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October 2011

Reporter: Christa Allan

Christa AllanChrista Allan writes Southern fiction that is not afraid to answer the tough questions. Walking on Broken Glass, released in 2010, The Edge of Grace in August, and Love Finds You in New Orleans will release in 2012. She lives in Louisiana, teaches high school English, and is mom of five, Grammy of three.

Editor: Janny Butler

Janny ButlerA popular speaker, workshop teacher, and writing coach, Janet W. (Janny) Butler is a Golden Heart winner, author of the “best little book no one’s ever heard of,” ACFW member, and book project editor for the nation’s largest nonprofit Catholic publisher. She blogs at Catholic Writer Chick at Large! and Hoosier Ink. Visit her here.

Workshop 28: Career Tracking

Karen BallAfter opening with her edited version of the song Beautiful Dreamer, agent and editor Karen Ball (right) started answering questions participants—writers who have published at least two books—sent in advance.

Be clear on your purpose

Due to the digital age, Ball said, publishing and author contracts are changing quickly: what used to be a revolving door is now a Star Trek transporter! But that doesn’t mean writers should start asking editors what they want to see.

“Write your passion,” she said. “If God is breathing a story into you, do it. Don’t shortchange what God is calling you to do.” She also reminded writers that God calls us to write, not to get published.

Be professional

“Deadlines are writers’ responsibilities,” Ball said. Writers must alert their editors as soon as they know they may not meet the deadline. With sufficient notice, most editors can make adjustments. In addition, she suggested not signing contracts too close to each other.

Marketing, another complaint of many writers, is an unavoidable and crucial aspect of a writer’s job, even though measuring ROI (return on investment) when it comes to marketing is difficult. “No one will know how to reach your readers better than you,” Ball said. Writers need to be the bridge between marketing and their publishing houses. “Spend your time strategically. Marketing is about relationships. So go where the people are.” 

She shared an example of a writer contracted to write a book about cats who, before his book released, started a blog about his readers’ cats. Along the way, he dropped in hints about his book, but it wasn’t the focus of his blog. The moral of the story? “If you want something to go viral, create consumer evangelists.”

Be obedient

“What writers do is beyond publishing books,” Ball said. Writers communicate truths. Sales aren’t a writer’s measure of success. Ultimately, God measures success by obedience, she said.

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