Monday, May 30, 2011

Hartline adds an in-house publicist

We are pleased to announce that Jennifer Hudson Taylor has joined us here at Hartline in the role of in-house publicist and PR/marketing advisor to our clients.

Here at Hartline, we have been discussing what changes we might make to better position ourselves in this constantly changing industry. Now seems to be the time to move forward and make some of them. Jennifer Hudson Taylor is joining the agency as In-house Publicist and PR/Marketing advisor. Jennifer has been a publicist for a big non-profit agency for many years and is already making a major impact advising our clients on the steps and actions from contract to book-on-the-shelf that publishers want and expect from authors today. If there are steps the clients don’t feel they can do themselves, she has set up a company outside of the agency where they can contract for some of these things to be done for them at very reasonable rates. 

Hartline has also set up a special online group Hartline clients only can access (the ones that wish to). In this group clients share in discussion their PR and marketing efforts (with input from Jennifer) as to what is working and not working, as well as share ideas on what they might want to try. In today’s publishing environment where advances are smaller or in many cases nonexistent, it is important to us and to our authors to maximize the royalties from their projects.

Joyce is interviewing to replace Tamela at the agency and while we are at it adding more than one agent may be in the cards. At present we have the main office in Pittsburgh PA with a field office in Amarillo TX and in Kannapolis NC. We are considering field offices in different parts of the country to make it easier to interface with regional writer’s groups. Stay tuned for more information on this process.

The ebook market is exploding and we are taking steps to assist our clients in taking advantage of the opportunities being offered.

We are increasing our contact with the movie industry, particularly Christian Film companies and are exploring more opportunities for our clients in this area.

These are just the beginning steps. Stay tuned as we evaluate and do some restructuring. Exciting things are on the way.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Susan B. Christians . . . an interview with Terry's Client Tim Shoemaker

Last week you led a devotional for the Colorado Christian Writers Conference where you placed a couple coins in a volunteer’s hands and asked him to guess want kind of coins he held.  He guessed quarters--but they were really those pesky Susan B. Anthony dollars.  What was that all about?

People were always mistaking the Susan B’s for quarters.  It was annoying.  The government finally stopped making them.   I asked the audience to imagine for a moment that Christians were dollar coins, and those who weren’t followers of Christ were quarters.

You weren’t suggesting Christians were more valuable or better than others, but that they were certainly better off.

Exactly.  We have the Holy Spirit inside, bringing us love, joy, peace, contentment, and more if we let him.  We have Jesus, who has promised to be with us always, we have access to the Father . . . the God of the universe.  We have the promise of eternal life in Heaven some day . . . and so much more.  Yes, there is an indisputable value to being a Christian.

So how does that tie in to the Susan B. Anthony?

Dollar coins need to look different from quarters.  They need to be instantly recognized.  Our government learned that lesson the hard way from the Susan B.
Trouble is--we’ve got a bunch of “Susan B. Anthony Christians” in our world today.  They’re saved.  “They’re a dollar”.  They’re better off.  But they’re living so much like the world people rarely see the difference . . . or the value.  And tragically, Susan B. Christians miss so many benefits that are ours as believers.  They don’t even experience the difference themselves.

Then you pulled out one of the older silver dollars . . . a big ‘ol 1923 “Peace” type, and compared it to a Susan B. Anthony.  Quite a difference.

Night and day.  The Susan B. was a poor imitation of the original dollar.  Which brings us back to the whole Susan B. Christian example.  Ephesians 5:1 reminds us to “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children . . . “  We’re to be growing more like God . . . not like the world. 

You showed us the edge of the coins.  The older silver dollar was solid silver, all the way through.  But the Susan B., just like the quarters, had copper at the core--not silver.  The silver was just a surface thing.

Bingo.  At the very heart of the Susan B. dollar is compromise . . . and that is the real problem with many Christians.  They compromise in areas of character, integrity, and in the way they obey God’s Word.  They compromise when it comes to maintaining a Christian attitude at home and they compromise in the way they love.

It’s a heart issue.  When we selectively ignore what the Bible teaches, we have a compromising heart.

