About J. Parker

J. Parker is the author of two books on sex in marriage, Hot, Holy, and Humorous and Intimacy Revealed, and a collection of marriage stories, Behind Closed Doors. She writes the Hot, Holy & Humorous blog, where she uses a biblical perspective and blunt sense of humor to foster Christian sexuality in marriage.

Podcasting: Another Way to Reach Readers?

Discoverability. We know that’s the key to selling books—getting your title in front of your intended audience. Your old faithfuls, God bless ’em, will stick with you when you publish. But you want your message, your story, your ministry to gain ground by finding new readers. You want to reach out to folks who didn’t know about you before or have been dragging their feet to buy your book.

So you strive for marketing plans that work, SEO that brings people to your website, favorable algorithms that make your book show up in Amazon recommendations, and the always-valuable Word of Mouth.

I have a website and a blog. I’ve done interviews and guest posts on other websites. I’ve promoted through social media sites Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. But if someone doesn’t come to me on the internet, how can I get to them?

Microphone in the old studio with on air signEnter three colleagues, women who also write about sexual intimacy in marriage on their blogs. This past year, we sprouted the idea to put together a group podcast. Call it a round table, but we prefer kitchen table. Because that’s what it feels like to us—sitting around a kitchen table with our cups of coffee and talking about one of our favorite subjects, God’s gift of sex in marriage.

As a podcast listener myself, I immediately saw the potential for reaching a new audience. As busy as people are today, it’s often easier for them to plug in earphones, click on an app, and listen to a podcast than to peruse a bookstore, read blog posts, or even follow social media. And listening week after week, they begin to feel that they know the hosts. They’re sitting around that proverbial kitchen table with them and at some point think, I really want to read their book.

Now I’m not involving myself in this podcast merely to sell books. Our main purpose is to spread the good news of God’s gift of sexual intimacy in marriage and to help wives address issues that prevent them from fully embracing that gift. But I’m not oblivious to the fact that this new medium will get my name and title in front of a new batch of potential readers.

In case you’re interested, here’s a summary of what we’ve learned (so far) about podcasting:

You’ll have upfront costs. They include a professionally designed logo, the podcast hosting service, sound equipment, and editing software. Michael Hyatt offers a great breakdown of options for getting started at different tiers. We took the medium-route, with hopes of later adding better recording equipment and a professional voice-over introduction.

There’s a big learning curve. At least for four women with no audio-visual experience. We have spent months researching podcasting, discussing our launch and marketing plans, recording episodes in advance, and learning how to use editing software.

Treat it like a book launch. Remember how you had to write your bio, back cover copy, schedule blog tours, make sure your website was ready, etc.? A podcast launch also requires preparation. We designed a website, set up social media accounts, brainstormed topics, and recorded three episodes before we said boo to anyone else about our plans. And by the time that we launch, we’ll have up to 10 episodes already recorded.

Consider partnering with others. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.” Yes, it’s required more flexibility with our schedules to get all four of us together to record, but it’s been lovely to share the work and the costs and to have the encouragement of other Christian women. On the business side, we’re able to cross-promote, with each of us getting access to the other threes’ audiences.

Our brand-new podcast, Sex Chat for Christian Wives, will first air on February 14 and every other week thereafter. We’ll see what God does with this project. But I hope to be able to report this time next year that this endeavor not only sold more of my books, but helped many marriages and marriage beds.

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?

The Splash-Launch vs. the Slow Build

51L8nL3LvpL._SX347_BO1,204,203,200_My new book, Hot, Holy, and Humorous: Sex in Marriage, released the same week that my oldest son graduated from high school. Although I was excited to finally see my book out, this was not excellent timing for me and my family.

Consequently, I didn’t do a lot on day one, day two, or even a few days after the release to promote my book. I was too busy pulling together the final details of the cap-and-gown experience for my son. The way I figured, I’d spent a few years working on my book, but eighteen years working on the kid – so the latter won out.

But all that is okay, because I’m not a big believer in the splash-launch. Not that I’m against it in the least! It’s wonderful when a much-anticipated book hits the shelves with well-deserved fanfare. Seriously, a book is not easy to birth, so cue the fireworks! However, a big splash isn’t what really matters for the long-term success of a book.

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In the music world, we all know about the one-hit wonders who burst forth on the scene with as much hoopla as Mardi Gras in New Orleans. And then…they were gone. Sure, the splash rippled outward, but eventually the waters calmed.

Meanwhile, Aerosmith’s first album only hit #21 on the charts. But we all still know who they, and lead singer Steve Tyler, are. This rock-and-roll band caught some attention right out of the gate, but they built that into a legacy.

I’m looking toward the slow build for my book, snowballing interest and excitement into long-term sales and a devoted readership.

How can you take the long view of book sales?

Spread out your marketing efforts. Rather than focusing all of your efforts upfront, choose strategic activities for your launch and hold off on tasks that can be effectively pursued later down the road. Maybe you need to focus on interviews now and delay the blog tour, or do giveaways at the beginning but hold a larger contest later in the year.

Create a marketing plan calendar. I’m blessed to have a writer friend of mine who sat down and developed a marketing plan for me that goes for a full year. Among her wonderful ideas were capitalizing on special days throughout the year—linking my book and sales specials to appropriate holidays or awareness days. Also look for local events, conventions, and ministry conferences that suit your goals.

