About Greg Johnson

I’m the president of WordServe Literary in Centennial, Colo. and founder and president of FaithHappenings.com. More importantly, I’m married to Becky, and together we share six adult children, and are grandparents to seven. In previous years, I've been a Campus Life leader (10 years), Breakaway magazine editor (5 years), author or coauthor of 21 books. But for the last 22 years, I've been a literary agent privileged to work with a great family of authors and staff trying to make a dent for the Kingdom.

WordServe News: July 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

51CZjAw6uPL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_Julie Cantrell re-released Into the Free and When Mountains Move with Thomas Nelson. Into the Free, now a New York Times Bestseller, follows the story of Millie Reynolds in Depression-era Mississippi as she tries to break her family’s longstanding cycle of madness and abuse. When Mountains Move takes up the story as Millie prepares to get married and move to the wilds of Colorado–only to find she can’t truly leave her old past behind.

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Rebecca DeMarino 
published To Follow Her Heart, the concluding volume of her Southold Chronicles Series, which plunges readers into a 17th-century world of tall ships, daring journeys, and yearning hearts.

 

097740Cheri Fuller released Mothering by Heart with Barbour. Through engaging short stories, inspirational reflections, Scripture, creative ideas, and thought-provoking questions, this short book encourages mothers to relax, embrace their children’s individuality, and rely on God for the wisdom they need.

Excelling-at-the-Craft-of-Writing-CoverGreg Johnson, along with many Water Cooler contributors, released Excelling at the Craft of Writing: 101 Ideas to Move Your Prose to the Next Level with FaithHappenings Publishers. The easy-to-read, engaging essays cover a range of topics, from organizing and outlining your work to creating powerful characters and dialogue to fine-tuning your language, style, and voice. The perfect place to start for any writer hoping to reinvigorate their writing!

51PHIOI-G4L._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Sarah Parshall Perry released Mommy Needs a Raise with Revell. Women know that raising children will be different from climbing the corporate ladder. But nothing can truly prepare them for the mind-muddling world of motherhood. With her signature wit, lawyer-turned-full-time-mommy Sarah Parshall Perry invites mothers to join her as she gives up one thing to get something better–and ends up finding out what she’s worth along the way.

memoryJordyn Redwood released Fractured Memory with Love Inspired Suspense. United States marshal Eli Cayne saved Julia Galloway’s life once…and he’s prepared to do it again. But his task would be easier if she could remember him—or the murderer who almost put her in an early grave and seems to be hunting her once more. Fractured Memory keeps readers on the edge of their seats as the two work together to confront Julia’s past—and the feelings growing between them.

518qxTPFZ-L._SX355_BO1,204,203,200_Mike Yorkey released Playing with Purpose: Tackling the Truth with Barbour Books. Filled with inspirational readings that draw spiritual points from players and coaches, important games throughout football history, and teams spanning the NFL, college, and high school, this book will challenge and inspire you to draw wisdom from both the game and God’s Word.

New Contracts 

Carole Avriett signed with Regnery Publishing for her new book, The Boys from Coffin Corner. Releasing in early 2018, it will tell the true story of a WWII B-17 crew shot down over German-occupied France and the unlikely survival of all ten men against incredible odds.

Jan Drexler signed a 3-book deal with Love Inspired for a series of Amish novels, The Prodigal’s Brother, His Chosen Family, and His True Path, for publication in 2017 and 2018.

Marjorie Jackson signed with Barbour for her novella Devoted, for publication in 2017.

Jordyn Redwood signed a two-book deal with Love Inspired Suspense for The Doctor’s Redemption and The Doctor’s Spy, due to be released in 2017 and 2018 respectively.

Christopher and Michael Ross signed with Harvest House for Finding Faith in a Minecrafty World, a devotional that guides young readers through the fantastic landscapes of Minecraft, revealing clues for a stronger faith and much more fun in the real world.

New Clients

Carey Lewis signed with WordServe this month. Welcome!

