Follow Your Joy

What really gives you joy? Creative work that is fruitful is long term, exhausting and many leveled. There are easier ways to get a paycheck. So I find that people who have settled into creative work have stuck with it for one reason: It gives them joy. At the very least they experience a level of satisfaction that keeps them engaged over time.

The joy occurs during the process as well as in response to the finished work. For every finished novel a writer produces, a half-dozen others remain unfinished-or finished-in a file cabinet. Most of them won’t get published because there’s some flaw or because the subject matter won’t sell. But the writer works on them anyway, because to do so satisfies something at the soul level.

So consider what gives you joy, deep down.

– from “The Soul Tells a Story: Engaging Creativity with Spirituality in the Writing Life” by Vinita Hampton Wright Loyola Press

How to be Consistent, and Why it Matters

In an earlier article I described the 5 Most Important Requirements for Building Your Facebook Following. (great content, consistency, format types, advertising, and engagement) This article goes into greater depth on why consistency is important and what I mean by it.

First the “why” – You must be consistent so that your fans can count on you and who you are. As my friend Jonathan Merritt has said “Set expectations, then meet those expectations. Give them what they are looking for!” Consistency builds trust, engagement, relationship, and authenticity, which in turn lead to loyalty and book sales!

Now the “how” – there are many dimensions to consistency so let me cover them here:

• Branding
o Who you are – your persona
o Focus on your particular area of expertise; what is it that you want to be “known for”
o Your uniqueness
o The same tone / look & feel

• Frequency – it is important to get into a routine of making most of your posts on the same days, at the same times, each week; put them on your calendar to remind you, or schedule their post times in advance

• Formats – use a consistent set of post formats (a future article will go into format types in greater detail)

• Length – for book excerpts and new, original thoughts, make them roughly the same length each time

As Jonathan said, “Give them what they’re looking for!”

Engagement Leads to Purchase

A study commissioned by Google characterizes the “Alpha Audience” as the “rapt audience” and says that those who actually engage with brand content have even stronger buying behaviors:

People who engaged with a brand on social media on a daily basis were likely to make twice as many purchases from that brand than someone who engages only monthly. However, socially engaged customers’ value to brands goes well beyond purchase.

By acting as advocates, these consumers help build brands. Think of these engaged consumers as your brand advocates.

A poll of prominent bloggers determined that their Alpha Audience is approximately 5 percent of their total site visitors. Facebook also provided research that shows people considered to be consistent “sharers” of content totaled about 5 percent of a company’s total Facebook audience.

– from “The Content Code” by Mark Schaefer

Honoring Your Passion to Write

Honoring Your Passion to Write

By Sarah Arthur

Maybe you’ve always wanted to be a published writer. Or maybe you enjoyed writing at some point in your life and would like to pick it up again, just for fun, because it delights you. The act of writing is a worthy activity, even if it’s just a hobby for now. Here are some ways to honor your passion:

  • Set aside time daily, weekly, or monthly just for writing. I get together monthly with a friend for dinner and a “writing date.” When we’re done eating we open our laptops and work on our fiction projects, pausing occasionally to chat or get another chai. The accountability to another person means that I will show up and write fiction at least once a month.
  • If you share a family computer, consider getting a designated computer/laptop just for you.
  • Ask for writing resources (software, setting up a writing desk/office, magazine subscriptions, attending a conference,) for Christmas, birthdays, etc.; or save up money. Yes, words are cheap, and writing can be as simple as a paper and pencil. But other people spend piles of cash on their hobbies–golfing, anyone?–so don’t feel guilty about it. This is important to you.
  • BACK UP YOUR WORK!!! You never realize how vital your writing projects are to your soul until you lose one or more of them. I use a combination of Google Drive, Dropbox, and an external hard-drive.
  • Join a writing group, locally or online. You can hunt around websites such as Writer’s Digest, which has discussion forums and online communities.

If/when you’re ready to take the next step to freelance or publish your work:

