Thursday, August 28, 2014

Publish or Perish? Part Two

By Jeanette O’Hagan


In Part One of ‘Publish or Perish?’ we looked things to consider in the journey to publication and the pros and cons of traditional publishing. In the not-so-distant past, traditional publishing was basically the only way forward except for the dubious route of vanity publishing.  With the advent of the World Wide Web, e-books, Amazon and print on the demand (POD) technology, the publishing landscape has changed dramatically in the last couple of decades. On the one hand, writers don’t have to wait around like wall flowers waiting for a publisher to offer them a contract if they are prepared to go solo. On the other hand, because the market has become so tight, traditional publishers do less for their authors and expect them to be actively involved in platform building, marketing and promotion.

So what about the other options?

The Vanity and Subsidy Publishers

Some publishers will offer to publish your book for a price (a co-payment). As with a traditional publisher they will negotiate a contract for the rights of your manuscript and in return will pay you royalties. However, they will also ask you to pay upfront a portion of the costs in producing the book and/or may ask you to commit to buying a certain number of books (10, 100, 500, 1000 etc).

The difference between a vanity and subsidy publisher is that a vanity publisher generally charges exorbitant prices and often gives shoddy results in return (e.g. poorly edited work, terrible cover design or low quality materials). Vanity publishers make their profit from the money authors pay them, not by selling and distributing books. So they have little incentive to promote your book.

Some small publishers offer co-payment as a way of reducing their financial risk and to assist in publishing more authors and titles. A true subsidy publisher offers genuine services (such as thorough editing, good cover design, some form of promotion and marketing) at reasonable prices and, often, with access to a distribution network.

It may, at first glance, be difficult to tell the difference between a vanity and a genuine subsidy publisher. If in doubt check out websites like this and this on scammy publishers, ask around about the reputation of the publisher and/or look at the quality of the books it produces. Always check the proposed contract for gotchas. Don’t sign a blank cheque.

Vanity and Subsidy Publishers
Pros
Cons
Generally the publisher may be anxious to accept your manuscript – especially in the case of the vanity publisher – this may be despite of the quality of your work.
They require a substantial up front co-payment and/or a commitment to buy a certain number of books (often regardless of the quality of the finished product).
Publisher arranges editing, cover design, typesetting, printing and possibly distribution.
Despite paying upfront (sometimes an exorbitant amount), the publisher probably still gets a cut of ongoing profits (your royalties).
Publisher may provide some marketing and promotion – though this may be little more than a listing on their website. Make sure you know what they offer.
Your work may be poorly produced and/or the publisher may have a bad reputation.
Publisher may have access to distribution networks.
You will need to do your own marketing and promotion if you want your book to be successful.
It may be a less expensive option than self-publishing (then again, it may not!)
While you have some degree of creative control, this is limited. Some publishers can be inflexible on issues such as price or the format of the book.

You may be locked in with this publisher even if the book is a disaster or it is not selling, preventing you from seeking other publishing options.

Subsidy publishing may suit you if you have a good manuscript which you want to get published sooner or a manuscript aimed at a niche market where you have good contacts (a hobby group, a family history), or a sizeable platform. You are prepared to pay something up front but would like to rely on the expertise and experience of the publisher.

You need to be very wary that the subsidy publisher is not overcharging for their services, is inflexible or has unfavourable contracts that are hard to get out of and/or will give you an inferior result. Buyer Beware.

Indie or Self-publishing

With self-publishing, the author takes the financial risks and retains full rights of their manuscript. Using their own capital, they contract different services required to produce their book – such as editing, cover design, ISBN numbers, barcodes, typesetting, formatting, library rights, printing, promotion, marketing and distribution. They also receive all the net profits on the book (if it makes any).

This model has become more accessible with the advent of e-books and Print on Demand (POD) services like CreateSpace or LightningSource. Also companies like Book Whispers or BookCoverCafe will guide authors through the process of Indie publishing and/or offer different services.

Indie or Self publishing.
Pros
Cons
You don’t have to wait (sometimes for years, maybe never) for a publisher to accept your manuscript. You publish when you are ready to publish.
You pay all the costs involved in publishing your book upfront – this can vary depending on how much you are willing to invest. The more you invest (wisely), the more likely you are to be successful but the bigger the financial risk you take.
You receive full net profits and a higher cut from Amazon for your e-books.
You arrange everything, from editing, cover design, typesetting, ISBNs, barcodes, printing, promotion and distribution.
You have full creative control and flexibility.
You may lack experience and expertise in the industry and knowledge of the market.
You retain full rights on your manuscript.
You will need to do all your marketing and promotion. Having or building a ‘platform’ is vital.
You can join distribution or promotional networks for indie-publishers like John  3:16 Marketing Network
It is much harder for self-published authors to gain access to the big bookstores, including Christian bookstores like Word or Koorong.
Print on Demand (POD) means that you don’t have to print off thousands of print copies that don’t sell. You can print smaller numbers or at the request of the buyer.
You need to understand all the financial aspects of the process, including taxes, getting exemptions for US taxes, maybe setting up your own tradename, etc. Essentially, the ‘buck stops with you.’
Self-publishing has less of a stigma than it did in the past.
Some reviewing sites, groups, awards etc don’t recognise self-published works.
Many indie-authors are successful though they often have multiple titles or built their name through traditional publishing.
Covering all sides of the publishing business means that you may have less time for writing.

