WordServe News: October 2015

Exciting things have been happening at WordServe Literary!

On the final post of each month you’ll find a list of Water Cooler contributors’ books released this month along with a recap of WordServe client news.

Welcome, Nick Harrison


Greg Johnson is pleased to announce the hiring of Nick Harrison as a new literary agent for WordServe Literary. Nick has been an author and collaborator on multiple books, but the last 15 years he has been Senior Editor at Harvest House Publishers responsible for acquisitions of both fiction and nonfiction.

“Nick will add a depth to the team that the whole agency will appreciate,” says Greg. “He’s worked with top authors for many years, has seen first-hand how the industry has changed, and is well-equipped to serve new and established authors to help them meet their ministry and personal goals.”

Nick adds, “WordServe Literary was my first choice to work with after I knew my time at Harvest House was nearing its end. Their reputation in the industry, the broad list of authors they’re working with, and the company mission ‘to serve authors of faith in all of their creative endeavors,’ made this the right decision.”

Nick will continue to write and edit on occasion, but will be primarily building a client list of established and up-and-coming authors to represent. If you know of someone ready for representation, have them contact him directly at nick@wordserveliterary.com.


In Memoriam

51ODJUNvR9L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_It’s not often a literary agent gets the chance to represent a real American Hero, but Jerry Parr certainly was. He died this month at age 85. After President Ronald Reagan was shot, Jerry was the Secret Service agent who shoved him into the car and checked the president for wounds. He made the split second call to get him to a hospital. Those split seconds saved the President’s life. He wrote a book that WordServe represented called In the Secret Service (Tyndale).  To read more, check out this link.


New Releases


Terry Brennan released The Aleppo Code with Kregel. It is the third book in The Jerusalem Prophecies series, following Tom Bohannon’s band of adventurers as they gather again in Jerusalem to examine a copy of the tenth-century Aleppo Code, the oldest complete text of Jewish scripture. Unfolding against the backdrop of an Israeli/U.S. strike against Iran and the planned economic overthrow of the European Union by the sinister head of the international Muslim Brotherhood, The Aleppo Code  is an epic conclusion to Brennan’s heart-pounding series.


41vFxYzYBNL._SX355_BO1,204,203,200_Greg Johnson released 101 Family Meal-Time Devotions with goTandem.

Each of the 101 five-minute readings in this book helps bring family devotions to life so families can make more of their time together at the dinner table. Relevant scripture passages and thought-provoking questions are included to spark meaningful family discussion and help children (ages 6-12) develop important Christian values.




Paul Kent released The Real Force: A 40-Day Devotional with Worthy Publishers.

Many of the themes central to the Star Wars story reflect the same beliefs and core values of Christianity, as Paul Kent reveals in this engaging devotional. Each reading discusses a scene or character from the Star Wars universe, relates it to a contemporary life challenge, and connects it with relevant scripture.




Pam Ovwigho released Better Relationships, Better Life: Encouragement & Hope for Improving EVERY Relationship with goTandem.

Guiding readers through Colossians 3, Pam Ovwhigho helps readers put relationship builders into practice to help change the way we relate to others in every part of our life.




Wintley Phipps, with James Lund, released Your Best Destiny: Becoming the Person You Were Created to Be, with Tyndale Momentum.

Vocal artist and pastor Wintley Phipps unlocks eight secrets that reveal readers’ unique characters and help them grow stronger, overcome obstacles, and achieve what God has in store for their lives.





Tiffany Ross released A Servant’s Heart: 180 Encouraging Thoughts for Church Volunteers with goTandem.

Filled with 180 encouraging scriptures, prayers, and quotes that honor the ordinary heroes in our churches–volunteers–this book is an ideal gift, the perfect way to celebrate volunteers, and maybe even recruit new workers to step up and accept God’s call to care!




Jonathan Sandys & Wallace Henley released God & Churchill with Tyndale.

God and Churchill tells the story of how one man, armed with belief in his divine destiny, embarked on a course to save Christian civilization when Hitler and the forces of evil stood opposed. It traces the personal, political, and spiritual path of one of history’s greatest leaders and offers hope for our own violent and troubled times.


