Focus on Blythe Daniel

by Elizabeth Griffin

Bring your elevator pitch to Blythe Daniel at this year’s Renewal.

Approachable and energetic, Blythe takes a personal interest in the authors she represents. She is returning to this year’s Renewal to meet with you if you write about Christian Life, Spiritual Growth, Current Events, Inspirational/Narrative Nonfiction, Business/Leadership, Church Leadership, Marriage, Parenting, Apologetics, Social Issues, Women’s Issues, Cooking and Gift books concepts. She will consider devotionals with a unique theme and concept, and Children’s picture books and early readers with Christian concepts.

Blythe is always on the lookout for up-and-coming voices of ministry leaders, business leaders, pastors, journalists, counselors, and others who have an established organization or ministry, or are part of one. It’s important that you have an online presence and a strong platform. She wants to see what you have done, not just what you plan to do!

Blythe focuses on the placement of books with publishers, online marketing, and publicity for authors. She helps writers build the right book proposal, conducts publicity campaigns, and has placed clients in a number of major national media outlets.

Come prepared with an “elevator pitch.” In 30 seconds to two minutes tell about your idea, including what your book is about, who it’s written for, and how you are connected with your audience. Tell Blythe about your blog, podcasts, YouTube videos, publications you contribute to regularly, your speaking schedule, and your network with other writers and published authors.

Don’t have all of these? Don’t worry. If you write well and have a concept that’s unique and in her wheelhouse, the Blythe Daniel Agency is willing to take you on. Once there, you can be confident that Blythe has a proven track record of 20 years in the industry, including seven years at Thomas Nelson and working with New York Times bestselling authors John and Stasi Eldredge.

In addition to meeting with Blythe, plan to attend her workshops at the Renewal. She will be teaching:

And Exactly How Do I Sell My Book? – E-mail subscriber lists, podcasting, launch teams and what else? These are the current and proven tactics that sell books, whether you are traditionally or independently published. This workshop will explore what these items are and how to implement them in your marketing plans.

What Makes Your Book Eye-Catching to Publishers – Stellar writing, a unique and compelling idea, and your reach to the intended audience. These are the things that make your book attractive to publishers. They want you to write toward a theme that no one else is saying. How do you do this? Blythe will give examples and share how to take a topic and create an angle that will differentiate your book. Also covered will be how to write to your audience so that you are saying something that only you can offer.

Check out all the workshops being offered this year. To request an appointment with Blythe, register soon for the Renewal.

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In addition to writing and editing a monthly lifestyle newspaper for 10 years, Elizabeth Griffin elizabeth_griffin2has published more than 500 articles in newspapers, anthologies, and magazines, along with the books Fragile X, Fragile Hope: Finding Joy in Parenting a Child with Special Needs and Margot’s Story. Elizabeth’s favorite subject matter is true stories of redemption. She loves to speak truth into the lives of others and has been a Bible teacher for 16 years. Her recent adventures include directing communications for an international missions group and public relations for Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission, and blogging at Follow the Dots.

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6 Rookie Mistakes to Avoid at a Writers Conference

by guest blogger Katelyn S. Bolds, web writer and social media strategist

1.  Bring snacks

Don’t make the mistake of not planning for meals. Have a little snack stashed in your attaché for a slow moment. Don’t let your stomach growl when pitching your book! Bring a granola bar or trail mix as a speedy way to subdue your hunger. Choosing protein and low-sugar options will help keep your energy levels up and prevent you from crashing in the mid-afternoon slump.6-rookie-mistakes

2.  Make goals

Attending a conference with no goals in mind is a complete waste of money. Even if your goal is “find out what my goal should be,” you should still have some in mind.

Make a list of the editors and agents you want to meet with or touch base with. Do your homework and research them online. Try to find out interests, and see if your story would fit well for them. If an agent only works with fiction, don’t try to get them to make an exception for your manuscript.

3.  Avoid burnout

Know what is the right amount of conference for you. When you start to feel overwhelmed, leave the conference. Go outside, take a nap, call your family. Skipping meals or sleep will not impress anyone, but rather give the impression that you are inexperienced and unprofessional. Everyone needs a break after a long conference, but rest assured you can recover.

Read more here about avoiding conference burnout.