Self-publishing may be for you if have a good or outstanding manuscript that is timely or you are no longer prepared to wait for a traditional publisher to discover it or it appeals a niche market or it doesn't fit into the narrow categories often favoured by traditional publishers. You are prepared to pay up front and to invest your time and energy into both publishing and promoting your book.

You need to make sure your manuscript is at an acceptable standard and that you don’t skimp on quality especially in terms of covers, editing and formatting (for the printer or e-book). Unless you only wish to sell or give the book to a small number people (your extended family, friends, fellow hobbyists, church group), you need to tap into distribution networks and/or put a lot of hard work into marketing and promoting your book.
Self-publishing is not for you if don’t have expertise and are not prepared to learn or hire it; if you don’t have or wish to invest money up front and if you lack time and energy to put into it.

Regardless of the mode you choose, if you want your book to reach many people, you will need to put time and effort into promotion. Still, from a spiritual perspective, success does not depend on numbers or even on publication. Our writing may touch lives or change our own without being ‘successful.’
Ultimately, as Christian writers we write to please God and to use the gift he has given us.

Image ‘Hope Definition’ above courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Jeanette has practiced medicine, studied communication, history and theology and has taught theology. She is currently caring for her children, enjoying post-graduate studies in writing at Swinburne University and writing her Akrad fantasy fiction series. She is actively involved in a caring Christian community.


You can find her on her Facebook page or websites JeanetteO'Hagan Writes &   JennysThread.com .

Monday, August 25, 2014

Publish or Perish? Part One


By Jeanette O’Hagan
 Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Last week after meeting a friend for coffee at a major shopping centre, I had a spare couple of minutes before picking the kids up from school so I wandered into a local bookstore, drifting inevitably to the Young Adult section.

Shining beneath the bright lights of the book store, the kaleidoscope of colourful book covers lined up in neat rows on the tall shelve dazzled and enticed me. Big names and popular titles in bundles faced forward, catching the eye. The lesser stars – with maybe one or two copies – shyly flaunted their spines on lower shelves. I pulled out titles, flipping through the pages, enjoying the satin feel of the paper, the smell of new print. I recognised familiar names and titles and discovered new ones.

And I knew that’s what I wanted. One day, perhaps, my fantasy series will be there, on the shelf, a physical presence to be picked up, flipped through, taken to the counter, bought, savoured and devoured. Not for fame and fortune, but so that my stories to be shared and treasured.

Well, maybe. I have discovered in the last few years is just how difficult it is to be published.  I’m not an expert – just one aspiring author among hundreds of thousands, or is it millions, who has learned a few things along the way but what I have learned I would like to share with you.

First, be clear about what you want and why you write.

Sometimes we write for pleasure or as a means of self-discovery. Publication is far from our thoughts. Or we may be writing for our children or for friends and family. These are all worthy reasons to write. Often, however, we do want a wider audience to read our scribblings because we believe we have something to say or something worthwhile to offer. We have a sense of calling, that this is the direction God is leading us. 

Second, be realistic without being discouraged.

Writing is not a fast track to fame and fortune. Despite the outliers like J. K. Rowling, most writers struggle to make a meagre living even when their writings are published and this is even more true for Christian writers or writers downunder. It often requires many years and at least three and maybe ten books before an author’s name becomes noticed. Nor is it easy to be published in the first place. To be a writer takes time and determination. Remember, in the end it is God who gives success.

Third, there are different ways of getting our words out there.

Publishing a book is not the only way we can share our work with others. We can blog or seek to  have short pieces (like stories, poems, articles, devotions) published in journals, magazines or anthologies or even experiment with micro-fiction and poetry on mobiles. While we may want a world stage, God blesses small things as well as the large.

Fourth, don’t cut corners.

We may be excited about finishing the first draft of our manuscript. We want to get it out there but we should also take time to hone our work. Edit and re-edit. Have critical friends and beta-readers look at our work. Take time to learn what publishers and our target audience are looking for. Keep learning and improving our writing craft.

Fifth, decide which type of publishing model suits your situation.

Not all publishers are the same. Each publishing model has pros and cons.Another thing to ask is whether we want to publish with a secular or Christian publisher or imprint.

Sixth, beware of the traps.

