Writers, let’s not be overly romantic

Writers,Let's not be overly romantic

It seems the world of writing is full of myths. In fact, it is so common that we’ve addressed it not just once, but twice on our blog. But we see this issue arise so often that we’ve excerpted one of Michael Hyatt’s articles on the topic that we think you will find both challenging and encouraging:

At this point in my career, I’ve sold a lot of books. But I was hardly an overnight success. First came work in publishing and agenting. I learned how book sales worked—and didn’t work—well before I published a word of my own.

I want to use my experience here to puncture a thought bubble I encounter when talking with would-be writers and other creatives. I call it the Romantic View of Creativity. It’s not only dead wrong; if you fall for it, it will sabotage your success.

Wrong but Romantic

There are four main false assumptions in the Romantic View of Creativity. Here they are:

  1. The creative life is easy, if not effortless. It beats “real work,” in other words.
  2. People will seek you out. Your creative fires will just burn that bright.
  3. People will love you for your art. They will be happy to have such a rare individual in their midst.
  4. You’ll easily make a living at this. And you might even get rich!

I am not exaggerating here. I have encountered creatives and other entrepreneurs who believe one, two, or all of these things. When these assumptions prove false, they often get discouraged and stuck. Some throw in the towel and quit before they’ve accomplished anything significant.

It’s a real shame—and also unnecessary.

What Creatives Need to Hear

The opposite of the four points above is closer to the truth. This will not be easy, and there are no guarantees of success. But you shouldn’t let that stop you, because there is good news here as well. Here are four truths you need to climb the mountain.


Anders Ericsson is a psychologist at Florida State University who did the research behind the “10,000 Hour Rule,” as it was slightly misreported in the popular press.

In his book Peak, Ericsson urged readers to forget the 10,000 figure and focus on the now well-documented fact that mastery in almost any field or art form is the result of practicing a specific task for a long time, often thousands of hours.

Whether you want to be a great author, musician, painter, or comedian, it takes practice. You can’t just show up and expect most people to appreciate your unrefined talent. You must put in the hard work to intentionally practice and invest in your craft.

With respect to writing books—a field I know quite well—doing the work requires you to:

  • Come up with a great idea
  • Develop a proposal
  • Find an agent
  • Shop the proposal
  • Secure a publishing contract
  • Write the book
  • Rewrite the book
  • Submit it to outside editors
  • Process their edits
  • Finalize the manuscript

It’s not easy. This all requires significant effort. Successful writers have to be incredibly disciplined to pull it off. And you’re only just getting started at this point.


Many years ago, an author told me, “Look, my job is to write the books. Your job is to promote them.” He was simply out of touch with reality.

Successful publishing requires that the author both write the book and assist in its promotion. I understand why many authors are uncomfortable promoting their own work, but this inclination is misguided. If you have invested the hours creating the work and really believe in it, why wouldn’t you want to get the work out to as many people as possible?

It is more important than ever to have a platform. When evaluating potential projects, the first question we asked when I was Thomas Nelson’s CEO was about the book’s content. The second question was about the author’s reach. It was rare for us to offer a contract to a new author who didn’t have a built-in audience that might buy the book.


From a distance, fame looks very attractive. Famous people are endlessly praised and adored, right? Wrong. Any time your head rises above the crowd, someone is liable to take a shot at you.

It’s easy to lose perspective when folks hurl those criticisms. I can receive one hundred positive comments, yet one negative barb will throw me for a loop. I suddenly think that everyone hates me, and I am ready to quit.

So take it from a fellow criticism sufferer that what you need is not an absence of criticism but perspective. It helps to sort the criticisms as they come in into three different camps: friends, critics, and trolls.

  • Friends love you and are willing to share with you the truth, even if it hurts a little bit.
  • Critics don’t have anything personal against you; they simply disagree with you.
  • Trolls are spoiling for a fight. They attack you because something is wrong with their heart. My best advice is to ignore them. If you engage them, it only strengthens their resolve.


For some reason, artists (and even some entrepreneurs) often have an uneasy relationship with money. They undervalue their work. They sell from their heels. This prevents them from taking the steps to make it pay enough to survive and prosper.

This makes little sense. Even the Bible implies that we should not feel guilty about charging for our work. As the Apostle Paul says, “A laborer is worthy of his hire.” If it’s any good, creative work is real labor.

When you put a price on something, you create value. Art that is offered freely without charge is often disregarded. In other words, if you, as the artist, don’t think it is worth anything, why should I? This is why I don’t think giving your work away for free is good for you or for the recipient.

If you truly believe in your work, charge for it and find a way to raise your rates as your skills improve.

Don’t Be Scared

I hope that none of these truths scare off creatives who want to make a living from their talents. As truths go, these are not even that hard to swallow.

What I’m saying is don’t fall for the Romantic View of Creativity. It’s going to take practice, promotion, a thicker skin, and an eye for the bottom line. Some of these things may come easier to you than others but they ought to all be possible, if you set out to master them and keep at it.

