Thursday, April 30, 2009

Premise vs. Problem

I was looking at future releases and I came across Watch Over Me by Christa Parrish and I thought, that sounds formiliar, but I knew I hadn’t seen it before. So I went back and I found Cry in the Night by Colleen Coble. I have read neither book, but when you read the descriptions you see similarities between both books. The premise is identical. A rescue worker takes in an abandoned baby when the parents can’t be found. It is only upon closer inspection that we find that the problems are different.

What that tells me is that it is the premise that makes a story unique, not the problems the characters face. If we nobodies hope to get any notice, it isn’t going to be through presenting manuscripts with similar premises, but different problems. The development of the premise is the place where we can achieve the greatest gains in developing a good story.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Royalty Advance

We call it the advance and it can range from $1 all the way into millions of dollars. Many are in the thousands of dollars range. With all the other changes that are taking place in the publishing industry, publishers are messing around with the advance as well. Not that long ago, Chip MacGregor was complaining about Random House wanting to pay the advance a year after the book releases

Previously, I have said I don’t like the concept of the advance because it puts the author in a position of owing the publisher. If the book doesn’t earn out, the author will be unable to repay the debt. That is if you view the advance as something the publisher pays the author in order for the author to live while completing the work. We could also look at the advance more like an earnest payment. By paying an advance, the publisher is promising to publish the book, but if they don’t the author walks away with the earnest money, much like when an offer is made on a house people put down earnest money as an assurance to the home owner that the buyer will complete the purchase.

The author with a contract is in a difficult position. Before signing, the author had the potential to sell his manuscript to another publisher, but now it is off the market with only the hope of royalties that may never come because the publisher can pull the plug at any moment, based on current market conditions or whatever. The advance, then, is the incentive the author has to place herself in this position.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Give Me a Good Ol' Narrator

Three sentences:

The old tractor climbed the hill and disappeared down the other side.

I saw ol’ Bob on that old tractor of his, just as he was going over the hill at the Abernathy place.

Didn’t you see it too, when that tractor went over the hill?

We talk a lot about Point of View (POV). From a technical standpoint, all three sentences have a different POV. The first sentence is Third Person POV. The second sentence is First Person POV. The third sentence is Second Person POV. But let’s ignore the technical meaning of Point of View and consider the scene and the camera angle. In each case, it wouldn’t be hard for us to imagine that the speaker stood on a hill over looking a valley, looked out and saw Bob driving his tractor over a hill on the other side. Neither the scene nor the camera angle have changed and yet the three sentences sound completely different.

Lest we think Point of View is the only thing at work here, let’s add two more first person sentences:

When I saw Bob last, he was out plowing the field we leased from Roy James.

I watched an old tractor plowing a field until it disappeared over the hill and then I got in my car to drive back to St. Louis.

Notice the differences between the three examples of first person. POV is the same, the scene is the same and the camera angle is the same, but they sound very different. The difference is the narrator. In the first example, the narrator may be Bob’s neighbor, in the Second, his wife and in the third a city slicker from St. Louis.

The narrator is a topic that seems very much ignored by the publishing industry these days. The idea seems to be that as long as an author writes in limited omniscience third person all of the ills concerning the narrator will be solved and perhaps they would, if more writers could do the limited POV well, but most of us do it poorly. (And yes, I must include myself in that group.) Our natural tendency is to give the narrator our own voice. There’s nothing wrong with that. Many good stories can be told in our own voice, but in the quest for excellence we need our books to stand out. The character with the most power to make a book memorable is the narrator. The tone the narrator uses and the intelligence level of the narrator greatly influence the reader’s perception. The narrator shouldn’t just relay cold hard facts, but should have an opinion concerning the events he relays. We can even give the narrator an opinion that differs from our own and what the story infers.

Sadly, many of the books published today have boring narrators. If it weren’t for the strength of the story itself, there would be no reason to read the book. We can do better.

Monday, April 27, 2009

No More Facebook

A few weeks ago, Jim Thomason of Thomas Nelson blogged about On-Line Streamlining, saying he would shut down his Facebook (FB) and Twitter accounts. Don’t ask me why I took so long to write about this, but the essence of his post was that he is stopping these activities because they are time consuming, take away from personal interests, most of the people on FB are an accident of geography and besides, they can follow him on his blog. His last reason is “Most days, my life’s just not that interesting to me, much less to other people.” Yeah, mine neither.

For me, many of the people on FB are family members and church members. There are also those accidents of geography that I haven’t seen in several years. The rest are people somehow related to my writing and a few that just happened to show up. Jim is right; every one of these people could follow me on my blog. Some of them do. But here’s the thing. It isn’t about them keeping up with me. It’s about me keeping up with them. Many of my FB friends don’t blog and I wouldn’t have time to read all of their blogs if they did. I don’t see it as taking away from face-to-face contact, where it exists, but enhancing it. Even with the people I see at church several times a week, it is hard difficult to spend enough time with each one to really know how things are going. FB often provides that information.

We have a tendency, especially those of us who are writers, to focus on how we can get our message out there, how we can get more people to listen to us. Isn’t that what most of the discussion of Facebook, Twitter, Blogs and everything else is about? How can we use them to sell more of our product? When was the last time we just stopped to listen?

Friday, April 24, 2009

I'm Back

I got back home from the BMAA meeting yesterday at about 9:30 PM. To say the meeting was great doesn't give it justice. If you would like to read my thoughts about the meeting, I have posted them at

Word Count and Reader Attention Span

I don’t know if anyone has done a study of how long a blog post should be, but for me, 250 words is a good number to remember and no more than 500. At some point I signed up for the RSS feed for Randy Alcorn’s blog. He often has these 700 word monstrocities. I don’t even bother to scan his text as I scoll through it. I aught to dump the RSS feed, but I keep thinking he’ll say something that interests me.

When people talk about this subject, they often say things like, people don’t have the attention span they once had. I don’t believe the evidence bears out that assumption. There are gamers who will spend days, nearly uninterupted, trying to complete all levels of a computer game. Huge attention span! I mean huge! More than once, I have read through more than 100 pages of an online PDF document because I believed it would help me with my job. The problem isn’t that people have shorter attention spans. The problem content and format.

