Monday, December 29, 2008
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Sharing Christmas these days means separate gatherings with family over several weeks, even extending into the new year. While we very much enjoy these gatherings I often miss the old days when the entire family gathered at my grandmother’s house, There’s a poem in my cowboy poetry book that I think says it all:
Christmas at my Grandma’s house was there ever such a time?
And I a button scarcely large enough that I could climb
Upon the wing of Grandpa’s rocker, feet upon the rail
And watch him smoke his pipe & smile as I told him many a tale.
Christmas at my Grandma’s house and the tree would reach the ceiling.
The smell of cooking filled the air & the world was bright with feeling.
From the height we looked the presents stacked
more than halfway up the tree.
And came back down near half the wall, and many of them for me!
Christmas at my Grandma’s house, and music filled the air.
Uncle Ray’s piano shook the room as he played without a care.
Uncle Bills fiddle took it high, Daddy’s guitar filled it in;
We kids supplied the chorus, though maybe a little thin.
Christmas at my Grandma’s house, but we always had to wait
For Uncle Edgar to get back home from the shopping trip he’d take.
We kids would gather round his door and try to peek inside
As he wrapped those final presents while the smallest of us cried.
Christmas at my Grandma’s house, and how excitement grew!
For though the gifts cost not too great neither were they too few.
As parents, aunts, uncles & cousins all bought something small
For each kid, and our eyes bugged out as our stack grew oh so tall!
Christmas at my Grandma’s house, and little did I know
That I was filling my heart so full of love that
through the years would go.
I still recall and see it clear, the faces plain as day
And though I live a hundred years, I’ll always feel this way.
For Christmas at my Grandma’s house is a fairy tale in time!
When love and laughter filled the air and everyone felt just fine.
It cannot be repeated, nor would I if I might;
For our own have been as special, but still there was that night....
When Christmas at my Grandma’s house made all the world seem right.
But now I would remember, and have YOU see that sight.
And as you celebrate this year comes this vision from the past
And I hope this time is just as good and hope these joys do last.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
I want to offer a $100 prize for the young person who best answers the discussion questions below on my new release "Beyond the Smoke" from BJU Press and enters by sending them to me through the email form on my website (http://www.terryburns.net/). For the promotion I want to offer a $100 prize to the librarian or teacher who shelves my book and another $100 to the organization they work for and the entry is simply for the librarian to give me the link to the catalog where it is located ( I keep the links on my site) and the teacher just a short comment. Both can also be pasted into the email form on the site and the name will be drawn in 90 days. The only entry fee is getting a copy of the book at http://www.bjupress.com/product/261057?path=1672 , at bookstores after the first of the year, or at your local library.
There was no such thing as a teenager before World War II. Kids were expected to go to work on the family farm or in the family store as soon as they got whatever education they were going to get which often was the equivalent of today’s middle school or even less. The purpose of this book is to make history come alive by getting young people to wonder how they would fare if they had been forced to live in this environment.
Think of the movie “Back to the Future,” if you knew you were going to be transported back to the frontier in the late 1800’s what would you do to prepare? What would you want in your backpack to take with you?
Today young people have a “growing up period” they didn’t used to have. They aren't prosecuted in their early teens for certain things, yet in the days of this book a youngster old enough to kill a man faced the same consequences as an adult. What are the consequences of this change of attitude, good and bad?
These young people were faced with a number of challenges? What would you have done differently? What are some of the things young people have to face today that they did not have to face then?
What careers do you think were open to young people in this time period, including Native Americans?
The larger than life Texas Ranger dispensed justice with a firm hand. In many places the only law was what they brought with them. What actions did he take that would not be allowed today? How do you feel about the difference?
The bright and shining period in history in England was King Arthur and the Roundtable, the days of Camelot. It has been said that that period for the United States was the settlement of the frontier and the days of the old west. Do you feel that is true? If it is do you feel young people today do not know much about this period nor have much interest in it? Why?
Would you like to see more books about what life for a young person who is a teen today might have been like in earlier years?
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
I have a book trailer done and posted on my website, Myspace, Youtube and Blazing Trailers. I’ve started getting reviewers and influencers and the early ones are working off of the galleys. Some others will do it when I get review copies in my hands to send. The galleys went a couple of months ago to Bookpage, Christian Library Services, Kirkus Reviews, School Library Journal, Booklist and Christian Book Preview.com. As soon as the publisher has the listing there are some reviews headed for Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Christianbook.com and other online review sites. I’m working with Hastings to do a book tour if a number of the over 100 stores they have in the tri-state area.
I’m sending an announcement to the database I have of over 4000 friends and relatives, former purchasers, church members, classmates and business associates from my chamber of commerce days. Many of these will be email to save money but many will be postcards as well.
BJU Press is strong in the home-school market and I expect this title to do well there. Some of the galleys sent out were intended to help get into the libraries, public, church and school and I will do a lot of individual contacts to augment those shelvings. I do a lot of speaking engagements, programs, and workshops and will of course have some sales connected with them.
That should get me started. This is a good time of the year for it with the Christmas lull, and the economy has the book industry proceeding cautiously now as well. It means shifting a lot of writing time to promotion and marketing because I don’t want to cut into the time I spend on behalf of my clients.