Absolutely.  We cut our own value, effectiveness, and happiness.  Even our closeness with God.  Proverbs 4:23 makes it pretty clear.  “Above all guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”

So we need to examine our hearts to see if we’re compromising in some way.  To see if we’re a “Susan B. Christian”.  If we’re truly doing it God’s way, we’re going to be different from the world.

Instantly recognizable.  If I’d of put a couple of those older dollars in our volunteer’s hands he’d have known immediately that they weren’t quarters.

And he might have taken off with them.

That too.   Which underscores just how much more valuable we are as Christians when we’re clearly different from the world.

It comes down to truly living according to God’s principles.  Being the real deal.  You mentioned you actually keep one of those old silver dollars in your pocket to prompt your memory.

Every time I reach in my pocket that dollar serves as a reminder of the Christian I want to be.

The kind we ALL want to be.  I think some of our readers may want to do the same thing.  Thanks, Tim for sharing with us!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Conferencing high in the Rockies

I just returned from a week up in Estes Park at the Colorado Christian Writers conference and it was nothing short of awesome. Hope Flinchbaugh’s opening session Wednesday night and her “Focus on the Cross” was tremendous, and on Thursday morning Bill Myers gave the most memorable and thought-provoking keynote ever. Liz Babbs, Rusty Wright, Bob Hostetler, and William Agius all touched our hearts deeply with their message. And Friday evening’s “Write his Answer to the Issues that Concern Us” kept up the same degree of faith and involvement.

Marlene Bagnull and her dedicated staff of volunteers did a tremendous job although she reported that this year the enemy put her under attack more than any other year she could remember. There is such a level of commitment at this conference, and it is more than a writing conference but attending is guaranteed to provide a spiritual life as well. Meyer’s comments in particular were exactly what I needed to hear at this point in time.

Marlene Bagnull

Tim Shoemaker provided one of his fascinating devotionals that everyone looks forward to every year to see what sort of visuals he is going to use to make his point, but I have asked him to write a brief blog on that so I will wait to let him address it.

I taught a couple of sessions and moderated the agent’s panel and I found the level of involvement excellent and the questions that were asked in each on point and insightful. My appointments were filled the entire conference and I met with a number of people on the side who were not able to get a meeting with me. The caliber of the pitches that I heard were excellent and I have a large number of proposals headed my way.

My wife Saundra, Bonnie Calhoun
Suzanne Brooks Kuhn and Leah C. Morgan

It snowed on us right at the beginning and there was a sharp North wind, but it only made the surrounding countryside more beautiful. My wife is studying photography so we took two days making the 8 hour drive up there and at Estes Park and on the trip I think she filled up two or three camera memory cards. The pictures on this blog are hers.

This conference is one Saundra and I go to each year and I recommend it highly when you are filling out your conference schedule for next year.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Interview of client Frank Roderus

For the Reader to Care: Frank Roderus on Writing the West

This interview re-posted from blog by Jeremy L C Jones

Bad Boys by Frank Roderus opens with a man about to tell the woman he loves about his wild and rowdy past.  The novel ends…  well, it ends where it needs to end.  In between, the story ranges, in tone and content, from the romping good times of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer to the more mature The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to the picaresque tales of highwaymen and outlaws.  The prose is fast, tight, and as clear as spring water.  Each chapter moves deeply into the life of the central character, Danny Southern, and then moves on with only the faintest hint of sentimentality and a steady maturation.
At the three-quarters mark, dread sets in—not simply because of some impending doom, but because it becomes increasingly hard to deny that the story will soon end.  It’s hard to stop reading Bad Boys—hard to put it down while in you’re reading it and hard to accept that it’s over when you finish.

Frank Roderus has been writing novels full-time for more than thirty years.  He’s written in a variety of genres—action-adventure, crime, mystery—but the majority of his 300+ books are Westerns.  He writes both stand-alone and series Westerns.  He’s been contributing steadily to the Longarm series (as by Tabor Evans) since #53 (in 1983).

When I asked Roderus what remained the same in all his novels–what was the constant–I was hoping he’d reveal to me the secret to writing a fresh and unique novel every time out of the gate.

