What Olympians Can Teach Us about Getting Published

Recently I read an article about the cost of becoming an Olympic athlete. It mentioned that former U.S. speed skater Eric Flaim, a two-time Olympic silver medalist, estimated that his decade-long training amounted to at least $250,000.

“. . . Like many Olympians, Flaim describes plenty of tough times, when he and his parents faced having to pay for big-ticket items (say, a pair of custom-molded boots for $1,500) or ongoing expenses (private coaching could run up to five grand annually.) To make ends meet, Flaim often worked in gyms, cleaning lockers after patrons departed. Even with a medal around his neck – he won his first at the 1988 winter games in Calgary — life didn’t become particularly easy. Flaim says in his best years as an athlete, he might have earned $75,000 from prizes, honorarium, and sponsorships. ‘It was not million-dollar money,’ he adds.

But at least he made money. Athletes who aren’t seen as strong medal contenders are less likely to receive significant support from their sponsors, let alone their sport’s governing board. And if they’re competing in a less-heralded sport, the problems are compounded . . .

. . . for another Olympian, Rick Hawn, a U.S. judo competitor at the 2004 Olympics in Athens who also tried out for the 2008 games, it all added up to a significant tab during his Olympic career. ‘My parents nearly went bankrupt. They put whatever they could into me and I’m the oldest of six kids.’”

iStock_000001330542XSmallIt takes a very special blend of character traits to become an Olympian. The cost in time, energy, and money rarely makes a return on the investment, so Olympians must have skill, drive, persistence, and a belief that getting to the Olympics is its own reward.

Becoming a published author is a lot like that. Many people have the desire to be published. But it takes more than desire. Over dinner the other night my husband and I talked about the people we know who want to publish a book, but probably never will, because they don’t have the special blend of character traits.

  • The first person we thought of has written many books but has failed to get published. That’s because she doesn’t want to learn the rules. She doesn’t want to attend writers groups or conferences to understand how the industry works so she sits at home writing, hoping someone will come along to publish her work. In order to get a book published you have to know the basics: how to query an agent and how to create a proposal. I spent six months working on the proposal for my book, and it was about 80 pages in length. In your proposal, you have to be able to show editors and agents that you know the competition. You have to describe your platform, and you have to lay out your marketing strategy. Your learn how to do this by investing in conferences, writers groups, and reading books. 
  • The second person we thought about is brilliant. He has wisdom that could really help people. But he doesn’t discipline himself to write. He spends all week at a job and relaxes on the weekend. I don’t blame him. But to get published, you have to discipline yourself to write when you’d rather be relaxing.
  • The third person wants to be published but he doesn’t have the persistence. He has a great idea, writes about it for a few weeks, and then gives up. And since most authors don’t make money at this gig, there has to be a reason bigger than money that would make you spend years trying to get published. Can you envision devoting five to ten years researching and writing about a particular topic?

All writers must have skill, and they must have an important message told in a fresh way.  They must learn and follow the rules of publishing, and they will probably have to persist for years. Lastly, they must believe that getting published—not getting rich—is its own reward.

What other traits do you think are necessary for becoming published? 

Why Asking For Help Is Not A Sign Of Weakness

“Strong people ask for help.” As a counselor, I often teach my clients this mantra.

Person under crumpled pile of papers with hand holding a help siSo when I found myself discouraged last week, I sent an email to another WordServe author, asking for help.

An hour later we were talking on the phone. She reaffirmed how much she liked my book, she told me she would commit to praying, and she gave me a handful of marketing ideas.

That short phone call changed my day in three ways.

  1. I got an emotional release. I even cried a little.
  2. I got encouragement.
  3. I got inspired with new marketing ideas. In fact, I spent six hours the next day working on marketing ideas.