But today I need to focus on Saundra. It’s her birthday, a rather memorable one, and I’ll be taking her out for her favorite treat . . . lobster. We can get a surprisingly decent one given how far we are from the coast. So I’ll do what I can during the day, then it’s close the computer and give her all my attention. That’s how it’s supposed to work, right?
Sunday, December 14, 2008
In fact, it’s a lot like the question my wife asked me when we were out looking for those last Christmas presents, “What do you have in mind for xxxx?” To which I would say, “I don’t have anything in mind but I’ll know it when I see it.”
The simple answer is that I’m looking for a good book that is well written in a strong and unique voice, that I can see a solid market for it, and where I feel like I have the right contacts to get it into that market. Ask me the question and that’s probably the response you will get. In actual practice it’s more like I’ll know it when I see it.
Sure, there are some genres that I read more than others so I tend to like stories in that vein, but that’s no guarantee. I really love westerns but have little luck with them at present so having only so many client slots that I can service the genre I love the most may be the hardest to connect in. I don’t read much sci-fi and fantasy, but I have a couple of clients who hit me with some of that and the manuscript pulled me in and continued to make me read. As a result I’m trying at present to get it placed somewhere.
It’s a matter of connecting with the author and the story. A fiction story that I enjoy and can’t put down. If I don’t connect with it, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad story, but it simply didn’t pull me in as a reader. Not my kind of thing, or I just didn’t feel I was the right person to try to take it to the market. It’s the same with non-fiction, a topic that really interests me by an author who has credentials to be believable. A book on how to deal with all the problems in life written by a twenty year old who has few real life experiences to draw on probably isn’t going to be very credible, and yes I’ve been sent some of that.
And platform, oh yes, that’s part of it. I see so many that say “a readership of every living being between 18-90.” That’s no platform at all. That’s who all of us would like to sell to. A platform is groups of people a writer has direct access to through media or exposure or group membership, or perhaps associations particularly attuned to a topic. A platform says “These are my readers and this is how I am particularly able to market to them.” Particularly in today’s difficult economy platform is very important.
There’s a lot more that enters into it, the quality and flow of the writing, if it is professionally formatted and error free. But the bottom line is that it just isn’t a one sentence answer. A solid, professional proposal (single document) answers these questions for me, at least enough for me to want to pursue it further. I received over 1000 of these over the past months and the ones I’ve pursued sent me proposals that caught my attention, presented the author well, and answered my questions. Did some really good projects get past me because the author didn’t present them well? Probably. But it isn’t my job to like an author’s work, it’s their job to make me like it so I can then go on and make somebody else like it. It’s how the game is played.
The Marines are always looking for a few good men, and I’m always looking for a few good books.
Sunday, December 7, 2008
That’s the first step, getting in the spirit and taking care of the logistics required to have presents under the tree. But we’ve already gotten a wonderful present as one of my clients and good friend Donn Taylor just got the news that his wife Mildred, after much treatment, has been pronounced cancer free. She is such an terrific lady, I think Saundra and I are almost as happy as they are. I’m sure they won’t mind me mentioning it here. If it was my news I’d want to shout it from the rooftop and I’m sure they feel that way as well. God is still in the healing business.
The next step is remembering the real reason for the season, celebrating the birth of our Savior. The amazing present we received in the above paragraph pales by comparison to the present that Jesus gave us . . . the gift of our salvation. It humbles me to think how unworthy I am, how I could never deserve such a gift, but how He loved me enough to give it to me anyway. How He gave it to us all.
But here at Christmas time having a gift with our name on it under the tree is meaningless. It only has meaning if we take it, open it, and make it ours. Jesus has put a gift under our tree. If we’ve already accepted His gift before then now the gift is a reminder, a chance to pause and reflect on His birth and what He went on do for us at Calvary.
If we have left that gift under the tree unopened in past years then the most amazing gift of all is awaiting us under that tree. I urgently and sincerely hope that anyone that has not unwrapped that gift of eternal life would do so this Christmas and make it their own. We will never receive a more awesome present.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Then came news that Simon and Schuster was laying off 35 people which is 2% of their workforce and Random House let a number of top people go and announced a restructuring that will include disbanding the DoubleDay Publishing group. To top the day off Borders stock went under a dollar. If it stays that way for three months they have to do a stock consolidation.
Black Wednesday. It comes on the heels of a report at the end of November that the economy has taken the largest drop in consumer spending in 28 years. While “Black Friday” did modestly better than anticipated retailers still are very concerned over the remainder of the Christmas shopping season. Historically this shopping makes up a major share of a business’s profits for the entire year.
Still, unless further bad news continues to come in, the majority of those publishers that I talked to forecasted belt tightening, cost cutting measures (hopefully not more layoffs), lower advances and slower acquisitions. I’ll continue to monitor all of the resources I have for further changes of direction. If you don’t have time to monitor this for yourself, I make changes immediately as I get them at my website: http://www.terryburns.net/Publishing_and_the_Economy.htm
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Monday, December 1, 2008
Fortunately for me going to work is a long commute down the hall to the study. I mentioned it to one of my clients and she said, “Boy, you have it good!” I know I’m blessed, and I’m very grateful. She and her hubby have been down as well and he had to go in this morning.
