So what’s your excuse?

so what is your excuse-

The idea for a book comes. You lay at night pondering, “writing” aloud, crafting the perfect illustrations, imagining the cover, chapter titles, and the dramatic opening line. Yet as pen goes to paper, doubt creeps in.

Does anyone really want to read this?

My topic is too niche. My experience is too unique.

No one knows who I am.

How will my book even get noticed?

And if I do manage to write this book, who will want to publish it?

The obstacles are too great, the path too unsure. 

No, I’m not the person to write a book. Perhaps I’ll just blog or journal. That’s the extent of it.

Before you shelve that dream entirely, let’s consider another writer who faced more obstacles than most could imagine, and had every excuse possible to lay down the pen.

John, the disciple, sat inside a prison camp on the dusty, secluded island of Patmos. This tiny outpost near present-day Turkey in the Aegean Sea was the perfect place to be forgotten. To die in obscurity. To fade away. Instead, John wrote the book of Revelation, which is the final authority on the end times and spells out our hope of the Lord’s return.

I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.  I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet saying, “Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea. (Revelation 1:9-11)

While many of Christ’s disciples were executed, John met a different fate. He was arrested and sent to Patmos, where prisoners were sentenced to work in the island’s mines. Surely the Lord’s command to “write what you see in a book,” must have caught him by surprise. Write a book? While imprisoned? Even if he could find the time and materials to do so, how would his writing ever be distributed? It seems John had quite a plausible excuse to lay down his pen.

And yet, he wrote. We don’t know exactly how his writings were “published,” but we can be certain that Lord’s hand guided the process. What faith John must have had to pour out his visions onto paper, never knowing if they would be read or even received as truth.

And yet he wrote. And what an impact his writings have had.

Although a skeptic, author Jonathan Kirsch states in his book, A History of the End of the World, that:

[Revelation] has come to play a unique and ubiquitous role in the world in which we live today. Indeed, Revelation has always served as a lens through which the recorded history of Western Civilization can be seen in fresh and illuminating ways. Across the twenty centuries that have passed since it was first composed—and, above all, at every point where contesting ideas of culture and politics have come into conflict—Revelation is always present, sometimes in plain sight and sometimes just beneath the surface.

So we ask you today… what obstacles do you face as a writer? What doubt plagues you? If the Lord has clearly called you to write, do it. Look to John as your inspiration as you push past the fear and hurdles to deliver the message God has given you.

At Certa Publishing, we believe in the message inside our authors. Our goal is to provide you with all the tools and support you need to transform your message into a published book.

 

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From Mint Tea to Moleskin Notebooks: 3 writers share their habits

mint tea

This week we’re featuring some of Copyblogger’s fascinating insights into the writing habits and environments of their editorial team. Copyblogger has been at the forefront of content writing since 2006 and their parent company now boasts a client base of more than 200,000 unique customers.

They asked several members of their editorial team to divulge their habits and preferences on the following points:

  • Setting
  • Time of day
  • Beverage
  • Tools
  • Music or silence preference

We have included several of the answers here:

Stefanie Flaxman, editor-in-chief

Setting: My desk is my favorite place to concentrate on writing.

Time of Day: I like drafting and jotting down notes all day, every day. But my butt-in-chair writing time typically happens in the afternoon, after I’ve already completed my editing work for the day. That routine works for me no matter what type of writing I’m working on, but morning or evening writing sessions definitely happen when the words have already written themselves in my head and I need to get them out.

Beverage: Green tea. Mint tea. Cold-pressed green juice. Water.

Tools: MacBook Air and an outline in a Moleskine notebook. If I start a digital draft before sketching out an article in a notebook, it usually takes me longer to tie all of my ideas together.

Music or Silence?: I write with music. Sometimes a topic I’m writing about will inspire me to listen to a specific album. If that doesn’t happen, The Decemberists Radio or Tom Waits Radio on Pandora are my default writing stations. Editing and proofreading happen without background noise.

Kelton Reid, VP of multimedia production

Whether I’m working on a writing project or multimedia production, my habits and rituals tend to be pretty similar.

Setting: I’ve had great success working in coffee shops on tight deadlines, and studies show that working in a public space somehow motivates one to be more productive (not necessarily more cogent — interesting note there).

