Crowd Source Marketing

finger-769300_1280There’s an old adage in marketing that says in order to get a consumer to pull the trigger and buy something, they have to hear about the product three times. There was a time when the blueprint to accomplish that was pretty straightforward. Get reviews from newspapers or magazines and get interviewed on television or radio. Then, go make public appearances at bookstores or book fairs or local meetings, and don’t forget to keep writing.

None of those were easy to accomplish and they all took a lot of work to hit the magic three, but at least there was a path to follow that thousands of authors from decades past had taken with some success.

Times have changed. Not only have they changed, they keep changing at an ever-increasing pace.

The internet opened up the world and made it so much easier for authors to reach the public directly. That’s the good news. The flip side is there are hundreds of different ways to do it and a lot of them are really good, but may not be right for you.

So, the goal becomes finding the right tools for your genre and your personality and staying up to date about everything that’s new, while still finding time to write, and then have a life.

This is where just a little organization can funnel the hive mind of social media down to the essentials. Look for groups, particularly on Facebook, that are not only devoted to marketing books but are also in your genre. If you’re in traditional publishing, include that on your checklist. If you’re going the indie route, make sure the group is too.

A few other things to add to your checklist are:

  • The group is devoted most of the time to marketing – not selling, not writing
  • It’s invitation-only, so that it’s a safe place to share and there’s some control over the postings
  • There’s a monitor who shows trolls (people who complain or bully) the door and kicks them out of the group
  • Active members who are sharing information and are willing to answer questions – lots of questions
  • Be one of those people and share when you can – admit when you don’t know enough to add to the conversation. In other words, participate.

Some of the benefits you can reap from joining together are:

  • Doing cross-promotions with others in your genre. There’s power in numbers.
  • Getting a heads up about a new site that’s working for someone. And getting a thumbs down for a site that would only waste your time and your dollars.
  • Sharing each other’s ads or promotions on each other’s social media sites. Again, it’s that power in numbers.
  • Gaining a realistic view of how well you’re doing. It’s the equivalent of your water cooler.
  • Getting applause when things go well and getting some inspirational chitchat when they don’t.
  • Testing out new blurbs for your book or, if you’re indie, testing out new covers and getting early feedback.

Everything is easier when we work in cooperation with others and come together as a team, building on the information, adding in a post to what’s already there. That’s the definition of crowd sourcing.

Since I’ve found my own peeps I’ve been able to course correct a lot of mistakes I didn’t know I was even making and I’ve come up with a streamlined ad campaign that is even more in line with my budget. Best of all, though, I’m having a lot more fun sharing ideas and cheering on my fellow authors.

Double Booked by Two Authors

Photo/KarenAnita“Did you find your book?” I asked.

“No, but yours is on this aisle,” Anita responded.

Then the young lady standing near us asked, “What books do you need? I’m looking for one about anxiety and worry.”

“Well, I’ve got the perfect book for you,” I grinned. “I just wrote a book about the lessons I’ve learned about worry.”

Anita added, “It’s called Words That Change Everything: Speaking Truth to Your Soul. They have several copies of it here. It’s a great read!”


The lady looked stunned as she examined the back cover of my book and my photo. “Seriously, you wrote this book?”

“Sure did,” I smiled. “And if you need a book about Getting Through What You Can’t Get Over, I highly recommend this one.” I pointed out Anita’s book: Getting Through What You Can’t Get Over: Stories, Tips, and Inspiration to Help You Move Past Your Pain into Lasting Freedom.

“I sure do! I’m looking for a book to encourage my friend, whose son was killed in a motorcycle accident a few weeks ago.“

Getting Through What You Can't Get Over Book Cover“Well, Anita’s book contains several inspiring stories about people who walked through some really difficult situations. I think it would be helpful for a person going through grief and post-traumatic stress.”

“Are you both authors? And you wrote both of these books?” Our new friend appeared confused.

“Yes, we attended a booksellers’ event here in town during the past few days. So, we decided to stop by this bookstore on our way home to see if they carried our books.”

Glancing at the two books in her hands, our new reader looked back up at us and giggled, “Well, I’d love to buy both of your books!”

“Awesome! Would you like for us to autograph your copies?” I asked.

“Yes, that would be great,” she smiled. “I still can’t believe you both really wrote these books!”

“Well, we’re finding it a little hard to believe that you were looking for books that deal with those topics.”

