Make Them Feel ~ Taylor Bennett

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About the Author: Homeschooled since kindergarten, Taylor Bennett is the seventeen-year-old author of Porch Swing Girl, which will be released by Mountain Brook Ink on May 1st. When she’s not reading or writing, Taylor can be found playing her violin or taking walks in the beautiful Oregon countryside. She loves to connect with readers via her author website, as well as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram (her favorite!), Pinterest, and Goodreads.

There’s a favorite quote of mine—one of the famous ones—that says:
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
And, while this is especially true in real life, it also holds a nugget of wisdom for us as writers.
I can’t always perfectly recount the plotline of a favorite book, nor can I recite especially witty sections of dialogue from memory. I don’t always remember the name of a beloved character, or their height or eye color. Sometimes I read a book that just sticks with me, for reasons I can’t understand.
And that is my ultimate goal as a writer.
I want to create stories that make people feel—one way or another. I don’t care if they remember my characters, if they can quote their favorite scene verbatim. It doesn’t matter to me whether they read the book a million times or can recall the plot from memory.
No, I just want to leave them with something. A feeling, a mood, a memory.
There are books that I read years ago, books that are tucked high on a shelf that I haven’t thought of in ages. But some of those books, though the plotline has grown hazy and I no longer know every character by name, are still in my heart.
They’re in my heart when I hear the chime of an ice cream truck, see the flicker of a firefly or hear the far-off bark of a dog. Something about these books, those on my elite list of favorites, sticks with me. It strikes straight to my heart and all I can say is that it makes me feel something so deep, so beautiful, that I can’t deny my love for that book.
So, how do we, as authors, craft stories and tell tales that evoke such strong feelings and word-pictures that they stick with our readers for years to come?
Let me count the ways…

1. Make a list.
Really!! Make a list—almost an aesthetic of sorts, but without the pictures—of the little (or big!) things you want to stand out in your story. Small bits of description or little truths that you can turn into unexpected beauty. If I made a list for my debut novel, Porch Swing Girl, it might have gone like this:
• Half-melted shave ice
• Pink Converse
• Sunset-painted skies
• Long talks and hard truths
• Hair blown by the breeze
• Shakas (AKA the hang loose sign)
• Overgrown hibiscus bushes
• Sand between toes
• Splintery porch swings
• Early mornings and late nights
• Unanswered texts
• Handmade bracelets
• Etc.
Get the picture? Think about your story—all the little bits and pieces that make it distinctly yours, everything that makes it beautiful—and put it into words. Stephanie Morrill (author of The Lost Girl of Astor Street) calls it a “book love list” and it is such a good idea. You can make it as concrete or abstract as you’d like, but it’s a great way to help you figure out the true heart of your book before you begin writing.

2. Pinterest it!
I’m a huge fan of the aesthetic. I love scrolling through other authors’ inspiration boards, and I absolutely looove creating boards for future books in my free time. (So now you know what I do when I’m not writing! I’m brainstorming future books on Pinterest…)
Creating an aesthetic can really affect how you write—it can bring a depth and richness to your description, especially if your story takes place in a location you’ve never visited before.
Making a Pinterest board can also be a great way to store research about topics your book might address (grief, a certain hobby, etc.) and it also allows you to “see” your story while you write.

3. Find the theme
I’m not talking about being preachy, or even deciding on the “moral” of your story before you start writing. In fact, I’d strongly encourage you to NOT pick a moral or lesson for your story until you’ve written at least the first draft. Books tend to have minds of their own, and oftentimes they present us with much deeper, more profound messages than we could ever come up with.
When I say the “theme” I mean the heart. The true meat of the story, a part of it that goes beyond the plot, the message—all of it.
Ask yourself: What do I want readers to remember most about my book?
Here’s an example:
One of the big takeaway points in Porch Swing Girl is: Sometimes God’s plans for our life are more different than we could imagine—but that doesn’t mean they can’t be beautiful.
But I consider the theme—the true heart of the story to be more than that. The heart behind Porch Swing Girl is about love and loss, friends and family and friends that become family. It’s about the realization that we were made to do more than just exist. It’s about hope and heartache and the beauty that can only come from ashes. It’s about everything that makes life beautiful and how—sometimes—those things aren’t what they seem.
In short, though the theme might be directly related to the moral of the story, it’s deeper—more abstract. If your reader remembers the theme, there’s a greater chance that the lesson included in the story will touch their heart more than you ever could have imagined.

4. What else?
There are plenty of other ways to ensure that you craft a story that stays snugly in your reader’s heart for years. Some of them—like creating wonderfully quirky characters and spinning a tangled web of mindblowing plot twists—are widely covered by a multitude of authors. Others—those spellbinding little bits of magic that get woven between the pages of our favorite books—can only be learned with time.
So get out there, dear writers, and live a life filled with wonder.
Fill notebooks with words and scrapbooks with memories. Live out loud and fill your heart and soul with wonder. And then, when you sit down to write, use those feelings, those memories, those emotions—use them in ways you never thought possible to touch more hearts than you ever could have imagined.

