Yes, it’s no longer 2007. In 2015 one serious source said Christian fiction sales plunged while nonfiction soared. Another even more reliable source posted no panic over the 15% drop in Christian fiction.
So what’s an author to believe?
The truth is, we have to face some uncomfortable facts. While many established authors are still experiencing the highs of publishing their Christian fiction, most newbies are struggling. And why is that? Why can’t they get their size eights and tens in the door?
Instead of studying the craft, rewriting their novels, passing it through critique partners and possibly a professional editor, they are anxious for a contract and shoot their work out way before it’s ready. And if they pepper the entire industry with a sub-standard work, they have closed too many doors to recoup any chances once they create the perfect novel.
Step One: write a great novel. Not a so-so, not a my mother loves it but my friends think it’s only okay. And how do we know whether or not it’s better than the mom test? We use critique partners, friends who we KNOW will be brutally honest, and hopefully some friends in the industry that we can count on to read a page or two.
Step Two: Send the first few pages through a professional editor. Most are willing to look at a few pages for a reasonable price. LISTEN to what they have to say.
Step Three: Rewrite, rewrite, and rewrite until you’ve cleared it of the extraneous ‘telling’ and you’ve learned when to and when not to used dialogue tags, passive voice, telling, and overused words. For example: just, then, derivatives of to be, that, and numerous others that appear over and over again unnecessarily will hold your work back. Also, do you understand point of view? Are you one who head hops, not because you use omniscient pov skillfully, but because you don’t know any better?
Step Four: You’ve rewritten, it’s passed the critique partners sniff test (it’s no longer a stinker), you’ve done everything you can. Now what? Be sure that you send out exactly what an agency’s site asks for. Nothing more, nothing less. Choose one or two agents to begin with and see what kind of response you get. One person’s opinion is just that—an opinion. But if two people tell you the same thing is a problem, then you might want to listen. Three people? Probably a done deal, and back to the drawing board.
Step Five: Look at the comments. Do you see where you can improve in that area? If so, rewrite again before sending out to any more folks. Run it past the critters again, maybe get another quick professional crit of some of the changed pages.
Step Six: Once again, polish that proposal or query letter to absolute perfection. Do exactly what an agency or editor’s site says to do. You show your professionalism when you do that. Send it again.
Step Seven: NEVER GIVE UP!