The Challenges of Category Cookery

By Laurel Blount

I am a sucker for cooking shows, aren’t you? My personal favorite is the Great British Baking Show, where contestants compete to create challenging dishes in a specified amount of time. It’s exciting to see the frantic bakers rushing around, trying their best to beat the clock and still produce a delicious, edible masterpiece.

It’s exciting, but it’s not all that realistic, is it? Because, honestly—those people have every ingredient they need at their fingertips, and even work in a special kitchen with lots of bells and whistles.

If you want to talk about a real challenge, ask a cook to create a nutritious, gluten-free, totally organic, easy-to-prepare meal for some very important guests—in an hour. And here’s the kicker, she can use only the specific ingredients currently available in her pantry. Oh, and one more thing: it has to taste so fabulous that everybody asks for a second helping!

I think we can all agree; the cook who pulls that off deserves all the praise and recognition we can shower upon her! And probably a nap.

This, my friends, is similar to the ninja-skills that writing high-quality Christian category romance requires. Ever since I tied on my own literary apron in this particular kitchen, let me tell you—my chef’s hat is off to all my much-more-skilled writer-sisters who offer their readers such delicious stories over and over again, all while staying within the boundaries of the genre.

My publisher, Love Inspired, is dedicated to producing a particular kind of experience for readers. They’ve developed some tried-and-true standards regarding the sort of hooks, plot tropes and characters they love to see in their books. My job as an author is to produce a story that fits within the Love Inspired brand, but which is also fresh and exciting—and which brings my readers back for more.

Just in case you’re ready to tie on your apron for this particular challenge—here are a few tips that you might find helpful:

  1. Start with the basic recipe. Study the guidelines and read the books. I know, I know, everybody tells you that! But the brand is very important in this category, and these elements aren’t usually negotiable. Think of it this way—whenever you cook for an important guest (and our wonderful readers are definitely our v.i.p.s!) you need to know what your parameters are. Gluten-free? Dairy-free? Organic? Diabetic-friendly? No matter how sumptuous a meal you prepare, if it doesn’t follow the requested guidelines it’s likely to be sent back to the kitchen. In one story proposal, I began with the hero already deeply in love with her heroine—who thought of him only as a friend. My editor explained that in Love Inspired, they preferred to see the love grow between the characters during the course of the story. He could be attracted to her, but his deeper feelings needed to develop over time. I changed that element and sold the book.
  2. Once you’ve got the basics down, take a good look into your own particular pantry. What spices can you mix in to make your story uniquely fresh and uniquely yours? For example, in my debut novel for Love Inspired A Family for the Farmer, I pulled on my country-girl experiences of milking a cow, being a midwife to a goat, and coping with a really opinionated goose to add some fun to my story. Sprinkle in your special touch to add a one-of-a-kind flavor to your book!
  3. And finally—be sure to pay close attention to any feedback or tips from the experts. The wonderful editors are the Julia Childs of category fiction. They know their biz inside and out, and they are dedicated to making each author’s story as delicious as it possibly can be! Emily Rodmell, an experienced editor at Love Inspired, frequently offers valuable writing tips via Twitter or Facebook. Look her up!

I’ll leave you with one last tidbit. You know what really draws me to The Great British Baking Show? The sweet camaraderie among the contestants! It warms my heart to see these folks cheering each other on, helping each other solve ticklish problems, and tearfully hugging when somebody gets sent home. They’re each dedicated to doing their individual best in the contest, but they’re equally dedicated to being supportive and helpful to their fellow bakers. I love that—and I’ve found the same type of warm-hearted fellowship among the Love Inspired authors.

If you’re interested in writing for this market, I’d strongly suggest you attend some conferences, attend the Love Inspired workshops and open house events, and meet some of these amazing writers and editors. And be sure to like and follow their professional accounts on social media and sign up for their newsletters, too! (I’d especially recommend joining the Love Inspired Authors and Readers Group on Facebook. That’s one of my favorites!) You won’t be sorry. Not only are these folks talented—they’re also just delightfully fun people!

Okay, enough talking, am I right? The oven timer is ticking, and it’s time to get to work. Grab your spoon—or pen—and start baking up a really fabulous story!

Click to tweet:  This, my friends, is similar to the ninja-skills that writing high-quality Christian category romance requires.


