About Melissa K. Norris

Melissa K. Norris is a 5th generation homesteader who believes homegrown and Mason jars should be the foundation of every kitchen and healthy food can also taste amazing, life is too short for anything else. She’s the voice of the popular Pioneering Today podcast, author of The Made-from-Scratch Life and Hand Made, and founder of the Pioneering Today Academy, along with her blog at melissaknorris.com she teaches people old-fashioned skill sets and back to basic living in a modern world. When she had her stomach and esophagus biopsied for cancer nearly a decade ago, she and her husband were determined to raise more of their own food in the footsteps of our ancestors for their health and peace of mind. While still working day jobs, sometimes multiple ones, they raise all of their own organic grass-fed beef, pork, meat chickens, hens for eggs and close to 65% of their own fruits and vegetables in just a few hours a week. Some of Melissa’s earliest memories are of being in the vegetable garden. Her family has been saving their own strain of heirloom Tarheel green pole beans for over 100 years. They grow an all heirloom garden, seed save, and try to produce as much of their own food because they believe a garden isn’t just food for the body, but food for the soul as well. They strive to produce a year’s worth of food with as many crops as possible and heirloom tomatoes are one of those, even in the rainy Pacific Northwest and with a short growing season, because once you go vine ripened, you’ll never go back.

Does Free Really Help Sell Books?

As I’ve been working on the launch of my new book, I’m struggling with how much to give away for free. I’ve read conflicting reports on offering your book without cost.

Some say you’ll gain so much word of mouth that we all should do it. Others say you devalue your content and make those who have paid for it feel cheated.

What is an author to do?Melissa K. Norris new book Pioneering Today-Faith and Home the Old Fashioned Way

My new book, Pioneering Today: Faith and Home the Old Fashioned Way, launches today.

I decided to give something away for free and a bonus gift. But I put a time limit on it. If I know I’ve got a limited time frame it makes me get to it first. I’m thinking I can’t be the only one who thinks this way.

I’m offering up my first chapter for free. Now that’s nothing new, you say. Authors do this all over the place.

But not all authors use this great free application called “Pay with a Tweet.” In order to read my first chapter, people can choose to pay with a Tweet or Facebook share. It represents word of mouth marketing for me and also gives the reader something for free. Want to see it in action? Go to my book page here. 

That’s not my only freebie. For every reader who purchases my book on Amazon and forwards me the copy of their proof of purchase, email, and mailing address, I’m going to mail them a secret recipe and the link to a full length bonus chapter, but only through October 31, 2012.

I’m hoping this will help people to purchase now, before it falls onto their to-do-list and is forgotten. I also feel that these items provide real value and content to the readers of my book.

Because that’s what great marketing boils down to. The reader asking what’s in it for me?

Have you ever bought something from an author because you enjoyed their free content? Do you think free is better or do you believe you get what you pay for? Have you seen a jump in sales from giving away free copies?

Advertisements

When to Tell Your Inner Editor to Shut Up!

We’re not supposed to tell people to shut up. We’re supposed to be polite and considerate.

 Icon Design by Creative Freedom  All copyright for Shimmer Icons belongs to Creative Freedom Ltd.  http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/3.0/

Icon Design by Creative Freedom
All copyright for Shimmer Icons belongs to Creative Freedom Ltd.
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/3.0/

I’m here to tell you that sometimes we need to tell our inner editor to shut up.

I’m not saying we don’t need to edit our work. On the contrary, I even wrote this post, 7 Tips for Self-Editing, but there is a time and a place for said editing.

When you’re writing your first draft, I strongly advise you not to edit. Let your ideas flow. If you try to edit now, you may never finish your novel. Or worse yet, you’ll stifle your creativity.

There is another voice, one that may or not be your inner editor. The one that tells you this isn’t any good. Why on earth did you think you could be a writer? You should just give up before anyone discovers you can’t really write.

These, my friends, are the voice of the enemy. Do not believe his lies.

Recently, I heard these words burn through my mind. When you begin to hear the lies, turn to our source of truth. Pray that God’s voice would be the only one you would hear. Ask Jesus to silence everything that is not from Him.

I’ve started doing this every time I sit down to write. It is making a huge difference. We can choose to listen and believe the voice of truth.

