Social Media Influencers: How to find and utilize them

social media influencers

Pretend for a moment that you are a new mom trying to decide on a brand of baby wipes. You’ve seen plenty of advertisement by the various brands, but it’s something else that makes up your mind. Not a Huggies ad or a Target mailer. No, it’s an Instagram post by your friend with 7 children. She mentions that she has tried all brands of wipes and settled, surprisingly, on the Walmart store brand as her favorite. You’re sold! And for the next few years, Walmart reaps the benefit of that one, simple word-of-mouth recommendation.

Why did that work? Because even though no one would have called that mother of 7 a “social media influencer,” in that moment, she was. In the mind of her friend, her expertise and credibility in the niche market of baby products trumped anything a Pampers ad could say.

This is nothing new. However, what is new, is that businesses have realized the effectiveness of the “social media influencer” and are intentionally targeting them to provide this valuable word-of-mouth marketing for their products.

And writers should do the same! So, how does it work?

1. Find your social media influencers

If you’re writing a book, hopefully you have spent a good amount of time narrowing down just who your audience is. Perhaps your audience consists of pastors looking to hone their speaking skills, or cancer patients looking for hope, or parents looking for Gospel-centered picture books for their preschoolers.

The next step is to determine who that audience looks to as an “influencer.”

For example, those pastors likely look to other successful, high-profile pastors with fantastic speaking skills. And those cancer patients probably look to oncology experts and well-known cancer survivors. Christian parents of preschoolers may look to mommy bloggers and Christian publishers.

If you’re not sure where to begin in the search for your audience’s influencers, there are some great tools available, both paid and free.

Trendspottr is a tool that will help you spot trends on Instagram, whether it is trending influencers, hashtags or posts. You can use this tool to discover what your target audience is liking and following. For example, if you write about healthy eating, you can use Trendspottr to stay on top of trending diets and ingredients, but also to discover which Instagram accounts within this space are getting the most attention. These are your niche’s “influencers.”

Buzzsumo is a site designed exclusively for finding social media influencers. And once you find them, the site will help you follow them, reach out to them and engage with them.

Followerwonk is designed specifically for Twitter. It will help you discover, follow and organize your niche’s social media influencers on this important platform.

Speaking of Twitter, this site lists all of the Twitter Chats that happen throughout the week, which can be a great way to interact with influencers. For example, if your writing is about post-traumatic stress disorder, there is a Twitter Chat on this subject every Monday night at 8pm, hosted by two influencers in that field.

While these tools are helpful, don’t disregard more traditional forms of online research, such as Reddit, LinkedIn groups, and good, old-fashioned Google.

2. Reach out to influencers

Now that you have a list of influencers within your niche, it’s time to reach out. Here are a few methods:

Comment on their blog and social media posts: Become an active commenter by offering authentic compliments and helpful commentary on their posts. As you do this more and more, the influencer will become more familiar with you. Be sure not to push your own product in the comments. Be patient!

Meet in person: Keep tabs on when influencers might be coming into town. Will they be a speaker at a local conference or hosting a meetup nearby? This is the perfect chance to meet face to face and give them your card. Although it may be a quick interaction, meeting you makes it much more likely that they will respond to follow-up messages from you.

Mention them in your own work: Everyone loves to be quoted and mentioned on blogs and social media (as long as it’s positive!) Look for ways within your content writing to do so, in hopes that the person you mentioned will share what you wrote.

Retweet and share their social media posts: Each time a person’s social media post is shared, they get a notification. This is a great way to keep your name fresh in your influencer’s mind. And be sure to include relevant hashtags and mentions when you share.

Offer to be a guest writer: Most prolific bloggers are happy to turn the reins over to a quality writer for a day. In fact, many post their guest blogger submission requirements right on their blog. This is a great opportunity to get your face in front of the influencer’s audience.

Go ahead and ask: Once you’ve established a relationship with your influencer, it’s time to confidently ask them if they would mention your book or product to their audience. This could be as simple as them retweeting you, or as elaborate as them reading a quote from your book on their podcast. This might seem like a big ask, but remember that all of these influencers were once in your shoes and they know how valuable this type of publicity can be. Plenty of them will decline, but you may be surprised at how many will say yes.

At Certa Publishing, we are working hard to stay on top of the marketing trends so that our authors’ messages can reach as many people as possible. If all of this sounds a little overwhelming, please reach out. We offer comprehensive marketing services and would be glad to take the reigns of your marketing plan or simply help you get started. Contact us today.


Stop Writing Badly: quick tips to improve your writing

We all do it. Bad writing. From time to time we get too wordy or talk down to our reader or fail to put down the thesaurus. So how do we stop? And more importantly, how do we improve?

Daniel Potter recently addressed this issue in his post for Grammarly, How to Break Bad Habits in Your Writing. Enjoy this excerpt.

Don’t just end your bad habits—start better ones.

