Four Tips on Landing and Working with a Traditional Publisher

By Jennifer Hallmark

I stared at the typed manuscript on my desk. It represented over a year of work. Traditional publishing or Indie publishing? Or vanity press? Though I was a newbie, I needed to make a decision. I knew very little about the publishing business. No, scratch that. I knew nothing at all.

I’d been writing my first novel and loving every minute of it. It sang, it soared, it was perfect. (Yes, I can hear you laughing from here)

A person from a vanity press approached me and offered to publish my wonderful 100,000 word work in progress which had no genre, no edits, and no formatting whatsoever. I’d been praying ever since I started writing for God to show me what to do. I was clueless and not ignorant of that fact.

So, when this opportunity presented itself, I went back to prayer. The only words that seemed to resonate inside of me were “Follow the traditional road.” I was a bit sad at the time. I mean, look at what the world was missing by me not putting my novel out there.

*Shaking head.*

What did I know about traditional publishing? Nada. I began to study all the types of publishing, taking online courses, reading writing craft books, and attending writing workshops, groups, and conferences. It didn’t take me long to figure out what a mistake I’d almost made. I kept following the traditional road the best I could and here I am, thirteen years later, about to release my debut, traditionally published novel.

Click to tweet: Four tips on landing and working with a traditional publisher. #publishing #amwriting @Inspiredprompt

If the traditional road is one you’d like to follow, don’t despair. It shouldn’t take you as long as it did me. Let me share four tips that will make a difference in your journey:

  1. Know the publisher. When I first started, I just sent my novels to publisher’s names I liked and gave little thought to what they wanted. I did get some helpful criticism back from several publishers but nothing else. When I finished my novel, Jessie’s Hope, I diligently studied the publisher I had set my sights on, Firefly Southern Fiction. I studied their guidelines until I could say them in my sleep. And I read several books by Firefly.
  2. Get your manuscript edited. Whether you hire a freelance editor, join a critique group, or find a critique partner, get another set of eyes on your work. I ran Jessie’s Hope through a critique group first, then had an editor friend give it a once over. I wanted it to be as polished as I could make it.
  3. Meet said editor or publisher. One way you can meet them is online. You can visit their site, read all their blog posts, and comment until they recognize you. I found out that the Firefly editor, Eva Marie Everson, was going to be at a conference near me and I made plans to go. I made an appointment to meet with her and also took all of her classes. I needed to learn what she was looking for in a more personal way.
  4. Submit your work. Finally, at the conference, I showed her a bit of my work and also explained the trouble I was experiencing in learning deep POV. She ripped my first pages to shreds as she taught me first-hand about deep POV both in our meeting and during class. She asked for a longer submission to be sent to her email and two months later told me the story intrigued her. But I had to first take a chance and submit or I would have never known it had potential.

After the good news, I started snoopy dancing. But then she had one of her beta readers read the full manuscript and tell me all the problems it had. I worked hard over the next two years and resubmitted it in 2017. She accepted the manuscript and on June 17, my dream of being a traditionally published author will come true.

Eleven and a half years after I made the decision to follow this road. I’m sure glad I didn’t know in the beginning how long it would take or I’d have probably given up.

Now which road should you take? Indie publishing has come a long way since I started writing. I believe God understood my lack of patience and desire to see my work in print and the fact that I would regret publishing too soon. He pointed to the traditional road and for me, it was the right one.

I suggest you prayerfully look into both ways of getting your work into print. (I purposely left out the third way. Don’t use a vanity press.) Do some research into both methods. Use my four tips with a publishing house that you feel a connection to and see what happens. You never know until you take that step.

In leiu of a writing prompt:

Question time. Ask me a question in the comments and I’ll try to answer it or find an answer for you.

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…

 

Publishing in 2019: What Do We Know?

By Jennifer Hallmark

The publishing world has changed much in the last five years and left even the experts baffled. For established writers and those just starting, the world of writing is confusing at best, impossible at times. With so much fake news and opinionated articles out there, what do we know for sure?

AMAZON is not going anywhere soon. Online shopping is growing. The writing industry has many opportunities via Amazon. From Audible to Amazon ads to Amazon’s Author Central, writers need to study and take advantage of the many opportunities offered by the largest Internet retail company in the world.

Good EDITING is crucial. Whether you are aiming to be traditionally publishing or going Indie, the competition is fiercer than ever. A well-edited article, story, or novel stands out. But Writer Beware: many who claim to be editors are either ill-equipped for their job or scammers searching for the uninformed. Check out our Monday and Friday posts on editing during the month of April for more information.

