One Thing Every Writer Needs

by Tamera Lynn Kraft

Habakkuk 2:3 For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.

A Christian Writing Site asked the question, “What do you feel is the most difficult aspect of writing?” Although writers answer this question in different way, I believe the most difficult and most important virtue a writer needs is patience. Patience is what makes or breaks a writer. The writing process take years to learn, and if you go the traditional route, the publishing business is so slow, that grass grows faster.

Perfecting Your Writing: The best authors have applied years of patience to perfect their writing. Editing is an ongoing process for a successful writer, and most writers I know have critique groups or editors to help them improve. Studying writing books and blogs and similar books to yours are also important steps writers in a hurry may miss. If you’re going the traditional route, publishable novels and unpublishable novels sometimes only have a fractional difference in quality accomplished by years of perfecting. If you go the self-published route, don’t make the mistake many make of publishing before you are ready. It’s easy to believe you’re ready before you are. The truth is you don’t know what you don’t know. If you’re unsure whether you are ready to be published, have a published author read you book and ask that author to be brutally honest, or enter it into a writing contest. Whichever route you take, authors who have gone through the process of perfecting their writing before being published are the ones who “make” it in the business.

Write More Books: Some writers spend so much time trying to get their first book published, that they never write any other books. They lack the patience needed to start the next book and the next until something happens. A friend of mine wrote seven novels while waiting for a contract. After she was published, they wanted everything she had written. The average traditionally published author writes 3-7 manuscripts before one is accepted. If you self-publish, consider writing a number of books before publishing the first one. Writing more than one books gives valuable experiance and helps you perfect your skill. Another advantage is that agents and publishers like to sign authors who have written more than one book. It shows the author is serious about his career and his craft.

Right Agent/Publisher: If you haven’t given up yet, you’ll earn your patience stripes trying to find the the right agent or publisher – a very slow process. There’s a lot of work involved in this. You have to learn how to write a good proposal and query and research agents taking your type of book. And timing is everything. Many times, it will take three to six months to receive a reply from an agent. And if that reply is no, you have to start all over again. You know you’re making progress when you receive letters from the agent telling you why she didn’t accept it instead of the standard form letter. Then when you do find the right agent, or if you decide to forget the agent and try small publishing companies that accept submissions, you have to wait until you or the agent finds the right publisher. Sometimes, the agent’s contacts won’t work for you, and you’ll have to find another agent.

If an agent or you find a publisher to look at your manuscript, first the publisher will want a full read. You might be elated about this, but pace yourself. Aquisition editors at publishing companies are even slower than agents. Once the editor reads it, she might suggest changes instead of accepting or rejecting the manuscript immediately. Even if she does accept it, in many cases, it will go to committee and might be rejected there because they already have a similar novel or because that type of novel isn’t selling that year. Again timing is everything.

After the First Book is Published: You may think you have it made when your first book is published, but there’s still work that requires patience. Traditional publishers take up to two years to publish a book. Then they expect you to do most of the marketing. Marketing is also a skill that takes time to learn. With each book, you’ll gain more information about what works and what doesn’t. If also takes time to build a fan base. All these require fortitude and constant attention. Once you have this down, your next book might be a flop, and you’ll have to start all over again.

Many give up before all of that happens, but those who wait will reap the reward of becoming a successfully published author.

Iny, Miny, Miney, Moe…An Agent–or Not!

By Carole Brown

So you think you want an agent?

A writer is just that a writer. But he/she can, and many times are more than that.

  • Marketer. Sometimes a writer will find they’re very good at marketing. Learning what works and what doesn’t takes determination, attention, and perseverance.
  • Publisher. So you’re cheap. Or detail oriented. Or savvy with computer programs. Whatever. Many times writers find publishing your work is easier, better for you–timewise and moneywise–than working with an established publisher.

So do you need an agent? Here’s a few thoughts to help you make a decision:

Pros:

  • Literary agents have excellent industry contacts and most times good working relationships with editors and publishers.The level of trust between them gives them the confidence to work together comfortably. A really good agent can improve your chances of being published. Remember: publication is not guaranteed.
  • They know editors and publishers and that makes it easier to contact them. Editors and Publishers many times refuse to accept submissions unless agent-sent.
  • Agents have experience in the industry that enables them to negotiate favorable contracts and deals that won’t cheat you out of your royalties. They know their way around author-y contracts.
  • If need be and problems arise, they act as mediators between authors and publishing houses, softening constructive criticism, negotiating when contract problems interfere, and guarding that you aren’t robbed of your rights, regarding international publication and film rights.

