Friday, 20 April 2018

How to Get Published (in the US)

By Carolyn Miller @CarolynMAuthor


Occasionally I see people in ACW asking how to get published. I remember what it was like first entering this unknown world a few years ago – you have your story, you don’t know if it’s any good, so what’s next? – so today I thought I’d share some of my experiences from the past few years, specifically on how to get published in the US, via a traditional publisher. (Because if you self-publish, you can pretty much be published (online, at least) where you like)

Why the US? Because it’s the largest Christian fiction market in the world, with the greatest number of Christian readers and publishers. Not writing Christian fiction? No worries. But if you are, you may want to consider your US options, and keep reading…

Here’s a few things I’ve learned:

1.     Create a quality product.


It can be pretty easy to think my words are like gemstones from heaven, each positioned perfectly on the page in a manner that should not be moved. (Wait, that’s just me? Oh…) 

Sorry. Writing well means so much more than just plonking words on a page. It means reading widely in your genre so you’re familiar with what’s out there, it requires planning, writing, editing, rewriting, editing, then revising some more. It means knowing your writing style and ‘voice’ so your product is ‘same, same but different’ – unique enough to grab attention, but not so weird it frightens publishers (and readers) away. 

How to know if your work is any good? Ask advice. Once it's polished (by you) to an acceptable standard, find people willing to 'beta-read' your work and offer feedback about whether it makes sense, the plot and characters are engaging, to spot those things we just can't see because we're too close to our story, and we love it so much, we think it's practically perfect... J Find (and pay for) editors to cast an eagle eye over your manuscript to check for continuity, to check the grammar, spelling, typo errors we too easily miss. I didn’t even know about ACW when I finished my first novel, so I started entering US online writing contests to get anonymous feedback on whether it was any good (here’s a previous post I wrote about writing contests) – because, let’s face it, family and friends are generally predisposed to be kind, rather than brutal, so that honest feedback you’re searching for may not come from them.

Handy tip: if you want your writing to be accessible to Americans, write in US English (and use US letter format, not A4). Trust me.

2.     Create an online presence.


If you’re genuinely wanting to publish in the US (or anywhere, really), then you have to look legit. Publishers (and agents) are wanting to winnow out the try-hards from the die-hards, the wannabes from the will-get-it-done. Why should they waste their time and money on someone who hasn’t got a plan to treat their writing career seriously? They also find it very helpful to know if you have followers and how much influence you as a newbie author might bring to the negotiating table. 

So that means getting your social media stuff sorted before you’re published. Get a website (I use freebie Wix), start writing a blog if you want (I didn’t, & I don’t), get your facebook author page, twitter etc happening. Need more info? Sign up for Iola Goulton’s marketing challenge. I did it last year and it was extremely helpful J Don’t know what to say, because your book isn’t ‘out there’ yet? Then start with what you do know, your subject area, your genre, other authors in that genre, things that promote your ‘author brand’ and share snippets from your writing journey along the way.

3.     Create quality connections.

    
Because you’re not living in the US, this is where it gets harder. Often the best connections happen from meeting people at conferences etc, but you might be like me and not quite in the position to be shelling out thousands of dollars for a US conference. That’s okay. Make connections at Australian conferences (like the Omega conference for Australian Christian writers). Join various Facebook groups (especially US ones, like Avid Readers of Christian Fiction) and contribute, with a view to encourage authors and to learn.

There is so much to learn about this industry, and being open to online opportunities (reviewing books, learning about launch teams, writing tips, etc) can provide a smorgasbord of authorly encouragement. Iron sharpens iron, and this can be a great way to figure out your writing style and persona – those things about your writing that makes you you. This means when you finally do get the chance to attend something like the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference you’ll have made that many more connections and be able to own your writing legitimacy a little more – even if you’re pre-published.

4.     Get an agent.


Yes, easier said than done. But if you want to be traditionally published, nearly all US publishers won’t take unsolicited (unasked for) manuscripts, so you need a doorway to enter their hallowed halls. For me that meant entering those online contests mentioned earlier, and working at my craft until I started to final. Finaling is where agents and editors from various publishing houses start taking notice, as they are often judges at the pointy end of the contest. 

My win in the 2013 ACFW First Impressions and finaling in the 2014 ACFW Genesis contests led to a request from Tamela Hancock Murray (ACFW 2017’s agent of the year) to see more of my work, and then to an offer to represent me. Even then it took nearly a year of her shopping my Regency novel to various Christian US publishing houses before one said yes. The others were either not taking on new authors at that time or had just signed someone else in that genre. On the other hand, Kregel Publications were looking for someone in that genre, so it was a case of God’s good timing – and developing my patience J

Of course, other people may have that serendipitous chance conversation with an acquisitions editor and see their manuscript accepted that way, but may find an agent useful for negotiating all the fun US legalities and tax stuff. I just know it wouldn’t have happened for me without an agent. 

5.     Keep the wheels turning.


By this I mean keep at it. Keep learning, so your writing improves. Keep connecting, so people know who you are. Keep writing, so it’s not just one book you can offer. For a publishing house to invest heaps of money in a newbie author they want to know you can deliver a quality product not just once, but several times. For me, that meant offering a series rather than a standalone book, which meant Kregel could market for the second and third books and create more momentum, with a new book being released every 4-6 months. Of course, that meant writing more, which means treating my writing as a full time job (I gave up high school teaching to write J). This requires focus. Maintaining awareness of my writing brand. And writing more.

