Perseverance and Publishing


(Yes, an anomalous Saturday post—I owe you one from the week I was sick.)

How long do you keep after something if it’s not working?

Over and over I read on the Internet and in author interviews and in writing publications that above all else, a writer needs to persevere. I’m wondering, then, if that shouldn’t be true of publishing houses.

Recently the Evangelical Christian Publishing Association (ECPA) put on a Book Expo designed to supplant the Christian Booksellers Association (CBA) trade show. The idea was that a books-only event aimed at readers, not bookstore owners and managers, would do more for the publishing business.

From all reports (here’s Thomas Nelson CEO, Michale Hyatt’s), however, the event was a dismal failure. While the organizers anticipated upwards of 15,000 people to attend, the numbers were closer to 1500. Discussion has flurried and those in the know have a sense of what went wrong and how the event could be improved. (Chip MacGregor voiced his opinion here and an “insider,” here.)

Apparently the problem was not with the product—the panels and author appearances received high marks. Where things broke down seems to be in the promotion, along with the cost and the venue.

I can testify that Internet promotion was nearly non-existent. I am involved in several writer groups and I visit a number of writer blogs. When I recently read that someone was getting ready to head off to Dallas for the book expo, my reaction was, Really, it’s here so soon? I thought about it a moment, then remember that when I first heard about the event I thought it was too bad it was so close to the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference. I figured one would necessarily hurt the attendance of the other since few writers would want to leave home for Dallas, then turn around less than a month later and fly to California.

Apart from the poorly chosen date, I wondered why I hadn’t heard more about the event. From reports, evidently the ECPA executives assumed the publishers would promote it. Could be the publishers, in turn, assumed the writers would promote it. I wouldn’t be surprised if the writers thought, Finally, an event I don’t have to promote.

All the what-went-wrong discussion aside, some insiders have expressed doubts about a second ECPA book expo.

Are they so quick to give up? When writers are told to persevere, persevere, persevere?

Unfortunately, I see a trend. Recently D. Barkley Briggs announced that NavPress, the publisher of his YA fantasy, The Book of Names, was pulling the plug on book two. The amazing thing is, the book is edited, the cover designed, the pages typeset. In fact the book was due to release next month, but reportedly the sales numbers for The Book of Names don’t warrant going ahead with the project.

This is a repeat of what Kathryn Mackel experienced when Strang pulled the plug on her supernatural suspense after the first book, Vanished, came out.

What happened to perseverance? When a person or a business or an association takes on a new project, there should be some understanding that success won’t be instantaneous, that getting the word out to all the right people takes time and effort (and some money).

But here’s a bigger consideration for Christians. If we pursue something we believe God has led us to, doesn’t that require us to hang in there and trust that He will see us through? (Especially if “hanging in there” means honoring a contract?)

The fright-and-flight reaction of these publishers who lost a lot of money on the book expo, and of NavPress, which apparently lost money on The Book of Names, is similar to the reaction Gideon could have had when God sent home 99 percent of his army and the reaction Saul did have as his army deserted him.

In Gideon’s case, he trusted God and his gang of 300 achieved an incredible victory. In Saul’s case, he took things in his own hands, ended up incurring God’s wrath, and lost everything.

So back to the question: How long do you keep after something if it’s not working? As long as God wants you to. It seems like the right answer for writers, publishers, and associations alike.

It’s a Wrap


Another blog tour winding down, on its way to beddy-bye. I’ve enjoyed the content from the participating bloggers this month as much as any other tour. Each interview was unique, reviews were honest, opinions thoughtful, and very, very little canned content anywhere to be seen.

I’ll tell you, this is what I love about CSFF Blog Tours. I come to the designated tour dates with some familiarity with the book, author, or Web site, and what I want is to learn something new. Or find out what others who interacted with the material thought. Sometimes I have to rethink my position. Sometimes, I have to strengthen my reasons in order to explain and maintain my position. Often other bloggers raise issues I never thought of.

