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No Supernatural Elements, Thank You!

That seems to be the sentiment from traditional publishers. We welcome thrillers. But, NO supernatural elements.

I want to thank Mike Dellosso for a kind email response to my last post. He has an awesome new book out. You should definitely buy it. Right now! Don’t wait!fearlesscover

Mike was asking about Christian speculative fiction and its future. I mentioned that I had attended the first Platform Conference in February, 2013 and mentioned some comments from Michael Hyatt.

I revisited my notes from that conference and I wanted to expand on some of Michael’s ideas. These ideas, of course, are part of Platform University (I strongly recommend joining if you have any kind of blog or website) and his own personal site which features one of the best blogs for authors out there and one of the best podcasts for authors of any kind.

At the Platform conference, there was a great deal of discussion of “tribes”. In his book, Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World, Michael Hyatt discusses how as authors, we garner the interest of readers who are attracted to our genre. We may start out with a few readers who like our work. They begin to follow our website, twitter feed, Facebook page, or blog. This is what Michael calls our “home base”.

Once these followers begin to come back to our social media on a regular basis, they become a tribe. And, our goal is to keep our tribe interested, happy, and to give them more to consume. As we move away from our “home base” through interaction with other sites, commenting, reposting, etc. our tribe begins to grow and enlarge.

The tribe of Christian speculative fiction is growing. And, it is growing quickly. But, that interest and growth doesn’t necessarily translate into book sales. It reveals a growing interest in the supernatural that is reflected in the current glut of zombie, vampire, and werewolf television shows and movies. It reflects a growing fascination with the fantasy we see in such shows as Game of Thrones. If reflects a growing obsession with science fiction as seen in the huge number of science fiction movies just this summer and the success of super hero movies (and in the case of Arrow, television shows).

Interest in speculative fiction is huge right now. Michael has commented on this aspect of fiction in the past. But, there is a disconnect from the secular readership embracing spec fic and the success of Christian spec fic. Why? The reasons are paramount and the subject, no doubt, of a future post.

 

Michael shared these encouraging words in the first session of the 2012 American Christian Fiction Writers conference on  why ‘today is the best time to be a writer.’

 

1 — It is easier than ever to do the writing. The tools have never been easier to access, from conferences and books about writing to specific software for writers and other technology.

 

2– It is easier than ever to do market research. Google made it possible. Facebook and twitter have made it personal. Authors can research their characters and scenes with a few key strokes. Understanding the target audience for a book has never been easier with tools on the internet. ‘Group-think’ is facilitated by creative groups engaging each other through social media and writing circles. Authors can engage readers directly like never before. Authors have the tools to figure out what their platform is, and to build a tribe around it.

 

3 — It is easier than ever to get into print. Traditional publishing is no longer the only option. Self publishing is viable. It is not necessarily the best option for everyone, but it can be a great option for some. Traditional publishing is far from dead, and if traditional publishers learn to ‘lean into the changes’ being brought by the self publishing phenomenon, it can be an exciting place to be. Traditional publishers need to ask: What do these tools and this model make possible? What are the new opportunities? How can I find new readers in more places?

 

4 — It is easier than ever to build a tribe. Authors can engage their fans directly. There are new tools like the recently launched bookshout.com site, where authors can interact real-time with readers inside of their own book. Another new site called bookjolt.com, allows readers to read whole books for free online, and interact with authors. These are part of a new concept called social reading, and literally, an author’s book becomes a platform.

 

5 —  It is easier than ever to build a business around your content. After all, it is great to write for writing sake, but most authors would like to earn some income from their writing too. Websites and blogs help you build your platform, engage readers, offer free content, and sell books. A small book business can be a sustainable business.

 

(Thanks to http://blog.outlawsalesgroup.com/tag/mike-hyatt/ for the above summary! Check out the site for more info on Michael’s comments.)

 

So, the question for those of us who love speculative fiction is: How do we turn our sub-genre into a successful genre? How do we overcome the obstacles out there that stand between the desire of our culture to consume spec fic and the awareness that these good stories are already there just waiting for them to pick up the book?

 

What do you think?

 

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Down, But Not Out!

I am frustrated.

 

I haven’t been posting this summer because of family issues with my daughter’s health. But, she is doing very, very well and it is time for me to re-engage the creative side of my brain.

 

I haven’t been negligent of my writing. I am finishing up the final edit for “The 11th Demon: The Ark of Chaos” and it will be available hopefully by late October. It will not be available in the usual traditional sense but you will be able to purchase it through bookstores, Amazone, B&N, etc. Now that I am no longer beholden to my previous publisher, I have much more freedom to tell the story the way I want to.

 

For instance, my previous two books suffered from the word limit demon (pardon the pun). I had to constrain my story to fit 75000 words. That required cutting major story elements and, in some cases, entire characters to fit the required word limit. While I don’t plan on going all Harry Potter on my readers and make the next books 700+ words, I have extended the upcoming book from 75000 to 90000 words.

 

I am back in the world of self-publishing and it is much different from the first time I self-published back in 2006. Self-publishing has gained in reputation since then. To give you an example, I ran my dilemma by Michael Hyatt back in February. If you don’t know who Michael Hyatt is, go to his website. He was former CEO of Thomas Nelson and has launched his own brand teaching authors how to communicate and how to build a platform for their work. I met him at the first annual Platform conference. Michael took one look at my previous two books in the Jonathan Steel Chronicles and quickly, confidently without hesitation told me to self-publish. This came from a man who was once the CEO of one of the largest Christian publishers in the world!