Rewiring your behavior can be tough no matter what. If you’re already shaking up the patterns that lead to unwanted tendencies, it’s a good opportunity to build good habits in their place.

It’s much easier to start doing something new than to stop doing something habitual without a replacement behavior. – Elliot Berkman, Ph.D.

As an example, let’s say I have a nasty tendency while writing articles to dive back into my research in pursuit of a key number or fact. This habit leads to time-sucking detours that I can’t always afford when my draft is due.

I could stubbornly tell myself I’m not going to be distracted. In a colossal display of restraint, I might even succeed. But researchers like Elliot Berkman, a psychology professor at the University of Oregon, say I might enjoy better results if I devise an alternative to this behavior, rather than try to quit it outright.

In my case, I’m realizing it’s sometimes better to put TK in place of a statistic or quote that I know exists but don’t have at my fingertips. (In journalism and publishing, TK is old-timey shorthand for “to come.” It lets my editor know there’s a detail I plan to revisit.)

To decide what you’ll do in place of a bad habit, you have to answer a key question:

What is it you want to do instead?

Knowing what you want to accomplish in broad terms can help you break bad habits on two levels.

Be flexible.

First, it’s better to have a defined goal that you can work toward in different ways, rather than handcuff yourself to a specific means of achieving it. That way, if one approach fails, you’re free to change tactics.

Say your goal is to write leaner, more direct prose. You might try reading your drafts out loud; anytime you find yourself gasping for breath, you know to pare down a sentence or break it up into smaller parts. If that doesn’t work, a simple game might suffice: any time a sentence is longer than two lines on your screen, look for a way to shrink it. (This one might be addictive. Having done it for years, I’ve come to feel a slight dopamine rush every time I succeed at it.)

Crucially, your stated goal was never “read every draft out loud.” That was one technique you were willing to experiment with—and possibly abandon.

Have a long-term vision.

Broadly conceptualizing your goal also helps because it’s more attainable if you have a clear picture of what success looks like in your mind. Sticking with new routines can be hard—so that extra motivation matters. Seeing yourself a year from now, hammering out tighter drafts that are free of hedges and cliches, might just make the difference.

Be patient—worthwhile habits take time.

You likely know the old saying that a new habit takes 21 days to form. But research published in the European Journal of Social Psychology puts the average closer to 66 days and ranges up to 254—almost nine months.

And there will surely be stumbles along the way. Even the most prolific authors will still sometimes struggle with procrastination, and even the most poetic will occasionally succumb to a rambling first draft packed with dull imagery. Charles Duhigg, who wrote The Power of Habit,says you should expect to sometimes backslide into your old habits—and plan accordingly.

“The question isn’t ‘Are you going to be able to avoid that?’” he says. “The question is ‘What are you going to do next?’”

At Certa Publishing we are passionate about helping our writers improve their craft. Or perhaps you need someone to mentor you through the publishing process. We would love to help! Contact us today.

3 Prolific Christian Authors Answer Your Writing Questions

3 prolific

If you could sit down with your favorite Christian authors, what questions would you ask? Today we’ve gathered the advice from three industry greats in order to spur you on in your writing journey.

How do I build a platform?

Lysa Terkeurst is one of Christian writing’s biggest names. Her newest book It’s Not lysa-sidebarSupposed to Be This Way, is having a profound impact because of its brutal honesty and transparency. Lysa wrote this book in the midst of her husband’s infidelity and her cancer diagnosis.

In a recent blog post, Lysa Terkeurst answered the question of “How do I build a platform?”

Usually, a platform created by the authors own hard work has to come before the book. Now, there are exceptions to this. Sometimes, a writer’s idea is so fantastic that the publisher feels there is a market for the book based on the title and subject matter alone. But most of the time someone who wants to be an author needs to lay some groundwork first. Here are some things you can do to help build a platform:

* Pray and ask God what message might be inside of you that is something you feel passionate about and that could add value to other people’s lives.

* Look for opportunities to share this message in both the spoken and written form.

* Start in your own home church. Talk with your pastor and or women’s ministry leader about what is stirring in your heart and how you might be used to fill a need in your church.

* If your message is Biblical in nature- lead a Bible study in your home for your friends and neighbors.

* Build your blog. Shannon over at Rocks in My Dryer has some great advice on this here.

* Be willing to invest in going to conference that can help clarify your calling and give you the tools you need for speaking and or writing.

* Don’t get discouraged about starting small. I started small. Very small. But over time small can grow. For me, writing and speaking has been a whole lot more about what God needed to do in me rather than through me. He would never let the size of my opportunity be bigger than what my spiritual maturity could handle. And I praise Him for that.

* Each day, ask for your assignment from God. Today, your assignment might not look like it is accomplishing much toward your goal of writing a book. But if you ask God and follow His lead, His assignment is the exact right thing for you. I’ve said it and lived it for years— “God’s shortest route to His richest blessing is paved with one obedience decision after another.”

