All Blogged Out: A Rant (Fair Warning)

Scream--Annemarie BusschersThe other day a fellow writer from way in my past—semi-famous, author of many highly regarded books—friended me.

It was so exciting. To be remembered by someone I had admired long ago but hardly knew, someone whose books I have on my shelf.

As soon as I accepted her friendship I was invited to like her author page. Then read her blog. Which explained everything.

I don’t want to be a partypooper here about the self-promotion mandate. Really I don’t. I know that publishers these days demand that writers have author pages and blogs and followers and all that. I try to be, in fact, dutiful, in my way. But it must be said. Something about all this facebooking and author-paging and blogging just stinks.

It reminds me of how, at my university, some colleagues and I used to convene every year to plan women’s events. Multiple times, meeting upon meeting, to schedule and scheme and come up with funding and talk about decorations and cookies and such. Then, when the day came for whatever it was to happen—the reading group, the tea, the birdwatching we had so arduously planned—there we’d be again, the five of us, the only attendees.

How does one find time to write books when there’s forever a blog post due? Not to mention reading all the other writers’ blogs that I say I’m following—and that, if I were  truly friend-worthy, I would be commenting upon. Confession: the only blogs I willingly visit are the ones I land on after a Google Images search for a very specific recipe, one that looks like a dish I remember from my childhood, or some stew of lentils I’ve been fantasizing about, or some bizarrely complicated goodie I said I’d cook up for one of my ever ravenous daughters.

All this to say—am I the only one who feels this way?—that blogging, which appears to be de rigueur in the world of publishing these days, slurps up my writing time like an old dishrag, and sometimes I fear that the only ones who read what I write are fellow writers (more generous ones than I am) obliged, as I am, to squeeze it out when I should be working on my current writing project and between all the other things I do to actually support myself. (That sentence doesn’t work, I fear…) Those who follow me—I’m sure of this—do so for the same reason I follow that writer acquaintance of mine: because I was asked. I’m not going to buy any more books of hers than I’ve already bought. Having heard an interesting writer interviewed on Fresh Air, I’ve never gone to his author page or read her blog. If I’m interested enough, I ask for the book in Barnes & Noble. And when they don’t have it—they never do!—I order it for cheaper anyway on Amazon.

Here’s how it goes with buying books and me. In the ideal world that used to be, I heard about a book or picked it up from a bookstore table or shelf, I read a few pages, I bought it and brought it home, eventually it made its way to my bedside table and into the stack to wait its turn, and then, one happy day, I turned over and reached for it and started to read. In that perfect world, it is a perfect book, and I can’t stop reading till it’s finished. Then I tell my sister, off in Colorado, about the book on the phone. And in a few more days I lend my copy—though it has a swollen edge from my having accidentally let part of it sag into the bathwater—to one of my colleagues. Then I assign it in one of my classes. No blogs or author-pages or anything like that. Just hear about it, buy it, read it, lend it.

I’m not feeling very encouraging today, I’m afraid. Maybe this post will generate some useful discussion among us writer-blogger-authorpagers, though.

(Feel MUCH invited to chime in if you’re not a writer. It would cheer me immensely.)

Want to Write a Book? The Next Patch of Light

file6041243276582I was privileged to attend my former advanced memoir workshop a few weeks ago to share my publishing journey, both with my first memoir that came out in August of 2013, and the news about recently signing a book deal for a second memoir. As I talked through the six years it took to publish my first book, as my fellow writers threw questions at me left and right, “How did you find an agent?, what did you do to build a platform?, how do you plan to structure your current project?, how do you even go about writing a book?, a thought occurred to me.

If you want to write a book…If you really want to do this…

Step into the next patch of light.

That, my friends, is the best writing advice I have to date.

I’ll let you in on an author secret. We all started at the beginning. And I think most of us make this life up as we go along. Even New York Times best-selling authors, at one point, stared at the cursor on a blank page.

Still afraid?

Step into the next patch of light.

