Monday, November 30, 2009

Is there a change in submission preferences?

I’ve been sensing a change in the way editors look at receiving submissions where the person submitting indicated the manuscript is finished versus a person submitting on proposal with a deadline for completion. We’ve long known the book needed to be completed for a person submitting on their first book, but how about for a person with previous publishing experience?

To see if there is indeed a different attitude I surveyed 175 editors, both mainstream and Christian. Most have now responded. What did I learn?

In nonfiction, selling on proposal seems unchanged except a majority said on a new author they wanted to know the work was complete even on nonfiction.

In fiction, most still say an author with no publishing credentials needs to have the manuscript completed. As to being able to sell on proposal once they have publication credits,
• 20% require the full mss submitted with the proposal instead of sample chapters.
• 33% - respondents said they required the manuscript be complete no matter the writers credentials.
• 12%- said they did not require a full manuscript but preferred knowing that it was.
• 30% - said that the manuscript needed to be completed before submitting unless they are a well published (some said A list) author or someone they had worked with before.
• 7% said they always bought on proposal. (mostly nonfiction)

I would say my new conventional wisdom is that a manuscript should be complete before submitting unless the editor has worked with the author before or if the author been not only published, but very well published with good sales numbers. Changing genre very much puts an author in a new author position in the new genre. Even though it was not part of the survey a number of editors volunteered the information that platform was very important on non-fiction and fiction alike.

Some specific comments that were mentioned:

An editor's job is so fast-paced and overloaded these days, if a manuscript needs a complete overhaul, it can leave us in a pickle

Well, I hate to buy a full-length novel from proposal if I haven't seen the author's published work or even a completed manuscript of a different title that proves the author knows how to start, bridge the middle, and wrap up a story.

I wouldn't say I've found myself giving precedence to completed projects for Heartsong. My search for new books hasn't changed much.

I have in the past contracted books from new authors just on the proposal...but there is a comfort level in seeing more, rather than less, of a manuscript.

Sales history is becoming a more important factor in our decisions than ever before. An author with a shaky sales history is more likely to sway me with a full manuscript I can read fully vs. simply a proposal.

We've been burned a few times by authors who told us they were going to write one thing and then wrote something totally different, or who did not offer the quality of manuscript we believed they would after reading their previous work. So whenever possible, we love to see the complete manuscript because then everybody is on the same page.

I think all editors have their own MO's and I can't generalize, but I'd say in my case I've always bought on complete ms unless I've worked with the author before, myself.

Publishers are overall more cautious in this economic climate. Sales history of authors' previous work weighs heavily on acquisitions decisions...not just the fact that these authors have completed work.

I'm afraid I do require complete manuscripts from unpublished fiction authors. However, we have always accepted proposals from fiction authors who have established themselves

Unless the fiction author is a name author (Angela Hunt, Janette Oke, James Scott Bell), we are probably going to want to see the entire manuscript. My exception in this case is because I do know the author and can vouch for her ability to complete a project.

I'm a bit more of a stickler in wanting to see the whole manuscript even from a previously published author. The reason is that I don't know how much work the other house or houses put into that author's unedited manuscripts before publication. I wouldn't feel comfortable going to the publishing committee unless I had read the entire unedited work by a new author to our house.

Yes, it’s changing. I’m told that it’s been true in New York publishing for some time that fiction tended to be sold on the basis of completed mss., rather than proposals. And that was true, in many or most cases, even with well-established authors. In that sense, the world of “Christian publishing” (and let’s face it—the line between the two is disappearing) has been behind the curve and is just now catching up. I have a much better chance of getting a project approved in Pub Board if I have a completed ms. rather than simply a proposal.

We are working sometimes a year in advance. For the author that means if we accept a proposal, the manuscript takes a year, and it takes us another year for editing, production, etc., the result is a two year time frame. I know a lot of authors feel like that's an eternity. So for us, the more finished the manuscript, or the more available for consideration, the sooner we know we can get it into the marketing cycle.

I want to see the completed manuscript before I buy anything. Especially since I'm new and still finding my feet here, I want to make sure that whatever I take to my editorial meeting is solid and well grounded.

For fiction, if an author had a big enough name and I really liked the project and the proposal included a good synopsis, I'd likely go ahead with it. But I admit I do feel much more comfortable with seeing the entire MS, especially if the subject is a controversial one.