How do I balance writing and family obligations?

Priscilla Shirer may be one of Christiandom’s highest grossing PriscillaShirer-C-400x600authors and speakers, but she still struggles to balance work and family life like any other writer. In a recent interview on CBN, Ms. Shirer details an experience with God that eased the tension between writing and family obligations:

“You know, balancing this crazy life is just like every other mother,” Priscilla explains. “It is a continuous matter of prayer, a continuous matter of pulling my hair out and going, ah! Lord…what did I get into this? How do I balance this? That is just life — that is just the nature of every mom’s life I am sure — just trying to keep it all balanced.”

Priscilla says she will never forget one morning when God displayed his faithfulness and ability to balance her life.

“I was pregnant with my second son at the time, Jackson was 18 months. At the time a very demanding, too demanding travel schedule to be honest…,” Jackson admits. “And to be honest, I was shedding a tear or two. I was looking at life, saying…this is not working. How am I going to be able to handle all of this?”

“And just as I was crying out to the Lord, the sun came up…the birds starting singing, the flowers were opening up, dew was on the grass. I just kind of saw the world come to life, and as clear as a bell, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Priscilla, if I can handle all of this…don’t you think I can take care of your life too?’ And I will never forget…God promised He would balance my life for me.”

How can I maintain my writing integrity, especially if I am in ministry?

Prolific writer Eugene Peterson will always be best known for writing The Message, a Eugene Peterson.  Courtesy photobeloved Bible paraphrase. Peterson was also a Presbyterian pastor for much of his life and a true theologian. Writing integrity was of paramount importance to Peterson, which he explained in an interview with The Gospel Coalition:

Good writers are people who pay attention to language, are interested in telling the truth, and are in some ways finding themselves inoculated against the fads of what will sell, what will please. Good literature almost always goes against the grain of the culture: interpreting it, subtly criticizing it, maybe not polemically. Pastors are right in the center of deceit and corruption and bad use of language. We have a commitment to use words accurately and honestly.

Good writing does not come easy; it takes a lot of discipline, a lot of self-criticism. A lot of people in my position want to know how to write, and after talking to them for a while I realize, “You don’t want to write, you want to get published; you’re not willing to go through the disciplines, the rejections.” Rejections are often compliments, because we’re not writing for popular taste or the stuff that just titillates people, what makes them feel good or bad or whatever. Propaganda is the worst kind of writing; there’s almost something pornographic about it. It just dehumanizes what’s going on, and we’re just filled with it right now politically, so I think of the importance of poets and novelists, because I think of poets as the high priests of the language. No poet writes in order to get published, not in America, so anybody who takes the path of poetry is going a lonely way and a not lucrative way.

It’s hard to be a good novelist in America because of all the Stephen Kings. There are good novelists and great novelists, but I think for pastors their training isn’t how to use their imagination like novelists in the sense that they see the narrative connection of everything, how everything fits into the story. So if our imagination isn’t trained to see these connections, relationships, and the way words work to bring out truth rather than just facts, we are just giving lectures from the pulpit, moralisms in a counseling place. It’s a great responsibility, I think, to learn to use words rightly. Pastors don’t realize how much we owe to our congregations, to the public, to learn how to use words rightly and skillfully and truthfully.

At Certa Publishing, we want nothing more than to see our authors develop and thrive in their craft. What other questions do you need to be answered? Contact us today to find out how we can help you grow as a writer.

Cover design trends


There are few things that make us giddier than gorgeous cover design! 99Designs has curated a collection of trending book covers in their recent post 9 beautiful book cover design trends for 2019. Enjoy this excerpt!

The world of book publishing moves slowly. It typically takes a full eighteen months to bring a book to market. That’s why book cover design trends often stick around for a long time. One day, you’ll walk into a bookstore or queue up your favorite book category on Amazon, and you’ll notice covers have suddenly changed.

2019 is going to have some surprises in store when it comes to book cover trends. In the last few years, consumers have started looking for bolder and bolder book covers. Here are the top design trends you can expect to see on every shelf in 2019.

9 book cover design trends that you’ll find on shelves in 2019

1. Big book design

In just the past few years, we’ve witnessed the rise of the “big book” design. Debut, early-career writers and even independently published authors have started launching books with cover designs that have been traditionally reserved for famous authors with track records—that is, “big book” authors.

house of impossible beauties book cover

Via Ecco

Stylistically, these covers can vary wildly, but the hallmarks of big book design are: bold colors, a prominent author name and large title, all composed with very few other elements to distract the eye.

Design by Ian Robert Douglas

riverhead books cover

Via Riverhead Books

2. New sans-serif fonts ready to go up against League Gothic

With “big books” comes a need for big fonts! In early 2018, there was a sudden and abrupt typography takeover by the sans-serif font League Gothic (or some close derivative). Books from a wide range of genres were embracing a font previously reserved for thrillers and crime novels.

