Archive for the ‘Writing Nonfiction Books’ Category

God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn;
he will never go back on his promises.
Romans 11:29 TLB

  • Do you feel called to write a nonfiction book?
  • Have you been procrastinating because you don’t feel up to the task?
  • Perhaps you’ve begun writing but now you’re feeling stuck?
  • Or maybe you’ve got a completed manuscript, but now what? Should you try and find a traditional publisher, or is indie publishing a better option?

When I finished my first book about 45 years ago (yes, I’ve been writing for a long time), indie publishing wasn’t an option. Back then it was called vanity publishing. Not only was it outrageously expensive, it “branded” the author (but not in today’s positive understanding of the word) as not being good enough to find a real publisher.

Today, because indie publishing is often the best option, the May 16-19 Colorado Christian Writers Conference is offering a 6-hour continuing session on Going Indie.

Cindy Lambert Mar 2015But God’s plan for you may be traditional publishing. If so, a strong book proposal is essential to gain the attention of an agent and publisher. I highly recommend Cindy Lambert’s Nonfiction Book Proposal Clinic. Cindy is the former vice president and associate publisher of trade books with Zondervan. In addition to the six hours she will spend working with six authors on their book proposal, Cindy will meet one-on-one with each participant for 30 minutes. Click here for more information and the needed application. It is due April 16.

Proposal-writing classes have always left me feeling a bit bewildered. Each instructor had their own, different list of “musts,” “dos,” and “don’ts.”  The fog lifted for me after working with Cindy Lambert at CCWC. A delightful and caring mentor, I would have enjoyed her class under any circumstances. But as a teacher Cindy really zeroed in on: WHAT we needed to include in our proposal, WHY that information was important to an Acquisitions Editor, WHERE each section should be shown for optimum effect, HOW to dig deeply to uncover what made our writing stand out in a crowd, and, maybe most importantly, WHO are our readers?  It took my understanding of writing and publishing to a whole new level. ~ Lori Hynson – Phoenixville, PA

A pre-requisite for participating in Cindy’s clinic is her Crafting a Winning Nonfiction Book Proposal early bird workshop on Wednesday from 4:45 – 6:00. This workshop is open to everyone.

Instead of applying for Cindy’s clinic, nonfiction writers have the option to choose six workshops from the 42 offered Thursday through Saturday. In addition, you still get a 6-hour continuing session. Especially recommended for nonfiction writers is Writing Narrative Nonfiction, Your Book Launch Game Plan, or Write from the Deep.

And don’t forget CCWC’s one-on-one appointments. If you attend Thursday through Saturday you are eligible for FIVE free appointments. (The first 75 who registered get SIX.) That’s more than any other conference offers. Five of the six agents on faculty are interested in acquiring nonfiction books and more editors than I’ve got time to count. See the charts below.

Agents NF

Click here to view a 3-page full-size PDF
of all genres agents are interested in representing.

Editors Chart NF p 1.jpg

Click here to view a 5-page full-size PDF of all editorial needs.

Editors Chart NF p 2.jpg

The conference registration fee increases on tax day, April 17. You can register securely online by clicking here. If you’re waiting for your tax return, you can register now , pay a $100 deposit in the next 7 days and the balance at the conference.

Always remember to:

Commit everything you do to the Lord.
Trust him to help you do it, and he will.
Psalm 37:5 TLB


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Feb banner

Looking to overcome winter doldrums and jumpstart this year’s writing?

A brand-new conference is coming up quickly this February 9-10 (Friday/Saturday) in Lansdale, PA (just off the north/south PA Turnpike) at Towamencin Mennonite Church (Friday afternoon) and Dock Mennonite Academy (Friday evening and all day Saturday). Friday night lodging at the Holiday Inn is $89 plus tax with roommate matching available to split the cost with one, two, or three other writers.

A small but highly qualified faculty will provide three inspiring keynotes, valuable 20-minute paid critiques and marketing consultations, a “Build Your Platform Panel,” and in-depth teaching.

