Edie Melson is a freelance writer and editor with years of experience in the publishing industry. She’s a prolific writer, and has a popular writing blog, The Write Conversation. In keeping up with the leading edge of al things digital, Edie has become known as one of the go-to experts on social media for writers wanting to learn how to plug in.
I read a great article recently in The Ladders about productivity and happiness and what we’ve learned from neuroscience, and started thinking about how this impacted authors working on their books. Here are four of the key ideas, along with some specific implications I’ve added for authors.
1. Progress motivates you more than anything else.
Look for small wins. As you work on your book, also think about writing blog posts, articles, and shorter pieces that keep your writing muscles exercised and your momentum building. Blog posts that you write for your business may be able to do double duty and become part of your book.
Check a “to do” off your list that is related to your book. I suggest that authors create a “punch list” of the items they need to complete before sending their manuscript off to their editorial boards. Refer to the list to find either the most important item on the list, or the easiest to accomplish. Get it done and check it off.
Reflect on your accomplishments this week/month/year. What have you been able to achieve in your work? After my vacation (where I did quite a bit of work) I compiled a list of what I’d accomplished to share with my Mastermind group; making this list made me feel very motivated as I reflected on my progress.
Re-read your manuscript to date. I don’t recommend doing this too often (especially if you get sucked into editing and rewriting), but to the extent you can reflect on your progress and feel a sense of accomplishment, do it!
Track your word count. How many words did you write today? This past week? This month? By tracking your progress, you’ll feel inspired to do more.
2. Heavy time pressure kills creativity. But zero pressure is lousy too.
Do writing prompts with short time frames. This also helps create small wins (see above). I like to use visual images and relate the image to my book’s thesis. Set the clock for 10 minutes. No thinking. No editing. Just writing. Go.
Having no goal for book completion is not motivating. Wanting to get a book done “sometime” or “eventually” will kill your dream. Be intentional. Put a stake in the ground.
Be realistic about what you can and can’t accomplish. If you know that your work or home schedule will preclude you from spending the five hours each week on your book, acknowledge that.
Set intentions in advance of events like holidays or vacations so that you can either work or enjoy guilt-free. Some authors like to really get serious over holidays and vacations. Some need a total break from the grind to refresh and restore. Be clear about what your goal is, and then proceed without guilt.
Create your book deadline linked to another event (within realistic bounds).One of my coaching clients needed to impose a real deadline on her goal to complete her book, and was able to do that by vowing to complete the book so that she would be an author when she spoke at a major conference.
3. You’re more creative when it’s not about the money.
Celebrate small and big wins with friends, colleagues, writers’ circles. Part of achieving your writing goal and having a book is about celebrating with others. Plan your launch event. Make it a big deal. You deserve it.
Make a list of all the non-monetary rewards you’ll get from having a book. Will you achieve a broader reach? Have more impact? Benefit from greater visibility? Consider all the benefits.
Have fun with your work. Put on your favorite writing music. Be a little edgy in your writing. Cop an attitude.
Do offbeat writing prompts that get you thinking in a new direction. I love the quirky visuals used in Gratisography.com. Check it out. See where it leads you.
4. Want to be more creative? Get happy.
Keep a gratitude journal. We know that being grateful is a powerful aspect of happiness, to write about it in your journal.
Say thank you. Acknowledge the people who help you, inspire you, love you.
Plan to write during your “happy times” and at “happy places.” Know where and when your writing productivity is at its best. Do you love your neighborhood Starbucks? Do you get comfort in going to your cave? Are you at your best in the wee hours of the morning or in the night? Make your writing more pleasurable by enjoying your favorite cup of tea or nibbling on a chunk of dark chocolate as you write.
Surround yourself with people who support you and inspire you. Who makes you happy? Hang out with those people, and avoid joy-suckers like the plague.
If you want to be more productive, then be more creative by observing these principles.
