3 Ways to Change Your Thinking Today

3 Ways to Change Your Thinking Today The writing and publishing life can be hard on the equilibrium. It’s full of ups and downs, hopes deferred, dreams dashed, dreams realized, ego strokes and debilitating criticism. We wonder if we’ll ever reach our goals. We swing between high-on-life optimism and crushing pessimism. We decry that this path shouldn’t be so difficult. We rail against systems. We wonder how to write a good book. We despair of ever reaching our readers. But there is another way to think about it. Many of you have probably read Good to Great by Jim Collins, a classic book for business and leadership. In it, he explains what he calls the Stockdale Paradox, a way of thinking that can get anyone through the most harrowing of circumstances. You can click here for a short audio clip of Jim...
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7 Ways You Give Away Your Power – and How to Avoid It

7 Ways You Give Away Your Power – and How to Avoid It I was talking with a wise colleague about the ways people commonly give away their power — in work, in relationships, and life in general. When we give away our power, we lose out on the things we want and need in life. It occurred to me that writers seeking publication are vulnerable to specific ways of giving away their power if they’re not careful. Here are seven ways I came up with, and some ideas for avoiding them:   1. Thinking any single outside entity can make or break your career. It’s truer now than ever before — writers have a multitude of options for getting their work in front of readers. No single agent or publisher or writing teacher need have a disproportionate influence on your writing career. Don’t give any one entity too much power. 2....
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Quality Books Take Time

Quality Books Take Time Back in the early ’80s there was an ad campaign for Paul Masson wine where Orson Welles famously uttered, “We will sell no wine before its time.” The message was powerful; it conveyed, “We care so much about producing the highest quality wine that we refuse to rush the process. We won’t try to bring it out faster to increase profit. We won’t skimp on the craftsmanship that makes our wine so good. It takes time, and we will give our wine the time it needs.” I couldn’t help thinking about that as I considered what I wanted to say today about the time and craftsmanship it takes to write a high quality book. I’m not talking about a book that everyone has to love. I’m talking about a book that has the basics: a solid story,...
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5 Reasons to Embrace the Brave New World

5 Reasons to Embrace the Brave New World I’ve been thinking a lot about how things are changing so fast these days… technology is obsolete the moment it comes to market, there’s a new “must participate” social network every week, and publishing, well, after a good 100-year run, publishing is finally being forced to enter the 21st century. It all feels a little overwhelming sometimes, and I know many people are just plain tired. We raise our glasses to the Dowager Countess who said, “I do dream of a simpler world, as long as we can keep our trains and our dentistry.” I never thought I’d be this young and yet feel so antiquated, but make no mistake, if you’re over, say, 30, you’re an old fogie. You grew up when there was no Facebook, texting wasn’t the primary mode...
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Why Do We Tell Stories?

Why Do We Tell Stories? Whenever I walk into Barnes & Noble and see all those thousands of books… When I hear statistics like a million books published a year… When I look at the query section of my inbox … When I attend a conference and meet with writers passionate to see their words in print… I find myself getting all philosophical. Why so many books? Why do so many of us want to write? What is this thing inside us that drives us to want to share our truth with the world? And of course (me being me) I come up with answers. I think that before there was the Internet, before television and movies, before radio, before newspapers, and even before books… (I am talking about the whole entire history of humankind, not just our lifetimes)… people have always connected with...
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Be Here Now

Be Here Now (Updated re-post) I’m still musing over the vacation I took last month with my family. It felt like a magical time of connecting with my daughters and husband, totally “away” from the Internet and the phone and the office. I admit I find it challenging, but I was intentional in my efforts to stay unplugged and simply be—enjoying the beauty of my surroundings and having a great time. I think I’ve struggled with living in the present moment my whole life. In the last few years I’ve noticed how virtually everyone is afflicted with this diminished ability to be here now in the current time and place. Often our attention is focused “over there” instead of “right here.” Tomorrow or yesterday instead of today. Being elsewhere now has been elevated to an art form,...
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Does it Take a Village to Raise a Book?

