Elements of the Novel Pitch

Back when I was trying to pitch stories for Mavel Comics, I didn't really know what format they were looking for.  Andy Schmidt was giving me good feedback, but I never quite knew what all I should include in the pitch.  This hurt my chances, as I wasn't thinking the pitch out to their expectations.  There was one pitch I wrote that Andy liked and said he wanted to know more on... but he didn't bite because I made the story too long.  He wasn't looking for a mini-series from a fresh, new author. So, for this novel, I wanted to be sure that I was approaching it the right way so that in the end I could hopefully get it published somewhere/somehow.  David Webb at B&H was able to help me out and get me their novel proposal form.  Looking over the elements they want included, I realize that I made the right choice in taking this approach first.  Working through some of the information they want will help me better frame the story as a whole, and help me make a more complete work. That said, there were several things in here that I really hadn't thought all the way through, or really even begun to work on... Audience So who is going to be the audience for this book?  Even without an MBA, it's common sense that for a publisher to go through the process of editing, marketing, printing and selling a book, there has to be a market out there for it.  What I find interesting here is that I would think that a lot of this work would already be done by the publisher themselves.  They know what sells of their own books and what doesn't.  And, well, sci-fi Christian books simply don't sell right now. For me, I'm going to have to do some research here and discover why sci-fi Christian books don't sell.  Are they marketed wrong?  Is there an untapped audience? Also, as part of the "audience", I would think this is where an author can come in and claim their own audience.  If Neil Gaiman or Ted Dekker write a book, they bring with them an established group of readers.  One of the nice things about having a blog is that I can claim a small built in audience... but right now, that's pretty small. Suggested Package How do you determine if a book is worthy of a hardcover or not?  Is it it just a budget book?  For my novel this is where one of the key marketing elements will come into play for me: this book needs to be digitally distributed.  I don't imagine a hard cover book... but if I don't ask for one and I shortchanging my manusrcipt? Purpose/Vision In essence, this is asking whether or not this book is intended to have any long-term effects on the reader's life.  I can honestly answer this one fairly easily: yes.  One of my goals with the novel is to make me think about what the future might be like and, in turn, let the reader think about it.  In studying to be a futurist, I've read and seen very little so far about what the future of religion and spirituality might be like.  That's one of the primary topics I want to discuss in this novel.  Honestly, that's a bit of the crux of this novel... to introduce Christians to the idea of thinking past two generations from now and considering how their actions today can influence the lives of people 200 generations from now. Author Platform It makes sense... if the author has oppertunities to speak at various locations, that's a personal touch and gives the author more chances to sell the book.  So, um... anyone want me to speak at their conference? Endorsement Opportunities Essentially, who would be willing to put their name on your book to promote you.  Who do you know that already has an audience that can bleed into yours.  This is where all those nice quotes on the back of the book come from. Competing Products This is your best friend and your worst enemy.  If there aren't any competing products out there... is your idea so novel and great that it can create an entire new marketplace?  If there are too many competing products... why would yours stand out?  Again, this is purely business... but important business.  An author must know his or her contemporaries. Those, of course, are just some of the elements that B&H is looking for, outside of the expected synopsis and themes and such.  I think a lot of this legwork is important, though.  There's a difference between just wanting to write (which I can do on here any time) and wanting to be published.  If I'm not willing to go the extra mile and do the leg work... how bad do I really want to share my story?  And if I don't want to share my story bad enough... why should the publisher take the burden of risk on publishing it? As an aside, I'm giving myself the deadline of September 30th, 2008 to finish the manuscript.  Yes, I know that's nine months away... but even still, that's qucikly approaching.  I'm taking the summer off of school, so that's when I expect to get the bulk of the writing done. 
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so... about that novel

