Wednesday, February 28, 2007

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducing A Valley Of Betrayal
(Moody Publishers - February 1, 2007) by Tricia Goyer

TRICIA GOYER is the author of five novels, two nonfiction books and one children's book. She also was named Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference Writer of the Year in 2003. In 2005, her novel Night Song, the second title in Tricia’s World War II series, won ACFW's Book of the Year for Best Long Historical Romance. In 2006, her novel Dawn of A Thousand Nights also won book of the Year for Long Historical Romance. Tricia and her husband, John, live with their family in northwestern Montana.

ABOUT THE BOOK : A Valley Of Betrayal
For reasons beyond her control, Sophie finds herself alone in the war-torn Spanish countryside, searching for her beloved Michael. His work as a news photographer has taken him deep into the country wracked by civil war.

What was once a thriving paradise has become a battleground for Nazi-backed Franco fascist soldiers and Spanish patriots. She is caught up in the escalating events when the route to safety is blocked and fighting surrounds her.Secrets abound in the ruined Spain. Michael is loving but elusive, especially about beautiful maria. The American who helped Sophie sneak into Spain turns up in odd places. Michael's friend Jose knows more than he tells. When reports of Michael's dissappearance reach her, Sophie is devastaed. What are her feelings for Philip, an American soldier who comes to her rescue?

Sophie must sift truth from lies as she becomes more embroiled in the war that threatens her life and breaks her heart. On her darkest night, Sophie takes refuge with a brigade of international compatriots. Among these volunteers, she pledges to make the plight of the Spanish people known around the world through the power of art.

Acclaimed author Tricia Goyer creates a riviting cast of characters against the backdrop of pre-WWII spain. Love, loss, pain, and beauty abound in A Valley Of Betrayal, the first book in her new series, Chronicles of the Spanish Civil War.

Monday, February 26, 2007

The Budgeting Writer

Yes, the “B” word. It strikes fear into the heart of every Visa Card carrying American. However, for the small business owner, it had better be an integral part of your Business Plan.

“Ron!” you protest, “you’re in the wrong blog! We’re writers, not business owners.”

Wrong. Here’s rule…um…#212: If you’re taking yourself seriously as a writer, you have to convince yourself that this is your business. Otherwise, it’s a hobby. And a business must have a budget. Even if you have no income from your business yet, you must plan. If you’re not taking yourself seriously enough to do that, how do you expect an agent or publisher to do so?

Don’t know how to make a business plan or budget? Sure you do. A business plan is nothing more than a statement on what you intend to accomplish and the steps you’ll take to get there. So write down those lovely little steps. Need help? Okay, here’s a general outline for a novelist:

Goal: to write and publish 1 novel per year with sales of 5,000 copies the first year and a 10% increase in sales for every year following. (Yes, I realize this is simplistic, but rule #16 said to keep the blog entries short. Expand as necessary.).

Assumption: $3000 advance for the first novel with no royalties (Income).

Budget (Expenditures):
Materials: $300
Books: $200
Training: $1000 (conferences, air-fare, lodging, seminars, etc.)
Marketing: $1500

There! Wasn’t that easy? What’s that? I used up all of your advance? Darn right I did. Remember: you are a small business. I challenge anyone to find a small business owner who actually made a profit his or her first year. In fact, most take a loss. Most of you are currently taking a loss. Notice there is no line item that says “Run out and buy a new laptop.” If you must, it goes under Materials. But unless you’re down to writing with sharpened chunks of coal, I suggest you hold off on that.

I’m going to continue on this topic Friday. Your homework is to come up with a budget for this year and your first year as a published author. I don’t care if you think you’re five years from publication. Get it down on paper. Take my abridged budget and expand. Add topics and put in details for each heading. Break down the materials into paper, envelopes, whatever. Marketing, of course, can be broken down into a long list of sub-categories. Guess at those numbers for now, but, as you can see, you’re biggest expenses will always be marketing and training. Good thing you don’t have to worry about production (unless you go the self-pubbed route).

Get budgeting. I’ll see you Friday.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

A funny thing happened on the way to my empire...

