Thursday, May 10, 2007

Gut Reaction

I was reading other blogs this morning—along with a good dose of caffeine—laughing about orange feet and wondering if I will ever have the guts to make such a confession about my personal life in my blogging — then it hit me. I didn't blog yesterday. I broke the chain. I had a completely dense moment.

Well, it happens. I'm not perfect. Yesterday was a busy one for me and full of worries about how I'm going to get a couple big projects done in the next couple of weeks, while coming up with the next bestseller to buy.

I'm not sure where to begin tackling my proposal piles for new full-length fiction. I have most of my current authors working on something new. I guess I'm now looking to buy a book from someone new to our full-length line. There are some authors from our Heartsong line who I'd like to see publish a full-length book, but it's hard to buy from them if they still haven't turned in proposals to me. (Yes, I do ask and encourage them.)

If I knew exactly the kind of story I'm looking for, I'd go to the agents and ask them to help me find it, but. . .it is often hard to know what would be a perfect fit until I see it.

I'm rambling. One comment asked how I organize and choose full-length fiction. So, just let me say that when I'm looking through the piles of printed electronic submissions I'm trying to answer these questions based on my gut instinct (no real science here).
  1. 1) Does it meet the basic guidelines for Christian fiction with a strong romance plot line and acceptable word count between 80,000 and 100,000 words?
  2. 2) Is it well written and does it draw me in immediately?
  3. 3) Is there a hook? I'm looking for something that can be marketed well on the book cover and copy as well as in other marketing routes. (A hook might be a fascinating event/setting, intriguing plot twist, relatable character journey, an emotional zinger, a powerful redemptive message, etc.) Most books need more than one hook to really have appeal to me.
  4. 4) Does it fit the Barbour model? This is where it really relies on my 14 years of experience with the company and gut feeling about how it will appeal to our team of sales and marketing, to the book buyers, and to the end reader.
Sometimes I can easily clear the first 2 questions and find something that draws me in and makes me want to read the full manuscript. Then I start looking for what is the hook I can use and how it will fit into the Barbour model and things get cloudy. Those proposals tend to go back into the pile for more consideration. But I'm finally starting to learn that if a proposal doesn't strike the full 4 note chord with me up front, it most likely will never morph into a great choice for Barbour.

A rejection from me doesn't necessarily mean a book wouldn't make it at another house. Each publishing house has its own style of storytelling that gels best with the house's personality (or mission).

Now back to reading those proposals.


E said...

Well, as a Barbour READER, I appreciate your hard work! Hope you get something that resonates soon.

Cara Putman said...

Great insight on what you're looking for in full length fiction, Becky. Thanks.

Dana said...

As one who has a proposal sitting in your vast "to be considered" pile, I wish you luck and lots of good cups of tea to get you through! Dana Mentink