Saturday, June 11, 2011

SORMAG's ONLINE BOOK FAIR - Breaking Into The Christian Market - DAY TWO


Click on the comments and leave a comment or question for our panel. Unless noted, the authors will drop in through out the day to answer questions or post comments.

Breaking Into The Christian Market – Panel
(Advice on writing for the Christian Market)


Lyn Cote

When Lyn Cote became a mother, she gave up teaching, and while raising a son and a daughter, she began working on her first novel. Long years of rejection followed. Finally in 1997, Lyn got "the call." Her first book, Never Alone, was chosen by Steeple Hill. Lyn has had over twenty-five novels published since then. In 2006 Lyn's book, Chloe, was a finalist for the RITA. And in 2010, Lyn's Her Patchwork Family was a Carol finalist.

Lyn helped found two RWA chapters: Heart of Iowa Fiction Authors in 1994 and Faith, Hope & Love Inspirational Chapter in 1997. She served as president of both. She is an active member of Wisconsin Romance Writers and American Christian Fiction Writers. Lyn has also written three articles for the RWR on the inspirational romance market and one on Classic Romantic Conflicts. Lyn has taught regional and national workshops for RWA. For the past 12 years, Lyn has also compiled a Christian fiction market update every year which she posts on her website Lyn’s brand “Strong Women, Brave Stories,” always includes three elements: a strong heroine who is a passionate participant in her times, authentic historical detail and a multicultural cast of characters. She maintains and active blog with that title Lyn also can be found on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads. Living in northern Wisconsin in a lake cottage with her husband and four cats, Lyn spends her days writing books that show the power of divine as well as human love.

E.N. Joy (9am & 8 pm; )

BLESSEDselling Author E. N. Joy is the writer behind the "New Day Divas" five book series, which has been coined the soap opera in print. Titles include She Who Finds A Husband, Been There Prayed That, Love Honor or Stray, Trying to Stay Saved and I Can Do Better All By Myself. Currently, E. N. Joy is working on the "Still Divas" three book series set to launch in 2012. The titles include And You Call Yourself a Christian, The Perfect Christian and The Sunday Only Christian. You can visit the author at

Shelia Lipsey

Author Shelia E. Lipsey is a multi-award winning author. Her novels are available at most bookstores nationwide as well as online. Lipsey’s books have been called gripping, life-altering, memorable and realistic. Lipsey was recently awarded the 2009 Top Shelf Award for Beautiful Ugly by Black Pearls Magazine. She also won 2009 Shades of Romance Readers’ Choice Awards for My Son’s Wife in the following categories: Author of the Year, Christian fiction Book of the Year, Christian Romance of the Year, Best Book Cover of the Year, Best Fiction Book of the Year, among several other awards for her novels, Into Each Life and Sinsatiable.
Lipsey is the proud mother of two sons and the grandmother of three blessed young men. She is president of, founder of Living Your Dreams Now a non-profit organization and MAAW (Memphis African American Writers). For more information, visit

Rhonda McKnight

Rhonda McKnight is the author of the Black Expressions Top 20 bestseller, An Inconvenient Friend and Secrets and Lies. Winner of the 2010 Emma Award for Favorite Debut Author and the 2009 Shades of Romance Award for Best Christian Fiction Novel, she resides in Atlanta with her family. Visit her at

Leslie J. Sherrod

Leslie J. Sherrod is a native of Baltimore, Maryland. Her debut novel, Like Sheep Gone Astray (Grand Central Publishing, 2006), earned a Starred Review from Booklist and was featured on AOL’s Black Voices. She is a contributor to the bestselling A Cup of Comfort series (Adams Media) and co-partner of Paintbrush Poetry Original Art & Gifts, a business that combines her creative writing with her husband's original artwork. She is a recent graduate of the University of Maryland, Baltimore, where she completed her masters in clinical social work. A wife and mother to three, Secret Place (Urban Christian/Kensington Publishing Corp, 2011), a compelling novel addressing mental illness in families, is her second project.

Pat Simmons

Pat Simmons is the award-winning and bestselling author of five Christian fiction novels: Guilty of Love, Not Guilty of Love, Still Guilty, Talk to Me, and Crowning Glory. Her sixth novel, Guilty by Association will be released in January 2012. She is a genealogy sleuth and when she discovers ancestors, she casts them into starring roles in her novels.

