Stocking Gift Now Can Mean Career Boost Next May

By Diana Savage, director of the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal conference

What’s the one thing that some writers say is the most responsible for advancing their literary careers?

A writers conference.

christmas-stockinggraphicYes, at conferences you can meet industry professionals face to face and learn writing techniques directly from published authors. Critique sessions allow you to discuss your works in progress (WIPs) and hash out specific paragraphs or plot puzzles. Spending time with likeminded folks greatly increases your chance of forming strong relationships within the writing community.

Over the past few decades I’ve attended more than three dozen writing seminars and conferences. Here are just a few of the ways I’ve benefited:

  • Thirty years ago at a Portland conference, I met a novelist who invited me to join her critique group. I accepted—and I’m still a member to this day.
  • I first connected with my agent at a February conference on a Washington beach.
  • I met one of my coauthors at a two-day conference held at a Seattle-area church.
  • Other connections have resulted in book contracts, magazine assignments, and clients for my editing business.

While the perks of attending writers conferences are well-established, some people find registration costs to be a significant hurdle.

In case you’re one of those people, here’s an idea. Consider letting friends and family members know you would welcome a monetary gift in your Christmas stocking that you could use on registration fees. If gift-givers aren’t able to help financially, perhaps they’d be interested in offering childcare or another type of service that would enable you to get away for a couple of days.

You can choose from a number of excellent conferences available nationwide. But as director of the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal, of course I think your best option is our own event coming up May 5–6, 2017.

The keynote speaker will be writer, director, and film producer Bill Myers of McGee and Me fame. This winner of seventy national and international awards has written more than 125 published books for children and adults. His book and DVD titles have sold more than eight million copies worldwide. When I met Bill last January while we were both teaching at the same university, I realized the wealth of knowledge he can offer writers at any level of expertise.

At the 2017 Renewal you’ll also learn from literary agents, acquisitions editors, multi-published authors, and other industry professionals. We’ll be using the lovely venue we enjoyed last year: Westminster Chapel in Bellevue, Washington.

Some information is already up on our website, and more will be added soon. Registration will be ready to open in a few weeks. Check the site often for new details.

If upcoming holidays don’t bring you enough financial gifts to cover the entire cost of the conference, here are a couple of other ways to stretch your dollars.

NCWA’s board has authorized two full scholarships to be awarded to applicants. (Details on the website soon.) Also, some full and partial scholarships are available for those who take on certain conference responsibilities.

Whatever financial path you travel to attend the Renewal, prepare to be inspired and equipped—even if Santa ends up having little to do with your getting there.

__________________________________________________________

Diana SavageDianaSavage, a graduate of Northwest University and Bakke Graduate University, sold her first article when she was still in college, and she’s been writing ever since. Now the principal at Savage Creative Services, LLC, she also directs the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal conference. She is the author of 52 Heart Lifters for Difficult Times and the coauthor—with Dr. Dennis E. Hensley—of the inspirational suspense novel Pseudonym.

Doc Hensley Explains the Art of Pitching

By Diana Savage, director of the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal conference

Dr. Dennis E. Hensley has probably lost count of the number of conferences he’s spoken at over the years. He’s taught workshops, served on panels, presented manuscript makeovers, met personally with conferees, and often served as the keynote speaker. Through it all—and while pitching some of his own 60 published books—he’s learned from his publishing colleagues what impresses editors and agents the most during their appointments with conferees.

DocExplainsPitchingAs director of the Professional Writing department at Taylor University (Upland, IN), Dr. Hensley shares this knowledge with his students, along with readers of his column in Christian Communicator magazine. Now he’s letting Renewal conferees in on the secrets to effective proposal pitches.

The following article is an excerpt from the book Finding Success with Your Dream Writing Projects (by Dennis E. Hensley with Diana Savage), which will be released this August by Bold Vision Books.

MASTERING THE 15-MINUTE BOOK PITCH

Pop artist Andy Warhol once said that every person, sooner or later, enjoys 15 minutes of fame. In the arena of pitching book proposals, it comes down to 15 minutes of fame or 15 minutes of shame. When you attend a writers conference and schedule an appointment with a literary agent or book editor, you have 15 minutes—sometimes less—to convince that person your book is worth considering for publication and that you are someone this individual will want to do business with.

