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.

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.



The Good Editor

typewriter-584696_640 Every writer needs a good editor. There are no exceptions. Typing away at the computer may be a solitary adventure, but bringing a well-rounded story to readers is a collaborative effort with a lot of players on the team. One of the most necessary players is a good editor. This is so much more than catching a typo or fixing a sentence that ends in a preposition or realizing you meant effect and not affect. It’s more than knowing what AP Style or Chicago Style is and when to use what, where.

Keely Boeving, a freelance editor who has worked with me on one of my novels, said, “I consider myself an advocate for the reader. My goal is not to change a writer’s style or intent, but rather to draw it out—to help them say what they truly want to say in a way that resonates with readers. Translating what a writer conceives in their creative mind into words on a page can be tricky, and an external observer—an editor—can help facilitate the translation in order to help writers achieve their intent.”

A good editor gets you and can see where the story is going without the need to add in their own two cents’ worth. The really good ones are part fan who write notes about the parts they really like, part brave hero who can tell a writer they need to take out that beloved chapter, and part mind reader who can ask just the right question about that part you thought was clear.

Taking the time and investing the money in an editor can help you get an agent or a publisher to read past that first page. Not taking that step may mean a lot of rejections for a good story that just needed a little more work.

Some tips when looking for the right editor:

  1. Gather information. Ask for the editor’s background and do they specialize in your type of work. Ask them for names/emails of writers they’ve worked with before. Write a short email to the writers asking them about their experience. See if the editor has ever worked with your genre. Keely worked in New York for over four years and is now a part of the WordServe family, as well as working as a freelance editor.
  2. Be clear about your expectations. Talk about cost and when payment is expected. Be true to your budget and keep searching if someone is out of your price range. Talk about your timeline and whether the fee includes second or third rounds of edits. If you have a deadline that can’t be missed, say so up front and take no for an answer if you hear ‘maybe’.
  3. Talk about how you expect to receive the edits. Some editors and some writers still use the printed page. I prefer Track Changes and comments but I still run into people who don’t and prefer mailing that manuscript back and forth.
  4. When you get the edits back, read over them briefly and put the manuscript down. Go find something fun to do and let it go for a day. On my initial read there’s always one or two things that I don’t agree with at all… until the next day. Often, those are the changes that fixed something that would have tripped up a lot of readers but was pretty easy to fix. Don’t let that become the reason you don’t sell a work.
  5. Take what you like and be willing to leave the rest. There will be moments when a suggested edit changes the intention of a scene or the voice of a character. Have some confidence in your idea and know when to say no. Reason it out with the editor, as well. It could also be that the setup isn’t fully there but with some tweaking, your story gets stronger. If you don’t feel like you’re being heard, you have the wrong editor.

One last thing. Celebrate every part of the journey as a writer, including this one. You took an idea from your mind and put it down on paper. That’s a big accomplishment. Now on to the next step.

Another Sacred Moment: Launching My First Book

Photo/KarenJordanIn my first post on the WordServe Water Cooler blog few years ago, I wrote about “Embracing Sacred Moments” in our lives. In that short piece, I mentioned a couple of writing firsts for me—my first contract to write an article for a well-respected publication and my first call from a WordServe agent, signing me as a client.

This month, I’m experiencing another first—the launch of my first book.

But as I prepared to write this book, a sudden and disturbing vivid memory emerged from a time when I stepped out of my comfort zone to serve. I still feel the embarrassment of that day when I helped prepare the noon meal after a revival service in my hometown church.

A million doubts and fears raced through my mind that morning. Was my skirt too short? Were my heels too high? Were my clothes too tight? Would someone ask me too much about my personal life? Why did I even come here in the first place?

Since I was the youngest and newest member of the ladies’ group helping that day, someone nominated me to pass out rolls to everyone.

I stacked the rolls high on a large platter, hoping to avoid a second trip to the kitchen. But as I pushed the swinging door open with my back, I tripped and fell to the floor, propelling everything across the room.

I can still recall everyone in the room gasping at the spectacle I had made of myself.

BookCover/WordsThatChangeEverythingAs I wrote my first book, Words That Change Everything, my old fears and worries resurfaced, reminding me of that humiliating experience. Do I dare expose more of my failures, worries, and vulnerabilities with an even larger audience? What if I make a total fool of myself again in front of my friends, family, and total strangers as they read some of my life stories?

Then, I remembered what I learned from my earlier failed attempt in serving others. Forty years after I humiliated myself in my home church, the pastor’s wife invited me to speak in that same fellowship hall at a women’s ministry event. And I shared my humiliating “tossed roll” story, revealing some of my own worries and vulnerability.

God gave me an opportunity to revisit and overcome a moment of failure in the same context and venue, four decades later, as I stood on this promise from God’s Word: “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9 NLT).

So, even though I’m a little apprehensive about revealing some of my most intimate stories in my first book, I’m excited to share my story with the world—Words That Change Everything: Speaking Truth to Your Soul.

Why? Because I also believe in the power of story—as we share the stories that matter most, lives change and hearts heal.

Did my story remind you of a story in your own life?

Why Marriage (and writing) Needs a Third

Why Marriage(and writing)Need a Third

“Two’s company, three’s a crowd,” we are told. But sometimes that is not true. Both in marriage and in writing.

Writers can’t just write about writing. It’s tedious. Not to mention boring to the non-writer.

Nouns, verbs, and prepositional phrases can only interest a person for so long, but put those same words in a story, and a writer has the ability to capture imagination.

Writers need a third thing–something “to gaze out at” according to author Natalie Goldberg in her book, Old Friend From Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir.

