Let’s get back to basics

Certa blog - back to basics

As Christians, we like to believe that we are immune to trends. But the truth is that the church rises and falls upon the waves of what is popular and new just like the secular world does. Sometimes these shifts serve to advance us toward that which is new and fresh, but more than often they can distract and delay our spiritual walk.

One trend many have noted, as the church has rapidly modernized in the past 20 years, is a lack of Biblical literacy among congregants. No longer are church-goers expected to bring a Bible to church because all of the scriptures are projected for them. Scripture memorization has faded as an expected practice and expository preaching and Bible studies have become less and less prevalent. A 2015 article in Christianity Today by Ed Stetzer noted:

LifeWay Research found that while 67 percent of Americans believe heaven is a real place, 45 percent believe there are many ways to get there—including 1 in 5 evangelical Christians. More than half of evangelicals (59 percent) believe the Holy Spirit is a force and not a personal being—in contrast to the orthodox biblical teaching of the Trinity being three Persons in one God.

Thankfully God’s people are people of action and when the pendulum swings too far in one direction, there will always be those brave few who call us all back to the narrow way.

Jen Wilkin is one of these truth-tellers. As the Women’s Ministry Director at The Village Church in Texas for many years, Jen began teaching women in a way that felt new, but was really quite traditional. She taught the women to study the Word for themselves and to value good and true theology. Instead of offering “10 quick tips to being a better mom,” she encouraged moms to go back to the scriptures and mine it for the answers they so desperately needed.

She was recently quoted as saying:

When women grow increasingly lax in their pursuit of Bible literacy, everyone in their circle of influence is affected. Rather than acting as salt and light, we become bland contributions to the environment we inhabit and shape, indistinguishable from those who have never been changed by the gospel. Home, church, community, and country desperately need the influence of women who know why they believe what they believe, grounded in the Word of God. They desperately need the influence of women who love deeply and actively the God proclaimed in the Bible.

Ms. Wilkin is not alone in pushing for a shift back to Biblical literacy.  The Gospel Coalition is a conglomerate of like-minded writers, pastors, and thinkers who are calling us back to the Word and their impact is growing by the day. One of their bestselling resources is the New City Catechism series, which helps churches and parents catechize children from a young age. This is definitely a far cry from Veggie Tales and the fluffy, low-content resources of the past. Another group seeing rapid growth is Risen Motherhood, a podcast and blog aimed at providing Gospel-based resources to moms looking for more than shallow answers to their deep questions.

A_Remedy_For_Itching_Ears_265x400_01

Here at Certa Publishing, we are proud to offer our own collection of resources that point us back to Biblical literacy.  In A Remedy for Itching Ears, Dr. Jesse Williams points the younger generations back to the foundational doctrine of the Word. Dr. Williams serves as the Senior Pastor of Convent Avenue Baptist Church in Harlem, New York.

“It is in the midst of a current Christian and cultural crisis that Jesse Wiliams’ book comes as a jolt to the Christian imagination. Williams seeks to birth a new theological future from a familiar doctrinal womb. This book is a must read for those who have deep love for the Christian faith and a passion for the possible.”

—Michael Walrond, Jr., Senior Pastor, First Corinthian Baptist Church, Harlem, New York

Reclaiming-Prophecy_265x400_01Reclaiming Prophecy by author Darin Slack implores the Church to return to a scriptural application of the gift of prophecy. Mr. Slack has served in prophetic ministry for many years with Metro Life Church in Casselberry, Florida.

No matter where you are in your walk with the Lord, no matter which denomination or background, we highly encourage you to devote yourself to Biblical literacy. No sermon, video or podcast will ever replace the living, breathing Word of God, which is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. (2 Timothy 3:16)

The Power of the Personal Story

personal story

In a mid-sized church in middle America, a pastor begins his sermon on the suffering of Christ. He describes the heartache of the garden, the betrayal of the disciples and the ultimate anguish of the crucifixion. Throughout the message the congregation listens politely, throwing up an occasional “amen,” or nodding in agreement. But then a certain phrase catches their ears.

Let me tell you a story.

Intuitively the audience perks up, leans in, and focuses.

The pastor begins to tell about the recent deaths in his family and his wife’s family. He tells of a day where the grief was so great, he sought out a solitary spot near a lake to simply “sit and cry.” But then he recounts how an elderly woman spoke to him and reminded him of God’s love. This brought great encouragement and reminded him that God was near, even in his suffering.

From this personal story, the pastor transitions back into the Gospel story, reminding the audience that their suffering his suffering is not unfamiliar to Christ and that we can find comfort in His ultimate victory and triumph over death. Emboldened by his own experience, the pastor speaks with an extra dose of passion and an increased amount of compassion. He has lived what he is preaching. And the message rings true.

As the service concludes, there is a palpable sense in the air that today was different. Most cannot pin it down exactly, but all know that this was a message they will not soon forget.

So what was the difference?

The pastor’s personal story and willingness to be vulnerable.

You see, with enough training and practice, anyone can stand before a congregation and preach a message. Likewise, with enough training and practice, anyone can write a book.

It is those who are willing to infuse their preaching or writing with their personal story that will really make a difference. Cognitive scientist Roger Schank says, “Humans are not ideally set up to understand logic; they are ideally set up to understand stories.”

Let’s take an honest look at your writing. Let’s look past the extensive research and facts. Past the scriptural interpretation. Past the data-driven information. Does your book include your personal story?

There is a reason you are writing on your topic. You have a personal connection to that topic somehow and so your book should be infused with your stories. Doing so invites the reader to perk up, lean in, and focus, just like our congregation above. And like our pastor’s message, your book will be infused with a certain boldness and effectiveness that would be lacking if written by someone who had not lived your story.

Your readers may not be able to pin it down exactly, but they will know it is a message they will not soon forget. And that is the power of the personal story.

 

 

 

 

The Future of Christian Publishing: According to 4 Agents

future of christian publishing

We love when experts dish on the Christian publishing industry. What are they seeing? Where are the trends? Who is driving the industry and who is falling behind? So today we’re sharing this excerpt of Publishers Weekly’s Agents Discuss the New Norms of Christian Publishing by Ann Byle. Enjoy!

With a bird’s eye view of which authors and topics get through publishers’ doors, Christian literary agents remain optimistic about an industry that is experiencing moreconsolidation as bricks-and-mortar stores close.

 “Christian publishing is a viable and growing marketplace,” Steve Laube, president of the Christian Writers Institute and Enclave Publishing, as well as longtime literary agent, tells PW. “The death of publishing has been forecast for 40 years, and it’s never been right.”

Though they are surviving and some even thriving, publishers remain cautious, according to agent Wendy Lawton of Books & Such Literary Management, who says that publishers are more risk-averse now than ever before in her almost 15-year career.

“Advances are tied closely to past sales and we see less inclination to offer advances based on what they believe ‘might’ be possible,” Lawton tells PW, noting that prudence may be the reason for the industry’s viability. “Perhaps this attention to the bottom line is why Christian publishing continues to remain healthy and the future continues to be bright despite hundreds of store closings.”

Publishers continue to brace themselves for the loss of even more Christian retail outlets this year, but the strongest impact of store closings could be leveled at authors in the category. The shrinking footprint of Christian retailers is already leading to a new normal where writers are also expected to have a marketing team behind them, according to Blythe Daniel of her eponymous literary agency.

“Authors are going to have to make up for fewer sales channels,” Daniel says. “The future of publishing does not depend on retail outlets—it’s going to be important for authors to create marketing avenues around themselves that aren’t reliant on publishers.”

It’s not unusual for authors to influence book sales through strong followings on social media, podcasts, blogs, YouTube, etc., but the concept of an author platform continues to be “confusing” for all concerned, says Lawton. “Most publishers understand that numbers [of followers and website visitors] mean little; it’s the level of engagement and the care with which a platform is maintained.”

According to Alex Field, founder of The Bindery, if a publisher sees a connection to potential readers, “they are betting that his or her books will have a similar appeal to readers. Sometimes that bet pays off, especially when the author is deeply engaged in the marketing and launch campaign around the book, and sometimes it doesn’t,” he says.

The key, according to Field, is that authors need to be “active and influential online in some way, because many book purchases these days happen online.”

Yet Laube notes that publishers still look beyond an author’s platform when considering a manuscript. “It’s rarely a cut-and-dried formula of platform=publishable,” he says. “Sometimes the instinct of ‘this is a great book’ can get someone past the publishing gatekeepers.”

In addition to changes to how books are acquired and sold, agents are also noticing several content trends in Christian publishing. Daniel sees more opportunities for agents to bring creative concepts that don’t necessarily fit with the usual Christian living titles. “Publishers are asking me to help create a book that might include DIY guides or recipes, and are looking at four-color or two-color books for, say, family gatherings or teen girls,” she says. “They are also looking at brand development, creative packaging, and concept-driven books.”

Laube sees an uptick in books on social justice issues, sexuality, and racial issues, as well as a wave of books for “disaffected young women—” or women dealing with issues such as the stress of marriage, job, and family. He points to Rachel Hollis’ Girl, Wash Your Face as an example. “I suspect acquisitions of this ‘trend’ will slow down and the best authors in the category will become those who fill this need,” he says.

Field, of The Bindery, says publishers are “chasing after ‘books for the church’ lately,” with some seeking books for leaders while others are looking for devotionals and gift books aimed at churchgoers. Many publishers are also developing new children’s book lines or deepening their lines to appeal to parents as well as grandparents. “Publishers are looking for authors who will appeal to a wide audience generationally and to millennials in particular,” Field says.

Remaining largely unchanged, perennial topics such as prayer, parenting, and marriage continue to be big business in Christian publishing. “It’s either tried and true authors or tried and true subjects presented in a fresh, new way,” Lawton says.

Laube adds, “There continues to be acquisitions of readily consumable and evergreen topics that can be seen as ‘self-help.’”

Fiction’s hottest subgenre at the moment is romantic suspense, but, according to Lawton, “We are beginning to hear calls for straight suspense.” Laube says publishers’ lines are relatively full of romantic suspense, and so interest may wane. He and Lawton both perceive a renewed interest in straight historicals, and agree that Christian fiction on the whole remains a strong category.

“The number of publishers offering fiction has dwindled in recent years, but the readers have not gone away, so we’re seeing growth in the publishers who continue vigorously acquiring novelists,” Lawton says.

Overall, agents are optimistic about the Christian publishing industry. The Steve Laube Agency averages a new contract every two business days, Laube says, while The Blythe Daniel Agency has 95% of its projects picked up, and The Bindery contracts nearly all of its projects.

“Publishers continue to look for new content and new authors,” Laube says. “Is it hard sometimes? Yes.”

We found these insights encouraging! What are your thoughts? Are you feeling the pressure to grow your “platform,” as they mentioned? The good news is that Certa Publishing has years of experience partnering with authors in this area. Need help? We’re just a click away. We would love to hear from you.

How Well Do You Know Your Reader?

how well

This author just gets me.

How would you like to read that in an email or Amazon review? There would be nothing better! But what does that mean for an author to “get” the reader? How is that achieved?

Let’s think through an example. Brooke is in her mid-thirties and she’s mothered three beautiful girls through the newborn and toddler phases. Through trial and triumph, she has learned the tricks of getting babies to sleep through the night. This must be shared! she thinks. And so the book begins.

At first glance, this seems like a great beginning. Brooke has lived through the ultimate research experiment – her own daughters. She’s seen success – they sleep through the night. And she’s willing to share her story – the book.

And yet, we believe Brooke is still missing a key component: empathy.

Sure, she has her personal experience. But this isn’t an autobiography. It’s a parenting book, which will be read by all types of people. People very different from Brooke. Different in culture, age, upbringing, parenting style, and needs. Before she types the first word, Brooke needs to find a way to empathize with her potential readers. And to do this, she must get to know them.

In her bestselling book Everybody Writes, Ann Handley quotes Johnathon Colman of Facebook:

It’s hard to have real empathy for people’s experiences if we don’t really get to know the people themselves. Not just in aggregate… I mean the real deal: actually talking with them. Or, better still: listening to them.

So how would Brooke go about getting to know the people who need her book? The same way any author on any topic can. Here are a few ideas:

  • Start in your personal life. Who do you know who might need your book? Look within your company, family, church and community groups. Ask if you can grab coffee with these potential readers and be ready to listen to their personal experiences.
  • Go online. Social media groups are an excellent source for finding like-minded individuals. Are you writing about geriatric fitness? There are groups for that! Are you writing about debt-free living? There are groups for that too! Join a few of these and simply observe. What are the common struggles and experiences you see there? What types of resources are most often recommended and requested?
  • Read book reviews. Single out a few successful books similar to yours and read their Amazon reviews. You’ll be amazed at how much personal information is shared there! Try to zero in on why those books meant so much to the readers who love them. Look for common themes.

Here’s the hardest part of this empathy journey. You may find that your book’s core themes aren’t as relevant to potential readers as you thought. Thinking of our fictional writer, Brooke… she may find that it isn’t scientific data about REM cycles that really moves her readers, but instead encouraging testimonials. On the converse, she may discover that new parents are skeptical of testimonials and are instead seeking proven, documented scientific research in this area. Now that she is armed with this knowledge, she would be wise to adjust her writing in order to better serve her audience.

Ms. Handley goes on to quote Nadia Eghbal, co-owner of Feast, an online cooking school:

Your customers don’t buy your product to do your company a favor. They’re doing it because your product makes their lives better. So if you want to sell something, you need to explain how you’re helping them.

And there is the key. Empathizing with the reader and keeping their needs foremost in your mind as you write.

At Certa Publishing, we are confident that our authors have tremendous potential to offer much-needed resources to a world in need. We want nothing more than to partner with you to create a book that shares truth and offers real hope and help to those who need it. Contact us today to see how we can help you make this happen.

 

The Quick & Easy Guide to Writing a Bio

quick & easy guide (1)

Write a 40,000-word manuscript?

No problem!

Write a concise Amazon author bio?

Yikes!

Isn’t it funny how authors can struggle with some of the most basic writing tasks while excelling at those others would balk at? No worries. We’re here with a great post from the Grammarly blog titled How to Write an Online Bio — With Short, Professional, and Other Examples.

Enjoy this excerpt:

Which three words would you use to explain your personality to a stranger?

If you could only think of “human with face,” or “professional needs job,” you’ve come to the right place. Learning how to write a bio is not easy; defining yourself in a few words even less so. But never fear—you can do it! Taking a few minutes to think about what you’re about isn’t just a great writing exercise, it’s a clarifying moment of personal development. Here are a few ways you can get started on your professional, website, LinkedIn, or short bio.

What to Include in a Short Bio

When most people think of online bios, they probably can readily name a few common short bio examples first. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest all have space for a short description of who you are and what you do. And you should make the most of the 1-2 lines you’re afforded here. Keep your social media bios short, sweet, and only filled with the most important things a stranger should know about you, such as:

  • Your name
  • Your current role
  • Your ultimate goal
  • Your biggest achievement

What to Include in a Professional Bio

Professional sites like LinkedIn, AngelList, or a speaker bio on an event site all have space for a bio or summary section. For each of these, you’ll probably want to write a mid-length description of both your current role, professional aspirations, and biggest achievements. Professional bios allow you to go into a bit more detail than short social media bios, especially on LinkedIn. It’s generally a good idea to include:

  • Your name
  • Your current role or professional tagline
  • Your company or personal brand
  • Your goals and aspirations
  • Your 2-3 most impressive and relevant achievements
  • One quirky fact about you (if it’s appropriate to the site)
  • What to Include in a Bio at Work
  • Writing a bio for your company’s website, HR system, or Slack instance? Be sure to give your coworkers a sense of both your professional expertise—and your personality!

You should include anything you’d include in a professional bio in a bio for your company, but don’t be afraid to personalize it with a few personal details. Have a hobby you love? A favorite book? A professional hero you look up to? Add them to give your coworkers a sense of who you are before they work with you.

What to Include in a Bio On Your Website

The “About” section of any personal website can be a slog. A drain. A hassle. You’ve already created a whole website about yourself, so it can be difficult to muster the strength to write that final description of who you are and what you’re about.

But never fear! Your website bio doesn’t need to be complicated, it just needs context on who you are and what you’ve done. This is an open, larger space, so you have room to list a few accomplishments and give context on why they’re important. You can also add a short paragraph about who you are outside of your nine-to-five. For this type of bio, you may also want to include a contact form or email, to help prospective clients, employers, or collaborators get in touch. If you do, be sure to include a clear call-to-action for your reader to contact you.

An Easy Bio Template

Even after you understand different types of bios, it can be difficult to get started. The words may not be flowing, you might not fully understand how your professional bio will be used, or you might just be stuck. Never fear! Here’s a bio recipe you can use across most sites.

  • Your first and last name: Start by writing your name. That wasn’t so hard!
  • Your company or brand: If you have a consulting firm, a brand you use for your side hustle, or a company you currently work at, list that next.
  • Your current function: What do you do for work? You can either list your current title or a short, descriptive phrase about your role here.
  • Your north star: People reading your bio will also want to get a sense of who you are. Listing your overall goal, values, or a statement that describes your ethos will help them get to know you, even in short bios.
  • Your top three accomplishments: Especially in professional bios, you’ll need a few accomplishments to show off what you’ve done in your career. Choose the top two or three large milestones from your career (no more), and put them next.
  • Your cute closer (optional): This may not be necessary in a shorter bio for Twitter or Instagram. But for a website or similarly professional bio, you may want to add a sentence describing who you are outside of work.
  • Your contact info (optional): Depending on the site, you may also want to include an email, contact form, or another easy way for readers to reach you. List this information at the end of your bio.

The Polished Professional Bio: Yuriy Timen’s LinkedIn

 

LinkedIn summaries can read like either a list of accomplishments or a list of professional interests. Yuriy’s is neither. Instead, he explains his professional goals and lists his major accomplishment—building Grammarly’s user base.

The Website Bio Whiz: Jamie McKelvie’s Website

One could marvel at the efficiency of Jamie’s professional website bio. Using a descriptive headline about his work and a short list of only his most recognizable accomplishments, Jamie is able to sum up several projects in a relatively small space.

4 Quick Tips on Writing About Yourself

Even with all of this information on how to write a bio, it might still be difficult to write about yourself. Even for the most confident person, self-promotion can be exhausting. But never fear! There are a few ways you can keep your “about me” writing on point—without pulling your hair out.

Tip #1: Don’t Overthink It

Bios are usually formulaic—and that’s okay! For most professional bios, LinkedIn summaries, and speaker bios at events, you won’t need to stray from the norm too much to stand out. Even adding an adjective that shows your personality or an unusual accomplishment can make your bio different from the crowd. You don’t need to create the next Between The World And Me to write a killer bio.

Tip #2: Remember Your Worth

Writing a bio on a site like Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn can be daunting because there are already so many fantastic bios (and people!) out there. But don’t fall prey to bio comparison! Your story is only yours to tell, and it has value. Focus on staying authentic to your truth, and don’t worry about others’.

Tip #3: When In Doubt, Borrow

Bios can be repetitive, sometimes even tedious. So if you find a structure you like and think sounds unique, borrow it! You should never copy a person’s bio—after all, it’s their story, not yours—but you can mimic the structure if you’re feeling stuck.

Tip #4: Get Writing Help

You’re not alone in your quest to create a bio that stands out. Grammarly is here to help you choose powerful adjectives, clean up hedging language, and make your LinkedIn stand out.

Even after this great info, you may find yourself stuck. That’s where Certa Publishing can help. We can help you curate not only your author bios on various platforms, but also a comprehensive marketing strategy. Contact us today to find out how we can partner with you.

The Greatest Story That Almost Wasn’t Told

 

Screenshot 2019-04-20 at 3.49.10 PM

Many of us have grandfathers and great grandfathers who served in a war. From Korea to Normandy to Hanoi, they lived, fought and struggled on our behalf. Yet far too many of us know far too little of their stories. If someone asked you to recount the details of your forefather’s service, how much could you retell? Sadly in most families, the narrative of these aged warriors are passing away as they do. How terribly sad.

Thankfully our digital age allows us to recover a portion of these stories through online public records and services like Ancestry.com. Most families have an aunt, grandma or cousin who’ve taken on the noble duty of discovering and preserving their history, both recent and ancient. Yet, despite their best efforts, there are precious details that will never be uncovered. Many stories have gone to the grave with our ancestors.

Now think for a moment if the same had happened to the story of the resurrection. What if the Gospel writers had never picked up their pens to describe that glorious morning? It’s easy to imagine that this great narrative might have taken a similar course as that of our families’ histories. Sure, an oral record would have remained for a few generations. Yes, there would have been some faithful members of Jesus’ lineage who would have attempted to preserve a few relics and write down a few meaningful anecdotes. But like the details of your great grandfather’s purple heart or of your grandmother’s service with the Red Cross, much would have faded away with time.

For this reason, we should all be immensely grateful to Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and the others who took the time to created a detailed account of what happened that fateful morning. They certainly had plenty of reasons not to write. Chief among them is the persecution that was occurring during the likely time of the Gospel writing. The infamous Roman emperor Nero was particularly cruel to the emerging church and his reign overlaps the timeframe when most, if not all of the Gospels were being written. History records that a devastating fire broke out in Rome in AD 64, which is now named the Great Fire of Rome. Countless residences, structures, and temples were burned as the fire raged for over a week. Several trusted historians, such as Pliny the Elder, Suetonius, and Cassius Dio blame Nero for intentionally setting the fire. Nero, in turn, blamed the Christians and used the opportunity to maliciously persecute the fledgling religion. In his book Nero, Edward Champlain states that during this time Christians were “being thrown to the beasts, crucified, and being burned alive.”1 Yes, this is the type of environment that many first century writers found themselves in. One can’t help but contrast their writing environment to our own. How many of us have put off our writing because Starbucks was too crowded or we wanted another hour of sleep? Our excuses surely pale in comparison!

With this context in mind, our gratitude to these brave men must surely increase. This Easter morning as we join our congregation to read the story of Jesus’ resurrection, let us take a moment to appreciate the courage and commitment of their authors. It is due to their valiant efforts that the greatest story ever told is still being told. And for this, we must be forever grateful!

As you pursue your writing goals this week, we hope that you will reflect on the stories you want to tell. No, the stories the Lord wants to tell. The ones he wants preserved for generations. These stories matter and your time and sacrifice to write them are worth the effort.


1 Edward Champlin, Nero, (Harvard University Press, 2005), 77.

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

coverdesign

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.