Check out my Q & A session every Monday. Here I will be asking industry professionals (authors, agents, editors, professional speakers, etc.) to share their expertise.

Monday Meet-Up for Monday, March 28, 2016

Picture book author, Nancy Shaw

Visit her webpage:






1.      Please tell us a little about yourself, and how you became an author?

Thank you, Nancy! I look forward to reading more of your fabulous books! 


Monday Meet-Up for LEAP DAY: February 29, 2016

Literary agent, Kirsten Carleton 

Prospect Agency

1.      Please tell us a little about yourself, and how you became an agent? 

I’ve been wanting to be in publishing in some capacity ever since I decided to be a writer in 7th grade. As a result, I took lots of workshop classes, and eventually realized that what I really loved doing was giving feedback to writers and helping them uncover their stories from the outside. By the time I graduated from Amherst College and the Columbia Publishing Course, I knew agenting was where I wanted to be – I get to be in the writer’s corner in a way that nobody else does, advocating for them with no conflicts of interest, supporting their careers in a holistic way. I started as an assistant at Sobel Weber Associates, then eventually moved to Waxman Leavell Literary before finding a home at Prospect Agency, where I rep YA and adult fiction across speculative, thriller, and literary genres.

2.      What do you wish aspiring authors knew about the book industry?

Most aspiring writers I talk to know quite a bit about publishing! They do research by reading blogs like these, follow industry professionals on social media, keep on top of current news and trends, etc. Those that don’t may not realize how important all that is. Gone are the days (if they ever existed) when one could toil in solitude, pouring everything into the craft with no thought as to how to publish or market one’s work. There’s a lot of competition out there, and the best way to make yourself stand out, beyond the baseline requirement of having an excellent book, is to be thoughtful about querying the right agents, having a growth market in mind as an audience, being able to draw on current comp titles, building a network of fellow writers who might be able to blurb, and generally making the case that you’re taking it all seriously. Professionalism also goes a long way. Treat a query like business correspondence, respect the time of people who are working on your book (especially if they’re doing it on spec!), and don’t be crazy. You’d be surprised by how many creepy and/or sloppy queries show up in the slush!

3.      What is something you’ve read recently that got you excited (whether you worked on it or not)?

I really loved Neal Shusterman’s Challenger Deep. I’m super interested in stories about mental illness that talk about it realistically in a way that avoids typical tropes of being used to teach the main character a lesson about compassion, healing through the power of love, either giving the character superpowers or making them unfit for society, etc. It’s hard to fit an honest discussion of mental illness to a traditional narrative in a way that feels satisfying but doesn’t sugarcoat the chronic nature of most conditions, but I thought this book did a masterful job.

4.      Is having an agent important? Why?

Obviously, as an agent, I think agents are important – depending on what you want to do. For self-, short story, academic, and independent press publishing, agents aren’t always required. Unless they have bigger things in mind down the line, it’s unlikely that an agent will offer representation for those either. But for mainstream trade publishing, I think agents are vital. There are still a couple imprints that read slush, but the bulk of submissions go through agents. Agents will also take care of nitty gritty details like contract terms, delivery dates, and helping to brainstorm marketing, all of which are difficult to do well unless you draw on significant experience and a strong understanding of industry standards. Another benefit is having a bit of a buffer between you and your editor. Ideally, everybody will get along great, but if there’s ever a conflict, an agent can go in to play the heavy while you remain a delightful, easygoing author, a joy to work with.

5.      Anything you’d love to see from your slush pile? A particular genre? Something specific?

A few things I’ve been thinking about are historical novels based on tough women like Pancho Barnes, Ada Lovelace, and Ching Shih; epic fantasy drawing on Chinese mythology, ideally featuring Sun Wukong the Monkey King; hard scifi along the lines of Apollo 13 or The Martian set at the bottom of the ocean; twisted thrillers featuring an indelible antihero that don’t have the word “Girl” in the title. Of course, I’m always excited to be surprised by something I didn’t even know I wanted!

6.      Last tips or advice? 

Keep your chin up! If writing were easy, everybody would do it. It’s a hard business with lots of rejection, and there’s an art to learning from it without taking it personally. Good luck out there!

Interested in submitting to Kirsten? Check out her guidelines at 


Monday Meet-Up for February 15, 2016

Children’s book author, Monica A. Harris


  1. Please tell us a little about yourself, and how you became an author?

Hmmm….how much do you want to know? (insert wicked laugh here)  My educational background is in Medical Technology with a Masters in Physiology Education. Now before you get all impressed or anything, let me ‘decode’ what that means….I’m an overqualified science teacher.

When my husband’s job kept moving us overseas and I could no longer teach in the schools, I decided to pursue my childhood dream of writing children books.  It was a bumpy process but thanks to SCBWI (Society of Children Book Writers and Illustrators), I learned quickly about the process of submitting manuscripts, the importance of networking, and the undeniable ‘put your butt back in the chair’ that’s necessary after an editorial rejection letter.

My first publishing successes came in educational magazines. My “fancy degrees” came in handy understanding the needs of teachers – lesson plans, teaching objectives, and cross-curriculum teaching styles. From there, various editors contacted me to do work-for-hire nonfiction books (Heinemann publishing and Publications International).

My first picture book, Wake the Dead, came about after a trip to the Bologna Book Fair (I was living in Germany at the time).  I walked around the massive show room of book publishers and just happened to chat with an editor from Walker & Company. I told her about my manuscript, which she thought one of her fellow editors would love. I could say that it was just a ‘by chance’ situation but it wasn’t…I had the manuscript with me and she took it with her back to New York!  Soon after, her colleague contacted me and said he loved the book. (It really was a fairy tale come true, to be honest)

Since then, my publications have flourished with children’s magazines (nonfiction, puzzles, fiction), assessment writing for various states, and Korean publishers who are scrambling to keep up with the demands of ESL programs. Every project is a new adventure and I’m constantly challenged as a writer. Luckily, I like challenges.

  1. What do you wish aspiring authors knew about the book industry? (Maybe things you wish you had known, or things you had learned the hard way…)

There are a couple of things I wish I knew going into this career:

  1. Writing is a lonely business. You sit at home with characters’ voices in your head and often, they’re not very happy or pleasant about what you’re doing with their plot line. If that isn’t enough, there are always household chores that, for some reason, seem to pull you away from the writing process.
  2. You will not make a lot of money at this. Royalties are small and inconsistent. Doing school visits does help pay some bills but these gigs are getting harder and harder to find due to educational budgeting. Plus, until you’re published, it might be hard to even get into a school as a writing presenter.
  3. Don’t expect your friends and family to understand why you NEED to write. They see it as a hobby or as a passing phase. “Why do you continue when you haven’t been published in years?” they ask. If you’re like me, my fellow minions, writing is as essential as breathing….it’s energy boosting, calming, and frustrating all at the same time but I wouldn’t give it up for a regular 9-5 desk job. No, thank you! (Besides, could I wear my pajamas all day long at a desk job? I think not)
  1. What are some of your projects that have been released that you are excited about? 

In the fall of 2016, I have 15 books coming out with Caramel Tree Publishing in Korea and I can’t wait to see how the illustrations turn out. The books are for beginning Korean readers learning English.  Caramel Tree books are written by Western English speaking

authors but the illustrations are done by Korean artists, so I’m anxious to see what they come up with. The few sketches I’ve seen so far are amazing and filled with adorable characters.

  1. How important are literary agents? Should an author secure an agent first?  

This is an interesting question. When I first began, back in 1991, hardly anyone had an agent for writing children’s materials.  It just wasn’t necessary. I found all of my editors were open about answering my questions about contracts and were financially generous concerning my contributions.