Sometimes the writer has no plan or control of what that third thing will be.

“We must find the third thing,” Goldberg writes. “And we cannot afford to be fussy. How a pothole is formed holds our interest. A kind of cheese, a license to own a beauty parlor, a felt slipper, someone’s toothache, all are fodder for our pen….”

Or staples. Staples can be the third.

This week I decided to re-do my kitchen chairs. I can’t remember what fabric originally covered the chairs when my grandmother owned them. After my mom inherited the chairs, she covered them in a cream-colored fabric, material that was now showing years of stains:

  • Stains from family dinners of scalloped potatoes, ham, frozen peas, and orange jello served in goblets Mom and Dad received as gifts at their wedding in 1957.
  • Stains from years of grandchildren learning to eat cheerios with a spoon, but invariably milk dripped down toddler chins and pooled on the fabric.
  • Stains from card games around the table, with fingers needing to be wiped of popcorn grease, and the cushion serving as a giant napkin.

Decades of stains.

I flipped over the first chair, a testament to the importance of life around the table, to begin removing the material from the cushion. I encountered staples.

Many, many staples.

As I pulled them out, I began counting. Twenty…thirty…forty.

The kitchen table was soon covered with flying metal projectiles. Sixty…seventy…eighty.

recovering a kitchen chair

I began to laugh. I knew, without being told, that although my mom selected the fabric, my dad was the one who stapled the material in place. Although neither was alive to ask, the unseen surface of the bottom of the cushion told the tale of a man who was legendary for taping the wrapping paper around Christmas presents so securely, that a knife or scissors was needed to open the package.

Mom was the project idea person. Dad was the implementer of the plan. 

Like writers, Goldberg contends, couples also need something “to gaze out at” for time cannot always be spent looking face to face, but rather, also, side by side.

Projects were my parents’ third. As was family. And faith.

I pulled out the last remaining staples holding the dingy cream fabric. Eighty-five. Did the chair cushion really need eight-five staples to hold the material in place?

“What are you doing?” my husband asked, walking into the kitchen.

“I’m re-counting the staples,” I replied, a bit distracted as I remembered yesterday moments around a Christmas tree. (To his credit, he did not ask why I was re-counting staples.) “I wonder if I can write a blog about staples?”

“I think you have proven that you can write a blog about anything,” he said.

I smiled at the compliment, from a man who has lived with my writing third, not an interest he shares, but a gifting he gives me space to pursue–which in itself is one of our thirds.

Family. Faith. And applauding one another’s dreams. Each has given us something “to gaze out at.”

Eighty-five staples do not hold us, yet we walk side by side.

What is your third?

Is That a Rattlesnake? – Writing From A Sense of Place

Welcome to my neighborhood. I live in a city, but I like to hike in the surrounding mountains in the Sonoran Desert.

Will you walk with me? 

a pair of cholla

prickly pear

Before we go, I recommend packing the following things:

  1. A small journal and two pens for writing simple notes that can be tidied later. One fast pen. And one slow pen. Just in case.
  2. A phone and a pocket-size camera for taking photos of things to remember, including plants, lizards, insects, and birds that need identifying. And occasionally rattlesnakes.
  3. Water. Plenty of water.
  4. A snack. Writing and walking is always better with something delicious. I recommend a bagel with cream cheese, an orange, and a package of fruit snacks. Shaped like dinosaurs.

I like to leave early in the morning for a hike in South Mountain. We will walk until we find a flat rock with an unobstructed view in the middle of a cholla forest. We wait here for the dawning.

What sentences will you use to describe the horizon? What colors do you see? Orange? Yellow? How can you write about those colors without using those words?

I scribble in my journal:

I look for the planets that are visible this month in the pre-rising light, but only a fingernail moon shines down. The eastern sky is anthemed by the birds as peach caresses the low layer of clouds, veiling the sun until it bursts in a single golden shot. 

A nearby ant hill is a scurry of activity, the residents in a hurry to harvest food before the rising of the molten heat.

A lime green bandaid emblazoned with super heroes lies in the dust.

What is blooming? What is distinct about this season? How will your reader know it is spring without you having to tell them?

The hillside flowers are monochromatic in hue. Lemon-gold poppies. The ditzy-blonde brittlebush that arrives early and stays late. The five-petaled blossoms on the creosote bush are no larger than a penny. No buds adorn the head of the gentleman saguaro, the giant cactus that waits to bloom last every year.

Who shares the morning? What do you hear?

A pack of coyotes join the morning bird song with yips and howls. I smile at the Sonoran Desert chorus but my rust-colored mutt unfurls her tail as she listens, warily, close to my legs.

A dad with three young sons shuffle by.

“How far are ya goin’?” we ask.

“As far as we can get,” the dad answers. They pass us full of adventure and youth-filled zeal, a single water bottle between them.

What do you touch?

A layer of dust coats my shoes. My hands. My khakis. My dog is a four-legged dust mop as she flops at my feet.

To our left is a vein of pink quartz that juts up from time to time throughout the mountain like the backbone of a dinosaur skeleton.

The fruit snacks!! Would you like a red one?

red dinosaur fruit snacks

As I pull out the fruit snacks, I place my foot on a medium-sized boulder. A six-inch black tail disappears under the stone below my shoe. I jump back. A lizard? A snake? I feel no need to investigate.

What would I see in your neighborhood? What is unique about the place where you live? How would you set the scene with a strong sense of place?

Can I walk with you?


Lynne Hartke is under contract with Revell for a 2017 release of a nonfiction book about her experience with cancer. The Sonoran Desert in Arizona serves as a background for much of her writing.



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.