About Julie Cantrell

New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Julie Cantrell has been a freelance writer for more than a decade and has contributed to more than a dozen books. Julie and her family live in Mississippi where they operate Valley House Farm. Her debut novel, Into the Free, hit shelves February 2012 (David C Cook) with the sequel releasing September 2013. She is represented by Greg Johnson of WordServe Literary.

Surviving the Depths of Despair

Destin, Florida June 2008 451This week, our family is enjoying a long-awaited respite by the sea. I’m sad to admit we have been tested in many ways this year. But the good news is – after much suffering – we have come full circle.

As I sit on shore, toes tucked beneath warm sand, the roar of white caps rushing through me, I am reminded how small and simple our problems really are in the broader scope of universal infinity.

In fact, without the frames of time or space to help us process our daily lessons, our worries seem petty, ridiculous even. And that is an important thing to remember.

The Difference One Year Makes

One year ago, life as I knew it exploded. Everything I believed to be true was proven false.The one person I loved and trusted completely destroyed us all. And I never saw it coming.

It was if we had stepped on a land mine.

Our spiritual, emotional, and physical well-being were all under attack, and the enemy’s fire was relentless. My children and I endured round after round without pause, without relief.

But all the while, no matter how pointless it sometimes felt, I clung to my faith, insisting to my children that God had not abandoned us. That we were not alone. That love would see us through.

Now, here we are, back on the same shores where one year ago I threw my hands into the air and cried to the heavens.

Only once again, we are laughing. We race waves below blue skies; chase crabs from moonlight; scoop water as we kayak; cast nets below waves; and revive our spirits in a way that only a week at the beach can do.

Do You Believe in Evil?

Our family has survived an attack from what some would refer to as Evil. When I was a child, I was taught that the enemy seeks to divide and destroy, and that is indeed how I felt.

Forces beyond my understanding seemed determined to conquer our family. To divide us and destroy us. But somehow, with a lot of prayer and a tight grasp on our faith, we have withstood the storms.

Love One Another

When my children ask someday, what does it mean to love another, I hope they remember this lesson.

Love is not always easy. Sometimes it seems impossible. But when you love someone, you don’t give up on them. Even when, especially when, they reveal their weakest hour.

God’s Grace

My faith has taught me that we are all flawed. We all sin. We all fall prey to temptations and make bad choices along the way, even the best of us. At some point, we hurt others, and sometimes, we hurt the ones we love most in this world.

If we’re lucky, and if we are brave and honest enough to admit our mistakes, seek repentance, and work hard toward healing, our loved ones will stand by us and carry us through the darkest depths.

Today, our family is enjoying days in the sun again. But it wasn’t long ago we felt as if we were deep underwater, with strong currents pulling us down beyond hope.

There were moments I was certain we would all drown. But here we are, healthy of mind, body, and spirit once again.

So, now I ask, “Have you entered into the springs of the sea or walked in the recesses of the deep?” (Job 38:16)

Are you suffering? Have addiction, abuse, abandonment, betrayal, poverty, or violence shaken your spirit? Threatened all that matters to you in this world?

If so, hold tight to your faith and remember you are never alone. Protect yourself and your children from harm, and never doubt your own strength. Your own worth.

I promise, you can…you will…get through to the other side. And there, you will feel the wonder of God’s grace, as you master the ability to both love and to be loved – the one true purpose of this life.

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Julie Cantrell is the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of Into the Free and When Mountains Move. Learn more: www.juliecantrell.com

 

How To Create An Author Press Kit

ImageOne of the most effective strategies for book marketing is to create a press kit. This costs no money, but it’s a worthwhile investment of time because the kit will be used from pre-launch throughout the full life of the book.

WHAT IS AN AUTHOR PRESS KIT?

A well-designed author press kit serves as an easy-to-read source of information about a particular book. The goal is to convince folks to read this book and to share it with others.

Of course, the author’s unique skills should be highlighted as well, because media outlets need a reason to interview an author OTHER THAN the fact that their book is for sale. In other words, what makes THIS particular author worthy of air time/ink/review/shelf space?

WHO READS THE PRESS KIT?

