Archive for June, 2006

Find Inspiration

June 16, 2006

Light BulbLong ago I learned in general there are two types of writers.  One writer will wait for inspiration to strike. When it hits, this writer will crank out a magazine article or a devotional or a book proposal. Then the writer tries to figure out where to sell this masterpiece.  In general, inspirational writers don’t have a specific magazine or marketplace or reader in mind. They are simply writing from their heart. Now there is nothing wrong with writing from the heart but these writers are floating all sorts of things into the marketplace and not getting published—and mostly frustrated with the submission process.

The other type of writer is much more deliberate. This writer considers the market and writes to a specific audience or magazine. This writer has specific goals—usually a word count. Frank Peretti is the only writer that I’ve interviewed who writes with a timer and writes so long each day (but hey it works for him).  Morning, noon or night, this type of writer sits at the computer and cranks out words. Some times those words are more inspired and better than others but this writer is disciplined and consistent.

If you haven’t been aware, I fall into this second type of writer but I’ve met a number of the first type at various writers conferences.

Yet even this second type of writer needs encouragement and inspiration from time to time. In the middle of my writing, my own inspiration often comes from different places. In April, I was in New York City for the American Society of Journalists and Authors conference. In one of the sessions, I picked up a new mousepad from the Copyright Clearance Center. Now I have never had the need to contact the CCC but I’ve enjoyed their mousepad. It has a screen-back image of a pair of reading glasses which are laying on a document (possibly the Declaration of Independence but it is unclear). At the bottom of the mousepad is a quotation which I’ve been reading each day and find inspirational: “Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing,” Benjamin Franklin.

There are many other ways to find inspiration if you are struggling—such as do something completely different from sitting at the computer such as exercise or read a magazine or a book. The key is not to be mired in doing nothing but to be proactive in the process.

Subject Lines Count

June 15, 2006

It’s been interesting to read the comments and reaction from yesterday’s entry.  I didn’t explicitly say another reason writers should be thinking about how their email will be received. It’s like many other elements in publishing, editors have little time to read their email or much less answer it.   Unlike the freelance writer, the editor doesn’t spend their day reading email or reading different websites or blogs. The editor is focused on the business of publishing. A great deal of this business occurs in various types of meetings within the publishing house.  There are a litany of types of these meetings and these sessions occur away from a computer. As I’ve mentioned before in these entries, the bulk of publishing isn’t a matter of a single person’s choice. Yes this person has influence but it is often a matter of consensus building with the various areas of the publishing house such as sales, marketing and editorial. This consensus building takes time and happens at all levels of the book production process—from the mock-up cover designs to sales presentations to title meetings.  Also editors have book editing responsibilities in addition to other things and the books are produced on a detailed schedule with deadlines that have to be meet to keep these products on track.

With this understanding, I come to another area related to yesterday’s topic about snap email—the subject lines of your email.  Yesterday I received an email labeled “chicken scratch.” It was from a literary agent where we had a conversation this week and I could not imagine what would be inside “chicken scratch.” It certainly got my attention in a positive way. In fact, that subject flashed me back twenty years to a critique group in Southern California.  One of our members was an unpublished novelist and each month he brought another portion of his work in progress which he called “Chicken Lips and Speed Bumps.” That contemporary novel was about a man and a woman who were thrown together for a cross country trip which turned into a growing attraction for each other. He called her “chicken lips” while she called him “speed bump.” See how a working title can stick? Eventually Thomas Nelson published this novel with the title Driving Lessons. I believe it is now out of print. Maybe the first title would have had more appeal.  Back to my email with the subject “chicken scratch.” It wasn’t a pitch for a new project with that title but the agent explained after our phone call she couldn’t read her chicken scratch writing and wanted clarification on a few details. I quickly responded to this note.