Pat is a baptized in Jesus name Bible Believer and describes her Holy Ghost experience as an amazing journey in her salvation walk.

She has a B.S. in mass communication from Emerson College in Boston, MA and has worked in various media positions for more than twenty years, most recently as an assignment editor and news writer for TV. Presently, she is the publicist for the annual RT Booklovers Conventions.

She has been married for 28 years and has a son and daughter who recently graduated from college. Pat describes her husband, Kerry, as her GPS-guided chauffeur to book events as well as her amateur travel agent, booking those book events.

website is

Michelle Sutton (12 pm - 3pm az)

Michelle has been writing for over seven years and is a member of ACFW, as well as an avid book reviewer and blogger on a variety of sites. She founded Edgy Christian Fiction Lovers social networking site which is approaching 1000 members. Southeastern Arizona is where Michelle calls home. She loves that she is surrounded by mountains and clean air. She and her husband are approaching twenty-one years of marriage and their two sons will begin their second year of college this fall. She is the author of well over a dozen novels releasing through 2013, and presently has three publishers. They are... Sheaf House, Desert Breeze Publishing, and Sword of the Spirit.

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LaShaunda said...

Hello ladies, thank you so much for being a part of our panel today.

Since this is the genre I write you know I have a few questions to get you started. I look forward to reading your comments.

Can you break into the market without an agent?

Would you recommend paying for an professional edit before submitting your manuscript or is using a critique group good enough?

What surprises you the most about writing for the Christian community?

Can you give us one do and one don’t for the writer ready to submit a manuscript?

What’s something you wish you’d known earlier that might have saved you some time/frustration in the publishing business?

Joylynn Jossel said...

Hi, LaShaunda. This is Joylynn Jossel here. As an acquisition editor for Urban Christian, once upon a time we did invite authors to submit unagented manuscripts, but we found that received a better quality of submissions once we began accepting agent represented manuscripts only. Is it an absolute MUST that you can't get a book deal anywhere in book town? No. I've even broken the rules myself a couple of times ;-). No editor is going to turn down a fabulous story. But when submission guidelines require agented manuscripts only, then the author has to be real creative in how they get that unagented manuscript in the agent's hands.

Joylynn Jossel said...

Authors, PLEASE invest in a professional editor before submitting your manuscript to an agent or editor. I've heard aspiring authors say a thousand times, "If I get a book deal, then the company will pay for an editor?" This is true. Publishing houses do have a team of editors. But if an agent or an editor can't get passed a manuscript littered with errors and that doesn't flow right, how is that author ever even going to get their foot in the door to utilize that team of editors? I've received manuscripts with excellent story lines, but would involve way too much work; more than my current workload would allow. So those authors missed out on a great opportunity. Critique groups do just that-critique your work. They do not edit it.

Joylynn Jossel said...

Just to touch upon the subject of hiring a professional editor before submitting manuscripts; I have a couple of authors on the Urban Christian line who literally refuse to turn in their manuscripts to me unless their paid editor had edited it first. This is how much pride those authors take in their work. They already have a contract, but still, want to deliver their best. Those kinds of authors are an editor's dream. That's why I refer to them as my "Dream Authors."

Joylynn Jossel said...

LaShaunda, now wearing my BLESSEDselling Author E. N. Joy hat, believe it or not, what surprises me most about writing for the Christian community is when I'm at a book signing at a faith based function and the attendees come over and ask me if I have any Zane books. Just last year I attended a book festival where 80% of the people who attended were greeting me with "Praise the Lord" and "God is good." They even belonged to book clubs with faith inspired titles. So I found it strange when the section set aside for Christian fiction authors was bear. So I took it upon myself to follow (okay stalk) these folks. I found that they were into the more secular-romance. I mean the lines for the secular authors were amazing. Little old ladies with their walker and church hats on were standing in lines to purchase the secular romance series and to hear what those authors had to say. Now that is what truly surprised me. So I'm so thankful that I'm not a Christian fiction author who writes books that only the Christian community can relate to. But I have to admit that for marketing and promotion purposes, they are the core audience being marketed to, so to see this type of response from them was very puzzling.

rhonda mcknight said...

Hello LaShaunda,

Thanks so much for inviting me to participate. Here are the answers to the questions.

Can you break into the market without an agent?

I got my book deal without an agent, but things have changed since then. The industry is in such a state that I think it would be difficult. However, that doesn't mean impossible.