Most authors, by their nature, are Type A personalities. We are self-motivated, hard working, and perfectionist. As we seek to promote our books, it makes sense that we would try to put the best light on ourselves. But have you ever noticed how lonely driven perfectionists really are? If you’ve ever spent time watching Brene Brown’s TED talks, you understand that it’s our vulnerability and imperfections that draw others to us.

All authors need to ask for help. Here’s why:

When you ask for help usually you’ll likely find ways to reciprocate. Authors don’t know all the same people or have the same ideas. During my phone call I was able to connect my author friend with some influential people who will help expand her books’ reach.

Almost everyone loves to help. I think it’s part of the way God wired us. Think about it: if someone trips and falls, we instinctively rush towards the person in order to help. I’m pretty sure the only ones who don’t feel that pull are people who lack the ability to have empathy (sociopaths).

When people help others, they’ll be reminded of their own success. As my friend was giving me marketing ideas, it affirmed all the hard work she had done. She was able to share her success stories and tell me how proud her publisher was. Reliving your successes feels good.

Accepting help can feel like a reward for all the times you helped someone. At all times I am in the process of reading and reviewing two to five books for other authors. I know how hard I work to promote my author friends; it’s nice to be on the other side once in a while.

Asking for help can build bonds. Before last week’s phone call, I only knew the other author by name. Just one more person person from Facebook. But now, I feel like we’ve become friends.

It is actually quite arrogant to think we can help others and yet have no need to accept it in return. Is there something you’re struggling with? Why not take a risk and ask someone for help.

Can you think of a time when someone helped you on your book-publishing journey? 

Being a Published Author Won’t Make Me Happy (And How I know That)

As I finished grad school, I began writing about my experience. I wrote about what I wished I had known earlier in life. I wrote about psychological tools that heal people. In summary, I wrote about pain and what healed that pain. One day, while sitting in a coffee shop, I decided I was going to write a book about all this. So let’s see, it only took eight years to figure out how to find an agent, query an idea, write a proposal, change my idea, change my agent, and finally write the book once it sold. And only eight years of full time engagement in social media, blogging, and marketing. Only eight years of researching and learning through writing and speaker events. That in addition to my real job as a Licensed Professional Counselor and part time professor at a local university.

Getting a book published is difficult.

20130314-_MG_7882So the idea of seeing boxes of books on my front doorstep feels both surreal and monumental. It’s a huge accomplishment that I will celebrate with a party, in a red barn, with twinkly lights. There will be music, friends, food, and revelry. But I know that a published book won’t bring me happiness.

A few days ago I was talking to a friend who has authored over 40 books. I told her I knew that having a published book would not make me happy. She seemed surprised and wanted to know how I knew that ahead of time. I told her I thought it was because I had done so much research on the topic of happiness. I understand what poor judges people are at knowing what will bring them happiness and what won’t.

Striving authors need to know that a published book won’t make them happy. Here’s why:

  • People have a happiness set point. Fifty percent of happiness is genetic, ten percent is based on life circumstances, and forty percent is within our power to effect. For instance, Americans will put themselves in debt for decades thinking a dream home, boat, or car will make them happy. But the new wears off within a few days because of an effect called hedonic adaptation. Most people don’t understand that the lotto winer and the paralyzed person will bounce back to their prior happiness level within a few months of their changed life condition.
  • The joy is in the journey. I’ll never forget what my friend Zeke Pipher said when his book released. In essence, “Whether this book sells or not, it won’t define my worth, happiness, or success.” He went on to describe his faith and his relationship with his wife and children, saying those were the reasons for his joy. Zeke should know. His mom wrote an international best-seller. She soon found that the harried pace of traveling and speaking made her miserable. There’s an interesting research study that found when people were randomly beeped, and told to write down what they were doing and how happy they were, folks were happiest while in the creative state of “flow.” Flow is when you are fully absorbed in an activity, so much so that you lose sense of time. Numerous studies have shown that it is the striving, not the achieving, that makes us happy, especially when our goals are realistic, flexible, valued by the culture, authentic, non-materialistic, and not negatively impacting other parts of our lives.
  • The more we attain, the more we want, and this negates our increased happiness. Professor Sonja Lyubomirsky in her newly released book, The Myths of Happiness, explains that aspirations are misleading. We attain more, so we want more, and the wanting makes us feel bad. Crazy huh? She concludes that we shouldn’t expect less but that we should simply not allow our desires to continue escalating to the point where we end up feeling entitled and convinced that we would only be happy if we got more and more of this or that.
  • Relying on external rather than internal validation makes us unhappy. Some people think they will be happy based on other people’s opinions of their success. But, when we ask ourselves the question, “How good (successful, smart, prosperous, ethical) am I?” the people who rely on an internal rather than external objective standard are happier. There will always be someone wealthier, more attractive, thinner, more popular, and more talented. Therefore, relying on other people’s opinions rather than our own is a recipe for misery. In short, goals which cause growth, make us feel competent, and connect us to others are the ones that make us happy. Goals that make us strive to be rich, famous, popular, or powerful make us unhappy. (I wrote more about this over here at Michael Hyatt’s blog.)

