Posts Categorized: Writers Conference


Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

Jessie Kirkland stripeBLOGGER: JESSIE KIRKLAND

A Literary Agent with The Blythe Daniel Agency, Jessie will teach two Afternoon Workshops, review Pre-Conference Manuscript Submissions, and meet with writers at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, March 18-22.


Watch photo

Poor timing could sabotage your ability to snag an agent. Some writers can’t get an agent because their craft still needs work. Other writers fail to come up with a unique idea that helps them stand out amongst the competition. However, many writers have put in the time and hard work necessary to get published, and they are still empty-handed when it comes to signing with an agent. For some of those talented writers, it simply comes down to poor timing. So, how does timing affect the “yes” you so badly want and need from an agent?

Although I would say that I’m always open to submissions, the truth is I’m not always in active signing mode. I tend to sign people in rounds throughout the year. And these signing sprees are typically concurrent with writers conferences, not the queries in my inbox. I do review queries, but it’s not the best way to pitch me personally.

Here is a typical rundown of my calendar year. I have a conference a month in August, September, and October, then I take a break until February. Then, I have a February, March, and May conference, and then I break for the summer. In the spaces between these writers conferences and retreats, free time is scarce. Most months, I’m focused on servicing my existing clients: negotiating contracts, talking with editors and publishers, and helping clients with marketing & social media. Many agents have much busier schedules than me as they go to multiple conferences a month—every single month of the year.

It can be very difficult for agents to find time to stop doing the work that is right in front of them, in order to think about acquisitions. The workload from already existing clientele always takes priority over potential clients. I can’t switch my brain into acquisition mode sometimes, until I’m leaving on a plane for my next conference. At almost every writers conference, agents teach, speak on publishing panels, and take pitches via 15-minute appointments. A writers conference is your best chance at getting signed by me personally. And yet timing plays a role at these conferences, too.

Agents typically meet with acquisition editors and publishers in 30-minute appointments in between all the duties we have scheduled for us at conferences. So, what if you come to a conference and don’t get the time you wanted with an agent? Then, what should you do? My advice is that you send an email to the agent with a title like “Mt. Hermon Writers Conference meeting” in the subject line. We don’t normally stop checking email, even if we are at conferences. Tell the agent that you weren’t able to get an appointment with them like you requested, and would it be possible to meet with them at a meal or during some of their free time? You might have a good chance at not only getting this appointment, but also standing out more because you emailed them and now you are on their radar.

NOTE FROM MONA: Mount Hermon doesn’t do pre-conference or arbitrary sign-up sheets for appointments. You and the faculty member schedule your own appointments. You can read more about the connection process here.

A few years ago, I was sprinting through a hotel lobby trying to get to a dinner meeting with a publisher when a conference attendee stopped me as I was hurrying past, and told me that they didn’t get an appointment with me. I replied, “Oh, I’m so sorry. If you’ll send me an email, maybe we can make some time.” The guy was determined to force me to hear him out—right there in the lobby. He started to recite his pitch when I had to interrupt him and say, “No. I’m sorry I can’t listen right now. I have an appointment.” He kept pitching, and moved in front of me to block me from leaving. And so I stood there, feeling odd, and by that point…mad. When he was finished I said, “I’m sorry, but I’m not interested.” and stepped past him. My point? If he would have been wise with the time I offered him, instead of pushy, then it might have turned out differently.

Don’t ruin your chance by forcing a moment with an agent when they don’t have time to listen. Particularly if they’ve already politely said no. There’s so much instruction out there on how to take your moment and deliver your elevator pitch, but if you force your moment into an agent’s already-filled-up schedule, then you’ll probably be staring a quick no in the face. Pick a meal to do an impromptu pitch, not when an agent is running to the restroom or another meeting and doesn’t even have the time to think about what you are saying. I think all of us expect to be stopped, and we don’t mind at all. It’s only when writers get forceful that things can turn south quickly. That type of bad timing pitch will never turn out in your favor.

Agents are busy. Our calendars are full, and although another agent’s calendar may look different than mine in a lot of ways, I assure you there are patterns to the bulk of their signing. They might not have my habits, but they have habits. Their calendars, inboxes, and time available still affect your ability to get their attention. And when you know these patterns, you’ll be able to pinpoint more optimal times to query or pitch them face-to-face, and therefore have a better chance at getting an agent.


Come meet Jessie Kirkland at the 43rd annual Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, March 18-22, 2016.

Click here to Register!

Making Your Speculative Story World Unique

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A freelance author, mentor and editor, Kathy will serve as a fiction mentor for the Morning Mentoring Clinic and teach an Afternoon Workshop.



People who write fantasy and science fiction read a lot of it. We love the way it lets us stand outside life-as-we-know-it and look at what it means to be human in this world. And as authors, we tend to imitate what we’ve read.

That means it can be a little too easy to recycle the common tropes of speculative fiction: dragons that can be ridden, planets that have gravity so close to earth-normal that people can walk unassisted, spaceships that go BOOM when they blow up. Last year at Mount Hermon, I passed out a cliché list I’d found online—and since it’s well-nigh impossible to tell a readable story without using any well-established ideas, I had to confess I’d written many of them into my books.

But in a speculative story, not everything unusual should come out of the consensus universe. How can we add something new to the conversation?

Try brainstorming across different disciplines.

  • Combine botany and culture to imagine the farming community of an imagined era or planet
  • Mingle the culinary arts with microbiology to imagine new fermented foods.
  • Cross anatomy with aerodynamics, and create fantasy dragons that people really could ride.
  • What about combining speculative geology with architecture and homebuilding?
  • Or applying your imagined culture’s history to the planet’s orbital cycle, to create a believable list of holidays?
  • The possibilities are endless.

You might discover that mingling seemingly unrelated crafts and sciences is just as much fun as using the results to deepen your story—so don’t get carried away! Remember story is character in conflict.  That’s why 90% of your scientific brainstorming won’t be explained in the story.

The deeper and wider your knowledge pool, the more interesting the ideas that might come swimming past. Speculative fiction’s target audience tends to be bright, introverted, and well-read in what’s already published. They’ll know where we borrowed our ideas, if we only borrow.

So add something fresh to the conversation. Some day, when other writers borrow your fresh ideas, you’ll know they aren’t just acknowledging Tolkien or George Lucas, C.S. Lewis or J.K. Rowling. They have also acknowledged you.


Come meet Kathy Tyers Gillin at the the 43rd Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, March 18-22, 2016.

Click here to REGISTER NOW!

Nailing the 3 C’s of the Writing Sample

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MickSilva_2 (800x577)BLOGGER: MICK SILVA

A freelance editor and mentor, Mick will speak at the opening Friday afternoon session, serve as a fiction mentor for the Pre-Conference Next Level Clinic, and on the Critique Team during the main conference at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference in March.



This is the best advice I have on writing the sample, the first 30 pages included with the proposal. I promise.

And I give it to you now, free of charge. I can personally guarantee it’s better than anything else out there on this because it goes further and encompasses more. I’ve done my research,recommendations here. For memoir, get my ebook and as part of the professional community of book developers, I know my competition. And just for fun, if you don’t agree this is better than a similar piece on this topic, please send me a link and I’ll see to it that you’re destroyed, er, fairly compensated for your time and effort.

I considered calling this post “The C-3 for Writing Your Sample,” as in C-3, the dangerous plastic explosive. But I wondered if enough people know what C-3 is. And it turns out C3 in military terms can also refer to “command, control, and communications,” which is neither relevant nor particularly amusing. So if it helps here to think of a pliable gray substance used in blowing things up, have at it. I’m using 3 C’s that are just as powerful and equally deadly to editors and agents who come across them in proposal samples at writers conferences.

Ready? Content, Craft and Community.


Okay, why are these are the 3 big categories to focus on, the 3 essential things I look for to see if an author has nailed the writing sample?



Content refers to the concept you’re promoting. It reveals your specific belief about that idea, your unique take on it, and your expertise as a representative. There’s a lot to unpack in that definition, so I’ll elucidate (and don’t worry: understanding craft and community is a whole lot easier).

First, identify what you’re selling. My vision form can help a lot here (it’s free: by distilling your idea to the felt need it most directly answers. There’s always a “best way” to say things, and an explosive concept will reveal a unique specific answer to a big, well-defined problem. Mark that. Even with fiction, if you read the back cover or endorsements you’ll see this kind of thing: “Dazzling!” “Masterful!” “Full of the universal longing for freedom,” “Restored my hope in humanity…”

Those words describe the big need that that book solved.

Of course, a proposal builds this case, so the writing sample is less about the content than proving your craft. But it does need to show you’ve worked to define your target. So ask yourself, How will people describe this? And how does this sample speak to deep needs?

Remember, often, our first ideas, or second or third, are not good enough. You’ve got to dig deeper than surface-level and initial impressions. People will find what you say compelling when you go further, dive deeper, look harder. Show you’re committed to this message for the long haul.

And since it’s very difficult to know if your concept is compelling enough, we need to move on to refining (that you’re committed is plenty good for now).



If your idea is compelling, you’ll know it by how people respond to the sample. Craft refers to how well your sample is written—which of course means how well it’s been rewritten, edited and polished. First-time authors, get professional content editing, line-editing, copyediting and proofing—four separate editors with good experience and a track record (expensive, I know, but so is publishing a sub-par book). Pro editing is increasingly critical in ensuring work that’s clear, concise and above all, complete.

Even if the sample hooks an editor, he or she will likely need the full book to prove you can deliver.

If your first 30 pages demonstrate your book will stand out amongst the dozens of other books just like it, it will be because it reflects your 1) research and 2) reduction of what doesn’t connect to your central point or theme. Again, several books on editing can help (see above) you make it your best before professional editing.

There’s some overlap between content and craft since “content editing” is often needed to determine the right focus and that distractions are eliminated. But this is also why, unequivocally, the right editor can be your most important step in building your community.



