Behind the Words

Behind the words we’ve chosen for the page and the words we’ve deliberately not written lies a hidden tale of motivation, longing, and mystery—which we must attend in order to serve the story.

 

from “Living Revision: A Writer’s Craft as Spiritual Practice” by Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew

How to Advertise on Facebook

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 Facebook Advertising.  As with most of my recommendations, this is based on my experience helping several Christian authors build their platforms. But also please remember, these recommendations are generic, and each situation may differ.

 

First the bad news: if you do not spend money advertising on Facebook, or already have a very active and attentive fan base, few of your fans will see your posts.

 

The good news:

    • Powerful, granular targeting of prospective fans is easy to achieve
    • The results of your spending are immediately measurable
    • You can choose to spend a little or a lot

 

Ignore it at your peril!

 

As with anything in marketing, the first order of business is to determine what your objectives are.  In this case, here are some potential examples:

    • Build your platform by increasing your Facebook Likes
    • Build your platform by collecting email addresses
    • Increase book sales
    • Promote an event
    • Etc.

 

Once you know your objective, you can plan your advertising campaign.  For instance, if you are most interested in engaging with your existing fans (to get them interested in your new book, for example), you might be better off with boosting Facebook posts.  However, if you are most interested in growing your fan base, then ongoing Facebook ads are a better choice.

 

As you might expect from my earlier article on content format types, I would recommend memes as your primary content type for advertising, because for most people they are the most sharable format type.  Your advertising dollars are thus more efficiently spent!

 

Once you get into setting up your ad (whether a boost or an ongoing ad) you have the opportunity to target your audience based on age, gender, geography, and interest.  Go after the audience you expect is most likely to meet your objective!

 

The Importance of a Book Proposal

by Jana Burson of The Christopher Ferebee Agency

Your proposal is not only the tool by which you will obtain your literary agent, it’s also the tool your agent will use to shop your book and, hopefully, get you a publishing deal. This is not a post about how to put a proposal together. There are tons of resources online to help with that including this one and this one. I do, however, want to share some tips on things you should and shouldn’t do when putting your proposal together.

YOUR BOOK PROPOSAL IS YOUR FIRST IMPRESSION!

Just like when you are meeting someone for the first time, you put extra care and attention into what you wear and say in the hopes of impressing the other person. The same extra effort should be poured into your book proposal. Put your best foot forward!

When I first started working in publishing, the lens through which I reviewed book proposals was as a publicist. Seven years later, my role, and therefore my lens, changed to that of an acquisitions editor. While those roles were different, there were still so many similarities in how a book proposal is ultimately reviewed. Now as a literary agent, my previous experience in book publicity and acquisitions plays a large role in how I review a book proposal today. The first three things I look for are (1) strong and fresh concept, (2) phenomenal writing, and (3) a well established or growing platform. Following are some tips to consider when developing your book proposal.

Your Book Proposal Should:

  • Have a strong title/subtitle
  • Have a very clear and fresh idea or concept that can be conveyed in 1-2 sentences
  • Include why you are the best person to write on the topic
  • Have a well thought out and developed outline with well written chapter synopses that convey the full direction/flow of the book
  • Have absolutely stellar writing
  • Include previous sales history, if applicable
  • Convey the size and power of your platform, and show any major growth that’s taken place, and explain how you will use your platform to help sell books
  • Include an author photo, as it personalizes the content
  • If possible, include a short video (2 minutes or less) sharing your heart behind the book
  • Convey your overall style and personality. While there are items of a proposal that must be included, feel free to be creative in how it conveys who you are

Your Book Proposal Should Not:

  • Contain incorrect or inflated information
  • Be more than 50 pages (Shorter than that is even better)
  • Be a rough draft of an idea you have
  • Be off brand from the niche or area of expertise you’ve built your platform on
  • Contain multiple misspellings or grammatical mistakes

The more excellent and thorough your proposal is, the better impression you will make when publishing houses review it for the first time.

For Aspiring Writers: Your One-Stop Conference/Festival Etiquette Guide

For Aspiring Writers: Your One-Stop Conference/Festival Etiquette Guide

By Sarah Arthur

As a published author who has made some of my biggest breaks by meeting editors at writing conferences, I’m often asked how I did this. How does someone who is relatively unknown get on the publishing radar? And how does one do this without alienating the entire industry, or selling your soul—or both?

My story is rather unusual, as I describe in this fun podcast interview—and I’m not entirely certain how it all happened (good weather? planetary alignments? divine somethingness?). So to answer the above questions I scribbled down my hunches and then messaged a group of veteran writers, editors, and poets, asking, “If you were to write a conference/festival etiquette guide for aspiring writers hoping to get published, what would it include?”

