Category Archives: publishing

An Interview with Sandi Rog

by
Sandi Rog

 
 
Sandi Rog, one of our beloved editors and the author of Out of the Ashes (a 2016 Inspirational Reader’s Choice Award finalist), has announced her imminent retirement from IFW. But she is moving on to bigger and better things–like her own publishing company! We are so proud of Sandi and honored that she agreed to be interviewed about her new company. We wish her the best of luck for the future.
 
And, without further ado, an interview with the splendid Sandi Rog.
 
–Jessica Nelson
 
 
Q: Congratulations on establishing your new publishing company, TULPEN PUBLISHING!What inspired you/made you decide to start your own publishing company?

A: That’s a great question. As you all know, I’m an author, and after getting several royalty checks over the years, I discovered, I can make more money off the blood, sweat, and tears put into my books if I publish them myself. This is becoming a trend among many writers, even bestselling authors.

 A good contract will pay authors 10 percent off the “retail,” meaning 10 percent off the price of the book. So if the book sold for $14.00, the author would get $1.40 per book. This is considered a fair royalty rate from publisher to author. However, there are publishers out there who only pay 10 percent off the “wholesale” price or “net” worth. That means if the book costs $7.00 to print, the author would only earn 70 cents off each sale of the book. I’ve dealt with publishers who pay both these amounts, and in my opinion (and most agents will agree), the royalty amount of 10 percent off the “wholesale” is unethical and unfair to the author. Not what I’d call “author friendly” at all. Ultimately, this is what motivated me to publish my own book, but I also made my company available to other writers because I know a lot of talented authors out there who can’t get a big house to take their work. It’s my goal for Tulpen Publishing to be another avenue for those authors so they can get their books published.

Q: Will you be publishing e-books, print-bound, or both? 

A: I will be publishing e-books and print books. I will say the e-books are the biggest sellers. I’ve made ten times more on my e-book sales than I have on my print sales. E-books are now the biggest sellers in the market.

Q: Is there a set royalties factor for each title, or will royalties be based on the genre?

A: I’m eager to treat any author who writes for Tulpen Publishing with a fair royalty rate. All authors, of any genre, will receive 10 percent off the retail price of their book.

Q: Do you plan to publish an equal number of male and female authors? (I ask this, because numbers are adversely skewed in favor of men with the majority of US publishers, outside of the romance genre.) New and established authors?

A: I plan to publish books that have a great story and are written well, no matter who the book is written by, whether male or female, or new or established. If you’re a new author and your book hasn’t been edited, please don’t submit it. Don’t waste your time, or mine. I will reject it. I’ve already had to reject several manuscripts for this very reason. This is also why I’ve added Inspiration for Writers (IFW) to my website. For people who need an editor, they can go to someone I trust. It’s important they know I’m not making a profit from any of their edits if I send them to IFW. If you run into a publisher that offers editing services, RUN in the opposite direction. They can’t be trusted, and they may just be out to get your money with the promise of publishing your book if you pay an exorbitant amount of fees. An author should never have to pay to be published (unless they specifically hire a self-publishing company). Tulpen Publishing is a traditional publisher. We don’t charge our authors for anything.

Q: Do you consider a writer’s platform before offering a publication contract?

A: Platform is very important; however, I’ve seen authors without platforms become big sellers because their story is great! But I will look at an author’s platform, and that will have an influence on my decision. For those who don’t know what a “platform” is, read this ARTICLE.

Platform is kind of like managers saying, “We won’t hire you if you don’t have any experience.” Well, how do you get experience if you can’t get a job? Many publishers won’t take on an author if they don’t have a platform. In my experience, a GOOD STORY is what sells and what will then help build your platform, so don’t be discouraged if your platform is a little flimsy. Still, I do hope to see an author online: Facebook, website, blog, etc. We want more than just family and friends to buy the book.

Q: How involved will your company be with promotions? (i.e., book tour, advertising, free review copies, interviews, etc.)

A: Once an author is published with Tulpen, we initially offer 20 free books for promotions, giveaways, copies to keep, etc. The author’s book will be on our website, along with the author’s bio and a brief description of the book. We will also provide more copies (if the author has need) for promotions such as book signings, etc.

 Publishers today, whether big or small, have little to do with marketing. All the marketing belongs to the author, which is why it’s important to have a platform. I do share a Marketing Plan Sheet with my authors, and in fact, HERE’S A LINK to a welcome letter I send to all of Tulpen’s new authors (something few publishers offer).

Q: Will your company’s books be stocked in independent bookstores, major bookstores, department stores?

A: Tulpen Publishing is a POD press, so if a person wishes to purchase an author’s book from, let’s say B&N, the buyer will have to order it, and will likely even be charged shipping (unless they’re a member of B&N; then they won’t have to pay for shipping). As for independent bookstores, if the author knows of one in their hometown, Tulpen can send the bookseller the author’s book(s) to put on their shelves. These small booksellers are usually more open to putting local authors’ books on their shelves, and it’s best for the author to make initial contact while Tulpen does the follow-up.

Tulpen Publishing’s wish is to put God first: to be ethical, honest, furnish reliable edits, and offer an “author-friendly” environment with no upfront costs, industry-competitive compensation at 10 percent off the retail price, world-wide distribution, and numerous tips and help for marketing.

Q: Are you actively seeking submissions? If so, where are your submission guidelines posted?

A: Yes, we are open to submissions. You can read our submission guidelines HERE.

Q: Will you only be publishing Christian books?

A: If a book is clean according to your best judgment and a character experiences moral growth, Tulpen will be willing to take a look. But Tulpen is principally focused on Christian books.

Q: You’re already a multi-published author, so what advice do you have for new writers who want to break into publication?

A: Write a story that you’re passionate about, a story that excites you. If you’re not excited, your readers won’t be either. Finally, learn the craft! The editors here at IFW can teach you a lot. But before hiring an editor, get your hands on the books below. Not only will they make your editor’s job easier, learning on your own first will improve your manuscript so much that you won’t have to hire an editor two or three times to get your book where it needs to be.

