Category: The Publishing Process

Importance of Readers/Reviews/Endorsements

Book reviewers and advance readers are one important element in the publishing process. It’s hard for the author and the editors to be objective about the book they’ve been immersed in for months, maybe years. Enter readers and reviewers who usually have little or no personal stake or emotional involvement in the book. We hope they are people who appreciate good literature, who want to share God-glorifying stories with their friends, who recognize authenticity in narrative that “rings true” and offers help and hope.

We are thankful for the advance readers who, in the midst of their busy schedules, have read a pre-publication copy of On Kitten Creek: Searching for the Sacred by Nancy Swihart and have sent us these endorsement/ reviews:

Ken Canfield PhD., Founder National Center for Fathering; President, National Association for Grandparenting says:

“Nancy Swihart’s On Kitten Creek is an uplifting and thoughtful read. It’s a fresh reminder that we are each living an adventure. At times our adventurous lives, the meaning of certain events, relationships and living spaces are obscure; however when we take time and reflect, as Nancy has done, the richness in living bursts forth in her narrative like a warm sun. Reading On Kitten Creek will minister to your spirit and move you to give thanks for life’s simple gifts. I particularly enjoy the way Nancy inserts her breath of literature, practical wisdom and spiritual insights in each chapter. Her concluding and short review of the “markers” of life’s adventures is worth the price of the book alone. I know you will enjoy On Kitten Creek and hopefully it will cause you to reflect deeply about your life, as it has prompted me.”

Steven Garber, Principal of the Washington Institute for Faith, Vocation & Culture; author of Visions of Vocation: Common Grace for the Common Good says:

“’Lots of love, lots of tears, lots of growing.’ I could write on and on about the unusual richness of Nancy Swihart’s On Kitten Creek, but those few words of hers capture the life she has lived “in search of the sacred.” Always hospitable, always inviting, she is also artful and poetic, writing about her family’s life on a small farm in the Flint Hills of Kansas—the hours and days of hard work, the surprising commitment to a common life among neighbors, the celebrations and heartaches over the years. She graces us with eyes to see all of this as born of a longing for God to be present in her life and world. A quiet read for a quiet day or to be read aloud among friends, its gift is to draw us into the truest truths of the universe, sure that we have been looking over-the-shoulder and through-the-heart of someone with much to teach every one of us.”

Kay Bascom, Author, Teacher, Missionary, and Conference Speaker says:

“Strangers driving past the big red barn and outbuildings on Kitten Creek’s gravel road could never guess the magnitude of what has happened on that property in the last thirty years! The open hearts and hands there on the farm have enabled countless revolving college students and community friends to bond, build, create, study, experiment, grow, enjoy, laugh, serve, and fan out over the world, blessed. Let Nancy give you glimpses of His handiwork among us. Be inspired to look for sacred connections and creative opportunities waiting to surprise you within what may seem mundane in your own life.”

Thank you, Ken, Steven, and Kay!

May we all experience “God’s kingdom come”—more and more—on earth, and His will being done (in our lives and influence) as it is in Heaven. And may many readers be blessed by this book you have been willing to endorse with your good name.


Top photo credits: Can Stock Photo / ©Aaronam, ©monkeybusiness

Scattering Books Like Seeds

In my mind, a publisher distributing books is like a farmer broadcasting seeds. We send them out in every direction, hoping they fall on ready, canstockphoto2973557-sowerprepared soil that will receive the message and take it to heart.

This wintry time of year, seeds lie dormant in the ground waiting, sealed. When days grow longer and warmer, the seeds will awaken, sprout and eventually produce leaves and fruit.

Same with books. You may buy a book or be given one, but the season of your life isn’t right yet. The book sits on a shelf, or under a pile of other volumes—or a list of Kindle files—you plan to read sometime. Then one day you pick it up, or click it open, and start reading; and you marvel that these words are exactly what you need at this time of your life.