Sarah Bolme, teaching a 4-hour learning lab Friday afternoon on Going Indie. Sarah is the author of the award-winning Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace and the director of the Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA).

Karen Ball, teaching a 3-hour session on Taming Fiction Dragons. In her more than 30 years in publishing, Karen has built fiction lines for major publishers and worked with some of the best authors, including Francine Rivers and Karen Kingsbury.

Bill Watkins, teaching a 3-hour session on Writing that Changes Lives. In his 35-plus years in publishing, Bill has worked with authors such as Mike Huckabee, Charles Swindoll, and Josh McDowell. He is an award-winning author of 7 books and senior editor at BroadStreet Publishing Group.

Jim Watkins, teaching a 3-hour session on The Five Rs of Nonfiction. Jim is an award-winning author of over 20 books and 2,000 articles. He has spoken across the United States and overseas.

Karen Whiting, teaching a 3-hour session on Developing a Personalized Marketing Strategy for Your Book. Karen is a freelance writer and award-winning author of 25 nonfiction books.

Feb flyer for webFriday evening,  in addition to Bill Watkins’ keynote, Christians Are Hateful – The Cultural Challenge for Today’s Christians, includes author interviews and a book signing. Bring your book(s) to sell and sign.

Click here for the conference flyer.

And for more info and to register click here.

Conference Bonus:

An extra bonus for conferees is to attend and participate in the Munce Christian Product Exposition (CPE) February 11-13 at Eden Resort in Lancaster, PA.

Munce, the largest association of independent Christian bookstores in North America, holds two CPEs each year, the second in Nashville, TN, in the fall.

It is a real privilege to come and interact with 100+ bookstore owners. Karen Whiting will do a special training at the CPE in how to make the most of this exciting opportunity including: 

1. There are several limited spots open to sign complimentary copies of books for retailers at the Sunday afternoon (4:30 – 5:30) author personality event. Authors need to provide 50-80 copies of their book to give retailers. This is a great opportunity to get your book in the hands of retailers who might choose to carry the book, or have you come to their store for an event. You can include your speaker one sheet, bookmarks, and other promotional materials.

2. Experience a book trade show. The exhibit floor is open on Monday and Tuesday plus there are workshops on marketing and other retail topics. You’ll see the latest in products and have the opportunity to talk to retailers and sales reps (you cannot interrupt the sales happening between retailers and sales people).

Click here for the schedule. If you’re interested in attending, email Karen at authorkarenwhiting@gmail.com.

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1.       To learn the craft of writing. Okay, maybe you’ve been writing for many years, but there is always more to learn. Master craftsmen will teach workshops and continuing sessions that, as one conferee said, are the equivalent of a semester college course in writing.  You’ll learn from authors like Bill Myers whose books and videos have sold over 8 million copies or Gayle Roper, an award-winning author of 45 books. And they are just two of the 55 authors, editors, agents, and publicists serving on this year’s faculty.

 2.       To learn the craft of marketing your work to potential publishers. If you’ve gotten more than your share of rejection slips or have yet to get your first rejection (I’m sorry, it goes with the territory of being a writer), CCWC’s track of six hour-long publishing workshops will provide practical help. In addition, Cindy Lambert is teaching a two-hour Wednesday early bird workshop on “Crafting a Winning Nonfiction Book Proposal.”  You also can choose Tim Shoemaker’s continuing session, “How to Get Published!” or Kim Bangs’ continuing session, “Nonfiction Books.”

3.       Face-to-face opportunities to pitch your work to editors and agentsAt CCWC you get FOUR 15-minute one-on-one appointments with the faculty of your choice. Because we have such a large faculty, there’s still a good possibility that you’ll get your top choices. On Thursday afternoon you’ll have the opportunity to sign up for additional appointments with faculty who still have openings. In today’s publishing world, the only way to connect with many agents and editors is through meeting them at a conference. Check out our helpful spreadsheets of their editorial needs. Our authors are also available for appointments. They can point out the strengths and weaknesses in your writing, answer questions, and provide helpful guidance.