But I find that scheduling chunks of time, uninterrupted writing sprints in the privacy of my office with short breaks for coffee and stretching, is most productive if I have enough time to let a project marinate before editing.

I always come back to:

“Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.” – Stephen King

Time of Day: I’m best first thing in the morning after breakfast and coffee — kid is at school, no one’s in the house kind of early — until lunch.

I will get a second wind of creative flow from 3 to 6 in the evening, and occasionally after 10:00 p.m..

Beverage: Black coffee. Green Tea. No fillers.

Tools: Thoughts that I can capture typically land in a small, pocket notebook that is always nearby, and if deemed useful, find themselves on a yellow legal pad in scrawled, rabid sentences that need to be vaccinated and put on leashes.

Healthy sentences often migrate to a full-fledged outline on 4X6 cards that pile up and must be clipped together. A Google Doc is another favorite for getting them all in one place.

Finally, a blank text document will be opened and a terrible first draft will emerge. A first draft needs air. I generally try to walk away from it as long as possible, and then get some fresh eyes on it before attempting to forge it into something anyone would ever want to read.

Music or Silence?: Ambient music I can ignore on the headphones. (Spotify is home to a lot of music for concentration.) Film soundtracks are great for productivity, as are simple white noise apps with rain and whatnot.

Loryn Thompson, data analyst

I tend to have the same routines for whatever I’m working on, although doing my best work writing often involves a lot fewer distractions, whereas when I’m doing data work and writing reports, I may be able to keep chat open.

Setting: Depends on the time of day. In the mornings I like to be at a quiet coffee shop (preferably where people don’t know me and therefore don’t try to talk to me), and in the late afternoon I prefer to be at home.

Time of Day: Morning (7:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.) or late afternoon (4:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.)

Beverage: Cappuccinos or matcha lattes at the coffee shop, tea or coffee at home (with a mug warmer — I can’t drink lukewarm coffee!).

Tools: Laptop with email and chat closed. Sometimes I’ll even turn WiFi off if I know I won’t need it for research. Headphones are required. For my reports I use Google Docs, but when I’m working on a true writing piece I prefer a plain text editor.

And no phone. Having my phone anywhere near me — even just in the room — is a huge productivity killer. I usually leave mine downstairs most of the day, and only check it on breaks.

Music or Silence?: Music, but it can’t be distracting. Either it has to be music I’ve practically memorized or instrumental (more mood/ambient than classical, though).

What do you think? Are any of these habits similar to yours? Or were you surprised at how other writers work? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!

At Certa Publishing we strive to bring ideas and inspiration that help our authors develop and thrive. Contact us today to find out how we can partner with you!

Yes someone has already written your book. Yes you should still write it.

yes someone has already written your book.

Christian author Emily Freeman recounts a recent experience she had while listening to another author’s audio book:

I’ve been listening to Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Big Magic, in my car as I drive around town this week… but as I listen to her read, I am pleased by this one thought: I’m so relieved I already wrote my own Big Magic. It’s called A Million Little Ways and it came out in 2013.

Why did she feel this way? She goes on to explain:

…while I listen to Big Magic, to Elizabeth Gilbert walk the same circles around creativity that so many of us have walked around and then written about, I realize I am deeply grateful.

Because while our perspective and world view are vastly different, while our personality and theology might not mix well, and while her book sits high up on bestseller lists while mine is mostly unknown by the majority of the population, I feel a certain kinship with Elizabeth Gilbert as I listen to her book.

And I am thankful that, at least this time, I do not feel threatened by the voice of another author who is saying similar things I’ve said.

You see, Ms. Freeman had a choice. She could have allowed this experience to demean her own work in her eyes. But instead, she chose to be grateful that she’d been able to contribute to the subject of creativity, yet also appreciate similar writing by another author.

The truth is that many writers and would-be writers are intimidated by the quantity of books already written on their subject, causing them to ask: Why should I write a book that has already been written? How can I possibly add to (or stand out from) the surplus of high caliber work that currently exists?

