Preparing for the Writing Battle

By Patty Smith Hall

I believe a person should know what they’re walking into before they go head long into battle and make no mistake about it–getting published is a fight. It takes knowledge and strategies; knowing when to retreat and when to push the boundaries. It is a never-ending learning process–just when you think you’ve got a grasp on the industry, it evolves into something new and ever-changing.

Between 250-300 manuscripts are published annually. This doesn’t include Love Inspired who publishes 240 books per year. So we’re talking 490-540 inspirational books released by publishers every year, That’s 540 slots for both pre-pubbed and published authors to fill. When I asked two editor friends of mine how many submissions they received in a year’s time, both said about 200 unsolicited manuscripts(That means manuscripts they didn’t ask for.) So if you added the number of submissions they probably got from all the conferences they attended plus the proposals they received from published authors, you’ve got close to a thousand plus manuscripts per publishing house per year. 43K for 540 slots. What that means is that as a new writer trying to break into the market, you’ve got to be at the top of your game. Your story has to be solid from start to finish, unique yet familiar. And published writers have to continue to produce at a high level to keep getting contracts.
And the battle doesn’t end when you hold that first book in your hands. Most publishers would like at least 2 books out of an author per year which can be overwhelming if you’ve not a particularly fast writer like me. Their budgets have been cut so that you’ve also taken on the job of marketing and publicity which means a presence on social media as well as book signings and a teaching platform. Then there’s proposals you’ll need to work on so that once the book you’re working on is finished, you have another one under contract.  And don’t forget the business part of it–the royalty statements, the contracts. While you may have an agent, it’s still very important that you understand this part of the business.
Facts you need to know about the publishing world:

Publishing is always evolving

If you’ve ever been to a writing conference, there’s a list of about 5-7 classes you can chose from during your class time. Now certain classes never change–POV, plotting, the basics of writing. But you can see which direction the writing winds are blowing if you look at the classes dealing with genre and business. The first four conferences I attended might as well have been a hen party with all the chick lit classes being taught. Every editor was looking for the next ‘Bridget Jones Diary,’ and no one, I mean NO ONE, wanted to talk about historical fiction because it was as dead as a doornail. Four years later, you couldn’t find a class on Chick-lit at the ACFW national conference. You also couldn’t find classes on two other areas that had publishers quaking in their boots–social media and self-publishing.  Now, e-publishing is a huge topic at most every writing conference. 
As a writer looking toward publication, you need to keep aware of these changes. Follow:
  1. Publisher’s Weekly which gives you daily reports of what is happening in the writing world.
  2. Subscribe to Writer’s Digest
  3. Read Agent’s blogs. Chip MacGeogor and Steve Laube offer tons of information on the publishing front.
  4. Also, look at what ABA publishing houses are aquiring–Christian Fiction is generally two year behind them in ‘fad’ books like Chick Lit, so keep and eye on the ABA market to see what’s coming down the pike.

Publishing goes in cycles

Back in 2008, I entered the ACFW Genesis contest hoping to get some feedback on my first try at a historical romance but I never expected this from one of the judges:
‘You’re a good writer but you’ll never sell this.’ That judge’s argument was against the time period I wrote in which was WWII–everyone in publishing knew that WWII was extremely unpopular with editors. As the historical market was just beginning to take off again, she suggested that I concentrate on another time period or better still, woman’s fiction(that year’s Chick Lit.) But between the time I won the Genesis for that same manuscript and the day Love Inspired Historical offered me a contract, the historical market, and WWII books specifically took off.
So what did I learn through this experience? That genres go up and down in popularity. What may be on every editor’s wish list one day might not tickle their fancy the next. Just keep writing your story. Your day is coming!

The Writing World is very small

Writing is a very lonely business so it’s nice to connect with other writers online through Facebook or on a writing loop, and that’s great–but no matter how innocent your comment may be, THINK TWICE before posting it on any of your social media because there are agents and editors lurking out there, watching. While it’s okay to rant about the rejection letter on that book you were so sure was going to sell, it’s not okay to badmouth the editor who didn’t buy it. Think about it–would you want to work with someone who was so unprofessional and immature as to rant about you on Facebook? And if you don’t think that’s true–I had an author friend who went off on an editor from a very well-known publishing house(I actually saw this on one of my writing loops) and it took four years for her career to recover from the damage she’d done in that one little rant.
Characteristics of a Successful Writer
Perseverance –you’ve got to write even when you don’t want to, don’t feel like it, or physically can’t. You’ve got to keep at it when the rejects pile up, when everyone around you is telling you to give up, and when you’re so discouraged by it all, you wonder what you were thinking. I wrote my first two books flat on my back when I couldn’t sit up in a chair. Take Dora from Finding Nemo credo as your own–just keep swimming!
Teachable spirit–Sorry to say, but you will never learn everything there is about writing a book. Which is great because the craft keeps stretching you, keeps pushing you to write better, to be better. But if you close yourself off to the possibility of learning something new, you’re cheating yourself and your readers. 
Tough skin–not everyone is going to like your writing. Heck, not everyone is going to read your writing. And that’s okay. You can’t get your feelings hurt every time your critique partners send back your submission bathed in red ink because if you can’t handle that, you’ll never be able to handle some of the scathing reviews on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. So remember, those comments about talking heads or passive writing are not personal, it’s to help you reach your goal of being published.

