Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Another One Bites the Dust.

Wow - it's almost 2010! Did you ever picture yourself actually writing that date?

I certainly didn't. Boggles my feeble mind.

I'll tell you something else that boggles my mind: In reviewing my 2009 writing engagement calendar, I counted (in conjunction with the Dec 08 release of Billowing Sails, the May release of Mom NEEDS Chocolate and August release of Everyday Hope). . .

15 radio interviews
5 TV interviews in 3 states
14 Young Writers Workshops (for kids age 8 - 18)
10 newspaper articles
47 speaking events.

That's 47 prepared speeches. 47 upset stomachs. 47 urgent prayers for supernatural peace even as my knees knocked and hands quivered.

Man alive. I had no idea.

I knew I was pretty wiped by December but didn't realize how crazy busy the year was. I'm humbled and entirely grateful to Papa God, who is indeed able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us (Eph 3:20) - my scripture for the year.

Blessings to you and your family in the exciting year stretching before us. Fill it wisely.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Select Arrow

Have a blessed Christmas!

For this week of holy expectations, I'd like to share with you one of my favorite excerpts from Grit for the Oyster: 250 Pearls of Wisdom for Aspiring Writers

The eve of my 49th birthday waned melancholy as I lay on my back in bed, staring at the ceiling. I had just received yet another rejection letter from an agent regarding my recently completed book.

It's not that rejection was anything new; I'd collected enough rejection slips during my four years as a professional writer to papar mache a pinata. A big one. Maybe a life-sized rhinoceros. Okay - ten rhinoceroses, six wildebeests, two heifers, and a partridge in a pear tree.

No, rejection per se was not what troubled me. I knew that in the literary game, par for the course is to receive ten rejections to every one acceptance. What bothered me was the nagging suspicion that I'd misheard my calling. That God had said, "fight a crook" or "bite a snook" instead of "write a book."

Glancing down at my opened Bible, my eyes focused on a passage from Isaiah: He has made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of His hand He has concealed me, and He has also made me a select arrow; He has hidden me in His quiver.

My heavenly Father was sending me a note of encouragement: He wil personally take on the enemies before me, running interference with His tall, strong stature so that I can find rest and peace in the protective shadow of His cupped hand. I can't think of a safer place to be.

And best of all, I am a select arrow. Not just any arrow - a select arrow. A flint-sharpened, friction-polished, exclusive weapon specially designed to pierce the tough outer shell of God's intended targets and speak God's message to their hearts through the written word.

There is no other arrow like me, no person with the exact same background, experiences, and perspective the Lord has given me. I am the only one that can accomplish the task God has customized for me.

For now, I am concealed. Undistinguished. Unknown. He has hidden me in His quiver until the right time to use me in battle Only at tht specific time will I be most effective for His glory.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Waiting. That Literary Limboland unavoidable in the writing life.

After you hit "send" on that magazine article headed to an editor.

When you've finally added the last agonized finishing touches to that book query and aimed it at your A-list of prospective agents.

During the nail-biting weeks after your agent wings your book proposal off to publishers.

I'm in that last space now. I've been working on a book about dealing with stress for the last few months and it finally got to the gelled stage where it started to look like a real manuscript a few weeks ago.

Time to pitch. Out comes the proposal and down go the prayer knees.

What to do while you're waiting? It's essential to keep working - if not on polishing that manuscript (it will be a while before an interested editor asks to see the entire work), at least on other projects. Makes the time pass a little quicker (in theory).

How about magazine articles? Short term projects yield short term positive reinforcement (and keep those pay checks rolling in).

I like this quote from a highly respected literary agent in Grit for the Oyster: 250 Pearls of Wisdom for Aspiring Writers:

"One of the absolute best things you can do is to work on your craft of writng with shorter forms. Books are long - I know not very profound but true. Magazine articles and publication lead time is less, and they are much more achievable. There are too many writers who are stuck on submitting their long manuscript and never work on magazine articles. It's a shame."
~Terry Whalin, agent, Whalin Literary Agency

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


I'm excited but a little nervous about the changes going on at my house this month. After 30 years as an orthopedic occupational therapist, I'm retiring to devote more time to writing.

The possibilities are daunting: tackling more book projects, increased time to invest in marketing my current books, the abilitity to travel more to garner interesting book fodder, accepting a wider range of speaking engagements . . . or wallowing in abject poverty.

The latter is no doubt an underlying fear shared by everyone giving up that regular paycheck.

In my case, much prayer and straining to discern that divine still, small voice I depend on to guide my steps in this life preceded my decision. I just wish He'd write on a wall in flaming print or etch His will on a couple of stone tablets so I could be sure I'm hearing Him right.

So it's a leap of faith for me. One thing I plan to do more of is invest more time in spiritual growth. On that note, I'd like to leave you with an inspirational quote from Grit for the Oyster: 250 Pearls of Wisdom for Aspiring Writers:

"Never allow the rat race or relentless pace to take the color and energy out of your days. Who cares if we can construct a perfect sentence if there is no life or substance behind our words?"
~Susie Larson, author of Balance that Works When Life Doesn't

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Defining Inspiration

What is your writing inspiration?

Sources of inspiration vary from day to day and even piece to piece.

For my historical novel, The Distant Shore, my inspiration was the amazing true story of the life of Katherine Harrison, grandmother of a friend. Katherine (Emma-Lee Palmer in my book) penned a memoir at age 85 of an extraordinary year of her life when, in 1904 at age 6 (evolved into 9 in TDS because publishers won't touch a 6-year-old protagonist), she was mysteriously sent away from her family to live with an aunt who didn't want her on a remote, untamed Florida island.

The dark family secret she discovered there and the ensuing life-or-death climax just begged to be told as I read Katherine's account in her old lady scrawl on notebook paper.

Inspiration for Grit for the Oyster:250 Pearls of Wisdom for Aspiring Writers was the felt need for a combination devotional/how-to for those just starting out as writers, and even more experienced writers in need of a spiritual motivation boost. Suzanne Fisher conceived the idea and shared her vision with her three co-writers (including me) at a California writer's conference and the concept was gestated and birthed over the next 9 months.

The motivation behind my recent release, Mom NEEDS Chocolate, was to share with future generations of my family that Great Grandma Debbie was a living, breathing person who had a faith that was real. I want them to know, long after I'm gone, that it IS possible to live out your faith and that Papa God can truly be your strength through the muck of everyday craziness.

So what, then, is your inspiration for your recent writing project?

If you haven't defined it yet, give some thought today to pinpointing your inspiration. Why are you sinking countless hours into this project? What is the life force behind your words? Identify and embrace your inspiration. It may very well be the single driving force that propels you forward on the road to publication when inevitable potholes threaten to flatten your tires.

Happy writing and Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Story behind the Story

If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area--or if you know someone who does--join me at The Door in San Carlos, this Saturday, November 21st, from 2-4 pm! Five authors are going to be sharing their story about how they broke into publishing.

Just an fyi: The Door is the only Christian bookstore left on the SF peninsula. We need to support them!


I received an e-mail last week, out of the blue, from a young woman named Michal. She has created a blog called Volunteer Experiences. She wanted to interview me about my work with Guide Dogs for the Blind. We spoke on the phone the next day and this article is the result!

That girl does her homework! She had read other things I wrote, did some fact checking, and sent the post to me for final corrections. Impressive!

If you know of an interesting volunteer (maybe even you?), please pass that info on to Michal at her blog. She's always looking for inspiring stories.

There's just something about volunteerism that is inspiring.

By the way, I'm going to be signing books at the Dogs on the Square Event in Sonoma, California (home of Williams-Sonoma). This Thursday, 4:30 to 7:30 pm, a small part of a larger benefit for Guide Dogs for the Blind. Stop by and say hello if you're in the area!

The Value of Writers Retreats

The Florida Inspirational Writers Retreat last weekend was just marvelous - we had a nice turnout and everyone seemed to have a great learning experience in a fun atmosphere. Larry Leech, president of Orlando's Word Weavers, led a fantastic critique group for Friday's Night Owl session, and nearly a dozen attendees shared their newest projects with the group.

Saturday was jam packed with nuts and bolts of writing: queries and cover letters, grammar and punctuation, finding motivation, time management, the ins and outs of magazine and anthology writing, and learning how the book publication process works. We even did some clever writing exercises to flex our literary muscles.

Lots of talent out there!