Perhaps we can find comfort in the words of King Solomon:

What has been is what will be,
    and what has been done is what will be done,
    and there is nothing new under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 1:9)

While Ms. Freeman was able to appreciate that her subject (creativity) has been so extensively studied and explored, bestselling author Jon Acuff comes at the situation from a different angle, as he expressed in this tweet:

He makes the point that – yes your subject has been written about – but not by you. Your peculiar voice matters. It turns a rote topic into a unique and indispensable part of the subject’s greater lexicon.

Once we can accept these two truthsthat our theme or revelation is not particularly unique, but our voice isthere is freedom:

  • Freedom from the need to write an exhaustive dissertation
  • Freedom to narrow your writing to the areas where you have the most revelation, knowledge, and experience
  • Freedom from comparison with those who have greater academic or theological insight on the subject

Now we can begin to ask:

  • What is my contribution to this subject?
  • How can I use my individual experience, perspective, and voice to further the discussion and broaden the audience’s understanding?
  • How has God uniquely crafted me to speak on this topic?

This self-awareness allows us to avoid many of the traps writers fall into, such as writing for other authors and comparing our work unnecessarily. We are now free to write the book that is within us to write, and nothing more.

At Certa Publishing we believe that each of our authors possesses a unique and God-given voice, along with a high calling to use that voice to impact the Kingdom. Through our distinct “partner publishing” model, we come alongside writers to support them in their publishing process. Contact us today to find out more!

 

7 Steps to Editing as You Go: Part Two

Editing your own work can be intimidating. Where do you start? In our last post we began sharing some excerpts of Nicole Bianchi’s post, How to Edit Your Writing: An Effective 7-Step Process.

She began with the following steps:

  • Create an outline
  • Write your rough draft
  • Do a “substantive” edit
  • Have someone else read your piece

Today we are sharing the remainder of her self-editing process.

5. Edit for Grammar and Style

At this point, I’ve probably rewritten the piece several times. Now it’s time to evaluate the style of the piece, correct grammar and spelling errors, and strengthen the sentences and paragraphs.

Here are several things to look for:
  • Are there any long-winded sentences that you can shorten or divide into two sentences? Any long paragraphs that you can separate into multiple paragraphs?
  • Do you have any passive sentences? See here for how to spot passive voice.
  • Are you peppering your writing with cliched phrases? Use the cliche finder.
  • Any spelling or capitalization errors? Misplaced modifiers? Misuse of commas? Other punctuation errors?
  • If you’re writing a blog post, are there places where you can use contractions to make your writing sound more conversational?
  • Have you eliminated unnecessary adverbs? Are there any difficult words that you could replace with more commonly known ones?

William Zinsser notes,

…The secret of good writing is to strip every sentence to its cleanest components. Every word that serves no function, every long word that could be a short word, every adverb that carries the same meaning that’s already in the verb, every passive construction that leaves the reader unsure of who is doing what–these are the thousand and one adulterants that weaken the strength of a sentence.

You can use an application like Grammarly to help with this process, but it might not catch all errors. The Hemingway Editor is another useful tool to determine if you have sentences that are difficult to read (copy and paste your text onto the homepage to use the free version of the app).

And, remember, that you can always brush up on your grammar knowledge by reading a book like The Elements of Style.

6. Have Someone Read Your Piece Again

Now I’m nearly ready to publish the piece. Since I’ve been reading the same lines over and over, my brain is usually exhausted at this point and will be less likely to notice typos. I try to find someone who will read my piece again to spot anything I might have missed.

Hopefully, your volunteer editor from step #4 is a really, really good friend and doesn’t mind reading your piece a second time. Or you might want to find a different person for a new set of eyes and fresh perspective. If you can’t find anyone to read your piece, however, I recommend printing it out and slowly reading it aloud during step #7.

7. Proofread One Last Time

The finish line is finally within sight. It’s time to give the piece one last read through.

If you’re working on a blog post, check for these things:
  • Do all of your links work and open in new windows? Have you linked to other articles on your site?
  • Do you need to tweak your headline to make it stronger? Try out the headline analyzer here.
  • Have you properly attributed all of your quotes?
  • If you’re using photos, have you included alt tags?
  • Are your subheadings consistently capitalized?
  • Have you previewed your post to make sure there are no formatting errors?
  • Do you have a call to action at the end of the post that asks readers to comment, share, and subscribe?