Porch Swing Girl

What if friendship cost you everything?

Stranded in Hawaii after the death of her mother, sixteen-year-old Olive Galloway is desperate to escape. She has to get back to Boston before her dad loses all common sense and sells the family house. But plane tickets cost money—something Olive gravely lacks.
With the help of Brander, the fussy youth group worship leader, and Jazz, a mysterious girl with a passion for all things Hawaiian, Olive lands a summer job at the Shave Ice Shack and launches a scheme to buy a plane ticket home before the end of the summer.

But when Jazz reveals a painful secret, Olive’s plans are challenged. Jazz needs money. A lot of it. Olive and Brander are determined to help their friend but, when their fundraising efforts are thwarted, Olive is caught in the middle. To help Jazz means giving up her ticket home. And time is running out.

You can order Porch Swing Girl on Amazon now! 😀


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Slaying the Sequel Monster ~Abigayle Claire

I’m excited to share this article by Abigayle Claire– I found it full of useful information (just as I had hoped– I asked her specifically to write something on sequels)

About the Author: Abigayle has been a writer ever since her mother taught her how to hold a pencil. However, she devoted more time to reading words with her green eyes than penning them with her left hand. Inspired by a crazy dream at the age of sixteen, she set off on a journey to self-publish her first novel, Martin Hospitality. Since then, Abigayle has devoted herself to sharing what she has learned through the mediums of freelance editing and her blog … when period drama films are not calling more loudly. None of her successes, including winning a 2017 Readers’ Favorite Award, would be possible without the support of her Savior, large family, and online community.


I admire all of you who have ever written a sequel. In my mind it’s quite the feat (like slaying a dragon or sea monster). For those of who haven’t written a sequel, sequel-writers deserve to have all our inkwells poured out on their feet. Or maybe you’re like me and you fall in the middle: trying to write a sequel.

All writing has its ups and downs, of course. No draft is easy, but I’ve found sequels to be particularly challenging. So maybe this post can be your special armor or sneaky enchantment you need to slay the monster yourself.

Why I think sequels are hard

I published my first novel Martin Hospitality because I enjoyed writing it and it came together. (Again, not as easy as it sounds, but generally speaking.) I have a gazillion story ideas like the rest of you, but I’m going to spend the most time on the ones I think will come together.

Because I have other ideas for the characters and because my readers enjoy them, I intend for there to be one if not two more books in the series. So I’m currently working on the sequel to Martin Hospitality. Actually, I’ve been working on it off and on for the last year. *dies*

I thought writing a sequel might be easier, and for some of you it might be. After all, it’s the same world/universe and characters. It’s a lot less creating from scratch. But that’s exactly where I hit my main roadblock—I’ve already taken my characters so far, it’s hard for me to take them further still. Gotta love character arcs.

How to make it easier on yourself

I think I made some initial mistakes that stunted my writing initially and led to my burnout last year. Trust me, you want to avoid burnout if at all possible. I don’t typically have to do full rewrites, but I started completely over on draft one after setting it aside for awhile. You want to avoid starting over again and again too.

So here are some things to try to make writing a sequel easier:

1. Ask yourself if a sequel is necessary. I honestly don’t think Martin Hospitality needs a sequel anymore. It never did. People just want more, and I had some scene ideas, so I thought why not.

2. Don’t make promises. Had I not promised people a sequel, I might not be writing a sequel … Not that you can’t change your mind as a writer—plans do change. But it’s even harder to go back on what you have in print (front title page: MARTIN HOSPITALITY Martin Generations Book #1) than what you say online.

3. P-L-O-T. I am a genuine plantser (half planning, half winging it), but you have to plan a sequel. I am convinced there is no other option. I cannot plan out everything to a tee, but scene cards, character sheets, personality typing, etc. all saved my life. Scene cards especially. Find your thing that will help get the jumbled fluff in your head at least into chronological order.

4. Consider timing. This might not be a problem with everyone, but my timeline is killing me … more and more quickly with each passing day. How do you jump ahead 10 years if Book 1 was a contemporary? Is it OK to skip years twice in one book? Do the concurrent events even line up for people’s ages? Yeah, those kind of problems.

5. Read the first book! I really resisted reading my own published novel. I published it, people liked it … I never had to flip past the title page for signing copies. It was great. Until I needed to know what color so-and-so’s eyes were. Or what mannerisms I’d given someone. Did that scene make it into the final draft? The only way to answer those questions is to reread the book. Plus, you’ll find a wealth of tidbits to springboard off of—things you accidentally set up for a sequel. 😉

6. Maybe plan out the whole series to begin with. There really should be more than “accidentally setting things up for a sequel.” I feel like the only writer on earth who wrote Book 1 without really planning Book 2. (To my credit, I did plan Book 3.) I think most of my character arc problems would be solved if I’d written with a sequel more at the forefront of my mind.

