Thursday, July 31, 2014

"It Was a Dark and Stormy Night"**

I've been meaning to do a post about first lines of novels for a while now.  I had successfully procrastinated until today, when, while browsing through my Facebook messages--one of the methods of writing-procrastinating that normally works well for me--I ran across an intriguing challenge by one of my Facebook "friends."

Shameless Name Dropping

Ahem:  I am a Facebook friend of Jerry Jenkins, author of the Left Behind series of books about the end of the world as we know it, which has sold a gazillion copies and made him a very rich man. 

Our friendship happened this way:  I managed to get on his "friend" list early in his Facebook career, just before he hit the cutoff mark of 1000.

Anyway, Jerry Jenkins has the distracting habit of posting a challenging question every day on Facebook that requires a response.  Most of them I manage to ignore, but this one intrigued me. 

He said:  Grab the book closest to you and share the author's name and the first line. 

He had me from the words, "first line."

Out of the first 65 comments in response to his challenge I found seven I think are great first-liners.  One is from a book I've read.  Two are from ones I haven't read yet by authors I already know and like.  And four are one-liners I wish I'd written, from books I now want to read.

How Do These Grab You?

"We only have a few hours, so listen carefully."
Rick Riordan.  The Red Pyramid  

"Jesus Christ was executed at a place so public that the sign explaining his death had to be printed in three languages, at a crossroads so well traveled that most of the people who saw him tortured were merely passing by."
Stephen Mansfield.  Killing Jesus

"My parents absolutely ruined me."

"Before He called me forth from the grave, Jesus wept."
Bodie & Brock Thoene.  When Jesus Wept
"Prayer is the divine enigma--that marvelous mystery hidden behind the cloud of God's omnipotence."

"It was mid afternoon in New Babylon, and David Hassad was frantic."
Jerry Jenkins & Tim LaHaye.  The Mark

"What if I said, 'Stop praying?'"
Francis Chan.  Crazy Love

Sigh :-(

More books to add to the stack by my bedside.  Yes, this picture is of the actual stack.  I'm pretty sure I won't get through them all before I die but I'll work my way down the pile, one by one.  It will be good for my writing-procrastination goal, at least.

What are your favorite first lines?  I'm not totally against adding to the pile.

** The title of this post is the most famous first line of all time that begins A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L'Engle

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Just Another Whiny Indie Pub Rant

It appears that the American Christian Fiction Writer's Association is jumping on the bandwagon. 

The Indie Author bandwagon, that is.

It's not surprising.  One by one,  industry moguls are moving over to the other side of the Indie publishing debate.  Self-publishing has come of age.  

One of the latest big shifts came when Jerry Jenkins, best-selling author, with Tim LaHaye, of the Left Behind Series finally "saw the light."  

Some months ago, on Facebook, I jokingly suggested to him that he review my indie-published novel in exchange for the pre-publication review I gave one of his new police thriller manuscripts.  He wrote back with a "no" to the review request (surprise, surprise), a passionate diatribe in support of traditional publishing, and a categorical relegation of all indie published books to the file 13 slush pile.  

"If your book is really good," he said, "you should find a traditional publisher."

I thanked him for his advice.  I didn't bother telling him I was foot-sore from pounding the pavement to the doors of traditional publishers, and on crutches from getting that same foot smashed by those doors, which always slammed halfway through the first sentence of my elevator pitch.  

Then, low and behold, in March, 2013, we get a news flash.  Jerry Jenkins has started his own self publishing company.  He actually said, on Facebook, "I saw the light."  Now he's charging big bucks to help independently published authors "prove their worthiness in the market."

I wish I could say he saw the light because he saw my manuscript.  Alas, he hasn't read it yet, and I can't afford the fee he would charge me to do so. But his conversion experience is indicative of where the industry is going, and has been going for the last several years.  

So back to the ACFW.  Below are excerpts from an e-mail they sent me this morning in response to my recent cancelation of my membership in their organization.  If you're a Christian Indie author you might be interested.

Dear Ginny,

It’s great to connect with you again through email. Whether your affiliation with ACFW was long-term or short-term, please know you have been missed.

Life sometimes takes us in different directions than we expect, or even different from what we want. That may have happened to you. But sometimes it brings us back full circle. If you’re still interested in writing Christian fiction, consider joining ACFW again. ACFW continues to offer quality skill training for novelists, as well as education in the industry.

We wanted to make you aware of some recent and upcoming changes in ACFW that are tailored to meet a wider range of needs.

When ACFW first began, the organization focused solely on helping authors improve their craft with the goal of signing with a traditional publisher. Times have certainly changed! Many authors are now either publishing independently or are “hybrid” authors—involved in both independent and traditional publishing. The ACFW Executive Board agreed ACFW needs to be an organization that helps all novelists, regardless of which path they choose.

In full recognition of changes within the industry, independently published books will be allowed entry into the Carol Awards beginning in 2015.
This is a good first step.  It might be useful to some Indie authors. But it's only encouraging if you've already done, by yourself, the marketing work a traditional publisher would normally help you do.  

Read on. 

In fairness, independently published authors must also meet a certain standard to enter the Carols: a “Qualified Independent Author” status. The QIA status will require the author to show proof of a minimum of $4000 earnings within a consecutive 12-month period on one independently published Christian novel. Once the status is reached, it is permanent.

These requirements are in keeping with standards currently used within the independent publishing industry. And they are designed to level the playing field between traditionally published authors, whose path includes successfully navigating through professional channels, and independently published authors who successfully navigate the challenges of publishing on their own.

The same qualifications for the Carol Awards will apply for those wanting to list their novels on Fiction Finder: traditionally published books must be released by an ACFW recognized publisher, and independently published books must be from an author who has achieved the Qualified Independent Author status.
I'm not complaining about these stipulations.  There's still a need to screen self-published books and the ACFW needs such guidelines to maintain professional standards. If they didn't they'd be in danger of becoming bedfellows of vanity presses.  

But it's still hard for those of us who have well written books and don't know how to get them noticed in the marketplace.  It's not our manuscripts that are being screened in this case, it's our marketing success level.  

And that's fair too.  We can't expect anyone to lift us out of the promotion difficulties every author, and publisher--traditional or indie--has to deal with.  And I'm not knocking the ACFW either.  It's a great resource and support for any Christian writer, as Robin points out.   
ACFW is the place to be if you’re writing Christian fiction. Veteran writers and relative newcomers are improving their craft, understanding the needs of the market, and going on to publication and award honors.

We’d love to have you rejoin the circle and help form part of this vital community focused on fiction.

Robin Miller
ACFW Executive Director 
Next post I'll give my reply to Robin's invitation, explaining in greater detail some of the difficulties Christian indie authors face, and talking about my experiences with editors at ACFW conferences.