“I’m serious—these are exactly what I needed!” Then, she added, “This has to be a “God-thing.”

“Yes, a ‘God-thing’ for sure.” We agreed.

Photo/AnitaKarenThen, one of us suggested, “Hey, let’s take a ‘selfie’ to capture the moment.”

After I fumbled to find my cell phone in my purse, I said, “Okay, let’s strike a pose. Smile!”

After our brief photo shoot, we all embraced, recalling our unexpected encounter.

“Can we pray for you and your friend before we leave?” I offered.

“I would love that!”

“By the way, what’s your name? And what’s your friend’s name?”

“My name is Kendra. And my friend’s name is Karen.”

“Well, of course her name is Karen,” I laughed.

As Kendra walked to the register to purchase our books, we heard her telling the assistant manager about our encounter.

Anita and I waved at both of them as we turned to leave the store.

“What an awesome ending to a very productive week,” I commented to Anita.

“I told you we needed to stop by this bookstore!” Anita laughed.

Before we left the parking lot, Anita posted the photo of us with Kendra on Facebook, sharing our experience at the bookstore.

Best bookstore stop ever! Met this beautiful young lady named Kendra. She was looking for a book on anxiety and worry for herself, and another on grief for a friend who just lost a child. Talk about a God moment.

When she found out we were authors, and Karen wrote a book titled Words That Change Everything, and I wrote one called Getting Through What You Can’t Get Over, she took a copy of each off the shelf. After a quick, impromptu signing, we parted ways—all of us stunned in a great way. People like Kendra are why we do this.

 Amen, Anita. This IS “why we do this.”

Tell us about one of your God-moments as an author.


Use Less Scripture in Your Manuscript (And…I love Jesus.)

bible-1031288_960_720One of my pet peeves—as an editor, as a writer, as a reader—is when authors use long passages of Scripture in their manuscripts, or pepper it with too many verses.

And, of course, now that it’s out there, I feel like I need to defend myself. So let the record show:

  1. I love Jesus.
  2. I believe that Scripture is God-breathed and has the power to transform lives.
  3. I earned a Master’s of Divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary. (Sorry if that makes me seem like a show-off. It had to be said.)


  1. I don’t want to see too much Scripture in the manuscript you’ve sent me to edit.

I’m actually delighted to announce this grumpy thing publicly, for the first time, because I finally figured out why it gets under my skin:

Cutting and pasting large portions of Scripture into your manuscript, or peppering way too many verses into it, DOES NOT SERVE READERS.

Overusing Scripture is problematic for two reasons: it’s either too much or too little.

1. It’s too Much: Avoid Including Lengthy Scripture Passages

Problem: When readers—and I mean Christian readers—encounter long passages of Scripture in a manuscript, they tend to skim over them. From the cursory glance at keywords—“Moses,” “praise,” “sanctify,” “Jesus”—the reader determines that she’s already read this before and keeps reading (if you’re lucky) beyond the Scripture-brick to discover what he or she does not yet know.

Solution: Use a shorter passage of Scripture. When you crop the text down to the most salient verse or verses, the reader can better glean what you most want to communicate.

Example: In lieu of including the entire text of Psalm 119, which has 176 verses, give the reader a bite and tell them enough to make them hungry for more…

Every verse of Psalm 119 describes the good way God’s designed us to live. In verses 9-12, notice the words the Psalmist uses to point the reader to the good way:

How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word.
I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.
I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.
Praise be to you, Lord; teach me your decrees. (Psalm 119:9-12)

Path, commands, word and decrees all point reader toward the good way God’s designed. And If you read all of Psalm 119, you’ll find lots of other synonyms for this path that leads to life.

2. It’s too Little: Avoid Including Too Many Scripture Passages

Problem: When you pepper too many verses of Scripture into a manuscript, you might assume that lots of Scripture is benefiting the reader. But there actually might be more value in including less! Too many verses of Scripture can feel like being pelted by a rapid-fire Nerf gun. If the reader can’t make a meaningful connection to each passage, the verses will bounce off the reader and fall to the floor.

