Tag s | Pitching

God Gave Me This Blog Post

God gave me this blog post.

By invoking divine inspiration, I have guaranteed that you will read this post and possibly give me money to read more.

Sound like a stretch? Then what if I just wrote or said:

“God spoke to me.”
“I was led to write this.”
“God revealed this to me.”
“I have been called to write this.”
“I believe this is an inspired post.”

In the Christian publishing industry, editors, publishers, and literary agents hear these phrases all time. (And I suspect they are heard in the aisles and parking lots of churches every week.) I’ve heard them on the phone, in person, and in writing … in varying degrees. Everything from “If you don’t accept this book idea you are not a Christian because God gave it to me” to “The Lord has laid this on my heart.” Obviously, the first is outrageous; but what is wrong with the other one?

Often a writer will approach me at a writers conference, lean in, and say in whispered tones, “I know I’m not supposed to say this, but I truly believe that God gave me this story.” I know what they mean. They are trying to express their passion for their work and their sincere belief that it is life changing. I do not doubt their earnestness or their truthfulness. But it can be a problematic thing to say, especially when prefaced with “I know I’m not supposed to say this.”

Granted, some of this comes out of an author’s nervousness when pitching to an agent or editor. Many told me later they didn’t remember a single thing they said during those few minutes. But still, it is important to guard your tongue.

The Bible is very clear that God speaks to us via His Spirit, sometimes through other people in writing, speaking, singing, or actions. We are admonished, “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies” (1 Thessalonians 5: 19-20). But note in the next verse (v. 21) the apostle Paul wrote, “Test everything.” The apostle John wrote further, “Test the spirits to see whether they are from God” (1 John 4:1). 

But to invoke divine inspiration in a pitch session with an editor or agent can be seen as an attempt to force acceptance. In other words, if I say no to the project, then I’m guilty of impeding the work of God Himself. 

I have had authors tell me, point-blank, that God told them I should be their agent. Bold? How do you think that sounds from my perspective?

Therefore, the next time, before casually or intentionally using this type of language:

  1. Consider your motive. What is being accomplished by invoking divine inspiration? A legitimacy that was somehow missing before the statement crossed the lips? An expression of passion and sincerity? Is the phrase being used as manipulation?
  2. Consider your audience. The publishing professional being addressed has already made the assumption that God is inspiring a lot of people a lot of the time. That is intrinsic to the artistic process. We assume that you are passionate about your work or that you feel it is inspired in some way; otherwise you would not be showing it to anyone. An honest, sincere, devout person may have been inspired to write something. That is normal.

    (By the way, I’ve yet to have someone invoke the alternate form of inspiration (“the devil gave this to me”)!)

    A few of the more sarcastic among us may be tempted to respond, “God told you but forgot to tell me” or “Really? God did that? Please sign this dotted line so we can get busy with publishing it!” You see how silly and mocking this can get?

  3. Consider your source. Annie Dillard wrote, “Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it?” (Teaching a Stone to Talk, page 40). Are you really speaking for God? Are your words supplanting God’s? Or adding to them? That is a danger of invoking God’s name in order to validate one’s material. “If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God … so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 4:11). And, “On the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak” (Matthew 12:36).

So before anyone takes offense, I’m not trying to “quench the Spirit.” Instead, I’m encouraging a bit of caution when talking this way among publishing professionals. 

Would you be surprised to know that I heard this in 1992 at the very first writers conference I attended as an editor? I was a newbie faculty member. I’d been in the industry as a bookseller, but had never been at this type of conference or knew what a one-on-one pitch session was all about. That first day, a person sat across from me and with glistening eyes and a shaking voice declared, “God gave me this.” It didn’t feel right back then either.

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Three Questions About Agents

In meeting with writers on the cusp of their careers or flush with new success, we find that three big questions come to the forefront. Today, Tamela shares her answers:

How do I find a literary agent?

1)      First and foremost, visit the Agency web sites to see which ones are actively seeking the type of work you write.

2)      Talk to your agented friends to learn about their agents. Referrals are a big part of our business.

3)      If time and finances allow, attend a conference or meeting where your preferred agent will be appearing and meet the agent.

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Saving the World, One Romance at a Time

Often I will receive submissions of novels tying in an element of mystery and suspense with romance. Writers targeting the romantic suspense market will find difficulty in placing this type of story. Why? Because romantic suspense readers have certain expectations that won’t be met with a mere element of mystery and intrigue.

In my experience trying to sell and market romantic suspense, I have found that the readers of this genre want all-out adventure and crime solving along with compelling romance. The suspense is foremost, with the romance being tied in so deeply that the story won’t survive without it.

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What Caught My Eye


Last week we talked about the hook, the sound bite, or the ability to “say it in a sentence.” One reader asked for examples so I thought I’d give you a few.

Below are the short pitches of proposals that have caught my eye over the years from debut authors. Please realize that the sound bite is only one of many factors that goes into a great proposal. Ultimately it is the execution of the concept that makes for a great book. For example, The Help by Kathryn Stockett would not have succeeded as a word-of-mouth bestseller if the writing did not support the story. (No, we did not represent that title, I’m only trying to make a point. :-))

Your challenge will be to see if you can identify which books these sound bites are pitching. Each one has been published. One is obviously non-fiction, the other two are novels. The answers to each of these will be provided later this week in the comments section. along with a link to the title so you can see it in its final form.

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Say It in a Sentence

Can you present your book idea in one sentence?

Can you present that idea in such a way that the reader is compelled to buy your book?

What motivates someone to spend money on a book? It is the promise that there is something of benefit to me, the reader.

Books are generally purchased for one of three reasons:

Entertainment Information Inspiration

If your book idea can make me want to read it, whether it is for entertainment, information, or inspiration, then you are well on your way to making a sale.

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Would You Buy Your Own Book?

When I ask a room of writers if they would buy their own book if they saw it on the shelf at a major bookstore I am met with a variety of reactions. Laughter. Pensiveness. Surprise. And even a few scowls. How would you answer that question?

But the question is meant to ask if your book idea is unique. Whether it will stand out among the noise of the competition.

It is not a question of whether your book is important or valuable or even well written. It is ultimately a question of commercial viability.

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That Conference Appointment

You snagged one of those valuable 15 minute appointments with an agent or an editor at the writers conference. Now what? What do you say? How do you say it? And what does that scowling person on the other side of the table want? What if you blow it?

Many excellent posts have been written on this topic (see Rachelle Gardner and Kate Schafer Testerman for example) but thought I would add my perspective as well.

What advice would you give to a beginning writer about attending a writers conference and meeting with an editor or an agent?

Go in with realistic expectations.

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Brainstorming: How and With Whom?

Brainstorming is one of the fun parts in the development of a book. The key for the author is a willingness to hear other ideas. The second, and most critical key, is discovering those with whom you should brainstorm. Those people need to be willing to have their ideas rejected in the discussions and be willing to let an idea they created to be used by someone else. It takes a special person…many times a professional…to achieve that.

I’ve heard complaints from some authors who try this in a critique group only to be frustrated. Egos get in the way or the ideas generated are singularly unhelpful. Or the discussion doesn’t move the project forward, instead it gets sidetracked by numerous differing opinions on the direction of the piece.

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