I just keep hearing it, over and over, I talk to people and editors, clients, authors, people in our agency, seems like everybody I talk to have been down with something. We had to cancel the kids and grandkids coming in for the holiday because we wouldn’t be good company, and even more because we didn’t want them to catch it. We hear back that it’s hitting them anyway.
We didn’t go to church because we didn’t have the strength, and again because we didn’t want to spread it. But I hear that its sweeping through the congregation anyway. I don’t remember a holiday where sickness seemed to be more prevalent. I’m sure there have been, I probably just block them out.
Being Irish, the first remedy even before I started coming down myself and was taking care of my wife was to make a big pot of potato soup. That’s comfort food for the Irish and everybody knows it has great healing powers. Sure, I know about chicken soup, but it’s just not the same.
I did get quite a bit of work done. When you’re trapped in a recliner and there’s nothing on TV you need a diversion of some sort. Reading manuscripts helped fill the time. Was I more or less open to how good the projects I was reading were? I don’t know that it made much of a difference either way. I did lose interest in reading pretty regularly and that would normally be a bad sign for a manuscript. This time I accepted the fact that it could just be the medication and my attention span and allowed myself to set them aside without blaming the work.
I sincerely hope you weren’t one of this large number of people who seem to have gone down over the holiday and hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Now, let’s see, its sixteen days to Saundra’s birthday and 24 days to Christmas eve. My where does the time go?
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Here's hoping you and yours have a wonderful Thanksgiving and that you do take the time to count your blessings and to realize how lucky we are and how much we have to be grateful for.
During the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays (when we have even more to be grateful for) things quieten down in publishing. Not that editors aren't at work, but all of the various family scheduling makes committee meetings necessary to move on projects all but impossible. Add in to that the fact that our current depressed economy is putting a lot of things on the back burner and we can just expect book projects to be slow now.
. . . and give thanks.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
This past week I cleared out my inbox, got fresh submissions out on most of my clients, worked down my stack of incoming submissions significantly, got requested changes made to my current work-for-hire manuscript, trimmed a number of items off my honey-do list and a number of other things. And I didn’t seem to work at it too hard. I was just productive.
A couple of weeks ago I spent a concentrated week trying to do the same thing and really worked my tail off but seemed to get a pitifully small amount accomplished for my effort. This happens a lot. There is not always a direct correlation between work expended and success achieved.
What’s the deal? If I really understood could I have increased success all the time?
Maybe I’m trying to do things myself instead of turning everything over to the Lord. Is anything in my life too small to ask for his help? Sometimes I hate to ask His help with the postholes. Ask the Lord of the universe to help me scratch out a hole in the ground? Something not right about that. But is that faulty thinking on my part?
Then there’s the ‘man’ thing. Guys are taught from birth to take responsibility for their life and the lives of loved ones. Take charge, be someone who can be counted on. It’s hard for a guy to know when and how to turn it over to the Lord. The gentle sex is more sensitive and I believe can accomplish this more readily.
If it is something we need God’s help on we have to do it in His time, which often is not the time frame we have in mind. It amazes me how often I seek His help and the answer is immediate, maybe not exactly the answer I was looking for, but clearly the right one. But sometimes the answer is “not yet,” or maybe even “not what I want you to do.”
And I think a lot of time it is just us. We know we have to be working so we’re sitting at the desk staring at the computer, or we’re trying to dig down that honey-do list, or something else but our heart just isn’t in it. There is something else crowding our mind. Maybe we aren’t even consciously aware of it, but it’s there in our subconscious gumming up the works. Could even be that it isn’t as important as the task we are trying to do but it’s there. Too many things on our mind instead of focusing on the task at hand.
Maybe we are trying to use that creative right brain to write but that logical left brain editor has a task that we’ve assigned and is trying to push its way to the front. Maybe it has bills to be paid, a couple of lists to be made so we don’t forget some ideas that have occurred to us as we did something else. Perhaps we can’t do the creative task with success until we take a little time to satisfy our left brain friend and get him off our back.
The word maybe shows up a lot in the above paragraphs. Like I say, if I really understood maybe I could be more productive all the time.
Monday, November 17, 2008
A proposal is a single document. When people bring one to show you at a conference they do that, so why do they send it in an email and it is a dozen different files? Nobody wants to have to dig through files trying to find what they want to know, plus if I wanted to represent it I’d have to take all those files and try to make one nice looking document out of them. Why? Because a proposal is a single document and an editor would laugh me out of the business if I sent it to him in a dozen different files.
I also say I don’t want an unsolicited manuscript. That means unless I’ve read a query or proposal and invited it to be sent I don’t want it. But people send them. I go back and say I won’t look at it without looking at a proposal and inviting it and they argue with me about why I should just go ahead and read the manuscript. Do they think that’s going to endear me to them?
I just got one that was so generic it might as well have said dear occupant. Agents know people are submitting to more than one, we expect it. But one that is clearly mass-mailing without a doubt says people are not even making a pretense of looking at individual submission guidelines.
I tell somebody in very nice terms that something just doesn’t work for me. They write back and state their case again, sometimes several times. Like on the 4th email I’m going to say “What am I thinking, of course I need to represent this?” Actually I have a little code I put on my log sheet if they send me another one to give them a very curt no as they would definitely be a difficult client if I took one, and they will keep taking up my time if I’m too nice.