Any author, whether traditional or Indie, needs to know how to MARKET The good old days of writing books while others do the marketing for you is gone, unless you are willing to pay for it. Marketing is primarily discovering your readers and giving them a reason to buy what you’re selling. Authors need to examine social media, word of mouth, and ads, then decide how each will aid in finding an audience for their book. All three are vital for successful marketing.

The AUDIOBOOK industry is growing. More and more people listen to podcasts and audiobooks while they drive. Should your book be an audiobook and how hard is it to produce one? We’ll share the answer in a two-part in-depth article and interview about this topic at the end of the month.

WHO YOU KNOW And I don’t necessarily mean your cousin’s aunt who cleans Big Publisher X’s office. I mean, how social have you been in your pursuit of writing stardom? Each person you meet, whether a newbie, editor, reader, publisher, or the director of a writing event is a vital connection. Some will help you reach your writing goals while others will cheer you on. Or maybe you’ll cheer them on. We all need each other on this difficult journey. How you regard others makes all the difference in the world.

CHANGE is the word that most describes this year’s publishing market. Major bookstores are closing. Online stores and companies open and either succeed quickly or close. Scams and fake news abound. You can no longer believe one source. You need to research it all.

Staying in tune with the writing world is the key. No, you don’t have to know all the ins and outs of publishing. But study enough to have an overall picture in your head of what’s to come. Pick your road carefully and stay true. It makes the trip much longer if you backtrack.

Study.

Write.

Engage.

Write.

Submit.

If you persevere and grow, you’ll eventually find success. Even in this fluctuating world of print, audio, and digital…

Click to tweet: Publishing in 2019: What Do We Know? The overall picture is something you need to understand. #amwriting #publishing

Please read all of our Monday and Friday articles this month to learn more about publishing in 2019.

Writing Prompt: Kiel sat drumming his fingers on the desk. The writing course he just finished left him with more questions than answers. Where should he turn now?

The Heart Changer by Jarm Del Boccio

image2.jpegGood morning, dear reader! Thank you for joining us on this lovely Saturday. We have Jarm Del Boccio with us this morning. Jarm is talking about the writing process and her newly released debut book, The Heart Changer.

Jarm, tell us a little about yourself.

Jarm:  I was an only child, who grew up in a single parent home. My dear dad, a kind and artistic man, died when I was only four — it broke my heart. But I still cherish his memory after all these years!

As a child, I loved to sing along with Disney songs, acting them out as I listened on my phonograph. I learned to read at a very early age – The Hat and the Cat Came Back was a favorite. I kept a diary almost all my life, into which I poured my joys and sorrows.

My mom and I took trips across the country every summer, visiting family and friends, along with natural and historical sites along the way. One year, she drove me (as an eight year old) and a friend with a broken leg, all the way from Chicago to Alaska and back! My favorite part was being the navigator, as I followed our route on an old-fashioned map. I believe it gave me a love for history and culture — and created in me an adventurous spirit.

I was a single schoolteacher and librarian, nannied for two years, then spent another two years as a missionary teacher in an isolated village of Papua New Guinea. When I arrived home, I got my RN, and soon after, married my husband Dan. Three years later, I discovered I was not able conceive, so we adopted a son and daughter from Russia. There has never been a dull moment since!

After home educating them for ten years, they left the nest, and I was able to pursue my writing passion. I began with picture books, but because I had a difficult time keeping my descriptions short, I was advised to write for middle-grade. I found my sweet spot and never looked back! Although one day, I would love to see one of my PB manuscripts in print.

I have a soft spot for kids in the Bible who have no name and backstory, but have made a huge impact on the people around them. With The Heart Changer, Naaman’s wife’s servant girl came to mind from 2 Kings 5. So, I gave Miriam a name AND a feasible backstory! I try to stay as close to the historical account as possible. Since my passion is to ‘breathe new life into the pages of history’ I delight in the ‘what-ifs’ and bring the story to life so children can relate to the Bible characters in a fresh way.

Some fun facts about me:

– I love to travel, and am passionate about visiting new places. My motto is: never visit the same location twice. Well — I’ve disregarded my own rule a few times, but otherwise, I stick to it as best I can. I’m slowly checking off destinations on my bucket list, and have journeyed to six of seven continents. I’ll let you decide which one I have yet to step foot on . . .