Instead of just throwing some random words into that subject title spot, make sure you write something meaningful. If you have clicked a link which creates an automatic subject, make sure you modify it to give it a bit more interest for whoever will receive the email.  My email address for Howard Books is online at the publisher’s guidelines. If you click the link, it will automatically open your email program of choice and create an email—with the preconditioned subject line “fiction manuscript.” Over the last several years, I’ve received hundreds of emails with the same subject—and not all of them relate to a fiction submission. Some times a graphic artist will send an email looking for additional work. I’m not the right person to use for such a request since I work remote from the editorial offices—but if your email is online people will use it for their own purposes.

My key point for this entry is to think about how the other person will receive your email. Even the subject lines count and you want to stand out—naturally in a positive way. This type of reader focus is key whether you are crafting an email, a query letter or a book proposal. You want to present your material in the best possible light so you can receive the best possible response.

The Snap Back Email

June 14, 2006

With email, we’ve almost made it too easy for people to follow-up. In the past through these entries, I’ve mentioned the caution which has to be used—but I’ve got a couple of fresh examples to relate in this area.

Yesterday I received a follow-up email from an author who attended a writer’s conference. I wasn’t at this particular conference but one of my colleagues attended and recommend the author send her fiction proposal my direction.  I admire the follow-up from this author and her first email was excellent and contained a lot of information.  She neglected to include the length of her manuscript in the proposal and I sent a quick email asking that single question. She responded with the word length and another question. I answered this question and she responded with another question. Ultimately we went five or six rounds of exchanges (I’d have to check my files but it was at least that many times back and forth).  I have yet to see this proposal since it will be coming in a hard copy through the mail but my series of exchanges with this author gives me some pause. If it took five or six emails to answer her questions about submitting a proposal, what will it take if I request revisions to her manuscript before I can take it ahead into the publishing process? What impression will this author make with others in the publishing house? How difficult or easy will she be to work with in future projects? My questions might be completely unfounded in this case yet this author is completely unaware of the type of impression she has made or that the questions have been raised on my part.

Publishers are looking for active authors who care about their work and want to work hard to get it into the marketplace. We’re looking for cooperative, caring authors and those positive impressions are certainly there about this author. Yet there are also concerns with this series of exchanges.  How can you prevent it from happening? First, make sure you submit a complete thoughtful query. It should not be lengthy but as Noah Lukeman contends in his excerpt, it should be great. Next, make sure you ask all of your questions in a single email.  Almost anyone in publishing gets a great deal of email so it has to be used with caution and forethought.  Before you send it back, hold it in the draft section of your email.  Wait an hour or two before you send it to make sure you’ve put together the necessary ingredients. Every editor and every agent is different about how they handle their email. You never know the impression you are making with these exchanges.

Here’s another snap back email in completely different situation but for me, it’s another fresh experience.  As I’ve mentioned in these entries, I review books for different places and regularly write about books in printed articles and other venues. Publicist will pitch books to me in an email or send a press release or they will send these materials in a press kit with a book.  Over the years, I’ve received countless numbers of these pitches. As I’ve mentioned in other entries, it’s rare for the publicist to follow-up these pitches.  It’s wise to follow-up and something the best publicists know how to do with care and attention. Just make sure you are not overly aggressive with this follow-up or you make another impression.

About six weeks ago, I received one of these email pitches from a publicist. The pitch looked enticing so I requested a copy of the book. A few weeks later, I received a follow-up email from the publicist asking what I thought about the book. It turned out I had not received the book. I responded expressing my continued interest and ask again to receive the book. This week I received another email from the publicist asking what I thought about the book.  Again I responded that I had not received it and encouraged the publicist to wait until I had received it. His email was again premature. It turns out the book arrived (finally) in yesterday’s mail and I wrote the publicist saying it had arrived and looked good at first look but it would take me a few weeks to get it into the works—that is if I’m going to do anything at all. See how I’m managing expectations? I hope to do something with this book but I haven’t overpromised. Wisely this publicist has not responded to my email. I suspect I’m on some tickler file in his to-do list for a follow-up note in several weeks.  This publicist understands the necessity of building a relationship and fostering it. He’s not trying to develop an instant message type of email exchange with me.

Here’s my point with this post: Each of us need to take a deep breath with some of this email, make sure we’re asking (and answering) all of the various questions plus that we are focused on the reader and their reaction. If we need to hold it for a bit before we send it, then that would be a step of wisdom instead of making the wrong impression.

