Sing it, Lamb Chop!

projects.latimes.com

projects.latimes.com

This is the song that doesn’t end. Yes, it goes on and on, my friend.”

If you never watched the fabulous Shari Lewis perform with her puppet Lamb Chop, you might not know this delightful ditty from her Emmy-winning show that ran on PBS from 1992-1997. My youngest daughter enjoyed watching it as a toddler, and since I got to join her in front of the television, this song found its way into my permanent recall bank.

For better or worse, the tune takes over my head every time I have a task that seems never-ending.

Which is my way of introducing my topic today: platform building.

You see, platform building for a writer doesn’t end when your book is published. Instead of thinking of platform building as the first step toward publication, I now see it as the task that underlies the entire creative, marketing, and career development process. As long as you write, it doesn’t end.

But instead of looking at that task as an overwhelming, time-consuming responsibility, I’ve chosen to see it as the lifeblood of what I do.

My platform is my path to accomplishing the work that gives my life meaning. In my case, I want to bring people into closer communion with God’s creation, and I do that through the written word, telling entertaining stories about nature, and in particular, about birding and dogs.

Using this perspective motivates me to continue, and expand, my platform-building. Here’s a quick snapshot of what that looks like for me.

My first book – a small treatise about finding meaning in life – led me to discover my own passion: writing about engagement with nature. To market that first book, I gave retreats and workshops about identifying what you love and what God calls you to; as a result, I added speaking opportunities to my platform. Then I began writing my Birder Murder Mysteries, a light-hearted series about a birder who finds bodies (incorporating my own passion for birding and mystery). To sell books, I began reaching out to birders around the country (and the world!), connecting with them online, attending birding events, sharing information and becoming interested in conservation issues. That influenced additional books in the series, and led to more interaction with like-minded nature-lovers, which has both enriched my writing and my life with speaking/marketing opportunities and new friends. Six years after my first Birder Murder was published, I now have plenty of ideas for future books and venues to market them, as well as a list of birding hotspots to add to my bucket list of personal adventure.

My memoir about my dog is building a new addition to my original platform, giving me more places to talk about nature and to sell all of my books. I’ve begun volunteering with my local Humane Society because of it, and I now see all my writing as advocacy work for improving the human-nature connection. Yes, I know that my platform building doesn’t end, but neither do the rewards I’m finding when it comes to new experiences, learning interesting things, and contributing to my world.

What joys are you finding in the never-ending task of platform building?

Launching Your Book With Power

 

file9261294771115

How do you launch a book with power?

When we neared the launch date for our book, The Shepherd’s Song, we began to become anxious. Pressure built. How could be good stewards of this book that we felt God had place in our hands? What to do? We read, we Googled, we asked our friends but nothing seemed quite right. Then, we remembered.

The basis of the book had been prayer. We had prayed together during the writing of the book. We had prayed for each other and we had enlisted a prayer team to pray. The answer was simple. We would launch the book with prayer. But how?

Forty days out from the release of the book we began a forty day prayer launch. We prayed first for God to give us 40 people who would pray for 40 days. We put the request out on social media and we had 164 people sign up to pray with us. God blessed us abundantly.

This is how we set it up:

We created a list on Mail Chimp with a sign-up form that we posted on Twitter and Facebook and sent out to our newsletter list.  t was a simple request for anyone who wanted to join the prayer launch for the book.

We sent a one-sentence email prayer by Mail Chimp to the 164 people each morning for 40 days. Like these short prayers:

Put this book in the right hands at the right times.

Prepare the hearts of the people in Germany for this book.

Bless the marketing team as they plan for this book.

Bless the readers to accept God as their Shepherd.

For 40 days we all prayed. Then the book went out!

So, how do you evaluate the success of a prayer launch? You can’t measure the results in numbers. But here are some things that happened afterwards.

During an event at a church in South Carolina a woman we did not know came up and introduced herself. She said, “I prayed for this book.” A few tears were shed!

