“You had to choose science fiction.”

After starting my trip in the smallest airport ever built — the size of a medium-sized restaurant — I arrived at the conference half-way through the Thursday night kick-off session. Gary Chapman spoke, and he talked about the five ways a person should apologize.

I didn’t take any notes, because I don’t apologize (kidding).

When he finished, all the attendees stampeded to the tables in the back for appointment sign-up. We could choose up to three. Zondervan was first on my list, and I made second in line for that. The other two I managed to get were near the bottom of my list, but no matter. I could still take a seat at the reserved tables for lunch and dinner, and talk to them then.

The conference scheduled was structured with a continuing education class in the morning, a workshop in the afternoon, publishing panels (Q&A with all the editors) and an evening speaker after supper. The 15 minute appointments took place during the classes and workshops.

Friday morning I attended the Publishing 101 class with magazine editor Lin Johnson. She discussed what most editors looked for, and how to format all submissions. I noticed even at the start I made a few boo-boos with my articles I wanted to show off.

For instance, never begin or end an article with scripture. Oops. Did both.

My first appointment with Andy Meisenheimer of Zondervan started at 9:45, and I was only a little nervous — a few stomach butterflies only.

I sat and pitched my novel.

“What is the sub-genre,” he asked, “Cyberpunk, Space opera, or what?”

Andy received a blank stare as a response. That’s one thing I didn’t include in my research and wish I had. I said at one point, “You’re asking great questions. I wish I thought of them beforehand, so I could answer better.”

After bumbling through my pitch a little more, I gave him my pitch sheet.

He looked up with a sigh and said, “You had to choose science fiction.”

Although his bio said he was willing to look at science fiction “or anything weird,” the larger Christian publishers are still not willing to take most speculative fiction. Most science fiction is mass market, and CBA doesn’t know how to mass market their books.

“Plus,” he said, “science fiction doesn’t sell in the CBA market.”

I think he anticipated my next comment, because he said, “Granted they can’t sell what they don’t publish.”

I nodded and said, “It’s a catch-22.”

“Exactly.”

He then recommended I try the smaller presses such as Marcher Lord Press, or even vanity-press.

“I plan on writing my own science fiction novel, and will likely try the small presses first or self-publish. I don’t see that route as a stigma, because it’s the only option for Christian speculative fiction writers at this point.”

In the end Andy further verified what I already knew, so although he didn’t ask to see more, I didn’t waste my time.

The worst part of an appointment isn’t the nervousness before or during, but the mental chastising afterward. I walked away and berated myself for saying one thing, not saying another, did I sit too close or too far, did I breathe my dragon-breath on him . . .

By the time I returned to the class I was grinning. I reminded myself no one thinks about me nearly as much as I do. I bet the moment I left the table, Andy was talking with his next appointment and likely even forgot my name.

I attended the “Thick-skinned Manuscript Clinic” on Friday afternoon. I submitted months ago the first two pages of my novel for critique by Jerry Jenkins (co-author of the "Left Behind" series and owner of the Christian Writers Guild).

Jerry critiqued three fiction submissions, and Andy Sheer (managing editor of the guild and former editor of Moody magazine) critiqued three non-fiction submissions.

Mine was the last of the afternoon. The moment he placed the transparency of my submission on the overhead, my ears started to burn. I was grateful to have long hair, because I could cover up my delicious apple red ears, and no one would know the submission was mine.

A second later I saw it. In the second paragraph I wrote “he” instead of “The.” I thought, “Oh, crap, is he going to pounce on that!” I can’t believe I missed something so glaring even after combing through it at least four times.

Jerry didn’t start there . . .

Sorry, I have to end this entry now, because the critique is quite lengthy. Tomorrow I will go through it point by point. I think you’ll enjoy it, though.

8 thoughts on ““You had to choose science fiction.”

  1. Heck Andra, even the big name published books have mistakes like that!
    Interesting that he’s considering self-pub himself. I’ll look forward to hearing more.

    Like

  2. Hee, hee, Jessica.
    My internal reaction was much the same, but it showed how Andy is equally frustrated with larger publishing houses’ lack of interest in science fiction.

    Like

  3. Hi Shaun,
    Excellent question!
    The short answer is yes. However, most mainstream science fiction contains an either subtle Christian message or not at all (at least not intentionally), and readers of secular fiction — sci-fi or otherwise — don’t expect or even want a blatant Christian message.
    Since my book is overtly Christian, I will have a difficult time breaking into the secular market.
    I don’t mind because publishers must give readers what they want in order to stay in business.
    All it means is I have to work harder to get it published.

    Like

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