Put a dog on it: How to craft a bestseller

Every writer wants to believe that he or she can write a bestselling book.

I’m here to tell you there’s nothing wrong with believing that. I have no doubt that many times, my belief in that idea is the only thing that keeps me pounding out words on my laptop. To be completely transparent, I’ve never had a book reach the NYT bestseller list; the closest I came was learning that my memoir of dog adoption, Saved by Gracie: How a Rough-and-Tumble Rescue Dog Dragged Me Back to Health, Happiness and God, was a bestseller – at one point in time – for my publisher. Whether that one point in time was a week or a month, or even three hours, I honestly don’t know. And actually, it doesn’t matter, because the terrible truth of best-selling-ness is that it’s truly a transitory thing, as well as completely unpredictable.

As a reader, I also find that “bestseller” doesn’t necessarily predict my own evaluation or enjoyment of a book. I read plenty of books on the bestseller lists that leave me cold, to say the least. Other books I stumble across are amazing, but languish forever in No One’s Heard of It Land.

As a result, I’ve decided that I probably know as much as anyone about writing a bestseller, which is to say, no one really does know why some books win the lottery and others don’t. So the next time you’re struggling with your belief in your ability to write a bestseller, here are my tips(laughs?) to keep you moving forward:

  1. Sit down and write. Or you can stand up and write (I’ve been reading a lot lately about the health benefits of sit/stand desks). Either way, actually writing seems to be an uncontested avenue to producing a bestselling book. (Caveat: unless you’re famous, in which case you can pay someone else to do the writing and still put your name on it and get even more famous, although I think that’s kind of cheating, don’t you?)
  2. Write short sentences. Really. Bestsellers have short sentences. Like this one. If you want to write a literary novel, though, you can make the sentences as long as you like because the people who read literary novels generally read at a higher reading level and more assuredly appreciate the sheer beauty of the written language, even if they don’t have the market clout to send your book’s rating skyhigh.
  3. Use active verbs. (They even tell you this in graduate writing programs. I just saved you a ton of money and two years of your life. You’re welcome.)
  4. Put a dog on the cover of your book. Even if it’s not about a dog. Books with a dog on the cover sell better. Even the latest statistics show that dogs get more internet time than any other animal. Want attention? I’m telling you, put a dog on it.

In closing, I want to share with you the writing advice of a bestselling author named W. Somerset Maugham: “There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”

Happy writing!

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Marketing Beyond Your Book Launch

Now that I’ve submitted my latest book to my publisher, marketing is on my mind. I know from past experience with my other titles, the book launch will arrive sooner than I’ll ever feel ready for.

Some authors seem to think marketing fits in a neat little window of time, however, this limited view can inhibit opportunities to move more books for a longer period. Like a “new to you” car, if your title is new to book reviewers, book clubs, libraries, organizations and associations, churches, or book sellers, you have an untapped market potential.

For almost four years now, I’ve researched, accumulated, and culled lists of those who can influence more book sales. Many nights, I’ve stayed up an extra hour or two, so I could add to my lists. To date, I have over 1,200 relevant reviewers, book clubs, libraries, associations, churches, and book sellers organized by genres and specific interests. (I ultimately invested money into training and paying people who could help me organize my lists faster.) I’m now developing relationships with many of these reviewers.

You can do this for yourself, but it does require a lot of dedication and persistence. And there are some important things I’ve learned a long the way. Maybe by sharing, I can save you a few expectation headaches.

Important things to remember about influencers:

  1. It takes time — getting your book noticed by influencers is not a microwave process; it requires crock pot patience. But the good news is, you can put your ingredients in place and let them simmer while you attend to other things. Come back and stir on occasion, and eventually, your efforts can reach a rolling boil if you have quality content. (No matter what you try, if the content is not of interest to readers, marketing will not get you very far.)
  2. There are a lot of reviewers and other influencers out there, but not all are still actively writing reviews, many are not a good fit for your title, and some with smaller followings are actually more effective in their reader reach. Literary matchmaking is one part art and one part due diligence.
  3. Many influencers have a back log of commitments, so it can take months before they are able to get to yours. But just because you don’t hear anything right away, does not mean they are not interested. I recently got this great review from a query I sent over a year and a half ago.