If you have a WordPress blog, I highly recommend installing the Yoast SEO plugin as it will remind you to do many of these things. It also evaluates your post’s readability and points out passive sentences.

At Certa Publishing, we hope to empower our writers to effectively edit their own work, such as Ms. Bianchi advises. However, we realize that authors often need an expert’s help. That’s where our Book Editing Services come in. Contact us today to find out how we can partner with you!

Writing from Pain: A tool of healing for yourself and others

pain

As you’ve walked through painful experiences, have you ever asked God, “What is the purpose to this pain?” There is an innate desire in us to know that the suffering will not be wasted, that the hurt is productive. The answer is yes.

Writing from our pain is not only an effective tool for processing our experiences, but also for transforming our suffering into an agent of encouragement and guidance for others.

Writing from Pain Accelerates the Healing Process

War produces death, fear and misery. Yet, in the case of the war in Afghanistan, it has also produced beautiful writing. When asked about the evocative and influential poetry and pose coming out of his country, one Afghan writer said,

In Afghanistan, we do not write for fun, passion, or money but to express the immeasurable pain inside. Maybe that’s how the actual writing is. There must be something discomforting to be disclosed. At least, that’s how we see it.

While most of us have not endured a decades-long war, many of us have walked through smaller personal tragedies. And at some point in the weeks or months after a difficult or traumatic event, it invariably happens. The right person, at the right time, asks you the right question: “Do you want to talk about it?” And then out it comes. The story, the emotions, the pain. While logic would tell us that a rehash of our suffering would increase our angst, we all know from experience what the Afghan writers know… that this disclosure is cathartic. It is for this reason that therapists’ couches across the country are full of those looking for healing through expression.

It is important to note that science confirms our anecdotal experience in this matter. In their book Opening Up by Writing it Down, Drs. Pennebaker and Smyth note the following:

Disclosure reduces the effects of stress. The act of disclosing a trauma reduces the physiological work of secrets. During disclosure, the biological stress of holding back is immediately reduced. Over time, if we continue to confront and thereby resolve our emotional upheavals, there will be a lowering of our overall stress level.

Disclosure forces a rethinking of events. Disclosing or confronting a trauma helps us understand and ultimately assimilate the event. By talking or writing about a secret experience, we are translating the event into language. Once it is language based, we can better understand the experience and ultimately put it behind us.

Writing from Pain Promotes Healing in Others

There is one phrase spoken during difficult times that can either draw you in or push you away: I know how you feel. When spoken by someone who has not walked in your shoes, this phrase can be difficult to hear. Yet when spoken by one who has experienced your pain, it can bring great relief. In fact, during periods of suffering, we often seek out those who truly know how we feel because their experiences and advice bring us comfort.

What if your writing could offer the same I’ve been there consolation for someone walking through similar struggles? Have you suffered a miscarriage? Death of a spouse? Have you experienced bankruptcy or a child who has walked away from the Lord? Writing about these experiences and the lessons you have learned offers an invaluable lifeline to others in the midst of similar painful experiences.

Perhaps the greatest example of writing from pain is the psalmist David. Whether he was being hunted by the King’s men or reeling from the death of his firstborn son, David poured out his grief through poetry and song. While this expression likely accelerated David’s own healing, his writing has also promoted healing in countless others who have often turned to the Psalms in times of their own suffering and distress.

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.  Psalm 34:18

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.  Psalm 147:3

He also brought me up out of a horrible pit,
Out of the miry clay,
And set my feet upon a rock,
And established my steps. Psalm 40:2

My heart is severely pained within me,
And the terrors of death have fallen upon me. Fearfulness and trembling have come upon me, and horror has overwhelmed me.
Psalm 55:4-5

Whether God has called you to write from a place of joy, peace or pain, at Certa Publishing, we strive to help authors answer that call and produce a book that is beautifully written, edited and printed so that it can reach those in need of its message.

Contact us today to start the process of becoming a published author!