Creating Content People Will Read

 Suppose I’m working on a car and the battery is in some weird place. For the life of me, I can’t figure out how to disconnect it. I go to my computer and find a blog that gives me step by step details on how to disconnect the battery. If it takes the blogger 3,000 words to explain every detail, I don’t care. I’m going to read every last one of them and then I’m going to print the post and read it again as I follow his instructions. A person’s attention span lasts for a long as we provide him something of value and no longer.

Blogging shouldn’t be about giving ourselves a forum from we tell people what we want them to know. Instead, we should  write only what gives value to our readers. We can lengthen blog posts when we give people a promise of value by breaking the post up with headings, like the one above. This allows the reader to scan the post quickly and determine if it provides information he needs and even to skip those sections that he doesn’t.

The Issue of Format

Every media format has a level of attention span built into it. The same person who will read a 1,000 page book doesn’t want to read a 1,000 word blog post. People read blogs for short bits of information or as a way to kill a few minutes of down time. As bloggers, we need to respect that. If we want to provide information in a longer format, it is better to link to another webpage or a PDF document. The reader can decide when he wants to read the long form version.

Next week I’ll be back and I expect to have a post about Facebook and then a post about the Narrator in a novel. There’s more to it than point of view, so don’t miss it. In the meantime, you might answer, How long are your blog posts?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Dear Anonymous, I Don't Trust You

I'm still out of pocket and I'm continuing this week's series on blogging. One of the things Michael Hyatt said in his presentation is that openness and transparency builds trust. I want to take that in a different direction than he did.

A few weeks ago, I read a blog, made a few comments about some things I didn’t think the blogger had considered when she crafted her blog and moved on. I meant no harm by the words, but the blogger didn’t see it that way and became upset. I hoped to smooth the ruffled feathers, but I didn’t want to add insult to injury by posting another comment to the blog post. I checked her profile. I checked her web site. I couldn’t find a way to contact her anywhere. Many people on the web are afraid of letting people know enough about them to even send an e-mail message saying, “sorry about the misunderstanding.”

In the comments of many blogs we see Anonymous comments and profile photos of dogs, inanimate objects and children. We also see profile names that aren’t the person’s real name. People are hiding. Last year, I posted about The Advantages of Small Publishers. One Anonymous posted a comment disagreeing with me. I don’t mind people disagreeing with me. That’s how we learn, but I believe the biggest problem with the Internet is the anonymity it provides. Can you imagine how many pornographic sites would go out of business if people could check to see if their spouses were using it? SPAM would drop to zero if every e-mail had to be linked to a valid physical address. Comments on blogs would be better thought out [Someone give me the word I’m looking for here.] if people had to stand behind their words.

The truth is that we don’t trust people who speak from the shadows. Perhaps they speak the truth or perhaps not. I think of John Hancock, knowing that signing the document could lead to his death, he signed the Declaration of Independence with a signature bigger than all the rest. If we want our words to mean something, we must remove the mask and sign our names so that people will know that we stand behind what we say.

Prove me wrong. What are some good reasons for the Internet to be anonymous?

Tomorrow: Word Count and Reader Attention Span

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Momma Always Said Blogging Was Like Sunday School

Actually, she didn’t, but that’s beside the point. And actually, I’m spending some time with my parents this week, along with attending an associational meeting in Missouri.

One of the things we hope to do is engage the readers of our blog. Some blogs do this better than others. Rachelle Gardner has done well at engaging her readers with her blog, but the idea behind the title comes from a thought I had while watching a video of Michael Hyatt talking about blogging. Don’t get me wrong, Mike is an interesting speaker, but as I watched I kept taking notes because I knew I wouldn’t remember what he said. When he got to the part about engaging readers I thought about the differences between the lecture he was giving and how I teach a Sunday school class. Mike is a better speaker than I will ever be, but I can’t help but wonder how many people walked out of that room and all they remembered was that Mike sent his Google password over Twitter. The problem with lecturing is that that people remember only a small percentage of what the speaker says, no matter how well he speaks. In a Sunday school class, we get around this by engaging the student in the learning process. We ask questions, incorporate activities (yes, even with adults) and tell stories, all in an effort to increase retention.

Blogging is similar. We increase interest by asking questions, encouraging readers to participate in some way and telling stories. People love to hear stories about other people. It doesn’t have to be a big story. I would imagine it spark some interest when you read that I’m attending a meeting this week. I’m off somewhere doing something that you aren’t experiencing. Most people are interested in hearing stories about that kind of thing.

People remember stories better than facts. That’s why I made the comment I did about Mike’s lecture. People won’t remember the twelve reasons to blog or the six…huh, the six…whatever, but they will remember that Mike Twitted his Google password. Those who asked questions in the question and answer session are likely to remember what they asked and Mike’s answer to the question. When people are engaged in our blog posts, they will remember and return to our blogs.

What do you do to engage people in your blog?

Tomorrow: Dear Anonymous, I Don't Trust You

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Finding the Focus of a Blog

As you read this, I am in Branson, Missouri, catching up with some hold friends, making new friends and listening to reports of what God has been doing in the BMAA. Surrounding me are hundreds of preachers and church staff workers along with their wives. I also have some work to do while I’m here. But while I’m off enjoying myself, allow me to share my thoughts on attracting people to a blog.

One of the reasons authors blog is to connect with readers and even attract more readers. When I began to blog, I had high hopes that I could write posts that would attract people who would enjoy reading my novels. I’ve seen novelist who have significant interaction with their readers, but in almost every case, the readers built the blog rather than the blog attracting the readers. I would love to spend more time telling people when my next book is coming out. Discussing the how closely For the Love of a Devil is based the book of Hosea or where my next book signing will be. What I quickly discovered is that no one cared. No one cares to discuss a book they haven’t read and no one will check web site for information about a book signing they will not attend.

So, I went and checked my web stats and I noticed that most of my traffic was going to on page, "To Be" Verbs -- To Use or Not To Use. I thought that was ironic, since the post written to do one of the things that Michael Hyatt gives as a reason for blogging. I simply wanted to clarify my thoughts. I couldn’t explain why I was getting so much traffic from that page when there were so many other people writing about the subject, but the number told the story. So made a decision that I probably shouldn’t have and began writing posts that resembled that post. If that’s what people wanted to read, that’s what I intended to give them. I have more readers than ever, but I can’t say that my blog has helped my book sales in any way.

Unless you have a built in readership, I do think it is necessary to focus a blog toward those people who are reading the blog. I don’t, however, think that a blog will attract fans to a novel unless the reader already has an interest in the novelist.

