WordServe News: July 2012

Exciting things have been happening at WordServe Literary!

On the final post of each month you’ll find a list of Water Cooler contributors’ books releasing in the upcoming month along with a recap of WordServe client news from the current month.

New Releases

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Something Blue by Dianne Christner

Publisher: Barbour

Agent: Greg Johnson

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One Big Thing by Phil Cooke

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Agent: Rachelle Gardner

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Serving God and Country by Lyle Dorsett

Publisher:  Berkley Caliber

Agent: Greg Johnson

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The Well-Lived Laugh by Rachel St. John-Gilbert

Publisher: Barbour

Agent: Greg Johnson

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Son of a Gun by Anne de Graaf

Publisher: Eerdmans

Agent: Greg Johnson

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A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California by Keli Gywn

Publisher: Barbour

Agent: Rachelle Gardner

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Shrewd by Rick Lawrence

Publisher: David C. Cook

Agent: Greg Johnson

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Desperate for Hope by Bruce W. Martin

Publisher: Revell

Agent: Rachelle Gardner

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The Soul Saver by Dineen Miller

Publisher: Barbour

Agent: Rachelle Gardner

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The Art of Neighboring by Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon

Publisher: Baker Books

Agent: Greg Johnson

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Central Park Rendezvous by Marylu Tyndall and others

Publisher: Barbour

Agent: Greg Johnson

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DawnSinger by Janalyn Voigt

Publsiher: Harbourlight Books

Agent: Barbara Scott

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New WordServe Clients

Dave and Claudia Arp and Peter and Heather Larson. The Arps started “Marriage Alive” 25 years ago. Now the Larsons are transitioning into leadershp roles for their ministry to marriages.

Dr. Dave Stoop, a longtime Greg Johnson client when he was at Alive, has rejoined Greg at WordServe.

New Contracts

Marcus Brotherton to collaborate on Austin pastor Matt Carter and NFL quarterback Colt McCoy’s book on BIBLICAL MANHOOD, to be publsihed by WaterBrook Press.

Leigh Ann Bryant sold her book, IN MY DEFENSE. It’s the true story of a life of shame and abuse with a husband she finally had to kill in self defense to protect herself and her small son. Soon after, she came to faith and has built a life as a pastor’s wife and a minister to those in prison (though she served no prison time). Our first sale to the new publisher Authentic Publishers. (Agent: Greg Johnson)

Roberta Kells Dorr was a Christian novelist who wrote biblical fiction in the 70s and 80s. Though she died several years ago, her family and estate wanted the books back in print, especially as e-books. We were able to do a 5-book deal with Moody Publishers for an unpublished work of biblical fiction and four previously published and out of print books. (Agent: Greg Johnson)

Ken Gire to collaborate on Chrissy Cymbola Toledo’s memoir of her prodigal life. Published by Tyndale House Publishers. (Agent: Greg Johnson)

Caesar Kalinowski, pastor and thought leader in the missional movement for the Soma Communities network of churches, a book with a working title of TRANSFORMED. A new way of seeing who we are in Christ and what a foundational difference that makes as we attempt to represent Jesus well to our network of friends.  Sold to Zondervan Publishers. (Agent: Greg Johnson)

Amy Sorrells debut novel CANARY SONG and another untitled work to David C. Cook Publishers. Synopsis: Tucked into the groves of a pecan plantation near the coast of Mobile Bay, secrets deep within the Harlan family simmer until they boil over one long, languishing summer. Will Anna Pearl Harlan, her family and friends seek hope in the midst of unbearable pain, or allow it to destroy their lives? Inspired by Tamar in 2 Samuel 13, Canary Song combines one girl’s coming-of-age with another woman’s redemption to show how God heals the hearts of the broken, and how crooked branches can one day provide the best shade. (Agent: Barbara Scott)

Shellie Tomlinson, our All Things Southern Belle (www.allthingsouthern.com), sold to WaterBrook Press, LORD, I WANT TO LOVE YOU MORE, a book for those who have ever wondered how to get from “belief” to “passion.” (Agent: Greg Johnson)

What We’re Celebrating

Jan Drexler‘s Amish novel slated for publication by Harlequin’s Love Inspired line (titled  Love Bears All Things) placed second in the Inspirational category of the The Fool for Love contest sponsored by the Virginia Romance Writers. 