4.       To learn the craft of marketing/promoting your published work. And yes, it’s a craft, and not one that comes naturally to most writers.  I’ve often said that the reason I quit Girl Scouts is because of the stress of trying to sell cookies.  Whether or not you like marketing, the fact is that you hold the key to the sales of your book.  But the good news is that it’s a craft that can be learned. Thomas Umstaddt’s continuing session, “Obscure No More,” will teach you how to build a powerful online platform. We’ve also got a track of six hour-long marketing workshops.

5.       Friendships with other writers. My closest friends are writers I’ve met at writers’ conferences. In amazing ways writers connect deeply with one another more quickly than I ever have in the chit-chat before and after Sunday morning worship services. And we need each other. A key verse for me that I’ve experienced and sought to follow is 1 Thessalonians 5:11, “Encourage each other to build each other up” (TLB).

 6.       Inspiration and encouragement to keep on keeping on. Our general sessions and keynotes will challenge you not to give up. I’m especially looking forward to the closing keynote Saturday afternoon, “Finishing Strong,” that Tim Shoemaker has stepped in to give because Tim Baker had to cancel.

 “Often we can feel less and less equipped to cope with the battles of life,” Tim Shoemaker says. “Job problems. Medical issues. Financial concerns. Emotional wounds. All of these and more can make us feel like we’re past our prime. Whether it is feelings of fear, inadequacy, or feeling the best of life has passed us by, we can easily fall into a sense that we’re sidelined and that God doesn’t really have anything critical for us to do. We can get relaxed. Complacent. It is a surrender of sorts.  A neutralizing thing.

“First Corinthians 16:13-14 says ‘Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. Do everything in love.’ These are great verses for many Christians today – men or women. I’d like to break down those verses a bit. And I’d like to encourage the people not to give up. Not to quit. Not to let down their guard. But instead, to finish strong. To keep fighting. To be an example to the next generation. To fight for the loved ones in the next generation. We do that through who we are, and as writers, we influence people through the words we put on paper.

“I’d like to recruit people to active duty to be in the fight – to be the person they should be and the example they should be. Some of the greatest works God does through people is not when they have money, influence, strength, or power. It is when those things are gone or greatly diminished from where they once were that God often uses a person.”

7.       Direction from the Lord. Each year, and this is my 17th year directing CCWC, God meets us on the mountain and changes lives. He has a plan for you and for your writing.  He is the One who makes the impossible possible.

So there are seven reasons you need to prayerfully consider coming to the May 15-18 Colorado Christian Writers Conference. I could easily list many more! Partial scholarships are still available if you need financial help to come that your family, friends, or church are unable to provide.

There’s still time to register and to request appointments. Housing is still available on the YMCA’s campus, and the YMCA will do roommate matching to lower the cost. None of the workshops or continuing sessions are filled because of the YMCA’s large classrooms. And there’s even still space in two of our clinics – the “Speakers’ Clinic” with KPOF’s Roy Hanschke and “Get Them Coming to Your Blog/Website” with Megan Breedlove whose website has held one of the top two spots in Google search terms for more than three years.

You’re welcome to contact me if you have questions at mbagnull@aol.com or 484-991-8581.

God bless you and your writing – Marlene


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Dina SleimanDonna Brennan
Faculty Member
Dina Sleiman

Author Dina Sleiman writes with the same flowing grace one could find in a song or a dance. If you’ve read her books, you wouldn’t be surprised to learn that she’s also a poet, a songwriter, and a worship dance choreographer, director, and dancer. Her novels, poetry, songs, and dancing all can be considered forms of worship.

Dina will be teaching a continuing session at the May 15 – 18 Colorado Christian Writers Conference on “The Inspiration and the Perspiration.” This course is designed to help Christian writers seek God for writing inspiration and also learn the skills needed to craft that inspiration into a fully publishable book. I got in touch with Dina to ask her a few questions about the session.

Q: How would you define Christian writing? Is being a “Christian writer” different from being a “Christian who writes”?