I’m told I give some of the nicest responses in the business, maybe that’s the problem. Even if I can’t handle someone I still want to be an encourager. I suppose today I’m just getting a lot of frustrating ones. It isn’t hard. Take the time to check the guidelines and follow them. The pros do that whether it is an author submitting to an agent or an agent submitting to an editor.
The final blow was the one that just said, “I read your submission guidelines, but . . . “
It doesn’t matter what goes behind that ‘but’ I’m sure to not like it, and I didn’t. It’s one thing to disregard guidelines but quite another to blatantly tell someone you have no intention of doing them. I fear my response was not one of my trademark encouraging ones.
Thanks for letting me rant.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Friday, November 7, 2008
After this age, the percentages become even more dramatic. Young people from 14 through 18 have only a 4% likelihood of making positive spiritual decisions and adults have a 6% chance that they will ever make these choices. So it is clear that some of the most critical patterns for a lifetime are decided during the tween years. This is that awkward time between still trying to be a “little kid” and being all grown up.
As a child, I grew up as a reluctant reader. In a family of seven children, I wasn’t especially pushed to read, so I never formed good reading habits. This was ironic because my father has published over 70 books. A number of these were children’s books.
A few years ago I decided to look into some of the reasons for my lack of interest in reading. My findings lead me to begin writing Christian chapter adventure and mystery books, for readers 8 - 13, that I would have liked as a child. My books are highly visual, with lots of humor, dialog, and plenty of heart-pounding action. Early responses from children indicate that I’m right on target. Reluctant and avid readers now devour each new title as it is released. Parents are also vocal in their appreciation for books that are reaching their children.
Marketing executives will tell you to find a need and fill it. But this isn’t exactly the way I got started. Quite clearly I felt God’s direction to begin writing. How that came about is a story in itself. After much resistance, I began. My purpose was to craft books that would excite the interest of reluctant readers.
After a detailed study into why I didn’t like to read, and looking at books that were written for children, I set out to write the kind of stories I would have read when I was a child. My research also took place at the height of the Harry Potter phenomenon. It bothered me to see young children so caught up in something that celebrated the dark side. I chose to write primarily for boys 8 – 13. This was because most of the books I found were written for girls, and a majority of the authors were women. Many of the books for boys also tended to glorify the dark side.
A further target audience I wanted to write for was boys who might be without a positive male role model in their lives. I felt that if I could tell a good story, the spiritual, moral, ethical, and responsibility elements could then be tucked away in their minds. Hopefully, at some time in the future, those concepts would be useful when these boys became men.
The biggest surprise, outside of the fact that reluctant reader boys love these books, is that avid boy readers, girls, and even adults do too. When I first began writing, I decided that if I could help one reluctant tween boy to become a reader, it would be worth it. From the emails and letters I have already received, that goal has been reached many times over.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
I will readily admit I am one who thinks we have made a serious mistake.
However, my wife and I determined that we will pray for him and for our country and genuinely and sincerely hope that those in the majority have been right about their assessment. I turned on my computer this morning to find that Michael Hyatt, CEO of Thomas Nelson had done a fine job of capturing the necessary course of action to pursue in the days to come. I will not plagiarize him but encourage you to go read it for yourself at http://www.michaelhyatt.com/fromwhereisit/.
I am not ashamed of my support for McCain and Palin and was immensely proud at the way he gave his concession speech, putting aside obvious personal pain to immediately try and heal the breach, as always putting America first. In spite of all that has been said, McCain is a class act.
That having been said I will pray for the new administration, will try to give them the benefit of a doubt, and will curb my tongue as Hyatt has suggested. Good comments from a man whose blog often contains sound advice. I encourage you to go read the blog.
Monday, November 3, 2008
By Donn Taylor
I don't claim any expertise on this subject. My comments here reflect personal experience with three different kinds of book publishing and my evaluation of their advantages and disadvantages.
My first novel, The Lazarus File was published in 2002 by the now-defunct Panther Creek Press, a trade-paperback, royalty-paying, regional press. The lady who organized Panther Creek had heard me read two chapters to a critique group. When she formed the press, she contacted me about publishing it. The press used print-on-demand (POD) technology, but produced a specified number of books on each press run.
The advantages were obvious: I had a published novel, it had excellent reviews with no negative comments, and people who read it knew I could write significant fiction.
The disadvantages were also obvious: The small press had no publicity division, the book was not stocked in book stores, and selling fell 100% on the author. As a POD book, it was priced substantially higher than its competition. And some of the editors and agents I pitched other books to remained unconvinced that it wasn't self-published.
Self-publishing: Earlier this year I self-published a poetry book, Dust and Diamond: Poems of Earth and Beyond. For several years, I'd been teaching poetry writing at writers' conferences such as Glorieta and Blue Ridge. People who heard me reading poems there asked if I had published a book of poetry, so I knew there was at least a small audience for one. Further, I'd been advocating and writing a kind of poetry different from the kind now taught in the universities. In contrast to the grad school product, I advocate poetry that ordinary educated readers can read and understand. (This idea is explained in detail on my Web site, http://www.donntaylor.com/.) Following recommendations by two agents, I entered discussions with the Winepress Group and ended up contracting with it to publish the book.