419PszQMIqL._SX355_BO1,204,203,200_Susie Shellenberger released 40 Days to Complete God Confidence with goTandem. Complete God Confidence shares forty engaging stories that illustrate the liberating assurance of 1 John 5:13-15: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us–whatever we ask–we know that we have what we asked of him.” Regardless of our struggle, we can have confidence in Christ.




Karen Witmeyer released Brides of Texas with Bethany House.  A 3-in-1 collection, this volume brings together Karen’s bestselling and beloved books A Tailor-Made Bride, Short-Straw Bride, and Stealing the Preacher. Offering the best of inspirational historical romance, each story is set in a different location in Texas and contains plenty of adventure and humor with feisty heroines and rugged cowboy heroes.



New WordServe Clients

We’re pleased to announce that Bertram Hayes-Davis and Mark Affleck signed with WordServe Literary this month.

New Contracts

Stephen Arterburn and David Stoop signed a contract with Tyndale for 3 books: My Side of the StreetMy Side of the Street 365-Day Devotional, and Recovery of the Soul. The books will focus on moving towards relational health and on helping people in recovery find the spiritual strength they need by focusing on the four absolutes of soul recovery: honesty, purity, unselfishness, and love.

Jim and Lynne Jackson signed with Bethany House for their new book, Discipline That Connects With Your Child’s Heart, offering a Biblically informed approach to corrective disicpline that puts God’s purposes for parents and their kids at the forefront.

Jordyn Redwood signed a contract with Love Inspired Suspense for a new book, Fractured Memory, to be published July, 2016.

Kara Powell, Jacob Mulder, and Brad Griffin signed a deal with Kregel for the publication of Current Church, a research-driven book exploring how churches can effectively assimilate and attract younger-generation Christians.

Kara Powell also signed a second contract with Baker for an untitled non-fiction book to be published in 2018.

Angela Strong signed a 3-book deal with Mountain Brook Ink for her “Finding Love In” series. Finding Love in Sun Valley, Idaho will publish in early 2016; Finding Love in Big Sky, Montana will publish in fall 2016, and Finding Love in Park City, Utah will publish in spring 2017.

Janalyn Voigt signed a 3-book deal with Mountain Brook Ink for her new series, the Montana Gold Series. Tentatively titled Hills of Nevermore, Cheyenne Sunrise, and Stagecoach to Liberty, the books will be published in 2017 and 2018.



What We’re Celebrating!

God & Churchill  by Jonathan Sandys & Wallace Henley reached #1 on Amazon in religious leader biographies!

Too Blessed to Be Stressed Cookbook by Debora Coty was named a 2015 Fall Okra pick, an honor given by SIBA (Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance) for “Great Southern Books, Fresh Off the Vine.”

Define Your Readers to Gain an Audience

Define Your Readers to Gain an Audience via @JanalynVoigt | Wordserve Water CoolerChildren have a way of grabbing your attention, whether you want to give it or not. Ignore them long enough, and they’ll get right in your face. Even after they are fed, watered, dried, and engaged, their demands can continue. Sometimes the need is not physical. I mean, how many glasses of water can one child drink, exactly?

Pay attention to me!

This is the real desire. Children want to matter, to be seen by you, and to know you care about them.

Adults aren’t much different. We might exercise more restraint, but the needs are the same. We want to know we’re important, and that someone really cares about us. It follows that for readers to give you their precious resources of time and money, they need to know you see and care about them.

To put this another way, how can you ever hope to reach people you don’t even know?

“I can’t write without a reader. It’s precisely like a kiss—you can’t do it alone.” — John Cheever

I have heard writers all but brag they don’t write for readers but for themselves, alone. As creative artists, writers should balance the expectations of readers with the exigencies within their stories. Freedom of creative expression factors in as well. You, as a writer, won’t do your best work if you feel unable to create. On the other hand, too much freedom of expression can leave a creative work without readers.