Who do you have around you helping create, campaign and convince people to read your work? (Sorry, I must like C’s.)

Every writer needs endorsers and partners who will commit to be vocal about your book. Be sure to refer back to my other post on writing the proposal using your “heart goal.” Taken together, they cover all you need to prepare your work for the conference.

For many writers, building community is some of their hardest work. If that’s you, you’re not alone. You just have to be diligent and be yourself. If you’re a quiet type like me, do things that aren’t too taxing. Get help from your more extroverted friends and remember if your goal is to help more people with your work, you have to mention it and ask for help with that.

I’m not a good model here, but I’m getting better. Who you know is absolutely how popular authors succeed. I’m actually discovering building community isn’t that hard if you commit to helping people, and what I learn about myself in the process is a great hidden reward.

Success comes in knowing what you value by having worked through that yourself. And a community of like-minded, passionate professionals is an often-unspoken-but-vital key to writing that sample that’s keenly insightful and based in a broad experience (you’ll also hear people say reading is important, which is definitely true too).

This coming year at Mount Hermon I’ll be taking a small group of novelists through these steps in the Pre-Conference Next Level Clinics. I hope to read some exciting, edgy samples full of bold commitment and insight.

And if I get my ultimate wish, I’ll find that one explosive work I could see submitting to an agent or editor eager to be blown away.


Which of the 3 Cs do you think you most need to work on–Content, Craft, or Community?


Come meet Mick Silva at the 43rd annual Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, March 16-22, 2016.

Click here to REGISTER NOW!

Workarounds: Finding an Agent

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Literary Agent and Vice President of Books & Such Literary Management

Co-Teaching a One-Hour Workshop and serving on the Agent Panel.


Too often we hear writers mourning the “fact” that one can’t get published without an agent (which is not true) and that it’s near impossible to find an agent in this seemingly shrinking market.

Anytime the front door to a problem seems blocked, I like to find a workaround. Let’s look at the problem and see if we can figure out the workaround.

Problem: Catching the attention of an agent and getting him to ask for a proposal or manuscript.

Traditional Solution: Write a smashing query letter, send it to multiple agents and hold your breath.

Workaround: Meet the agent or publishing professional in person. Sounds complicated, but it’s not. And we’re not talking about the fabled literary dinner parties and salons of Maxwell Perkins, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway.

A century ago, people didn’t travel like we do today. Writers, agents & editors gather together in person more than ever before. Forget the dinner party, you can now spend an entire week with your favorite publishing professionals, practice the craft and learn about the business of writing. Agents and editors are committed to making ourselves available at writer’s conferences. It’s my favorite way to meet writers who are willing to invest time, energy and fiscal resources in their careers. I’m preparing for the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference in three months. It’s still one of my favorite weeks of the whole year.

Simple fact: Agents attend writers conferences to meet new writers. The good conferences give us plenty of time to connect with writers. Mount Hermon is one of my favorites. In addition to the appointments we schedule, we share seven or eight meals with writers. Those relationships forged around a table of eight are the basis for many a professional relationship.

It may take a number of different face-to-face meetings until your target agent decides he can’t live without you, but there is something about that real-time connecting that overshadows the traditional methods. It’s the perfect workaround.


Come meet Wendy Lawton at the Mount Hermon, March 18-22, 2016, where she’ll participate in a couple of workshops, review pre-conference manuscripts, and meet with writers!

Are you looking for the agent who is right for you? Eight agents plan to join us at Mount Hermon in the spring. I hope you’ll consider doing so, too.

Click here to REGISTER.

Success! Are You Ready?

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Tamela Hancock Murray

A Literary Agent with The Steve Laube Agency, Tamela will teach an Afternoon Workshop, participate in an Agents Q&A, and meet with potential clients at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference in March.


Recently one of the faithful readers of The Steve Laube Agency blog asked if I would write a blog on how to handle success. Here are a few of my thoughts, in no particular order:

Once you are successful, prepare to…

Be gracious. Whether you struggled for years to be published or if you’ve never heard the word “no” from an agent or editor, when writing in public forums or speaking in a group setting, always temper your enthusiasm about your success. No doubt and you simply want your friends to celebrate with you. We all want that. But in a public forum, there will always be the person your success makes feel small, and words that can be interpreted as boasting can hurt, no matter how pure your heart.

Deal with backbiting. Since we live in a fallen world, even if you are the most gracious and lovely person you can be, someone will be envious of you. Someone will say your writing stinks. You may never hear this. Or you might. Either way, keep walking with God, and realize that writing touches the gamut of emotions. We cannot control responses to our writing. No one is immune to criticism. Don’t believe me? We just celebrated Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice for us, His crucifixion brought about by His actions — and His words.

Realize that people who were never on your team still won’t be. We’d all like to think that if only we could appear on TV and become rich and famous, we could finally prove our critics wrong. Nope. They’ll just hate you more. Don’t worry about them. Enjoy your true friends. You know who they are.

Adjust your financial plan. You may receive no advance, a four-figure advance, or an advance large enough to make a real difference in your life. But please remember, you will be taxed on that advance and any royalties so hold back at least 30% for when the tax bill arrives. And if you are using an advance to live on, make sure to budget so that the money will last well past the date you can expect your next payment on your contract. Unsure of how to handle your new finances? Your local bank should be able to help you find professional help so you can form a plan. Bottom line: it’s easy to spend a fortune so don’t get caught short on money if you can avoid it.

Be watched. People who never looked your way before may suddenly notice you. You may gain more friends than if you had just issued a public invitation to a vacation home on the beach. Enjoy the popularity, but keep a balance of how much to let others into your life so you don’t become overwhelmed. This is a good time to solidify friendships you already have with other published authors and get a few tips from them on how to form boundaries with fans.

Expand your social media presence. Now more than ever, you will need to communicate with fans. Set up a schedule for Twitter, Facebook, and your newsletter and/or blog. Remind fans that you are still writing, and keep them up to date on important events in your life so they will feel as though you are a friend. Don’t hawk your books, though. Let readers find you and your books, although letting your fans know when your publisher is offering a free download can be a great idea.

Be asked to speak. Speaking engagements may start coming your way. If you need to hone your public appearance skills, many people recommend Toastmasters

 Master time management. You will no longer have the luxury of taking as long as you want to write a book. You will have relentless deadlines — several with each book. Be prepared to meet them all and schedule your time accordingly.

Be with those you love. Make spending time doing fun activities with everyone you love a priority.

Enjoy your success!

Do you have other suggestions for those experiencing success?


Come meet Tamela Hancock Murray at the 47th annual Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, March 18-22, 2016.

Click here to register. 

Procrastination: Muse & Writer

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Angela will teach an Afternoon Workshop and serve on the Critique Team at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, March 18-22, 2016.

Angela Muse Image



Muse: No.

Writer: But I’ll just watch the news while I eat on break.

Muse: You are on deadline. No.

Writer: Hand over the remote. Please.

Muse: You want to reach your goal, focus on the little tasks.

Writer: 15 minutes won’t matter.

Muse: But you won’t stop there.

Writer: I bet I can–

Muse: Go ahead – try to take them.

Writer: You wouldn’t…

Muse: Try me.

Writer: Fine, I’ll just go write then.

Muse: I’m sure you made the best choice…


Ever had a similar conversation with your self, uh, your muse?


Angela BreidenbachCome meet 2016 faculty member Angela Breidenbach at the conference, March 18-22.

Click here to register.

Podcasting for Writers and Authors

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Manuscript Retrieval Coordinator



Writers want to write. Between query letters and proposals, research, one or more manuscripts in various degrees of completion, critique groups – we keep pretty busy. Then we learn that as writers, published or not, we should have our own website. And of course, if we are published, we need to do marketing. And whether published or not, we need to be working on building our platform. Building your platform can take many forms: websites, blogs, speaking, article writing, events – and more. For years, blogs were seen as the “must have” for writers. Then along came podcasting. Statistics from 2014 revealed that for every 1,700 bloggers, there was one podcaster. It’s a very small, wide-open arena for those wanting to build an even larger platform.

Podcasting in simple terms is often called on-demand radio – generally without the advertisements. A more detailed definition of a podcast is a digital medium consisting of an episodic series of audio files subscribed to and downloaded through web syndication or streamed online to a computer or mobile device. It allows anyone to become a radio announcer, talk show host and a recording artist in just a snap. The majority of podcasts are listened to on mobile devices, with Apple’s iPhone leading Android phones by a five to one margin. Podcasts can be listened to anywhere and anytime: commuting, cooking, gardening, exercising, and walking – anywhere you have time to fill. I listen while I ride my bike and run. Apple’s iPhone has a built-in podcast app. Android phones can download podcasts through the Stitcher radio app. Shows can be listened to on the podcast host’s website, online in iTunes or Stitcher, or better yet, subscribe to the podcast and you’ll automatically get each episode downloaded directly to your smartphone or tablet. Podcast can be listened to at 1.5 speed, allowing you to hear more in less time. I find listening at 2x or higher makes it hard to understand the content.

Anyone can start a podcast and it can be incorporated into any WordPress website. Podcasting can be done with relatively inexpensive equipment – your computer, earbuds from your smartphone, and a website. There are podcasts about podcasting, teaching listeners about equipment, interview and hosting techniques, editing, where to host your podcast, software and WordPress plug-ins, publicity and marketing, and more. In addition, there are websites offering the same information through free and paid courses about starting a podcast.

There are many options in podcasting. You can do a solo show or find one or more people to co-host with you. There are different formats: monologue, interview, back and forth banter with a co-host, and questions and answers are the most common. You determine the frequency of releasing new shows. Most podcasts are weekly, but some are twice a week. Shows can be any length. My shows are interview style. I edit my own shows and create a blog post page for each show.