When should one self-publish? Conventional advice holds: In fiction, never—because it suggests the book was not market-ready. In nonfiction: when you have a niche with ready-made reader interest and the capability to sell personally to that group. I published the poetry book because it is not the kind that university presses or subsidy groups would publish and because it furthers my crusade for revival of poetry for ordinary readers. I don't expect to make a profit on it, and I'll be lucky to break even after four or five years.
Advantages: I have a book that illustrates what I'm teaching about poetry, and the publisher's visual art section translated the book's basic concept into a beautiful cover illustration—something far beyond my capability. The publisher also has an active and effective publicity department.
Disadvantages: Editorial responsibility falls at least 90% on the author, as does approval of formatting and presentation. Publicity or no, most sales responsibility still falls on the author.
National press: My light-hearted mystery Rhapsody in Red was released by Moody Publishers in September 2008. I must credit my agent, Terry Burns, with both the initial contact and the sale. The difference in this experience and the other two is the extensive help provided by the publisher's people. Andy McGuire, the acquisitions editor, made suggestions that definitely improved the book, as did the copy editor. The publisher's people also came up with one of the most provocative covers I've ever seen—yes, it's on my Web site—and the publicity staff has been most active. Although the book has had excellent reviews, it's still too early to say what the final outcome will be. What I can say is that it's been a pleasure from the very start.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
I just got back from the Glorieta Christian Writers Conference where I had a chance to connect with clients Deb Van Horn (top above) and Trish Porter (lower picture above). Trish’s new book from Bridge-Logos entitled “Rekindle Your Dream” is now in the final edit phase and will hit the stand in early 2009. Trish is the current National and World senior women’s high jump record holder. A former member of the US Olympic Team, after many years Trish decided her dream just wasn’t over and came out of sports retirement with amazing success. Her book speaks to women who may have set their dreams aside for home or career and encourages them that it is never too late to rekindle that dream.
I also want to congratulate Tammy Barley as we just negotiated a three book deal for her at Whitaker House, and further congratulations to Amy Alessio as she brings out a new non-fiction in conjunction with the American Library Association.
I’ve launched my new career as a cover model as my friend Donald Parker asked me if he could use my picture on the cover of his new book. Seems he thinks I might look a lot like the protagonist in “Angels of Interstate 29.” There’s a book trailer on it at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z4OlN8EQ3ZY but in all honesty I don’t see this as an ongoing career strategy for me.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
I suppose it came off okay, I got a lot of very nice comments, none of which impacted me as much as Dan Penwell of AMG who took the time to compliment me on it, then said he was getting the CD to play for the people back at his publishing house. That meant a lot to me.
I do believe even though some of the information was hard to hear that it is really important for people to have a realistic outlook of the marketplace, what it is doing, and what it takes to succeed in it. It is not a time for rose colored glasses. I have put it online at my website and the direct link is http://www.terryburns.net/Publishing_and_the_Economy.htm for anyone who would like to see the results of this research and gathering information from some of the key people in the Christian publishing industry. I encourage you to take a look.
If you don’t have the time let me give you the bottom line. What I heard industry pros saying is business as usual, but a bit slower and more cautious. It calls for exceptional books with good, defined markets. They expect authors to share in the risk of the market by taking some lower advances in return for higher royalty rates, and stronger and stronger platforms for helping promote the product become increasingly important. And we need to remember this is nothing new, the industry has been here before. In fact in the Great Depression, two areas that stood up the best was publishing and the movies. The more difficult it got on people the more they needed an economical means of escape from their problems.
Drop by and take a look at the best information I could gather on this difficult subject and let me know what you think.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
I’ve been asked to do a short program on this subject in a couple of weeks at Glorieta. Why didn’t they ask me to do something easy, like picking everybody a lottery winner?
Trying to second-guess the publishing industry is hard enough in normal times, but now with the economy doing a belly-flop off the high board it’s even harder. I know what I think about the state of things, but I decided the conference attendees deserved more than just my opinion, so I set out to gather all of the input that I could. And where do people express their opinions? Either in a letter to the editor or in a blog.
I don’t have access to a lot of letters to the editor, but I do have an extensive list of blogs of editors, publishing houses and agents, and some sites that industry professionals use to try and keep tabs on industry trends. I spent a couple of full days going right down the list. It would be foolish of any of us to think as hard as everyone is being impacted by the economy, personally and in our businesses that the publishing industry would be exempt. But then I found that few people in the industry are talking about it.
What? How can that be?
I went from blog to blog and site to site and finally rounded up enough information to be able to say it was more than just my opinion, but for the number of sites I visited to do it, the scarcity of comments was astounding. They ranged from a New York Times article entitled “The End” spouting gloom and doom and predicting the end of publishing as we know it, to a Publishing Trends article that simply says patience and staying calm are all that is required.
Even though no publishing sites admitted houses were feeling the pinch there were ample statistics that showed they were being impacted and talked about layoffs and steps being taken in the industry. Michael Hyatt, CEO of Thomas Nelson, did talk about the fact that there was “no silver bullet” or no single magic solution but rather a lot of incremental steps to solve a big problem. He didn’t come right out and say what the problem was.