And all the while, I’m learning more about these amazing people who participate on the tour. Many are writers but not all. Without exception, they are busy people who selflessly give their time to make a blog tour work. Oh, sure, there are small rewards: a free book perhaps, though not always; increased blog traffic, though that’s not a guarantee at all; interaction with authors, but again, that varies considerably. Small, iffy returns for thoughtfully interacting with a book and with others who have read it.

This has become such a big deal to me, I’ve initiated an award for the best blog posts during the tour, called the Top Tour Blogger Award. (I tried to rework the name of this award so we could refer to it as the BATT or some other clever acronym, but didn’t come up with anything sensical [as opposed to nonsensical – 😀 ] ).

Of course, this month, with such good posts, awarding one blogger over the others that also did a wonderful job is especially tough. If this continues, I may have to turn this over to the public and have you all vote on who deserves the honor, or have the featured author pick a winner, but for now, the opinion, and a very subjective opinion it is, belongs solely to me.

I will say that I’m most swayed by bloggers who posted all three days. Length of post doesn’t enter in, because I tend to think blog visitors, who probably also are very busy people, don’t have time to read many 1000 word posts. So what I’m looking for is pretty much what I said I enjoy from the tour—something fresh (ho-hooo! I’ve been listening to editors too much, me thinks! 😉 ), something that makes me think, something that shines new light on the author or work.

Tough call. The June CSFF participant to win the Top Tour Blogger Award is Chawna Schroeder. Great job, especially considering she posted an interview and a review.

A great tour once again. As cherry on top of the ice cream sundae, Vanished reached second on Technorati and remained in the top ten all tour long, even though several other books were touring. Open thank you note to all the participants who made this such a great tour.

Now go tell your friends about Kathryn Mackel.

And one last time, if you haven’t visited tour participants this week, consider seeing what all these folks have to say:
Brandon Barr
Justin Boyer
Jackie Castle
CSFF Blog Tour
* Gene Curtis
** D. G. D. Davidson (excellent discussion of horror developed in the comments)
** Jeff Draper (someone actually dared to discuss Christian horror!)
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Beth Goddard
Andrea Graham
Todd Michael Greene (short summaries of her other books)
Katie Hart
* Christopher Hopper (has an excellent interview with Kathryn Mackel!)
Joleen Howell
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Mike Lynch
+ Magma (Note: new member; not on the list posted by other participants)
Terri Main
Margaret
* Shannon McNear (check out the special news Shannon has released)
* Melissa Meeks (also has an excellent interview with Kathryn Mackel)
* John W. Otte
Deena Peterson
* Steve Rice
Ashley Rutherford
Mirtika or Mir’s Here
* Chawna Schroeder Winner of the Top Tour Blogger Award
Stuart Stockton
* Steve Trower
Speculative Faith (There’s a short quiz)
Laura Williams
Timothy Wise

A “+” indicates a blogger left off the original list
Bold type indicates a site I know has posted.
An “*” indicates “must read” content.
“**” indicates “must read” content, an intriguing discussion you might want to join.

Published in: on June 26, 2008 at 12:11 pm  Comments Off on It’s a Wrap  
Tags: , ,

Two for One – Vanished, Day 3 and Sir Kendrick


Well, this is awkward. As you know, if you hang around A Christian Worldview of Fiction very much, I participate once a month (with few exceptions) in the CSFF Blog Tour, as I have been this week. Occasionally, I also tour books with CFBA. I am quite selective with those books, reading in my genre as often as possible. Imagine my pleasure when CFBA announced a tour for a YA book by an author I hadn’t heard of before. Then imagine my consternation when the tour date was moved to coincide with the CSFF tour. Precisely coincide. Which wouldn’t matter if I only posted one day, but with CSFF, I post all three days of the tour. What to do? Post late for CFBA? File two separate posts?

I settled on a Two for One post instead. You get double the value for your buck! 😀

On to Day Three of our tour of Kathryn Mackel‘s latest, Vanished.

