Marketing With A New Mindset

 

If you’re like me, sometimes the best thing in life is a little change of perspective.

perspective

Last July I got my first taste of publication. After months of hard work, I held the finished product in my hand. Countless drafts had transformed into orderly pages and endless edits changed into final words. It was beautiful. And then came the real work—marketing.

For many of us, the idea of marketing our books makes us a little queasy. Peddling wares and pushing books is not an exciting notion. After all, we are writers. Our gift is with words not a megaphone. In fact, most writers fear the aspect of marketing their own book. Yet, in today’s publishing world self-promotion and book marketing are a must.

If you have written a book, part of your purpose is to bring something meaningful to the reader. How can that reader be reached if there is no one to share it?

Think of the passage in Matthew 25:14-30

In this parable, a rich man who was going on a journey called his three servants together. He told them to take care of his property while he was gone. The master gave five talents to one servant, two to another, and one to the third. Then the master left.

The servant who had received five talents made five more. The servant who received two made two more. But the servant who received one buried his talent in the ground. Later, the master returned to settle his accounts. The master praised the first and second servant. But the master’s response to the third was harsh. He stripped the talent from the lazy servant and gave it to the first servant.

In the parable, the master expected his servants to invest and be proactive, to use and expand their talent instead of passively preserving it. With the first servant, courage to face the unknown was rewarded, and we can see God expects us to use our talents toward productive ends, not only was the first servant allowed to keep what he earned, he was invited to rejoice with his master.

This is such a beautiful illustration of what we should do with our God given gifts.

So, is there a cure for marketing anxiety? Maybe. Maybe it’s time to take a step back and gain a new perspective. Maybe it’s time to stop looking at it as MARKETING and instead, look at it as ADVOCATING Your God Given Gifts.

gifts

You are your work’s greatest advocate. So who better to promote it than you? It’s up to you to reach your audience. Invest yourself. When we share our talents lives are changed!

With the same passion that drove you to write your project in the first place, look at your book marketing plan in a new sense. Instead of marketing, advocate. Use whatever is available to you and proudly declare yourself, your message, and your book. Move forward with certainty that you have something important to share and what you share has the power to change the world.

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Renewed Faith

full-moon-in-night-sky-over-waterI have a beautiful picture on my bedroom wall of a full moon rising over a clump of trees. The caption on it reads: “Love is like the moon, beautiful and ever new.” I’ve been married for going on forty years and one thing I’ve learned is the truth of that statement. One day I feel like I’m still on my honeymoon, and the next? Yeah, well, we won’t go there.

I believe the same is true of our faith. Some days we feel like we are standing on the mountain top, drinking in God’s blessings, our faith so strong we can conquer the impossible. Other days we find ourselves so wrapped up in life, in the demands of our daily routines, that it drains us of our strength and spiritual stamina.

Then the road of life turns rough, filled with potholes—our kids are sick, the Sunday school teacher calls at the last minute and asks us to bake an extra dozen cupcakes for class, or we have an argument with our spouse. Soon we find our faith careening off the edge of a cliff or at least being stuck in a rut.

It’s not to say we’ve lost all faith in God. It’s because we’re so overwhelmed, our faith feels as far away as the stars.

Deuteronomy 7:9 says: “Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands.”

God has promised us that we are His, the sheep of His pasture, and that He is faithful. We can bask in His promises knowing His love is patient and kind. That He will never let us down. That is when we step into His grace and find ourselves back on the mountain again.

We may struggle from day to day, but He knows the child that loves Him. And He is faithful to keep us and provide for us renewed faith in Him. It is a gift, freely given as stated in Galatians.

Faith is not hoping God can—it is knowing He will.

Surviving the Depths of Despair

Destin, Florida June 2008 451This week, our family is enjoying a long-awaited respite by the sea. I’m sad to admit we have been tested in many ways this year. But the good news is – after much suffering – we have come full circle.

As I sit on shore, toes tucked beneath warm sand, the roar of white caps rushing through me, I am reminded how small and simple our problems really are in the broader scope of universal infinity.

In fact, without the frames of time or space to help us process our daily lessons, our worries seem petty, ridiculous even. And that is an important thing to remember.

The Difference One Year Makes

One year ago, life as I knew it exploded. Everything I believed to be true was proven false.The one person I loved and trusted completely destroyed us all. And I never saw it coming.

It was if we had stepped on a land mine.

Our spiritual, emotional, and physical well-being were all under attack, and the enemy’s fire was relentless. My children and I endured round after round without pause, without relief.

But all the while, no matter how pointless it sometimes felt, I clung to my faith, insisting to my children that God had not abandoned us. That we were not alone. That love would see us through.

Now, here we are, back on the same shores where one year ago I threw my hands into the air and cried to the heavens.

Only once again, we are laughing. We race waves below blue skies; chase crabs from moonlight; scoop water as we kayak; cast nets below waves; and revive our spirits in a way that only a week at the beach can do.

Do You Believe in Evil?

Our family has survived an attack from what some would refer to as Evil. When I was a child, I was taught that the enemy seeks to divide and destroy, and that is indeed how I felt.

Forces beyond my understanding seemed determined to conquer our family. To divide us and destroy us. But somehow, with a lot of prayer and a tight grasp on our faith, we have withstood the storms.

Love One Another

When my children ask someday, what does it mean to love another, I hope they remember this lesson.

Love is not always easy. Sometimes it seems impossible. But when you love someone, you don’t give up on them. Even when, especially when, they reveal their weakest hour.