Casting/sowing seeds or books takes faith. A Christian publisher must believe that these books, which contain kernels of life-giving truth, will be carried by the Wind of the Holy Spirit. And when prepared personal soil opens to them, we pray that their message will be watered by the Living Water. The resulting fruit will be minds and hearts growing and encouraged to flourish in hope, wholeness, spiritual insights, and joy.

So I choose the mindset of an under-gardener. My Father is the Gardener. By his grace I’ll do my part. His is the overall plan, purpose and power. The resulting fruit cannot be fully seen or measured this side of Heaven.

Then, how can we fail? Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must lick my finger and hold it to the wind.

A Mountain-top Experience for Christian Writers at CCWC

Mtn-CCWC-2013

If you are a Christian writer, I want to encourage you to attend the  Colorado Christian Writer’s Conference. This great conference is just two weeks away, but there is still time to register. I will be at this conference and I would love to meet you there.  You can come for 1, 2, 3, or 4 days. You can stay in beautiful YMCA of the Rockies or commute. Come if you can! Here’s more information from the conference director, Marlene Bagnull:

Colorado Christian Writers Conference

A note of encouragement from Marleen Bagnull, Director:

  • Do you ever doubt your abilities as a writer?
  • Have you almost given up on getting published in today’s competitive market?
  •  Do you hate the “slush pile” and wish you could talk to an editor one-on-one?
  • Are you secretly terrified of the idea of building a “platform”?
  • Do you feel like you’re all alone in your writing adventure/struggle?
  • Is it really worth hanging in there for the long haul?
  • Is there a desire burning in your heart to write words that will potentially lead others to Christ?

7 Top Reasons You Need to Come to the May 11-14 CCWC

  1. Master the craft of writing. Okay, no one will ever achieve that lofty goal. There’s always more to learn. But as one conferee said, the Colorado Christian Writers Conference is equivalent to a semester college course in writing. A faculty of 56 editors, agents, and authors will provide instruction for wannabe and advanced writers of fiction from Christian speculative to historical, point of view and voice to making a scene. Nonfiction writers will find help for writing Bible studies, memoirs, articles, and much more. With 59 workshops and 8 continuing sessions to choose from, there really is something for everyone.
  1. Learn how to sell your work to potential publishers or explore the how-to of indie publishing. Whether you’ve received more than your share of rejection slips or have yet to get your first, two of CCWC’s eight continuing sessions that will provide the answers you need are: “Indie Publishing Boot Camp” and “Writing a Winning Book Proposal.”
  1. Face to face opportunities to pitch your work to editors and agents. In today’s publishing world the only way to connect with many agents and editors is through meeting them at a conference. Those who register for Thursday through Saturday are entitled to FOUR 15-minute one-on-one appointments with the faculty of their choice. You’ll find lots of helpful info on how to prepare and make the best choices by clicking on One-on-One at http://colorado.writehisanswer.com.
  1. Learn the craft of marketing/promoting your published work. Yes, it’s a craft, and not one that comes naturally to most writers. I’ve often said that the reason I quit Girl Scouts was the stress of trying to sell cookies. Whether or not you enjoy marketing, though, you hold the key to the sales of your book. And the good news is that marketing can be learned. We have a track of six hour-long marketing workshops and a continuing session on “Thriving in Today’s Publishing World.”
  1. Friendships with other writers. Writers connect deeply with one another faster than I ever have in the chit-chat before and after Sunday-morning worship services. A key verse that I’ve sought to follow is 1 Thessalonians 5:11, “Encourage each other to build each other up” (TLB). It happens every year at CCWC!
  1. Inspiration and encouragement to keep on keeping on. Louise Looney is well qualified to teach the workshop, “Still Climbing – Not Over the Hill.” Since turning 75, she has written four books.  Allen Arnold’s continuing session, “From Overwhelmed to Creative Breakthrough,” will provide a refreshing journey for anyone who feels disheartened. And, of course, we also offer eight inspiring keynote addresses and times of worship.
  1. And the Number 1 Reason to come to the Colorado Christian Writers Conference: Renew your faith and passion to “write His answer.” Each year Father meets us on the mountain and challenges and equips us to write about a God who is real, who is reachable, and who changes lives.