The kit should be designed to reach:

  • Bookclubs
  • Booksellers
  • Print and online editors (magazines, newspapers, review sites, etc.)
  • Media outlets and journalists (print, radio, web, podcast, etc.)
  • Librarians
  • Readers (as far reaching as possible but target specific readership)
  • Reviewers (both professional and arm chair)
  • And anyone interested in the work

With millions of books on shelves/cybershelves, the kit must convince people to choose THIS ONE.

HOW TO CREATE AN AUTHOR PRESS KIT:

An author press kit consists of five components.

  • Cover Art: A high resolution jpg of the book’s cover.
  • Sell Sheet: A quick list of the book’s publishing information. Include back-cover copy, the specific editions of the book and availability; date of publication; name of publisher; and a general scope of the marketing/promotion plan (regional vs. national tour, blog tour, media interviews, advertising campaign, publicist, etc.). Give folks an idea of how much effort is being put into this campaign and be sure to include contact information for author and/or publicist.
  • Press Release: This serves as the official press release for the book. Follow the traditional format and exhibit professional know-how.
  • Interview Q&A: Provide a sample interview. Let this show the author’s personality, interesting background, or special skills. Offer something unique that would engage listeners/readers.
  • Sample Chapters: Link to a free chapter or two on Scribd. Offer a sneak peek that showcases the author’s talent and the tone of the book.

HOW TO SHARE THE PRESS KIT?

Once the kit is complete, convert it to PDFs and organize a PRESS KIT folder.

  •  Upload pdfs to an author website for easy download.
  • Before launch, research bloggers, media outlets, libraries, booksellers, bookclubs, etc. and create spreadsheets for each. Send email or postcards to these targets inviting them to download a free author presskit with sample chapters of the soon-to-be-released book.
  • Also share links via social media and other sites geared toward reaching readers.

With a little effort, a proper press kit can impress and intrigue. If done right, the kit will lead folks to a new book before it ever hits shelves.

Julie Cantrell is the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of Into the Free and its sequel, When Mountains Move. Learn more: www.juliecantrell.com

What’s Your Point of View?

jpcoverphotoWhen I wrote my debut novel, Into the Free, I never gave much thought to point-of-view; but as the words began to hit the page, they naturally fell into first-person narration.

First-person narration tells the story from the point-of-view of one character in a novel (usually the protagonist), and makes use of the words “I” and “me.” Critics point out that this style limits the perspective because it doesn’t allow readers to access other characters in the story. While this is a viable opinion, I argue that first-person allows the reader to gain even greater perspective by viewing the universe from the lens of that one character on a much more intimate level than anything an omniscient third-person narrator can provide. (We’ll leave second-person for another day.)

Yes, the view of other characters will be skewed by that one character’s interpretation of their actions, appearance, etc., but readers are granted full-access into the brain of that one narrating voice, even more so when that narrator is a trust-worthy character who isn’t deceiving us as we read. Essentially, we, as readers, are allowed to become that character. This enables us to enter that character’s world, interacting with the other characters, experiencing the events, and engaging at every sensory level throughout the story.

When an author delivers a story in first-person, we close the book feeling as if we have lived to tell the tale. This intrusive point-of-view makes the entire reading experience personal for us, moving it from the level of observation to participation. And because, by nature, the first-person perspective limits every scene to those in which the narrator is actively present (or his/her memory of such), we aren’t forced to pull back and watch something happening across space or time. We have no choice but to dive right into every single event of the story. We feel it, taste it, smell it, and react to it cognitively, emotionally, and instinctually.

As a reader, I have always enjoyed reading first-person narrations. Some of my favorite books were written using this point-of-view, and as a result, the narrators have become some of my favorite characters. Consider Scout in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Holden Caulfield in J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, or Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby, who tells us the tragic love story between Gatsby, Daisy, and Tom from his perspective.

Your turn: What point-of-view do you prefer to read? What do you prefer to write? Share some of your favorite examples, and introduce us to those characters who continue to stay with you long after you’ve closed the book.

Writing prompt: If you’re stuck in a scene, try writing it from another character’s point-of-view. What can you learn from seeing the event from a different perspective?