Laurel Blount lives on a small farm in middle Georgia with her husband, their four children, and an assortment of very spoiled animals. She divides her time between farm chores, homeschooling, and writing. She’s busy, but at least she’s never bored!
Laurel writes inspirational contemporary romance, and Hometown Hope is her third title for Harlequin’s Love Inspired. A fourth book is scheduled for publication on January 2020. She’s received a Georgia Romance Writers Maggie Award for Excellence and has also finaled in the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Carol Awards. She’s represented by Jessica Alvarez of Bookends Literary Agency.
Whenever she’s not working, you can find Laurel with a cup of tea at her elbow, a cat in her lap, and a good book in her hand. Stay in touch by signing up for Laurel’s monthly newsletter at www.laurelblountbooks.com.

The Importance of Return on Investment (ROI) for Writers

‎By Fay Lamb

I’m about to give you some cold, hard truth. Rick Castle is a fictional character. The number of authors who support themselves on royalties, let alone live in a condo in the middle of New York City or any other high-priced locale, are few and far between.

Oh, they do exist. I can name three of them without giving much thought to it.

However, in today’s world where, let’s face it, the market is saturated with people who believe they can write and readers who have been taken too many times, it is so much harder to support oneself on writing alone.

This is why every dollar invested in a writer’s career should be scrutinized. This careful examination of a writer’s budget should begin before the first word is written. For example, as a new author, how valuable is coaching to your career? When the first draft is written or the second or the third, what would be the reasonable cost of an edit? Then, glory hallelujah, a contract is written or a writer is skilled enough in the elements of their craft to publish a book. That’s when the cost of marketing must be considered. Make no mistake about it: even traditionally published authors must shell out payment for marketing. Facebook and Twitter are definitely not going to get the job done.

The mistake that most writers make is paying heavy fees on the front end without considering the return on investment they are likely to receive. They seek an editor or a coach, and they may find good ones, or they might find predators—individuals who have no idea what must go into a novel or a book of non-fiction to make it publishable. As an acquisition editor, a freelance editor, and an occasional writing coach, I have read many submissions in which I’ve commented that a freelance edit would benefit a writer only to learn that the work has already been edited, and I use that term loosely. Then I shudder at the price the person has paid for the edit or the coaching, knowing that the writer is likely never to recoup the money spent.

A key to hiring an editor is to ask for and review their resume. Ask them for author references and for titles that they’ve edited. Follow up on these references and ask the authors if they feel as if they received a good return for their investment. Then read what the editor has edited. Is it the type of editing you require?

Also, spell out for the editor what you require. A good fiction editor understands the elements that go into each genre of fiction. They’ll look for plot holes, for areas of inconsistency, and places where the elements are not strong. An editor of non-fiction understands the framework that publishers desire and will work to put the manuscript into that format.

Oh, and anyone who knows the industry is aware of the importance of return on investment. They will not charge you the same going rate they would charge a J.K. Rowling, or a James Patterson or a John Grisham. See, I told you I could name three authors who can live the Rick Castle lifestyle.

While those three authors have names that sell, you and I most likely do not. So, our only remedy is to get out there into the marketplace and make our names familiar. I’ve already said that Facebook and Twitter are not going to get the job done. We’re marketing to our own people group—mostly authors, and Facebook and Twitter are saturated. The return on investment is good, if you want nothing for nothing or a little for something. There are ways to make them work, but a savvy author needs to reach outside his or her comfort zone, to find traditional ads and marketing that costs them something. In the same way that they carefully examine the cost of an editor or a coach, they should ask questions of other authors who have tried different types of marketing. Authors are usually very kind to tell each other what works and doesn’t work. Authors should price various size ads on websites or in magazines or any venue they plan to work in and research the traffic for those venues.

Click to tweet: Return on Investment or ROI. A savvy author need to reach outside his or her comfort zone. Why? #amediting #IndieAuthors

Another suggestion to lower the individual cost for advertisement is to work in groups, either with authors who write the same genre for a publisher or who self-publish in the same genre. A caution, though: be sure that that the authors promoting with you write to the same standard whether it be social, morals, or in talent.

Start slow. You’ll have to pull from your own pocket at first. Always reinvest your earnings, seeking for a return on investment and eventually striving to put the money you invested back into your own pocket.

Writing Prompt: Jane stared at the returned manuscript proposal in front of her. The story is good. But have you thought about having it edited? The problem was…

 

Editing: You Lose to Gain

By Jennifer Hallmark

Editing. Such an important part of writing. It might seem counter-productive to write 10,000 words, then take out several hundred while editing. Remember, you lose wordiness to gain clarity.