If you haven't yet attended a writers conference or workshop, you really should consider it. There's no better way to hone your craft, learn valuable insider information, discover new marketing techniques, network, and laugh your socks off with others who share your interests.

Plan ahead to attend the FIWR next fall! I'll keep you posted with details on my website,

Part of the fun of being an experienced writer is the opportunity to guide others along the paths we've already taken - some fruitful, some, well, not so much. Helping new aspiring writers follow their calling while avoiding those not-so-wise common pitfalls is most rewarding.

I'm looking forward to meeting new friends and signing books at the Oasis Christian Store Grand Opening in Temple Terrace, FL this Saturday, 11/21/09, from 1-3 pm.

If you're in the area, please come join me for a hug and free gift! It's a great time to start your Christmas shopping with signed author copies of Mom NEEDS Chocolate and Everyday Hope for the special ladies on your list!


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Enjoyable Learning Experience

I'm excited about the Florida Inspirational Writers Retreat coming up this weekend (11/14/09) at Lithia, FL. I co-founded the FIWR last year with Ruth Ellinger (author of The Wildrose Series for Ambassador International) and have poured my heart into preparations for a memorable learning experience for the attendees.

Our excellent guest speakers this year include Eva Marie Everson, award-winning author of Shadow of Dreams, Sex, Lies and the Media and The Potluck Club Series. Eva's presentations will be "Walking & Falling: The Lessons That Changed This Writer" and "Turning Articles Into Books."

Larry Leech, journalist, author and president of Word Weavers, a highly successful writers group in the Orlando area, will speak about "Organizing and Planning" and "Developing Your Voice." (I almost changed Larry's whole focus with my first brochure draft - I listed his presentation as Developing Your Vice!)

Sue Miholer, an editor and author from the Northwest, will discuss "Self Editing 101" and "Inspirational Shorts."

We've included a Night Owl option this year, which includes dinner Friday (11/13/09) followed by networking, entertainment, writing exercises, a critique session for sharing new projects, led by no other than Larry Leech himself (the crown prince of critique groups), and optional sleepover in the lovely Cedarkirk Retreat Center.

I've almost finished preparing my own "Nuts and Bolts" workshop and am looking forward to spending a fun but educational weekend with fellow writers. Only one thing is missing.


Friday, November 6, 2009

I had a few random questions recently from aspiring writers that I'd like to touch on this week.

What if my book title is similar to an existing book? Can titles be copyrighted?

No, titles cannot be copyrighted, nor can story ideas or character names, but it's just not good form to imitate the work of other people too closely. Approach that great idea you read about from a different view or target a different audience. Personalize information and beware of trademark laws which protect "distinctive" work with highly recognizable phrases or character names. For example, you could write a book about the Civil War, but don't name your protagonist Scarlett and dress her in green velvet curtains.

How should I handle trademarked materials in my novel?

To quote from my chapter "Excavating Ethics" from Grit for the Oyster: 250 Pearls of Wisdom for Aspiring Writers, "We must take care to use organizations' logos or trademarks properly. For example, Xerox and Velcro are registered trademarks with specific usage guidelines and should be used only as capitalized adjectives to identify the company's products and services, never as verbs (i.e. "Please xerox that article," or "Why don't you velcro that shoe?"

"Terms like Google and Netflix are beginning to be used generically, but caution should be taken with these and other descriptive trademarked words like Frisbee, Cineplex and La-Z-Boy. "

Is "borrowing" excerpts from other writers considered plagiarism?

As long as you cite your reference (and don't exceed a paragraph or two at most), it is acceptable and even a complimentary to quote another writer. But borrowing without returning (documenting your source) is stealing and not only are you opening yourself up for possible lawsuits, you're lowering your bar of moral standards and damaging your reputation.

What about using material I found on the internet? Do copyright laws apply?

Amy Cook, Writer's Digest legal expert, states that "Original stories, poems and quotes are all copyrighted matieials, whether they exist on a piece of paper or a computer screen. If you don't get permission from the people who hold the rights, then you're stealing thteir material" (3/04 Writer's Digest p. 24).

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Giving Back

One of the ways many experienced writers "give back" is to offer a helping hand to beginning writers in some way: teach writing workshops, pen blurbs (endorsements) for books, even write how-to books on the subject.

Excellent books on the craft of writing include On Writing by Stephen King, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamont and Jerry Jenkins' Writing for the Soul. And of course, we mustn't forget Grit for the Oyster: 250 Pearls of Wisdom for Aspiring Writers, the foundation block of this blog.

When I started writing 7 years ago, I was so encouraged by several seasoned writers who bent over backwards to give me guidance that I vowed that if I was ever a posesser of knowledge that would help other writers, I'd gladly share. That vow has manifested itself in numerous opportunites over the years: teaching local workshops ("So You Want to be a Writer..."), leading workshops at statewide writer's conferences, co-writing Grit with some awesome gals, and one other big event. . .

I'm excited about the upcoming writers retreat I co-founded two years ago: The Florida Inspirational Writers Retreat. This year the FIWR will be held at the lovely and inspirational CedarKirk Retreat and Conference Center in Lithia, FL on 11/14/09 and some outstanding presenters will be featured: award-winning author and speaker Eva Marie Everson, editor and writer Sue Miholer and creative writing instructor, editor and author Larry Leech.

Along with my co-founder, award-winning author Ruth Ellinger (Ambassador Intn's The Wild Rose Series), I'll lead a track on "Writing Nuts and Bolts." Our Night Owl option will be a real hoot, including a sleep-over experience (on 11/13) complete with entertainment, networking opportunities and an indepth writing critique group led by successful auhors.

Did I mention a popcorn pajama party?

We'll be giving out tons of writing guidelines and info from book publishers, agents, magazines, and trade journals. And free books and door prizes galore.

Anything here pique your interest? Zip over to my website for registration information. Ask about our available scholarships.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Preparing for a Golden Anniversary

This is the fifth and final entry in a series: Manuscript to Book Metamorphosis. Scroll down to read the previous posts if you haven't already: Proposals form the Heart (9/23/09), After the Proposal: the Wedding (9/30/09), Signing in Blood (10/7/09), and Proof is in the Putting (10/14/09).

After finally receiving your long-awaited book in the mail (and weeping with joy for two solid days), it's time to put your marketing plan into place. That includes newsletters, e-mail blasts, sending out press releases, querying radio, TV, newspaper and any other media source you can think of for interviews, donating copies to libraries, sending out copies for reviews in high profile venues (especially online), enter contests, and securing book signings.

For the latter, I recommend seeking non-traditional settings such as coffee houses, tea rooms, gift shops, libraries, craft fairs, etc. so that you can pocket more proceeds from book sales without having to share huge cuts with hosting bookstores. If you really want that traditional bookstore signing high, Barnes & Noble stores usually offer two local author book signings per year (spring and fall), which you can sign up for in advance.

Unless a bookstore carries you books, it's difficult to book a signing (another reason to explore non-traditional venues for first books).

A major outlet for promoting and selling your books is to begin speaking to groups interested in your genre, i.e. church women's groups for inspirational self-help books. Focus on presentations that will help them in some way - you will be more in demand if you meet a felt need. Developing and dispensing a professional-quality brochure about your presentation options is a very good idea. Offer a video sample of you speaking on your website for easy reference for those considering your services. Apply for national speakers bureaus for more extensive exposure.

If you haven't already, I recommend having eye-catching bookmarks printed as your best and cheapest means of advertising. You can get good quality and prices online from companies such as Printrunner (shop around) - don't be chinchy on these; they speak volumes to prospective readers. I include the cover of my newest book on one full-color side and on the back, list my other books, website (from which they can contact me), and a few brief endorsements if there's room.

Many authors create (or pay someone else to create) book trailers to post on YouTube and other online sites. Trading links and blog interviews with other authors is a fine idea so that your book gets as much exposure as possible. Mention the title, positive reviews and blog interviews as often as possible in Twitter, Facebook, and your blog.

New ideas for your next book should already be bouncing around in your head; don't let the grass grow under your feet. Capitalize on the buzz surrounding your book to create interest in the next book. It's all about the future!

Now you're on your way to a long and fulfilling union with the publishing industry!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

New Yorker's Take on Book Promotion

My friend, Jeannette, passed this "New Yorker" magazine spoof on book promotion to me. Writers will find this article particularly amusing!