“Oh, I do most earnestly hope there is no constant in them,” said Roderus, “at least not apart from reader involvement with my characters. Through the years I have been privileged to vicariously become a delightful array of people and professions. Cowboys, sure, but also badmen, telegraphers, storekeepers, drifters, snake oil salesmen… the list has gotten pretty long and I have enjoyed experiencing each of them. And hope to find more in the future.”

With Roderus, it all comes back to characters the reader can care about.  Below, Roderus and I talk about writing fiction in general and writing the West in particular.

You’ve been writing Western stories since you were five, novels since the late 70s, and writing full-time since 1980…  Are you still loving it?

Frank Roderus: I am still very much loving what I do and feel blessed to have had the opportunity for such a wonderfully enjoyable career. Writing has always been a joy for me and I did thoroughly enjoy my years as a newspaper reporter, but journalism is essentially a matter of finding something that is wrong and pointing that out to the readers. With fiction I can also point out that which is good in people. Besides, it is just plain fun to tweak the noses of the bad guys.

Where does a Western novel usually start for you–image, plot, character, historical event, somewhere else altogether?  And how do you develop the novel from there?

Frank Roderus: My books nearly always start for me by way of a character. I will find someone in my thoughts and he will tell the story from there. I just sit back and mentally watch the show unfold bit by bit and put that down on paper as it happens. The situations these characters find themselves in can be prompted by a newspaper story or something read in a history book, by almost anything. Much of my pleasure reading is non-fiction and those, especially first person accounts from long ago, will sometimes influence my characters but they become very much their own persons. In fact, some of my best friends have been my own characters.

What does a first chapter need to do and how do you do it?

Frank Roderus: I would hope that my first chapters give the reader something to care about. Good, bad or simply setting a tone, for the reader to care is the important thing. Or so I believe.

Danny Southern, Harlan Breen, Lyle Wilson… What makes for a compelling protagonist in general and a compelling Western protagonist in particular?

Frank Roderus: There again, for the reader to care is most important. Notice that I do not say the reader has to like the character. He can hate the rotten lousy so-and-so, and that is quite all right, just so long as he wants to see the fellow get his comeuppance and sticks around for the ride toward that end. I have come to believe that as long as I care, I can create a character who the reader will also care about. But I must genuinely care in order for this to happen. I don’t think the protagonist in a Western is markedly different from a character in a crime novel, a noir piece or even a romance, though. Any differences are on the surface–does this guy ride a sorrel horse or drive a red Ferrari–the heart and the emotions are constants and those are the basis for storytelling.

And how about an antagonist?

Frank Roderus: Same thing. He can have shades of gray in his character but there should be an emotional involvement in one’s feelings toward him. The reader may even like him… but should want to see him fall as a matter of simple justice.

Any advice for writing action scenes?

Frank Roderus: Action scenes are generally easy to write. I watch them play out in my mind and put down what I “see” there. I do have my own emotional involvement though and am completely wiped out by the end of the scene, very much as if I had physically participated in them, just without the blood and the bruises.

The middle of your novels never sag.  How do you keep the tension mounting, the plot moving, and the suspense building?

Frank Roderus: Oh, my. You can’t know how pleased I am for you to say that. Maintaining pace is not always a simple thing to do and I can’t always judge how well I have done it. What I try to remember in the middle of a yarn, when all the characters and the main direction of the story have been established, is to throw in some new problems for the protagonist to overcome. Those needn’t be central to the main story but they do need to be true to the character. You can also slip in something playful.

The end game… what does the final chapter need to do?  How do you manage the fine balance between too many and too few threads tied up?  How do you ensure the reader leaves satisfied and comes back for more when the next one comes out?

Frank Roderus: I probably am guilty of weaving too few threads, not too many. I just try to wrap up what is there so there is some closure for my protagonist, whether good guy or bad. Leaving the reader satisfied is always a goal but since I am not creating series characters there is no compelling reason for the reader to return. He knows he will not find someone familiar in my next book, but I do hope he will feel he can find someone interesting.

Speaking of the next one, what can we expect from Ransom?

Frank Roderus: Ransom is about relationships, man and woman, father and daughter, divorced man and his ex wife’s lover… and of course with a bad guy/kidnapper thrown into the mix.

