yes someone has already written your book.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now we can begin to ask:

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

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

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

 

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

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

She began with the following steps:

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

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

5. Edit for Grammar and Style

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

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

William Zinsser notes,

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

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

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

6. Have Someone Read Your Piece Again

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

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

7. Proofread One Last Time

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

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

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

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

7 Steps to Editing as You Go: Part Two

pain

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

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

Writing from Pain Accelerates the Healing Process

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writing from Pain Promotes Healing in Others

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

7 STEPS TO EDITING

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

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

1. Outline

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

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

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

Here are two tips for outlining your piece:

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

2. Write Your First Draft

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

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

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

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

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

3. Substantive Edit

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

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

Ask yourself these questions as you read:

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

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

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

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

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

4. Have Someone Read Your Piece

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7 Steps to Editing Your Work as You Go

Three easy ways to land (1).png

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

1. Be prepared to react to current events

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

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

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

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

2. Make the calendar work for you

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

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

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

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

3. Make the producer’s job easier

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

3 Easy Ways to Land Media Appearances

Follower Count: How to Stop the Obsession – Part Two

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

3. Network with other authors

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

4. Create opportunities by just showing up

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

5. Create fans and evangelists

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Follower Count: How to Stop the Obesession

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

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

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

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

1. Conduct market research

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

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

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

2. Connect with influencers

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

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

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

If you gather a group of 10 writers, you will find that each of them has a different “toolbox” full of digital and not-so-digital writing tools that they can’t live without. Some like to do all their writing on their computer. Some use voice dictation, while others are still buying yellow legal pads and pens in bulk.

Beyond the physical tools of the trade, there are just as many online tools available to writers. But which are helpful and which just add to the noise and clutter of our digitally-dependent lives?

In our last post, we shared some of Jane Friedman’s favorite productivity tools, and we’ve gathered a few more here today that we hope will help, not hinder your writing process.

Freedom

When it comes to writing, what is your number one distraction? If you’re like most writers, you probably said the internet. How often have you seen an hour of your time get sucked into the black hole of Facebook? Or perhaps you’ve tried to write while your phone buzzes, beeps and chirps at you every 30 seconds. Even if you don’t stop to check it, your mind will struggle to stay in the zone of writing. That’s where Freedom comes in.  Freedom allows you to block certain notifications from certain apps at certain times. Don’t want to know about every Facebook comment or Twitter follow? Freedom can help. It can even be programmed to shut off notifications or the internet completely during certain times. Do you always write during your lunch break at work? Tell Freedom and it will automatically hang a digital “do not disturb” sign on your phone during that time every day, keeping you on track and efficient. Here’s a quick explanation of the app’s features:

 

There is a small monthly fee, but if you find writing distraction-free is really improving your efficiency, it might be worth the cost.

Grammarly

We can’t say enough about this amazing (and free!) browser extension. Grammarly integrates with most platforms to automatically check your grammar as you write. From WordPress to Google Documents, from Facebook to Gmail, Grammarly is the proverbial English teacher, hovering over your shoulder correcting your work as you go. Most of the features are free, but a premium membership is available, which offers a few extra tools, such as a plagarism checker.

 

Ulysses

Like Freedom, Ulysses helps to avoid distractions, but this app takes things a step further by consolidating all of your writing tasks into one place. Need to write distraction-free? Check. Need to keep all of your work and inspiration in one place, cataloged by project? Check. Need to easily export your work using various file types? No problem. So what’s the catch? Ulysses is only available for Apple devices and it costs $45.

In her recent article The Best Writing Apps of 2017, Jill Duffy of PC Mag wrote:

Writers who find themselves in the less-is-more camp will want a writing app that strips away anything that could possibly be the least little bit distracting. Distraction-free writing apps are a dime a dozen. The trick is to find one that also offers the tools you need when you need them. In other words, the best distraction-free writing app will hide the tools you need until the appropriate time, rather than omitting them altogether.

With that criterion in mind, Ulysses is my favorite distraction-free writing app, and a PCMag Editors’ Choice.

At Certa Publishing, we believe in equipping our authors with the practical tools you need to write your best. Through posts like this, as well as others about long-form writing, cultivating good writing habits, and writing the rough draft, we hope to provide you with everything you need to pour your heart and life onto the page.