Have you been able to read all our articles this month? If not, I’ll share the links so you can go back and check them out.

How to Choose the Right Editor

Choosing a Freelance Editor

Pros and Cons of Self-Editing

Which Editor Will You Choose?

Do You Need Help Editing Fiction? Try These Books

Meet Jennifer Uhlarik—Managing and Acquisitions Editor for Trailblazer Western Fiction

So How Do You Find an Editor?

Why Do I Need an Editor?

Editing. So very important. But let’s remember to first tell the story, and then edit. Too much editing at the beginning, unless you’re very experienced, will dilute the essence of what you’re creating. And that would be a great loss…

Join us in May to learn about the publishing market in 2019. We’re going to look at many phases of publishing with articles, interviews, and first-hand experiences. You won’t want to miss it.

Click to tweet: Editing. @InspiredPrompt Editing helps you lose wordiness to gain clarity. #editing #amwriting

Writing Prompt: Edit this short paragraph in the comments. Get creative…

John realized their relationship was over. He saw April with the other guy. He decided it had to be a date or why were they standing so close? His hand slammed the book he’d been reading. Wait. He could hear footsteps. Could it be April coming back to apologize or something?

So How Do You Find an Editor?

By Cammi Woodall

Our articles this month have told us all about editors. I personally did not realize the different types of editors available. My mental picture was always a hunched figure surrounded by stacks of books, red pencil scribbling and slashing! April’s articles have taught me I have much to learn. So now that we know what an editor does and we know if we need one, how do we find that elusive creature?

  1. Family and friends – We all do it. We have our finished project and we pass it along to a sibling, parent, or friend with the request, “Tell me if you find any errors!” But how many of us have family and friends who edit and proofread professionally? This is a good first step to editing, but often we need more.
  2. Online platforms like Reedsy, Upwork, Ebook Launch, or New York Book Editors. These and other sites like them are staffed by vetted professionals. Most will look at various genres and offer a range of prices.
  3. Let the editors come to you. Authors can post editing jobs on various sites like the Editorial Freelancers Association, Guru, or Servicescape. A writer can post a job listing the specifics, such as what kind of editing needed, total pages, turnaround time, and payment.
  4. Read articles about your favorite authors, scan their social media pages, and look at their websites. Writers will often thank the management team.

A word of caution: there are scams and con artists in the publishing world. Research any editor or service before you pay to make sure they are legitimate. One popular website I have always heard about is pred-ed.com, known as Predators and Editors.  At the time of this writing, the website is under construction and is moving to a new platform with new staff. Keep an eye out for them.

Another popular service I came across is Writer Beware. This service is sponsored through the Science Fiction Writers of America, the Mystery Writers of America, the Horror Writers Association, and the American Society of Journalists and Authors. Writer Beware has a Facebook page, plus can be accessed through accrispin.blogspot.com. It has been going since 1998 and had posts on the blog as recent as March 29 of this year, so it appears to be going strong. Their goal is to help new, aspiring authors as well as established writers. I found information about company alerts, scams, and legal actions. Their March post was updating information from 2011 and 2012 about a company.

We all know that writing a book is not a solitary venture. While we do toil at our keyboards or notebooks alone, a published book requires a team of dedicated members all working for the same goal – that perfect book. Hopefully our help this month will lead you straight to the perfect editor for your project. Happy writing!

Writing Prompt – She didn’t know if she could carry her burden any farthe.

Meet Jennifer Uhlarik–Managing and Acquisitions Editor for Trailblazer Western Fiction

By Jennifer Hallmark

April is all about editors on Inspired Prompt blog. So I’m more than happy to introduce Jennifer Uhlarik, managing and acquisitions editor for Trailblazer Western Fiction, the newest imprint of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas.

Trailblazer Western Fiction seeks to recapture the glory days of the Western, but with an updated feel that will ignite the hearts and minds of a whole new generation of readers. Trailblazer offers stories that combine the action, adventure, mystery, and romance of the American West, all wrapped up in the rugged men and brave women who left the comfort of life back east to discover and settle untamed lands in the West. Whether historical or contemporary, our westerns tell the stories of those who braved rugged terrain and insurmountable obstacles to make a life in the beauty and vastness of the western frontier.

Welcome, Jennifer! What a great name you have 🙂

You are the managing and acquisitions editor for Trailblazer Western fiction. What drew you to this particular job?