There’s still time to register and to request appointments. Housing is still available at the YMCA – Estes Park Center. Thanks to the Y’s spacious classrooms, none of the workshops or continuing sessions are filled. For much more info and secure online registration go to http://colorado.writehisanswer.com. If you need time payments or scholarship help, please ask. Email me at mbagnull@aol.com or call 484-991-8581.

Are You Ready to Publish a Book?

hat-3

Think that’s a glamorous hat? Think again. As a “boutique” (small, custom, picky) publisher, I wear this hat often, and at first glance it may seem to give power and appeal. Over time, though, it brings me to my knees.

With my acquisitions editor hat on I must make decisions to enter into contractual agreements with writers based on perceptions and best guesses. First impressions of an author or manuscript are subjective. I may like the person, writing, or idea based on personal preferences and interests or their persuasiveness and ability to engage me with their written expression.

If an author/book idea passes that first, subjective threshold, it must hold up under business scrutiny. Tough questions should be asked, analysis and forecasting applied. Is there enough demand for a book like this? If so, can we and the author reach the market for this book? Is it well written, engaging, and unique enough to compete with similar books? If it floats, is the author ready and able to sail with it? Is this project financially feasible? Does it really fit in Cladach’s niche of literary waters?

If we answer too many questions “No” or “We don’t know,” and this process shoots too many holes in the potential project, it will sink before it starts with us. What we don’t want is to prepare a book, like a boat, to launch upon a sea of published books and then watch it sink. This has happened.

With some projects we know that we are testing the waters and risking storms at sea, but we believe in an author or project so much that we are willing take the risks. If we do that too often, though, we cannot stay in business/ministry.

Some book projects we take on with excitement, but the sales peter out. Others catch wind in their sails and continue to sell week after week, month after month, year after year. With the benefit of hindsight I can see that the following factors make a difference:

  • What other titles has the author published? For instance, if her other titles are poorly-edited, self-published books, this author’s reputation is hurt and that hurts the sales of even the title that we have carefully edited.
  • How actively connected is the author with the book’s prospective audience—even before he is published?
  • Is there a waiting audience/demand for this book—even before it is published?
  • Does the author have an ongoing means of reaching that audience? And can Cladach also effectively reach them?
  • Is the author’s personal life—health, relationships, finances—in order?

In my mind this begs the question: “As a writer, when are you ready to have your book published?”

Writers who have something to say and long to be published authors, tend to become impatient. Your preparations to publish involve much more than finishing a manuscript and writing an effective book proposal. You need also to:

  • Find/identify/make connections with/get to know the audience for you and your book. (Start this ongoing process, in fact, even before you write the manuscript.)
  • Get your finances in order. It can cost $ to publish and market effectively, even when you publish with a traditional, (large, small, or micro) royalty publisher.
  • Resolve, as far as you can, personal issues. Working as a published author takes time, energy, commitment, and the support of people around you.

As my mother used to say, “Work as if everything depends on you. Pray as if everything depends upon the Lord.” In the final analysis it does. And that brings me to my knees in the uncertain but enticing waters of acquiring book rights and taking publishing risks.

Evaluating the Past and Planning for the Future

Today I’m wearing my Analyzing/Forecasting hat.

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Larry has finished compiling 2014 book sales data from the careful records he keeps throughout the year. He lays before me a stack of neatly-columned reports. Now I take a deep breath, find my Financial Analysis hat, dust it off (most of the time I leave this side of the business to Larry) and sit down to focus on the telling numbers.

Each author will receive a statement (usually accompanied by a check) listing how many of their books sold last year, how many were returned, how many were given away as samples and review copies, the gross and net income we received for those sales, and the amount of the author’s royalties for 2014. I read through each line of these reports before they are sent to our authors.