7. Don’t resolve it all!* If everything ties up, it’s a standalone, not Book 1. I’m not saying you have to have a cliffhanger, but there needs to be some stakes on the table still—not just loveable characters. The ending to Martin Hospitality is open, but there’s not much you need to read on for.

*there are some series that cater to being individual stories in a single world or with connected characters—such series don’t require the same intense connectedness.

8. Learn as you go. Obviously this is what I’ve had to do, and I won’t be able to cut the learning curve completely short for you either. Contrary to what it might have sounded like earlier, I don’t regret sticking with writing a sequel. It’s been an amazing test of patience and writing when I simply don’t feel like it. A wonderful pain. And, yes, I still intend to write other series. I’m just going to approach them differently.

Of course, several of these can be issues even in standalones. However, for me, these issues have all come out more prominently in sequel-writing. But I’ll survive and so can you! I hope this will help you on your way to writing sequels because I’ve learned one thing through all this: the only thing harder than writing a sequel is writing a standalone.


Have you ever written (or tried to write) a sequel? Do you think it would be harder or easier for you than writing a standalone?

Readers’ Favorite 2017 Christian Fiction Honorable Mention

Gemma Ebworthy is eighteen, pregnant, and alone. Now that she’s been evicted, she finds herself sleeping in a barn, never dreaming that tomorrow could bring kindness of a life-changing magnitude.

The Martins aren’t a typical family–even for rural Kansas. With more kids than can be counted on one hand and a full-time farm, Gemma must make a lot of adjustments to fit in. But despite their many differences, Gemma finds herself drawn to this family and their radical Christian faith.

When Gemma’s past collides with her yet again, she must begin revealing her colorful history. With every detail Gemma concedes, she fears she will lose the Martins’ trust and the stable environment she desires for herself and her unborn child. Just how far can the Martins’ love and God’s forgiveness go?

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How to Keep Writing (Even When It’s Hard) ~ Stephanie Kehr

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About the Author: Stephanie is a professional writer and former journalist who has a heart for sharing raw stories and encouraging authors to write for Jesus. Although she grew up reading books, writing them became her accidental passion. In addition to representing books through C.Y.L.E. Literary, she works on the publishing board for Illuminate YA (an imprint of LPC Books), and spends her quiet moments immersed in poetry or blogging about her adventures with God. Stephanie is a believer in hard work, audiobooks, chocolate, and dreaming big. To connect with her, visit her website:
You can connect with Stephanie through her blog, twitter, Instagram, and Facebook!


I love writing. It’s my lifeblood—I basically cannot live without it. But we can all agree that writing is also hard. Really hard. No matter how much we adore it, it’s difficult to churn out word after word, edit after edit, and book after book only to face big critiques, small paychecks, and unpredictable careers.

With each new assignment and contract, I am reminded of how my writerly obligations are ever changing, growing, pausing, and pushing forward again. I often find myself adjusting the way I write, and the way I motivate myself around each hard moment. Now I’m getting used to the edits, and learning to love the unpredictability.

What are my secrets, you say? TELL ALL. Here are five ways I motivate myself to keep doing what I love, even when it’s hard.

1) Write a Story That’s Exciting Enough to Come Back to
You have to be passionate about the books you write. Believe me, you aren’t getting through fourteen drafts of a novel if you aren’t head-over-heels in love with it. If you’re struggling to keep going, remind yourself of all the reasons why you love your book, and why you’re passionate about it. Take a few minutes to “date” your plot and characters again, to get reconnected. Go back and review your original notes, and read your favorite scenes. Choosing to remember why you’re writing is one of the best ways to stay motivated, even when it’s hard.

2) Balance brain time with physical activities
Struggling to keep up your creativity? The body and brain connection is stronger than you think. Be intentional about physical activity, and never sit down for a long period of time without exercising before or after. Take a quick walk, jog, or hit the gym. Go swimming, biking, or play tennis with a friend. Exerting physical energy will reset your brain and rebuild your creative connections.

3) Don’t Overstimulate
Make time to be bored. Turn off the music, unplug from social media, and take a day away from friends and activities. Your brain needs time to stop processing information. In the age of technology, we’re constantly being fed new stimuli—read this, watch this, try this, learn this, create more—Sure, good things, but we need balance. Often the best ideas come when we’re sitting in a waiting room, taking a shower, or doing the dishes with nothing else to entertain us. Your brain needs a reboot from stimuli, too. Make sure you give it space to be bored so you can be better prepared to receive inspiration.

4) Be organized
Writing a book is incredibly overwhelming. If you allow yourself to get too overwhelmed, you’ll stifle creativity and motivation. Instead of focusing on all the words you don’t have yet, create a steady stress-free rhythm for your writing. Instead of spinning from tasks and ideas, slow down. Take a deep breath and calmly talk yourself through your priorities. Figure out how your brain works and how you can best encourage yourself to keep going. Break down your manuscript goals so you don’t feel overwhelmed. Listen to the same music, eat the same snacks, and write in the same places. Putting the same habits in place will make writing easier on those hard days.