That’s not much time, so let’s talk about how to make those minutes count.

  1. Look professional. Although writers conferences are usually casual in attire, trying to convince someone to invest more than $35,000 to launch your book is big business. You need to look like someone who would appear impressive on talk shows, when giving speeches, and when meeting folks at autograph parties. First impressions are lasting ones.
  2. Have an actual book idea. Some would-be writers come up with a great title and even some clever research, but trained editors can see what would make a good article and what would actually sustain a full book. A published book usually is somewhere around two-hundred pages, with about four hundred words per page, which is 80,000 words. Thus, if you don’t have an idea that can be content heavy for 320 double-spaced manuscript pages, don’t waste the editor’s time.
  3. Know the competition. Anticipate that the agent or editor will ask you what else is on the market similar to your topic. It’s good that other books exist on your topic, because they show that other publishers have seen market value for it. Your job will be to explain how your book is different. Perhaps you have newer research, better photos or other graphics, a broader range of topics, exclusive interviews, distinctive sidebars or reading lists or quizzes. Emphasize how your book is unique and better than the competition. One special insider tip is this: Prove that your book will still be interesting a year from now when it finally gets into print and how it will contain enduring elements that will make it stay in print several years thereafter.
  4. Speak as though this person is a committee. Although you are addressing just one person, he or she will have to champion your book before a publication board. It will be made up of people from sales, publicity, layout and design, marketing, accounting, legal, and editorial departments. As such, explain how you will help to market the book via speaking engagements, blogging, social networking, library appearances, webinars, professional organizations, public readings, writers workshops, reviews, and autograph parties. Don’t give anyone on the board a reason to reject you.
  5. Sell yourself with wild abandon. No one likes a braggart, but when it comes to selling a book, you need to prove that you know what you’re talking about. You can do this by providing a résumé that stresses your education, your list of previous publications, any honors or awards you’ve received, and your professional credentials. Stress the research you conducted in preparing this book manuscript. Additionally, if you can produce a list of endorsements from people with name recognition, this will certainly work in your favor.
  6. Hand over a solid book proposal. Despite the fact that you will have a well-organized, extremely focused conversation with this agent or editor, you still will need to have a high-quality book proposal to leave with this person if he or she decides your book idea warrants publication consideration. Your cover letter will explain why you feel this publisher is right for your book; highlights of your career after age twenty; a terse description of your book (“The Help is about African-American maids who find ways to shame their oppressive suburban white employers during the 1960s”); mention of your best endorsements; and a word about your target readership. You’ll need to have from one to three fully completed chapters, a one-page biography (write about yourself in the third person), a table of contents that you may wish to expand into an outline, a one- or two-page synopsis of the entire book (yes, do tell the ending), and information about your personal platform.
  7. Anticipate blunt objections or questions. Editors may ask if the manuscript is “clean,” meaning void of mechanical writing errors. Say (truthfully) that you’ve had other eyes go over the entire book (professional editors or maybe members of your writers critique group). Editors may ask “Who cares?” about your topic. Have statistics ready, audience surveys, sales records of similar books. The editor may ask, “But who are you?” so have credentials and experience to show you are the perfect person to write and promote this book.

Contrary to common belief, editors come to writers conferences because they want to discover talented writers, and they want to find publishable books. How else can they stay in business? However, their greatest joy is to discover someone who is polished, professional, and savvy about writing and marketing books. This could mean a long-term working relationship. So, when the clock starts ticking, use every second to show that you came prepared to do business.

© 2016 by Dennis E. Hensley, all rights reserved

Learn more valuable tips from Doc Hensley at the 2016 Northwest Christian Writers Renewal. Sign up today!

__________________________________________________________

Diana SavageDianaSavage, a graduate of Northwest University and Bakke Graduate University, sold her first article when she was still in college, and she’s been writing ever since. Now the principal at Savage Creative Services, LLC, she also directs the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal conference. She is the author of 52 Heart Lifters for Difficult Times and the coauthor—with Dr. Dennis E. Hensley—of the inspirational suspense novel Pseudonym.