In addition, Larry has print-outs for me of income, expenses, inventory, etc. I look these over, too, and bring my questions back to him. He patiently provides answers and makes adjustments where needed.

I’ll be glad to get back to the creative side of publishing. But I know that looking at these numbers and columns and net sums, is critical. Trends jump off the page at me and color my thinking about future decisions for Cladach.

First, I thank the Lord for the thousands of copies of Cladach books sold in 2014. They sold through online retailers, wholesalers, events, bookstores, our website, and through the efforts of the authors. From our warehouse we send out varying quantities of paperback books almost every day. We love sending them out to reach buyers and readers, because that means they will minister to people, encourage them, instruct them, inspire them, help them see God at work in our world, help them experience Him more.

Then, I bring to the Lord our successes and our failures, and lay them at His feet. We have prayed over the acquisition, development, production, and marketing of each book. We are human, though, and make mistakes. Some of our titles have kept up regular demand and sales for years. A few have struggled to earn back the money we put into producing them. Most of the latter are excellent works by talented and sincere authors. Somehow, though, a few of those haven’t “grabbed readers.” We will keep trying, because we believe in these titles and these authors.

Next, I acknowledge the trends: For instance, with fiction titles, generally more e-books sell than paperback books. With all our titles, the more the author is active in marketing their books and connecting with readers, the more their books sell. Authors who have a “platform,” ministry, are well-known as an expert in their field, have several books published, and are active daily in some aspect of marketing their books — their books sell the most copies. This has to influence my decisions in acquiring future titles/authors.

It’s interesting to see how different books sell better through different sales channels. Some sell consistently through wholesalers, others simply don’t, but they sell well on Amazon. Some titles we mostly sell directly to the authors, who have ways of selling direct to customers. We give authors a generous discount, so they can actually make a lot more money on these sales than they can make with royalty income from Cladach’s sales. It’s a win-win, and most importantly, hope-giving books reach readers.

Perhaps I’ll share more trends in future posts. For now, I’ll hand the data/reports back to Larry and give attention to things I enjoy more: words, ideas, design, promotions, and the people behind the numbers. … I have a hat for that!

Hot off the Press

Freshly-printed copies of the newest Cladach book arrived today! We never get over the excitement of opening a carton and holding a new book in our hands. It looks exactly as we planned and hoped it would when we sent the book files to our chosen printer/book manufacturer. Beautiful inside and out.

4-book 5-books 7-Ch18-Back-cover3-cartons

 

The new book feels good (smooth cover, touchable pages), smells good (fresh paper and ink), sounds good (leaves rustling), “tastes” good (I haven’t eaten a book yet, but in the story the author mentions food often!).

The Business Side

CCWC-2014

Larry’s workshop at Colorado Christian Writers Conference yesterday was titled, “The Business Side.” A motivated group of men and women engaged in hands-on learning about setting up a writing or publishing business, including how-tos for tracking sales, invoicing, managing inventory, taxes, choosing accounting software, and much more.

He was definitely wearing Cladach’s BUSINESS EXECUTIVE
hat!

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Giving Birth

The birth of a baby — or a book.

What could be more awe-inspiring than the birth of a new life? From the time I knew my daughter was expecting her third child until a few days ago— all during the nine-month gestation period— we prayed and dreamed and worked and waited and prepared and planned.

Cladach's publisher, Catherine, with newborn grandchild.

Cladach’s publisher, Catherine, with newborn grandchild.

There were many details, many concerns, many uncertainties during those nine months. Complications arose. We waited, prayed, hoped. We had to be patient with the process and trust in God’s timing and ability to overcome the obstacles.

This is the third time I have been present at the birth of a baby and there is nothing to compare to the expectancy, intensity, and thrill. One can almost hear the flutter of angel wings and the tinkle of heavenly bells ringing as the Creator gives breath to this new life. . . .