In the excitement of being offered a publishing opportunity – always make sure you read the small print. Understand what you are giving away in terms of rights and what the publisher is offering you in terms of services and royalties. We may just want to get our work to readers but making naive mistakes about contracts (e.g. when rights revert back to the author or which rights are given away etc) can actually prevent that from happening. Sometimes wolves can be dressed in sheepskins!

Different publishing models

Now that you have decided you want your books published, what do you do? Basically, there are three types of publishing models: Traditional publishing; copayment publishing; and indie or self-publishing. I will examine some of the pros and cons with traditional publishing in this post and tackle the other two models in the next post (to be published on Thursday 28th August).

The Traditional Publisher

A traditional publisher makes a contract with the author for use of the rights to his or her manuscript and then, at no cost to the author, produces and markets the book, giving back to the author a percentage of the profits (royalties). They may pay money in advance which is then earned out by incoming royalties.

Traditional publishers may be big multinational companies like the big 5 . The Big Houses have multiple imprints including inspirational and/or Christian imprints in the USA.There are also medium sized publishers and small presses. In Australian and New Zealand Christian publishers are generally small niche presses(like Wombat Books/Riza Press, SplashDown Books, Acorn Press or YouthWorks).

Big Houses offer access to big bookshop chains, Big W, and international markets; smaller presses are often more involved with their authors and are more likely to be actively seeking manuscripts. Many (bigger) traditional publishers do not accept unsolicited manuscripts and will only accept submission through an agent or Manuscript Services. However, some of these publishers now accept email submissions at specific times (eg Allen and Unwin Friday Pitch or Pan-Macmillan Monday).

Traditional Publishers
Pros
Cons
No upfront costs & publisher takes the full financial risk of publishing your book.
They regularly receive thousands and thousands of manuscripts. It is hard for your manuscript to be noticed in the slush pile.
The publisher may give you an advance.
Royalties are generally low – 1-15% on the sale price of the book, paid twice a year. For more info.
Publisher arranges editing, cover design, typesetting, printing and distribution.
Your manuscript needs to be original, well edited and well written to be accepted, not just good but exceptional.
Publisher provides some marketing and promotion.
First time and mid-list authors will still be expected to do most of their marketing and promotion.
Publisher usually has access to distribution networks.
Often your manuscript may only be considered if you have a significant ‘platform’ especially with non-fiction (i.e. reputation and connections with significant groups of people – such as web and social media presence; contact with target groups and/or speaking circuit etc)
Publisher has experience and expertise in the industry and knowledge of the market.
While you have some degree of creative control, this is limited. Some things like pricing will be out of your control.
They may offer you a contract on a second book or series.
They may decide not to publish your books for various reasons but will still own the rights (depending on your contract).

Traditional publishing may suit you if you have an outstanding manuscript; have a sizable platform or clearly defined target market; and/or would like to benefit from an established or trusted publisher’s expertise and experience in book design, marketing and distribution.

You need to be aware that it may take a long time to be noticed (if at all). Only a small proportion of authors seeking to be published traditionally are eventually successful. If you are successful, you will still be expected to promote and market your book. Always check the proposed contract for gotchas. Don’t sign a blank cheque. 

Traditional publishing is probably not for you if your book is for a small niche market, or doesn't fit into a clear category (i.e. cross-over fiction or it bucks the trends).


Traditional publishing is not the only option. In Part Two I will examine the viability of alternatives like subsidy and self or indie publishing models.

Image ‘Hope Definition’ above courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net



Jeanette has practiced medicine, studied communication, history and theology and has taught theology.  She is currently caring for her  children, enjoying post-graduate studies in writing at Swinburne University and writing her Akrad fantasy fiction series.  She is actively involved in a caring Christian community. 


You can find her on her Facebook page or websites Jeanette O'Hagan Writes &   JennysThread.com .

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Editor Appointments

Some years ago I met with an editor at a writing conference. She very graciously gave me a significant amount of time to look at my non-fiction manuscript. Amongst other things she told me that I was hiding behind other peoples’ experiences. I had filled the book with illustrations and quotes from other people. This seemed reasonable to me, after all, they were obviously more spiritual and better writers than me! Yet what she said resonated with me and I knew it was true. I felt like she was looking straight into my soul. After the conference I went home and rewrote the whole book.

I have worked with other editors both before and after this incident and often they say things about my writing that deep down I know are true. But I haven't been able to fix the problem because either I haven't wanted to admit the truth or I have been standing too close to know how to fix it. Editors bring unbiased eyes to a manuscript where their sole concern is the quality of the writing not the fragility of the author's ego. This is what you want in an editor, although it can be painful. I feel very ambivalent when I receive work back from an editor. I can't wait to read what they think but I dread all the alterations they suggest.

At most conferences there are lots of opportunities to talk to editors, publishers, consultants and peers about your work. Although this may be a scary thing to do, to put your work in the public arena, it is also very beneficial and helpful. It will make for a better manuscript and turn you into a better writer, especially if editors keep correcting the same mistakes (I speak from experience!).