The cool thing about developing your “empire” is this: it forces you to sit down and think, “Do I really want to be writing on this topic for the next five or six years?”

That’s a good question to ask yourself. Many of us newbies flit from genre to genre in search of our “niche.” The thing is, our niche usually ends up being the place we happen to be when we get a sale. Brandilyn Collins talks extensively, in her own special way, about branding. To sum it up, she says don’t hopscotch between genres. Your readers develop expectations as does your publisher, so don’t torque ‘em off (I thought "torque 'em off" was a phrase Brandilyn might use).

Now back to the previous problem. I get the feeling that some us will end up falling into a genre simply because that’s the door that opened up for us. Nothing wrong with that. Somebody wants to pay me real money to write romance, I’ll do it (under a pen name). That will never happen, because I just can’t get excited about romance. Well, you know, the written kind. Please disregard any further insertions of foot in mouth.

But I can get excited about several different genres-mystery, suspense, espionage thrillers, and several others. Now here’s the difference: what am I really passionate about? What gets my mojo running? If I were to look at my web browser history right now, what would most populate the list? Okay, after Dilbert and the Weather Channel. I won’t tell you what that is for me, because I’m still wrestling with it. And, oh yeah, praying about it.

Which brings me back to my empire. Not exactly the same as genre, but there will be some connection. So, I’ve taken a simple concept and confused the heck out of it. But maybe that’s a good thing. Are you settling on an empire because it happens to be what your current WIP is about?

Take a look at that browser history. Where ya been hangin’ out at? Chances are, that’s your empire, the one that will drive you out of a warm bed at 4am to catch up on the latest and, of course, write about.

Remember, this isn’t a race. We’ve been punching these keys for a loooong time. Let’s not rush into something we’ll regret in a few years.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducing Wedgewood Grey: The Black or White Chronicles: Book Two (Black Or White Chronicles)(Faith Words, February 2007) by John Aubrey Anderson

John was born five miles north of the setting for Abiding Darkness, a cotton country town within a rifle shot of two rivers, a bayou, a double handful of lakes, and endless acres of woods. After graduating from Mississippi State, he flew six years in the Air Force then twenty-nine years for a major airline. And now he gets to write.

He and his wife have been married for forty some-odd years and live in Texas—about twenty miles south of the Red River. He spends the biggest part of his time writing; she’s immersed in leading a comprehensive, women’s Bible study.

They like greasy hamburgers and Dr. Peppers, most species of warm-blooded creatures (the kind that don’t normally bite), and spending July in the mountains.

ABOUT THE BOOK: Wedgewood Grey is the second book in the Black and White Chronicles. The first was Abiding Darkness (August, 2006).Mississippi cotton country . . . in the spring of 1960.
The War At Cat Lake is fifteen years in the fading past . . . but the demonic beings who launched that first battle, are alive and well at Cat Lake. Waiting.

Late on a Friday night, on a muddy little road a mile east of Cat Lake, a ten-year-old black child is forced to watch while a gang of white men beat his mother to death. Aided by Mose Washington, an old black man, the boy exacts a measure of his own revenge. When the sun comes up on Saturday morning, Mose and the boy are fugitives.

Missy Parker Patterson, who as a child stood at the epicenter of the first war, is married and living in Texas. In the aftermath that follows Mose Washington’s disappearance, she goes back to Cat Lake to discover that the demonic beings have been anticipating her return . . . and so begins the second battle of The War At Cat Lake.

In 1962, an old black man and his grandson move into the country near Pilot Hill, Texas. The people in the local area are told that the old gentleman’s name is Mose Mann—his grandson introduces himself as Bill.

However, the lives of the new arrivals are not as peaceful as they seem. The unassuming old black man and his grandson are being pursued by a triad of formidable and unrelenting adversaries . . . a ruthless political leader, an enduring lie, and an invisible army allied beneath the banner of a hatred for God.