Have you encountered anything in a blog that will encourage people who don’t know the author of a novel to consider reading it?

Tomorrow, I’ll still be at the meeting, but I’ll have a post for you on engaging readers.

Monday, April 20, 2009

To Branson or Bust and Thoughts About Blogging

Barring any unexpected events, I’m either on my way or packing to go to the Annual Meeting of the Baptist Missionary Association of America in Branson, Missouri. I’ll have my laptop with me this year, but the meeting schedule will prevent me from spending much time online. For that reason, I am writing this post in advance. I know it’s the practice of some to repost blogs when they are away. That’s fine for them, but I don’t care for it. If people want to find read what I’ve previously written, they’ll use Google. A few years ago, I was traveling with my pastor and his wife. He turned to me from where he sat in the passenger’s seat and said, “I have my sermon prepared for next Sunday. I sometimes prepare weeks in advance. Some preachers don’t like doing that because they want to preach what the Lord lays on their heart for that week. I believe the Lord can lay a sermon on a preacher’s heart weeks in advance just as easily as he can the day before.” On other occasions, he has mentioned that while preaching a series of sermons from a book of the Bible the lesson in the Sunday school quarterly, which are scheduled many months in advance, frequently falls in line with the passage from the Bible. Since that is true of sermons, then I shouldn’t hurt that today is Friday, April 3rd, as I type this post. If you leave comments or send e-mail, I promise that I’ll read it eventually, but there may be a delay.

I’ve been thinking about blogging about blogging for some time, so perhaps it is fitting that today Michael Hyatt posted a link to the presentation on why to blog that he gave at the O’reilly Tools of Change Conference. He has some very good thoughts and he is an entertaining speaker, so the video is well worth your time. I have some of my own thoughts about blogging, though I may mention some of the same things he did, after having watched the video. So, Mike, I apologize in if I steal something you said and don’t give you proper credit.

If you’ve read Church Website Design, you know that besides planning ahead, which I’ve mentioned above, I believe that content is key to a website or blog. The content of a blog is a key determining factor in who finds the blog, who reads the blog and who returns to the blog. Mike says that one of the reasons we should blog is because we have something to say. This is true, but few people want to hear most of what we know and we know little of what many people want to hear. In choosing the content for a blog, we must find those things that a large portion of our target audience want to hear. Most of us aren't like Michael Hyatt, with an inherent audience of authors, literary agents and publishing industry professionals. We have to work hard to get people to pay attention to our blog.

Come back tomorrow and I'll give you my thoughts on that, as well as how I settled on the content of this blog. In the meantime, tell me about your blog, post links and tell me what you hope to accomplish with your blog.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Review: The Principle of the Path


Andy Stanley’s The Principle of the Path is about how the choices we make and our actions, not our intentions, determine where we end. We are all on a path, he says, even if we have chosen an unconventional path. The path we are on will determine where we will end up. For us to reach the best destinations, we must choose the best paths. Andy Stanley has much to say about how to do that.

Prior to this, my experience with Andy Stanley was a tape of one of his sermons that I listened to one morning on the hour long trip from home to college. That was several years ago. O, I did meet one of his church members while I was in Alpharetta last year. What I remember from his sermon was his entertaining style, so when I saw that Thomas Nelson was offering his book through their review program, I was certain it would be good. I was not disappointed.

Andy Stanley mixes an entertaining writing style with substance. The Principle of the Path is a book that all of us can use. At times, Andy states the obvious, things we ought to know, but the reader is forced to wonder why we aren’t doing it if it is so obvious. Andy tells us in the pages of his book. If you are looking for success of any kind, whether it is success in business, success in marriage, success in financial freedom or whatever, this book can help point you in the right direction and get you started on a better path.

Friday, April 17, 2009

How to Write Good Book Product Descriptions

Yesterday, I picked on some book product descriptions, pointing out some problems with them. Today, I want to discuss some ways to improve book descriptions. Who knows, maybe I’ll learn something.

Lead with the Best Parts

Peruse a few websites that list books and you’ll see product descriptions that have been chopped off with the words “read more” at the end. Imagine visiting such a site and the only words you see for one book are “From the author of the Sacramental Sunset Series comes the…read more.” For another book you see, “A mysterious stranger comes to a pastor’s aid, only to…read more.” On which description are you more likely to click? We have no control over how much of a description a customer reads, but they all read the first words.

Describe it as a Reader Would

We put a lot of stuff in our books that means a lot to us as writers, but the readers see it as just part of the story, not what the book is about. I hinted at this yesterday when I cut away so much of the description of Kiss. A reader closes a book and her husband asks what the book was about. At first, she isn’t going to go into a lengthy explanation of the back story and the B plot, as Thomas Nelson has done. Instead, she will say, “It’s about a woman with the ability to steal the memories of other people.” Only after her husband asks why, will she venture into more details, but even then she is more likely to describe what happens in the second quarter of the book. Don’t believe me? Pick a book and try it yourself.

Use Action Words

Which is better? A mysterious stranger comes to the aid of a pastor, only to disappear. The pastor convinces his flock that the stranger is an angel sent from God and people begin flooding into the church. Then one day, the stranger shows up more than mildly inebriated. Or. This is a book that takes place in a small town. It involves a pastor and a mysterious stranger. The pastor’s church think the stranger is an angel. One day, he is on the church steps drunk. We want to invite the reader to experience the world we have created and have him wonder what happens next. It isn’t enough to describe the world of the story.

Use Third Person Present Tense

Use third person present tense and while you’re at it, stay out of the character’s heads. The book description isn’t a fictional story. It is a non-fiction statement that tells people what happens in the book.

Don’t Mention the Theme (for novels)

Every novel should have one theme, but that doesn’t mean it is appropriate to mention the theme in the book description. If we can get by with just coming out and telling the reader the theme, then why are we wasting our time writing fiction? The theme will come out soon enough, but not in the book product description.

The Hook Goes Here

The prevailing wisdom is that an author should begin the first chapter with a hook. I say that is too late. Many, if not most, readers have already decided whether they are going to enjoy the book before they open the cover. Put the hook in the book product description, so we have a better chance of convincing the reader that she is going to enjoy the book. Make sure the book product description leaves the reader with some unanswered question. What will a pastor do when he finds a drunk “angel” on the front steps of the church building? I don’t mean that you state the question, but let the reader ask, knowing that the answer lies within the pages of the book.