How to Write a Bestseller – Even If You Never Took a Writing Class

Recently, I was invited to share what I’ve learned in the trenches as I wrote, pitched, and published my debut novel, Into the Free…a book that spent three weeks on both the New York Times and USA TODAY bestseller lists and earned a starred review from Publishers Weekly (even though I never took a writing class).

Through the WriteNow writer’s workshop, I answered many questions, including:

  1. How did the idea for this book develop?
  2. Did you sell your first draft or were there many edits involved?
  3. What tools were most helpful for you as you learned to craft a novel?
  4. How did your debut novel get noticed on shelves?

We also discussed logistical details such as finding an agent, signing with a large publisher vs small publisher, dealing with editors, and carving time to write.

And we touched on hot topics in the publishing world including the convergence of the Christian and secular markets, self-published e-books, and why indie stores matter.

PLUS…listeners had time to ask questions at the end of this 45 minute workshop.

And the best part of all…the entire audio recording is still available FREE of charge online.

As a debut novelist, I’ve learned a lot by trial and error. Now, I’m ready to share my advice with you.

Why am I offering a free workshop? Because nice people helped me achieve my dream of becoming a novelist, and I want to do the same for you.

What’s in it for me? Well, selfishly, I’m an avid reader…and if I can help you publish a good book, then I’ll have a fabulous new story to read.

What do you have to lose? Absolutely nothing but time.

How can you participate in this free workshop? Visit WriteNowCoach.com where you can find an extensive archive of free workshops. While there, register to receive email updates so you won’t miss upcoming cost-free teleconferences.

Celebrate with a Launch Party

Photo Credit: Jeff McVay

When my debut novel hit shelves, I wanted to do something special. Too many people in my community had played a part in the journey, and I wanted everyone involved to be publicly acknowledged for their contributions to the book.

The night before the official release date, we held a Launch Party at our local bookstore, Square Books. I didn’t have a big budget, so we served Champagne and Chocolate to keep the event nice but affordable. (We also provided non-alcoholic bubbly so everyone could participate in the toast.) The night was lovely. Beyond lovely. And it will always be a favorite memory of mine.

If you’re thinking of having a launch party, and I strongly encourage you to do so, keep these simple tips in mind when planning your big event.

1. Consider your crowd. Ours is a laid back group from all walks of life, so I wanted everyone to feel comfortable. We kept it very low key and emphasized the “come as you are, bring the kids” aspect of the evening. The public was invited.
2. Consider your space. Our bookstore hosts many author events each month and is prepared for such crowds. It’s always great to support a local bookseller, but if you don’t have access to such a store/gift shop, think of themes that correspond with your book (knitting, outdoors, swimming, cooking, etc.) and tie the launch party into a suitable location.
3. Consider your time. A typical schedule is to have a “soft start.” Allow folks to trickle in and mingle, enjoying the free refreshments while you chat and sign a few copies to get the evening going. Then the bookseller (host) introduces you, and you speak for approximately 20 minutes. Then, you sign again.
4. Consider your speech. It’s best to mix up your presentation with a little reading, telling how the book came to be, thanking folks involved, and…if appropriate…inserting some sort of entertainment. I had two singers perform one song each to give voice to two of my favorite characters. Both gave emotional performances that moved many to tears, and I think it was the best part of the night.
5. Consider your signature. I admit I have AWFUL penmanship, but I do plan ahead and bring a stash of good pens. Always a good idea.

You’ll probably be too busy to think about taking pictures, so ask a friend to capture the night on film. Believe me, it’ll all be a blur. And don’t forget the minor details: wine glasses, champagne flutes, bottle openers, cake knife, napkins, plates, utensils, tablecloth, camera, extra books, bookmarks, etc.

Finally, if you plan to sell books at the launch, I strongly recommend you let someone else handle the sales. The last thing you want to worry about is money. It’s a once in a lifetime moment. Live it up!

What Disney Knew That Your Teacher Didn’t: You CAN Do It!

Find me one published author who never received a single “not the right fit” letter, and I’ll show you a fish with feathery wings. Whether at the educational stage, the agent stage, or the publishing stage, most have been told their work is not worthy.