A woman in North Carolina was one of our first reviewers on Amazon. Her life had been changed by the book as she prayed for others to be moved by God’s Word.

Several of the prayer partners wrote to tell how the daily prayers had been used by God in their own lives on a particular day.

Best of all we were reminded daily that the book was God’s and not ours. That He would use His ways to share His words. That we had no need to be anxious.

What do think about a prayer launch? Some of you may have been part of this one. We would love to hear about it from your perspective.

Betsy Duffey and Laurie Myers

www.WritingSisters.com

 

Shepherd Song

 

 

Six Things Writers Need to Know About Email Marketing

Email Mouse ConceptNot long ago I was procrastinating my writing duties perusing Facebook and a fellow author (whom I know and love and who therefore will remain anonymous) was spouting off about how much she hates to get emails without her permission. “This is illegal!” she cried (as much as you can cry out on Facebook, the land of the overused exclamation point.) Many people commented their mutual disgust.

I, however, did not. You see, I’ve had a lot of personal experience with this lately and I thought I’d share what I learned with you.

Recently, I started working for a faith-based website. We wanted a large email campaign to build awareness. We hired a company to help us achieve this goal. For our target list, we researched public information. We didn’t use a computer software program or other nefarious means to gather info, but when we started to send e-mails through this company, we got the red light. The question became: How did you collect email addresses? We disclosed that it was through public information on the web.

This company wanted a permission-based email list in order to allow us to use their services. This could be achieved either through a personal phone call or the interested party filling out a web-based contact form. This is how subscription-based email systems like Mail Chimp work. You fill out a contact form and the author then has permission to e-mail you.

Everyone stays out of trouble.

The company I work for soon became familiar with the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003.

In short, you can email someone without their permission but that email needs to meet VERY specific requirements. Using an e-mail service like Mail Chimp accomplishes this and is likely why authors prefer it. However, you might need to email someone without “express consent” in order to see if they want to further know about your product.

E-mail services look at bounce rates. A bounce rate greater than the industry standard of 5% indicates the sender may be using substandard means to gather email addresses. Some of these means include using a computer program, guessing what the email address might be, and (according to this company) researching public sources.

But say you’ve had a reader contact you and you want to see if they’ll sign up for your newsletter. They haven’t given you “express consent” to email them (or advertise to them) but you think they might be interested in some of your product because they sent you a nice letter. You could send them an email asking them to sign up for your newsletter. In order to be in compliance with the law, that email would need to meet these requirements. I’ll be paraphrasing somewhat.

1. You must clearly identify who is sending the e-mail.
2. Use forthright subject lines. “Request to sign up for my newsletter!”
3. If the message is an ad, it must be clearly stated.
4. There must be a physical address in the body of the e-mail for you or the business. As an author, I wouldn’t suggest using your personal address. Get a PO box.
5. Tell recipients how they can opt out and then honor their requests within 10 business days. “If you’d like to stop getting these e-mails– please reply with STOP.”
6. If you’re using a company, they need to be following these rules as well.

So, technically, you can “cold email” someone, but you’ll need to hit these points. If you don’t, it can result in hefty fines. If you choose to not use a subscription based email service to build your newsletter list (which I do recommend), then read up on this law and (because I’m not a lawyer) consult a lawyer if you have additional questions.

What service do you use to email people? Have you ever heard of the CAN-SPAM Act?

Writing Inspiration from Anne Rice

Sometimes, what you need is a little inspiration from those that have braved the path before you. That’s really what this blog was designed to be– a way to help those who are a bit behind on the publishing path. To offer knowledge, encouragement . . . a helping hand.

Regardless of what you think of Anne Rice, she has “been there, done that.” I came across this interview on You Tube and found the information pretty interesting.

Hope it inspires you today.

What authors inspire you to keep perfecting your writing craft? What words of advice have kept you going?

WordServe News: June 2014

Exciting things have been happening at WordServe Literary!