“Self-editing for Fiction Writers” by Dave King and Rennie Browne
“The First Five Pages” by Noah Lukeman
“As the Plot Thickens” by Noah Lukeman

Thank you so much for having me. It was an honor to be interviewed by my favorite editors.

“I’ll Throw It Out There and See What Happens”

by
Hope Clark


For the third time in as many weeks, an author has picked my brain about how I write (daily), how I edit (daily), and how often I market (daily), then said they prefer to be a hobbyist. They cannot afford to invest the time into a book like I do, don’t care to hire a graphic artist for the cover, prefer not to hire an editor, and don’t belong to a critique group . . . so they’ll write it the best they can and throw it up on Amazon “and see what happens.”

Those four words . . . like ten long nails scratching on a chalkboard.

I have no problem with people writing as a hobby. I encourage it, actually. I have no problem with people publishing as a hobby. I encourage that, too. But . . . when they hint that they do not have the time to do it right . . . when part-time is an excuse for not doing it thoroughly, I just want to get to a microphone and rant!

Of course, ranting to anyone is not the way to make them understand. I don’t want someone shaking their finger at me, either. So I try to educate.

I explain:

1) A book not prepared with a professional eye will not sell.
2) A book not edited hard by people other than the writer will not sell.
3) A book placed on Amazon with no steady promotion will not sell.
4) A book published without the author marketing herself will not sell.

One gentleman threw those words at me, “and see what happens,” and I simply replied, “It won’t sell.” He looked like I’d slapped him.

I smiled to ease the rift evident in his face. “Amazon, and the entire publishing world, is glutted with books. Thousands of authors are fighting to be heard, to promote, to sell, some with multiple books under their belt. Thousands of writers are fighting to make writing a career. With them clamoring every day to write and market, to blog, sign, social network, travel, how do you think a reader will find your book with you doing nothing to promote it? There are just too many books out there for that to be feasible.”

We parted friends. I hope he heard me. I really hope he didn’t spend all that time writing only to just throw it out there “and see what happens.” None of us need any more of that. As both readers and writers, we can all appreciate seeing more of the well-written, well-edited, well-marketed books.

Thanks

– Hope

Be sure to visit Hope at FUNDSFORWRITERS.COM

TWITTER – http://twitter.com/hopeclark
FACEBOOK – 
http://www.facebook.com/chopeclark
GOODREADS – 
http://www.goodreads.com/hopeclark 
BOOKBUB –
 https://www.bookbub.com/authors/c-hope-clark

Book Launch Party 101

by
Wendy Chorot


So, you’ve published a book and are looking for ways to promote it. My absolute favorite marketing tool is to host a Facebook launch party. After Broken Umbrellas released, I scoured the Internet and read blog posts and tip sheets on hosting a successful launch party. Then I decided to ignore just about everything and start from scratch! I made the party what I wanted the party to be. The most important thing I learned is that guests like party favors and they love to talk about themselves! My launch party consisted of an hourly question, giving guests an hour to respond, with a drawing—and cool giveaways!—at the end of every hour. If a guest commented, he or she was entered for that hour’s drawing. It was crazy busy for me, but so worth it. And I didn’t hesitate to follow the same format for The Windkeeper’s launch party.

Because my Facebook parties don’t look like anyone else’s, I thought I would share some tips on what works for me.

1) Date and Time: Most launch party tips I read said to have the party for just a few hours. I have many friends scattered over several time zones and wanted to be inclusive, because the party was about them, not me. I put my guests first, above my own comfort. I adopted a “no guest left behind” policy. My party covered seventeen hours and seven countries were represented. Which is huge in my opinion!

So, to be a present and active hostess for seventeen hours, I had to plan child care and meals. I took everything off my agenda the day before, the day of, and the day after. And I planned everything beforehand, right down to writing out winner announcements so I only had to copy and paste and fill in the name of the winner.

2) Invite and Remind: I created the event one week prior to the launch. And I made sure to post something every day for that week to keep folks interested, to make them look forward to coming.

3) Launch Party Team: I emailed a few friends (who from experience have bubbly personalities) and asked them to be on my launch party team. I asked them to post if they saw others hesitating. I asked them to draw guests in and just “work the party” like it was a real party (filling drinks, engaging conversations, etc.). I made sure to ask friends from every time zone so the entire party was covered. I did not expect team members to stick it out to the bitter end, but they agreed to check the party as often as possible and post as often as possible.

I made bracelets for each team member and sent those out after the party. A thank you gift speaks volumes.

Ask someone on the team to be “tech support.” During the launch party for Broken Umbrellas, my tech support gal private messaged me several times with tech updates like how the party looked on a mobile. This person also checked Amazon rankings for the book. And I sent this person to find a guest who was having trouble understanding the party.

4) Plan Every Detail Ahead of Time: I created every post before the party so I only had to copy and paste into the party. That helped the party run smoothly and ensured I was never late for a “top of the hour” post. My posts were a mix of fun, ice breaker questions and lots that were relevant to the book. I asked people to share the middle names of their children, and this was my way of letting everyone know Emma Broch Stuart is my writing penname and also the middle names of my children. This post was the most commented on.

I also matched party favors with posts, like asking everyone what their favorite jelly belly flavor is. The winner, of course, won a bag of jelly bellies.

5) Don’t Forget the Publisher: One of my posts sent guests to go to the publisher’s website (I prepared the link in advance to copy and paste) and asked them to browse the titles and share which one appealed to them most. Awesome advertising for the publisher.

6) Party favors: Several things ensure a successful launch party, like fun, interactive posts that arrive hourly (always moving), but party favors make or break a successful launch party.

Spreadsheets come in super handy. I made a spreadsheet with each hour’s question listed, its corresponding party favor, and the winner with a column to check when they received their gift.