At the upcoming Christian Writers Conference the following people are available for appointments:
  • Rochelle Manners - Wombat Books and Rhiza Press
  • Kris Argall - Acorn Press
  • Deb Porter - Breath of Fresh Air Press
  • Penny Reeve - Children’s Book Consultations
  • Iola Goulton - Christian Editing Services
  • Nola Passmore - Write Flourish Freelance Writing and Editing Services
  • Wendy Sargeant - Editing Services
  • Rowena Beresford - Editor

  • If you are attending the conference (or considering attending) and interested in making an appointment with a particular editor or publisher, forms are available via this link (scroll down to Appointments): Conference Appointments

    *****


    Susan Barnes likes to write devotional thoughts on Bible passages, book reviews and inspirational articles. She loves to challenge people's thinking and regularly blogs at abooklook.blogspot.com.au. She is also a librarian and pastor's wife.

    Sunday, August 17, 2014

    To Sequel or not to Sequel ? That is the question.


    How do you decide to whether to write a sequel or not? I'd be so interested to hear from others as to how they made their decision to continue on with the same characters in the same settings. Was it all planned before you ever put pen to paper for the first book or did you realize at the completion of writing that the story just had to continue?

    For me I vowed and declared that there was NEVER going to be a sequel to "Broken Pottery the Life of an African Girl". Mainly because sequels can fall into the "ho hum" and "going nowhere fast category". Personally, I think writers need to think really carefully as to whether there is enough material for a sequel and take the time to write it properly.

    After much thought and prayer I finally became convinced that a sequel was needed. What changed my mind?

    1. Requests from readers: It was very kind of readers to want to know more about the characters and what happens next - which made me think, what does happen next?

    2. Strong themes: For me books are theme driven first and I as the writer need to be invested in those ideas and believe that it is useful for all of us to think about these things together. You may be surprised but my sequel has two main themes woven into the storyline.
                                        a. Witchcraft and wrong belief in the supernatural and what does the bible say?
                                        b. Persecution of Christians, our response and the comfort that God gives.

    What made you decide to write or even not to write a sequel?

    Are sequels harder to write than other books? - definitely I have found the answer to be "yes". Just making sure that all the characters remain true and the scenery is exactly the same as the first book does pose its challenges especially if you haven't catalogued any of this. Cataloguing details of your first book is very time consuming.

    I'd love to hear from any of you about helpful tips for sequel writing that you may have to offer. All advice is helpful.

    By the way the working title of the sequel is "The Vulture and the Finch" - due out February 2015.
    Jennifer Ann

    JenniferAnn.info

    Jenniferann/aroma of Life



    Thursday, August 14, 2014

    A Heart As Loud As Lions: Writing Courageously

    by Nola Passmore


    The Emeli Sandé song Read All About It (Pt. 3) could have been written about me. 

    "You’ve got the words to change a nation but you’re biting your tongue
    You’ve spent a lifetime stuck in silence afraid you’ll say something wrong"

    If you have a few minutes, watch the film clip of the lyrics while Emeli sings: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LNGEsU-BbHc

    Now some people might be surprised to hear that I identify so much with that song.  After all, I’m a writer and I’m always sprouting forth about something. I’ve had plenty of Christian devotions, poems and articles published.  I’m not scared to speak out.  But you’ve only read the things I’m not afraid to say.  At a deeper level, I sometimes feel more like the cowardly lion in the Wizard of Oz than the person with the ‘heart as loud as lions’ that Emeli refers to.

    There are four main areas where I feel courage is necessary.

    God-directed writing.  In a sense, all of our writing should be God-directed, whether we’re writing specifically for the Christian market or not.  However, I’m talking about the specific occasions when God leads you to write a particular message.  I think I’ve been okay on this one so far.  God often gives me an idea for a devotion or Christian article and I’ve had a number of them published.  However, I’ve also been doing Selwyn Hughes’s study on Jeremiah lately.  The things I’ve written are easy-peasy compared to the messages Jeremiah was asked to speak and write.  His enemies wanted to kill him because they didn’t like his prophecies.  How would I react if God asked me to write something that confronting?

    Vulnerability.  All of us have areas of our lives that we don’t readily share with others.  It might be things we’re ashamed of from our past or issues that are too personal to talk about (e.g. a family problem; a health issue).  But what if God wants us to share our personal stories to help others? 

    My first published article appeared in a book called The God Factor: 50 Scientists and Academics Explain Why They Believe in God.  I was working as a psychology academic at the time and intended to write a piece on the integration of psychology and Christianity.  However, God led me to write about my experiences as an adoptee.  Eek!  I couldn’t do that.  After I got over the initial shock, I did write on my adoption experiences.  Not only did I receive positive feedback from others who’d been touched by adoption, but that piece paved the way for other writing opportunities. 

