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Thread: Guest Editor: Charlene Patterson visiting Sept. 27-29!

  1. #1
    wishes you happiness JennaGlatzer's Avatar
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    Guest Editor: Charlene Patterson visiting Sept. 27-29!

    Hey! We've had "guest agents" before, but never guest editors. I've invited Charlene to be our first guest editor, and she's accepted the invitation (hooray!). She will come by next week to answer questions. Here's her bio:

    Charlene Patterson is a fiction acquisitions editor for Bethany House Publishers. She has worked in the editorial departments of Falcon Publishing/TwoDot Books, The Globe Pequot Press, Farcountry Press, and Universal Studios, and as a freelance editor and writer.
    **

    And here's some info about Bethany House:

    Bethany House Publishers, a division of Baker Publishing Group, has been publishing high quality books for 50 years. Recognized as the pioneer and leader in Christian fiction, Bethany House publishes nearly 120 titles annually in subjects including historical and contemporary fiction, Christian living, family, health, devotional, children's, classics, and theology. Bethany House titles are often found on the Christian bestseller lists.

    Located in Bloomington, Minnesota, a suburb of Minneapolis, Bethany House has over 1,000 titles in its current catalog and sells its books through many channels including Christian bookstores, general bookstores, mass merchants and online stores.
    Read more about them at http://www.bethanyhouse.com.

    You can also read their writers' guidelines here.


    If you have any questions about writing for the Christian market, how the editing process works, what it's like to work for Bethany House, and so on, here's the place to ask! Go ahead and post your questions for Charlene starting now, and she'll answer when she arrives next week.

    Thanks, Charlene!

    P.S. PLEASE NOTE: This is not a thread for you to pitch your work to Charlene. And please do not answer questions meant for our guest.
    Last edited by JennaGlatzer; 09-21-2006 at 10:33 PM.
    I am no longer here. If you'd like to visit me, please find me at www.jennaglatzer.com or on Facebook. Thanks!

  2. #2
    It's hard being green ChunkyC's Avatar
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    Welcome, Charlene. Thank you so much for being willing to drop by and share your expertise with us.

    I'd like to start the ball rolling by asking: from your perspective, what is the number one thing authors don't do that if they did do, would make the editor/author process and relationship much easier? I suppose the converse would be interesting as well; what do authors do that you wish they wouldn't?
    Last edited by ChunkyC; 09-22-2006 at 04:36 AM.
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  3. #3
    practical experience, FTW Lolly's Avatar
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    Hello, Charlene. A few moths ago I wrote Dave Long (your fellow editor at Bethany) a lengthy e-mail off of his Faith in Fiction website with a book proposal, but he never answered back. How many proposals do you usually receive? Is it just a case that you're so busy that you can't answer all your letters? Or does it mean that authors who don't get a response had a really terrible proposal?
    Last edited by Lolly; 09-21-2006 at 12:09 AM.
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    practical experience, FTW
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    YOu need a agent to submit.

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    ~writes for Him~ Robin Bayne's Avatar
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    Hi Charlene,

    Thanks for being here. What things do you view as "taboo" in Christian novels? Anything writers should avoid when preparing a ms. for your house?

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    defender of the blahs! LightShadow's Avatar
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    Thank you for coming, Charlene. My question is how does Christian editors view novels, though obviously Christian in the way they are written and the messages they convey, that lean toward the mainstream in their subject matter?
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    Hello Charlene thank you for coming. Are there any topics off limit? Does a Christian novel have to be bible based? If the ms has a couple of four letter words will that make it a no go? Thank you for answering. I appreciate it.

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    practical experience, FTW Lolly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by brainstorm77
    YOu need a agent to submit.


    http://www.faithinfiction.blogspot.com/


    On his website he has a link where you can submit a proposal directly to him.

    I'm wondering if my story was too controversial. The hero and heroine are Christians, but well, let's just say that they're not the stereotypical conservative Christian. They have some opinions that differ from the fundamentalist/evangelical mainstream.

    So I'll join the chorus. What is or is not acceptable for a Christian novel? What will or will not sell? I really hate to have to say this, but in the writer's forum on Mr. Long's site, all the people who responded said they wouldn't buy my story precisely because they didn't agree with the characters. Do you think they were a representative sample, Charlene? Because if so, I may have to go with a secular publisher. It would break my heart, but you do what you have to do.
    Literature cannot be the business of a woman's life and it ought not to be.

    Poet Laureate Robert Southey to Charlotte Bronte.

    We've come a long way, baby.

