“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.

The Sharing of the Crowd


Harnessing the sharing of the crowd will often take you further than you think, and it is almost always the best place to start.

We have barely begun to explore what kinds of amazing things a crowd can do. There must be two million different ways to crowdfund an idea, or to crowdorganize it, or to crowdmake it. There must be a million more new ways to share unexpected things in unexpected ways.

In the next three decades the greatest wealth – and more interesting cultural innovations – lie in this direction. The largest, fastest growing, most profitable companies in 2050 will be companies that will have figured out how to harness aspects of sharing that are invisible and un appreciated today. Anything that can be shared – thoughts, emotions, money, health, time – will be shared in the right conditions, with the right benefits. Anything that can be shared can be shared better, faster, easier, longer, and in a million more ways than we currently realize. At the point in our history, sharing something that has not been shared before, or in a new way, is the surest way to increase its value.


– from “The Inevitable” By Kevin Kelly

It’s Not About You

If you’ve paid any attention to my posts, you know that I am bullish regarding the need for new authors to participate in social media and build a platform (a following of people who resonate with what you have to say, and who are thus likely to purchase your books, regardless of whether you work through a traditional publisher or self-publish).

But often I hear from early-stage writers that they are reluctant to do this because they don’t like self-promotion; they don’t want to “toot their own horn.”

My answer to this sentiment is two-fold:

1. Whether we are talking about social media or writing a book, the important thing is that it is not about you. It needs to be about your ideas that will help people. Why does someone buy a book? Because they want to learn, because they want to solve a problem, because they’re interested in the topic. Sorry, but you’re not a celebrity, and they really don’t care about you. They care about what is unique and valuable that you have to say.

If you have not already, this is a mindset I suggest you adopt, and it is incredibly freeing and focusing. What you are all about is helping people! What is better than that? It is freeing because it removes the guilt, and it is focusing because it forces you to concentrate on what really matters…

2. If you believe that God is working through you, then let it happen! Let God do the talking! Remember all of this Holy Spirit stuff that we say we believe. Then believe!

10 Tips for Working with an Editor

– by Tony Jones

A while back I was in Chicago, meeting with my editor about my next book. I’ve known him professionally and as a friend for over a decade, but we’ve never worked together before, so I didn’t know quite what to expect. Over the course of a day, sitting at his kitchen table, we talked about everything from what I see as my role in the wider world to what should be my “voice” in this book to how the table of contents should flow.

As a result of our meeting, the table of contents is, in fact, completely different. I had written about 23,000 words of the manuscript prior to our meeting, so we also went over some passages, talking about my voice, my writing style, etc. All in all, it was a great meeting, and I’m fortunate to be working with him.

With a dozen books in print, I’ve worked with almost that many editors. I’ve also worked as an editor, both in my role at sparkhouse, and in a couple book projects. So, from my vantage point, here are my Top Ten Tips for Working with an Editor:

1) Fight for time with your editor. Some authors like working closely with their editors. Others prefer a more hands-off approach. I’m in the former camp. I really like the feeling that a book is a team project. But I’ve found that really happens primarily when I instigate it. Most editors seems to hang back and wait for the author to initiate meetings.

2) Remember that your editor works for you, and for the publisher. The editor is a conduit of sorts. She will work at making your book better, but she’s also got the best interests of the publisher at heart. These two allegiances aren’t contradictory, but they don’t always line up as much as you might want.

3) Remember that your editor isn’t only working on your book. Most editors are responsible for bringing between one and two dozen books to print per year. Be understanding when someone else’s book is ahead of yours in the queue.

4) Remember that your editor has other duties, too. If your book is one of twelve that your editor is working on, that doesn’t mean that your editor will spend a month, holed up in a cabin, editing your manuscript. He is also attending conferences and trade shows, going to meetings, and reading manuscripts that are coming in.

5) Take advantage of your editor’s view of the market. More than you, your editor is paying close attention to what’s selling. MY editor and I have had several conversations about what has made recent books by Rob Bell and Nadia Bolz-Weber successful. He tracks their sales on Bookscan, and he is reading trade publications that I’m not.

6) Decide what you’re going to fight for. Going into our meeting, there were certain things I really wanted. The title, for instance, was important to me. The table of contents was not. Something in between is my voice in this book, which my editor would like to be less professorial. Okay, he wants it to be not at all professorial. That’s going to be a struggle for me, not because I want to sound professorial, but because that’s how I’ve been trained to write.

7) Don’t be afraid to ask for another editor. If you’re writing a book for a publishing house or a magazine, and you just don’t click with the editor who acquired your book or article, as for a second opinion. One editor does not necessarily have the perfect perspective on your writing, and another set of eyes can be very helpful.

8) Thank your editor in the acknowledgments. This is an obvious one, but put it on your to-do list.