You may not be good at these disciplines to start with, but think of it this way: How long did it take you to color in the lines, draw that bow string without squeaking, or craft the perfect opening sentence? Keep at it and you may be surprised what you achieve.

At Certa Publishing, we recognize that our authors have both strengths and weaknesses. It’s our job to come alongside you, offer resources, encouragement and the tools you need to publish your message. Contact us today to get started!


Outside-the-Box Marketing Ideas

out-of-the-box (1)

If you’ve spent any time researching ways to market your book, you’ve likely found one common ingredient: cost. Marketing is expensive! And if you’ve just laid out money to self-publish or partner-publish, chances are that you don’t have lots of extra cash lying around to spend on promoting your book.

Fortunately, with a bit of creativity and ambition, there are plenty of out-of-the-box marketing ideas that are sure to increase your readership without significantly decreasing your bank account.

Check out these ideas:

Give your book away

Wait, what? Yes, that’s right. Give your book away. But to the right people. We loved this creative idea from emerging author Brent Jones:

I called and emailed local libraries and independent bookstores, offering them free print copies of my book. Most of them agreed to take it.

Getting my book in the hands of independent bookstores (two free copies each) and local libraries (one free copy per branch) — 26 copies in total — cost me about $195 CAD ($140 USD) for printing and shipping.

I also bought some plastic business card holders and asked each independent bookstore if I could leave a small stack of promotional cards by their cash register. Every one of them agreed.

In total, my book can be purchased locally at seven different bookstores and six different libraries.

I’ve also been booked for four author events at local libraries.

Be news-worthy

Brent noted that giving his book away to bookstores and libraries enabled him to use our next idea… Be news-worthy.

[Donating my book] gave me a new angle: Fort Erie author supports local arts and commerce by donating his debut novel to bookstores and libraries.

I positioned my pitch to local media outlets as an opportunity to discuss the importance of local arts and literacy. And it worked:

snapd Niagara Falls came out to cover my donation to the Niagara Falls Public Library. CogecoTV, the local television station, invited me to appear on their show, What’s New? to discuss my book. And I was also interviewed by Niagara This Week, for an article titled, “Fort Erie author pens debut novel.”

Local media can be an excellent marketing resource and it’s free! You may think that scoring a spot on your city’s morning talk show would be difficult, but keep in mind that the producers of those shows have to fill several hours of airtime every morning, so they are always on the lookout for good content. And what better content than a homegrown author who is donating his or her books?

Not sure how to land a media interview? This post has great info, as well as our previous post, Three Easy Ways to Land Media Appearances.

Offer yourself as an expert

Is your book theology-based? Contact your local seminary and religious universities and offer yourself as a speaker in their weekly chapel or any upcoming seminars. More than likely you will be promoted in their on-campus literature and you will be able to set up a table for signing books. Be sure to donate few books to their library.

Is your book focused on a particular industry? Offer yourself as a free speaker at conferences and tradeshows. Even large companies may bring you in to speak at employee workshops and training sessions. Be sure to email them flyers with your info that they can use to promote your appearance.

Is your book inspirational in nature? Offer yourself to local counseling groups, such as grief and divorce support groups. Contact women’s clubs, retirement centers, and moms groups to see if they need speakers. Bring along a few copies of your book to give away.

You may not see yourself as an expert, but that fact that you’ve written a book on a particular subject offers you more credibility than you think. It means that you have put a great deal of time into researching, thinking and praying about your subject. Be confident in what you offer to others!

Support a charity

We all have charities that are near and dear to our heart. And don’t we wish we could give more to those amazing groups? Your book offers you a tool to do just that. Cathy Presland offers this creative idea in a post for Author Unlimited:

Run a big charity fundraiser so that for every book sold on a certain day or a certain week you give all or part of the profits to a charity of your choice (or better yet, run a fundraiser and then send everyone who donates a free pdf of your book…)

For example, if you have friends saving up for an international adoption, let your audience know that proceeds from your book sales will go towards that couple. Then ask your friends to share this information with their circle of friends.

Also, in times of national tragedy or disaster, such as a flood or hurricane, you can do the same, with proceeds going to the Red Cross, Samaritan’s Purse, etc.

While these ideas may require a little legwork on your part, they can be highly effective, not only in their frugality, but also their marketing reach. At Certa Publishing, we have become an expert at helping emerging authors market their books. We would love to do some out-of-the-box brainstorming with you! Contact us today.

Keepers of These Oracle Words: Part two


keepers of these oracle words pt 2

A few weeks ago we shared some recent writing advice from bestselling Christian author Max Lucado. Today we give you the rest of The Write StuffEnjoy!

We need your writing. Pick up the pens left by Paul, John, and Luke, and write for the souls. They show us how. For example, they always delivered the bread. Have you noticed? They wrote with their lives first. They lived the message before they scribed it.