*I orignially wrote this post just before my book released in March 2013. It’s true, having a published book has not made me any happier than I already was. I feel a sense of achievement and gratitude, but I’m glad I knew it wouldn’t make me any happier than I already was.

Think about the last big milestone you achieved.

How long did the happiness last?

Three Requirements for Christian Writers to Consider

Photo/KarenJordan

… The right word at the right time—beautiful! (Prov. 15:23 MSG).

I opened the book package at my mailbox and read the title, Renewed: Finding Your Inner Happy in an Overwhelming World

Renewed. I need to read this book today, I mused. 

But my “to do” list interrupted my daydream of relaxing in my recliner, enjoying a tall glass of iced tea, and reading Renewedby WordServe author, Lucille Zimmerman.

Renewed

I placed my copy of Renewed on the end table next to my chair and revisited my checklist. Speaking engagement? Check. Four Bible studies for newsmagazine? Four checks. Blog post? Maybe tomorrow. Three book proposals? Question mark. Post for WordServe Water Cooler? Oops. Just breathe … I guess the book proposals go on hold again. Drat.

Responsibilities. After a few minutes of brainstorming about my WordServe post, the phone rang. “Mom, do you have two large suitcases that the boys can borrow for next week?”

Next week? I cringed with this pressing reminder of my commitment to keep my youngest two grandchildren in Texas, while my daughter attended church camp with two of her older boys.

Requirements. When I return to my computer, I’m drawn to Renewed again, desperate for a word of encouragement and a sense of renewal. As I read the first chapter on self-care, Renewed offered the exact words that I needed for that moment. Later, a reference to Micah 6:8  reminded me of a question that I had failed to ask earlier as I struggled with my other commitments.

And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (NIV)

Did I read that right? Only three requirements? 

  1. To act justly.
  2. To love mercy.
  3. To walk humbly with God.

Maybe I should check out another translation. 

But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women. It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, and don’t take yourself too seriously—take God seriously. (MSG)

Relief. I breathed a sign of relief, as I read the answer again. Then, I whispered a prayer of thanks to God for the healing power of His Word, the encouragement of my writing friends, and the gift of His call to be a writer.

In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Phil 1:4).

Lord, give us the courage to listen and obey Your Word.


Photo/KarenJordan

YouTube/CastingCrowns (Courageous)

What recent encouragement have you received from God’s Word or gleaned from another writer’s work? 

A Book Marketing Retreat

On Wednesdays, the authors here at the WSWC blog write about book marketing.

As I prepared to write this post, I thought about the marketing I do every day. I wondered if those activities are unique to me, or if they are common to fellow authors.

Wouldn’t it be great if we had a WordServe Water Cooler retreat where we could combine our strengths in an effort to multiply our knowledge? When I close my eyes, I imagine all of us coming together in one place.