Writers and authors can host a podcast about whatever interests them and they think will interest others. Fiction authors can do shows about their writing, how they do research, character and plot development, dialogue, and more. Non-fiction authors can record shows about their writing topics, research, style and structure, sections within their books, choosing topics, and more. Both of these, and poets and devotional writers, can read selections from their writing and dissect the content. Talk about motivation, writing skills and techniques that help you, finding time to write, and more. Give it a unique slant and title, determine your audience, decide on the format, practice recording, and then get set to go live.

In addition to my podcast, Writers & Authors on Fire, there are other faculty members at the conference who have podcasts. Kathi Lipp’s podcast is You’ve Got This with Kathi Lipp, Erin Taylor and Karen Ball co-host their Write From the Deep podcast, and Angela Breidenbach hosts Grace Under Pressure Radio. I know any of us would be willing to answer your podcasting questions. Kathi is also teaching a workshop on podcasting. I’m in the manuscript retrieval center during the conference and would be happy to share resources and help you brainstorm about whether podcasting could help build your platform, and possible topics.

I encourage you to listen to a few of the shows of the above podcasts before the conference. They are available through iTunes and Stitcher Radio, or your favorite podcasting app. You’ll be surprised at the variety of show topics and what you’ll learn.


Come meet John Vonhof at the 47th annual Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, March 18-22, 2016.

If you’re interested in learning more about podcasting, plan to attend Kathi Lipp’s afternoon workshop, Beginner’s Guide to Podcasting.

Click here to Register Now!

Become a Published Author by Writing Short Stories That Sell

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Editorial Representative, Guideposts Magazine

Teaching an Afternoon Workshop, Reviewing Pre-Conference Manuscripts and meeting with writers at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 18-22.


You want to write novels. Me, too! But something happened along the way in my writing career. I became good at writing short stories that sell. And it helps me write novels. No kidding.

Here’s what happens when you write short stories:

It teaches you to write tight. If you can write a beginning, middle, and end in 1,200 to 1,500 words that captivate and entertain a reader, you can sell short stories. And with that, you have the ability to write a novel (which is a beginning, middle, and end). Think of your novel as also captivating and entertaining a reader one chapter at a time.

It teaches you to work with an editor. Every story you submit for publication goes through an editor who will work with you to make the story acceptable for the publication. You might be asked to make changes, delete some of your precious sentences, or cut a paragraph or two. When you graciously work with an editor, you build a reputation for being a joy to work with.

It teaches you to meet deadlines. Submissions must be received by a drop-dead date. Writing for a short story publication will help you to focus on a deadline and meet it.

It provides you with a byline. Seeing your name in print never gets old, even for me after 40 stories published in the Chicken Soup for the Soul books, multiple bylines in other magazines, and even on my nonfiction books. The fact that you’re a published author is huge! It will help you to snare an agent and even a publisher. Many will ask you where you’ve been published. If you can list your success, it’s a true bonus.

It provides you with an income. Hey, making $200 for a short story (or more depending on the market), is a lot more than fish bait. I never sneeze at an opportunity to sell my writing because every dollar counts in today’s expensive world. Would you agree?

It provides you with a shot in the arm. There isn’t anything better than feeling really good as a writer. And being published accomplishes that. As you toil on your novel writing, short story sales keep your spirits high and your enthusiasm soaring.

For more information on the formula used successfully by many short story writers, see the book on Amazon, P MS to a T: the Winning Formula for Writing Nonfiction Short Stories that Sell.


Come meet B.J. Taylor at the 47th annual Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 18-22, 2016.

Ready to learn more about writing essays and short stories for periodicals? Plan to attend Jesse Florea’s Major Morning Track ~ Magazine Writing: Starting Point or Destination?

Click here to register.

Why Are Children’s Books Important?

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Linda Howard (800x534)BLOGGER: LINDA HOWARD

Acquisitions Editor, Children and Youth, Tyndale House Publishers

Teaching an Afternoon Workshop

Reviewing Pre-Submission Manuscripts for Editorial Review and Meeting with Writers.



I have loved to read since I can remember. My mom loved to read as well. She modeled her enthusiasm for books to me and encouraged me to read regularly. I did the same for my daughter, even reading to her during my pregnancy, and she has grown to be a delightful young woman who regularly devours books and shares that passion with her children. I look back and see the strong influence of books in my family, and am grateful for their impact on my life from a young age.

These days, as a publisher, I have the joy of helping to create books that will be read by thousands of children around the world. I have a great sense of responsibility, purpose, and satisfaction in bringing formative stories to the market for kids. Why is it so important to provide quality, engaging stories for kids? I’ll outline a few of the top reasons below.

  1. Reading builds a stronger vocabulary in children. Descriptive language, emotive expression, and more are added to a child’s toolbox as they read books and learn new words that aren’t always used in their everyday conversations.
  2. Expanding a child’s imagination is another benefit of reading. Watching a child’s face light up as they “get” what is going on in a story is captivating. Hearing them describe a story in their own words after reading it can be hilarious, heart wrenching, illuminating, and just plain fun.
  3. Reading as a child also tends to lead to more success later on in life. Many studies show that students who are exposed to reading before preschool stand a much greater chance of excelling in all areas of their education including math, science, and communication skills – reading, writing, and verbal communication.
  4. Family reading time creates a special bond between children and their parents or grandparents. Time spent sitting together, reading and discussing books, helps to develop a bond not easily broken. I read to my daughter with her sitting in my lap when she was young, and then read alongside her as she grew up. When she got too big for my lap, I read the same books she was reading, and we talked about them afterwards. She is married and has children of her own now, but we still share books with each other.
  5. Reading helps children develop logical thinking skills. Because children tend to learn best through stories, the more they read the more they are better able to understand abstract concepts, develop problem solving skills as they watch characters in the books deal with issues, and understand the impact of cause and effect in various situations.

Books are powerful tools in building a child’s social, emotional, and educational skills. Make it a priority to expose the children in your life to quality literature. And enjoy it with them – you will both see benefits for a lifetime!


Come meet Linda Howard at the 43rd annual Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference.

Click here to Register Now!


Small Houses Offer Big First Choices

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Ann Byle smallerBLOGGER: ANN BYLE

A Literary Agent with Credo Communications, Ann will teach an Afternoon Workshop, participate in an Agents Q&A, and meet with potential clients at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference in March.



Publishing is difficult these days as publishers work hard to do more with less. Big houses are struggling to create sales in a market that isn’t buying as readily, reach readers whose attention wanders, and attract authors with monster platforms that promise big sales.

As publishers tighten their belts and raise the bar for authors, more and more writers are seeking publication. As an agent, I receive queries in my inbox sometimes once a day, including Saturday and Sunday. Sadly, most of these authors have little chance of getting a contract with a big, traditional Christian publishing house. Even authors with previously published books and a good platform have no guarantees.

Small publishers, once considered second best, are stepping into the widening gap between big houses and author contracts, offering authors publication credits and royalties. Here are a couple of reasons to consider a small house for your novel or nonfiction title.

  1. Small houses are more open to debut authors. One of my clients recently signed a contract with a growing house for her debut novel. The publisher was delighted with her writing and didn’t much care about her medium-sized platform.
  2. Small houses are great for niche-market books. A big house isn’t going to take on a book that reaches a relatively small market (such as parenting a special needs child or caring for elderly parents), but a small house can recognize the need for such a book and offer a contract.
  3. Small houses don’t need huge sales to make a profit. Of course small houses want to sell a lot of books, but they don’t need sales of 15-20,000 to break even. In fact, many small houses are thrilled with sales of 2,000 to 5,000. Which means they’ll look at books that will sell that many, thus allowing authors of really good books to find a home.
  4. Small houses offer personalized service. You won’t get lost in a sea of new books published the same time as yours, or in a backlist so vast it’s impossible to find your book. Usually a small house can devote a decent amount of attention to your book and you, offering advice and help when you need it.
  5. Small houses provide an avenue for sales. Authors can accrue good digital and print sales, which can mean additional book contracts and additional sales. If sales are large enough, a bigger house may take notice. Some authors, however, may want to stay with that smaller house for its personal service and good relationships.
  6. Small houses help authors build a deep contact list. Any author worth his or her salt will use their publication with a small house to build an email list, blog following, or website visit tally. A vital and growing contact list is worth more than gold, as any author and publisher knows.

As you research book publishers, consider a smaller house. These houses often offer the same benefits of a big house—marketing and publicity help, distribution network, quality editing and cover design—with a much more open acceptance policy. A small house may be the perfect fit for you.


Come meet Ann Byle at the 47th annual Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, March 18-22, 2016.

Click here to Register Now!

Taming Time–Practical Tips to Increase Writing Productivity

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Historical novelist Sarah Sundin will serve as a mentor for the Morning Mentoring Clinic, teach an Afternoon Workshop, and serve on the Critique Team at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 18-22, 2016.

Sarah Sundin Taming Time image


“How on earth did you find time to write a book?” a friend asked.

Perhaps it was my ability to type at the speed of light or my complete lack of a personal life.

Um, no. Snails type faster than I do, and they don’t have fingers. I’m a mother of three, teach Sunday school, and have a part-time job. But I make time to write.

Four tools for increasing productivity are herding up goals, corralling blocks of time, lassoing the on-line beast, and harnessing snippets of time. Honestly, I don’t write Westerns.

Herd Up Goals

We’ve all been there—we finish a busy week and have nothing to show for it. Setting goals is the best way to prevent this. Even if you aren’t published yet, make deadlines. Set yearly goals, then break those goals down by month. At the beginning of each week, set daily goals. My goal sheet hangs over my desk. Staring at me.

Corral Blocks of Time

“I am a professional. I am a professional.” Repeat until you believe it.

Now, act like it. Keep office hours, no matter how short, and use them well. Review the day’s goals and get to work. No excuses, no distractions, no phone calls.

Having children at home complicates things, but even a toddler can learn to respect office hours. Despite what parenting blogs say, a child does not need constant entertainment—in fact, a child who learns to entertain himself becomes imaginative and independent.

