Screening

In ancient times culture revolved around the spoken word. The oral skills of memorization, recitation, and rhetoric instilled in oral societies a reverence for the past, the ambiguous, the ornate, and the subjective. We were People of the Word. Then, about 500 years ago, orality was overthrown by technology. Gutenberg’s 1450 invention of metallic movable type elevated writing into a central position in the culture. By the means of cheap and perfect copies, printed text became the engine of change and the foundation of stability. From printing came journalism, science, libraries, and law. Printing instilled in society a reverence for precision (of black ink on white paper), an appreciation for linear logic (in a string of sentences), a passion for objectivity (of printed fact), and an allegiance to authority (via authors), whose truth was as fixed and final as a book.

But today more than 5 billion digital screens illuminate our lives. Digital display manufacturers will crank out 3.8 billion new additional screens per year. That’s nearly one new screen each year for every human on earth. We will start putting watchable screens on any flat surface. Words have migrated from wood pulp to pixels on a glass surface in a rainbowof colors as fast as our eyes can blink. Screens fill our pockets, briefcases, dashboards, living room walls, and the sides of buildings. They sit in front of us when we work – regardless of what we do. We are now People of the Screen.

This has set up the current cultural clash between People of the Book and People of the Screen. The People of the Book today are the good hardworking people who make newspapers, magazines, the doctrines of law, the offices of regulation, and the rules of finance. They live by the book, by the authority derived from authors. The foundation of this culture is ultimately housed in texts. They are all on the same page, so to speak.

But today most of us have become People of the Screen. People of the Screen tend to ignore the classic logic of books or the reverence for copies; they prefer the dynamic flux of pixels. They gravitate toward movie screens, TV screens, computer screens, iPhone screens, VR goggle screens, tablet screens, and in the near future massive Day-Glo megapixel screens plastered on every surface. Screen culture is a world of constant flux, of endless sound bites, quick cuts, and half-baked ideas. It is a flow of tweets, headlines, instagrams, casual texts, and floating first impressions. Notions don’t stand alone but are massively interlinked to everything else; truth is not delivered by authors and authorities but is assembled in real time piece by piece by the audience themselves. People of the Screen make their own content and construct their own truth. Fixed copies don’t matter as much as flowing access. Screen culture is fast, like a 30-second movie trailer, and as liquid as and open-ended as a Wikipedia page.

People of the Book favor solutions by laws, while People of the Screen favor technology as a solution to all problems. Truth is, we are in a transition, and the clash between cultures of books and screens occurs within us as individuals as well. If you are an educated modern person, you are conflicted by these two models.

– from “The Inevitable” by Kevin Kelly

The Four Stages of Flowing

What has happened to music, books, and movies is now happening to games, newspapers, and education. The pattern will spread to transportation, agriculture, health care. Fixities such as vehicles, land, and medicines will become flows. Tractors will become fast computers outfitted with treads, land will become a substrate for a network of sensors, and medicines will become molecular information capsules flowing from patient to doctor and back.

These are the Four Stages of Flowing:

1. Fixed. Rare. The starting norm is precious products that take much expertise to create. Each is an artisan work, complete and able to stand alone, sold in high-quality reproductions to compensate the creation.
2. Free. Ubiquitous. The first disruption is promiscuous copying of the product, duplicated so relentlessly that it becomes a commodity. Cheap, perfect copies are spent freely, dispersed anywhere there is a demand. This extravagant dissemination of copies shatters the established economics.
3. Flowing. Sharing. The second disruption is an unbundling of the product into parts, each element flowing to find its own new uses and to be remixed into new bundles. The product is now a stream of services issuing from the shared cloud. It becomes a platform for wealth and innovation.
4. Opening. Becoming. The third disruption is enabled by the previous two. Streams of powerful services and ready pieces, conveniently grabbed at little cost, enable amateurs with little expertise to create new products and brand new categories of products. The status of creation is inverted, so that the audience is now the artist. Output, selection, and quality skyrocket.

These four stages of flowing apply to all media. All genres will exhibit some fluidity.

– from “Inevitable” by Kevin Kelly

“How to Prepare a Non-fiction Book Proposal”

 by literary agent Chris Ferebee 

 Chris represents Rob Bell, Shauna Niequist, Jonathan Merritt, and many other popular authors. His clients include several New York Times bestselling authors, winners of various Religion Newswriters Association awards, and a Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist.

