It’s Never Too Late to Write

I started my writing career later than most. At least compared to many of my twenty-first century peers.

And I worried I’d waited too long.

Broodmoor Hotel, Colorado

It’s Never Too Late to Make a New Bed

Actually, I had a lot of strikes against me. I was sure I’d made my bed, and had no opportunity to make another. But I was wrong.

If it hadn’t been for a persistent push from God, I doubt I’d be writing to you now. But He continually convicted me through the Parable of the Talents, Matthew 25:14-30. You see, I was the wicked and lazy servant who’d buried her gift.

However, God truly is merciful — and encouraging. Over a period of a few years, He used five real-life examples to show me it’s never too late to write.

The first lived in Missouri, like I do. Laura Ingalls Wilder and Rose Wilder Lane, two of the most inspirational writers I’ve ever studied, called Mansfield, Missouri home. Rose schooled her mother on how to formally pen those wonderful classic books, the Little House on the Prairie series.

But the most amazing part was learning Laura was sixty-five years old when the first best-selling manuscript went to her publisher.

Strolling through her grounds recently, I imagined her gnarled hands scratching out stories from memory onto pages of paper. She finished her final book at age seventy-six.

Another author who started late was Frank McCourt, also publishing in his mid-sixties. The wisdom of time and experience propelled Angela’s Ashes to the top of global readers’ favorite lists.

At forty-five, Raymond Chandler, (who I share a birth date and month with), finally broke into publishing success, after struggling from the time of his youth to make his professional mark.

In her fifties, Mary Wesley published a few children’s books without notice. However, in her seventies, she took the world by storm with her first novel, Jumping the Queue.

James Michener is a well-known name for those who know writing. But some don’t realize his fifty year Pulitzer-prize-winning career didn’t start until he was fifty, continuing until his death at age ninety. His last book published posthumously.

What's on Your Bucket List

What Does Your Bucket List Say?

No matter what encourages you, whether it’s real-life examples, spiritual promptings, or the example of a writer who did, though I feared I wouldn’t, let something spur you on. Age, location, past failures, naysayers, none of those things matter.

If you are willing to learn, to listen, to do the work, to learn some more, to listen some more, then work some more, you will see results. Maybe not at the caliber of some of the names listed here, but at the level you are supposed to achieve. This leads me to one more thought — actually it’s a question.

Many people tell me they believe in God. But I respond by asking this, “Do you believe God?” A simple change in sentence structure changes the meaning. In Proverbs 14:23 (NIV), it says, “All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.”

Maybe your sentence structure will help someone see a familiar statement in a new way. Maybe your profit will result in financial windfalls. But more likely, it will come through a life changed. A life you touch because you never gave up. Because like me, you chose to believe God and say, “It’s never too late to make a fresh start with fresh faith — while I write.”

What encourages you to write on?

 

The Surprising Secret to Juicing Up Your Writing

“Sitting at a computer is the place for taking a clunky sentence and smoothing it out, making it read better. I do some of my best writing in my head before I fall asleep for my afternoon nap. I recommend that!”

—Tony Hillerman, quoted in Tony Hillerman’s Landscape by Anne Hillerman

Business Coaching

What’s Making You Tired?

I don’t know about you, but it seems like I spend at least half of my writing time combating fatigue. Maybe it’s my crazy on-the-road schedule as a national speaker and business coach. It’s possible the myriad of personal problems, some huge, some small, drain my emotions and my body. It could be the anxiety I feel when juggling all of the fine details that go into a professional writing career. Social media — check. Blog — check. YouTube videos — check. Marketing my books — check. Pursue new speaking/coaching gigs — check.

As I view the list, it’s no wonder I’m wiped out. But knowing why I’m tired won’t change the fact that my books and articles won’t write themselves. No one but me can put my words on my pages — the messages I believe God started a burn in my heart to share and show.

But this brings me back to my original problem. What to do when I finally get time to write, but feel too tired to type a word?

The solution is so simple, I’m embarrassed to admit I overlooked it for the longest time. A time-proven technique for juicing up your writing. A secret to turning on the creativity, when your muse is turned off.

And here’s the secret. Take a short nap.

Hot Air BalloonsSounds crazy, right? But it works. One of the reasons I resisted was my fear I’d fall asleep and waste all of that precious time. However, I’ve found it doesn’t happen. Somewhere in the dozing phase, my mind starts whirring with ideas. So much so, after an average of twenty minutes, my inspirations wake me up. Napping has transformed my craft and my process.

I should have known. From the beginning of my writing career, I’ve committed and adhered to taking a weekly sabbath rest. One full day off. No writing. No marketing. No work. It’s one of my secret answers to the question I hear so often, “How do you get so much done?”

You see I learned this secret from the Best-Selling Author of all time. God took the first Sabbath, or shavat vayinafash in Hebrew. The term literally means God rested and got a new soul. And we’re meant to live in His image, so why wouldn’t we renew our souls through rest?

