Monday, January 30, 2017

Why Attend a Writers' Conference?

Every year for the last 25+ years, I've been going to writers' conferences. Sometimes I'm teaching at these events and other times I am an attendee. No matter whether you are on the faculty or attending, conferences are key events to grow as a writer and meet new people. Why is this important?

We work with people that we know, like and trust--have a relationship. Relationships are formed and developed at conferences. I've written over 60 books and for more than 50 magazines. The roots of those books and magazines came from meeting an editor or agent at an event. My first book--a children's book with David C. Cook--happened because I met an editor at a conference.

From my perspective, there are several important aspects in going to a writers' conference:

1. Commit to attending a conference (large or small) on a consistent basis. I have had great experiences at small events and also large events.The bigger conferences have more editors and agents and more opportunity but also the competition for these people's attentionis also greater. There are many terrific events and you can follow this link to get more details about specific conferences.

2. Come prepared. You are investing time, energy and money to attend so you can meet an agent or a publisher. You can make it worth that investment if you do some homework ahead of time such as studying the faculty and their photos. Being aware of their photo and background will help you as you interact with them. Also bring lots of business cards to exchange with everyone you meet. Also as you study the faculty, you will be able to create specific pitches with your ideas. Your efforts to prepare will show to the faculty members and help increase your possibilities of getting writing work from the event (a common goal for many writers).  

3. Throughout the event, meet as many people as you can. You will be able to meet people at meals, coffee breaks, waiting for a class to begin and any number of other places. Introduce yourself and ask questions about what they write and what they are learning.  Make a point to exchange business cards with everyone and offer to help them. You never know who you are going to meet at these events. I encourage you to make the first move and reach out to others around you. Remember, many writers are introverts (and you may be as well). You will have to push yourself but it is worth the effort. 

4. After the event, this step is one of the most important: follow-up and follow through on the requests and ideas. If someone asks you for something (magazine or book), get them the material as soon as possible while your meeting is fresh in their minds. 

You may wonder how I've written all the material that I've done over the years. It's not any secret. I go to conferences, listen to the editors and agents, then do what they asked me to do. In other words, I send these professionals the requested proposal or article. Also I follow-up these submissions with solid writing. It's not that I'm the best storyteller or the best writer in the room. I am one of the most consistent in my follow-up and determination to meet the needs of the editor.

No matter whether you are writing your first magazine article or book or whether you've written dozens, the teaching, insights and relationships from conferences are critical to propel your writing life forward. Now as an acquisitions editor at a New York publisher, I go to conferences to make new connections and find new authors. If you haven't noticed, Morgan James Publishing had their first fiction book on the New York Times list (#12 right behind The Shack at #11) On The Clock, by Tim Enochs and Bruce Tollner. Be watching for this book and I encourage you to read it.

Plan your action steps today to get to a conference. It can be a life-changing event for your writing life.


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Monday, January 23, 2017

Every Writer Needs the Right Connections

According to Malcolm Gladwell's book, The Tipping Point, there are three basic types of people: Connectors, Mavens and Salesmen. I believe each of us have characteristics of each of these types. If you don't have these characteristics, then you can learn and acquire them as a writer. In this article, I want to emphasize the importance of connections and talk about how you get connections in the first place.

For writers to succeed and get published, they need to send the right material at the right time to the right place and the right person.  You are searching for a champion to communicate with you and guide you to that right place. Admittedly you have to take action to find this place and experience some mis-steps and rejection in the process. The persistent search for the right connection is a key part of the writing life.

Whether you've been in publishing for many years or are just getting started you have connections. For each relationship, you need to collect information and preserve this information in a format which you can use. For example, I have an email list and for each email, it includes my mailing address and phone along with my email address. The information makes me easy to reach. A week ago, when I spoke at a writer's group, I brought business cards and made sure each person who attended, got one of my cards to reach me if needed.

As a writer you want to exchange information with others and carefully put this information where you can easily access it. I put much of it into my iPhone because the contact information is backed up automatically and preserved. I also collect it through my email account and online address book. I do not use the information carelessly—i.e. calling people and wasting time chatting on the phone.  I call or email when important to reach the other person—admittedly a judgement call on your part.

Last weekend, one of the websites that I use went down for the first time. The website is a critical piece in a teleseminar event. This particular site collects the questions from the participants in a teleseminar. I've been using this site for years and it has never gone down—until this weekend. I tried sending email messages for help to their support address and anything else that I could think of to reach the site. The bill that I get each month had a phone number attached to it—so I called that phone number—yet it was no longer a valid number.I was stuck. My event was stalled because of this missing piece. No one could register for the event because the site was down. What else could I do? As typical, this situation happened on the weekend and not during the week.

I recalled that the owner of this site was good friends with another one of my contacts. For this particular contact, I had his cell number in my phone. I sent a short text to this friend about the situation and asked if he knew how to reach the owner. It turns out this friend was in North Carolina in a mastermind meeting with the owner of the downed website. 

