Saturday, June 1, 2013

Highlights and Helpful Tidbits from the Colorado Christian Writers Conference

Me and AWSA members during CCWC.
 From May 15th to 18th I enjoyed participating in the Colorado Christian Writers Conference. I saw some of you there. That conference has become, to me, like a family reunion. I've made some of my best friends at that conference, and it is fun to get together once a year. This month I thought I'd share some highlights and helpful tidbits from the Colorado Christian Writers Conference.

First, let me say that I was extremely busy while at the conference. That happens when you're on faculty--which is part of the fun. However this year, more than once, I found myself in a position to think, "Where O where is a pen and a piece of paper?!" I would have loved to take notes, but I was often sitting on a panel when I heard something fantastic and I couldn't just get up and run for my briefcase to write it down. Therefore, this is all from my memory. I hope I got it right!

1. One Highlight for me was being a member of the "Teens Write" panel.

This year the director, Marlene Bagnull, asked me to sit on the panel at Teens Write on Saturday. This was a new one for me. For years I've known about the meeting for teenagers, called "Teens Write," meeting up there on the mountain on Saturday. However this is the first time that I got to attend. I was amazed at how many teenagers were in that class. Wish I would've got a count. I'd guess maybe thirty.

As a matter fact, one of the young writers, Kaylie Hathaway, is sixteen years old and already has two novels published. There was a lot of talent in that room. I'm expecting to see great things from them in a few years.

I was especially excited that Marlene asked me to represent screenwriting. It was great fun. I hope those of us on the panel encouraged this group of young writers.

2. Great workshops on E-Books.

While on faculty, I didn't have time to attend many workshops. But when it did, I sat in on Brian Schwartz's continuing sessions called "Pixels to Profits." His continuing session workshops were all about how to publish your e-books. Brian is the president of the Colorado Independent Publishers Association. He is also the owner of If you want help getting your materials turned into e-books, check into Brian's websites including

For a long time I've been wanting to make my line of pamphlets for writers into e-books. I'm thinking I might get Brian to help me when I get to that point.

3. The Next Big Thing

Brian Schwartz said it in class and again on at least one panel: the next big thing is audio books. He says people want to read but they're so busy. With an audio books you can listen while you drive or while you're on the treadmill. He could be right.

As a side note, I've heard many authors say they want to read their own book for an audio book. Or they want to be the reader for other audio books. Just so you know, this is a huge industry with a lot of competition. You may be able to make the decision to reach your own book, especially if you publish independently. But if you have dreams of making a lot of money as a reader doing other people's books, especially famous authors, you need to check into it because there are associations, and training, and a lot of competition for those jobs. I know because I've taken the training, I have a demo track, and I've seen how much competition is out there to be the reader for audio books.

4. Why Create Space books will never be on the shelves of brick & mortar stores

If I'm quoting Brian Schwartz a lot, keep in mind that his were about the only workshops that I went to. I believe it was also Brian Schwartz who said on a panel that books printed by the company, Create Space, will never be on the shelves in brick & mortar stores. That's because Create Space does not allow or offer a deep enough discount that the stores require to make their profit margin.

If you are self- or independently-publishing, I suggest that you use Lightning Source Inc. That is who I used to print my book Deliver Me. Through LSI you can offers the discount stores require.

5. Repping a Publisher

For the first time, I represented a publisher at this conference. I represented my own publisher, Pix-N-Pens, and its sister publishing company, Write Integrity Press. I met with authors, listened to what they had to offer, and recommended many of them to my publisher.

Meeting with these authors was encouraging and amazing. I met so many diverse, creative people. All were polite and professional and honored me with their ideas and their time. I have to tell you it was an encouragement to hear all the diverse ideas that these authors have in ways to communicate the truth of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ. I came away absolutely amazed at how God is reaching different audiences with his grace and truth.