Hi, Ellis—

Let me introduce myself. My name is Gineen Klein, and I’ve been brought on as an intern to replace the promotion department here at Propensity Books. First, let me say that I absolutely love “Clancy the Doofus Beagle: A Love Story” and have some excellent ideas for promotion.

To start: Do you blog? If not, get in touch with Kris and Christopher from our online department, although at this point I think only Christopher is left. I’ll be out of the office from tomorrow until Monday, but when I get back I’ll ask him if he spoke to you. We use CopyBuoy via Hoster Broaster, because it streams really easily into a Plaxo/LinkedIn yak-fest meld. When you register, click “Endless,” and under “Contacts” just list everyone you’ve ever met. It would be great if you could post at least six hundred words every day until further notice.

If you already have a blog, make sure you spray-feed your URL in niblets open-face to the skein. We like Reddit bites (they’re better than Delicious), because they max out the wiki snarls of RSS feeds, which means less jamming at the Google scaffold. Then just Digg your uploads in a viral spiral to your social networks via an FB/MS interlink torrent. You may have gotten the blast e-mail from Jason Zepp, your acquiring editor, saying that people who do this sort of thing will go to Hell, but just ignore it.

The vi-spi is cross-platform, but don’t worry if you think you’re not on Facebook, because you actually are. Jason enrolled you when you signed the contract last year, or at least he was supposed to, and he told Sarah Williams he did before he had to retire and Sarah left for nursing school. You currently have 421 Friends, 17 Pending Requests, 8 Pokes, 5 Winks, and 3 Proposals of “Marriage.”

I’ve attached a list of celebrities we think would be great to blurb your book, so find out their numbers and call them up. Be sure to do all this by Monday, because Sales Conference starts Tuesday. We come back Friday and then immediately on Saturday (!) all of editorial (Janet, plus probably Michelle, her assistant) and I go to the Frankfurt Book Fair for a week. During that time the office will be closed, although to help cover the costs of the Germany trip it will actually be sublet to the John Lindsay Elementary School P.T.A. as a rehearsal space for this year’s fund-raiser production of “The Music Man.” I’m told that this was one of the things that Jason didn’t understand and which contributed to his “condition.”

Once we get back from Frankfurt, we’d like to see you on morning talk shows like the “Today” show and “The View,” so please get yourself booked on them and keep us “in the loop.” If I’m not here—which I won’t be, since after the book fair I go on vacation for two weeks—just tell Jenni, my assistant, when she gets back from jury duty.

Remember in your blog to tabskim your readers’ comments. You can use Twitter, Chitt-chaTT, or Nit-Pickr. When you reply to comments, try to post at least one photo per hour of you doing everyday tasks around the house, such as answering comments and posting photos. Please make sure they’re pre-scorched. Let me know, when I get back from Retreat a week after my vacation, if self-surging is a problem.

As re: personal appearances, to cut down on travel expenses we’re trying something new this season called RAP, or Readings by Author by Proxy. We’re asking authors in certain key areas of the country to stay “close to home” and give readings at local bookstores of both their own books and a few of our other new releases. We can send you a list of bookstores in your area once you fill out the My Local Bookstores list on your Author’s Questionnaire. You’ll be reading not only from your book but from “Code Blue Stat,” a new medical thriller we’re really excited about, and “Fifty Great Pan Sauces,” a cool new cookbook. Their authors, Dr. Steven Rosenthal and Gail Freenye, will stay in Chicago and Boston, respectively, and read from each other’s book and yours. This idea, apparently, is what made Jason take his clothes off and lock himself in a supply closet.

F.Y.I., we’ve migrated all the photos out of your book and onto the Web page. It makes the hard-copy version cheaper to produce (fewer pages; no photos) and the e-text more “Kindle-friendly.” Sometime next week, call Christopher over an ISDN line and say your name, as distinctly as possible, at least two hundred times, so we can dub it as an AudioAutograph onto the podcast edition. (You may already have done this for a previous book, but somehow Jason managed to delete all the audio files before Security escorted him from the building.)

Don’t hesitate to try to contact me if you have any questions. I sort of have my hands full, promoting twenty-three new releases this fall, but I’m really excited about working on your book, and I look forward to collaborating with you to make “A History of Moorish Architecture, 1200-1492” the biggest success it can be.

Best regards,

Gineen Klein ♦

Source: The New Yorker

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Proof is in the Putting

This is the fourth in a series: Manuscript to Book Metamorphosis. Scroll down to read the previous posts if you haven't already: Proposals form the Heart (9/23/09), After the Proposal: the Wedding (9/30/09), and Signing in Blood (10/7/09).

During the 4-12 months of editing and rewrites, your manuscript will be marinating in the minds of your publisher's marketing and editorial teams. They will decide whether to change your title for better marketing (don't be shocked - it often happens!), and cook up some concepts for cover design. You'll be included in the idea-bouncing process, but understand that the final decisions are theirs, not yours. Most publishers are gracious and listen intently to what you have to say, but when you signed that contract, you relinquished final say to their years of expertise.

You will likely be asked to seek endorsements for your book (the biggest names possible in your genre). Agents can be very helpful in obtaining these blurbs - they have connections you don't and a host of other clients who would be delighted to get the free publicity. These will be included inside or on the front or back cover of your book, again your publisher's decision.

Early on, the sales team will receive sample chapters and probably your proposal as well so they have a good feel for the type of book they'll be pitching. They prepare a Sales Sheet for their sales force to begin promoting your book to industry buyers. They'll shift into fast gear several months before the release date.

Back to putting the proof to bed. When you and your content editor are finishing polishing your manuscript to the best of your ability, it proceeds to a copy editor, who corrects grammar, typos, footnotes, quote permissions and punctuation. A completed copy will be sent to you for your input.

After final proofing, it's sent to typesetting, where the layout is finalized. A completed "galley" is sent to you, where you peruse every jot and tittle for one last time. This is your last chance to catch any slippery errors that might have slid by.

Then HOORAY - on to the printer!

Stay tuned next week for the final installment of this series: Planning for a Golden Anniversary

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Winner of the Book Bomb and other news...

Congrats to the winner of Monday's "Amish Peace" Book Bomb! Carol G.

And also to the two winners of the Amish cookbook, Elaine J. and Janice P. I'll send you an e-mail for your addy and get those right out to you.

And thank you to everyone who participated in the Bomb! I've so grateful to each and everyone one of you who are helping to spread the word about "Amish Peace." There are 18 customer reviews up on Amazon...all five star! And I promise...they're not from my mother.

So I just finished two radio interviews and faced a worst-case scenario: a coughing fit. Can you imagine something more blood-pressure spiking than having a coughing fit on live radio? (Maybe a sneeze attack?) There weren't any commercial breaks so I had no easy opportunity to gulp some water or cough to my heart's content.

To top that off, there was an echo on my end, too, so I heard my voice twice.

I plowed ahead and didn't let myself over-focus on the distractions.

In some ways, that's been one of the biggest lessons I've learned in being an author/dealing with promotion. It's getting comfortable with imperfection. Not that I've ever been much of a perfectionist (not a successful one, anyway), but when you're in a public sort of hope you can give off the impression of having it all together.

I so don't.

My favorite memory is walking into a speaking event and having a good friend of mine, Peggy, grab a velcro curler that was stuck to the back of my blazer. "Here," she said quietly, handing me the curler. Such a kind act forever endeared me to her.

After all, it's hard to look hip in curlers.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Signing in Blood

This entry is third in a series called Manuscript to Book Metamorphosis (be sure to scroll down and read the previous two posts if you haven't already: Proposals from the Heart and After the Proposal, Marriage).

So you've finally made it to that over-the-rainbow place where your book dream is actually coming true; your manuscript has been accepted by a publisher! Yay! (pause for cheers here)

Believe it or not, the real work is just beginning!

First you or your agent (if you're fortunate enough to have one) will receive a contract which should be reviewed with a good, strong magnifying glass. Included will be such items as your royalty (ranges from 6% to 16% for first books) and your advance.

Contrary to popular belief, an advance is not free money; it's exactly what it says it is - an advance of the royalties the publisher expects you to make in book sales during the first 6 months. This choice morsel (although it's never as juicy as you hope it will be) is simply to allow you to eat during the 1-2 years before you book actually hits bookstores (one of mine took nearly 3 years). You won't receive further royalties until you "earn out" your advance. If by chance you don't earn out your advance, some publishers require the author to pay back the difference (check your contract for fine print).