Literary agent cons

  • Your literary agent will take between 10-15% of your royalties, depending on where in the world you are. If you go it alone, all the royalties will be yours.
  • You’ll have to wait twice as long before your book is published, this is because you first have to find a literary agent, who will make you jump through some hoops before sending your book to a publishing house, which will make you jump through some more hoops.
  • Again, if you are knowledgeable, you can “do the work” yourself
  • There’s always the risk of unreliable agents who will stiff you for work undone, for tasks unneeded and/or for small, meaningless tasks.

So, do you need an agent? That’s up to you. Just be sure to do your homework. Decide what your writing journey is and follow that journey. You’ll be glad you did.

March is read a book month! (But then, I think all months are “read a book” month!) Why not try a super fun and interesting new book?

With Music in their Hearts is a WWII spy book that is filled with music, teasing, romance and suspense!

One reader has this to say about this book:

With Music In Their Hearts is a mystery romance. This is the most adorable mystery ever! Emma Jaine is a strong character and I really like her. Not only does she run a boarding house, but she also takes care of her father and two younger sisters. She’s a spunky and pretty woman, and a few men at the boarding house are attracted to her.

Tyrell is a good-looking man and absolutely adorable when he teases and flirts with Emma Jaine. He is a reverend, a minister of a nearby church, but at the same time he’s an undercover agent for the government. His flirtations with Emma are appropriate for a minister and you can see the attraction between the two. I love the mystery that goes along with the romance. Romance and mystery make a book so much fun to read.

5 Christian Publishers Taking Submissions without an Agent

There are many publishing companies who are willing to take fiction submissions without requiring an agent. Almost all of them are small companies, but many of them do quite well. Here are ten Christian fiction publishers that have a good reputation and are traditional publishers. Click on the name of the company for the link to their submission requirements.

Pelican Book Group (mostly sweet romance)

Write Integrity Press (mystery, suspense, romantic suspense, women’s fiction)

Desert Breeze (variety of genres in full length and novellas)

Enclave (Christian science fiction and fantasy)

White Fire Publishing (all Christian genres)

Common Publishing Terms

Sometimes the world of publishing is confusing to new writers. They seem to use a different language. Here’s some common definitions to publishing terms.

Submission Terms:

Agent – A person who will submit manuscripts to a publisher on behalf of a writer. A good agent will look out for the best interests of a writer and negotiate for better advances and royalties. Agents don’t get paid unless a book gets published. Never work with an agent that requires money up front.

Acquiring Editor – An editor who buys a specific book.

Book Proposal: Description of a proposed book that an author sends to a publisher, often including sample chapters and an outline.

Cover Letter – A brief introduction that is sent with a manuscript that lists your name, address, phone number, and email address. Do not confuse a cover letter with a query letter.

Critique: An evaluation of a manuscript, touching on issues such as structure as well as character and plot development.

Draft: The book’s manuscript at a particular stage. The first draft is followed by rough drafts, which are unpolished versions. The final draft is sent to prepress.

Exclusive Reading – A publisher who requests exclusive reading doesn’t want your manuscript to be read by anyone else. As a writer, you should always be aware of the length of time the exclusive reading is in effect. You shouldn’t allow exclusive reading writes for any longer than two to three months.

Manuscript – A book, article, or other document, that is submitted for publication.

Multiple submissions – Sending an agent or publisher more than one idea at a time.

Query – This is the letter you send to an agent or publisher that sells your book idea. A good query letter will contain a brief plot summary, your contact information, and is usually no longer than one page. You are basically asking for permission to send an agent or publisher your manuscript.

Reading Fees – Fees charged by some agents to evaluate a prospective client’s manuscript. The Association of Authors’ Representatives, a major trade association for book agents, prohibits its members from charging reading fees. Legitimate agents don’t charge reading fees.

Simultaneous submissions – Sending out a query letter to many agents or publishers for the same book. Many agents and publishers do not accept simultaneous submissions.

Slush pile – A collection of unsolicited manuscripts that are received by agents and publishers. Manuscripts that sit in the slush pile are usually read, but the time it can take for a manuscript in the slush pile to be read can be a very, very, long.

Unsolicited manuscript – A book that an agent, editor, or publisher did not ask to see.

Publisher Terms:

Advance royalties – Payment to an author in anticipation of royalties a book is predicted to earn. In most cases, the author is not compelled to return the advance, even if it exceeds total royalties eventually earned.

