Sunday, September 26, 2010

Don't Overlook the Small Towns

Let me put my writing hat on today. That's the really ugly one that my wife hates with the sweat stains and discoloration. That would be it in this picture with Saundra and I at our beautiful granddaughter Mandy's graduation.

But I digress. My best events have been small towns ( not counting conventions or workshops where I am presenting, that’s the best ). I do a signing in a big town and it’s just another signing. If it is worked right a small town is a major event. They don’t get celebrities, and we get to be that when we go in. I did a signing in Friona, TX where I spoke to a library fundraiser, sang and gave my testimony at church, and met with a women’s group. The radio did a remote, the newspaper made my visit front page, events were up on marquees all over town. Stephen King type treatment and really good for the old ego. I sold 140 books ( several of my titles) in a town of only 3000 people.

Groom TX I did a half day writing workshop for grades 5-12 at the school system. Again spoke to a women’s group at the church, local civic club, got great advance PR and everybody in town knew I was there. 92 books in a town of 1300 people.

I can go on and on, and I look for such towns to visit. They are so much fun, and I always do really well. A lot of people there have never met a real author and want a signed book. They don’t much care what genre. The follow-ups from these small towns are good too. I’m always getting emails asking if I have a new book out. But home town? Not so much. 20,000 people and I’m no celebrity there. Nobody including family knows I have something of a national reputation, I’m just the kid that used to live down the street. It's the 'prophet in his own home town' sort of thing.

There are two keys to making this happen. First, a lot of advance notice so the publicity happens, and second, a local host, somebody on the ground that can start talking it up and building a buzz. If those happen the fun begins . . .

Monday, September 20, 2010

ACFW Conference thoughts

Congratulations to Sandra Bishop on the well deserved recognition as ACFW Agent of the Year! While I was honored to be named a finalist I said from the very beginning that both ladies were a much better choice and the selection was very appropriate. I do thank my clients, family and friends for all of the support that they gave me during the process, however.

The reason I do this job stems all the way back to a writing conference in Glorieta NM where I was trying to get a handle on what the Lord might want me to do in regards to my writing. I went through a process designed to identify my spiritual gifts and one of them turned out to be the gift of encouragement. When Joyce gave me a chance to be an agent I began to do it as an avenue to utilize that gift. My focus is on helping and encouraging writers and for that reason I have a lot of new authors and have helped place a number of debut books. I probably work with too many new authors to be considered a successful agent by normal definitions but that's where my heart is. I'm extraordinarily pleased every time I help a new author break into print no matter what level of publishing we have to go to in order to make that happen.

I was pleased at the event to get to go up and accept the Genesis award for my client Stephanie Morris for her young adult title. Stephanie has been a finalist before, but this time was the key. In the comments she sent me to deliver she said "How fun, I get to force my agent, Terry Burns, to thank himself for believing in me." That was an interesting line to have to deliver but the audience loved it. I'm very proud of Stephanie as I am of all my clients.

Lynda Schab was a Genesis finalist as well but in spite of how hard our entire Hartline client group was pulling for her (and there were around 40 of us) she didn't make the cut this time. But making it to be a finalist is a major recognition in itself and I am proud of her as well.

I also continue to be proud of Jill Williamson who was a finalist in her category for the Carol Award. She is no longer a client but I was her agent when she published "By Darkness Hid," which also won her a Christy Award. I congratulate her on her continued success as well.

I enjoyed meeting with a lot of long time as well as new friends at the conference and aided by my assistant Normandie Fischer had an opportunity to hear a lot of very good pitches. We'll be following up on those. The food was tremendous, the logistics very well handled, and those putting on the conference are to be commended for doing a terrific job.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Congratulations to Tim Austin on signing a contract with Comfort Publishing for his book "The Exasperated Woman's Guidebook".

“All I want is for my husband to notice me.”

“I wish he understood my heart.”

“Why can’t he care about our relationship as much as I do?”

Our culture is in the era of the Lonely Woman, with more than half of adult women living in a household without a man and many women who are in committed relationships raising questions and experiencing disappointments like the ones mentioned above. The truth is that men in our culture are behaving badly and getting by with it, while women report feeling empty and vulnerable like never before. Frustrated that her man can’t or won’t engage, it’s not uncommon for a woman to come to the disheartening conclusion that the more she pursues her man to engage and strengthen their relationship, the more he retreats. What’s a girl to do?

This book reveals to the frustrated woman that there’s a secret world between the ears of her man governed by hierarchies, needs, principles and codes that, while she might find foreign, influence most of how her man thinks, acts and responds. The bad news is that these secret rules can be a woman’s worst enemy. The good news is that they can also be her best friend—if she understands what they are and how to use them. In fact, by working with her man’s innate grid instead of against it, a woman will discover that getting her man to notice her, cherish her and engage with her is not the dead-end endeavor she once thought it to be.

Tim writes and speaks extensively on relationships and the power of respect to transform those relationships. In the process, he inspires readers and audiences to visualize a world in which everyone treats each other with respect and honor, then empowers them to turn that vision into reality in their own lives.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Hard Copy Submissions

On our submission guidelines it says that Tamela and I do not take hard copy submissions and Diana prefers not to get them. When I get a query and send a request for proposal I am careful to point out that I do not take hard copy and instead point out what I'd like to see and how I want to receive it. I've talked about it in appointments at conferences or when I am on panels, when I've done interviews, it can't be much of a secret.

But here they come, all the time. Why? Why would anyone send a submission without checking the submission guidelines to see how to submit? Or worse, what if they did and took it upon themselves to do hard copy in spite of that? What am I to make of these envelopes that tend to annoy me when they clog up my small mailbox?

Why would I care? I care because I seldom work where these envelopes pile up so I seldom deal with them and I don't like to do that. I care because my office is where my laptop happens to be at the time and that is where I am usually working. I do have a study, but it seems I seldom get to work there and that's where that unsolicited manuscript would be laying. I care because more and more the business of publishing is being carried out online and I want to receive submissions in such a way that shows me how well an author can handle themselves in that medium. I've had some say they don't know how to use a computer and don't do email. It would be virtually impossible for me in today's electronic world to do business with them so that alone is grounds to pass on their manuscript.

I care because I work with a team of editorial assistants and we pass submissions back and forth to each other which needs to be done electronically. And finally I care because I'm not all that fond of spending postage and mailing costs when I don't have to.

There are publishing houses that want a hard copy submission. For them I want the manuscript on my computer so I can look over it before I send it, ensure that the formatting is correct, maybe catch typos or story problems that I can ask the author to deal with before I tie my reputation to theirs by sending it on. That is too inconvenient with a hard copy.

Mostly it's because it is how I asked people to do it. Whether it was because they failed to show me the respect of finding out what I wanted or disregarded the instructions and did it another way, it is a red flag for me or for other agents and editors. And maybe with another agent or editor it is the opposite, an email submission when they said not to do it that way. It isn't the way it was submitted, it's the fact that the guidelines are not followed. Or maybe the content requested was not provided. All the same problem.

The bottom line is that even if I chose to open one up and look at it instead of just returning it unopened, it would have two strikes against it going in. Isn't it just easier to follow the submission guidelines?