Many authors (including myself) opt for a relatively small advance, which they usually sink right back into book promotion/marketing, to avoid the acid burn of worrying about earning out the advance. The advance is usually paid in halves; half upon signing the contract and the other half when they receive the completed manuscript.

Other items included in the contract are the due date and length of the manuscript, release date,
rights (electronic, domestic and foreign), revision requirements, author copies (you receive complimentary copies, usually anywhere from 10 to 50; some negotiate for more), and a myriad of other details that your agent should discuss with you. Make sure you understand everything.

Many points are negotiable and this process can last several days to several weeks. Remember, it's like buying a car - the first offer will likely be low and negotiating is actually expected. After ping-ponging a few times until points are agreed upon, the final contract is drawn up by the publisher, signed by both parties, and a copy is returned to you. The advance check will follow within a matter of weeks.

You are then put in touch with your assigned editor and begin to hash out your editing schedule and rewrites. You will be given a written and verbal synopsis of the process and expectations and then you buckle your seat belt and hit the gas on revising your manuscript.

Your editor will be hands-on at this point and will become intimately involved in your work. This will chafe at times. Sort of like a boody rash. You may differ in opinions, but choose your battles. Bear in mind he/she has been in the biz longer than you have and likely has a broader perspective of what sells and what doesn't (that means success for you in the long run).

A measure of author angst is usually involved at this stage as you hold your breath to see how your beautiful "baby" will be dissected. Sometimes an arm is detached, a foot is grafted onto a tummy, or the head is turned around backwards. But you must believe that the result will be better and even stronger than before.

This back-and-forth process between you and your editor will continue until your manuscript is spit-shined and polished to a blinding gleam. Just like your pearly whites as you smile at the incredible almost-finished product.

Stay tuned next week for the fourth stage: Proof is in the Putting

Monday, October 5, 2009

Love Books? Amish or Otherwise?

Are you a book lover? If so, today might be a lucky day for you!

Today, October 5th, is the "book bomb" day for Amish Peace: Simple Wisdom for a Complicated World. Revell Publishers is encouraging you to buy a copy of Amish Peace at your local bookstore or on-line. Then, just shoot off an e-mail where you bought it and your name will be entered into a drawing for a basket of books of Revell authors!

A sweet prize!

And to make it even sweeter, I am giving away two Amish (genuine!) cookbooks...the proceeds of which are donated to the victims of the Nickel Mines Schoolhouse shooting.

Above is a picture of the site of that very schoolhouse, which was razed ten days after the shooting (three years ago--October 2, 2006). I was fortunate enough (blessed is a better word!) to meet some of the families affected by the event.
Graciously, they gave me permission to share their stories in Amish Peace. A few of the families put together this cookbook. Part of the healing, I think.

And it is a wonderful cookbook! I use it often! The one that makes me smile is called "Boyfriend Impresser Bars." (Isn't that a breaking-the-stereotype title for an Amish cookie?! I teased the young Amish woman from whom I bought this cookbook and she turned a shade of plum!)

So is the day! Go a copy or two of Amish Peace. Then e-mail me: or and your name will be put in a hat for the drawing.

Ahem. I mean, a bonnet.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Book Bomb!

Been wondering what a book bomb is?

Sounds a little scary, in this day and age of high security alert on just about...everything!

But it's not! This book bomb is entirely harmless. Downright beneficial!

On Monday, October 5th, Revell Publishers is encouraging everyone so inclined to buy a copy of Amish Peace , send me or my publicist, Amy Lathrop, an e-mail telling us where you bought it...and you'll be entered in a drawing to win a gigantic basket of books from Revell. Not my book...other great Revell authors' books!

Hope you'll consider it! Amish Peace makes a perfect Christmas gift for your neighbors, your great Aunt Ethel, your kids' teachers, your dog catcher, mail catch my drift.

Amish Peace has a gentle Christian message without whacking anybody on the back of the head with a two-by-four. It can be read at many levels. For those who have an interest in the Amish culture. Or...for the deeper message...of incorporating principles of simplicity and forgiveness and God's sovereignty in your life. A lot of folks are using it for small group study or personal devotions.

One of my Revell editors gave a copy to her pastor...and he quoted it in the Sunday sermon!

So if you're thinking about buying it...Monday's the day! And shoot me or Amy an e-mail to let us know, so we can enter your name in Revell's drawing! or

And thank you!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

This Promotion Gig

As I update my blog today, I'm in between two radio interviews. One was at 5:30...AM! BEFORE COFFEE. Which meant I woke up every few hours to make sure I hadn't overslept. And I had very, very weird dreams. Like my entire extended family was in the kitchen with me during the interview...just staring at me.

Finally, at 5:15 AM, I got up, started the coffee pot... and looked through my notes to make sure my brain and mouth were synchronized.

It was for a live commuter radio show in Missouri...and I really enjoyed it! The two hosts were genuinely interested in the takeaway value of the Amish life.

One thing I'm finding with these radio interviews, no matter how well you prepare, the host has his/her own ideas of what he/she likes to talk about. Usually, it's something you're completely unprepared for. Talk about trying to be fast on your feet! And remember...I'm a writer! I like to edit myself!

No such luck with live radio. Alas.

In about thirty minutes will be the next interview, so I'm letting the puppy try to get out all of her energy so she won't get hurt feelings when she's popped back in her crate.

Promoting books is half the life of a published author. It takes quite a bit of energy...especially when you're not "smoooooooth" at it. Like me. I have a friend who is a remarkable author--he had a blockbuster best seller! But he disliked promotion so much that he gave up the writing side and is now an editor at a large publishing house.

I'm finding that I do like this promotion gig, though I don't sleep well before events, and I never feel as if I hit any speaking event out of the ball park. But I respect that an author is partnering with the publisher. Book promotion is a skill set we writers need.

And when your publisher does something like mine did for me this week...well, I'd be willing to take a speaking engagement on the moon! (Even though I'm horribly claustrophic and would be worried about how we going to get this flying tin can back to earth for 99.9% of the trip to outer space.)

Drum roll...please...

I found out on Monday that The Choice, my first novel with Revell, has been chosen as a Main Selection for Crossings.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

After the Proposal: the Wedding

So what happens to your book proposal after you've poured your blood, sweat and fears into it? (Be sure to read my previous post so you're ready for this part).

Submission: If you have an agent (difficult to interest one with a first book, but if it's good enough, it's possible), you submit it to him (in my case, Greg Johnson of WordServe Literary Agency) and he in turn, tweaks it to his high standards and then submits it to an editor at a publishing house. Actually, he sends it to more than one. If you don't have an agent, you submit the proposal yourself after you've received a positive response to your query (one-page pitch letter).

Literary Limbo-land: You wait. Your proposal is piled with the other submissions and sometime within the next six months (a week or two if you're lucky), the editor sneaks a peek at it. If interest is piqued, she will likely read it thoroughly and discuss it with the editorial team at an "acq ed" meeting (acquisitions editorial).

They will be looking at all aspects of your proposal: your writing skills, idea, timeliness of topic, author platform, marketability, voice. If your proposal falls flat at any point along this continuum, a rejection letter will find it's way to your in-box or mailbox.

Hope on the Horizon: If your submission makes it past the acq ed board, you can start to breathe again, but don't bet the farm yet. It is passed on to the Pub Committee, where many projects are nixed. The Pub Committee is made up of the big cheeses: the publisher, editorial director, marketing director, sales director, and sometimes even the CFO. The question now is not just whether the book is good (it wouldn't have made it this far if it wasn't), but will it sell? Is it a good fit with the publishing company? Is it too much like any other projects already in the works? (This last question killed at least one of my books.)

This is where your book is studied under a microscope. The market will be analyzed and numbers crunched: first-year sales projections, production costs, royalty rates, etc. You are now an objective product that must be processed.

The Engagement Ring: If your book is still alive and well at this stage, a contract offer will be forthcoming via your agent (if you have one). If it doesn't make this final cut, your "pass" letter will arrive (they don't like to call them rejection letters but you and I know that's what it feels like). You are free to try another publishing house, and I highly recommend that you do so.

But if the glitter of a diamond announces an engagement, you're to be congratulated!

Stay tuned next week for the next exciting steps to publication . . .