Leave the Trophies at Home

I have a trophy I won in a writing contest. I keep it in a drawer, two drawers below my sock drawer. If I wanted, I could truthfully begin the description of every book I write with the words, “award winning author,” but what does that tell the reader about the book? Nothing. The reader is looking for an experience, not a dust collector. If you feel compelled to brag about your greatness in the author biography, fine. But don’t clutter the book description with your cheap baubles; it is far too important.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Thoughts on the Bestselling Christian Books of 2008

Yesterday, Michael Hyatt blogged about The Bestselling Christian Books of 2008. It sort of relates to what I’ve been talking about this week, so I thought I’d go ahead and mention a couple of thoughts I had when I saw his list, as sort of a bonus post.

The Disconnect Between Christian Fiction and Non-fiction

In looking at the list, 15 Christian non-fiction books made the list and 1 novel. If you factor in the paperbacks, you can count four more novels. A 5:15 ratio is still a dismal showing for Christian fiction. There are many possible reasons for this, but one thing that I noticed is that the doomsday stuff is missing, with on exception. The books on the non-fiction list appear to be uplifting, as do the five successes in the novels. Now, scan the list of books from yesterday. Many of those books aren’t uplifting at all. Many of them are down right depressing—at least they are when you read the product descriptions. Is there a link?

Non-Fiction is Easier to Sell

Non-fiction is easier to sell than fiction and that might have something to do with the missing novels from the list. For that matter, most of the skilled Christian writers with a platform are writing non-fiction rather than fiction. That in itself could have something to do with why one did better than the other, so don’t go out and write an uplifting Christian novel and expect it to fair much better than the books that are currently being produced.

People are Tired

People can only endure bad news for so long before they must seek escape. Books are one means of escape. If most people are like me, they have grown tired and they don’t want books that just add more bad news on top of what they have already been hearing. I may be wrong about other people, so don’t go changing what you’re writing unless you really want to. But as for my own work, I would like to see it move more toward the uplifting and away from the killing fields that much of Christian fiction appears to be at the moment.

As an added bit of information, Rose Fox of Publisher's Weekly has an article that suggests people are looking to escape through reading in hard times. The article suggests that people either want to escape to a world that is better than what we see around us, or they want to see people in worse circumstances who overcome. I would say that in either case the reader is looking for hope of some kind.

What's Wrong With These Product Descriptions?

Product descriptions are a problem for books. As I was working on yesterday’s post, I noticed that many of the product descriptions that the publishers are putting out there aren’t very helpful. With some of them, it took me over a minute to figure out what the book was about. Considering that customers spend about eight seconds looking at the product description, that is a problem. I know I struggle with writing product descriptions, so I thought it might be good to consider how we might improve some of the product descriptions out there. Rather than pick on an author because of a horrendous product description, I have selected the books with the best premise from each of the three publishers I picked on yesterday.

One week from tomorrow, at precisely 6:11 in the morning, the rapture or apocalypse or Armageddon or whatever else it is you’d prefer to call it, is going to occur. But only in Goodland, Kansas. The Hendersons are caught in the middle as the town—and the family—divides between belief and unbelief in this satirical and illuminating apocalyptic novel. (The End is Now, Rob Stennett, Zondervan)

This is one of the better product descriptions from among the ones I looked at. It gets to the heart of the story and we know what the book is about. Other than the lengthy aside taking the reader away from the action, there isn’t much I don’t like about this product description.

Sometimes dying with the truth is better than living with a lie.

After a car accident puts Shauna McAllister in a coma and wipes out six months of her memory, she returns to her childhood home to recover, but her arrival is fraught with confusion. Her estranged father, a senator bidding on the White House, and her abusive stepmother blame Shauna for the tragedy, which has left her beloved brother severely brain damaged.

Leaning on Wayne Spade, a forgotten but hopeful lover who stays by her side, Shauna tries to sort out what happened that night by jarring her memory to life. Instead, she acquires a mysterious mental ability that will either lead her to truth or get her killed by the people trying to hide it. In this blind game of cat and mouse that stares even the darkest memories in the face, Shauna is sure of only one thing: if she remembers, she dies. (Kiss, Ted Dekker & Erin Healy, Thomas Nelson)

Why so much yellow? This book appears to be an out of the bottle plot in which an accident victim gains an ability to steal memories from other people. Do you see that in the product description? No. What we see is a story about a woman who is struggling with family problems and memory lose. There’s nothing wrong with that, considering that there are hundreds of books that deal with that subject. The problem is that the product description highlights the ordinary aspects of the book and ignores what makes it special. It’s like saying that Cinderella is about a girl who stuggles to live with her stepmother after her father leaves. No! Cinderella is about a girl attending a ball and winning the prince with the aid of her fairy godmother. Focus on the spectacular.

A Powerful Drama of a Mother's Unfailing Love

Alisa Stewart feels like she's lost two sons: her youngest to a terrible tragedy and her eldest, Kurt, to a life ruined by addiction. But now Kurt has checked himself into rehab and found a healing faith that seems real. It's like he's been raised from the dead. But then a detective arrives at Alisa's door asking questions about a murder--the death of a drug dealer before Kurt entered rehab. Alisa fears losing her son again, and when she finds evidence linking him to the killing, she destroys it. Her boy is different now. He's changed and deserves a second chance. But when another man is charged with the crime, Alisa finds herself facing an impossible choice: be silent and keep her son or give up everything for the truth.

“A powerful drama?” Might I suggest, show, don’t tell. The readers get to decide if the story is powerful, not the publisher. And do we really need to know about both sons? That’s part of the back story, but this story doesn’t appear to be about the younger son at all. The statement about it being like he’s been raised from the dead is extraneous and grossly corny. The statements about her boy being different are out of place as well. In the product description they come across as preachy. The book must prove these statements rather than simply stating them as fact.

If you happen to be the person who wrote one of these product descriptions, I would love to hear from you about why you agree or disagree with my assessment.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

What Ideas Are Getting Published?

Please bear with me, this is a lengthy post, but I hope you will find it helpful. We talk about the plot and characters and all of that, but the publishing industry runs on the idea for the book, more than anything else, as I hope to show with this post. Below you will find short descriptions of various Christian novels that have either been recently released or have yet to be released. In a highly subjective decision process, I have ordered them with the best at the bottom and (shall we say) the others at the top. For all but the first, I summarized the product description, but the first one reads so much like a soap opera that I wasn’t confident that I could accurately glean the central theme from the product description and I copied what the publisher has provided.