As John Cheever points out so eloquently in his quote, a kiss takes two, and when both parties participate equally, the result can be earthshaking.

Defining Your Readers

Who are they? 

Understanding your readers isn’t as hard as it sounds. Often, we are drawn to write the books we want to read. Those who would enjoy these books will have similar tastes as you and are likely to be a lot like you. Knowing your audience can be as simple as understanding yourself. Even if you write for a different age group (for example, children), this still holds true. You should know the age bracket and gender of your main readership, their desires, their identifications, and their beliefs.


Some of our desires are universal. We all want food and drink, for example. Move beyond the physical and you’ll uncover shared emotional desires so intense they are more like needs. Love, intimacy, and friendship are three of these.

  • What does your audience want?
  • How can you help them attain their desires?


One of the strongest human urges is to belong. That translates into feeling like part of a family unit, a group of friends, and an interest group (also known as a tribe).

  • What organizations does your audience identify with?
  • What online social groups or forums draw your readers?
  • Who are the people or groups your audience identifies with?
  • How can you cause your readers to identify with you?
  • What does your writing help your audience to become?


Belief is a powerful motivating force, which is what makes finding the audience right for you so important. Violate a potential reader’s beliefs, and it’s all over. Reinforce those beliefs, and you’ll gain a fan.

  • What do your ideal readers believe?
  • Does your writing reinforce those beliefs?

What Your Audience Wants From You

Unlike children, your readers won’t usually hang around to demand your attention. Establishing a relationship with your audience requires that they know you see them.

  • Know what they want.
  • Understand who they are and want to be.
  • Communicate that you share their beliefs.
Live Write Breathe Readership Challenge

Join the fun!

To help writers gain readers, I’ve put together a self-guided 30-Day Readership Challenge at Live Write Breathe, my website for writers. I’ll cover the following topics:

  • Connecting with readers through the who of you.
  • Reaching readers through what you do.
  • Finding readers when you’re brand new.
  • Finding readers where they hang out, too.
  • Know why readers matter to you.

You are welcome to join in.

How to Avoid the Second-Book Slump

How to Avoid the Second-Book Slump @JanalynVoigtWriting, like marriage, is an odd mixture of passion and duty. The same writers who speak of “falling in love” with a story complain about “having to” edit it. Some marriages are easier than others, and that’s also true of books. Some pearls make it to publication with few edits, but often, by the time a novel reaches readers, its writer is sick of working on it. Given these conditions, it’s not surprising to learn that the second book in a series frequently disappoints readers. Preventing this from happening to your second book requires a look at this syndrome’s causes.

Time Frame  

A debut novel usually benefits from years of labor as its author polishes it over and over in order to land a contract. But a second novel, when contracted from a synopsis and likely written in a matter of months, doesn’t go through as strenuous a process.


  • Simply being aware of this as a problem is half the battle. Commit to giving your second book your all, just as you did with your first.
  • Before you submit your second manuscript, make sure you put it in front of a number of “eyes.” Accept knowledgeable critiques, remarks from beta readers, and/or paid editorial advice.


A writer often has to set aside writing the second book in a series to work on edits and/or promotion for the first. While necessary, interruptions stifle the creative flow. Most writers find returning to a cold manuscript difficult.


  • Have all books in a series written before you submit them for publication. Previously, writers held off on writing a second book until the first had sold. This made sense because publication usually went through traditional publishers. These days it’s harder to win that traditional contract but easier to become published. Take this advice if you would hire an editor and independently publish your work, should it fail to land a traditional contract.
  • Learn to write your first draft quickly so that, by the time edits for the first book hit, you’re ready for them.
  • Dedicate part of your day to writing and part to editing, with a break in between. Your brain will learn to readily switch gears.

Conflicting Emotions

During edits, writers must face, accept, and overcome their own weaknesses. The angst this causes can attach itself in the writer’s mind to the series itself. To draw a parallel from marriage: While undergoing marital counseling , it can be hard to remember first love.


  • Go back over your notes or read earlier entries in a writing journal to remind yourself why you love this series.
  • Reconnect with your novel’s theme, which you hopefully drew from one of your passions.  Prayer and meditation can help.