  9. #9
    wishes you happiness JennaGlatzer's Avatar
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    Hi Charlene,

    How do you determine if a book has the potential to cross over into the mainstream market? Is that often a goal? Do you ever request edits so a manuscript will be more appropriate for a crossover market?
    I am no longer here. If you'd like to visit me, please find me at www.jennaglatzer.com or on Facebook. Thanks!

  10. #10
    practical experience, FTW Lolly's Avatar
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    The other day I was visiting the website of Zondervan, another major Christian publisher. They had a letter by Francine Rivers, the hugely popular author of Redeeming Love, among others. Rivers said that when Zondervan bought the rights to that book from Bantam, she had to "clean it up" for the Christian audience. Something about taking out the "realistic language." So now I'm more intrigued than ever about what the standards are for Christian publishing, especially since Redeeming Love was published in the early 90's. Have things changed since then?
    Literature cannot be the business of a woman's life and it ought not to be.

    Poet Laureate Robert Southey to Charlotte Bronte.

    We've come a long way, baby.

  11. #11
    Working on 2nd WIP SherryTex's Avatar
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    As an editor, what are your pet peeves about writers in the editing process?

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    Greetings!

    Hi Everybody!


    Thanks for the kind welcome. Sorry to everyone who wanted Dave Long. He sits right next door to me, and he’s a great guy with a cool blog called Faith in Fiction. I see the link has already been posted. Check it out for lots of insights into Christian publishing.


    If you write women’s fiction, historical fiction, chick lit/mom lit, coming of age stories, or romance, you’re better off talking to me. If you write men’s fiction, suspense, or literary fiction, you’re better off talking to Dave.


    Wow, you asked some great questions. I’ll answer them as best I can, and feel free to let me know if I need to clarify anything.


    Here we go,


    Charlene Patterson
    Bethany House Publishers

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    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChunkyC

    I'd like to start the ball rolling by asking: from your perspective, what is the number one thing authors don't do that if they did do, would make the editor/author process and relationship much easier? I suppose the converse would be interesting as well; what do authors do that you wish they wouldn't?
    One thing some first-time authors don’t do that I absolutely need them to do is finish the manuscript. What I care about first and foremost is if you can write a good story - and keep it going for 350 pages. I also like to see authors get several critiques by trustworthy people on the manuscript so they are giving me their best possible product.

    One thing they do that I wish they wouldn’t is write long synopses. Almost any book sounds terribly boring in a long, detailed synopsis. I’d rather see a clever tagline than a five-page synopsis. Or a stab at the back cover copy for the book. Or a sample press release. Something that makes me excited to read the manuscript and tells me the author has thought about how to pitch and market the story.

    For authors who are already under contract and we’re working together on their book, the biggest thing is honesty. Tell me if you aren’t going to make a deadline, or a suggestion isn’t working for you, or you are confused about the process. Of course, I also want to hear if something is going really well. :-)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lolly
    Hello, Charlene. A few moths ago I wrote Dave Long (your fellow editor at Bethany) a lengthy e-mail off of his Faith in Fiction website with a book proposal, but he never answered back. How many proposals do you usually receive? Is it just a case that you're so busy that you can't answer all your letters? Or does it mean that authors who don't get a response had a really terrible proposal?
    Hi Lolly,

    Bethany House is one of the few major Christian publishers that still allows one-page queries via fax. We accept submissions at writers’ conferences. And through agents. We also allow people to submit queries through Dave’s blog. We receive almost 3,000 proposal submissions each year. We have stacks and stacks of them, and sometimes it does take a long time to reply. A lack of response can mean a number of things: 1) We haven’t gotten to it yet. 2) It wasn’t right for us. 3) We liked it and we’re getting other reviewers to provide feedback. 4) It got lost in the stacks.

    You may want to check in with Dave for a final answer. I’ve seen his office. It’s not unlikely that it got lost. :-)

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    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Quote Originally Posted by Inspiewriter
    What things do you view as "taboo" in Christian novels? Anything writers should avoid when preparing a ms. for your house?
    At Bethany House, we’ve avoided having a list of no-nos. We believe certain things should and should not be included in certain types of stories. It depends on the story, the context, and the audience. If you’re writing for the Janette Oke audience, you’ll want to hold yourself to certain standards. If you’re writing for the Frank Peretti audience, that list of standards is much different. That being said, you’ll have trouble getting a manuscript with explicit sex and a horde of swear words published by any Christian publisher. We have a reputation to uphold with our readers and our vendors. Conservative Christians are still the primary audience for books published by Christian publishers.