Yes, I prefer to see a completed project over just a proposal. Gives me a better sense of the writing and the author's thought process.

If the author is one with whom I've personally had previous experience, I don't mind contracting based on a proposal and sample chapter/s. However, unless the author is WELL established in the fiction industry, all things being equal, if I am considering two similar proposals from authors of similar standing in regards to their publishing history, I would naturally go with the one who has submitted a complete manuscript.

No, I can't say this is the case with us. We'd never sign a new project without sample chapters of the writing, but whether the manuscript is complete or not is not a determining factor in our decisions.

As I know you've experienced, there can be a vast difference between a proposal and three chapters that have been honed to perfection and what we sometimes see as the completed novel. The current marketplace is being particularly difficult on mid-list and emerging authors. Even with publishing history, I have to be very selective about contract extensions and/or commitments to new authors at this level. The market is very crowded with competent authors at this level. With authors whose sales figures are consistent, but below the 25,000 range it is often much easier to sell in a first time/debut author. So . . books at this level need to deliver and publishers need to know that they're not committing to a book that will require rounds of rewrite. That's a long way around the bush to say . . yes, I think authors will almost always have a better chance with a complete novel.

Yes, I am much more likely to consider new(er) authors if they have a complete manuscript because then I know exactly what I'm buying. Publishers, including us, are not taking as much risk on B and C level material because the market is so tough. Obviously, for high-profile, A-level authors/books, incompletion isn't really an issue.

In general it is more beneficial for our company to read through the entire manuscript, however, we can certainly give a feel for general interest based on a proposal.

For established authors new-to-our house, I want to see a detailed synopsis, sales history, and sample chapters. The mss does not have to be complete unless the author is changing genres and is writing in a different style than their previously published work.

With first-time fiction authors, or those taking on a new genre (be it fiction to nonfiction or vice versa, or a writing style change like going from romance to supernatural suspense), I almost need a full manuscript to know how the book will play out.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Interview with Client Andy Von Loenen

Today we'll be talking with client Andy Von Loenen:

Andy, how long have you been writing?

I sold my first article in 1987, so I guess you could say that’s when my writing career began. But I discovered the love for writing in my senior year of high school. English composition was my first-hour class and my curmudgeonly teacher would often walk in the room and, without saying a word, write on the blackboard a subject and expect at least a couple of pages on that subject by the end of the hour. Sounds tough, but I loved it. It helped me realize I had something to say and that writing was the way to say it. It kindled a little spark that, over time, became a fire.

What genre do you write and why?

I have written a lot of non-fiction—instructional materials, construction articles, that sort of thing. But I’ve taken up writing mysteries of late, romantic mysteries, if that’s a genre. I like mysteries. I guess it’s the who-dunnit aspect—trying to it figure out before I get to the end. And the ones I’ve enjoyed most always seem to have a romantic element to them. I think I’ve read all the Sherlock Holmes adventures (in fact I give them away on my web site) and, as great as he was at solving mysteries, nobody, even Watson, was ever able to get really close to him. In that sense he was invulnerable, almost machine-like—somewhat less than human. I want my characters to be human, vulnerable, capable of suffering emotional pain, capable of knowing joy—of giving and receiving love. In the end, I think that’s what we all want.

Tell us about your book, Justice for Amy.

Justice for Amy is a story about redeeming love. It centers around a man, Clay Ramsey, a widower, who rescues a woman from a man who is attacking her in a parking lot—only to have her die in his arms an hour later. The police suspect suicide, but Clay cannot accept the idea. Even though he knew her for only a short time, something of a bond formed between them and he feels compelled to find out what really happened to her. Along the way, he meets her older sister and together they search for the truth. They fall in love with each other in the process, but there’s a real question about whether their love will come to fruition or whether they’ll even survive when they fall into the hands of the killers.

What inspired you to write this book?

As a Christian, I see writing as a way I can serve the Lord. I wanted to write a book that was a little gritty, because I think that’s the way real life is. I wanted to explore the subject of evil, its effect on people and why it exists in a creation that God pronounced, “very good.” And I wanted to try to provide some answers to the questions a lot of people have about evil and why God allows it in the world. What better way is there to do that then to show, in the context of a story, how it impacts the lives of people?

What are you working on now?