    I have a few personal issues on the backburner that are too raw for me to write about.  What are they?  Well if I told you, they wouldn’t be on the backburner!  I know God will have me write about them one day, but I don’t feel the time is right just yet.  Or is fear holding me back?

    Unpopular beliefs.  As Christians, our beliefs are not always welcomed by the general public.  However, some issues are also contentious among Christians.  You only have to check out recent Facebook messages to see the diversity of opinions about the Israel-Palestine conflict, asylum seekers, and gay marriage, to name a few.  Sometimes I find myself keeping quiet because I’m not confident in my views or because I know others will disagree.  However, all of our opinions are worth hearing.  As Christians, I think we need to create an atmosphere where people feel safe expressing their ideas and where disagreements are discussed in a rational way that values the individual.  That’s what we try to do here at Christian Writers Downunder.  However, there will still be times when we need to speak the truth in love, even if that means getting some flak.

    Hurting others.  Of course I’m not suggesting that we should deliberately hurt others, but sometimes that can be a side-effect of writing courageously about the other topics.  This may especially occur when family of friends are intertwined with our own personal stories.  For example, you can’t write about a relationship break-up without mentioning anything about the other person.  How we go about that would be another whole blog post in itself (or maybe a whole series).  Again, speaking the truth in love is important.  If the situation allows, you might be able to discuss it with the other person first.  You could use pseudonyms if necessary.  You also need to think about your motive for writing.  Is it really something that may help others or are you just getting something off your chest for the sake of it?  These are not easy questions to answer, but I know there are times when I baulk at writing something because I’m concerned how another might receive it. 

    As you’ve probably gathered by now, this post raises more questions than it answers.  I am a ‘work in progress’ on this issue.  I’m not advocating saying everything to everyone in every forum.  There are some things I would be happy to see in a print publication, but not online.  Wisdom and timing are important.  However, I’d also like to be able to join Emeli Sandé and say ‘put it in all of the papers, I’m not afraid, they can read all about it’.  I’d like to heed God’s words to Joshua: 'Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go' (Josh. 1:9, NIV).

    What about you?  Is fear stopping you from writing what God wants you to write about?  I’d be interested in hearing your stories and your strategies for courageous writing.


    Nola Passmore is a freelance writer who has had more than 120 short pieces published in various magazines, journals and anthologies (including poetry, devotions, magazine articles, true stories and short fiction).  She and her husband Tim have just started their own freelance writing and editing business called The Write Flourish.  She loves writing about what God has done in her life and encouraging others to do the same.  (Some call it ‘nagging’, but she calls it encouragement).


    Sunday, August 10, 2014

    Words versus Media – David, Goliath and the Book on the Golden Calf. By Brian Maunder

    I did something amazing and revolutionary a few weeks ago.

    Realising that the whole family had somehow come under the mesmerising powers of the new big screen TV, I put it out into the back shed. The kids were mortified. Oh the shock. Oh the horror.  What are we going to do now?

    It was an interesting experiment and the range of activities and fun things that eventuated from not having a TV was a delight. Suddenly we were proactive in creating new ways to live. We actually talked with each other, read books, played games together, wrestled and enjoyed our lives… our real lives.

    The devotion we had towards our TV was much akin to idol worship. We spent hours in front of it. It changed our psychology as we gazed on its tantilising flashing screen. We gathered around it and asked others to watch it with us. We loved it. Our lovely TV.

    But TV has many brothers and sisters. PC games, iPhones, internet communities, apps, etc. etc. ad infinitum.  They are so prevalent that it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to get away from their penetrating gaze and psychological hold. We “live, breathe and have our being” under their powerful influence.  We love our media. Our lovely media.

    But media, and all their delivery devices, is a man-made construction. It lies completely outside of the natural world, relying totally on the ideas that come from the people who create it.

    When people create something, it is only natural to want to share that creation. My young children get great joy in sharing the creative projects they have poured their efforts into. That’s the thing about creating something. It comes from us. It is personal. It is an expression and extension of our passions, ideas and psyche.

    From cars, to music, sport to fashion, houses to … books… we give our lives in time and toil to create. Then we stand back and marvel in what we have created and get great satisfaction from our achievements. We gather people to look at what we have created and relish in their praise of it.  It reminds me of that famous scene in Exodus when the people, bored with waiting on God, decided to make an idol for themselves.


    “They have made for themselves a golden calf and 
    have worshiped it and sacrificed to it”. (Exodus 32 v 8)


    Christian writers (and writers in general) are facing a David and Goliath battle. For people to read (and I mean properly read i.e. beyond texting messages), they have to have a few things. Firstly, they have to have time to read. They also have to have a reason to read and a desire strong enough for them to do something incredible... turn away momentarily from the all-pervasive, exciting, tantalising media that dominates our world.

    The media Goliath offers games and big screen TV’s with surround sound explosions, interactive social media type gaming communities, films, toys and paraphernalia, rides and theme parks.