5) Take really good care of yourself
Maybe your body isn’t trying to torture you by dulling your creative streak. Maybe it’s trying to tell you something. For a lot of us, writing is a basic need. We have to do it in order to stay sane. But there will be times when other basic needs come first. Things like physical health, children, stress, or mourning. Maybe your body is trying to let you know your creative energy needs to be placed somewhere else for a little bit. It’s always okay to take a break.

If all else fails, just determine to do it. Determine to write. There will be many days in your career when all the inspiration and motivation in the world won’t get you through a manuscript—but determination will. Stick your heels in, my friend. You can do this.
Let’s discuss! What motivates you to write?

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About the Author: KARA SWANSON spent her first sixteen years overseas in the jungles of Papua New Guinea, as the daughter of missionaries. Able to relate with characters dropped suddenly into a unique new world, she quickly fell in love with the Fantasy genre and was soon penning stories herself.

Hello, there! It’s such a pleasure to be a part of this online Writers’ Conference.
My name is Kara Swanson—I’m the author of YA Fantasy novels, and last year at twenty years old I independently released the INSPY Award Finalist novella, The Girl Who Could See. I sold hundreds of copies in the first two months alone, and signed with an agent shortly after the release partly due to the success of my novella. It has since won several cover awards, and consistently sells well and brings in reviews.
So, I know a little about this Indie Publishing journey. 🙂 I thought I would share my top five tips for what you need to know in order to release a book successfully.
Really? Let’s get to it—
1. First off—let’s talk about what Independent Publishing even is.
Independently Publishing basically means that you are releasing a novel yourself, independently (shocker, right? 😉 ), without the help of a Traditional Publishing House (companies that pay you an advance and a royalty sum in order to publish your book and do all of the editing and cover design and some of the marketing in house). This also excludes using Vanity Presses (companies that you pay to release your book) and Small Presses (Companies that help you release your novel, but often times without a very large advance—if any—and not always with the best quality). Indie Publishing means that you become your own publishing company. You find the editors, hire a cover designer, do your own marketing, upload to Amazon or wherever else you plan on selling copies, etc. You do it all, like the boss you are :)

2. Secondly—let’s talk about what may be the single most important step besides writing the book: editing.
You can have a fantastic cover, sell your book online and in brick and mortar bookstores, you can market it like a pro and get endorsements from dozens of NYT Best-Selling authors…but if you don’t take the time to edit it well, and you don’t put out a quality product, your book is not going to do well. Having a well written, well edited, professional-level manuscript is one of the few things that will set your book apart from the billions of other novels popping up on Amazon. A good book makes an impact. If your book is not polished and well edited, no matter how wonderful of a writer you are, readers are going to put it down because they struggled to get through. Maybe there were errors, plot holes, it was hard to digest, or a host of other problems that can occur without an editor. Putting in the time and effort to hire a good editor (or several!) is an investment that will have a hugely positive impact on the rest of your publishing journey.

3. Third on our list—I want to remind you of the importance of planning out every step of your Indie Publishing journey well.
This is far more important than you’d think. If you are not careful about how much time and effort you invest into the process, you can end up hurting your release more than helping it.
Picture this—you decide to put your book through six rounds of edits, and then set it up to release in three months. But, what happens when it comes to the night before the launch and you are still working through those last few rounds of edits? And barely manage to get the correct copy uploaded to Amazon on time? Or not at all?
Being certain to plan out how much time each step of the process will take is such an important facet of the Indie Publishing journey. And when it comes to planning out the publishing process, be sure to include the behind-the-scenes aspects of getting your book set up online or for print. For example, when formatting your book for uploading to Amazon or any of the other mediums, it is good to consider if you have the time to teach yourself how to format, or if it is worth it to hire someone who can quickly get your book formatted for release. You want to be able to take the time to do every aspect of the Indie process well.

4. Alright, next, I want to touch on what I think is the most fun part of the Independent Publishing process—the book cover.
Book covers sell books. They truly do—and one of the best ways to market your book is to have a fantastic cover. Professional-looking covers will capture attention and hold it, as well as make your marketing that much easier. Great book covers will cause buzz, they’ll win awards, they’ll beg to be picked up off a shelf—and then will make your book memorable. Finding a really quality book cover designer can be expensive, but it is definitely worth the cost. There are many cover designers (Mine, for example. Seedlings Design Studio) that are more affordable and still do an incredible job. Be sure to do your research, ask around, study other covers in your genre, and decide on the best candidate. A great book cover will sell books and capture readers long after they reach ‘the end’.