I think one of the best ways to get an editor/agent's attention is to attend a writer's conference. Sending emails and snail mail to slush piles probably won't do it for you, even if they are taking unagented submissions. There are often just too many emails and too many packages. It would be like winning the lottery. At a conference you can set an appointment and meet with them to discuss your project. You need that one on one discussion to help you stand out. Conferences can be expensive, but they're well worth it.

Would you recommend paying for an professional edit before submitting your manuscript or is using a critique group good enough?

It depends on the critique group. If it's no good then you're not going to really get what you need and of course that's hard to know. For that reason, I highly recommend a developmental editor.

What surprises you the most about writing for the Christian community?

That book sales aren't higher when so many people in this country are Christians.

Can you give us one do and one don’t for the writer ready to submit a manuscript?

Do make sure it's as perfect as it can be. You only have one chance to make a first impression on an editor. Do make sure you've done your homework to ensure the publisher would be interested in your work. (Okay, that's two, I could go on and on with the do's.)

Don't forget to pray hard!

What’s something you wish you’d known earlier that might have saved you some time/frustration in the publishing business?

I'm a newbie and I've had a very good experience thus far. I have a tight circle of published authors who gave me great advice as I moved along, plus I have a fantastic mentor. She advised me on the what to do and not to do. I also trust my agent and she's talked me off the ledge a few times and helped me see the big picture. I say all that to say "network" and build relationships. I think that's critical.

My frustrations have been with myself; not balancing time between promoting and writing and getting really behind on my third project. You really have to balance it all.

Lyn Cote said...

Lyn Cote here! Morning!

Joylynn, nice to meet you. I've been listing your house on my website list of Christian Book Publishers for the past few years. But I've never been able to connect with your house to get further submission info.
I've love to chat with you via email sometime soon.

For those who don't know, I just posted my 13th Annual Christian Fiction Market update on my website.

About 3 years ago, I began listing a section in my update on African-American publishing.


As always, LaShaunda, you ask great questions!

The only major house that doesn't require an agent now is Harlequin/Love Inspired. Even Barbour wants agented submissions now.

As for the editing question, I have rarely NOT paid a freelance editor to go over my completed manuscripts BEFORE I send it to my regular editor to be edited.

I like to send in as clean and well done a ms as I can. Editors like less work. So I would recommend any unpublished or published author do this.

Hi Rhonda! Nice to see you here!

Lyn Cote said...

I have thought hard and long about the problem you've mentioned.

Christian readers not understanding or supporting Christian authors.

I think that how to overcome this should be its own ongoing discussion.

We girls need to talk!

Joylynn Jossel said...

Back into my acquisition editor hat: What one should DO before submitting is to make sure that their synopsis is NOT a tease. As an editor, I want to know the entire story; the twist and the turns. Please do not submit a synopsis that you'd provide to a reader. The editor needs to know the details of the story and how it's going to play out. The DO NOT send a general, blind submission. Research your editors and their genre. Personalize the letter. Even include a fact about that agent or editor that you have researched so that they know you have done your homework.

LaShaunda said...

Hi Joylynn,

I typed a whole post and the internet went out UUGG!

I will try to remember what I wrote.

I’m not surprised by the reaction from the romance readers. Romance was my first love, so I understand the loyalty that comes from romance readers. Since the Christian romance/fiction are the new genre it takes time to build that type of loyalty. However I do see its readers growing.

One of my issues is not seeing more AA Christian authors at the conferences. The ACFW conference is coming to St. Louis and I don’t think there will be many AA authors in attendance or on the faculity. I hope this will change in the future.

Right now I’m at the submitting to an editor to go over my manuscript. I want it to be the best manuscript it can be.

You answered my question about using an editor once you are published. This is good information to know.

Thank you for sharing.

Joylynn Jossel said...

The one thing I wish I had known earlier in the publishing business was that I should have generated a fan base BEFORE my book even came out.

LaShaunda said...

I agree attending conference is a good way to meet editors and agents. One of my goals for next year is to attend the Faith and Fiction conference, since they feature the AA market. This year I will be attending the ACFW conference. I’m still on the fence about pitching, since my manuscript hasn’t been looked at by the editor.

Thanks for sharing – I know I’ve learned a lot from you on being a good debut author.

rhonda mcknight said...

Hi Lyn,

Always a pleasure. I'll be stopping by the blog for the market info. I love that update. Thanks so much for doing it for us.



rhonda mcknight said...

