Saturday, January 30, 2016


Over the past 20 years, the book industry has evolved more quickly and more drastically than it did in the previous 2,000. New technology has changed our lives in ways that we never imagined, even a generation ago.

Or has it?

For about a century of American history, the most high-tech apparatus in a publisher’s toolbox was an offset press that used 19th-century technology. Today, we can read a paperless book on a handheld computer. A bookstore can print a single copy of a book for you in just a few minutes. But perhaps the most fantastic development of all is that anyone can produce their own book -- without an agent or publisher -- with only a few keystrokes, and without leaving home.

How cool is that?

I came into this business from a different direction than most: I began as a freelance editor, then managed a writers’ conference. And for the past five years, I’ve worked full-time as a literary agent. These experiences have caused me to adopt a perspective that’s very different from most people I meet: The business hasn’t changed as much as you think.

First, offset printing is superior to any POD process. (I have some experience here.) The print is sharper, the ink doesn’t smudge, and the whole process is quicker and cheaper. I have a few POD books here on my desk, and they’re falling apart faster than my 80 year-old Bible. Consumers will eventually figure this out, and demand better.

Second, the stats you’ve seen about the popularity of ebooks are largely misleading. Millions of readers are simply replacing their old copies of Steinbeck and Hemingway; they’re not necessarily looking for anything new from you or me. Recent reports from all over, show that many consumers had a fling with e-readers, and are now returning to the old familiar.

As for the Espresso Book Machine? Nine years after the first one was installed at the New York Public Library, only 28 exist. Clearly, this technology hasn’t brought the revolution we expected.
Now, what about the explosion in self-publishing?

The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books is the largest book fair in the country. For two days every spring, it takes over the entire campus of the University of Southern California. I attend every year, in hopes of meeting a few new authors.

Year after year, some of the largest self-pub companies set up huge booths to show off their wares. I browse the selections, and open each book to a random page. And let’s just say, they’re not impressive. They need editing, research, formatting, and decent art. This is doubly tragic with the spiritual titles, where the authors dedicate their works to the service of God.

Technology is good, but it only gets us so far. Self-pub works well for some, but often it gives false hope to writers and crowds out the good stuff.

After all is said and done, the fundamentals of the business remain unchanged. This industry will continue to be a buyer’s market, a Darwinian construct where only the fittest thrive. Good writing will always matter. Platform and marketing will only become more and more important for new authors who desire to make their mark.

So, you want to be a writer? You want to get published? Good. Start now. Find a group. Find a mentor. Up your game. Make the cut. Pay attention. Pay your dues. Pay it forward. Leverage every rejection into an opportunity for education, not an excuse for bitterness. (In other words, do it the old-fashioned way.) Then when you succeed, you won’t just be a published author.

You’ll be a better person.

Steven Hutson
Literary Agent, Consultant, Non-Conformist 

Twitter @wordwiselit

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Saturday, January 23, 2016

Full House at January 16 Meeting!

Our first meeting of the year had us scrambling for extra chairs. This picture doesn't quite show how full our meeting room was. 

The topic for this month is "Changes in the Industry." Janice Thompson, Crystal Barnes, Linda Kozar, Stacey Zink, and Kathrese McKee shared what they know of the changes, both from their personal experiences and from what they learned at the 2015 ACFW Conference. 

Here are a few of the things we talked about, taken from my [pitiful] notes:

Traditional publishers are seeking rights to some unusual things, aside to the rights to the book itself: audio, digital, film, even "theme park" rights. 

Once upon a time, traditional houses put out roughly 18 new books a year, with only one or two having been written by new authors. Now, in the digital age, over 200 new books are released per day.

Once it was difficult finding an author's older works in bookstores, because the stores had to make room for new releases. Now, in the digital age, books--and their authors--can live forever.

Purchases of print books went up 7% in 2015 (yea!)

Self-publishers need to take advantage of blog tour opportunities. Blogs that automatically post to Facebook can help keep your cover visible.

It may help indies to get away from Create Space, since it's affiliated with Amazon, which makes it more difficult to get other outlets to carry your books. If using Create Space, give yourself a name, like a publishing company, so you can be distributed in the other outlets. Of course, using your own publishing company name means you'll also have to buy your own ISBNs.

Next month, Linda Kozar and Janice Thompson will be discussing Dollars and Sense (Earning money in today's crazy market: traditional, indie, and audio incomes). Don't miss it--because you don't want to have to rely on me and my sorry notes if this is something you're really interested in!