American Booksellers Association (ABA) – The national trade association, founded in 1900, for operators of retail bookstores.

Christian Booksellers Association (CBA) – The national trade association for Christian retail bookstores.

Copyediting – An editing process that checks for correct grammar, spelling, and punctuations. Copyeditors will also check any references made in the manuscript as well as fact-check.

Copyrighting– A way to protect a writer’s work. A writer’s unpublished manuscript is copyright protected the moment it was created in virtual or printed form. United States Copyright website. http://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/

ISBN (International Standard Book Number) – A worldwide, numbered identification system that provides a standard way for publishers to number their products without duplication by other publishers. “ISBN” also refers to ISBN numbers themselves. The first part of the ISBN identifies the language of publication (“0” for English), and the second part identifies the publisher. The next string of digits in the ISBN identifies the book product itself, and is followed by a digit specifically calculated to ensure the integrity of the ISBN.

Mass market paperback – A paperbound book distributed chiefly through traditional magazine channels, including newsstands, variety and drug stores, supermarkets, and other mass markets. Also marketed to general bookstores, college stores, and department stores and may be either an original publication that has never appeared in any other format or a reprint of a previously published hardcover or trade paperback edition here made available at a significantly lower price.

Marketing plan – Prepared for each title on a publisher’s seasonal list, this plan itemizes the projected advertising, promotion, publicity, and sales activities and their associated costs. Included in the individual marketing plan are subsidiary rights and special sales transactions. Marketing plans are generally prepared after launch (concept) meetings for forthcoming titles and are subject to revision before and after sales conferences. If an agent or publisher requires a marketing plan before the contract, they are asking what the author intends to do to help market his book.

Press release – An information sheet about a book and its author, used as a publicity tool.

Print Run – The number of books printed in a particular run. The number of books a publisher agrees to produce in the first printing.

Publication date – The date when a book is made available to the public. Publisher’s representative / sales representative – A salesperson who visits prospective customers of a publisher (booksellers, librarians, university department heads, school authorities, wholesalers, etc.) to show samples of or literature about the firm’s forthcoming titles, as well as backlist items, to obtain orders for them.

Royalties – Royalties is a percentage of the book sales that is given to the author. There are two types of royalties: Net Sales and List Price. Net sales royalties refers to the percentage given to an author after the publisher’s cost has been subtracted. List Price royalties is the percentage given to the author based on the list price of the book.

Sell-through – Sell-through can refer to a couple of things. It can refer to how quickly a publisher makes its advance money back from a book, or, when the first print run has been completely sold, prompting a second print run. Either way, a fast sell-through is a great selling point for a second book.

Types of Publishers:

Commercial/Trade Publishers (Also called traditional publishers by self-publish companies) – Companies which purchase the right (usually the exclusive right) to publish the author’s work and then pay the author a royalty (a percentage of the sales – usually 7%-15%) for that right. Commercial publishers invest by producing the inventory of product (the book or other products), so they must choose wisely which books/authors will pay off for them in a reasonable amount of time. In other words, they choose to work with only a small percentage of the projects they review.

Mainstream publishers – Large commercial publishing companies that produce several hundred new books a year and pay advance royalties to authors.

Independent/Small publishers – Smaller commercial publishers that produce anywhere from 10 to 100 new books a year. Many independent publishers specialize in certain types of books. Usually small publisher don’t give advance royalties, or if they do, the advance royalties are smaller. But they do pay the author royalties, and they don’t charge the author a fee.

Micro publisher – Commercial publisher that produce one to five books per year. Some of these companies started as self-publishers, and some are nonprofit. These companies have a very narrow niche.

E-Books – Books distributed and read in electronic format. Instead of walking into a bookstore, to buy a book in an e-book format, you visit a Web site and purchase and download the digital file. You can then read the book on a computerized device such as a Palm Pilot, Pocket PC, laptop computer, or other device. Some E-book companies are commercial publishers and some are self-publishing companies.

Self-Publishing – A method of publishing in which the author does all the things a publisher does—from editing to printing and distribution – or hires a service to this for them.

Subsidy Press/Vanity Publisher – A publishing company that offers publication services for a fee paid by the author, and holds the copyright to the book, but does not generally promote or market the book. Bookstores often refuse to carry books published by subsidy/vanity presses.

Contract Publisher – A publisher that helps authors edit, design, market, and distribute their book for a fee paid by the author.