Are you already a writer, a person who has honed her craft and has literary muscles? Have you always been interested in memoir and look!, your uncle gave you a book on writing memoir for Christmas? Were you walking down the street when you stepped in a mud puddle, and while stopping to shake off the mud you happen to notice an ad on the flag pole in front of you for a writing class in your neighborhood?

Any of those instances may be your next patch of light.

You have to start somewhere, so look around and see where you stand. Stephen King said, “The scariest moment is always just before you start.”

If you hope to publish a book, than do what’s in front of you today. Don’t worry about a two-year plan complete with a detailed description of how you’ll construct your book while you also build your platform and research literary agents. (If you are naturally a person like that, email me, OK? I may need a little help.)

No, do what is in front of you right now. And when it’s time (and you’ll know it is time because you’ll itch for something else, or get bored, or curious), look ahead for the next little patch of light. Pay attention to your surroundings: follow authors on Twitter, look out for workshops, read blog posts for fun, pick up a book at your local independent book store on a Saturday afternoon that might apply to your writing journey. Any of these things could be your next patch of light. And before you know it, (and trust me, if you follow the patches of light, you will move in this direction and it is crazy and cool at the same time) you will be writing a book.

But for today, resolve yourself to take it one step at a time, and pay attention to the writer light in your life.

The 15-Minute Writer: Taming the Social Media Monster

file0002062790027 This is part five of a series. Read parts 1-4 here.

Ever wonder how top authors (especially those with families) do it all–write, read, speak, tweet, pin, travel, correspond and more? I’ve got a hunch that they choose what they’re best at, and hire talented people to do the rest.

There are simply not enough hours in the day to do it all. In addition, since new social media platforms pop up regularly, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.

Over the past few years as a writer-mom, I’ve made more than a few mistakes, but I’ve also learned to prayerfully make (sometimes tough) choices. With God’s help, I’m taming the social media monster–instead of letting it wreck my schedule and family life.

  • First, I regularly revisit my priorities. As seasons of life change, so do my family’s needs and schedule. When my children were small, I wrote during Mother’s Day Out and nap times. Now, I write, research, and update my blog and Twitter or Instagram accounts during their school hours and activities. I try to be available to them after dinner and while they’re doing homework, keeping certain times free of online distraction. So far, it’s working well for us.     OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • Second,realize where I’m strong–and weak. I began blogging in 2004, and last year, I admitted to myself that I’m simply burned out. Bleh. Meh. Etcetera. However, giving myself permission to blog less often, and do other things I enjoy more (keeping an active Facebook and Pinterest presence, for instance) has helped my attitude about online promotion. I also love my work as an editor at an online magazine, and the curating I do for The High Calling helps me build my own platform. Score!
  • Third, I recognize my addictive tendencies. Recently, I discovered that with a few handy-dandy apps on my Iphone, I could tweet, chirp and pin while waiting for doctor’s appointments, eating by myself at fast food restaurants, and even in bed. The only problem? I had used those times previously to read, daydream or think. No down-time for Dena makes her a grumpy girl–and a boring writer. So, I decided to delete the apps. I already feel more peaceful and balanced.
  • Fourth, I reign in my expectations. Someday, when the kids are grown, I will have more quiet/alone time. (Please, God?) And I don’t want to have a ton of regrets later in life. This creative, crazy family is where the Lord has placed me. He has also chosen to give me wonderful writing opportunities. Such a precarious balancing act means I can’t pursue every single marketing or promotion lead that comes my way. I won’t be able to accept every speaking engagement I’m offered. And I can’t attend every platform-enhancing conference that looks interesting. This both helps and hinders our family financially, but God has always honored my commitment by providing everything we need (and most of what we want). As my dad told me many times, “Honor God, and He’ll honor you.”

Hopefully, my experiences will encourage you in your own efforts to mollify the online marketing beast. What are YOUR tips for handling this potential monster?


A lot of changes in social media this week….
Sit down, buckle up and hold on for the ride….