Eroded Confidence

It’s common knowledge that artistic people are their own worst critics, and that’s certainly true of writers. As a result, while dealing with edits it’s easy to lose confidence and take fewer risks with the second book, which can rob it of zeal.


  • Re-read any endorsements or encouraging comments you received for your first novel.
  • Remind yourself that your publisher believes in you enough to work with you.
  • Give yourself permission to dream about what could happen in your story. Don’t censor your ideas, but simply write them down. And when you go back over your brainstorming session, be wise but bold.

Creative Desire  

When the passion in a marriage fizzles, it’s tempting to look elsewhere for fulfillment. In the same way, when a writer loses that loving feeling for a project, other tempting ideas can siphon creative energy and distract attention. This has an adulterating effect on the work at hand.


  • Rather than ignoring new ideas, write them down (briefly) and save them for later. This keeps them percolating on the back burner until you’re ready for them.
  • Stir your passion for the work at hand by dreaming about the story, exploring the nuances of its characters, and mentally writing the next scene.

If you follow these steps, you’ll soon recapture your passion for your series.

Can you suggest some other ways to revive your writing mid-series?

How to Avoid the Second-Book Slump was first published at Live Write Breathe, Janalyn Voigt’s website for writers.

The Writing Life: Developing a Thicker Skin

The Writing Life Developing a Thicker Skin via @JanalynVoigt | Wordserve Water CoolerAfter I sold my first short story, every time I tried to write, I’d wind up staring at the blank screen until I gave up, often bursting into tears. This went on for a year, by which time I must have figured out no one was going to chain me to my desk and expect me to write on demand. I breathed easier and managed to write again, or at least I did until it occurred to me that my book project could fail. Sad but true, I had to get over both fear of success and fear of failure.

Both problems stemmed from the same stubborn root, caring too much what other people thought of my writing (and of me, by extension).

Being so shy didn’t help at all. I tried to hide the fact that I was a writer. Even close friends didn’t know until my husband started carrying magazines that contained my articles around so he could brag about his wife at a moment’s notice. He took my pleas that he stop for false modesty when they were in fact an attempt to protect myself from The Look. If you’ve been writing any length of time, you will know the one I mean. Eyebrows go up, eyes widen, and you begin to feel like a specimen in a laboratory.

I get The Look less often now that the e-book revolution has writers popping out of the proverbial woodwork, and when it happens my response has improved. My face doesn’t heat to blazing anymore, and I don’t yearn for escape.

What changed for me? I learned that having a thin skin isn’t something a writer can afford. Drawing your self esteem from the opinions of others at best makes you vulnerable and at worst misinforms you. Submit your writing to a critique group, and you’ll learn pretty quickly that while many opinions have value, not all are golden.

If you think taking a critique is hard, just wait until you go through edits. If you’re not familiar with the term, it’s when an editor or editors at your publisher house requests changes be made to your manuscript by you. It’s usually when you will question how you ever thought you could write. If you haven’t developed a thicker skin by this point in your writing career, trust me, you will. Having a sense of humor is an asset at such a time. I can’t say that edits for DawnSinger, my debut novel and book one in my Tales of Faeraven epic fantasy trilogy, were informed by mine. However, by the time edits arrived for Wayfarer, book two in the series, humor was in full force. You just can’t take yourself too seriously.

That’s a good thing, because the very next thing you face after publication is book reviews. Some writers refrain from reading reviews of their books. I admire such will power but I don’t possess it. I’ve read every review of my books that comes to my attention. I like to learn from them, even negative ones. Happily, I’ve learned to place my self-worth in the hands of the Author of my faith.

How do you handle critique/criticism of your writing?

Pacing in Writing

Pacing in Writing | Wordserve Water CoolerPacing in Writing

When I was a child, a piano teacher let me play to my heart’s content without worrying about such details as tempo and timing. I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the best approach, which may be why those lessons were short-lived. It wasn’t until adulthood, when I studied vocal music, that I learned to pace myself.