Wedgewood Greyis a story about the impact of choices that real people—people like you and me—are sometimes forced to make.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Blogs and the bloggers who blog them

On my first post to the new format, I asked you to read Randy Ingermanson's newsletter and think about your empire. You may or may not have a specific empire in mind by now. Me? I think I do, but I'm still turning it over. That's fine. This isn't a race. Just don't beat to death.

With that in mind, your empire I mean, I want you to look at your blog. No blog? Get one. It's free, easy, and the quickest way to start building your empire. Blogger is fine, but check out a few of the others available, too. The best way to do that is visit the blogs you like, see how they're laid out, and go with the provider of the one you like best.

Most of you have blogs. What do you talk about there? The weather? Your kid's latest discovery under an old sheet of plywood? Britanny's latest hair style?

Stop it.

You heard me. Stop the insanity! Your empire should be focused. And so should your blog. If your empire is Siamese cats, don't blog about anything that has nothing to do with Siamese cats. If your empire is cast iron cooking, don't you dare enter a post that doesn't contain several pounds of iron.

"But Ron!" You cry. "I need a place to tell my friends what's going on in my life!"

Fine. Get another blog, title it "Stuff About Me," and use that to get all your editorial needs out of your system. Didn't I say blogs (most of them) are free? You can have two. Some people have five or six. I'll save them for another post. Your marketing plan should include a blog that reflects the central theme of your writing.

I promise you, if you start a blog that's specific to your empire, you will find a lot more people stopping in. People with similar interests. People who don't want to hear about how cute your kids are (I do, but not on your empire blog). People who read. People who will someday read your novels!

So hop to it. Give me those blogs! And keep 'em focused.

Friday, February 16, 2007


Networking. It's nothing new. You've been told: go to conferences, talk to lots of people, get on the mail loop, etc. All that is still good advice. There's nothing like meeting people face to face if you want to make an impression (hopefully a good one). A human network is vital for any profession, especially writing.

But what about the quality of your network? Occasionally, a new member of ACFW or MWA will ask how he or she should go about finding a critique group. It's easy, I say, the hard part is finding a good critique group. What do I mean by good? I don't mean their writing is on par with John Steinbeck with their first novel. I mean a group of writers who have a goal, like you, and are making daily strides toward that goal, like you. Your critique group is your innermost networking circle. If it consists of men and women who write "when they have time" or have done nothing to improve their skills in five years, guess what? You're going as far as they are.

I know this sounds harsh. But this is the reality. I've been through more critique groups than I care to admit. Know what most have in common? All the members have given up. Maybe it took them a while. I don't know. I didn't stick around long enough to find out. Because I have a goal, and am taking the steps each and every day to achieve that goal, and they weren't. I don't have time to encourage someone who isn't giving it their all. Neither do you. I've now been in my current group for two years. That's a record for me. What's different about these ladies? They're as committed to reaching their writing goal as I am. Their writing improves noticeably over time (hopefully, they say the same for me), and things are happening. Robin's first book is out in October. And four people, not one, are rejoicing.

Yes, this sounds a bit heartless. We're Christians. We're supposed to lift each other up. But if you read the New Testament, you'll find that Jesus didn't spend a whole lot of time getting His disciples out of bed in the morning. You are called. You follow. Or you don't. His time was short. Our time is a bit longer, but in high demand. Jobs, kids, church--most of us aren't blessed with eight hours of uninterrupted writing time every day. Every minute you invest in your writing is precious. If you're spending time pointing out the same mistakes your crit partners have been making for years, it's like investing in a dotcom. You're getting nothing in return.

If your inner circle isn't helping your writing career, find another circle. Make your current group your friends, by all means, but as far as your writing goes, you need to be surrounded by focused, driven, chew-your-draft-to-pieces, professionals like you.

I spent a lot of space here just talking about your inner networking circle. I'll re-visit this topic again and talk about those larger circles. Your homework this weekend: evaluate your critique group or inner circle. Are they helping you reach your goal? Are you helping them? Be honest. You may have to make some tough decisions come Monday. Come to think of it, I may just find myself voted off the island. Better get to those critiques...