I wasn’t selective in choosing the books, but gathered them from lists, making this list representative of everything Thomas Nelson, Zondervan and Bethany house are publishing in the way of Fiction. Some of these ideas are very good. I don’t know if that translates into the book also being good, since I haven’t read any of the, but the ideas at the bottom of this list are intriguing and signal a potential for a good book.

Another thing I noticed is the similarity of some of these ideas. Read through them and you will notice multiple women living in the past who are battling the gender barriers of their day. We see multiple people looking for other people. We see several people trying to restore relationships.

I would caution you against looking at any of these ideas and thinking, “My idea is better than that, so why can’t I get published?” Take at look at the last idea, which I think is the best one. He only has one book in print and I hadn’t heard of him until today. So, how did he get noticed? If I had to guess, I would say it is because he had a great idea. Not a good idea, mind you, a great idea. Aspiring Authors have to aim for something better than ordinary. Which idea is publishable for an aspiring author in the current Christian market? The one that is sort of like the ones you see here, with relationship problems, people bent on killing each other, affairs of the heart and dead or missing children, but with something thing else. The idea has to be better than Rob Stennett’s, The End is Now. There are only a few ideas here that would make it out of the slush pile if an aspiring author sent it in.

While we’re on the subject, notice what isn’t here. Christian Sci Fi is completely missing. Christian Fantasy is represented by minor examples. Anything Edgy here? I don’t see it. There aren’t many strong male leads either.

With the loss of her first true love, Carolina Adams finds life at the family plantation nearly unbearable. Desperate to escape, she moves to Baltimore to become a nanny to Victoria, a little girl whose mother has died.

After breaking his wedding engagement with Virginia Adams, Carolina's older sister, James Baldwin immerses himself in work for the B&O Railroad, the other passion in his life besides Carolina. But when a shocking business proposal is given to Carolina, James and Carolina seem destined to be apart. Can they dare to dream their aspirations for love might come true?  (A Hope Beyond, Judith Pella & Traci Patterson, Bethany House)

A graduating college senior tries to pick the right guy as she contemplates life after graduation and her relationship with God. (Coming Attractions, Robin Jones Gunn, Zondervan)

A woman moves to a mining town and must choose between two men vying for her affections.(The Rose Legacy, Kristen Heitzmann, Bethany House)

Three women battle gender barriors in the 1870s to have careers. (Timber Ridge Reflections, Tamera Alexander, Bethany House)

Two daughters try to help their parents find peace, shattered by a war that happened forty years earlier. (A Hundred Years of Happiness, Nicole Seitz, Thomas Nelson)

A rising star at a New York ad agency seeks to make amends with a high school sweetheart. (Shades of Blue, Karen Kingsbury, Zondervan)

In 1916, a successful female rancher attempts to turn an English aristocrat into a cowboy. (Fit to Be Tied, Robin Lee Hatcher, Zondervan)

When the son of an Amish friend falls deathly ill, a woman must choose between helping a shunned doctor who can save the boy’s life and honoring the beliefs of her friends. (Plain Pursuit, Beth Wiseman, Thomas Nelson)

A search and rescue worker searches for the mother of an abandoned baby she found in the woods. (Cry in the Night, Colleen Coble, Thomas Nelson)

A law clerk working toward the conviction of a self-proclaimed prophet begins to question if she is doing the right thing when some of his prophecies come true. (Higher Hope, Robert Whitlow, Thomas Nelson)

Two cousins, as close as sisters, fight over an inheritance left by their grandfather. (Broadmoor Legacy, Tracie Patterson & Judith Miller, Bethany House)

A Kansas veterinarian tries to help a father and son patch their relationship before the son sells the family farm and moves the family to California. (Snow Melts in Spring, Deborah Vogts, Zondervan)

A newspaper columnist takes on a billionaire bent on world domination. (Deadlock, Robert Liparulo, Thomas Nelson)

A woman must choose between the sense of purpose she finds in working at a women’s shelter and maintaining a stale marriage. (Where Do I Go?, Neta Jackson, Thomas Nelson)

A young man wakes, strapped to a chair and about to die, with no memory of how he got there. (The Last Thing I Remember, Andrew Klavan, Thomas Nelson)

A woman searches for her daughter’s killer, a man with a snake tattoo. (A Slow Burn, Mary E. DeMuth, Zondervan)

A woman has her drug addict son returned to her when he enters rehab, but she may lose him again if she learns the truth about the murder of a drug dealer. (Leaving Yesterday, Kathryn Cushman, Bethany House)

Three women, a reporter, a prosecutor and an FBI agent search for a seventeen year old who disappears while taking her dog for a walk and discover a girl troubled by a relationship with an older man. (Face of Betrayal, Lis Wiehl & April Henry, Thomas Nelson)

A woman loses six months of her memory, but gains the ability to steal memories from others. (Kiss, Ted Dekker & Erin Healy, Thomas Nelson)

The Rapture is coming at 6:11 AM, one week from tomorrow, but only in Goodland, Kansas. A small town prepares for the end of the world that is only a week away. (The End is Now, Rob Stennett, Zondervan)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Is My Writing Good Enough?

Is my writing good enough? It’s a question that aspiring authors ask often. I saw it yesterday in the comments to Rachelle Gardner’s post, Don’t Take it Personally, but I’ve seen it other places as well. What unpublished authors would like is for someone to look at their work and say either, “You’ll be published some day,” or “You’re wasting your time.” Personally, I think it’s the wrong attitude. There isn’t a person out there who can do more than make an educated guess as to the eventual success of an author. Consider that Mark Twain strongly criticized James Fenimore Cooper’s writing skill while others praised him.

I look at some of the work that well known authors are producing. If an aspiring author handed me the same work and asked what I thought, I would say, “It isn’t good enough.” But apparently it is or they wouldn’t be selling books. We all have different tastes and that probably has more impact on the success of a book than writing skill ever will. Me, I don’t care for romance or historical fiction. I like speculative fiction, but I don’t write much of it. I don’t like stories that are very dark. Admittedly, For the Love of a Devil got dark in a few places. I tried to balance it out with a much lighter B story. But if you look at what Christian publishers are publishing right now, as I will show you tomorrow, what I write is slightly out of step. Much of Christian fiction is very dark right now. It is difficult to convince an agent that something lighter has sales potential when the only thing publishers are taking is dark. Or futuristic when they're taking historical. Or humorous when they're taking serious. Or whatever.