If you’re trying to write your first novel or first draft of a new project, focus on getting it all out on paper or the computer screen. It’s fine to check and make sure your book is keeping in check with your outline and overall story and character goal, but don’t try to make it perfect.

Have you ever had to tell your inner editor to shut up? Do you have any tips to keep yourself going when you feel like giving up?

Do You Need to Schmooze an Editor or Agent?

I’ve attended over 7 writers conferences since walking the road of an author. One thing I’ve come to observe at these conferences is they way we interact with one another.

Editors and agents are seen as the gate keepers to our dreams. They are the ones who will accept our book and validate our work.

Janalyn Voigt and I at Northwest Christian Wrtiers Renewal

This is sort of true and sort of not. Editors and agents will let you know if your work is ready. They’ll let you know what you need to work on. They do not hold your dreams. You do.

Having our work published will not validate us. Only Jesus can do this. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking your worth is measured by a contract and sales figures.

I’ve seen some writers completely crushed when an editor/agent declined on their pitch. I’ve been one of them. Jesus gently reminded me that He is my agent. And He’s yours if you’re willing to give your writing over to Him.

I don’t mean He will do everything. We still have to hone our craft, build our platform, and continue learning.

At conferences, I’ve seen editors and agents hunted down by well-meaning enthusiastic authors. They couldn’t get an appointment with the agent/editor they wanted, so they stalk them at meal times, breaks, in line at the bathroom….

I’ve had some wonderful chats with editors/agents at meals and in the hallways. But I’ve also seen a weary trapped look in their gaze.

We should never become so focused on what other people can do for us and our careers that we forget they are people and children of God first and foremost.

Take the time to ask them how they’re enjoying the conference. Chat them up like you would meeting someone at a neighborhood barbecue. Take the time to get to know them a little. They’ll eventually turn the conversation towards writing. After all, they’re there to discover great writers.

Even if they turn your project down, they’ll remember a friendly person. Later, circumstances may be different and your project will be the one. You can never go wrong investing in people and relationships.

You should spend some time schmoozing at conferences. Just make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. If we look at every person and situation with the attitude of how we can help them, instead of how they can help us, we’ll get much further.

Have you ever made new friends at a conference? How have you helped someone else and had it benefit you unexpectedly?

Remember Your Passion

So much of being a writer is weathering rejection. We often hear the advice, “You need to develop a thick skin to survive in this business.”

This is partially true. We can’t let every no beat us down or we’ll spend all of our time getting back up instead of moving forward.

But those rejections do hurt. The more often you experience, the easier it becomes. It’s taken me over ten years to reach the point I can say this honestly.

However, I still don’t like them. I don’t think there’s a writer out there who does. If you do, please share in the comments!

There are a few valuable things rejections teach us. They make us examine why we’re doing what we’re doing. When I feel beat up by the no’s, I have to remind myself why I want to be writer.

It’s not for the fame. Of all the truly awesome writers out there, how many are famous? Not many.

It’s not for the money. Most authors still keep their day jobs or spouses who help supplement their incomes.

I write because I’m passionate about my stories. I have a message God has put on my heart. I write because I don’t feel whole when I stop. I write because God created me to be a writer.

So when you’re faced with a rejection, no matter what step of the publishing ladder you’re on, remember your passion for writing.

When you feel like giving up, ask yourself these questions:

* Why did I start writing in the first place?

* What kept me typing my first story before I even thought about sending it out?

* What message do I want my words to convey?

Write them down on a card, so the next time you receive a rejection letter or a pass on your work you can pull it out to remind yourself. And then start writing your next masterpiece.

Also, feel free to check out these rejections by other writers. Knowing that other writers really are going through the same thing can be helpful.

How to Create a Free E-Book for Your Website

People love to receive stuff for free. Ever wandered through Costco in the afternoon? You can always spot the free sample stands by the crowds gathered round.

Our readers are no different. They love to get stuff for free and what better way to encourage or thank them for signing up to your blog posts than with a free e-book.

You may be unsure what content to include in your e-book. Ask your readers. I put a poll on my website asking what subject people would like to see more. This helped me decide what to write my e-book about. Take a look at your web stats; which posts have the highest views?