 

7 Steps to Editing Your Work as You Go

7 STEPS TO EDITING

Editing your own work can be intimidating. Where do you start? This month we’ll be sharing some excerpts of Nicole Bianchi’s post, How to Edit Your Writing: An Effective 7-Step Process. Hopefully her logical process will demystify the editing task and give you a practical way forward.

Today I’m sharing the steps I follow to edit my work along with the editing advice I’ve gleaned from various famous authors over the years.

1. Outline

When I have an idea for a new article, I spend time jotting down notes, researching (if necessary), and thinking of different ways I can approach the topic. Before I begin writing the piece, I gather all of those notes together and construct an outline. (If I were writing fiction, this would be the plotting stage.)

You wouldn’t begin building a house without construction plans that carefully measure the foundation, how big each room will be, and other precise details.

Similarly, I find when I don’t outline my piece beforehand, the first draft ends up a tangled mess. That’s because I’m developing my ideas as I go. If I outline first, the piece usually ends up not requiring as many revisions.

Here are two tips for outlining your piece:

  • First, summarize what your article is about in one sentence. This sentence should present the main idea or argument of your piece. You might end up including this sentence in the introduction of your piece, but even if you don’t, it will be a helpful guide as you write. If a paragraph doesn’t relate back to that original theme or support your argument, delete it.
  • After you’ve written down your one-sentence summary, you can plan out the main points of each section of your piece. Organize your thoughts into a logical and chronological structure.

2. Write Your First Draft

The next step, of course, is to actually write your piece. John Steinbeck advised,

Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper. Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down. Rewrite in process is usually found to be an excuse for not going on. It also interferes with flow and rhythm which can only come from a kind of unconscious association with the material.

I try hard to follow Steinbeck’s advice, but I am guilty of rewriting whole paragraphs as I work on my first draft. So don’t beat yourself up too much over this. Every writer has their own unique way of working. William Zinsser observes in his book On Writing Well,

Some people write their first draft in one long burst and then revise; others can’t write the second paragraph until they have fiddled endlessly with the first.

If a paragraph is giving you trouble, however, remember that you can always skip it and come back to it after you have gotten the rest of the piece down on paper. You might end up discovering that the paragraph wasn’t necessary after all.

3. Substantive Edit

A substantive edit (also known as a developmental edit) means analyzing the structure and flow of your piece.

Once I’ve finished the first draft, I step back from it and try to examine it as if I were the reader. I highly recommend reading your piece out loud at this point.

Ask yourself these questions as you read:

  • Do the paragraphs flow logically and chronologically?
  • If not, do you need to rearrange them or rewrite them?
  • Do you have smooth transitions between each paragraph and from one idea to the next?
  • Is there anything you need to explain in more depth?
  • Are there any parts of the piece that need more context?
  • Any sentences or sections that are repetitious?
  • Any sentences that are vague and could be enriched with more detailed examples?

Most importantly, examine whether every paragraph relates back to that initial one-sentence summary you wrote during the outlining process. As Marion Roach observes in her book The Memoir Project,

While editing, check back with that original pitch and see if you’ve done what you promised to do. What did you set out to illustrate? Have you fulfilled your obligations?

Maybe the direction of your piece has changed or evolved as you wrote the first draft. In that case, you might need to delete whole paragraphs, no matter how beautifully you’ve written them. Kurt Vonnegut advises,

Your eloquence should be the servant of the ideas in your head. Your rule might be this: If a sentence, no matter how excellent, does not illuminate your subject in some new and useful way, scratch it out.

4. Have Someone Read Your Piece

Another set of eyes is always helpful at this stage of the editing process. You want to make sure that your piece is easy to read, that there is a logical flow within your paragraphs, and that you’ve effectively communicated your message to your readers.

Usually, I’ll ask my dad to read my nonfiction pieces. He’s frank in his criticism, and he’ll tell me if there are vague paragraphs, confusing sentences, or others that wander without getting to a point.

For my fiction pieces, I’ll turn to my brother, Michael, or my fellow fiction writing friends. Since they write fiction too, they can tell me if one of my scenes isn’t working or point out if I’m guilty of info dumping.

Another benefit of having someone read your piece is that they can prevent you from falling into the trap of perfectionism and over-editing.