Design by Never Go Hungry

we begin in gladness book cover

Via Graywolf Press

Designers often combined these hyper-masculine type treatments with contrasting botanicals, flowers and other traditional feminine design elements, which created a pleasant tension. But by mid-year, many designers felt the trend had played itself out, and covers started to land with a similar style, but less expected fonts. Expect this to carry into 2019.

Via Knopf Books for Young Readers

3. Move over millennial pink, orange is in (and yellow, too!)

While 2017 brought us piles of mellow pink tones, the industry performed a signature over-correction, and 2018 was all about the orange and yellow. In a sea of blue and green and white, an orange book grabs the eye like nothing else. Several very big, very inescapable orange books hit the shelves this year, and we’ll see many more coming down the pike in 2019.

Via Knopf

Via Ecco

Via Knopf

Design by Artrocity

Design by LianaM

4. Stop and smell the roses (and all the other flowers, too)

Bookshelves looked like wild gardens this year with flora as far as the eye could see. Some were fresh and light, while others seemed like they were pulled from ancient wallpaper.

Via G.P. Putnam’s Sons

Via Harper

What makes this floral trend different is that the flowers tend to heavily interact, and even obscure the text elements on some of this year’s biggest covers. Something else that makes this trend unique: these botanicals are eschewing tradition and finding their way onto covers by women and men.

Via Little, Brown and Company

Design by ssnastasia

Via Catapult

5. The great design elements cover-up

A challenge that designers face over and over again is how to best integrate text and photography, which requires taking a real world image and combining it with (typically) digital type to create a harmonious composition.

Via Counterpoint

Via Viking

Recently, we’ve seen a lot of what we’ll call the “overlap” trend, where parts of the photograph overlap or hide the edges of the type. It can be used heavily (like in The Italian Teacher cover) or with a very light touch (like the buttons on The Perfect Nanny). Traditionally, the rule has been to never obscure the book title, but designers are running wild with this trend.

Via G.P. Putnam’s Sons

Via Penguin Books

6. The fine art of the cross-out

Here’s a trend has been percolating for a while, but we’re beginning to see on bigger books: the art of the cross-out. While handwriting on covers has been holding steadily for a few years (and is arguably in decline now), this fresh take adds a vibe of revision and restlessness, introducing the idea that the author thought about the title, crossed out words and made changes.

Via Penguin Books

Design by Meella

While sometimes serving as decoration or redaction, recent covers have subverted the idea and brought entirely new information onto the cover. The Tell Me Lies cover tells an entire story using scrawled elements without using a single graphic element.

Via Knopf

Via Atria Books

7. The hyper-real makes a comeback

While many of the trends we’ve touched on here focus on novels and fiction, there are several that favor non-fiction. One of the trends you’ll find in the fact-based realm is the use of a lot of fantastic sourced elements. These are cover designs that integrate the information about the book into a familiar product or household item.

Via Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Via Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Via Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Whether made from newspaper clippings, food wrappers or even projector slides (in the case of the stunning Lucia Berlin cover), these hyper-real covers create effortless nostalgia and a feeling a wistfulness by taking something expected from our life and introducing it into an entirely new setting.

Covers like the Behind the Scenes Companion for the TV show “Stranger Things” look like they were pulled directly from a used bookshelf. Expect more make-you-look-twice designs like these coming in the next year.

Via Del Rey

Design by Never Go Hungry

Via Sarah Crichton Books

8. Mid-century modern illustration

Illustrated book covers have been having a well-recognized moment, the likes of which we haven’t seen since the mid-century era. Recent illustrated covers have run the gamut from finely detailed florals to clean and modern flat-lays.

Design by Jestyr37

Design by Proi

Design by Pulp Art

2019 will be defined by the continuation of all these illustration styles competing against each other on the same shelf. We’re seeing a particularly heavy resurgence of mid-century illustrations that feel pulled from visual titans like Facetti’s gorgeous and trippy Penguin Classics and always mod Saul Bass.

Via Back Bay Books

Via Knopf

Via Bloomsbury Publishing

Via Berkley

9. The rise of Lydian—the font of the year

One of the most stunning trends to watch happen over the course of this year was the rise of Lydian. Created in the thirties and meant to meld type and calligraphic design, the typeface hit its stride on book covers.

Via Viking

Via William Morrow

Fighting against waves of weighty sans-serifs (like League Gothic), Lydian has re-emerged in late 2018 as the front-runner for the opposition: leggy, light and gender neutral. We’ll see it continuing its resurgence in literary fiction and then spreading to nonfiction (like the Forest Bathing book).

Via Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Via Grove Press


Echoing what we’re seeing in almost every aspect of graphic design, book cover design trends in 2019 look like they will be defined by contradiction. Some designers will continue to push boundaries and move to edgier places, while others choose to embrace the typefaces and illustration styles of earlier eras. Both directions mean readers’ shelves will be filled with gorgeous and fresh jackets.