– I was accidentally hit in the head with a baseball bat and sported black and blue eyes for eight grade graduation. A well-meaning elderly man thought I had applied my makeup incorrectly. The ironic thing is — I am not a sports fan!

– When I was a junior in high school my first job was — no joke — in a Chinese laundromat.

– My secret desire? To get caught up in a flash mob singing a tune from a favorite musical.

– When I was in elementary school, I begged my Mom for a baby alligator from Florida, trying to convince her we could keep it in our bathtub. She gently asked me what I would do once it grew to full-size. I pondered the question for a minute or two, and reluctantly backed down. 

What do you love most about the writing process?

Jarm: I love the way words flow from my mind to my fingers, as a little-known person from history begs me to tell his or her story. Sometimes, it happens so fast, I wonder if the words are flowing from my heart to my pen, missing my mind altogether. I certainly don’t speak the way I write. It’s a unique process for me. I also thrive on critiques and love to edit to make my story shine. I’m disappointed if no one can find a problem with my manuscript.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

Jarm: A plethora! One or two half-finished, but I’ve written a total of 30+ unpublished historical/Biblical fiction picture books and middle grade novels. Most of them have been critiqued and edited at least once, and for the last three years, I’ve been sending them out on submission — but no one has snatched them up at this point.

If you could give advice to your younger writing self, what would it be?

Jarm:  Be faithful in keeping a daily journal. Someday, you may become famous — and it’s discovery may change the world. Even if you don’t, it will leave a legacy for those you love. Also, dare to be different. Be who God meant you to be. And don’t be afraid to try new things or go out of your comfort zone. You’ll be able to write about them later.

What are common traps for aspiring writers?

Jarm:  One of the biggest, I believe, is to write for the market. The quality of your manuscripts will suffer if you do that, since your passion is not engaged in a book you force yourself to write. Another trap is to think you have nothing worth saying to readers. Of course, that’s a false assumption. Each person has a unique perspective on life, depending on their culture, faith and upbringing which can inspire a story. The challenge is having the skill to write it in the best way possible to make readers care — that’s the difficult part. If you are willing to work hard, and take constructive criticism, you will be successful!

What does literary success look like to you?

Jarm:  Of course, we think of the number of books an author has published and sold, and the rave reviews they receive. I’m not there yet. But if I heard from those who, by reading my novel, have been inspired to be the hero of their own stories — given confidence to be the person God has meant them to be — that’s the meaning of success for me!

Future projects or WIP you can talk about?

Jarm: I’m writing (with the help of the Institute of Children’s Literature) another middle-grade historical fiction, The Orphans Who Saved the World, set in early nineteenth century Spain, based on a little-known medical expedition. A completed MG historical novel, Fair Investigation! set at the 1893 World Columbian Exposition has been sent numerous times to editors and agents, but no bites yet. I have plenty of ideas but it’s difficult to know which one to focus on first!

Thank you for joining us today, Jarm!


image2Jarm Del Boccio

Jarm (‘J’ pronounced as a ‘Y’) Del Boccio finds her inspiration in everyday life, but in particular, when she travels the globe, observing the quirky things that happen along the way. Focusing on lives of characters from the past, Jarm is devoted to breathing new life into the pages of history.

Jarm has a background in elementary and high school education, and served for seven years as a school librarian. Grateful for the opportunity, she taught three missionary kids in an isolated area of Papua New Guinea. She is part of SCBWI and American Christian Fiction Writers, and has published articles in “The Old Schoolhouse” magazine.

The Heart Changer,” her debut MG historical/biblical fiction, releases with Ambassador International April 26th 2019. Jarm is content with the journey God has placed her on, and lives with her husband, adult daughter and son (when he lands at home) in a tree-lined suburb of Chicago. You can connect on her author’s website/blog at: https://www.jarmdelboccio.com/

My Passion is to Make Scripture and History Come Alive for my Readers: Illuminating the Past. Making Sense of the Present. Offering Hope for the Future.”


image1Can an Israelite captive, wrenched from all she loves, serve the very man who destroyed her village?

Miriam is asked to do the impossible: serve the wife of Naaman, commander of the Syrian army. Clinging to treasured memories of home and faith, Miriam faces captivity with worry and bitterness. Little does she know the Heart Changer is wooing and preparing her for a greater mission—far beyond what she could imagine.

This middle-grade historical novel reflects the heartache and angst of a young refugee in a foreign land where all hope seems lost.