John was under fire for his faith. “. . . was in the isle that is called Patmos” (Rev.1:9 KJV). Exiled for his passion. Rome locked him up because they couldn’t shut him up. And Paul? He did his writing and thinking about God in the middle and muddle of the world. On a boat crossing the sea or in a prison cell chained to a guard. Luke, it seems, had two loves, Jesus and Theophilus. And he wrote fifty-two chapters in hopes that the latter would meet the former. They didn’t inhabit ivory towers or quarantine themselves in a world of unasked questions. “You know . . . in what manner I always lived among you,” Paul said (Acts 20:18 NKJV). Before he wrote about Christ, he lived Christ. He responded to a real world with real words. Let’s do the same.

Let your life be your first draft. Shouldn’t Christian writers be Christian writers?

Love grumpy neighbors. Feed hungry people. Help a struggling church. Pay your bills, your dues, and attention to your spouse. You’ll never write better than you live. Live with integrity.

And when it’s time to write, write with clarity. Good writing reflects clear thinking. Here’s a tip: Cherish clarity. Make it your aim to summarize the entire book in one sentence. Distill the message into a phrase, and protect it. Stand guard. Defy interlopers. No paragraph gets to play unless it contributes to the message of the book.

Follow the example of John. Jesus worked many other miracles for his disciples, and not all of them are written in this book. But these are written so that you will put your faith in Jesus ( John 20:30–31 CEV).

John self-edited. He auditioned his stories to fit the manuscript. He littered his floor with edited paragraphs. Good writers do this. They tap the Delete button and distill the writing.

They bare-bones and bare-knuckle it. They cut the fat and keep the fact. Concise (but not cute). Clear (but not shallow). Enough (but not too much). Make every word earn its place on the page. Not just once or twice, but many times. Sentences can be like just-caught fish—spunky today and stinky tomorrow.

Reread until you’ve thrown out all the stinkers. Rewrite until you have either a masterpiece or an angry publisher. Revise as long as you can. “God’s words are pure words, pure silver words refined seven times in the fires of his word-kiln” (Psalm 12:6 MSG).

Ernest Hemingway espoused rewriting: “I rise at first light . . . and I start by rereading and editing everything I have written to the point I left off. That way I go through a book I’m writing several hundred times . . . Most writers slough off the toughest but most important part of their trade—editing their stuff, honing it and honing it until it gets an edge like the bullfighter’s estoque, the killing sword.” Describing A Farewell to Arms, Hemingway said, “I had rewritten the ending thirty-nine times in manuscript and . . . worked it over thirty times in proof, trying to get it right.”

I find it helps to read the work out loud. First to myself, then to anyone who is kind enough to listen. I vary the locations of the reading. What sounds good in the study must sound good on the porch. What sounds good to me must sound good to my editors. Sure, editing hurts. So does a trip to the dentist. But someone needs to find the cavities.

Let editors do their job. Release your grip on the manuscript. A little red ink won’t hurt you. A lot of red ink might save you. My most recent manuscript was returned to me sunburned in red. It bled like raw steak. Of its fourteen chapters, thirteen needed an overhaul. I was depressed for a week. Yet the book is better because of the editors.

And isn’t that our aim? The best book possible? We need good books. We need your best book. The single . . . the lonely pastor . . . the stressed missionary— we need you to give them your best words. We need you to write.

Intending to write is not writing. Researching is not writing. Telling people you want to write is not writing. Writing is writing. Peter De Vries said, “I write when I’m inspired, and I see to it that I’m inspired at nine o’clock every morning.”

A framed quote greets me each time I sit at my desk. “You wanna write? Put your butt in that chair and sit there a long, long time.” Writing is not glamorous work.

But it is a noble work. A valued work. A worthwhile work. A holy work. “How many a man,” asked Thoreau, “has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book!”

May you write such books, give birth to new eras. May you see the heavens like John, love the churches like Paul, and touch the souls like Luke. May you pick up their pens and write for the soul.

At Certa Publishing, we believe that our authors have divinely-inspired messages to share and we are committed to helping as many readers as possible have access to that message. How can we partner with you in the writing process? Contact us today!


5 Publishing Trends You Can’t Ignore

5 publishing trends you can't ignore

Your content is amazing. Revolutionary. It’s been talked through, prayed through, sliced and diced from every angle. You’ve cut out favorite paragraphs, even chapters. You’ve sat through meetings and Skype sessions and sent thousands of emails. And finally, it’s time to hold that glorious, printed book in your hands.

But what if all of that work isn’t quite enough to get that book out of your hands and into the hands of your reader? Unfortunately, amazing content can easily get lost among the competition.

At Certa Publishing, we know that it’s the writers who anticipate the ever-changing market and readers’ needs that stand out from the crowd. So let’s look at some of the current publishing trends:

Getting personal

The trend in newsletter marketing can be summed up in one word: unsubscribe. Since readers are quicker to opt out of mass market email, authors must find a way to make their emails feel more personal. A recent post on Written Word Media quotes Kevin Tumlinson of Draft2Digital, who offers this insight:

To combat newsletter fatigue, authors are starting to become far more personal with their readers, simplifying newsletters to plain text, removing graphics, and refining their copy to something softer than a marketing pitch. The author’s personal empowerment will start, in part, with a more personalized email newsletter.