While you shouldn’t be concerned with editing grammar at this point, I do recommend running your piece through a grammar and spelling checker to catch any typos or other errors (Grammarly is helpful for this). This is just a way to ensure that grammar errors don’t distract your volunteer editor.

If you don’t have a friend who can read your piece and give you feedback, I recommend putting your piece aside for at least a day. When you read a piece after a day has passed, you are usually able to examine it more objectively. This is a tip I learned from Neil Gaiman,

The best advice I can give on this is, once it’s done, to put it away until you can read it with new eyes. When you’re ready, pick it up and read it, as if you’ve never read it before. If there are things you aren’t satisfied with as a reader, go in and fix them as a writer: that’s revision.

Check back soon for the final three steps in the editing process.

At Certa Publishing, we want to equip our writers to effectively edit their own work, such as Ms. Bianchi advises. However, we realize that authors often need an expert’s help. That’s where our Book Editing Services come in. Contact us today to find out how we can partner with you!

3 Easy Ways to Land Media Appearances

Three easy ways to land (1).png

You can author the most dynamic blog, produce highly-viewed YouTube videos and kill it on Facebook live, but nothing will give your book exposure like a TV or radio interview. And yet most authors are intimidated by media appearances. Perhaps you have assumed that these can only be obtained through expensive public relation firms or agents. We are here to dispel that myth and share with you three easy ways to land media appearances.

1. Be prepared to react to current events

TV and radio producers care about one thing: ratings. In order to keep up ratings, they need their shows to constantly remain relevant to current events.  When a major event occurs that relates to a theme in your book, be prepared to blast media producers. (For tips on contacting producers, head over here).

In his book, Sell Your Book Like Wildfire, Rob Eager recounts this example:

Actor Alec Baldwin caught the nation’s attention when the public got hold of an angry voice message he left for his daughter. Almost every news outlet and entertainment program covered the story. When this happened, one of my clients had just published a book called When Your Marriage Dies.  In her book, she had devoted an entire chapter to handling common problems that parents face with their children after going through a divorce. When my client heard the news about Baldwin, she quickly put together a press release and e-mailed it to several radio stations. Within four hours, she received a response  from the producer of a well-known radio program.

A great way to stay up to date on current events is to set up a Google alert. Input keywords that are relevant to your book and Google will alert you by email when these keywords are trending. You can choose to be alerted daily or less often.

2. Make the calendar work for you

In order to stay relevant, producers often plan their content around the calendar. For example, November and December shows will be full of guests discussing gift ideas, party planning and how to manage holiday stress. However, summer shows will be altogether different.

So, take out your calendar and go through the year in light of your book’s topics. Can you offer relevant topic for Mother’s Day? Easter? Back to school?

Rob Eager offers these lead times for the various media types:

  • Magazines – four to six months
  • TV and radio – 30 to 90 days
  • Newspapers and blogs – 7 to 30 days

3. Make the producer’s job easier

Imagine meeting with a baker about your wedding cake and yet he didn’t have an samples or photos to offer. Most of us would quickly move onto someone else and he would lose the sale.

The same is true for media interviews. The more “samples” of your work you can offer, the better. However, the producer isn’t interested in the content of your book. He or she is interested in the content of your interview. Will you be interesting? Relevant? Personable?

One creative way to showcase your interview content is to provide a sample, through one of these mediums:

  1. If you have done previous media interviews, send along the link to the video or audio.
  2. If not, create your own! Create a (high-quality) video or audio recording of yourself answering sample questions. It may feel silly, but it will be worth it!
  3. For a simpler approach, type up sample questions and answers for the producer, similar to what author Joel Friedlander did here.

Going the extra mile in this way will set you apart from your competition and likely garner you the media attention you’ve been looking for!

At Certa Publishing, we are experts in book marketing. Our authors have been featured in countless magazines, newspapers, radio and TV shows. Contact us today so we can put our experience to work for you!