Bestsellers

Rebecca Alonzo’s book The Devil in Pew 7 reappeared on the New York Times Bestseller lists after her episode on Dr. Phil re-aired:

#4 – Primary e-book best seller list

#14 – Primary combined print & e-book list

#26 – Extended paperback non-fiction list

Karen Witemeyer’s book Short Straw Bride made it two months in a row on the list, moving up from #13 (July) to #10 (August).

Mike Yorkey’s book Playing With Purpose: Tim Tebow (Barbour) debuted #32 on the ECPA Top-50 list for July (May release). (Sorry we missed this last month, Mike.)

Carol Award Finalists

Though these authors are no longer with WordServe, we’re so very proud of their accomplishments and their books that were contracted under the WordServe banner. Rachelle, of course, had a great eye for good writers and good stories, so the kudos goes to her, as well.

Roslyn Elliot is a finalist both for “Debut Novel” and “Long Historical” for her book Fairer Than Morning. (Thomas Nelson)

Lisa Jordan is a finalist for “Short Contemporary” for her book Lakeside Reunion. (Love Inspired)

Erica Vetsch is a finalist for “Short Historical” for her book Light to My Path. (Heartsong Presents)

Karen Witemeyer is a finalist for “Long Historical Romance” for her book To Win Her Heart. (Bethany)

What writing celebrations do you have?

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The One Essential “Ingredient” to Successful Marketing

The closer I come to the release of my first fiction (The Soul Saver, Barbour Books) in May, the more I find myself fascinated with marketing. Specifically, what it all means and how does it all work. Not to mention the endless and overwhelming choices. Where do we start?

I will confess, I’m thankful to have had a nonfiction book (Winning Him Without Words, Regal Books) to market first. Through that journey, I learned that even the most well planned and thought-out marketing plan won’t succeed without one essential ingredient.

God.

Speaking for myself, self-promotion doesn’t come easy and I’m actually glad about that. I have to examine my motivations on a regular basis to make sure prickly pride hasn’t wormed its nefarious self into the scenario. I could easily make it all about me.

However, our marketing is vital to the spread of our message, be it fiction or nonfiction. The thing is, we tend to put it into this category that doesn’t include God because we somehow think it might repulse Him in some way.

I’ve noticed I’ve done this and have recently found Paul to be a great example of an effective marketer. His letters are in the Bible! That’s pretty successful marketing in my book (and God’s obviously).

Paul wrote letters and traveled, “promoting” the message of Christ’s salvation every chance he got. He put himself out there as a teacher, a speaker, a writer and a mentor. He’s a great example for us because even in the midst of his promotion efforts, Paul’s focus remained steadfast on his message.

On Jesus.

Are we any different really? Yes, we want to sell books. Yes, we want our work to reach the minds and hearts of those who need encouragement, strengthening, or just a glimpse of what God’s grace looks like. Doesn’t matter if it’s fiction or nonfiction. God uses whatever He wants to get His Truth out. To share His Son.

So, marketing doesn’t have to be the “necessary evil” of publishing. If we believe in our work and feel God has placed us in such a time as this to share subtly or overtly, through fiction or nonfiction, through articles or Bible studies, then why not start our marketing endeavors with God, seeking His design and will for our efforts? If I’m to believe and trust in His hand, which has brought me to where I am now, what makes me think He won’t be in the marketing mix as well?

How about you? What has your marketing journey taught you about faith? Or vice versa?

The Hero Within

In a writer’s world we are the masters of the pen (actually a computer keyboard, but that didn’t sound as cool). We create complicated characters through various techniques and tell them what to do.

But then they take on a life of their own and begin to tell us what the story is about. This can be quite fascinating, like sitting at a movie, watching the story unfold. Other times it’s frustrating because these life-like characters make bad choices or behave poorly (there’s always at least one), resisting our intended purposes for them.

When I think of writing in these terms, my thoughts drift to our Creator, and I wonder if God sees us in similar fashion. Aren’t we like His characters, created with His purpose in mind? Yet we have free will and the ability to choose poorly, or wisely.

God gives us that room, though I know we must frustrate him terribly at times. The Israelites certainly did. (Aren’t we still Israelites at times?) But part of the joy I experience in writing a powerful scene with my characters is seeing them grow and embrace God’s love and truth. There’s a sense of victory there even though these characters exist only in my head.

I remember as a kid imagining these scenes where the heroine (usually me, of course!) persevered and made this huge impact or discovery. I walked into the sunset as a new inspiration to my fellow underdogs (the theme of many teen movies).