Since they were in a face to face meeting, they were away fro m their email and computers. Because I reached them, the owner immediately looked into his down website and in a short amount of time it was back up and running. My event can go forward since everything is working now.In fact, if you want to hear the event (which is now on replay), you can have immediate access to it—just follow this link.

I'm certain there were many others who were stuck with this down website. Yet through my contacts, I was able to creatively reach the right person and get it resolved. There are several action points from this story:

1. Always be working on increasing your connections with different types of people.

2. Keep their information in a format that you can easily access—on your phone or on your computer. I'm using tools which are internet based and can be accessed any place. If it only on a printed business card, then that information doesn't help you away from your office. You want the information in a format you can access any many different situations.

Last week I met with one of my new authors at Morgan James Publishing. He was in Colorado since his son was in a hockey tournament. Even though on the weekend, I drove up to his hotel and we spent some time together, talked and exchanged business cards.  As a writer, you always need to be working on your connections and relationships. You never know when a particular relationship will be important to you.

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Sunday, January 15, 2017

A Place to Get Publishing Answers

It is a challenge for writers to get answers to their publishing questions.  While there are many opportunities, editors and agents are often overwhelmed with email and physical mail—so they do not respond. Your submissions go into a black hole (no response) or you receive a form rejection letter which basically says “thanks but no thanks” or “your submission was not a fit for us” (no information or insight about the reasons). I understand the reasons for these form letters but they don't give you the specifics that you need.

I want to tell you about a place to get answers. One place I blogged about last week, the Christian Writer's Market Guide. For more than 25 years, The Christian Writer's Market Guide has been the most comprehensive and highly recommended resource on the market for Christian writers, agents, editors, publishers, publicists, and writing teachers. In addition to providing a wealth of ideas and tips for publishing in the Christian industry, The 2017 Christian Writer's Market Guide also includes up-to-date information on more than 200 book publishers, more than 200 periodicals, and 70 literary agents, contests, conferences, editorial services, niche markets, self-publishing services, and more. This is the ultimate reference tool for Christian writers. I blogged more details about this book here.

Have you heard of Steve Laube?

To refresh your memory, Steve Laube is a literary agent and the president of The Steve Laube Agency. He has been in the book industry for over 35 years, first as a bookstore manager where he was awarded the National Store of the year by the Christian Booksellers Association. Then Steve spent a decade with Bethany House Publishers and was named the Editor of the Year. Later he became an agent where he has
represented nearly 1,000 new books and was named Agent of the Year by the American Christian Fiction Writers. In addition, Steve is the publisher at Enclave Publishing, an imprint of Gilead Publishing, and also serves as president and owner of The Christian Writers Institute.

Why am I telling you this?

I'm telling you this because I have convinced Steve Laube to grill him during a LIVE  70-minute telewebcast on Tuesday, January 17th!

* * * Here's Our Small Request * * *

Rather than have the “content” to come out of my head (or Steve's head) for the January 17, 2017 telewebcast at  5 p.m. PDT / 8:00 p.m. EDT, I have decided to let you ask Steve a question.

Sound fair?

So, if you could ask Steve ANY question you wanted about publishing for the Christian writer, what would your question be?

Here's your chance to ask Steve directly and get registered for the call on Tuesday, January 17, 2017 (starts promptly according to www.Time.gov).

Click the link below:


* * Get a FREE Ebook, Book Proposal Tips & Tricks * * 

You will receive a 47-page Ebook, Book Proposal Tips & Tricks. It's FREE if you ask a question and
register for this telewebcast.

Click the link below:


After your question gets submitted, you'll find out how to get phone access and webcast access to Steve Laube and I for the LIVE telewebcast,  January 17, 2017.

If you can't make the time of the call, please go ahead and sign up anyway. The entire teleseminar will be recorded and EVERYONE who signs up will receive an email with the replay link. Also if you sign up, you will be able to download the FREE Ebook right away.

I look forward to speaking with you on Tuesday as we answer your questions about writing for the Christian marketplace.


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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Four Ways To Use An Essential Reference Book

For over 20 years, I’ve been actively writing and publishing in the Christian market with magazines and books. The professionals (editors and agents) are constantly changing. New publications enter the market and old long established magazines fold. For many years, one of the best resources for keeping track of these shifts was THE CHRISTIAN WRITERS MARKET GUIDE. This annual publication contained the latest information packed into one book. Sally E. Stuart was the creator of this resource for many years. Then several years ago, she sold the market guide to bestselling author Jerry B. Jenkins. The last guide from Jenkins was dated 2015 to 2016—which means the last time the information was updated in late 2014 or three years ago.

I’m delighted to see THE CHRISTIAN WRITERS MARKET GUIDE 2017 from Steve Laube. A well-known Christian publishing professional, Steve has brought this new version back to the market with new tech innovation—a monthly subscription to get the latest updates online. I’ll admit to being old school and love using the printed book resource.