 

Hidden in a List by Marlene Houk

writing picture Marlene HoukGood morning, dear reader! Thank you for joining us on this lovely Saturday. We have Marlene Houk with us this morning. Marlene is talking about the writing process and her new book, Hidden in a List

Marlene, tell us a little about yourself.

Marlene: I’m a woman of faith, wife, mother, grandmother and many other roles. My career was in accounting and I’m now semi-retired with writing and consulting vying for my time. Sid, my husband, and I have enjoyed and stumbled through bringing up two grown and flown children, but my daughter is close and serves as my personal guru of technology, encouragement, and critique in this writing journey. 😊 I enjoy snowtubing, soapmaking and visiting Ireland.

What do you love most about the writing process?

Marlene: I heard someone say at a writers’ conference, “I dance with words.” God gifted us with the ability to waltz to the rhythm of words and gave us language. He even called his beloved Son, the Word. The Bible fascinates me with its structure, patterns, and implications. And God, the Master Storyteller’s methods work because he created us to respond to Jesus. I love to copy those same methods in my writing.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

Marlene:  Too many. One unpublished book and about eight half-finished books wait patiently for me.

If you could give advice to your younger writing self, what would it be?

Marlene:  Two pieces of advice rise to the top.

  1. Learn from the Master Writer: the Lord. His ways are best, and he created us to have the same emotions, needs, and pleasures as the rest of humanity. These ways help us to understand the Bible. Capitalize on that and learn his methods which are stories, questions, the senses, word pictures, figures of speech, patterns, etc.
  2. Write. Because I’m a backslidden perfectionist, training myself to write rather than waiting for the perfect moment and inspiration is difficult.

What are common traps for aspiring writers?

Marlene:  In the big picture sense, the traps are the same as elsewhere in life. Our strengths (For example, I strive for excellence but drift into perfectionism.) are our weaknesses. When the Bible says, “the wisdom of the prudent is to know his way,” (Proverbs 14:8), it means writing too. If we know our strengths, then we know our weaknesses. When we see our personalities mirrored in many others’ reactions to us, then we know our way. And to excel at our careers supports our writing.

We have the same foibles everyone falls in to. For example:

  • I somehow think that writing is a luxury, and, like a nap, put it off until I deserve it. But writing is an accountability for the gifts and the truths that we discover. They should be a light set on a hill rather than under a bushel. (Matthew 5:15)
  • The craft of writing takes time, and I want to purchase the book and consider it done.
  • And, like most people, my creations are my babies, not to be critiqued.

The traps are the same as experienced writers.

What does literary success look like to you?

Marlene: Literary success would fulfill my desires when people receive my work and grow spiritually from it.

Future projects or WIP you can talk about?

Marlene:  My current WIP is a Bible study whose working title is Divine Drama: transforming patterns in the lives of Bible women. It won first place for Bible study at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference (BRMCWC). Based on easily-observed patterns in their stories, we can absorb divine truth that changes how we view life.

When this one is published, there are about 7 others in various stages of completion that follow this pattern. And there’s an infinite number of other possibilities when studying women of the Bible.

Thank you for joining us today, Marlene!


writing picture Marlene Houk

Marlene Houk writes a series of Bible studies that connect ancient women to us, conveying messages of hope, faith, and warning. She has recently published a short-read on Amazon Kindle called, Hidden in a List: secrets from Bible women

Marlene is passionate about finding the Master Director’s heart prints in the women he has positioned in his Word. And she loves to ask unusual questions such as, “What one word did Eve omit in her conversation with the devil?”

She writes for the Blue Ridge Christian News and contributes to the Short & Sweet Series published by Grace Publishing, compiled by Susan King. She also encourages women through her teaching and speaking ministry. Her Bible study, Backstage Pass to Emotion Commotion, won first place at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference.

  Marlene is a graduate of Covington Theological Seminary with a degree in Ministry and Gardner-Webb University with a degree in Business Administration. Learn more about the fascinating world of Bible women at www.MarleneHouk.com.

Facebook

Twitter

Email

Amazon


Maglenes_Hidden in a ListDo you have a plan when life kicks you to the curb in its daily grind and when disaster strikes? Imagine relying on simple, doable, Scripture-based steps to realign your emotions with God’s Word. In this short read, you can:

  • Unlock proven secrets to control reactions and instead act from a God-given perspective.
  • Triumph in the knowledge of Jesus Christ as he overcomes fears and failures.
  • Delight for a lifetime in using these secrets and sharing them with others.
  • Conquer insecurities by following the women of the Bible.
  • Boldly increase your faith and hope as a daily part of life.