*Special thanks to Rachelle Gardner, WordServe Literary Agent for her input; if you don't already get her excellent newsletter, you should sign up!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Proposals from the Heart

Had any good proposals lately?

Not marriage, silly. Book proposals, of course.

Since my mind has been totally absorbed lately with preparing the proposal for my new book, I thought I'd review the contents of a good proposal with you. You'll probably end up with 10-20 pages (be sure to number them and include your name/title at the top of each page), depending on the length of your sample chapters. Before submitting (of course you've already sent a one-page query at this point and have received the green light to send the proposal) , make sure you study the guidelines of each agent/publisher you're targeting. You may need to tailor your proposals separately if there's more than one.

One sentence synopsis: difficult as it is, you need to be able to boil the gist of your book down to one sentence. This nutshell description will come in handy for the rest of your life when answering the on-the-run question, "So what's your book about?" It's basically a teaser designed to give the general topic but mostly entice the listener to want more. Example from my novel, The Distant Shore: Because love is never too lost or too late.

One paragraph synopsis: These carefully crafted 2-3 sentences are slightly more expansive but need to be full of pull-the-reader-in power wordage without appearing forced. This is the description of your book which may very likely be used for publicity purposes.

Overview: 4-5 paragraphs that read like back cover copy, because that's basically what it is. Study the back covers of your favorite authors to see how they artfully blend description with can't-wait-to-dig-in enticing verbiage so that you simply must head to the check-out with this one.

Audiences: who is your target audience? Age, gender, special interests, affinity groups. Why will they buy your book? What will your book do for them? Don't ever say: Everyone everywhere will love my book. Might as well stamp AMATEUR on your forehead. Pin down a specific category: young adult, middle grade, women 18-35, empty-nesters, etc.

Book Mission: Why is it essential for your book to be out there? What need will your reader feel that your book quenches? You can't just say "entertainment" here - there should be a felt need that drives the reader to buy your book, e.g. for my book Mom Needs Chocolate, the mission was to help women make it through the motherhood tunnel with their faith not only intact, but stronger than it was before.

Format: page count, word count, bookstore category, book format (hard cover vs. paper), current status (completed, half finished, etc), and special features (photos available, side bar quotes, anything extra you can offer as options are a plus).

Author bio: not too long, but do list your most impressive writing-related accomplishments. DON'T list your curling or hotdog-eating awards unless that's what the book's about.

Publishing history: you may not have much to list here yet but the pub will want to know.

Marketing Strategy: How do you intend to help get the book out? What's your platform? (If you're not sure what this means, scroll back to previous posts where we've discussed platform.) Do you blog? Have you a website? Media contacts? Willing to travel for book promotion?

Potential Endorsers: Not a wish list of people with whom you have no contact, but honest-to-goodness potential names who will likely give you a decent cover blurb (as highly recognizable as you can get in the genre or interest groups for your book). You may be surprised how many kind people will help you out if you just ask. Always good to have 2-3 nailed down and included in the proposal (so get on the phone and e-mail and MAKE some contacts). These don't have to be long or detailed - look at book covers; notice effective one-sentence blurbs that grab your attention.

Competitors: List 3-4 books generally similar to yours. How is yours the same as this bestseller but at the same time, unique and different than all the other books in its genre? Give them a reason for taking a chance on your book.

Book Outline: Self-explanatory

Sample Chapters: Follow the guidelines put forth by the agent/publisher to whom you are pitching. Some require 3 chapters, some more. Include an introduction if you have one.

Now pump it up and get going!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Had a seven a.m. radio interview this morning about Amish Peace and had to get up extra early to feed the dogs and get ready.

Fifteen minutes before...shoo my family out the door early. They think they're quiet but they're oh so NOT.

Ten minutes before 7am...lay out all of my paperwork on the kitchen counter and try to refresh my faulty memory. Note on the front door not to ring the bell. Cancel call waiting.

Five minutes before 7am...dogs put in crate so they don't bark. Or, more likely, so the puppy doesn't do something--give me one of her looks, for example--that makes me start to crack up. Totally inappropriate.

One minute before 7am...wait for the phone to ring. Say a prayer. Look at the phone again. Palms start to sweat.

And just when you think that the station has forgotten all about you...the phone rings! And the interview is off and rolling.

Funny thing is that the interviews really are fun. The hosts are great communicators--warm and friendly and talkative and curious. Probably why they're in that field in the first place.

Still, I wish I could speak the way I write. You know, after edits.

As prepared as I try to be, questions always come out of left field and my mind is scrambling to sound mildly intelligent. It's so frustrating to know you're rambling and don't know how to wrap this unwieldly topic up!

But I was much less nervous than the last one. And next week, I have two interviews scheduled, starting at 5:30 am for the East Coast commuters.

So I'll keep working on this interview gig! After all, practice makes perfect.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Writer's Journey Continued

Yesterday I interviewed two dear ladies for my new book about coping with stress. Each had endured incredible amounts of stress in her life and had grown stronger in her faith because of it.

The first was Tonya, a college-educated mother of eleven, including one severely handicapped son who requires 24/7 nursing care. Tonya and her husband, who works from a home office as an electric company project manager, built a two-story, 3,000-sq. ft, 8-bedroom home on top of a hill overlooking 12 acres of rolling pastureland dotted with their growing herd of cattle and sheep.

Each of the seven homeschooled children still at home has his (all are boys except one) own list of daily chores to keep the family running smoothly. The 13-year-old son aspires to be a chef, so his include cooking and kitchen duty. The younger boys feed the two family dogs while the older ones care for the farm animals. Laundry, house-cleaning and yard duties are divided among each family member.

I was amazed at how well the children played together and the respect they demonstrated toward each other and their parents. "Yes m'am" and "No sir" was normal fare and more than once I overheard the older children gently guide the younger ones to "wait your turn to talk; let him finish, now" when the entire group clamored to answer my questions about growing up in such a large family. The children were bright-eyed and well spoken, often using vocabulary unexpected for their ages during their chatter.

One of Tonya's techniques for maintaining sanity is to awaken at 6 a.m. for couple time with her husband. They start each day with a half-hour devotion and prayer time, strengthening both their relationships with the Lord and each other before the kids pour forth from their bedrooms (they are required to remain upstairs in their rooms until 7 a.m. when breakfast is prepared).

The children have mandatory outside play time for one hour in the morning and one hour in the afternoon, during which they create games and competitions in their sprawling backyard. Imaginative and creative games are their passion, and I was treated to a tour of the most incredibly detailed lego structures I've ever witnessed.

Nightly family devotions include Bible readings, discussion of the passage chosen, prayer, and sometimes Bible-related videos. Now I just hope I have the writing skills to do justice to this truly inspiring family!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

My Kitchen During Radio Interviews

Last week, I had two back-to-back radio interviews about Amish Peace. One live, one for podcast. This is what my kitchen counter looked like during those interviews:

The radio hosts are sent a Q&A sheet, plus bio info, plus a copy of the book for the interview. Being slightly neurotic, I wrote out answers to all of those questions, plus every other possible question under the sun, plus looked for stats and facts. Just in case they asked.

One host went right down the Q&A list. The other one made up his own Q's. Kind of odd ones, like "Do the Amish bathe?"


The first minute or so of the interview is painful--getting used to the host's style, awkward pauses, discovering with horror that blocking Call Waiting didn't work (Grrr! I hate that blocking thing! Sometimes it works, mostly it doesn't!). But once the interview gets underway, a rhythm gets rolling and it's really kind of fun.

Sort of.

When it's all over...I do the happy dance! And then feel like a popped balloon for the rest of the day.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Audio book now available

Beginning work on a new book is such an adrenaline rush. And then when the river ceases to surge, the realization of all the work before you slams you upside the head. A new emotion raises its fretful head. It's called anxiety.

Ironically, the new book creating such frazzled feelings is about dealing with stress. Maybe I'll be able to write a few new chapters based on the experience of actually writing the book. Kind of like singing a song about singing a song.

Anyway, the good news this week is the digital completion of my inspirational historical novel, The Distant Shore. A local actress and producer delivered an outstanding narration, bringing the characters to life with appropriate accents and inflections.

It's a wonderfully artistic rendition of the true story of young Emma-Lee Palmer, mysteriously banished from her family to an island in 1905. While there, she discovers a dark family secret and comes face to face with her worst fears in a life-or-death showdown of faith.

