Bonnie S. Calhoun

Bonnie S. Calhoun is the Founder and Publisher of Christian Fiction Online Magazine . She is also the Owner and Director of the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance which is the parent organization for the magazine.

In addition to her passion for spreading the word about Christian fiction, Bonnie is also an author of snarky suspense. Her novel Cooking The Books (A Sloane Templeton Mystery) releases from Abingdon Press in April 2012. 

Building Relationships in the Publishing Industry
by Karen Whiting

Karen WhitingA new journey into the world of stories began with a two-minute exchange at a writer’s conference with my editor Rick Steele (AMG Publishers). He expressed regret that the committee had turned down a proposal for a Bible study and asked me to consider writing for the God and Country line.

I knew the line of true story devotionals that focused on wars didn’t fit my brand. I quickly responded, “I’m all about family, so I’d want to write stories about the home front and the courageous women who supported war efforts. I’ve been a military wife and mom, so I understand the lifestyle and choices.”

He liked the idea. So, after I finished a contracted book, I found a co-author and we wrote a proposal. The short chat became reality this month with the publication of Stories of Faith and Courage from the Home Front: From the French Indian War through the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The true one-page stories in the book use fiction techniques to bring the characters to life. I spent hours in dusty historic society libraries reading digitalized old journals and newspapers. My co-author, Jocelyn Green, found some of the characters so fascinating that she wrote a historical fiction series based on some of her Civil War research. I also discovered many people whose stories grabbed me. I hope to someday expand some of the stories into biographies or historical fiction. Real characters and their courageous acts beckon us to share their faith and lives.

Let’s back up and consider what happened that led to the book contract. I connected with my editor, knew my brand, and turned an opportunity into a contract. I already had two books published by AMG and had developed a relationship with my editor. Before Rick, I had met Dan Penwell through Kent Crockett, a writer I met at my first major Christian writer’s conference. Dan contracted with me when he worked at Hendrickson. Once he moved to AMG, Dan contracted the two books for AMG. Dan later introduced me to Rick.

The publishing industry is all about relationships, connecting with editors, other authors, and readers. It’s important to attend conferences and get to know people. I served on the faculty this spring at conferences in Florida and Colorado. At each conference I worked at getting to know aspiring writers, reconnected with author friends, and met with editors. At one I saw Rick Steele and we discussed a possible future project. An another I spoke with an editor who in the past wanted to contract a girl's book with me but then she moved to another publishing house. However, she opened the door and I did get a contract from her former publishing house. Nw we're discussing a possible book for her current publishing house. At the past one I met a young woman who shares my love for teen girls and I’m mentoring her.

But relationships should be more than work focused and intense meetings on writing. One evening in Colorado I sat with old friends as well as authors I had not met before. We played a fun game of

Man Bites Dog. The game is about using one-word cards to create headlines, but naturally we had to spin possible tales from the headlines and laugh together as we played with words.

Reader Relationships
Spinning ideas is part of writing. My quick response to Rick Steel led to a book that I loved writing. I quickly spun an idea that fit their editorial need and stayed within my brand. Because I want to write about family, it’s also easy to connect to my readers. I find it effortless to share the passion of the people in the book with readers who share a passion for history. Many who have heard about the book are already eager to buy it before it hits the shelves.

The excess that didn’t fit in the pages flowed into a file of social network posts ready to publish when the book releases. I captured the thoughts as I wrote and saved them to share with my audience. I hope those posts will help build a relationship with readers. Promotion should begin with the desire to reach readers with a message. As authors we need to market the messages, but we don’t have to do it alone if we learn to partner with others.

Writer’s Organization Relationships I belong to a few organizations for authors and have met many wonderful writers. I’m also on the board of Christian Author’s Network (CAN), a writer’s group that focuses on book promotion. The group cooperatively promotes one another’s books. As people join CAN I visit each new member’s website, try to read at least one of his or her books, and follow the individual on Facebook or other social network. I want to know the members so I can help promote their work.

The CAN board understands the importance of developing bonds and establishing long-term associations. I spent months contacting the Munce Group, and then Bonnie Calhoun and I held a number of conversations with Kirk Blank, the president, and other key people in that company. That provided opportunities for us to partner with Munce and supplied our members with marketing possibilities. Five CAN members spoke at the Munce Christian Product Expo for retailers in January and several members signed books at the event. Bonnie and I met with Kirk Blank and Sue Brewer. We wanted to continue partnering and find other ways to reach the more than five hundred independent stores Munce services and we found several new promotional opportunities. The CAN board is also working on other partnerships.

We should all be building networks to expand our writing and readership. Each day is a new opportunity to connect with people who share a love for books.

Karen Whiting, author of fourteen books, is well-known for her popular inspirational craft books for teen girls (God’s Girls series). Her inspirational miniature craft books release this year. She’s a mother of five and a grandmother. She enjoys gardening, crafts, and hanging out with girlfriends. As a military wife and mom, she and her husband help with OCF (Officer’s Christian Fellowship) Bible studies at the U.S. Naval Academy.