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_5cLmD8GqnKY/TSoVyYQjc6I/AAAAAAAAEUQ/St5DOv8KzY0/s320/hands.jpg My post last Wednesday, When Publishing Dreams Become a Nightmare, sparked quite of bit of debate and outrage, including several people writing responses on their own blogs. I want to reiterate (as I did several times in my post) that the scenario I described is unusual—generally my clients are happy with their publishing experiences. We enjoy terrific, mutually respectful working relationships with most publishers. The scenario was also necessarily incomplete—I did not go into all the details of the situation, so there’s no way readers had enough information to say that my client should jump ship and cancel the contract. That’s a decision that must be carefully made, taking all the variables into consideration. But the most interesting thing that came to light for me in...
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Self-Publishing: A Rant and a Q4U

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_5cLmD8GqnKY/SwYjV_Pnc9I/AAAAAAAADQE/yPO2ExTGSj4/s320/question+mark.jpg This week another major publisher, Harlequin, announced their entry into the self-publishing business. The blogs have lit up over it and there’s a lot of interesting reading out there. I think Victoria Strauss gave a great overview on the Writer Beware blog (here.) I have to admit that the idea of all these major publishers opening self-pub arms is making me nervous. It makes me worry about the future of publishing, much more than other issues like e-books, the decline of reading, etc. And here’s why. The lure and the prestige of getting a book published has always been based on… what? Exclusivity. It’s exciting to get a book deal because many want one, and few can get one. Published books have always been respected because of the many gatekeepers they had to go...
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On Being a Brick Wall

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_5cLmD8GqnKY/SXN0UEnk7lI/AAAAAAAACjg/5D0tF1f2wME/s200/SMALLLastLectureCover.jpg I’m sure most of you are familiar with Randy Pausch’s story and his book, The Last Lecture (co-written with Jeffrey Zaslow). In his lecture and his book, Randy spoke with great wisdom about achieving your childhood dreams. One of the things he said that resonated with me was that the obstacles to our dreams are like brick walls, put there to test how badly we really want something. He wrote that those brick walls “stop the people who don’t want it badly enough.” Of course, those are the other people. (Not you or me.) Reading his positive spin on obstacles was freeing for me as a literary agent, because I’m frequently one of the brick walls with whom writers collide in the midst of chasing their dreams. I read so many good queries from people with good...
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The Green Eyed Monster

“How rare, men with the character to praise a friend’s success without a trace of envy.” -Aeschylus Last week when I was reading my daily Publishers Marketplace update, I saw that a friend of mine, an agent, had just completed a really great deal. I simultaneously felt a few different things… amazement, happy for my friend, happy for the author… and yes, a touch of envy. Why couldn’t that have been me? Do you know what I mean? The writing/pubishing business is difficult in many ways, and one of them is that we are challenged when we see others around us experiencing exactly the same success we want for ourselves. In our hearts we truly celebrate with them. But how often can we say there is not a trace of envy in that? I think it comes with a level of spiritual...
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The Promised Land

I recently spoke with a woman who was frustrated with her writing journey. She hadn’t been published although she’d been toiling for many years. She was working on a new project, an exploration of the idea that God doesn’t always “show up” for us in the ways we want or expect Him to. She felt led by God to write this book. The irony is that the woman was complaining that God wasn’t showing up to help her write her book. It was hard. She was struggling through the process. Where was God? If He asked her to write the book, why wasn’t He showing up to help? This made me think of the idea of “the promised land.” God may lead us to something and He may be promising something, but there is often a LOT of time and a LOT of hard work to get there. He didn’t open up the...
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The Stories We Tell

Whenever I walk into Barnes & Noble and see all those thousands of books… Whenever I hear statistics like 400,000 books published last year… Whenever I look at the query section of my inbox (currently at 105 emails)… Whenever I attend a writer’s conference and meet with writers passionate to see their words in print… I find myself getting all philosophical. Why so many books? Why do so many of us want to write? What is this thing inside us that drives us to want to share our truth with the world? And of course (me being me) I come up with answers. I think that before there was the Internet, before television and movies, before radio, before newspapers, and even before books… (I am talking about the whole entire history of humankind, not just our...
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The S Word

I’m excited but not surprised at the lively discussion that’s been taking place in response to yesterday’s Q4U. Anytime we bring up the issue of “safe” in Christian writing and publishing, opinions abound. I’m impressed with the thoughts you’ve expressed here and I don’t have much to add that’s any different from what you’ve already said. To me, the issue of “safe” is okay for a radio station because I listen in my car and my kitchen, where the kids are, and I like feeling comfortable that anything they hear is going to be appropriate for them. But I think the question of safe is different in publishing. We need both safe and unsafe books. It’s not about being kid-friendly. Some Christian books are wonderfully...
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