Their responses confirmed my hunches, plus gave me some great inside stories from the industry. What follows is your One-Stop Conference/Festival Etiquette Guide. For those who’ve been in the conference circuit for awhile, what else would you add?

  1. Be there to learn. Unless you’ve been doing this writing/publishing thing for longer than most editors have been alive, consider the conference itself as a relatively inexpensive college-level course in a topic about which (as an unpublished author) you know slightly more than nothing. This applies not only to what you can learn about the publishing industry but about the craft of writing itself, and even—yes: brace yourself—your own work (see #8).
  2. Treat editors like human beings. I can’t stress this enough. As one editor says, “Please don’t look at editors as inhuman publication machines who exist only either to do something for you or to reject you because they’re jerks.” Editors are real people who have to eat and pee and sleep like everyone else. Some of them miss their families; others have medical conditions, for pity’s sake. Find an area of common interest that doesn’t involve your cherished project. One editor advises, “Approach editors/publishers as fellow book-lovers and go from there.” Demonstrating that you’re a team player by showing you can give and take graciously in a mutual conversation is key. “Writing is a solitary discipline,” says that same editor, “but publishing, especially at the small press level, is a collaborative endeavor and needs a solid platform of trust, shared artistic values, and enterprise-in-common to work.”
  3. Research before you make a pitch. No: the publisher that’s never published monologues does not want to hear your monologue about your groundbreaking monologue. You will not make them abandon their brand, much less their founding vision, in one thirty-second conversation. Get online before the conference and learn what they do and don’t publish—not just genres but topics, issues, and authors. Purchase some of their books and not only read them but review them on Goodreads and Amazon, even on your own blog. In the words of one editor, “Haven’t read any of our books? Then why do you think you’re a good fit?”
  4. Ask questions. College course, remember? You’re here to learn, which means pursuing lines of inquiry with a kind of earnest curiosity—even delight. “Ask about their publications, ask what they like to see and where to find guidelines,” says one editor. Keep in mind that many editors are also writers: one suggests, “Ask them about their work. Don’t bring up your own work. After talking about what they do for a minute or two, they may ask about what you do.” Another says, “If you’re new to publishing and truly just want to have a conversation about how things work and make some friends, then do that! Just be clear about what you need/want from the conversation and most editors will be happy to talk with you.”
  5. Listen. It seems obvious, but once you’ve asked a question, close your mouth. For as long as they keep talking. Then follow up with another question. Attend an editor’s workshop(s); be there if the editor is on a panel. Read books the editor has written, if any. Become, if you will, a kind of disciple. But also be mindful that the editor only has so many people he or she can engage in a day. Someone else might be standing in line behind you, and out of respect for the invisible fellowship of writers around the world, without whom you wouldn’t be a writer yourself, step graciously aside. Then go find another editor to listen to.
  6. Buy their publications. In the words of one editor, “Consider budgeting to buy a few things to show your good faith understanding that publishing houses and small presses don’t survive without reader support.” If the publisher has a booth in the Exhibit Hall, take their products seriously: browse; then, if you find their titles or back issues intriguing, purchase something. One writer, who is also professor, says, “If you are a professor/instructor ask about a publisher’s books for your classes. I use small press titles whenever I can. Twenty copies bought for a class makes a big difference to a press like that.” Another editor says, “I’m much more willing to look at your manuscript if you are willing to support the press. It might end up being the best $20 you ever spend.”
  7. Be up front about your interest in making a pitch. Note this doesn’t say, “Pitch your project unsolicited.” You can’t throw your material at someone you’ve never met, unasked, and expect them to take you seriously. Rather, this is saying, “I really appreciate your publishing house’s vision and titles—including _________, which I’ve just reviewed on Goodreads. And it’s made me think that what I’ve written might be a good fit for you. Would you be open to me emailing you about that sometime?” And then the editor will either outline their company’s submission process (and you’d better take notes), or ask, “Well, what’s it about?”—because that way they know whether an email correspondence will be worth their time or become a vast black hole in the literary space-time continuum. Don’t be aggressive, but at the same time, says one editor, “Don’t offer to meet me for coffee under the auspices of asking a few questions when you really want to pitch a book. Just give me your damn pitch.”
  8. Hold your work lightly. At the first writing conference I ever attended, before I got published, I had grand visions of becoming a children’s book writer and illustrator. I came with manuscripts, a portfolio of illustrations, business cards and proposals to that effect. Pause at this point and take a look at my list of published works. Do you see any illustrated children’s books on there? No? That’s because the connections I made at that original conference ultimately had nothing to do with what I thought my work was about. Keep this in mind as you lug that little stack of proposals and sample materials around with you from workshop to workshop, from booth to booth in the Exhibit Hall. If you’re holding your cherished project in a closed fist, it might be time to open your hand a bit. What else might come of these connections?
  9. Learn how to graciously take “no” for an answer. For your reading pleasure, here’s an example of what not to do, as supplied by an editor for whom this was a real-life experience at the AWP:

Clueless Jerk: Hi, Editor! Here’s my chapbook manuscript. [shoves pile of papers in Editor’s face]

Editor: We only accept manuscripts online. Also, we don’t publish chapbooks. Try X, Y or Z publishers down the line.