Instagram has now updated its application to include videos.
Everyone can see them, but if you have an older Android phone, you will have to wait to be able to join in the fun. This could be interesting to the future of Vine. You get to choose a filter and make your video a bit more interesting then just a regular video. The maximum time is 10 seconds for one of these gems.
Check out Frank's Instagram video here...

Check out Frank’s Instagram video here…

It can be hard to follow the updates with so many changes in social media happening so often, so where is the best place to find info on these updates?

For updates on Instagram, I read their blog. . It’s super informative and they have great information. Also make sure you are following Instagram on your account. . And one more place you can check is This is all their press releases and information. Instagram (in my humble opinion) is the best creative social media outlet, and so fresh for marketing ideas.

Summertime Social Media.

Summertime Social Media.

New to Facebook this week is #hashtags. Facebook has borrowed, or maybe stolen, Twitter’s business model with hashtags and video clips. Still confused about them? You can go back and read my blog on hash tags here… Hashtags are a VALUABLE tool for advertising and marking things that people can easily find. You can now search things on Facebook with hashtags. This will help you market and find like minded people. Its a great tool. Your Instagram videos can also be shared on Facebook as well.
Hope you are all having a great summer… and now as you document it on Facebook, you can hashtag it all and upload videos of your activities on Instagram…. (he he he!).
Follow Ingrid on Instagram and Twitter!
Ingrid on Instagram.

Ingrid Schneider is WordServe’s resident Marketing Maven. With a specialty in social media, Ingrid loves helping authors find and manage an online tribe of readers. After spending the last 15 years managing and marketing restaurants, people, and businesses, Ingrid knew that helping people market themselves via social media and online platforms was a passion and something at which she excelled. Now doing social media marketing for some great-named authors, Ingrid also loves to imagine that she is a secret agent, because she can’t disclose

with whom she is working. (Believe us when we tell you that Ingrid handles some big names, but for anonymity’s sake, we can’t disclose this TOP SECRET information.) Imagination and creativity is something Ingrid is serious about and loves to incorporate into her work with her clients.

3 Top Tips to Gain Facebook Fans on Your Author Page

3 Top Tips to Gain Facebook Fans on your Author Page

As a modern day writer, I aspire to hone my craft and make the words sing on the page  as much as the greats did, people like Hemingway, Dickens, and the Brontë Sisters.

Okay, that’s a bit of a haughty statement.

Let me just say I work hard at writing better.

But in 2013, writers have the added stress of social media. We write, yes. But we also build, and gather, and hunt. We structure writing platforms. We gather tribes of readers. We hunt for excellent literary agents, and publishing houses that will not only get our work in print, but shine a light on it for the world to see.

It can be exhausting, this business of modern day writing. So I am throwing out three of my best tips about Facebook. My author fan page has proved to be a great tool to interact with potential readers.

Here are three of my top tips to gain Facebook fans on your author page.

1) Make sure your personal page connects to your fan page on the header to allow for cross promotion. Especially now that Facebook wants fan pages to utilize paid promotion, it is vital that your personal page easily and prominently connects friends with your fan page.


If you aren’t sure how to do this, here’s a step by step tutorial from Amy Lynn Andrews from Blogging With Amy.   

Likewise, on your fan page, ensure that your author website appears in the “about” section at the top.

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2) Provide pictures with text through sites like PicMonkey. When I promote a blog post on my fan page with an uploaded photo, I get more likes and shares. Make sure your website is noted in the corner of the picture. Here are a couple examples:

maya angelou

evie loves her life

struggle right grammar

Check out this post if you’d like a simple tutorial to walk you through PicMonkey. You can use the site for free, or pay a small monthly fee for more options.

3) Know Facebook protocol. For example, it is against the rules to advertise on your cover photo (like a website address). So if you have a header with your website, change it, before Facebook shuts down your page. Also, it is considered bad manners on Facebook to post a blog or an article more than once on your page, whereas on Twitter, you can post three to five times a day. Want to find out more? Read this post from Author Media.

