When the Bad Reviews Come {And They Will}

 

bad book reviews

“She needs to have more respect for the process . . . trying to claim that everyone should heal like her.”

The words pierced my heart.

Until then, I had enjoyed a couple good months of positive feedback, those heartwarming days after the release of my debut nonfiction book, When A Woman Finds Her Voice. The book hit #1 on Amazon’s Hot New Releases charts and then walked the Amazon {paid} bestseller list {in its genre} for a couple weeks in the top five. It also won some literary awards. But more importantly, my words were reaching the hearts of readers as comments like “inspiring,” “introspective,” “encouraging,” and even “life-changing” peppered online reviews.

That sort of feedback overwhelms a girl with God’s goodness, giving value to this shy writer’s words. To think He had somehow exchanged these primitive ramblings of one who simply longed to spread hope and had used them as encouragement for others, that’s humbling.

I’d finally felt the freedom to say it above a whisper: I am an author.

But then that two-star review hit my screen, attacking my sense of worth. It shouldn’t have, I know. Mentors warned me it was coming; they’d suggested I not even read it.

I didn’t listen.

I determined to mentally counter the negativity and then quickly return to my illusory sense of fulfillment. After all, I welcomed reviews—good or bad. Perpetual student that I am, I’m known to {relentlessly} solicit constructive criticism as an opportunity to learn. And here it sat, this chance for free education, this two-star review therapy.

But in a review-driven culture where we allow others to determine what we read, watch, eat, and even where we spend the night, how can we not be impacted when someone misunderstands our heart?

The judgement sliced soul deep, challenging insecurities I’d long ago buried.

This is the sort of vulnerability we open ourselves up to when we cast our words, our heart, into a public arena that holds potential for not just admiration and esteem but also misunderstanding.

You see, there’s nothing I’m more compassionate about than reaching the heart of a wounded woman and leading her to the restoring, redemptive feet of Jesus. But this particular reader didn’t know that, didn’t know me.

So how do we filter through these words when they come?

  1. We anchor. It’s crucial to anchor any negativity with perspective. We can’t allow disapproval to overtake our thoughts. For the one poor criticism, I had 49 positive reviews from folks who had been uplifted by my words. I worked hard to focus on those. {Very hard.}
  2. Bounce back. To feel defensive at first is natural, but if you find yourself wanting to respond negatively {as in hunt the person down on social media to blast them back}, walk away from the screen and refocus. Immediately.
  3. Consider truth. Ask yourself, “Is this true? Is the criticism valid? Did I somehow fall short?” If so, use this information in a positive manner and seek to write with excellence. However, if the negatives aren’t well-rounded and constructive, the point baseless, you simply have to let it go.

As word-weavers, this should become our default: in the face of bad reviews, let’s practice our ABCs to rebuild our confidence. Anchor. Bounce. Consider.

Okay, I’m curious now: How do you handle criticism?

What the Apostle Paul Might Have Said About Marketing

wordserve

Looking for marketing help, dear writer? Why, you’re in luck! Step right up to the Internet and tell old Google what you need, but be prepared to stay a while. A plethora of reading material and marketing advice abounds online, addressing the subject from every imaginable angle–and then some.

Except, perhaps for this one: Don’t overlook the value of marketing your neighbor’s work.

Hear me out before you write me off (weak pun apology). I’m convinced that this would be the type of advice the Apostle Paul might have offered had he ever taught a class in Marketing #101. In God’s School, the way up is down. Or, as Paul said in Philippians 2:3,”Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.”

Yes, it’s challenging to understand how to apply those holy words to our writing lives. Especially when we’re constantly reminded that our platforms are everything and publishers find us only as attractive as our last sales numbers. But if God’s word doesn’t apply to all of our lives, it applies to none of it.

Selfish ambition is building our platforms with tunnel vision to the work of everyone around us.

God’s way is to step away from my work long enough to value yours.

It’s a valuable principle of marketing. I once thought I stumbled across it accidentally, but I now believe it has been entirely by God’s design. He orchestrated it through my work as a radio talk show host when I began reserving a segment of time to interview other authors. In the early days of All Things Southern LIVE, these were authors I met during my travel– until publicists began discovering this new venue and pitching their clients’ work.

I need to say this: I don’t promote everything that comes across my desk. Sadly, this is often a matter of pure time constraints. I don’t have the air time to interview even half of the authors whose galleys find their way to my desk. At other times, it’s a matter of my personal reading preferences or my understanding of the reading habits of my listeners. However, for these very reasons, when I do read something that entertains me, challenges me, encourages me, or flat out stretches me, I’m able to bring it to my listeners with authentic excitement. My audience knows this, so they trust my recommendations.

So, how does this help my marketing efforts? Well, that’s the beautiful thing. God’s way is always a win-win. Over and over I’ve seen how celebrating the works of others rebounds to bless my own career.

We’ve all been told to build a reader base and encourage that connection by staying in touch. We also know how distasteful it is to promote our own work. Introducing other authors to our readers–when we’re genuine about their work–allows us opportunities to stay engaged and interact with our communities in a natural way. In turn, our relationship with those authors invariably leads to our introduction to their readers.

Now that is marketing we can all manage. Can I get a witness?