 This session covers the nuts and bolts of outstanding book proposals. Topics include identifying your match with publishers and agents, title creation, the one-sentence hook, the need and the solution, your uniqueness, audience characterization, platform description, proposal organization and style, and more

 73 minutes including Q&A

Should you Publish Without an Agent?

– by Jana Burson

I was recently asked if an author should publish without an agent. The quick answer to this is no! But, like most questions, there are multiple things to consider when making this decision.
Taking a step back, most of the major trade publishing houses actually don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts or proposals in the first place. With that in mind, you’re going to need an agent who has existing relationships with the right publishing houses and editors who acquire in your genre to even have your book idea considered.
In the unlikely event that a publishing house does accept unsolicited proposals, you still might be better off with agent representation for a variety of reasons:

• Without an agent, you won’t have a third party looking out for your best interests and it puts you as the author in the seat of negotiator, rather than allowing you to keep your focus on the craft of writing and nurturing your relationship with your editor.

• Unless you are business and contract savvy, you’ll want an agent who understands the legal and contractual ins and outs of publishing so you don’t end up in a less than favorable position.

• If you’ve never published before and don’t have experience with the publishing process, you’ll want someone on your team who is willing to explain things to you and can foresee where you’ll need guidance and assistance in the process.

• While it would be nice to believe that a publishing house would never take advantage of an author who doesn’t have representation, the reality is that you will most likely not receive as good of a deal as your agented peer.

I’ve talked with a few authors during my history in publishing who have been fortunate enough to get book deals without an agent because they either had a personal connection or were approached directly by a publisher. But most of them look back on that experience and wish they had obtained representation before signing their contract. So how do you get an agent? Here’s a good place to start.

Guideposts Call for Auditions – All God’s Creatures

Guideposts Books Editorial is looking for a few excellent authors to contribute to a unique annual devotional book called All God’s Creatures. We are looking for animal lovers from diverse backgrounds who can write daily devotion entries that bring together our love for animals (all kinds of creatures—not just pets) and our love for God in refreshing, inspiring, and uplifting ways.

 

Each devotion is about 350 words total, and includes the following elements:

  • A title
  • A short Scripture quote, with reference and Bible version, that serves as the basis of your devotion.
  • A true personal story of you or someone you know and a memorable encounter with an animal that made an impact on your or his/her life with a spiritual takeaway (250 to 275 words). The best devotions will bring the reader along with you in your discovery, as if a trusted friend is sharing his or her story.
  • A short closing prayer, quote, Scripture, or other encouragement. (Avoid instructing the reader, except perhaps to consider or meditate on some facet of the devotion.)

 

To audition, please submit three devotionals as Word or .rtf documents, using the guidelines above. Your pieces should showcase your voice, your affection for your animal subject, your approach, and your ability to communicate spiritual takeaways derived from your encounters with an animal. Be sure to include your name and contact info in each document.

 

If you are invited to be part of the team of writers for the All God’s Creatures devotional, you will be assigned several devotions and paid $75.00 per selected and published devotion on a work-for-hire basis. Guideposts will retain full rights to each paid devotion.

 

Please direct inquiries, questions, and submissions to Jon Woodhams ([email protected]) with All God’s Creatures Audition in your subject line. Deadline for submissions July 24, 2019.

How to Work with an Agent

by Tim Beals

Once you’ve secured the services of an agent, don’t expect him to do all your career-building for you. Continue making and using professional contacts, gathering information, seeking endorsements for your work, and building your social media platform. Be polite, straightforward, honest, and businesslike at all times. Sometimes the author-agent partnership turns into a real friendship, but it is first and always a business relationship.

Write or call your agent whenever you need to, but otherwise be patient and stay out of their inbox and voicemail. Instead, your agent will write or call whenever there is news to report. If you have heard little or nothing from your agent, however, it is reasonable to call or write every two months to see what has happened.

Once you have agreed to let an agent represent your next project, provide them with the following information:

  • The names of any editors or publishers who have asked to see your work.
  • The names of any editors or publishers who have read and enjoyed your earlier work.
  • The names of any editors or publishers you do not want your work submitted to.
  • The names of any editors or publishers who have already seen and rejected your project in its current (or very similar) form.
  • Where, when, and by whom part or all of the project has been previously published.

Don’t expect your agent to make decisions for you. Agents will bring you offers, answer your questions, and make suggestions, but only you can decide what to accept, what to turn down, when to ask for more. Indeed, this is part of your responsibility as an agented author. If your agent does not automatically send you a list of the people and organizations to which your project has been submitted, feel free to request it. Then allow your agent a reasonable amount of time to sell your work. Two to six months is typical.