We’re in a retreat center, far from distractions, but close enough to nature where we could take breaks in a hot tub, forest, or dining room. I guess what’s coming to my mind is The Hideaway near Monument, between Colorado Springs and Denver. (In my former life, I was a Creative Memories Unit Leader and we had many scrapbooking retreats here.)

So play along, in your mind’s eye: Pull up an Adirondack chair, grab a cool glass of raspberry tea and a lemon scone, and dream with me.

A Stock Photo of Two Red Adirondeack Chairs

At our retreat, each person would be responsible for giving a short talk about the ordinary tasks they do to market their books. Just because an activity is mundane to me doesn’t mean other authors are aware of it, or understand how and why to do it. For example, today I learned Instagram wasn’t just a photo enhancing app. It’s a social media site too. If every author shared their regular activities, we would all benefit.

For instance, each day I check my Google Reader (*Google Reader is ending June 30th, so I’ve switched to Feedly). I have about 60 blogs I subscribe to which feature material related to my brand of selfcare. Feedly compiles all my unread posts in one place. When I have time, I skim the posts. Ninety percent of the time they aren’t worth noting, but occasionally I land on a gem. I email myself the link (because usually I’m downstairs in my pajamas looking from my iPad). I post these on my Facebook and Twitter pages later.

*As an aside, it’s important to be giving your audience material other than you own.

Here are the other daily marketing activities I do:

  • I take a glance at my Google analytics just to see which of my blog posts are getting read and where my hits are coming from.
  • I do a quick search on Twitter under “#selfcare.” I try to re-tweet some of those posts, for the benefit of my followers and as a way to attract new followers.
  • I scroll through my Facebook page and share any posts I think would be helpful to my friends and fans.

Then at our WordServe author retreat, each person would share some of the less ordinary marketing activities they do. These don’t have to be remarkable. Instead, these are the activities you do from time to time, or even once, that might spur the imaginations of the other authors.

For instance:

  • I might post an article or photo to my Pinterest boards. I have boards about my self, my favorite books, counseling, videos, etc.
  • I queried IdeaMensch to do a feature story about me. A year later they let me do a guest blog post and a book giveaway.
  • I did two giveaways on Goodreads. This was a fabulous way to get thousands of readers to at least look at my book and put it on their reading list, while they registered to win a copy. (*In order to take part in the giveaways, your book has to be within six months of its release date and it has to be a paperback.)
  • I submitted blog posts to Michael Hyatt’s blog, which has hundreds of thousands of readers. He let me write a guest post two different times.
  • I volunteered to be a special marketing contributor for The Dr Phil show. Though my own book and brand are a priority, it won’t hurt to have this experience and attention.

If every author shared the regular and irregular activities they do to market their books, we would reap huge benefits.

So, let’s pretend we’re curled up someplace cozy. Whether or not you are a WordServe author, would you share some of your best marketing ideas? 

The Surprising Thing About Book Influencers

My first book is almost a reality. In fact, a box could show up on my doorstep any day.

This stage of the process is humbling because I have to rely on busy people to read and help promote my book. At this point, I reminded myself that I’m not only working to promote myself, but I’m also working for the publisher who put so much faith into my project. That makes it a little easier to do the asking.

Two weeks ago, my publisher’s marketing gal, Cat, asked me make a list of all the media people and influencers who would read and promote my book. Media people? I only know the PR guy at Focus on the Family and a baseball sports announcer.

iStock_000013189752XSmall

Cat said media and influencers can be anyone who has a large audience. That means bloggers, authors, and speakers.  With that being the case, it turns out I know a lot of influencer and media peeps.  So, I collected names and addresses and passed them on to my publisher. Now hard copies are on the way to their doorsteps, too.

So what have I learned that I can share with you? Authors shouldn’t just ask for help from friends. They should ask for help from strangers, and big-time famous people.

Why?

