Books You’d Like To See In Print One Day

woman using computerMost writers beyond the beginning stage understand the value of feedback, especially informed feedback. That’s why they join critique groups and snag writing partners and look for beta readers.

Occasionally there are contests such as the one Spec Faith held some time ago in which writers could post their first 250 words and receive feedback from visitors. All these methods of receiving feedback are valuable, but what all writers crave is constructive criticism from an industry professional–a published author or better still, an agent or an editor.

Once upon a time there was a secret industry insider who called herself Miss Snark who gave selected writers a beatdown helpful insights about their work. She was pretty blunt and yet incredibly helpful.

When she hung up her snark hat, the writer who first received her biting assessment took up the mantle and began a site called Miss Snark’s First Victim. She’s expanded the purpose of the site to include contests that can put winners in touch with agents and editors.

Starting today she is running her 2013 Bakers Dozen Agent Auction. She held a submissions period during which she selected 60 entries, 35 YA or middle grade stories and 25 adult. For the next few days anyone can read the blurbs and openings of these stories and offer their critique, but two published authors and two agents or editors are guaranteed to critique. As many others as wish to join in may do so.

Then Tuesday, December 3 the actual auction begins. The cool thing is, the agents’ bids are the number of pages they would like to read, up to the entire manuscript (which is obviously the highest bid–and I’m assuming the first agent to make that bid “wins” that manuscript).

Anyway, I thought that would be a fun thing for readers to take part in. I’ve already looked over a handful of the entries and I’m impressed with the quality. One or two, I wish I could read more.

Here’s the link if you’d like to join in the fun: WELCOME TO THE 2013 BAKER’S DOZEN AGENT AUCTION! By the way, you might consider starting with the entry #1 which appears last since it seems most people start at the top with #60. And of course you get to pick and choose which you want to read and which, if any, you want to critique.

Just for fun, make note of the number of fantasy entries. It’s still the hottest genre going, it would seem. 😉

Published in: on November 29, 2013 at 6:53 pm  Comments Off on Books You’d Like To See In Print One Day  
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Learning From Agents

This post contains both advice and an announcement. Some while ago a writer friend mentioned a particular agent who blogged. After reading a few posts, I subscribed to his blog because I realized I was getting insider information.

Over time I began to follow a half dozen or more agents, some representing clients only to the general market and some to the Christian. At least one represents to both.

Reading what these agents have to say has been one of the most helpful things I’ve done recently. Writers are always longing to have an industry professional give them some feedback over their writing. The information in these blogs is the next best thing.

Here are the agents whose blogs I read more often than not: Kristin Nelson of the Nelson Literary Agency, Janet Reid and Query Shark of FinePrint Literary Management, Rachelle Gardner of WordServe Literary Agency, Steve Laube and company of the Steve Laube Agency, Jessica Faust and company of BookEnds, LLC; Janet Grant and company of Books and Such.

If you haven’t hung out on agent blogs, I encourage you to pick one or two and give it a try. See if you don’t glean some pointers fairly soon.

From one of those I read, I took a piece of advice recently which brings me to the announcement portion of this post. The advice was for writers to post more than an excerpt of their novel on their web site.

The thinking is that an agent who might be looking at your site and who might read your excerpt needs a context in which to put the writing sample. To have any clear sense if this is something they might be interested in, there are some basic things that would be helpful, like the genre and premise (I’d give you the link to the article, but I’ve forgotten who wrote it! 🙄 ).

I stopped reading right then and came here to A Christian Worldview of Fiction, to the page where I have my novel excerpt — the first chapter of HUNTED, Book One of The Lore of Efrathah, and I immediately updated it to include the things the agent suggested. Please feel free to take a look if you’re interested, then come back here if you’d like to leave a comment (I have comments off for that page).

Finally, don’t forget to vote in the CSFF Top Tour Blogger Award poll.

Published in: on September 27, 2011 at 1:58 pm  Comments (9)  
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What Makes a Work of Fiction Fresh?

Hang around acquisition editors and agents (or their blogs) for a while and you hear the oft repeated phrase, I’m looking for something fresh. What exactly does that mean? After all, isn’t it fresh to write a fantasy called The First Zepina of Xingkit? I bet no one’s written that one before!

Of course, there’s no guarantee, since we don’t know what a Zepina is.

The first rule of freshness would seem to be, it must be on a recognizable vine. In other words, “fresh” doesn’t mean something so unknown that readers aren’t curious.

When I ask someone what they do for a living and they answer that they transpose the digital data from the analog system in the xzgkrst imnblop wazseb, well, you can see where they lost me (though the process probably started after “transpose.” 😉 ) In these instances, I’m so lost, I don’t know enough to ask any more questions.

In the same way, if a story seems so foreign to a reader, he doesn’t know what questions to ask as it unfolds, his eyes will glaze over and he’ll put the book down.

“Fresh” also hasn’t been sitting on the vine so long that it’s started to turn black or mushy to the touch. In other words, it can’t be overdone. A story that is fermenting is one that has been done and redone in many, many ways, but a writer wants to tell it yet again sans significant changes.

These stories, some actually getting in print, are the ones readers and reviewers alike tag as derivative. They’ve been retold in a way that does not change or camouflage the source material. Take a look at these lines from some Amazon reviews:

  • I kept feeling as if I where reading a poor reproduction of Robert Jordan’s THE WHEEL OF TIME.
  • I find [the] plot more reminiscent of Star Wars than of anything else.
  • the events and ideas come from other authors.
  • These comments, by the way, are about the same book. (Any guesses which one?)

    So “fresh” can’t be too off the beaten path, nor can it be down Main St. Central. Then what IS it?

    The simplest explanation is, a fresh story is a familiar one told in a new way. Or a different story told in a familiar way.

    Here’s what’s hard for us pre-published authors, as I see it. Since we haven’t earned anyone’s trust yet, selling someone on the idea that our story IS fresh—not too weird or too stale—is hard work.

    I have a writer friend who had a test reader put down her manuscript because she thought she knew what was coming next. Never mind that the author had perfectly set her up for the surprise twist she wouldn’t see coming; the reader never gave the book a chance.

    Bottom line, agents and acquisition editors need to be convinced, before they’ll look at complete manuscripts, that they are looking at something fresh.

    Published in: on June 1, 2010 at 3:42 pm  Comments (7)  
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    Some of This, a Little of That

    So I’ve been catching up on blog posts I wasn’t reading this week because I was touring CSFF participants’ sites instead. Lots going on, but nothing that really stuck as something I HAVE to post on my blog.

    For writers, Chip MacGregor has a post about agents and proposals. President and CEO of Thomas Nelson, Michael Hyatt, posted a list of agents his company uses.

    For regular visitors here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction, we are nearing the end of the Fantasy Challenge II. If you have something to report, I hope you’ll take a moment to write up your comment as soon as possible.

    For fantasy fans, Latest In Spec will be coming out with a special Christmas Gift Issue that you’ll want to get a copy of. It’s a great resource for you and for those you influence—your local librarian, your children’s teachers, your local bookstore managers.

    Another fantasy tidbit. The online December issue of CBA: the Association of Christian Retailing listed Wayne Thomas Batson‘s Isle of Swords as #4 on the YA best-selling list. Of course it continues to do well at and is even listed as #5 for children’s books about pirates.

    Still, His Dark Materials, atheist Philip Pullman’s children’s series, is getting a big push with the upcoming movie release of The Golden Compass and high on Amazon’s best-seller list. It’s unfortunate, but I tend to think the Christian reaction to the books and movie helps spur interest. More on that subject tomorrow.

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