I’m working on a novel about a woman whose husband died in a boat explosion in Lake Michigan five years ago…or so she thought. Without giving away too much of the story, he winds up really dead and she winds up in jail for killing him. And you’ll have to read the book to find out more. I’m also thinking about updating and re-releasing a classic work on prophecy. But I haven’t made my mind up about it yet.

Where can people find out more about you and your work?

The best way is through my web site, Anything I’m writing or working on finds its way there first. People can also contact me through the site, sign up for Sherlock Holmes, download the first chapter of Justice for Amy or access any of my other free downloads there. People who sign up for Sherlock Holmes are eligible for special pricing on signed books and they’re always the first to find out about book releases or anything else I happen to be working on.

Thank you for visiting with us today.

My pleasure.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Giving thanks

Thanksgiving Day, a day to gather around the table, gorge ourselves on turkey and dressing, a whole table full of deserts, leftovers in front of the football games. Family gathered around. What a day!

Like so many other holidays the celebration of the Holiday has become the holiday itself. We tend to forget the reasons behind the event. We do that so often at holidays like Easter, July 4th, and most of all Christmas. For this one it should be easy, the name itself reminds us. It’s a day for stopping in our busy lives and giving thanks for all the blessings in our lives, something that shouldn’t be restricted to a single day, but for sure should be the focus on this day.

I feel sorry for those who don’t know who to give thanks to. Who do you thank if you don’t believe in a loving and protective God? Do they thank themselves thinking the blessings they enjoy are merely the fruits of their own productive labor? How sad.

It started with the pilgrims. They had the first Thanksgiving to give thanks for surviving the very difficult period they had just come through. They invited some of the natives who had befriended and helped them but they knew even with that help where the blessings they had enjoyed had come from.

I know where my blessings come from too, and it’s good to take time to stop and count them, to realize all God has done for us and to sincerely thank Him for all we have received. Too often our prayers are centered on our own desires and needs and more of them should be genuine prayers of thanksgiving.

We wish you and yours a wonderful thanksgiving. And once we have counted up our blessings and truly given thanks there is nothing wrong with enjoying the three F’s – food, family and football. As long as our priorities are straight.

Have a great one!

Saundra, Ruth and Terry Burns

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Interview with Client Randall Mooney

Today I'm interviewing client Randall Mooney. Randall, your new book Robbing God is out from Crossover Press. Tell me a little about it:

Terry, Robbing God is the culmination of a lifelong pet peeve turned passion, to help people overcome the guilt-driven coercion and manipulative methods some ministries and organizations use to raise money. The book parabolically follows a typical family from the time they get their paycheck on Friday afternoon to the time the offering plate passes in front of them on Sunday morning. It also explores the effect a down economy has on the average family and their ability to continue to be charitable givers. The book deals with the issue of giving in two divisions: "the parable of the family" is a visit of their weekend in 5 chapters, and "the conflict" uses 5 chapters to take an honest look at the historical and cultural trends and reasons that contributed to mindsets that have managed to take the joy out of giving.

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

I deliberately kept the book short, 106 pages. It's a quick read that leads to an "aha" moment in which the reader can take a deep breath, shake off any guilt and condemnation about giving, and rediscover the true joy and heart of being charitable. Our own families are a great place to start. I also hope the reader acquires a new freedom about giving. My own favorite line in the book is, "God gave his son, Jesus gave his life, the least we can do is give cheerfully." I have told people for years during fund raising events for different things, "If you can't give cheerfully, don't bother to give at all!"

You also have Prophets and Poets out from Crossover, tell us what it's

Prophets and Poets is a collection of short stories, articles, testimonies, blogs and poems that I have written throughout the years of my life. As I worked on transitioning from my music and song writing years to developing my writing career I wrote in every genre from fiction and non-fiction, to poetry and social commentary. Basically, if it was in my heart and on my mind I wrote about it. Prophets and Poets contain the ones that made the cut. Christian futuristic fiction, allegory, poetry, sarcasm, opinion, etc., all intended to encourage and inspire. I have had tremendous feedback from folks about its encouraging ability.

You are not only the author on these two titles but the publisher. Tell us about Crossover, what is your vision?

During the '70's and 80's I utilized contemporary music as an evangelistic tool to share the gospel with the world. Through my company Crossover Publications, LLC., it is my goal to "reach the world in print." God told Jeremiah in chapter 36 of the Bible to write down every word he had ever told him. Because Jeremiah obeyed God we are still able to read what God said to Jeremiah and the world in which he lived to this day. I believe God is still speaking and revealing himself to people in many ways. My vision is to help people publish what God has said and done in their lives so the rest of the world can be touched and encouraged by the works and words of God. I want to publish living words and stories that edify, encourage and inspire people to experience God in a real and relevant way.