Solution: When you do weave Scripture into your manuscript, it’s your job to help the reader find fresh spiritual nourishment from the passage by demonstrating the connection to your message. Here are a few ways to help the reader glean as much as possible from the biblical text:

  • Provide historical context, noting time, place, speaker, culture, audience, etc.
  • Provide literary context, helping reader understand why what comes before or after this passage illumines its meaning
  • Offer practical application, demonstrating how this passage was vivified in your life of someone else’s
  • Strengthen the connection between the passage and the reason you’ve shared it

Example: “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14)…

When Jesus says, “You are the light of the world,” he’s making a radical claim! Did you know that, in the ancient near east, a nation’s king was said to be the “light” who reigned on behalf of a deity?! Jesus is saying something pretty bold, then, about the kingdom of God and about your role in it by announcing that you are the light of the world.

Finally, Scripture was never intended to become a quantity to be used, cropped, leveraged or wielded. I know that and you probably do, too. Being thoughtful about presenting Scripture in a way that it can be tasted and digested, to offer real nourishment, is a gift to your reader.



Are We Ready?

My latest romantic suspense novel released yesterday. The Morning Star Rises is the third book in The Seven Trilogy, after The End Begins and The Dragon Roars. In a recent interview, I was asked if I thought I had accomplished the purpose I’d had for the series when I set out to write it.


It was a great question because it made me stop and ask myself what that purpose had actually been, something every author should probably do. Had I wanted to tell a strong, compelling story? Yes. Did I want to be obedient and write the story God had given me to the best of my ability? Always. But what was my unique, specific purpose for this particular trilogy?

Thankfully, I knew the answer. My hope and purpose in writing The Seven Trilogy was to pose the question, “Are We Ready?” to the North American church, the body of Christ, in the twenty-first century.

Times are changing. There is a shift in society that can be felt in the air and seen and heard in the public square in both written and spoken form. Hostility toward Christianity and the Bible is growing. If, as a society, we continue on our current trajectory, the very real possibility of persecution of believers could soon exist, not just in other countries around the world, but right here, in the west.

Are we ready?

In writing The Seven Trilogy, I created a world, forty years in the future, in which such persecution is not a rumour, not a distant, far-off possibility, but reality. With Canada under martial law after a radical group calling itself Christian blows up several mosques across the country, the military is sent in to oppress and keep an eye on believers. Basic rights such as owning a Bible, teaching Christian principles to children, and receiving a fair trial are stripped away. Punishments are meted out swiftly and ruthlessly.

Army Captain Jesse Christenson and believer Meryn O’Reilly find themselves on opposite sides of a ideological chasm that seems impossible to bridge. Can they find a way to be together?

In the midst of the chaos and confusion of this time, when everything they believed in when it was easy to believe is put to the test, the Christians in the story cling to two truths: God is still on his throne, and he has not abandoned them.

A common thread among reviews of the first two novels is that the story made readers stop and think about what they really did believe, how much they were willing to sacrifice for those beliefs, and whether or not they would be able to withstand the threat of severe persecution.

So we’re thinking about whether or not we’re ready. And we’re talking about it, me as much as anyone. Because I didn’t write the books as someone who had it all figured out and wanted to impart my great wisdom on the subject to everyone else. I wrote them as someone deeply concerned, not only about whether the church as a whole is ready for what is to come, but about whether I am ready.

I still don’t know. There is no way to know, really, until what is coming actually arrives. But we can take steps to prepare ourselves.

The believers in these novels wish they had read more, studied more, committed more Scripture to memory before it was taken from them. We still have time to do that.

They regret not doing more to share the gospel with their children and with everyone else in their lives before they had to risk their lives to do so. We can still talk freely about the gospel and expect to receive openness and interest at best, or mocking and dismissal at worst.

After all churches are closed, they agree to continue to meet in secret, risking imprisonment if they are caught. We are still able to meet and worship openly without fear of reprisal.

There is still time, but time does appear to be running out. If The Seven Trilogy inspires believers (including me) to ask ourselves if we are ready, if it generates discussion and gets us thinking about the best way to use the time, resources, and freedoms we have left wisely and effectively, if it drives us to our knees to ask God to help us prepare ourselves and our families for whatever the future brings, then yes, its purpose will have been served.

Thank God for My Virtual Assistant

I made a bold decision this year: I hired a virtual assistant. Now before you think that means I’m really prime-time, know that I’ve been blogging for six years and have three books out – plus she only puts in about 10 hours per month for me. But, still, what a godsend!

