Jan Flanders

As everyone who has not been dwelling under a rock for the past half century knows full well, Jan Flanders is a world-renowned expert on writing, editing, and publishing fiction. A bona fide member of the landed gentry dating back to the Jamestown, Virginia, settlement, and a magna cum laude graduate of Ms. Finicky’s Foundational Finishing School of Fiction for Well-Bred Females (FFFSFWBF), she resides with her three Angora cats in the heart of the deep South on the plantation, sadly diminished, where she was born and reared, and which her family has owned since the early 1700s. God forbid she should ever allow it to fall into the rapacious hands of any vile Northern carpetbagger! That will happen over her dead body. She is still mourning the lamentable outcome of the late War of Northern Aggression, and if you know what is good for you, you would be well advised not to bring up the subject unless you wish to have your ears pinned back. Rest assured that if anyone knows etiquette, it is our own Ms. Flanders, and she is doing you a favor by sharing her expertise.

Fiction Etiquette with a Southern Twist Twisted Southern

Good mornin’, students. Once again we gather in this ancient, hallowed hall to ponder the Sacred Laws of Fiction Etiquette. Ah am so glad to see each and every one of you takin’ your responsibilities in this regard seriously. But make no mistake. After last month’s debacle, in which human body parts were, if not mentioned, at the very least vulgarly hinted at, Ah do not ever care to revisit that subject or any related to it in any way. Is that clear, or do Ah need to come back there and explain mah point in a way you are guaranteed to comprehend?

Ah thought so. Very well, then.

In the unlikely event we should encounter any further misunderstandin’s, I took the precaution of bringing along a double shot—er, cup of my special blend of coffee. It’s what my pappy would have called bear huntin’ coffee, and how bracin’ it is! Be so kind as to give me just a moment . . . Thank you kindly. Ah am now ready for the day.

Let us get to the business at hand, shall we, darlin’? The envelope, if you will. Bless your heart.

Dear Ms. Flanders,

I’m a first-time author, and my editor just sent me the cover of my book. Oh, Ms. Flanders, I’m writing to you in the greatest distress, hoping you can advise me as to the proper etiquette for such a situation. I fear I shall lose all sensibility! This is an author’s worst nightmare! I envisioned the loveliest of covers for my darling book, all full of melting, misty light like a—oh, dare I say it?—like a Thomas Kinkade painting. A cover that would draw the reader into the world of my characters and impart such a sense of longing and romance and passionate desire that they would simply have to possess it.

Instead, the cover they propose is a monstrosity beyond my powers of description! It’s . . . it’s . . . well, it’s . . . purple! And the design is so blurry and squished looking that I can’t even begin to imagine what it depicts. It reminds me of a frog that’s been run over on the road. Twice. With this cover, my book will never sell. It will be relegated to sit spine out on bookstore shelves until it’s returned to be remaindered—which will be very soon. And I will sink into obscurity forever!

Oh, do help me, Ms. Flanders. Save me from this unimaginable catastrophe. How can I persuade my editor that they simply must redo this cover and give me one that will be an ornament to my story? Shall I tell them there’s no way I can promote my book with this cover on it, that I would rather die than have my name associated with something so horrible? Tell me, what would you do?


Mah dear, do get a hold of yourself! There is nothin’ whatever to be gained by all this drama. I’d offer you a sip of my, um . . . coffee . . . to settle your nerves, but alas, it was good to the last drop.

What in the world are you thinkin’, sweetheart? It is abundantly clear that you are lackin’ the most basic understandin’ of the Sacred Laws of Fiction Etiquette. Luckily for you, Ah am here to set you perfectly straight. Did it occur to you that no one asked for your opinion? They are the experts in all things to do with publishin’ books, dearie, not you. And unless you do your all to promote your book, it’s not likely it will sell. And we all know who will get the blame for low sales figures. So threatenin’ to just sit on your pretty little hands is like cuttin’ off your nose to spite your face, isn’t it, baby doll?

What would Ah do? Why, mah dear, Ah would sink to mah knees and kiss mah editor’s . . . pointy boots. And I recommend you do the same.

Well now, followin’ all this exertion, Ah do feel the need for another shot—cup of my special coffee. It’s a shame there isn’t enough to go around for all you young’uns. I fear y’all will have to go in search of your own refreshments. Just don’t forget to return next month for your next bracin’ dose of instruction on the Sacred Laws of Fiction Etiquette.

November: Why do lightweight romance novels dominate the Christian market?

December: Why doesn’t Christian fiction generate the kind of reader excitement and sales that Harry Potter does?

January: What’s wrong with sprinkling adjectives, adverbs, and exclamation points throughout your manuscript, anyway? Weren’t they invented to be used?