So, it sounds expensive to give away a party favor every hour (I also gave away 4 gift sets at the end of the party). It really wasn’t that expensive! The first thing I did was approach authors willing to donate copies of their books, and most of my volunteer authors offered signed copies. To give them due credit, I prepared my announcements ahead of time that included links to the book for other guests to see, as well as a link to that author’s bio. This gave them some publicity, and they even offered to mail directly to the winner, so I had no costs whatsoever.

After filling in those donated books on my party favor spreadsheet, I then started filling in holes. I matched party favors to the post title, like giving jelly bellies to the jelly belly post winner.

Every party favor was already decided and matched to the post before the party even started. I filled in holes even more with free copies of my books.

Find people who are willing to donate party favors in exchange for the publicity. Be sure to give them that publicity, offering links to their services for your guests to click on.

Start stocking up on sale items that would make great party favors.

7) Networking/Marketing: In addition to each post having a winner, I created four networking/marketing opportunities and made up gift sets to correspond with each for my final drawings. I tempted/reminded folks the week prior and also throughout the party, giving them sneak peeks and telling them how they could be entered for each drawing. I reserved the four gift sets for people who “liked” my author page; invited friends to my party; posted a link to Amazon on their Facebook wall; and follow me on Amazon. Other ideas would be to do a special gift set drawing for guests who post a picture of themselves holding your book or whoever participated the most during the party.

8) Think Ahead: Use one post as a question and answer, allowing guests to ask you questions. Save all questions and answers to use later for a blog tour.

9) Don’t Panic: If the guests take off with the party and leave you in the dust, just sit back and let them do their thing! Many people told me later that they made new Facebook friends because of my party. That is such a testimony to the power of community and fellowship!

10) Post-Party To-Dos: Allow yourself the day after the party for friending strangers who came to the party. Go back through the posts and comment on anything you missed during the party. Facebook keeps the party up for quite a while. Don’t be afraid to give yourself time to prepare the party favors so you can add extra touches like a thank you note/card, ribbon around a book, etc. before shipping them out.

11) It’s Your Party: Tailor your party so that it is comfortable for you. If all of this seems overwhelming, pull team members in to help with posts and drawings, or whatever, to free you up for what you feel like you can do. Definitely arrange child care as well as someone to do the meals so you can focus solely on the party and your guests, answering questions, giving them links to your book, and adopting a “no guest left behind” policy.

It really takes a village sometimes. Don’t be afraid to delegate.

A 17-hour party isn’t for everyone (I know, only me, eh?). I’ve read that peak times for Facebook activity are 10 a.m. and 9 p.m. Covering just one of those times would generate a lot more participation.

12) And my last piece of advice is to PRAY! Pray for everything, for the guests, for the lurkers, for God to match each winner to the prize He wants for them. And if you pray for that, then don’t cheat on the drawings! Even if it means one person wins multiple times.

I’ll be hosting several more launch parties in the future. To see one in action, “like” my author page and you’ll automatically get an invite.

About Wendy Chorot:

Wendy Chorot writes under the penname Emma Broch Stuart, and she has hosted two launch parties—one for her non-fiction book Broken Umbrellas and her children’s book The Windkeeper.

If you would like to be entered to win a copy of her latest book, The Windkeeper, comment here and tell us which launch party tip you liked best.

SPECIAL LOOK: Out of the Ashes

 by
Sandi Rog
 

 

Last week, Charl revealed some of her early and not-so-great writing. This week, Sandi Rog addresses the flip-side of that post by giving us an excerpt from her recently published book, Out of the Ashes. The following post is taken (with permission) from Sandi’s blog Dare to Dream. You can find the original post and complete first chapter here.

The book opens with a note to my readers:

Dear Readers:

Had it not been for the Lord and the many thousands of people who prayed me through cancer, this book never would have been written. If you’re one of the people who prayed for me, thank you. Mere words aren’t enough to express my gratitude.

Having emerged back onto the writing scene after the two-year battle, and feeling rather beat up after the long fight, I needed something with a happy ending. Like a fairytale. Think Cinderella. That’s what this book is, something bright and cheerful. So, Out of the Ashes is a lighter read than my other books: The Master’s Wall, Yahshua’s Bridge, and even Walks Alone.

What a blessing it has been for me to have the strength to write Nathaniel and Amelia’s story. Thank you, precious readers, for walking with me as I dig my way out of the aftermath of this battle one step at a time. Or shall I say, one page at a time.

Blessings,

Sandi Rog

Book Jacket Description

A stranger. A kiss. A shotgun wedding.

NATHANIEL WARD, wealthy entrepreneur, needs a wife. But he’s not interested in the preening, high-society women who are offered to him on a silver platter. He wants one woman, and one woman alone: the girl who gave him all the money in her reticule years ago when the Great Chicago Fire left him destitute. He sets out to find this woman and discovers she’s unattached. There’s only one problem, a shotgun wedding may be able to bind them, but will he ever be able to win her heart?

AMELIA E. TAYLOR blows a kiss to a street rat. Little did she know, years later that kiss would follow her to Green Pines, Colorado. When a handsome stranger arrives in her hometown, she guards her heart from the stirrings this man ignites. Despite society’s disapproval of spinsterhood, she is determined not to marry, having witnessed first-hand the lack of love and horrors that accompany marriage. But will a shotgun wedding reveal blessings that arise out of the ashes?

Chapter One

Green Pines, Colorado, 1882

Gun smoke burned Amelia’s eyes and her ears still rang. She blinked the tears from her lashes.

“Do you, Nathaniel Ward,” the preacher scowled, “take Amelia Taylor to be your lawfully wedded wife?”

Amelia’s father cocked his rifle and aimed it at the reluctant groom.

“I do,” Nathaniel said, his voice firm and unwavering. Despite her father’s threats, Nathaniel’s very presence exuded power, his raised chin, broad shoulders and wide chest unflinching against the barrel of the rifle.