Do you have Facebook tips you’d like to share with us? How do you think Earnest Hemingway would do with social media? Yeah, me too. Happy Facebooking!

How to Stage An Online Blitz

After spending five days eating, drinking, and sleeping (well, maybe not so much sleeping as lying awake with the brain on overload) the promotion of my free Kindle download last week, I’ve come up with what I call ‘Jan’s TIP’ for any writer planning a similar online marketing blitz.

T is for Timing.

Choose your campaign dates carefully. My book, A Murder of Crows, takes place in October and opens with a scarecrow display; picking an October date for the promotion was an easy choice. It also afforded me lots of tie-in opportunities: I could mention the book in response to any blog, Facebook or Pinterest item that was about Halloween or scarecrows. Think seasonally!

Timing is also about when you post on social networks. I read blogs on Social Media Examiner and subscribe to Rob Eager’s marketing posts, and I’ve learned the best days and times to post to get the most fan engagement: Wednesday through Sunday. I kicked off my promotion with announcements on Sunday and pushed hard with posts Thursday and Friday.

Finally, timing is about you, and how much time you can devote to managing your promotional campaign. I spent at least four to five hours a day online posting, emailing, commenting on blogs, updating lists of contacts and prospecting for new ones. I spent two more hours each day strategizing what to do the next day, exploring new markets and tracking sales/download data. If you want to run a successful campaign, it’s a full-time job!

I is for Images.

Research has shown that images are the keys to social network sharing. To keep posts fresh and continually attention-grabbing, you need to switch up the images you post. I developed six images to use during my five days of promotion, and changed the images I posted every day, with different short text messages. By the end of the week, I’d seen all six images reposted on different networks. It kept my message alive in the universe of Facebook and Pinterest, where the typical ‘life’ of a post is only three hours.

P is for Preparation.

I spent weeks – years, actually – preparing. I made solid contacts in my target audiences over the last few years and asked for book reviews and assistance in promoting my free Kindle deal. I put together a team of fans, reviewers, bloggers, and key influencers to help me focus on getting the word out the week of the promotion, and supplied them with my prepared images and text to use on their own networks. My list of websites and FB pages to contact during my promotion week numbered over 100 (and in the course of the week, it continued to grow as I stumbled on new connections – which are now part of my data base for future book promotion).

So that’s ‘Jan’s TIP.’ Take it for what it’s worth. For me, it was worth around 4000 Kindle downloads in five days…and a bump in the sales of other books in my series.

Do you have a tip for free ebook promotions?

The 15-Minute Writer (Part 3): Building Your Platform

Platform building has become all-important in the publishing world. And how do you build a platform? One plank at a time.

That’s why I tell writers with day jobs and moms with kids NOT to wait until they have more time to pursue their dreams. You can write, build your platform and get published–one small step at a time.

When I started taking my writing seriously, I had a baby and a husband in full-time ministry–and no family nearby to provide free babysitting. So I wrote during my son’s nap times. After Jordan outgrew his naps, I enrolled him in our church’s “Mother’s Day Out” program two days a week, and used those times to write.

When my second son was born, I repeated the process–though things did get a bit trickier! I’ve also written during lunch hours, backstage in a dressing room while waiting to perform at a theater, during birthday parties (not my own kids’, though!), on Saturdays/Sundays, and late at night.

*But NEVER in the early mornings. Some things are just insane.*

One plank a time, I’ve pursued this crazy/wonderful calling God placed on my life, building a career and a platform. It’s a roller-coaster, of course–lots of rejection for every acceptance–but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

[I’m also aware that my husband is entirely supportive, and for those authors who don’t have an encouraging spouse, my heart goes out to you. You’ll have to be even more creative and deliberate about finding time to write. But please, don’t give up!]

My own story makes me passionate about helping other writers (especially moms) hone their craft.

Say you have a precious fifteen or thirty minutes a day to write. Divide those segments into writing, market research, and promotion/marketing. Then use your allotted time three days out of the week to write; two days to do market research; and one day to market (giving yourself one day off).

