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Monday, June 30, 2014

YA, YA, YA (and MG too)

Hey, y'all - the deadline for submission to the Middle Grade/Young Adult category of Novel Rocket's LAUNCH PAD Contest: Boosting You Out of the Slush Pile is coming up right quick-like. July 10, to be exact.

So if you have a story for young readers ready and rarin' to go, send it our way. Who knows? It just might be a winner. After all, the Grand Prize winners the first two years of our contest were from this category. Maybe your story will be next!

Are you interested in the contest, but that's not your genre? How about contemporary romance? Better yet (from my point of view, at least), how about speculative fiction? We're still taking submissions in those categories as well.

So check out the official rules to see if this is for you. If so, show us what you've got. We're itching to see it!
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If you like Young Adult and speculative fiction, check out Yvonne Anderson's Gateway to Gannah series. It'll take you out of this world!

Of Mice and Indies

Courtesy Flickr Creative Commons - Dan Foy
by Ron Estrada

When Gina started this blog way back in the days of wired mouses, our journey was different. There was one path: Write a book, get an agent, sign with a publisher.

All this took about seventeen years in writer time.

And then something funny, scary, and wonderful happened. Some enterprising soul, who will, no doubt, have a bronze statue of him or her erected on the Avenue of the Americas, grasping a Kindle in one fist high above the combustion engine exhaust, pointed to said e-reader and shouted, “What the…”

Translated: we are now masters of our own destiny (destiny, which here means lofty success or disastrous failure).

Like many of you, I’ve devoured books, blogs, and tweets from the self-publishing gurus of our day. Allow me to write a long summary of my findings:

Write. Write some more. Do all this very, very fast.

See you next week.

Okay, I’d better add to that if I want to get paid…wait…WHAT?!?

Moving right along. As I write this, I have a Production Schedule in front of me. It is cleverly titled Ron’s Production Schedule. I treat it with the same respect as I would an assignment from my boss.

The schedule is grueling. It says I’ll finish a draft every two months for the rest of my life. I have three columns titled PLOT, WRITE, EDIT. Every two months, the book titles under these headings shift. This means I’m working three books at a time. Yes, I’ll have help with editing and plotting can be done throughout the day, when I’m supposed to be doing some engineering stuff or whatever. But it’s still a finger-numbing schedule.

Back in the day of the wired mices and one-sheets, we were told this is not realistic. This is art. Art cannot be rushed. Art takes time.

Well, if Art wants to eat tonight he’d better get off his lazy (insert edgy noun for secular blog) and start bustin’ some keys. Because Art is now in the business of sales. This is nothing new. The reason most entrepreneurs and writers fail is because they pause and bask in the glow of that first success. When a gazelle pauses it gets eaten. ‘Nuff said.

We are artists. But there’s no reason to be of the starving sort. The well-fed artist will learn terms like “sales funnel” and “calls-to-action.” The fat ‘n happy artist will get the (edgy adjective here) book written on schedule. Not perfect? Never will be. Pack it and ship it. 

As I’m writing this, a Borders bookmark popped out of my Strunk and White. I love symbolism. I used to love Borders. But it’s gone. My nearest bookstore is a massive place of wonder called Second and Charles. They sell mostly used things. My wife and I love flipping through their thousands of record albums (yes, albums). They have old posters, movies, and…books. With real covers and paper and the names of publishing houses on the spline.
Courtesy Flickr Creative Commons - Ruthanne Reid

Know where Second & Charles is located? In the old Borders building. Did I say I love symbolism?

Yes, I still dream of my name on those Borders shelves. I fantasize about award ceremonies where I get lavish praise from my publisher and Stephen King hands me my little plaque with AUTHOR OF THE CENTURY emblazoned over a little image of a Royal typewriter. We’ll clink glasses of Dom Perignon and Steve-o (I call him Steve-o) will whisper an inside joke about our time on the French coast when I wrote an entire scene on the leg of…oops, save it for the secular blog, Ronboy (he calls me Ronboy).

But you get the drift. We’ve come full circle. The artist must produce his or her art. Then do it again. And again. We are masters of our own fate. Yeah, you can still write a book, get it trad published, and stare at it on your shelf (I’d have book-staring parties). I understand there are some trad published authors still out there making a living at it. I suspect, though, that, one by one, the veteran and the rookie, will utter “What the…” and realize he or she is being left behind. With Borders. With Royal typewriters. With wired-meeses.

Will the big publishers adapt and lure us back in? I really hope so. Somewhere there’s a part of me that wants that constant in my life. But I’m an artist and a businessman.  Art must eat, first and foremost.

What about you? Are you going to stay the Traditional route or have you decided to set out on your own? Really, I’m looking for anyone to talk sense into me. Now’s your chance.

Ron Estrada is a YA and Middle Grade Novelist and has a regular column in Women2Women Michigan entitled "Don't Tell My Wife I Wrote This." His self-publishing journey begins...right about now. Follow his progress (and lessons learned) at

Sunday, June 29, 2014


The buzz of the audience made it clear that much was expected. Excitement hummed through us all as the evening’s coordinator took the stage to introduce the main speaker. I had read some of his books – some I liked, some not so much – so I was unsure what to expect from him as the plenary speaker at Write! Canada, the country’s largest writers’ conference, held June 11-14 in Guelph Ontario. 