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What We’re Celebrating

Cristóbal Krusen’s film, Sabina K., received a Special Jury Mention at the Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival!

WordServe News: June 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

dont goDeb and Ron DeArmond released Don’t Go to Bed Angry: Stay Up and Fight with Abingdon Press. Combining a healthy dose of personal experience with relationship-affirming biblical wisdom, Deb and Ron demonstrate how communication through conflict can lead to greater insight and understanding of thoughts, feelings, and perspectives that can safeguard–and even strengthen–your relationship.

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Karen Jordan published Words That Change Everything with Leafwood Publishers. With true personal stories and Biblical applications, Words That Change Everything offers hope and practical strategies to help women speak God’s truth to their unbridled and often debilitating emotions.

mckeeJonathan McKee released 52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid with Shiloh Run Press. Drawing from his 20-plus years of experience working with teenagers, studying youth culture, and raising three teens of his own, Mckee provides an abundant supply of useful tips and creative ideas to help parents have meaningful interaction with kids hooked on their devices.

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Jim Putman published The Power of Together with Baker Books. An in-depth, biblical look at the critical importance of doing life in close fellowship with other believers, this book draws readers closer to their spiritual family and to Jesus than ever before.

 

51+ISQJmp1L._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_Susie Shellenberger and Kristin Weber released The Smart Girl’s Guide to Mean Girls, Manicures & God’s Amazing Plan for Me.  Melding spiritual and practical advice with humor, this guide offers 100 practical tips to help teen girls navigate the ups and downs of life with grace and confidence.

New Contracts 

Carole Engle Avriett signed with Tyndale to publish Under the Cover of Light, the true story of Col. Thomas Jerry Curtis, whose helicopter was shot down in Vietnam and who spent 7 years in Hanoi as a POW.

New Clients

Tim Riter, Frank Sievert, and Naomi Overton signed with WordServe this month. Welcome!

What We’re Celebrating

Terry Brennan‘s book The Aleppo Code is a finalist for the 2016 Carol Awards! Winners will be announced August 27.

Tricia Lott Williford was married to Peter Heyer on May 28. Life and Love took some time, but they did come back. Congratulations, Tricia and Peter!tricia

Trends in Book Discovery

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What is publishing all about these days?

  • Writing?
  • Editing?
  • Packaging?
  • Posting an ebook?

Nope. None of the above.

It’s about FINDING READERS!

The loss of retail, magazines, religion sections in newspapers… the discoverability factor has greatly decreased. Which is why publishers are so dependent on authors to find readers (through author tribes) and on their ability to social network their way to a best seller. Which, in case you haven’t already experienced, happens about .01% of the time.

So when I saw some data about my favorite topic—FINDING READERS—I thought you ought to see it.

The following is based on data compiled by the Penguin Random House consumer insights team, which polled more than 40,000 readers about their reading and buying choices.