Miralee Ferrell Returns to Sign More Authors with Mountain Brook Ink

By Diana Savage, director of the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal

MiraleeFerrellMiralee Ferrell, representing Mountain Brook Ink, came to the 2015 Northwest Writers Renewal looking for new authors to sign. “We were asking the Lord to bring the authors and manuscripts that we could believe in and bless,” she says.

That prayer was answered when she met with NCWA member Janalyn Voigt.

“I could tell that Miralee understood the heart of my western historical romance stories,” says Janalyn. “They’re not cookie-cutter fare, which means they don’t fall into neat categories. I do my best to cut through the mythos and recreate the West as it might really have been. I don’t sugarcoat violence, but neither is it glorified. My books are about people with very real problems not unlike those we face today. I want them to be as realistic as possible.”

After Miralee and Janalyn discussed how some novels glamorize the West, Miralee declared, “I want real!”

Janalyn was won over, and she signed a three-book contract in October 2015. “I’m so glad to be working with someone I trust as a friend and admire as a writer to bring these stories to life.” The books in Janalyn’s Montana Gold series are slated to be released in 2017 and 2018.

Miralee will return to the Renewal in 2016. This year she is teaching two workshops:

Take Fiction to the Next Level1) Take Fiction to the Next Level by Deepening Your Characters – What elements help bring a story to life? What books have been most memorable to you? The ones with a strong plotline, or strong, memorable characters? Both can work, but if you have a strong plot and weak characters, you’ll lose your reader quickly. This class will give you ways to make your main characters more memorable and keep your reader glued to the page. Find out what you can do to help bring your characters to life.

What to Do When the Screen Goes Blank2) What to Do When the Screen Goes Blank: Help for Writer’s Block – The phenomenon of writer’s block has had many a writer burning the midnight oil trying desperately to come up with words that will work. In a world of fast-paced deadlines and unpredictable audiences, it is a writer’s worst nightmare. While the reasons for writer’s block can’t always be pointed to one particular problem, its solutions are usually simple. This class will give you practical, everyday ideas on how to break through when you’re stuck. Don’t let writer’s block stop you from writing that next best seller!

At editorial appointments with conferees, Miralee will look for traditionally published authors who want to present something new or release their out-of-print books in e-book and paperback formats, while realizing a higher royalty rate than they originally received. She’s also interested in authors who want to write in genres that don’t work for their publishers, or debut authors with fresh ideas. A three-book series will get preference over a standalone novel at this point, although Miralee is willing to consider a standalone. The categories she needs the most right now are historical and YA, as well as new titles for her “Finding Love In” line of romances.

She accepts fiction in two general areas. The first is inspirational fiction in almost any genre (except children’s or middle-grade fiction). The second is general-market fiction. Although by definition it doesn’t have a faith thread, it must nevertheless be clean and contain no sexual content or offensive language.

To attend Miralee’s workshops or to request an appointment with her or one of the other six editorial representatives at this year’s conference, register today.

__________________________________________________________

Diana SavageDianaSavage, a graduate of Northwest University and Bakke Graduate University, sold her first article when she was still in college, and she’s been writing ever since. Now the principal at Savage Creative Services, LLC, she also directs the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal conference. She is the author of 52 Heart Lifters for Difficult Times and the coauthor—with Dr. Dennis E. Hensley—of the inspirational suspense novel Pseudonym.

Matchmaker, Matchmaker

Author Kathleen Freeman shares her wisdom and encouragement.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My husband often accuses me of being a matchmaker, a Yenta out of place and time.

It’s true. Despite a bedroom that argues against it, I love to organize. In the right mood, I can sort a silverware drawer with the best of them—toss take-out restaurant chopsticks from two years ago and make all the spoon bowls stack in the most eye-pleasing manner.

My passion, however, is people. Despite the Valentine’s Day sound of that, it isn’t couples I most like to match. I’m an idea connector, and that ardor extends to finding talents. I LOVE to put people in situations where they can grow and learn, do their best, use the gifts God has given them to make the world a better place. I find it irresistible to help loose chains and free people to love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind, strength and love their neighbor as themselves.