Amelia didn’t dare look up at him. What must he be thinking? How many women had hoped to get him this far, and now, here she stood where most women dreamed of standing—shotgun wedding, or not. If only she could melt into the parlor’s wooden floor like the candle burning in the nearby lamp. Or disappear like the smoke. Disappear into nothingness, with no remnant left of her existence.

“Do you, Amelia Taylor, take Nathaniel Ward to be your lawfully wedded husband?” The preacher’s words rushed over Amelia like a gush of foul air.

She stood paralyzed, unable to speak. She’d vowed never to marry. How would she bear this cross? She’d seen enough loveless marriages in her life to know it wasn’t worth the heartache, despite the shame of spinsterhood. And now, to be forced on a man? What miseries awaited her? Abuse? Neglect? Slavery? Any man in his right mind would despise her for the rest of his days. It would be impossible—unthinkable—to procure his affection … his love.

The minister, still in his nightclothes, cleared his throat. His wife, holding up the lantern, glowered from behind him.

Amelia swallowed, darting a glance at her terrifying father. With a snarl, he narrowed his eyes at Nathaniel and pressed closer with his rifle. Would he put another hole in the preacher’s wall? Or Nathaniel’s chest?

“Amelia, girl.” Her father’s voice sent a shudder down her spine as it echoed through the quiet house. “You know, I always keep my word.” He’d threatened to kill Nathaniel if she refused to be his wife.

“I do,” she said, her voice small and trembling, quite the opposite of the man next to her. The horror, the shame. How did her life come to this?

“I now pronounce you man and wife.” The minister slammed his Bible shut and pointed it at her father. “Now get out!”

Shadows clouded Amelia’s vision, and her legs wobbled like those of a newborn calf. Her knees buckled, but rather than landing on the hard floor, she found herself caught in Nathaniel’s strong arms.

Now her husband.

You can find Out of the Ashes on Amazon and Sandi’s other works here.

An Interview with Literary Agent Chip MacGregor

by
Sandi Rog and Chip MacGregor

Today we’d like to welcome prolific agent, Chip MacGregor. 

Here’s a little bit about this amazing man. Just a little bit:

When Chip was in first grade, he hurried home one day and announced to his mother, “When I grow up, I’m going to be a book guy!” He clearly could see the future—from high school literary magazine editor to writing bestselling books, from speaking at writing and publishing conferences to representing renowned writers, Chip MacGregor is a book guy. Creating MacGregor Literary was part of a natural progression.

Chip has a comprehensive knowledge of the industry—from book development to writing, acquisition to production, marketing to sales. A former Associate Publisher with the Time-Warner Book Group, he has secured nearly 1,000 book deals for authors with all of the major publishers, including numerous imprints at Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, Hachette, HarperCollins, Thomas & Mercer, Jossey-Bass, Llewellyn, Zondervan, Thomas Nelson, Baker, Tyndale, Waterbrook, Howard, B&H, Worthy, Revell, Harvest House, and dozens of others. As an editor, he discovered Phillip Gulley, worked with bestselling authors such as Andy Andrews and Karen Kingsbury, and helped craft books for some of the best names in publishing, including Vince Zandri, Chuck Swindoll, Mindy Clark, and David Jeremiah. He has also written more than two-dozen titles, including two books that hit #1 on the bestseller lists in their category, and he has been the collaborative writer on nearly three-dozen other titles. During his tenure as a publisher at Time Warner, he helped start Center Street, the “heartland publishing” initiative at what is now Hachette, and did books with the likes of Mike Huckabee and John Ashcroft.

As a longtime agent, he has represented Brennan Manning, Vincent Zandri, Rachel Hauck, Mindy Clark, Irene Hannon, Bonnie Gray, Michelle McKinney Hammond, Jill and Stuart Briscoe, Alistair McGrath, Neta Jackson, Vickie McDonough, the MOPS organization, and many others. His work with Lisa Beamer and Ken Abraham led to Let’s Roll hitting #1 on the New York Times bestseller list, eventually becoming the bestselling nonfiction book the year it released. After starting his own agency, he focused on helping bring great fiction to market, representing authors such as Leslie Gould, Les Edgerton, Ann Tatlock, Jim Kraus, and Janice Thompson. Some of his bestselling nonfiction clients include New York Times bestsellers Mike Hingson and Susy Flory, bestselling writers Sheila Wray Gregoire, Shane Stanford, David Thomas, and Ira Wagler. A longtime member of AAR, he has represented dozens of books on all the national bestseller lists, and the authors he represents have won numerous national awards.

A popular writer’s conference speaker, Chip has presented workshops at more than 200 publishing conferences, spoken at colleges and universities, and is frequently invited to speak to writers groups around the country on the topics of writing and publishing. He earned his BS with High Honors at Portland State University, earned an MA with Honors from Biola University, and did his doctoral work at the University of Oregon in Policy and Management, focusing on organizational development. He later did a post-doctoral semester at Oxford University. Chip has been featured in numerous writing and publishing related magazines and newsletters, is frequently asked for his opinions on trends in the publishing industry, and his blog is regularly on the list of Writers Digest’s “101 Best Websites for Writers.”

Chip’s greatest desire is to help authors create great books that make a difference in the world. That’s what every book guy wants most.

Chip, we are honored to have you join us. Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to open up and share your knowledge. 

So to begin, how do you define your job as agent?

My job, at its most basic, is to help authors succeed. Sometimes people think there is “one way” to agent. That’s just not true – some agents are very involved in the editing process, others tend to be contract managers, still others may be life coaches. There’s no one right away to agent, and there is certainly no one right author/agent relationship. So my job (and my relationship) can change depending on the needs of the client. One author may need a lot of encouragement, so sometimes my role can be that of encourager or listener. Another may really be shy and need me to step in and handle much of the communications with the editor and publishing house. One author may want to use me to bounce book ideas off of, while another may not care one whit about my responses to her book ideas, and is much more interested in my negotiation abilities. But again, at its core, my job is to help the authors I represent succeed in the publishing marketplace.