I have my own definition for Christian writing: “Any writing inspired by the Holy Spirit that advances the kingdom of God on earth.” I will explain why that is my definition, and we will discuss other definitions and examples of classic Christian writing as well. This is always an interesting topic, and I love to hear feedback from my students. I do think being a Christian writer can be different than being a Christian who writes, although that is a fairly subjective distinction.

Q: As a Christian I feel I should already know how to hear from God, but I admit sometimes I only hear silence. Will you be showing us methods for communicating with God so we can hear his voice? Will these methods help us only with our writing or with other issues in our lives as well?

I think every Christian wants to believe they can hear God’s voice, but the majority of us suffer a good bit of confusion in this area. This was a huge struggle for me throughout much of my life. A wonderful Christian brother told me recently that he tossed a coin to try to discern God’s voice. That’s just sad. We have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us and should not have to resort to those sorts of Old Testament methods. Although I do not buy into overly simplified formulas, I have learned a number of techniques during my own quest that really help me to hone in on and hear God’s voice, and yes, I will be sharing all of these. In class we will be focusing on how to use these techniques for writing, but they will absolutely bless you in every area of your life. I remember one student receiving a powerful word from God during our in class prayer time that had nothing to do with writing at all, and it truly changed her.

Q: How can we tell if our inspiration comes from God or from or own imagination?

Again, I have a number of tips to share in this area, including checks and balances. But the most basic answer is that the Spirit of God is often referred to as a flowing river, so you want to tap into that sense of flow that comes from the kingdom of God deep within you.

Q: So once we get that inspiration—that lump of clay—now what?

Now the real work starts. LOL. Even the biblical writers spent extensive time crafting their writing into the best of ancient poetry. We’ll look at examples of how this worked with a number of poets and prophets.

Q: If our inspiration comes from God, that’s all we need, right? Why would we need to learn the writing craft—wouldn’t God just give us all the words, too?

I won’t deny that it is possible for God to give us precise words that are correct the first time, or to teach us to write through practice and adherence to his voice, but this is the rare exception rather than the rule, even among biblical writers. Habakkuk is the only real example of this. Of course, the deeper we can tap into the flow of the Holy Spirit, the better our writing will be the first time. But that is no excuse to be lazy or stubborn about revising and editing.

Q: Will the class be more about inspiration and hearing from God, or more about the perspiration and crafting we need to do to shape that lump of clay idea into a publishable book?

We will spend the first few hours learning about inspiration and transitioning to perspiration. The remainder of the class will be about the hard work needed to create that publishable book and all the steps of editing involved. I’ve actually considered calling the class “The Inspiration, The Perspiration, and The Commercialization” but I didn’t know how that would strike people. We will spend the last hour or so discussing the business side of writing, though, because it’s very important if you want anyone to read the message you’ve put so much work into.

Q: What are some of the crafting topics you’ll cover?

We will look at all the steps of editing that publishing houses use and learn to apply these to our own work. I will try to tailor the class to the genres of writing represented in the group. But in general we will look at a plan to start with major content editing and work through the process until every letter and punctuation mark is in place. Generally I end up teaching about plot, scene structure, and characterization for fiction and essay structure for nonfiction. Sometimes I get to teach a little about poetry and lyric essay as well, depending on my audience. Fortunately, my background covers all of these areas. I think my class is a great one for new writers who want to see the full process involved in writing a book, and also for writers who are having difficulties, but can’t seem to pinpoint why.

Q: Would strategic planning include outlines and plot summaries? What about for folks who call themselves pantsters?

By strategic planning, I primarily mean that you should pin down your genre, audience, and premise before you get too far into your writing. And I will explain why these are important. Beyond that, I believe that the writing process works differently for different writers. In basic nonfiction, it would be difficult to write without a plan. In fiction and narrative nonfiction, some writers plan the whole plot in advance. Some must experience the entire story along with their characters without much forethought. Many writers fall somewhere in between, using free writing to get them started before planning. But in order to have a strong story, at some point you must examine the structure. Every story must have the same basic “bones” as Angela Hunt puts it. And we will discuss those bones. For pantsters, this might mean extra editing once the first draft is finished.