Lasso the Internet

E-mail, blogs, Twitter, Facebook—they’re necessary, but they can drain away that time you corralled.

Designate a time for the internet, working with your schedule and personality. Reserve your best time of the day for writing and your less-productive times for the internet.

Then set strict time limits. A kitchen timer works wonders.

Harness Time Snippets

A great way to boost productivity is by using snippets of time while waiting at the soccer field or doctor’s office. Why not use that “wasted” time?

Here are some things you can do in ten minutes:

  • Research

As a writer of historical fiction, I always have a pile of books to read. A book and note paper, and I’m set.

  • Market Research

Study magazines or websites you’d like to target or read a book in your genre.

  • Pre-write

Outline an article or chapter, fill out character charts, or write a synopsis.

  • Edit

Editing is my favorite on-the-go activity, well suited to interruptions.

  • Critiques

Time snippets are great for reviewing your critique partners’ work.

  • Communications

With a smartphone, you can tackle e-mails and social media on the run—and free up time at home.

  • Publicity

Public writing means free publicity. People will ask what you’re doing. So tell them. Make sure you always bring business cards or bookmarks.

  • Write

Use a time snippet to write. Really. Try it.

How can you improve your time management?


Meet Sarah Sundin at the 47th annual Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 18-22, 2016.

Click here to Register Now!

Unleash Wonder in Your Writing

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Nonfiction Author

Pre-Conference Next Level Clinic Coordinator and Nonfiction Mentor

Morning Mentoring Nonfiction Coordinator and Nonfiction Mentor


Living in California, drought metaphors come easily as we make our way through one of the driest years on record. I’m reminded every time I step out my door. But at my desk or in front of my computer screen, another kind of dryness threatens to invade my writing efforts. My fingers pause longer than I’d like above the keyboard.

Where am I going with this section of my book?

Is it what my readers are grappling with too?

Does my structure and voice make sense for this project?

What am I trying to say and can it really make the difference I hope for?

Where am I connecting with my potential readers so I can find out?

Is God leading me? Am I listening?

Sometimes we hit a writing drought and our creative progress crumbles like dry dust. We need reminders that rain is on its way.

Jan Kern WonderInDrought


Recently a ten-day vacation treated my husband and me to beautiful vistas of the northwest. While that area is also experiencing drought conditions, rain still falls. We saw evidence of that everywhere we looked. Lakes are nearly full. Waterfalls tumble down mountainsides. Rivers seemed to bounce and gurgle with life.

Home again, I stepped outside to enjoy a familiar walk along nearby pathways. The changes, even in the few days we had been away, were stark.  The drought continued to sap any remaining moisture. A bubbling spring-fed creek now dribbled into stagnant puddles. Manzanita seemed burnt, fragile and gray. My steps crunched on fallen brown leaves that had skipped their transitional colors of yellow or orange.

As I walked back toward my home, I prayed that I might catch glimpses of wonder in the drought-stricken landscape. I couldn’t see it. Not that day.

Waking the next morning, I pushed the covers aside and prayed, “Lord, let your Spirit flow through me today. Fill my heart with wonder again.”


The prayer startled me. Where had wonder gone? Had I let it drain away? With legs swung over the side of my bed, feet ready to hit the floor, I realized that my writing days had become much like my walk the day before—stagnant, lacking delight-filled engagement with wonder. I shifted my prayers toward more specific requests.

Lord, please unleash wonder in my rhythms of writing.

At that moment, wonder became the promise of rain for my writing drought.

Where do you need an infusion of wonder in your writing journey or current projects? Try these tips:

Reconnect to your purpose.

William Wordsworth wrote, “Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart. Sometimes we’ve lost our heart along the way to filling our word quotas. One of the greatest places of wonder is found in reconnecting with our initial passion for what we’re doing or to what God has been recently stirring inside. Write a small piece simply for creativity sake.

Remember your readers.

God captured Moses’ attention through a burning bush and called Moses to a specific purpose and people. Step outside and take a walk in a new direction. As you do remember those to whom God has called you to write and what is important to them. When you return to your writing, start in a new place with your readers in mind.

Create your inspiration.

Create a motto that inspires you to keep moving forward with wonder and inspiration, one that you post near your writing desk. Or borrow this one: “Ignite the power of faith and creativity. Be unquenchable!” This happens to be the tagline for the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference.

Whatever you choose to do, keep moving forward, keep writing. As a friend very wisely said to me, even in the drought there is still life if you look for it.

One place you can be certain to find the promise of rain for a writing drought and to take your current writing project closer toward publication is through Mount Hermon’s Morning Mentoring Clinics. The 2016 groups—both fiction and nonfiction—will focus on specific genres and types of projects. Apply, meet your mentor, bring your project and anticipate wonder!


You’ll meet Jan Kern at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 16-22, where she will coordinate the Pre-Conference Next Level Clinics and coordinate the Nonfiction Morning Mentoring Clinic. Jan is also a nonfiction mentor in both programs.

Writing for Children: Audience Awareness

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Editor, Clubhouse and Clubhouse Jr.

Major Morning Track Instructor, Magazine Writing: Starting Point or Destination

Reviewing Pre-Submission Manuscripts for Editorial Review and Meeting with Writers.



Whenever I speak at a writers’ conference, I tell those in attendance, “If you have a child, were a child or have ever seen a child, you can write for children.”

I stand by that statement. What I often fail to say is that it’s not easy. Many writers have the misconception that writing for children is simple. After all, kids have limited vocabularies and stories for them contain fewer words. So writers make the mistake of underestimating this audience.

In my nearly 20 years as the editor of Focus on the Family Clubhouse Jr. and Clubhouse magazines, I’ve read countless stories where grandma swoops in with some sage advice to save the day or where the child is clueless until dad tells him what to do. Ugh. There’s nothing wrong with a clever granny or smart dad, but to quote a Writer’s Digest story by Deborah Churchman, “Imagine reading an adult novel in which all the cleverness, knowledge and decisions resided in children. Would you identify with it? Then why should kids appreciate stories that give adults all the power?”

Here’s the truth: Kids are thinking, feeling, smart human beings. They lack life experience, but they have quick minds that are ready to learn. Here’s an even bigger truth: No matter what demographic you’re writing for, you must know their desires, felt needs and thought processes if you’re going to be effective.

To share your story with any audience, you have to be able to connect. Even if you’re an expert in a subject, you can’t talk down. You just need to talk . . . in a relatable, relevant way. And when it comes to communicating with children, the wisdom you share in your stories can shape who they become in the future. Isn’t that awesome!

Honor your audience in all of your writing. The apostle Paul tells us to “Outdo one another in showing honor” (Romans 12:10, HCSB). That’s great advice in how we conduct ourselves in real life and when we’re on our computers. Kids are honest, energetic and funny. If you’re writing for this audience, those words should describe your stories as well. So before you send in a manuscript to a children’s editor, ask yourself, Is this honest, energetic and funny writing. If not, don’t send it. Go back and put a unique twist on a Bible story. Show how God takes the ordinary to accomplish the extraordinary. Be unique. Don’t doubt a child’s ability to understand concepts and accomplish great things. Climb into their world and encourage them to become all God wants them to be.

Among my stable of writers for Clubhouse and Club Jr., there are doctors, missionaries, engineers, former teachers and stay-at-home moms. As I look through the magazines, I can remember the conference where I met each person. While their backgrounds might be different, they all have the ability to look at the world in a child-like—not childish—way. They possess a sensitivity toward words and their intended audience.

The older I get, the more child-like I become (my wife can confirm that fact). I want to be amazed at life and the gifts God gives us. And I want that amazement to be evident in every story that I write or edit.

So inspire your audience with your stories. Challenge them. And above all, respect them.


Come meet Jesse Florea at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference in March.

Click here to register.

Q&A with Bethany House Publishers’ Fiction Acquisitions Editor

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I’m loving hearing from our 2016 Conference Faculty on the Mount Hermon Writers blog each week. Today, an Acquisitions Editor answers some of your questions.


Fiction Acquisitions Editor, Bethany House Publishers

Raela is reviewing (at the conference) a few of the pre-submitted manuscripts and meeting with fiction writers at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 18-22.


Q: Since I’m guessing you would say that “strong writing” is what makes a manuscript stand out to you, what do you mean by that? What does that look like to you?

A: Here’s a laundry list of things of things that make for a good novel. This is far from comprehensive, but hopefully it’s a good start.

  • Interesting, varied word choice and use of the English language in a way that is appropriate to era, setting, characters, etc.
  • Non-generic narrative
  • Natural and readable dialogue
  • Distinct voices for POV (Point of View) characters
  • Delivering back story without info dumping
  • Foreshadowing without telegraphing
  • Clear character arcs for main characters
  • Secondary characters come alive
  • Logical, believable character choices
  • Pacing that neither drags nor makes awkward, abrupt jumps
  • Clear, compelling conflict
  • Paints the picture of a setting. Characters are clearly grounded in that setting and couldn’t be easily transplanted into another generic setting.
  • Distinct author voice. A very simplified example: if a reader was given a paragraph from you and three other authors, would she be able to tell yours apart from the others just by your tone and way of writing?

Q: What is one thing that makes an author stand out to you besides the writing quality of the manuscript?

A: Publishing savvy always makes authors stand out to me. Do they understand the world of publishing to some degree? Have they researched the industry? Have they read broadly in the industry? Do they have a realistic grasp for what sets them apart? If they’re writing something that sounds like a lot of other books in the market, can they articulate why their book is different? Or, if their book is pretty different from the rest of what’s in the market, can they articulate why it would appeal to our audience? Do they understand the aspects of being an author beyond simply writing a manuscript? Do they have ideas for helping to promote their book? Do they have connections or unique qualities we can leverage to help spread word of mouth? Do they have endorsements of themselves as an author or of their manuscript?