More non-fiction

The past year has offered a tremendous amount of political and cultural turbulence. You won’t find many corners of the country or the populace where these disruptions haven’t reached. As such, the thirst for non-fiction is on the rise; particularly non-fiction that helps the reader interpret current events. We suggest that you evaluate your marketing efforts in light of this trend. How does your book speak to an audience searching for meaning and a way forward during tumultuous times?

Covers: Bold, pink and clean

Many authors make the calamitous error of designing a book cover based on their own preferences and style. And yet, this entirely misses the point of a cover: to attract the reader. So which cover styles are currently getting the job done? The Digital Reader has compiled a list here, which we think is worth perusing. And yes… pink is on the list!


Another trend in publishing is cross-promotion. Writers are collaborating with each other through various joint ventures in order to tap into each other’s audiences and thereby grow their own.

In her post 15 Self-Publishing Trends to Watch in 2018, Jessica Ruscello offers this prediction:

We’ll see cross genre and cross-product promotion, as writers take cues from digital creatives with brick-and-mortar retail partnerships. Collaboration projects between digital influencers was common in 2017, and we’ll see authors, bloggers, and influencers in both the print and the digital space work together to leverage each other’s audience for mutual benefit.

Live seminars, webinars, and videos

Your reader wants more of you than the written word. They want to see images of your daily life (think Instagram), read articles you find interesting (think Twitter) and see what inspires you (think Pinterest). Yet among these many tools, the one trending most is live seminars, webinars, and videos.

It’s simpler than you might think. You simply prepare a discussion or presentation, based on the content in your book. Next, you invite the reader to log on at a specific time for the video. Using a service like Facebook Live makes this process even simpler by alerting all of your followers when you’ve “gone live.”  Another great feature is that your viewers can interact with you in real time and even ask questions or make comments along the way.

Think Media has created this great tutorial that will get you on your way to your first Facebook live event.


Whether it’s taking a second look at your cover design or a first look at live videos, we encourage you to stay on top of the trends in publishing so that your incredible, God-given content can make its way into the hands of those who need it.

How can Certa Publishing help you? Contact us today.

Keepers of These Oracle Words

keepers of theseoracle words

There are few more notable and prolific Christian authors than Max Lucado. As the author of over 100 books with 100 million copies in print, his writing has reached far and wide. So when Mr. Lucado takes the time to offer writing advice, we are more than eager to listen. Below is an excerpt from an article he wrote, entitled The Write StuffEnjoy!

In our office we receive many questions about writing: how to write, when to write, who can publish, who can edit. Not a week passes that we don’t receive a question about writing. So I wrote down a few thoughts. Hope you find them helpful.

We like to envision him as an old man with young eyes, wild hair, and a raging quill. He wrote by the light of a lamp in the lee of a shack with the fury of a prophet. His pen could scarcely keep pace with his thoughts. A revealing of Jesus, the Messiah. God gave it to make plain to his servants what is about to happen. He published and delivered it by Angel to his servant John. And John told everything he saw: God’s Word—the witness of Jesus Christ!

How blessed the reader! How blessed the hearers and keepers of these oracle words, all the words written in this book! (Rev. 1:1–3 msg).

The old apostle paused only to catch his breath and dip his pen. He stood only to gaze through an open window into the just-opened heavens. If he closed his eyes, it was only to rummage through his treasure chest of words for the one that fit the vision of an often-crowned Christ or a blood-dipped robe. No lazy verbs, no vanilla adjectives. This gate glistened with pearls, and streets spoke of gold. This was God’s revelation. John was God’s revealer. So John wrote.

So did Paul. Yet Paul wrote, not because of heavenly action, but because of congregational angst. Titus needed direction; the Ephesians needed assurance. Timothy struggled, the Corinthians squabbled, and the Galatians waffled. So Paul wrote them.

How he made music with his words. He turned epistles into concert hall sheet music. “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal” (1 Cor. 13:1 NKJV).

It’s as if he dipped his pen in honey. He could sound like a poet in the seventh heaven. He could also sound like a pastor on Monday morning. Tired, frustrated. Beginning sentences and not finishing them. Starting a second thought before he completed the first. Throwing out ideas in lumps instead of lyrics. But that was okay. He wasn’t writing the Bible. He was writing to Philemon. He wasn’t crafting epistles; he was solving problems. Paul didn’t write for the ages; he wrote for the churches. He wrote for souls.

So did Luke. Remember the early words of his gospel?

“Since I have investigated all the reports in close detail, starting from the story’s beginning, I decided to write it all out for you, most honorable Theophilus, so you can know beyond the shadow of a doubt the reliability of what you were taught.” (Luke 1:3–4 MSG)

We wonder who Theophilus was and where Theophilus lived and if Theophilus found it unusual to receive a two-volume letter. We wonder what convinced Luke to rivet himself to his wooden chair near a shuttered window long enough to write a gospel. What prompted Dr. Luke to exchange his scalpel for the pen, the crowds for the quiet corner?