Q: As acquisitions editor for WhiteFire Publishing, you’ll be taking appointments at both the May 15-18 Colorado and July 31-Augut 3 Greater Philly Christian Writers Conference. Is there any advice you care to share with folks planning to pitch to you?

I just want to get to know you as a person. What you write of course, but also your personality, passions, hopes, and dreams. I love a relaxed session with a lot of give and take. Don’t worry about preparing a long speech. A thirty second pitch is more than enough. And please, please, listen when I ask you questions—and answer them! Don’t just return to your script. You don’t have to sell me on anything. I just want to see if we’re a match. I rarely read sample writing during an appointment. I prefer to do that later via email. But I do appreciate if the author gives me a one sheet with their picture to help me remember them and our conversation.

Thanks Dina and Donna. Great questions and responses. “The Inspiration and the Perspiration” is going to be an exciting continuing session.

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I knew God had called me to write a book. What I didn’t know was if I could do it. As my friend, Gayle Roper, once said, “There’s a big difference between a book and a magazine article – like 250 pages difference.”

To be honest, there were days the last thing I wanted to do was work on the book. The evil one’s lies grew louder and more insistent. “What makes you think anyone would want to read what you’ve written?” My self-doubts intensified. I wanted to run from what I still knew God was calling me to do.

“He who believes need never run away again,” I read in Isaiah 28:16 (TLB).

Exactly 365 days after I had committed to finish the book in a year, I completed the manuscript. And then the waiting began. Some of you know that the manuscript was rejected by 42 publishers over a five year period. Finally, the 43rd editor to see the manuscript accepted it for publication.

Looking back I’m amazed that I didn’t give up. I certainly wanted to give up. But God wouldn’t let me, and I’m so glad I didn’t. Had I given up, eight other books would never have been published. I wouldn’t have known the joy of serving on the faculty of over 70 Christian writers’ conferences and giving my one and two day writing seminars over 50 times around the nation. The Greater Philly Christian Writers Conference would not have been birthed 30 years ago, and the awesome privilege of directing the Colorado Christian Writers Conference for 17 years would never have happened.

What about you? Is God calling you to write an article or story, a book or even a screenplay? Does it seem impossible? Do you feel you lack the writing skills to make it happen? Are you stuck and the words aren’t flowing? Do you have a completed manuscript that you’ve not been able to sell? Are you discouraged and ready to run from God’s call?

I know the Colorado or Greater Philly Christian Writers Conference can be a turning point for you and your writing ministry. It’s not too late to register for the May 15-18 Colorado conference and to schedule one-on-one appointments with FOUR editors, agents, or authors if you attend Thursday through Saturday. Secure online registration for the July 31 – August 3 Greater Philly conference will open April 15.

Trust Father to make a way –

  •  Logistically – Friends babysat my three children so I could attend the St. Davids Christian Writers Conference for a number of years.
  • Financially – We often “have not because we ask not.” I want to encourage you to approach your church family and your friends if you need help. They may welcome the opportunity to invest in your writing ministry. My pastor paid for my first writers conference and provided the accountability I needed afterwards to not waste what he invested in me. The conferences do not have any full scholarships to offer this year, but partial scholarships up to 50% of the cost of registration are possible. The scholarship application is not yet posted for the Philly conference. For Colorado’s application click here. Time payments can be arranged if necessary.

 Lord, I believe. Please help my unbelief. Help me to have faith in You knowing that You can make all things possible.

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How can you make your book proposal stand out—in a positive way—from the many that agents and editors receive on a daily basis? What makes your book unique? Who’s your target audience, and how do you plan to reach it?

Marti Pieper, a professional writer, editor, and book doctor, can help you increase your nonfiction book proposal’s appeal to agents and editors along with its chances of finding a publishing home. Marti uses her years of writing and editing experience to help you discover common errors and suggests practical ways to improve them. She’ll also help you identify your book’s unique selling point and target audience, enabling you to enhance your book proposal by positioning your book in the marketplace.