  • When asked what is most influential to readers when deciding what book to read next, 81% said recommendations from friends and family. Word of mouth, whether about movies, agents, or book sales, is always the key deal.
  • How do readers discover books? 70% said they use Goodreads; 49% said newspaper/magazine reviews; 46% said Facebook; 38% said author interviews/appearances; 37% said blog reviews; 23% said print ads; 15% said Twitter; and 14% said another form of social media. I’m wondering if the 40,000 readers they polled were from Goodreads. Still, this was more eye-opening than I would have guessed.
  • The survey found that as readers age, blogs and social media become less relevant as a way to discover books. Among survey participants under the age of 40, more than 80% use Goodreads and more than 60% read blog or web reviews. This steadily decreases with age; for readers in their 50s, 75% use Goodreads and 40% read blog and web reviews; for those in their 70s, the numbers drop to under 60% for Goodreads and only 20% for blog and web reviews. I guess we realize with age that there isn’t much time to read all of those books we bought but haven’t read, so we don’t need anyone else telling us what to read.
  • Conversely, print reviews and advertisements become more relevant with age. For readers under 40, 40% read newspaper and magazine reviews; for those in their 50s, the number is closer to 60%, and for those over 70, the number who read newspaper and magazine reviews is 70%. Print advertising follows a similar trajectory, with 20% of those under 40 relying on print ads to discover books, as opposed to 30% of those in their 50s and nearly 50% of those in their 70s. It must be the fact that there are pictures and not very many words. Easier on the eyes.
  • When it comes to gender, women are more likely than men to trust recommendations from friends and family (79% of women trust the recommendations, while only 66% of men do). The same is true of recommendations from Goodreads, 70% of which women trust, compared to only 57% of men. Men don’t gravitate toward asking for directions when driving, and evidently on book buying. What’s wrong with us?
  • Men are, however, more likely to read newspaper and magazine reviews; 54% of men trust such reviews, as compared to 49% of women. When it comes to print advertising, 26% of men trust it compared to 23% of women.
  • When asked what most influences them to pick up a book if they are not familiar with the author or series, readers said that they are likely to do so if they like the subject (88%), read a good book review (87%), or get a friend’s recommendation (86%). Slightly less influential are reading an excerpt (76%) or an online review (76%). Least influential are the recommendations of a salesperson (38%); the publisher’s reputation (34%); seeing an ad (30%), recommendation by media/personality (26%); and needing a book for school or work (25%).

As Mark Twain once lamented, “There are lies, damn lies, and statistics.” While I applaud Penguin Random House for spending the money on this survey, some of which was eye-opening, I’m not sure what it all means for authors except they will be even more encouraged to do their own marketing than ever.

Here is the one truth that everyone agrees with when it comes to author marketing: email addresses.

If you have them, you’re golden. How many? 5,000 is nice, 10,000 is better. Time to check out MailChimp, time to offer free stuff, time to really focus your brand and what felt need you’re meeting, and time to become an expert in direct mail to your audience.

WordServe News: May 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

duggerLarry Dugger released 40 Days to Defeat Your Past with Charisma House. Just as Jesus squared off with the devil in the wilderness, we must square off with our devils. Forty Days to Defeat Your Past is a one-day-at-a-time process that uses the number forty to help readers identify and defeat the destructive patterns of their past and establish new, healthy habits to lead them into freedom.

ebookJan Dunlap released Heaven’s Gate, the first book in her Archangels series, with FaithHappenings Publishers. Following the character of Dr. Michael Carilion as he uncovers the missing piece of the One Theory—the Holy Grail of theoretical physics—this supernatural thriller wrestles with questions of science, faith, and a shattering new understanding of life after death.

51L8nL3LvpL._SX347_BO1,204,203,200_J. Parker release Hot, Holy, and Humorous with BroadStreet Publishing. Wrongful thinking and attitudes about sex permeate our culture, even in Christian circles. Starting from a foundation of faith and humor, this book offers candid advice for wives who want to make the most of God’s gift of sexual intimacy in marriage.

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Amy K. Sorrells released Lead Me Home with Tyndale. This powerful novel follows the stories of two men in a small town – one, a young man forced to grow up too soon, the other a pastor of the local church who questions his calling as the church doors close for good. As severe storms roll through, threatening the community, both men confront the fear of losing what they care about most, and reconsider where they truly belong.

51jGauNvGIL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_Jennifer Strickland released 21 Myths (Even Good) Girls Believe about Sex with Shiloh Run Press. With honest, straight-forward language, Strickland strips away the lies surrounding dating and sex and shares the myths, the truths, and the practical ways girls can enjoy the pursuit of passion and purity.

New Contracts

Mary Davis signed with Barbour for her work, Unworthy Hearts, part of the Pony Express Romance Collection.

Ken Gire and Donald Stratton signed with HarperCollins to publish the memoir of 93-year-old Stratton, who survived the bombing of the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

Melissa K. Norris signed with Harvest House for her next book, The Made-From-Scratch Home. This follow-up to her most recent book, The Made-From-Scratch Life, will be available in early 2018.

