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Sunday, July 08, 2007

Exciting contest open to speculative fiction writers -- sponsored and judged by Tosca Lee, author of Demon: A Memoir! Anyone can submit!

From Tosca:

In the last year more people have asked me to look at their sample chapters, synopses and proposals than ever. I suppose this makes sense now that Demon is out and has been, thanks to you, so well-received. And while I’m no expert, after years of submitting proposals (a book must be sold approximately five times between the initial pitch to an agent and the signing of the contract) it’s safe to assume I’m well-acquainted with the form.

I’ve also had more requests than ever for referrals to my agent, Joyce Hart. But here’s the reality: while agents stake their livelihoods on finding new material to sell, they’re perpetually swamped. I can divert any amount of traffic Joyce’s way, but it’s no guarantee that she or one of the Hartline agents will have the luxury of perusing new proposals, especially if the writer submitting the proposal is unpublished.

So here’s what I propose: Send me your best fiction proposal—the one that will become my next favorite book. Joyce handles nonfiction and fiction both, but because I’m partial to speculative fiction, I’m requesting proposals for only that genre at this time. Because Joyce specializes in the CBA (Christian) market, proposals (and authors) need to be CBA-marketable. If you’re aiming to cross-market to ABA (mainstream) audiences as well, this is a strategy dear to my heart though your proposal needs to appeal to a CBA market first for the purpose of this exercise.

I’ll hold everything I receive until November 15, 2007. Over the holidays I’ll go through the proposals—very possibly with the help of a friend or two in the industry (if so, I’ll be sure to announce the person at that time)—and choose the strongest one.

The prize:

Joyce has agreed to look at the winning choice. (For more about Joyce, click here.) What happens after that is between you and Joyce, but at least you’ll know your proposal has been handed off with a statement about why I love it, and that it will enjoy some time on her desk set apart from the pile. I’ll also post your name on my site and give you the option of having a sample chapter posted as well. If you’d like a signed copy of Demon, a Demon mug, bookmarks, etc., I’ll be glad to send you those items, though we both know you’re not going to all of this trouble for a book and a coffee cup.

The rules:

  • The work must be a novel-length work of Christian, speculative fiction, approximately 60,000-110,000 words. If it’s slightly more, that’s fine—this is just a guideline—though you may find pushback from publishers if it’s over 110,000.

  • It must be complete (if Joyce feels like the proposal is viable, she’ll want to see a complete manuscript).

  • Please e-mail proposals as attachments to me at by November 15, 2007

  • Proposals must be in acceptable format. Since formats can vary, please follow Joyce’s guidelines at: If you would like an example, please e-mail me and I’ll send you one. If you would like additional input on the making of a great proposal from an industry expert, Jeff Gerke has great tips for writers on his website: Jeff’s site caters to Christian speculative fiction, so definitely take some time to check out all that he has to offer if this is your genre of choice. Writer’s Digest magazine is another great source of information for all things writing, as is The Writer.

  • I’m not requesting name, address and e-mail because these are automatically included in proposals. (So this notice is me actually making sure you include it, after all.)

  • I’ll notify and announce the winner soon after January 15, but will not be able to offer feedback on individual proposals. If you are looking for professional feedback or editing services, this is area that Jeff can help with or at least point you in the right direction. You’ll also find some resources on Austin Boyd’s website:

  • Lastly, if I know you or would recognize your name, please consider using a pseudonym and/or e-mail address I won’t recognize (but please reveal yourself if you are the winning writer). And if I know you and don’t choose yours, please don’t hold it against me. Blame the guest judges.

  • Entries not submitted in proper format, not containing speculative and CBA-appropriate elements or arriving after November 15, 2007 will be disqualified.

That’s it. I believe in you.

If you’re not to the proposal stage yet I still want to be of encouragement. There are many people who want you to succeed, (I’m one of them). So, for writers in the midst of a longer work of fiction, here is a contest for you:

Novel Excerpt Contest

Send me an excerpt up to 15 pages long (not including the title page) of your most promising work-in-progress along with a brief (one page) description of the entire story. Again, writing should be CBA-suitable, speculative fiction—in this case, because that just happens to be the specialty of editor and novelist Jeff Gerke, who is awarding our winner a valuable critique of his/her excerpt.

The excerpt doesn’t have to be the first chapter, but I do have a preference for getting hooked on page one. So hook me! Please. You know what a great feeling that is.

The deadline:

November 1, 2007 (note, this is two weeks earlier than the proposal deadline).

The delivery: E-mail to

The format: Basic manuscript format. If you’re unsure what this is, take the opportunity to find out. Check out Jeff’s resources at or any book on manuscript format in the writing reference section of the bookstore or library. The title page should include your name, address and e-mail.

The prize: Jeff Gerke’s Character Creation for the Plot-First Novelist, including CharPick for the creation of minor characters (see here for more details), a personal critique of your excerpt by Jeff, mention on my website, and the option of having your excerpt posted if you choose. If you’d like a signed copy of Demon, a Demon mug, bookmarks, etc., I can do that as well, though we both know personal advice from a veteran of the industry is the real prize here.

I won’t make deadline exceptions. I won’t accept incorrectly formatted entries (because agents and publishers really won’t). I won’t accept descriptions over one page (double-spaced) and excerpts over 15 pages. I won’t accept bribes. I won’t be held liable for weird contest-related occurrences, complaints or issues. Writing fiction about demons, I’ve got enough of those going on in my life as it is.

Keep copies of everything you send; when you’re done with your manuscript and ready to pitch it to agents, acquisition editors, committees, and sales teams, that one-page little gem is going to be a life-saver. This way you’ll have it ready.

I can’t wait to see what you’ve cooked up.

Hartline Literary Agency

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