5. For our final point, let’s talk about the aspect of publishing that connects your book to its readers—Marketing.
Now, the term marketing can be a bit scary to a lot of aspiring Indies, but it’s all a part of the process. At its core, marketing is simply the process of forming connections with potential readers and showing them why your story resonates with their needs. It’s seeing someone else’s desires and preferences and hopes so that you can communicate why you are able to fill their need. Marketing can look like building up a social media presence so you can connect with other readers who enjoy your genre. It may mean getting to know other authors or attending Writers’ Conferences. It can entail running ads and being intentional in how you word posts and spread the news about your novel. It can include planning a fun Facebook Party to celebrate the launch of your novel, doing giveaways and featuring guest authors in order to draw in a crossover of readers. It is not just seeing book sales as a number—but as friends and fans and hearts. Marketing is about making connections with a whole world of readers who will be touched by the story you’ve been given to tell.

Well, there you have it! A brief summary of what I think are some of the most important things to keep in mind as you pursue Independently Publishing your novel, and releasing your words and passions into the world.
Was this post helpful to you? Any questions? Please feel free to comment below! I will do my best to respond to every comment. If you want to connect with me further, you can find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and on my Website! See you there, storytellers changing the world with your words!

TGWCS cover.jpgAll her life Fern has been told she is blind to reality—but, what if she is the only one who can truly see?
Fern Johnson is crazy. At least, that’s what the doctors have claimed since her childhood. Now nineteen, and one step away from a psych ward, Fern struggles to survive in bustling Los Angeles. Desperate to appear normal, she represses the young man flickering at the edge of her awareness—a blond warrior only she can see.
Tristan was Fern’s childhood imaginary hero, saving her from monsters under her bed and outside her walls. As she grew up and his secret world continued to bleed into hers, however, it only caused catastrophe. But, when the city is rocked by the unexplainable, Fern is forced to consider the possibility that this young man is not a hallucination after all—and that the creature who decimated his world may be coming for hers.

You can order The Girl Who Could See here! 😀


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How to Effectively Sell Your Book to an Agent: What to Do, What to Avoid

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About the Author: Tessa Emily Hall is an award-winning author who writes inspirational yet authentic books to show teens they’re not alone. Her first teen devotional, COFFEE SHOP DEVOS, will release with Bethany House September 2018. Tessa’s passion for shedding light on clean entertainment and media for teens led her to a career as an Associate Agent for Cyle Young at Hartline Literary Agency, YA Acquisitions Editor for Illuminate YA (LPC Imprint), and Founder/Editor of PURSUE Magazine. She’s guilty of making way too many lattes and never finishing her to-read list. When her fingers aren’t flying 116 WPM across the keyboard, she can be found speaking to teens, decorating art journals, and acting in Christian films. Her favorite way to procrastinate is by connecting with readers on her blog, mailing list, social media (@tessaemilyhall), and website:

(You can connect with Tessa at her links here:
• Author website
• Twitter
Mailing list)

Virtual writing conference attendees, you’re in for a treat today! I’m going to share with you everything I know about how you can effectively catch the attention of a literary agent. This is the exact material I use when teaching at writing conferences across the country.

First, let me introduce myself. =) My name is Tessa, and I work for Hartline Literary Agency as an Associate Agent. (I’m an author for teens as well–fiction and non-fiction.)

If you hope to become published traditionally someday, it’s important to go ahead and educate yourself about how the publishing industry works. Even if you aren’t at this stage yet, there are still steps you can take now that will increase your chances of signing with an agent in the future.

I want to help you avoid the major pitfalls that newbie writers tend to make in their submissions.

So, ready for your crash course on how to submit to literary agents? Get ready to take some notes!

First … what is a literary agent?

Literary agents…

hold the key to the doors of traditional publishers
negotiate contracts for book deals
provide career advice, encouragement, and support
solve issues that may arise with a publisher
have relationships with editors and stay up-to-date on the publishing industry
receive 15% commission from advances and royalties of your sales

Overview of the submission process

The Writing Stage: Writer works hard to write and self-edit a book to the best of his ability. He may consider hiring a freelance editor so he can make a great first impression to an agent, thus increase his chances of representation.
The Pre-Submission Stage: Writer researches literary agents and makes a list of agents he’d like to query.
The Submission Stage: Writer writes a shining query letter and submits it to agents.
The Post-Submission Stage: As the writer waits for the responses to roll in, he continues to work hard at writing his next project, honing his craft, and establishing his online presence.

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Writing Stage

If an aspiring author wants to increase his chances of signing with an agent, he’ll be wise to not rush the writing process.

(NOTE: If you are writing non-fiction, it’s okay to pitch a manuscript that isn’t complete. You will need to include estimated completion date on your book proposal.)

In the writing stage, aspiring author will…

¤ Write and possibly rewrite his manuscript
¤ Research how the industry works, stay informed on publishing trends, and invest in resources that will take his writing to the next level
¤ Self-edit
¤ Receive feedback from critique partners and possibly hire a freelance editor
¤ Gain writing credentials by placing in contests and submitting articles to online and print publications
¤ Build a platform and brand by establishing a web presence

Pre-Submission Stage

After aspiring author has written and edited his book, invested in his craft, gained writing credentials, and established a web presence, he now feels confident that he’s ready for a literary agent.