A Literary Mystery

June 13, 2006

When I was in high school, we studied Harper Lee’s classic To Kill A Mockingbird. I recall the drama poured on the pages of this novel. Then later in college, I read another book at the recommendation of my journalism professor called In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. This nonfiction title was heralded as part of the wave of “new journalism” which used the storytelling techniques of fiction in a nonfiction book. At the time, it was quite the innovation but now is much more common place and a technique encouraged in most nonfiction books.  While I am familiar with both books, I never connected these two authors and the intersection of their life stories until I read the recent piece in The New Yorker about a new biography of Lee Harper called Mockingbird.

Harper Lee photoHere’s a couple of paragraphs from Thomas Mallon’s well-written article to show the connection of these authors, “Growing up, she had preferred tackle to touch football, and tended to bully her friends, including the young Truman Capote, who, during the late nineteen-twenties and the thirties, was fobbed off by his feckless mother on relatives who lived in Lee’s home town, Monroeville. He put her into his fiction at least twice—as Idabel Tompkins (“I want so much to be a boy”), in “Other Voices, Other Rooms,” and as Ann (Jumbo) Finchburg, in “The Thanksgiving Visitor.” Lee did the same for him in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” turning the boy Truman into Dill, an effeminate schemer with an enormous capacity for lying. One year, Lee’s father gave her and Truman a twenty-pound Underwood typewriter, which the two children managed to shift back and forth between their houses and use in the composition of collaborative fictions about the neighbors.”

“In 1959, when Capote asked Lee to accompany him to Kansas while he looked into the murder of the Clutter family, he was thirty-five and already famous, a sort of self-hatched Faberg� egg—the author of high-gloss magazine journalism, some dankly suggestive Southern-gothic fiction, and the silvery “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” Lee was just reaching the end of a decade-long literary struggle. After dropping out of the University of Alabama, in 1948, the year Capote published his first book, she had gone to New York to write one of her own, despite her father’s apparent belief that literary success was unlikely to favor Monroeville twice. In the city, she scrounged for change in parking meters and used an old wooden door for a writing desk. She spent most of the fifties living in Yorkville, on the Upper East Side, working as an airline ticket agent and failing to impress the other artistically ambitious Southerners she ran into. “Here was this dumpy girl from Monroeville,” one of them recalled years later. “We didn’t think she was up to much. She said she was writing a book, and that was that.””

That “book” turned out to be To Kill A Mockingbird which eventually sold over 30 million copies and won the 1961 Pulitzer prize. Mallon says in 1988 “was taught in 74 percent of the nation’s public schools” according to the National Council of Teachers of English.  Now anyone in publishing can tell you that broad teaching about a novel translates into a large number of book sales. Over the years, many people have tried to interview Harper Lee but have not been successful.

The literary mystery related to Harper Lee and it appears in the final paragraph of Mallon’s article, “The greatest mystery, of course, is why Lee never published a second novel, and whether she even got very far in writing one. Absent some late-life efflorescence, “To Kill a Mockingbird” will be it for her, despite a once professed desire to become “the Jane Austen of south Alabama” and a claim, in the years just after the novel’s publication, to be spending between six and twelve hours a day at her desk. As time went on, her editor grew impatient, and her agents became anxious. Eventually, they stopped asking.” The second novel has never been published.  It’s hard to publish something which has never been turned into the publisher.

A Couple of Resources

June 13, 2006

From time to time on these entries about the Writing Life, I’m including a number of resources. I don’t believe I’ve mentioned these particular tools in the past and hope they will help your own writing.

To Get Each Update

Last week I added FeedBlitz to these entries. I’m unsure which method you are using to regularly read these entries, FeedBlitz is an easy resource to make sure you get all of the various updates. They will come right to your email box if you subscribe with this form:

Enter your Email

Powered by FeedBlitz

To Get the Best Deal on Books

How do you search for books online? Bookfinder4U searches through 130 online bookstores and 70,000 booksellers with a single click. It’s worth investigation.