Hi Joylynn!

LaShaunda said...


I want to say I’ve appreciated you supporting SORMAG since day one. I’ve learned so much from you and your articles and your market listings. I tell everyone who writes Christian fiction your site is the first place they need to visit.

I do believe more should be discussed on getting readers to support the Christian genre.

Hopefully before the day is over we can come up with some suggestions. I’m thinking.

Thanks for sharing.

Lyn Cote said...

Should we turn this into a mutual admiration society? :-)

I'm looking forward to ACFW (& meeting you). I've only attended once before in 2008. There I got to meet A-A authors, Sharon E. Foster and my online friend Cecelia Dowdy.

I think A-A authors might want to connect with ACFW as another network.

So LaShaunda and I will be in St Louis the last weekend of Sept for ACFW. Anybody else?

The ACFW conference is amazing for the amount of face time authors get with agents and editors--not just in formal appts but also at meals. One editor or agent sits at a table and you can choose who to schmooze with!

Anybody else going?

Shelia E. Lipsey said...

This is some excellent feedback from these talented and gift authors! To add my two cents worth, I definitely say invest in a professional editor. That's really where many writers whether christian fiction or not, fall short. Many believe that just because someone has an English degree or majored in English that it makes them an editor. NOT. Others sometimes feel that their test reader is an editor . NOT. I have learned throughout my literary career that I cannot do without having my work professionally edited if I plan on submitting my best work. Unfortunately, I don't know why aspiring authors (and seasoned too) fail to take this step seriously. Let's do better authors. It's time we step up our game and go the full course if we are going to be valued competitors in this giant literary industry.

Lyn Cote said...

Yes, Sheila! And I'm wondering if you'd like to guest on my blog sometime.

Shelia E. Lipsey said...

I would love to attend an ACFW conference. I will not be able to attend this year, but I do plan on making it part of my agenda for 2012 (if God says the same). I've heard that it is an awesome conference. I welcome the opportunity to meet other authors, agents and publishers.

Shelia E. Lipsey said...

Hi, Lyn I would love to be a guest on your blog. Please by all means contact me. You can reach me at or I can't wait!

Lyn Cote said...

Great on both counts, Sheila!

Shelia E. Lipsey said...

I got into rhe literary industry initially by becoming an independent publisher. It was by God's grace that I got into the literary industry without an agent. I submitted my first manuscript, Into Each Life, and it was accepted. I was offered a two book deal with an option of a third. That was back in 2005 and I've been with the Kensington/Urban Books label every since. I have however, been keeping my eyes open for getting a possible literary agent for future independent projects. Then again, I ask myself why am I seeking a literary agent? I've done pretty well so far without one, but I believe that if I have one, perhaps some other literary doors will open up for me as well.

Shelia E. Lipsey said...

As for readers and Christian fiction, I have learned that no matter what the genre of the book, readers want a great story and we love drama! However, as Joylynn mentioned, we have so many Christians and people of faith who do not gravitate toward reading Christian fiction. I believe that it is due to being not as knowledgeable. Maybe they feel that they are preached to enough on Sunday and they want to escape into a secular world of erotica and street. I do not know the answers to what can be done. I do know that I sometimes feel ashamed of myself (I can confide this to y'all, I think) for leaving off the term "Christian fiction" when I describe my books to potential readers. But, the truth is, I tend to get better results. It's not something I'm proud to admit, because I do not want to act like I am ashamed of my Christian faith and what I write. But I'm sharing this with you all. After people read my books, then usually they become avid fans because they see that Chistian fiction is not a book of sermons (lol).

Lyn Cote said...

I'm not surprised, Sheila.

I think that Christian fiction is very new to most people and unfortunately in the early 90's, much of it was poorly written and edited and poorly marketed.

Also a lot of evangelic Christians when they hear what I write think that my books are just "fluff" and have no spiritual mission.

That hurts, but it's just ignorance.

So actually we can't win! They assume either we are preachy or fluff!
We have our work cut out for us!

rhonda mcknight said...

I attended ACFW in 2006 (I think that was the year) and found it to be an awesome conference. I'd really like to attend again, but I've found the Faith and Fiction Retreat to be my staple for the last few years. If I was looking for an agent or a book deal or even just to meet other writers and network, ACFW would be high on the list of must do's for me.