I was lucky when it came to agents and publishers, but my rejection came earlier in life, when a high school teacher read my papers aloud ridiculing me in front of my peers. She teased me relentlessly (today it would be called bullying), and on the last day of my senior year in high school, she said to me, “I hope you don’t waste your scholarship to study writing. You may be able to write a greeting card, but that’s about as far as you’ll ever go.”

I made a mistake that day. I believed her. I put down my pen for nearly a decade and let way too many stories go untold.

That’s why, twenty years later, as Publishers Weekly gives me a starred review for my debut novel, I feel such tremendous excitement. Whether Into the Free sells two copies or two-hundred thousand doesn’t matter one bit to me. I now know one important thing: she was wrong.

Here’s what she didn’t teach us: God gives us each special talents, gifts, and dreams. Who are we, if we are not of God? What are our abilities, if not God-given?

I am a teacher, and I spend every bit of my energy trying to teach my children one lesson: You can do it!

I am tired of teachers telling us who we are and what we will or will not achieve. I am weary of labels and bell curves and standardized tests. I weep for this generation of children who are told you need x, y, z medications to fit into our box. And I mourn the countless souls who believed the people who said, “You’ll never…” or “You can’t…” or “You aren’t good enough…”

I say to you, today. You can. You are good enough. You were born for a purpose, and only YOU know what that is. Don’t let anyone discourage you from living YOUR life to its fullest potential. And if you fail, you’re only one step closer to succeeding.

Watch this little video clip I found on YouTube, and you’ll see…all great minds have a few things in common: failure, rejection, and a willingness to risk it all anyway.

Has anyone ever told you “you can’t”? What one piece of criticism has made you a better, stronger writer? 

DIY: Step-by-Step Guide to Making a Book Trailer

What is a Book Trailer?

A book trailer is a brief video used to market a book. Like a trailer for a motion picture, book trailers can make your title stand out among the masses.

Many professionals will produce trailers for a hefty fee, but why not do it yourself?

Four Simple Tools

  1. Computer: The first thing you need is a PC or MAC with decent operating speed. We used a PC with Windows 7.  Older versions of Windows may be slow to process video data.
  2. Camera: Recording in high definition (HD) is not necessary for posting on websites like Youtube.  We used a digital SLR camera (Canon EOS Rebel T2i), but we did not film in HD.  Instead, we used 640 x 480 pixels which created a much more manageable file size. (TIP: Make sure your software will open your video file type before you shoot the trailer.)
  3. Tripod: This is a must. Use a tripod. Always.
  4. Microphones: If you plan to include external sounds/voices, use microphones.

Five Steps and You’re Done!

  1. Setting: Choose locations based on your book’s theme. Obtain permission to film on anyone else’s property, and do not show anyone in the film without their permission (this includes folks in the background).
  2. Shooting: Shoot short segments and paste them together using a video software package.  We used Windows Live Movie Maker which was easy to use and comes with Windows 7.
  3. Editing: Transfer all the video segments into a single folder on your computer.  Decide on the order of the videos in advance (ex: save as Trailer1, Trailer2, etc.). Begin inserting them into the software and trim as needed.  You can use the audio from the original film segments or block it out completely and use a separate audio file. 
  4. Adding Music: While some royalty-free music is available online (http://www.istockphoto.com/audio), my teen daughter composed the music for our trailer. She performed it on our piano, and we recorded it using Microsoft Sound Recorder on our laptop (which is equipped with a built-in microphone). This program is on all Windows computers.
  5. Polishing: Your publisher may be willing to add a little polish and a company logo.  If so, the best way to share video file access with another editor is to use Dropbox.

Share the Love

Finally, save the file to a common format (MPEG-4 or AVI) or upload directly to YouTube from your software. From YouTube, I embedded my trailer on my website, added it to my author profiles on sites like Barnes & Noble and Goodreads, and shared it with friends through my blogsite. To post on Amazon, SheWrites and others, you need a direct file (not the YouTube upload). Many authors include a link to the trailer in their press kit, and some even distribute DVDs to local booksellers.

Have fun, and come back to share your trailer with us here at the Cooler!