When we consider whether an aspiring author has future potential, no one wants to hear, “keep doing what you’re doing and maybe the wind will shift in your direction,” but for many of us, that may be what is required for there to be any hope of success.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Instant Platform, Just Add Writing

Writers talk much about platform and many have learned to hate the word, but only the people who don’t have one. They look at platform as the most difficult thing in writing. Oddly enough, there are certain groups of people who have an instant platform. I’ll pick on Rachelle Gardner. When did she join Wordserve Literary? Late 2007, I think? How many people are listed as followers of her blog now?

While you go check, let me point out that Rachelle has several years experience in the publishing industry and I don’t want to take away from that by mentioning her, but the fast popularity growth of her blog is largely due to instant platform in the publishing industry. Professionals with the same experience level in other fields will not see their blogs grow at the same rate. But new literary agents and publishers can put out a sign on a blog saying, “I’m an agent” or “I’m a publisher” and aspiring authors will flock to them. It helps if they have something useful to say, but it isn’t a requirement.

Most of us don’t have the benefit of instant platform. It only exists when there are tons of people putting their hopes in a few, as is the case with the publishing industry. The rest of us have to find another way. A few weeks ago Jason Smith suggested that, “platform just happens.” ( It sometimes seems that way because we have no control over the public interest aspect of platform and even the expertise aspect may seem like as much of an accident of nature as anything else. Just being at the right place at the right time or having been born into the family of a famous person can give us another type of instant platform. Many aspiring writers see this as unfair, but hey, life isn’t fair. All I can say is that if you happen to have an instant platform you should enjoy it. The rest of us have to work for every reader we get.

There is a problem with instant platform. Those who have it are stuck with it. Chip MacGregor is a literary agent. He puts his instant platform to use on his blog, where he talks primarily about the publishing industry. He is also a author and has written a number of books. Now I’m sure his books get a few collateral readers from those who follow his blog, but until he writes a book related to his instant platform he will not see a large increase in sales from it. He is stuck building the three aspects of platform, just like the rest of us.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Glossary of Publishing Industry Jargon

I created a living document of Publishing Industry Jargon. It was too long to post here, so I posted it on my website. If you notice anything you think should be there that isn't, feel free to let me know.

Friday, April 10, 2009

What Now?

It’s the Friday before Easter. Imagine how it must have been for the disciples that first “Easter.” It’s been a bad week. Only days earlier, Jesus rode into Jerusalem like the triumphant king, albeit on a donkey, but it was prophesied, wasn’t it? But, then comes the betrayal, by one of their own, the church treasurer, a man they trusted. Then a trial, that wasn’t much of a trial at all. “Crucify him!” the crowd yelled. And yesterday, that’s exactly what they did—quickly, so his death won’t linger into the Passover. May have been thinking, as did others, he could save others, why couldn’t he save himself? But he didn’t.

The sun rose this morning and brought with it that awful feeling. Jesus is dead, buried in a tomb guarded by solders. The disciples have scattered, but they’re coming back together, slowly. They don’t know what’s going to happen now. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. They are so deep in their own sorrow that they aren’t listening to the people on the street as they make the final preparations for Passover. The same people who cried “Hosanna!” then turned on him are talking about what happened yesterday. “I watched him die,” someone says. “I heard it was exciting,” another says. “We crucified our Messiah,” the first says.

Had they only known what was about to happen, there would have been hope. They would have been walking the streets preaching, but they weren’t. No, today is a day of mourning. Jesus lies in the tomb.

It's a Guy Thing

It’s Friday and I’m going to take this opportunity, as many bloggers do, to rant. Though, to be honest, I tend to do that a lot anyway.

I really dislike the covers on Christian books right now. At the Christian Book Expo (CBE), most of the publishers had their books lying on tables or stacked on the floor in such a way that potential customers could see the front covers. I walked through all the displays to see what they had made available. All of it was somewhat like this, but I remember one table in particular, a sea of pink, where I moved on quickly with the thought, someone’s going to think I’m interested in these. Yeah, I know it’s a guy thing and the covers weren’t so much pink as they were pastel, but I felt very out of place. It isn’t just the sea of pink. Many of the covers look like someone just went out and snapped a photo of some people to plaster on the cover.

Enough about covers, what about content? When’s the last time you saw a Christian how to book? I don’t necessarily mean something with how to in the title, but something that will help Christian workers in their ministries. I first noticed this when I attended the CBE. I walked through the booths several times and I didn’t see anything specifically aimed at helping me (or anyone else) do a better job in my ministry. In a lazy amount of research, I went Thomas Nelson’s website to see if they had anything along that line that they didn’t take to the CBE. They have fiction. They have Bibles. They have stuff to inspire you to a closer walk with the Lord. They have reference books. They even have books to tell you how to succeed in business. But they have nothing in the way of ministry helps. (To be fair, I did eventually find a few hidden deep within the Biblical Reference category.) B&H Publishing has several such books, but few of them are new. Some are dated as far back as 1985. I don’t know if its an untapped market or a sad commentary on the state of modern Christianity. I know sales of Church Website Design has exceeded my expectations, but not by so much that I expect large publishers to rush out and produce similar books.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Music of Novels

Novels are like a piece of music. I’ve noticed that when I think about a novel and when I think about a piece of music I think about them the same way. A few days ago, I wrote about the Moment of Hope. I’ve noticed that when a soloist sings an arrangement that builds and builds and builds, followed by a resolution, the audience always claps, right there in the middle of the song. It’s just like the Moment of Hope, but the similarities don’t end there.

Music builds to a crescendo like a novel builds to a climax. Music speeds up and slows down, as does the pace of a novel. Music may have many instruments or only a few, just as a novel may have a lot going on or very little. Music may be calm and peaceful or loud and violent. A novel may be like relaxing in a hammock on a summer day or like battling a stormy sea in the middle of winter. And as with music, we may move from one to the other and back again.

Some novels are serene from start to finish. They’ll fluctuate some, but like similar music, they provide the reader with a relaxing setting throughout. Some novels are fast and furious throughout. The action begins on page one and it never slows down. Some music is that way, but most of the time we like variation. Music uses contrast to bring out certain parts and the same is true of novels. We want to feel our pulse quicken as the story builds to a feverish pace. In our mind, we hear the thunderous roar of the timpani, the sweet strings of the violins, the deep base of the tubas, the shrill pitch of the flutes, playing faster and louder until they reach a new height, like a hang glider leaping off the side of a mountain and souring like a bird.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Getting Permission to Write

Most writers are looking for someone to give them permission to write. Many go looking for a call from God or approval from an agent or recognition from a publisher. What writers are looking for is someone to say, “You’re good enough to be an author. Be fruitful and publish.”