If you’ve stopped by Kathryn’s blog, you undoubtedly read today’s post about the tour. In it she says “We know Vanished has suffered a blow at the hands of my publisher.” Most likely tour members and visitors here didn’t know Vanished had received a blow from her publisher. I searched Kathryn’s archives to see if I could unearth a post giving the details, but did not find one.

Nevertheless, it’s obvious this is public knowledge. Kathryn has very graciously mentioned that the sequel to Vanished will be put out by a different publisher. That is the blow. This hunt for a publisher for book 2 of the Christian Chiller series was not by author choice. However, I think in one of Kathryn’s interviews, she said she had hoped to announce during the tour which publisher had picked up the series. That would have been cool, and certainly appropriate because a number of you are now hooked by a story that will not resolve until the next book. But evidently the deal is not yet signed and sealed.

My suggestion for those of you eager to finish this compelling story is to sign up for Kathryn’s newsletter, which, by the way, also enters you in a contest for a free book. That way you’ll be sure to hear when the next book is coming out and where you can find it.

With that said, I want to encourage you to visit other blogs on the tour, as I will be as soon as I post this. There are some interesting interviews, a couple incisive reviews, a few topical discussions (one for writers on POV, a couple on “Christian horror” as a genre), a getting-to-know-Kathryn-Mackel quiz, and a news-breaking announcement. Lots to read, to think about, to comment on.

I’ll do what I can to update the list throughout the rest of the day, but here’s the latest for now:
Brandon Barr
Justin Boyer
Jackie Castle
CSFF Blog Tour
* Gene Curtis
** D. G. D. Davidson (excellent discussion of horror developed in the comments)
** Jeff Draper (someone actually dared to discuss Christian horror!)
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Beth Goddard
Andrea Graham
Todd Michael Greene (short summaries of her other books)
Katie Hart
* Christopher Hopper (has an excellent interview with Kathryn Mackel!)
Joleen Howell
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Mike Lynch
+ Magma (Note: new member; not on the list posted by other participants)
Terri Main
Margaret
* Shannon McNear (check out the special news Shannon has released)
* Melissa Meeks (also has an excellent interview with Kathryn Mackel)
* John W. Otte
Deena Peterson
* Steve Rice
Ashley Rutherford
Mirtika or Mir’s Here
* Chawna Schroeder (Day 2 is another excellent interview with Kathryn Mackel, very different from the others)
Stuart Stockton
* Steve Trower
Speculative Faith (There’s a short quiz)
Laura Williams
Timothy Wise

A “+” indicates a blogger left off the original list
Bold type indicates a site I know has posted.
An “*” indicates “must read” content.
“**” indicates “must read” content, an intriguing discussion you might want to join.

– – –

And part two, the CFBA tour for Chuck Black’s Sir Kendrick and the Castle of Bel Lione. And this, by the way, is a review.

The Story. The best way I can begin this discussion is by quoting from the last page in this small book, “Author Commentary”:

Unlike the Kigdom Series allegory, in which characters and events are based on people and events taken directly from Scripture, the Knights of Arrethtrae Series presents biblical principles allegorically. Each book teaches about virtues and vices conveyed through the truth of God’s Word. Sir Kendrick and the Castle of Bel Lione teaches about loyalty, forgiveness, foolishness, and rebellion.

Coupled with the opening of the book, an introduction to the Knights of Arrethtrae and the prologue, which explains about the King and His Son the Prince and the rebellion of a third of the Silent Warriors, led by the Dark Knight Lucius, the book appeared to be tracing-paper-thin allegory. However, I was pleasantly surprised by an unpredictable knights-of-old fantasy story with more than one twist. It was fast paced and engaging.

Strengths. I liked a great deal in Sir Kendrick and the Castle of Bel Lione. The characters were interesting from the start, and I quickly came to care what happened because I cared about them.

The “what happened” was a wonderful surprise. About the time I thought I saw the direction of the story, it took a turn. Not one that was improperly motivated, however. The parts combined to create an interesting tale.

The lessons were surprisingly well-woven into the lives and actions of the characters. I say “surprisingly” because I was pre-disposed to think otherwise by the intro, prologue, and commentary.