On the final post of each month you’ll find a list of Water Cooler contributors’ books releasing in the upcoming month along with a recap of WordServe client news from the current month.

New Releases

Debora Coty with Barbour publishing, released the 15 month day planner for 2015, Too 9781628368574_p0_v1_s260x420Blessed to be Stressed. 

**************************************************************************************

Mary Davis’s previously released title The Captain’s Wife was361943 included in a historical romance collection released by Barbour: Beaches and Brides. 

**************************************************************************************

Jody Hedlund released Captured by Love with Bethany House Publishers

9780764210495_p0_v2_s260x420.

 

 

 

 

 

 

**************************************************************************************

MaryLu Tyndall released Abandoned Memoriesthe third and final book in her Escape to9781616265984_p0_v1_s260x420 Paradise series with Barbour.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New WordServe Clients

Kimberlee Morgan signed with Sarah Freese.

New Contracts

Jan Drexler signed a three book deal with Revell. First book tentatively titled Here Lies My Heart. Sarah Freese agent of record.

What We’re Celebrating!!

Deb Coty’s Fear, Faith and a Fistful of Chocolate won a Selah Book Award in nonfiction!

Deb DeArmond will be writing a monthly column called “Do What Matters” for Lifeway Magazine Mature Living.

Dena Dyer and Tina Sampless book Wounded Women of the Bible is a finalist in the Non-Fiction book of the Year Golden Scroll Awards!

Adam Makos’s A Higher Call continues to stay on the bestseller lists for the 23rd week!

MaryLu Tyndall’s novel Forsaken Dreams wins cover contest!

Julie Cantrell and Rachel Phifer are finalists in the ACFW Carol Awards, Historical and Contemporary categories respectively!!

What can we help you celebrate?

Spiritual Marketing: Martha Carr

There are now endless marketing tips and tools available to everyone with every kind of budget. It has gotten much harder to know when to stay strong and push on through a marketing plan that’s not quite working and when to let go and see what happens. It’s a blessing and a curse for a writer.

TheKeeperI’ve been writing and publishing for a few years and I’ve been fortunate enough to get the chance to be traditionally published and to self-publish. I’ve had the chance to have no money for marketing and a healthy budget. The lessons I learned from the experiences have proved to be invaluable to my life as a writer but not in the way I expected, especially when it comes to marketing.

What I discovered has felt like an obvious answer and has given me back my love of writing. Years of frustration over marketing had slowly taken that from me till I wondered if I wanted to write anymore. That’s when I paused and started listening from within and finally got an answer.

First, remember that when it comes to the actual writing, we all have a calling, an urge to write in one style or another and it’s pretty difficult to get us to stray from it. Mine is to write a series of thrillers, the Wallis Jones series, that include big conspiracies and average families searching for a way to deal with it all. For some, the answer is God, while others keep searching, hoping for a different answer.

No matter how many times I went and tried another style of writing, I eventually came back to that mix.

Marketing, however, is altogether different, especially in a quickly-changing world full of experts who say they can help sell your book. I’ve tried quite a few of them and with both good and bad results. In the end, it was all a lot simpler than I was trying to make it.

The answer was to live life on life’s terms. In other words, if there’s enough in my budget to do some marketing, then consult with the experts, weigh the options and set out with a plan. Keep the focus on the one plan and invite God into the entire process.

Instead of focusing on how many books were selling, my attention shifted back to what motivated me in the first place. I wanted to write because I had something to say. The fun returned because it was no longer about the outcome. So much of marketing can be about outcome if you let it.

That’s where I’ve started using spiritual marketing as my guide and letting go of the results. My part is to just do the piece of marketing that’s due today and then stop. I find myself sitting down to write without gritting my teeth or thinking about who might want to read it. I’d still like to sell a lot of books but my stomach doesn’t lurch when someone asks me how many have sold and I don’t feel compelled to hunt down opportunities.