How do you spend your day?

On emails or on the phone much of the day. This is a job that requires a lot of reading and a lot of talking. Shadowing me around would not be much fun – I’m standing in front of my computer, or pacing around on my cell phone much of the time.

How do you find new clients?

While that’s a fair question, most people won’t be very satisfied with my answer. The fact is, I’ve done this a long time now (I first started agenting 17 years ago, and I’d been advising writers for several years before that). So most new clients are introduced to me by current clients. Occasionally, I’ll meet a promising new writer at a conference, but that’s not common any more – and the idea of sending me a proposal cold and getting my attention is fairly rare. I bet I don’t represent more than a couple of people who just sent in a proposal hoping to catch my eye. 

What do you like to see in a cover letter?

A strong sales hook. A non-technical explanation of the book or the story. Some writing that intrigues me. An explanation why you are writing the book (if it’s nonfiction) or what writing you’ve done (if it’s fiction). Um… a bag of Starbucks taped to the letter doesn’t hurt, I guess. 

What turns you off in cover letters? Any pet peeves?

Sure. Spelling errors. Not telling me the genre. Having it addressed “dear agent.” Over-spiritualizing everything. Making it apparent you have no idea who I am or what I represent. Telling me that God told you to write this. Hype (you wouldn’t believe the sort of hype I see in some letters – one guy told me the only writers who were close to his level of quality were CS Lewis and JRR Tolkein, but he admitted neither of them were quite as good as he is). Lots of pet peeves. 

Describe to us what your worst client was like.

High maintenance. 

What was your best client like?

A good writer. Works hard. Meets his or her deadlines. Is friendly. Sells a lot of books. Thinks creatively. Is honest with me. Keeps me informed when something happens I need to know about, but I’m not there to know about it. Asks questions. Understands that I have other clients.

How savvy do you expect authors to be about publishing?

I don’t think I’ve ever been asked that question, and it’s interesting. You know, the mode number of manuscripts a novelist has created before he or she is published? Six. That is, most published fiction writers have completed six books before they get published. (Some make it on their first try. Others need to write ten books before they get there.) My point is that time in the business makes for a more savvy author. So I suppose I represent a number of very smart, savvy writers, because so many of them have been at this a while. They’ve hung out with other writers, learned from people at workshops, met editors at conferences, maybe have surrounded themselves (either in person or online) with people in the industry. All of that helps. Scottish people have a saying: Time spent sharpening the tool is never wasted. 

How flawless does a manuscript have to be before you will try to place it?

While the previous question was interesting, this question is not. I’m not trying to be rude in saying that, it’s just that… if you’re doing ANYTHING where you’re going to try and sell it to the public, you are going to have to make it as perfect as possible. Because people aren’t stupid (regardless of the fact that they continue watching Dukes of Hazard reruns and voting for another member of the Bush family). They won’t buy crap. So an author needs to make his or her manuscript as good as they can. I won’t send something that’s half-baked. And it’s funny, because you know why most projects sent to us are rejected? Because they aren’t really done. The author may THINK it’s done, but it’s maybe 40% done. It needs more editing. It needs more voice. It needs more clarity – and sending me something that feels half-baked is a sure way to get rejected.

An example in another area: Years ago, I taught swing dance. I was pretty good. If we went to a publisher’s ball together now, you’d see me dance and think, “Hey – he’s great!” I can make you look okay on the dance floor. But the fact is, I’m older and rusty and can’t do most of the moves any more. And I was always pretty good, but never great. So while I’m fine for the occasional wedding celebration or community dance, expecting me to go to Broadway and get cast in a show is foolishness – “pretty good” doesn’t cut it when people are paying money for entertainment. 

What impresses you most about a piece of writing?

Great voice. That is, picking up your writing and seeing a strong, unique personality coming out on the page. It’s rare – most authors tend to sound the same, particularly those who have been through a writing program where they’ve been taught the “correct” way to write. It’s not bad; it’s just flat. Great voice is rare. I’m not sure it can be taught. But I love it when I find it. 

Are first novels a hard sell?

Sure. Any first book is a hard sell, unless the author has a hit TV show. And if you’re writing for CBA, it’s especially hard right now, since so many of the Christian publishers have shrunk their fiction lists or gotten out of fiction entirely.

Are second novels a hard sell?

I’m not sure there is such a thing as an “easy” sell, but a second novel is easier than a first, particularly if the first book did well. 

What do you enjoy most about being an agent?

The best part of the job is finding a great new talent and bringing them to market. That’s so fulfilling, to see this writer you discovered and helped nurture, to find success. But the fact is, I like most everything about this job. I love books and words. I love reading. I love discovering great stories. I love other people who work in this business because they also love books and words. I love talking about the industry to authors who are friends, or going to conferences and seeing a bunch of people who also love great stories and want to talk about them. I love helping someone get their story right, or helping an author map out a plan for their book or their career. I enjoy the job very much. Always have. 

Again, thank you, Chip! We appreciate your honesty and openess to the realities of being an agent.

If you’d like to learn more about Chip and MacGregor Literary, you can find him at his website HERE. You can also follow him on his blog and learn more about the pubishing industry HERE

Lessons Learned

by
Bonnie Rose Ward

I’ll never forget the day I received my first shipment of books. I eagerly leafed through the pages with a feeling of elation. Finally! The years of pouring my heart and soul into writing, revising, editing, proofing, and the many invaluable lessons learned along the way—not to mention the million pots of coffee—had culminated into my first published book. A dream come true!

If I could do it all over again—perhaps a sequel in the near future—boy, would I ever change a lot of things! It is for that reason that I want to share my journey—which at times was rougher than a washboard road—from writer to published author with you. For all you writers out there who are working on a manuscript or just finished one and are now ready to publish, this is for you!