 

 

Follower Count: How to Stop the Obsession – Part Two

Today we’re continuing our excerpt of social media consultant Andrea Dunlop’s article Stop Focusing on Follower Count: 5 Better Approaches for Improving Social Media Use . In our previous post, we highlighted her first two tips, which focused on market research and finding “influencers” in your field. Now onto her final three tips:

3. Network with other authors

Authors as a collective community are crucial to all of our careers. We need support when we’re starting out, and often, we rely on each other for things like blurbs, joint events, spreading the word, and even just support and commiseration in this difficult and often lonely business. It’s easy to reach out to fellow authors on social media: it doesn’t feel invasive, and lest you doubt the power of these connections, I will tell you that two of the guests at my wedding last August were fellow writers who I originally met via Twitter. It used to be that unless you lived in a big city, your opportunities for networking with authors and book folks was limited. Not so anymore. Use social media to support your fellow authors if you want them to do the same for you.

4. Create opportunities by just showing up

There is something I like to call the “serendipity effect” of being on social media. These are the difficult to quantify but very real opportunities created by being a regular contributor to the social sphere. Because I’m active on social media, I get many more opportunities than I would otherwise. Clients, speaking gigs, introductions to people who’ve made my professional and personal life better in myriad ways, have all come my way simply because I’m on social media and being myself. Being on these platforms makes me approachable. Likewise, when I’m looking for speakers for an event I’m working on, professionals to collaborate with, and authors to feature, social media is often my first stop.

5. Create fans and evangelists

Fancy tactics aside, I believe that the audience for a book is built reader by reader. Survey after survey shows that people mostly get book recommendations from their friends. So how do you make it happen? Here’s something I’ve observed in the year since my book has been on the market: the readers who I have some kind of meaningful interaction with on social media—for instance those who’ve been giveaway winners or even whose posts I’ve commented on—are much more likely to spread the word that they loved the book, post a review, etc., even if I don’t specifically ask them to do so.

When you’re wrapped up in the publishing world, it can be easy to forget what an accomplishment it is to be an author, and that it’s special to readers to hear from you personally. Many people on social media don’t live in New York or Seattle or any place they can go and see authors in person, so it’s meaningful to hear from someone whose work has moved them. And since connecting with readers is kind of the whole point of publishing books, it makes sense to use your social media as a natural extension of that work.

At Certa Publishing, we know that social media marketing can be intimidating and we are here to help! Let us know how we can assist you in any way.

Paul’s Choice: How one decision reverberated through the ages

Did you know that the apostle Paul felt unqualified and unskilled as a public speaker? He mentions his insecurities several times in his writings:

I, Paul, who am “timid” when face to face with you, but “bold” toward you when away! (2 Cor. 10:1)

I may indeed be untrained as a speaker, but I do have knowledge. (2 Cor 11:6)

For some say, “His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing.”  (2 Cor. 10:10)

What if Paul had put his writing on hold in order to work on his public speaking? Can’t you imagine him in today’s world… watching Ted Talks, taking speech classes at his local community college and practicing in the mirror at home? He quickly sends off an email to encourage a church but then refocuses on his speaking. Yet each time he sends these emails, he gets deluged with encouragement. Paul, keep these coming man! I love your writing! or Dude, there’s a special anointing when you write… you should write more! Paul appreciates the comments but turns his thoughts back to his speaking deficiencies. He eventually improves and is pleased that he has been able to share the Gospel with his community.

But no one is recording his speeches. They’re not on Facebook Live. They won’t go viral on YouTube. Yes, they will have an immediate impact, but will soon be forgotten.

Aren’t we glad that Paul didn’t take this approach? What an incredible loss for the Church through the ages. Imagine if at least 13 books of the Bible didn’t exist. It is hard to comprehend possessing a Bible without such transcendent verses as:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. (Corinthians 13:1)

I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:3 )

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Philippians 4:6 )

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. (Ephesians 2:8)

Can you relate somewhat to Paul? Perhaps writing comes easily to you. Typing up a meaningful blog entry or social media post is a breeze. People often compliment your work and encourage you to do more. And yet, you long for a different gift. A more visible skill. The talent you see in someone else.

I Peter 4:10 exhorts us to use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

Could it be that God withheld the skill of public speaking from Paul, so that instead he would pick up a pen? Did God look down through time and see you and I studying the Pauline epistles, gleaning from his writing? Was Paul’s lack of oratory skills actually a gift to the Body? Then let us consider our own lives and God’s sovereign design for each of us. Let’s embrace our strengths and use them to the Glory of God, leaving behind our yearnings for other talents.