what can i say?  life got in the way, and it wasn't meant for me to write a full length novel in the month of November.  However, thanks to NaNoWriMo, I've got a great start with some great ideas and a few chapters to build off of.  I will see this to completion, even if it's a few months away.  At this point, I'm thinking I might even take a few days of vacation spattered here and there to work on it. In doing things like this, I like to know what all the possibilities are.  If I'm going to write this thing; poor my time, energy and ideas into a manuscript... then I want to make sure that there's at least a chance that someone will discover it and enjoy it.  I've done some minimal research and found that, at the very least, there is one place I will be able to publish it: Amazon Digital Shorts More likely, however, I would put it for publishing through Amazon's digital services, which would allow a different pricing structure.  Either way, this will allow the manuscript to be read on a Kindle... which... would be very fitting (if you've read the first chapter).  I would like to firmly state that the manuscript did begin before the Kindle was released/publically known about. So on my quest for information regarding my publishing options, I got a chance this past week to meet with David Webb of B&H Publishing House.  I was quite pleased to get to know him; he seemed to be a genuinely nice guy who is as passionate about books as my wife is.  It didn't hurt that he had artwork from an Alex Ross calendar or a Worf mug in his office, either.  What I liked about Webb is that he told it to me straight: there isn't much room for sci-fi in the CBA market. Seeing as I'm getting my MBA, I was actually quite interested in his perspectives on the market, as well as the future plans for the B&H fiction line, in general.  I found it amazing how much the market is geared toward women... as most faith-based products are nowadays.  Why aren't men buying faith-based entertainment? We talked briefly about the struggles I would have with writing a Christian-based sci-fi novel, but he also offered some like a group of authors who recently went on tour promoting their sci-fi and fantasy work.  Webb was very encouraging when we got to the end of the conversation, as we both agreed that sci-fi was a great place to explore faith.  Being followers of Christ allows us one constant - that God is and always will be God.  So even if I place my story 100,000 years in the future... God is still God.  And that allows me a world of creativity. So I now have two assignments:
  1. Finish the novel
  2. Write the pitch
The pitch is going to be interesting... but I think I might tackle most of it first.  There are some things they are looking for that I hadn't really thought out yet.  And, the pitch does include the full synopsis.  It might be good to decide how my story ends... even though I prefer to discover it along the way. So... about that novel.  I'm still working on it.  Maybe you'll get to buy it someday.
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i'm way behind (and a preview of Chapter 7)

oi - I am way behind on the novel.  I currently sit at 3,689 words.  I'm supposed to be done with about 10,000 by now.  My first two days were strong, but then Saturday I filmed a wedding for 5 hours, and Sunday I had lot of homework (and a little Christmas shopping for Ashley) to do.  Last night I managed to get over my first bit of Writer's Block and jumped from the end of Chapter 2 on to Chapter 7.  Which means, at some point, I'll have to go back and fill in a lot of the details. I've put a preview of Chapter 7 after the break.

The door opened, like a slow castle gate being drawn in.  This asteroid they were on was clearly a prison, and what lay beneath the surface was the grand mystery.

The matter of sending convicts off planet was not a new one.  On Earth, sending prisoners to the moon became a regular activity fairly quickly after the moon tourism began.  In order to bring the cost to their customers down, many space tourism companies brokered deals with the government to transport prisoners to the moon in exchange for a sizable amount of money.  The private guests were never any the wiser, until a malfunction let loose a prisoner once... and he killed the all the guests and crew.

This event allowed the space tourism industry to form true space imprisonment services.  The government still needed to ship high profile convicts off planet, but regulations said that the prisoners could not travel with citizens.  As such, the fees for space imprisonment sky-rocketed, and fueled the growth of space-related business.  The space imprisonment research went largely unchecked because the cargo was, in fact, people that were needed to be gotten rid of.

Eventually, as the moon was populated by normal citizens, the prisoners needed to be moved off planet again.  And so, even before the 3000s, prisoners were being shipped to asteroids where convict cities were developed.  Living on a floating asteroid, in a man-made city of convicts, would be enough tension to drive any prisoner insane.  They were constantly monitored, but it was all done remotely.  If something went wrong in a convict city, it would take years to travel to the asteroid in the early days.

It was clear that something had gone wrong here.