I'm so thrilled that The Distant Shore is now available on CD or MP3 (through my website and hope to make the sequel, Billowing Sails, available soon.

There's just something about hearing your story read aloud that brings chill bumps to your arms and a lump to your throat.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Finkelstein and Jesus

This story was sent to me by my friend Linda:

Jesus was wandering around Jerusalem when he decided that he really needed a new robe.

After looking around for a while, he saw a sign for Finkelstein, the Tailor..

So, he went in and made the necessary arrangements to have Finkelstein prepare a new robe for him.. A few days later, when the robe was finished, Jesus tried it on -- and it was a perfect fit!

He asked how much he owed.

Finkelstein brushed him off: "No, no, no, for the Son of God there's no charge!

However, may I ask for a small favor. Whenever you give a sermon, perhaps you could just mention that your nice new robe was made by Finkelstein, the Tailor?"

Jesus readily agreed and as promised, extolled the virtues of his Finkelstein robe whenever he spoke to the masses.

A few months later, while Jesus was again walking through Jerusalem , he happened to walk past Finkelstein's shop and noted a huge line of people waiting for Finkelstein's robes.

He pushed his way through the crowd to speak to him and as soon as Finkelstein spotted him he said: "Jesus, Jesus, look what you've done for my business!

Would you consider a partnership?"

"Certainly," replied Jesus.

"Jesus & Finkelstein it is."

"Oh, no, no," said Finkelstein.

"Finkelstein & Jesus. After all, I am the craftsman."

The two of them debated this for some time.

Their discussion was long and spirited, but ultimately fruitful -- and they finally came up with a mutually acceptable compromise.. A few days later, the new sign went up over Finkelstein's shop:

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

This and That

I'm so excited for Suzanne with her release of Amish Peace - it's a wonderful, seep-beneath-your-skin-and-change-you kind of book. And I mean change from the inside out. The only real kind.

Lots of people are seeking peace in our crazy, mixed-up world today. Just today my agent and I agreed on the theme for my next book should be coping with stress. It seems like everyone everywhere is trying to deal with an underlying tension, a stress not visible, but there nonetheless.

Perhaps it's the economy, the loss of jobs, the increase of fear and uncertainty about things we felt so positive about just last year. It's a strange time, all right.

I'm busy gearing up for the Florida Inspirational Writers Retreat coming up November 14. I co-founded this great little one-day writing retreat and we had wonderful feedback from last year's retreat - the debut year. We're hoping for double the participation this year and are planning very exciting guest speakers - maybe we can coerce Suzanne to come to Florida to be our keynote speaker next year!

If you'd like more into on the FIWR, please visit my website,

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Happy Release Day!

Amish Peace: Simple Wisdom for a Complicated World is officially released today!

Off to a running start, if I do say so myself! get a chance to read it...I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. This book changed me.

For example, yesterday I was having a very non-Amish Peace-like day. Something important I was working on fell apart and fizzled to a death...and I was distracted and bothered all afternoon.

More than a little ironic on the release-eve of my book about peace!

So I took a long walk and tried to puzzle out why I felt so distressed. Two important questions came to mind:

Where was my focus? (On myself...not on God)

What was the simpler solution?

Answering those questions actually helped me to let go of the frustration I'd been feeling. That's the kind of "takeaway value" in the book, even for the one who wrote it!

Then I woke up this morning to an e-mail with disappointing news about another project. This time, though, I shook it off.

Release date or no release date, life just keeps truckin' on. Know what I mean?

Mini-Articles for Media

This article was written by bestselling author Tricia Goyer.

The more I try to market my books, the more I understand that success comes when I make it EASY for the media. With the help of my publisher, I send interview questions, photos, blurbs about the book, endorsements ... anything that will make it easy for them to promote me.

Recently, I also learned the value of writing short articles to mail out as press releases. When writing them consider: 1. length (short), 2. advice (helpful), and 3. material (timely). Here's a sample of one I sent for Valentine's Day!

Five unique marriage challenges faced by Gen Xers and how to tackle them! 1. Gen Xers saw more divorces than successful marriages. The divorce rate doubled between 1965-1977 and Gen Xers were the victims. 40% of us spent time in a single-family home before age 16. We grew up in families with step-moms and half-siblings and living every other weekend with a different parent and faced the loneliness and alienation of our splintered families. As married adults, Gen Xers can meet their spouse’s need by speaking encouraging words, which are like gold stars to a Gen Xer’s heart … and by never using the D-word. As author Madeleine L’Engle once said, “There are a lot of marriages today that break up just at the point where they could mature and deepen.”

2. Without role models, many GenXers turned to music, movies and television for examples of healthy relationships. Now, we often we model our relationships after television sitcoms. We are good at quick comebacks and sassy remarks, without taking time to consider the other person’s heart. We also want our problems wrapped up in thirty minutes or less! Instead, Gen Xers need to understand that unrealistic expectations can hurt our relationships. We also need to treat out spouses with honor and respect, even when we don’t feel like they deserve it.

3. Our teen relationships were intense and often included sexuality, leading to intense breakups and the resulting baggage. By the time many GenXers walked down the isle, they’d experienced several “pretend-marriages.” Spouses can break free from these bonds when we realize the truth about love, the truth about emotions, and the truth about intimacy. It’s knowing that what we had in the past wasn’t love … and emotions don’t rule. True intimacy is choosing to share our hearts and our struggles with the one we’re committed to for life.

4. Gen Xers were starved for quality time, so they appreciate balance. Doing too much stresses us out. The first thing Gen Xers need to do is realize the impact of our faced-pace lives, and then make plans for peace. It’s cutting out things that won’t matter ten years from now and focusing on the things that will.

5. Gen Xers were labeled the “slackers” and the “grunge” generation. The generations before didn’t think we’d amount to much. Because of this, Gen Xers strive hard to prove themselves. We aren’t content just “living life,” we want to reach our full potential. Spouses can encourage each other to follow their heart dreams. This starts with asking your spouse out his/her dreams, then offering encouragement and support! Contributed by Tricia Goyer, author of Generation NeXt Marriage

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The good, the bad, and the insane.

It was a week of near disasters and glorious victories. Pits and peaks Mountain tops and sink holes. Typical writers' terrain.

Pit: After driving 4 hours to speak to a writer's group, I noticed the sky was getting ominously dark. Three miles from the venue, the torrents broke loose. With nowhere to park near the appointed building, I was forced to run through the downpour with my dinner plate-sized umbrella (which the wind turned inside out almost immediately) in my dry clean only suit and heels.

The wide expanse of parking lot? Well, to quote a famous title, a river ran through it.

As I traversed the first ankle-deep puddle, I watched helplessly as my box of books perched atop the wheeled suitcase carrying my presentation materials tipped - in slow motion - and descended to the wet earth. My books, my precious slaved-over, paid-for books that could not be returned, scattered far and wide as the deluge did it's best to ruin as many as possible.

At least my tears blended in with the rain and tendrils of hair dripping down my face.

Only 5 people braved the elements to attend.

Peak: Two days later, my hometown Tea Tasting/Book Signing at a lovely Tea Room was a smashing success. sunny skies, gorgeous surroundings, lots of old friends to hug, a delicious lunch, and more than 80 books sold.

Pit: My long anticipated first nationally broadcast interview on NBC was preempted by a dog food commercial. After notifying hundreds of local fans to tune in or tape the Daytime show on our local affiliate, WFLA, Spouse and I watched with bated breath for the entire hour and . . . no Mom Needs Chocolate interview. So deflating.

Frantic calls to my publicist followed, then her queries to the show's producer. What happened?

It turns out the segment containing my spot was sold to an advertiser (money, of course, trumps everything else) locally, so the interview aired all over the rest of the country, just not on our Tampa affiliate. Most embarrassing for me and difficult to explain to the fine folks who came home from work, flipped on the recorded show, and watched the whole hour expecting to see me. I was bummed all day.

Peak: A wonderful hour-long radio interview with WMMK Talk Radio. Yay! Redemption!

Pit: My agent isn't crazy about the title or content of the new book I've been slaving over.

Peak: But he wants it anyway. By the end of the week. Yikes!

So there you have it - a typical week in the life of a writer. The good, the bad, and the insane.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Nailing a Radio Interview

These great tips are from bestselling author Tricia Goyer.

Radio interviews are fun. The interviewer calls your home and you get to chat about your book. And then lots of people hear about it and go buy it. How easy it that?!