Donn Taylor just signed a three-book deal, and Martha Rogers just signed a four-book deal.

Babs Brooks is celebrating "The End" on her manuscript.

Crystal Barnes's newest, Love, Stock, & Barrel (the 2nd in the Marriage Mayhem series) is due out February 4th. 

Rachel Phifer and her writing partner, Christine Lindsey, have opened a wonderful new blog called Novel Renaissance that has some great writing tips and info on it. 


If you haven't paid your dues for both ACFW and WOTS, you can do so using the buttons on the right sidebar. Don't let your membership lapse!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Cynthia Toney, An Angel to Fellow Authors

From penning a teacher-pleasing essay on prunes to writing articles about cooking and decorating, Cynthia Toney seems to have done it all. Now, along with all the other jobs she has held in this business, she can call herself an award-winning author of YA novels. Her debut novel, Bird Face (now titled 8 Notes to a Nobody) was a bronze medalist for the Moonbeam Children's Books Award (preteen fiction, mature issues), granted by the Jenkins Group.

I met Cynthia through her first publisher, Port Yonder Press, where I served as her content editor. I fell in love with her writing style and her main character, Wendy Robichaud. Wendy's experiences reminded me--too well, at times--of my own years in school. Cynthia's work is charming and fun, and I'm excited to have her in our WOTS group.

When she isn't writing, she's an avid dog rescuer and a fan of Cajun and Italian cooking. She's a multi-talented woman with eclectic interests and a passion for writing. I'm honored to have the opportunity to interview her.

Where are you from originally, and what brings you to Texas?

I grew up in a few different towns in Louisiana and was educated there, but was long drawn to Texas. One of my sisters has lived here for decades, and much of my family has migrated to Texas.

What does your hubby do? How many kids do y’all have and what are their ages?

My husband, Pat, is retired from communications design—print and web. But he’s not really retired because he handles my website and designs my bookmarks, signage, and business cards. We have three adult married children and are hoping all three of them and their families wind up in Texas. One already lives here.

You’ve been a newspaper artist, an advertising and marketing director for an educational publisher, and an author of how-to articles–not to mention appearing in an infomercial. Of all your pre-novelist jobs, which was your favorite?

I truly enjoyed writing for and working in the production of catalogs and direct-response mail pieces. Often considered junk mail by recipients, such print pieces undergo careful thought and planning. If well done, the text and graphics work together in a special way to call a reader into action and result in a purchase.

What is your worst memory pertaining to writing?

The anxiety and wondering if my first book would ever be published. If it weren’t for my faith in God and my husband’s unshakable belief in my ability, I wouldn’t have made it.

What is your best?

Receiving a letter from a teen reader who loved my first book.

What got you interested in writing for young adults?

I’d seen how insecure many teens were. They didn’t know how wonderful and powerful God had made them or that what they were experiencing at this moment wasn’t all there was to life. Young people I knew had committed suicide. Some were shy, some were bullies, but most seemed to have a lot of love to give. I wanted to show them that they had the power within themselves to change or redirect some aspects of their lives. They are valuable and shouldn’t give up on being recognized as such.

What triggered the Bird Face series?

During the time I worked at the newspaper, I’d thought of an idea for a novel for middle grades. Betsy Byars’ Bingo Brown series inspired me with its humor and 13-year-old angst. So although the series handles some difficult topics, the stories employ humor and offer hope.

Your first in the series took 10 years to write. How long did it take to write the second? What is the secret of the faster turn-around time?

The second book, Ten Steps to Girlfriend Status, took six months. After writing the first book, I joined ACFW and got involved in swapping critiques with other writers in the main critique group. Then I joined two smaller groups (actually helped start one of them) and those relationships improved my manuscript extensively. I had a publisher for my first book about two years after joining ACFW, and the book released about two years after that. I didn’t start the second book right away; I waited to see if the first book was well received. Then I sort of played around with it.

After a year on the market, I had to find a new publisher for the first book and its sequel because of changes in the first publisher’s structure. By that point I was planning an entire teen series and turned on the steam to finish book two. I received a tip from a friend that Write Integrity Press was considering YA and liked mystery, which my stories contained. Fortunately, I signed a three-book contract rather quickly with W.I.P. and now have a new home for the Bird Face series. The first two titles already released are 8 Notes to a Nobody and 10 Steps to Girlfriend Status. Book three will be 6 Dates to Disaster.

What are your writing goals? Where do you see yourself in five years? 

In five years, I hope to have completed the Bird Face series, taking it as far as I want it to go. I also hope to have my YA historical published, and possible another. 