My years of hard work have widened the sphere of influence for my latest book, and my sales definitely reflect it. The foundation and process for generating interest are now in place, and something I can easily duplicate.

Connecting Authors and ReadersRecently, I also realized this was something I could duplicate for others. From my desire to help fellow authors and the publishing industry at large, bookinfluencers.com was born. It bugs me that the closure of book stores has left many readers challenged to discover “new to them” great books. So I’ve created an online community to bring authors, publishers, influencers, and readers together. We put our clients’ books in front of those who can reach more people on their behalf.

I’m not trying to sell you a service, frankly you can do this on your own. But if you are an author who wants to save time and energy while widening your reach, help is available. Check out bookinfluencers.com to find out more.

The important point here is not so much how you connect with influencers, but that you do. Long after that 30-90 day book launch window closes, there are many readers who won’t have heard of you or your title. So don’t give up. Keep at it. Get your book in front of influencers who can help market your book beyond the launch. You never know what one person with a spotlight can do a year and a half later.

Have you had success in getting book reviewers and other influencers to help spread the word about your book?

Don’t Let Fear Stop You ~ Dream Big

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If you’ve followed the Water Cooler or my personal blog for a while, you know I’m a glass half-full thinker. I dream big.

I weigh the realities and set goals within reason.

I pray.

I plan.

I strategize.

And then there’s this—

I dream bigger.

Over the years, I’ve often thought about dreams. In fact, I’ve blogged about them, too.

Certainly, as a writer, my pursuit began with the tiny glimmer of a dream.

The dream languished as months slid into years and years into decades. It all but withered away as a long, bone-chilling season blew in and took up residence.

Then life changed.

I shifted careers. I left my area of expertise in favor of sunnier paths.

My kids grew older. No longer did I have one in diapers and another in middle school.

No longer did we live in and out of hospitals and ERs like we once had (more on that here).

At last, the fresh, clean breeze of opportunity seemed to blow my way.

I explored new goals.

I made the most of my time, started new projects, and immersed myself in the writing craft.

I allowed my dream to soar.

Was I scared?

You bet!

Writing’s a risky business.

There’s always the risk of rejection, failure, and loneliness. Add to that the never-ending details and mountains of work—the actual writing, even though we do love it.

In other words—the writing landscape is far from glamorous and ideal. (If you’re a veteran at this, I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know.)

It’s a day-by-day, put-one-foot-in-front-of-the-other process. If we want to realize our publishing dream, writers must stay focused.

We must adopt a big dreamer mindset.

We must adapt to new ways of thinking.

We must set aside our fear and go for broke.

And here’s something to consider—something I wrote several years ago as a reminder.

Goals: What I try to realistically shoot for with God’s help.

Dreams: Something beyond the scope of the tangible, but completely possible with the One who moves mountains.

A guest speaker at our church one Sunday put it another way.

When Jesus began His earthly ministry, he preached the Good News. (Matthew 4:17)

Through a gracious invitation, he called his first disciples to follow Him, acknowledging he would make them fishers of men—evidence that whatever we do—whatever vocation we have, Jesus will use it and transform it.

If we follow Him, we’ll no longer find meaning in other “stuff.” When we chase after Him, our dream is found in His call for us.

Self-made dreams won’t satisfy because Christ has something bigger in store. The kingdom dream.

And when our hopes and dreams align with His will for our lives—wow—all bets are off.

Even when we’re scared. Even when we don’t know how on earth our writing ministry will come to fruition.

Because that’s the thing really—how on earth?

Well, on earth—in the finite realm, it may not.

But given our supernatural Heavenly Father’s charge over our dream, anything can happen.

As a novelist, that thrills me!

***

 

As appeared on my blog.

Original Image Credit: Pexels/Pixabay

What’s your dream?

How do you keep your dream alive?

How would you encourage others to press forward toward their dream?

CH-7888 copy

Cynthia writes Heartfelt, Homespun Fiction from the beautiful Ozark Mountains. A hopeless romantic at heart, she enjoys penning stories about ordinary people facing extraordinary circumstances. Her debut novel, the first in a three-book series, releases with Mountain Brook Ink July 2019.