When I neared the completion of my manuscript, I became giddy with anticipation that I would soon be an author. I truly believed that once I typed “The End” on the last page of my manuscript, all my hard work would be over, and I would send it out to a few publishers, and one of them would gladly snatch it up in a heartbeat. After all, I believed I had a great story and, besides, I wrote it to the best of my ability, and I checked and double-checked my spelling and grammar. What else was there? Well, let me tell you. Rejections! That’s what. One after the other. What a letdown. Where was a “Rejected Anonymous Group” when I needed one? However, I picked myself up, squared my shoulders and moved forward. I was too invested in this project to give up now. It was time to search for a professional editor.

Editing

After learning that most editors will give a free sample of their work, I sent a copy of the first few chapters to editors as far away as California and New York and everywhere in-between. As the samples poured in, my eyes hungrily devoured the pages. Ironically, the best editing job—hands down—came from right here in my own state of West Virginia; Inspiration for Writers, Inc. But, as ill-fate would have it, the promise of a “good” comprehensive edit for a much cheaper price by a different company won me over. I convinced myself that it would be a “good enough” edit and I could save myself a lot of money. Right? I couldn’t be any more wrong! When the edit came back it wasn’t anything more than a proof. Many of the pages didn’t even have a red mark on them. I knew that my book could be so much more, and in the end, we really do get what we pay for. If I wanted my book to be the very best it could be—and I did—I knew what I had to do. I turned back to Inspiration for Writers, Inc. It was the best decision I could have made for my book. 

Over the course of a year, Sandy Tritt, Rhonda Browning White, and I diligently worked on my book. Not only do those ladies go above and beyond—trust me, they do–but through it all, they made it fun and easy, they taught me so much, and they did it all without changing my story or my unique writing style. Besides hiring a good editor—and I advise that you do so because it’s hard to see all of your own mistakes or to look at your work objectively—I also can’t stress enough the importance that you, the author, must take full responsibility to see that your manuscript is in top-notch shape and the best it can be before you consider publishing. That means working with your editor, revising, proofing, proofing, and proofing some more. Some of you may be thinking, “But I want to publish my book now.” So did I, but I’m glad I didn’t rush into it. Be patient and do what you’ve got to do to get it right. In the end, you will have something you can be proud of. Winds of Skilak has won two book awards and today sits on Amazon’s Best Seller List in two categories, and has received rave reviews. I attribute my success to Inspiration for Writers, Inc. I have learned my lesson well and when my next book is written, I will save myself a whole lot of money, time, heartache and grief—I will make a beeline straight to Inspiration for Writers, Inc.

Publishing

I had often heard that once your book is written and ready for publication, you’ve only fought half the battle. I didn’t want to believe that. Actually, I didn’t believe it. However, once again, I realized I was wrong. No surprise there! I now had the daunting task before me of trying to publish and market my book. So many questions ricocheted in my mind. How do I publish? Who do I publish with? Do I try to find a traditional publishing company or do I self-publish? That was an easy answer for me. Having already run the gauntlet of submitting queries and proposals only to get rejections, I decided to self-publish. Now, that’s my personal choice. I’m not advocating that everyone should self-publish. For me, it was right. And again, you have to be proactive—it’s your baby and nobody cares about it more than you. There are many publishers out there, so you have to do your homework. In all honesty, I started searching my publishing options long before typing “The End” on my book. Once I made my choice and paid for my publishing package, I still had a lot of work to do. Don’t think for one moment that if you go with a self-publishing company, your struggles are over. I returned my manuscript many times to the publisher because of their formatting errors. I had to work to make sure they got it right. But, the day I held my baby in my hands, all the labor pains and hard work of giving birth to my story was replaced with indescribable joy!

Marketing

The first step in marketing is to find your target audience. Believing your book will appeal to everyone is a big mistake. You need to define who will likely purchase your book, and then figure out how to reach those specific people. Where do they hang out? What magazines do they read? For instance, if your book is about hunting or camping or outdoor activities, you might see if you can put your books in a sporting goods store, or perhaps write an article or put an advertisement in a hunting or outdoor sports magazine. I recommend using social media, like Facebook (my favorite), Twitter, and Pinterest, just to name a few. Start a website and/or blog and engage your members, keep them motivated. Look for online magazines and blogs that appeal to your target audience and see if they will hold a book giveaway or give you an interview. Advertise in newspapers. And don’t hesitate to ask for reviews. Reviews are an author’s best friend and they do make a difference. Just remember, you can’t sit back and expect your books to fly off the shelves all by themselves. It takes work on your part. And, last but not least, if you have a well-written book with a great story, word of mouth will be your best advertisement of all.

It has been a pleasure sharing my experience as a first-time author with you, and it is my hope that some of the information I have provided here can be of some help—and for you new authors or soon-to-be authors out there, I wish you the very best on your journey to making your writing dreams come true.

Bonnie Rose Ward

Award-Winning Author of Winds of Skilak: A Tale of True Grit, True Love and Survival in the Alaskan Wilderness. After fifteen years as a “wilderness wife” in Alaska, award-winning author Bonnie Rose Ward now resides with her husband on their farm in central West Virginia. They still maintain a self-sufficient lifestyle, raising goats, chickens, and other barnyard animals, with four dogs and a peacock named George rounding out the menagerie. Bonnie enjoys canning vegetables from the huge gardens sowed by her husband with heirloom open-pollinated seeds, and in her “spare” time, she continues to write her memoirs of the Alaskan wilderness.

 

A Slice of Writer’s Life

BLAH, BLAH, BLOG!
Writers write. Writers should write something everyday. Yes, seven days a week and something besides checks made out to the electric company. But where do the time, the energy, and the ideas come from? Believe it or not, it’s a self-perpetuating cycle. The more you write, the more you have to write.
In my book Writer Wellness, A Writer’s Path to Health and Creativity, I describe writing to be a muscle. And like the other muscles in our bodies, the writing muscle needs to be exercised and kept in tip-top shape. The writing muscle is kept well toned only by writing. The more we write, the better shape our writing muscle is and the more we have to write. See? Self-perpetuation cycle. What counts for writing exercise?

