Saturday, October 31, 2009

Interview with Client Graham Garrison

Today I'm interviewing client Graham Garrison, Graham, your new book HeroTribute is about to hit the stands coming out from Kregel Publications. Canyou tell us a little about it?

The premise in a nutshell is – a small town hero, Michael Gavin, passes away, and wants a complete stranger to give his eulogy. The stranger, newspaper reporter Wes Watkins, has less than a week to interview the people who knew Michael and figure out why he was given this assignment. Ultimately there is a message of faith that will rock Wes to his core.

Where do you get your inspiration from? For “Hero’s Tribute,”

I got a lot of my inspiration from family and friends. I was born at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, while my dad was a captain in the 82nd Airborne. One of my best friends did a tour in Iraq with the 101st Airborne. There is a resiliency in soldiers and their families that I have always wanted to explore from the outside looking in. What makes them tick? What makes them heroes? How would that reflect to their neighbors?

What do you hope people will take away from reading your book?

The first word that comes to mind is “grace.” “Hero’s Tribute” is a story about grace and the heroes that surround us and I hope that comes through in the characters and the story, especially the twist at the end.

I know you are working on a sequel to it that Kregel is considering, what other projects do you have in progress?

Yes, I really hope the sequel gets a green light because there are still some more angles to cover in the characters and their backgrounds. I’ve also completed the first draft of a supernatural thriller and mapped out three more books in what would be a series. The series takes themes from the major and minor prophets in the Old Testament and drops them in the middle of America’s Civil War. Basically, the devil takes an active role in the demise of a nation, and the books would explore ways that God would respond, based off of how he has responded in the past with the likes of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, Jonah, etc.

What is the best writing advice you ever got? The worst?

Best would have to be from a college professor – Conrad Fink. He was a former AP reporter and hammered home that you have to keep working at your craft. He had an archive full of stories he said the he wished he could have written a different way or taken a different angle and it was good to realize that early on that it’s a continual process.

The worst -- well, I edit some magazines, and I’ve found that the better writers are actually the one’s less married to their prose. So, don’t make a fuss about tweaks and revisions. You have to understand that what you send to your editor won’t be exactly what you see on the printed page – it’ll be better.

Thank you Graham, and thank you blog readers for dropping by. Please consider signing up at as a follower so you will be notified each time a new entry is put up.

Monday, October 26, 2009

I'm building my platform

Those of my clients that have not published yet are busy building their platform to make their submissions more attractive to a publisher AND to be better positioned to help sell the book when they get a deal and it comes out. Those that have books out are doing the same thing trying to expand the visibility they have and the book has in order to improve sales.

So what is a platform? It's something a speaker stands on to speak. How is that applicable here? A publisher wants to know when we are standing on that platform, who is out there in front of us? Or in other words, What people or groups of people do we have direct access to in order to promote our book?

They aren't looking for us to guarantee that we can sell them all, they just want to know we have the access. We get proposals in that say this book will appeal to both male and females from 18-80. Great! How can you get a bigger platform than that, right?

Wrong. That is no platform at all unless you have some means of direct access to all those people. If you do it is an awesome platform. If not it is a dream of who we would like to see buy our book, and by the way, it's who every author in the known world wants to buy their book.

A platform is also about where those people are located that we have direct access to. If we write a column in a newspaper and attend a really big church, are in the largest civic club in town and have local media coverage available we have a very good local platform. If we can do the same thing over the counties or the region then we have a regional platform. You can see where I'm going here, as we can also have a statewide platform or even a national or international platform. It doesn't take a genius to see that the larger the number of contact points and the wider area they are spread over, the more a publisher is impressed and the more chances we have to impact the sales of our book.

Online visibility is a great platform took particularly since online book sales are getting so important. A large group of friends and family spread all over that will help generate buzz, talk about the book and maybe the the local library to shelve it are a good tool. Blog tours and having a blog ourselves can help. Doing booksignings and giving programs and getting media coverage is important. And getting visibility doesn't even have to be about the book. We could be going to talk to the national swine producers conference which might have nothing to do with a fiction title we are promoting but if we can get mention of our writing as part of the intro and have an opportunity to sign books while we are there that is great platform.

There would be no way to list all of the possible planks for a platform. Literally any means we have of being in contact with a group and putting our name and our book in front of them is valid platform. And the more unique they are to us the better.

And yes, this blog is an important part of my platform as is the one I contribute regularly to over at

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A note I didn't want to write

My editorial asst told me it was a good read but had some pacing problems. I looked over it and agreed. I told the author, "this is a good read. Very enjoyable. That makes what I have to say very hard." I offered the following explanation:

The problem is I am being offered hundreds of good books. But what editors are hunting are exceptional books. An exceptional book stands head and shoulders above good books the way a good book stands head and shoulders above the mundane. An exceptional book is a unique story or new take on a subject that has been done, and it is written in a unique voice and style.

I am getting very close to the maximum number of clients that I can handle so I'm searching for that exceptional book. That story and voice that I HAVE to take no matter how many clients I have or how heavy my workload is. Even though this is a good read the pacing of the story caused it to lag in places, particularly at the end, and the ending was good but rather predictable.

So many writers think they are through when they write the story. Actually that's when crafting the story begins. Like a director of a movie that takes all the raw scenes that he's shot and starts weaving them into a movie, the writer takes the raw chapters and starts working on the pacing and the flow, engaging the reader here and picking up the pace there. Moving scenes to push a reader at the end of chapter into the next. Watching to see that it doesn't slow down at a point to where the reader loses interest. In my opinion you now need to take off your writer hat and direct this piece - make it flow so you pull the reader in and then subtly guide them through it.

I would love to see this again if you can take a good book . . . and make it exceptional.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

It's your job, not mine!

I’m told I write some of the nicest, most encouraging responses in the business, even when it is necessary for them to be negative. I hope that’s true, I’m not in the business of stepping on anybody’s dream. But occasionally I get some that get under my skin a little. One of my editorial assts sent me one and said “You better answer this one, it just made me mad.”

The person had sent a writing sample and declined to comply with our submission guidelines because she felt most of what we asked for was our job, not hers. Her job was to write, not to write a proposal. Now as much as I appreciate someone telling me how to do my job and I’m sure I could use a lot of instruction, I still felt compelled to write her this response:

“Thank you for thinking of us with this project. In politely declining to comply with our submission guidelines you have also removed yourself from consideration instead of us having to reject you. You see, we get 2000 of these a year and before we look at the writing, we look at the proposal to see if the genre is a fit for us and to see if it looks like the writer is one we could effectively promote. Editors do the same thing on their end. In fact most rejections occur without any of the writing being read because something in the proposal told them it was not a fit. You have chosen to not give us that opportunity. It also suggests that you might be a difficult author to work with which is not really the attitude I would think you would wish to convey.

“Even for clients I already represent I will never know their project as well as they do, so the better the base proposal they use to sell us, the better the proposal we can craft to send out. We judge the writing based on the writing sample, but we judge the salability of the project based on the proposal. The one you chose not to give us.

“I wish you the best with this, but I would encourage you in the future to not argue with an agent or editor about what you should or should not provide, but to check the guidelines and send what they request or do not respond at all.”

I’m not sure what an author hopes to accomplish when they challenge what an agent or editor is asking to see, and if they think we don’t know what we are doing in what we ask to see why do they want us to represent them? It is true we ask for a little more than some, but we feel it is better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. I do look at projects that don’t send what we request, but not when they announce that it is intentional.

I’m funny that way.