The funny part of all this is, the longer I write and study the books and movies that are popular, the more I find a universal theme there—of a nobody discovering they have some kind of special gift that helps them save the day. A gift that comes from somewhere outside them and suddenly this feels-like-a-nobody character blooms into someone unique.

Now the amazing part. It’s a story theme that’s existed for thousands of years. The one I like best? The one in the Bible.

Jesus was just an ordinary carpenter. He didn’t look like much to those who resented and envied Him. He didn’t appear a whole lot different from the men He walked with. He started out as a nobody in the eyes of those around Him. But to know Him was to know He walked in greatness and humility.

He walked this earth like a man, yet within He holds a power to “save the day.” And every person who knows Him.

His is the story of the ultimate Messiah, the one true Savior of the world. He was and is the true Hero of the story—of the world and of our lives.

And the absolutely mind-blowing final part? He lives in us, changing us from nondescript nobodies to uniquely gifted individuals created to fit into a true story.

His story.

To Market We Go. . .But Why?

I admit, I’m a bit of a marketing geek. I find trends and patterns fascinating. Behind every great or dastardly marketing campaign lies a motivation—a why. And I want to know it, understand it, and pick it apart.

Why did it work? Why didn’t it work?

Some campaigns are obvious from the get go. Take Netflix’s recent adventure of separating streaming video from disc. We witnessed their invention (or misguided intention) of Qwikster. The name didn’t work, nor did there seem to be any reasonable point for separation. Their “why” just didn’t make sense. Thankfully they abandoned the idea before they got neck deep. In fact, I give them kudos for having the courage to admit to their customers that it would have made things more difficult.

Here’s an example of my latest fascination. Honestly, I stood in the mall laughing at this one.

I freely confess that I’m an Apple geek as well. Microsoft’s obvious attempt to copy Apple could be taken as a compliment, but I could only wonder, is it effective? How effective does our marketing become when we’re simply copying what the other guy is doing?

Yes, we’re talking about similar products and thus overlapping markets. Not identical markets though. And then I’m curious as to how the everyday consumer perceives such a clear attempt to piggyback on another company’s successful model?

Of course, there’s the other side of the argument. Why reinvent the wheel? It worked for them, why not do the same? That’s fine to a point—to use a successful model as a launching point. But don’t we still have to come back to the beginning? Back to the “why?”

I find this especially amusing because of this:

The Apple store is directly opposite this soon-to-be Microsoft store and has been there for years. Their Genius Bar and staff have been serving people for many a season with their gadgets in hand and uniformed colored shirts and badges. (Uh hem. . .)

It’s all about service and Apple makes an art of it. Never been in one? Take a field trip one day and check it out. We can learn a lot from Apple’s successful model of creative marketing. To them, it’s not just about the product. It’s about the costumer and how they’ll use it, right down to the feel and experience. It’s all about the “why.”

I wonder if Microsoft thought through their campaign beyond the “well it works for them” to their customers and who they’re trying to connect to. Or are their customers just potential collateral gain or damage in the race to be number one?

So this brings me to my point (yes, I do have one other than finding this Microsoft imitation so very amusing). Do we think about why we are marketing our books or do we just do what everyone else is doing?

And finally, does it work? Now there’s the real question. What do you think?

What is “Take Away” Value?

In my post last month I referred to our need to have “take away” value. Sometimes that’s pretty obvious, but other times it’s as subtle as how you’re presenting your product or services. I find at times it’s a fine line that we can easily cross into the “me” zone.

I have a feeling, though, that you’ve seen and know what that looks like. How about Twitter? I get a fair amount of requests but have little time to follow people who are just throwing stuff out there for the sake of being visible. Plus, I want to follow people that I can relate to and connect with. I’m most likely not going to follow a furniture company located in a different state.

Except, this time I did. Why?

Take a look at the Twitter page for Mealey’s Furniture, (@FollowMealeys) located in Warminster, PA. They do a lot of things right.

  1. They don’t over-tweet. Mealey’s tweets about 2 to 3 times a day. When I see a Twitter page loaded with hourly tweets of stuff just thrown out there, I’m not going to pay attention. The delete button is my friend.
  2. Their tweets are helpful. They have take away value. Not only do they have it, they personalize it. They’re not just putting tweets out there about a sale, they’re giving you decorating ideas and hints for better living. They also support causes. Basically, they don’t want to just sell you a piece of furniture. They want to add quality to your life. Again, motivation is key.
  3. They’re not just about the product. Mealey’s presence is clearly not about them. They are about the customer and serving those needs. They’re focused on their audience and serving them, not on themselves.