TWEETABLES


Preparing for the #Writing Battle – @Pattywrites on @NovelRocket (Click to Tweet)

Make no mistake about it – getting published is a fight – @PattyWrites on @NovelRocket http://bit.ly/2f2JFrI #writing #publishing (Click to Tweet)


Patty Smith-Hall is a multi-published, award-winning author with Love Inspired Historical/Heartsong and currently serves as president of the ACFW-Atlanta chapter. She currently lives in North Georgia with her husband of 30+ years, Danny; two gorgeous daughters and a future son-in-love. Her next release, New Hope Sweethearts will be available in July on Amazon.

Taking Correction

by Marcia Lee Laycock

Correction. It’s never easy, especially when we think we’ve got it all right. Those words we have slaved over; those characters we built from scratch; those brilliant plot twists we implanted at just the right place. How could they need correction? In our eyes, they’re perfect. But then fresh eyes find the typos. A keen sense of rhythm finds the awkward sentence structure. And even those brilliant plot twists are found wanting.

That’s when we must take a deep breath, read our work again and acknowledge that the one with the blue pencil in her hand is experienced and astute. Another deep breath and we make the changes. Then a smile. The work is more precise, cleaner and does express more effectively what we intended it to express. The correction was needed.

This doesn’t only happen in our writing life. Our spiritual life needs the same attention. Oh yes, we sometimes think we’ve got it all right. But then something happens and we discover there are things lurking that ought not be there. We find ourselves thinking thoughts that ought not have come to mind. We act in a manner not becoming and realize there might be a streak or two of arrogance and pride buried deep under our self-righteousness.

The Lord has a way of bringing these things to our attention and often it’s not a pleasant process. That’s when we need to take a deep breath, acknowledge our sin and take steps to act on God’s correction. In the end, like our writing, we will smile as we find our lives are the better for it. We see more clearly, and God’s presence is able to shine more brightly in and around us.

Even those chosen by the Lord to be his first disciples had to humble themselves before Him. None of them were perfect, all needed correction from time to time. Often the process was painful – see Luke 22:24-26 where Jesus rebukes the disciples for jockeying for position in the kingdom, or Luke 22:61-62 where Peter weeps bitterly after denying he ever knew Jesus. But always, after the rebuke, comes the forgiveness and the love. Though the disciples disappointed Jesus time and again He blessed them and made them into powerful men of God. None of us is exempt from the process because none of us is perfect. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23 Correction is not only necessary to make our work and our lives better, it is necessary so that we will become the people God intends us to be, able to do His work and His will, able to stand before Him one day as he says, “Well done good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21). 

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Erasers are Necessary by Marcia Lee Laycock (Click to Tweet)

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Marcia Lee Laycock writes from central
Alberta Canada where she is a pastor’s wife and mother of three adult
daughters. She was the winner of The Best New Canadian Christian Author Award
for her novel, One Smooth Stone. The sequel, A Tumbled Stone was short listed
in The Word Awards. Marcia also has four devotional books in print and has
contributed to several anthologies. Her work has been endorsed by Sigmund
Brouwer, Janette Oke, Phil Callaway and Mark Buchanan. 
Abundant
Rain, an ebook devotional for writers can be downloaded on Smashwords
or on Amazon.
It is also now available in Journal
format on Amazon. 
Her
most recent release is Celebrate
This Day
, a devotional book for special
occasions like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Thanksgiving. 

Sign
up to receive her devotional column, The
Spur

You’re Not in This Alone

by Jennifer AlLee

Human contact. It’s one of those essentials of life that we
often overlook. Oh sure, we have contact with our immediate families, but
that’s not always enough.

Take the writer, for example.
Writer’s think differently than normal people. (That’s right. We’re not normal and we’re proud of it.) We see what
if
s everywhere. We hear the voices of our characters talking to us… and we talk
back. We also deal with more assaults to our self-esteem and emotions than
you’d think. Often, they come from outside sources, but just as often, they
come from ourselves. Talking to a spouse might help, depending on the severity
of the situation. Nine times out of ten, even though they try, the non-writing spouse won’t
understand why it’s a big deal.
So what’s a writer to do when she feels particularly
vulnerable, her armor more dented than the surface of the moon? Reach out to
the only people who truly understand her: writing friends.
You can take the word “writer” and substitute any other you
choose: Secretary, CEO, pastor, teacher, stay-at-home mom, dental hygienist,
and on and on and on. Sometimes, the only way to get out of the doldrums is to
have your friends pull you out. And the best friends for the job are the ones
who know what you’re going through.
Of course, God knows this.