Currently, I do NOT have a literary agent. I would love to have one though; someone to handle the submission process and business aspect so I can focus on my writing instead. It’s not like I haven’t tried either! I’ve been ‘rejected’ by more than a dozen agents. (Insert gasp from the reader). Most of them have said that, while they love my picture book ideas, they’re looking for a writer who also does novels.  Apparently novels are where the money is.  At this time, I don’t write novels so I plow forward on my own in the hopes that, someday, an agent will see my shiny potential.

  1.  Is self-publishing just as good as traditional publishing? What actions should an author take before making this decision?   

Janice is throwing me under the bus with this question!  Let me start with this disclaimer—this is MY opinion and may not reflect those of others.

I have found that self-published materials are of lower quality than those things put out by a traditional publisher. There…I said it!  Grab your pitchforks, you self-published folks and I’ll start running.  The truth is that when you have an editorial team behind your project, it will always be more professional and polished. You’ll have dozens of ‘eyes’ on it checking for grammar, plot development, appropriate illustrations, marketing, and so much more.

If you do this alone, there are just things you’re going to miss.  Perhaps your protagonist isn’t strong enough to grab the attention of readers?  Without a marketing team, how will you get it in book stores?  Once you’ve sold a copy to every family member and friend, how do you sell more? Pushing books from the trunk of your car isn’t really ‘literary’, is it?  Hiring your high school buddy to do illustrations doesn’t always mean the art will be appealing to the masses and especially if ‘buddy’ isn’t familiar with the children’s / young adult market.

I have found that many self-published authors are not patient or experienced enough in the business to do things on their own. Of course, there are exceptions, but let’s face it…would you want someone who just happens to tinker with car parts to repair your broken down car? If you want to be a professional writer then you must schlep through the trenches and rely on your fellow warriors to make your project explosive.

  1. What is the most important piece of advice that you can think of to give to aspiring writers?

If you love to write….write! But if your goal is to get published, then treat it like a career and get the education you need to succeed. Go to conferences and workshops to find out the proper protocol. Listen to what editors and art directors are looking for. Join a critique group of other children’s writers (avoid adult writers—they just can’t offer proper insight into this realm). Treat it like a job and set up an office or writing space. Keep a schedule and force yourself to focus on your projects.  Learn about social media and marketing so you’re prepared when that first book deal comes through. Like any other professional job, keep yourself up-to-date and current with the market.  And most of all, have fun!  Because if you’re not having fun, neither will your reader.

Thank you, Monica, for such excellent advice! 


Monday Meet-Up for February 8, 2016

The lovely, talented Brianna Dumont

author of Famous Phonies and Fantastic Fugitives

1.      Please tell us a little about yourself, and how you became an author?

Hi, all! My name is Brianna DuMont and I currently live in Chicago with my husband and four-month old daughter. I started writing after I graduated college during the “Great Recession” and couldn’t find a job in my field: Art History and Classics. Go figure. Since I loved history, I wanted to write it, and I’ve always been drawn more to middle grade and YA books in my personal reading. This was four years ago, pre-baby. I decided then was the time to pursue the dream of writing I’d had since I was a bookworm kid myself. A week after I queried my first agent, I was signed. Then came the hard part—finding an editor, which took almost two years. It was all worth it.

2.      What do you wish aspiring authors knew about the book industry? (Maybe things you wish you had known, or things you had learned the hard way…)Fantastic Fugitives: Criminals, Cutthroats, and Rebels Who Changed History (While on the Run!) (The Changed History Series)

The book industry is tough. It takes the patience of a rock and probably the skin of one, too. Rejection is just the name of the game. But great stories WILL get picked up. Persevere. I wish I’d known that sometimes getting the agent is the hard part. Sometimes, it’s the editor. Sometimes, it’s both. But then after all that, getting reviewers is even more difficult. It’s all about tenacity.

3.      What are some of your projects that have been released that you are excited about?

I have a three book, nonfiction series out with Sky Pony and Scholastic right now for middle graders (and adults who like snarky history!) Through humor, I hope to make history as exciting as I find it. Famous Phonies: Legends, Fakes, and Frauds Who Changed History uncovers the real people beneath the famous faces like Confucius (or absence of one, such as Homer). Fantastic Fugitives: Criminals, Cutthroats, and Rebels Who Changed History (While on the Run!) lets the reader join in on the manhunt with everyone from Nelson Mandela to Cleopatra. Thrilling Thieves: Liars, Cheats, and Double-Crossers Who Changed History debuts in May 2017 and relates some of the most daring thefts in history that made our world what it is today. Like how the theft of tea seeds from China in 1848 brought down the Chinese empire.

4. How important are literary agents? Should an author secure an agent first?  

I believe everyone’s path to publication is unique. For some that wish to start out in magazine or journals, an agent isn’t vital to that success. (Which is how I went about things. Start small, gather publications to put in your C.V., then present it all in a query letter) To have the best chance at lucrative book deals, however, I think an agent truly helps you navigate a world you don’t normally inhabit. A writer can’t be all things, and an agent helps with that business side.Famous Phonies: Legends, Fakes, and Frauds Who Changed History (The Changed History Series)

5.   Is self-publishing just as good as traditional publishing? What actions should an author take before making this decision?   

Do their research. For me, self-publishing didn’t seem like a viable option. I didn’t have a wide platform to sell my book (like a successful blog), and no one would see a little book I put on Amazon for a couple bucks except my family. My circle wouldn’t be wide enough for it. You should also decide what you want out of publication. A nice product (such as a family history) for family and friends? Or a huge blockbuster, ten-book deal with Disney Hyperion?  

6. What is the most important piece of advice that you can think of to give to aspiring writers?

I think most writers suffer from a bit of imposter syndrome. I certainly do. Push aside those little voices telling you your book sucks and keep writing. Get outside critiques (i.e. people you don’t know), and take them (mostly) to heart. If multiple people are saying the same things, then they’re probably on to something. But remember, not everyone is going to love everything you do, so cast your net wide and take care to listen to the thoughtful evaluations only and throw out the rest.


Thanks, Brianna! For more about Brianna and her books, visit her at


Monday Meet-Up for February 1, 2016

Picture book writer and SCBWI co-chair, Carrie Pearson!

Carrie is the author of A Warm Winter Tail and A Cool Summer Tail

  1. Please tell us a little about yourself, and how you became an author?

Thanks, Janice, for the invitation to be part of your blog. I live in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (the part that looks like a wolf head and that is sometimes left off maps of Michigan) on the amazing Lake Superior. I am Mom to three young adult ladies who leave me speechless with equal measures of joy and “you’re kidding me, right?” I am a happy wife, outdoor enthusiast, SCBWI zealot, and lover of all things children’s literature.

I became an author through sheer stubbornness. It started with a month-long expedition to Arizona with my children in a small motor home. After they went to bed, I cleaned the three dishes and three forks, and wrote about what we experienced each day. I wrote stories about sheep who didn’t want to be sheared, fish who wanted to escape the hatchery, and ancient Native American ruins. They liked the stories and when we re-entered regular society, I kept writing and reading and relied on my BA in early childhood education to incorporate developmental aspects in my stories. In 2005, I joined SCBWI. In 2009, I got serious. In 2012, I sold my first picture book and in 2014, I sold my second.

  1. What do you wish aspiring authors knew about the book industry? (Maybe things you wish you had known, or things you had learned the hard way…)

This is a great question. I give a presentation to writers called, The Children’s Book Industry 101 and it almost killed me trying to distill 10 years of living children’s books into a 45 minute PowerPoint! The most important piece in my opinion is to recognize for almost everyone, being traditionally published is a marathon. It takes training (writing a lot!), support (from your home and writer tribe), fueling your body (with craft), days off to recuperate, and a relentless pursuit of the finish line no matter how difficult it feels (this is where dealing with rejection comes in). Remember the stubbornness I mentioned?Picture

  1. What are some of your projects that have been released that you are excited about? 

I mentioned my two published books – they are narrative nonfiction picture books about how animals adapt to cold called A Warm Winter Tail and heat called A Cool Summer Tail. I have two manuscripts on submission with Karen Grencik (Red Fox Literary) that we are excited about: a narrative nonfiction picture book about the world’s tallest tree and a fiction picture book about how Henry David Thoreau might have seen the world as a child. I have a completed historical middle grade ready for submission as well as other narrative nonfiction pieces in various stages of development.