Pacing, whether in music or writing, is one of the methods by which we organize the creative flow. Order prevents these creative expressions from falling flat and helps improve their impact.

What is Story Pacing?

It took me a while to understand the concept of pacing in fiction, but relating it to what I already knew about music made it easier. Basically, two elements of pacing work together within a story.

Every piece of music has a tempo, or base speed dictated by the type of music and its mood. This is also true in fiction. A sweet romance will have a slower overall speed than a thriller, for example. Knowing the right tempo for your story is an important but often overlooked consideration in pacing it correctly.

Your story plays out relative to its tempo, which means that the slowest scene in a lavish historical epic, for example, will be much slower than the slowest scene in a mystery novel, even though both may follow the same story pacing dynamics.

Vocalists are taught to hold back a little in the beginning of a song so that there will be room to crescendo later. In a story, the first scenes introduce the main characters, set up the conflict, and hook the reader.

As your story progresses, scenes ebb and flow at a slower, then faster, pace. This rhythm repeats, and as it does, the time between conflicts decreases. This builds tension leading up to the climactic scene.

The story then slows and, like music, resolves by returning to its tonal center. In the case of music, that is the first note of the scale. In fiction, there is usually a reference or some sort of return to the beginning of the story..

How to Speed Story Pacing

I’ll focus here on ways to speed story pacing, since that’s where most writers need help. However, many of these tips can be turned around to create the inverse effect.

Tension: Nothing propels a story along like wondering if the heroine is going to make it to the station before the love of her life leaves town forever. Or maybe your hero is being pursued by a gang with a vendetta. These are dramatic examples, but tension can be created more simply, as when Rhett Butler reveals he has overheard Scarlett’s declaration of love for Ashley Wilkes.

Unanswered questions create tension in these situations. What will happen when the heroine gets to the station? Will the hero escape with his life? Will Rhett keep the secret of Scarlett’s love for Ashley?

Action: Show, rather than tell, the story’s action in scenes written with minimal description, using a few details to evoke the setting. This is also not the place for introspection or thinking by your characters. Eliminate anything that would distract from the main action.

Dialogue: Because dialogue can be read quickly, it moves a scene along. To speed pacing, eliminate all extraneous tags and beats. Use conflict rather than agreement to give dialogue vitality.

Word Choice: Using short, snappy words will usually help you pick up the pace in a scene. Reserve longer words for those places where you want to slow pacing to allow the reader a moment to breathe.

Sentence Length: Remember that the more complex a sentence structure you use, the more time it takes for the reader to decipher your meaning. That’s fine in slower scenes, but use shorter sentences, which are more easily digested, in places where you want to pick up the pace.

Scene Length: A series of quick scenes can often move the pacing along better than one longer scene. You don’t want to chop things up too much, but this is a technique to keep in mind for the right application.

Chapter Length: Shorter chapters tend to be cleaner and more concise, which makes them more easily digested. They also act to quicken the pace by giving the reader a feeling of progress through the story.

Mastering Story Pacing

Learning to pace the stories you write isn’t easy. In fact, its one of the most difficult skills in writing fiction. Even if pacing doesn’t come naturally for you, keep working at it and you’ll improve. For a model that will help you plot and pace a novel, read Plotting a Novel in Three Acts and the related posts at my Live Write Breathe website for writers.

Marketing for the Introverted Writer

Sing Your Unique Song via Janalyn Voigt | Wordserve Water Cooler“All you need is you, yourself,” marketing expert and author James Rubart once said with regard to marketing. His comment, given at a meeting of Northwest Christian Writers’ Association, stuck in my mind because I didn’t believe him.

That’s easy for you, Jim, I thought with a touch of asperity. You are an extrovert who can walk into a book store and chat with the owner without breaking into hives. 

I am an introvert. If I had my way, I’d retire to a closet to write, coming out only to eat, sleep, and possibly notice the existence of my family. Okay, I’m exaggerating, but I really do have a closet office. My post describing it spiked visits to my website, which makes me suspect I’m not the only introverted writer. Welcome, and here are some of the lessons I’ve learned along the way.