9) Use the lag time. After your book is complete, there will be several months before it comes out. And no one is more in touch with your strengths and weaknesses as a writer at that moment-in-time than your editor. She’s been neck deep in your writing for weeks or months. So ask her what she thinks you should write next. Bounce around some ideas. And, if possible, get a contract for your next book before the current book drops.

10) Involve the editor in marketing. The person who’s assigned to market your book has most likely not read it. Maybe he’s skimmed it. Your editor, on the other hand, is intimately acquainted with your book, and he probably works three desks down from the marketer. So encourage your editor to advocate for your book with the marketing team.

Do I Need a Synopsis?

– by Angela Scheff

You’ve been working on your killer idea. You’ve put time into developing your chapters, your narrative arc, your proposal. By chance you run into a publisher who asks, “So what’s your book about?” You have 30 seconds to tell her. You’ve been waiting for this moment! You can do this! But your mind goes blank …

While the chances of randomly running into a publisher are slim (unless you’re headed to a writers conference), your proposal is your response as your agent submits it to interested publishers. But publishers are busy and they look at so many proposals a day and they run out of time and they’ve heard it all and even though you’ve worked so hard on an entire proposal, chances are, you have 30 seconds to pique their interest. So what do you do?

You write a killer synopsis!

To match your killer idea. The synopsis, aka the elevator pitch, is your first line in your well-crafted proposal, and your chance to introduce your book to publishers, to hook them, to inspire them to continue reading. The synopsis can be one or two sentences long or could even be the title and subtitle. Either way, it must be




If your response is, But my idea is bigger than a single sentence! It’s more complicated then that, then your proposal is not ready to be shopped yet. Fly higher and see the bigger picture.

Need some inspiration? Take a look on amazon and look at your favorite books’ descriptions—usually the first sentence draws you in. Look at how movies are marketed and described. Peruse Netflix. (And then you can rewrite them in your head as some of them are a bit ridiculous and don’t draw you in at all.)

The bottom line: while you have a great chance to describe your book idea in your overview section (which is usually a page long), your synopsis is your 30-second chance to gain publishers’ interest and inspire them to read more.

How Do I Find An Agent?


– by Christopher Ferebee


Whenever I am speaking at any form of writer’s event, be it a Learning Community during the Q Conference, at Writer’s Boot Camp or the Frederick Buechner Writer’s Workshop at Princeton Seminary, one question is asked more than any other.

How do I find an agent?

We’ll be answering questions throughout this series on how you approach an agent, but assuming you’re all ready to go, here are some ideas on how you might go about actually finding one.

Agents are a lot like publishers, in that each has their own unique approach to the business. They have certain genres they represent authors in and others they don’t. There are certain types of voices and projects they’re drawn to and others they’re not. The number one thing you can do to advance your cause of successfully finding an agent to represent you is to do your research.

There are a number of ways to accomplish this. First, go to the bookstore or library and find books similar to the genre your writing in. Often times the author’s agent is thanked in the acknowledgments or listed on the copyright page. Find authors similar to you and check who their agent is. Websites like Writer’s Digest are all over the internet with agent information you can find through a simple search. There are books such as the Guide to Literary Agents, which has tons of information about the agencies working in the business and the types of projects they’re acquiring.

If you’re willing to spend a little money, you can subscribe to a site like Publisher’s Marketplace. This site not only has contact information for agents and publishers, but also has comprehensive deal reporting where you can track the projects specific agents have actually sold and get a feel for the types of projects that agent is working with and the publishers they do business with.

But once you’ve compiled a list of potential agents, do a little more digging. Most agents list their clients on their website or have specific submissions guidelines. Even with an agency like ours where we’ve intentionally left a list of our clients off the site, we post agency news and blogs about what our clients are up to. You can find out a lot about who we represent and the books we work on by doing a little digging. When you ultimately query an agent, anything you can do to personalize your query by telling the agent why you think you’d be a fit based on their previous work will go a LONG way.

My last piece of advice? You have to persevere. I often tell my clients and prospective clients that this is a business of rejection. Even when I am representing a well established author to publishers, I hear “no” more often than yes. You don’t need every agent banging down your door asking to represent you. You just need one. And doing your research will get you a lot closer to finding the right one.

How Do You Find Influencers?