Barbara Scott signed with Gilead Publishing for her novella I’ll Be Home for Christmas, which will be included in a Christmas seasonal collection of contemporary romances.

Mike Yorkey signed with Barbour to publish a new book on Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors, due out early next year.

New Clients

Linda Clare, Ron Hammer, Mary May Larmoyeux, Phillip Robertson, and Craig Selness signed with WordServe this month. Welcome!

Build Your Platform and Expand Your Reach… with FaithHappenings.com

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Building a platform is essential for writers today. Publishers are busier than ever, and they have less resources to devote to helping authors spread the word about their books, speaking events, and tours. Even more difficult, agents and publishers are often unwilling to take on new writers who don’t already have an established platform, social media presence, and dedicated followers. So what’s a writer to do?

FaithHappenings.com has the answer.

FaithHappenings.com is an online Christian resource with 454 local websites serving more than 31,000 cities and towns. It offers tailored, faith-enriching content for members. Along with a few dozen other benefits—both locally and nationally—it connects people of faith to information about books, blogs, speaking events, and other resources that interest them most. As a writer or speaker, it will allow you to connect with people specifically interested in your genre, subject, or brand!

Just what can FaithHappenings.com offer you?

On FaithHappenings.com You Can…

  1. List yourself as a speaker both locally and regionally, for free! FaithHappenings allows you to highlight your speaking in the local areas where you have upcoming events, targeting people who live there through requested emails. We also link to your author website, driving people back to your site.
  2. Announce upcoming book signings in your local area for free! Information about book signings and other author events are emailed out to members who have requested to be notified of new book releases and book signings near them. Emails go out weekly, and members will also find your events by going to their local FaithHappenings page and checking out the Events Calendar.
  3. List your books—both traditionally and self-published—in up to five genre categories. These book listings will then be promoted to members across the country who have requested to hear about new books in your genre.
  4. Announce special e-book promotions the day they happen. E-book promos are sent out to our members via email and listed on the site daily! The more people who hear about your e-book deal, the more sales you’re likely to see.
  5. Build your blog traffic by posting your blog on FaithHappenings.com. You can then be listed as a “Featured Blogger” on our Home Page.
  6. Post a Top-10 List from your book! If you can create it, FH Daily—our page of daily inspiration, humor, encouragement, and current events—will post the content and link to your book (and it stays on our site forever). Content is king when it comes to generating buzz for your book, and posts on FH Daily are easily shareable via Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and more.
  7. Be a highlighted “Author Interview.” FH Daily runs author interviews several times a week. Readers can learn more about you, and links will connect them to your website and your book’s buy page. Just email fhdaily@faithhappenings.com to see if you qualify.
  8. Create more awareness for your book with advertising! An ad on the global site or on FH Daily is affordable for any author.
  9. As a free member yourself, you can receive e-mail announcements for any book in more than 70 genres.

What are you waiting for? Get started today by signing up in your local area to become a member at www.faithhappenings.com.

For more information about the benefits of FaithHappenings.com for writers and speakers, click here.

 

How to Know ForSureForSureForSure You’re Ready for an Agent

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Do you have that first novel completed? Have you been staying up late and getting up early to study and write about a topic you’re passionate about telling the world?

Then it might be time to query a few agents to see if you have what it takes to get their attention. But keep your expectations realistic. New authors are harder to break out than they’ve ever been. And please, don’t blame the agent. We’re just the messenger of what publishers keep telling us.

You’ll need some criteria to go by to determine if you’re ready. Here are a few dozen hints.

First: Know who you truly are…

  1. Someone who has always wanted to write
  2. Someone with a message you feel God is asking you to put to paper
  3. Someone with a message that others have said needs to be put to paper
  4. Someone who can’t wait to get to your computer to create the stories in your head
  5. Someone who reads a lot, both within the genre they write as well as others.