When did he perceive his assignment as a kingdom scribe?

We wonder because we’ve wondered if God would use us to do the same. We know a Theophilus or two. We’ve seen the confusion in Ephesus and heard of the troubles in Crete. And we’ve felt the sands of Patmos beneath our feet, its fire within our hearts. And we’ve written: articles, blogs, books, stories. Not like Luke, Paul, and John. But not unlike them either. We’ve had our moments of inspiration. Sandwiched between hours of perspiration, for sure. But we’ve had our moments—mystical moments of pounding heart and pounding keyboard. We’ve felt the wind at our backs and sensed a holy hand guiding ours. We, as our Creator, have beheld our creations and declared, “It’s good.” (Or at least, “It’s not so bad.”) And we have asked: Is this our call? Our assignment? To use words to shape souls?

I first ventured such a question beneath the balmy skies of Miami, Florida. I was a rookie minister in 1979. The church where I served published a weekly bulletin. Many pastors dread such assignments, but I came to cherish it. Tuesday evenings became my notebook date night. I would retreat with pad and pen and sit until something happened. Once a week I went into labor and delivered an idea. Is there any sweeter moment than the writing of the final sentence?

Actually there is. The appreciation thereof. When eighty-year-old Edith Hayes thanked me in the church foyer for my article on prayer. When Joe the boat builder gave copies to his crew. When the pastor from California urged me to write for publication. I smiled for days. It’s one thing to write. It’s quite another to be read.

I came to believe this much: good words are worth the work. Well-written words can change a life. Words go where we never go. Africa. Australia. Indonesia. My daughter was in Bangalore, India, last summer and saw my books in the display window of a shop.

Written words go to places you’ll never go. . . . and descend to depths you’ll never know.

The readers invite the author to a private moment. They clear the calendar, find a corner, flip on the lamp, turn off the television, pour the tea, pull on the wrap, silence the dog, shoo the kids. They set the table, pull out the chair, and invite you, “Come, talk to me for a moment.”

So accept the invitation. We need your writing. Pick up the pens left by Paul, John, and Luke, and write for the souls.

Tune in next week for part two of Max Lucado’s post on writing.

At Certa Publishing, we see our writers as more than just content producers. We see them as those faithful servants working away in the shadow of the great writers that have come before. How can we partner with you in the writing process? Contact us today!


Five Ways to Grow Your Platform

5 Ways to Grow Your Platform (2)

If the thought of “building your fan base” or “growing your audience” overwhelms you, you’re certainly not alone. Creating an online platform isn’t a one click task, but there are ways to maneuver the often confusing road to successfully building your online reach.

The 5 major stages of the journey to grow your platform according to Michael Hyatt are as follows: Definition, Activation, Attraction, Monetization, and Optimization. If you’re tired of feeling like you’re writing to nobody and posting for no one to see but yourself, keep reading. I’ve adapted his 5 stages and action steps in order to best serve you, our Certa authors.

1. Definition – Gain clarity

As you work on finding your voice and creating a brand for yourself, you are considering the unique, God-given message you have to share. How will it impact the people that receive it? Determine exactly what your message is going to be.

Action steps:

  • Survey your readers
  • Write a core value proposition
  • Create a brand slogan
  • Develop your brand components (logo, photos, etc.)

2. Activation – Create content

Whether it’s a blog, vlog, podcast, or website, you’re launching your home base that will be the source of your main content. You’re beginning to work on gaining your first followers and learning how to serve them through great content in a consistent fashion.

Action steps:

  • Establish your home base
  • Select your primary content categories
  • Determine your voice
  • Commit to a publication schedule

3. Attraction – Attract customers

Your content is being created and published, but now you want to share it with as many people as you can. This is done by developing your social media presence (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.), building an email list, and trying to increase your home base traffic.

Action steps:

  • Install an email collection form
  • Create a compelling email incentive
  • Choose a primary social media channel
  • Develop a social media strategy

4. Monetization – Generate cash

Once you have a solidified subscriber list and following, you want to serve them even better by increasing your income through online revenue. It’s time to explore affiliate links, selling ads, and creating original products (think eBooks, webinars, workbooks, conferences, etc.).

Action steps:

  • Understand your relationship to money
  • Consider advertising income
  • Maximize affiliate opportunities
  • Develop your own products

5. Optimization – Build a company

Finally freed from the demands of a day job, you can work on maximizing your impact and optimizing your results. By building infrastructure, developing workflows, and hiring a team, you can learn to empower others to spread the message that started this whole process.

Action steps:

  • Learn how to delegate
  • Establish a hiring process
  • Identify and define key workflows
  • Pay attention to the numbers

At Certa Publishing, we know that these steps can be intimidating, so we are here to guide and assist our authors. Contact us today!