Gold Clock

Resting has a Supernatural Way of Restoring Time

I thought, if it works for a whole day, why wouldn’t a mini-sabbath work for part of one? So I tested the theory, and found a twenty-minute nap can infuse me with as much energy as taking a week’s vacation. Seriously. It’s like gaining an extra day.

Other highly successful authors swear by it. Now I do too.

I believe the quality of my writing has improved from the regular practice of napping, and/or resting in quiet meditation to allow my creative juices freedom to flow. Sabbath renews my soul, clears my mind of clutter, and revives my spirit.

So I challenge you — the next time your eyes droop as you face the keyboard, go against your instincts. Don’t push through. Don’t beat yourself up. Submit. Give your body the refreshing rest it’s crying out for, and feel the juicing begin. Not only will you feel better, but chances are your readers will benefit from your better books.

How do you deal with writer’s fatigue?

 

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?

Should a Non-Fiction Author Write Novels and Vice-Versa?

Gift Wrapped Package

Are Shiny Objects Calling You?

One of my coaching clients has to guard against his propensity to chase every shiny new object. I can identify with his temptations, as I struggle with similar ones in my writing. Can I author both fiction and non-fiction? Can you? Let’s explore the question, and see if we arrive at the same conclusions.

Recently, I had a conversation with my literary agent that went something like this: 

Me, “I’m grateful my non-fiction books are selling, and my platform is building in the genre, but I have these two great novel ideas. What do you think? Would it be okay for me to pursue them?”

Alice, in a gentle tone after taking a deep breath, (I’m sure praying for patience with this crazy, bling-chasing author she has to deal with), “We normally recommend trying to stick with one genre. Otherwise it confuses your audience.”

“Could I do it using a pen name? I have one picked out.”

“Possibly. But then you’re using twice the energy to build two platforms simultaneously.”

That sounded like a whole lot of work to me.

Alice, “Can you turn your novel ideas into non-fiction?”

“Fiction is more fun to write.”

“I’m sure. But why don’t we focus on finishing your current book, then revisit this when you’re done?”

She’s a wise woman. I’m sure she believed the luster of authoring fiction would fade with time. And to a degree, she was right.

I’ve since researched the subject further, and found there are some common concerns and benefits listed from those with vast experience and knowledge. Publishers, agents, and even high-profile authors said much of the same. Here are the highlights of what I learned about the subject.

Keep Your Promises

Reader Expectation Can Drive their Trust

Cons:

1. Most readers will try a favorite author’s book in a new genre once, but if they don’t like it, may not buy any books written by them again. Including those they loved before.

2. Loyal readers often feel betrayed by the switch, and never regain trust. Genre confusion can cause authors to lose whole segments of audiences who now view them as promise-breakers.

3. If you switch genres, and the new book tanks, it can take years to rebuild publisher confidence and marketing momentum.

Pros:

1. Writing too much of a similar thing can cause an author to sound scripted, formulaic, and stale in later books. A change in the creative landscape can infuse fresh dimension into their craft.

2. Opportunities to cultivate new audiences grow with change. For example, if you write murder mysteries, but switch to a practical how-to, you chance reaching people who won’t read the mystery.

3. Authors like C.S. Lewis successfully carried their voices into cross-over markets, reaching many more people. If you are careful to stay true to your writing self, you potentially could do the same.

Old TypewriterAfter talking it over with my agent, researching, praying, and much pondering, I think I’ve had a change of heart. Turning my novel ideas into non-fiction is feasible. And I know successful writers are teachable and flexible. If I want to thrive in the writing world, I need to mirror those traits, and listen to those with voices of wisdom.

Down the writing road, I may change my mind or the market may shift, but at this point, why mess with success? I’d hate to have a shiny new object deflect me from the blessings I already have.

Do you think it’s wise to write fiction and non-fiction? Why or why not?

 

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?

Preparing for a Radio or Podcast Interview, Pt. 2

Darren and Anita Engaging Life and Leadership

Host Darren Dake recording Engaging Life and Leadership Podcast

You may not think this pertains to you, but if you are an author, or aspiring author, there is something you need to face. One day, if you are fortunate, you will sit on the other side of a mic or telephone, answering questions from a show host. And you want to shine as brightly as possible, so your message connects with more people in the listening audience.

In Part One, I talked to you about preparing before the interview. This time, I want to share how I prepare during a radio or podcast episode.

I’ve gotten experienced in the process, and learned several things along the way. I’m going to tell you what happens behind-the-scenes that helps me do a better job. I hope this encourages and strengthens your confidence when it’s your turn.

  • Here’s the weird one, but I bank on it. I make an interview tonic of raw, organic apple cider vinegar, raw local honey, a touch of garlic, and mix it into a glass of Appletini or Cherry Pomegranate Crystal Light. (No, I don’t add alcohol, and I don’t suggest it, no matter how tempting, LOL.) About five minutes before we air, I take two or three good swigs. It reduces phlegm, sore throat, a gravelly voice, and strengthens my tone when I speak. On commercial breaks, I’ll sip a little more.