Engage regularly with your audience. Some authors inundate social media with news, pictures, updates, etc. all around release time, and then it’s crickets-and-cicadas for the next six months. Continue to interact with your readers and potential readers! Those who’ve already read your book will feel more comfortable recommending it to others if you are less spambot and more real person. And potential readers will get that nudge from time to time and may finally buy your book – the one from that nice author they keep seeing.

Write more quality books. Of course, the best long-term approach to selling books is to write more quality books. Having more offerings gives you more shelf space, raises your discoverability in online bookstores, and makes you a brand in readers’ minds.

Indeed, I’ll be marketing Hot, Holy, and Humorous from now until it goes out of print, but I’m also working on the next book. And let’s hope that one doesn’t release in the same week my other son graduates.

Are You Prepared for Spiritual Battle?

I was thrilled to see my very first post up on this fantastic website last month. I happily wrote about dealing with sensitive topics. I felt experienced and insightful as I penned that post, delighted with the opportunity to share what I’d learned.

And the next day, a maelstrom erupted on my blog.

One commenter interpreted something I wrote in a way I never intended. I immediately tried to correct the record with a follow-up comment and a clarification in the blog post itself. But the commenter struck back with a personal attack not only against me – but against my husband. Now that is not alright with me.

I politely but firmly defended myself and my husband. Expecting it to end there. It didn’t. She left another scathing comment, which I did not approve. Then she followed up with a comment on my Facebook page that was even worse, which I removed. And another blog comment that was appallingly vitriolic.

While I’d love to say that I calmly handled this situation with Christian love, joy, and peace, I was actually a bit rattled. I externally dealt with these exchanges okay enough, but my chest felt tighter than two-sizes-too-small skinny jeans and I found myself questioning everything I wrote in that post and a few others. Had I done something egregiously wrong?

Then a friend wrote these words to me: “I think this is a bit of a spiritual battle. Satan is trying to shake your cool or make you question what you do.” The timing and extent of what happened made me think she could well be right.

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Whether it’s a nonfiction book or blog post or an inspirational story, your writing can have an impact on others. We have a positive effect on our readers far more than a negative one. However, that one naysayer can poke and prod so long and hard you wonder if Satan is applauding with each jab.

He probably is.

I’ve often been told that putting yourself out there in ministry and in writing means opening yourself up not only to constructive criticism but to verbal assaults. Tough skin, I have. But impenetrable? Nope. And if I give an opening – become vulnerable with my readers in some way – someone could hit a tender spot. I could find myself in a spiritual battle.

Am I prepared?  I wish I felt at all times that I was. But I keep turning to God, seeking wisdom from my godly friends, finding comfort in encouraging comments from readers I have helped, and plugging along with my writing. After the Sword of the Spirit, the pen is still my favorite sword of truth.

4 Tips for Writing About Sensitive Topics

I write about sex in marriage. Talk about a sensitive and potentially controversial topic. Even the idea of publicly discussing sex in Christian circles can trigger everything from raised eyebrows to scathing rebukes.

4 Tips for Writing about Sensitive Topics

Yet I’ve always believed that if God is willing to bring up sensitive issues, so should His people. How can you address sensitive topics responsibly? Here are four quick tips.

1. It’s not merely what you say, it’s how you say it. Christians can be entirely right about the content of what they teach, and entirely wrong in how they treat others in getting their point across. Presenting truth doesn’t excuse us from commands to be loving, kind, gentle, patient, and self-controlled.

Ask how you’re presenting your points. Are you solely concerned about the issue, or do you consider the people affected? Do you invite conversation or lambaste anyone who doesn’t agree?

If your readers see you as caring about them, they’re far more likely to listen to what you have to say. Keep them in mind as you write.

2. Some react negatively because you poked a personal wound. Sometimes a reader’s hostile reaction isn’t personal. Rather, you unintentionally touched a raw wound.

For example, if I address how most husbands need the emotional connection of sex, I’ll get angry reactions from higher-drive wives whose husbands don’t seem to want sex, from wives whose husbands have been demanding or abusive, from husbands who’ve been refused for years and rant about how I’m too soft on wives, etc. Rather than feeling attacked, I try to show compassion for their difficult situation.

We should present our topic as fairly and lovingly as possible. But if someone freaks out about something you said, remember it may not be about you at all.

3. You don’t owe anything to false teachers. We bloggers know these commenters as “trolls”—meaning people who troll the Internet for articles on a particular topic and leave comments that promote lies and hate. At first, I tried to engage these readers, but nowadays I can spot a troll, or false teacher, pretty quickly. And I don’t put up with it.

It’s not that a writer’s skin isn’t tough. Challenges, debates, and discussion are fine, but if someone promotes false teaching or personally attacks other readers, it’s time to draw a line. Our readership relies on us to present truth and encouragement.

Adopt a comments policy explaining you’ll delete remarks with egregiously wrong or dangerous teaching. Don’t allow false teachers to soil your ministry by giving them a platform.

4. Find a supportive community. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to find a community who’ll support you when difficulties arise. My marriage author friends provide everything from encouragement to prayer to wisdom. And they laugh with me, which is healing in the face of trouble.

When it comes to writing, people who do what you do are not opponents; they are allies. Befriend them and gain strength from one another.

We can’t dismiss our obligation to share God’s Word boldly (Acts 4:31) and to help struggling people (Psalm 34:18) simply because it makes some in our midst uncomfortable. Your readers, many who’d never leave a comment or contact you, will appreciate your courage to address sensitive topics.