At Certa Publishing, we strive to see our writers as God sees them… gifted and anointed for His purposes. And through our partner publishing model, we are able to come alongside you in this process, becoming your biggest cheerleader and supporter. We would love to know how we can help you. Contact us today.

 

Follower Count: How to Stop the Obesession

Within the space of ten years, a brand new metric for popularity and influence has been born: the follower count. Facebook followers. Twitter and Instagram followers. As a writer it’s easy to become obsessed with increasing our follower count, but social media consultant Andrea Dunlop offers a different perspective in her article Stop Focusing on Follower Count: 5 Better Approaches for Improving Social Media Use, which we have excerpted here:

As an author and social media marketer, I spend a lot of time thinking about the intersection of books and social media. I also know intimately the fatigue and overwhelm that comes from feeling like you have to be not only creating great work, but forever seeking new and ingenious ways to promote it. The quickest way to tire yourself out in this process is to set your eye on the wrong target, creating a Sisyphean struggle that is more likely to leave you feeling defeated than accomplishing even the most modest of marketing goals.

When I ask most clients what their goals are in hiring me, I usually get some version of “to get more followers and sell more books.” I encourage them to think both bigger and more deeply about social media. Here’s why: You know those folks you see on Twitter who have 20,000 followers, but are following 21,000 people? This is a perfect example of when follower count becomes absolutely meaningless as a metric. How could anyone have even the tiniest interactions with that many people on a regular basis? They can’t.

Numbers are helpful as a part of the picture; I’m all for tracking follow count, engagement, web traffic, conversions, Amazon ranking—these are all helpful indicators of progress. But becoming too obsessed with numbers ignores the social aspect of social media. Would you walk into a party with the sole mission of making twenty new friends? More likely, we go into social situations (even those specifically meant for networking) hoping to deepen our connections with our existing circle, meet some new and interesting people, learn some new things, and open the door to future opportunities and collaborations. Here’s how this translates to your strategic social media efforts as an author.

1. Conduct market research

In ye olden days before social media, more of marketing was guesswork. But now there’s so much data on who’s reading, buying, and talking about which books, it’s mind-boggling. Before your mind gets too boggled, here’s how to drill down and get some helpful insights:

  • Start with a list of ten or so books that fall into the category of what we industry types call “comp titles”—books that have a similar audience to yours.
  • Look up these titles on social media, as well as Amazon and Goodreads. This will give you a concrete idea of who your audience is and how they’re discussing the books, as well as what else they’re reading, and what else they’re interested in.
  • If you’re in the pitching stage, this can help you find and research agents and publishers (most of whom are active on social media).
  • Once your book is on sale, this can help you narrow your audience by looking at people who bought your books and seeing what else they bought, giving you real info on which books share an audience with yours: if you see several that pop up again and again, read them! It’s an amazing opportunity for insight into how readers are interpreting your books.

You have many more marketing tools at your disposal than authors in the past. Don’t overlook them.

2. Connect with influencers

You’ve probably heard of influencer marketing, but what is it and how can you use it? Influencer marketing sometimes refers to massive global brands paying thousands of dollars to an Instagram star with a million followers for product placement, but it can also work on a much smaller level. Many brands take advantage of the potential reach of bloggers, You Tubers, and podcasters who’ve built sizable followings, and authors should too.

First, let’s define an “influencer.” Really, it’s anyone on social media who has a following they’re regularly engaged with. One of the things I love about social media is that it makes “word of mouth” marketing—that much ballyhooed but often elusive magic—visible and quantifiable. You can see people getting excited about things their friends (or “friends”) love. Obviously, the bigger the person’s following—so long as it’s a truly engaged following—the more reach you’ll get, but don’t discount those who have a smaller but engaged audience. Check out places like the #bookstagram hashtag on Instagram to find a plethora of these folks. A word to the wise: These relationships are most meaningful when built over time, so be present by engaging (liking and commenting on posts), so that you’re not reaching out of the blue when you pitch them.

Check back soon for part two of this series as Ms. Dunlop discusses networking, increasing your social media activity and that old tried and true method of word-of-mouth marketing.