Tuesday, September 29, 2009

It's too similar

I have to respond that way from time to time and it’s a shame, but it happens. I don’t like to pit clients up against each other so if I have something under contract and something very similar comes in, whether it’s a similar story line or similar in other aspects to they would be competing with one another then I just don’t take it. That’s a no win deal for me for no matter where I might pitch or sell something the other one would be saying “why did you do that one instead of mine?” Hard question to answer, so I just avoid the conflict.

There’s another way they can be similar. When I start reading and I step and check what I’m doing because I think I’ve read that one already, that’s a bad sign. What editors and agents are looking for is unique projects with unique voices. Now I know there are a limited number of base plots, but there are a myriad of ways to treat those plots, settings and writing. If I think I’ve already seen it chances are it is too similar.

That’s a shame when an author sits down and writes something they think is quite unique only to find out there are a ton of them coming in that are quite similar to one another, and we see that a lot. Maybe a movie or TV show hit a number of months ago, or an event in the news got a lot of people thinking along the same lines. Whatever the stimulus, all of a sudden a lot of proposals hit that are very similar to one another. It happens a lot, and when it does none of them may end up being chosen as editors and agents think “with this many coming in there are bound to already be some in the pipeline by now."

When that happens the author may end up having to put it in a drawer to pull out some time later when it has a chance of better standing alone. It’s all about the fit in the marketplace. Most, however, don’t think with a career view but keep trying to push it in and then possibly self-publishing it instead of trying for the big score again when the time is right.

Too similar can be a particularly frustrating response to receive to a submission.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Meet my Editorial Assistants

When submissions come in, chances are these ladies will be the first to work with it. They read queries and ask for proposals. If a proposal is good they may ask for a full read. They may even ask an author if they will make some changes they feel are necessary to be able to make a positive recomendation to me. They do not accept or reject, but I have to say they are VERY good and I am usually in agreement with their recomendations. I thought I would introduce them so you would know who they are:

Amy Alessio - is the co-author of A Year of Programs for Teens (2006) and Another Year of Programs for Teens (pending, 2010). In 2008, she edited the YALSA 2008 Excellence in Library Services for Teens 5th Ed, and the fiction anthology Missing for Echelon Press. She is active in YALSA, and has edited the online newsletter YAttitudes for that organization. Regular reviews and columns by Amy appear in Crimespree Magazine and Teenreads.com. She is the Teen Coordinator at the Schaumburg Township District Library in Illinois.

Teresa "Teri" Burns - Teri is an award winning writer, reporter and copy editor working on several newspapers and doing free-lance work. She majored in journalism at Stephen F. Austin college. In her spare time she is a certified EMT and volunteer firefighter and does freelance manuscript editing. Yes, she is my daughter and I'm very proud of her.

Kristine Pratt - Kristine is CEO of Written World Communications, editing, proofreading, and website services company. She has worked as an editorial asst for Terry at Hartline Literary and for Jeff Gerke at Marcher Lord Press. Written World Communications also publishes niche market magazines and books and she takes submissions for that as well.

These are the ladies who get the first look at your submission and I have every confidence in them.


Saturday, September 19, 2009

Thorn among Roses

Here I am a thorn among a sea of roses. And if I know these ladies they will all be even more resplendent tonight at the banquet.

I'm at the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference in Denver and it has been a delight. I believe I have had to tell each of the over 500 attendees one at a time that my heel is much better, that I am happy to now be able to get around with a cane, but that there is still a bit of pain involved.

This is a conference loaded with a lot of terrific content. I often wish I could partake of some but have to be in appointments. But in those appointments I've heard a lot of fine pitches and will be very busy reviewing proposals that will come in after I get home.

Clients Donn Taylor, Pam Meyers, Susan Miura, Sherri Gallagher and Curt Iles are here and are working the conferences like a set of trained covert operatives. They've fanned out and are collecting information from the various editors reporting back and sharing that info with the group. Some good opportunities are arising from it.

Tamela and I did our agent session last night and it was well attended. Good questions and good interest. I enjoyed it very much. Some of my favorite editors are here and it has been good to get to spend a little time with some of them. Got to see Ted Dekker briefly last night, nice guy.

Well, the dawn is breaking and it's about time to launch into the last day. I will probably amend this blog before this day is done. If you are here, hope we've had time to meet and if you aren't, well, you know we wish you were here.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Winning the Will Rogers Medallion

Jean Jones presenting award

It humbled this old country boy.

It did. My YA "Beyond the Smoke" just won the 2009 Will Rogers Medallion for best youth western. The award was presented at the National Cowboy Symposium in Lubbock September 12th.