“Cindy” has a degree in psychology and a background in social work. She is a member of ACFW, ACFW MozArks, and RWA.

Besides writing, Cindy enjoys spending time with family and friends. She has a fondness for gingerbread men, miniature teapots, and all things apple. She also adores a great cup of coffee and she never met a sticky note she didn’t like.

Cindy loves to connect with friends at her online home. She also hangs out on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.

For love, fun, and encouragement ~

Sign up for Cindy’s monthly e-NEWSLETTERS

 

Navigating Your Negative Self-Talk and Overwhelming Anxiety

Is59 19How do you respond to overwhelming emotions? Positive or negative self-talk?

Fearful thoughts escalated into a full-blown panic attack as I faced a crisis with my mother over a decade ago. As I waited for the doctors to diagnose her medical condition, I began to do some research of my own. And everywhere I turned, the facts were grim.

I knew my mother was facing a battle for her life. And my emotional red flags were rippling high overhead. I had many questions but very few answers.

But I remembered seemingly impossible situations where God had intervened. And I knew who I needed to turn to in a battle. I also knew my emotions and logic are always unreliable in a tough situation.

Jesus warned his disciples that there would be a day coming when they would endure difficult times. “In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world” (John 16:33 The Message).

What is Jesus saying here? I believe he’s reminding his disciples to turn to him when they find themselves in trouble. But how do we seek the Lord during difficult days? I believe the answer lies in prayer and meditating on God’s Word.

RedFlags

How do you respond to overwhelming emotions? What are you worried about today? Are you anxious about something beyond your control? How would you describe your emotional reactions when you are worried?

  • Past. List some of your past worries. How did you deal with them?
  • Present. List the issues that worry you today. Are you anxious, fearful, or in a panic about them now? How are you responding to them?
  • Future. What fears do you have about the future? Are you worried about things that you have no control over right now?

GraceTalk

Which scriptures help you seek God in a crisis? Which verses help you manage your emotional reactions?

Reflection

Do you recall some of the struggles you’ve been through involving your faith?

This excerpt taken from my eBook, RESTNotes. Be sure to get your FREE copy today!

10 Powerful Ways to Increase Your Writing Productivity

I’m nearly finished writing my fifth book, but I quickly discovered one thing has remained consistent with every title I’ve penned: the pull of distractions, threatening to hamper my work.

I’ve had to exercise intentional practices to help me maintain momentum. And through dedication and determination, I’ve discovered the following 10 powerful ways to increase your writing productivity. 

  1. Schedule writing as an event on your calendar. If it’s a priority, formalize your intent by putting it in black and white with a time stamp.
  2. Prepare in advance. The evening before, fix energizing food and drink that will provide convenient and easy sustenance. Lay out comfortable clothes to help you get right to work. Make sure all of your tools are organized and ready. Then get a good night’s rest. (I use a touch of lavender essential oil to help me sleep deeply.)
  3. Keep your word. Often, we are mindful to keep our promises to others, but don’t think anything of breaking the vows we make to ourselves. When you tell yourself you are going to write — just do it!
  4. Create your own writer’s cave. When I started out, this was a very specific place in my house. For me, the word cave fit, because my writing room was first located in a basement bedroom. There were no windows, it felt isolated, and frankly, I had to force myself to stay in what often felt like a dungeon. But by practicing discipline, I learned something important — I can write anywhere.
  5. Clearly communicate writing rules to family and close friends. When I started writing passionately, my loving peeps did not consider it a serious endeavor. To some, working from home meant I was available for them to pop in for extended visits, to call or text about random things, or to pressure me to participate in endeavors I had neither the time or inclination for. Didn’t they know I needed to write? I fought frustration until I remembered a rule I had incorporated for my business coaching. So, I told family and friends that when I closed the door to my office or posted cave-dwelling on social media, that this was a Do Not Disturb symbol. I asked my peeps not to bother me, unless it was important enough that they would call me out of a meeting 500 miles away. It took a couple of weeks for training, but now it works beautifully.
  6. Protect your writing time fiercely. Beware of interruptions — especially from yourself. I love the J.K. Rowling quote above, but I would have to add, sometimes the endless requests come from an internal voice. Guard yourself against distraction through unnecessary activities like television, social media, or scrubbing the toilet.
  7. Turn off the tube. This may sound silly and simple, but how many of us have lost volumes of time to mindless television shows. If it isn’t feeding what you are writing about, flip the switch to off.
  8. What's on Your Bucket ListGet up and move on a regular basis. I do one-minute intervals at least hourly when writing. Running in place, jumping jacks, leg kicks, and air boxing all keep my blood pumping and my mind working.
  9. Don’t fall prey to overwhelm. Break your work into chunk-sized fragments. Instead of focusing on the entire chapter you need to write, just set a goal to write the next paragraph. If a whole paragraph still throws you into a tailspin, pen your next sentence.
  10. Enjoy the experience. Remind yourself of that younger version of you who dreamed of this opportunity. Most people never get to mark this off their bucket list. Relish these moments — they’re what you were made for.