Clueless Jerk: Yeah, but this is really good. I think you’ll make an exception if you read it. I’ll come back tomorrow to see what you think. [walks away]

Let’s rehearse all the things this aspiring writer did wrong, shall we? No, let’s just assume he broke all the rules. But he especially ignored a clear “no” when the editor kindly but firmly explained how their submission process works, what kinds of things they publish, and helpfully suggested some other options. That’s the end of the conversation, people. As one editor says, “I’ve had my fill of writers who want me to look at their stuff even when I’ve told them it’s not what we publish. Just stop talking!” After a publisher explains why your work isn’t a good fit, you simply say, “That’s really helpful. Thanks so much!” Then you browse their products, purchase something (if possible, particularly if you think this publisher might be a good fit for something else you could work on down the road), smile, and walk away.

  1. Honor the relationship. Have I said that editors are real people? Yep. They have only so many hours a day to answer email, respond to follow-up questions, or set appointments. So whatever happens after your interaction should remain professional, cheerful, and brief—and above all, should respect that the publishing process (including correspondence) is often glacially slow due to the volume of material an editor is reviewing. Haven’t heard back in two weeks? Two months? This is normal. One follow-up email by you 6-8 weeks after the conference is appropriate, but after that, leave it alone. And again: take “no” for an answer. Yet another lovely example supplied by my editor friends after AWP:

Clueless Jerk Number Two: Hi, Editor. About the manuscript that I sent, do you know if it received any consideration at all?

Editor: I don’t remember your manuscript, and you haven’t helped by not mentioning the title. We receive 150 manuscripts per year. I only see the last twenty or thirty, after grad students do the screening. You could submit next year. There will be a different pool of graduate students, and you might have better luck.

Clueless Jerk Two: I’ll just come back to the table later when there’s a grad student here and creep her out by giving her dirty looks and asking why she turned down my amazing manuscript.

Editor: Okay, good luck with that. Creep.

(Test question: What ten etiquette rules did the above conference attendee break?)

To wrap up, I tell one last story from my personal experience. I first met one of my editors at the Festival of Faith and Writing at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI, four years ago. He and I both happened to be waiting for colleagues who were engaged in conversation, so I turned to him and said, “Hi Dan [not his real name], I’m Sarah Arthur. You’re one of the editors at Woodhouse [invented], right?” He was cordial, and then I asked him if he ever got to simply enjoy the workshops, or if he was trapped with one appointment after another. At which point he warmed right up, talked for awhile, then asked me what I do. Soon he motioned for me to sit, and we talked for another 15 minutes—out of which came lunch and a book deal.

Yep, treat editors like human beings. Not that they’ll all give you a book deal. But they’ll remember their humanity was honored, that someone gave them the chance to exhale.

_______________________________________

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). www.saraharthur.com

About Community – by Natasha Sistrunk Robinson

When the people and values that shape my diverse communities are in conflict with each other, I must consider: Will I remain true to my God or true to the native land or continent in which my ancestors were born, or will I remain true to the native land or country in which I was born? My native land wants me to remain true to the American philosophy that I have been taught in my formative years. On the other hand, my people—the black community—have a history of being oppressed by the land in which many of us were born. Where should my loyalties lie, knowing all of that? The black community has also been stripped of our African culture, history, and traditions, and I want to learn what values have been lost from that culture and to understand what values are important to hold on to.

 

Discernment for the American Christian is determining what is actually of God and what is true only to our native land. Believe it or not, American Christianity looks quite different depending on where and how you worship on Sunday mornings, what stories you read, what voices you listen to, and who you call friend. Our various community shapers can be in conflict with each other, so remaining true to God requires that we analyze the sacred community—the shaping grounds, including what or who is missing from those spaces. Affirming our identity in Christ means that we must wrestle with our community shapers to accept, celebrate, cultivate, and then share what individually makes us unique.

 

Community is about the places that shape us. Orangeburg, South Carolina, is where I come from. Community is about the people who shape us. When I had the opportunity to deliver the student address at my graduation from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary Charlotte, I told my family and friends, “I take you with me wherever I go.” Community is who you roll with on this journey called life.

 

Community is also the environments that we intentionally cultivate and the people we invite to form and shape them. Creating culture and cultivating community is a continuous act of discipline. If you desire to have lasting influence and to implement real change, this is an internal wrestling you must be willing to do, a risk you must be willing to take, and a skill you must learn. Your life may look very different from mine or that of Moses. You have your own stories, relationships, and experiences. The work of spiritual formation requires that you pay attention to how God wants to shape your community.