4.  Network and connect

Don’t underestimate the power of connections and friendships made at conferences! Use your time between sessions to speak with those around you. Swap struggles and tips with other writers and make sure to get names and e-mails if you feel the connection has potential. Writer friends are important for support, idea generation, and later networking opportunities. Be kind and see where it might lead!

5.  Pitch perfectly

Know your story backwards and forwards. It’s hard to sell a story short and sweet, but shoot for the style of a back cover. Focus on the main plot and emotional draw. In three to five sentences, explain the mass appeal of your work and why the publisher should be interested. Be polite, but don’t waste time chatting about the weather or the conference. The agent or editor is there to hear your pitch.

6.  Follow up and follow through!

Follow up with everyone you spoke with for more than a few minutes. Send them a thank you e-mail referencing interesting conversation points you discussed and tell them it was nice to meet them. This little touch will remind them who you are and set you apart from the crowd.

Follow through with anyone who asked you to send them something. If an editor asks you to tweak your story before sending them your manuscript, don’t let pride or lack of time stand in your way. Send it to them with haste! You may find that they are willing to work with you in the future, knowing how dedicated you are to impressing them.

Now that you know the rookie mistakes to avoid at writers conferences, be sure to sign up for the 2017 Northwest Christian Writers Renewal!

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katelynsbolds_headshotKatelyn S. Bolds balances work as web editor, author services extraordinaire, and freelance writer. She is married to coffee; also her husband. At times this DIY life might get a little crazy, but she takes it one day at a time. A little yoga, a lot of organization, and a holistic approach make for a Bold Life. Follow her on Twitter, (@KatelynSBolds), Facebook, and Pinterest.

 

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.

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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 coauthor of the inspirational suspense novel Pseudonym.

Don’t Worry Before a Writers Conference, PLAN!

Does the thought of attending a writers conference make you nervous?

Winston Churchill said, “Let our advance worrying become advance thinking and planning.”

Instead of worrying in advance, plan in advance by reading past blog posts with valuable advice on preparing for a writers conference.

TweetNervous about attending a writers conference?  Prepare, don’t worry.

Top Ten Reasons pmEdie Melson from The Write Conversation guest blogged “Top Ten Reasons to Attend a Writers Conference.”

 

Prayer Power Tool“Plug in Your Power Tool — Prayer” was written by Lydia E. Harris to provide instruction in gathering a prayer support team for your writing.

 

Terry Whalin 2Pack your proposal, not your manuscript, in your tote bag, because Terry Whalin advises that “Editors Read Book Proposals, Not Manuscripts.”

 

CWC Buy NowThe Northwest Christian Writers Association wrote a book just to relieve conference jitters and help conference attendees know exactly what to do before, during, and after a conference. Purchase on Amazon here.

TweetThe Christian Writer’s Coach book details what to do before, during, and after a writers conference.

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And while you’re planning and preparing, don’t forget to register!

 

 

Pitch and Tell – Avoiding Story Stumbling

By Kathleen Freeman, Critique Coordinator for NCWA and Renewal Volunteer

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They ask about our story—editor, agent, fellow writer, the guy slicing the beef. We freeze. We panic, and what could have been a fun and meaningful conversation, and possibly begun a friendship, turns to disaster.

If someone asks what we love about our spouse, kids, or pet, we don’t panic, don’t get tongue-tied or fearful. Confidence oozes as we tell strangers and friends alike about little Lucy’s first steps carrying Tolkien’s The Hobbit. We confess that our face might be purple because we spent the last two hours helping our son write an essay.

Avoiding Story Stumbling

People don’t ask about our work to measure or judge us. Okay, some do, but they are the exception. Most ask because of burning curiosity. They want to know what fills us with the passion to neglect other things in our lives and write when we know the pitiful publication odds… let alone the chances of writing a NY Times best seller. What is our story about, and why is it so important? If we can articulate the answer in five words, thirty-two words, or 100 words of eye-sparking passion, it’s a powerful jump-start to the most flagging confidence. If we can’t, we’re not ready for a pitch—plain and simple.

TweetWe neglect other things in our lives and passionately write despite pitiful publication odds.

Unfortunately, passion, even articulated well, only goes so far. If asked about Bible verses pertaining to the deity of Christ and we’re not prepared, Bible fumbling and umming will ensue. We have to have pages marked, words highlighted. In the same way, when someone asks about our kids, pictures go a long way toward reminding us why we love them despite struggles.