Get Work Done

get work done

Having a notebook full of writing inspiration is fantastic. But do you know what is far superior? Transforming those random musings into a well-constructed, consumable piece of writing that informs, encourages and equips the reader.

Yet most writers will confess that this process is more difficult than it seems. It’s not the inspiration that is lacking, but the productivity skills. So, today we are here to help! The following article is an excerpt from The Ultimate Guide to Being Productive as a Writer by Daniel Potter, a journalist who offers his productivity tips:

Whether your job title happens to be writer or not, you probably can’t avoid writing. There’s also a good chance that before you sit down to write, you dread it. That’s understandable—even titans of the written word struggle and procrastinate. Still, I want you to love writing as much as I do.

Maybe this is a tough sell. Although writing has been my full-time pursuit for more than a decade, there is no way to sugarcoat the fact that it remains work.

True, writing does not require me to operate dangerous machinery or balance complex equations. In fact, some days I barely have to make eye contact with strangers. It’s great! But I’m not sure it ever gets easy.

Whether you’re communicating with customers, corresponding with loved ones, or cranking out the next chapter of your opus, you want to be understood, which means you have to write well.

Here are some ways I’m continually trying to up my productivity as a writer.

Read like an editor.

Anything you read can inform how you write. This includes news articles, snarky posts on social media, junk mail you barely look at before recycling, and books—both the great and not-so-great ones. All offer hints about another human’s decision-making process. Your job, as you read, is to continually ask, “how could this be written better?”

Sometimes the answers are obvious: Fix the typos. Get rid of extraneous adjectives and jargon. Break long, clunky sentences down into smaller, more digestible pieces.

Other times, it’s instructive to imagine the writer’s constraints. If you’re looking at the painfully dull copy that comes packaged alongside any power tool or vial of medicine, assume a lawyer slapped everything remotely interesting off the page as it was written.

Occasionally, I catch myself in the thick of paragraphs where every word is exactly where it belongs. (Hi, Jennifer Egan.) I can imagine changes that would make each sentence worse, and that’s all. This is a mark of good writing. Recognizing this—refining your sense of it—is key to improving your own work.

Be critical of yourself—but not too critical.

After you’ve written something, stand up and stretch, sip some water, then reappraise your work with fresh eyes. You’ll likely notice elements in need of polish—a word used too often or a sentence that doesn’t flow, perhaps. If you’ve made a practice of reading like an editor, devising appropriate tweaks will be straightforward—except when it isn’t.

Sometimes I just need to rework whole paragraphs or sections. I start by copying the original version and setting it aside; that way, if things get worse instead of better as I bumble through my next attempt, I can at least get back to where I started. Plus, when it’s done, I like to compare before-and-after snapshots and ask myself: What ended up changing? Can I articulate what’s better?

During this process, remember that part of editing is knowing when to quit. You can sit and replace words with synonyms and keep reshuffling sentences until you’re a very tired skeleton, but at some point, you have to trust that you’re done and hit send. I recommend doing this well before you feel like a crazy person.

Get help holding yourself accountable.

Feeling like you’re just writing for yourself isn’t always a powerful motivation—especially if, like me, you work from home. It might boost your productivity to instead write for someone else; tell a friend you’re going to write two thousand words today, then do it. Knowing you have to report your results back to them later on might just do the trick.

In my case, I happen to be married to an extremely hard-working writer, and when she comes home, the last thing I want is for her to feel like I’ve been relaxing all day. Feeling driven to keep slinging words on her level helps keep me in gear.

Similarly, a colleague who works at home told me he prefers writing in coffee shops and libraries, where strangers might peek over his shoulder. The thought of this is helpful—he’d rather be spotted writing than perusing status updates or shopping online for sunglasses, he says.

At Certa Publishing, we endeavor to guide our authors from inspiration all the way to publishing and beyond. Contact us today to see how we can partner with you.

Our Fave (Free) Marketing Tool: Word of mouth

Our Fave (Free) Marketing Tool

Perhaps you’ve been there. You need a book on a particular topic. Let’s say: dealing with tyrannical toddlers (oy!). So you head to Amazon or your local bookstore. You search and peruse for half an hour, yet walk away emptyhanded. Why? All the books look great, but nothing convinced you to pull the trigger.

The next day at work you overhear a coworker beaming at “what a great morning I had with my 3-year-old!” She goes on to relay all the great tips she learned in a parenting book she’s reading and before she can finish, you’ve already ordered the book. Price? Cover? Who cares? She says the book works so you’re buying it!

What happened here? That parenting book received the most valuable marketing available: word of mouth.