 

*Taken from A Sojourner’s Truth by Natasha Sistrunk Robinson. Copyright (c) 2018 by Natasha Sistrunk Robinson. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL

 

Learn more from Natasha at our spiritual writers’ conference in May: https://writingforyourlife.com/writing-for-your-life-spiritual-writers-conference-holland-mi-may-2019/

Craft is a Form of Hospitality

Craft is a form of hospitality. When readers (real or imagined) show up at your door, how do you invite them in? What makes them comfortable but not too comfortable? What nourishment or conversation might make them linger? When they leave, what will they take with them?  

 

from “Living Revision: A Writer’s Craft as Spiritual Practice” by Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew 

 

“How To Build Your Own Podcast Program” – video training

Mike McHargue (better known as Science Mike) is an author, podcaster, and speaker who travels the world helping people understand the science of life’s most profound and mundane experiences. Mike’s the host of Ask Science Mike, and co-hosts The Liturgists Podcast with his friend Michael Gungor. In this 65 minute video presentation (including Q&A), Mike goes through all the steps necessary to develop your own podcasting platform, sharing what he has learned through developing his own.

Learn more here.

Creating Social Currency

In “Contagious” Dr. Jonah Berger establishes three key strategies to help create social currency that gives people a way to make themselves look good while promoting you and your ideas along the way.

1. Identify your inner remarkability. The key to finding your remarkability is to think about what makes you surprising, interesting, or novel. In my book “Social Media Explained,” I suggest that marketing strategy needs to begin by finishing this sentence: “Only we …” That’s a tough task, but it’s the essential path to discover your remarkability.

2. Help people achieve something with your content.

3. Make it exclusive. According to digital marketing savant Christopher S. Penn of SHIFT Communications. “Scarcity is actually more powerful than ever on the social web,” he said. “While content may be free, what has become extremely scarce is time, attention, and influence. These are hot commodities, rare commodities.”

– from “The Content Code” by Mark Schaefer

Being a Voice Not an Echo

– by Rachel Hauck

Writing in the Christian fiction market pushes us to go beyond the realm of this life to find meaning and purpose for our characters. Even non fiction requires genuine truth told in a unique and engaging way.

For fiction writers, while we are not writing sermons and devotionals set in fictional places with fictional characters, we are imitating life.

Jesus is very much a part of our every day life. We want to express Him in some way in our stories, through the lives of our characters.

But often our stories sound hokey, canned, full of Christianese. How we talk in the foyer at church, or in Sunday school class does not translate into fiction.

Remember, our goal is to write great stories about great characters. Our goal is not agenda fiction where we pound the pulpit — so to speak — about some error of ways.

So how do we develop a convincing, authentic spiritual thread? A lot of prayer and pondering. Digging deep the translate those standard words like, “Is he a believer?” to something every one can understand. Like, “Does he believe in Jesus?” Simple, straight forward, a non-Christian gets it.

Avoid soap boxes. Don’t preach to the reader out of your own wounds or doctrinal passions. One, it’s obvious. Two, it’s boring. Find one truth that you’ve learned and weave it into your character’s being then let the words flow naturally. Maybe in one or two scenes.

It’s not a Bible study. Don’t write and discuss long passages of scripture or quote noted Bible teachers. Have you characters quote a verse in a natural way, using his or her own words.

Express God in creative ways. In one of my books, God got the heroine’s attention with feathers appearing out of nowhere. In another, the heroine senses a strong fragrance.

You can’t write about what you don’t have in yourself. The spiritual journey of a character is often the fragrance of God in and on the author. If you aren’t going deep in God, spending time at His feet, in His Word, praying, worhshipping, fellowshipping with others, your spiritual message will be flat. Always. Your message will feel forces and tacked on. Or worse, fake. Or untrue.

But as you spend time in His presence, the spiritual thread becomes a part of you, a part of the character, a part of the whole book. And you may only have to mention Jesus once. But He’s everywhere unseen.

Don’t lead with doctrine. Lead with the Spirit. Lead with a story. Fiction or non fiction both require story. Don’t just repeat what others are saying. Get your own revelation and then back it up with the truth of the Word. Pray for a creative way to weave it into your character’s journey.

Be a Voice not an Echo.

Take Note of Others’ Responses

Pay attention to how other people respond to your creative work. A true gift gives true pleasure to others-or it truly stirs them up. When your friend’s face lights up while he’s talking about some endeavor of yours, you know that somehow that endeavor really connected to another person. When people have a strong reaction to your work, positive or negative, that tells you that you’ve hit on something that’s meaningful.

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

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