Cathy Fyock is The Business Book Strategist, and works with professionals and thought leaders who want to write as a business development strategy. She is the author of eight books, including On Your Mark: From First Word to First Draft in Six Weeks. She has helped over 130 professionals become published authors since her business was founded in 2014. She also serves as Acquisitions Editor for Silver Tree Publishing. To learn more, email her at Cathy@CathyFyock.com.
It’s conference season. All over the country writers flock to writers conferences, hoping to learn secrets of the craft, pitch a new idea, and connect with fellow wordsmiths. Conferences can be both exhilarating and frightening.
Even the best conference experience, however, can leave you feeling let down. Let’s examine a few reasons why you might feel discouraged or depressed in the days following a really good writers conference.
1. Because it’s hard to come down off the mountain.
At conferences we’re surrounded by fabulous teaching, inspiring worship, and encouraging feedback. Serious writers want to drink from the instructional well forever. There’s so much to learn and so little time. We don’t ever want it to end. We know that when the door closes on the final workshop, we’ll have to re-enter the real world, and the real world is nothing like our mountain top experience. It’s hard to transition from the lofty heights of writers’ heaven to the ground level sod of our mortal existence.
2. Because you enjoyed connecting with other writers.
Where else can you find writing soul mates everywhere you turn? That lady in line in front of you? She gets that you write best in your pajamas while eating chocolate-covered pomegranate seeds after midnight. That guy in the non-fiction workshop? He also wants to write books to help teens find meaning and purpose. And that agent? He’s spent his entire career looking for a writer just like you to represent. Unlike your family, who thinks you’re gifted but a little strange, or your co-workers who tease you about your ostentatious vocabulary, these people GET you. After days of fellowshipping with your long lost brothers and sisters, it’s hard to go back to being a literary orphan.
3. Because now you have work to do.
I leave every writers conference I attend (even the ones where I serve on faculty) with a To Do list. Spruce up that blog. Try a different social media strategy. Submit my article to the editor who asked for it. Applying what I’ve learned means hours of writing, editing, and rewriting. It means following up on potential leads, writing thank you notes (you do take time to thank those who helped you, don’t you?), and sorting through your handouts to mine the gems. Sitting in class, even if our mind is engaged and our fingers are taking notes, is passive. Applying what we’ve learned to our current WIP is work. And work is hard.
4. Because you realized that the writing life is a journey, not a destination.
You may have arrived at the conference convinced your WIP was ready to launch, only to find out it still needs work. You may have hoped to secure an agent or publisher, but didn’t. You may have dreamed of winning a contest or award, but the plaques went to better writers. It’s a rare individual who can celebrate wholeheartedly for the winners without being discouraged or disappointment.
So what do we do when we find ourselves discouraged after a writers conference?
Here are three tips:
1. Rest. Discouragement, depression, and lack of motivation are often byproducts of fatigue. Because writers conferences are mentally and physically draining, the lack of rest, late hours, and over-the-top social interaction can tire even the most energetic person. In the days following a conference, be sure to get a few hours of extra sleep before tackling your To Do list.
2. Pray. Just because you learned a hundred different things to apply to your writing life doesn’t mean you should implement them all. And just because an editor told you to rewrite a scene or rework a proposal doesn’t mean you should. Ask God to help you discern which suggestions to apply and which to discard or save for later. Pray James 1:5 over your writing decisions.
3. Remember God. As Christian writers, we hold the pen, but God makes the ink flow. We sow and water, but God gives the increase. Sometimes, in our quest to be good stewards of the writing trust God has given us, we forget that God has invited us to be part of his grand plan, instead of the other way around. Remembering that he who began a good work in us will be faithful to complete it (Phil. 1:6), helps us release the final results to God, knowing we can trust him to accomplish his good purposes for our writing life.
So the next time you attend a writers conference, don’t be surprised by post-conference let down. Understand the causes, have a strategy to deal with it, and allow it to make you an even better writer than before.
Now it’s your turn. Have you ever experienced post-conference let down? What did you do to overcome it?