  • Promoting is not nearly as hard as I was making it. Once I busted through my own resistance and consistently marketed my book, I harnessed the power of routine. I was looking at the whole marketing puzzle at one time, but we really only solve a puzzle one piece at a time.
  • I don’t have to be a social butterfly to effectively market a book. All I need is the willingness to touch people using whatever format I find comfortable. That doesn’t have to be face-to-face, necessarily. The Internet allows me to promote to those I probably will never meet. As a writer, I’m wired to be a communicator, and communicators need listeners. That makes me a people person. Who knew?
  • Marketing is not the same as going to the dentist. It can even be fun. Really. The key is to employ platforms that work well for you and that you enjoy or at least can tolerate. Your platforms can be in-person or online. Sometimes you need to compromise to attain a goal. For example, although I would rather not speak in public, if I want to fulfill my desire to teach other writers, I have to overcome my reluctance.
  • I can market with my writing. I had a Hallelujah moment when I realized I could promote my book by writing related content for magazines, book sites (like Wattpad and Goodreads), or on my website as a subscriber incentive.
  • I don’t have to be at every social site. I have better results when I specialize at one or two sites rather than trying to keep up with them all. As a bonus, I have more time for writing.
  • Keeping track of people is important. I confess. I lose people online. I don’t mean to, but there are too many conversations with so many people. List the most important people to you as an author, and then make sure you engage with them on a regular basis.
  • Push past your fears. This lesson was one of the hardest for me, and something I have to learn all over again on a regular basis. If I let fear stand in the way, I cheat myself of fulfilling my God-given calling. Not only that, but I deprive others I want to reach with my writing. In light of that, my fears don’t seem quite so compelling.

Jim Rubart was right when he said that you only need you, yourself, to market your book. Don’t worry about being someone you are not. Instead, use your talents to sing your unique song to those who need to hear it.


Closing The Creative Gap Between What You Imagine and What You Write

The Gap Between What You Imagine and What You WriteTrying to play the piano can be humbling. You dream of executing a Bach fugue in perfect timing, but when you sit down it’s chopsticks or nothing. Writing is a lot like that, too. An amazing scene plays out in your mind, but after your critique group reviews your rendition, you wonder how you ever thought you could write.

Welcome to the imperfect world of creative artistry. Check your ego at the door. It can’t help and may hinder your efforts to bridge the gap between what you imagine and what you can create.

Let’s go back to that piano. Even when you love playing and have a natural affinity for music, to play well you’ll probably need lessons. In the same way, studying the craft is one of the surest ways to advance your writing skills.

But studying itself won’t teach you to write any more than watching the teacher play improves a musician’s abilities. Long, laborious, tedious practice is required. Yes, there are a (very) few musical and literary geniuses in the world, but for most of us practice is what it takes to become a master. Could that be why an art is called a discipline?

At times you’ll want to bang your head against the keyboard in frustration. It becomes easier to make excuses not to practice than to face that tell-tale gap between what you can imagine and what you actually write. Are these dues of time, money, effort, and disillusionment worth paying?

Only you can decide.

Thankfully, the gap narrows with time and effort, but it never completely goes away. Living with that reality is a cost every writer continues to pay. It is also a gift that helps keep us humble.

If you persevere you may reach a comfortable level of proficiency with the pain of your early efforts only an unpleasant memory. This may result in you having less patience with beginning writers and even a feeling of superiority. The temptation to skimp on improving your abilities will be stronger. If the gap will never close, why not save your time, money, and effort and settle for doing an adequate job?

Having a good work ethic can see you through those times when you lose your desire to write with excellence. Is it worth the trouble? That’s up to you to decide, too. However, in a crowded literary marketplace, it isn’t hard to be lost in the shuffle.

It helps to be clear on why and for whom you’re writing. Whether you’re writing to make your mark, to reach a particular audience, or to glorify God, close enough is never good enough.

Writing with excellence is a self-taught skill that, oddly enough, requires you to face and accept your imperfections.