The Writer’s Digital Toolbox: Part 2

The Writer’s Digital Toolbox

Jane Friedman is a publishing expert and digital media strategist. She recently dished on essential author tools in her post, My Must-Have (Digital) Productivity Tools, which we have excerpted here:

This post is one that I regularly update with my absolute must-have digital tools that enhance my productivity, creativity, and digital-life sanity.

1. Zoom

Zoom is my go-to online meeting service. I use it for client meetings, personal chats, online courses, and even to pipe in guest speakers for in-person events. I’ve found it nearly foolproof since participants can join on any device—including a phone—using video + audio, or audio only. Find out more about Zoom. You’ll find both free and paid plans.

2. Evernote

I resisted using Evernotefor years, but over the last two years, it’s become integral to my workflow. I use it for what I call my “primary to-do list,” which is broken down by day of the week, as well as for first drafts of blog posts, research notes, interviews, and conference talk outlines. I also use for “composting” ideas. If you’re the kind of person who has a million stickies on your desktop, or multiple documents where you’re dumping notes, then take a serious look at Evernote.

3. CrashPlan

This is my continuous back-up system for my computers. It runs faithfully in the background, 24/7, and I don’t have to think about backing up, ever. The annual fee is worth it—check it out.

4. Scrivener

I finally took the leap and started using Scrivener when I began assembling my book, Publishing 101. I will never write a book in Word again. Of course, the big drawback is that Scrivener is not at all intuitive, so you’ll have to carefully go through their free tutorial; you can also find online courses available to turn you into an expert user. I recommend you download and use the free trial version for 30 days as you decide if you’re OK with the learning curve.

5. Canva

Even though I’m an expert user of InDesign and intermediate user of Photoshop, I love Canva to brainstorm ideas and put together quick visuals for social media. (See image at the top of this post!) This free service smartly recognizes that more and more of us need easy tools to design things that look halfway decent, and don’t have the time or resource to hire a professional. While Canva has serious limitations, for lightweight work, it’s perfect.

6. Dropbox

I couldn’t function on a daily basis without Dropbox, which is cloud-based storage of my work files, especially since I change machines so often. It syncs across my desktop, laptop, mobile devices, and I can also access it through any computer if I have login credentials with me.

7. Google Drive

I use Google Drive in addition to Dropbox as a cloud storage system, but specifically for those documents that I collaborate on (where multiple people might need access)—or when I want to share public links.

8. Paprika

Paprika is an app where I store all my recipes. It helps me meal plan during the week, generate shopping lists that get sent to email, and categorize recipes according to my own criteria.

9. LastPass

LastPass is a password manager that helps ensure you never forget a password again—or use bad password hygiene (making you vulnerable to attack). It generates strong passwords and stores your login credentials, securely and locally; whenever you go to a site that requires those credentials, it autofills them for you on a browser. You can get started for free.

10. Acuity Scheduling

This is a full-featured appointment/scheduling software that allows clients to book free or paid appointments with you. No more back-and-forth emailing to set up appointment times—it syncs with your Google calendar (among others). Acuity can be embedded into your site or shared as a link. Free to start, $10/month for most features you want.

11. Zippy Courses

Zippy is my preferred tool for creating and selling online courses. If you have a self-hosted WordPress site, you can buy the Zippy Courses plugin. Or, if that’s too technically complicated, they offer a fully hosted solution for an annual subscription fee. I see at as the most sensible and easy solution for anyone accustomed to WordPress sites.

12. Wave

Wave is a free and robust online accounting service for tracking income and expenses related to your business. It also generates invoices that clients can pay online by credit card.

13. MailChimp

MailChimp is the email newsletter service I use, which is free until you reach 2,000 names. If you’re serious about online marketing, but are still at the beginning stages of building your business, you’re better off using this and not TinyLetter.

14. VisualHunt

VisualHunt is my favorite tool for finding Creative Commons and public domain images to use in my online courses, blog, newsletter, and elsewhere.

At Certa Publishing, we use many of these tools on a daily basis. In fact, we can thank Canva for helping us create the blog post above. What tools make your life more productive? We’d love to hear about it in the comments.