How do you find influencers who can make a difference to you? Here are five tips to find the people who are having an impact in your field:


  1. Use BuzzSumo’s free influencer search tool. You can use keywords and find Twitter handles of accounts sharing similar keyword-related content. Filters let you sort results by reach, authority, influence, and engagement.
  2. Try Followerwonk, a free app on Rand Fishkin’s Moz site. This tool lets you search Twitter users based on keywords in their bios and sort results based on their number of followers and social authority.
  3. Twellow is a very useful site that can help you build your audience in several ways. It allows you to search influencers by industry and breaks down results based on location, subject matter, and profession. Another way to find possible influencers by location is to Google it. For example, searching for “mommy bloggers in Pittsburgh” would return lists of top bloggers in the area.
  4. Check out industry-related conferences and scan the speaker list. These are likely to be well-known and influential leaders in your field.
  5. Hashtag research can help you identify influencers with similar interests. Search for a topical hashtag (like #organicfood, #librarian, or #electricalengineer, for example) on Google, Twitter, and Instagram to find others interested in a topic. Dig a little deeper to look at how many followers they have, the engagement they get on their posts, and what kind of content they publish.


Once you’ve created a list of influencers, it’s time to start finding ways to connect with them. Don’t “pitch” influencers. Befriend them.


from “Known” by Mark Schaefer



Be Proactive with Industry Leaders

“No matter what topic you want to be known for, you should be proactive with industry leaders,” Aaron said. “You need to mingle with other influencers who can help you along the way. The best approach is to leave your digital footprint everywhere. Do this by liking other people’s photos, commenting on blog posts, helping others out, retweeting, creating guest content on leading blogs, and participating in Twitter chats, to name a few ideas.”


from “Known” by Mark Schaefer


When to Self-Publish


Today’s guest article is from Chris Ferebee of The Christopher Ferebee Agency.


I’m often asked by both would be and published authors, if and when to consider self-publishing. For those unpublished, the question often comes from the desire to be published as quickly as possible and frustration with trying to break into the industry. Both are often asking because they’ve read of significant success coming to self-published authors and wondering whether they even need traditional publishers anymore. As a literary agent, I earn a living representing successful authors to commercial publishers, but I absolutely believe there is a place for self-publishing. However, whether successfully published or looking to publish for the first time, there a few considerations that apply across the board.



Most publishers are looking more and more to the author to help sell their book. Publishers are having a harder time than ever successfully breaking out new authors. However, they can absolutely help amplify an existing audience. When you self-publish, there’s no amplification. You want to know how big your “platform” is? Self-publish. Self-publishing may be a shortcut to selling your content, but there is no shortcut to building a following and an audience for your work. Self-publishing will expose how successful you’ve been at this faster than anything else. 



When you publish with a commercial publisher, your book is generally available anywhere books are sold. When you self-publish, you are typically locked into a specific ecosystem. For example, to sell your book electronically through Amazon, you have to agree to exclusively sell your book on Amazon. Most people don’t consider that a big deal because Amazon controls 65% of the electronic book market. But only 19.5% of all books sold in the US are Amazon Kindle titles. In actuality, you’re tapping into a small segment of the overall book market. If you self-publish into a different ecosystem, you’re reaching an even smaller segment. All the more reason you need to have a robust following for your work to be successful.



A lot of authors will decide to sell their book directly from their own website to cut out the middle man and retain as much of their revenue as possible. But this means you’ll have to figure out how to deliver your book in the format your audience wants to read it in. Does you audience read on a Kindle, or a Nook, or an iPad? Do they know what specific file format each device uses and how to load that file onto their device once they’ve downloaded it from you? What if your audience wants your book in a physical format? Do you have the means of producing, warehousing and fufilling physical book sales? When you become a direct seller, you have to take all of these things into consideration.


In short, there’s no easy street to publishing, self or otherwise.  But if you decide to take the plunge, there can be significant benefits. For a published author, it offers you the ability to offer your audience something to tide them over between commercial releases. It can be an opportunity to generate revenue off of valuable content that makes sense for self-publishing, but that wouldn’t make sense for a commercial publisher to consider. It can allow you to bring a resource to market to capitalize on a trend significantly faster than most commercial publishers will be able to. It can be a valuable tool used to gain fans and followers and build your platform. For a self-published author, when done successfully it can help gain the attention of commercial publishers and prove that you do, in fact, have a loyal following willing to engage with your content. For anyone, it can be an opportunity to try your hand at content that doesn’t necessarily fit your “brand,” but allows you to introduce your audience to some of your other interests and creative endeavors.


As a few examples, here are some books my commercially published clients have released as self-published works for many of the reasons above: 


Charles Martin – River Road: A collection of short stories from Charles’ early writing days. 

Timothy Willard – Shine So Bright: A beautiful children’s Christmas story, successfully funded on Kickstarter and now available for sale. 

Margaret Feinberg – Live Loved: An adult coloring book encouraging scripture memorization, which has since been contracted and published by Bethany House. 

Rob Bell – Millones Cajones: A fun and surprising novel about a motivational speaker that suffers a crises of identity.



Writing and Publishing While Black


Dr. Valerie R. Landfair

Founder and President of Firstfruit Ministries, Inc.


