Every week, we at the agency craft blogs to give you insights, counsel, and even a laugh or two in relation to the mercurial world of publishing. Sometimes, though, I wonder if there are questions you have for which you can’t find answers or guidance. So a couple of times a year I pass the mic, so to speak, to you. As I’m doing now.
Do you have a question to which you can’t find an answer? Is there a topic you and your writer friends would like to see addressed in a blog?
If so, now’s your chance to share! I’ll go through what you all share and do my best to find the answers or best counsel.
So have at it!
I’d love more advice for meetings with agents and editors at conferences. I’ll be bringing a proposal and one sheet, but these will be my first in person pitches.
Watch for a blog in the next few weeks on this very topic! Thanks for the idea.
Is having previously published through a service like CreateSpace a count against a potential writer when s/he seeks representation or submits to a traditional publisher? Do agents and publishers work any differently with “hybrid” authors (those who publish both traditionally and non-traditionally)?
Hey, Yaansha. What counts against an author is poor sales. So if you publish through those services and sell a lot–I’m talking over 10K or more–then it’s a definite plus. If not, it’s as likely to work against you as not.
And if you’re wondering why you’d seek representation if you’ve already sold 10K copies, well, remember, the Shack sold 10 times more when picked up by a traditional publishing house. 🙂
Thanks for taking the time to answer! That makes sense. Is there a time frame they look for when considering sales? I’m sure publishers don’t expect you to rack up 10k in just a few months. (Or do they?)
If you sell that much in 9-12 months, it will catch some editors’ attention.
Help! I need clarification on the guidelines for romantic suspense. I’ve been told it’s 50% romance and 50% suspence, which I understand. My question: is the storyline romance or suspense driven? From reading this genre, I see it as suspence advancing the story with romance taking a strong subplot position. No one seems to know the answer. Which is it? Thank for “passing the mic”!
To give you some help, here’s the guidelines for Harlequin’s Romantic suspense…These novels are romance-focused stories with a suspense element. Powerful romances are at the heart of each story, and the additional elements of excitement, adventure and suspense play out between complex characters.
I read your question earlier today and just happened on a blog by a Romantic Suspense Love inspired author that may be helpful:
I’m with Becky, and not just guidelines for romantic suspense, but other categories as well such as contemporary, women’s fiction, etc. How do you determine which category your story best falls into?
This isn’t a 50/50 proposition. The question is what holds centerstage. If it’s a romance with suspense overtones, then romance is Queen and holds centerstage. The suspense serves the romance.
If the suspense holds centerstage but there’s a romance thread, then it’s simple suspense. Remember, almost all great fiction has a romance thread of some sort in it. But a thread of romance does not a romance make. If you’re writing a romance, that’s what’s prominent, regardless of the sub category.
If you are offered a contract for a novella, and you still don’t have an agent, what’s the best thing to do? Should you hire a lawyer to read over the contract? Or make one last attempt to get an agent? Thanks!
You can do either of the things you mentioned. It’s really your call. But an agent shouldn’t be interested just because you have a contract offer. Be sure you’re signing with someone who is passionate about you and your writing, who can help you build your career.
Thank you Karen for this opportunity to ask you a question. Here is mine. How do I find a good copy editor and also an editor to read the whole story for plot, character development etc. I am part of a weekly critique group that is excellent at copy editing so probably my biggest need is for someone to read the whole thing for continuity, ending etc. Thanks.
Boy, I did some research on this one, and what I found is that it’s not easy to find one. Which I’m sure is why you asked this. So what I recommend is that you try the following:
Check the writers’ resource pages on agency websites. Our site gives a list of freelance editors who can be trusted.
Pick up a copy of the most recent Christian Writer’s Market Guide. They have a list of editors/copyeditors there.
Talk with other writers about copyeditors and editors they use. Some places to do this are critique groups, on Facebook, or on the forums at places like ACFW.
Hope that helps.
I currently have a resubmission at Love Inspired pending a second review by the editor. The manuscript finaled in their Blurb2Book contest last year. It was returned to me with track changes and a request to revise and resubmit. It was resubmitted in January, but they haven’t officially offered me a contract yet. I’ve been advised by other authors that the proper course of action is to wait until they offer me a contract before I asking you to represent me. I’m wondering if you have an opinion on this situation.
Your friends are correct. You’ll spark more interest from agents with a contract offer in hand. Not because they’re opportunists, but because that contract offer proves you’re serious about what you’re doing and that you have the chops to build a career. But as I told Jackie Layton above, an agent’s interest should be based on more than just the contract offer. It’s a great way to get a quick review and response from an agent, but be sure you’re signing with someone who is in it for the long haul with you.
When utilizing Scripture within a fictional story, how does an author know when too much is too much or not enough? Like when a particular verse pops into the character’s head, is that one verse enough or too much? Is once per chapter too much? Are there any kind of guidelines?
Or is this one of those things the gatekeepers can dither back and forth on?
Richard, it’s the readers who will let you know if you’ve used too much. So use your critique team or first-pass readers to answer this question. Just remember, you’re writing a novel, not a sermon. The Scripture needs to be an organic part of the story, not just plunked in to preach.
Which time of year is the best time to submit to an agent and which is the worst? (I’m guessing maybe right before Christmas is the worst?)
Another great idea for a blog! Thanks!
My question is basically on platform. Is there absolutely no way an author can be published without an encouraging platform?