 

For a while, I pursued traditional publishing for the third book and met with half-hearted response. I don’t want to disparage my previous traditional publisher, but I think today’s tp’s don’t know how to effectively market Christian speculative fiction. Michael Hyatt made the comment this is the fastest growing sub-genre in Christian publishing. I have discussed problems with this genre in previous posts, the least being that bookstores don’t know where to put these books — Christian publishing or secular publishing areas.

 

So, it is up to those of us who write such books to decide if we cave in to the poor sales and poor marketing and little recognition or do we press on and continue to write the books God has placed on our hearts and minds. Authors such as Greg Mitchell, Mike Duran, Mike Dellosso, Marc Schooley, Linda Rios Brook, and Conlan Brown write speculative fiction and their works are fantastic, awe inspiring, moving, and wildly imaginative. Their books should be flying off the shelves. Instead, like me, they are struggling with balancing day jobs and writing supernatural thrilling stories that are trying to break their way out of our brains onto the written page.

 

Here is my plea. Check out the Christian speculative fiction market. But some books. Buy lots of books. Support your favorite Christian speculative fiction author and I’m not just talking about the giants such as Ted Dekker or Frank Peretti or Tosca Lee. Look for us little guys and gals who are struggling and promise to give you a good story — a great read that is wildly imaginative, thrilling, and yet, ultimately redemptive.

 

Give us a chance!

 

Buy one of our books as summer comes to a close and then post a review on Amazon or on your blog or your website. Help us flood American readers with the kind of thrilling supernatural stories the world is craving but with a different twist — a Christian worldview. Do that, and we will go a long way to changing the world’s attitudes — changing the world’s perception of reality — and showing the world the light and love of Christ!

Resistance is Futile!

Resistance is Futile!

 

Courtesy of Paramount and Star Trek.

Courtesy of Paramount and Star Trek.

My Borg friends will understand this statement. If you are not familiar with the Borg and you are an aspiring or published author, you will probably recognize a better version of this statement: “Resistance is Inevitable!”

In February, I attended the Platform Conference featuring Michael Hyatt. I had the opportunity to sit at the table with Michael (yes, we are on first name basis — at least for my part!) and I had a follow up “coaching” session with Michael four weeks later. What I learned from that conference is priceless. Authors today MUST build their own platform as publishers no longer provide marketing and publicity for their authors. I am also now a member of Platform University and I strongly recommend Michael’s book, “Platform” and considering a membership in the university.

But, what I wanted to talk about in this post is Resistance. Michael devoted an entire hour to this topic and frankly, I didn’t want to hear it. Let’s just say I was resistant to the idea that my writing career meets resistance. That is a huge chunk of denial!

I would recommend buying the book and reading the entire section on Resistance but I’d like to hit a few highlights of how resistance presents itself in my writing:

There are two sources of resistance: external and internal. I have very little control on the external sources of resistance. These are often related to the changing world of publishing. But, these sources can also be very close to home: children, day jobs, aging parents, health issues, etc.

But, there are some forms of internal resistance we should consider:

writers-block-demotivational

1 — Writer’s Block. I have NEVER suffered from writer’s block! Ever! For me, it is a matter of finding enough time to sit down and do a “creative” dump of all the ideas whirling around in my mind. But, in March, I took a week off to write and for four straight days, I sat in front of the laptop and did NOTHING! Blank! Empty! So, how do you overcome the resistance from writer’s block? I realized that in my study, I have surrounded myself with creative “cues” that unlock the creative forces in my mind. But, in a strange location those cues are gone. I had to develop another way to stimulate my creativity. So, I just started writing on the blank page — just putting down thoughts and ideas as they flew through my brain. Soon, by day five, I was cooking with gas!

So, what do YOU do to break the writer’s block? Share some tidbits with the rest of us.

 

 

 

2 — Procrastination. Well, I’ll talk about that later.

How do YOU overcome procrastination?

fear

3 — Fear. This is a BIG one. Who am I to write? Where do I get off thinking I can be a published author? What will people think about me when they see what I’ve put down on the page? Do I dare bleed all over the page?

 

Fear is the biggest culprit for me. Fear of rejection. Fear of criticism. Recently, out of nowhere, an email arrived from someone I’ve never heard of. Turns out this person had somehow gotten their hands on a script adaptation I wrote back in 1988 of a play called “The Living Last Supper”. When I was handed the original play by my fine arts minister at the time, I was told the play was out of print. I was asked to adapt the clunky, sort of King’s English version to a more modern sounding version and to shorten the dialogue so a group of inexperienced deacons could play each one of the disciples. I adapted the script. It was so successful, our church performed it for eight straight years. During that time, I was asked for the script and I shared it, ALWAYS informing the person that it was an adaptation of the original play.

Well, this stranger took me to task for plagiarism. He accused me of passing off my adaptation as the original play. How in the world did he even get a copy of my script? I hadn’t dealt with that script for over 16 years! But, the man insisted I do the “right thing” and withdraw the script and put a disclaimer on my website. So, I did. I did so out of outright fear! What if this man ruined my albeit tiny, but growing writing career by calling me a plagiarist! I realized I had to do the right thing and correct a wrong I was not aware I had committed. But, it was still MY responsibility!

And, here is the final solution for Fear. I always stop and ask myself, “What is the Lie?” Am I a plagiarist? NO! Am I worthless? NO! Can God use me for His work? YES! Fear can be conquered so simply by asking this one question. And, here is why. Who is the Father of Lies? SATAN! Who is the Father of Truth? GOD! And, from fear and anxiety and procrastination and even some of those external sources of resistance, the TRUTH will set us FREE!

Oh, by the way, I seem to recall a little verse that says something like this:

 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. James 4:6-8 ESV

(I want to be sure and give the proper source so I will not be accused of plagiarism!)

How do you handle fear? Share some of your wisdom with the rest of us!

 

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