One cannot escape the ever-increasing articles, videos, and Twitter posts that highlight the racism faced by people of color. These daily experiences of striving to survive and thrive in a world that is openly hostile to groups of people because of the pigmentation of their skins are exhausting. There are entrenched and systemic structures in the United States that exists to specifically maintain white privilege at all costs. Policies and laws are established to maintain the status quo that ‘white’ is ‘right.’


Thankfully, due to advancements in technology, the plethora of video clips of European American harassment of African American, Latinx, Asian American, and Native American people are coming to light. The documented harassment videos document the dangers of walking, talking, sleeping, waiting, eating, writing, driving, playing, and merely living while black, educational attainment, socio-economic status, or even place of residence. The stories of European-Americans calling 911 to keep black bodies “in line” and to “teach them a lesson” are all too familiar now. For years similar stories have been passed down by family legacy as the warning to keep our loved ones safe; now they are placed across social media and mainstream, media on an almost daily basis.


Racism is woven into the fiber of the core of what it is to be an American. Given this reality, I wonder why I was surprised when I encountered these injustices in writing and publishing while black. My graduate program was funded by my staggering student loan debt. I actively pursued grants and scholarships but received the standard rejection form letters over and over again. In the accumulation of this debt, I was determined to have a finished dissertation that captured my voice and that of my community.  I wanted others to hear the stories of my family, ancestors, churches, and loved ones. I wanted to share the joys and sorrows of a community of people who often feel powerless and invisible. I was committed and determined to write from an African-American female perspective and that I would be intentional to engage African and African American scholars.


Let’s be clear, I had plenty of dialogue partners that were of European descents who left their contribution in each of my chapters; however, my bibliography was a roll call for scholars of color. I wanted to pen some of the voiceless laments from the injustices of black, brown, red, and yellow bodies in the United States–the marginalized communities that often are subjected to racial profiling and discrimination.


So, what might writing and publishing while black look like in America? Well, it starts with the expectation that authors of color must have a high representation of European authors as their sources. Scholarly publications for the sable race must engage the European gatekeepers of their various disciplines in order to be seen as legitimate. I was instructed to include, and was given the names of, several European authors pending final approval of my dissertation publication. I was open to the fact that pending the approval of each chapter I needed to make revisions and to include a body of work to flush out my argument, to confirm my thesis or a critical piece of research. However, I was instructed that in order for my dissertation to have credence—legitimacy, I needed specific names in my bibliography. I had African, African American, Asian American, and Latina/o scholars from the various disciplines within the academy that the list of European scholars represented, but the approval of my dissertation was predicated on my engagement of the gatekeepers – European males and females.


The policing of my intellectual life, the censuring of choice of dialogue partners, and restrictions placed on my construction of a meaningful bibliography highlights the reproduction of whiteness embedded in the processes of the academy.  This is racism disguised as “being scholarly.”  This is what I face within the academy.


I own countless books written and published by European and European-American authors and I would hazard that the majority of names listed in their bibliography are not from a diverse and inclusive body of work. I own a nice sampling of books written and published by European authors who are ‘woke’ enough to include scholars from the margin; however, on close readings of these articles and books, the reader will discover that their work “lists” but does not seriously engaged these scholars of color in their research. The engagement of their lived experiences, cultural location, scholarly knowledge, and expertise is absent.


I find myself looking for the ‘writers while black’ in the footnote and endnote sections. However, I do acknowledge the European feminists who have African American feminist and womanist scholars included among there sources cited. I celebrate European females and males who are allies with the voices from the margin, however, my spirit is grieved that, in the final analysis their preferred dialogue partners are dead European males.  They leave sisters and brothers of color out of the real constructive conversations.


In a recent discussion with one of my favorite European professors, I encouraged him to intentionally engage voices from the margin in his upcoming book. He said, “Valerie, I do not look at race during my research, my focus is on finding good scholarship.” That reply is the foundation of European privilege within writing and publishing in America. The gatekeepers in the academy are not brown, black, red, and yellow bodies. It is so ironic to me that even regarding African scholarship, the gatekeepers are European males!


It’s time we fully interrogate these practices that reinforce racist standards and that continue to push scholars of color to the margins. I wonder


  • How many dissertations were approved pending the inclusion of voices from the margin?
  • How many European feminists were told by their publishers that they must have a robust engagement of African American feminist and womanist writers?
  • What would happen if the editors of the various academic journals would mandate that at a minimum 25% of their authors must be a person of color?
  • Can I write a “scholarly” piece using ONLY African, African American, Asian

American, Native American, Middle Eastern American, and Latina/o scholars?


So as social media rallies to call out the “Barbeque Beckys” and “Permit Pattys” of the world, let us not forget our more highly educated colleagues who police scholars of color with arcane standards and racists assumptions about what is and is not considered to be respectable sources. Writing and publishing while black is a thing and it is just as exhausting!

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