Are you in the process of designing a cover? Did you know this is a service Certa provides, even on an a-la-carte basis? Head here to find out more.

Our 4 Favorite Writing Books

four books

While there are many fantastic resources for writing, there are four books that you will always find close at hand here at Certa Publishing. Their dog-eared pages and worn covers attest to how frequently we reference them in our daily work. We highly recommend each and we think you will see why.

Your First 1000 Copies: The step-by-step guide to marketing your book

by Tim Grahl

What this book offers: A step-by-step plan to sell the first 1,000 copies of your book.

Mr. Grahl takes you through five distinct phases, offering practical advice for each one:

  • Permission
  • Content
  • Outreach
  • Sell
  • Building the system

your firstWhat we love about this book: The author addresses an important issue head-on: marketing can feel sleazy. He acknowledges this sentiment, then works to redefine the term and change the reader’s perspective. We love this quote:

[Marketing is] the act of building long-lasting connections with people.

He elaborates here:

The more long-lasting connections you make with readers, the more books you will sell in a natural manner that reflects genuine connection rather than shady salesmanship.

Who should buy this book: If you are a list-maker and checkbox-checker, this book is for you. We truly believe that if you follow Mr. Grahl’s practical recommendations, you will see excellent results.

Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors

by Kathy Ide

What this book offers: A concise and user-friendly guide to punctuation, usage, spelling, and grammar. The book is laid out for quick reference into five sections:

  • Proofreading for typos, inaccuracies, and inconsistencies
  • Punctuation
  • Usage
  • Grammar
  • Spelling

PS1What we love about this book: It doesn’t come across as a textbook. Ms. Ide’s conversational style makes the somewhat academic task of proofreading accessible to all levels of writers. Here is a great example of her tone:

When someone calls and asks to speak to Melinda, and you’re Melinda, do you say, “This is her” or “This is she”? The grammatically correct form is “This is she (who is speaking).” Sounds pretty awkward, though, huh? You’d probably rather say, “This is Melinda.”

Who this book is for: Anyone who isn’t a professional editor. So that’s most of us! Keep this handy reference tool nearby for all those questions about who/whom and oxford commas. You’ll accelerate the publishing process by minimizing your editor’s workload.

Sell Your Book Like Wildfire: The writer’s guide to marketing & publicity

by Rob Eager

What this book offers: Marketing expertise from the best. When it comes to book marketing, Rob Eagar is an industry leader with proven results. His book takes you through all aspects of marketing, including some you may not have even considered. Here are a few highlights:

  • Author brand
  • Author websites
  • Social networking
  • Public speaking
  • Media interviews
  • Newsletters

W67050c_Wildfire_webWhat we love about this book: The depth of content in this book sets it apart. Let’s take chapter 6, for example, How to Capture Media Interviews by Yourself. There is more content and specific, practical help in this chapter than you will find from entire books on the subject.

For example, Mr. Eagar takes the time to explain how media producers curate content for their shows:

If you want to get more media coverage for your book, your goal is to connect with producers. Each producer acts as the gatekeeper that can make interviews happen for each program.

He then shares four rules for grabbing the attention of producers:

Rule #1Producers live and die by audience ratings.

Rule #2Producers don’t care about marketing your book.

Rule #3Don’t push your book. Push an interesting topic.

Rule #4Know the show and pitch a compelling idea.

Who this book is for: The writer who wants to do marketing right. If you’re committed to creating a long-term marketing plan for your book and you are willing to put in the effort, Rob Eagar’s book will guide you from start to finish.

Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content

By Ann Handly

What this book offers: Tools for turning good writers into good content writers. You may be able to write a fabulous 60,000-word novel. But can you create compelling social media posts or clickable subject line? Ann Handly teaches the art of content writing in this comprehensive, easy-to-read guide.

One of this book’s charms is its format. Most chapters range from 2-4 pages long. You’ll find highly specific themes, such as:

  • Shed high school rules
  • Place the most important words (and ideas) at the beginning of each sentence
  • Embrace the ugly first draft
  • ‘A good lede invites you to the party and a good kicker makes you wish you could stay longer’

ann-3dWhat we love about this book: Ms. Handley tells it like it is, with real-life examples. Her writing often prompts us to say, “Hey, I’ve noticed the same thing!” or “Yeah, that really annoys me too!” Here’s a highlight of her style:

Companies often spin internal developments as news that’s worth reporting on… For example, they’ll write a blog post announcing a minor product upgrade, or a new hire, or something so boring I can’t even think of it to use as an example right here… because I delete it without reading it when it arrives in my in-box.

I’m not sure exactly why companies do this… But I do know this: don’t be that guy.

Who this book is for: Anyone who creates marketing content. If you tweet, blog, write listicles or create email newsletters, this book is for you.