If you’re wondering whether to hire a virtual assistant for yourself, let me tell you how things have worked with mine.

Virtual Assistant

What do I have her do?

Since I blog three times a week, on the other days my virtual assistant posts archived articles from my website to various social media sites. She also shares all of my posts, as well as other website links I send her, to Pinterest – a great social media site that overwhelms me because I’m not at all visual. She puts together my monthly newsletter, after I provide content, and sends it out. She moderates comments on my blog when I’m going to be out of town or I’m too busy to take care of that aspect of my website.

But virtual assistants do all kinds of things, including interacting on social media, generating newsletters, scheduling appearances and speaking events, creating promotional graphics, coordinating giveaways, mailing gifts and thank-yous, tracking site statistics, etc. What your virtual assistant does for you depends on what you need, what services they provide, and what deal you strike.

How did I find her?

I got lucky. Or, if you’d rather, blessed. I mentioned on my website that I was looking for a virtual assistant, and three people contacted me. I emailed each the job description and requested a résumé and references. I ended up with a primary candidate, interviewed her by phone, and decided it was a great match. And yes, I prayed about my decision before offering her the position.

Like it or not, becoming an author means you’re now CEO of Me, Inc. If you hire a virtual assistant, you need to seek that person in a professional manner. Get a résumé, check references, interview, and know upfront what you’re willing to pay. The virtual assistant may have a standard rate or be willing to negotiate, but you need to know if your expectations are on the same page. Choosing a virtual assistant also feels like a personal decision, because this person will at times be the face of Me, Inc., and you need to be able to trust him or her with that responsibility.

What positive results have I seen?

I have more time to write! Which is why I got into doing this to begin with. I’m also not spending time trying to figure out how to feel comfortable and be effective on Pinterest, or feeling guilty for not being there even though I want to connect with those readers. Following a death in my family, I turned the reins of my blog over to my virtual assistant and didn’t have to worry about comments being moderated and posted. Her sharing of archived posts has boosted my Facebook reach and thus my number of followers by hundreds. And I can’t prove it, but I believe my greater reach has translated into book sales – sales I wouldn’t have otherwise had.

On a personal level, she’s also been a real encouragement. I know she’s got my back, and she knows I care about her life and success as well. I haven’t met my virtual assistant (she lives several states away), but I hope to someday. Because not only do I think she deserves the small paycheck I give her each month, I’m eager to give her a hug to thank her for all she does. In the meantime, I’m thanking God for my virtual assistant.

What questions do you have about virtual assistants? And is it time for you to hire one?

Kick-start your career with anthologies

Smiling Group of ProfessionalsIf you’re new to the authoring game, here’s a way to find more readers who might be interested in your work: contribute to an anthology.

While it may not produce any income for you, the non-financial rewards are well worth your involvement. Consider the following reasons to contribute an essay, short story, or excerpt the next time you have the opportunity to participate in a project that uses the work of multiple authors:

  1. Your work load is significantly less demanding. It’s (generally) a lot easier to produce a short piece when someone else gives you the parameters for writing than when you have to do all the creative work of coming up with an idea and choosing the treatment or genre, let alone actually write the piece.
  2. You control your time commitment. Minimally, you write a piece to submit and you’re done. You don’t have to do the editing or manage the publication process, hound the other contributors to get their pieces done, or design and implement the marketing plan. If you want to help with marketing, you can decide how much of your time you want to offer; it’s not your baby alone as when you’re the sole author.
  3. Your work will be exposed to new readers when fans of the other contributors read your piece. One of the smartest things I did as a fledgling author of a cozy mystery series was to contribute a short story to a mystery anthology edited by a friend of mine. It immediately granted me access to new readers in my target audience, and thanks to my friend’s reputation, it also gave me credentials as a good writer. Either of those results alone would have been worth my contribution; combined, they were a win-win proposition that gave me a big boost as a new author.
  4. Chances are good that the other authors will be doing some marketing of their own for the anthology, which means you get more publicity than you alone could produce. Again, it’s more exposure for you in readers’ circles beyond your own fans.
  5. You have an excellent opportunity to network with other authors when your work appears with theirs in the anthology. At the launch party for my friend’s anthology, I met more than a dozen authors working in my genre in my metro area. Many of them were local icons. A few of them were nationally known authors. Some were newcomers, like me. It was a genuine pleasure to meet them all and hear their stories of career development or marketing snafus. I was honored and humbled to be included in their ranks, and that experience reminded me that as a newbie, I had much to learn and a long way to go in my own writing journey. Moral support like that is essential for a new author, and the opportunity to learn from those who are also on the road is priceless.