I used to be a member of ACFW and was the president for the local chapter (Visions in Print) for two years. It's a wonderful organization and provides a wealth of information to all writers. I highly recommend joining if you seriously want to break into the Christian market.

Pat Simmons said...

Can you break into the market without an agent?
Yes, so don’t let not having one discourage you. Even though the publishing industry is hard to break into, sometimes it’s easier to get published than to get an agent.

Would you recommend paying for an professional edit before submitting your manuscript or is using a critique group good enough?
Critique groups are good sounding boards, but they are not professionals who know what buying editors look for in a manuscript. I sing the praises of my current editor who used to be one of the editors who purchased novels for the former Arabesque/Bet line. She knew exactly what to look for. Over the years we have become good friends and she’s able to interpret what I’m trying to say and have me pull it out of me. As far as critique group, I guess you can say my friend and cousin. Their comments have help, but they are limited and I need more guidance that only a professional editor can provide. ***However, it’s really important that you get references, then go to Amazon and see if readers are criticizing the book for grammar errors. That’s the true sign.

What surprises you the most about writing for the Christian community?
In my opinion, the confusion that readers have on identifying what is Christian-based or inspired versus stories that mock God.
Can you give us one do and one don’t for the writer ready to submit a manuscript?
Don’t blindly send it out. Make sure to follow the guidelines. This will guard your heart from unnecessary rejections. If they require an agented submission, perhaps, send a query and a synopsis ONLY. They make accept or not. THIS IS A BIGGIE that most aspiring authors overlook. It’s a kin to an editor: Attend writer’s conferences where you can talk to editors and agents one-on-one.
What’s something you wish you’d known earlier that might have saved you some time/frustration in the publishing business?
Getting a professional editor off the top; once I started the manuscript, I wished I kept writing until I finished the novel, instead of stop and starting. PLUS, start immediately on the next novel because most publishers offer two or three book deals.
May God bless you!

Lyn Cote said...

Hi Pat. Waving!
Rhonda, Sorry I missed you at ACFW.
Where's the Faith and Fiction Retreat? I haven't heard of it.

Beverly Taylor said...

Hi, LaShaunda ~

Wonderful and creative idea on the online bookfair. Congratulations!

I absolutely LOVE Lyn Cote books! If anyone is not familiar with her work, PLEASE pick up any title of her books. She is a fabulous Christian fiction writer.

I read Rhonda McKnight's book and it was a good read also.

Beverly Taylor said...

Oh . . . and can't say enough about Joylynn books! Fabuloso!

Lyn Cote said...

Wow, Beverly, you are my new best friend! Thanks.

Edgy Inspirational Author said...

I'm ready to join. Great discussions going on here. I've done just about everything. I've gone to conferences every year for the past six years and may not be able to go this year. I've been in critique groups. I have hired an editor twice. Once for content only, and another for content and line edits. Neither book sold quickly regardless. Plus, the editors who buy the book usually want their own spin on things and what was edited may not stay that way. It's a great way to get your book read, but the story is still the bottom line. Is it going to sell well? All publishers need to feel confident that it will. I've entered contests, but only two times for a book (don't know the results yet for this year's entry) and three times before I was published. I did get an agent quickly and have always been pretty prolific in the number of books I can write. Having an agent is critical for the larger houses, but it's not always needed if you go to a conference and make a publisher contact that way. I like having an agent who believes in me and works for me. At the same time it limits you in that you can't just go off on your own and pursue book deals and publication without keeping your agent in the loop. It's a business agreement. My problem is selling edgier content to larger houses. And even though I have a ton of books out, they are all small pubs or e-book pubs and some larger houses don't even count those as "really" being published.

Edgy Inspirational Author said...

One do and one don't, hmm...

Do get a lot of books on writing fiction and study the craft until you have a good, well-written story.

Don't think you're an awesome writer and submit just anything, then get hurt when no one wants it. It may be great and just doesn't fit what they are looking for...or it could be terrible and you just don't realize it because it's "your baby."

Do join writers groups and write a lot so you can grow as a writer.

Don't take everything your crit partners take seriously. Sometimes they don't know how to write any better than you do when they are just starting out. :P

Edgy Inspirational Author said...

I met Rhonda at that first conference she attended and we had a great chat about a lot of things. I am proud of her success. Now is the best time to get published because new authors are being found all the time. On the downside, I've found that the majority of the larger houses will check with their own authors first before they take someone into their fold from the outside, thus making it harder to break in to the bigger publishers. It does make sense that they will go with authors who have sold well for them in the past over a newbie/ unknown author.