But birthing a book can come close. We dream and conceive, we learn to be patient through the gestation period as we write and wait, write and listen, write and pray, write and then rewrite, edit and polish.

Writers submit queries and proposals and manuscripts, then wait and wait some more.

Publishers agree, then prepare to attend the birth and catch the baby, wrap it in a bright cover and hold it up in presentation to the world.

We — both author and publisher — will feel as proud as new parents and full of wonder at the creation of this new thing. We’ll have high hopes for this book baby, that it will thrive, that others will love and celebrate it with us, and that it will develop a growing circle of influence to make the world a better place; that it will help God’s kingdom come, his will be done on earth, as it is in Heaven.

 

 

Christian Writers and Editors are Window Washers

WINDOW WASHER

We need to perceive the Truth.

Yet, darkly we peer through the glass.

Clean me for use

Free me to serve

Lift me to reach

That I may wash windows for You.

Wrong doctrine obscures

Gray living besmears

Raw weather, it blurs

The pane on this side.

Provide a soft cloth—not abrasive

The vision to transcend the obstructive

And courage to rub for perfection

Searching

Editing

Polishing

Till, through one clear corner,

Someone sees You.

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

Catherine Lawton

from the book, Remembering Softly: A Life In Poems © 2016


Photo: (c) Can Stock Photo / Ghen

Tantalizing but Tricky! : Query Letters

As I said in the previous post this is my most difficult publisher hat to wear:

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ACQUISITIONS EDITOR

I receive queries and proposals daily, both through email and snail mail. This publisher’s hat may seem glamorous, and I admit to a certain curiosity and gambler’s hope that in the slush pile I may discover the “next bestseller”—but, alas, I must say “No, thank you” to the vast majority of author queries.

So, you may ask: what makes me say “Yes” to an author’s book proposal?

First of all, the first sentence of the query letter must “grab” me with this writer’s giftedness, creativity, and unique slant on the subject. I barely have time to read unsolicited queries, so if you start out with the impersonal, boring, and obvious, I probably won’t even finish reading it. For instance, please don’t start (as many do) with, “Dear Editor, I’m writing to you in hopes that you will publish my book …” I already know that! Dive right into the gist of your passion, message, and/or quest—as any good nonfiction book or novel does. For instance, here are the first sentences of a query letter that recently grabbed my attention:

Ms. Lawton:

This story does not begin on the day Spring-baby Westbay throws a rock at Amen: a simple-looking donkey who knew Adam and Noah, Abraham and Moses, Jesus Christ, the Apostle John, Saint Francis of Assisi.  Nor does the story begin when Spring-baby’s father jilts her by dying far away from home and rebuke.  The story begins in the beginning – when death itself comes into the world and initiates its nefarious plot against Spring-baby’s dad amongst countless others.

Gadly Plain (a novel of 59,000 words told from an omniscient point of view) follows the struggle of a twelve year old girl as she grapples with one of life’s most mind-wrenching questions: Is death really the end? …

Not surprisingly, I kept reading this one to the end, then asked for sample chapters, then just had to read the entire novel, then offered J. Michael Dew a contract. And voilà! the first literary novel in Cladach’s fiction line was born:

Gadly Plain

Okay, there were a few other steps to the acquisition process. The manuscript was sent to a few readers whose input I value, and their responses were positive. I then had several phone conversations with the author. We negotiated a royalty contract. But the process started with those first few sentences hooking my interest.

I must add, though, that I have received some amazingly-written queries/proposals that caused me to ask for the manuscript with great expectancy only to be disappointed that the writing of the book did not match the quality of the professionally-prepared proposal. At writers conferences and from freelance editors and book doctors you can get help writing a proposal that will blow off the publisher’s socks and whet their appetite with tasty tidbits, making them want to express mail a contract offer to you. But the manuscript that follows had better offer real meat to chew on, flavor in every bite, and new taste twists presented on the plate in a memorable way.

 

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