If you ever have a problem with your agent, write or call them to discuss the issue. Be honest, firm, forthright, calm, and concerned. Remember that your agent has many other clients. Expect them to be responsive and helpful—but don’t expect constant and immediate availability.

Don’t let publishers make an end run around your agent. If you are approached directly about a project your agent is representing, get the person’s name, phone number, and employer, and pass on this information to your agent, who will take things from there. This is not only good business, it’s your legal obligation.

If you want to discuss an idea for a new project, or if you require some professional advice, feel free to call or email your agent. Ask him whether or not he would be interested in seeing your next project. He may decline to represent future projects you propose, but if you’ve been successful in the past, he should welcome new ideas. Simply send each new project to your agent with a brief message, and expect a prompt response.

Are you ready for an agent? Do you want to make beautiful music together? Come prepared, practice your craft, stay humble, and play your part. The right agent can guide your writing, present your work to the right editors, and effectively manage the business side of publishing on your behalf. Many publishers require writers to have an agent, and most successful writers work with one. So be ready to learn and your agent will help with the rest.

 

Tim Beals, “Agenting 101: The What, Why, When, and Hows of Literary Representation” in Jot That Down: Encouraging Essays for New Writers ed. A.L. Rogers (Grand Rapids: Caffeinated Press, 2017), 116–117.

Flowing

The Internet is the world’s largest copy machine. At its most fundamental level this machine copies every action, every character, every thought we make while we ride upon it. In order to send a message from one corner of the Internet to another, the protocols of communication demand that the whole message be copied dozens of times in an ordinary day as the cycle through memory, cache, server, routers, and back. Tech companies make a lot of money selling equipment that facilitates this ceaseless copying. If something can be copied – a song, a movie, a book – and it touches the Internet, it will be copied.

 

– Kevin Kelly “The Inevitable”

How to Pitch an Agent/Editor in 15 Minutes or Less

– by Christopher Ferebee

Often times when you attend a writers conference, you have an opportunity to sit down, speed dating style, for 3-15 minutes with various editors and agents. A common question is, what do I have to do to convince someone in a short pitch to represent or publish my work?

The short answer is, you can’t. Except for exceedingly rare circumstances, no editor or agent worth their salt is going to make a snap decision in that setting. You have to realize that the agents and editors are trying to provide a service more than they’re expecting to actually find a diamond in the rough. They’re going to give you pointers, what’s working, what isn’t, and talk to you about your big idea or try and help you figure out how to explain it if you even have one. They’re not really expecting to meet new clients or authors. It happens, but again, that’s not the expectation.

But before you get discouraged and decide to blow off the meetings, let me tell you why I think this actually opens the door for you to get serious attention.

If an author sits down in front of you, has actually done their homework, polished their pitch, and presents a compelling idea, that won’t be the norm. You have a chance to stand out from the crowd by being prepared to do your very best. If you accomplish this, then the editor or agent may actually invite you to formally submit your material for consideration. So what do you need to do?

Whatever you do, do not bring a 50 page document with the expectation that the editor or agent is going to take this from you. They may be polite, but it will not make it out of the hotel room. You should have a 1-3 page, easy-to-read and cleanly styled document with your name, contact information, a short bio, the title of your work, a 2-3 sentence hook, and 5-6 paragraph description of your main thesis or idea. And that’s it. If you do a good job in the pitch, they will take this document from you and it will have the information they need to follow up with you. If you cannot boil down your idea to a compelling presentation in this format, you’re not ready to present your idea.

You should also prepare a ninety-second pitch that you are going to deliver verbally. When you first sit down, you’ll introduce yourself, the agent or editor will do the same, and there may be some small talk. But the whole point is for you to make your pitch. Be prepared. Again, if you can’t tell me in 90 seconds or less what your big idea is, why it’s important, and why you’re the right person to write it, you’re not ready to present your idea.

If you really want to stand out, research the editor(s) or agent(s) you’re going to be meeting with. If your opening ice breaker is a statement about why you are excited to meet with this person because you know they work with a specific author or have published a specific book or set of books that are similar to you or what you’re working on, you’ll have their undivided attention. Again, be prepared. This isn’t a must, but it will go a long way toward helping you stand out. If you begin this way, nail your 90-second pitch, and have a solid 1-3 page document you can leave behind that is equally compelling, you will get positive feedback, and just might land yourself an editor or agent.