Charles Williams, EVP of the Academy of Western Artists said: "It is with a great deal of pleasure that I recognize your book,"Beyond The Smoke", as a 2009 Will Rogers Medallion Award Winner. The Will Rogers Medallion Award is presented each year to those books that represent an Outstanding Achievement in the Publishing of Western Literature. Your book exemplifies the combination of excellent content, high production values and honoring of the Cowboy Heritage that the award was created to acknowledge.

The picture is one of me with Will Rogers impressionist William Reeder.

"As you know, Will Rogers was a respected writer as well as cowboy entertainer. We hope and believe that the Will Rogers Medallion Award will help to expand the heritage of literature which honors the traditions andvalues of the American Cowboy, which Will did so much to embody and demonstrate. The Medallion Award was created initially to encourage the continued upgrading of the quality of published books of Cowboy Poetry. This year, other categories have been added to honor a wide range of Western Literature, including Western Fiction - Young Adult .

Williams continued, "While the Will Rogers Medallion Awards are separate from the Will Rogers Awards, they do share a common goal of recognizing outstanding achievementin the advancement of contemporary cowboy skills. Congratulations on your selection. It was well deserved, and we hope to see further award-quality publications from you in the future."

As I received the award I said, "I'm pleased to receive it for obvious reasons, and even more so because it will help to get the youth title out where it may help introduce more young people to the western genre."

My Publisher, the JourneyForth imprint of BJU Press also received an award plaque for the book. Editor Nancy Lohr said, "Congratulations on receiving this honor, authors like you are few and far between. So light the campfire and cobble up s'mores, time to celebrate. We will be pleased to also nominate this book for the Spur Awards given by the Western Writers of American as well."

I'll be signing copies of the book at a joint book signing with mystery Writer Donn Taylor at Hastings in Plainview TX on September 15th in the afternoon and in the morning on Sept 16th at Mardel's in Amarillo. Following that I'll be signing at the American Christian Writers Conference in Denver Colorado. I would be most pleased if any of you from the area were there.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Standing out from the crowd!

When we talk promotion having something to set us out from the crowd is a good thing. Authors often do promotional events and book signings in costume or use various promotional items to attract attention and draw readers to them. I like western wear, but when doing promotional events or when going to a conference I dress a little more flashy than usual for the same reason, so people will remember me and to draw people to me at a signing.

It’s a tried and true principle, just watch ads on television. When we want people to remember us it is a good thing to stand out. But is it always a good thing?

Not when submitting a proposal. I get proposals on colored paper or with huge type on the cover, maybe bound or with fancy covers. Anything to attract attention. This is NOT where we want to attract attention.

On Chip MacGreagor’s blog he was talking about people making exorbitant claims about their book. They were trying to stand out verbally. Doing things in a book proposal to stand out raises flags from the very beginning. Such things shout from the rooftop, “I am a newbie!”

We can’t hide the fact that we are a new or unpublished writer if that is the case, but the goal is not to advertise it. The goal is to have the person evaluating the proposal run across it after they are favorably impressed and be surprised with the professionalism of the presentation for a new writer.

So what’s the goal? The goal is not to stand out but to have our proposal look exactly like the carefully polished proposal of someone who has been doing it for years. The goal is to have the writing as polished and ready as we can make it, to look at the submission guidelines to make sure we are pitching the right person then to send them exactly what they want precisely how they wish to receive it. I have people argue with me about what I ask to see. Would you think that is more or less likely to make me look at something other than what I’ve asked to see?

Our Agency submission guidelines are at http://www.hartlineliterary.com/ and to help make sure the manuscript itself is ready to go I’ve even posted a checklist on “is it ready to submit?” on my own website at http://www.terryburns.net/Submit.htm and in the bookstore at that website I even offer a little ebook on “Pitch and Promote like a Pro” to walk someone through the process step by step. So, with us doing all we can to help make a very professional proposal and pitch, why do so many still feel like the best thing to do is stand out from the crowd? To that newbie trying to make the cut I say, “stand out in your promotion, make your writing stand out with the quality, but your proposal is not the place to stand out.”

Having done my duty on my blog post, let me take a moment to say my mind and heart go out to the families of those who lost someone on 9/11. I know hitting this date brings it back fresh again. It brings it back to many of us and rightly so, I hope we never forget.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Interview with Client Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Today I'm interviewing client Jennifer Hudson Taylor. Jennifer, your newbook Highland Blessings is coming out from Abingdon Press in May, tell us a little about it:

Scotland, 1473
Highland Blessings is the story of a highland warrior who kidnaps the daughter of his greatest enemy and clan chief to honor a promise he made to his dying father. While Akira’s strength in the Lord becomes a witness to Bryce, she struggles to overcome her anger and resentment when he forces her to wed him, hoping to end a half-century feud between their clans. As Akira begins to forgive, and Bryce learns to trust, a series of murders leaves a trail of unanswered questions, confusion, and a legacy of hate that once again rises between their families. Clearly, a traitor is in their midst. Now the one man Akira loves no longer trusts her, and her own life is in danger. Can Bryce look beyond his pain and seek the truth? Will Akira discover the threat against her before it’s too late? How will God turn a simple promise into bountiful Highland blessings?