    Writers only have words… (and maybe a few illustrations).

    And the media Goliath has another advantage. He has no God but himself and therefor flourishes in the secular world. The secular stronghold that governs our land of Australia, and keeps Christians “in check” thwarts gospel communications in various subtle ways. Any form of public religious communication must be squeezed through a tube of political correctness as to not offend.

    As Christian writers, the challenge is immense and the stakes are high. The challenge is immense as we only have words and many don’t want to hear a Christian message in our secular world. The stakes are high because without the gospel, the world is doomed to be slaves of the gods of their own creation.

    To be effective, Christian writers need to excel in their craft.  Authors will need to invest more time, effort and skill into what they do, devoting themselves more fully to the projects they create so that what they create can become increasingly awesome.  And therein is the great danger. As we invest more and more of ourselves into our projects, our Christian creation can become our idol. Our god. 


    Then David picked up his wooden staff. He went down to a stream and chose
    five smooth stones. He put them in the pocket of his shepherd's bag.
     Then he took his sling in his hand and approached Goliath. (1 Samuel 17 v 40)

    I think young David gives us a great illustrative example on how to approach our 21st Century media Goliath. He quietly chose a few stones from the stream, an image of baptism and reliance on God. He invested time in quietness and solitude to select what he needed in the battle.  As David writes in Psalm 23 “He leads me beside the quiet waters”.

    David valued the stones he chose. He knew he needed them for the battle and had developed skills in using them. However, David never worshipped those stones. For them to be effective he had to throw them away. In order for them to reach the target he had to release them and trust completely that God would use them. He loved God first and trusted the outcome to Him.

    As Christian writers… emphasis on Christian here…  time away from our craft is critical. Our devotion and meditations needs to be on Jesus and it is important (especially to writers) to not always keep these meditations of God tied to words.

    Of anything beyond these, my child, beware. Of making
     many books there is no end, and much study
     is a weariness of the flesh. (Ecclesiastes 12 v 12)

    There are many ways to meditate on God that do not involve words, from gardening to church activities, sacraments and the many disciplines that train our soul to gaze in adoration and wonder on the beauty of our Lord. Time away from words and given to God, the “Living Word”, will illuminate our very being and restore our souls.

    Good people bring good things out of the good they stored in their hearts. 
    But evil people bring evil things out of the evil they stored
     in their hearts. People speak the things that are in their hearts.(Luke 6 v 45)

    So, the Christian writer, armed only with words, approaches the impressive media Goliath in a secular world.  Will those words have any impact at all? Will they reach those who are under Goliath’s control? Will the loving words of the gospel be communicated somehow through what is written? 

    Ultimately, the battle is the Lords and we trust the outcome to Him. Time spent with Jesus teaches us that we don’t approach the Goliath with words alone. We advance steadily with hearts and souls filled with the living all powerful loving creator God of the universe. We approach the Goliath with lives transformed.  This is what it means to be a Christian Writer.




    Brian Maunder is the author-illustrator of the 
    childrens picture book Polly's Little Kite.

    Websitebrianmaunder.com


    Thursday, August 7, 2014

    The Second Time Around: An Interview with Andrea Grigg



    For today’s blog, I threw some curly questions to author Andrea Grigg about the release of her second novel ‘Too Pretty’.  Her answers cast an interesting perspective on the writing process.

    Andrea, thanks for being our guest blogger for today.  The title of your latest book is intriguing.  A lot of people would think that you could never be “too pretty”.  Could you explain a bit about the main premise behind that title?

    Thanks Nola for inviting me to be a guest here today. It gives me great pleasure to be able to share my thoughts with so many lovely people. Great questions, too!

    The idea that someone could be too pretty for their own good came out of the blue and stuck with me. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book where being beautiful is portrayed as being difficult. When I told a couple of women what I was writing about, they were thrilled as they knew Christian girls who had that exact problem. They then proceeded to give me examples, some of which I have used in the story.          

    Writing this book made me realise that people like Ellie may never know if they are loved for what they look like or for who they are. I wouldn’t like that at all. It was a very interesting perspective to write from.
               
    That's really interesting.  It's easy to assume beautiful people have it all, when that's not always the case.  This is your second book.  Was it easier the second time around? 

    Yes and no. It was easier because I knew what I was in for as far as the editing process was concerned. But the first draft was hard work this time – things took longer to fall into place.

    I think part of it was because I was writing something I didn’t personally relate to. In A Simple Mistake, Lainey is a teacher (like I was) and both she and Nick are musical, (which I am too). In Too Pretty, Ellie is exceptionally beautiful and Nate is extremely wealthy neither of which is within my realm of experience – I had to use my imagination an awful lot!

    I think you're underestimating your great beauty Andrea.   Your first book, A Simple Mistake, has been out for a couple of years now and you would have received a lot of feedback and reviews in that time.  Did any of that feedback impact the way you approached Too Pretty?