For radio interviews:
Do ... put it on your calendar.
Do ... check your calendar the night before, in case it's an early interview. (I've almost missed a 6:00 a.m. interview once!)

Do ... get the dogs out of the room.
Do ... get the kids out of the room.
Do ... get them both far enough away so their complaints will not be heard by the radio interviewer.

Do ... turn off call waiting on your phone.
Do ... confiscate every other phone in the house.
Do ... turn off your cell phone.

Do ... call the emergency number included with your confirmation IF you do not hear from them within 1-2 minutes of the scheduled time ... especially if it is LIVE. Sometimes they have the wrong number. Or maybe your home phone line is dead. (Something that happened this week that I didn't realize it until I called the station on my cell to check on why they hadn't called.)

Do not ... check your email at the same time.
Do not ... have any other distractions except the voice on the phone.
Do ... tell them if you cannot hear them clearly.
Do ... have the volume turned up on your phone, because sometimes they are hard to hear.

Do ... have your favorite statistics (for non-fiction) printed up and sitting next to you.
Do ... have a copy of your book with you. (So when they say, "On page 93 ...)

Do not ... ask your assistant to call in for a call in show ... unless she is already prepared with a REALLY good question :-)

Do ... come up of "key phrases" ahead of time. Things you want to get across.
Do ... have a copy of your publishers' suggested interview questions and know how to respond.
Do ... have short stories or illustrations that can sum up the principles you want to share for your non-fiction.
Do ... have the same stories ready for your fiction. Interviewers love them.

Do ... have a smile on your face.
Do ... laugh and enjoy yourself. You'll come across well.

Do ... listen to your interview when you're done (if possible) and see what worked and what didn't.
Do ... have a professional critique your interview, if possible.
Do ... listen to their suggestions for improvement.

Do ... send a thank you card to the station when you are done.
Do ... add them to your contact list, and make a note of what type of interviewer they were.

Do not say ... "in my book" 50 times. Let them rave about you.
Do ... be ready for any question. And if you don't know that answer either 1) do your best or 2) say "I wish I knew the answer for that, but what I can say is ..."

Do not ... worry about this before your book is published, just enjoy the writing ... which is what writing is all about!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Writer's Journey Continued

Marketing. A single word that encompasses a boatload of time, energy, and yes, expense.

In these days of rampant self-publishing, I'm amazed at the number of new authors I meet who truly believe the hard work is over once the manuscript is bundled off to the printer and now it's Easy Street. Sit back and watch the sales roll in.

Many writers enter Publishing World without a clue to the vast occupation that awaits them once their book sees the light of print: phone calls, e-mails, creating brochures and flyers, business cards, establishing and maintaining a web site, blogs, visiting book stores, pitching to reviewers and media to name a few tasks.

That is, of course, if you plan to sell more than the average 75 copies self-published books chalk up.

The key to a successful book launch is to do your homework. Talk to other authors, research what works and what doesn't, visit how-to sites and author/agent blogs, ask questions, listen and implement. Establish a marketing plan and stick to it, revising along the way as necessary.

Working your day job is no excuse. If your book is important to you, you'll make it a priority with whatever time you have. Take me for example. During the four years since my first book came out, I've worked two to three days a week as an orthopedic occupational therapist and until last year, also taught piano lessons.

Last night I met the producer of the audio version of my book, The Distant Shore, and spent two hours recording original piano music to be used for credit and chapter lead-ins. I just labored for three days to mail 200 brochures to churches regarding my Grace Notes speaking ministry and two new inspirational releases, Mom Needs Chocolate (Regal) and Everyday Hope (Barbour). I'm awaiting a call from an Atlanta radio station for an interview this morning, and will leave tomorrow for north Florida to speak to a writer's group in Jacksonville Thursday night and attend a Tea Tasting & Book Signing at the Strawberry Tea Room in Starke on Saturday.

These events didn't magically happen. They are the the culmination of months of phone calls, e-mails, mailings, personal contacts - just plain hard work.

So if you're one of the brand spanking new authors who approaches me, gushing with expectations of awards, accolades and offers about to descend upon you, please forgive my bland smile. It's the smile of the tired, sweaty gardener who knows a beautiful rose garden doesn't just magically happen.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of...what?

In the first draft of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson wrote the words: ", liberty and the pursuit of possessions."

Later it was changed to ", liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

To the colonists' way of thinking, materialism was driving the expansion of the New World. Possessions, to them, equaled happiness.

So...what do you think of that?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Roll 'Em

Had great fun taping an interview for NBC's local affiliate WFLA in Tampa this morning. We were there for almost two hours to get an edited 4-minute interview, which will air on the August 25 "Daytime" show, 10 - 11 am.

The process is very interesting: A LOT of waiting around but when they're ready for you, it's blam, blam, blam, cameras whirling about, tech guys groping you to secure your lapel mic and amp in place, prompters rolling, hosts mugging for the cam. Then you wait some more and do it all over again.

I arrived at 10:15 at the downtown Tampa studio, which also houses The Tampa Tribune newspaper offices. A security guard escorted my husband Chuck and me back to a waiting room, where another author also scheduled for an interview that day sat nervously chatting with her friend. It turns out that lovely Lisa Black from Melbourne (just next door to Merritt Island, the setting for my novels The Distant Shore and Billowing Sails) is an inspirational mom writer as well. We hit it off, gabbing our fool heads off until a technician appeared to escort us back to the cavernous studio.

We waited in chairs backed against a wall, surrounded by monitors that allowed us to view the constant movement and chaos accompanying the shooting of a myriad of lead-in's and wrap-ups (by the three hosts) of pretaped segments, presumably airing today. They rotated among three sets and shot numerous takes due to tripping tongues or holey scripts, reading from hooded prompters located just above the numerous cameras situated to shoot different angles at almost every other sentence.

The host scheduled to interview me, Lindsey, slid over between takes and introduced herself and asked for a copy of Mom Needs Chocolate, which my publicist sent but had not arrived. My stomach dropped like a stone.

This is NOT a good thing. You always prefer your interviewer to have read your book before they discuss it with you on national television.

Since Lindsey didn't know one thing about my book, she had prepared questions based on a magazine article I had written, which really had very little to do with the book. She did manage to speed read at least one chapter of MNC between takes so that during the interview an hour later, she was able to squeeze in a few customized comments so that it turned out just fine.

One vain girlie side item: After debating for days over whether to wear the teal suit or the black pinstripe, I chose the teal, only to arrive and find the set slated for the interview sported wedgewood blue chairs. Oh well. There was nothing I could do but hope I didn't clash with my chair to the point that the viewer was reduced to squinting.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Coping with Rejection: Part 2

This is information from a week-long July blog posting from a literary agency Books & Such:

When an agent sends a rejection letter, different types of rejections mean different things. Here’s the inside scoop, as I see it, on four main forms of rejection:

The Plain Old Rejection (usually sent for rejecting query letters):

This letter will say something like, Thanks, but no thanks. It means that the project isn’t right for that agent for one reason or another. If you continue to receive these rejections from every agent you’re submitting to, consider revising your query, or maybe it’s time to move on to a new idea.

The ‘Revise and Send Again’ Rejection (usually sent for rejecting proposals or manuscripts):

This rejection letter will have some revision notes in it. This usually means that your proposal or manuscript sparked the agent’s interest, but the agent knows that it needs to be revised in some way to have a chance in the current market. These rejections usually ask for the project to be sent again, if the suggested revisions are made. If you receive one of these rejections, be sure to follow through and send that revised project back to the agent. (Agents hate to make suggestions, only to have the potential client never resubmit but instead shows the new and improved version to another agent–who, of course, thought it was genius!)

The ‘Any Other Ideas?’ Rejection (usually sent for rejecting proposals or manuscripts):

If you receive a rejection asking if you have any other ideas for projects, this typically means that the agent enjoyed your writing, but didn’t think that your idea would work well in the marketplace. You’ll want to write back to the agent with a list of project ideas and an estimated date of when he or she could see a proposal, if you aren’t finished with the writing yet.

The ‘This Project Isn’t Right for Me’ Rejection (usually sent for rejecting proposals or manuscripts):

This type of rejection is used as a thanks, but no thanks rejection for proposals and manuscripts. It means that something in your query letter sparked the agent’s interest, but when he or she looked at the writing sample and examined the idea more closely, it wasn’t a good fit. If you continue to receive this type of rejection, stop submitting your project and consider revising.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Who's Your Daddy?