I’ve got a plan in place for The Keeper that is reasonable and in line with my current budget for time and money. Outcome is out of my hands and I turn it over daily to the one place I know will be able to do something with it. I do my part in all of it but I’m not making sure everyone else is also doing their job. Until I adopted the idea that God would need to be part of the marketing as well, it was never enough. But for me, spiritual marketing means God can get me wherever He wants me to be so I can be assured this is my journey and relax into it.

*******************************************************************************************

MarthaCarrMartha Carr is a journalist and author of five books, including the Wallis Jones series. The 2nd thriller in the series, The Keeper has just been released. http://www.wallisjonesseries.com/.

 

The Juggling Act of Marketing While You Write

I learned a lot from the publication and release of my first bookInstead of dwelling on what I did wrong or inefficiently, I’m focusing on improving those areas when Getting Through What You Can’t Get Over releases in April, 2015 via Barbour Publishing.

Authors on Facebook

Mention Tiny Excerpts from Your Work in Progress

For instance, while writing my first release, if I had known then what I know now, I wouldn’t have held my enthusiasm back. I would have let my natural flow of excitement transfer into some of my Tweets, Facebook posts, LinkedIn shares, and Pinterest pins. I wouldn’t have sold to people, but would have offered a few teasers, a new sentence, a punchy line taken from my project, while I was writing it, getting people interested early. Word of mouth is still the best marketing vehicle around.

I would have blogged about the process more. (Something I just started doing on my Writing Wednesday posts.)

Authors on YouTube

Open Yourself Up to Your Audience with YouTube Videos

I would have posted a few videos on YouTube about struggles, victories, disappointments, encouragements, life interruptions, cave-dwellings, along with other writing downs and ups. Adding more visual author media to marketing efforts enhances the experience for readers. This allows audiences to read tone of voice, facial expressions, and body language, as well as words.

I would have listened to Michael Hyatt’s fantastic audio series, Get Published!, while I was writing, not shortly after my book released. Then I would have acted on many of his insider suggestions.

While I juggle writing, marketing my current book, pre-release marketing for my new one, family, friends, speaking, coaching, and the occasional unexpected crisis, I’m also celebrating a few things I did right on the first go around.

Michael Hyatt's Get Published

I Highly Suggest This Audio Series for Publishing and Marketing

I made new connections, and built some solid and life-long relationships with people who can benefit my writing career, but more importantly, are now my friends. We help each other, encourage, pray, and genuinely care about what happens to each other, more than we care about what happens with our careers.

I proved myself capable as a professional writer and marketer. Building credibility and practicing integrity at the foundation of your career provides a solid footing to propel you forward as you move ahead with new books, articles, and posts. I see myself as a slow and steady author, who will win the race through consistency and solid growth. I’d rather experience longevity, versus a fast start that sputters in a flash.

I made some marketing mistakes, but didn’t let them become catalysts for giving up. Instead, I evaluated where things fell apart, and used those insights to make informed decisions and new plans. Some things I need to cut out completely, but most only require a few tweaks, and my updated marketing plans will prove more profitable.

Believe GodBut the most powerful thing I did right the first time, and am continuing to do now, is this: I am not leaning on my own understanding. Instead, I am asking God where to invest my talents. Who are the readers? Where should I market? What is the best use of my energy? When should I time marketing efforts? How should I balance the juggling act of marketing while I write?

In the end, none of us knows the perfect marketing plan. But, those who succeed exhibit similar qualities. Guts, consistency, resolve, humility, a teachable spirit, listening ears, watching eyes, and a quitting-is-not-an-option determination. No matter how much juggling is required.

What do you know now that you didn’t know before about marketing?

Marketing Lessons From My Dog

bulldog wearing eyeglasses sleeping over a good novelAlthough my dog knows nothing about online social media, she is a rich inspiration for me when it comes to marketing. Here are the lessons I’m learning from her as I spend this season promoting my humorous memoir, Saved by Gracie, about my life with a four-pawed family member.

