Workshop 9: Preparing For Your Career In Publishing
“I’m in awe of you.”
That’s how Sue Brower, an editor at Zondervan Publishing, began her ACFW conference workshop Preparing For Your Career in Publishing.
She then backed up her words by providing many tips designed to help writers succeed in the publishing world.
Translating the language
Brower began by defining terms like: advance, royalty, earning out, sell through, returns, channels of distribution, self-publication, e-original, deadlines, out of print, and formats before moving into a bird’s eye view of currents market trends in Christian publishing. She identified the following genres as doing well currently: Amish, Historical (Downton Abbey, Regency, World War I & II, and the Gilded Age), Contemporary, Suspense, SciFi, and Fantasy.
Reader’s point of view
Brower also encouraged authors to understand publishing from a reader’s point of view. “Readers want to read ‘feel-good’ books—whether those books are confirming old-fashioned American values or fantasies about slowing down to enjoy life or fall in love,” she said.
But readers are also drawn to stories with a sense of justice, adventure, and escape. They can handle hard truths, but need a sense of hope in the end.
Know what you write
Writers were encouraged to know the main styles of fiction:
- Literary fiction: The fiction of ideas.
- Popular fiction: The fiction of emotion.
- Christian fiction: Reflects an evangelical worldview and should deliver a message of truth and hope.
Readers of Christian fiction aren’t interested in a story that is dark and only gets darker. “Believable beats ‘real’ any day,” Brower said. This does not mean shying away from reality, but rather writing about the raw truths of life in ways that are believable. The only way to write stories readers want, Brower said, is to “know your audience.”
Let passion fuel your writing
Brower encouraged writers to find sources for fresh ideas and new concepts that will fuel our story ideas for a long time. She shared a quote from agent and editor Barbara Scott: “Write out of passion. If you follow the herd, you may walk off the cliff of mediocrity.”
Brower urged authors to be aware of the trends in publishing, but to never compromise our passion to tell the stories God has put in our hearts. Don’t write a story just because it fits the current trend.