    First Hired Anita Brooks

    Spread Your Message with an Effective Interview

  • I have a fresh glass or bottle of water at the ready. Keep anything you drink away from the microphone or telephone receiver — don’t want to gulp On Air. Word of caution: continue paying attention to what’s being said or you might miss a question you need to answer. (Also I don’t drink too much before the interview. If Mother Nature calls during the segment, it can get mighty uncomfortable.)
  • I place my briefing book in hand’s reach. (See last month’s post on what a briefing book is.)
  • I have a copy of my published book on hand. During commercial breaks, I’ve had two hosts ask me to read a sentence or two directly from my own book.
  • Take slow, deep breaths to reduce blood pressure and calm my nerves during breaks.
  • Listen twice as much as I speak, making sure I don’t cut the host off, or interrupt his/her flow. Remember, most people tune in because they like the host, or the program format. The percentage of audience members who listen due to the topic is small.
  • Strive to be myself, while intentional about infusing a warm and welcoming tone to my voice. I imagine talking to a dear and trusted friend, even when the host is trying to stir a little controversy. I had this happen, and because I stayed calm and steady under pressure, allowing God’s spirit to lead my response, it transformed the entire interview. By the end, the host was profusely inviting me back, and called my book fabulous three times. (I counted.)Engaging Your Writing or Speaking Audience
  • When asked a challenging question, I’ve found it’s okay to say, “I’m not sure, I need to research or pray about it,” or even to pause for a couple of seconds while crafting my answer. Adds a bit of dramatic effect anyway.
  • I follow the PIER method for engaging audiences when I write and speak. It ensures I maintain focus, interest, and credibility, while providing them with take-away.

Now, you’re ready for your interview. It’s your turn to shine — be brave, and go spread that message! This is what God called you for.

Do you have any funny interview stories? Lessons learned? 

Preparing for a Radio or Podcast Interview, Pt. 1

I’m not sure where you are on your writing journey, but if it hasn’t happened yet, hopefully it will one day soon. Your invitation to guest on a radio program.

First Hired by Anita BrooksWith the release of my book, First Hired, Last Fired — How to Become Irreplaceable in Any Job MarketI’ve done several interviews now, while working to line up numerous others. (If you want to listen in, I’ve got links to those who provided them.)

Imagine my surprise when the podcast host for Engaging Life and Leadership called. Podcasts are Internet radio shows, so they enable you to reach global listeners versus a regional audience. Think of it like this: Podcasts are the big-city landscape of audio, while most traditional radio programs have a home-town community feel. Each has its strengths and weaknesses, and each reaches different wants and needs.

Engaging Life and LeadershipSince my guest spot on Engaging Life and Leadership went over so well, I was asked to return — again and again. It didn’t take long until the unexpected happened.

“Will you join the show as a permanent co-host?” Darren Dake asked.

We’ve now recorded over twenty episodes as a male/female team, discussing relevant answers for Christian men AND women in 21st century leadership. At last count, we are reaching 17 countries.

But why did I just tell you all of this? For a few reasons actually.

  1. As authors, there’s constant pressure to build your platform. From the beginning, I’ve trusted God to design mine, and partnered with Him in the building. He continues to do more than I could possibly have imagined.
  2. My heart beats to help others, especially my writing brothers and sisters. Consider this an open invitation to be our guest on the show. Regardless of your book’s genre, there’s a place for you. All authors and speakers run their own businesses. You are thought-leaders. We can help you find a topic relevant to our program that will enable us to promote your project. Email me if you’re interested. anita@anitabrooks.com.
  3. The nail-biting prospect of guesting can terrify the most confident of men or women. So I want to share what has helped me survive small, nationally syndicated, and global radio programs.

Here’s my pre-show routine:

Radio Interview Mic

Have You Interviewed Yet? Prepare Yourself.

  • In Michael Hyatt‘s awemazing Get Published! program, he advises the creation of a briefing book as a guide during your interview. I created a PDF synopsis of my book, including the questions sent to the host in the media release. If you’d like a copy of mine as a sample, feel free to email me at anita@anitabrooks.com. (Half of the hosts never asked the arranged questions, but my briefing book kept me on track when they strayed.)
  • Double-check dates and times, (accurate time zones especially) to ensure I don’t experience a faux pas, and either scramble last minute or extend my nerves and frustration from a longer wait. My worst fear? Missing the opportunity altogether.
  • Get a good night’s sleep the night before. I’ve discovered half a Melatonin is a great way to enhance my natural sleep rhythm, providing deeper rest.
  • Walk or exercise prior to my interview, making sure I finish an hour before show time.
  • I take a shower about forty-five minutes before to freshen up.
  • Share my prayer need on social media. Friends and family appreciate the chance to support me in advance. (Plus it reminds some who want to listen in.)
  • About fifteen minutes before, I get prostrate in prayer. Literally. I lay on my living room floor, as flat as possible, and humble myself before God. I ask the Holy Spirit to guide my words and still my tongue when appropriate. He hasn’t failed me yet.

There’s more I’d like to share, but I’ve run out of room. Next month, I’ll list the things I do during the interview to help me spread the message in a more effective way. Some are plain old common sense, but a couple will surprise you. See you then.

Have you interviewed? If so, what do you do to prepare?