Jabin was the first to puke.  He was a researcher.  He wasn’t some grand space cowboy, travelling the open sectors.  This was the furthest he’d ever been away from home; as far as he knew convict cities were a myth.  Opening the door to go beneath the surface, three long decayed bodies fell out, one touching Jabin.  His puke covered the corpse.

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Chapter 1: High Priority News

Sol was a news filter, or sorts.

By this time in human history, Universes had been populated by space-faring dynasties of men.  A constant flow of information was at everyone’s fingertips, but someone had to prioritize it.  Sol came from a long line of news filters; his family was one of the major dynasties in their universal sector.  News filters would analyze all of the incoming messages, feeds and stories and filter their relevance to various ideas, tags and themes.

To say that Sol’s profession was to be a news filter would be principally inaccurate.  He was, in fact, a news filter.  So naturally skilled he was at the profession that he had an almost “sixth sense” about the accuracy and importance of an article from even the briefest scan of it.  The average scan of a thousand word document by a filter was no more than thirty seconds.  Sol’s average was twenty-three seconds.  Seven seconds is time and time is, as they say, money.

The news filters would receive their feeds directly through the neural net.  Over the years humans adapted to the numerous airwaves spread into the air around them.  Some might call it evolution, but no one in Sol’s time would think such thoughts.  No one in Sol’s time could – yes, I said could, not would - even imagine a human mind not being able to intercept the neural net.  It had, after all, been nearly 100,000 years since the first radio waves were broadcast.  Not that they kept track of things like that.

As the news data came to Sol’s attention, he would scan it and pull out the obvious connections.  As a game, he liked to try and pull a few phrases out that a lesser news filter wouldn’t catch.  He had an affinity for stories about authors and always sought to pair social data with musicians.  Sol thought of himself as playing with data like an artist might play with sound.  If he could give the true artists some exposure by tagging a possibly relevant social issue with their name, then so be it.

Because of his family name, their ongoing dynasty, Sol did receive special treatment.  It wasn’t anything to be ashamed of, like we might be today.  For as powerful of name that Sol had, it was an honor to even been seen associated with Sol.  Dynasties and names mean quite a bit more in this time and place than they might to you and me.

Sol was often called upon to help filter and tag the “special” stories.  The kind that don’t always fit into the traditional models of data broadcast.  For example, Sol might help decide whether the discovery of yet another planet was worthwhile news or not.  Or, news from a neighboring sector might occasionally need to be rebroadcast.  Sol would help run the analytics to judge whether or not the members of his sector’s neural net would care about the information or – more, perhaps more practically – if any significant number in the population even would recognize the neighboring sector’s name.

Even these special filtering assignments could be done from the comfort of his workplace.  Sol was so in tuned with the neural net that is took his aide, Claris, actually physically touching him to gain his attention.

“Sol,” she said.

Sol responded to her in his head, asking “What?”  Of course, Claris did not hear him – she wasn’t some kind of mind reader.  The two blankly stared at each other, each respectfully awaiting the other’s reply.

Looking into someone’s eyes was not a typical affair for Sol.  He talked in person with people so seldom that he had forgotten how deep an iris can go.  Claris politely looked into his deep, blue eyes as well.  She quietly wondered how his left one had been shattered so many years ago.  It took Sol several uncomfortable moments before he realized he hadn’t actually spoken.

“I’m sorry, Claris.  You wanted me?”

Claris smiled and bowed her head ever so slightly, “Not I, sir.  You are wanted in the physical services department.”  Sol smiled awkwardly at Claris, and rose to leave.  Sol was quite a bit taller than Claris, and looked down at her from his height.  Having just tapped him on the shoulder to gain his attention, Claris was close to Sol.  Too close, perhaps.

Sol looked down at Claris.  Her hair was red, her eyes the same.  Her skin was fair, with a faint glimmer of silver.  She was fit for her age, and still beautiful.  Her hair was full – she seldom used the neural net.  Sol’s companionship with Maria – his current wife – was nearing the end of its season.  As was tradition, during the final year of a seasonal marriage, the man and wife were to have no physical contact.  Standing up, in front of a non-moving Claris, was the closest he had been to woman in several moons.  But Claris isn’t all that important to our story, just yet.