Publishers are looking for something else, a little thing called platform. If we consider that, publishers aren’t in the business of giving people permission to write. Publishers are looking for those people who come to them saying, “I’d don’t need your approval. I’m going to be out here doing my thing and getting my message out. If you want part of the action, come on. If not, that’s your loss.”

The only successful writers are those who take the bull by the horns and do it, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pay attention to other people. My family and friends have been more enthusiastic about my writing than I have been. They think my books are better than I think they are. That’s the way it’s supposed to be, isn’t it? I heard about one woman who divorced her husband because she didn’t think he was supportive enough of her writing. My first thought was, ew, that’s not right. Then I began to wonder, just how bad is her writing if her own husband, the father of her children, doesn’t find her creditable as a writer? Maybe she doesn’t need permission to write. What she needs to do is just stop writing.

Just because we have the gumption to write without the approval of others doesn’t mean that we have something worth saying or that we have the skill we need. All I can say is that if you are waiting around for permission, you aren’t going to get it.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

One Dozen Ideas, With a Vase, Please

Rachelle Gardner says that book ideas are a dime a dozen and that where most book proposals fall apart is in execution. If I were a literary agent, as she is, and I had thousands of queries in my inbox each month, I would probably agree. I’m not. I’m a writer and my perspective is different. Book ideas may be a dime a dozen, but good book ideas are priceless. The way I see it, if I write a book with a good premise, but poor execution, I can fix it. It may be hard work, but I can fix it. If I write a book with a poor premise and great execution, there’s no one who can fix it.

From an agent’s/publisher’s perspective, there’s an over abundance of ideas. From a writer’s perspective, good ideas are few and far between. One aspiring writer commented the other day that the hardest thing for her is knowing what to write. She continued along the lines of “tell me what you want me to write and I’ll write it.” I’m sure she would gladly give someone a dime for a dozen ideas, but writers keep their good ideas close to the vest. We’ve got to. A good idea is the framework for a good book.

Rachelle mentioned two ideas, “A book about how to have a satisfying marriage,” and “What if God intended marriage not to make us happy, but to make us holy?” She yawned at the first and called the second fresh. I wouldn’t call either of them fresh. There are plenty of books on the topic, but the second is certainly more intriguing than the first. Why? Because the second tells us what we can expect. With the first, for all we know, the author might think growing watermelons in the bathtub is the way to a satisfying marriage. With the second, we see that the author is claiming that God intends for marriage to produce a better relationship with him. We expect the author will provide evidence to support that claim and show couples how they can put that to use.

When we sit down to write, there’s something about the idea that compels us to write. That’s what we need to talk about when we talk about our idea. The last manuscript I finished started with an episode of Murder She Wrote. A woman had a son, only it turns out that he isn’t her son, but the son of a friend who had died. I began to wonder. What if a woman raised the child of a friend as her own, knowing she had no right to keep her? What if the woman reached a point where she realizes that the girl’s family can take better care of her? She doesn’t want to give her up, but wants the best for the girl. How is the girl’s family going to react when a homeless con-artist shows up on their doorstep claiming the girl is part of their family? To me, that’s a compelling idea. If I had seen a book written with that story idea, I would have purchased the book, without knowing the name of the author and without cracking the spine. If we can take that special part of what makes a book idea so compelling that we would spend days writing the book and transplant that vision into the minds of others, good things will happen.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Sex Is Out

Sex is out. At least it is in the movie industry. Films with sex aren’t doing so great right now. One of the theories on that is that economic recession causes people to stay away from excess of all kinds. Historically, there is some truth to that. There is also some biblical truth to that, since God sends hardships when he calls for people to repent. But what does this mean for Christian books?

My prediction is that it means edgy is out. Okay, so edgy has been out already, but if you’re trying to push edgy Christian fiction, your life just got harder. During an economic downturn, publishers are less likely to take big risks and even if they did, readers aren’t interested.

I think the trend will move away from the feel good religionists and back in the direction of “thus saith the Lord.” When people are hurting, they don’t want to hear what people imagine must be true about God. They have a hard time believing that God will solve all their problems if they’ll just send some preacher money. They want to hear about the God of the Bible, the God who hates sin, punishes the wicked, sends problems into people’s lives to call them to repentance, but loves them enough to send his only begotten Son to die in their place.

We don’t know how long this recession will last, so we don’t know how long the trends associated with it will last. They could last for months, decades or only weeks. We simply don’t know, but if you’ll watch, I think you’ll see people move away from the vices of the world, if only for a short time.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Moment of Hope (Part 2 of 2)

Yesterday, I wrote about the Moment of Hope. That’s my name for it and you won’t find it in a text book—that I know of. The Moment of Hope is that moment in a novel when we get a surge of hope that the protagonist will succeed. It’s like when you’re watching a young child reaching for a cookie. It’s just out of his reach. If his arms were only a centimeter longer it would be his, but then you see his mother come into the room and you know she’s going to tell him he’ll spoil his dinner. She lifts up the plate and moves it closer to him.

Not ever novel has a Moment of Hope and not every novel needs one. The Moment of Hope is like a pressure release valve. We’ve strung the tension pretty tight and we’re still cranking on the strings. The reader is flipping pages like crazy, wanting to find out what happens next, but he can’t catch his breath. Page after page we build and build and keep building. Then comes the Moment of Hope, giving our reader something to get excited about.

The Moment of Hope can occur many places in a novel and there may be more than one, but they are always an element of the subplots rather than the main plot. They give us hope because if the subplot can succeed then maybe the main plot can too.