    I’ve had some terrific feedback from A Simple Mistake. One time I was in Koorong organising a book signing and one of the young sales assistants positively gushed over the book. She asked me loads of questions about Nick and Lainey and wanted to know what happened to them after the book had finished. It was very cool having someone love my characters as much as I do!

    Last month I received an email from a 77-year-old man. He’d picked out A Simple Mistake from the library for his wife and ended up reading it himself. A particular part really touched him, and he was also challenged about his relationship with God. It was rather amazing.

    These things spur me on yet they scare me too. What if I can’t back up with an equally good story? I suppose that made me work extra hard on my characterisation in Too Pretty. If my readers can’t connect with my characters then I’m done for!
                
    That must be so encouraging to know that your book is reaching out beyond the audience you would have expected.  That ties in a little with my next question on marketing.  Both of your books were written for the Christian market.  Does that mean that a person would have to be a believer in order to enjoy your books? 

    I have a number of teaching colleagues who probably wouldn’t call themselves Christians but they still loved my first book. I think part of it is because they know me personally. I hope it’s also because they loved the story!

    I think that if my writing is strong enough, non-believers would still enjoy the read, and simply skip over the ‘Christian’ parts if they choose. The basic premise is the same – my characters get their Happy Ever After

    What projects are you currently working on?
               
    Now that’s a really good question! I have so many stories on the go it’s not funny.
    Should I complete the one about Sophie who was bullied mercilessly in high school by Will, who is now a washed up footy star? He's quite different to how he used to be. In fact he even seems nice. Very nice. And Sophie's different now too. Like 40kgs different. Will he even recognise her? And what will she do if he does? 

    Or Anna, who has run away from her fiancé to a little cottage by the beach where she meets Ryan, who has just broken off his own engagement. They become close friends, but it can never be more than that because Anna has a secret and if Ryan knew what it was, he'd want nothing to do with her. After all, Anna's father rejected her when she was only little because of it. Why wouldn't Ryan?

    Or should it be the sequel to A Simple Mistake? Maybe it’s time to tell you what happened to Liam because I know exactly where he is and the family he ended up in. And what might happen if he and Nick and Lainey inadvertently crossed paths quite often?
               
    Suggestions, anyone???

    You've got lots of options there.  I love secrets, so I'll vote for Anna and Ryan ☺ Thanks so much for joining us today Andrea.  It's been great having an insight into your writing process.  All the best for your book launch this weekend.  


    For more information about Andrea, or to connect with her on social media, please check out the following sites:




    Monday, August 4, 2014

    The Novel - Public Menace Number One

    Here we sit in the 21st Century, writing novels, and writing blogs about writing novels, and yet the novel had a very infamous beginning. Particularly at the beginning of the 18th Century when the novel had risen to some levels of popularity and was considered a vastly different proposition to the Epic Poem, or the Chivalric Romance or the Religious Allegory. At the time there emerged a moral panic about the influence the novel was having on the unwary, vulnerable female. The following quote made me laugh:

    “Women, of every age, of every condition, contract and retain a taste for novels […T]he depravity is universal. My sight is every-where offended by these foolish, yet dangerous, books. I find them on the toilette of fashion, and in the work-bag of the sempstress; in the hands of the lady, who lounges on the sofa, and of the lady, who sits at the counter. From the mistresses of nobles they descend to the mistresses of snuff-shops – from the belles who read them in town, to the chits who spell them in the country. I have actually seen mothers, in miserable garrets, crying for the imaginary distress of an heroine, while their children were crying for bread: and the mistress of a family losing hours over a novel in the parlour, while her maids, in emulation of the example, were similarly employed in the kitchen. I have seen a scullion-wench with a dishclout in one hand, and a novel in the other, sobbing o’er the sorrows of Julia, or a Jemina”
    - Sylph no 5, October 1796: 36-37, quoted in John Tinnon Taylor, Early Opposition to the English Novel (York: The King’s Crown Press, 1943).

    My all time favourite author, a contemporary of this time period recognised this panic, and decided to parody it in her novel ‘Northanger Abbey’. Austen’s character, Catherine Moreland’s fascination with novels, especially the Mrs Radcliff sensational Gothic Horror stories, was a central theme to this story, and Austen was not above poking fun at her own occupation and craft.
    Austen’s Mr Thorpe is very loud and robust on the subject of novels:

    “Novels are so full of nonsense and stuff; there has not been a tolerably decent one come out since Tom Jones...they are the stupidest things in creation.” Northanger Abbey Chapter VII

    Sitting here some 200 years later, it is a little hard for us to fathom the outrage, panic and controversy that a small thing like a novel managed to stir. But then, I guess it really shouldn’t be so hard to imagine when we consider some titles from our own era:

    The Da Vinci Code; Fifty Shades of Grey; Lolita; The Colour Purple; The Harry Potter Series
    .