For Your Agent Search

I’ve often pointed to this article about the safest way to find an agent. The advice from Victoria Strauss is right on track and something to use in this process. Recently I returned to this agent search site. I searched for a number of agents—and did not find them in this system but I was surprised at some of the agents I did find in this site. It’s another place to use as a resource.

Information and General Web Help:

One of my friends, Gary Foster, puts together a fantastic newsletter every two weeks with valuable insight, facts and trends about the marketplace. If you’d like to learn more, just check out his archives for some excerpts. You don’t have to subscribe but can learn a great deal just from checking his archived information. You will be amazed and it might just be the extra statistic that you need for your book proposal or your magazine article query.

Another valuable resource is to check out what Sreenath Sreenivasan has going on his website. Subscribe to his newsletter, look at his various tips and links. You can learn a great deal from this Dean of Students at the Columbia School of Journalism. He has remarkable insight and keeps up on some of the latest technology.

Touch Our Fears

June 10, 2006

It might not be the first place you go when you are looking for a good novel—horror. Or maybe it is where you spend your time with your pleasure reading. Fear is a valid emotion to tap with the reader and it’s certainly a mainstay of horror writers. It’s also key for other types of fiction such as suspense, supernatural or thriller writers.

I was fascinated with Terrence Rafferty’s piece on this topic, The Thinking Reader’s Guide to Fear which appeared in last Sunday’s New York Times. Here’s a small snippet of his well-written article which caught my attention, “Enjoying horror stories, as I do, or finding them inherently pointless, silly and unwholesome, as many others do, is largely a matter of taste and temperament and is therefore unarguable. So rather than attempt to convert anybody, I’ll just try to explain, with as little defensiveness as possible, what attracts me to this often indefensible genre. Since I don’t actually believe in the existence of ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggedy beasties and things that go bump in the night, I’m able to read horror fiction with a degree of equanimity, admiring the narrative skills of its best practitioners — whose storytelling, like that of most genre writers, tends to be classical, even old-fashioned — and allowing its bold, defiantly unsubtle metaphors to rattle around in my mind. To get anything out of horror, you have to be willing to surrender to those metaphors. Vampires may not be real, but the voracious, apparently unkillable, only nominally human predators they represent certainly are. (Chances are you’ve worked for at least one of them.) Zombies? Don’t ask.”

“The ability to embody your fears and anxieties and revulsions metaphorically may or may not give you pleasure or contribute in any measurable way to your mental health, but it’s a perfectly legitimate function of the working brain: one of those operations that help you maintain the appropriate respect for the power and weird beauty of unreason, its relentless prankishness, its capacity to prick us with sudden joys and sudden dreads. Horror fiction, even at its direst, frequently betrays an unexpectedly giddy quality, a sense of heedless, headlong freedom that’s the proper effect of a good metaphor, building and rolling and breaking like a wave of the sea.”

While Christian fiction doesn’t use vampires or zombies in their books, many writers do tap into the emotion of fear in their plot twists. Brandilyn Collins writes suspense fiction and I’ve enjoyed a number of her recent books. Ann Byle’s recent book includes a chapter about Collins’ fiction saying, “The lure, she says, is that suspense fiction is realistic. Its power manifests itself in sheer numbers of movies and television shows that have to do with crime or suspense, a trend Collins sees as beneficial to her kind of writing.”

“‘We live in a very evil world and that’s reality; more and more people want fiction to represent that reality. There are a lot of people out there who love suspense, and in the general market it has been very successful. Why not give Christians an alternative? Give them a good, strong suspense novel that has God’s message woven into it,’ says Collins.”

While you may turn away from the word “horror” in fiction, just look at this little fact from the Horror Writer’s Association media page: “Did you know that horror is one of the most pervasive literary types? Elements of horror can be found in almost every genre including mainstream, literary, science fiction, romance, thrillers, and mystery/suspense.” You may be surprised to learn there is a Horror Writer’s Association. You can follow the link to learn about the history and more about this genre. One of my friends Joe Nassise who is an active member at Scottsdale Bible Church, is a recent past president of this writer’s group. If you look around his website, you will see his horror fiction has been endorsed from some instantly recognizable names of bestselling authors.