Lori Hatcher is the editor of Reach Out, Columbia magazine and the author of the 2016 Christian Small Publisher Book of the year, Hungry for God … Starving for Time, Five-Minute Devotions for Busy Women. A blogger, writing instructor, and inspirational speaker, her goal is to help women connect with God in the craziness of life You’ll find her pondering the marvelous and the mundane on her blog, Hungry for God. . . Starving for Time. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter (@LoriHatcher2), or Pinterest (Hungry for God).
Have you ever wondered about what kind of legacy you’re leaving? I mean more than an estate or an inheritance we bequeath to our children or our church.
I’m thinking more along the lines of how will people remember us. Maybe a better phrasing is how do we want to be remembered? Have you ever thought of that?
The legacy we leave is very simple. It stems from the many choices we make every day. Does God’s Word fill our actions and decisions?
We are faced with choices every day. A few are major. Many seem relatively small. So small, in fact, we may ask do I need to bother God with this? He wants us to. Each decision is a choice to go with Christ or against him. Does he sit on the throne of our hearts?
We can’t be perfect.
But we can be purposeful.
We can immerse ourselves in his Word so we make choices from love, not from our own selfishness. Having his Word infused in me means I can stop myself from choosing out of anger or pride. Instead, I can choose to offer kindness even when the other person, in the natural, doesn’t deserve it. God has saved me and forgiven me way more than I deserved (see Psalm 103:10 NLT).
This immersion requires us to sit before him and let him show us our hidden sins so he can cleanse us from them. He wants to cleanse us so we can walk in all he has for us and leave the legacy he wants us to leave.
What kind of legacy are you leaving? What do you want to be known for?
We all want a happy ending. But no life reaches a happy ending without some conflict. That’s why we need novels and nonfiction books. We want to see someone overcome the odds and win the victory, find their true love, or solve the crime. We want to find proven answers to real-life problems. And so we read. We investigate. We learn, and we grow.
Conflict is key to hooking our readers’ attention. If you’re writing a nonfiction book, you’re tackling an issue your target audience is facing. They’ll want to know what solution you offer to the struggle they’re having. So start your book with some conflict. In your introduction, show the problem you’re offering a solution to. You can do that with one of the four ways listed below. Talk to the reader as a friend, and offer hope.
Here are some tips for how to use conflict to start your book.
1. Make a contrast.
Share a goal (or an ideal) and then explore obstacles to that goal. Life is full of obstacles, but God doesn’t leave us without resources and help. Plus, He is our greatest resource to help us overcome the problems of life. When you start your book, contrast what you want the reader to shoot for and the obstacles that get in the way.
2. Ask a question.
Asking a question helps your book to have a conversational tone and to get the reader interested in what you’re saying. Start with something like: “Have you ever (tried to do this), but (this obstacle) hindered you?” Or, “Have you ever wanted to (do this), but you ended up (doing that)?” Phrase your question so that the reader can say, “Yes, that’s true,” or “Yes, I’ve been there.”
3. Share a personal story.
Readers need to know that you’ve been there too, that you’ve endured the kind of conflict you’re writing about and you’ve come to the other side (or you’re working on it). Share a story that stays on topic and illustrates the kind of conflict your book covers. Let them feel your struggle and your desire to break free or find relief. Don’t share too much personal detail that focuses on yourself, but tell enough to let them know you’re a veteran of this conflict. The advice and wisdom you share has been used (by you) and proven sound.
4. Use startling statistics.
Numbers and percentages can show that a problem is real and desperately needs to be addressed. However, when we start a book with conflict, we want to be sensitive to the struggles people face. So avoid using statistics or stories that shock. Instead, use them as a wake up call for action and so your readers know they aren’t the only ones facing this problem.
Think of the topic of your nonfiction book. Which of these four ways best suits it?