As Laube writes in the introduction, “While it may seem like the industry is shrinking, in reality, it is simply changing. Thus you have to research more to find the best place for your work to shine. One of the biggest mistakes a writer can make is to ignore the guidelines of an agent, a publisher or an editor. Some publishers even dropped their listing in this guide due to writers failing to follow the instructions posted on their website or in here. Editors are looking for writers who understand their periodicals or publishing houses and their unique approaches to the marketplace. This book will help you be such a writer. With a little time and effort, you can meet an editor’s expectations, distinguish yourself as a professional, and sell what you write.” (Page ix)

The volume is divided into five sections: book publishers, independent book publishing, periodical publishers, specialty markets, and support for writers (agents, conferences, writers groups, editorial services, publicity and marketing services and contests.

As the back cover proclaims, “Over 1,000 listings including more than 200 book publishers, 200 periodical publishers, 70 agents, 100 freelance editors, and much, much more!” This annual volume and current update is a goldmine of information and opportunity to the Christian writer—but only if you get a copy and follow the information in it. I highly recommend this new resource.

Besides giving you some information about the book, I want to conclude this article with four ways you can use this reference book.

1. Discover new magazine markets in the section called Periodical Publishers. As a writer, you need to follow the guidelines. This refrain to follow the guidelines made repeatedly throughout the book. Why? Many writers ignore the guidelines, then they wonder why they got rejected. If you follow the guidelines, you will stand out in a positive way—and be successful as a writer. When the magazine requests “query only” then learn to write and send a query. If they want the complete article, then send the article. Besides discovering new magazines, you can also be reminded about other publications where you can get published. This section is packed with possibilities for every Christian writer. 

2. Locate a book publisher. Other authors are looking for a book publisher and this section of the guide has the latest and up to date information about publishers. Some publishers require a literary agent while others do not. Use this section to make sure what you are sending is what the publisher is asking to get from you.

3. Select a writer's conference. The Market Guide includes a comprehensive list of conferences, dates, location, number of attendees and much more. Again this resource is valuable for every writer to attend the conference which best fits their particular need.

4. Locate a literary agent. The Market Guide includes a great list of agents with their contact information and what they are looking to represent.

The key for these different ideas is to use the book. If you get the book (first step) and it sits on your bookshelf without use, then you don't propel your writing life forward.   


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Sunday, January 01, 2017

Develop Habits for Writing Success

Happy New Year. This article is my first for 2017. When the calendar changes to another year (like this week), it provides an opportunity to evaluate the past and also to look ahead to the future. I suspect you've been doing a little of this type of thinking in your own life since I've been doing it. What actions did you take during the last 12 months for your writing life that succeeded and which ones do you need to stop or change?

As I examine my days, I'm a creature of habits. For example, I begin each day spending time reading the Bible. It's a pattern that I've done for many years. Each year I select a different version of the Bible to read throughout the year. Last year, I read The One Year Bible in the New Living Translation. This year I'll be reading Eugene Peterson's The Daily Message. It's part of my spiritual habit that feeds into my life as a writer and editor.

Besides spiritual habits, I have habits with Twitter. In past entries, I've detailed how each day I'm using tools (mostly free) to grow my presence in the market and community—and also increase my presence on social media. These habits do not take much time but have consistently grown my presence—so they will be something I will continue in the days ahead.

I have a number of other habits in my life—consistent practices and actions. During the last year, I've stepped up my consumption of books by listening to more audio books through Overdrive. Recently I completed listening to the audio book of The Power of Habit by Charles Dihigg. The book explains the science and practical nature of habits including how we form new habits and replace old ones. I found the stories fascinating and informative. Until listening to this book, I didn't know about the history of the creation of toothpaste and how brushing teeth became a habit. If you want to learn about this important aspect of life, I recommend you track down this book through your library (Overdrive like I did) or purchase a copy and read it, then apply it to your own life.

Another resource on habits that I recently read is Millionaire Success Habits by Dean Graziosi. I enjoyed the book and learned a great deal from it. Apart from the book Graziosi has created The Better Life Challenge where in 30 days you can transform your life in as little as three minutes. This resources is FREE and you don't have to read the book—but simply take action every day for 30 days. Just use this link to learn more details and sign up to learn through this tool.

The writing life is much more of a marathon than a sprint.  I often meet writers who believe that one book or one action will propel them to bestseller status. Sadly this belief is a publishing myth.  Repeatedly I hear about writers who are called an “overnight” success because they've suddenly sold a lot of books. Yet when you look into the details, you will normally discover this author has been in the trenches faithfully working for years to achieve such a position.

What skills or habits do you want to develop in the months ahead? Are you taking consistent action to gain the knowledge and insights you need to get there? Tell me about your plans in the comment below and if I can help you, let me know.

Here's wishing you a successful 2017.


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