I have two lessons that I draw about the writing life. First, fear is a valid emotion to touch in your fiction writing and use as an element as you create excellent fiction. Second, as Christians let’s not put unnecessary boundaries on our own potential. You can approach a genre like horror from your own worldview and provided your storytelling is excellent, you can be effective as a writer.

Breathe Life into the Familiar

June 9, 2006

It’s an age old story and book publishers are constantly looking for the answer. Readers are constantly looking for this answer. How to you take a familiar story and breathe new life into it? For example, take any common story from the Bible and attempt to tell it in a fresh and innovative way. It’s difficult but not out of the realm of possibility.Story by Steven James cover

This week I read a book which helps in this area called Story, Recapture the Mystery by Steven James, who calls himself the story guy (more about that in a minute). I was fascinated with the cover design on this book. It had a fresh feel with the old fashion library card tucked into a pocket.  As a kid, I loved going to the library and checking out books. I spent many summers haunting the local library, carrying out stacks of books, reading them then bringing them back to the library for more books. This cover reminded me of those experiences. Instead of names and dates, the card is filled with key words like harmony, longing, silence, venom, scars and wonder. In the realm of book design, it’s worth taking a look at this cover.

Last month, Steven James and I were on the faculty of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. Steven gave one of the keynote addresses and I’m always fascinated to hear him speak. Why? Like many people I know, one on one Steven is reserve and what some might even call shy. Yet he springs to life as a speaker and storyteller. In fact, Steven has a Master’s degree in storytelling.

As I began to read Story, I wondered how he would breathe new life into the familiar Bible stories. From my view, he achieved his purpose and the book was fascinating. Just to give you a taste—and to spur your own writing, I’m going to give you a brief excerpt. Notice what I chose is a commentary about the Christian media. It’s not in the first part of this book but in fact toward the end on page 179 in the chapter on Wonder:

“Frankly, I’m tired of hearing about conferences, seminars, books, and DVDs that will change my life. ‘This (fill in the blank) will change your life! Attend this life-changing (fill in the blank) and you’ll never be the same again! it’ll be life changing!’”

“On the back of one Christian book I recently picked up were three separate quotes by Christian celebrities, all of which promised, ‘This book will change your life!’”

“A hernia will change your life. Swallowing two pounds of Ex-Lax will change your life. Getting bitten by a rabid dog will change your life. So will going bankrupt, joining a cult, or getting a tapeworm. All of these things are very life changing.”

“Change is not always a good thing. What I need isn’t change from one thing to another but transformation from who I am into who I was meant to become. Only when God’s transforming power touches me can I begin to live the simpler, freer, fresher, more creative, more patient, more passionate, more sacrificial, riskier, rawer, more real, more love-driven life God intended for me to have all along.”

“That transformation is what awaits all who will dare to enter the story of God. As Paul wrote, “Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think” (Romans 12:2).”

That’s a taste of why I enjoyed this book. Also it’s a hint of what we want to do with our writing and our storytelling.

Babies and Books

June 8, 2006

It’s a common metaphor within publishing to compare babies and books. I believe it’s tied to the creative process. In the creation of a baby, there is something magical which happens with the creation of a new life to nurture and grow. Baby-crawling

In recent months, Publishers Weekly has started a back page column called Soapbox. It’s turned into one of my favorite, must-read areas in the publication. Recently Jenny Minton wrote a column called The Book Mothers and made some interesting comparisons. She is a former book editor and was talking with Katrina Kenison, who was formerly with Houghton Mifflin. She wrote, “While motherhood was all new to me, the publishing process was at least familiar. Editors turned writers—myself included—are at an advantage because we’ve seen the publishing process up close. Talking to Katrina helped clarify for me how it is easier to be a writer if you’ve worked in the business because, as she says, ‘We know what the steps are. We don’t look at it as a mountain that you can never climb. We have seen a three-page proposal turn into a book.’ By signing up my book at Knopf on the basis of just a few chapters, Jordan Pavlin made the task less daunting for me. While writing the book, I didn’t think about anyone but her reading it; I wrote a long, long letter to Jordan.”