In his book Sell Your Book Like Wildfiremarketing guru Rob Eager offers great advice on garnering word-of-mouth marketing. We’ve combed through his tips and summarized them for you here:

Give your book away for free

Yes, that’s what we said. And not just one chapter. Everyone is giving away one chapter. We’re talking about taking a portion of your material, repackaging it and giving it away for free. Doing so whets the appetite of your audience, engenders their gratitude and gives them an easy way to pass along your content (and name) to their friends. Here are a few ways to do this:

  • Condense your main points into a “challenge” for your readers to participate in. For example, “30 day weight loss challenge,” or “21-days to a more peaceful home,” etc. Offer the free download on your website or social media.
  • Offer your entire book for free on Amazon as an e-book for 30 days. Sound crazy? Rob Eager says:

    Look at the issue this way: If you offer your book for free, get a few hundred people to read it, and they generate word of mouth, you just built a fast-growing platform of nearly a thousand people—at almost no cost…  In contrast, let’s say you give your book away for free, but very few people read it or tell their friends. That’s still a blessing, because you found out that our book isn’t very good without taking a huge risk.

  • Offer a free resource as a companion to your book. Based on the type of book you’ve written, consider if you can create a study guide, podcast, recipe booklet or printables to go along with your book. Give away this tool via your website, conference booth and social media.

Utilize your biggest fans

Are you noticing that your work is attracting not just passive readers, but active fans? Perhaps you’re receiving increasing numbers of emails, social media comments and great attendance at public appearances. If so, it’s time to mobilize your biggest fans to become your biggest marketers.

But don’t worry that you’re unfairly taking advantage of these readers. This only works if you truly reward your fans for their word-of-mouth efforts. So how is this done? First, invite your readers to join a special club. You can do this through emails, newsletters, social media and your website. Explain that you will be asking them to do different marketing tasks, in exchange for some fun perks.

Then periodically send out an email blast asking them to:

  • Post a review of your book on Amazon
  • Mention your book on social media
  • Give your book to key leaders and influencers
  • Host a book club

As your fans do these tasks, reward them by:

  • Giving away free merchandise
  • Offering special discounts
  • Giving them inside access to you via local meet-ups or online Skype sessions

At Certa Publishing, we know that there is no better marketing than a passionate reader who loves to talk about your book. We hope that these tips will help your word-of-mouth marketing to grow so that more readers are introduced to your message. Contact us today for help with any of your marketing and publishing needs!


Do you want to be published? Or do you want to write?

do you want to be published_.png

Let’s step back a moment. Why do you write? No really. Why? If we are honest, we may find that the answer is self-focused. Ann Swindell tackles this issue in her post for The Gospel Coalition blog, titled Don’t Write Just to Get Published, which we have excerpted here:

For those of us who love words, we’re drawn to the clack of the keyboard and the parsing of meaning on the page. We feel alive as we wrangle words into sentences; some of us even feel closer to God as we work out our faith by writing about it. Time spent writing feels important, even holy.

But for many of us, running parallel with our love of writing is the desire to get published. This desire can be fueled by the culture at large, which says our writing only matters if our readership is huge and our byline well known. Publication is commonly assumed to be the goal of the writing life, and seeing our words in print the truest form of validation for our work.

As an author and teacher of writing, I often have conversations with other writers fixated on publication. They’re desperate to see their work published somewhere. They want to know how to start a writing career, or how to get the inside scoop on writing for a top magazine.

In response to their questions, I have to ask: Do you want to be published? Or do you want to write?

These aren’t the same question, although many of us confuse one for the other. For as much as writing is tethered to publishing, getting published doesn’t make a writer. Writing makes a writer.


From my experience, the aching desire writers have to see their words published has less to do with writing and more to do with unresolved issues of worth and purpose in their season of life—often one that feels less than satisfying. Why? Because when what we’re called to do is quiet and unseen—perhaps a season of parenting or a season of faithfulness at an uninspiring job—writing can seem like a quick ticket out of the mundane. We think that maybe—just maybe—if we could get the right publication to accept us, or if we could get the right editor to give us a chance, then perhaps we’d feel some validation, even if our daily lives seem boring.

But getting published won’t fulfill your longing for validation. Fame won’t fill the gap. As someone who’s writing and publishing regularly, I’ve found publication isn’t what keeps my heart and soul alive—if anything, getting published will actually have the opposite effect on a soul seeking renown. Instead, I’ve had to return to the ultimate purpose of writing, asking the bigger question of why writing exists at all. And as with all things under God’s dominion, the purpose of writing is bigger than I can comprehend. It’s much, much bigger than getting published.

The purpose of writing is worship (1 Cor. 10:31).

This is why the question we must return to as writers, over and over again, doesn’t regard publication or platform. Instead, the question we must ask is: Am I worshiping God in my work as a writer?

This is not a trite question, nor a cop-out. It’s not a way to ignore the very real questions of publishing. But it must be the starting place for any work the Christian writer does.


Worship is an inherently foolish act to an unbelieving world. It makes us no money, and garners us no praise. In fact, to write as an act of worship means deflecting all praise and attention to God.

This is how we overcome the temptation to find our worth in publication instead of in Christ. We pursue satisfaction in writing for Christ alone. For if our writing is an act of worship—writing to him, writing about him, writing with him—then it doesn’t ultimately matter if anyone else reads those words. If our essays and stories and articles bring joy and praise to the King of the world, and if they point our own hearts toward his goodness and his worthiness, then those words have accomplished the central purpose they were made to fulfill: worship. If his eyes are the only eyes that read the words we’ve written—but if they honor and glorify him—then we’ve written well and wonderfully in heaven’s sight.