Any parting words?  Words of encouragement or caution for the writers out there?

Frank Roderus: Oh, encouragement, by all means. It has always been difficult to get into print, always will be, but it is worth the struggle. The thing a new writer must do is write something so darn good, so completely compelling, that an editor simply can’t turn it down.

As for caution, I would advise newcomers to avoid the easy route of e-pub until he has sold at least one book to a legitimate print publisher. There are two reasons for this. The first and more obvious is that the e-pub houses generally do not have staff to properly edit, and the writer needs the input of editorial staff in order to have his work fully judged. He really cannot adequately judge it himself. Secondly, and more important, the print houses have established distribution and distribution is the most difficult part of the publishing process.  That said, writing is more fun than almost anything. Do it. Revel in it. And keep at it until you do get that miracle of an acceptance letter.

If I may toss in a bit of advice here, the Western Writers of America holds seminars at their annual meetings that can be invaluable to newcomers. While one must be published in order to become a member of WWA, you do not have to belong to the organization to attend the conventions. Check their website for details about those summer meetings. And once you are published, you might want to consider Western Fictioneers as a source of information, encouragement and fellowship also. It too has a website that may be of interest.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

It can get me down a little spending the day turning people down for representation when I know how much they want it, getting rejections for clients that I have to pass on to them. They get a few rejections, but I get a LOT of them. I record Gaither programs and later in the afternoon when it starts getting to me put one on. They really pick my spirits up.

I had one on today and they were talking to Linda Randle. Someone asked her "How did you get with the Gaithers? How did you get established in gospel music?"

She said, "You get with God and God will hook you up where He wants you to be." She said she doesn't care if she is considered the best southern gospel singer but now she just cares if she thinks she is centered in God's will, whatever that is.

That's the best advice I ever heard for a Christian writer when they are worrying about what editor, agent or publisher they need to hook up with. It's terrific. It's good advice for an agent too.


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

When our book is finished

When we are finished writing a book, while everything is hot and fresh in our mind there are some VITAL things we need to prepare that will be used in every step of getting the book represented, getting it published, and later in sales and promotion . The first is called a concept sentence, promo sentence or logline. It is a single SHORT sentence that tells the main concept of the book written in a very compelling manner.

The second is known as an elevator pitch or cover copy. It is a slightly larger version of the logline, 2-3 sentences that are used to pitch the book to an agent or editor if we find ourselves with a very brief opportunity to do so. Later it is used as cover copy and still later in advertising and promotion. These first two items are commonly used in our cover letter as well.

The third thing is a short synopsis or story summary. This is a slightly larger version of the first two, ideally a half page single spaced. It is used to produce a one page sell sheet, along with a logline as an attention getter on the page and with a very short WRITING RELATED bio. This will go in the proposal and the primary use of a sell sheet or one sheet is to provide an editor taking a project to committee to try and get it accepted with a single page to use or possibly to hand out that can be used to sell the project.

An agent, editor or publicist can write these for the book but ideally the best person to write them is the person that created the work from scratch, the one who lived with it from the ground up. A person trying to create them based on a brief read or two will surely not come up with as strong of an effort as the author.

Finally we have the synopsis itself. Most commonly desired is a 2-3 page single spaced synopsis that gives the main points of the story including the ending or plot resolution. This is not a chapter by chapter synopsis which may be required by a few editors but is more common on a nonfiction work than a fiction. Editors reading a proposal may read a synopsis first before reading the writing itself, may read it after reading sample writing to decide whether the story carries out in a manner that they would like to ready the full manuscript, or some may not use it at all but it should always be provided. Some submission guidelines require them to be longer and the submission guidelines should always be followed.

Even though these are presented in this order, they are often produced in a reverse order boiling the story down to get the synopsis, boiling the synopsis down to get the short synopsis or story summary, boiling it down to get the elevator pitch or cover copy and reducing it further to get the logline.

To give our work the best chance of success we as the originator of the work need to give these tools to the agent, editor or publicist to give them the best chance of advancing the work to its final conclusion. It is critical to provide these tools and to craft them to the best of our ability.