. Fifteen percent of the money earned in a contract they have sold to a publisher on behalf of a writer. I will be bold to say that any prospective agent who asks you for money up front is someone you should stay away from.

This is the category that most people focus on when defining the role of the agent. But it is only one small facet of what we do. Two months ago I published a list of the activities our agency had recently done as a way to help dispel the myth that we are only deal makers. It is how we earn our living but only a small part of our work.

Don’t get me wrong. This is a crucial part of what we do. Our contract negotiations are critical to the long-term health of the publishing/author relationship. Last Fall I taught a course at a conference called “Landmines in Your Book Contract.” Each time I read one from an “offending” contract there were gasps in the room. There is a good reason to have a professional review any book contract you are ready to sign.

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B Is for Buy Back

by Steve Laube

Many authors are also speakers and as such usually have a book table in the back of the room where the audience can purchase a copy of their book during an event. This can be a very valuable source of income for the author if they have negotiated a “buy back” price (also known as the author’s discount) at the time of signing their book contract.

Check Your Contract Restrictions
It is crucial that you read your contract if you plan on selling copies of your book. No publisher will allow you to resell your books to a commercial account. In other words don’t try to buy thousands of books at your author discount and then re-sell them to Wal-Mart at a special price. That is a no-no. And is a logical restriction.

Also, there are a couple publishers that do not allow you, by contract, to sell your books in any public venue. If you scoff at this after signing the contract and are caught, you are in breach of contract and could face the consequences.

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The Power of Punctuation

In his memoir, Education of a Wandering Man,­ Louis L’Amour repeats a charming story about two great actresses that reveals the power of punctuation: Sarah Bernhardt . . . finally got a chance to see [Eleanora] Duse on the stage and, overcome with the greatness of the performance, wrote a …

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Spend It All

If you’re anything like me (I extend my sympathies), the dawn of a new year brings with it a chance for reflection and re-vision. I like the hyphenated version of that word; I think it conveys the meaning a little better than revision. Re-vision suggests to me the casting of …

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Edgy Christian Fiction

A number of years ago the question of what is appropriate to include in Christian fiction was asked, and I wrote much of what is below as a reply. Recently, this issue jumped back into conversations with the release of the film Redeeming Love, based on the bestselling novel of …

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