So there you have it. Four of Certa Publishing’s favorite books on writing. Do you have some favorites we should add to the list? Comment below!

Short and sweet // Writing trend: less is more


As writers, we all wish that long-form writing ruled the day, however, this is not the case. Our writing must now compete with the next post on a feed, the next link on a blog, and the incoming texts.

Short, brief, to-the-point writing is king and we want to help you get there. The Grammarly blog recently posted What is Concise Writing, and Why Does it Matter?, which offers some great advice. Enjoy this excerpt:

Have you ever lost interest while reading something long-winded and rambling? You aren’t alone.

Concise writing means using the fewest words possible to convey an idea clearly. There’s a reason why writing concisely is recommended so often—it’s excellent advice.

Reading sprawling sentences can feel overwhelming, confusing, or boring. It can confuse readers by making it harder for them to quickly identify the main point of what you’re trying to communicate. After all, they have to sift through the extra verbiage and hunt for the key points of your message. Making readers do unnecessary work can make them grumpy, and grumpy readers are less receptive to what you have to say.

Whether you’re sending a text message, writing an email, or updating your resume, wordy writing dilutes the impact of your message. Concise writing, instead, helps grab and hold your reader’s attention. It’s also likely to be more memorable and make a lasting impact on your reader.

But brevity doesn’t come naturally to everyone, and concise writing takes effort. Here are some tips to help you identify the extra words weighing down your writing and tighten up unwieldy sentences.

Eliminate Redundant Words

Cutting redundant words like tautologies can help create stronger, more direct sentences. Tautologies are expressions or phrases that repeat the same information. They take up unnecessary space and can distract your reader. Getting rid of them simplifies sentences and gets your point across faster.

Wordy: In my opinion, I think that’s a problem.Concise: In my opinion, that’s a problem.

Wordy: The course had several necessary requirements.Concise: The course had several requirements.

Strengthen Weak Adjectives

Using strong, descriptive adjectives helps trim down sentence length. Look for places where you’ve used two words to describe something when one would do. Strengthening your vocabulary can help you ensure that you’re using the best word for the situation and that all of your words deserve to be in your sentence. Plus, strong adjectives make your writing more vibrant!

Wordy: Brunch was very good.Concise: Brunch was superb.

Wordy: She struggled to sit through his really boring speech.Concise: She struggled to sit through his tedious speech.

Remove Vague Nouns

Do all of your nouns actually move your point forward? If not, it may be time to say goodbye. Eliminating these unnecessary words will help make your writing more direct and clear.

Wordy: Career growth was an important factor in why I decided to join.Concise: I joined to advance my career.

Wordy: I’m interested in the areas of history and biology.Concise: I’m interested in history and biology.

Eliminate Filler Words

Filler words are words that add no meaning or value to a sentence and simply “fill” the space. They can be easily removed or replaced, but often inadvertently creep up in writing since we’re so used to using them in our speech.

Wordy: For all intents and purposes, this project will be outsourced.Concise: This project will be outsourced.

Wordy: Needless to say, I think we should get grilled cheese.Concise: We should get grilled cheese.

Construct Active Sentences

Some sentence structures tend to be wordier than others. Although the passive voice isn’t incorrect and is completely fine to use in moderation, it’s often a weaker type of sentence construction. If you find yourself trending towards using the passive voice because you think it sounds a bit fancier or softens something unpleasant, remember that active voice sets a stronger and more direct tone. Keep most of your sentences in active voice—you’ll find that they also tend to be more concise.

Wordy: If this was something caused on our end, it might be something to be aware of.Concise: We should be aware of this in case something on our end caused it.

Wordy: The error message was written by robots.Concise: Robots wrote the error message.


It’s easy to fill up sentences with extra words, especially when you’re excited about what you have to say. Concise writing takes effort and can be tricky, but every word needs to earn its place in your writing.

And the good news is that you don’t have to do it alone. Did you know that Grammarly offers checks to identify tautologies, enhance your vocabulary, eliminate unnecessary phrases, and flag passive voice?

There’s still time to create a 2019 marketing plan

there's still time

Perhaps you had good intentions at the end of last year to craft the ultimate 2019 marketing plan. But then December flew by as December does, and you’ve found yourself at the end of January without a plan. But there is still plenty of time to make this happen. Glenn Leibowitz’s recent post at LinkedIn offers this advice:

If you’re wondering where to begin and how to structure [your 2019 marketing plan], here’s a set of questions you can ask that will help you generate the ideas you need to flesh out your plan. If you’re unable to provide immediate answers to some of these, go out and do some research: Talk to coworkers, customers, and suppliers. Read articles and books. Listen to podcasts. And then start filling in the blanks.

1. Who are your primary audiences?

Everything you say in your content marketing plan, whether it’s in written form or through video or audio, needs to address a very specific set of audiences. Who are they exactly? Can you define them beyond generic demographic categories like age, gender, and income? If you were to prioritize them, which two or three target audiences would you choose to focus on in your communications?