How does he begin the process of submission?

He buys the current “Writer’s Market Guide” (or “Christian Writer’s Market Guide”) and makes a list of about 10 agents who are actively building their client list and represent his genre.
He researches these agents to make sure they’re legit, reads and interacts on their blogs if they have one, and possibly contacts their current clients to hear what they have to say about working with their agent.

Submission Stage

1. He writes a query letter, studies each agent’s specific guidelines, and sends a submission in batches to 4 agents at a time. (No group emails!)
2. He creates a spreadsheet to keep track of the agents he submits to, date of submission, and the feedback he’ll receive.

Creating a Query Letter

A query letter is a pitch that a writer writes to introduce themself and their story to a literary agent. It’s a writer’s first impression to a literary agent. This is typically included in the body of an email or at the front of a book proposal. In essence, it is the cover letter of your book, the immediate first impression you will make to a literary agent.

Agents receive multiple submissions per week; therefore, they have to be selective when it comes to choosing which clients to sign with. It’s the writer’s job to not only write an outstanding book, but to craft a query letter that hooks an agent’s attention and lures them to read the entire submission then hopefully request the full manuscript.

Components of a Book Proposal

At Hartline, we require that submissions include a book proposal. This is the book’s selling package that we’ll use to submit to publishers. A book proposal we request includes the following components:

Proposal cover letter
Proposal table of contents
One-page sell sheet
Biographical sketch
Story synopsis (or chapter outline for non-fiction projects)
Market analysis
Competitive analysis
Marketing strategies
History of manuscript
First three chapters
If you want to sell your book to an agent, DON’T do this…

¤ Don’t send your query letter in an email that’s addressed to more than one agent.
¤ Don’t tell the agent that God has given you this story, He told you it’ll become a best-seller, that you’re destined to submit to this particular agent, etc.
¤ Don’t misspell the agent’s name or confuse them with another agent who represents another genre.
¤ Don’t boast about your book or writing credentials. (E.g., “This is definitely going to be the next best-seller! It’s similar to The Hunger Games, but better.”)
¤ In your query, don’t tell the agent all about your writing dream—how you’ve been writing since you were a kid, how you began writing this book five years ago and now you’re SO excited to find the perfect agent to represent this project!
¤ Don’t nag. Resist the urge to send them email after email asking if they’ve received your submission or why they’re taking forever to respond.
¤ Don’t set all of your hopes on only one agent.
¤ Don’t write your query letter in fancy font/colors in hopes of standing out in the midst of the slush pile.
¤ Don’t call the agent on the phone unless it’s requested.
¤ Don’t send the complete manuscript with your query letter if you did not receive a request to do so.
¤ Don’t lie by falsely proclaiming you were referred to submit to the agent from a client of theirs.
¤ Don’t stretch the truth in your proposal or query by making it seem as though your platform is larger than it really is, or that you have more credentials than you do.
¤ Don’t assume you’re above the requirement to adhere to the submission guidelines.

If you want to sell your book to an agent, DO this…

¤ Follow submission guidelines (typically listed on website).
¤ Research the agent.
¤ Write a concise query letter that piques interest.
¤ Remain professional and respect the agent’s time.
¤ Prove that you’ve done your research and are familiar with the type of clients/genre they represent. In the query, consider including why you chose to submit to them and why you’d like to work with them.
¤ Include your platform specifics in the query.
¤ For non-fiction projects, briefly explain the unique approach your book takes on a topic. If it’s a fiction project, briefly highlight the story’s unique elements and how it will appeal to the genre’s readership. (Agents want to see that you understand your market and target audience.)

Post-Submission Stage

Be a productive waiter rather than a passive one. Here are 6 ways to make the most of the waiting season:

Keep learning and growing in your craft.
Work on your next book.
Build your platform.
Enter contests.
Gain more writing credentials.
Stay updated on the industry.

More Tips & Secrets to Increase Chances of a Contract

¤ Place in contests.
¤ Send follow-up email after 3 – 6 months (if agent allows)
¤ Engage with the agent on blog and social media, but don’t stalk or come across as obnoxious.
¤ Ask an author friend for a referral to their agent, but don’t pressure them if they would feel uncomfortable doing so.
¤ Receive feedback on your query letter from critique partners.
¤ Find an agent who is specifically looking for the type of story or book that you write.
¤ You might find this on their blog, website,, an interview with them, or
¤ Create impressive web presence and platform.
¤ Make connections at writing conferences with attendees.
¤ Search for agents who are new because they’re the ones who are actively building a client list. ( often sends out new agent alert emails.)

What happens after an agent expresses interest?

¤ The agent will usually request the full manuscript and/or book proposal
¤ Agent may email or call with representation offer
¤ If you receive interest from multiple agents, talk with both. Ask questions. Research their client publishing history. Understand their work style.
¤ Contact their current clients with specific questions.
¤ Consider the enthusiasm each agent has for your project. Which agent projects the most passion and confidence that they can sell your project?
¤ Consider the personality of each agent.
¤ Consider each agent’s preferred choice of communication.