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducing
Christian Writers' Market Guide 2007: The Essential Reference Tool for the Christian Writer
by Sally Stuart. WaterBrook Press; Pap/CDR edition (January 16, 2007)

Sally E. Stuart is the author of thirty-four books and has sold more than one thousand articles and columns. Her long-term involvement with the Christian Writers' Market Guide as well as her marketing columns for the Christian Communicator, Oregon Christian Writers, and The Advanced Christian Writer, make her a sought-after speaker and a leading authority on Christian markets and the business of writing. Stuart is the mother of three and grandmother of eight.

The Christian Writers' Market Guide has offered indispensable help to Christian writers. This year, for the first time, this valuable resource comes with a CD-ROM of the full text, so you can search with ease for topics, publishers, and other specific names.The 2007 edition also includes up-to-date listings of more than 1,200 markets for books, articles, stories, poetry, and greeting cards, including information on forty new book publishers, eighty-three new periodicals, and thirty-four new literary agents. Perfect for writers in every phase, this is the resource to get noticed–and get published.

It contains listings for: 695 periodicals, 228 poetry markets, 355 book publishers, 133 online publications, 29 print-on-demand publishers, 1185 markets for the written word, 321 photography markets, 31 e-book publishers, 122 foriegn markets, 112 literary agents,and 59 newspapers.It also gives you comprehensive lists of contests, writers groups and conferences, search engines, pay rates and submission guidelines, editorial services and websitesThe Christian Writers' Market Guide is a must have for any serious Christian writer that is looking to get published and is a crucial element in your marketing strategy.

Monday, February 12, 2007

My Empire

Welcome back.

Okay, I’ve read Randy’s e-zine and have a good grasp of Strategic (long term) and Tactical (short term) marketing. Why tactical marketing? Well, as most of you have discovered, writing doesn’t pay well, or at all, during the learning stages. But we have expenses: books, conferences, websites, postage, laptops…it all adds up. Wouldn’t it be nice if all that were paid for by someone else? Take a look down the left side of my blog. I’ve got advertisements from Amazon, Randy Ingermanson, Terry Whalin, and Google. All these are affiliate programs. No, I won’t make a ton of money by advertising these products, but maybe I’ll cover some of my expenses. Check out my book store. This was almost no work on my part. Not only do I keep a list of recommended reading, I get little profit anytime one of you buys one of those books.

You can do it, too! That’s the point of all this. If you’re promoting another website, product, or book on your blog, get something for it. It’s not money grubbing, it makes sense. Everyone benefits. Why not you? By the way, I won’t promote anything I haven’t checked out myself (with the exception of the Google ad, which selects random advertisers based on content).

The Strategic portion of our marketing plan is where we’ll concentrate most of our time. On Friday I told you that Randy wants us to determine our “empire.” That’s not his term, by the way, but, being a mad genius, he borrowed it. That’s a good point to get across now: Don’t re-invent the waffle! If someone is already doing it right, adopt it as your own. We’re writers, not marketing professionals.

So what’s my empire? Well, I’ve got a few choices. I love Jesus, writing, fly-fishing, camping, men’s ministry, mystery/suspense/thriller writing. I can’t group all that into one empire, it would be way too narrow. I can have several empires, but I need to focus on one for now. Let’s see…my novels always involve a man on a faith journey. My current series has a heavy dose of fly-fishing.

How about this: Men’s ministry and fly-fishing. I could come up with a website with a catchy title. Something like “Reel Men…thoughts on fly-fishing and being God’s Man.” That may be too narrow as well. Maybe just “Real Men–being God’s Man in the 21st century.” That keeps my focus on Christ, which is important to me. But will it tie into my fiction? I think so. I could use my current series and the fictional town of Trout, Michigan as my empire. Maybe it will involve elements of mystery, fly-fishing, and faith. I like that. The men's ministry ties in with a desire I've had for several years to write a series of non-fiction books. There's no reason I can't develop this marketing plan to focus on both my fiction and non-fiction ventures. Remember, this plan can cover years, even decades. Look ahead. Think big.