      4. How important are literary agents? Should an author secure an agent first?

The right agent can make all the difference in your career. They provide access to editors that unagented authors just cannot have, they speed up the process immensely, advocate for you, and provide a good sounding board for your projects. Some agents are more editorial and some only take projects they connect with right away. Research those agents that match what you need and want. When you find the right agent for you, the partnership is wonderful. I sold my first two books on my own and many people do this. But I am grateful to have a partner in the process now. It can be hard to secure an agent without a publishing track record and most new writers are not ready for an agent yet. It is a competitive process to secure an agent, but there are also many agents that love finding new talent. I guess there is no one answer to that question. Sorry!Picture

  1.  Is self-publishing just as good as traditional publishing? What actions should an author take before making this decision?

Tricky question! It depends on what the author wants from the experience of publishing. Does the author want more control – timing of release, cover art, words on the page, distribution? Does the author like self-promotion, meeting with book store owners, attending festivals and other hand-selling book events? (These are activities that traditionally published authors need to do, too, by the way.) Or does the author mind giving up some control in exchange for input from a traditional editor, art from an art department, promotion, and distribution? There are more questions than answers here, but I’m finding many of my independently published friends are opting for more of a hybrid approach where they secure an editor upfront and get support on the actual publishing piece from a printer that specializes in printing books. Then they know their work is the best they can make it.

  1. What is the most important piece of advice that you can think of to give to aspiring writers?

Uh…did I say be stubborn about your dream? Carve out time for it. Get serious. Call yourself “pre-published” versus “unpublished.” Sometimes just the shift in thinking is enough to give yourself permission. Get your energy drink and double knot your laces. The finish line is waiting just ahead.

Visit me at, @carrieapearson on twitter, Carrie A. Pearson on Pinterest

Thank you, Carrie!



Monday Meet-Up for January 25, 2016

Picture book writer and SCBWI-Michigan co-chair, Leslie Helakoski!

Leslie has written several picture books, including Big Chickens and Woolbur.

Find more about her at

  1. Please tell us a little about yourself, and how you became an author?

I worked at my parents Montessori style preschool for years where one of my jobs was to read stories and lead discussions on books. I went on to get a degree in Advertising Design and worked writing copy and designing layouts for many years. Art and Writing and Kids. It was good training!

Now, I have 8 picture books published and 3 more in the works. Joining SCBWI (Society for Children’s Book Writers) has helped me in many, many ways. Several years ago I became one of the Regional Advisors for SCBWI in Michigan. Helping other people with their publishing dreams adds to the fun of this business. Plus, being with other writers inspires me and gives me the courage again and again to keep trying.

  1. What do you wish aspiring authors knew about the book industry? (Maybe things you wish you had known, or things you had learned the hard way…)

I wish I hadn’t spent so many years THINKING about writing books instead of doing it. But my kids were young and it seemed expensive to attend conferences at the time and difficult to arrange sitters etc. There are lots of excuses and I used them all for years. YEARS!

  1. What are some of your projects that have been released that you are excited about? 

I originally asked Janice to wait a few weeks to answer these questions because I have a few book deals pending. But it’s been a few weeks and I’m still waiting. So I decided to address this point instead. This is not a speedy business for most of us. In November, I had three nibbles on one manuscript and another on a second and third. I couldn’t believe it! I started counting my chickens! Two months later I am still waiting on all of the above. One publisher has responded that they will definitely make an offer but we haven’t received any details yet. One publisher wants revisions on the text before making an offer. One publisher has asked for more time to consider. One publisher has said she’d take it to their acquisition meeting after Thanksgiving but the docket has been so full, that she hasn’t gotten it in yet.

And so I wait. And I am continuing to write other things while I wait. One thing I’ve just finished that I am super excited about is a chapter book—my first. I just sent it to my agent a couple of week ago. It was post-holiday rush and right before the big Mid Winter conference in Boston. So guess what? I am waiting.

  1. How important are literary agents? Should an author secure an agent first?

This is hard to say…agents are important of course. They open doors for you that are not open otherwise. However, I did not have an agent for my first two books. And honestly, I don’t think any agent would have taken me based on my work during those early years of writing. I just didn’t have enough to show that was publishable. I eventually got lucky with an editor who was willing to work with me on a manuscript. But that wasn’t until I’d been working hard at my craft for several years. Most new writers are not ready for an agent but there are always exceptions. The best way to know if you are ready for an agent is to get some of your work in front of the pros and see what the feedback is like. When you start getting good responses on your work (more than one piece) from professional editors and authors, then it is time to start thinking about an agent.

  1.  Is self-publishing just as good as traditional publishing? What actions should an author take before making this decision?

It depends what you want. Speed? More money per book? Receive reviews? Bookstore sales? More control? I am not an expert about self-publishing and have not gone that route. (Never say never!) But here’s what I do know, it is much better option than it used to be. Even big name authors are jumping into that pool and it’s opened some eyes as to what is fair and just in the publishing world.

If I were interested in self-publishing, I’d talk to people who have taken different routes to get there. Some people have tales of caution to share and others have tales of hope and new adventures and so much more input.

  1. What is the most important piece of advice that you can think of to give to aspiring writers?

If you want to write, don’t be afraid to invest a little money in the pursuit of your dream. Go to a conference or workshop. Join SCBWI—it’s a bargain. Take advantage of all the books, blogs and websites and webinars out there that promote writing. If you really love and appreciate something, I think you have the ability within you to achieve it.

Thank you, Leslie! 


Monday Meet-Up for January 18, 2016

The delightful, Shutta Crum!

Shutta is the author of several books, ranging from picture books through to middle grade fantasy.



1.  Please tell us a little about yourself, and how you became an author?

I was fortunate to be born in the mountains where listening to tall tales long into the night is part of the Appalachian heritage. In the hollers down there I’d cling to my father’s tall legs and stare wide-eyed as I listened to the hair-raising tales my relatives told. We are all big talkers and stories are the cement of generations.

What was wonderful was that no matter your age, if you had a story to tell you were given “the stage.” Everyone listened, young and old. The important thing was the story. This still happens in our family. When someone starts telling “a good one,” all eyes switch over and a kind of holy silence descends until the (usually) uproarious conclusion.

And imagine my wonder when I discovered that stories were also contained in books! Naturally, I had to read as many as I could get my hands on. I think it was inevitable that I became an English teacher, a librarian and a writer.

2.  What do you wish aspiring authors knew about the book industry? (Maybe things you wish you had known, or things you had learned the hard way…)

Some things I know to be true about the writing life. (However, I’m not sure aspiring authors want to hear these things—it can be frightening to the less than stout-hearted!):

–“Editorial time” is glacial in nature. It takes forever to hear news about your projects. Then—when you do get an editorial letter—it’s like icebergs calving off. Everything happens quickly. They want edits back within days, etc. After waiting months with no activity, you suddenly have to stop everything and meet your deadlines.

–There is no substitute for good writing. (Having “connections’ in the publishing world won’t help if the writing is not good.) The most useful thing you can do to push your publishing career forward is to hone your craft. That means practice writing—and yes, despite what you might have heard—grammar, syntax and punctuation are important.

No one can do your homework for you. A writer needs to research publishing and current award winners. You need to know what is already out there so you won’t waste your time, and so it will inform your writing. You’ll be building a base of knowledge about your craft. That knowledge must reside in the writer’s mind.

–Everyone gets rejected. This applies to well-known authors. There are many reasons for rejections. Get used to it. A lot of authors had hundreds of rejections before an acceptance. (I did!)