Most importantly, this means keeping on trusting God. Ultimately He is the One who opens the doors, the One who knows the best timing for our lives, the One who gives us glimpses of His creative power in our words. So many times I would have given up but God’s grace and strength and remembering His past faithfulness and His promises encouraged me.

Want to be published in the US? Work hard, write well, but most importantly, keep fixing your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, and trust that He knows what He’s doing, even when we don’t. That’s faith, isn’t it?


Over to you: Any other tips you can offer for being traditionally published in the US?

Carolyn Miller lives in the beautiful Southern Highlands of New South Wales, Australia, with her husband and four children. Together with her husband she has pastored a church for ten years, and worked as a public high school English and Learning and Support teacher.
A longtime lover of romance, especially that of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer’s Regency era, Carolyn holds a BA in English Literature, and loves drawing readers into fictional worlds that show the truth of God’s grace in our lives. Her Regency novels include The Elusive Miss Ellison, The Captivating Lady Charlotte, The Dishonorable Miss DeLancey, and Winning Miss Winthrop, all available from Amazon, Book Depository, Koorong, etc

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Thursday, 19 April 2018

Book Review - Hold the Faith by Susan Preston

by Jeanette O'Hagan  @JeanetteOHagan



The Book


As Benjamin discovers, it is not easy to be the great-grandson of the last living apostle. Every mistake is noticed.

When he is offered the opportunity to accompany his great-grandfather around the fellowships of the region in Asia Minor, he is overjoyed. Everything doesn't go to plan, and his faith is tested with the dangers and difficulties along the way. And another real danger waits for him when he returns home.

Hold the Faith is the first book in Susan Preston's Apostle John 5 book series.

The Author


Susan Preston is a Scot transplanted to Western Australia, and now a widow. This and the loss of a stepson has given depth to her writing that it wouldn’t have otherwise.

Susan M B Preston has won Finalist Awards from Readers’ Favorite and from the Independent Author Network. Now a widow, her main interest is her writing, Skyping with friends and family, and running the occasional beginner’s computer course.

Although she has written other types of books in the past, The Apostle John series of books is Preston’s first foray into the world of Christian, historical fiction. With a few projects to finish off, Susan has her eye on another series, this time set farther back in time. Before that – expect a few novellas about some of the people in the series.

Contact Susan through email (susan@susanprestonauthor.com); her website (http://www.susanprestonauthor.com); Facebook author page (https://www.facebook.com/apostleJohnseries), or Twitter (https://twitter.com/SPrestonPerth)







My Thoughts


Hold the Faith is biblical fiction in a fascinating period, the time when the last living witnesses of Jesus' life, death and resurrection are very old or dead (often martyred), with a new generation without such first hand experiences working out their faith in a difficult environment. It is also a time of increasing persecution from all sides (Jews, Pagans, the Romans) and the emergence of false sects that seek to disrupt the Brethren. 

Susan Preston introduces fictional characters, like young Benjamin, the fictional great-grandson of the Apostle John, as well as his Benjamin's family and others in the fellowship at Ephesus and in surrounding areas. She also references biblical and historical figures such as the Apostle John, Polycarp, and the heretic Cerinthus as well as drawing on John's writings such as the gospel, his letters and Revelation and on early church history.

Her presentation of John is delightful and believable and she does a excellent job of conveying the daily life and first century concerns of the people. As always, there is a degree of interpretation (eg did the early Christians keep the Jewish Sabbath or worship on Sunday, the day of the Lord's resurrection or what was the meaning of 'obtaining from the blood' in the Jerusalem Council in Acts). However, I think Preston does a good job of blending known facts, interpretation and relevance to modern concerns (the nature of faith, the need for young people to make faith their own, how to respond to hostility of non-Christians etc).

I will confess though that I struggled with the use of multiple points of view within scenes, which I found particularly jarring at the start, though the majority of the story is about Benjamin as he seeks to prove and grow his faith. Some parts were a little repetitive as characters discuss events and give opinions in different settings, and, until the end, conflicts were often quickly resolved.

Hold the Faith gives a good portrayal of what life might have been like for early (Jewish) Christians in Ephesus and the surrounding cities. It will be interesting to see how Susan Preston develops both the plot lines and the characters in the the rest of the series as Benjamin confronts the difficulties that face him and the Apostle John defies the might of Rome in his faithful and unswerving witness to Christ.

* * *


Jeanette started spinning tales in the world of Nardva at the age of eight or nine. She enjoys writing secondary world fiction, poetry, blogging and editing. Her Nardvan stories span continents, time and cultures. They involve a mixture of courtly intrigue, adventure, romance and/or shapeshifters and magic users. She has published numerous short stories, poems, two novellas and her debut novel, Akrad's Children and new release Ruhanna's Flight and other stories.

Jeanette has practised medicine, studied communication, history, theology and a Master of Arts (Writing). She loves reading, painting, travel, catching up for coffee with friends, pondering the meaning of life. She lives in Brisbane with her husband and children.