I’ll leave it there for now. I’ve got plenty of time to develop this. How about you? What’s your empire? Space travel? Cats? Scrapbooking? Think about it. I’d like to hear your ideas.

I’ll leave Randy alone for a while and take a look at some other ways to develop my marketing plan. On Friday, I’d like to talk a bit about networking. Put on your thick skin (if you’re a writer, it’s always handy). Some of the things I say on this subject may ruffle a few feathers. But stick with me. Nothing I say will step outside of Christian boundaries, but we have to remain tough and focused to reach our goals and fulfill His will.

Friday, February 09, 2007

The Fiction Marketing Journey: Step 1

Welcome to my Fiction Writers Marketing Journey. To kick things off this week, I asked you to visit Randy Ingermanson’s website and determine where you fall in your writing career. Me? I think I fall into the “Junior” category. My writing is looking pretty good, but I’ve still got some things to learn. I’m not going to go any deeper into the finer points of writing, but I would recommend Randy’s Fiction 101 & 201 course. The rest is up to you.

Now, why am I doing this? This project is not meant to be long term. My little scheme is to use this blog as the staging area for my marketing plan. Why? Because I can lay it out, step by step, as I go. AND I can include you in the process. You see, like Randy, Terry, and a host of other writers, I don’t buy into the deception that a successful writing career is luck of the draw. I’m not talking about writing a best seller and retiring to Jamaica, but I don’t think it’s too much to ask that our hard work pay off at least enough to lead a comfortable existence. But most importantly: if I’m truly called to this ministry, why should I settle for less than my maximum potential? There’s a parable Jesus told about some servants who were given money (talent) to invest. Those who took the biggest risk and got the greatest return were rewarded even more. I’m already investing a lot of time and work, why not go the distance and make sure the fruit of my labor doesn’t die on the vine?

My point? It’s not enough that you have talent. It’s not enough that you were called. You must do whatever you can to ensure all that talent doesn’t go to waste. That’s where marketing comes in. It’s an investment in your writing. The greater the return on that investment, the more you can give back to Him. I’m not just talking dollars, I’m talking souls reached for the Kingdom.

Now, let’s continue. The next thing I did on my journey was to subscribe to an e-zine. That’s right, why kill myself learning this stuff when someone else already knows it? I hate to keep picking on Randy, but he’s the “Mad Genius” that got me started on this path in the first place. The first edition of his marketing e-zine told me to find my “empire.” What’s that? Well, it’s what I’m passionate about, or good at, or want to be good at. I’m going to think about that over the weekend. How about you do the same? Go and subscribe to Randy’s e-zine, The Mad Genius Writer, and read up. Oh, by the way, when you do, you’ll notice that I’ve already taken some short term steps. I’ll let you figure it out after you read Randy’s e-zine.

See ya Monday!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

A New Screwtape Letter

If you haven't been on Terry Whalin's blog today, get there. He's posted a "Screwtape Letter" written by Greg Stielstra, author of Pyromarketing. If you're called to write for our Lord and have found yourself tempted to tone down your gospel message to reach the unsaved, this letter is for you. I won't re-post it here. Go check it out on Terry's blog.
This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducting The Longing Season (Bethany House July, 2006) by Christine Schaub.


Christine Schaub is the author of the MUSIC OF THE HEART series, including Finding Anna, the “rest of the story” behind the writing of the hymn “It Is Well With My Soul” (October 2005) and The Longing Season, the story behind “Amazing Grace” (July 2006) with Bethany House Publishers, a division of Baker Books.

In 2003, Christine won the “On the Page” screenwriting contest at Screenwriting Expo 2 in Los Angeles. Her one-page story, written on-site in 24 hours for Jacqueline Bisset, was selected by the actress as the best Oscar Wilde-type comedy for her persona.

While working in freelance corporate communications, Christine completed three feature-length screenplays, including a drama/comedy, romantic comedy, and sci-fi action/drama; developed four biopic teleplays for the stories behind the hymns; and published an online column for the MethodX website (Upper Room Ministries).