One of my favorite examples of the Moment of Hope comes from the movie The Shakiest Gun in the West. The A plot is about a dentist, Don Knotts, going out west to spread dental hygiene. The B plot involves him getting married to a female outlaw who has been offered a pardon it she’ll learn who is running guns to the Indians, but she needs a husband so she can go on the wagon train. She would just as soon be rid of the dentist and he wants a happy marriage, creating very strong tension. The story plays out such that we don’t want her to leave him, but we know he’s powerless to stop her. Don Knotts is no gun fighter, but he thinks he is and he gets involved in a dual with a true gun fighter, after Knotts has wasted all six shots in his gun. The female outlaw watches from a window. She will soon be rid of her convenient husband. Don Knotts stands shaking with an empty gun in his hand as the gun fighter draws. The female outlaw shoots the gun fighter from the window. “What’d you do that for?” her contact asks. “I don’t know,” she says, still holding the smoking gun. “Something just came over me.” She can still leave at any moment and later she does, but in the moment, she gives us hope that she might come to love the dentist and that he isn’t wasting his time fighting to get her back.

That’s what the Moment of Hope is all about. We’ve got to toss the reader a bone once in a while. Yeah, things can still go downhill and if our novel is a tragedy then they won’t recover, but the Moment of Hope gives the readers a whiff of something better.

Now, before someone decides to put the Moment of Hope in the A plot, let me say why that isn’t a good idea. First, the A plot already has something similar. It is the midpoint with a false victory. The difference is that the tension isn’t as tight at the midpoint and we have to have a defeat after the false victory midpoint. With the Moment of Hope we can have a high point in a subplot and keep it high. Second, we don’t want to give away the end too soon. The Moment of Hope may give the protagonist an advantage as the people from the subplot come to give him a hand, but it doesn’t guarantee victory. Maybe the villain has his own supporters giving him a hand.

The thing that makes the Moment of Hope truly special is that we can use it to make our readers feel very strong emotions. Perhaps they will laugh, or cry or shout for joy. The Moment of Hope is a moment of release. It gives our readers a place to let those feeling loose and that keeps them in the book.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Moment of Hope (Part 1 of 2)

There are seven key emotional moments in a novel, the beginning, stasis equals death, the inciting incident, the mid-point, all is lost, the climax and the end. Of the seven, the climax is my favorite.

In my own writing, I’ve noticed what I will call the moment of hope. It is the emotional climax of the novel and may occur on one side or the other of the true climax. It may occur in the A plot, but it usually occurs in the B plot. It is that moment in which the reader realizes that this thing’s going to work, whatever it is.

In How to Become a Bible Character, our protagonist is in the hospital, not expected to live after taking a beating from his best friend’s father. The senior pastor’s wife is on her deathbed. Our first person narrator has called for a prayer meeting and expects just the faithful Wednesday night crowd to show up. When he and his family arrive at church, the building is filled with people, a testament to the influence our protagonist has had on the people around him. Our narrator, tries to find the words to comfort these people, but fears his words do little good. He asks them to gather in small groups to pray. As they do, someone comes up to him. “I need to be saved.” He leads this person to the Lord, but it doesn’t stop there. While he was doing that, the same thing was happening in the small groups all over the building. One from this group, two from another, beginning coming to him and saying, “I accepted Christ.” At this point, we still don’t know how the A plot will turn out, but in the B plot we have this moment that tells us, the good guys are winning again!.

Okay, you may not have read any of my books, so let’s look at the moment of hope in popular fiction. In Star Wars, Luke is the last hope to destroy the Death Star. He has enough trouble trying to hit a tiny shaft with a direct hit, but Darth Vader is on his tail. Han Solo, presumed to have left the fight, arrives and sends Darth Vader spinning out of control. “You’re all clear kid! Let’s blow this thing and go home!” Our protagonist still has to use his new found abilities to hit the vent shaft and the Death Star is about to destroy the rebels, but we have a moment of hope afforded to us from the B plot. There’s plenty more to do, but we have our first taste of victory.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

How to Sell Novels in Twelve Easy Steps

In fiction, nobody is really clear whether author marketing efforts translate to significantly greater sales or not. The prevailing wisdom is that it certainly doesn’t hurt. – Rachelle Gardner

Fiction and non-fiction are two different beasts. Non-fiction is ridiculously easy to sell, compared to fiction. For one thing, you can sell it using the title alone. If I were to post a page on my website promoting the book How to Sell Novels in Twelve Easy Steps, someone would buy the book. I don’t have a twelve step program for you, but I’m confident that some of the people reading this post got here because of a search engine hit on that title. Another thing about non-fiction is that we know where to find our audience and they tend to be in clusters.

If you look at the quote above, it seems like publishers are saying, “we don’t have a good way to sell fiction, but we might as well throw the author and the kitchen sink at the problem.” Even with some of the best selling books, only a small percentage of the population has read them. And those who do aren’t in nice little pockets. Most don’t gather in fan clubs and wait anxiously for a similar book. The closest thing to that is author loyalty, but that does nothing for new sales.

When I was in college, I had a summer job at a diaper factory. I worked for Charlie Brown, who was responsible for building maintenance. It was a big place and he could be anywhere at any given moment. If you went looking for him, you probably wouldn’t find him, but if you stood still and kept your eyes open, you would see him eventually. He might be on the other side of a large building, but you would see him.

Selling novels is a little like searching for Charlie. Readers who like our work are scattered. We can go looking for them and we may find a few, but as the quote above indicates, we aren’t sure that doing so provides a significant advantage over sitting in one spot and waiting for readers to come to us.

To put it in simple terms, the best way to sell non-fiction is through targeted marketing and the best way to sell fiction is through blanket marketing. But here are some other ideas that work:

- Visit the book signing of the well known author and hand out bookmarks for your own book.

- Frequent a bestselling author’s blog and post comments about your book.

- Self-publish your novel with the same cover as a bestselling novel. Be sure to change the barcode.

- Make a large box out of full sheets of plywood that looks like your book. Put the box in the middle of the major road nearest your local television station. You’re sure to make the news.

- Start a new denomination and tell people that if they don’t read your novel they’ll go to hell.

- Get special toilet paper printed with the cover of your book and donate it to local churches.

- Pull your books off the shelves at Barnes & Noble and redistribute them to prominent places throughout the store.

- Tell people there’s a hundred dollar bill hidden between pages 95 and 96.

- Grab the e-mail addresses from the To and CC fields of the SPAM you receive and add them to your e-mail newsletter mailing list.

- Sneak into the offices of another publisher and add your novel to their list of books to publish. Having more than one publisher promoting your book can only help.

- Give all of your villains the names of important political figures. Then put a notice in the front, “portions of this book are true.”

- Send a link to the blog post to ten people you know or your head will itch and you’ll never have a successful novel.

There’s your twelve steps. Have a great April Fools Day.