Agents want to see writers succeed. They’re not in the industry to reject people; they’re in the industry to sign with talented writers and to play a role in helping writers achieve their publishing dreams. However, if you want to make an impression on them and stand out in the midst of their slush pile, then it’s wise to do your research. Adhere to agent guidelines and only submit quality material.

If you take your time in each stage and follow these tips, then don’t be surprised if your submission rises to the top of a your dream agent’s slush pile!

Writers: What stage of this process are you currently in? Also, do you have any questions on the submission process? Let us know in the comments!
CSD Cover

Back Cover Copy
There’s something special about spending time at a coffee shop with a friend–engaging in a meaningful conversation, then leaving refueled and ready to tackle the rest of the day. What if your quiet times with God energized you the same way?

Coffee Shop Devos offers a warm atmosphere that will inspire you to discover your God-given purpose and live to your greatest potential. Choose your devo flavor in the Menu of Contents based on your current need. Then lean into deeper intimacy with Christ through reflection and prayer. Along the way, you’ll pick up tips and recipes for making your own coffee-shop beverage–regular or decaf–to enjoy while you read. And don’t forget to share your journey with your friends! #CoffeeShopDevos

Each of the 180 challenging and motivational devotions will leave you feeling refreshed and reinvigorated–almost as though you’ve shared a steaming pot of brew at a coffee shop with your Creator.

Pre-order Coffee Shop Devos on Amazon
Mark “to read” on Goodreads 


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Filed under Inkling Chats, Inkling to Write, life as a writer, Uncategorized

Write What You *Don’t* Know

Hi, everyone! It’s Naomi and I’m excited to kick off Inkling to Write this year! We have some great posts from some talented (and friendly!) authors coming your way the next few days. If writing novels (or anything really) interests you, make sure to stick around. 🙂

“Write what you know.”
This is common advice heard in the writing community. And… it isn’t bad advice. Sure, write what you know! There is a guarantee that you know something that someone else doesn’t and you should not be afraid of expanding on that and incorporating that into your story.
There’s just one thing…
You shouldn’t just write what you know.
How boring would it be if you only read books about things you know about?
I already go to work and school, if that’s all that happened in the books I read or the ones I write… it would be a letdown. Writing gives you an incredible opportunity to write what you know—and some!
Do you think every mystery writer has committed a heinous crime? (Let’s certainly hope not!) Or every romance writer has fallen in love? And while J. K. Rowling went to Hogwarts I’m sure, I’m pretty sure she never ate a Bertie Botts Every Flavor Bean and had to use her imagination a little. 😉
Writing what you know isn’t limited to everyday life of work or school or summer vacation, but can go so much deeper. The Harry Potter series was about more than going to Hogwarts or learning how to use a wand. It was about friendships and choices and as Dumbledore said choosing between, “what is easy and what is right.”
I’m not trying to suggest you should write a story where you don’t know anything. But what you do know doesn’t have to be limited to ‘normal’ things. Maybe you know a lot about how governments are run and this gives you a good opportunity to build a government in your story.
Writing isn’t supposed to box you in it’s supposed to help you stretch your writing wings—sometimes out of your comfort zone—so you can push yourself and eventually your reader into something new. With just familiarity, and truth, that it’s relatable to you.
As the writer, you need to be able to understand and relate to your characters, your story, first and foremost. So feel free to only know your characters, or only know the plot, or only know something halfway! When they say ‘write what you know’ they don’t specify what it is you were supposed to know.
Sometimes writing when you don’t know or when you only know very little ends with exciting results! And you shouldn’t feel like you need to avoid those exciting results just because you don’t know everything about everything. It’s going to be okay. It really is. (stretch your writing wings!)
So if you’re writing about someone making coffee (because you know how to make coffee) and a fire breathing dragon shows up in your story you shouldn’t panic. (Even if you haven’t taken What To Do If A Fire Breathing Dragon Shows Up While You’re Making Coffee 101 at your school. They should offer if, but if they don’t I believe you’ll still be able to come up with something to use in your story.)
Maybe you have had little experience with dragons so this scene stumps you a little bit. But you what? It’s okay because you do have an imagination!
All you have to do is write what you know… and what you don’t know. 😉 If it’s fiction, fictional things are definitely allowed to happen. And since it is fiction, and better yet since it’s your fiction, you are allowed make it up how you see fit. Sometimes you won’t be able to just make up an answer. You might actually have to do research (but thankfully we have the internet to make it so easy!).
But all in all, you should not feel like you can only write what you know. Sure, write what you know. But write some of what you don’t know too—it’ll be fun! Being a writer is being creative and if we never tried anything new… we wouldn’t be very creative, would we?
All this to say: it’s okay to be confused. It is okay to think, “This is wrong, this isn’t how it would happen” even if it is something completely unrealistic anyway. You are the writer and so you have ‘writer’s gut’(Like a gut feeling but for writers and geared specifically to your own projects). It’s okay to try new things, and when you don’t like it, to try something else new.
Whether you write what you know, or if you write what you don’t know… the most important thing is that you keep writing and you keep trying. Who knows? Maybe one day you’ll know in your writer’s gut what to do if a dragon shows up when you are making coffee. (I believe you’d give him some sugar cubes, but I don’t drink coffee so I have never tried this personally.)
Writing is a never ending skill, you will always hear of or see new things you want to try, and maybe one day you will think, “I am going to write about this because I KNOW this,” and maybe you will realize you were wrong, but it’s okay. Fake it ‘til you make it. Write it ‘til you make it.
Try until you make it. Whatever you write, whatever you know, writing a novel is going to take a lot of trying… so make sure you keep trying, you keep learning, you keep writing.
Sure, write what you know. But throw in some things you don’t know too. Just for fun.