  • Get a professional-sounding email address. You want publishers to take you seriously.
  • Create a simple but tasteful and professional blog/website. You want the world to be able to find you easily by a simple internet search. Keep the information on your site current, and post periodically to show that the writing life is important to you.
  • Research the publishers/publications that interest you. When you read a book you like, notice who publishes it and then go to that publisher’s website and see what kinds of resources they produce. Check out the annual Writer’s Market Guide for your genre–your local library will likely have a copy.
  • Join LinkedIn or some other professional network. This is not the same as Facebook, in which you connect with just anyone. Limit yourself to writing and publishing networks, plus whatever area is your specialty (for me it’s youth ministry; for you it might be quilting or radiology). I’m a member of LinkedIn as well as the Redbud Writers Guild.
  • Make business cards. You can find some really good deals on VistaPrint, or check with a local graphic designer.
  • Learn how to craft excellent pitches and proposals. Author and publishing coach Margot Starbuck includes some great resources on her blog, or you can check with a guild in your genre. NOTE: Someone asked me if you have to have a completed manuscript in order to pitch to agents and/or editors, and the answer is “It depends.” If you’re pitching a novel, it should be finished: they need to see that you can deliver. But if it’s nonfiction, you can pitch a title, description, synopsis, and 1-2 sample chapters. Always include a bio with your credentials as a writer or as someone who knows the topic well.
  • Attend a writer’s conference where you can meet agents and publishers. I’ve suggested a few below. Be sure to have all of the above things in place before you walk through the doors of the conference center: this shows that you are serious.
  • Getting published doesn’t just happen—you won’t be “discovered.” You have to put yourself out there but without being totally obnoxious.

Writing & Publishing Resources:


Sarah Arthur is a fun-loving speaker and the author of eleven books, including the bestseller Walking with Frodo (Tyndale) and the literary guides to prayer series with Paraclete Press (At the Still Point, Light Upon Light, and Between Midnight and Dawn). Her most recent title, co-authored with friend and colleague Erin Wasinger, is The Year of Small Things: Radical Faith for the Rest of Us (Brazos Press).



The 5 Most Important Requirements for Building Your Facebook Following

If you have read some of my other articles, you know that I am a believer in the importance of using Facebook to attract fans, particularly when you are early in your platform-building program. But how do you make that successful? Here are my 5 most important requirements:

1. Great content – If you don’t have great content, none of the rest matters. Not only does your content have to be compelling, it must be compelling in only a short excerpt. You only have a couple of paragraphs to impress someone.
2. Consistency – You must be consistent so that your fans can count on you and who you are. As my friend Jonathan Merritt has said “Set expectations, then meet those expectations.” Consistency builds trust, engagement, relationship, and authenticity, which in turn lead to loyalty and book sales!
3. Strategically select your format types – You want so use a mix of book excerpts, new thoughts, memes, videos, etc. We have consistently found that memes (an image with a brief quote) are the most sharable format.
4. Advertising – As everyone knows, social media has become very “noisy.” Since everyone is on Facebook, everyone posts on Facebook! Without advertising, your fans will see only a small percentage of your posts.
5. Engagement – The earlier you are in platform building, the more important this is. My friend Rachel Held Evans used engagement (along with her great content!) to build an online following that has led to several great book deals.

In subsequent articles I will go into each of these areas in greater detail – so stay tuned!

Up The Escalator

In a study on sports fan loyalty, researchers found four stages of “fan-hood:” 1) non-fans; 2) light fans; 3) medium users; and 4) heavy users. Heavy users (the Alpha fans) contribute 80 percent of the revenue to a sports team through ticket sales and merchandise purchases but make up 20 percent or less of the total fan base.

The study proposed distinct marketing strategies aimed at all four user groups with the purpose of moving fans “up the escalator” from one segment to the next. The model emphasizes the importance of satisfying the different needs of each group while promoting movement to the next level.

– from “The Content Code” by Mark Schaefer

Creativity Can Be Participated in but Not Controlled

In creative work you are uncovering reality that transcends your sensibilities. Whatever you reveal about life through your own work will by its very nature touch on the revelations of other works by other people. And so you are joining in a process that unfolds in your life but it is not confined to your experience. The most you can do is participate; you will never run the show.

Mature artists have learned that they cannot control the process by which they create. They can embrace it; they can acquiesce to it; they can marvel at it; they can enjoy the ride. Their only control lies in the mastery of their craft. For instance, it is up to me to master the intricacies of structure, style, grammar and all that goes into the writing art. But I can’t sit down and simply decide how a story is going to unfold. I don’t yet know how the story will unfold. I very likely don’t even know how the story will end. That’s because unfold is the operative word. I can pay attention and witness the unfolding, and then, if I have mastered my craft, I can capture what unfolds and communicate it to others.

Our creative work issues from our memories and our subconscious, from stories that predate us, from matters that are so deep and so important that we cannot contain them at any one time. This work requires a process that is larger and wiser than we are. We should be very grateful that we can’t control it, because we wouldn’t be up to the job anyway.

– from “The Soul Tells a Story: Engaging Creativity with Spirituality in the Writing Life” by Vinita Hampton Wright Loyola Press

“Should I Cross-Post Between Facebook and Twitter?”

This question came up during our recent webinar with Philip Zoutendam, Digital Marketing Specialist at Eerdman’s Publishing.  I loved Philip’s answer so I wanted to share it here.