Lyn Cote said...

Michelle has brought up the changes in publishing. There are more options. When I was seeking publication, there was really only vanity publishing and traditional. Now we have epublishing and POD as two more options.

The big houses consider themselves the major gatekeepers so that's why the smaller presses and epubs don't get much respect from them.

However, this may be changing with the success of writers like Amanda Hocking.

An unpublished writer has more options now but that just means one must learn more and be savvy so she makes the right decisions.

Edgy Inspirational Author said...

So true, Lyn. What I like about the new trend is that the majority of my books are now getting read whereas they would be collecting dust otherwise. When I joined ACFW in 2004 they had like 300 or so members and not many were published. Now there are thousands and a lot of people are published, so the competition for precious few spots is much steeper in the past five years than it was before. I can still build a fan base with small presses. It's just harder to do with less distribution and not a lot of publicity. But it can be done. I'm just glad that my books can reach people who want to or need to read them.

Leslie Sherrod said...

Hi Everyone! I am glad to be joining the conversation. Thanks again LaShaunda for the invitation and for all you do to help promote our books!

Regarding the questions, here are my thoughts/experiences.

Thus far, I've had two books published somehow without an agent. Both novels have had very different roads; the common denominator has been divine intervention.

The publication of my first novel was strongly boosted by attending a conference. It was a one-time offering that opened the door for my first novel being accepted by the very first publisher I ever queried - and it was a major publisher. My second novel was accepted by Urban Christian just before, I think, agented submissions were required - thanks Joylynn :-).

So, can you get published without an agent? Yes. Should you have one? I definitely think it would be helpful so as not feel alone on this writing journey. Nowadays, having an agent pretty much seems to be the rule if you are going to approach a major publishing house. For whatever reason, that has not been my story. Ironically, I have been approached by agents right after I've signed contracts - in one case a week after I'd already signed. I do not always get God's timing with these things, but I've learned to trust Him with it.

I think one of the biggest surprises I've found writing for the Christian community is, well, that some in the Christian community do not understand the power of fiction. I've been at book signings and had people tell me they "only read biblical non-fiction or self-help books" because they speak directly to issues and concerns in their lives. However, when I think about how Jesus taught, He often used parables. He could move a multitude with a short story - characters, plot, and all. There is something inherently powerful about "story" and when it is anointed with God's word and Spirit it can truly accomplish much.

Another surprise I've encountered, particularly with my first novel, is that it is much easier to get book signings at secular stores than Christian bookstores. God has allowed me to have signings at several Barnes and Noble and Waldenbooks/Borders locations, for example; and yet I could not get a local Christian retailer to even look at my novel or take my bookmarks although they had my novel for sale on their website. It's been interesting, and I'll leave it at that...

I'll check in a little later with more answers to the questions.

Lyn Cote said...

Your point about Christians not understanding the power of fiction to move hearts is sadly so true.

I have found that when I speak to people I remind them of 2 Samuel 12 where Nathan the prophet confronts David about his adultery with Bathsheba through the parable of the beloved ewe lamb.

Remember David's reaction?

"And David's anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, As the LORD liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die:

And he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity."

Fiction reaches into the heart in a way a self-help book NEVER could!

Joylynn Jossel said...

Hi, Lyn

I'd love to send you a copy of Urban Christian's submissions. You can email at

Joylynn Jossel said...

Hi, LaShaunda
A lot of times AA authors attend events in which their demographic of readers are represented, so I believe that is why the attendance for those conferences are low when it comes to AA authors. With so many conferences out there, authors have to choose wisely on where they want to spend their dollars. So an AA author will believe their money is best spent to a conference in which is marketed to their readers.

Joylynn Jossel said...

Hi, Rhonda

And LaShaunda is right; you are the poster child for how to be a good debut author.

Joylynn Jossel said...

I plan on attending the ACFW conference next year as well. Perhaps we can be roomies:-)

Although I've been guilty of it in the past, I don't attend conferences simply to obtain readership. I go to grow. I go to learn. I go to network. I go to stay on top of the industry.

This just piggybacks what others have said about how important it is to attend conferences. It is amazing what you can learn from other authors.

I have several authors who I find to be very successful, so in order to learn how they do what they do, I attend conferences in which they are the keynote speaker or on the panel...then I take lots of notes.