You will be amazed at who says yes (and who says no). When I put out the word, I had some interesting responses: Some of my friends said they were too busy but if I passed along a copy, they’d try to get to it. Another friend hasn’t responded at all. Conversely, famous people I never thought I’d hear back from said, “Sure, I’d be honored.” Others went above and beyond: “You bet, and why don’t you let me put your book in a giveaway at my retreat and I’ll write a special feature about you” or “Hey, I’ll mention you at this event.”

Even strangers can have a powerful impact on your sales. I read a few articles that said if you can find top reviewers from Amazon to read and review your book, it can boost your sales. Finding someone within the top 500 is considered a coup. So yesterday I sent out four inquiries to reviewers who are interested in my genre. Two top-50 reviewers responded, “Sure, send the book.”

Feel free to read the articles about Amazon Top Reviewers here:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/richpub/syltguides/fullview/RNCWTLEMV71VM

http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2012/09/16/get-amazon-book-reviews/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/16/amazon-top-customer-reviewers_n_878262.html

http://www.amarketingexpert.com/easy-tips-for-getting-more-amazon-reviews-now/

I guess the moral of the story is reach out to everyone, pray for the best, and don’t get hurt or upset when people say no. Lots of people will come out to support you.

If you’re a published author, how did you find people to promote your book? 

WordServe News: March 2013

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

FinallytheBrideSandra Bricker, Always the Baker, Finally the Bride
(Abingdon Press)

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TheProdigalJan Drexler, The Prodigal Son Returns
(Love Inspired)

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UnburdenedSuzanne Eller, The Unburdened Heart (Regal)

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RealValorSteve Farrar, Real Valor (David C. Cook)

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AnsweringtheCallKen Gire, Answering the Call: The Story of Albert Schweitzer (Thomas Nelson)

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ANobleGroomJody Hedlund, A Noble Groom (Bethany House)

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TheEasyBurdenPatty Kirk, The Easy Burden of Pleasing God (IVP Books)

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AllinGoodTimeMaureen Lang, All in Good Time (Tyndale House)

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VoicesofthePacificAdam Makos, with Marcus Brotherton, Voices of the Pacific (Berkley Hardcover)

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RenewedLucille Zimmerman, Renewed
(Abingdon Press)

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New WordServe Clients

None…we’re standing pat with our great group of authors for now!

New Contracts

Tracie Miles signed with Bethany House Publishers for a book titled Your Life Still Counts: How Your Past Has Equipped You for Your Purpose.

Susie Shellenberger and Kristen Weber signed with Barbour Publishers for A Girl’s Guide: Guys, God and the Galaxy.

Gillian Marchenko signed a contract with T.S. Poetry Press for her memoir. Yay, Gillian!

What We’re Celebrating!!

A Higher Call by Adam Makos continues to hit the New York Times list. On March 31, it will be #6 (again) on the Hard Cover nonfiction list. It’s been in the top-15 for 9 weeks!

Bees in the Butterfly Garden by Maureen Lang, hit the March CBA list at #5 on the fiction list and the #40 on the top-50 in sales list.

What thing on your writing journey are you celebrating today?

It’s A Christmas Parade!

As our treat to our wonderful WaterCooler Readers, we thought we’d do another blog parade. Each of our authors below is blogging about their Writer’s Wish List. Hmm . . . I know I’m intrigued to see what’s on these lists. Funny? Quirky? Serious?

I don’t know . . . you’ll have to click on the links to find out!