I only found two agents talking about it, Chip MacGregor of course, and Lori Perkins. Both basically said the same thing, that acquisitions were sure to slow down, but publishing houses are in the business of selling books and it would soon pick back up again. That’s where I was positioned to start with, so maybe I didn’t have to do all this research after all.
I watch all the stuff on the economy ad-infinitum in the media. I see the steps various people are talking about taking but no matter who wins the election or what steps are being taken it is still going to take months to start seeing significant improvements. I do have a strong opinion that it matters very much who wins the oval office too, but I don’t want to get into that. If everybody just spent a lot of time in prayer before they vote that problem might resolve itself.
For those at the conference I’m going to have a lot of support for the things I’m saying here and I hope I don’t prejudice the experience of seeing where industry people stand by giving away the ending, but I don’t think so.
For now I believe there is a need for an even greater degree of patience in the business of writing. It never is a very quick process going from writing to publishing, but even more patience will be required. We should keep doing business as usual, writing our stories, making our submissions. Only at this point in time good may not be quite good enough. We should take the time to polish it even more. Right now good will lose out to excellent, and a good proposal demonstrating that excellence and showing a terrific platform and a willingness to help the publisher make a success of the offering could tip the scales.
It’s funny how many people are talking about the economy in public forums but how few are talking about it in regards to our industry, but we shouldn’t think that means it isn’t a factor, it is. It’s like the elephant in the living room that nobody is talking about, but he’s there, he most certainly is there.
Sunday, October 5, 2008
Thursday, September 25, 2008
The American Christian Fiction Writers conference is the premier conference for Christian fiction writers and the conference is set up to get them maximum exposure with agents and editors. It does that big time. However the better that format is, the less time agents have to get a little time with editors. We're generally busy at the same times. For that reason it was good Kristine and the clients were out there working it since I wasn't getting the time to do it. I'm really enjoying all of the comments and insights that they are sending me.
As often as not they also got insight that is leading them to say "let me tweak this or that before you send it," as they have learned something from the editor that they feel they can improve in their proposal or manuscript. I really love that attitude in them, and have yet to see an editor who wasn't up for a resubmit of an "improved version" if they learned something that would make it a better fit for them.
So, I better get my head back down and start cranking this stuff out.
Monday, September 22, 2008
The clients who were at ACFW were Roger Bruner, Bill Garrison, Curt Iles, Annette Irby, Mary and Jean James, Pam Meyers, Susan Miura, Donn Taylor and Jennifer Hudson Taylor. They did a terrific job pitching to editors and finding out and passing on information. When we all get back and they send me notes on all this information I will put it all together and will probably learn some things cumulatively that wasn’t apparent on individual comments.
I got some more significant help at the conference. I have a new apprentice, Kristine Pratt. I didn't even know I needed an apprentice until Kristine explained it to me. She wants to learn to be an agent and is willing to work with me in order to do it. Kristine is a writer of Christian Fantasy, Science Fiction and Women's fiction. She also is a writer of non-fiction, and right now her projects include a Young Adult science fiction series set on the Jupiter Moons and a non-fiction self-help book. She runs a small editing service Written World Communications and has been looking at a lot of proposals. The name "Written World Communications" was in fact taken from the setting of her fantasy novels. Kristine was a ACFW Genesis winner in 2007 and came in second in the ACFW Noble Theme Contest in 2005. She's been published in Women's World and has written several articles. I believe Kristine will be a big help to me catching up and identifying and submitting to additional markets.
Bottom line it was a good conference although a busy one. With twelve of us fanned out over the event we created a significant buzz. Add in about 40 Hartline clients with Tamela and her clients and though Joyce and Diane weren’t there, they had clients representing them as well. Tamela coordinated that and did a terrific job. There was a lot of talk about Hartline at the event. My sincere thanks to all who made the event and our participation so successful.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Somebody was talking about it somewhere. I did a blog on the new site “Bustles and Spurs” about that time and that might have generated something but I didn’t see any mention of the poem in the comments made. My name came up over on the “Frontier Times” list, and I looked there but didn’t see any discussion of the poem. Very interesting.
I’ll start seeing a lot of foreign traffic at my site. It’ll go on for a while, then it dies down and I’ll notice some other trend. There is a reason behind each of them if I knew what it was.
There are a number of other people named “Terry Burns” and there was a short period where I started getting friend requests that looked like I was sending them to myself, but I wasn’t. I have taken friend requests on several lists from guys with the same name, different ones at different places. Very interesting. I also have a Google alert set up on my name so I get a notice when the name is mentioned somewhere. Many of them are not me, so that is interesting as well.
Occasionally I will do a name search on myself just to see what is out there on me. Very interesting, and shows how well you turn up in search engines. Again, I find a lot of other people with the same name doing things. It surprised me when it first started happening, I wouldn’t think the name would be all that common.
It turns up an old friend I haven’t heard from in a long time periodically. They’ll run across the name and make a contact. I always enjoy these. And I really enjoy it when people write to say they have read one of my books and liked it a lot. A couple of times people have written to complain about something I used in a story that they think isn’t accurate, but I research carefully and have been able to document that the reference was correct. These contacts usually come in through my website.