Tell us about some of the other authors you are publishing at Crossover:

I will be releasing a new book entitled The Fragrance of Paradise on September 25th by Stephen Hoy. Stephen is a musician, teacher, gardener, and landscape designer. He was raised in Pennsylvania and served as a trombonist in the United States Air Force premier jazz band called The Airmen of Note.

His story is a powerful testimony of how God raised him up after twice falling into a coma and how he has rediscovered a new lease on life in the form of a liver transplant. He shares how he reached a point of such utter weakness that he heard the Spirit of God whisper, "Rest in the fragrance of my presence." He lay in bed with only enough strength to breathe so he obeyed and began to inhale the fragrance of paradise as he waited on God to heal and raise him up.

Also releasing this year is a new book by sixties rock star Jerry Masters.
Jerry played for great artists like Charlie Rich and Jerry Lee Lewis. He formed and managed the band Ronny and the Daytonas, touring and supporting the hit song, Little GTO. He was also a founding member of The Hombres and they had a hit song called Let It All Hang Out. After he accepted Christ he toured extensively with Christian artist Will Farland (Will played for Bonnie Raitt) and finished his career as a recording engineer for Malaco Records producing blues and gospel music. His 350 page book entitled Let it all Hang Out chronicles the 50 year music career of a man that reached for the sky and found Jesus in the journey.

What new projects are you working on?

I am currently putting the finishing touches on two books. The Illegitimate Journey is my own memoir of tragedy and discovery. I plan to release it in 2010. I am also finishing up a book called Letters to the Homeless Church.

It deals with the displacement many Christians feel in our American church culture and how they cope and walk in the world apart from the traditional norms of attending Sunday morning church services.

I have just begun work on a book entitled What Every Father Should Know about a Grieving Mother. Eleven years ago my wife and I lost a 22 year old son to suicide. We both kept separate journals of that tragic event. We never read each other's journals until recently. I came across one of her journals a few months ago while spring cleaning and read a few pages. I asked her if I could take our journals and combine them into a story that will help couples survive such family tragedies. The first day we got the news about our son I looked at my wife and said, "Seventy percent of couples that go through this kind of thing end in divorce, are we going to be the seventy or the thirty?" We made a covenant with each other to be among the thirty percent that survive. Our marriage is stronger than ever despite our loss. I hope to have this project finished and released on August 20, 2010, the twelfth anniversary of his passing.

Where can people find out more about you and your writing? Your publishing house and the programs and speaking that you do?

I have a strong web presence. Business websites include,,, Personal sites include, and My books are available at,, and,
among others.

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

Mississippi lays claim to some of the world's great writers such as Willie Morris, William Faulkner, Eudora Welty and our adopted son, John Grisham. I once listened to John Grisham give an interview in Jackson, Mississippi. Someone asked him how he managed to write so many novels so quickly while practicing law, coaching his son's ball team and keeping up with his writing career. He said, "I write one page per the end of the year I have a novel." That answer freed me up tremendously. I used to write like I had to finish the whole project before I stopped to do anything else. Trust me-that will only leave you with a lot of unfinished projects. I learned that day that writing was like many other projects in can eventually accomplish great things by finishing a little of it every day.

I can't recall the worst advice. The most unpleasant criticism still makes me try harder rather than give up.

Anything else you'd like to take this opportunity to say?

As a newly published author and as a new publisher, I find writers to be the friendliest and most accepting folks I have ever had the pleasure of getting to know. I think it is because we have learned the real difference between being rejected and being misunderstood. Therefore, we have a lot of heart for others willing to share our journey.

Thank you, Randall, 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./div>

Monday, November 16, 2009

Heart of America Conference

It's called the Heart of America Conference and it is held in Kansas City at a beautiful and spacious Presbyterian Church. Continuing in our series of profiling conferences that we go to to help people planning conferences to attend, this is a good one held in mid-November. Co-Directors Mark and Jeanette Littleton were assisted by a dedicated board of directors that left no stone unturned to make the conference a success.