Here are a few sample ways to build your platform, fifteen or thirty minutes at a time:

  • Post a new picture or status update on your Facebook author page and “like” a few other people’s posts while you’re signed in as the author.
  • Tweet from your Twitter account and RT/respond to a few tweets from friends.
  • Update LinkedIn (I do this automatically by linking my Twitter feed to my LinkedIn profile, so when I tweet, my LI account gets updated, too).
  • Write a rough draft of a blog post.
  • Pin a link and photo from a former blog post on Pinterest. (Careful! Pinterest is addicting–might I suggest a timer?!)
  • Read a blog post (or two) and comment on it.
  • Read a portion of a book on marketing and promotion. Highlight your favorite ideas, and bookmark the page to come back to.
  • Read about a conference you’re interested in, and mark the dates on your calendar.
  • Sign up for a conference, online course, or in-person class.
  • Write a rough draft of a query to an agent or editor.
  • Edit a query you’ve previously drafted.
  • Compose a cover letter for a query or manuscript.
  • Email friends about your newest published piece and ask them to share it with friends, if they’re so inclined.
  • Email an author friend to ask advice or feedback.
  • Offer feedback and advice to someone “greener” than you.

Now it’s YOUR turn. What are your strategies and ideas for platform building, one board at at time?

(Read part one and part two of the series.)

Hashtags can help….

So…. What’s a #Hashtag?

How can a simple #hashtag help me to promote my book?  Well in many, many ways.


First lets define what exactly you are looking at…. #pleasehelpme.

You probably first saw them on Twitter, that is where a #hashtag originated.

It’s a simple marker of sorts.  #Hashtags over the last year have migrated from Twitter to Instagram, and Pintrest. #clever.

A #hashtag is a marker of sorts that drives you to people’s posts, and drives people to your posts. You can click on any #hashtag and it brings up all other posts with that same tag in… simply put, if you want to promote your book to strangers, a #hashtag will be one of the best tools you can use for social media platforms that utilize #hashtags.

What topics are important to you? Make a list of words that are important to you selling your book.  What words describe your book? How can you find like-minded readers, by strategically #hashtagging words that are specific to you! #buildingabrand #books. If you know what SEO is, Search Engine Optimization, #Hashtags work.

Some simple rules for #hastagging. Never put spaces between words or the #symbol. Use words that are relevant to your tweet/pin/pictures.  A great way to find more followers is to use hash tags on both sides. You do it and other people do it in searches as well….  Find people that are #hashtagging things that you care about and get involved in their conversation. #smartthinking.

Here is a simple straightforward article in the Twitter Help Center, which could help you.

Remember, that #hashtags are fun.  Don’t over use them, but do use them to find like-minded readers.  It could open many doors for you… people will find you and you will find people.  #hashtags  #winning.

Radio Days

When I completed my first book, my boss was incredibly supportive and offered to get a marketing package for me of my own choosing. Having very little understanding of book marketing, I was soon swimming in a flood of possible opportunities of all different shapes, sizes, and price tags. I finally settled on the Readers Favorite’s Book Promotion Packagewhich I found to be reasonably priced and reputable. One of their strategic partners, The Authors Show, welcomed me as a preferred guest as part of said package.

I had never been on the radio before and was rather anxious about sounding like a moron.  I didn’t worry for long, though, because it was clear that The Authors Show staff had the interview process down to a science. They sent me an author interview form to complete. It asked for pertinent information about the book. They allowed me to create 8-10 suggested questions that would relate to its content and would connect with an audience. There was a place to create a synopsis, a call to action to encourage buying behavior, and a list of preparatory questions so I would have an idea of what to expect.  Some of the questions were very thought provoking and have helped me during other marketing initiatives as well. For example: What benefits will the buyer get from reading the book?