Katy Kauffman is an award-winning author and a co-founder of Lighthouse Bible Studies, a ministry which seeks to connect people to God through His Word. She has taught the Bible to women and teens, and has published two Bible studies on winning life’s spiritual battles. Her newest release, Breaking the Chains, is a compilation on how to overcome spiritual bondage. Katy is also an editor and a designer of Refresh Bible Study Magazine. She makes her home near Atlanta, Georgia.
“Cindy, God has given you a gift of writing and it is your duty to write for Him!” (Elisabeth Elliot in a personal conversation)
Imagine being only 26-years-old and hearing those words from such a respected mentor, international speaker and author of 30 books. I had already felt a nudging from God on this path, but Elisabeth’s words helped confirm and encourage me further. Needless to say, I was a bit daunted, but also energized to pursue more training and opportunity (this occurred when I was heading off to Wheaton Graduate School of Communication after graduating from Gordon-Conwell Seminary.)
No one is more amazed than I that today—many years later—I can look back at my published work, by God’s grace: 13 books authored, 30+ books as contributing author and articles published in more than 50 magazines.
I write because I can’t not write… (yes, I know that’s a double negative, but it’s also true).Writers write. It’s the way we filter life. We don’t always write for publication. Sometimes what we ‘write’ in our minds never makes it to paper or computer, but the stories are there all the same.
As my years increase, so does my wisdom in believing that knowing and telling our stories is perhaps one of the most important ways of participating in furthering God’s Kingdom here on earth. So I am perfectly content at this point to say that I am, indeed, a Storyteller.
“My story is important not because it is mine, God knows, but because if I tell it anything like right, the chances are you will recognize that in many ways it is also yours… it is precisely through these stories in all their particularity, as I have long believed and often said, that God makes Himself known to each of us more powerfully and personally. If this is true, it means that to lose track of our stories is to be profoundly impoverished not only humanly but also spiritually.” (Frederick Buechner in Telling Secrets)
Writing is a discipline and only happens when we deliberately make room in our lives to pursue it. My entire life has been filled with people and activity and ministry and drama; and yet I have somehow managed to insert my writing amidst the chaos. Rarely have I had the luxury to finish a book deadline in complete solitude. Those images of authors working in a cottage by the sea totally undisturbed are not my reality. Most of the time we writers are simply trying to squeeze our craft in between all the other responsibility and serendipity that come our way...
I love what one of my ‘writer heroes’ says: “It will not surprise you if I say that I think being a writer is a fine thing to be. Except for when you actually have to write, of course. Then it is about as exciting as washing dishes. Which is the other thing I do a lot of at my house… Some days I travel somewhere to lead a retreat or speak at a conference. Some days I write letters and answer phone calls as though I were an actual business person, and some days I teach the class at the local high school. I do laundry in between paragraphs on Tuesdays… I wear a lot of hats. Just like everyone else. Some days I feel like a poet and some days I feel like a housekeeper, and some days I cannot tell the difference. I expect most of us feel that way sometimes. Life is made up of a lot of good stuff and a lot of bad stuff, too, and in between you have to clean your room.” (Robert Benson in A Good Life)
This week I am privileged to serve on the faculty of the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference in California. I know that I will be enlarged through both formal and informal times of teaching and helping writers discover more creative ways to tell their unique story within the greater Kingdom Story. It is my 'sweet spot'. Doing what God created me to do. Encourage. Speak. Empower. Challenge. Tell Stories.
Now I'm the one telling that 26-year-old I meet that God has given her a gift of writing and it is her duty to write for Him...
So I will Keep Writing.
And I will also Keep Encouraging Writers. Trusting God for the fruit...