Hey, check out my newly posted TV and radio interviews at! And if you're from Florida, don't forget to sign up for the exciting and informative Florida Inspirational Writers Retreat on Nov. 14 (details also on my website). Low cost! Enormously beneficial!

Here's an excerpt from Grit for the Oyster: 250 Pearls of Wisdom for Aspiring Writers:

"I recall listening to an audio tape of my now twenty-four-year-old son as he sang a very off-key rendition of "Jesus Loves Me" at age three. In the opinion of most people, his skills would be considered rudimentary, even lacking.

But I was deeply touched by the most beautiful voice on the planet, blessed and proud as only a parent can be. I taught him that song, and he was doing his part to learn and improve.

That's exactly the way God, our heavenly parent, views our writing skills. He taught us everything we know, through avenues of formal education, experience, and aptitude. Now it's up to us to continue learning and improving.

If we view our writing careers through the Daddy filter, the pressure of being "good enough" is lifted. Our Heavenly Father will be blessed and proud of our accomplishments on any level."

From the chapter "Who's Your Daddy?"

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Coping with Rejection: Part 1

This is information from a week-long July blog posting from a literary agency Books & Such:

This week I’m going to talk about something we all hate: rejection. Unfortunately rejection is a big part of a writer’s life, and it’s also a big part of an agent’s life, just in a different way.

I have to reject people. Believe it or not, agents don’t actually enjoy rejecting people, but it’s part of the job. I often do all of my rejection emails and letters on the same day each week, and I never feel good about that day when I go home. It’s not fun to think about crushing the hopes of so many writers. The agents I know never set out to be insensitive when it comes to writing a rejection to an author, but sometimes we sound as if we don’t care just because of the number of rejections we have to send out. It’s humanly impossible for an agent to represent every good project that comes along; so we have to evaluate each project using these criteria:

1) Is the project something I’m excited about?

The best representation comes from an enthusiastic agent. I want to be excited about my clients’ projects, and my clients want me to be enthusiastic about their writing.

2) Could I show this project to my established network of publishers?

Every agent has a network of editors and publishers whom they’ve established relationships with. These editors and publishers are usually interested in the same type of material the agent is; so the relationship has been built on a mutual love for certain genres or topics. Agents want to represent books that could be shown to many different editors and publishing houses in their preexisting network because the possibility of selling the project is higher.

3) Could I work well with this author?

The author-agent relationship is VERY important. There needs to be mutual respect and trust between them for the relationship to last. I have a phone call and exchange several emails with potential clients before I offer representation. I try to get to know them as much as I can because I would much rather be very careful about whom I work with than having to end a relationship because it didn’t go well.

4) Can this author write well and revise if necessary?

I look for clean writing in submissions and often will suggest revisions not only to help to improve the project but also to see if the author is willing and able to make revisions. It’s understandable that authors don’t want to change their “babies,” but when I see changes that need to be made, I want clients who are going to trust my judgment and do a thorough and professional revision.

If the answer is “no” to any of these criteria, I’m going to choose not to represent that writer. When I send a rejection, I hope that author will find the right agent for his or her project; I want every author to succeed.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Book Contracts

So you've finished editing and polishing your book manuscript. Now you're ready to submit to a publisher (or an agent). What can you anticipate in terms of contracts?

A traditional book contract offered by a publisher includes, among other pertinent things, a date of completion, word count, rights (copyright, publishing and selling rights, editing, subsidiary etc.), royalties, advance, author copies, publicity, and noncompete rules (varies with publishing houses, but basically they want to have your undivided attention on their book, and not spreading yourself out too thin writing and marketing other books).

This type of publishing agreement offers royalties, or a percentage of payment on each book sold, e.g. a 10% royalty would net the author $1.00 on each $10.00 book sold. A hike in royalty may be offered after a certain amount of copies are sold, for example: "up to and including 15,000 copies sold=12% of net sales; over 15,000 copies sold=15% of net sales."

An advance is like an advance on your allowance as a kid. It's not free money; it's advancing your earned royalties ahead of time so you can eat during the 1-2 years average time from signing the contract until your book comes out. Average advances for first time books are $3,000 - $10,000. The sum offered is based on the amount of book sales the publisher anticipates within the first crucial 4 months after the book's release. If the advance is not earned out, the author is often required to repay the advance payment, which is why many authors choose to accept low advances.

To give you an example of how this works, my newest release, Mom Needs Chocolate, has sold almost 7,000 copies since its release four months ago and I have yet to earn out my advance. It will be a red letter day for me when I cross that invisible "success" line and begin receiving royalties.

The other type of book contract is "work for hire." This is the type of contract you will be offered for manuscripts used as part of a compilation (like a devotional by different authors), and sometimes for a complete book of your own work that is included in a collective series (books of a series written by different authors). A lump sum is paid up front and no royalties or advances are offered.

The benefits of work for hire books are that you, as an author, don't have to sweat blood over book sales - you've already received your payment and are not dependent on royalties. Also, you have your name on a quality book out there that will help build your reputation and promote your future books.

The downside is that you have no say whatsoever in work for hire book covers, content, style, or marketing, and the copyright doesn't belong to you. Plus the stigma within the industry is that work for hire books, like self-published books, are not as prestigious as traditional press contracts.

I've found that accepting work for hire book contracts occasionally is beneficial, as long as I don't use up my creativity and energies solely on books ultimately belonging to someone else.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Trends in Christian Fiction

There's a very interesting article in the
Denver Post
about the direction of Christian fiction and the health of the industry. Worth a read!

One direction, which I happen to know Amish fiction.

The other direction, which I happen to know nothing vampires.

Click here to read it.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Where are we going and can we get there from here?

Well, the ICRS has just concluded in Denver. If you're not acquainted with the International Christian Retailers Show and you're an aspiring writer, it's time to broaden your knowledge base.

The ICRS (formerally known simply as the CBA, Christian Booksellers Association) is the annual convention for the inspirational publishing industry, held in a different city every year. (Last year it was in Orlando, so I was able to attend as the guest of Regal Books, my publisher for Mom Needs Chocoalte.) This is the event that reflects the heartbeat of the industry.

According to the impressions of my publicist, Rebeca Seitz of Glassroad PR, and Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent with WordServe Literary Agency (by the way, check out Rachelle's very informative free writer's blog at, these were some trends evident at this year's convention:

- A bustling showroom floor with lots of excitement and activity (a good thing!).
- Booksellers seemed happy with the volume of business that transpired.
- Publishers appeared split in their reaction: some highly value the ICRS as an avenue for networking and communication with booksellers, agents, distributors and aspiring authors, others not so much.
- Regarding new projects, editors are looking for strong female protagonists in fiction; no longer the helpless damsel in distress, especially in historical romance. Wimpy women are out!
- Characters in interesting locations with unique occupations are in.
- Despite downward trends in sales during the past year (with the recession, publishing has had to tighten its belt just like everyone else), the atmosphere seemed positive and many publishers are looking for new projects (that means new authors).
- The door is opening for more memoirs (reflecting the general market).
- In non-fiction, platform is still of utmost importance, but many publishers are willing to consider new authors who have exlemporary writing skills and fresh new ideas.

All in all, it seems that gloom and doom were on hiatus and optimism shone brightly for the future. Can you say, "Hooray!!"

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Here's the Cover!

Drumroll, please. long the cover for my novel due out on January 1st, The Choice. I love the cover--the photography is beautiful, as is the setting, and the look on the model's face really captures the book.

My 24-year-old son says he wants to meet the model!

This is the publisher's description of the book:

With a vibrant, fresh style Suzanne Woods Fisher brings readers into the world of a young Amish woman torn between following the man she loves--or joining the community of faith that sustains her, even as she questions some of the decisions of her elders. Her choice begins a torrent of change for her and her family, including a marriage of convenience to silent Daniel Miller. Both bring broken hearts into their arrangement--and secrets that have been held too long.

Filled with gentle romance, The Choice opens the world of the Amish--their strong communities, their simple life, and their willingness to put each other first. Combined with Fisher's exceptional gift for character development, this novel, the first in a series, is a welcome reminder that it is never too late to find your way back to God.

So all in one day (yesterday)...the cover is ready to show to you. It is up on Amazon here, and on the Baker (Revell) website here.