This is brilliant marketing. Would I buy furniture from Mealey’s? If they had a store in San Jose, CA, you bet they’d be the first place I’d think of next time I needed something.

The key here is they make a lasting and positive impression. You walk away from this page with the understanding that to them, it’s not just about the sale. They want to do more for their customers. They want to connect with them.

Today’s market takes more than just what we have to offer, which in nonfiction is a lot. We have a clear message, an idea, or something to share. But there’s already so much out there. We have to be clear about the “why.” Think about why we write what we write and how we can translate that into connecting with our readers, which in turn translates into word of mouth marketing—the best kind. Just as I’m talking about Mealey’s furniture because they offered me take away value, we want our readers to talk about our books, our message, and what we stand for.

But even that comes back to our motivation. Are we doing it to just sell books? Or are we, like Mealey’s, genuinely trying to give quality to our readers? That’s our origination point in writing these books to help others. Let’s not leave that motivation in the pages of our books. Let’s figure out ways we can we bring that over into our marketing too.

Platform Builders

When I started writing seriously in 2004, my focus lay completely in fiction. I’d written devotionals and snippets of life pieces in the past, but they served my own need for expression, then resided silently in a folder on my computer. Fiction was and is my passion.

But then something unexpected happened. In 2006 God presented me with the desire and opportunity to write as part of a team for a blog to help those in spiritually mismatched marriages like my own. I jumped in because I wanted to help other women avoid some of the heartache I’d experienced to reach a place of thriving in my faith and my marriage.

From this blog a ministry was born. Readership grew as did our perspective and understanding of the need we’d tapped into. This led to a book about how to thrive in this type of challenging marriage (aren’t all types challenging?), a Facebook presence, then a Twitter page. We suddenly found ourselves reaching readers in ways we hadn’t thought possible at the beginning. Our main site (www.SpirituallyUnequalMarriage.com) started showing up as a resource on other ministry and church websites. Thank goodness for Google Alerts to let us know!

All this coalesced into our platform, which became the turning point for a publisher to say yes to our book. How did that happen?

Here’s what I did:
1. Identify a need. As authors, we pretty much get the message today that we have to do more than just market our book. People want more. Common trends have set a pattern of having take away value. So, identify a need you can fill. Offer something to your reader that they can use and apply to their own lives. Once you identify a need, you can clarify your message. And you’ve just identified your market.

2. Create a presence. Social media has exploded at an astonishing rate in the last year alone. The heavy hitters (Facebook and Twitter) revolutionized communication. And now Google+ looks to be another joining the slew of social media giants. For our purposes, I will say that Facebook turned out to be surprising success. We wanted another means to connect with readers and be a resource and that’s what happened. Why? Because we made our page about our readers and meeting their needs, not about selling our book. Again there’s that take away value.

3. Consistency. Though we started with just our blog, we were and are consistent about content and postings. We brought this pattern over to our Facebook and Twitter pages, which builds presence, trust and reliability. Readers trust a growing presence that’s consistently putting information out there with a clear message that has no strings attached. Trust me, people smell an ulterior motive faster than the garbage dump next door. Be honest, be authentic and be original, but always stay true to your message.

4. Become a resource. Past experience opened the door to serve a specific market with the goal of being a resource. That was always the purpose—how did we assist others in finding the help they needed in a difficult marriage? What could people take away and apply to their lives and marriages? Over time, we presented ourselves as a reliable and helpful resource that other sites and churches could tap into. We showed we were there to help, to partner with individuals and groups, and to share what had worked for us in order to help others on the same path.

5. Be patient. (I can still hear my wise agent, Rachelle Gardner, telling me this.) Building a platform takes time. Factor that into your writing plan. Don’t rush to submit a project before it’s reached its potential because it’s a bigger challenge to turn a no into yes.

As I said this journey began in 2004 with my focus on learning the craft of writing and growing in my understanding and abilities. From mid 2006 to late 2009, our platform grew to the point that a publisher was willing to take a chance with our message. That platform is still growing to day with the addition of a special book site (www.WinningHimWithoutWords.com) focused on the message of the book and offering free resources for listening and downloading, as well as teaching videos. We’re also working on partnering with other authors to promote each other’s books and ministries through our newsletter, websites, and speaking engagements.

How does that affect my future as a fiction writer? Same game plan with some minor adjustments. The stories I write serve the same niche we found for our nonfiction and thus brings me back to step one. And away I go! See you on the shelves!