I got several responses from inmates at some prison facilities after “Mysterious Ways” came out. It seemed they identified strongly to the main character in the book and it caused them to reflect on their own religious beliefs. That made me feel really good. Not sure how the book got into these facilities but after that I made an effort to get it into more of them.
It’s just sort of strange running across these things, knowing your name is coming up in various places, but not knowing where or how.
Monday, September 8, 2008
I also do a blog here at http://cowboymusing.blogspot.com/ that is mirrored on my webpage at http://www.terryburns.net/ and on Shoutlife at http://www.shoutlife.com/profile_view.cfm?uid=6062 that I try to change every day or two. I am an occasional contributor at http://favoritepastimes.blogspot.com/ which features postings and discussion about historical.
The agents at Hartline take turns posting in a blog entitled “Heard it from the Hartline” that runs monthly in the Christian Fiction Online Magazine at http://christianfictiononlinemagazine.com/ and this month featuring Hartline Agent Diana Flegal. I’ve also agreed to blog at a new column in the ACFW ezine “Afictionado” which is available to members of the American Christian Fiction Writers, but that is still in the planning stage.
Periodically I have guest blogged in other places. Since I don’t blog every day on mine I am thinking about seeing if some of my clients would like to guest blog there. Does that sound like a good idea? It would change the content more often. I have had a guest blogger there a few times.
Why do I go to the trouble of doing all these blogs? Getting and maintaining visibility is a primary reason. One of my spiritual gifts is encouragement, and I look upon blogs as an avenue of using that gift. Networking is vital to writing, sales and promotion as well as to career development and effective use of the internet is one of the very strongest networking tools.
Thursday, September 4, 2008
It is coming from this sort of context that I admit how deeply ashamed I am of our national media. There are some journalistic giants from past years who were so fiercely idealistic about being objective that they would be every bit as mortified as I am, probably more.
The media used to at least hide the fact that they were pushing a liberal agenda but now they don’t even bother to do that. I resent them thinking that I am so stupid that I will believe every slant they put on the news. I resent it when they interview Obama with questions designed to make him look good and then interview Sarah Palin with questions designed to make her look unqualified. I resent it when he flops from place to place on issues until he finally finds a point he can stick with and the media ignores it. I resent it when they put all political considerations aside and suddenly make the big news item about her daughter expecting a baby as if it made her immoral to support her. What I saw was a mother with a daughter making a mistake and her offering unconditional love and support. I applaud that.
I resent them saying a mother of five could not have the time to do the job when half of our country is working mothers and every one of them should be incensed with that implication. I resent them scoffing at her executive experience running a city and a state when neither of her opponents have experience administrating anything. When they try to stuff all this down my throat it shows how little regard for my intelligence that they have. Hitler used media propaganda with amazing results, but people this is not Nazi Germany.
The people of this nation have a right to objective reporting of news, not propaganda but we aren’t getting it and the more they try to pull the wool over my eyes the more I want to ask the questions they are not asking. I have watched both conventions and one was a pep rally full of sound and fury and signifying nothing. In the other I saw speaker after speaker take on the tough questions and answer them. I also heard them asking the questions nobody seems willing to ask the other side because the media won’t ask them. And I knew the answers they were giving were true.
This independent is taking sides this year. The media made me do it, left me no choice. I hope everybody wakes up and sees how little regard they have for the intelligence of the voting public.
Friday, August 29, 2008
Just got an image of the cool new cover for "Beyond the Smoke," the new young adult western coming out from BJU Press in January. I like it a lot and I'm told that the young man on the cover is in high school, single and unattached. The back cover blurb reads:
They were all dead.
No one alive in the whole wagon train.
He was alone.
When Bryan Wheeler’s parents are killed by Comanche raiders, he wonders how he will survive without them. With a few supplies, two guns, and his mother’s Bible, he sets out to create a new life for himself in the western wilderness.
Beyond the Smoke is the story of one young man’s adventures in the Wild West.
Juvenile Fiction/WESTERNSISBN 978-1-59166-929-69 781591669296
I also just signed a contract with Treble Heart Books for A Promise Kept release date not yet announced but it will be in the coming year. I'm about half way through a ghostwriting job for a publisher that will be out in the coming year, without my name on it of course.
Even though I spend most of my time working for my clients, I am trying to keep my own writing alive.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
I turn down new clients even if they have a wonderful project if I can't see a solid place to go with it, and I don't send out existing clients without some sort of a good lead-in that will lift it out of the stack on the desk. I need the reputation of them knowing I send stuff that is well researched and I believe I am getting it. I know this causes some clients to not go out as much as they would like, but when they do it is because I have doccumented a solid shot, and while that is no guarantee of success, I like to think every single submission I send out is in play.
I send out a weekly update to them so they are aware what one another are doing. If I make a contact on their behalf that communication is direct, of course. Brenda Nixon just wrote: "Today, I was called and interviewed for an article in Parents Magazine. The piece will run this winter, possibly January or February. My website will be listed, which gives The Birth to Five Book massive publicity. It'd be super if Revell could piggy-back on the publicity by buying an ad in the Parents issue where I'm quoted or garner a book review. On another note, A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts, of which I'm co-author, releases September 30. The publisher said it has pre-sold 3,000 copies." Her book "Birth to Five" is coming out soon.