2. What do you want them to know you for?

There’s so much noise out there, cutting through it all and getting noticed can be incredibly hard. That’s why you need to be very specific about what you want to be known for among your priority audiences. More importantly, how will you set yourself apart from your competitors? What makes you different –and better– than them?

This one may require additional research and soul-searching, but it’s a crucial exercise you won’t want to bypass.

3. What specific topics will you cover in your content plan?

This is where you unpack what you decided in response to the previous question, when you determined what you want to be known for. Brainstorm topics and even specific headlines that you will publish content on, list them out and then sort them into a few key categories. Then sort them again into a month-by-month plan.

Maybe you’ll decide to focus on one key theme per month or quarter. Or maybe you’ll dip in and out of your pipeline and publish content on several different topics in a given month.

4. Which formats will you prioritize: Blogs, video, podcasts, email?

There are many possible formats to publish content in, but prioritizing and selecting one or two primary formats will help focus your resources and energy. Even the most prolific content creators who seem to appear everywhere usually pick two or three formats where they focus their most resources. They might repurpose content for other formats, but it’s clear that they’ve selected video, for instance, or long-form articles on Medium or LinkedIn, where they roll out their newest and best stuff, and where they engage most with their followers. (Check out this primer on creating videos for IGTVInstagram TVcourtesy of the folks at Facebook for Creators).

5. Which social media channels will you prioritize and what’s your plan for distributing content through them?

The social media landscape can seem overwhelming. It’s easy to underestimate the time and resources required to build a large and highly engaged following on any of them. That’s why you’ll need to prioritize and select the one or two channels to double down on. For you, that might be Facebook or Instagram. Or it could be LinkedIn. (Check out this free guide for content creators on LinkedIn. And if you’re looking for a social media scheduling app, try MeetEdgar.)

6. Who will be responsible for developing, publishing, and distributing content?

Having an ambitious content marketing plan in hand is not enough: Who exactly will be responsible for developing, editing, publishing, and distributing the content you produce? If your in-house team is limited in resources, or you’re working on your own, you’ll want to consider tapping into freelance resources that can give you the leverage you need. (Check out this free marketing calendar from Twitter).

7. How will you monitor engagement and measure impact?

How will you know whether your content marketing is working? What metrics will you track and measure? What applications can deliver the data and analysis you need?

You may have other questions you’ll want to ask as you develop your content marketing plan, but if you start with these questions, you should be well on your way to crafting a plan that works for you in 2019.

At Certa Publishing, we work with authors every day to formulate marketing plans, beef up their presence on social media and determine their target audience. How can we help you? Contact us today.

Announcement: JPL Books acquires Certa Publishing


certa logoCerta Publishing is excited to announce the next season in our company’s journey. After much prayer and thought, we have accepted an acquisition offer from our longtime vendor JPL Books and our sale to them was made complete just after the new year. In a recent letter to the company’s authors, former Certa CEO Jennifer Smothers shared the following:

Great thought and prayer went in to deciding who would be the best fit to serve you and our other great authors going forward. Matt Landheer is one of the owners of JPL Books, our fulfillment, distribution and printing source in Michigan. We have worked closely with his companies for years as our vendor in bringing excellence to our authors in the many facets of printing and distribution. Matt’s family of companies has purchased Certa, and I can’t be happier on behalf of our authors, who I have grown to love and respect!

Certa Publishing authors will now have expanded distribution, sales, marketing, and other services to help your books go to the next level of success. Pat and Sheila McGuffin will continue serving you at this next level, and will continue to be your main points of contact.

For me, it has been one of the greatest honors of my life, to serve you, as someone who God has placed His message in your heart, and you were faithful to get it published. At this time, I will be focusing more on my three children, as the Lord has given me that awesome responsibility in this season of life. The friendships forged, and messages transformed into books will always be carried in my heart!

JPL_Books_Color_LogoJPL Books and their family of companies have been serving the Christian publishing market for decades through design, print, bindery, and distribution. In recent years, they have broadened their horizons to market books to trade and other accounts, to invest in new equipment and expand their print capabilities, and to learn as much as they possibly can about the publishing and book-selling world.

Certa’s new CEO Matt Landheer recently contacted the company’s authors with this message:

What an honor Certa Publishing has had to serve you with the messages God has given you to deliver in book form. As part of Certa’s new ownership, I can’t tell you how much I look forward to joining the team to help you go to the next level with your current books and any new ones you may author!

Time spent with Jennifer Smothers, and Pat and Sheila McGuffin have shown me that the bar is high – a place where I am committed to keeping it in serving you. Pat and Sheila will be staying on in their roles with Certa Publishing and now will have expanded resources and teams to help in the publishing, printing, and marketing of your books.