Have you considered contributing to an anthology?

WordServe News: September 2016

Exciting things have been happening at WordServe Literary this month!

On the final post of each month you’ll find a list of Water Cooler contributors’ recently released books along with a recap of WordServe client news.

New Releases

41rajcxlqwl-_sy346_Stephen Arterburn and Dave Stoop released Take Your Life Back with Tyndale Momentum. Your past circumstances don’t have to define you, and they don’t have to determine the direction of your life. This book offers proven advice to help readers move from reactive attitudes and behaviors to healthy, God-honoring ones. Two additional resources are also available: the Take Your Life Back Workbook, and the Take Your Life Back Day by Day devotional.

51vdnmrjnklSara Davison released The Morning Star RisesBook 3 in The Seven Trilogy, with Ashberry Lane. As martial law continues in Canada in 2054, Meryn O’Reilly faces a dark and uncertain future after shocking revelations devastate her life. She is determined to follow God’s call, but her plans could cost her everything. She struggles to surrender everything to a God who is always in control, even when circumstances suggest otherwise.

51rynvgx3pl-_sx322_bo1204203200_-1Jan Drexler released Mattie’s Pledge with Revell. The second book in Jan’s Journey to Pleasant Prairie series, Mattie’s Pledge offers readers a poignant glimpse into Amish life in the 1840s, including the Amish migration west from Pennsylvania–and into the yearning heart of a character they won’t soon forget.

51qtfwstnrl-_sx331_bo1204203200_Leslie Leyland Fields released Crossing the Waters with NavPress. The gospels are set in a rich maritime culture on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, yet we’ve missed much of this perspective―until now. Leslie Leyland Fields―a longtime Alaskan fisherwoman―takes us out on the Sea of Galilee, through a rugged season of commercial fishing with her family in Alaska, and through the waters of the New Testament.

51ju4nleiplJim and Lynne Jackson released Discipline that Connects with Your Child’s Heart with Bethany House. Did you know that the way we deal (or don’t deal) with our kids’ misbehavior shapes their beliefs about themselves, the world, and God? With warmth and grace, Jim and Lynne Jackson, founders of Connected Families, offer four tried-and-true keys to handling any behavioral issues with love, truth, and authority.

scripture-doodleApril Knight released ScriptureDoodle with Cook, a 6-week devotional experience to help readers connect creatively with the Word of God. Exploring topics such as being generous, finding rest, facing grief, and more, this devotional provides inspiring exercises, prompts, and ready-to-color designs to give your heart the creative space it needs while helping you integrate God’s Word into everyday life.

41rpmextf5lKara Powell, Jake Mulder, and Brad Griffin released Growing Young with Baker Books. Churches are losing both members and vitality as increasing numbers of young people disengage. Based on groundbreaking research with over 250 of the nation’s leading congregations, Growing Young provides a strategy any church can use to involve and retain teenagers and young adults.

hungryShellie Rushing Tomlinson released Hungry is a Mighty Fine Sauce with Shiloh Run Press. Tomlinson, the Belle of All Things Southern, serves up down-home southern dishes with a healthy side of laugh-out-loud entertainment in the book, which features dozens of tried-and-true recipes complemented by entertaining stories.

New Contracts 

Chris Conlee signed a two-book deal with Baker Books. The first book, Love Works, will look at biblical love and how to put it to work in our lives, and will release at the end of 2017.

Craig Selness signed with Worthy Publishing for his book How to Manage Your Pain Without Becoming One, addressing the reality of chronic pain and encouraging and equipping the reader to endure and still thrive.

New Clients

Wendy Holtz, Gwen Ellis, and Scott Watson signed with WordServe this month. Welcome!


What We’re Celebrating

The California Gold Rush Romance Collectionwhich includes contributions from Dianne Christner, hit the EPCA Bestsellers list for September.

Terry Brennan’s book The Aleppo Code won the 2016 Carol Award for excellence in Christian fiction in the Mystery/Suspense/Thriller category. Congratulations, Terry!

Sara Davison’s new release, The Morning Star Rises, received a glowing review from RT Book Reviews.