–The majority of authors make very little money. The basic contract for a novel is 10%. That’s $1.50 for a $15 novel. Generally, first or second print runs are only a few thousand copies. For picture books, it’s worse! 10% must be shared with the illustrator. (No one magically comes up with another 10% .) Thus, 5% of a $16 hard-cover picture book is only 80¢! An author must sell thousands of copies to realize very little money. So what’s the up-side?

–The Up-side: Authors are hugely rewarded in a variety of other ways! The best things that happen to authors are usually NOT quantifiable. Children write letters to us. These are fun, and often moving. One child collected over $500 to donate to the Blind Babies Foundation in San Francisco after reading my novel, SPITTING IMAGE. Also, you never know the places you’ll go because of your books. I’ve been invited to read at the White House and to do a month-long tour of Japan. Wow! And, of course, there is always the reward of a job well-done and recognition from people you admire.

3.  What are some of your projects that have been released that you are excited bout?

I’m always excited when a new book comes out. Of course, I worry about whether the critics will like it. If they do, it generates good PR so families will know it exists and it can get into the hands of kids. Every author puts a little of themselves into their work. Some of my books are a bit more special to me, because of personal connections. MY MOUNTAIN SONG, THUNDER-BOOMER! and THOMAS AND THE DRAGON QUEEN are especially dear to me. And I’m very proud of the fact that THUNDER-BOOMER! made several prestigious lists including being recognized as a Smithsonian Notable Book. In addition, my book MINE! garnered four starred reviews and the NY Times said of it, “a delightful example of the drama and emotion that a nearly wordless book can convey.” Finally, I did a little video full of babies and books—just for fun a couple of summers ago. It still delights me, and I’ve heard from others who love it. It’s at this link: 

4.  How important are literary agents? Should an author secure an agent first?

I do think agents are important. I could still publish without one, and did sell my first seven books myself. But going it alone today would be more difficult, because a lot of publishers will only look at work submitted by agents. Thus, many avenues to publishing are blocked if one does not have an agent. I always advise my writing students to simultaneously submit to publishers and agents. An agent can only handle so many clients, making it just as onerous to get an agent as it is to get a publishing contract. And if you do get a contract before you get an agent—that can help you sign with an agency. Here is a link to an article I wrote about getting and working with an agent:  .

5.  Is self-publishing just as good as traditional publishing? What actions should an author take before making this decision?

Speaking as a writer who has only been traditionally published, I don’t think it’s a matter of whether one type of publishing is better than another. It’s a matter of which type will do the job intended. Meaning: for some things it may be better to self-publish. This would be for things like family genealogy, bringing together a collection of poetry or short stories that have been published in a number of literary journals or by small presses (Those things edited and published, but scattered thither and yon.), bringing back out-of-print work, or publishing something on a narrow non-fiction topic for which the author already has a successful platform. (For ex., an authority on children’s dentistry with an active speaking schedule at national conferences, publishing a book on dentistry for kids.)

I believe the main things to avoid self-publishing are novels and picture books. There are, of course, the few odd exceptions, but most self-published fiction books sell very few copies. The last statistic I heard was that these average less than 250 copies sold per title. And that statistic includes those few titles that do go on to sell into the hundreds of thousands! The problem is there are so many new self-published books each year and no way for a reader to easily discover them. Very few self-published (or independently published) books are reviewed, and many need a professional edit badly. However, things are changing slowly in this arena and may get better in the future.

6.  What is the most important piece of advice that you can think of to give to aspiring writers​?​

Woody Allen said, “80% of success is showing up.” That’s the truth. It is in the action of creating that more ideas worm their way in. A writer has to show up at his/her computer and begin. Just begin! See where it takes you. See the scenery along the way, enjoy the ride, and when you return from one adventure take off on another. Being a writer is a way of living—not a series of individual activities.

Thank you, Shutta! Find out more at Shutta’s website:


Monday Meet-Up for January 11, 2016

Kate Motaung grew up on the shores of Lake Michigan before spending ten years in Cape Town, South Africa. She is married to a South African and together they have three children. Kate is the author of the e-book, Letters to Grief, hosts the Five Minute Friday blog link-up, and has contributed to several other online publications. She blogs at Heading Home and can be found on Twitter @k8motaung.
Kate Motaung

1.      Please tell us a little about yourself, and how you became an author?

I started blogging in 2011 when my mom was on her last lap battling terminal cancer. Writing became an outlet for me; free therapy, so to speak. Though I began writing for myself, the sideline hobby morphed into a deep desire to be a blessing to others. I started submitting articles to various publications, and eventually ended up writing a book as well.

2.      What do you wish aspiring authors knew about the book industry? (Maybe things you wish you had known, or things you had learned the hard way…)

Landing a book deal is not the “be all and end all” of the writing life. A person can have a rich and rewarding writing life without ever penning a full-length book. It makes me sad when I see people who view publication as the only goal worth achieving. I fear those writers will be sorely let down, if and when they have a book with their name on it. Publication is an honor and a privilege, but it shouldn’t be a writer’s sole obsession.

3.      What are some of your projects that have been released that you are excited about?

I’m really excited to share that my first book will be releasing in the spring of 2017 with Discovery House. Feel free to follow along on my blog for updates! I also have a short e-book on Amazon, called Letters to Grief. My prayer for the e-book is that it would be a blessing and an encouragement to all who have known grief.

4. How important are literary agents? Should an author secure an agent first?  

The vast majority of publishers no longer accept unsolicited manuscripts, which means authors will likely need a literary agent in order to get their work in front of an acquisitions editor. Having said this, it is possible in some circumstances to obtain a contract without an agent. Writers should also realize that literary agents are helpful in the long run, for navigating terrain beyond the contract. When looking for an agent, it’s helpful to research the agency to learn what types of projects they’re looking for, who they currently represent, and what their guidelines are for submission.

5.   Is self-publishing just as good as traditional publishing? What actions should an author take before making this decision?   

There are pros and cons to both ways. Before making a decision, a writer should weigh the benefits and disadvantages of each option, and consider which method would be best for that particular project. I outlined some of the pros and cons in a blog post which can be found by clicking here.

6. What is the most important piece of advice that you can think of to give to aspiring writers?

Don’t give up. It can be so discouraging to receive a string of rejections. As hard as it is, don’t take it personally. Let the rejections fuel your desire to keep going. Even if you’re the only person to read your work, be faithful to use your gifts to the glory of God.  

Thank you, Kate! We look forward to your debut book! Until then, everyone can purchase Kate’s e-book, Letters to Grief. 




Monday Meet-Up, December 28, 2015

Inspirational author & speaker, Lori Wagner






  1. Please tell us a little about yourself, and how you became an author?

Since I was a young girl, I have been an avid reader. Although I don’t recall it in my own memory, my sister says I used to entertain myself reading the dictionary. My Barbie dolls “lived” on the apartment I made on the bookshelf. I have always loved books and letters. Numbers, not so much; but I love, love words.

One of my favorite novels growing up was Little Women. Being the second of four girls, like the family in the book, I related to the heroin, Jo, who squirreled herself away with her books and dreams of writing. I never really imagined becoming a published author, and I am grateful that I have had the opportunity to share my work with others.

Honestly, I don’t know that I would have become a published author if I hadn’t suffered the loss of my first husband. It was after his passing I prayerfully reevaluated my life and felt direction to pursue the possibility of writing.

  1. What do you wish aspiring authors knew about the book industry? (Maybe things you wish you had known, or things you had learned the hard way…)

I don’t have a magic key to unlock the door to an aspiring writer’s dreams, but I will say that if you believe you have a story worth hearing, a message worth sharing, be willing to invest in getting that out. You may not get your first manuscript published by a traditional publishing house with a beautiful contract and an expense-paid book tour, but start some chatter. Submit some articles. Do some blogging. Don’t be afraid to self-publish so people can become familiar with your work.