Once you’ve decided on your topic, start writing it. Keep it on the shorter side; it doesn’t need to be a full book length. Under five thousand words is a good guideline. Remember to offer new content in your book. Because it’s electronic, you can and should link to articles on your blog for further reading and value to the reader.

After your e-book is finished, save it as a PDF file and then upload it to your website. Keep it unassigned (for self-hosted WordPress) and copy the location.

I use Feedburner as my RSS and email subscription service for my website. I downloaded my existing email subscribers addresses to MailChimp and sent them out a free copy thanking them for being with me. You never want to forget your current readers in the search for new ones.

For new subscribers, I included the PDF link in the email they receive from Feedburner when they sign up for my blog. This allowed for free automation and instant access for the reader.

If you use Feedburner and have a sign up box on your website, I highly recommend customizing the sign up box. Even if you don’t have an e-book to offer yet, you should list the benefits subscribers receive when they sign up for your emails. Here’s an example of my homepage and subscriber box. 

By using the Feedburner verification email to send out my free e-book link, I realize people don’t have to verify in order to get the free copy. But if they don’t like my free e-book and choose not to verify to get my posts, then they most likely would have unsubscribed anyway.

Have you ever bought something from a free sample? What makes you subscribe to a blog via email? Do you think having a free e-book has helped your blog numbers?

The Best Resource to Build Your Author Platform

Are you so sick of the word platform you want to throw all wooden boxes into a huge bonfire?

Everywhere authors turn we hear about the importance of author platform. Many pre-published authors have no idea how to go about building a successful author platform. You just know that you need one.

Even seasoned authors know we need to keep adding planks to our platform, making it larger every day.

I was one of 100 people recently chosen to participate in the launch of Michael Hyatt’s new book, Platform: Get Noticed in A Noisy World.

This in itself was pure genius. Every one wants the invitation to the private party, we want the behind the scenes all access pass. To read the call out, here’s the link to Michael’s invite. Did you notice it’s not just about what you can do for him, but what it will do for you?

That is the number one lesson from this book. Everything you put in front of your readers, from blog posts to social media updates, must provide value to them!

Michael really knows how to take this to the next level. Here’s the link to his Platform book page. He breaks down the benefits his book provides to the reader. Many books, or book pages, fail to spell out what the purchaser will get from reading them.

This book doesn’t just tell you a few key points or things to do, it teaches you. Michael provides numerous links to extra info and also gives tons of examples. I’m a visual learner, so this is key for me.

God has been reminding me that it’s not about me. And the same is true in all aspects of our lives, as both authors and human beings. I ultimately write for God’s glory, and adding glory for Him is what’s all about. Remember to always add value, in everything we do.

What are ways you can add value to your book? How can you add value to the readers of your blog? How has an author added extra value for you?

Here’s an added value if you haven’t already read 7 Tips for Self-Editing Your Novel with Promotional USB Drives Before we can create a platform, our content must be amazing.

Market Your Fiction with Non-Fiction

I often hear fiction authors struggling with ways to market their novels. Non-fiction authors seem to have an easier time with marketing, due to their expertise on their subject.

But fiction authors actually have quite a bit of nonfiction in their novels. Remember all that research you’ve done?

As Christian writers, our characters and story lines have a built-in message of faith. Writing articles on your own faith struggles and how they relate to your character’s journey is one way to use non-fiction.

Think about your character’s occupation. Is your heroine a landscaper? Write some posts on the best plants in your region. Or tie it in with the setting of your novel. A post on the best plants in the region of your book is even better. You could also spin it and list which plants are best transplanted in any region.

My heroine is a cook on a cattle drive. The pioneers only used cast iron, so I wrote a post on how to care and use cast iron.

How to clean cast iron

Did you find cool facts when you were researching that didn’t make it in to your novel? Then consider writing some articles on these.

These make great blog posts, but try taking it a step further. I pitched the idea to my local newspaper about a monthly column, Pioneering Today, which highlights the best of the pioneer lifestyle and how it relates to us today. The editor gave me permission to re-publish the articles on my blog after the current issue has run. I can offer links or pictures, so readers of the newspaper have a reason to visit my website for more information.

Consider magazines or ezines to submit these articles to as well.

What are some of your favorite non-writing blogs and magazines? How could you tie in an aspect of your writing or book to these? What ways have you used non-fiction to market your fiction?