1. Lucille Zimmerman
Blog Link: http://www.lucillezimmerman.com/2012/12/10/ape-author-publisher-entrepreneur-how-to-publish-a-book-by-guy-kawasaki-shawn-welch-a-book-review/

2. Janalyn Voigt
Blog Link: http://janalynvoigt.com/one-authors-christmas-wish

3. Kimberly Vargas
Blog Link: http://www.kimberlyvargasauthor.com/?p=241

4. Cheryl Ricker
Blog Link: http://www.cherylricker.com/2012/12/smells-and-whistles/

5. Jordyn Redwood
Blog Link: http://jordynredwood.blogspot.com/2012/12/wishing.html

6. Melissa K. Norris
Blog Link: http://melissaknorris.com/?p=1351

7. Gillian Marchenko
Blog Link: http://wp.me/p2Ds6m-zA

8. Dr. Rita Hancock
Blog Link: http://edensfreedomsisters.ning.com/profiles/blogs/the-eden-diet-joins-a-blog-parade-find-out-how-to-win-dr-rita-s-b

9. Karen Jordan
Blog Link: http://karenbarnesjordan.com/a-writers-wish-list-grace-gifts

10. Kelli Gotthardt
log Link: http://www.kelligotthardt.com/1/post/2012/12/writers-wish-list.html

11: Jan Dunlap
Blog Link: http://jandunlap.com/2012/12/the-wishlist-of-a-writer/

12: Cindy Dagnan
Blog Link: http://cindydagnan.com/cindy-sigler-dagnan/2012/12/14/one-writer%E2%80%99s-wish-list/

13: Anita Brooks
Blog Link: http://brooksanita.com/a-writers-fantasy-wish-list

Merry Christmas!!

It’s A Parade!!

Welcome to WordServe Water Cooler’s Very First Blog Parade!!

Listed below are links to many of The Cooler’s authors and we are all writing on this topic: First steps we took to becoming an agented and/or published author!

The goal of today’s post is to give you some great advice and to allow you to see some of the personal blogs of our authors where they offer their ponderings. I think you’ll be amazed at the variety of helpfulness each author gives to the community.

Thank you, our faithful readers, for making the WordServe Water Cooler a great community. Enjoy the parade!

1. Anita Agers-Brooks: Anita Fresh Faith

2. Julie Cantrell: Julie’s Journal

3. Dianne Christner: …plain girl romanticizing

4. Dena Ratliff Dyer: Mother Inferior

5. Jan Dunlap: Jan Dunlap’s Blog

6. Michelle Griep: Writer Off Leash

7. Karen Jordan: BLESSED Legacy Stories

8. Sharon Lavy: Sharon Lavy’s Blogspot.

9. Gillian Marchenko: Gillian Marchenko’s Blog

10. Katy McKenna: Fallible

11. Melissa K. Norris: Inspiring Your Faith and Pioneer Roots

12. Jordyn Redwood: Redwood’s Medical Edge

13. Cheryl Ricker: Fresh Air

14. Kimberly Vargas: Kimberly Vargas’s Blog

15. Janalyn Voigt: Live Write Breath

16. Lucille Zimmerman: Lucille Zimmerman

Hope you enjoyed our parade!

How to Write a Non-Fiction Book

Seven years ago, I had so much I wanted to say. I began writing recklessly and randomly, telling my story in various ways.

Five years ago, my agent said people responded to my self-care ideas. My writing found a focus. I made “self-care” the hub.

Then I made a mindmap. Every idea branched off.

I read, I highlighted, I compiled lists and notes. I hoarded quotes and stories. I dreamed, I gazed, I thought, I prayed.

I researched. Not only books but scientific articles too.

Then I gave each chapter a home, inside a file, inside a box. I sorted my quotes, articles, and ideas and tucked them inside those files within the box.

I wrote chapters. I met with critique partners — we sharpened iron. Each new edit was placed into the file. It was a messy hodge podge.

We ate and drank, laughed and cried, and spurred each other on. No one does anything of value alone.

I piled everything into one document and sent it to my agent, who got it sold. A team of editors believed in what I’d written.

The first edit is done. (I love editors!) As of now, I have a title, but I can’t tell anyone until the board approves.

I’m not sure how the book finally gets finished. I don’t know what the cover will look like or when I get to write my acknowledgements, back cover, etc. I have much to learn, but you can be sure I’ll write another post telling you what happens.

Have you written a book? What was your process?