  1. What are some of your projects that have been released that you are excited about? 

I have titles in different genres, and I am excited about every one! Specifically, I am very pleased to have recently finished Marigold, the last book in an inspirational historical romance trilogy set in my home state of Kentucky in the 1860s. I was also very thrilled with the last year’s release of a small group resource entitled Wisdom is a Lady. The set includes a student book, leader book and a DVD of me teaching four lessons on the importance and role of wisdom in our lives. Coming out in 2016 is another new venture, a devotional prayer journal entitled Arise, and I am currently working on a project called The Scent of Hope.

  1. How important are literary agents? Should an author secure an agent first?

I worked for some time to get established with a literary agent. I was successful in doing so, but after two years and no contract with any traditional publishing houses, we agreed to part ways.

If you can get a good agent, by all means do so. I’m not saying mine wasn’t good, but perhaps it wasn’t the right fit or the right timing.

  1.  Is self-publishing just as good as traditional publishing? What actions should an author take before making this decision?

Hm. “Just as good as?” That’s definitely a personal call. There are benefits to self-publishing, certainly. And there are benefits to traditional publishing. I have done both and will likely continue to do so. Why? Because as a public speaker, what a publishing house might not be interested in, my loyal followers might scoop up with big smiles.

With today’s technology, it is not necessary to do a print run of thousands of books. It’s possible to do small print runs and provide resources that a publisher might not want to invest in.

That said, you have to be able to afford self-publishing. If you choose this route, I highly recommend hiring a skilled graphic designer for your covers and interior layout. It doesn’t matter how wonderful the content is if the project looks like a fifth grader pulled it together. The pros to self-publishing are complete control over content, inventory and copyright as well as a higher profit margin. The cons are paying for everything yourself, marketing on your own (or hiring that out), and there is a learning curve you will have to navigate as you learn the ropes.

As for traditional publishing, I love the ease of it. I love that I send in a manuscript that is evaluated and edited by skilled people who polish it and make it better. And who doesn’t love free? The fact that all production, distribution and marketing costs are absorbed by the publisher is wonderful; however, the profit margin is much smaller, and you will likely have to wait a year or more between the time the manuscript is submitted and actually receiving a royalty check.

  1. What is the most important piece of advice that you can think of to give to aspiring writers?

Work. It takes work. It takes passion and drive and commitment and work.

Become the best writer you can with the resources you have. Take classes if you are able. If not, go to the library. Read everything you can on improving your writing and self-editing skills. Make sure to read books published in the genre you want to be published in. Join a writers group where you can bounce your writing off others. Attend a conference if you have the resources. Then work. And then work some more.

The bottom line is this. Writers often must say “no” to themselves and others in order to say “yes” to the work required to fulfill their dreams. So get to work.

Thank you, Lori! Check out her list of nonfiction titles, as well as her fiction at


Monday Meet-Up, December 21, 2015

YA Suspense Author, Tracy Bilen





1.      Please tell us a little about yourself, and how you became an author?
 I’m a high school French teacher and when I was in college I studied at the Sorbonne in Paris and lived in a dorm run by nuns. My husband and I enjoy biking and our kids like it too…as long as a trip to the Cider Mill or an ice cream stand is involved. When I was thirteen my parents bought an old Victorian house from author Millie J. Ragosta who took me under her wing and shared book-ish things like galleys with me. I’ve loved writing stories for teens since I was a teen myself. My debut novel came out in 2012 with Simon Pulse/Simon and Schuster, but it took a couple of unpublished books, lots of learning about the business, and about 15 years to get to that point. A game-changer for me was when I won a year-long mentorship with Michigan author Shutta Crum. In case you didn’t know this already, Shutta rocks!
2.      What do you wish aspiring authors knew about the book industry? (Maybe things you wish you had known, or things you had learned the hard way…)
It might seem like landing a publishing contract involves a little bit of luck, and it does. The good news is that there’s lots of ways to make your own luck! You do that by taking advantage of every opportunity you can find. Go to writer’s conferences and take agent/pitch appointments/submit your work for a paid critique. Take on-line writer’s courses from places like Writer’s Digest. Join a professional writing organization like SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) or RWA (Romance Writers of America), make writer friends, get involved in a critique group, enter writing and mentorship contests…do whatever you can to stumble across the opportunity that will end up making a difference for you!
3.      What are some of your projects that have been released that you are excited about?
As a language teacher, I was thrilled when What She Left Behind came out in German and Chinese. (Come on, France!) And as an art geek, I loved seeing the different covers (in Germany they do separate covers for the paperback and e-book releases). As far as news about my second book, I’ll be sure to give Janice an update when the details have been worked out!
4.      Is having an agent important? Why? 
 Yes, unless you’re planning on self-publishing, I think an agent is very important. First of all, your agent will be able to get your work seen by editors you wouldn’t otherwise have access to. Don’t be afraid of finding an agent. If you’ve done all you can with your book, start querying agents. And then write your next book. You might find, like I did, that the book you write next is the book that you were meant to write. But beyond making that sale, a good agent will be able to help you resolve disagreements with your publisher.
5.   Is self-publishing just as good as traditional publishing? What actions should an author take before making this decision?
My advice would be to try the traditional route first. Selling to a traditional house will take some of the marketing work off of your shoulders and may lead to foreign rights sales. If you do choose self-publishing, I would suggest you hire someone to do the things an editor at a traditional house would do for you: big picture edits, line-edits, and copy edits.
6. What is the most important piece of advice that you can think of to give to aspiring writers?
If you can stop yourself from writing and still be happy, more power to you! If not, keep writing and never give up believing in yourself!

Thank you, Tracy! I look forward to your next suspense novel! 


Monday Meet-Up, December, 14, 2015

Author & Speaker, Kathy Bruins


  1. Please tell us a little about yourself, and how you became an author.

I have always loved to write. I bombarded my 3rd grade teacher with rhyming poems … she was so sweet to encourage me. As I grew older and was encouraged to be educated for a “real” job, I trained and had administrative jobs for many years. I always felt unsatisfied with those kind of jobs. After receiving Christ at the age of 22, I had a passion to serve Him. I knew nothing about Christianity, so I took some free classes at a local Bible college to learn. I loved those classes and wanted to be involved in ministry, so I served at my church in volunteer roles for many years. I was also taking business classes to complement my “real” job at the time. Later, I decided to drop the business classes and take ministry classes for a degree at the Bible college. When I graduated I went on to seminary. I stopped going to seminary when I decided I wanted to share Jesus through my writing. I was “nudged” to begin a writing career. So I intentionally looked for writing jobs. I came across a local publisher that was asking for submissions to become part of a team of writers for a new curriculum they were developing. Never really expecting much from it since I was new, I thought it would be good experience to submit. After submitting, I was hired to be part of the team. This was a huge job that paid well and lasted four years.

While I was writing the curriculum, I submitted bids for jobs on I was hired for a job where they were looking for a ghostwriter. I asked them what a ghostwriter was. It turned out to be a celebrity figure who I continue to write for to this day. I also developed my ghostwriting cliental along with collaboration and authoring my own books.

As I grew and learned more about the writing business, I discovered a passion for helping other writers. I became a member of Word Weavers to learn and give. I am now the President of the Southwest Chapter of Word Weavers.

  1. What do you wish aspiring authors knew about the book industry? (Maybe things you wish you had known, or things you had learned the hard way…)

Writers are normal people that have a passion and language understood only by other writers. That is why it is so important to gather with other writers. I highly recommend writing conferences to learn, share and celebrate the work you are all doing along with having many networking opportunities.

Writing is a day-to-day job. If a writer waits until the muse hits them, they are not committed to writing. Writers must always work at improving their skills … there is always something new to learn. I parallel it to the Christian journey in that it’s never ending while we have breath in us.