Regional Publisher – A publisher who specializes in subjects relevant to a particular part of the country, and sells its books mostly or entirely in that area.

POD (or print -on- demand) publishers – Print-on-demand self-publishing services utilize digital printing technology to provide publishing services to writers. They range all the way from bare-bones services which provide free online templates that allow anyone to upload and format a book that can then be ordered from the service’s website to expensive packages that include editing, custom cover design, enhanced marketing, and other extras. Most POD services charge a fee, but some take that fee out of royalties produced by sales. Some POD companies will let you put the name of your own imprint on your book and set your own cover prices. Essentially they’ll set you up with your own publishing company using their serves.

Independent Publishing – This is when you go through a place like Create Space and basically do-it-yourself. You design the cover page, edit, and format.

Christian Literary Agents

Here’s a list of Christian literary agents and their websites. Everyone on this list has a website and takes submissions from unpublished authors. Everyone on the list also represent Christian fiction. Please check guidelines before submitting to more than one agent in an agency.

Hartline Literary Agency

Joyce Hart

Jim Hart

Terry Burns

Diana Flegal

Linda Glaz

Andy Scheer

MacGregor Literary Agency

Steve Laube Agency

Blythe Daniel Agency

Books & Such Agency

Janet Kobobel Grant

Wendy Lawton

Mary Keeley

Rachel Kent

Rachelle Gardner

Publisher and agents change from time to time, so this list may not be accurate or complete. Do your homework.

How to Land an Agent

Many times, I hear unpublished writers lament about how hard it is to find an agent to represent them. Here’s a few tips to land an agent.

Write the best manuscript you can manage. Agents get tons of work come across their desk, but they only have a few slots for clients. If you write well and have a compelling story, you will go to the top of their slush pile. You may not believe it, but your competition is not that strong. Most writers aren’t ready for publication even though they think they are. To become a better writer, read novels in your genre, study writing books and blogs, get critiques, and keep writing and revising.

Submit to the right agent. No matter what some writing gurus may tell you, submitting to every agent in the Writer’s Market whether they represent your genre or not is annoying and will brand you as an amateur. Agent websites are great places to do your research. Don’t just read what the agent wants in the guidelines. find out what type of authors he or she represents.

Be careful to submit to legitimate agents. If any agent wants you to pay for an edit, office supplies, or representation, run for the hills. Good agents make their money from a percentage of the sales, not from a fee charged to the author. Another place to check out agents is Predators and Editors Website.

Follow the agent’s guidelines for submissions to the letter. Agents could so many submissions that they usually don’t even read those that couldn’t bother to follow their guidelines.

Conferences are a great place to connect with agents. Even if you don’t find an agent there, you’ll make contacts that might help you later. And you’ll take classes to help you become a better writer.

If an agent says no, keep trying. You may need to tweak you work, or the chemistry or timing might not be right. Remember, the people who find agents and end up getting published are not always the best writers. They’re usually the ones that didn’t give up.

10 Reasons I’ve Decided to be Commercially Published

Update: Since I originally posted this article in 2009, I have had some success toward my goal of being commercially published. I have a reputable agent, Linda Glaz from Hartline. Two of my novellas will be released in November and December in e-book form through reputable commercial publishing companies that pay royalties. I also have a publishing company that requested a full read on my full length novel. Being commercially published takes time, but it can be done.

10 Reasons I’ve Decided to be Commercially Published

Reprinted from earlier post in 2009.

There are so many ways to become a published fiction author these days. Vanity self-publishing companies charge a fee to print a certain number of books. Then there are POD (Print on Demand) companies that will only print as many books as are sold. Some writers choose to go through a partnership publishing company where the company charges the writer a fee but agrees to do some marketing and editing of the book. There’s even a POD company that will set you up as your own publishing company. Then there are e-books. Most commercially published books are available now in e-book form. But some writers self-publish their books in e-book form through companies that charge a fee only if a book is downloaded.

Some of my writer friends have decided to go one of these routes, and they’re happy with their decisions. I don’t fault their choices, but I’ve decided to take the long hard road to become commercially published by a publisher who pays royalties, prints a run of books or sells e-books in a variety of formats, and has contracts with bookstores and e-book companies.

I haven’t made this choice because I’ve found an agent to represent me or a publisher to offer me a contract. I’ve sent my first novel to many reputable Christian agents. Some were interested enough to send me notes, some asked for an entire manuscript, but every agent has sent me a rejection. One of the biggest reasons many of them gave was the story I wrote was not what was selling right now. So I’m currently editing another novel to prepare to send it to the host of agents I’ve collected in my database.