Michael, I just read an article online by Publisher’s Weekly that talks about the current state of the Christian marketplace. It mentions the importance of having a platform and does a great job of explaining why it’s so important. I might also add that The Steve Laube Agency’s own Dan Balow is quoted several times in the article. It’s definitely worth a read if you’re planning on breaking into the Christian fiction market.
Thank you Renee. Would ensure I check it out.
As an afterthought, could you paste the link please? Thank you.
You bet. Sorry I didn’t post a link before, I was posting from my cellphone. Here’s the link to the article in Publishers Weekly:
The Business of Christian Fiction http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/religion/article/70450-the-business-of-christian-fiction.html
Not sure how to make that a live link, Michael. You might have to copy and paste it into your browser. But this article is a must-read for anyone interested in the publishing in today’s Christian market.
I’m also pre-published, Michael, but I’ve been actively building a platform for six months. It was critiqued by a marketing team at Love Inspired in January. I’ve made changes according to their suggestions. It’s an example of how you can start a website when you don’t have published books to showcase or sell. There are many user-friendly online website builders you can use to put up a website. It takes time and patience, but what doesn’t in this business? God bless.
Thank you very much. I manage a blog for now, but I do hope to get a website soon. Thanks for your kind words.
Hey Michael. I’ll be doing a blog post on this. Thanks for the idea.
Thanks for the opportunity! I have a question about platform.
Does it matter to an agent/editor/publisher if I use a pen name while blogging? Will it affect their perception of me if I tell them up front this is a pen name (obviously I will be honest with them about my legal name).
I assume you’re talking about blogging as a personae, such as The Happy Homemaker or Dear Abby or something like that? That’s fine. What will matter to agents and editors is how you plan to use that platform for a book project.
Thanks, Karen, for opening up this Q for your later A.
I have two questions but they are related.
If you write historical, is the platform developed for one era considered relevant if you write something in another era?
If not, what range of dates/locations do publishers consider “the same” as far as one platform being sufficient for both?
Carol, the platform is about you, not your specific novel or time periods. Check out the websites of popular historical novelists to see how they promote all their books.
Yes, ma’am. I regularly see example submission packages for non fiction, but I have a really hard time finding them for fiction. I, personally, struggle with the two-page synopsis. A two-page synopsis of a popular novel would be so beneficial right now. Numerous examples would be phenomenal.
I could, also, benefit from fiction cover letter examples.
Thank you so much for asking.
Here’s a great link about writing a synopsis with lots of addtional links for more details . https://janefriedman.com/novel-synopsis/
Laura, I believe there are several blog posts devoted to fiction proposals, which include synopses, on Steve Laube’s website that I found helpful.
I agree! This would be so helpful! Most of what I’ve found is geared more towards non-fiction.
I’m putting together a devotional book and want to use several Bible translations for the daily verses I am highlighting. Do I need permission from NIV, NASB, etc to use those sources? Or does it suffice to have a notice at the beginning or ending of the book where those sources were derived?
Second question…I’ve done a blog for years interviewing authors and asking their tips on writing. Without additional permission, may I use those quotes given to me to create a free eBook on my site?
It depends on how much of those translations you’re using. If it’s just a few verses, then all you need are the copyright notices for each translation. Just type “Bible copyright notices” into your search engine and you should be able to find what you need.
Second answer: No, you can’t use them without permission. You need to send the exact wording of the quote you want to use to the appropriate person and get their permission in writing.
Sheri Dean Parmelee
Thanks so much for asking, Karen! How can someone who has only published a dissertation get an agent’s attention for a really, really good book idea?
I would hope it is more than just an idea. Well-written stories with hooks that pull the reader along can sell if they are by a new author. What feedback have you had from beta readers? Are they as excited about your story as you are?
By writing a really, really good book. The idea isn’t enough. You’ve got to write the book–the whole thing–to show you can deliver on the idea. And then put together a really, really good book proposal, following the guidelines son the agency website. 🙂
J S Rogers
Bless you very much Karen!
Here’s my burning question:
I have an idea for a novel but can’t figure out what genre it’s in. What steps can I take to determine where it fits?
There’s a lot of information online about the different genres, so I’d encourage you to do a search on the genres you think are most appropriate. Also, in the next few months my buddy Erin Taylor Young and I will be releasing an ebook entitled “A Field Guide to Genres in Fiction.” So hey, thanks for the question and the opportunity to let you know about the upcoming book.
Hey, Rebekah. I can’t speak for Karen–she’s the professional here–but I can share my own experience. I can honestly say that attending conferences accelerated my knowledge of craft and put me light-years ahead of the pack. I recommend them to anyone who wants to speed up the process of getting published. That’s my two cents, but it’s a personal choice. I went to a few when my kids were very young. It was the best decision for me.
Great questions, all! I can always count in you to share. Watch future blogs for answers.
Blessings to you all.
Thanks for answering our questions. I’ve learned a lot from your response. I’m looking forward to future blog posts on some of these topics.
I would like to send a non-fiction proposal to one of your firm’s agents. I understand that I need to submit to only one, the one that I feel is the best fit for my project.
Unfortunately, the firm’s web site doesn’t appear to describe the work each agent handles.
How can I find more information?
Hey, Joseph. Each of us at the agency has a blog listing what we are interested in. You can find those posts under the list of the Top 25 Posts.
A growing, and frightening trend, seems to indicate that public online figures (especially women) are harassed, bullied and outright threatened through comments. Some of these situations have ended in loss of life.
My question is: how do writers foster a public and prolific online presence, while maintaining our own sanity and safety?
Fascinating question, April. Watch for a blog post about this.
I’ll be doing a blog on this one. Thanks for the idea!