After I completed the interview form and submitted it, I didn’t wait long until the interview was scheduled. It was conducted over the phone by Don McCauley, who was very kind. Before we got started, he encouraged me to relax and be as natural as possible. He assured me that they would edit the interview and remove any pauses or filler words.

When the time for the interview came, I was sure to secure a remote location without any distractions or background noises. I used a headset which seemed to help the audio quality. My gracious host made me feel very much at ease throughout the call which only lasted about thirty minutes.

Once the interview was edited, it came out to be fifteen minutes long. The interview was featured on The Authors Show for an entire month. During this time, I leveraged all the social media tools in my arsenal to get the word out: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, my website, et cetera. After my time on The Authors Show website was up, they sent me an MP3 file of the interview. It’s still available on YouTube and accessible through my website. People have marveled, “You sound so knowledgeable!”  That’s nice to hear, but it’s because the marketing company set me up for success.

Aside from Amazon, the radio interview has been the best marketing vehicle I have found so far, and it’s by far the most impressive facet of my campaign.  It lives on the front page of my website and enjoys prime real estate. I will always be grateful to my boss, to Don, and to the good people at The Authors Show for providing me with this great facet of my marketing toolbox.

Have you ever used radio as a book marketing tool? How do you get the word out about your writing?

Marketing with Integrity: 5 Tips On What Not To Do

Most writers prefer to focus on craft instead of marketing. But let’s face it. These days, authors need a platform to jump from in the publishing world. Without flexing the mammoth muscle of the internet, our publishing goals may not materialize.


I’m new in the business. I’ve written a memoir about having a baby with Down syndrome while living as a missionary in Ukraine. I’ve landed an agent. I now participate in the shaky step of pitching my project to editors.

And I’ve already committed marketing blunders.

Here are 5 tips on WHAT NOT TO DO in marketing.  

1. Don’t use your kids to get ‘likes.’ 

After my amazing agent Sarah Joy Freese encouraged me to attract more likes on my Facebook Fan page, I went a little nuts. I hosted a giveaway on my blog in exchange for Facebook likes and Twitter followers. I then convinced my four children to write and perform a “likes rap” video. They were cute. It was fun. It killed an afternoon at our house.

Giveaways and videos are great marketing tools. But I went overboard. I posted the video, and re-posted, and re-posted until my kids were even tired of watching themselves perform. My idea morphed into a “look at me” festival until a friend sent me a gentle message saying, “Really, Gillian? This isn’t you.”

2. Don’t spam.

Spam is no longer just canned pork.

According to, “Spam is any unsolicited commercial advertisement distributed online.” If you post links repeatedly on social media without engaging in community and conversation, you may be considered a spammer and people are going to find you annoying.

3. Don’t just ask. Give.

It is better to give than to receive. Let’s face it. People don’t care about us. Readers want a takeaway. They want perspective, a lighter mood, encouragement, escape.

In marketing, it is essential to give. Share links. Retweet. Interview people on your blog. Ask questions on your Facebook page. My writing tribe is best formed through reciprocal interaction and authentic interest.

4. Don’t market without a plan.

My marketing blunders have stemmed from too much excitement and lack of preparation. At first, I had no marketing plan. It’s difficult to have integrity at high-speed. Now, I try to step back and see the big picture. What marketing strategies will best utilize my schedule, gifts, and goals? I am no longer allowed to dream up an idea and run with it before a time of reflection, planning, and prayer.

5. Don’t forget to write.

Marketing pursuits easily swallow work hours. When my time is not structured, I blog, tweet, update statuses, and read about marketing. But I might not write.

Thus enters the need for limits. Some writers allow a half hour in the morning and again at night. Others (insert ME!) require a little extra help. Turning off the internet is a great tip. Author Media, a website dedicated to help writers build their platforms, has a post providing seven apps that assist a writer’s occasional lack of self-control.

What’s your marketing strategy? Do you have a blunder you’d like to share? Where are your boundaries when it comes to marketing integrity?

And would you like to use my children in a rap video? If so, contact me. (God’s still working on me.)