Finally, I’d practice your pitch and let a few friends read and respond to your document. Let them ask you questions, poke holes in your presentation, press you a little bit. An editor or agent asking you questions and engaging you with your idea can’t rattle you. You need to be prepared to answer questions. Think through specific questions someone might have about your project. Some obvious questions you should be able to respond to: Are there other books similar to yours already in the market? If so, what is your unique contribution to the topic? What other writing have you done similar to this? Have you built an audience and is this the type of work they’d expect from you?

I’ve said it a few times now, but I can’t over stress this: Be prepared. If you follow the above advice, you will be ready to make the most of your short window of time, and you will leave a good impression. That’s the most you can hope for from these meetings. Most editors and agents will be happy to meet with one person that is worth following up with. This will help you be that person.

Good luck!

5 Tips to a Great Book Proposal – by Angela Scheff

When putting together your proposal, please put as much care into it as if it were going to be published itself. There are some things that immediately stand out to agents and publishers alike that may make them think twice about continuing to read (as there is no lack of proposal submissions). Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you craft your perfect proposal.

1. Address the cover letter appropriately.

Do not be generic (“Dear Sirs” is the worst offender in my opinion). Do your research. Find out who you’re querying, what types of books/authors they’re looking for, and let them know why you chose to query them. Just because they’re an agent is not a good enough reason. Read here for more tips on this topic.

2. Make sure your proposal is error-free.

There is no reason for typos, auto-correct mistakes, or missing words in your proposal. Spell check is a beautiful thing, but so is the simple act of reading it aloud to yourself, and hiring a proofreader (even if “hiring” entails buying your English teacher friend coffee). You’re a writer so even if your specialty is story and not necessarily knowing the difference between their/there and it’s/its, you need to make sure these types of errors don’t make an appearance in your proposal.

3. Create a proposal compatible with your writing style.

While having a perfect proposal is the goal, make sure it’s not at the expense of your personality and writing style. A good writer knows all grammatical rules—and knows when to break them. Your proposal is an agent’s first introduction to your writing, so make sure it’s aligned with your style. More info on this point can be found here.

4. Be realistic yet cast a vision.

This point is especially apparent in the competing titles section. No, your book is probably not the next Hunger Games trilogy, but what could it be like? Spend some time thinking about the market—what’s on the front table at your local bookstore? What’s on the NY Times Bestseller lists? What books do people who follow your blog read? Who’s your favorite author? There are a lot of different ways to think about this, so include how your book fits with the current landscape and illustrate a need for it.

5. Set yourself apart.

The main question you can ask yourself as you’re putting your proposal together is, what makes me different? Why am I the person who needs to write on this topic? Then make sure this is communicated in some way in your proposal. Some authors may choose to design their proposal because it’s part of who they are. Others may choose to include a short video about their book idea as being a good communicator is what sets them apart. Whatever sets you apart, make sure it makes sense and stays true to who you are and what you’re topic/idea/message is.

Overall, proposals don’t need to be stuffy but do keep it professional.

Finding Your Blue Ocean

In previous articles we’ve discussed the advantage of finding your own unique space in the market, which makes it easier for you to become “known” and build your following.  Today I would like to share insights from another of my favorite business books on this topic – it is called “Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant”.  The idea of the book is that red oceans represent all the industries in existence today, and blue oceans denote all the industries that currently do not exist.  Most companies operate only in red oceans and do not know how to find blue oceans. They simply try to outperform their rivals. As it gets crowded, profits and growth are reduced.

Blue Oceans are defined by untapped market space, demand creation, and opportunity for profitable growth. Competition is irrelevant because the rules of the game are yet to be set. Characteristics of blue oceans include:

  • They define new markets
  • They create a leap in value
  • They are the result of value innovation – when innovation is aligned with utility and price
  • Examples:
    • Cirque du Soleil
    • iTunes
    • iPhone
    • Starbucks

So how can you find your own blue ocean? As a spiritual writer, what leaps in value can you potentially offer? Here are some ideas:

    • Insight
    • Saying what others are thinking (but no one is saying)
    • Dealing with pain
    • Incredible writing
    • Relatability
    • Asking questions that others would ask too
    • Edginess
    • Talent not contained in a book

Where is your “blue ocean”? Feel free to contact us if you would like to work on this further.

Get in touch!