In essence, Philip answered “yes” it is fine to post the same content to both Facebook and Twitter (recognizing that the post to Twitter may only be a title and a link) – however, you want to make both posts in their own native environment.  What he means is that you should NOT have Facebook make automatic posts to Twitter or vice versa.  Take the time to make each of the individual posts. That can be done either live or on a scheduled basis.

An Example of Influencer Marketing

Groove, a company that provides help desk software, is a perfect example of executing an influencer strategy with precision. They were a start-up company with literally no audience— and no time to build an audience—so they relied on borrowing the audiences of others. The result? 5,000 new blog subscribers in five weeks. Here’s how they did it:

1. Build the influencer list. The company carefully considered which potential influencers connected to their target audience (web start-ups and small businesses) and which of those leaders would be able to get true value from their content and service. This is a critical step. Most influencers are deluged with spammy requests for their help, so doing careful research up front gives you the best shot at success.

2. Forge relationships. Influencers may hold the keys to the audience kingdom, but simply making a cold pitch doesn’t work. Groove embarked on a plan to use the social networks to connect with them and move beyond the relational weak link. Their plan included tweets, blog comments, blog post shares, and emails. Here are other ways to engage with influencers:
• Ask for a quote you’ll use in your article.
• Re-tweet them consistently.
• Provide them with a recommendation on LinkedIn.
• Interview them for a video or podcast.
• Ask them for feedback on an idea.
• Link to something they wrote about (they will generally see this “pingback”).

3. The Ask (part 1). By this time, the people from Groove were on the radar of their target influencers and it was time to make a move. But they didn’t ask for a favor. They asked for help—a subtle yet important difference. Most people have a hard time saying “no” to an honest request for help. This plea included a link to their site, a request for feedback, and emphasis on potential mutual benefits. Using this technique, Groove earned an 83 percent positive response rate from the influencers. “Help” is a more benign ask, and more importantly, it helped Groove start real back-and-forth conversations with industry experts.

4. The Ask (part 2). Now that the company was ready to launch their blog, they needed a push from their new influencer friends. Since this group had been involved in providing feedback to the Groove team, they had a built-in stake in the company’s success. Groove sent these new advocates a link to the first blog post with a request for help promoting it.

5. Results! Not only did most influencers promote the post, but almost all of them also commented on the new blog. This level of response provided proof to new visitors that the blog (and company) had traction. In 24 hours Groove had acquired 1,000 blog subscribers, and by following up with consistent, high-quality content, they attracted more than 5,000 subscribers and 535 trial sign-ups through five weeks of blogging efforts.

In this case, Groove methodically built relationships with influencers that led to measurable success. But there was another force at work here, too—the powerful, magnetic attraction of involving key audience members in your content creation and transmission.

– from “The Content Code” by Mark Schaefer

Making Sense of Social Media Platform Choices

For those new to social media, the choices can be daunting. How do you choose among so many alternatives? This article summarizes my answer to that question.

First the bottom line, then some explanation.

  • Top priorities:
    • Facebook, blog/website, email, Twitter, Amazon
  • Secondary:
    • YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, podcasts, Goodreads, Google+

Please keep in mind that these are generic recommendations – your priorities may differ.

So let’s sort through some of the rationale behind these recommendations.

First, as Mark Schaefer points out, you need a stream of strong rich content that can come from your blog, podcasts, or video. Unless you are particularly photogenic and charismatic (video), or have an excellent speaking voice and a bent for talking for long periods of time without making mistakes (podcast), my recommendation is a blog on your own website.

Once you have a platform for your rich content, you need to get it broadly distributed (“ignition” as Mark would say). If you already have a strong email list, that is the most effective means, because people who agree to allow you to send them emails are more likely to have a stronger connection to you than Facebook fans or Twitter followers.

But how do you get those email addresses in the first place? That’s where Facebook and Twitter come in. Specific exceptions may be if you have particularly visual content (Pinterest) or are targeting business customers (LinkedIn) or a young audience (Instagram). Otherwise I think Facebook and Twitter are top, with Facebook the more important of the two.

Twitter tends to get bashed, but there are many people there who you want to connect with. As a company they’ve struggled, but a large part of that is because for a long time their company valuation was over-inflated and their expense stream could not be supported by the modest revenue model that is more realistic.

Amazon is there because they are the largest distribution channel for books, and because it doesn’t take much for you to establish your author page there. Low maintenance after that.

Goodreads is included because of the serious readers there. Google+ because the posts you make there are more likely to show highly in Google search results.

Again, your results may vary; however the above recommendations are based on my work with a series of different authors and businesses.

Get in touch!