This is why I write.

In a matchmaking mood, which, to be honest, arrives just about every day, I enjoy seeking out writers and bringing them into the fold, whether it be an organization or critique group. From there, I might have the opportunity to help boost them to the next level of connection, confident that they and an editor or agent will form a mutually beneficial, symbiotic relationship—a matchless match.

Perfect Match

 

The Northwest Christian Writers Renewal, the annual writers conference, is April 11-12, 2014.  If you’re a writer, you should go. If you’re thinking about becoming a writer, you should go. Connection opportunities are vast at any conference and will be super strong at the upcoming one. Right? Of course right.

1. Writer or not, this conference is matchless, one of the best in the country for renewal, for connecting with God, for inspiration. Writers have a way with words.

2. Hundreds of other writers will be there, from beginning beginners to best-selling authors. Writers are a quirky bunch, especially those of us who write fiction. You are not alone in your desire to create, in the way you discuss made up people as if they are real, or even argue with them… out loud. Writers love to help other writers—maybe it’s the comfort we feel in numbers, which is odd, since most of us are introverts. Ask anything about writing. Someone will know the answer.

3.  Davis BunnDavis Bunn is speaking and teaching. Mr. Bunn is a celebrated and prolific writer of adventure, Oxford teacher and world traveler. Think Indiana Jones without the whip. He is also one of the best teachers I’m encountered in my long writing journey. His class would have shaved years off the learning process. If only.

4. Many editors and agents will attend. They are looking for work with that special ring, whether it be in fiction, children’s books, science articles, or a non-fiction article that moves the most hardened of criminals to tears.

“Bring me a ring for I’m longing to be the envy of all I see.”

Cue potential matches:

 Sally ApokedakSally Apokedak, with the Les Stobbe Agency, is one of the kindest agents I’ve met. She loves a good book, especially quirky-fun children’s books and YA. I hear she has a passion for science, which makes her even cooler in my… book. The agency head, Les Stobbe is agent to some fantastic people. He is committed to helping first time authors and is seeking adult fiction and non-fiction.

Katherine DeVries Katherine DeVries, with David C. Cook, is a publisher in search of encouraging articles, inspiring poems, African American Real Life writers and editors, and curriculum writers. Time to dust off your Sunday School lesson ideas.

 William JensenWilliam Jensen, William K. Jensen Literary Agency, is looking for fiction and non-fiction.

 Rachel KentRachel Kent, of the highly esteemed Books and Such Agency, is looking for adult fiction and non-fiction, young adult (YA) fiction and non-fiction, and twenty to thirty-something fiction and non-fiction. Books and Such loves good ideas and great writing. Non-fiction is especially interesting to them at this time.

 Kathleen KerrKathleen Kerr, Harvest House (a top ten Christian publisher), is looking for nonfiction dealing with Christian living, self-help, and apologetics.

JamieWestM. Jamie West, Pelican Book GroupWhite Rose, Harbourlight—is looking for fiction. The White Rose imprint is romance, and the Harbourlight imprint takes a variety of genres. They love to keep it real.

For more information, see the complete list of needs for the agents and editors that will be at the Renewal here.

There are great fits out there, and less than optimal fits, even if your name is Frank Peretti, Karen Kingsbury, or T. Davis Bunn. Playing with matches, a writer can get burned, so do your research. Talk to people. Catch no catch, unless it’s a matchless match. Please remember to have long conversations with the greatest of connectors, the first and best matchmaker.

Thy will be done, our Father.

TweetFind the Perfect Match for your writing at a writers conference.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

.Kathleen Freeman 2

Kathleen Freeman serves on the Board of Directors for the Northwest Christian Writers Association as the Critique Coordinator. She’s also a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and she’s been writing and critiquing for enough years to be told she’s been around the block a few times. Her work appears in Raising Small Souls, the NCWA Newsletter, Vista Journal for Holy Living, and Clubhouse Magazine. She was the 2012 winner of the Genesis contest in the YA category, 2013 semi-finalist in the Mystery category, and the 2013 3rd place  winner of the Category 5 contest, Contemporary category. You can find her at www.findinghopeinhardtimes.com.