Getting a reputable agent to represent you, and getting a commercial publisher to offer a contract is a long shot. Very few are chosen. So why would I want to go down this narrow road of rejection and heartache when there are so many choices out there?

10. I’ve learned over the years if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Self-publishing and POD companies make a lot of claims. They try to discredit commercial publishers by calling them “traditional publishers” and saying that by going through the self-publishing companies, you can make a lot of money. But I’m not buying it. I pray those that make the decision to go this route do their homework and don’t listen to the get rich quick promises.

9. Commercial publishing companies do a better job with printing the books. The cover, paper, ink, and editing all point to quality. Self-publishing companies and POD’s are hit and miss. They might do a good job printing, but more likely they won’t.

8. I want to feel good about my accomplishments. Commercial publication is a long hard road, but when I get there, I’ll feel like I’ve achieved something great through hard work and perseverance. I won’t feel the same way if I pay to see my novel in print.

7. I want to be known as a professional author. I want to have that reputation. To me writing is a profession and a calling. In most cases, self-published authors are thought of as amateurs even if they gain some level of success.

6. I want the name of a commercial publishing company on my book jacket. I don’t want someone to pick up my book, see the name of the company, and snarl up his nose because he knows it’s been self-published. I want the publishing company’s reputation behind my novel. 

5. I want the resources commercial publishing companies have. Commercial publishers have copy editors and book designers. They have publicity people and sales representatives. They know what they’re doing. I want to participate in promoting my own novel. But I don’t want to have to do it alone. I want all of the resources a commercial publisher has including free copies of books I can give to influencers and advertisement on their websites and in their catalogues. I won’t get that from a self-publishing or POD company.

4. I want my novel to be in print at a bookstore. POD and self-publishing companies are quick to point out that their books are available on Amazon.com and in bookstore catalogs. That may be technically true. But almost every book is on Amazon.com. That’s no guarantee that anyone will find your novel. Amazon.com promotes books that sell, books that are put out by commercial publishers.

Catalogues that bookstores use have thousands of books available. Most bookstores have limited space and are more likely to go with books by commercial publishers. They have an added incentive for doing this because commercial publishers will take the books back if the bookstores don’t sell them. The bookstores have a win-win situation here. If they go with a self-published or POD book and it doesn’t sell, they are out the money they invested. It’s good business for them to only order commercially published books. Also they know the sales representatives of the commercial companies and are more likely to go with them. An author carrying a box of books under his arms is not likely to hold much weight with a bookstore owner.

I want my books to be in bookstores. I want to hold them in my hand and point them out to customers.

3. I want my novel to sell. Many self-publishing companies make claims about how successful their clients are. There are a few self-published authors that end up selling a lot of books. “The Shack” is one book that is frequently used as an example. But the chances of that happening are greater than the chances of being published by a commercial publisher.

Not every commercially published book will sell. Those that do sell will probably not be best sellers. But most best-sellers are commercially published books. Most moderate sellers are commercially published books. And most commercially published books do sell better than most self-published books. Self-published books that sell a hundred copies are considered successful. I want my novel to do better than that.

2. I have a lot to learn. I’m glad I wasn’t published by the first person I sent my manuscript to. If I had been, I would have had a lot of bad reviews. I’ve learned a lot about writing since. And because I didn’t take a shortcut to publication, I’ll continue to learn until I’m ready to be published.

I think I’m ready now. But maybe that’s because I don’t know about the one thing I need to make my manuscript a better story, something that will touch the heart of somebody, maybe even their spirit. I know that even though I think I’m ready, I need a teachable spirit. I’m willing to wait and learn.

1. I trust God. That’s sounds cliché, but it’s my number one reason for waiting for commercial publication. God directed me to write novels. Since then, I’ve been compelled to write.

He has given me the stories. He hasn’t dictated the words I should use or all of the plot points, usually just an idea in my spirit. It would be so much easier if He hadn’t required me to struggle to work with what He gave me. But any writer who tells you God wrote their novel through them is not to be trusted. God authored the Bible through men, but He hasn’t done that since. But He has given me the desire and planted the seeds of the story within me.

So no shortcuts for me. I’ll take the hard narrow road. Since God is directing me, and since He’s given me stories to write, He will help me to write them. And when the time is right, I can trust Him to direct my paths to publication. But in the meantime, I’ll work hard, and I’ll wait on Him.