May 17-19 Marti will share this information at the Colorado Christian Writer’s Conference, where she’ll present one of the three clinics offered. I caught up with Marti and asked her a few questions about herself and her nonfiction book proposal clinic, “Book Doctor: Take Your Nonfiction From Good to Great.”

Question: You call yourself a book doctor. What exactly does a book doctor do?

The book doctor title came my way after more than one experience where an author or agent asked me to apply my writing and editing skills to a manuscript or proposal and move it toward publication. A book doctor, like a medical doctor, assesses the patient (manuscript and/or proposal), formulates appropriate treatment based on the diagnosis, and carries out that treatment until the patient no longer requires care. In my case, this has included everything from complete or partial reorganization to ghostwriting to content editing. I like to say I take proposals and manuscripts from good to great. That’s what I hope our Book Doctor Clinic achieves as well.

Question:  At what point in writing a nonfiction book should we start writing the proposal?

Writing a great proposal helps you write a fantastic book. That explains why I think authors should write the proposal early in their writing process, perhaps before they have written a word of the manuscript. The effort and organization required to complete the proposal-writing process gives authors the deep knowledge of their material required to produce a great book.

Question: When should we contact an agent or editor?

First-time authors will want to have their proposals finished before they contact these professionals. However, a writer’s conference affords the unique opportunity to meet with agents or editors at an earlier point. If you can bring a finished proposal to the conference, do so. Whether or not the agent or editor has time to read it, you’ll know your material better and speak more confidently about it if you’ve submitted to the discipline of completing your proposal. If you can’t complete your proposal before the conference, bring a pitch sheet (summary sheet that contains basic information about the proposed manuscript and its author) to refer to during conference appointments. And of course, sign up for the Book Doctor clinic where we’ll work together to help your proposal shine.

Question:  How important is it that we know our target audience before we write the proposal? What about before we write the book?

Knowing our target audience is key to developing both the proposal and the book. We write to meet the felt needs of our readers, and if we don’t know who our readers are, we’ll have a tough time meeting those needs.

Question:  The clinic description says we’ll learn ways to identify our unique selling point. Will the clinic also show us how to present that selling point in our proposal?

Yes, we’ll cover that as we go through the various elements of a nonfiction proposal. The clinic outline will flex somewhat depending on the needs of the individuals and manuscripts submitted, but the basic elements should remain the same.

Question:  Will the clinic help us come up with a marketing plan to include in our book proposal?

We’ll discuss marketing but I doubt we’ll have time to develop specific plans. I’m glad the conference offers great teaching by Rob Eagar and others who can help us improve our marketing efforts. Again, the clinic will flex depending on the number, needs, and interests of those who attend.  (NOTE: Those chosen to participate in the clinic will still attend the six hour continuing session of their choice including Rob Eagar’s “Marketing for the Promotionally Challenged Author,” “Narrative Nonfiction” with Craig von Buseck who is Ministries Director at CBN.com, “Gift Books and Devotional Writing” with Karen Moore, “Please NO Pat Answers” with a team of three authors, or “Changing Paradigms of Publishing” with Dave Lambert. Those who do not choose to apply for the clinic or who are not accepted can choose six workshops from the 42 offered including six workshops in each of the following tracks: Nonfiction, Writer’s Life, Craft, Get Publishing, Marketing, and Specialty.)

Question:  Can you give a few examples of common errors you’ve seen in nonfiction book manuscripts and proposals?

I have to save some of my secrets for the conference, Donna, but here are a few: limited or lofty appeal, lack of focus, and trying to develop a book when you only have enough material for an article. The clinic environment is a unique setting that allows us to learn from each other and allow God to use us together to produce better proposals and, in the end, better products. I’m excited about the opportunity to mentor writers in this interactive, instructive environment. Thanks for your questions, Donna, and I’ll see you at the CCWC!

Thanks, Donna and Marti, for a great interview. Clinic applications must be received via email no later than April 16. Click here for more info and the application.               

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