Weaknesses. I think the main weaknesses were the intro, prologue, and commentary. I thought of something I read in a writing book recently (I think the one by Jerry Jenkins), that writers really need to get out of the way and let the readers experience the story. Yes, indeed.

Also, it seems this book is aimed at homeschoolers because there is a complete study guide in the back—questions over each chapter of the very small book. I call this a weakness, though others might put it under strengths. I want to see a book be a book first and for most. If a writer wants to make questions available, this era of technology makes that so easy to do electronically. For me, seeing questions at the end, I immediately think this story has an ulterior motive for existing. It doesn’t make me inclined to lose myself in the world.

Another iffy weakness is the fact that most of this story is told, not shown. In the current writing climate, that is rare. The fact that it is such a short book (170 pages from Introduction to Epilogue), but covers a significant span of time, includes multiple points of view, and encompasses as much action and danger as it does, could only be true if the author chose to tell large portions of the story.

I’m listing this as a weakness because of the visual generation we live in. And because I know readers don’t enjoy quite as close a connection with the characters in stories like this. However, since I grew up with books that started out like, “Let me tell you the story about …” I found myself in familiar surroundings. Good story, good, good story, but what would it have been like if it showed more, explained less?

As allegory goes, there were some places I had a little difficulty. Sir Kendrick’s part in the climax, was one issue. That God and Jesus were represented as King and Prince is another. Not that I’m opposed to allegory. It’s that I don’t understand why.

In John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, the allegory served the purpose of enlightenment. Each stop, each bend in the road, each person Christian encountered along the road showed some aspect of the journey of life that was clearer, more easily understood because of the allegorical picture. I don’t know what aspects of God and Christ were clarified by referring to them as King and Prince.

As to Sir Kendrick’s part in the climax, I question it because of who he was pitted against. I don’t want to give anything away here, but I wondered, in a one-on-one allegorical correlation, just how accurate a representation the story turned out to be.

Recommendation. After my “Discernment” posts, I’m less inclined to give a recommendation. I will say, it’s not safe. 🙂

I enjoyed reading this story, much more than I expected to after reading the parts that explained the allegory ahead of time. I found it uplifting and even touching in places. If I was still teaching, I’d recommend this book to my students in a heartbeat. (And they’d love it because it’s short. 😀 But I suspect they’d also love it because it was an enjoyable story). I know I found it entertaining, but it also brought to the front some issues that are important and can, therefore, serve as a jumping off point for some serious and relevant discussion between parents and kids.

CSFF Blog Tour – Vanished, Day 2


Well, we got off to a good start yesterday. There are several brief reviews, an interview, and other blogs posting reviews in multiple parts. For those of you with limited time, I’m going to red star the ones I think are especially notable.

I’ll also mention, for humor, be sure to catch Steve Trower’s posts. He is one funny guy. It doesn’t really matter if he’s read the book we’re featuring or not or whether his posts are lengthy or short—his wit comes through.

Since I’m not one who enjoys the chiller genre, not even the Christian version, I decided my role on the tour for Vanished would be to help readers learn more about the author. After all, Kathryn Mackel has been writing for some time—full-time for the last twelve years (a fact I learned in her interview with Christopher Hopper). Yet it seems she is one of those writers, talented as she is, who is somewhat anonymous. Maybe it’s just me.

Here’s the reality. Kathryn has been a speaker at several writers’ conferences and is slated for more. She has been in the writing profession long enough to complete four adult novels, two YA novels, six books for children, and numerous screenplays. She has worked for Disney, Fox, and Showtime; was part of the story team for Left Behind: The Movie; and was the credited screenwriter for Frank Peretti’s Hangman’s Curse (with Stan Foster). In other words, she is an experienced, talented writer. But still somewhat of a secret to many Christian readers, even to me. This is the third Kathryn Mackel book tour I’ve participated in, and I feel like I am for the first time becoming familiar with her.