Lucinda Secrest McDowell, M.T.S., is passionate about embracing life — both through deep soul care from drawing closer to God, as well as living courageously in order to touch a needy world. A storyteller who engages both heart and mind, she delights in weaving grace and mercy into ordinary life situations. A graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Furman University, she is the author of 13 books and contributing author to 30+ books. Her books include the award-winning, Dwelling Places (2017 Christian Retailing Best Award for Devotional) , Ordinary Graces, Live These Words, Refresh! and Role of a Lifetime. A member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA), Lucinda received Mt. Hermon “Writer of the Year” award and guest blogs monthly for The Write Conversation.Whether co-directing "reNEW ~ retreat for New England Writing," pouring into young moms, or leading a restorative day of prayer, she is energized by investing in people of all ages. Lucinda’s favorites include tea parties, good books, laughing friends, ancient prayers, country music, cozy quilts, musical theatre, and especially her family scattered around the world doing amazing things. Known for her ability to convey deep truth in practical and winsome ways, she writes from “Sunnyside” cottage in New England and blogs weekly at http://www.encouragingwords.net/
You’ve heard me say it nine cajillion eight thousand okay, a lot of times: media is not the same as marketing. All the Pros will tell you the same thing: if the only thing you’re doing is pushing your product, just open an online store.
Media is where you connect with your Swarm. It’s the different hives you foster, the communities you help build. It’s where all the feels come into play.
Marketing. Now that’s a different beast. It’s where you show what you have and what it’s worth. And how they can get it.
And the Pros (yup, including me) will tell ya: for every one market post you put up, you oughtta have about five or six more non-marketing posts. So, it would go something like this: Coffee, coffee, buy my book, here’s my cat, coffee, kitchen, craft, book. See? Somewhere in between knowing how I take my caffeine and what I like to do for fun (thereby building a connection between myself and my followers), I’m also saying, “Oh, by the way. Since you like me, you might like what I have to offer. Here’s a book.” Nifty, yah?
But you know what? Now and then it’s totally okay for you to take the Queen Bee crown and lead your Swarm.
It’s okay not be so subtle all the time.
Starting a new website? Have a book coming out? Need help pushing the visibility? Well, step up your game! People like honesty, and they like to be helpful. Give and get! I recently wrote a blog post that I needed help promoting. Instead of waiting for it to organically gather attention (that’s the equivalent of SEO- Search Engine Optimization, where you wait patiently for your visibility to grow on its own), I asked my Swarm for assistance.
Now, in paid marketing terms that’s similar to SEM- Search Engine Marketing. That’s where you pay to get on Google’s top spots. So, I didn’t pay my Swarm, but I did ask for help, and boy, howdy! did they ever fly to the rescue! In one day, my numbers nearly double-tripled well, what’s the word for six times over? Yah. That’s what happened. And the next day, that momentum continued.
Jazz it up: A good mix of text and visual always play well together. A creatively crafted meme or a photo description can garner a lot of attention. Funky titles (I mean funky in a good, get-down way here, not the what-did-I-leave-in-the-back-of-fridge-for-so-long kind of funky) make eye-catching grabbers, too. Ah, just do what the Italians do. Take it out of the pot and see what sticks.
Once you have your plan, you need to let your peeps know. And they need to let their peeps know. The trick is to ask boldly and specifically. Give your audience a few choices to help out, let them pick what fits in their comfort zone, and offer a sweet reward for their efforts:
Share a post
Comment on a post
Click on a link for traffic
Download a PDF or other freebie
Don’t be afraid to be specific, but be realistic. “I want to gain twenty new followers in the next two weeks,” or “Help me reach 100 views by midnight tonight.” Your Swarm can’t create a good buzz if they don’t know where the honey is.
So now it’s your turn to speak: How do you ask your Swarm for help?
A Southern Belle in Southern California, and known to her friends as the Bohemian Hurricane, Molly Jo is a writer, editor, social media ninja, and producer of Aaron Gansky’s Firsts in Fiction podcast. Her writings have been featured in children’s magazines, on national blogs and devotional websites, and have earned her awards and scholarships from nationally-acclaimed writing programs. She is the founder of New Inklings Press, author of The Unemployment Cookbook: Ideas for Feeding Families One Meal at a Time, and other books available through her website and on Amazon.