Sol walked into the physical services department to find it empty.  Perhaps the meeting hadn’t started yet.  On the table in front of him was an odd looking thing that seemed to have some sets of symbols on it.  It was rectangular in shape, and had a height of maybe six inches.  It was rectangular in shape, with the symbols marked in the center.  Had Sol been born some ninety-thousand years ago, he might have known it as an ancient relic called a book.   As it was, the device was decidedly foreign to him.  There was no word for book in his language.

“We’ve been able to decipher only the smallest portion of this object,” came the low voice of Sol’s filtering mentor, Silas from the Name Brin.  Silas was the captain of Sol’s filtering team.  Having worked the filtering role for over three hundred years, Silas had more experience than Sol could imagine.  Sol’s career as a filter would never last that long for his name was too rich to be just a filter.

“You’re going to be working on this project for me,” said Brin.  “You’re going to be working on this in secret.  We will inform your peers that you have been promoted and are working from your homespace.”

“What project?  What is this device?”

“You’re the best we have.  We know this object is important; it is unique.  Someone went to great lengths to get this in our hands and we cannot let anyone know we have it until we know what kind of threat it holds to our society.”

“Threat?  We haven’t had a threat in year.  The first father –“

“This is a threat, and should be treated as such.  We have been able to decipher the meaning of these symbols, Sol.”

“What does they mean?”

“Loosely translated, they mean ‘the Good News’.”

“Good news?  How can that be?  News is just data, Silas.”

“I know.  Why someone would seek to suggest that news is good is beyond foolishness.”

“Could you have deciphered it wrong?  Perhaps is means ‘High Priority News’.”

Silas looked away from Sol, struggling to contain his emotion: “We don’t make mistakes, Sol.  What we have, on this table, in this very room, is no mistake, or joke, or matter to take lightly.  If there is such thing as Good News, then we have it here, in this room, with us.  We must find out what that means.”

“What it means?  How?”

Silas walked slowly to this inanimate object, this device that carried such an ominous message.  Silas turned and watched Sol’s face contort with confusion as he took the top of this device and pull the top open, only to do so again, and again; what we simple people might call turning pages.

“There is a mystery of symbols contained in this device, and we don’t even know what it is.  You are going to help us discover the Good News, Sol of the Name Book.”

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Words of Sol: It is as it always has been

It is as it always has been The Name is constant, the name is You Honor follows honor, just as grief follows gried It is as it always has been It was as it always was Our Name had trickled down the ages How many lives have known our Name? It was as it always was He is as He always has been He is still alive, He is still the root His Name is why I am who I am He is as He always has been I am not who I always was I have brought shame to our Name My Father, and my unborn Son I am not who I always was
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upon writing a novel

a few days ago, self-friend Ariah posted a blog about November being National Novel Writing Month.  I've been meaning to get some more writing out of my system, and the encouragement of knowing there are hundreds of people doing the same thing at the same time has led me to bite the bullet (hooray for mob mentality!). The goal for myself, Ariah, and hundreds of other people is to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November.  I'm not sure if I'm doing this for the creative/social experience or because I (apparently) love punishment so much. This is also one of the reasons I posted the short story yesterday.  Translating the comic script i wrote a few months ago into a short story was a test to see how much I could write during lunch.  The short story was written over two 45-minute periods... the story is 1900 words long, so I should be able to average 1000 words an hour.  At that rate, I would need to work at least an hour and forty minutes a day. Oh, why did i just break that down to myself like that. Other November projects: 1) Be a good husband 2) Run with the dogs at least twice a week 3) Work a full time job 4) Develop and lead lessons for our small group 5) Finish up my Intro to Future Studies Master's class 6) Develop Nathan Jey's website 7) Film and edit a wedding 8) Finish Halo 3 (only one level left!) Yup, I'm a glutton for punishment.  There might be some occasional updates here on the blog, or even some sample chapters and what not.  Please take some time to comment on them... I'll need some encouragement during this sprint/marathon of writing!
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