The job really fell in my lap. I’ve been in the writing industry as an author for years, and while I’ve had some successes selling western romance stories, I have other titles, either fully written or in the works, that are more western/less romance. Those have been a much harder sell. So as I was talking with author extraordinaire Eva Marie Everson about the difficulty in selling the more traditional western titles I have, she dropped the idea of opening a western line.

I was already working for Eva in her Southern Fiction line as an editor, so after hearing her out, I thought about it, prayed about it, and a very short time later, I felt like this was the direction God was leading me in. So Eva and I approached Eddie Jones at Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas about opening Trailblazer Western Fiction, and Eddie quickly said yes. And, “poof!” I was the managing editor of Trailblazer Western Fiction. LOL

When you first entered the writing world, did you want to become an editor?

Nnnnoooooo! In fact, years after entering the writing world…when Eva first approached me about working for her as an editor in her Southern Fiction line, it was such an overwhelming idea that I was paralyzed with self-doubt for several days. Tears were shed, friends and family had to give me pep talks, and only after a lot of thought and prayer did I know this was a direction I was supposed to go in.

What are some pros and cons of being an editor?

I think the pros far outweigh any cons. As an editor, I get to read and acquire some amazing fiction, which is always a plus. Another part I love is that I can now help other authors realize their dreams of publication. After years of struggling to find my path to publication, it’s fantastic to know I’m in a place to help others along the way. And it’s also exciting to be able to help other authors hone their stories into that bright, shiny gem that readers will love!

Cons? Well, for one, I can’t take every story. I wish I could, even just to encourage the author. But Trailblazer is small, so there’s no way I could take every story that came across my desk. And…Life is busier when I’m working with an author toward publication of their book. But in those busy times, I refocus on the pros and move right on past these minor cons!

What percentage of your authors are debut authors?

At this moment, fifty percent. However, I don’t have a set formula for how many debut authors vs. established ones I’ll take. It really depends on the story for me. Tell a great story with even a middling amount of skill, and I’ll give it serious consideration.

What submission advice do you have for aspiring authors?

Two things. First, Trailblazer is a niche market, so it’s important that you know the genre. Read western books, get a feel for the genre, and then craft a story that fits.

And second, be sure to study the guidelines and develop a proposal with all the elements listed on our submission page.

As a bonus piece of advice, keep in mind that Trailblazer (and all of the Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas lines) are moving to a Christian worldview, but not overtly Christian style of storytelling for 2020 and beyond. We are still looking for clean reads, so no gratuitous violence, language, etc. But there doesn’t have to be an overt Christian theme or spiritual arc to the story either.

What stories are you and Trailblazer interested in for future publications?

I am open to new and interesting ideas. I love the classic westerns like Louis L’Amour used to write, but I’d also love to find some contemporary westerns, westerns told in a more complex way, or westerns paired with other genres. You can read more of our vision and desires at https://lpcbooks.com/trailblazer-western-fiction-submissions/

Thanks so much for sharing, Jennifer!


Jennifer Uhlarik discovered the western genre as a pre-teen when she swiped the only “horse” book she found on her older brother’s bookshelf. A new love was born. Across the next ten years, she devoured Louis L’Amour westerns and fell in love with the genre. In college at the University of Tampa, she began penning her own story of the Old West. Armed  with a B.A. in writing, she has finaled and won in numerous writing competitions, and been on the ECPA best-seller list numerous times.

In addition to writing, she has held jobs as a private business owner, a schoolteacher, a marketing director, and her favorite—a full-time homemaker. Jennifer is active in American Christian Fiction Writers and lifetime member of the Florida Writers Association. She lives near Tampa, Florida, with her husband, college-aged son, and four fur children.

You can find Jennifer at her website, Facebook, TwitterPinterest, and Instagram.


Sand Creek Serenade

Dr. Sadie Hoppner is no stranger to adversity. She’s fought to be taken seriously since childhood, when her father began training her in the healing arts. Finding acceptance and respect proves especially difficult at Fort Lyon, where she’s come to practice medicine under her brother’s watchful eye.

Cheyenne brave Five Kills wouldn’t knowingly jeopardize the peace treaty recently negotiated between his people and the Army. But a chance encounter with the female doctor ignites memories of his upbringing among the whites. Too intrigued to stay away, tension erupts with the soldiers, and Five Kills is injured.

As he recuperates under the tender care of the pretty healer, an unlikely bond forms. However, their fledgling love is put to the test when each realizes that a much greater danger awaits—a danger they are wholly unable to stop, and one which neither may survive.

Purchase link