Trish Porter writes: "Thanks for your prayers. I did a tv show called good morning New Mexico, a thirty minute family life radio show plus two extra spots, and a radio show in Washington." (Trish is on deadline for her book "Rekindle Your Dreams) Donn Taylor is finishing up his second book and Graham Garrison just signed a contract with Kregel.
Max Anderson: "I'm in the very, VERY early stages of talking with a 3rd film production company. They are in startup now, with a capitalization of 600 million dollars. This company is also a distributor of films, plus the digital equipment to project it. In the near future, most films will probably be distributed by satellite, and then projected digitally. These are Christian people, but it is much too early to say what's going to happen."
Kevin Collier reports his new TV show is in production and is expected to reach anywhere from 350,000 to 700,000 viewers worldwide. "Jarod and I will appear on "KICKS Club" as frequent guests before and even after our own show, "Drawing for Kicks" is running. So, that means even more potential viewers. They will be promoting my books I am drawing for them there, and books Kristen and I have authored for other publishers."
Celeste Matthews has re-written her "Some of my friends are people" as a fiction entitled "Jessica Taylor Country Vet" and I really like what she has done We'll be going back out with it in the new cnfiguration as I find some applicable markets.
Tim Shoemaker said he got some terrific help from bestsellers Donita Paul and Bryan Davis and used it to make changes in his manuscript "Midnight Shadows." He sent it and a new suggested proposal incorporating some enhancements to his platform along with some requests from editors he has scored at recent conferences he has been working. These will be going out immediately.
We still have several authors getting full reads, a terrific sign, and still others who have advanced beyond that to committee level. People, that's a lot of action for a small group of 50 writers. I know it is encouraging for those it is happening for, but it should also be encouraging where it isn't happening yet. This much activity and 24 completed deals is raising our visibility and getting projects looked at very seriously.
Did I mention I'm proud of these folks?
Monday, August 18, 2008
Bonnie Calhoun (Publisher of Christian Fiction Online Magazine) is a wizard with this internet stuff. Bonnie took it on herself to spruce up my website a little. It has a new look on the landing page now and the bookstore. Pages are going to start changing now as they are revised one at a time to show the new navigation bar ar the top and should open much faster with the streamlined code she is incorporating into it. She's doing an awesome job and setting it up where I can maintain it myself.
That's a chore in itself. You've heard the saying that "you can't teach an old dog new tricks?" I'm here to tell you that just isn't true . . . but they do have to be EASY tricks. She's promising they'll be tricks I can handle.
Every time I think I have recovered from the computer crash something else has happened. eMail problems, host problems, software problems, learning a new operating system (Vista) as well as new primary software (upgrading to Office 2007) which causes me to constantly be looking for where things are when I knew where they were in the old software. Any one of these chores would be a challenging task, but doing them all at one has gone way past challenging.
I wouldn't have stood a chance of pulling this off without Bonnie's help. You may have noticed that I put my blog on blogger now and it is set up to also display on the front page of the site. You can see it either place or over on shoutlife where there are so very many Christian writers.
My clients have been very understanding when my efforts on their behalf practically came to a standstill, and left me so backed up that I am getting back up to speed very slowly. I really appreciate their understanding and support. As I said, the pages will continue to change until all of the site is back up completely. In the meantime the old pages still work, except the navagation bar on some of them doesn't point back to the new home page. We can live with that until the transition is complete.
Okay, back to learning new tricks . . . sit . . . roll over . . . scratch my tummy.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
rename the First page “Index,” to save them as html pages and the site would work the way I had it.
I did and it worked like a charm. I’ve maintained the site in Word for years now. It was fast and very simple. I had a lot of content in it and a lot of people used the library of writing links or went to the blog that I change several times a week. The number of pages looked at went over 3 million and the number of unique visitors is approaching 440,000. It was working.
One of my clients, Bonnie Calhoun, who writes great suspense/thrillers is also the head of the Christian Blog Alliance and the Publisher of the Christian Fiction Online Magazine. In other words, she’s really good at this online stuff. She said the site was getting too big and important to be such a cobbled together bunch of pages and said she’d show me how to do a first class landing page and how I could do a better job with the remaining pages.
Bonnie is a pro and I would be a fool not to listen to her. Watch this space and see how it changes.
Now let me change horses. I don’t know if Elmer Kelton is on a crusade or not, but if he is I want to sign on. I think everybody in the country ought to get a copy of the July issue of Texas Monthly where Elmer decries the current trend of applying the term “Cowboy” in a negative sense, particularly in politics and I couldn’t agree more. When somebody does that, whether the listener supports or opposes the person it is applied to, it angers a good part of the entire population of the west.
A cowboy is a hard-working hand that generally holds to a set of principles no politician could ever hope to match. The name has to be earned, it can’t be purchased in a Western store with a big hat and a pair of boots. I’ve worked on ranches some and did some time at a rodeo, but it still isn’t something I would ever call myself. But if someone else applies it to me I consider it a high honor. Be warned, those of you who insist on applying the word negatively, it could . . . no . . . probably will affect you much more than whoever you are trying to impact.