Her current work in progress, NOLA, is a location mystery set in New Orleans and is scheduled for publication in 2018.
find one of the hardest parts of being a writer is the silence.
I’m not talking about the silent hours spent with only the tic-tock of the clock on my office wall and the pitter-patter of lap-top keys. No, I’ve grown to love this silence, days with only my cat to keep me company.
It was not always this way. I’m an extrovert turned introvert by means of calling. When the Lord called me to write a book, I had no idea that it would become my ministry and career. Shifting from educator to full-time mom, to assistant pastor to all day writer, proved a challenge.
This wasn’t easy. I missed the activity with others. It’s been hard to say no to coffee dates and walking partners—though I don’t say no very well. I make time, perhaps too often. But when need be, God clears my schedule, and I spend days with only the tic-tock, pitter-patter, and Hank purring, curled behind me in my chair.
A writers conference or a weekend speaking event reminds me of the introvert, silence needed, person I’ve become.
But there’s another silence all writers face that’s not so gentle. Endearing. Healing.
It’s the silence experienced after your words have been published for all to read.
Your soul naked.
Your heart lent to others.
Your story no longer your own.
There are reviews of your book or an occasional comment on your blog. Once in a while an e-mail will come, or you’ll meet someone who tells you how your book changed her life. But most days there is nothing.
And we must trust.
And we must continue to write.
And we pray our words matter.
And that’s why I’m writing you.
Because I want to cheer you on.
I want you to know that your words really are making an impact. Just as your prayers matter, so do your words typed out of obedience to the One who called you to this craft.
Whether we write fiction or non-fiction, we pen hope resurrected out of our pain, joys, sorrows, and healing. We either create a fictional character who our readers can relate to and experience redemption with or we write about restoring marriages, discovering a healthy self-image, developing a deeper prayer life or graceful parenting.
It is with the comfort we’ve been given of which we comfort others with our words.
Words that point them to a Savior.
I can’t imagine living a life without the promise of eternity. Can you? What if one reader reads your words and finds Jesus. Just one. Would that be enough?
Jesus spoke of the shepherd who left the ninety-nine to find the one.
Yes, your words matter.
What if your words stir the heart of the next Billy Graham or Beth Moore?
What if they simply comfort a soul buried in grief?
And what if you never know?
I think one day we will know. When we’ve finally arrived home, we’ll meet many face to face who’ve been helped. But for now we write by faith not by sight or sound of accolades.
We write trusting that somewhere out there for all eternity, our words matter.
Andy Lee is the author of A Mary Like Me: Flawed Yet Called and The Book of Ruth Key Word Study: A 31 Day Journey to Hope and Promise. She is a blogger, inspirational speaker, Bible teacher, and empty-nest survivor. Join hundreds of viewers on her Facebook Live broadcast Monday-Friday for the Bite of Bread, and visit her website at www.wordsbyandylee.com where Andy provides resources to help you dig deep to live fully.
Love once blended with another. As one. Now fading as the mist of dawn. Dreams once pursued now silent. Like the still of a moonless night. Such is the exploding emotions when dreams fade.
Karen Blixen, who wrote by the pen name of Isak Dinesen, started her poignant biography, Out of Africa with, “I had a farm in Africa at the foot of the Ngong Hills.” She went on to passionately describe scenes that had fixed themselves in her heart and mind during the seventeen years of her life there. The day came when it was time to pack up the life she’d known and loved, store it in her heart, and move away. In saying goodbye to Africa, she penned, “If I know a song of Africa, I thought of the Giraffe, and the African new moon lying on her back, of the ploughs in the fields, and the sweaty faces of the coffee-pickers. Does Africa know a song of me?” She never returned but her book, Out of Africa, forever sings her love song of when she had a farm “at the foot of the Ngong Hills.”