Second: Understand what the book publishing industry is looking for…

  1. The 80/20 principle is alive and well in publishing. Publishers must have the big sellers to stay in business. So 80% of their advance and marketing money will always go to 20% of the authors and books. And if you’re a new author, unless you’re a pastor of a mega-church or you can write like Hemmingway (or better), you’re likely not going to be amongst the 20%.
  2. Because of the loss of browsing retail, publishers can’t find readers, so they expect authors to find them. They want authors with built-in audiences ready to buy. That’s why they are less willing to take risks on unknown/debut authors, preferring known quantities instead of new voices. If I had 200 new authors to speak to, there would be perhaps 5% who will ever get published traditionally. Not because they can’t write. Not because they don’t have a compelling message. It’s because they still have an information gap about what it takes to get published and be successful at it.
  3. Great writing. They want authors who are sold out to getting honest critique. They want a book with a clear vision/message, and an obvious audience (felt need). They hope authors are willing to study the craft of writing, attend conferences, willing to join and participate in critique groups or have a critique partner. Most of all, they want authors who have “come to play.” They’re working on building audiences; they’re invested in their own marketing and they have a plan to grow. Publishers and agents want more than one book. They want to grow with you and your career.

Third, what motivates you…

  1. Money. Okay, that’s not terrible. Would C.S. Lewis have written The Chronicles of Narnia for free? Provision—whether it’s today’s manna or retirement’s manna–motivates us, and it’s not evil. However, if this is your ONLY motivation, you have to ponder whether God will bless it. You also have to recognize that it’s harder than ever to make a living as a writer today, and that the days of six and seven-figure advances (with a few exceptions) are largely gone.
  2. Legacy. Publishers don’t care about this unless you’re already famous. Legacy projects get self-published, and that is perfectly fine.
  3. This does not include “ax to grind” books. Please, self-publish those. We can’t sell them.
  4. “I can’t help myself.” Obsession is a good place to be, but not if you’re sacrificing your health, family, bank account and soul to do it. Your obsession should pass the “sniff test” by those who know you best. Just because you feel “God has told me” to do this, doesn’t make that statement true. Obsessions MUST be confirmed by several people in your life before you give them wings in a big way.

So, with all of this in mind, here’s how to know “forsure-forsure-forsure” you’re ready for an agent.

For sure…

  • You have something inside of you that must get out. A novel, a message, a memoir, a brand. When I started FaithHappenings.com two years ago, I was like a dog with a bone. My excitement did border on obsession.
  • You’ve put at least half of the book on paper–the whole book if you’re a novelist. (With novels, it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.)
  • You understand that traditional publishing is a business and you won’t question their motives if they reject your work. People DO know more than you.
  • You feel God’s pleasure in your efforts to communicate what you want to share.
  • You can’t wait to get to your computer.

For sure, for sure…

  • You know your motivation. It doesn’t have to be pristine, you just have to know what it is.
  • You know your book will get published no matter what. You are going to do this! Start traditionally if that is a goal, but not let that stop you from doing what’s needed to publish independently, if you have to.
  • Someone has said that your message, life story or writing is above the curve. But even so, remember this: Perhaps one person per state ever makes it to the major leagues in each year. The pyramid is very small at the top in any professional endeavor.
  • You are patient with the process and want to trust an industry professional to help guide your book/career. Once you think you know more than they do, turn off the tap on traditional publishing. And this is fine. Some are wired to be control freaks. Go with it. Don’t drive yourself and an agent/publisher crazy if you want to control every step in the process.