When he took the microphone and admitted that he hadn’t really prepared a speech for that night, I groaned inwardly. I’d heard speakers say that before and had to endure a rambling talk that had little focus and not much depth. But this speaker, on this night, would prove different.

Later it would be referred to as “The Ted Talk,” and it was the highlight of the conference for many of us because the speaker, best-selling author Ted Dekker, spoke directly from his heart about his life as a young missionary kid, his life as he became obsessed with writing and his life as success brought him to his knees and led him to surrender completely to God. 

These are some of the things I jotted down that night. I trust they will stir your hearts to ponder :

*Writing itself is a process to peace.

*Your fear will keep you chained – move forward on the beautiful path of surrender.

*You are a writer for your own transformation, not for your success.

*Let go of the need to be better than you are and discover your true beauty right now through your writing.

*Your objective is to live life, not publish books so focus on your writing as a means to knowing God.

*Writing becomes “magical” when you find the light in your own darkness.

*If you are not being transformed the story will not be about transformation.

*We are just kids playing at making sand castles that will be swept away. But we are left with what has happened in us and what we find within us – God himself.

*Find the greatest conflict in yourself right now and write it. Bleed on the page.

Ted’s talk was recorded by Swordfish Digital (email ) and will be available on The Word Guild’sWebsite in the near future. I highly recommend it to all writers of faith.


Marcia accepting The Word Award for

her short story, An Unexpected Glory at Write! Canada 2014                              

Marcia Lee Laycock writes from central Alberta Canada where she is a pastor's wife and mother of three adult daughters. She was the winner of The Best New Canadian Christian Author Award for her novel, One Smooth Stone. Her second novel, A Tumbled Stone was also short listed in the contemporary fiction category of The Word Awards in 2013. 

Marcia's work was short-listed in three categories at Write! Canada's Gala Award Ceremony held June 11th, 2014, in Guelph Ontario, Canada. Her work has been endorsed by Sigmund Brouwer, Janette Oke, Phil Callaway and Mark Buchanan. 

Abundant Rain, an ebook devotional for writers can be downloaded here

Visit Marcia’s  Website  to learn more about her writing and speaking ministry


Saturday, June 28, 2014

Is it Really Possible to Market Yourself Effectively as a Novelist?

Chip MaGregor
Chip MacGregor is the president of MacGregor Literary, a full-service literary agency on the Oregon Coast. A former publisher with Time Warner, he has worked with authors as a literary agent for more than a dozen years, and was previously a senior editor at two publishing houses. An Oregon native, Chip lives in a small town on the Oregon coast. Chip is also the author of a couple dozen books and a popular teacher on the craft of writing and marketing.

A woman I met at a conference wrote and asked, "Is it really possible to market yourself as a novelist?"

A novelist has to begin seeing herself not just as
an artist, but also as a brand name or
commodity that deserves marketing.
I definitely think it's possible for a novelist to market himself or herself. Over the past couple years, I've tried to share some thoughts on how novelists can market themselves, so you may find it helpful to meander back through my posts in order to look for ideas. But here's the big picture: In my opinion, a novelist has to begin seeing herself not just as an artist (which you, as a writer, most certainly are), but also as a brand name or commodity that deserves marketing. And that means creating a well-thought-out plan for marketing yourself and your work. (Okay, I'll admit that part of me hates writing that. I don't like talking about words as "commodities," and treating the writing arts as though they were cans of corn. But let's face facts — I'm talking with writers who want to make a living writing, and that translates to selling books.)

Non-fiction writers find it easier to do some basic marketing, since they have a topic or hot-button issue that is clearly discernable. If you were to write a book on losing weight or making money or raising kids, the potential audience for such a topic is easy to recognize. You can go onto radio programs and talk about the problem and the solutions you're offering, or write articles for magazines and e-zines that explore your particular approach to the issue. With fiction, it's tougher. Good stories are not about one topic, but explore numerous threads. And no radio or TV program wants to invite you on to re-tell your novel. So instead of focusing on the story, most fiction writers find they have to focus on the author or the genre. In other words, you and your voice becomes the focus of your marketing. This is why it's essential that a novelist has a clear style.

The focus of marketing is on the issues or
 topics raised in the novel
Or, sometimes, the focus of marketing is on the issues or topics raised in the novel. Think of the marketing of successful novelists — it's not always the story that is the focus, but the fact that there is another great book from John Grisham or Elizabeth George or Janet Evanovich. Or it's about the fact that someone has written a novel that deals with identify or spirituality or suicide or… whatever. Sometimes the focus is a bit more on the genre — the publisher wants readers to know this is an Amish story, or a techno-thriller, or a cross-cultural adventure story. But that's much less frequent than focusing on the author or issues. Again, great literature springs from a story that explores the great questions of life. Those questions reflect our own lives, and the characters make choices about them. We, as the readers, may like or hate the choices, but at least we get to see what someone else would do with those choices. So in many ways, a novel offers us a vicarious exploration of the great questions of life. We learn, we are moved, we grow. The greatest novels I've read have changed me.

Looking at today's market, what's the lesson for novelists? Discover your voice. Write a great novel. Market yourself hard.