  1. What are some of your projects that have been released that you are excited about?

Because of my involvement with human trafficking, I am excited about my recent book written with a survivor, Malynda Osantowski Hughes. Exposing the Darkness is the story of her life knowing sexual abuse from when she can first remember as a child and being sold as she grew up. Shining the light on this evil is the only way people become aware and will do something to rid it from our society. It is the fastest growing crime because it is a money-maker. Drugs you can sell once, but a human you can sell multiple times.

Another book I wrote with Kim de Blecourt entitled The Book Proposal: 7 Easy Steps to Writing a Successful Book Proposal. Kim and I have taught many workshops at writing conferences regarding creating a book proposal. We have seen the fear in the eyes of writers to do this task and we want to eliminate the anxiety for writers. We decided to take all we have learned from creating book proposals and what we heard from acquisition editors and agents of their expectations of a book proposal and put it all together for an easy to read and apply writer’s tool. There is no fluff in this book just “this is how you write a book proposal.” It’s a quick read plus we added a link to get a book proposal template that the writer can simply fill in the blanks for their proposal and print it out.

  1. Is having an agent important? Why? 

I think it depends on what kind of a writer a person is. If a person is writing to be published in the traditional market, an agent would be very important. Agents are writers’ biggest cheerleaders, plus they know the market. They are able to get the best contract negotiations. When you think about it, if an agent picks up your manuscript to sell, you know that it is sellable. An agent probably wouldn’t take on a client if they showed signs of not being able to write well or not committed to working on writing.

When looking for an agent, make sure it is someone you feel you can work with in the long run and that they have your best interest in mind as they serve you. You should never have to pay an agent anything for they work by commission.

  1.  Is self-publishing just as good as traditional publishing? What actions should an author take before making this decision?  

The publishing market has changed so much over the years and is still changing. I believe there is value in both modes of publication. Marketing your book will be the writer’s greatest responsibility in both ways of publishing. A publisher most likely won’t sign on a writer who isn’t willing to market their book. I remember hearing in my earlier years of writing that self-publishing a book meant certain death in trying to be published traditionally. That is no longer true. Look at the fabulous books that started out by being self-published, like The Shack. Today, anything is possible. I do highly recommend getting a book edited before self-publishing. That is crucial. You want to make the best impression on both the readers and publishing houses that may look at it in the future.

Some actions a writer may want to take in making the decision is finding out about the market for their book. Is it for a wide-audience or a focused group? How much control do you want on your book? Once it is sold to a publisher, it’s theirs. Of course, there may be some control for the writer depending what is in the contract. Writers need to look at the royalty possibilities. Could they do better through a publisher or by self-publishing?

  1. What is the most important piece of advice that you can think of to give to aspiring writers?

If you feel called to writing, don’t give up. Never take it personal when an acquisitions editor or agent turns your manuscript down or gives you advice. Consider the advice priceless. You may or may not follow it, but to receive it is a great gift. When your manuscript is rejected, it may mean that it doesn’t fit what that publisher is looking for, it may need some work, or a numerous amount of other reasons. It’s not about you (unless you are extremely obnoxious and rude, then it may be about you). So many writers have thought that being rejected or accepted at a conference during their meetings with editors and agents means they are accepted or they are a failure. Totally not true. More than likely, the turned down manuscript just hasn’t found the right home yet.

Thank you, Kathy! Find out more about Kathy and her books at

Monday Meet-Up for December 7, 2015:Sandy 77

Author & Speaker, Sandy Carlson




1.      Please tell us a little about yourself, and how you became an author?

I am a former elementary teacher, and present grandmother of three, mother of two, and wife of one. I’ve been to all but two of these United States, camping or backpacking in most, and have had driver’s licenses in seven states, although not all at the same time. I received my motorcycle license when I was 50, while living in the Black Hills of South Dakota. I was born in Michigan and now reside in Michigan.

I was first a story-teller, and still am one. But writing (so I could entertain strangers) is something I’ve been doing seriously since I was eleven years old. As an adult, I was article-published a couple hundred times. I made it all the way to editorial acquisition groups several times, letting me know my writing was good enough to have made it that far to “almost accepted.” After a heart issue (attack), I decided to self-publish (six books in two years). I have since been traditionally (ebook) published with one book, a second coming out with them next year, and a third and fourth the following year.War Unicorn 200x300

2.      What do you wish aspiring authors knew about the book industry? (Maybe things you wish you had known, or things you had learned the hard way…)

Being a writer isn’t only about writing. (After signing your first contract, repeat that 27 times each night.) Writing is the fun (and admittedly also hard) part. Very few authors are writing-privileged enough to be able to sit home and write. The other parts are marketing and promoting – and not just your books, either; you must learn to market and promote yourself.

3.      What are some of your projects that have been released that you are excited about?

All of them, of course. (Ha.)

I love researching. I spend ten times more time in research for my historical fictions than I do writing them. I learn too much to ever get all that into the books, but learning (for me) is fun. So I stay excited about my historical fiction books.

I also love nearly everything about fantasy. Although I also write tween fantasies (2 published; 2 more published in the next 2 years), I will only write G-rated books. There are still battles and sexual interests, mind you. I just keep it to the G-rated telling.The Town That Disappeared 333x500 Sandys

4.      Is having an agent important? Why? 

An agent would be (might be) awesome to have. A dear writer friend who is an exceptional writer has had an agent for two years now with a reputable agency, but she still not published. That said, it’s encouraging to have a publishing professional in your corner.

5.         Is self-publishing just as good as traditional publishing? What actions should an author take before making this decision?

Being both self- and traditionally-published, I will answer your first question with a 97% NO; self-publishing is not just as good as traditional publishing. Even having my critique group and other independent writers look over my stories for inconsistencies in plot or character or tense, spelling, errors (e.g., their for there, blonde for blond, etc.), and so much more, to a point where I think, “This is best-seller stuff,” then along comes a literary agent and a couple editors who knock you down a few floors (in a totally good-for-the-story, but humbling-to-the-author way).

Before choosing to self-publish, make sure your writing craft is really, really good. A relative test for this is by getting short stories or articles published for pay, winning awards, taking classes, joining national writing groups, going to conferences, attending webinars, and reading up on recently published authors who write similar to you (genre and reader age).

IF you choose to self-publish, be sure to have not only other writers who adore you look over your manuscript, but also published authors who have been through the strainer a few times and know more than you do. Be sure to know your intended market and reader/ buyers. And be sure to have lots of money, because absolutely everything you do will take it.

6.       What is the most important piece of advice that you can think of to give to aspiring writers?

If you’re writing, thinking you’ll make a ton of money, it would be more financially secure to go into stand-up comedy.

Keep improving your craft. ß That’s an extra.

7.      What is your contact information, website, or where can we purchase your books?

My blog, speaker information, and all my books can be viewed on how to purchase on my website:


Thank you, Sandy! Your books are fabulous! 