Christine honed her writing skills after more than 15 years in corporate communications for healthcare, pharmaceutical, and entertainment companies. She has also been a featured conference speaker on working with at-risk youth and changed lives in the classrooms with her creative presentation style.

Christine's love for the arts and creativity have taken her from church platforms to civic and professional stages, performing classics and dramas from her own pen.

Christine graduated from Anderson University with a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications. She has served on numerous boards and committees, usually as Communications Chair, and has received both regional and national awards in writing and design.

All of the books in the MUSIC OF THE HEART series are based on a hymns and their histories. The Longing Season is about one of the greatest redemption stories of all time: John Newton and his song, Amazing Grace.

Nature conspires against him, tossing the ship like a toy. Directionless--just like his life.
It seems his odyssey will end here, in the cold Atlantic.
Grief and terror grip his heart, but he will not surrender...not yet.
She reads the sentence again and again.
The first day I saw you I began to love you.
He'd written the words, sealed and posted them, then vanished.

She has a choice--turn toward the future, or wait, wating and hoping.

And so begins her season of longing.

Christine's website link is:

Monday, February 05, 2007


Whenever the subject of marketing comes up in writer circles, the question of timing invariably surfaces as well.

When do I start thinking about marketing?

“Now” would be my answer. No, I don’t mean spend $800 on a website design and call the local bookstores to schedule your signing tour. Unless, of course, you’re ready for that. What I mean is this: Before you create your character, develop your plot, stroke the first key, ask yourself “What about my novel makes me different from the thousands of novels that will hit the bookstores this year?” Is it a protagonist with a unique occupation, like writing crossword puzzles? An interesting setting like post-Soviet Russia? A different time like Chicago in the 1890s?

I can’t help you with this part of your marketing plan. This is entirely up to you. I assume you have a hint of creativity living somewhere in your cranium. Stretch it now. Put yourself in the chair of an acquisitions editor. Manuscripts fly across your desk like spitballs past a substitute teacher. What do you want to see? What would stand out?

Okay, that’s as far as I, or anyone, can take you on that topic.

To answer the “When” question beyond that point, you first must decide where you are in your writing career. Randy Ingermanson uses a simple approach to this. You’re either a Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, or Senior. And no, that doesn’t mean you’ll be a published author in four years from the first moment you decide to pick up a pen.

Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to go to Randy’s website and figure out where you are. Be honest. There’s no shame in being a Freshman for three years. We all learn and grow at our own pace. That’s a statement you’ll here me use a lot, by the way: learn & grow. That will be the one consistent piece of your journey.

Now, do your homework. We’ll pick this up on Friday.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Best Reader Comment of the Week

As Lawrence Block pointed out once, Charles Dickens either invented the book tour... our St. Paul did. - Posted by Mark Terry

Friday, February 02, 2007

Marketing You Betcha

As I near the day when I find myself signing a book contract, my mind is already steering toward the question: What next?

If you've been reading guys like Terry Whalin and Randy Ingermanson, you have a good idea what's next. You've busted your keys for a year or more on a novel. Before, that, you've likely shed a few tears over novels that were pronounced DOA. And before that, you've spent years 'n years learning and perfecting your craft. We like to call it a craft. It makes us feel artsy. The fact is, my fellow artists, if you don't have a little Trump in your soul, or are at least willing to get a little Trump in your soul, your art won't get into too many hands, and your publisher may one day invite you to find a new publisher.

It's harsh, yes. That's me. I turned 40 last month, so I think that gives me just enough years to tell it like it is. Just barely.

So, I'm going to be writing a lot more on this subject. I hope a few of you will join me. I won't try to re-invent the ice-cream cone, but I will be picking up some clues from guys like Terry, Randy, Chip MacGregor, and Bob Bly (more on him later, but do check out his website).

Here's your first rule: keep your blog postings short. I'm probably pushing the limit already today. If you want to join the new revolution of the Marketing Writer, stick around. Oh, by the way, if you're not sure aggressive marketing fits in with the Christian World View, I'll have to disagree. Going out into the world to spread the Good News is marketing. Paul wore out his sandals doing it. We will wear out our keyboards.