I keep my own writing muscle in shape by journaling almost everyday of the week, writing several blog posts a week, and writing book reviews for several online sites. And yes, I still have plenty of time, energy, and ideas for my historical romance novel in progress. The key is discipline and not going overboard with what you have to say in any one area. It also helps with learning key fiction elements such as pacing, passive voice, and RUE (Resisting the Urge to Explain.) My writing muscle is warmed-up by the blogs, reviews, and journal entries I write. It’s in those playing fields I am able to watch myself change and progress as a writer. This blog post today is a good example. Let me explain.
Writing blogs, journal entries, and book reviews for several years have taught me to get to the point with what I’m writing in my fiction. The reader wants to know what’s important first, not after a six or seven adverbial phrase describing every bat of the character’s eyes before they utter a word. What the character is doing is integral, but when two people are in the same room and on the same page, they need to be talking to keep the pace of the pages turning for the reader. I have also learned not to repeat what the character says with something we at IFW like to call “narrator intrusion.” Which is what I just did. I just told you something, then intruded on your thought processes by telling you what I just told you. In this fast paced world of ebooks readers want to know and get on with it. Don’t stall them. They will put your book down for good.

BLOGS
What do you say in a blog? My good writing friend Kristen Lamb, author of We Are Not Alone, The Writer’s Guide to Social Media is currently doing a fab series on what, why, and how to blog.
You will not regret subscribing to Kristen’s blog. Take my word for it. Because blogging is not only about getting the word out about you as a writer, it’s most importantly about creating community. Another change in the publishing world. Blog. It’s eventually good for your writing in sooooo many ways.
BOOK REVIEWS
I started writing book reviews because I wanted to read the books my young daughters were reading so we could have a conversation about them and so I could keep connected to their lives. They’ve grown up to be voracious readers and I still review books for kids, teens, and adults. Here’s the latest review for POSER, MY LIFE IN TWENTY-THREE POSES, Claire Dederer:

Writing book reviews keeps my writing muscle toned because it forces me to read and analyze as a reader, writer, and editor. That’s everything I am after mom, cook, laundress, etc. ugh… Anyway, book reviews aren’t exactly easy to write and the format calls for a strictly limited number of words. Again, the practice keeps my fiction writing lean and well paced. Because of reading books and writing reviews, I can almost instantly spot a mistake in my own work because my writing muscle is in tune.
By the way. Look at the top of the book review site and click on the button Review for Us and get started!
JOURNALING
Journaling is something I’ve talked about at length in the archives of this blog and my own site for Writer Wellness.

Visit and subscribe by clicking on the “subscribe” button at the top and get email alerts when I’ve posted a new blog! See? Community!

Meanwhile, remember to look for a digital or print copy of Writer Wellness, A Writer’s Path to Health and Creativity at Who Dares Wins Publishing, http://whodareswinspublishing.com/.

And check out these great blogs for ideas to keep your writing and publishing healthy and prosperous.

http://writeitforward.wordpress.com/ Bob Mayer

http://jenniholbrooktalty.wordpress.com/ Jenni Holbrook

http://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/ Kristen Lamb

http://inspiration4writers.blogspot.com/ Inspiration for Writers, Inc.

Be well, write well.

Joy

Copyright 2011 Joy Held. All rights reserved.

HOW TO SELECT THE PERFECT EDITOR

By
Rhonda Browning White

As professional editors, we hear it all the time.

“I paid Editor X four hundred dollars, (or a thousand dollars, or fifty bucks) to edit my manuscript, and I’m still getting rejections. The agents are telling me it still needs a lot of work. Have I been scammed?”

It breaks our hearts, but we have to answer, “Yes. You have.”


A professional edit of your work is an investment. It’s an investment in your manuscript, in your reputation as a writer of excellence, and in your career as a published (or soon-to-be-published) author. Hence, you want to select the best editor possible for your work. But in a world of scam artists, or even well-meaning acquaintances who offer to edit your work for a few bucks, how do you decide which editor to trust with your manuscript?

In this two-part essay series, I’ll address some of the questions you should ask of potential editors and the answers to seek before you hand over your manuscript (and your money).

  • Determine what kind of editing your manuscript (book, novel, novella, short story, chapbook, etc.) needs. Do you need simple proofreading by a qualified professional? Do you need a full edit with feedback on active voice, characterization, plotting, pacing, and other important story elements? Do you need more in-depth assistance, such as a complete re-write to restructure or round-out your story, or to act out (show) the scenes that are written in a telling fashion? Do you have a basic outline and completed research, but you need a professional writer to ghostwrite your story? In addition to the edit, do you want post-edit assistance, such as help preparing a proposal, query letter or synopsis? Or do you simply need a professional read-through analysis where a qualified editor will study your manuscript and make overall suggestions or offer direction for improvements you can make on your own? Once you know what you need, you can search with confidence for the right candidate for the job.
  • Research the editor or editing firm thoroughly on the Internet. Search both company name and the individual editor’s name. Check to see what is said about them outside of their own website, and see how active they are in the writing community. Are they listed as workshop presenters or speakers at writing conferences? Are they mentioned on author websites with a note of thanks for what they’ve done? Look for an editing company that provides excellent references and testimonials from clients.

  • Check to make sure the editing company has two or more editors. If one has a family emergency, you’ll want a back-up contingency plan to ensure your work is finished before the deadline you were given. Another benefit of a company with multiple editors is that, while one editor may thrive on editing doctorate dissertations, another may detest them, yet love to edit romances or horror stories. Choose a company with multi-talented editors, so you can ensure you’ll have a long-term relationship with the group, no matter which direction your muse may lead you.