Now, this perspective doesn’t mean we should forsake publication when the opportunity arises; it doesn’t mean we must write as hermits away from the world. What it does mean, though, is that if we submit a piece for publication, we aren’t doing so because we’re clawing at validation. Instead, we write from a place of security in Christ (1 John 3:1), trusting God to do his will in our work as we’re obedient to him.

Any opportunity to write for an audience outside of the Trinity is secondary—a gift but never an expectation. If the Lord does give us a platform where our words reach twenties, or hundreds, or thousands, or millions, the purpose of the writing remains the same. Whether through novels that display God’s goodness, books that clarify his character, articles that point to his truth, or poems that declare his presence, the purpose is always glory for him.

Writers, we must ask the Lord to search us and help us discern why we crave publication (Ps. 139:23–24). Chasing the desire to see our byline in ink will only leave us frustrated, self-absorbed, and exhausted. But if we seek to worship Christ and commune with him in our writing, we will be freed to do what we really want: find true purpose and worth in our work. And the good news is that the purpose isn’t in our name, but in his. Our worth isn’t in how others react to us, but in how they react to Jesus. The goal isn’t making ourselves famous, but lifting up the name of Christ.

So, do we want to be published? Or do we want to write?

In all things, we want to worship.

At Certa Publishing, we couldn’t agree more. We don’t evaluate our authors based on the number of books they will sell, but on the way their message glorifies the Lord and edifies His people. Contact us today so we can partner with you in your publishing journey.

Write the book your reader wants

Write the book your reader wants

Have you ever gotten into a book and thought, Oh my goodness, this author is writing directly to me! And from cover to cover, you marvel at how he or she has spoken straight to your struggle, your experience, and your current situation. Was this by accident or fortunate coincidence? No. That author has simply discovered their target audience.

They have narrowed down who is reading and why. And then they have tailored their style, content, and even cover design to speak directly to that person.

In a post for Forbes, marketing expert Jayson DeMers put it like this:

[Writing] without a clear understanding of your audience is a bit like setting a boat adrift without navigational tools. You’re out there and you’re taking action, but you’re not working toward a specific goal.

Every person… has something that keeps them awake at night. It might be a persistent problem – such as an inability to get an entrepreneurial venture off the ground, find the willpower to be healthy, or sustain a healthy relationship. It might be a momentary issue such as insomnia, the need to hire a great personal assistant, or a desire to figure out how to deal with a difficult client.

Whatever the issue – whether longstanding or short-term – it’s the entrée into the discussion and your invitation into their lives.

So how is this done? How can you define your target audience and offer that same wow moment for your reader?

Dig into who your reader is

Begin by asking yourself these general questions:

  • Who buys your books?
  • Who reads your blog?
  • Who follows you on social media?
  • Who comments on your posts?
  • What problem(s) does your book solve?
  • Who needs to read it?
  • What do they really need to hear about?

Next, content expert CoScheduler suggests that you find out as much demographic information about your reader as you can, such as:

  • Gender
  • Personality
  • Family life
  • Job title
  • Job function
  • Employer
  • Location
  • Income

They suggest:

Once you have discovered the answers to these questions, you can begin to create an audience definition.

Here is what a simple audience definition could look like once you’re finished analyzing your audience:

“[INSERT YOUR BRAND] creates content to help and inform [INSERT DEMOGRAPHIC] so they can [INSERT ACTION] better.”

How to obtain reader insights

Not sure where to start digging for insights on your readers? Here are a few suggestions:

Facebook Insights

Assuming you have an author page on Facebook, we suggest you take advantage of Facebook Insights. You’ll be surprised at all the info they collect and freely share on the people that are visiting your page. To find this info, head to your author page (not your personal profile) and click “Insights” at the top. In the left menu, click “People.” Scroll through all the great info they offer and take notes!

Social Media Groups

If you haven’t already, join some social media groups relevant to your topic. Do you write about divorce recovery? You’ll find plenty of Facebook groups to join! Do you write for worship leaders? Check LinkedIn for worship leader groups. Once you join, do not, do not, just spam the group with info about your book. That’s a quick way to lose credibility and even be kicked out. Instead, take the time to become an active, contributing member of the group. As you do this, you will gain valuable insights. What resources are divorcees sharing with each other? What issues come up most often in the group? What are the demographics of the members?

The old-fashioned way (kind of)

Do you know who some of your most loyal readers are? Ask them if they will sit down face-to-face (or screen-to-screen through a Skype-type service) for an interview. You might be surprised how eager your fans will be to do this. Then ask them all those questions mentioned above. The insights you gain will be priceless.

At Certa Publishing, we know that there are readers just waiting to get their hands on the perfect book, your book. The one that will speak to their heart and help them walk out their journey. Contact us today so we can partner with you in getting your book into their hands.