And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and
good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the
manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the
Day approaching.

(Hebrews 10:24-25, NLT)

He’s talking to members of the early Christian church. Now there
was a bunch who really needed to band together. They were persecuted. They
faced attacks on a daily basis. Who else but another Christian would
understand?
Notice, He doesn’t tell them to get together and pretend
that nothing bad has happened. He doesn’t tell them to ignore each other’s
pain. He tells them to exhort each other, lift each other up.
In our modern world of emails, Facebook, and such, there’s
no excuse for being alone. A timely email message from a friend across the
country means just as much as going out for coffee and a chat with your friend
from across town. Take some time to reach out today, whether you need to be
uplifted, or you think of someone else who could use an emotional boost.

Jennifer AlLee was born in Hollywood, California, and grew up above a mortuary one block away from the famous intersection of Hollywood & Vine. Now she lives in the grace-filled city of Las Vegas, which just goes to prove she’s been blessed with a unique life. When she’s not busy spinning tales, she enjoys playing games with friends, attending live theater and movies, and singing at the top of her lungs to whatever happens to be playing on Pandora. Although she’s thrilled to be living out her lifelong dream of being a novelist, she considers raising her son to be her greatest creative accomplishment. You can visit her on Facebook, Pinterest, or her website.

Don’t Be a Scaredy-Cat Writer

by Edie Melson @EdieMelson

The season of spooks is upon us, but that doesn’t mean we
can give in to the fears we face as writers. We must face our writing fears and keep moving.

The other day I was talking to a friend of mine and this
person confided that she was afraid she didn’t have what it takes to be a
writer. “I’m just not good enough to get
a book published, and I don’t know if I ever will be.”
“Welcome to the club,” I told her.
My answer wasn’t what she expected. She had forgotten
something we had heard together at a conference many years ago. We’d been
listening to an established author talk about his own fear and inadequacies. He
told the audience that every time he sits down to write a new book, the fears
resurface and he’s certain he no longer has what it takes to make it in
publishing.
Hearing him confess his own fears gave me hope. Beyond that,
it brought home an important fact. Being published—no matter if it’s a single
book or a hundred—won’t necessarily make the fear disappear.
So what’s a writer to do?

Tips to Keep From
Becoming a Scaredy-Cat Writer
1. Write Regularly.
For some of us that means daily. For others it means on the weekend, or three
days a week. The truth is, mood is a fickle mistress and time is NEVER lying
around waiting to be found!
2. Choose to Ignore
the Negative Voices in Your Head.
We all have them—those irritating
whispers that tell us we’re not good enough, and we’re selfish to even try to
follow our dreams. We can write anyway, or we can cave in to our insecurities.
Published writers keep writing, no matter what those voices say.
  
3. Write Outside Your Comfort Zone. The publishing industry is in a constant state of change. What you write today, may not be popular five years from now. As a writer, you’ll have to constantly be changing and growing. Get used to it now and avoid the deer-in-the-headlights reaction when change comes your way.
4. Find a Writing
Tribe.
This is a tough enough business without trying to fly solo. We all
need fellow writers who understand what we’re doing. These fellow travelers
will keep us accountable and encourage us when we think we can’t go any
further.
5. Write When You
Don’t Have the Time.
So often I hear people who want to be published talk about
how they’ll start when they find the time. The truth is that time is NEVER
lying around waiting to be found. Following our dreams takes sacrifice. We must
be willing to make the hard choices and carve out time to write.
6. Stay Active in the
Industry.
Join writing groups—locally and online. Give back to the writing
community at large by volunteering to help others. Trust me when I tell you
that no matter where you are in your writing journey, there are those less
experienced. And by staying active, it’s harder to quit. The times I’ve wanted
to throw in the towel it was having to answer to others that kept me going.
7. Write When You’re NOT Inspired. We cannot wait for the mood strike to write. Inspiration is a fickle mistress. If we’re serious about pursuing publishing dreams, we must move beyond depending on our mood to be able to write.
8. Remind Yourself
Why You Write.
For me, written words are the way I process life. I don’t
talk things out, I write things out. God designed me to be like this. Writing
is His gift to me. I have those words taped above my desk so I’ll never forget.
9. Write Through the Fear.
Being a published writer goes hand in hand with fear. We’re afraid we won’t be
good enough to be published, then that no one will read the book, and finally
that we won’t be able to write another book.
These are my tips to keep from being a scaredy-cat writer.
What would you add to the list? Be sure to share your thoughts in the comments
section below.
Don’t forget to join the conversation!
Blessings,
Edie
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