Q: What is one mistake you often see beginning writers make?

A: The showing vs. telling advice is a cliché for a reason. Authors who aren’t ready for publication often struggle with this—whether it’s info dumps, tedious setting descriptions that read like a “for sale” listing, clumsy and didactic explanations of character emotions and motivations, and so on.

Beginning writers often start their stories at the wrong place. Many times the story would be much stronger and more interesting if the reader is dropped right in the middle of a situation rather than having to wade through three chapters of set-up that explains how the characters got to where they are. And sometimes, but less often, beginning authors may start their stories too late. This is when all the interesting conflict has taken place in the past and only leaves the reader to learn about characters’ responses after-the-fact.

In general, conflict can be a big hang-up for beginning authors. Conflict needs to be believable and compelling enough to drive a reader to keep turning pages all the way until the end of a book. New authors might set up a good conflict but then not deliver on it, or they might have all external conflict and no internal (or vice versa). Conflict can’t be too easily resolved unless authors want to annoy or lose their readers. Beginning writers need to make the stakes as high as possible for their characters and put them into seemingly impossible situations—whether it’s solving the mystery, saving a life, defeating an enemy, chasing  a dream, or falling in love.

As for proposals, I can pretty quickly get a sense of an author’s industry savviness. For example, saying “I am available for book tours” and not much else under marketing shows a lack of understanding of the industry. Also, I always find the comparable titles section to be telling. I’ll have my own comparisons in mind, but I take note when an author’s are similar to mine or she makes an intelligent comparison I didn’t think of. On the other hand, if an author misses all the natural comparisons she should make or compares her novel to novels that are either nothing like her book or extremely out of date, I can tell she lacks an awareness of the market. Or, heaven forbid, if an author says there have never before been any other books like hers.

Q: How can writers best improve their craft?

A: Every time an aspiring fiction writer says they either don’t read fiction or don’t have time to read fiction, an angel loses his wings. Seriously though, I’ve gotten comments like this more times than I’d like to count and I have trouble not immediately dismissing those writers. Our authors here at Bethany House are some of the busiest people I know and most of them still find time to read because a) they like reading, and b) they realize it’s important for their career. Obviously a person who is trying to complete a manuscript is going to have less free time than someone who isn’t writing, but it’s nearly impossible to write a good book for your market if you have no awareness of what people are reading and you don’t have recent and consistent personal experience as a reader. Make time for reading, both in and outside of your genre.

Literary agent Rachelle Gardner has a great list of Resources for Writers on her blog. One I would add is Fiction University, a blog I follow and find often has great tips and resources. The Christian Writers Market Guide is always a good standby for general industry information. Most of your favorite authors will list their best writing resources on their own websites.

In general, I advise authors to learn as much as they can about the craft and technique of writing and then go out and make their writing their own. Everyone is going to have different rules and non-negotiables, so authors should do what makes the most reasonable sense for them. Just make sure it’s intentional and the result of research and not just laziness.

Thanks for having me on the blog today. I’m looking forward to meeting the writers attending the conference in a few months!


Raela Schoenherr is a fiction acquisitions editor and has been with Bethany House Publishers since 2008. She grew up reading Christian fiction and enjoys being able to work with the kinds of books she always loved. When she’s not reading (or listening to audiobooks!), she’s probably cheering on the Green Bay Packers, running, or spending time with her wonderful family and friends. A graduate of Bethel University, she makes her home in Minneapolis, MN and is active on Twitter at @raelaschoenherr.

Come meet Raela at the 47th annual Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference in March!

Ready to REGISTER for the conference?


Ready for a Promotion

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Susie is teaching two Afternooon Workshops and serving on the Critique Team at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 18-22.


Someone once said that a person’s gift may open the door, but his or her character will keep it open. Though it’s important to hone our craft, we need much more than skill to stay the course as a Christian writer.

Many years ago I spoke at a women’s conference and had a humbling experience. At the time, my writing credits included my first book (which I self-published), and the numerous articles I’d written for Focus on the Family. I’d not yet reached my goal and dream of getting published with a mainstream Christian publisher.

During a break in the conference I met up with the keynote speaker in the green room. She walked ahead of me in the buffet line, kept her eyes on her plate and asked, “So you write for Focus on the Family, do you?” Feeling validated, I smiled and said, “Why yes, I do.” She scooped up more food and replied, “Hmmm. Well. I myself don’t write articles. I save all of my content for my books.” She then peeked over her shoulder, gave me a tight-lipped smile, and walked away.

While I embrace opportunities to humble myself, I don’t particularly enjoy feeling humiliated. I found my way to a corner chair and sat there with my little plate of food. I felt smaller than the pitiful portions I’d taken for myself. I bowed my head and prayed for my meal. And for the knot in my gut.

In that very next moment, God whispered to my heart something I’ll never forget. He said, “Susie, wherever you go, you’ll find people that I’ve promoted serving alongside people who’ve promoted themselves. From the outside looking in, they’ll look very much the same, but the difference will be in the fruit. When you abide in Me, you’ll bear much fruit, and that fruit will always nourish others, not diminish them.”

We don’t like to wait for our dreams to come true and it’s tempting to rush ahead to make something happen in our own strength and on our own timeline. But just look in Scripture to see how well that worked for some of the folks who’ve gone before us.

You see, it’s not enough just to ‘get there’ – wherever it is we’re trying to go. When it comes to our dreams and our calling, God intends not just to get us there; He wants us to be able stand there, win our battles there, so when we’re ready, we can move on from there. But that will never happen on gifting alone. We need Christ-like character to whether the storms, trials, and temptations that go along with this calling.

Self-ambition may give us a good start but it will never promise a good finish. In fact, scripture tells us that self-ambition, envy, and jealousy are gateway sins to every other kind of evil (see James 3:14-15).

God is good and He withholds no good thing from His kids who walk intimately with Him. He’s an invested Father and will not send us out unprepared. If He’s making us wait it’s because He’s making us ready. We can trust Him.

A.B. Simpson wrote these wise words:

God is continually preparing His heroes, and, when the opportunity is right, He puts them into position in an instant. He works so fast, the world wonders where they came from. [1]

If it feels like your dream will never come to pass, lean in and trust God. Do the next thing He tells you to do. Hone your craft. Stay humble. And remember that at the best time possible, God will finish what He started in you.

[1] A.B. Simpson, Streams in the Desert, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, 1997, p.174


Come meet Susie Larson at the 47th annual Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference in March 2016.

Click here to Register for the conference!


How (& Why) Not to Geek Out at a Writers’ Conference

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Kathi Lipp (533x800)BLOGGER: KATHI LIPP

Kathi is teaching the Pre-Conference Next Level Clinic Workshop–PLATFORM: How to Find Your Readers, Lavish on Your Audience and Sell Your Book and Afternoon Workshops, also serving on the Critique Team at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March


My husband and I have a particular weakness for The Big Bang Theory. In fact, living in Silicon Valley (where we have a higher than usual number of socially awkward geniuses), I like to refer to myself as the “Non-Hot Penny” the normal girl living among a sea of people with their PhDs. In fact, everyone in their group has their PhD, except Penny, and Howard Wolowitz – the Engineer.

But what Howard lacks in a Doctorate, he makes up for in experience. He is the only one of his group who has been to the International Space Station. Yes, Howard is an astronaut.

And he’s not going to let you forget it.

Scene: The Comic Book Store

Howard: Oh, hey, Stuart, I got you a little souvenir from my trip to space.

Stuart: Well, Howard, that’s very nice of you.

Leonard: Yeah, maybe. Open it first.

Howard: It’s my official NASA portrait.

Stuart: To Stuart, your comic book store is out of this world. Just like the guy in this picture was.

Sheldon: For the record, he also thinks the Walgreens and the dry cleaners are out of this world.

Howard: That’s not true. At the Walgreens I was “over the moon” for their store-brand antacids.


Howard can’t be in a conversation that doesn’t turn into a reference about his trip to space. And frankly, everyone’s a little sick of hearing about it.

So here’s my advice to authors while you’re at a writer’s conference: Don’t be a Howard.

Don't Be a Howard 600x600

A Howard is the author who can (and will) turn any conversation back into discussing their book.

A Howard is the author who says things like, “Wow, we’re having Italian dressing at dinner tonight? That’s so weird because my protagonist’s grandmother is Italian too!”

A Howard is the author who carries around a stack of their own books and a PayPal swiper at a writer’s conference to sell their own books to other attendees. (Yes, I’ve actually seen that happen.)

I know you need to market your book. I get it.  And if you’re yet to be published – or even if you are – you need to market you.

What Howard was forgetting was the person on the other side of the conversation. That there was a real,  live, breathing human who has wants and needs, who is looking to connect – not just to be impressed by him.

Don’t be a Howard.

When you get to your writer’s conference, yes, people are going to want to hear about your project, but remember – they are people. They are excited to be at a writer’s conference with real, live writers like you.

Here are some suggestions when it comes to not completely geeking out a writer’s conference.

Ask other people questions. I know it seems pretty obvious, but at writer’s conferences, we all tend to lose our minds a bit. You just can’t wait for someone to just stop talking so you can share about your character’s love of the harp. But you are going to learn more (and have more writing friends) if you ask other people about their loves and passions.

Find out about their project.  I had a consultation with a writer at a conference and when I asked her what other projects she’d heard about that she found interesting, she said, “I didn’t spend all this money to talk to people about their projects.” Part of becoming a writer is developing a writer’s life. That means having other writers in your life. Find out about what they do and what makes them tick. You will be a better writer for it.

Ask editors about what they love to read. Editors are editors because they love to read. Find out what those editors love to read – and then share some of your favorite books. When you are not labeled the crazy writer who is stalking all editors, it’s much easier to develop a relationship.

Because here is what I’ve found – when it comes to publishing a book, editors want to work with people they want to work with. In other words, people they like. Be an author – a human being – worth liking.