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    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Quote Originally Posted by LightShadow
    Thank you for coming, Charlene. My question is how does Christian editors view novels, though obviously Christian in the way they are written and the messages they convey, that lean toward the mainstream in their subject matter?
    There is ongoing debate about what makes a novel “Christian.” Is it a heavy Christian message in the book? Is it the inclusion of the salvation message? Is it a Christian faith on the part of the author or a main character? Is it a specific plot?


    These days, you find all kinds of novels under the umbrella of Christian fiction. Some have preaching. Some have a light Christian message. Some have only a good-vs.-evil plot. Some deal with tough issues of faith. Some are simply “clean.” Christian editors are, ultimately, looking for a good, well-written story that weaves in Christian themes to a degree that is appropriate for the story and audience.


    There is no specific guideline on how much Christian content, or lack thereof, will sell. A manuscript that leans toward the mainstream in subject matter can be published at a Christian publisher. For examples, check out Karen Hancock's books, A Stitch in Time by Allison Bottke, and Waking Lazarus by T.L. Hines.

  17. #17
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lolly
    I really hate to have to say this, but in the writer's forum on Mr. Long's site, all the people who responded said they wouldn't buy my story precisely because they didn't agree with the characters. Do you think they were a representative sample, Charlene? Because if so, I may have to go with a secular publisher. It would break my heart, but you do what you have to do.
    Yeah, I’d worry if the people at Dave’s blog said they wouldn’t buy your story because of content issues. I say that because the blog people are, in my experience, less conservative than the majority. You may want to consider publishing with a company that is faith-based but not in the ECPA. For instance, Harper San Francisco, Eerdmans, or Paraclete. Or going secular.

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    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Quote Originally Posted by JennaGlatzer
    How do you determine if a book has the potential to cross over into the mainstream market? Is that often a goal? Do you ever request edits so a manuscript will be more appropriate for a crossover market?
    We like to see books have mainstream crossover potential because, of course, that means the potential for higher sales. We don't do a specific edit to make a book more appropriate for crossover. There is no specific rule about what makes a book a potential mainstream seller. There are a lot of factors involved, including the type of story, the way faith is presented, the cover, the marketing pitch, and the simple fact of whether stores such as Wal-Mart and B&N show interest. Selling in the mainstream market doesn’t necessarily mean a lack of overt Christian content, either. One way to get interest from the mainstream is to sell well in CBA.

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    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lolly
    Rivers said that when Zondervan bought the rights to that book from Bantam, she had to "clean it up" for the Christian audience. Something about taking out the "realistic language." So now I'm more intrigued than ever about what the standards are for Christian publishing, especially since Redeeming Love was published in the early 90's. Have things changed since then?
    Language is still a big issue in the world of Christian publishing. That is changing, but it’s changing slowly. My perspective on this is that if you think you HAVE to use swearing or profanity, you may not be thinking creatively enough. For years and years, Hollywood movies of all types did not use foul language. Same with some of the greatest novels even written. There is no bad language in the Bible, even though the Bible deals with some very heavy stuff. There are ways to get around it. Get creative.

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    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Quote Originally Posted by SherryTex
    As an editor, what are your pet peeves about writers in the editing process?
    Ha ha, you guys want me to tell all my secrets, don’t you? Every writer reacts differently to the editorial process. Obviously, different personality types are easier to work with than others. What I don’t like is when an author thinks the publisher is against him or her. Not true. We have A LOT of money invested in your book; we also have budgets to work within. We are on your side. We want to sell as many copies of your book as possible, and we devote our efforts to that end.
    Last edited by cpatt; 09-27-2006 at 11:39 PM.

  21. #21
    David Arnold
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    Historical Fiction Parameter

    My WIP is a novel about a black pastor in 1960's MS with themes of intercession, spiritual warfare and racial reconciliation. According to your guidelines this would not be accepted because the time period is after 1950. Is that Bethany's standard or industry wide definition?

    David

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    ~writes for Him~ Robin Bayne's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cpatt
    Ha ha, you guys want me to tell all my secrets, don’t you? .

    Yes please.

  23. #23
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    a) There is no industry-wide definition of "historical fiction."

    b) If it's a good story, who cares what the marketing people call it?

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    Working on 2nd WIP SherryTex's Avatar
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    Ha ha, you guys want me to tell all my secrets, don’t you?

    I have been found out. Must return to secret writing mom cave.

  25. #25
    practical experience, FTW
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    What things about a manuscript are likely to grab your attention when it comes across your desk? Also what are the current trends you have noticed in Christian fiction?

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