Whether telling our story to the book table lady, or pitching to an editor or agent, a picture of our “baby” can help break the ice. A One Sheet, writing sample, and story proposal make a great snapshot. A One Sheet is an introduction to us and our story using artistry and character representative of our book. It’s a business card and photo rolled into one page. A transparent, gem-colored, $2.99 Rite Aid plastic folder makes a great showcase and will also hold writing samples and our proposal. Some have a place for a business card, as well.

In addition to making a great conversation starter, a folder looks professional—a step in the right direction beyond one-line zingers, elevator pitches or thirty-two word summaries. If we stumble, trip on our words, or develop rubber lips, we still look like a player.

Organization isn’t always a writer’s greatest gift. Receipts and napkins often carry our inspirations home. But failure in this can undo both preparation and passion. If our artistic, stream-lined folder is shoved in a bag among schedules, a pile of magazines, a semi-melted Hershey’s Kiss, a hairbrush, and receipts from the bookstore, our mind may feel like the chocolate is melting through it. A horror story of great proportion may ensue as we reach in and pull out our Arm and Hammer Essentials deodorant. While such a blunder might lead to a new friendship founded on mutual anti-aluminum beliefs, it’s more likely to make an editor flag down the time-keeper, eyes pleading for Calgon. No. We’re better off leaving anything extraneous in the car if we have an appointment.

Though due respect and admiration, editors and agents seek what anyone does—something excellent to read, and maybe a new friendship or two. To help him or her feel welcome and appreciated, we might do some internet research before the appointment. If we know her company switched from Prairie Romance to Steampunk Murder Mysteries, we can leave And the Bluebells Ring in our bag and dust off It Goes Whir, Thud. If horror terrifies him, we shouldn’t pitch ours. If she just lost her dog, we might be sensitive to that and not tell our story about Fido gifting the new neighbors with our bloomers.

We pitch, tell our story with proud passion, and then we’re done. Whether she wants us to send her something or not, we need to maintain an air of thankfulness. A “thank you for your time” is always appreciated. Beyond that, a no is not by any means the end of the story… unless we spin in angry circles and vanish in a puff of blue smoke.

TweetWhen we pitch, we tell our story with proud passion.

As chairs are stacked and conference attendees stare into space, smiles stiff, brains overflowing with information, we might ask the editor sitting alone if it was a good conference for him. We could ask the agent if she has a place to worship on Sunday, or offer coffee or a cup of water. Grace. Love. A bit of kindness. It may even help her move past our blunders and ask, once again, to hear our story.

It could happen.

 

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(Your next opportunity to pitch!)

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Kathleen Freeman 2Kathleen 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.

“The Christian Writer’s Coach: How to Get the Most out of a Writers Conference” Book Review

Lesley Ann McDaniel, published author and member of NCWA, reviewed the book written by NCWA members.

 

CWC Buy Now

The title of the book says it all. It really does offer a full spectrum of encouragement and practical advice needed for a writer, whether newbie or seasoned, to get the most from a conference. This collection of articles by various members of the Northwest Christian Writers Association is an invaluable guide.

As a prelude, we’re treated to five mini-bios of people who are successful in Christian publishing, peppered with bits of practical conference-relevant tips. I had the privilege of interviewing my agent, Les Stobbe, for this book, and of writing his bio. Since he attends up to ten writers’ conferences a year, it was fun to get the perspective from the other side of the pitching process. I appreciate his reminder that “Preparing to be a writer is a marathon, not a sprint.”

The rest of the book is divided into three sections for easy reference: before, during, and after a conference. It’s a quick, enjoyable read, and easy to navigate.

My favorite take-aways are the reminders from bestselling author James L. Rubart and editor Marcus Yoars to put other people first; numerous cues from Melissa K. Norris, Robin Jones Gunn, Lydia E. Harris and others to let God lead you through prayer; and Marty Nystrom’s sage advice to trust God for the timing of each writing project.

I also learned some great tips from Janalyn Voigt on preparing a conference binder, something I had never thought to do before. Lynnette Bonner and Erica Vetsch offer practical instruction for creating a book proposal and a one-sheet, both essential tools for the writer who hopes to pitch a project to an editor or agent.

And speaking of pitching, Melissa K. Norris, Amy Letinsky, and Michelle Hollomon each offer helpful how-tos on that topic.

