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