I have a saying: "Find someone who you want to be just like...then be better than them."

Joylynn Jossel said...

Most readers say that when they open a book they want an escape. They don't want to read about the life they live. Does this mean Christian readers don't want to read about other Christians walking the walk?

Hmmm. Just a thought, because I'm REALLY trying to figure this thing out.

Not too long ago I was involved in a discussion on Facebook that said Christian fiction books were boring because they didn't "keep it real" by choosing to omit cursing, sexing, etc... There were actual Christians saying that they needed this type of thing in order for the read to be believable.

All I can say is that I'm glad I'm further along in my walk as to where I don't need cursing and explicit sex for something to be real in my life. And as a character in one of my books would say, "Instead of folks worrying about keeping it real in the real world, they should be more concerned about the Kingdom."

Joylynn Jossel said...

Thank you for the kind words, Beverly. You have been a wonderful supporter throughout my transition in the writing business. I appreciate you and all you do.

Joylynn Jossel said...

I have to agree with Michelle about buying books on writing and honing in on the craft. And for goodness sakes; please study. How does a writer study? By reading other authors' books. I'm always amazed at manuscripts that get turned in to me for publication consideration by authors who don't even know that more than one character should not be speaking dialogue in a single paragraph. Or manuscripts that don't have indentions, etc... Just basic stuff one would pick up on just by reading a book.

Joylynn Jossel said...

Leslie, I agree, it is a good idea for an author to get an agent, even if it's after the fact that they've received a book deal. I have so many unagented authors come to me for my opinion regarding contractual issues. What these authors have to realize is that I have the company’s best interest at heart, their agent would have theirs. Even if authors just hired a contract attorney to go over their contracts with them and answer their questions, that would be beneficial as well. But Leslie is right; you don't want to feel alone. Having representation is a great way to have someone in your corner solely with your best interest at heart.

rhonda mcknight said...

LaShaunda and Joy,

Thanks so much. Like I said, I had some great author friends like Sherri Lewis and Tia McCollors who I sat on the front row and watched do it first. I can't say enough about building relationships.

rhonda mcknight said...


The Faith and Fiction Retreat is a literary event for authors and readers of faith fiction that is hosted annually by author, Tiffany L. Warren. This is the 5th year. The website is

rhonda mcknight said...

I forgot to add that I have a fantastic editor. Joylynn Jossel has a sharp eye and I know she prays about every book in our line. I so appreciate knowing that the person editing my work is reading it with a heart for God.

rhonda mcknight said...

Shelia and Joy,

ACFW is a great conference. Well worth the travel. Good workshops and really a first class setup. And yes, I met my edgy sistah MICHELLE SUTTON there. She's been a blessings in more ways than I can list.

rhonda mcknight said...

I'd like to piggyback on one of Joylynn's comments about content. I do some free-lance editing and most of my clients are writing what they consider to be Christian fiction. When I tell them they cannot include explicit language and sex scenes they always tell me they want their story to be real. I ask them if they've read my books and they say yes. I tell them I don't have any sex or cussing. I have a bunch of angry people and folks wanting sex but I manage to tell those stories without it. Keeping your content Holy involves a committment to offer God your best and I can't think of anything more real than using my gift to edify HIM.

So, with that said, if you want to break into the Christian market, know what that market is. Commit in your heart to stick to the guidelines and rules even if you're an indie author. The word "Christian" should always be about Christ.

Joylynn Jossel said...

Thank you, Rhonda. An editor is only as good as their author's last book. Thank God that you are an awesome and talented writer. The fact that I'm spending Saturday night with Samaria and not my wonderful husband proves as much. And for anyone who doesn't know who Samaria is, please check out Rhonda's books.

rhonda mcknight said...


Thanks again for all you do to support authors. I'm glad to hear you're at the editing stage. I so look forward to holding your book in my hand or reading it on my Kindle. :)

Joylynn Jossel said...

I can't thank you enough for this wonderful platform you have provided for me today. I thank you for all you do for authors and readers alike. Thank you for thinking of me to be a part of this online book fair. It was amazing to be among such talent today. Wish you all much success.

Leslie Sherrod said...