What have you learned about the publishing process that you’d like to share with our readers?

Expect the unexpected. Build relationships with as many others in the publishing world as you can. Be an angel to them and celebrate their successes. Learn from your rejections. Your turn will come, and it will be sweet.

Find Cynthia on these sites:

Website:  Cynthia T. Toney 

Twitter:  @CynthiaTToney

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Changes in the Industry

Our theme for January is Changes in the Industry. Many of us have witnessed the most amazing change in recent history: the shift of self-publishing from taboo to acceptable, even preferable in some cases.

But agent Steve Laube wrote a post on his agency blog that describes changes most of us wouldn't have thought about. With his permission, I've reposted his article here:

Five Things that Changed the Publishing World

Over the past twenty-five years ago there have been five things that changed the landscape of the publishing industry forever (the first three below happened in 1995).

Dan Balow wrote an excellent piece on this earlier this year. It still is quite astounding when you think about it. In 20 years this little online startup (founded 1995) became the most dominant online retailer in the Western world. Bookselling will never be the same.

While Google officially did not begin until 1998 (the year they incorporated), it was in 1995 when Larry Page and Sergey Brin started Google as a research project while Ph.D. students at Stanford University. The way we do research as writers has never been the same.

Left Behind

It was the publication of Left Behind by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins (published by Tyndale House Publishing) in 1995 that ushered in a new golden era of Christian fiction. It had such an impact that Jerry Falwell said in a 2005 Time magazine article about Tim LaHaye, “In terms of its impact on Christianity, it’s probably greater than that of any other book in modern times, outside the Bible.” Eventually there were 15 books in the series which sold around 70 million copies.


It wasn’t until 2001 that Wikipedia was created. Can you believe it was that recent? The idea of a computer encyclopedia had been around for a while. In 1993 Microsoft tried to create one with their Encarta project (on CD-ROM in the beginning). Encarta was finally discontinued in 2009. The combination of forces obliterated the print edition of the venerable Encyclopedia Britannica (the last print edition came out in 2010). Quick access to “encyclopedic” information has never been so easy. {While Wikipedia is a reasonably good starting place for a snapshot, remember not to have it as your sole source of research! Harvard University agrees…}

Microsoft Word

No matter what you think about its strengths or weaknesses, Microsoft Word is THE go-to software for editors and publishers. If you use any other writing software (Pages, Scrivener, Google Docs, etc) you will have to convert your file into a Word document when you turn in the manuscript so the publisher can begin the editing process. I began using it in 1992 with version 2.0 (I still have the floppy discs that I used to load it on my first home computer) and have used it nearly every day ever since (which only make me feel old).

[[Speaking of “old,” do you remember transitioning from the mechanical or electric typewriter to a computer? I still recall the awe of being able to change typos without correction tape or Wite-Out. And the ability to have the computer set footnotes at the bottom of a page without having to measure the pages while I typed.]]

Why this trip down memory lane? To illustrate how quickly things can change. Twenty years may seem like a long time (in 1995 our three daughters weren’t in high school yet) but in the scheme of things it was just yesterday. So while it is hard to wait or hard to see the industry change before your eyes, it only means that something new is over the horizon. Those with long experience in the industry have seen many trends come and go. What has not changed, and never will, is the need for great content…hopefully it will be yours that is the next project to touch thousands of readers.

Learn about the Steve Laube Agency at:

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Welcome to the New Year!

Welcome to a new year with WOTS! We have a lot of things planned and lots of other things in the works to make this year fun and exciting.

But, first things first: It's time to think about paying your annual dues: $40.00. Make certain you're current with you ACFW dues, too!

Theme for the Month: Changes in the Industry

Our first 2016 meeting is January 16 at Lupe Tortilla. A panel of authors will discuss the changes made in our industry over the past several years, and what those changes mean to us as writers. Don't miss it!

WOTS Member of the Month

I'm looking forward to featuring some of our own members this year here on the blog, so if you have a book coming out or something you'd like to celebrate, please let me know (, or on the Facebook page). I'll be looking for guest bloggers and folks I can interview this year. Will you be the Featured WOTS Member of the Month?


In general, all of the 2015-2016 WOTS officers are seeking ways to make our group and your experience in the group better. We're considering a Newsletter that will help reach out to all our members--not just those who show up to Lupe's--and bring them back into the fold. Day trips and workshops are in the plans. And, of course, the beloved Write-Ins. 

We hope everyone participates this year and joins in the fellowship of The Woodlands Christian authors, Writers on the Storm.