One surprise: Not one author talked to me about the book contests. If you haven't heard about the book contests, click the "Writing Opportunities" tab at the top of this blog and read about them, or visit the "Books of Joy Contest" for details. You still have time to enter these contests. There are three. The deadline for the first is June 15. The other deadlines are July 20 and July 31. Winners receive contracts for their books. If you have a book about joy, whether fiction or nonfiction, put your pitch together and send it in. I entered all their contests last year for their "Books of Hope Contest" and received three different book contracts, each for a 3-book series! Needless to say this year, I'm working very hard. But what a joy!

One more thing: I did meet with one writer who pitched me his book. I wasn't sure if the publisher would be interested, so I texted her and asked. She wasn't. The next morning I caught this writer and let him know the news. He let his disappointment show. There's nothing wrong with that. Believe me, I understand. He wasn't rude about it. But I could see how disappointed he was. I know he's having a hard time finding a publisher for his military story. I thought of this much later, and I wish I would've thought of it in time to tell him. I did share it with some other writers there. Let me share it with you. Here's my best advice: start by finding your list of "target publishers." This your best, top-of-the-line dream list of publishers for your book, the list that you will approach. How do you crete that list? Do your homework. Here's how:
  1. First, check the Christian Writers Market Guide. Make a list of all the possible publishers for your story. Be sure to check out the topical lists that tell what topics different publishers are looking for or regularly publish. 
  2. Second, visit one or more brick-and-mortar bookstores. I'm directing you to brick-and-mortar stores this time, and not online stores like Amazon, for a specific reason. Anyone can get their book on Amazon. But only a select few get on the shelves of a brick-and-mortar bookstore. Those select few are either big-name authors, large established publishing houses, or both. So if you see them on a shelf in a brick-and-mortar bookstore, you know it's a large traditional publishing house. Now find the section of the bookstore that carries the type of book you're writing. Find as many books as you can that are similar to yours, and make a list of who the publishers are. You now have a target list of traditional, large publishing houses that publish the type of story or nonfiction book you are writing to approach with your book idea. Good luck!

6. Sad news

 It was the second night of the conference when word came that Cecil Murphey's beloved wife, Shirley, had suffered a stroke. The next morning we learned it was a major stroke. I know many of us spent the rest of the week praying for her and for Cecil. It was after I got home, on Sunday evening, when word came that Shirley had been ushered into the presence of the Lord. I know it was and still is a sad time for our good friend Cecil, a prolific author who has frequented the Colorado Christian Writers Conference and has invested his time and treasure and many of us as writers, me included. We continue to pray for Cecil, and look forward to meeting Shirley one day when all those who belong to Jesus get where Shirley is now.

7. Your turn

Those are just a few of the highlights that I remember from the Colorado Christian Writers Conference. Are you sorry you missed it? Well you have another opportunity. Register now for the Colorado conference's sister event, the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference. This conference is also directed by Marlene Bagnull. You can register now for the GPCWC that is coming at the other end of summer, from July 31- August 3. Register now for the best price.

SuzyQ and me showing off our author's banners.

BONUS: Oh yeah, one more thing:

I was having so much fun doing everything else a faculty member gets to do, that I almost forgot to tell you that I also got to teach two workshops, both on screenwriting. The first was "Beginning Screenwriting" and we talked about the actual format of a screenplay. We talked about the three main elements of a screenplay. And we talked about a lot of other details that go into screenplay.

The second workshop was "How to Shape Your Story for the Screen," and we talked about story structure, the 3-Act structure, and how and why I believe the "shape" of story is embedded on our souls. Here's a hint:

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”   Hebrews 12:2 

The story of the gospel, which God wrote and we are living out, is the shape of a story that satisfies our souls. All great stories mimick that same shape. Any other shape just won't do, meaning it won't leave us satisfied. We talked about that, and it was great fun.

I was pleased that I had a good crowd at each workshop. Again, I was so busy I didn't have time to count! But I think there were at least a dozen people in each class. Not bad for early-bird workshops when most of the people are still arriving at the conference.

I hope you've learned something here that is helpful. Or found a new resource that will help you in your writing. I always enjoy sharing highlights and helpful tidbits from the Colorado Christian Writers Conference. Next year I hope to see you there.