Friday, March 29, 2013

The Bible Finale This Sunday

How many of you have been watching the History Channel’s miniseries on The Bible? If you have, you certainly aren’t alone. According to CNN, 13.1 million viewers watched the two-hour premier, and since then, weekly viewings have also been in the millions.

The finale is this Sunday, timely since we as believers are celebrating Easter and Jesus' resurrection.

I haven’t watched this program religiously, but some of the episodes have done a decent job depicting believable characters. So far, my favorites include Peter and Nicodemus. I will also admit to enjoying their portrayal (accurate or not) of the villainous, conniving chief priest.

There are several – rather, dozens and dozens – of discrepancies. In last week’s episode, the most glaring for me was the depiction of how Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. John 11:43 makes plain that Jesus simply went to the tomb and commanded, “Lazarus, come forth.” The History Channel’s rendition shows Jesus going into the tomb (where Lazarus is conveniently not wrapped up in burial cloths), and, from what I could tell, kissing the back of his head. The moment Jesus opened his eyes, Lazarus opened his. Dramatic? Yes, but not accurate.

However, I do agree with what a reviewer from Answers in Genesis said about the adaption. Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell in The Bible on the History Channel: A Review, says, “This film offers an excellent opportunity to share the gospel and the truth of God’s Word with friends who may be skeptical or simply consider the Bible irrelevant.”

Frankly, I would have been shocked if the History Channel managed to get the details right but regardless, appreciate the efforts made to capture the Biblical narrative on screen. I am reminded of what Paul said in Philippians 1:18, "What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretense, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice."

What is your reaction to The Bible?

Monday, March 25, 2013

Perceptions of Self-Publishing, Part 2

In opening orientation for the Florida Christian Writer’s Conference, the speaker asked the first time conferees to verbalize our conference goals. I turned to the lady next to me and said, “I want to learn if agents and editors consider self-published books and how they view self-publishing in general.”

Last time, we talked about an agent’s take on self-publishing. Today, let’s talk about what some editors had to say.

Of the four editors who met with me, only one said that her publishing house would not pick up self-published books. The fun side-note to this story is that she liked my books well enough to ask her editor-in-chief if they could make an exception by repackaging my books. Turns out, the answer was no, but in any event, the experience provided a booster shot to my confidence level.

The other three editors didn’t care if my books were self-published. Their interest seemed to lie in the following areas:

·       My pitch: Was it well-crafted? Did it meet their genre and audience needs?
·       My presentation: Was I prepared and had I done my homework on their publishing house? How did I “market” myself?
Meeting with editors and agents is like interviewing. Yes, they are interested in your qualifications and experience. But beyond that, they are interested in you as a person and if you are a good fit for their team.

If you’re a self-published author wondering if a publishing house might be interested in your book, the answer is maybe. Some publishers see self-publishing as competition and will not acquire self-published books.

Others will consider self-published works if what you have to offer matches what they need.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Perceptions of Self-Publishing, Part 1

Do agents represent self-published authors? Do publishing houses consider self-published works?

These are the questions I posed in my post earlier this month. In the next two posts, I’d like to share with you some personal insights and viewpoints I encountered at the Florida Christian Writer’s Conference, held at the beautiful Lake Yale Conference Center.

In attendance were sixteen acquisition editors from well-known Christian publishing houses and six agents. I had the opportunity to talk with four editors and one agent about my Wings of the Dawn new adult suspense series.

First, though, let me tell you a little about these remarkable people:
·       They are some of the most gracious listeners you will find.
·       Even if your work is not a good fit for them, they will still offer helpful critiques and advice.
·       They are genuinely interested in new writers and authors; many of them taught continuing classes and workshops to help prepare writers for appointments and to provide tips on how to improve their craft.
An agent’s view on self-publishing
When I asked an agent if she would consider representing a self-published book, her response was to ask me how many copies I had sold. As she explained, that is the first question a publishing house would ask her if she were to market a self-published book.
Naturally, I asked how many copies she would want to see. Her answer was 5,000 for print and 10,000 for eBooks.

Now if you’re a self-published author who has managed to sell that many books, I applaud you. But if you’re like the rest of us flesh and blood writers who juggle jobs, family lives and a writing career, you’re doing well to sell a couple hundred books.
I later learned that the emphasis on sales figures and a tangible platform are more important for non-fiction writers than for fiction. Regardless, though, you need to give your market appeal and audience serious thought.

Does this mean that if you haven’t sold a couple thousand books you should throw in the towel?

Absolutely not.
Again, we’re just looking at some views on self-publishing. This is one of them.

Remember that an agent’s job is to be a writer’s mouthpiece to publishers. An agent only acquires writers whose works fit the genres he represents and meet the needs of the publishing houses with whom he has developed relationships. Just because an agent turns you down doesn’t mean your work is worthless; it simply might not be the right fit for them.
After speaking with this agent, I had a new respect for agents and what they do. These individuals know the publishing business inside and out, so listen to what they have to say. You will probably learn something.

I did.
In fact, this agent’s advice helped me fine-tune my pitch to speak with two editors, both of whom requested my proposal. Come back next time, and see what they had to say.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Look Up: Change Your Perspective

A week ago tomorrow, I checked into my room for the Florida Christian Writer's Conference, and the first thing I did was search for an electrical outlet. (Finding the Lake Yale Conference Center is not the easiest thing to do, and the GPS program had nearly exhausted the battery life on my cell phone.)

My eyes scanned the wall next to the vanity, expecting to find an outlet. There was none. I finally pulled the television cabinet away from the wall to plug in my phone.

The next day, Author Stephen James spoke about the need for writers to "change their perspective." In other words, try to look at ordinary things from a different perspective to gain a new appreciation and understanding.

That evening, I went to my room, and as I washed my face, I looked up. Guess what? There was an electrical outlet - above the mirror.

So accustomed to finding outlets along the wall, I never even thought to check above the vanity.

I think it's easy for us to develop "tunnel vision" and expect life to neatly fit into the box we've made for it. But how much more interesting would life be if we parted ways with our ordinary expectations and changed our viewpoint?

And how much less trying would life be if instead of trying to solve our problems with our own limited solutions, we remembered instead to "look up" to the One infinitely wiser than we?

Monday, March 4, 2013

FCWC Recognizes Wings of the Dawn

Saturday night was the FCWC (Florida Christian Writer’s Conference) awards banquet. Much to my delight, the directors announced that first place for the mystery/suspense/thriller fiction category went to Captive Beneath the Bahamian Sky, the first book in my Wings of the Dawn series.

To participate in the writing contest, fiction writers submitted a one paragraph description of their novel plus the first 2,000 words. (The contest was open to self-published works, allowing me to submit my first book for consideration.) Depending on the number of submissions, the directors awarded first, second and/or third place. In the mystery/suspense/thriller category, three writers received recognition.

Like a sponge, I soaked up everything I could from the conference, speakers and workshops. Is a conference worth the investment? Without question, the answer is absolutely!

Over the next several weeks, I’ll share with you what I learned at this conference – including the insights I gleamed into the market role and perceptions of self-publishing. Do publishing houses consider self-published works? Do agents represent self-published authors?

Check back soon.