1. Persistence pays off. Gracie gets a fresh whiff of ground squirrel in one of the numerous holes in the hillside we walk every day, and for the next three days, she smashes her big nose into that same hole when we pass by. By the fourth day, she tries another approach and begins digging furiously to find the critter she knows is somewhere down there. So far, no squirrel, but she’s produced a mound of fresh dirt to play with. My take-away: keep working a lead until you get what you’re after, or until your work yields other opportunities. It worked for me last week: after a month of trying to get some events press from the alumni office of my alma mater, I tried another approach – I contacted the university’s social media manager, who offered to post and share my events. I knew there was help somewhere, and I found it! And now I have a productive contact in my resource file for future reference. Opossum22. Instead of dancing around an idea, grab it and run with it. Gracie finds an opossum on the edge of our backyard and circles, unsure what to do with it. I try to get her away from the furry ball, but we continue to dance around it until she finally snatches it up in her mouth and tears off for the front yard. She drops it along the way, I snag her collar, and take her into the house. Gracie is unharmed, and the opossum wanders back into the woods. My take-away: be bold and see what develops. I always wondered if there was value in an author book tour, so I decided to put one together myself for Saved by Gracie. It forced me to reach out to new venues and contacts in places I’d never approached, expanding my network of resources and readers. And since I traveled to places where I have family, I got free housing and a chance to visit, too. More importantly, I’ve learned the details that go into a book tour, creating a template for the next time around. (And the book tour didn’t bite me, either.) CC Cookie and Gracie 0533. Take a break. Gracie takes a nap after our morning jog, but by afternoon, she’s eager to go back outside and do it again. My take-away: recharging is just as important as working hard. Like many authors, my to-do lists are long and ever-growing. I have to make myself take breaks, but when I find myself away from my lists, my mind runs free, generating fresh ideas and perspectives. By the time I’m back at work, I’ve got new creative energy to pour into my projects. Which leads me to conclude that whoever said “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” clearly wasn’t an author. Or at least, not one who sold books…

5 Things the Theater Taught Me About Writing

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe smell of popcorn takes me back…backstage, that is. From 1998 to 2007, my husband and I, along with several other talented individuals, performed thousands of shows to enthusiastic crowds in two small-town Texas theaters. The experience taught me enduring lessons about creativity, professionalism, and making a living through the arts. These tenets apply to your writing life and other creative endeavors, as well. Here are five things the theater taught me about writing, in no particular order:

1. Word of mouth is the best publicity

Our audiences, though small, were passionate. We provided quality entertainment and our most ardent supporters talked about us…a lot. They brought groups, gave their friends tickets, and sometimes drove hours to see us. Though we bought print ads, paid a few publicists, and had a large email newsletter, the theater’s best advertisement was—without a doubt—word of mouth. 

It’s the same with promoting your writing. Today’s readers are consumers, just as our season ticket holders were. They long for quality and consistency. They’re busy, and they need a reason to keep reading past the first few lines. And when they are delighted by what they’ve read? They’re the most loyal, vocal folks around. Because we live in an instant-communication society, bad word-of-mouth spreads fast. Make sure your writing product is stellar, and great publicity will follow.

2. Give the audience what they want

One of the owners of the first theater in which I performed often said, “Give ‘em hamburgers!” He meant that we shouldn’t mess with success. If tickets sold quickly for a 1950s music revue, we wrote another similar show. Of course, we also experimented and pushed boundaries (otherwise, all of us would have grown bored). However, we changed our product in small increments. We also created special experiences—behind-the-scenes tours, holiday packages, giveaways—for avid supporters. Cast members even called our VIPs (those folks who came to the theater over and over) on their birthdays and anniversaries, which the VIPs greatly appreciated.

In your writing, think about creating a memorable experience for the reader. How can you provide extra value (giveaways, incentives, free resources) in a professional, winsome file3691295046962manner? In what ways could you creatively and tangibly thank those who willingly support you and talk about your books?