Monday Meet-Up for November 30, 2015:

Author & Speaker, Kristen Remenar





1.      Please tell us a little about yourself, and how you became an author?
I won my first writing award in second grade. Thirty-four years later, I sold my first picture book.
In between, I wrote, hated my writing, stopped writing, missed writing, wrote again, repeated the process ad nauseam until I hated my writing less and less. I read constantly. I became an elementary teacher and wrote with my students. I always encouraged them to follow their dreams, and eventually realized I should take my own advice.
So I joined SCBWI in 2000, met wonderful mentors, became a children’s librarian, read tons more to learn what really good writing looks like, wrote more and learned to write better, grew my collection of rejections, and finally made my first sale to Charlesbridge in 2013.
2.      What do you wish aspiring authors knew about the book industry? (Maybe things you wish you had known, or things you had learned the hard way…)
For your manuscript to sell, it has to be seen by the right editor at the right time, which means that not only does the editor like your writing, but also has room on his or her list for your book. If you write the most amazing kitten picture book, you might find an editor who loves it, but has already acquired four other kitten picture books recently and so passes on yours. Don’t take every rejection personally. Keep writing, keep sending, and if an editor or agent ever tells you to feel free to send something in the future, build that relationship.
3.      What are some of your projects that have been released that you are excited about?
My debut picture book, GROUNDHOG’S DILEMMA, illustrated by the talented and gorgeous Matt Faulkner, was just published by Charlesbridge! My birthday is February 2nd, and every year, I’d wish the groundhog would make spring come early (a far-fetched dream considering I live in a northern state). I began to wonder if I could convince the groundhog to predict an early spring, and then I wondered if others would try to convince him to declare six more weeks of winter, and what would the groundhog do, and the story was born.
I also have a snarky, humorous book coming out this month under the pseudonym of Helen Wrath called DRAW WITH A VENGEANCE: GET EVEN IN INK AND LET KARMA HANDLE THE REST. It’s a drawing/doodle/coloring book in which you can draw whomever is making you crazy in horrible, hilarious situations.
4.      Is having an agent important? Why? 
With many publishing houses closed to unagented manuscripts and slush piles miles deep, the fastest way to get your manuscript in front of an editor who wants to buy what you write is to have an agent.
5.   Is self-publishing just as good as traditional publishing? What actions should an author take before making this decision? 
Self-publishing means that you take on everything a traditional publishing company would do – editing, marketing, etc. An author can bypass the “gatekeepers” of agents and editors for faster publication with self-publishing, but it also means the author has to be the editor, book designer, publicist, accountant, etc.
6. What is the most important piece of advice that you can think of to give to aspiring writers?
Become the best writer you can be. Write as much as you can. Read a ton and take note of techniques that captivate you. Join a critique group and learn from constructive criticism. There is no algebraic formula for creating a bestseller, so keep your focus on writing something you’d want to read. That way, no matter when or how or to whom your manuscript sells, you have the satisfaction of having written a book you truly love.
Read more gobs of wisdom on and


Thank you, Kristen! I can’t wait to read your upcoming titles! 



Happy Thanksgiving Week! Two Interviews for the Price of One! 


Monday Meet-Up for November 23, 2015:

Literary Agent, Carrie PestrittoMy Photo

from Prospect Agency




1.      Please tell us a little about yourself, and how you became an agent?
I became an agent after interning at Writers House when I was in college and later working as an assistant there.  After about a year, I moved to Prospect Agency, where I became an agent and have happily been there ever since (about 4 years).
2.      What do you wish aspiring authors knew about the book industry?
I know it can be really difficult to send out your manuscript and then either wait around forever for a response or get rejected.  The publishing industry is just that–an industry–so don’t get discouraged.  Sometimes certain things are right for the current market or for a particular agent/editor.  You just have to keep plugging away and make sure that what you are writing fits your genre and appeals to your audience.  I think one of the most important things I wish authors knew was that they not only have to write something really fabulous, they have to do the research to make sure it is something that is necessary for and current with the marketplace.
3.      What was something you’ve read recently that got you excited (whether you worked on it or not)?
I picked up a copy of Julie Murphy’s DUMPLIN’ at BEA this summer and loved it!
4.      Is having an agent important? Why?
I mean, of course I think having an agent is important!  Agents are mini-editors who help you polish your manuscripts and have in-depth knowledge of the market, editors, imprints, etc.  Also, an agent is handy when it comes to contract negotiation, subrights, and many other secondary aspects of publishing.
5.      Anything you’d love to see from your slush pile? A particular genre?
Something specific? I have a list of genres I’m interested in my bio on the Prospect website, and also update my Google+ page with book ideas I love under the hashtag #BooksIWanttoRead!
6.      Last tips or advice?
I can’t emphasize the importance of having a strong critique group enough! If you surround yourself with careful, intelligent readers who will challenge you and not be yes men, you have something very valuable.
Thank you, Carrie! For more information and her guidelines for queries, check her out at



November 23, 2015

Acquiring Editor, Jim WatkinsScreen Shot 2015-08-28 at 1.37.26 PM

from Wesleyan Publishing




1. Please tell us a little about yourself, and how you became an editor?

I loved journalism while in high school, writing columns each issue while a sophomore and junior, and then becoming editor my senior year. In college, I was youth leader at my church. I produced four issues of an “underground” newspaper (this was, after all, the late sixties, early seventies) which we handed out on the streets. My denomination took notice and hired me as a college sophomore to edit their teen magazine. That was twenty books and over two thousand published articles ago. Time does fly when you’re having fun.

2. You have the unique position of being an acquiring editor and being a writer too. Tell us about your writing projects.

Thanks for asking. The Imitation of Christ: Classic Devotions in Today’s Language releases January 12. It’s a modernization of Thomas  àKempis’ 1420 work arranged and formatted as devotionals. This is a huge shift in my writing. The twenty previous book’s “brand” have been “hope and humor” with lots of comical commentary on sex and love, Christian living and writing.

I’ve always been a half-breed. My very first book came out while I was editor of teen curriculum at Wesleyan Publishing House. Subsequent books developed from articles I wrote during my six years there.

I think being a writer, makes me a more compassionate editor. I know how much rejection slips hurt! It also helps me to train writers at the ten to twelve conferences each year where I speak.

3. What do you wish aspiring authors knew about the book industry?

It is an “industry.” Just as a business needs to make a profit to survive, publishers need to consider the bottom line to stay in business. It’s a terrific time to be a writer with blogs, Facebook, Twitter and independent publishing of ebooks and print-on-demand volumes. (The number of self-published books has actually over taken traditionally published books!)

But it’s a terrible time to be a publisher with rising paper, production and distribution costs. There are now fewer houses producing fewer titles by fewer authors. Seventy-percent of books lose money, so publishers are depending on that 30 percent to be successul sellers to keep them in business for another year.

Because of this, there has been a dramatic raising of the publishing bar. Publishers printed “good” writing thirty years ago, but are now publishing only “great” writing. I think the increase in number of writers’ conferences and other training opportunities in person and in print, have increased the quality and quantity of writers in the market. As a result, only 1-3 percent of writers are being published by commercial publishers.

Writing now has to be exceptional for a book publisher to risk several thousand dollars to publish. (Magazine markets can take risks because they are not risking an entire issue’s success on just one article. And most magazines circulations dwarf the average book’s 500-copy sales. So, if you want respect, write a book. If you want readers, write an article!)

It is a business, so writers need to be business-like in their writing and promotion of work—even in their social networking.

4. What makes a nonfiction book proposal really stand out from the others in the pile?

Some very basic things can put a writer in that rare 1-3 percent of published authors:

Spell my name correctly, and never, ever refer to me as “to whom it may concern.” If you haven’t thoroughly studied the publisher, you will immediately end up in the rejected 97 percent of writers. I receive so many proposals from people who have no idea that a) Wesleyan Publishing House is a Christian publisher, b) we’re limited to discipleship books, and c) don’t publish fiction, memoir or children’s books. Get a copy of The Christian Writers Market Guide and then go online for the latest editor’s name and current guidelines. (Publishing is constantly changing!)

But even more important in today’s publishing world, “platform” is essential. Publishers need the writers’ help in promoting the book. Our executive editor explains platform as a) being well-known in the church, being a leader in nationally-known parachurch organization or well-known on national stage for accomplishments or newsworthy contribution, b) having moderate success in previous Christian books, c) a busy speaking schedule to district, state and national/international venues, and d) a well-trafficked blog/website and thousands of Facebook and Twitter followers.

Having to reject proposals from great writers with a great topic, simply because they don’t have platforms, breaks my writers’ hearts. Fortunately, editors don’t have hearts. (Just kidding!) As an editor, I know that without a platform the chances for success are next to nothing. Sarah Young, who was an unknown missionary in Australia, was a rare exception with Jesus Calling. It’s been a number-one best-seller every years since it launched in 2004, but that happens one in a million times, maybe ten million times.