At the end of the day, my goal is for you to be comfortable with this transition, pleased with our expanded services, and supported in the ways you deserve. Pat, Sheila, and Jen have spoken to me of many of your stories, and my excitement is peaked to serve you with the same growing heart of excellence.

As you can see, the future is bright for Certa Publishing under its new ownership. We look forward to what God will do!

A new Certa Books site boasts 3 acclaimed authors

a new certa books site

Certa Publishing is excited to announce that our new retail site, Certa Books is live. Here you will find all of the books in our collection, available for purchase. The site aso offers sample pages, author bios, reviews and much more.

And among our many notable authors, we’d like to point out three of our bestsellers, whose writing and ministries are having far-reaching impacts in the nation and beyond.

Mark Gregston

Parenting (and grandparenting) today’s youth is not for the faint of heart. Many of us in mark_gregston_300x260_01these roles have found ourselves searching desperately for resources to guide us through the tumultuous season of raising up our young ones.

This is where Certa author and speaker Mark Gregston comes in. Mark’s daily and weekend radio features, “Parenting Today’s Teens with Mark Gregston,” can be heard on over 1,650 outlets throughout North America.  Mark also leads weekend “Tough Guys & Drama Queens” parenting seminars throughout North America, and is a frequent conference and retreat keynote speaker. In addition, his video series are viewed by thousands involved in small groups, church classes, and parent communities seeking to gain a greater understanding of the today’s teen’s social world, and gather new effective and practical ways to counter the effects this contrary culture is having on their teen.

legacy_of_hope_265x400_01 grandparenting_todays_teens_265x400_01 (1)raising_teens_dvd_265x400 (1)a_devotional_for_dads_image_265x400_01 (1)

Many of Mark Gregston’s titles are available from Certa Books.


Bruce Lengeman

Bruce and Ruthie Lengeman have been in Christian ministry since they got married in 1976. They have been active in teaching a variety of life-building seminars and classes, including marriage conferences, inner healing conferences, leadership courses, and more.

profile-imageBruce’s recent emphasis is challenging men to be all they can be and to walk in sexual wholeness. He was a professional counselor for several years and pastored in a variety of ways in several churches. Most recently, he was the Pastor of ACTS Covenant Fellowship in Lancaster, PA, where he and Ruthie now serve as the Senior Leader Couple. He has since been released from full-time pastoring to develop his teaching and training focus.

Ruthie assists Bruce in his teaching and mentoring ministry and loves challenging and mentoring women. Bruce and Ruthie have nine children and eleven (1)to_kill_a_lion_265x400_01 (1)god_do_you_play_265x400_01





Many of Bruce Lengeman’s titles are available from Certa Books.


Paul Wilbur

wilbur_ministries_paul_wilbur_bio_banner1_fm1lc1Paul Wilbur, internationally-acclaimed worship artist, song writer, pastor and teacher, unpacks the “Calendar of the Kingdom” in a way that reunites Christians with their Jewish foundations in a crystal-clear understanding of who we are in Christ and how the Father intends for us to successfully and joyfully walk in His Kingdom.

Paul’s most recent project is a worship album that was recorded live from Jerusalem. Roar from Zion is available for pre-order now.

When Mr. Wilbur isn’t recording or writing, he can be found hosting his First Fridays event at Celebration Church in Jacksonville, Florida, which includes dynamic worship alongside strong Biblical teaching centered on the Jewish roots of our faith.
touching_heart_of_god_116x175_01      tocando_el_corazon_116x175_01

Several of Paul Wilbur’s titles are available from Certa Books.



Certa author Dana Goodrum rings in the New Year with media appearances

dana goodrum

Certa author Dana Goodrum is ringing in the New Year with several radio interviews about her new book Open With Your Broken. This book walks readers through a journey of transparency like never before. Unveiling the schemes of the enemy, while explaining how shame and guilt can keep you from fully achieving God’s purpose in your life, Dana Goodrum teaches readers awareness and effective strategies for victorious living.

open_with_your_broken_265x400_01After nearly a decade hiatus away from God, Dana Goodrum is well versed in the trials, attacks, and tribulations associated with making peace with your past. In Open With Your Broken, she unveils a decade of difficulties, hardships, and struggle—and her eventual triumph over her past.

Dana was recently featured on the Club 36 show on the Watchmen Network and will also appear on the following broadcasts:

January 13th :: iHeart Radio Spiritually Speaking

January 17th :: Make it Count Christian Radio Program

The Fireside Talk Radio show also recently hosted Ms. Goodrum for two shows, focusing on the church’s struggle to attract millennials. The host, Cathy Krafve, summarized the programs this way:

[Dana Goodrum] points out that many millennials view the church as a “picture perfect museum,” instead of a place where they can get help turning their life around. If your church has been wondering why an entire generation of young people are purposefully choosing not to pursue a life of faith, you will not want to miss what Dana has to say!

Both interviews can be listened to here.

Ms. Goodrum’s book, Open with Your Broken is available through the Certa Books site.