Saying goodbye to a dream tears at your heart as you reel from the impact of hard choices. When circumstances dictated that I put my husband in Memory Care, I knew his faint knowledge of me would dwindle even more as the disease progressed. As he gazes at me with lost eyes, I remind him of his two tours of duty in Vietnam as a search and rescue helicopter pilot. I point out all of the lives he saved and the American dead he risked his life to rescue from enemy territory and the families that now have a grave to visit on U.S. soil because of his sacrifice. I tell him about the business we started and ran for over thirty years. One built on honesty and integrity. I tell him what an honorable man he is and of his love and commitment to our marriage and family. I remember for him.
I’m not angry at God. I’m not angry at Agent Orange that dripped from the jungle vines as he navigated his helicopter into tiny openings in enemy territory. God is sovereign. My son recently reminded me that one cannot mourn the past, only rejoice in the many gifts it gives. So, through my tears, I write so that others will have hope as they bridge the gap between closure of one dream and the beginning of another. I illustrate my struggles in story. With happy endings, because a happy ending is what we’re made for. It’s what Jesus came for. It’s what we’ll one day experience in heaven.
Karen Blixen’s dream of a life in Africa had permeated her soul. As the African sun sank below the horizon and burned the sky warm with yellow, red, pink, and orange, she and her farm workers would often sit around the campfire. “Please, Memsahib, talk to us like the rain,” they’d say, describing her storytelling. This lilting rhythmic style that she developed while storytelling carried on into her writing. If we allow, lost dreams will blend into the mosaic of our lives, and breathe new life into our tomorrows.
God never misses an opportunity to use closed doors to nurture our calling. Just answer the call, no matter where it takes you. No matter how unpopular. Be bold and say what you’re meant to say. Do what you’re meant to do. Be a brave soldier. Know that God has equipped you with the words that only you can write. The message only you can bring. The story only you can tell, for partial obedience is disobedience. Dance until the music stops. God’s dream for us will be fulfilled. If not in this life, in eternity, where we were born to reign with Christ forever.
We’re not to live in the past, but if lessons are learned well, the past can weave into our todays and tomorrows and bring both wisdom and memories of a life well lived. We’ll see how God knew that we’d need the joy of yesterday to bring a smile to today. Sometimes through tears, but a smile just the same. Looking back, we’ll remember that we braved the odds and experienced that spiritual place on earth that is only available in union with God. Letting go isn’t failure but, instead, is trusting God for tomorrow—one where visions are not as clear and the advantages do not seem great. We are embarking on new territory, still seen through a vapor but one day will be as clear as the Carolina sky on a cloudless day.
Emme Gannon is a wife, mother, and grandmother who loves to write stories that stir the heart. Her award-winning writing has appeared in Focus on the Family magazine, several anthologies, and numerous newsletters. She just completed her first novel.
*disclaimer. This series is about following rules. I know that Indies don’t have to follow rules. That’s the whole point of being indie. But indies who pay attention to what rich and famous authors do, have a much better shot at fame and riches.*
Very few authors have a series of reader-satisfying books burning a hole in their pockets. These books have to be written and released successfully for the empire to be built. This is a particularly poignant article for me to write. I need to launch a new series. The series that has formed the foundation of my indie success has been completed. No new books are coming for it, and it has been around long enough now--almost 7 years since book 1 released!—that it has reached market saturation. So everything I write in this post is also for me. A prod to both do the job, and do it right.
Do not release a book all by itself. No matter what you did in the past. If you are starting over with the idea in mind to start an empire, take your time and do it right. Does it take you 6 months to complete a reader-satisfying novel? Then you need to write for over a year before you launch this series. This is technically point 1, so let’s get to it.
1. Launch when you have three novels in the new series, and not before. Novels one and two should be complete and ready to go and launched live [instead of pre-order.] Book three can be first draft finished, in the editing stage, so long as you can get it uploaded live within a month of the first two. If only two of the books are complete, the third one needs to go up as a preorder. I am adamant about this point. Launch all three books at once in your new series. You are going to go in strong right away. The first one will already be at that ridiculously low price and the other two will probably be somewhere between $3.99 and $5. When wildly successful indie author Gemma Halliday was asked what one thing she would have done differently she said she would have released all of her books at once and not waited. It is much better to release many books at once than to try and build a brand on a single title.