Filed under Comfort zone, Inkling Chats, Inkling to Write, life as a writer, Uncategorized

How to Be a Good Aunt

Okay y’all. It happened. OFFICIALLY. No one can deny that I’m an Aunt now! He’s out and born (and adorable).

Ever since Christmas day I knew I was an Aunt, and I’d even tell people “I’m an aunt now!” I even shared the one picture I had of him. (which was actually a picture of a picture,  that was actually an ultrasound picture…. but you could totally tell where his head was. He was irreplaceable then, and well, he will be forever.)

BUT after waiting 227 days (yes, I counted and voluntarily did math– that’s how important he is to me) my nephew is here! A coworker suggested I write a book on ‘How to Be a Good Aunt’, and maybe I will one day, but I figured a blogpost would be pretty good for now.) (I mean, I have only officially been an Aunt for almost a week.)

(Side note: I was an Aunt since he began to exist but I say ‘officially’ because now I can hug him and everything. ❤ ❤ <3)

So anyway, let’s get to it!

  1. Buy him book. Give him books. Read him books. (I read my nephew The Giving Tree the first time I met him. I figure it’s important for him to associate reading and books with being loved, and hey, might as well start that right away! I actually planned to read to him while my sister was still pregnant but that never happened…) It’s important to encourage reading because that helps encourage independent thinking, and helps him be smarter, and grows imagination and, well,  I could probably write a book on the importance of books so I’ll stop there…. but you should do it.
  2. It’s so so important to speak positivity to people! I try to do this a lot, even if you aren’t my nephew (or niece if I had one). I tell people at work that they are doing a good job, I message out of state friends and tell them I’m thinking of them, or randomly go find my mom and tell her I love her. The way I figure it is, 1 negative comment can do a lot more damage then 1 positive comment can positively impact… so it’s important to continually speak positively to people. And hey, I just had a nephew born, and when is a better time to start than birth? (okay, before birth I guess, but I can’t spend the first 9 months of the baby’s life talking to my sister’s stomach. I think she’d get tired of that. XD) But already I tell my nephew how much I love him, how much we all love him, how long we waited (227 days), and how it took forever (especially those 3 days of labor, haha…) but how he is worth it and we would all do it over again because he’s worth it (and I know compared to actually labor the waiting is easy, but I’m sure my sister would do it all over again for him too.) It’s important to make sure the people you love know that you love them. I never want him to doubt it, so I’ll tell him all the time– not to diminish the value of how much I love him, but emphasize it.
  3. Show off your niece or nephew! I loved going into work the day after I met my nephew because no one had seen his picture yet so I could show it off to everyone! I’d just casually slide up next to a coworker, smiling and holding out my phone. “Want to see a picture of my nephew?” And of course the answer is yes because he’s adorable and then they’d say how adorable it is and it’s all good. (Sometimes you’ll have people who you haven’t worked with that long, or who are only like 15 and don’t understand. So you’ll ask them, “Want to see a picture of my nephew?” and they might respond, “I guess?” And that’s okay, just be patient as you teach them how to react. Show them the picture, and since they might not know how to respond it’s perfectly acceptable to supply, “He’s so cute!” yourself. I’ve done this and it’s fine.) It’s also totally fine to chase people down when they’re break so they have to take out their earbuds, or keep your ride waiting as you show off your precious nephew. I mean, what’s more important: people having their lives drastically improved by seeing a sleeping baby, or, well, not seeing a sleeping baby and therefore not have their lives drastically improved? Seems pretty logical to me. 😉
  4. Make sure people have seen an up-to-date picture. Pretty much everyone at work has now seen a picture of my nephew, and despite what you (and they) might believe I’m not trying to annoy them (but as previously stated, trying to improve their life, you’re welcome…) but you know, if I happen to be off and eating, and two or three female coworkers happen to be on break and join me… might as well show them the latest picture of my nephew! (And they were so enthusiastic, whether it was genuine or not… they’re great.)

So here are just 4 tips to make you a better Aunt (or Uncle) to your special niece or nephew! Anything you would want to add?

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