“Although my publishing experience—and Jordan’s motherly guidance—helped me write the book, there were still many things I had to learn as an author. For 10 years I worked in various editorial departments (which are now all owned by Bertelsmann), but until the publication of my book, I was naive as to how involved an author needs to be in her promotional campaign. By the time I turned in my manuscript, I was tired of it and insecure about whether I had done the best job I possibly could. I still am. But somewhere between bound galleys and finished books, I realized that sitting around worrying about readers’ responses was not constructive; if I didn’t get behind my book, no one else would.”

Many authors want to go with a traditional publisher so they can turn over all the promotion and marketing responsibilities to the publisher. The publisher cares deeply about the success of your book in the marketplace—but their attention is divided with other books to promote. You have the passion and the nurturing skills for your book. It was another reminder of the necessity for your active involvement in the process. It’s a balancing act. The marketing process can consume your writing life but only if you let it. At the same time, it can’t be ignored.

The Value of Reader Reviews

June 7, 2006

The marketing surveys repeatedly confirm this fact.  The greatest influence for someone to purchase a book is the recommendation from another person.  Whatever background you know about the person who is recommending influences the strength of the recommendation. It’s called Word of Mouth and amounts to this mystical matter which publishers are always trying to get going for each book.

Reader recommendations or reader reviews is one method to spread the news about your book.  Amazon and a number of other websites allow readers to add their own reviews of the books—positive or negative. I’m amazed at the number of books which have been out for some time and have no reviews on their Amazon page. These reviews don’t have to be long or complicated. They can be a few simple sentences with your rating (five stars being the highest and one star being the lowest). Book-Proposals-That-Sell-co

Each month, I’ve been reviewing books for Faithful  This site recognizes the value of these reviews and they routinely add the reviews to the appropriate page on Amazon. This review may be the only one on the site or it may be one of many for a particular book.

Here’s a simple way to encourage people to add their reviews for your book: I regularly receive email feedback about Book Proposals That Sell and gracious, positive comments from people who have been helped through the book.  Often I will write back and ask them to go to the page on Amazon and add a sentence or two along with a five-star review (if they can take a minute or two to do it). Many people have never been asked—and they are glad to add their review and five-star rating. To make it easy, I include a link to take them right to the appropriate page on Amazon.  I have over 40 five-star reviews on this page from readers in various parts of the country and from all walks of life. While my book has been in print over a year, the new reviews keep coming to this page and it encourages potential readers that the book is active and something people are using.  Everyone I ask doesn’t add their review and some of them take a number of months until they get it done. That’s OK because at least I tried.

Amazon averages the reviews into an overall rating. If you have one good review and one bad review, the average will not be desirable. You can overcome these bad reviews with continual high ratings and eventually you will average back to the high rating.

I read a large number of books and for many years, I’ve not been adding my reviews to the appropriate page. It does take a few minutes (but not many minutes). In the last few weeks, I’ve been slowly adding some reviews to various book pages on Amazon. Initially my reviewer ranking within Amazon was well over 600,000 (not very high but very typical). As I’ve been adding reviews for various books, my ranking has improved and currently it is slightly over 150,000.

Sadly many terrific books on are without reader recommendation.  For an example, look at my Amazon profile. I list over 20 of my various books—and many of them are without a single review.  Some books only have a single review. 

As a reader, you have influence. Are you using it?

More from the Insider’s Guide

June 6, 2006

Over the last few days, I’ve been giving you a glimpse into The Making of A Christian Bestseller by Ann Byle — which should be titled An Insider’s Guide to Christian Publishing—since there is almost zero about bestseller making. Even with a couple of caveats, the book has unique content from people who rarely write about the craft of writing or their work inside publishing so the book is well worth the time to study the contents and learn from it.Making of Christian Bestseller cover

To help you see that unique content, I’m going to take one last look at some of the contents and include some quotations from specific chapters. While the topics of this entry will jump around, it will show the diversity and excellence of this book.