3. Leave your ego at home

Most of the performers I worked with over the years have been gracious, humble, and diligent. A few, however, turned me off with their arrogance, over-the-top demands, or lack of discretion. The most successful artists, long term, are those who go out of their way to thank people and who treat the sound technician as well as the venue’s owner. Those are the performers who are offered more opportunities.

Ask yourself: am I approachable, warm, and thankful for the opportunities life has given me? Or I am on a mission to impress everyone I meet, in order to “build my brand”?

4. There are no small parts, only small actors

So said Constantin Stanislavski. When you perform a small role with professionalism and excellence, the people in charge notice–and they’ll eventually give you more responsibility.

The same goes for becoming a better writer. If an editor asks for a 400-word piece, I’ve learned to take it seriously and do my best work. In this age of instant access, anyone can read your work at any time, from anywhere. Who knows what small beginnings might lead to larger opportunities?

And, finally, in related wisdom…

5. Know when to stop

On stage and in writing, creatives need to develop an important skill: how to bring a something to a close. In the theater, we say that last line, spin on our heels, and exit, stage left. In writing, we find the right moment, the right phrase, the right word, and that’s it. The end.

This post is a reprint from Tweetspeak Poetry.

Marketing for the Introverted Writer

Sing Your Unique Song via Janalyn Voigt | Wordserve Water Cooler“All you need is you, yourself,” marketing expert and author James Rubart once said with regard to marketing. His comment, given at a meeting of Northwest Christian Writers’ Association, stuck in my mind because I didn’t believe him.

That’s easy for you, Jim, I thought with a touch of asperity. You are an extrovert who can walk into a book store and chat with the owner without breaking into hives. 

I am an introvert. If I had my way, I’d retire to a closet to write, coming out only to eat, sleep, and possibly notice the existence of my family. Okay, I’m exaggerating, but I really do have a closet office. My post describing it spiked visits to my website, which makes me suspect I’m not the only introverted writer. Welcome, and here are some of the lessons I’ve learned along the way.

  • Promoting is not nearly as hard as I was making it. Once I busted through my own resistance and consistently marketed my book, I harnessed the power of routine. I was looking at the whole marketing puzzle at one time, but we really only solve a puzzle one piece at a time.
  • I don’t have to be a social butterfly to effectively market a book. All I need is the willingness to touch people using whatever format I find comfortable. That doesn’t have to be face-to-face, necessarily. The Internet allows me to promote to those I probably will never meet. As a writer, I’m wired to be a communicator, and communicators need listeners. That makes me a people person. Who knew?
  • Marketing is not the same as going to the dentist. It can even be fun. Really. The key is to employ platforms that work well for you and that you enjoy or at least can tolerate. Your platforms can be in-person or online. Sometimes you need to compromise to attain a goal. For example, although I would rather not speak in public, if I want to fulfill my desire to teach other writers, I have to overcome my reluctance.
  • I can market with my writing. I had a Hallelujah moment when I realized I could promote my book by writing related content for magazines, book sites (like Wattpad and Goodreads), or on my website as a subscriber incentive.
  • I don’t have to be at every social site. I have better results when I specialize at one or two sites rather than trying to keep up with them all. As a bonus, I have more time for writing.
  • Keeping track of people is important. I confess. I lose people online. I don’t mean to, but there are too many conversations with so many people. List the most important people to you as an author, and then make sure you engage with them on a regular basis.
  • Push past your fears. This lesson was one of the hardest for me, and something I have to learn all over again on a regular basis. If I let fear stand in the way, I cheat myself of fulfilling my God-given calling. Not only that, but I deprive others I want to reach with my writing. In light of that, my fears don’t seem quite so compelling.

Jim Rubart was right when he said that you only need you, yourself, to market your book. Don’t worry about being someone you are not. Instead, use your talents to sing your unique song to those who need to hear it.