2. Get reviews. Those books need reviews. Reviews on Amazon and Goodreads are the word of mouth of the internet. Word of mouth is currently still the best way to get readers. Reviews are readers telling each other what they think of the books. Give away copies of your books to your friends, family, and anyone who is willing to promise a review in a short span of time. And I mean short. You want to get these reviews up within days of the launch. Book one is most important here, but if you can get people reading and reviewing books two and three, all the better. I’m sure this feels like potentially lost sales but it is not. Evidence in point 3.
3. This point is merely evidence for point two. Dan Brown did not have a best seller until the Da Vinci Code. He sent a copy of the Da Vinci Code to every newspaper reviewer in the country [this is only a slight exaggeration] when he launched it. He did not do this for his first two books. His book got lots of reviews in the papers. He went on to be famous. You get it. Do what he did, or at least get as close to it as you can! Early reviews matter!
4. Feed your series regularly. Your readers want them as fast as you can get them out. Be a writing and editing machine. Take no more than 12 weeks to complete a book for maximum success. Yeah, 12 weeks sounds insane. But it works, and writers who write full time can do this. If you can’t write full time, I get it. But you honestly don’t have to, to make this happen. Can you write one thousand words in about two hours? I am pretty sure you can. One thousand words a day, Monday through Friday, for two months is an eighty thousand word novel. The third month is for editing. That’s all it takes. See? A real novel every twelve weeks is doable for most everyone who is going to take this super seriously.
Traci Tyne Hilton is the author of The Plain Jane Mysteries, The Mitzy Neuhaus Mysteries and the Tillgiven RomanticMysteries. Traci has a degree in history from Portland State University and still lives in the rainiest part of the Pacific Northwest with her husband the mandolin playing funeral director, two busy kids, and their dogs, Dr. Watson and Archie Goodwin. More of Traci’s work can be found at www.tracihilton.com
In the over politicized culture of today, these next few paragraphs will either excite you or frustrate you. And for some of you reading this, you may feel a little bit of both.
The excerpt is from the submissions guidelines of one of the editors at a big 5 publishing house. These words were shared in a public forum, and they reflect the current trend and state of ABA publishing.
I am an editor of picture books and graphic novels, and am only accepting unagented submissions from minority creators at this time*. Please send your query letter and manuscript to **************** the subject header “#MSWL query: [title of your submission]”. Due to inbox avalanche, I’m afraid that my response time is slothful.
*I recognize that asking people to self-identify as belonging to a marginalized background is imperfect at best, and problematic at worst, but am being direct about my ask because I feel strongly that editors need to do better at representing diverse creators in publishing. It is important for young readers not only to see themselves reflected in the stories they love, but also to know that should they want to tell their own stories one day, there is a space for that. If you wish to discuss this further, I am always open to dialogue (though still slow at responding). I am listening and learning.
Now, I understand depending on your political leaning, those words above will either infuriate your or give you a hope that marginalized voices are finding a place in the publishing world. Of course, some people will argue it’s getting harder to be published if you are not part of the diverse minority of the publishing landscape.
That perspective rings true, but competition is never a bad thing. Authors of all creeds and colors must work harder, write better, and market well. The recent box office success of the movie Black Panther, has revealed that diverse characters and settings can sell, and publishers are taking notice.
The publishing industry is seeking diversity from content creators. They also desire non-western settings and non-Caucasian casts of characters. Write your story, but don’t forget that we live in a world full of people who are different from each other. Don’t force diversity into your book, but be sure you don’t neglect it either.
Cyle Young is an author and literary agent, husband & father of 3. As a self-proclaimed “Binge Writer”, Cyle writes over 30,000 words in a weekend. Get his free Binge Writing video class at www.cyleyoung.com
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