Be honest. Ever geeked out a writers’ conference?


Come meet Kathi Lipp at Mount Hermon in March!

Ready to Register for the conference?

Attending a Writers’ Conference: How Would Your Life Be Different?

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Marci Blog Graphic cropped



My husband walked through the room as I began repacking my suitcase for the umpteenth time.

“What’s up?” he looked at the pile of clothes strewn across my bed and the tall stacks of writing samples and business cards I planned to take.

“You are only going to be at the writer’s conference for four days. Why do you need five pairs of black shoes?” he asked.

I felt my lip quiver and the familiar tightening of my stomach. “What if they find out..” The words stopped.

“Find out what?” John asked, realizing that I wasn’t kidding around. The tears at the rim of my eyes were real.

“They find out that I am NOT a real writer.” I sighed.

That was in 2002. I had worked all summer lifeguarding and teaching swim lessons so that my teenage daughter and I could attend a writer’s conference together. After looking online I found one that sounded great and only a few hours from where we lived. Calvin Miller and Randy Alcorn were the keynote speakers and they had a teen track for Emma and an article track for me. Perfect.

I had my samples, my spreadsheet of editors who would be attending and what they might be looking for, and all of the outlines from the classes I might want to take.

The interesting thing was that I had been a published humor columnist and article writer for about two years for a small town paper, but I never considered myself to be a writer.

My writing adventure started after a story I wrote about a cookie baking fiasco with my kids appeared in the local paper. I would have never sent in anything if it hadn’t been for my mom’s prodding. After my husband and I, along with our three kids, moved from my home state of California to Minnesota I began faxing updates to my mom, who encouraged me to get them published.

“They are just funny to you, because they are about us,” I replied.

“No,” she responded. “The whole office enjoys reading them.”

I swallowed. The whole office!  Obviously they didn’t know I wasn’t a writer.

In fact, if there had been an award for “Least likely to be published” in my high school yearbook I would have won, hands down. I was the only student in the history of Ponderosa High School to ever be demoted from electric typewriter back to manual typewriter. I also never read a book that wasn’t assigned and read in class. When extra books were required to be read and reported on for English, I lied. I made up the book, the author, the publisher, and created a believable story line that usually involved espionage and cold-war tactics. I just made sure I mentioned that it drug in the middle or didn’t have noteworthy characters.

Yet there I was, in my room surrounded by shoes and paper, having visions of someone looking over my pieces and advising me against quitting my day job.

It was about the third day of the conference when I called my husband outside the little cabin room Emma and I shared. I had been to the critique center earlier that day to have someone look over my samples.

The woman on the other side of the table chuckled while she read over the humor piece I brought. Finally, she looked up and said, “You are a really good writer.”

Tears stung my eyes as she gently handed me a Kleenex. She understood.

I will never forget my first meeting with Barbara Curtis.  She was one that encouraged me to keep writing.  We stayed in contact until she passed away a few years ago. She was one of many wonderful people who helped encourage, instruct, and even critique my work over the years. She inspired me to write to the best of my ability.

That first conference was so precious because it helped solidify the fact that God has a plan for me, even if I didn’t feel worthy or capable. In fact, the Bible is full of unworthy and incapable people that God used so really, am in good company!

I have only missed a few years since 2002. Each year I learn something new. Each year I find that The Lord uses something or someone to help me along in my writing journey.

I think it might have been Lee Roddy who said one time, “Writers write. Waiters wait. So stop waiting and start writing!”

How would your life be different if someone you trusted said, “You are a writer”?

Guess what? If you are reading this, chances are that God already did.

So start. Commit to giving Him your best.

What are you waiting for? Register now for the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference.

Note to self…only one pair of black shoes is really necessary, however, you might want to bring a small package of Kleenex, I will be in the critique room waiting to help cheer you on.


Marci SeitherCome meet Marci Seither at the 47th annual Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 18-22, 2016.

Marci Seither will serve on the Resource Team as an Airport Shuttle Team, on the Critique Team, and lead a Night Owl at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 16-18.

Passive Vs. Active Verbs

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Coordinator of the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference Critique Team

Freelance Editor



Wherever possible, strive to use strong, precise verbs rather than weak, vague verbs. Instead of saying, “They were going,” write, “They went.” Or better yet, show how they went. “They jogged,” “They raced,” “They ambled,” for example. A single descriptive action verb is almost always better than a weak passive verb.

Here are some examples:

Passive: It is believed by Sue that a curfew must be placed on her son, Matthew.
Active: Sue believes that she must place a curfew on her son, Matthew.

Passive: It was earlier demonstrated that Matthew could be intimidated by too much freedom.
Active: Friday’s party showed Sue that too much freedom could intimidate Matthew.

Passive verbs often indicate that a subject exists, or that something happens to the subject. Active verbs describe something a subject does.

Passive: Andrew had dark, curly hair and a bushy beard.
Active: Andrew ran his fingers through his dark, curly hair and stroked his bushy beard.

Passive: Two cups of coffee were on the table.
Active: Joe picked up two cups of coffee from the table.

In nonfiction, there are a few acceptable reasons to use passive verbs:

1. To emphasize the action rather than the subject.
Example: Jim’s bioengineering proposal was approved by the committee.

2. To keep the subject and focus consistent throughout a passage.
Example: The astrobiology department presented a controversial proposal to the committee. After long debate, the proposal was endorsed by …

3. To be tactful by not naming the subject.
Example: The e-mail message was misinterpreted.

4. To describe a condition in which the subject is unknown or irrelevant to the sentence.
Example: Every year, many people are diagnosed with Environmental Illness.

5. To create an authoritative tone.
Example: Visitors are not allowed after 9:00 p.m.

Even in fiction, the occasional use of a passive verb is acceptable. But do a search of your manuscript for is, was, are, were, be, been, would, could, has, had, and have, and wherever you find one of those words, see if there’s a way you can show what’s happening instead of just telling about it.

NOTE: It is an infringement of copyright law to reproduce this publication, in part or in whole, without the express permission of the author. To request permission, please e-mail

How about it, are you seeing opportunities in your article or book proposal for tightening your writing using active vs. passive verbs?


You’ll meet Kathy Ide at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 18-22, where she serves as the coordinator of the Critique Team.

Register Me Now!



Can Bunnies Pray?

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Can Bunnies Pray graphic



Children’s authors often use animals as the main characters in their stories. Anthropomorphism, also known as personification, is attributing human characteristics to anything other than a human being.

Using animals as characters works well for children’s stories for many reasons:

  • Children love animals and like to read stories with animals as characters.
  • Using animals gives the author more freedom in creating his or her characters and stories.
  • Animal characters appeal to both boys and girls.
  • Using animals as characters avoids the issues of stereotyping in race, gender, or age.
  • It is more acceptable for an animal to disobey than for a young child to disobey, therefore the author can teach deeper lessons with stronger emotions.
  • Animal characters can add kid-friendly humor to the story.

Writing stories using animal characters works well for the Christian market as well as the secular market. However, authors need to be careful when getting into spiritual matters. For example, can bunnies (or any animal) pray?

There are two answers: YES and NO.


When anthropomorphism is used and the animals are given human characteristics, then the animals can pray. If Bunny talks like a real person, lives in a house, wears clothing, and goes to school, then when the Bunny Family gathers around the dinner table to eat their meal, they can ask God to bless their meal or thank Him for their food. When Bunny gets lost, or he meets a bully, or anytime he is afraid, he can pray to God to help him. Mother and Father Bunny can tell Junior Bunny about God and how He is always with them. The Bunny family can read Bible stories at bedtime and say their bedtime prayers. This is fine!


When the characters in the story are humans and there are animals in the story who are “real” animals, then the animals do not pray. I once read a children’s story by a Christian celebrity. In her story a little boy is following a bunny (a real bunny) and the bunny gets lost. The author wrote that the bunny was frightened and prayed to God to help him. Not okay! It would be okay for the little boy to ask God to help him find the bunny, or for God to keep the bunny safe, but real bunnies do not pray because they do not have a personal relationship with God.

 God and Animals

We can teach children that animals are an important part of God’s creation and that He cares for them just like he cares for the people He created. In my devotional book, My Mama and Me (Tyndale, 2013) I have a verse that says:

God helps the squirrels find nuts to eat.
He helps the bees make honey sweet.
He helps the robins build their nest
so they can have a place to rest.

Do Pets Go to Heaven?

I once read a book where a mom tells her little boy about heaven. He wants to know if his bird went to heaven after it died. The mom tells him that because he loved his bird, it is in heaven. Really? Though this may be comforting to a child, we do not have Scripture to back this up. In Isaiah 11:6-7 we read the prophesy of animals co-existing in peace and harmony, but this refers to the future and does not mean there are animals in heaven right now hanging out together. There might be—I don’t know—and so my advice is to avoid this topic and stick to what we clearly know from Scripture.

As long as there are authors writing books for children, there will be stories with animal characters. I hope this discussion helps to clarify the issue of animals praying. I am open to feedback and would love to hear your opinions.

Always writing for Him,

Crystal Bowman

Crystal Bowman from FB


Crystal Bowman will serve as a children’s writers’ mentor in the Pre-Conference Next Level Clinic, teach an Afternoon Workshop, and serve on the Critique Team at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference.


Register now to join us for the Children’s Emphasis Extravaganza at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 16-22.

Getting Started with Novellas

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Joanne Bischof - Headshot 1BLOGGER: JOANNE BISCHOF

Joanne Bischof will serve as a fiction mentor in the Pre-Conference Next Level Clinic, teach an Afternoon Workshop, and serve on the Critique Team at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference.


Though they are short, novellas are no simple thing to write. Yet they sometimes take on a bad rap of being too short, sweet, and simple. Today I want to share some tools that we can use to make these stories complex. It’s my belief that readers can be moved by a 300 page novel or a ten page short story. Basically, there’s an art to writing novellas, one that is somewhat different than full length works.

