by Karen Ball
As many of you know, we at the agency were in Dallas, Texas this last week at the American Christian Fiction Writers’ conference. Folks told me it was too bad we had to go this time of year, that it was unbelievably hot and humid.
I wouldn’t know.
From the time I got to the hotel until I checked out, I never stepped a foot outside. Why, you may ask? Well, let’s see…
I taught a Continuing Education track on “Writing that Sings,” as well as an afternoon workshop (with fellow SLA agent Tamela Hancock Murray) on “Overcoming Fiction Foibles. In between, I met with editors, conferees, and a number of my delightful clients. I also accompanied several of said delightful clients to their meetings with editors. Every meal was a meeting, every meeting was fast-paced and full of information. And I took part in the My Book Therapy production of a musical, based on Oklahoma (I was Ado Annie, the agent who cain’t say no—don’t get excited, folks, Ado may not be able to, but I’m good at it <gg>).
All of which is to say by the time I checked out on Sunday, my brain was full to overflowing. So here are a few of the tidbits I picked up in all those gatherings and meetings:
- The tried and true isn’t so tried or true nowadays, so some editors are taking a look at things that haven’t been seen in CBA for awhile, such as biblical fiction, foreign settings, and young adult.
- Authors that sign on for a project have been known to drop out at the last minute, leaving editors with a hole they need to fill…NOW. So guess who editors come to asking if any of our clients happen to have a completed manuscript on hand that isn’t contracted? Yup, the agents. One publisher came specifically to our agency, and only our agency, because they trust us to meet the need. That meant a lot to all of us.
- In-house staff continues to suffer cutbacks, so there are ever-decreasing numbers of people to do the work. Which means more piled on to already overworked folks. And that means they need folks like Steve, Tamela, and me more than ever to help out. I had one agent say to me, “Thanks for being my filter and weeding out the proposals that aren’t ready for me.”
- The overall feel out there is surprisingly positive. Publishers are feeling their way in the new landscape, sure, but they’re excited about doing so. And some feel it’s giving them—and writers–new opportunities.
- While branding still matters, more and more writers who have been published are recognizing that they themselves are the brand, rather than a specific genre or category. (This is something that Sally Stuart, Janet Kobobel Grant, Wendy Lawton, and I—who make up the leadership team of the Mount Hermon Career Track—have been saying in that track for years. So I’m especially happy to see writers embrace the idea.)
- The plethora of social media and marketing ideas out there just keep growing, and writers seem to be in two camps: those who LOVE social media, those who DESPISE it. I spoke with one author who was almost dancing in the hallway at all the opportunities to get in touch with readers. Another told me she wanted to crawl under the table at the idea.
- Publishers are cutting midlisters loose more quickly, so writers have less time to “make it” before they find themselves “free agents,” so to speak. I can’t tell you how many times I heard, “This isn’t how I expected my career to go.” Writers find themselves wondering what’s next—or if there is a next.
Next week I’ll talk about what I heard from fellow agents, but I wanted to stop here for now, in part because there’s just too much to put in one blog. But mostly because I want to say to any of you who have struggled with that last bullet point, yes, there is a next. But here’s the thing, understanding what exactly that is means being focused on the now. On the One who has given the task of writing. On what He is seeking to accomplish in you through the journey you’re on.
With God, there’s always a next step. And the beauty is that we don’t need to worry what it is. We just need to keep our eyes on Him, keep our ears trained to His voice, and rest in the truth that He’s got this.
He’s got it, friends.
He’s got you covered in every way. And He’s at work to bring about His will in you and your life. I know it’s easy to brush that aside in the face of career or financial woes, but none of that changes the truth of the matter. God is in control.
My prayer for each of us today is that we can take a deep breath and, even if only for a moment, rest in that truth. And maybe, just for awhile, let the worry and striving go. And walk for awhile in the sure knowledge that we’re not on our own.