This book is rich with so much more. I recommend it for everyone who is planning to attend a writers’ conference, whether Christian or secular, but also for writers who can’t attend a conference but intend to submit their work to agents and publishers.

Enjoy your writers’ conference, and in the words of Lydia E. Harris, don’t forget to “Go have fun!”

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book for free for the purpose of reviewing. I was not required to write a positive review, and have expressed my honest opinions.

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LESLEY ANN MCDANIEL is a lifelong lover of words, and theatre. While earning a degree in acting, she fell in love with theatrical costuming, and pursued that as a career while nurturing her passion for writing on the side. Through God’s guidance, she has shifted her focus to honing her skills as a writer of Women’s and Young Adult fiction. She is a member of the Northwest Christian Writers Association and of a wonderful critique group. A native Montanan and a Big Sky girl at heart, Lesley now resides in the Seattle area.

 

Her books “Lights, Cowboy, Action”, “Big Sky Bachelor”, “Rocky Mountain Romance”, and “Saving Grace” are available at her website www.lesleyannmcdaniel.com or on Amazon http://amzn.to/1a2Rlnf.

Do You Have Perfect Pitch?

NCWA welcomes Karen Ball from The Steve Laube Agency!

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While I was at a writer’s retreat awhile back, I was struck, as I always am when in the company of writers, by the power of the right word used in the right way. On the first day of the conference, I had group meetings with the writers.

This is where a group of writers come in, sit at a table together, and each takes a turn pitching his/her book to me to see if I would be interested in representing the author. I had six groups, each lasting a half hour, made up of anywhere from 5-7 people each. So folks had a total of 3-5 minutes to engage me in their project.

It’s the writer’s conference version of speed dating!

The cool thing is, a good number of those who came had such a strong understanding of their project and of the market that they were able to hook me in the first few words. Now that’s doing your homework! For example, one woman told me right off the bat her book was romantic suspense, what the main story line was (in a sentence), and what the conflict and spiritual takeaway were.

That took about 45 seconds of her four minutes, so from there I asked questions about the story and focus and she was able to relax and just talk. I ended up asking her to send me the proposal. Don’t know if we’ll pursue it–the writing is what tips the scales, of course.

But I was impressed with her well chosen descriptions. And if I’m considering two manuscripts and all things are basically equal, I’ll always go with an author who is, first and foremost, teachable, and then able to communicate the heart and soul of her story quickly and effectively.

Summer and fall boast a lot of wonderful writers’ conferences to attend. So you writers need to know how to capture an editor’s or author’s attention in a matter of seconds. Yes, SECONDS, not minutes. So spend some time thinking about the following:

Do You Have Perfect Pitch?

*What’s the main theme (or themes) addressed in my story?

*For fiction, what’s the nonfiction hook I could use to stir interest in media outlets (e.g. radio, where they generally don’t have a clue what to do with novelists)?

*What genre/category is my book? Are there any best-sellers or movies that I can compare my book to that will position it quickly for the agent/editor? For example, “My book is Die Hard meets Left Behind.”

*What’s the spiritual takeaway?

Finally, can I describe my book in:

* one sentence

*25 words

*50 words

*200 words

(At different stages in the process of seeking publication, you’ll need to be able to do all of the above!)

That’s enough to get you started. So hey, go for it! Put together a masterful pitch, one or two sentences, that will position your book in any editor’s or agent’s mind. And if you want to try your pitch out here, feel free. I’ll let you know what I think.

TweetGroup pitching to an editor is the writer’s conference version of speed dating!@KarenBall

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This post first appeared June 13, 2012 on The Steve Laube Agency blog. Used by kind permission.

Karen Ball has been blessed to use her love of words and story during nearly 30 years in publishing. Currently the owner/operator of Karen Ball Publishing Services, LLC, and a literary agent with the Steve Laube Agency, Karen built and led fiction lines for Tyndale, Multnomah, Zondervan, and B&H Publishing Group.

She’s discovered and worked with some of the top novelists in publishing, including Francine Rivers, Karen Kingsbury, Brandilyn Collins, Angela Hunt, Ginny Yttrup, & Robin Jones Gunn. In addition, Karen is a best-selling, award-winning novelist and a popular speaker and teacher. She lives in Oregon with her husband, father, and three four-legged, furry kids. Visit Karen on her website or at The Steve Laube Agency.