The Heritage Brides Collection This-Quiet-Sky-1


As the author of two novellas, one both a Christy and Carol Award finalist, I’m here to share with you a few of my must-haves for short fiction. So let’s get started!

Write tight, then write tighter

By writing tight, this gives you the word count to fit more into your novella. If it takes you one sentence to explain that the hero doesn’t like pie and two sentences to explain why he’s opposed to this flaky desert, why not try arranging all of that into one brief sentence? Maybe there’s an unexpected way you can phrase things that not only makes the description tight, but also intriguing. (For an example of this, see tip #3)

A great way to practice writing tight is by summarizing your fiction. Write a really, really strong synopsis. Then a really, really strong paragraph summary. If you can write an excellent one sentence pitch, you’re not only writing tight, you’re writing tighter. This is a key skill for fiction with limited word count. If you can express yourself eloquently in fifty words, then when given 30,000 – you’ll feel like you have tons of space to tell your story! I find that the more I practice writing tight, the bigger novellas feel. And most importantly, we can pass that feeling along to readers.

Keep things simple – but poignant

Chances are, your novella isn’t going to be a sweeping saga. I’m sure we can all agree that there just isn’t room. But what I find is that writers sometimes think that equates to telling a short and simple story with a basic beginning, middle, and end. I believe a strong novella needs to focus on the contrary – keep it simple but poignant by telling a portion of a sweeping saga. Elude to what comes before, elude to what may come after, and simply pluck out the most interesting section of a grand tale to suit your novella. Basically, you are giving readers a glimpse into a broader tale. There’s an art to this and it may take practice. Give your novella the respect of a novel. Treat it as profound and readers will walk away feeling like you’ve given them something really special.

Multi task

Many things in a novella will need to serve double and even triple duty. If you need to have a minor character in the story—perhaps a school teacher—also utilize them as a tool that can aid your character in his or her arc. Don’t just let that character be one-dimensional. That way, when the reader reaches the end, they look back and realize that much more was at hand then they initially realized. This can apply to many different parts of your story. Give each element as many dimensions as possible (while keeping things natural).

This can also apply to dialogue. Let your dialogue pack as much punch as possible.  Let’s draw on the above example of our hero not liking pie. Here are two of the ways it could be written:

“I don’t like pie,” he said.

Or to mutli-task you could say this:

“I haven’t eaten pie since I took one in the face for the school fundraiser last fall.”

In the second example, we’ve informed the reader that not only does he not like pie, but we’ve given them a glimpse into his past. A chance to learn something about his character: he volunteered his time—and his face—for charity! I don’t know about you, but that makes me like him more. This fundraiser doesn’t need to be a part of the novella, better yet if it’s not because we can utilize the limited word count to keep moving forward, but in those few words…something bigger was accomplished.

So those are a few of the tools I like to use for writing short fiction, but there are also many more.

Do you read novellas? Have you written a novella? What are some ideas that you have for making short fiction really stand out?


Come meet Joanne Bischof at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 16-22, 2016.

Click here to REGISTER!

Writing Your Proposal From Your Heart Goal

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MickSilva_2 (800x577)BLOGGER: MICK SILVA

Mick Silva will serve as a fiction mentor in the Pre-Conference Next Level Clinic and serve on the Critique Team at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference.


I’ve helped dozens of authors sell and publish books and I use a very simple form which is on the front page of my website ( When people come to me for editing or coaching, at the beginning of the process I have them fill out these 10 questions, starting with the last one:

“In 100 words, share why you wrote this book. What does it mean to you personally?”

The purpose of this question is to cut through all the fluff and stuff and get to the heart of what will make people pick up your book over the millions of others out there. Your strongest competitive advantage is how truthfully and succinctly you can answer this question and summarize your passion for your project. All of your other proposal pieces—your pitch, your positioning, your audience, your comp titles, your marketing materials—are secondary and derive from this.

A big reason Mount Hermon has become the premiere conference for Christian writers is not because of its fluff and stuff, but because they know their why. And their long legacy shows their leadership attracts a high caliber of writers who know their why.

I’ve seen this over many years attending and watching the writers who succeed and stand out. Such writers spend time crafting their why, and gotten to know their ultimate goal. They’re interested in the why of others, the masters and the soon-to-bes. But most of all, they remain solidly attracted and attached to that primary motivation, their deepest heart goal.

Mick Silva Proposal Pic


Focus on the Heart

Everything they do emanates from and is an extension of that heart goal.

And whether you’re an aspiring author or a world-class writers conference, that heart goal requires a bedrock commitment to digging deeper than surface-level and initial impressions. That’s why people will be attracted and dedicated to you, not simply to your products, but because you reveal a process. Namely, a process of refinement.

So seek your why diligently and commit to refining the statement of your goal until it’s clear, concise, complete and uniquely you. It needs to offer the best glimpse into what makes your work remarkable.

The remaining answers will follow—your summary, audience, felt needs, the benefits, market potential, comparative books, even your qualifications—those other sections every proposal needs. Endorsers and those critically important partners you can call on will also be those who share that heart goal.

This is the best advice I can give. Research other successful authors’ heart goals. It may not be obvious at first, but it’s there. This isn’t just being smart; it’s vitally important for success. Then, keep refining until you land on the best way to express yours.

Borrow the Best

I suppose I think I write about this a lot, but maybe it’s not enough. Especially in learning to write your books, proposals, publicity pieces, and even blog posts and Facebook posts, you’ve got to learn to express your heart goal by learning how others express theirs.

In the same way you can’t just read the books that made you want to write yours, but have to pick them apart piece by piece, you also have to find what went into the posts and proposals and marketing of your favorite authors that makes their stuff work? What makes it so attractive and “sticky?”

I guarantee it’s the way they’ve learned to crystalize and express their heart goal.

Be Adventurous

What has happened to our sense of adventure in this spoon-fed culture of ours? Everything’s how-to’s and “short cuts” but nothing is really nailing the core of how to be a successful author. I don’t know, but I think that’s because no one wants to hear you just have to read others’ successful examples and learn it yourself.

I’m not being particularly original here. Isn’t this how authors have succeeded for ages? You read and then you copy and in the process, you find your own way. I think it’s clear that’s how all those teachers and guidebook writers found their material that they’re now trying to package for you. But what they can’t give you is the self-satisfaction and deep value for these insights from actually discovering them yourself.

It may be that this is a difference between successful writers and the rest. Maybe the successful writers know which tools and tips and secret methods to value more because they discovered them from their own indigenous sources.

If that’s true, maybe learning our heart goal from our deepest why could help us find freedom, instead of focusing on more teaching and training, simply to write more.

And ultimately, through refining to express it better, we might come to know our true selves more fully, to simplify and return us to our first love—that original experience of a better, more fulfilling way.


Come meet Mick Silva at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 16-22, 2016.



3 Ways to Impress a Judge

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Angie will teach an Afternoon Workshop and serve on the Critique Team at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 18-22, 2016.


Do you have the courage to put your work in front of people who will judge…you? Entering contests is like standing naked and alone. Confidence is a tough commodity when all possible flaws are visible. Waiting and waiting and waiting some more while other people read, comment, and score your book is excruciating. How do you make sure your entry isn’t a waste of time and money? Here’s a couple of tips to help and why those simple tips are important.

Angie Impress Judge Post


1. It’s not about you. The book or project you’ve created is not about you personally. Take the element of “them versus you” out of the equation. Don’t get offensive or offended. Judging a professional project isn’t about attacking an individual. It’s about looking at the project as an objective outsider. Ask, “Does it meet the criteria of the contest?” before sending the book. Then, above all, do not try to sell your work to a judge. (Yes, I receive sales materials regularly from contest participants.) It’s a huge faux pas unless the rules specifically allow it—and most don’t. Don’t send flyers, bookmarks, postcards, etc. The judge is not going to promote your work. It’s unethical for a judge to do so.

2. Read the rules. Elementary, right? Wrong. Having judged close to 1,000 books, often well over 50% of writers do not follow the contest rules. If not disqualified, missing the details can cause your book to score so low it’s a problem even if the book is fantastic. Publishers, contests, news outlets (the list is endless) all have guidelines. Writers lament over not being accepted or always losing. Too often the reason is that they haven’t paid close attention and, gasp, followed the rules. Check formatting, topic, word count, font, header/footer, book cover front/back elements, interior styles and placements, and any other rule. Check again. Once more before sealing the mailer!

3. There may be exceptions to writing rules, but not in contests. Yes, writers who know what they’re doing can, and do, successfully break writing rules. But in a contest, you’re showing you know and understand those rules. It’s like being back in school. A test demonstrates knowledge and ability to apply what you’ve learned. A contest could be considered a professional level test of what you know and understand about writing a non-fiction book or novel. Write the best book you can. Your book will stand out when you do follow the rules because, though a shocker, a large portion of entrants will not. How do you annoy a contest judge? Present a project and ignore the rules they’ve signed and/or agreed to use in judging the books. One last thought on those nefarious rules. If there isn’t a way to equalize the field, then how would you know what a win looks like? Try playing any game with no rules or the wrong set of rules. You get the picture.


Come meet Angela Breidenbach at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 18-22.

Click here to Register Now!

A Writer’s Sabbath in a 24/7 World

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Historical novelist Sarah Sundin will serve as a mentor for the Morning Mentoring Clinic, teach an Afternoon Workshop, and serve on the Critique Team at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 18-22, 2016.

Sarah Sundin Sabbath Post


Feeling overwhelmed?

While the life of a writer sounds idyllic—spinning stories and autographing books—the reality is a whirlwind. When my fourth novel released in 2012, I worked nonstop—writing, emails, Facebook, interviews, Twitter, newsletters, articles, speaking engagements. By November, I was a wreck.