The weather was cool but quite pleasant. The church setting provided class room settings on two floors for the wide variety of workshops and the excellent faculty brought in to teach them. There were spiritually fulfilling sessions in the evening and Thursday, Friday and Saturday night Cindy Kinney, myself and Mark Littleton gave keynote talks to wrap up the day. I spoke on "Being a Christian Writer in a Changing World."

I will admit I changed the content of my talk as I got up there because a conversation with a participant led me to believe God was telling me some different content was needed. It came as no surprise that God was right as a number of people came up after the session and the following day to say that it was exactly what they needed to hear and addressed a writing and faith concern they were dealing with. Getting that sort of response is exactly what keeps me on the conference trail trying to parcel out what little encouragement and assistance that I can.

There was a steady program of one-on-one appointements and quite a number of people took advantage of the paid evaluation of projects. I did my evaluations and emailed them to the participants in advance of the conference to allow them to chew on them and have different and better questions during our 20 minute interview time and some are doing some revision and I will also do a post-conference exchange with them so hopefully they will really feel they got their money's worth.

Wrapping it up I would have to say this is not as much of a relaxing conference as some I have gone to as they schedule tightly and provide a lot of content. I would characterize it as a rather intense writing and faith related time and all that I talked to toward the end were very pleased and said they were going home with a new sense of purpose and new writing goals that they were determined to pursue. It's a conference they have been putting on for many years, and one I would not hesitate to recommend.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Writing at the Ranch conference -Abiquiu NM

For many, many years it was the Glorieta Christian Writer's Conference. It's the place over ten years ago where I went through the process of deciding how I needed to incorporate my faith in the writing I was doing. (See the writing testimony on my website at

Now it is still put on by CLASServices but it is at a place called The Ghost Ranch up above Santa Fe nestled in a box canyon in some of the most amazingly beautiful country you ever saw. The movie "City Slickers" was filmed there which would give you an idea, or as soon as Saundra has time to get them ready I'm going to put some pictures up on my website. But this is the place where Georgia O'Keefe lived and did the bulk of her painting, so that should tell you about the beauty of the place.

Sweater or Jacket cool in the morning and evening, the temperature was perfect during the day. It was a laid back conference, without cell phone acess and limited internet which I found very inconvenient . . . for about an hour . . . then I discovered how much that was going to enhance the retreat experience. A writing conference is one thing, but a writing retreat is yet another.

The program and content was excellent and because of the retreat environment the faculty and attendees were in constant contact, sharing ideas getting to ask all the questions that was on their mind. Many of the attendees were very new writers, which I found to be delightful. Their enthusiasm and dreams helped set the tone for the conference. Of course this conference has always been not only a tune up for our writing but a tune up for our soul as well and the praise and worship content fit right in with the retreat format.

Everyone I talked to was leaving refreshed and renewed. It is true that it takes a travel committment to get there, driving or flying into Albuquerque and being shuttled out. That remoteness is what makes a retreat format work and for those who were mentally prepared for it provided a decompression time to get into the retreat attitude.

They prevailed upon me to read a little cowboy poetry at the campfire session (along with some folks singing some great gospel music) and although I don't consider myself a poet by any stretch of the imagination it did put me in a mood to write a new one about the experience:

Parting thoughts

Brilliant colors on the mesa, morning sun just lights it up
as I sit in the quiet to take it in with my morning coffee cup.
Animals stir all around, as they have all through the night
but as people arise they begin to fade back away from sight.

A gentle breeze it stirs the leaves with a sound like falling rain
and the leaves on the ground answer back with an echoing refrain.
The Ghost Ranch calls us back, fore we’ve even had time to go,
or bids us stay as we pack our bags still warming in the glow

of a time with friends both old and new, sharing words and sharing souls;
refreshing spirits and strengthening hearts where the world has taken toll.
It’s been a trip to an earlier time, a slower pace for sure,
the time to reflect and to learn new things, write words we hope will endure.

It’s been a time of quiet reflection, a time to take it in…
the stark beauty God crafted here, a time to newly begin
to set our feet on a brand new path or redirect our minds
in a manner we came and hoped to do, though of many different kinds

of people, ways and dreams to fill and now with different goals;
formed and nourished through this time in many different souls.
The conference sends us forth with hope while it also calls us back
to finish with the things we start . . . and give us what we lack.

11/8/2009 Terry Burns

Folks, put this one on your list for next year . . . it's a great experience! You can find out more at the CLASServices website