Hi again everyone! This day turned out to be much fuller than I anticipated! As I am going back now to read through all of the posts, I can truly say that so much information and support for Christian authors is out there - through other authors! I know for myself, I praise God for the near and dear friendships I've formed with other writers. Having a writing network is essential for growing as a writer - and for maintaining sanity as well. Though I have developed real relationships with several writers, I know I have kind of been out of the loop with many things over the past couple years. But with grad school now finished (yea!) I am looking forward to coming back up for air.

For starters, I am so looking forward to attending the Faith and Fiction Retreat. I remember participating when the F&F retreat was just a one day conference, so this soon coming weekend experience will be a new one for me. I am hoping to connect/reconnect with the life support system made up of other Christian authors. God never made us to function alone - indeed we are the "body" of Christ - so no member works or grows in isolation. Though creative writing is by nature a solitary act, the process of ministry is only strengthened and completed when others are involved. As seen in the posts today, whether talking about editing, agents, or the Christian reading community at large, we need each other to live out God's calling on our lives.

In addition to the upcoming conference, I also want to become more involved with the ACFW. I am a member on paper (I think I'm up-to-date with my dues...), but have never quite known how to really connect. It sounds like the conferences are an excellent starting point.

Well, I am honored to have been part of such a prestigious group of writers. Thank you LaShaunda and everyone who has participated in the discussions today. It is a breath of fresh air to know we are in this together, for a common purpose, for a singular mission. I praise God for his continued faithfulness and am waiting with great hope and anticipation to see what He is going to do next.

Good night, y'all, and be blessed!

Lyn Cote said...

Well, I hope this was of help to "lurkers" but I know I've learned some new things. So happy to meet all of you!

And the conflict between the world and those of us who don't want our books to be conformed to it isn't going away.

We want characters who are transformed through Christ!

Joylynn and Sheila, I'll be getting in touch with you.
And I'm trying to host an A-A author once a month on my blog so keep in touch!

Lyn Cote said...

Oh, and thanks, LaShaunda!!!

LaShaunda said...


ACFW is a good organization; most of their interaction is online. You can join the main loop and then they have loops for your area of the country and genre. I signed up for the main loop, central Missouri and the course loop when I first joined. I learned a lot from these loops. I’m on digest, so I get a big post two or three times a day. Last year I signed up for the editing loop which was very encouraging for finishing your manuscript. This year I signed up for the different genres I write, romance, historical, young adult and science fiction. These loops have been great because they are another avenue for learning about the craft.

LaShaunda said...

I want to thank you ladies for participating today.

A few of you might know my mom is in the hospital and I’ve been at the hospital all week. I was thinking about canceling today, because I knew I wouldn’t be able to be online as much as I wanted because I’d be at the hospital. However I remembered this wasn’t a live event. All I need to do was make sure my pages were online and everything else could take care of itself. That’s the wonderful part about being online.

We had some lively discussions. I hope you’ve learned as much about the Christian market as I have.

We’ll be back for day 3 on June 18th.

See ya on the net.

Cheryl said...

This is great information. Most of all I hope everyone understands the importance of the editing proess. It can either make or break your career. There is nothing worse than putting out a poorly edited book. People remember it and will think twice about buying your books in the future.

PatriciaW said...

I hate that I missed the "live" discussion on Saturday, but this was a very informative panel discussion.

I'm still holding out hope I can make it to ACFW in St. Louis this year. No firm plans but stranger things have happened. I'd hoped to make it back to Faith and Fiction, but it's not looking like that will happen. I went in 2008 and it was one of the best things I've ever done for boosting my writing confidence and just having a chance to meet authors of whom I am completely in awe.

Part of the reader problem is perception, and unfortunately, it too often falls along racial lines. Faith-filled stories by AA authors are assumed to be "church dramas", a popular but small segment of the Christian fiction market. Faith-filled stories by non-AA authors are assumed to be Pollyanna-ish and not "real". Both assumptions are incorrect. I've read so many good stories across the divide, and wish more readers would give Christian fiction a chance. As a whole, I see much higher qualify in the Christian fiction I read than the secular.

AA Christian fiction authors have had a difficult time breaking into CBA publishing. After awhile it becomes self-fulfilling prophecy. We believe it's hard so we don't pursue that avenue. Then too, many white Christian fiction readers only read CBA titles. Although it's not a CBA publisher, I'm hoping to see one of the main publishers, Harlequin's Love Inspired line, feature more stories with minority main heroes and heroines. It's happened but it's rare. I'd also like to see more AA authors write tales with a broader cast of characters.

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