How do you protect your productivity?

Claiming Your Promised Land

Phil 4 7As I compiled RESTNotes, the devotional guide to my book, Words That Change Everything, other commitments and obligations kept getting in the way.

Plus, I was exhausted because I had just completed my book. And that process birthed more challenges than I’d like to admit.

Also, my husband, Dan, had just retired. And I was ready for some REST and time off, too.

Lord, I’ll never keep up with all my commitments!

I thought of the story in Matthew where the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tested by the devil. After that trial, “the devil left him, and angels came and attended him” (Matt. 4:11 NIV).

Even Jesus grew weary in his battles. And he called on his heavenly Father to give him the words to defeat his accuser. But he also experienced the spiritual comfort provided by his Father.

I’m thankful that I can trust the Lord to provide that same kind of comfort for me.

All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more so than the good times of his healing comfort—we get a full measure of that, too. (2 Cor. 1:3–5 The Message)

Red Flags

Where do you go for REST when you’re tired or worried? What do you tend to turn to for comfort?

GraceTalk

What promises from God’s Word have helped you as you have stepped out in faith to trust the Lord?

Reflection

Consider some of the times you trusted God with an impossible situation. Describe the dates and details?

This excerpt taken from my eBook, RESTNotes. Be sure to get your FREE copy today!

Defining Real Writing Success

The new year has come and gone, and we’re in the full throes of fresh starts, new goals, and updated resolutions. This has me thinking about the definition of success — and more specifically, defining real writing success.

Most authors would say success is selling thousands of books, which means reaching thousands of people. It’s a worthy goal and necessary if you want to write professionally, long-term. But lately, as I’ve considered the time and energy required from an author, I realize the importance of balance. I’ll explain.

The more contracts I sign, as speaking engagements multiply, and because I’m selling more books, I’ve gotten a glimpse of the future. And it can go in one of two ways.

I don’t struggle with self-discipline as some do; instead, lately I’ve noticed my struggle to relax. When I can’t unwind, it’s time to make a change.

I have a choice. I can pour even more of my time and energy into my writing and speaking career, and to a degree, I need to, but I must exercise caution. As a natural workaholic, I could slip into a regular routine of fourteen to seventeen-hour work days. Because of deadlines, commitments, and special opportunities, there are times when I need to pull a writing day like that, but if it becomes the norm, I’m in danger. There’s a fine line between protecting your writing/speaking time and neglecting your family and close friends.

Life is Better with Friends

Recently, I imagined what it might look like to work myself into a frenzy, reaching success as many would define it, only to realize I might stand alone at the top. If we don’t have friends and family to share and celebrate with, what are we working so hard for?

This epiphany has put me on a mission to usher some balance back into my life. I adore the days I get to sequester and write, but I equally love spending down time with my family and friends. Both are valued activities to me, and they deserve equal time.

My work ethics and integrity are intact, but I am choosing to slow down enough to breathe  deeply, while on this crazy, thrilling, and daunting writing ride. To me, defining real writing success is simple.

I have goals to write and sell many more books, but part of my planning strategies now include more time set aside to enjoy walks with friends, cups of coffee with people I respect, and to laugh often with my family. I want to catch up on life, and I believe by doing so, I’ll have even more to write about. I don’t want to “make it” as a writer, only to look around and discover I’m perched in a precarious position — standing all alone.

How do you maintain balance between your writing and real life?