For one thing, last November she started a blog. Well, you must know how I feel about blogging! 😉 Here is one of Kathryn’s posts that will give you a peek at her heart (writing makes us so vulnerable).

Also, take time to visit some of the other tour participants to learn more about Kathryn and her latest release, Vanished.

Brandon Barr
Justin Boyer
Jackie Castle
CSFF Blog Tour
* Gene Curtis
D. G. D. Davidson
** Jeff Draper (someone actually dared to discuss Christian horror!)
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Beth Goddard
Andrea Graham
Todd Michael Greene
Katie Hart
* Christopher Hopper (has an excellent interview with Kathryn Mackel!)
Joleen Howell
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Mike Lynch
+ Magma (Note: new member; not on the list posted by other participants)
Terri Main
Margaret
* Shannon McNear (check out the special news Shannon has released)
* Melissa Meeks (also has an excellent interview with Kathryn Mackel)
* John W. Otte
Deena Peterson
* Steve Rice
Ashley Rutherford
Mirtika or Mir’s Here
* Chawna Schroeder (Day 2 is another excellent interview with Kathryn Mackel, very different from the others)
Stuart Stockton
* Steve Trower
Speculative Faith (There’s a short quiz)
Laura Williams
Timothy Wise

A “+” indicates a blogger left off the original list
Bold type indicates a site I know has posted.
An “*” indicates “must read” content.
“**” indicates “must read” content, an intriguing discussion you might want to join.

Published in: on June 24, 2008 at 12:01 pm  Comments Off on CSFF Blog Tour – Vanished, Day 2  
Tags: , ,

CSFF Blog Tour – Vanished


A touring we will go
A touring we will go
Hie-ho the dariole,
A touring we will go.

Well, that’s a blast from the long ago and near forgotten. I’m not sure of the spelling or even of the words in that third line, but that, of course, is immaterial because my point is, it’s That Time again! 😀

Today we participants in the CSFF Blog Tour begin discussing Kathryn Mackel’s latest novel, Vanished.

My primary role during this tour will be to act as facilitator. You may remember that back in April I opted out of a tour for a supernatural suspense novel we featured. Just not my genre. Yet other fans of speculative fiction love those kinds of stories. Consequently we want to include some of the best titles on our tour.

Vanished, first in the Christian Chiller series, falls in that category. However, I did not want to opt out of this tour. I’ve read Kathryn Mackel books before and found her to be a wonderful talent. I want to let others know that here is a writer who has good mastery of the craft of novel writing. If supernatural suspense is the kind of story you enjoy, you don’t want to miss Kathryn’s work. Seriously. I believe in her writing.

But supernatural suspense? Not for me. I’ll read it on occasion, but that type of story precludes my enjoying a book. So what to do? Opt out and not tell blog tourers what a wonderful writer Kathryn Mackel is? I couldn’t bring myself to do that, so I’ve decided to take the middle ground. I won’t be reviewing Vanished, but I will be discussing Kathryn’s reworked Web site and blog. Above all, I’ll be pointing you to some of the best posts on the tour. And in the end, I’ll be awarding the Top Tour Blogger Award. So you’ll want to check back here from time to time during the next three days.

And the participants this month—the updated list:
Brandon Barr
Justin Boyer
Jackie Castle
CSFF Blog Tour
* Gene Curtis
D. G. D. Davidson
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Beth Goddard
Andrea Graham
Todd Michael Greene
Katie Hart
* Christopher Hopper (has an interview with Kathryn Mackel!)
Joleen Howell
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Mike Lynch
+ Magma (Note: new member; not on the list posted by other participants)
Terri Main
Margaret
Shannon McNear
Melissa Meeks
* John W. Otte
Deena Peterson
* Steve Rice
Ashley Rutherford
Mirtika or Mir’s Here
Chawna Schroeder
Stuart Stockton
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Laura Williams
Timothy Wise

A “+” indicates a blogger left off the original list
Bold type indicates a site I know has posted.
An “*” indicates “must read” content.
“**” indicates “must read” content, an intriguing discussion you might want to join.

%d bloggers like this: