5 Things Your Editor Wishes You Knew

Blog 5 things

We can hardly over-emphasize the benefit you will receive from a productive, understanding relationship with a quality editor. And yet many writers struggle to achieve this partnership. Imagine you sat down with an editor for an honest conversation. Here are a few things you might hear:

1. I’m on your side

It’s human nature. When someone criticizes your work, you recoil. Get defensive. Push them away. And yet you asked me for this criticism. You even paid me to do it! So please keep in mind that I am on your side. As I mark the text, strikeout sentences and even question entire chapters of your manuscript, I only do so for your best interest. The sooner you can adopt this perspective, the sooner we can move forward as a team toward the best version of your work.

In a recent article, Alexandra Samuel of the Harvard Business Review Press wrote,

Think of your editor as a therapist for your writing — someone who is actually going to help you think, argue and write better. You wouldn’t go to a therapist hoping to hold onto all your crazy issues…so bring the same attitude to your editor, and get excited about the idea that someone is going to pay real attention to your writing, and help make it better.

2. Be on time

If you’ve agreed to send me something by next Thursday, chances are that I’ve scheduled time that day or the next to review the submission. So when you’re late, it’s as if you’ve missed an appointment. Please extend the same courtesy to your editor that you would any colleague with whom you’ve made an appointment. Be on time as often as possible and give ample notice when you will be late.

3. I know my stuff

If I say you need a comma there… you need a comma there. If I critique your constant use of passive voice, it’s because… you’ve over-used the passive voice. Let’s decide early on that you are the expert at your topic, content, and narrative, and that I am the expert at grammar, structure, and voice. Can there be give and take? Of course. But if you are going to question every em dash and semicolon, this is going to be a long road.

Again, refer to my first point. I am on your side, even if my edits seem strict and numerous. Blake Atwood of the Write Life speaks of editors this way:

Their edits may be short, direct and bereft of personality, but that concision and clarity prove their expertise. In most cases, they can make a definitive edit because they know it’s correct, or, at least, they’ve verified that it’s correct.

4. I can only work with facts

Editors are used to finding grammar, structure, and flow errors. What we don’t like to find are factual mistakes. Please fact-check your work before you send it to me. Once I find these types of errors, I can’t go on and the process comes to a halt.

In a recent article for Media Bistro, Amanda Layman Low spoke to several editors and recounted the following:

Chandra Turner, executive editor of Parents magazine, says that nothing drives an editor crazier than reading a wonderful piece and having it fall apart in fact checking. Writers, she says, “should source all their content. Have your backup for everything that you’ve written.”

Trust me. It’s better to find these mistakes in the writing process than for a reader to find them and tell everyone in their Amazon review. Be vigilant about accuracy and we will both benefit.

5. I’m your first reader

“You know what you mean.” I don’t. I come at your work with fresh eyes, just like your readers will. If you sound self-important, I’ll notice. If you get awkwardly personal, I’ll squirm. If you assume I know more than I do about your field of expertise, I will sense that.

Let me offer that perspective and ways to fix what’s off. Remember, I’m here for you. It’s my job to protect you from what you may not see, and to help you remedy the problem.

Did you know that Certa Publishing has professional, expert editors on staff? We would love to take a look at your manuscript and discuss how we can partner with you to bring your work to fruition. Contact us today.

 

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Stop beating yourself up

Blog Stop beating yourself up

Self-criticism will sabotage your writing career at every turn. You simply must get it under control. This is especially true for those of us who have put our faith in the saving grace of Jesus Christ. Knowing we are sons and daughters of God requires us to silence the negative self-speak with the truth of His Word:

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!  (1 John 3:1)

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart. (Jeremiah 1:5)

Author and communications consultant RiShawn Biddle wrote on this very subject in a recent post for Michael Hyatt’s blog, titled Stop Being Your Own Worst Critic, which we have excerpted here:

Does this one ring a bell? You, reader, are your own worst critic. Your penchant for nitpicking every detail and harshly critiquing your accomplishments makes it difficult for you to make progress or sometimes even get simple work done.

If it doesn’t apply to you or someone close to you, then you have a great day. If it does, then read on, Macduff.

What your inner self-critics needs to do is learn is that focusing on your strengths is a better pathway to success than fixating on weaknesses. Take these three steps and you will become your best critic and champion.

1. Realize you are more than enough

Self-criticism is normal and even healthy in small doses. But as the saying goes, the dose makes the poison. When you always approach your work with negativity, it’s paralyzing. It also makes you more susceptible to criticism from others who may not have your best interests at heart.

You need to know that much of the criticism in your head has no resemblance to what you are actually doing in real time. More often than not, you are more than enough to tackle the task at hand.

Realizing you are enough starts by applying Apple Founder Steve Jobs’s famed adage that “you can only connect [the dots] looking backward.” Often, it means looking at your past successes, as well as previous pitfalls, and how they can help you tackle the challenges ahead.

2. Stop with the negative talk

Self-criticism starts with negative words. It’s not just the I-can’ts and the not-good-enoughs. Every time you critique a meaningless detail, or nitpick a perfectly good presentation, you put yourself on the path to lifelong self-sabotage.

Simply ignoring the words of criticism isn’t enough. You must combat them with affirmations of your capacity to succeed. This starts at the end of the day by looking at the big picture of success as well as listing and reciting I cans, I ams, and even I wills — affirming your ability to achieve. By affirming these things before going to bed, you get ready for success the next day.

Another strategy is to embrace the concept of good enough. Along the lines of what Wired revealed about what consumers wanted, your colleagues expect your projects be successful, simple, economical, not perfect. Once you change your expectations of what you should do, you become less self-critical.

Finally, write down your past successes so you can reference them every now and then. Even the simplest signposted achievement can cause you to feel positive about your ability to succeed in the future. Those positive words can crowd out the negative words stuck on repeat in your head.

3. Keep building your strengths

One reason why we are so self-critical is that we become fixated on our shortcomings. It becomes easier to focus on what we lack rather on our considerable skills and successes.

This is a mistake. Fixating on weaknesses takes precious time needed from building upon the strengths you already have.

More often than not, your shortcomings are the flip sides of those very strengths you already possess. Lacking a master’s degree, for example, may be the reason why you put so much time mastering your work. Your blunt speaking is the result of your leadership skills. Your stumbles in public speaking are matched by your considerable rhetorical skills as a writer.

Put your energy into building up your strengths. That includes learning more about your strengths as well as the key tools you will need to get better. And learn to tout these strengths instead of talking about your shortcomings.

What you say will affect how you think about yourself. At some point it will probably dawn on you that you were more than enough, after all.

If you find yourself in the text of this article, we hope that you will take its advice to heart, as well as the truths of what God says about you.

At Certa Publishing, we hate the thought of any of our authors beating themselves up through self-criticism. We believe in you and what God has put within you! If you need encouragement today, please reach out.

Stop Writing & Start Reading

Stop writing

We don’t have to tell you that the digital world we live in doesn’t lend itself well to reading books. Especially good books. You know those. The type that you have to chew on slowly. That sometimes require a dictionary or even a concordance. The books that hold weight and substance. The books that make a lasting change in your life.

Instead, we consume tweets, Instagram quotes, 700-word blog posts (like this!), easy reading self-help books, and beguiling fiction that are offered to us in a limitless buffet.

Laura Miller of Slate describes the trend this way:

Books are the intellectual equivalent of slow food; you know it’s better for you and tastes better, too, but you’re too rushed and frantic to care as you white-knuckle it through an avalanche of push alerts.

If we aren’t proactive, we may find those “slow food” books harder and harder to read and easier and easier to neglect.

As you can imagine, we find this trend disturbing for the general population. However, we find it exceptionally disturbing when writers only consume that which is easy. There is a tremendous benefit in doing the work of reading well. And yes, it can be work. Choosing C.S. Lewis over Danielle Steele is tough. Picking up Chesterton instead of the latest Fox News host’s release is hard. However, we believe you will see the benefit—not only in the knowledge you will gain—but in your writing as well.

Karen Swallow Prior, an English professor at Liberty University in Virginia, recently authored On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life Through Great Books, a book extolling the virtues of… well… reading well.  In a recent interview with Christianity Today, Mrs. Prior explains how choosing good books can actually cultivate virtue in our lives:

Reading good literature well is in itself a practice of virtue. Literary art—as opposed to words strung together to communicate facts and information—requires the exercise of the imagination, the practice of patience, the delay of gratification, and the sustaining of attention and intellectual rigor.

These are all activities that build character in ways in which mindlessly scrolling through a Twitter or Facebook timeline cannot. So simply the way we read literature in contrast to other kinds of reading cultivates virtue. Additionally, what we read contributes to virtue when we read timeless works that convey universal human experiences that transcend time, place, and social position.

In the book, I show how we can learn about diligence from John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, patience from Jane Austen’s Persuasion, justice from Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities—and much more.

So why does good reading create good writing? Here are 3 ways:

1. Imitation brings improvement

Raise your hand if you took music lessons as a kid. Now, thinking back to the early years of lessons, how often did your instructor ask you to compose your own piece of music? Probably never, right? Instead, you were given the great pieces of music to learn, practice, and eventually master. If you did reach the level of creating your own work, you were only able to do so because of the time you had spent with these great compositions.

Reading good writers has the same effect. We notice the vocabulary choices, the way the narrative is structured, how the emotions are evoked. And often these observations happen almost unconsciously (lest you think you must now read with a notebook and pen at the ready to take notes). No. As you ingest quality writing, your own work will naturally begin to imitate it.

2. Good books expand your perspective

No matter how hard you try, your book can only contain as much perspective as you possess as the author. It’s hard to write about public education if you were homeschooled or to write about the vegetarian lifestyle if bacon is your best friend. Good reading is a great way to broaden your horizons and “experience” life through the eyes of others. What is public education really like? How is it different than the stereotypes you may hold? What really motivates the vegetarian to choose that lifestyle? Reading opens the door on cultures, lifestyles, socio-economic situations, and upbringings, allowing you to write with confidence and clarity on these subjects.

3. A healthy diet is cleansing

Most of us have struggled through the first few weeks of a diet, as our body adjusts to healthier food and detoxes from the junk it is sorely missing. But then we reach the other side where we think, “I feel so much better! Why didn’t I do this a long time ago?”

Why do we feel better? Because our bodies are now being fueled instead of stymied. We are giving our system what it needs to perform at top efficiency.

Reading well does the same for our writing minds. It brings us back to what is true, virtuous and timeless. Karen Swallow Prior advises:

It is the challenge [of good books] that makes reading them so rewarding. They do more than kill time or amuse for a few moments. The best books linger in our minds and souls for days or even years.

For a while we may miss the hot takes and Facebook posts that used to occupy our reading time, but it won’t be long until we find our minds stimulated and our pens inspired.

At Certa Publishing, we want nothing more than to see our writers stimulated and inspired. How can we help you? Contact us today.

 

Who are you on social media?

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As a writer, your presence on social media is key. If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you’ve seen us discuss follower counts, Twitter, platforms, and social media in depth. Today we’re looking at who you are on social media. You’re probably thinking, “Um, I’m me. Who else would I be? And why are you asking me to be someone I’m not?” Think of it more like a persona or a character.

Still not sure? We’re going to let Christy Huggins of Eventbrite explain in this excerpt of her recent post for Grammarly.

Refining your personality on social media can be a daunting process.

Individuals and brands get into trouble trying to create an entirely new personality on their social media accounts. Social should be a channel for you to deliver and develop a personality—but not to create an entirely new one. That can come off as forced and inauthentic.

If you’re writing social content on behalf of a company or brand, finetuning your personality is about writing copy that taps into your followers’ emotions.

That’s why we teamed up with Grammarly [on a] project where we unveiled five characters that accounts like yours should embody on social media. Find the one that most aligns with your personal or brand voice, and discover the emotions you can inspire.

Character #1: The Cool Curator

We all have that one friend who’s always in the know—the early adopter of new apps and the person we turn to when we need fresh music recommendations. Everyone wants to hang out with her. We want what she’s got.

The types of things your team will post:

  • Behind-the-scenes and in-the-know details
  • Artist or guest speaker sneak peeks
  • Breaking industry news

The emotion you’re going for:

  • Excitement, novelty

Newport Folk Festival is the oldest and most well-known folk festival in the U.S. The brand’s social media presence taps into its deep connections with folk superstars new and old.

Character #2: The Trusted Advisor

When you need advice, you know that this person has done his research, weighed the pros and cons, and possesses innate wisdom. He’s your “expert” friend, and you trust him implicitly.

As a brand, this persona is a thought leader of its genre. If you’re a rock music festival, you’re the rock music festival. Or if you’re a yoga and mindfulness brand, you know how to prove your mettle.

The types of things you’ll post:

  • Insight on a theme, not just about your event or product
  • Friendly advice from well-known personalities
  • “Did you know?” tips

The emotion you’re going for:

  • Confidence

The 3% Conference shares career inspiration, articles with expert guidance, and job opportunities on their Twitter page, which has nearly 20,000 followers.

Character #3: The Feel-Good Friend

Sometimes, we just want to hang out with someone goofy and low-pressure. This is our friend who sees the humor in every situation and is always up for fun just for the sake of it. If this is your persona, your posts will run the gamut from whimsical to humorous, and will typically use bright colors and short, quippy text.

The types of things you’ll post:

  • Colorful images
  • Whimsical captions
  • Funny GIFs
  • Cool memes
  • Inspirational quotes

The emotion you’re going for:

  • Happiness

National pop-up, The Museum of Ice Cream, consistently uses bright, ice-cream-worthy colors and whimsical themes in its social media posts. 

Character #4: The Tempter

The tempter knows the best bars and most picturesque hiking locations. Whether a foodie, a travel inspirer, or a fashionista, his posts always make you want to splurge on something.

The types of things you’ll post:

  • Gorgeous, high-quality shots of refreshments and libations
  • Images and video of attendees enjoying themselves
  • First looks at new vendors

The emotion you’re going for:

  • Desire

 

Eat Drink SF’s social media pages are visual feasts, showcasing the best of San Francisco eats year round — not just when the annual festival approaches. 

Character #5: The Innovator

Your innovator friend is often a tech visionary or an artist. Whatever medium they belong to, one thing is always for sure—they do things their own way.

As a social media persona, the Innovator finds new ways to post and share content. Posts are eye-catching, with a certain spark that makes you want to know more.

The types of things you’ll post:

  • Images and video from new angles
  • Videos capturing unusual situations
  • Think pieces and articles

The emotion you’re going for:

  • Curiosity

San Francisco Ballet is a legendary ballet company, and its social media presence is equally creative. Shots like this are made up of individual posts chopped into sections, then pieced back together in the profile like a visual puzzle.

See, we knew you would understand! So, as a writer, what will your online persona be? Often writers make fabulous “trusted advisors” on their particular topic. However, you could certainly use any of these characters as a voice for your social media brand.

At Certa Publishing we are constantly amazed by the creativity of our writers. But what if the creative marketing juices just aren’t flowing? We’re here for you! Contact us today to learn more about our marketing services, including full-service social media management.

What is your writer’s toolbox missing?

What is your writer's toolbox missing_

 

Have you ever been working on a home project, then discovered a new tool or device that significantly streamlined the process or sped up the project? Such a eureka moment! What if such “tools” existed for writing?

The Writing Routines site recently posted Pens, Paper, and Processors: What 18 Bestselling Writer’s Use to Do The Work, which allows us to peek into the toolbox of some of our favorite authors. Enjoy this excerpt:

Microsoft Word or Google Docs? Or Both?

“I use a Mac with Word for Mac. I can’t work with anything else. The intuition built into the Apple lineage is my intuition. Whoever developed that way back when for Mac, it was built for people as computer dumb as me.”

 Steven Kotler, a New York Times bestselling author, an award-winning journalist and one of the world’s leading experts on ultimate human performance.

“I use Microsoft Word in part because I see no reason to change, but I probably also use Microsoft Word because I’m being lazy about change. I will say that I think Google Docs are an impediment to productivity. Anything that takes us online runs the risk of diverting our attention”

– Paul Shirley, former professional basketball player and author of Stories I Tell on Dates

“I have a love-hate relationship with Microsoft Word, which I use for all my book and script writing. The View/Outline feature allows me to expand and compress a document or move chapters or snippets of the material around with ease.”

 Dr. Barbara Oakley, bestselling author of A Mind for Numbers and former Army Captain

“I use separate Google Docs for each [working chapter] but there comes an important inflection point in my progress, where I begin to combine these independent chapters into one Word Document. I basically go from online writing to offline editing and re-writing.”

 Ryan Holidaybestselling authora ghost-writera columnistan essayist, a Grammy-award winning producer, and book marketer

SCRIVENER

“Scrivener has a set of tools that make long-arc writing projects super easy. I am a non-linear writer, meaning that I often write books from the inside-out, and Scrivener allows me to tackle sections of the book at a time and move them around later instead of having to work through the project in linear fashion. It also helps me stay on track by giving me a daily word count that keeps me on-course for my manuscript target.”

 Todd Henry, author of The Accidental CreativeDie EmptyLouder Than Wordsand Herding Tigers and is the creator and host of The Accidental Creative Podcast

I write books in Scrivener because I find it the easiest to jump around and organize ideas without having to incessantly scroll. That’s my style. I jump around a lot, from idea to idea, chapter to chapter. Then I go back and edit it to make it cohesive. I need a tool that satisfies that style of working.”

 Jeff Goins, Bestselling author of five books including Real Artists Don’t Starve and The Art of Work

EVERNOTE

“Evernote is hands down my most important tool as a writer. I spend a lot of time taking notes and organizing and outlining everything before I get down to composing.”

 Shane Snow, journalist, entrepreneur, bestselling author of Smartcutsand Dream Teams: Working Together Without Falling Apart.

“All day long, I capture ideas using the app Drafts. These get dumped into Evernote, where I have a folder full of ideas and prompts for when I’m feeling dry in the creativity department.”

 Jeff Goins, Bestselling author of five books including Real Artists Don’t Starve and The Art of Work

Not Just Any Pen

“I get out one of my quadrille ruled engineering pads and a sharpened Palomino Blackwing pencil (I keep a Staedtler manual pencil sharpener beside me), and I set out three short tasks. One of them is doing a Pomodoro (25 minutes) on whatever I’m writing.”

 Dr. Barbara Oakley, bestselling author of A Mind for Numbers and former Army Captain

“My favorite analog toolkit is a Blackwing 602 pencil and a Moleskine notebook. Because I think I’m living in the ’30s or something? I don’t know. But I love Blackwings so much that I have one tattooed on my inner arm.”

 Shane Snow, journalist, entrepreneur, bestselling author of Smartcutsand Dream Teams: Working Together Without Falling Apart.

“Pen and paper are lovely.  I’m fond of the Pentel EnerGel and the MiracleBind notebook by Blueline.”

– Jessica Bendinger, a screenwriter whose movies have grossed over $500 million worldwide. Her original script Bring It On debuted at #1 in the box office and remained there for two weeks.

“I often sketch things out by hand first. Small notebooks with soft covers. And I’ve been using the same blue Bic pens my whole adult life. I mean literally the same pens, not just the same type of pen. I bought one package at a CVS fifteen years ago and a handful are still good. They’re the clear plastic ones with the ridges, not the opaque white ones. I should write to Bic and tell them. I don’t know what I’ll do when they all run out.”

 Aaron Thier, Author of The Ghost AppleMr. Eternity, and The World is a Narrow Bridge and recipient of a literature fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

NOTECARDS

“During my research phase, my favorite tools are 4×6 notecards and these photo storage boxes. The entire book is outlined and organized on these cards and filed accordingly to which part, which subsection the thoughts or research on that card will be put towards. So each book will literally be made up of thousands of these cards, which are often synthesis from books I’ve read, interviews I’ve done, random thoughts I’ve had and so on. The cards are done by hand—pen, pencil, whatever is close.”

 Ryan Holiday, Ryan Holiday, bestselling authora ghost-writera columnistan essayist, a Grammy-award winning producer, and book marketer

“For books, I obsessively outline on index cards that I post on a large cork board in my office – each card represents a new scene, and that’s how I write chapters.”

 Bryan Mealer, author of The Kings of Big SpringMuck City and the New York Times bestseller The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

Pads

“Waiter’s pad for ideas. Why waiter’s pad? It’s cheap to get 100 of them. It’s not a big notebook so you can’t write a diary. just a list of ideas. And it’s always a conversation piece in meetings. “I’ll take fries with that burger” is a joke i hear ONE HUNDRED PERCENT of the time in meetings and then allows me to explain why I have a waiter’s pad.”

 James Altucher, author of Choose Yourself, listed as one of USA Today’s “Best Business Books of All Time,” and Reinvent Yourself, a #1 book overall on Amazon.com.

Bigger Pads

“[I was] introduced to the most elegant solution by a friend, the author Ashley Cardiff: A sketchpad. A 9-by-12-inch artist’s sketchpad. This has been my great revelation. It’s unlined so I can read my bad handwriting and large enough that I can group several ideas together on the same page. Plus, it gives me an excuse to buy fancy mechanical pencils.”

– Liana Maeby, author of South on Highland, which actor/writer BJ Novak called “the kind of book kids will steal from each other.”

Even Bigger Pads!

“For outlining and structuring a book or even a chapter, I often use a giant pad of paper, the kind that sits on an easel. They’re not cheap (about $30 for 100 sheets) but they allow a view of an entire storyboard or outline at a single glance, and have room for all kinds of arrows, exclamation points, and other notes. I got this idea from a film producer I know who keeps storyboards of his projects on the wall of his office. The ability to see a story represented as a whole – without needing to advance screens or flip pages—has been a revelation to me.”

 Robert Kurson, author of New York Times bestselling books, Shadow Divers and Pirate Hunters

Whether you prefer Word over Docs or pencils over BIC pens, we hope you’ve been inspired to add a few new tools to your writer’s toolkit.

At Certa Publishing we desire to equip our writers with all the tools and resources you need to bring your manuscript to life. How can we help you today? We’d love to hear from you.

Elisabeth Elliot: An author profile

elisabethelliot

A life detoured

She was not an aspiring author and yet her anthology of work persists today among the greats of Christian literature. No, Elisabeth Elliot’s early aspirations didn’t include bestseller lists or writing and speaking circuits, and yet, that is how her life evolved.

What happened?

Tragedy.

After her marriage to Jim Elliot in 1953, Elisabeth’s new husband and his colleagues followed God’s call to the unreached Auca people of Ecuador. Their attempt to evangelize this remote tribe ended quickly in martyrdom, as the Aucas speared them to death in the jungle.

Elisabeth’s response to this immense tragedy stunned her family, friends, and still stuns anyone newly introduced to her story. She chose to stay in Ecuador with her 10-month-old daughter, living with a native tribe and learning the language of the Acau. Elisabeth and her young daughter eventually received the welcome from the Acau tribe that her husband had been denied, and went on to live with and serve them for several years.

While in Ecuador, Elisabeth began to tell her story with the pen and wrote Through Gates of Splendor (an account of her husband’s tragic end), Shadow of the Almighty (a biography of her husband), and The Savage, My Kinsmen (a summary of her own time among the Aucas).

Upon her return to the United States in 1963, the widowed missionary continued to tell her story through books and speeches, providing inspiration and courage to an entire generation of women and missionaries.

Her story is your story

Your life’s narrative may not include spears, unreached people groups, or martyrdom. But your story is more similar to Ms. Elliot’s than you think. Your current circumstances surely include events, tragedies, twists, and turns that you never anticipated in your early life. Divorce, death, miscarriage, financial loss, ministry setbacks, and illness all steer our lives in unexpected directions. Like Elisabeth Elliot, many of us have found ourselves forced to respond to detours we could have never anticipated.

And yet, it is from these life detours that our greatest impact can be made. Ms. Elliot’s work has reached far and wide to affect millions of readers, whose faith has been built up by her testimony.

Joshua Harris, author of the bestseller I Kissed Dating Goodbye, recounts the effect Ms. Elliot’s work had on him in his article for the Washington Post titled How Elisabeth Elliot messed up my love life:

My mother had given me a copy of “Passion & Purity” [by Elisabeth Elliot] and asked me to read it. I was immediately suspicious… So I skimmed the book to appease my mom and tossed it aside…

But after a few years of frustration with my own approach to dating (and without the pressure of my mom forcing me to read it) I picked up Elliot’s book again. This time it changed my life. I read the story of Jim and Elisabeth — two people who were passionately in love and yet chose to put Jesus first. Before their romantic longings. Before their own timetable for marriage. Before their sexual desires…

I guess a lot of people who read her writing would consider it all very backward and old-fashioned, but when I read it I can’t shake the sense that this woman had a real relationship with a glorious God. And then chose to cut the crap and take God seriously in every part of her life. I love that about her. I need her directness. I think our whole generation of evangelicals needs her directness…

Five years after I dissed Elliot’s book, I was 21 and typing with trembling hands a letter to her to ask if she’d be willing to review the unpublished manuscript of a book I was writing called “I Kissed Dating Goodbye.”

I’ll never forget the day I received a typed, postcard reply from her. It read: “Bravissimo! I applaud your forthrightness, courage, God-given conviction, and ability to articulate a message that is desperately needed.” I still have that little note taped in a journal. Her encouragement fueled me to keep writing. And helped me to sell my book to a publisher and not a few readers.

Upon Elisabeth’s death in 2015, famed pastor and author John Piper wrote a remembrance piece about her life, in which he recounted a journal entry that he had written in 1997:

This morning, as I jogged and listened to a message by Elisabeth Elliot which she had given in Kansas City, I was deeply moved concerning my own inability to suffer magnanimously and without pouting. She was vintage Elliot and the message was the same as ever: Don’t get in touch with your feelings, submit radically to God, and do what is right no matter what. Put your love life on the altar and keep it there until God takes it off. Suffering is normal. Have you no scars, no wounds, with Jesus on the Calvary road?

These two testimonials offer just a minuscule representation of the impact Ms. Elliot has had upon the Body of Christ. Yet this was only possible because she chose to embrace her life’s detour and use her pen and voice to build the faith of her audience.

Will you make the same choice? Will you embrace your detour and the opportunity it offers you to share the Gospel and encourage the Body? Certa Publishing has the unique opportunity to offer Christian authors a platform for their message. Contact us today so that we can partner with you.

Author Websites: Everything else you need to know

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Having a dedicated author website is more important than you think. It offers credibility, access and a one-stop resource for your readers. But where do you start?

Last week we shared part of Kimberly Grabas’ post entitled 11 Author Website Must Have Elements, which clearly lays out everything you need to set up the perfect site.

We discussed the need for:

  • A good first impression
  • About/bio page
  • Contact information
  • Email sign-up/updates
  • Testimonials

Here is the remainder of her advice:

6. Social Media

There are two areas to focus on when it comes to social media and your site. The first, is to provide visitors the ability to find and follow you on your various social media platforms.

To encourage follows and Likes, add links to your social media profiles (Twitter, Facebook) on your Homepage, About page, and Contact page. Then ask people to follow or Like you. It’s just crazy enough to work. Let’s try it

The second area to focus on regarding social media, is making it super easy for people to share your site and your content with others. To do this:

  • Write amazing content
  • Add a sharing plugin to every page on your site, so visitors can share your pages via all the major social networks.

The free plugin I use on YWP is called SumoMe, but there are many to choose from.

7. Books, Products and Services

Depending on what you have to offer, you may have separate pages for your books, products and services, or combine everything in one. For books, include a large cover shot, an enticing blurb and clear details on purchase options (with links).

You may want to feature your current project on your Homepage. Provide a link to your Book page for visitors to get additional information about the book, get some behind-the-scenes info or promotional materials. (A press/media Kit for each book would be ideal).

Tip: If your books are available on Amazon, join Amazon Associates and you will be provided a code to link your book. You will also get a percentage of whatever a buyer purchases after they click your link–even if it’s not your book (lets hope it’s a T.V.). Once you have signed up for an account, type in your book title. When your title pops up, click “get link”, and Amazon will give you a variety of options to customize your link. Just copy and paste that code where you want it on your site (sidebar, Book page), and your book will show up with a buy link.

8. A Blog

Websites with blogs get 55% more traffic than websites with no blog. As well, having a blog creates fresh, additional pages of content which is great for SEO (Search Engine Optimization).

If your goals are to be seen by more people, drive potential book buyers back to your site, and establish yourself as an industry authority and thought leader, you need to include a blog on your site.

Here are a few more additional benefits:

  • You can entice your current and future fans with exclusive, unpublished content, inside information and downloadable extras, like sample chapters.
  • Readers find it especially appealing to find out who their favourite author reads or recommends. This is often a missed opportunity to not only engage with your readers, but network with and support your peers. No matter how famous, everyone loves recognition and appreciation, so share the love! This is also a great way to get inbound links–other sites linking back to your site. This too, increases your importance in the eyes of Google.
  • Utilize your blog’s comment section to converse and engage with your audience. You can even encourage interaction between your readers by encouraging them to comment or reply to each others comments.
  • You can have excerpts of your most recent blog posts on your Homepage, which will dynamically update each time you publish. This keeps the content on your Homepage fresh, and encourages people to return for more.
  • A blog gives you the freedom to add additional content and bonuses (see below) without cluttering up your Homepage.

9. Appearances/Speaking Engagements/Latest News/Events

Include a section or page on your site that allows you to inform your fans of your whereabouts and upcoming events. Include things like:

  • Latest News/Events: interviews, blog mentions, reviews and other media coverage items you can share with your audience.
  • Appearances: book readings and signings, speaking engagements, interviews, conferences and professional events, workshops and so on, so your fans can find out the details and attend.

10. Press Page/Media Kit

The purpose of a press page or media kit is to easily provide the media, or anyone wishing to profile you, with the info they need to feature you in their piece.

The contents of a press kit will vary, but here are some of the basics of what you should include:

  • Basic author bio, including contact info.
  • Author photo (use a professional-looking headshot), and any additional photos that can be used when writing about the book.
  • Information about the book, including a sample review, sample chapters.
  • Press release.
  • Testimonials.

The simplest way to make your media kit available is to turn the contents into a PDF. Provide a brief description and a link on a page on your site. Make it easy to find, and consider carrying around a few hardcopies at conferences/events, in case you receive a request for a copy.

11. Bonuses/Extras

Get the creative juices flowing! There are many fantastic ways to build value into your website for your readers and to keep them coming back for more.

  • You can include a slideshow of photographs, sketches, illustrations of characters and locations in your book, and other meaningful images.
  • Add other multimedia like audio files, a podcast, YouTube video and video trailers.
  • Additional research material.
  • If you are an expert in your field, and your book is an extension of your career, include things that spring from the larger context of your work and experience.
  • Younger fans are often interested in contests, games and prizes (autographed books).
  • An author’s favourite book, music, and movie recommendations are also fan favourites, so include these and some of your other influences.
  • Include sneak peeks, additional content that isn’t in your books, main character bios, extra chapters, alternate character POV’s and any other bits that didn’t make the cut. Your readers will love it!

At Certa Publishing, we believe that our authors’ content has the power to transform lives and communities, so we are passionate about people finding your books. An author website is absolutely essential to your marketing. If you still feel intimidated by the process, we would love to help. We can either tweak what you already have or help you find the perfect partner to create one from start to finish. Contact us today!

Author websites: Everything you need to know

authorwebsites

 

We have some bad news. Even if you have the world’s greatest social media interactions and thousands of newsletter subscribers, you’re still missing a key marketing component: the author website.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that a killer Facebook page or YouTube channel can take the place of an author website. Having a dedicated URL means something to readers and publishers.

It means:

  • You’re the real deal and that you’re here for the long haul
  • There is an ever-ready source of information about you and your books
  • There is a reliable way to contact you
  • Your content and style can be previewed before someone buys your book

So what should your author site look like? What content is most important? We’re glad you asked! Kimberly Grabas authored the post 11 Author Website Must Have Elements, which we suggest for anyone beginning to build their site.

This week we are excerpting Ms. Grabas’ first 5 essential author website elements here:

1. Designing Your Author Website: Ensure a Good First Impression

Your author website is an essential piece to the successful book marketing puzzle, but as always, first impressions matter. It is tempting to just get something up quickly, that requires little cost, and get back to the joyful torture of writing your novel.

However, while it’s certainly possible to set up your website quickly and with relatively little expense, it is extremely important to remember that your website represents who you are and what you have to offer.

A website will help to increase not only your book’s visibility across the internet, but yours as well. In many cases, it may be your future fans first impression of you–especially if you have not yet published. Make sure that your site reinforces the image you wish to portray.

With your author brand in mind, ask yourself the following questions about your current or new author website:

  • Will people know what I write within seconds?
  • Does the voice, tone, attitude and mood of the site resonate with my ideal reader?
  • Will they understand the page they are on and what it’s about?
  • Will they know what to do next?
  • Does the site appear credible?
  • Is it clear why they should buy my book or subscribe to free updates?
  • What does the site provide the reader?

Just like it’s important to have fresh eyes editing your novel, ask others for their answers to the above questions and get their opinions on the first impressions your site gives rise to. You might be surprised at their answers!

As you design your site, keep both aesthetics and functionality in mind. You don’t need to run out and hire a $12,000 designer to have a professional looking site, but do keep the following in mind:

  • Your site should look clean and uncluttered. Less is more, especially in your sidebar. And white space is your friend.
  • Your site is polished, legible (go for clear, not clever) and spell checked. Choose larger font sizes and colors that are easy to read. Light fonts on dark backgrounds or minimal contrast between font color and backgrounds are difficult to read.
  • Keep navigation easy and clear, so your readers can find the important stuff.
  • Use color to draw attention to select elements. For example, pick one color to be your “action” color. Whenever you want a reader to take action by clicking a link or subscribing, ensure you use that color only for the link or button, and no where else.
  • Avoid a chaotic mix of colors. Instead pick two to four colors for your design template and don’t try to make everything stand out–then nothing will.
  • Avoid anything unnecessary like Flash (Apple currently doesn’t support Flash), animated backgrounds or music. If your site takes a long time to load, or doesn’t work on a mobile device (iPad), you will lose a large number of visitors to your site.
  • Keep elements consistent from page to page.
  • Is your site branded for longevity? Is it book/genre specific or limiting, given your future writing plans? You do not want to rebrand or redesign the next time you publish.
  • Remember, your site has to be compatible with different browsers and devices, so check how things look on multiple browsers, tablets and phones.
  • Create content that is useful, engaging and well organized. Your posts and copy must be easy to scan. (Ugh, I know! As a fellow writer who bleeds over every word, I feel your pain!) People read differently online, so use bulleted lists, section headers and short paragraphs to convey your message, and learn the importance of writing a magnetic headline.

2. About/Bio Page

About pages are among the most frequently visited pages on the internet. Your readers want to know more about you, and this is the place to tell them.

Even as a visitor is delving into what you’re all about, what they are really thinking is WIIFM? (What’s in it for me?) Keep this in mind as you incorporate some of these ideas into your about page:

  • Consider having a professional headshot and short blurb from your homepage with a link to your About page for more information.

1. Start with a persuasive headline, that lets your visitor know what they can expect.

2. Reassure your readers that they are in the right place and tell them what your site will give them.

3. Strengthen your credibility with some testimonials, reader quotes or other forms of social proof (more on this below).

4. Tell your personal story. Frame your content around what led you to writing, why you write the kind of books you do, what you love about it. Make sure your personality shines through! You can also include your writing credentials and professional associations.

5. If a visitor gets to this point in your about page, you’ve got them interested. Ask them to join your email list, and provide a link to your books, services or other products.

Here are more ideas:

  • What do you want to know about your favourite author? Include that.
  • Keep your About page and Bio up to date.
  • Link to your Media Kit/Press page if you have one.
  • Be personal, but be careful not to over share; stay professional.

3. Contact Information

It’s surprising how difficult authors will make it for their readers (media, agents, publishers…) to contact them. There might be a tiny email address buried at the bottom of their website or noted on some obscure page deep within their blog. DO NOT make your visitors hunt for your contact information!

If your goal is to engage with your readers online, don’t play hard to get.

Make it as easy as possible for someone to get a hold of you. Here’s what to do:

  • Have a contact tab in your top main menu that leads to a page with your preferred ways to be contacted. Don’t list every possible way you can be found, just the best ways. If you use a contact form, make sure it’s simple and you’re only asking for the info you require to get back to that person. If you note your email address, use yourname[dot]com to avoid spam harvesters. 
  • You can also encourage your readers to get in touch with you via the social platform(s) you are most active on.
  • Provide multiple ways for people to contact, follow and Like you. It’s not your readers’ job to find you. It’s your job to be where your readers are.

4. Email Sign Up/Updates

It is never too early to start collecting email subscribers. Early sign ups are the most likely to be your biggest fans and most ardent supporters. These are the people that will forward your new releases and insider updates to their friends, evangelize you on Twitter, attend your events or push up your sales rank on Amazon when they hurry to get your new book.

I highly recommend using Aweber to manage your email list. Using a high quality, industry leader for your email list management is important to ensure your emails get to your fans and not their spam boxes. It’s easy to use, with tons of step by step videos, and very helpful customer service if you get stuck. And putting your form on your site is as easy as copying and pasting.

A few additional tips:

  • Don’t panic! You do not have to produce a newsletter every week. Catherine Ryan Howard at Catherine, Caffeinated makes a point of letting you know up front that “nothing much happens… an email about once a month will cover it…” Just keep in mind that you should not be ‘selling’ something every time (and the only time) you contact your subscribers.
  • Just an email address, or first name and email address is enough info. You don’t want to scare people off by asking for more.
  • Your email optin box should be bigger and bolder than other elements on the page, but don’t overdo it.
  • Make all links and buttons your ‘action’ color (as above). And make sure your links and buttons look clickable.
  • Consider including a signup incentive, like a promo code for your latest book, a bonus chapter, a sneak preview of your next book, or a free chapter from a different character’s POV.

5. Testimonials

Social proof, testimonials and positive quotes from fans and reviewers can go a long way in increasing your credibility and authority with visitors to your author website.

Place real, short and powerful testimonials on your site. Include positive reviews, quotes from fan mail, notable media coverage, and if you have a significant following on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Wattpad and so on, note it.

Great locations for your fan testimonials are your About page, Homepage and on your sidebar, just under your email sign up form.

Come back next week for the remainder of this comprehensive list of must-have author website elements.

Keep in mind that Certa Publishing is here to help, no matter where you are in the process of building your author site. We can recommend who to partner with for website design or simply look over the one you’ve already built. We’d love to hear from you!

Be the Boss of Your Punctuation

be the boss of your punctuation

 

As you write, you likely hear your English teacher’s voice in your head, constantly fussing at you. However, there are advantages of being out of grade school, including the freedom to play with punctuation.

Recently the Creative Penn blog posted an article titled Punctuation Without Tears: 4 Tips For Professional Punctuation, which we hope will liberate you a bit and help to turn down the volume on the bossy grammar lady in your ear.

All writers feel anxious about punctuation.

Here are my top tips for getting to grips with punctuation once and for all.

1. Forget the Old Rules

First up, forget the old rules. This might sound a bit radical, but it’s not really. Most of the old rules relate to a rather stilted, formal English, which is now long gone. Today’s English is far freer, and so is its punctuation.

Take the following example:

Vector loaded the Squid Launcher. He licked his lips with anticipation. He would show them. All of them. Tonight.

A school teacher thirty years ago would have had kittens, fulminating that the final two sentences are abominations. He or she would have scored them through with a red pencil, insisting that every sentence must have a subject and a verb.

But today — in all honesty — no one cares. There is no requirement to write in full sentences anymore, and it’s liberating. You can create great effects. Like this. Or this. Ha!

So, Tip #1 is to cleanse and declutter your mind of the old rules that once filled impenetrable grammar books. You need to know a few of the most basic principles, but the majority are now irrelevant and of historical interest only.

2. Be Creative with Your Punctuation

There are only three things you can put on a page: letters, punctuation, and spaces.

That’s not a lot, really, out of which to conjure up worlds of fiction and non-fiction.

In fact, this is such a limited group of tools that, as a writer, you need to give the same degree of creative thought to each of them. What do I mean? Well, read this:

All sorts of things get stuck in Wookie fur: duct tape, intergalactic dust, and small mammals.

And then this:

All

sorts

of things

get stuck

in Wookie fur —

duct tape

intergalactic dust

and small

mammals

The words are identical. The only difference is the punctuation and spacing, which have made the two texts radically different.

Tip #2 is to acknowledge the power of punctuation to impact the feel of your writing, and accordingly to welcome it into your creative toolkit.

Punctuation shouldn’t be an afterthought.

It’s not something to leave to a copyeditor. It’s a vital part of how you create the atmosphere in your piece.

Here’s a less extreme example. You might write ‘to be or not to be that is the question’ and leave it for an editor to sort out. He or she might then come back with:

To be or not to be: that is the question.

(Literary, but a bit cold)

To be or not to be? That is the question.

(A little more quizzical)

To be, or not to be — that is the question.

(More languid, and a touch reflective)

To be. Or not to be. That is the question.

(Modern, and mildly brutalist)

If you leave an editor to punctuate your text, you are handing over control of its mood. If, instead, you think of punctuation as a vital component of your vision, you’ll take a pride in it — in how you deploy it — and you’ll approach it with as much care as the words you choose.

3. Punctuation is your Rhythm Section

One of punctuation’s most important functions is to set the speed and feel of a piece of writing. If the text was a band, punctuation would be the rhythm section: it lays down the framework for everything, dictating the tempo and fluidity of the piece.

Look at these three sentences:

Santa Claus wanted just one thing for Christmas: revenge.

Santa Claus wanted just one thing for Christmas — revenge.

Santa Claus wanted just one thing for Christmas. Revenge.

They’re all fine. No one is going to snort or recoil at any of them. But they each feel different thanks to the punctuation mark before the final word.

So, before you start writing, think about your rhythm section.

What mood are you going for?

  • Light?
  • Airy?
  • Jazzy?
  • Solid?
  • Technical?
  • Four-to-the-floor?

You will use different punctuation for different types of writing. A book for toddlers about zombies versus Stormtroopers requires a different approach in punctuation than a step-by-step guide to DIY root canal surgery.

Each demands a distinct feel to fit convincingly into its genre.

For instance, in a simple story book you might decide to avoid brackets because they are annoying and break the flow of the tale. However, if you are writing a set of instructions for assembling furniture, they may be just the thing:

To assemble the guillotine, insert the upright case (Part A) into the long bench (Part B), then slot in the slanted blade (Part C). As always when working in your home workshop, watch your fingers. When completed, keep safely away from children and aristocrats.

Punctuation can give you all sorts of creative options for enhancing the feel of your writing. So, as well as getting stuck into the vocal and guitar melodies, think long and hard about the rhythm section. They work together, and ultimately it’s the interplay that creates the coherence of the whole.

4. Know the Horrors

So far I have recommended that you concentrate on the basics and forget a lot of the old rules, that you get creative, and that you embrace punctuation as the rhythmic foundation of your writing.

On one level I am saying you should relax and feel free to enjoy experimenting with how different punctuation can fundamentally affect and color your writing.

However, I am not suggesting you can do whatever you want. There are some fundamental principles that have to be observed.

  • Full stops (or periods) end sentences and indicate abbreviations.
  • Question marks are for direct questions.
  • Ellipses show that text is missing, a pause, or trailing off.

And so on. These are immutable functions, and you have to work with them.

Although being creative with punctuation is great, and being freed from old rules is refreshing, there are a couple of horrors that will kill a piece of writing stone dead. I’ll mention just two.

The greengrocer’s apostrophe is when someone tries to use an apostrophe to make a plural:

  • slimy cocktail’s
  • impenetrable FAQ’s

This is always, ALWAYS wrong. It looks horrific. Don’t ever do it. Language evolves and one day it might be okay. For now, however, it is absolutely not okay.

The other horror I’ll mention is the comma splice:

  • Goldilocks swung the nunchuk, she liked its weight.
  • The woodsman hated bunnies, he hated them with a Luciferian mania.

Both these examples are made of two complete sentences. Depending how adventurous you are feeling, you can separate them with a full stop (or period), a semicolon, a colon, or a dash.

But the one thing you absolutely cannot use is a comma. It’s wrong, looks wrong, and can quickly result in a manuscript going into the bin.

So, Tip #3 is to learn to spot the handful of truly painful howlers, and avoid them like the plague. We all know they can creep into writing as you are copying, pasting, deleting, and fiddling, but read over your work like a hawk. These errors make you vulnerable, and undermine the endless hours of sweat you have put into your work.

Conclusion

Now that you are firmly in the group that wants to follow modern principles and to use punctuation creatively, the final step in the programme is to learn to love punctuation as a personal and intimate part of your writing style.

Embrace it. Use it to let your personality come through, I don’t mean you should garnish every sentence with exclamation marks. You really shouldn’t. I mean you should feel free to get excited about how you use punctuation.

Try replacing commas with dashes. Try swapping out full stops (or periods) for semicolons. Get a feel for what works with each piece of your writing.

Find punctuation that reinforces the mood of what you (or one of your characters) is saying. Keep doing it. Watch how other people do it. Be inspired.

Before long, punctuation will be a source of pleasure rather than anxiety … and my work will be done.

Happy punctuating!?

Did you know that Certa offers a full editing service? If you need another set of eyes on your semicolons and em dashes, we would love to lend you our expertise. Contact us today.

Stop & Decide: How to push past distractions and get real work done

stopanddecide

It’s 9am. You open your laptop to begin your day. The onslaught begins. Urgent emails. Yesterday’s unfinished business. Calendar reminders. Five texts from the morning drive await. Now your phone rings as two more urgent emails come through. A co-worker pops in to ask a question and inform you of the newest crisis. Your first meeting starts in 5 minutes.

Or… it’s 9am. You walk in the door from dropping the kids off at preschool, then elementary school, then middle school. To the left you see the pile of breakfast (and… ahem… last night’s dinner) dishes in the sink. To the right you see the trail of jammies, toys, and lonely single shoes littering the family room, plus a “gift” from the puppy by the back door. In front of you is the laptop reminding you of bills, emails to answer, volunteer obligations and writing work that awaits.

Where do you begin?

What you do at this moment will make or break your day’s productivity.

What not to do:

  1. Wander from task to task as it catches your eye. Next thing you know, your day will look like a page from the “If you Give a Mouse a Cookie” book, where a lot happens, but little gets done.
  2. Do what seems most urgent. There will always be fires to put out. As soon as one is extinguished, another will take its place. But as we fight them, the crucial big-picture work remains undone. We might say yes to the corporate 5K and the school bake sale for this weekend, but months go by before we ever plan that weekend getaway that our marriage really needs because…guess what…our weekends are full of 5K’s and bake sales. They seemed urgent at the time, but in the long run, are actually preventing us from what is more important.
  3. Be bullied by other people’s priorities. Your coworkers may be pressuring you to help them plan a team-building retreat, however, you are focused on organizing next month’s training conference. It just takes a quick email to say, “I really appreciate all the time you are investing in this idea. I am currently very focused on the training conference, but I am looking forward to hearing how the retreat comes together.”

What to do:

  1. Eliminate distractions.

Turn off all phone notifications except texts. (Do you really need to know right away when Aunt Jo posts on your Facebook wall?)

Signal to your coworkers when you are unavailable by wearing headphones, posting a note on your door (“I’m available after 1pm”) or sending your team a quick text to please hold all non-urgent questions for a period of time.

Handle interruptions by phone instead of text or email (crazy right?). If you must stop your work to handle something urgent, pick up the phone and call those who are involved. What might take dozens of texts and emails can easily be resolved in a five-minute discussion.

2. Prioritize

Stop and write down what really needs to be done. What are the big decisions that need to be made? What are the actions steps that need to be taken? Then, do only those things.

Can we be real for a moment? The reason we often struggle to decide what to do is that we are afraid of doing the work. 

We clean the whole house instead of sitting down at our laptop because we don’t want to face the bills that we owe.

We respond to trivial emails and chit-chat around the office because we’re intimidated by the large project our boss has just handed us.

We look at book covers on Pinterest and tweak our blog layout because we are afraid to do the deep research needed to finish our manuscript.

Before we can do the work, we have to decide to do it. This one action on its own will weed out so many of the distractions because we will stop using them as an escape from the hard things.

At Certa Publishing, we appreciate the busy lives many of our authors lead. And we are confident that with a little intentionality, those authors can produce incredible books that will bless and inspire many. How can our partner publishing model help you accomplish your goals? Contact us today.