5. Is having an agent important? Why?

Yes, it’s important but not essential in getting your book to the publications board. Many publishers—to save money—have gone to an “agented-only” policy. (Let agents do the work of “first reader” and send them only good, appropriate proposals.) But writers can make an end run around that barrier by meeting editors face to face at conferences.

However, I firmly believe an agent is essential in the contracting process. Like a casino, the odds are always in the house’s favor. My first book—without an agent—I got 10 percent royalty, no advance and ten comp copies. With an agent, I’ve been able to almost double the royalty, receive a generous advance that paid a year’s living expenses, and nearly 100 comp books. Yep, my agent has earned her 15 percent!)

6. Anything you’d love to see from your slush pile? A particular genre? Something specific?

Nonfiction, around 40,000 words, focusing on spiritual growth for yourself or others with great, creative writing. And, of course, a good platform. Dark chocolate doesn’t hurt either!

7. Last tips or advice? 

There are three secrets to publishing success: networking, networking, networking.

Get involved with a writing group with published, informed writers in the mix. Having your work competently critiqued—not your mother, best friend or spouse—is so important.

Go to writers’ conferences and meet with as many agents and editors as possible. My latest book is the only book for which I have not first met the editor. All the others, I apparently convinced them of my passion and knowledge for the book. And, I must have appeared articulate enough to do well with radio and television interviews.

“Use” your friends and colleagues. According to the networking gurus only “six degrees” separate you from anyone on the planet. You know someone who knows someone who knows. . . . Who do you know who can introduce you to someone at the next level? I was fortunate while writing my early teen books to have had the president of Youth for Christ earlier as my Campus Life director. I know one of the White House advisors on faith, several New York Times best-sellers, two movie actors, a chart-topping singer, and lots and lots of editors. (So, guess who has endorsed my books? Opened doors for speaking?) Allow God to take your writing and speaking from “Jerusalem to Judea to Samaria to the ends of the earth.” I’ve gone from small local church audiences to international conventions—only because I knew people who knew people who knew people.

Finally, stop by for a whole ream of writing resources on agents, editing services, writing books, conferences, publishers, self-publishers and more.

Thank you, Jim! You took the words ^^ right out of my mouth! 🙂



Screen Shot 2015-08-28 at 1.40.52 PMMonday Meet-up for November 16, 2015: 

Agent, Ann Byle

from Credo Communications




1.      Please tell us a little about yourself, and how you became a literary agent?
 I’ve been a freelance writer for almost 18 years, and have written about the Christian book industry both for The Grand Rapids Press and for Publishers Weekly. When my agent, Tim Beals with Credo Communications, asked me to come on as an agent, it was a natural segue from writing about Christian publishing to participating in it as an agent. My years freelancing for The Press were coming to an end, so I said yes to agenting. I still write about the industry for PW, which informs my role as an agent. I’ve been agenting for nearly four years.
2.      What do you wish aspiring authors knew about the book industry?
 I wish aspiring authors knew how long it takes to get a book published. Writing it takes a long time; finding an agent can take a long time; getting a contract can take a long time; and the time from contract to published book can take a year or more. Of course the timeline can be faster once in a while, but for the most part getting a book published just takes a long time. I also wish aspiring authors remembered that they are not the only author in the world. Agents have other clients and publishers have other books and authors they are working with.
3.      What was something you’ve read recently that got you excited (whether you worked on it or not)?
 I recently interviewed Andrew Blauner, editor of “The Good Book: Writers Reflect on Favorite Bible Passages.” The book is filled with essays about Bible passages written by greats such as Clyde Edgerton, Pico Iyer, Cokie and Steve Roberts, and Tobias Wolff. The writers often present different views than I and my more conservative Christian colleagues might find comfortable, but each one presents a thoughtful and often challenging look at Scripture.  The essays by Thomas Lynch and Lois Lowry were especially poignant and so incredibly well written. I read Lynch’s and Lowry’s essays twice each, and cried both times.
4.      Is having an agent important? Why?
 Having an agent at the right time is important. Many authors expend energy searching for an agent when they should spend that energy and time perfecting their work (both book and proposal). An agent can help you perfect your proposal, get it it front of the right editors/publishing houses, negotiate a contract, mediate any disputes (small and large) that arise, and help you plan your next projects. An agent can help you realign your expectations with reality, and generally help you navigate the tricky waters of publishing. But only when you’ve got a salable idea, are a very good writer, and are reaching your potential readers in good and measurable ways.
5.      Anything you’d love to see from your slush pile? A particular genre? Something specific?
 I’ve gotten at least one agenting request every day for the last two weeks. I’m a little tired. But I’d love a well-written cozy mystery series. And a beautiful historical fiction.
6.       Last tips or advice?
Don’t approach an agent until you’re ready and, believe me, many of you aren’t yet (if you could see all the requests I’ve gotten over the last weeks, you’ll know what I’m talking about). Use your energy, both physical and mental, to research the markets, improve your craft, and find your readers.
Thank you so much, Ann! 
Check out Credo Communications website for more details on what Ann and other agents at Credo are looking for!
And you won’t want to miss next Monday! In honor of our holiday week, you’ll get TWO interviews for the price of one! My lovely agent, Carrie Pestritto, from Prospect Agency will be stopping by, and so will the incredible Jim Watkins, acquiring editor from Wesleyan Publishing! See you then!

Monday Meet-up for November 9, 2015:

Agent, Linda Glaz

from Hartline Literary Agency





1.      Please tell us a little about yourself, and how you became an agent?
How different is being an agent to your writing life?
–My own agent said he liked how I looked at projects. I started as his assistant and when an
opening came along, the boss took a chance with me. I’d been a reviewer for a romance site and
a final proofreader for a publisher.

–Well, the clients have to come first, but I work 12-14 hours a day, so I have some of that
set aside for my own work.
2.      What do you wish aspiring authors knew about the book industry?
–That it isn’t for the faint of heart. It takes time to really learn the craft,
build a strong platform (yes, it’s very important), and utilize critique partners.
They are gold in your writing journey.
3.      What makes a novel (or query) really stand out from the others in the pile?
–Being done very professionally. That means reading it over and over to
spot errors, and then read it out loud to yourself. Use standard formatting.
Always know what an agency or agent wants to see by going to their site and
putting your proposal together exactly as they request.
4.      Is having an agent important?
–Well, they definitely can open doors that a writer can’t open for themselves.
Also, they can work with the writer to get their proposals/novels in the best
possible shape and up to the industry standard.
5.      Anything you’d love to see from your slush pile?
—Suspense or romantic suspense are always my favorite reads, but I have
to admit to loving historic romance very much. 
–I tend to like stories that stretch both the reader and the author. People tend to
use the term edgy, but it’s more than that. It’s a story that grabs me by page
one. And if you have me by the first line, that’s always a good sign I’ll keep
reading. I’ve had folks tell me, “Keep reading. It gets really good by the
5th chapter.” Trust me, I’ve stopped long before then if I’m not invested in
the story. 
6.     Any last tips or advice? 
–Just never give up. Contracts don’t always go to the best writers. Wonderful
writers often die with the next best American novel tucked in a drawer somewhere
because he or she didn’t have what it took to stick with it. Persevere. I waited
18 years for my first novella contract (I had NOT been taking my own advice
honing my craft, etc.) And now I have 2 novellas and 7 novels, one due to release
this December. So never, ever, not ever. No, never…give up.
Thank you so much, Linda! 
Check out Hartline Literary’s website for more details on what Linda and other agents are looking for!
AND you won’t want to miss next Monday’s interview with the fabulous Ann Byle, literary agent from Credo Communications! See you then.