  • Ask for a free sample edit. Reputable editors will be happy to ediT a few pages (250-500 words) of your novel or book. Of course, if you’ve written a two-page short story or brief article, don’t expect a free sample—that’s unfair to the editor. It’s important to see if the editor can supply the exact assistance you need and if you two are compatible as a team. Your relationship with your editor is a marriage, of sorts, so make sure honesty and communication are part of the equation. Can you email your editor and expect a response within one business day? (If your free sample edit is returned within one business day, you can expect the same prompt response to your questions and concerns). Will you editor agree to conference call (telephone) meetings? Will there be an additional fee for such phone conferences? Were you provided a phone number at which to contact your editor, free of charge, with questions regarding your edit?
  • Expect to pay fair wages for professional work. There’s an old adage that says, “If you pay with peanuts, you’ll end up working with monkeys.” The so-called editor who offers to edit your manuscript in exchange for nail salon services, babysitting, or auto repair is not a professional. Professional editors are highly skilled, college-educated, published experts who accept only real money for real work. Editors pay taxes on their wages (no “under the table” business), they carry business insurance, and they will provide you with a legal contract prepared by an attorney who is familiar with the publishing industry.
  • Settle on an exact fee—in writing. Be certain how much the professional editing service you request will cost. What is the exact fee for the service provided? Will you be billed by-the-hour (typically only for ghostwriting or writing that requires research, which can’t always be quantified by a word-count); or will you be charged a per-word fee? Expect to pay less for small services, such as professional proofreading or for a read-through analysis, and more for ghost-editing (a service that’s more detailed than a full edit, but less involved than ghostwriting). Typical full-edit fees range from three cents per word to ten cents per word, depending on the company and the editor. Ghostwriting fees may range from thirty cents to fifty cents per word. Proofreading fees may range from one to three cents per word. In addition to the basics, make sure you seek value-added services, such as frequent communication, a multi-page written analysis of the work completed on your manuscript, or perhaps even your name listed on the editor’s web site as a free marketing tool for your published book.
  • Ask about payment options. Does the editor or editing company accept credit cards, or are they strictly cash-and-carry? (Many credit cards offer free cardholder protection services). Will the editor accept your work piecemeal (a chapter at a time as you can afford to pay)? Do they offer gift certificates? Will they accept international payments? Professional editing companies will offer a variety of options to make doing business with them convenient and affordable.
  • Ask for an editing contract. Make sure specifics are spelled out for you, particularly, two things: First, that the writer retains all rights to his manuscript, including suggestions made by the editor pertaining to his manuscript. Second, the editor will keep confidential all information about the writer and the submitted manuscript. The contract should also spell out exactly how much the edit will cost, what it will include (one edit, multiple edits, rewrites, follow-up services, phone conferences, and an estimated date of completion).

Check back this fall for more tips on selecting the right editor for your manuscript. Remember, you and your editor are a team! Choose one who will be with you through many manuscripts to come!

BE PATIENT; BE PERSISTENT! KEEP WRITING!

by
Rhonda Browning White

This week I’ve received news from clients that one has received an offer direct from a well-known publisher, and another has had an agent contact him to let him know he has a publisher interested in his manuscript. Of course, I find this almost as thrilling as if the offers were being made directly to me, because I’ve been honored to have a hand in refining these manuscripts. But what excites me even more is that these two clients have listened to what’s become Inspiration For Writers Inc.’s mantra this year: “Be patient; be persistent! And keep writing!”

In two-thousand-nine, more than in any year past, we’ve heard from agents and publishers alike that they’re receiving three- to five-hundred queries per day, per agent or per editor. That’s a lot of queries, my friends! So what does this mean to the writer? If you’re one of hundreds, do you even stand a chance at publication? Of course you do, if you’ve made certain that your manuscript is as tight as it can be and is polished to perfection. But you must also be patient and be persistent in order to receive the same glorious news these two clients received this week.

We’ve heard repeatedly this past year that, as a writer, you must plan to send out at least five hundred queries to gain this kind of interest. You can expect ninety percent of these queries to be rejected outright. Of the remaining ten percent, you may receive requests for a synopsis, the first chapter, or even a hundred pages. Of those, you can expect another percent to request your full manuscript. And of that small percentage? You’d better keep a bottle of the bubbly on hand, because you stand a great chance of having something spectacular to celebrate!

The fact is that publishing companies now own more manuscripts than they have editors to work on them, so they simply aren’t buying as many, right now. In addition, with the growing buzz of eBooks, plus small publishers gaining a stronger foothold in the face of large-publisher mergers and failures, the face of publishing, as we’ve always known it, is rapidly changing. Still, every agent and editor will tell you they’re always on the lookout for that one manuscript that makes them say, “Wow!” This is why it’s more important than ever to make certain your manuscript is in top form before you send it out the door. Like the old saying goes, “You only have one chance to make a first impression.”

Now, if you have a brilliant piece of work in your hands, the question remains, do you have the patience—and the persistence—to send out hundreds of queries? Will you do your homework by pouring through seemingly endless lists of agents and publishers to see which ones are actively seeking your genre, and will you check their reputation to make certain they’re legit and not one of the charlatans who take advantage of writers desperate to see their names in print? And will you still move forward by sending out your professionally-written query letter after receiving four hundred sixty-nine rejections?

These two clients were patient and persistent, and now they’re approaching the ultra-exciting phase of contract negotiations. Can you imagine where they’d be if they’d given up after the first hundred rejections? After the next two hundred? Would they be where you are, right now?

Be patient; be persistent.

If you’ve had your work professionally edited (and you’ve listened to your editor’s advice), then you are already one giant-step ahead of most who query agents and publishers. Keep submitting. And in the meantime, keep writing. Working on your next bestseller while marketing your first will keep your mind on the thing you most enjoy (writing), and off the rejections that find their way into your inbox.

Be patient; be persistent! And keep writing!