    However talented the authors of these titles might be, and however popular they proved to be on the market, I daresay most of us would have heard something by way of moral panic for one reason or another.

    And then there is our dear old friend Daisy from the very funny British comedy Keeping Up Appearances. Daisy is a voracious reader of the mass market paperback romance, living vicariously in the pages of her little erotic novel world. Onslo, her rather boorish, unattractive, slovenly husband, doesn’t quite meet her needs in the romance department. We laugh at Daisy, and she is very funny, and completely out of touch with the real world.

    When thinking about some of the journey the humble novel has travelled, and seen some of the influence it has had, both positive and negative, it begs the question, what about the work that I produce and submit to the readers of this world. Am I a moral liability, or is there something more. I like very much this quote from Georg Eliot:

    “If art does not enlarge men’s sympathies, it does nothing morally. I have had heart-cutting experience that opinions are a poor cement between human souls: and the only effect I ardently long to produce by my writings is, that those who read them should be better able to imagine and to feel the pains and the joys of those who differ from themselves in everything but the broad fact of being struggling, erring, human creatures.” (George Eliot, Letter to Charles Bray, 5 July, 1859)

    I bear in mind that when Harriet Beecher Stowe released her classic work, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, to the readers of her time, she had that intention: that her readers should better imagine and feel the pains and joys of those who were under the burden of slavery. This novel evoked moral outrage and controversy, and yet when we read it today, we do not understand the strength of purpose for which she intended it, or the influence it had on readers of her time.

    I love to entertain my readers, and hope they connect with my characters and are deeply engaged with my plot – but I hope above all else that somewhere along the line readers will be moved, inspired, encouraged or challenged.

    PS – I’ve just started a subject at University called ‘The History of the Novel’ – can you tell?

    Meredith Resce

    Author of Mellington Hall; Cora Villa; For All Time and The Heart of Green Valley Series

    www.meredithresce.com


    Thursday, July 31, 2014

    Investment Opportunity, May Require Some Effort

    It's taken a while, but I believe that I am finally growing up. Really, I mean it! You see, I have come to realise the importance of investing. Not just financially, but in so many different areas; health, knowledge, and especially in regards to keeping my house tidy!

    Why is this a sign that I am perhaps reaching some semblance of maturity? Because for many years I have thought that things other than a wholehearted investment of my own time and/or money and/or prayer would see me achieve what God has in store for me. Actually, to see that written down makes me cringe; it's such an obvious concept, and not really a hard one to 'get.'  I believe that this lack of wisdom in my own understanding has contributed to many of my "half-begun" projects, (note, they are not even half-finished! Most have barely an introduction before I have thrown my hands up in resignation).

    I have so many good ideas, but none that have really come to fruition. Oh believe me, I've got a plethora of people or things to blame for that! Sadly, not once did I seriously consider that I might be my own worst enemy when it came to success.

    Now, I am attempting to take a few small areas of my life and become accountable for them.

    Healthwise, I have recently been given a diagnosis of Type 2 Diabetes. Rather than getting cross with God, or my hubby, or lamenting my horrible existence without chocolate . . . oh wait, scratch that last one . . . I jest, but in all honesty this has been a massive wake up call for me. It has made me want to take control of my health, to look at what I'm eating, and why. And above all it has forced me to acknowledge that, firstly I was not honouring God with my lifestyle choices, and secondly, that if I didn't invest in this area of me, then I could be taking something so very valuable away from my kids far too early. Excellent investment, Helen! Well done me! (As an aside, since learning of this I have lost about 13 kg and feel amazing, but that's another story).

    As for my writing, I have really struggled in the past 6 months. I have blamed so many different things; emotional dealings, the kids, lack of inspiration, among others. But I was missing the key truth; the only thing stopping me from writing was my choice to play Candy Crush and not write! I know we all need some down time, but I was avoiding the very thing I loved because I couldn't see the benefit of the investment of my time. It's hard work pulling something together; I'm sure many reading this blog can relate to that. But the rewards are so amazing, seeing people's lives changed by something we have written is the best feeling. And this feedback provides the momentus for me to reinvest, again and again and again.

    Yes, investing part of ourselves into something else can be somewhat painful, because the cost can be so high. Right now, for example, it's 1.54am and I'm just finishing my blog post which I forgot about (oh dear). It was so tempting to simply write an apology and provide a quick link to an older story or devotion I'd written; but I knew that that was a cheap way out, and that you are all worthy of a much higher investment than that, (and I really hope this has made sense; things are getting a little blurry now!).

    Ultimately, I want to live my life in a way that pleases my Lord Jesus Christ, whose investment on the cross was so much more than I can ever repay. And I know that the best bit is that with every investment I make for him, he will bless my socks off at the same time! It just doesn't get any better than that!

    I wonder, what do you invest yourself into? I'd love to hear your spiritual/physical/practical examples!

    Blessings,

    Helen