You write in several different time periods, tell us about some of your projects that we're currently pitching:

Awakened Redemption (English Regency)
Awakened Redemption is the story of Elyse Brigham, an abused woman who believes God has forsaken her, but when Preston Mallory offers her a nursemaid position, freedom is in her grasp and love builds renewed hope. Elyse realizes that God never abandoned her. This knowledge awakens her dormant faith and brings her redemption. Elyse accidentally discovers Preston’s true identity—that he is the Earl of Somerset posing as a commoner. Angry and hurt, she flees to London. Preston follows, hoping to mend their misunderstanding. His plans are thwarted when his former fiancĂ©e is murdered in London. With plenty motive and no alibi, Preston is arrested. How will God help him prove his innocence, convince Elyse to forgive him, and redeem their love with a new foundation of forgiveness and trust?

Heir of Grace (Ireland, 1867)
When Gregory McCain receives a missive that his grandfather left him two grand estates, he leaves his American home for Ireland and walks into a conspiracy blackmailing him into posing as the leader of the Fenian Brotherhood. He finds himself in jeopardy of losing his heart to Briana Kate O’Sullivan, a daring woman who may be the key to the mysteries surrounding him, or the deadly destruction to his very existence.

Risking her father’s political career with the British government, and her own life, Kate secretly joins the Fenian movement in hopes of exposing the adversary threatening her father’s life. A trusted friend becomes her worst enemy, and Gregory may be her only hope. Deception, murder, and a Fenian bomb explosion in London requires all their faith to trust each other. As doubt turns into belief, and treachery into loyalty, a foundation of love is ignited between them and God, withstanding the only barrier left to discover—the identity of the real Fenian leader.

How did you research for these books?

I did a lot of research online and bought research books I knew I'd use over and over. One very important resource is "English Through the Ages". I needed this book for every time period I've written. One book that helped me with Highland Blessings was "Collins Scottish Clans & Family Encyclopedia".

My Regency was the hardest to write. I had to literally immerse myself in the time period. I watched Jane Austen movies for days on end, much to my family's frustration. I was determined to master the dialect and word usage for my dialogue.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

While many things inspire me such as people, places, historical facts and discoveries, my ultimate source is God. When I have writer's block and I need a breakthrough, I pray, and He delivers. God gives me dreams and goals for my writing.

Where can people find out more about you and your writing? The programs andspeaking that you do?

My website at http://www.jenniferhudsontaylor.com/. I have a Speaker's page on my website that lists specific topics. If you have an interest in writing tips, new book releases and historical facts, I blog three times a week at http://jenniferswriting.blogspot.com/. If you have an interest in things related to Scots-Irish, I blog once a week at http://carolinascots-irish.blogspot.com/.

What is the best writing advice you ever got? The worst?

Never give up, for those who do, are the ones who will never be published.

As for bad advice, most of that has been from critiques or judges who were inexperienced. They would hear a "writing rule" and think it applies to every sentence, every paragraph, not realizing that the "writing rule" should be applied in areas where it makes sense to apply it and/or layered throughout.

Anything else you'd like to take this opportunity to say?

To pre-published authors, keep writing and revising. Don't be discouraged by the things of this world. Know that you know that you know that writing is your gift.

Thank you Jennifer, and thank you blog readers for dropping by. Please consider signing up at http://cowboymusing.blogspot.com/ as a follower so you will be notified each time a new entry is put up.


Saturday, September 5, 2009

Labor Day and my dad

On Labor Day I often think of my Dad, Melton Burns. He's passed on now but I often think of him, particularly when I'm working around the house, wondering what Daddy would say about the way I'm doing something. Labor Day is about the working man, and that's him to a 'T' - Daddy worked hard all his life. I guess that's what inspired me to write this little poem a number of years ago:


He was a strong, tough working man,
his hands were brown and scarred.
His life was measured in tasks that were done,
and he led a life that was hard.
He lived in a world that kept feelings close,
and couldn't let emotions show;
for an emotion was a weakness, you see,
and he couldn't let the whole world know.

And this private man couldn't touch and hold,
and couldn't let his soul show through;
So he showed the world hard work and sweat,
and they didn't have a clue.
But you could see his heart every now and then
if you knew just where to look,
and if you knew how to open it's little door,
and you knew just what it took.

You just had to say 'I love you, Dad,
and look deep within his eyes,
and though he couldn't say it, you could see it there
shining like the sun from the skies.
For Daddy said love with his eyes and his heart,
and with that shy little smile.
It was surely enough, I'm here to say,
and beat the rest by a mile.