T. Davis Bunn

One of the more prolific and best-selling Christian fiction authors is T. Davis Bunn. Many years ago when his first book, The Presence, released, I was the first journalist to interview Davis and we’ve been in touch ever since that session. While Davis occasionally teaches at writers conferences, he has yet to put into print some of his teaching about fiction. How do I know? I’ve asked for it and come up empty handed. A chapter, The Christian Artist Davis Bunn, appears in Byle’s book. It looks at this topic but I’m going to focus on something unusual tucked into this chapter: “‘So can you have violence or sex without its being graphic or salacious? If yes, then I would say it’s something you can justify, particularly to draw a very clear moral,’ says Bunn. Swearing might be a different story, according to Bunn. Is swearing required from the standpoint of creating good art? Bunn recalls watching Good Will Hunting, a movie filled with swearing but with a strong moral point. Bunn watched the original, then watched a version of the movie with all the swearing removed. Was it still as good a movie? Absolutely.”

“‘Dialogue up until the 1960s never had swear words,’ says Bunn. ‘Yet if you read Hemingway, Dickens, or Faulkner, the evil characters they created speak cleanly yet are dark and live forever as timeless, powerful characters. I think that can be true today. It’s certainly easier to write a bad character if he uses foul words, but bad language doesn’t necessarily make him a stronger bad character.’”

Jerry B. Jenkins

I know Jerry has a writing book which will soon release from Writer’s Digest Books. I saw an advanced review copy from someone else at the Blue Ridge Conference. Byle worked with Jenkins at Moody Press for a season and includes a chapter, Living Real at the Top, which is written in a Q & A format. I’m going to highlight one question:

Question: What goals have you set for yourself regarding your writing?”

Jerry: I don’t sing or dance or preach; this is all I do. I want to be selective about the projects I take on and give them everything I’ve got, continuing to strive for excellence and to learn and grow. I don’t expect lightning to strike twice in my life, so I have to deal with the fact that even great sales will look disappointing when compared to those of Left Behind. I have to remind myself that I am not responsible for that side of it. My job is to produce the most readable copy I can, trusting God to help me make the most of what he’s given me.”

Jack Cavanaugh

Award-winning novelist Jack Cavanaugh is also included with a chapter, Dissecting the Christian Novel. Jack is one of the authors I’ve acquired for Howard Books and this entire chapter is excellent. Here’s one small portion:

“’Our goal as Christian writers should be to have our books still in print several generations from now,’ says Cavanaugh, ‘so we need to read, read, read and write, write, write. Write every day. I mean, write! Researching is not writing. Going to a writers’ conference is not writing. Talking about writing is not writing. There is no substitute for putting words on a page.’”

Jeanette Thomason

I’ve been crossing paths with Jeanette Thomason for many years—since we were both magazine editors with the Evangelical Press Association. Byle talks with Thomason about the process of acquisition for books in a chapter, Searching Out the Best Writers. During the creation of this book, Thomason left her acquisitions role at Revell Books and is currently the Editorial Director at Waterbrook Press. I was interested to see how Thomason talked about the process of locating authors:

“‘Part of what we do in acquisitions is science and part of it is magic,’ she says with a laugh. The science is looking at the craft: point of view, dialogue, active or passive voice, how the story moves, the message. The magic is intuition: talent, what makes a good story, what makes a good storyteller. Thomason guesses the ratio may be half science, half magic.”

“‘There’s also the element of creating a great book and doing all the right marketing, but the book doesn’t sell. Or you can put a book out there with very little marketing but something happens—the magic part—and the book starts spreading like wildfire,’ she says. Understanding the magic: also means understanding trends, where an author fits in culture and history, and what’s important to readers. It’s an iffy business to be sure.”

“‘I have really good days and really bad days,’ she says.”

Doesn’t this last quotation have a solid ring of truth to it? There are many other excellent sections to quote but I’m going to leave the rest to your own reading and imagination. With over 30 different voices, there is something for every type of writer.