For sure, for sure, for sure…

  • You have 5,000 to 10,000 “followers” (blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.) Further, you are convinced—and you hereby solemnly swear to not complain—that you must help any publisher you go with—traditional or your own efforts—FIND READERS.
  • Twenty people who don’t know you well have seen your book/writing and they’re not adding much more to it. You hear the term “great writer” from several different people.
  • You know your genre, your audience, your message—you have FOCUS!!!
  • You have a great proposal that answers the publisher/agent questions. If you don’t, get the agent’s proposal template. We all have one. Work hard on it. Don’t have typos, and follow directions! There are too many other people vying for an agent or editor’s attention for them to waste time on a proposal that doesn’t meet the basic requirements listed.
  • Read three book marketing books. And then in your proposal, give the agent five pages of marketing ideas you KNOW you can do.
  • You have counted the cost:
    • Family/Time
    • Money
    • Inevitable rejection and bad reviews, perhaps even the “ten mean church ladies” who write scathing letters and reviews on nearly every book they see.
  • You know you have “come to play.”
  • You know what five agents/agencies you want to be with. Get to know what they have represented. (You aren’t sending your proposal out en masse to every agent whose email address you can find.) Of these five, take the first one who says yes. Realize that you may not get the top guy, but the reputation of the agency is what you’re after.

If you can check off nearly all of these criteria, you’re forsure, forsure, forsure ready.

WordServe News: February 2016

Exciting things have been happening at WordServe Literary in the first month of 2016!

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

New Releases

christnerDianne Christner published Covered Bridge Charm with Shiloh Run Press. Set against the backdrop of the Sweet Life Assisted Living Facility in Sweet Home, Oregon, it follows the story of Carly Blosser, a 27-year-old woman who has her own ideas and an independent spirit–two things no Mennonite woman should have–as she works to reunite one of the facility’s elderly residents with her long-lost love.

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Barry Corey’s new book, Love Kindnesswill publish next month from Tyndale. Dr. Corey, president of Biola University, begins with a thought-provoking question: When did Christians stop being kind? This powerful book encourages readers to rediscover the forgotten virtue of kindness, and to embrace what it truly means to “do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).

cotyDebora Coty released Too Blessed to be Stressed: 3-Minute Devotionals for Women with Barbour. 180 uplifting readings pack a powerful dose of comfort, encouragement, humor, and inspiration for women, and take only three minutes of her day. Minute 1: scripture to meditate on; Minute 2: a short devotional reading; Minute 3: a prayer to jump-start a conversation with God.

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Steve Farrar published Manna with Thomas Nelson. Sometimes, the wilderness is the only place God can get our attention. Through personal stories and applications of biblical lessons, Manna reveals how God specializes in making a way where there is no way–when we feel trapped in financial, emotional, relational, or spiritual wildernesses, God will always lead us out and to the Promised land.

johnsonRick Johnson released Understanding the Man You Love with Revell. Johnson, a relationship and marriage expert, gives an open and honest look inside a man’s world to help wives understand just what goes on inside their husbands’ brains–and how couples can work together toward a mutually satisfying and fulfilling marriage.

i am nThe Voice of the Martyrs, a nonprofit, interdenominational organization that offers practical and spiritual help to persecuted Christians around the world, published I am N, with Bob Welch ghostwriting. Through the inspiring stories of Christians facing Islamic extremists in the Middle East, this book reminds readers that all followers of Jesus have camaraderie with those who are persecuted, and encourages us to deepen our faith in a God who gives courage in a dark and hurting world.

New Contracts

Sue Detweiler signed with Bethany House for the publication of Life-Giving Woman of Prayer, intended to help women replace their common weaknesses with God’s power through prayer.

Cyndy Feasel signed with Thomas Nelson for the publication of Thrown for a Loss, the powerful story of her family’s descent into chaos and darkness after her husband, ex-NFL linebacker Grant Feasel, began to grapple with the devastating effects of CTE. Due out in early 2017.

April Knight signed with David C. Cook for her devotional #scripturedoodle. Part of a two-book deal, #scripturedoodle will stretch readers to explore the Bible creatively through inspiring and interactive illustrations of scripture each day.

New Clients

Kim Dolan Leto, Jack London, and David Rigby signed with Greg Johnson as clients this month. Sally Metzger, Jim Fletcher, Bob and Cheryl Moeller, and Judy Robertson signed with Nick Harrison. Welcome to all our new clients!