A Little Here & A Little There
I enjoy books written on a single topic but I also see the benefits from a book which includes many different topics and voices. You get the latter in The Making of a Christian Bestseller by Ann Byle. In my last post, I told about the packaging but what’s inside this book?
To give the book a unified voice, Byle wrote each of the chapters from interviews with the various contributors. Most of the chapters are written like a short magazine interview article with the author while other chapters are in a Question and Answer format. Most chapters include a highlighted tip for the writer in the misnamed Bestseller Tip. I call them misnamed because they are not about how to make a bestseller but more of a highlighted point of interest. Here’s an example from the chapter featuring author Laura Jensen Walker and WestBow Press editor Ami McConnell. The “tip” says, “About WestBow Press. WestBow Press is the publisher of all fiction previously released by Nelson books and W Publishing Group. Launched in 2003, WestBow’s authors include Ted Dekker, Angela Hunt, Frank Peretti and Davis Bunn. WestBow is named after the street in Edinburgh, Scotland, called WestBow, where Thomas Nelson launched his publishing company in 1798.” You can see why I’m a bit unclear about how this bit of information qualifies as a “Bestseller Tip.”
Here’s why you want to read this chapter. I’ve not seen any books with teaching from Ami McConnell who teaches at some writer’s conferences but in general isn’t talking with the broader writing community. This particular chapter is discussing Chick Lit and has her insight and take on this genre of Christian fiction saying, “It’s difficult to predict where reader interest and trends will turn even six months ahead, but McConnell thinks chick lit may not have reached its peak yet. She’s interested in chick lit about women in different stages of life, in different socioeconomic places. This diversity will fuel the chick lit literature. “I think as women we’re intrigued by people who are very different from us, so I think we’ll start seeing more chick lit that involves protagonists who are less like us,” says McConnell.” (p. 143) This type of information appears tucked into the various chapters. Admittedly it is that person’s perspective—but Byle has tapped some knowledgeable resources.
In the chapter with Brandilyn Collins called “The Risky Business of Suspense,” Collins explains her decision to stick with one genre of fiction and some of the reader reaction. “Collins has received some emails suggesting that Christian books shouldn’t include violence, that she’s flirting with the devil in some of her books.” This chapter provides realistic expectations about how hard Collins has worked at her craft and the challenge for any writer who wants to do the same. “I studied and studied and studied. I tell people who are learning to write fiction that it takes years. I know you hear about people who write their first book and sell it. Those stories become news because they’re unusual, not the norm,” says Collins.” (p. 114)
Here’s one last glimpse (for today) from this well-done book. I’ve known Lyn Cryderman for many years—even before he worked at Zondervan where he’s now vice-president and publisher. He is another key individual behind the scenes who is rarely captured in print—yet appears in The Making of a Christian Bestseller with the chapter, “Thinking Beyond Your Book.” This chapter encourages authors to include ideas in their book proposals beyond the traditional book. I liked the fact that this idea included some cautions saying, “There are caveats of course. Some authors can neither generate nor sustain interest in a wide range of products—first-time authors especially, though that’s not always true. And there’s the issue of buyer fatigue and resentment. Too much product is a huge mistake.” (p. 45). I loved this quote from Cryderman, “The book is the horse. If it’s a great book there’s a good chance there will be some opportunities for other products.” The application for me is to not get so caught up in the extra products that you neglect to pour excellence into the actual book.