I haven’t been a big fan of “God’s One Word of the Year for You.” One word only? Every January 1? Right on schedule? Really? However, in 2013 a word emerged for me. Granted, God gave it to me in February. But I knew it was from God because I didn’t want to hear it.


To most of us Sabbath means going to church every Sunday. Sure, we can do that. But God’s commandment is much more than this. It’s a command to rest.

Exodus 20:8-11: “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work…For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day.”

If the Lord Almighty took a day off, so should we! The Lord knows our tendency to run ourselves ragged. Before creation, he knew we would live in a 24/7 world with our faces glued to our screens. The Lord made us, and He knows we need rest.

The command to rest is an exercise in trust. Do we trust the Lord to help us meet our commitments, even if we take time off? Like the manna in the desert that decayed when the Israelites gathered too much, the time we “steal” from the Lord decays in our hands. We end up burned out and less productive than if we’d rested in the first place.

How loving and merciful He is to command us to rest. Yet we resist, like toddlers being put down for naps.

Practical Approach

What does Sabbath rest look like for a professional writer living in a 24/7 world, where deadlines need to be met, emails need to be answered, and social media needs to be updated? How can we incorporate Sabbath into our lives?

For me, this means a two-pronged approach. First, I’ve trimmed things down. Instead of jumping on each writing or promotional opportunity, I evaluate it. Does it meet my career goals in a significant way? Will it reach new readers, connect with current readers, or minister to people? If not, I’ll pass.

Second, I’m intentionally working Sabbath into my routines. Daily—time in the Bible and in prayer, plus regular breaks to walk the dog or read a novel. Weekly—in addition to Sunday services, taking a day off—except the daily internet necessities (sigh). Yearly—a vacation focused on family and being outside.

How about you? How can you incorporate Sabbath into your life?


Meet Sarah Sundin at the 47th annual Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 18-22, 2016.


How I (Finally) Made Peace with Social Media

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Nancy Rue cropped (677x800)BLOGGER: NANCY RUE

In March, Nancy Rue will teach a Major Morning TrackThe Art and Wonder of Writing for Tweens and Teens–at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference.



I started my authorial career (doesn’t that just sound so professional?) in 1981, a blissful time in publishing when all we writers had to do was pen great books and keep ‘em comin’. The publisher did the rest, including the marketing.

It was literary nirvana.

The first time I heard about Facebook was at a writers’ retreat. When some of my younger colleagues raved about how many “friends” they had and I realized they were talking about people they didn’t even know, I rolled my eyes practically onto the floor. I wasn’t going to sit around doing that. I had books to write. Authors of my era joined me in disdain for all this self-promotion that seemed to be happening a generation behind us. Yeah, we were pretty snobby about it.

Fast forward a couple of years when I won a Christy for The Reluctant Prophet. Unlike my previous books, this one wasn’t going off the charts in sales. The numbers were embarrassing, but now, with the award, surely the novel would make it to the best seller list.

It didn’t.

The marketing director at the publishing house gave me a list of all the things I needed to be doing to boost those sales. What I had to do. Me. The author. Was she serious? Set up a Facebook page? Make videos and post them on YouTube? Blog? I wailed that if I did all that stuff, I wouldn’t have time to write. Without batting a proverbial eye she said, “You can do this, Nancy.”

I couldn’t agree. For the first time since my career began 25 years before, I felt incompetent and unconfident and downright klutzy. This was not in my skill set.

I wanted to throw up.

Before somebody had to call for clean-up on aisle three, the publisher offered to use part of my marketing budget to hire me a virtual assistant. Best thing ever. She taught me how to set up my Facebook page, and how to tweet, pin, like and throw an online party.

So, yeah, I was out there in the social media stream, but I was still floating on my resentment. Why should writers have to market their own stuff? What the Sam Hill were the publicists and the PR people doing? Jane Austen didn’t have to connect daily with her audience. She just wrote books.

I was waking up every morning with a sense of dread over how I was going to sell my work. I dropped out of Brownies at age 8 because I couldn’t bring myself to go door to door with boxes of Thin Mints. Clearly I had to get over it, or all that I’d worked for, all the ways I’d tried to serve, were going to be for naught.

That’s when I got it. What if I thought of marketing on line not as social media but soul media? What if I stopped trying to sell books and focused on connecting with people? What if I saw the Internet as an additional means for spreading the message of authenticity God gave me way back in 1981? What if I used every possible resource and venue to help?

What if I got over myself?

I have. I’m not Jane Austen. The Golden Era of Christian Publishing is fading in the mist.  What God has given me to say is still important. I can’t think of it as marketing. It’s ministry.

I have to admit: I’m actually enjoying it. Even the shyest, most private, least internet savvy author can too. A book that helped me tremendously was Kristen Lamb’s Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World. Mostly, though, it was God saying, “Use every means possible. Just get it done.”

So here’s what I’m doing. And if I can, trust me, anybody can.



Nancy Rue

Here’s where you can connect with Nancy:

NancyRue@NancyRue3 (twitter)


Come meet Nancy Rue at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 18-22, 2016.


5 Questions to Ask Before You Self or Indie-Publish

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Agent, The Blythe Daniel Agency

Jessie will teach two Afternoon Workshops, review Pre-Conference Manuscript Submissions, and meet with writers at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 18-22, 2016,


To Do Folder pic Jessie KirklandA common debate right now in the publishing world is whether or not authors should traditionally publish or self-publish. Every writer has heard wildly successful tales from both sides of the fence. As an agent, I fully believe that strong publishing partnerships are priceless. When you find the right publishing house to partner with, your career should be better for it. At the same time, I do think there are certain types of projects, circumstances, seasons—and certain types of writers—that lend themselves well to self-publishing. There are many instances where a quality, self-published title has helped an author get a contract from the agents and publishing houses they hoped to secure in the first place. If you are a writer who is considering the self-publishing route, here are a few questions to consider before you go on your way.

Money. Are you ready to be the bank? Many authors fail to consider the cost of self-publishing before they move forward with their book projects. I know many writers who are self-publishing well, but all of them spend anywhere from $1000 to $3,000 just to get the essentials: a good cover, a thorough developmental edit, and a quality copyedit. Can you do it cheaper? I’m sure you can, but my warning to you is that you get what you pay for. That doesn’t include any extra money spent on publicity or marketing. The nice thing about publishing with a traditional house is that they are the bank. They take on the risk and bring to the table all of the necessary personnel to make your story market-ready. As a self-published author, you should absolutely have a team that looks identical to what the publishing house would supply for you—but you have to find them, hire them, and pay them out of your own pocket.

Momentum. Are you ready to build a team to help push your book forward? When you self-publish, you volunteer to be a team of one. And if you want to be successful, you can’t stay a team of one. There are two types of teams that every self-published author needs: a prep team and a launch team. The prep team consists of all the people that help prepare your manuscript for production. These are agents, developmental editors, line editors, graphic artists, formatters, etc. Then, there is the launch team. These are marketers, publicists, social media assistants, readers in your target market, and other focus groups that are willing to tell the world about your book and share it on social media.  It’s rare to find someone who can wear enough hats to do this on their own. Your team might be five people or ten people, but you must have a team in order to launch a book that will help your career.

Marketing. Are you prepared to market your work weekly? There are millions of books on Amazon. And if you want to join the ranks of those millions of books, then you need a marketing strategy to get noticed, because it’s pretty darn noisy out there. I believe that authors, any type in any market, should have a marketing plan for 6 months prior to their publication date, and 6 months after launch. You will not drum up anything but disappointment if you simply upload your book to Amazon and walk away. You have to remind people, in a responsible and non-annoying way, that you are a writer with a book for sale. Many people hate to market. If you are one of those people, then you probably shouldn’t self-publish or you will need to hire someone to do the marketing for you.

Motive. Why are you choosing to self-publish? There are a number of motives that drive a writer’s decision to self-publish their work. These motives can be derived from both positive and negative experiences that writers have faced in their careers.  Maybe you want to self-publish because you are a great writer and marketer, so self-publishing is a natural fit for you. I know a few authors who have had long careers in traditional publishing and left for a bigger paycheck in the self-publishing world. But, again, those are established authors with huge followings, so they can run the risk of not having a publishing partner launch their titles. Sometimes writers who decide to pursue self-publishing do so through a lens of rejection. They have received no’s from traditional publishers, or they get impatient trying to find an agent, and decide to run ahead of the process. Most of the time, this ends badly—with damage done to their career almost before it begins. If you are interested in self-publishing, you need to weigh your motive against possible outcomes. Did a publishing house tell you no because your content wasn’t ready? If so, self-publishing could be a disaster for you in that moment of time. Do you write in a genre that only has a few reasonable opportunities? Then self-publishing might be a good route for you.

Manuscript. Is your manuscript publication ready? Have you given your story enough time to bake? Before I was an agent, I wanted to be a writer. The best advice that anyone ever gave me was to go to a writer’s conference if I was truly interested in pursuing writing as a career. It took me six years of writer’s conferences to fully grasp what good story looked like on the page. I’ve read countless books on how to write as well as studied bestsellers, all to become better. Have you studied your craft? I know a handful of authors who wrote a first draft before they studied the art of writing, but they didn’t stop learning after their first draft. A first draft is a baby step. It’s an amazing accomplishment, and harder for some than others, but you need to know the rules of writing and good story. And then, if you creatively choose to break a few, know the rules you are breaking. Some ways to get your manuscript ready include: get your prep team assembled, join a strong critique group, create a group of Beta Readers to give you general reader feedback.

One piece of advice I give to debut authors is that even if competition is high and opportunity to break in and get a traditional contract feels low, these factors should never change your passion for writing. A changing publishing landscape should never make you quit. If anything, it should make you a stronger, smarter, and more strategic writer. In the event that you have weighed your options and self-publishing is your path of choice, educate yourself and do it well.


Come meet Jessie Kirkland at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 18-22.