Hugs,
Shellie

Launching Your Book With Power

 

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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

 

 

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. 

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

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Jody Hedlund released Captured by Love with Bethany House Publishers

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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?

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?

Two Writers Walk Into This Bar . . .

Celebratory drinkWhat happens when two writers unexpectedly find themselves with a free evening together?

A nice dinner and a glass of wine? Laughter and bonding? Sharing experiences from both on and off the author trail?

Yes. All that, and new marketing ideas, too.

At least that was my experience two weeks ago when my agency colleague Anita Agers-Brooks made a short-notice trip my way and we were able to spend a few hours together – hours that had no agenda other than getting to know each other. And even though we write in different genres (Anita is a leadership guru, while I write humorous mysteries and memoir), we had much to offer each other in the way of marketing and business ideas. Here are a few nuggets from our impromptu party to spark your own ideas:

  1. Writing is a business. Do you treat it that way? Anita reminded me that I needed to file paperwork to become an LLC (limited liability company) as legal protection of my assets. We live in a litigious world, and a writer must be a good steward of her assets both spiritually and financially. As Anita pointed out, if you wait to protect your business till someone sues you (yes, it can happen!), you’re already too late. (And be sure to include Errors & Omissions insurance while you’re at it.)
  2. Goodreads.com is a publicity goldmine. Are you on it? For my new book release, 658 people entered my giveaway drawing for 3 free copies. That’s a lot of eyes on my book the day it released. And giveaways are just the tip of what you can accomplish on Goodreads. (Read this marketing tutorial on using Goodreads.)
  3. Pay attention to casual comments. After a pastor told Anita her book would be a good topic for a sermon, she found a template online for sermons. She plans to fill it out using her book and then share the template with pastors. She’ll get her message presented by pastors, and she won’t even have to be present! (Does that qualify as bilocation – being in two places at the same time?) I’m going to take her idea and see if I can make it work for me.
  4. Take ownership for your promotional campaign, because ultimately, the book is your baby. Both Anita and I have been surprised by the limitations even large publishers can have when it comes to marketing; our publishers can pull some big coups for us (Anita spoke to a filled college auditorium thanks to her publisher, and I’m getting phone-in radio interviews thanks to mine), but the local press and on-going events calendar that make up the bulk of your PR efforts remain in your own lap, not to mention getting your launch team recruited and equipped to spread the word.
  5. Learn from each other’s experiences. After spending an evening with a writer in the same phase of our careers, I feel like I may still be in the same boat. But now I know there are other boats traveling along beside me, happy to share their own tips and advice. In fact, maybe a small-group marketing retreat would be a good idea. Hmmm….

(FYI – I was kidding about the walking into a bar. Anita and I did walk around a golf course, however. The air was much fresher.)

Marketing In and Out of the Box for Authors and Speakers

“It’s getting harder to find places to sell books.”

Anita Brooks Conference Speaker

Find an Audience and Speak to their Needs

Public speaking is still the most effective sales tool for book authors according to many professionals. But with conference attendances lowering, and some closing down, the opportunities are dwindling.

And without a strong marketing plan, you often can’t get a publisher to bite on a proposal anyway.

So what’s an author to do?

You’ve probably heard “think outside the box” when it comes to marketing, but what does that mean?

Don’t lose hope, there are still effective things you can do to strengthen your marketing strategy through speaking. For instance, re-slant your messages to fit groups you might not normally speak to, or have never thought of speaking to.

Conference Speaker

Every Celebration & Educational Event Needs a Speaker

  • If you speak on marriage, have you targeted business groups and associations where couples may work together, or have employees who do?
  • If parenting is your theme, have you contacted day-care centers who often spend more waking hours with children than parents?
  • If grief or trauma is your message, what about speaking to Chambers of Commerce, or association conferences about how their members can help the hurting, promote good will, and further their mission as a result?
  • Is there an awards banquet you can connect a presentation to?

When contacting churches and ministry organizations, ask yourself questions like these:

  • What are the biggest problems I see in society today?
  • What are my greatest pet peeves?
  • What do I hear people complain about most often?
  • What do people say they are lacking?

Those are the areas you can target to reach audiences in a relevant way. Many ministries are looking for speakers who can address concerns of a younger crowd growing more jaded, more “accepting,” and more in need of spiritual wisdom than ever. But wrapped in practical twenty-first century applications.

The Whole Earth Needs Hope

People All Over the Earth Need Hope

The fact is, human beings all over the planet are drawn to messages of hope and encouragement, and like-minded people flock together. The key is to develop a strategic marketing plan, do your homework, study potential audiences, make consistent contacts, and follow up on a regular basis. Over time you will begin to get a feel for what works and what doesn’t. Set goals and stick to them.

To help you get started, here’s a link that offers info on associations of all kinds.

Finally, I must mention the most important thing of all. Partnering with God through prayer, trust, AND practical action.

Here’s my real secret to any marketing success. Based on the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25, I ask God who the bankers are that He wants me to invest my talents with, and then I look and listen. I’m often surprised at the opportunities available; it simply takes looking at things through fresh eyes. Sometimes in the box, and sometimes by stepping out.

Have you discovered any unique ways to market books or sign more speaking events?