God’s Grace

My faith has taught me that we are all flawed. We all sin. We all fall prey to temptations and make bad choices along the way, even the best of us. At some point, we hurt others, and sometimes, we hurt the ones we love most in this world.

If we’re lucky, and if we are brave and honest enough to admit our mistakes, seek repentance, and work hard toward healing, our loved ones will stand by us and carry us through the darkest depths.

Today, our family is enjoying days in the sun again. But it wasn’t long ago we felt as if we were deep underwater, with strong currents pulling us down beyond hope.

There were moments I was certain we would all drown. But here we are, healthy of mind, body, and spirit once again.

So, now I ask, “Have you entered into the springs of the sea or walked in the recesses of the deep?” (Job 38:16)

Are you suffering? Have addiction, abuse, abandonment, betrayal, poverty, or violence shaken your spirit? Threatened all that matters to you in this world?

If so, hold tight to your faith and remember you are never alone. Protect yourself and your children from harm, and never doubt your own strength. Your own worth.

I promise, you can…you will…get through to the other side. And there, you will feel the wonder of God’s grace, as you master the ability to both love and to be loved – the one true purpose of this life.

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Julie Cantrell is the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of Into the Free and When Mountains Move. Learn more: www.juliecantrell.com

 

Honor One Another

?????????????????????????I’m a member of the “Me” generation. Growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, I heard a lot about the importance of self-realization and doing your own thing. I wore mini-skirts and flowered shirts, watched “I Dream of Jeannie” and “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” When I was in college, all my girlfriends focused on finding careers, not husbands; if you yearned for less than having it all – a family and a career – you were considered a dinosaur, obsolete, and terribly naïve.

Contemporary culture was all about making yourself the most important person in your world.

It was also totally NOT what my Christian faith taught. I grew up on the Golden Rule, the Lord’s Prayer and the admonishment to always put others first. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves,” instructs Philippians 2:3. For me, the high school student striving to be class valedictorian, that piece of Scripture held no allure; as I recall, I was more likely to follow the advice of Thumper’s mother in the Disney movie Bambi: If you can’t say something nice, say nothing at all.

As a result, I was a very quiet high school student when it came to discussing my classmates.

Fortunately, maturity applies not only to age, but to faith as well. Marriage and motherhood obliterated any drives I’d had to compete with others as the instinct to care for my family took precedence. I didn’t think twice about putting my children or husband first – that was just the way it was, and no matter how trying or exhausting it seemed at times, I have never regretted it. In the eyes of some of my college companions, I sacrificed a career to stay home with my kids, but I took comfort from Hebrews 13:16, “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.”

They have pleased me, too, and God continues to let me reap the fruit of putting others first. In fact, I’m reaping that fruit in a whole new way this year – I’m finding that when I put others first in my writing career, great things happen. As a memorial to my parents, I offer author programs to senior communities, who welcome me with open arms and lively discussions. As a service to fellow authors, I’ve started to organize group booksignings, which are eagerly scheduled by harried bookstore managers. I frequently donate books or talks to charities, which raise needed funds for them and expand audiences for me. I ask myself what other writers might need from me in the way of guest posts or book reviews to accomplish their own objectives.

Honor one another above yourselves,” Paul writes in Romans 12:10. Like so many Scripture passages, these are words to live – and work – by.

(Tomorrow, Jan explores how putting others first is also a key approach to the writing craft.)

Failure to Freedom

DSC_0486Last year I flew with my co-writer and friend, Dena Dyer, to Indiana for a television interview. The Harvest Show interviewed us about our newly released book Wounded Women of the Bible. This was my first television interview and I had no idea what to expect. The night before, Dena and I walked through thoughts and questions, so I felt ready and prepared.

Our host helped us feel comfortable in every way. Once I stepped onto the platform, beneath the lights and cameras, I sank like a marshmallow in the heat of the sun. Someone should have blindfolded me or thrown a towel over the monitors.  I didn’t like my appearance on camera and fidgeted too much. I had too many pillows behind my back and stuck out like a sore thumb. Dena sat proper and polished while I sat like a huge lump on the couch. I smacked my lips and swallowed hard. I even needed a trip to the bathroom.

Dena’s eyes and beautiful smile said, “Stop fidgeting.” Confession: My thoughts not hers. I looked around for a brown paper bag, feeling I might hyperventilate, but then came the questions. I knew these stories. I spent twelve months writing about these particular wounded women in the Bible. I could share in-depth thoughts and notes on each one. I was ready.

The host said, “Tell me about Ichabod.”  Ichabod who? I completely froze. Blank. Nothing. Empty. I grasped at something to say. I couldn’t gather my thoughts or remember that Eli was Ichabod’s father-in-law. As if an eternity, a long pause of silence fell. I had no idea what came out of my mouth after that moment. Before long it was over and I drooped off the stage. Needless to say, I wasn’t pleased with my first television interview, but so grateful to have had the experience.

After Dena left the hotel to fly home, something hit me – I felt despair, inadequacy, and insufficiency. I would be lying if I said tears weren’t involved in that moment of self-pity. While packing, I turned the television on and flipped through the channels to find something to cheer my mood. I stopped on a well-known female pastor. The first words out of her mouth were, “Listen! God uses people all the time who have no idea what they’re doing!”

My heart leaped and the words slapped me in the face – starting with “Listen!” Leave it to God to reach through our self-pity and grab hold of our collars. I was reminded that life is full of experiences and God uses “the least of these.” If I hadn’t heard those words that day, I may have carried my feelings of despair (among others) home, placed them on a shelf, and allowed them to identify my character and abilities. God recognized my “stinkin’ thinkin'” (as my friend says) and burst forward with one bold statement: “He uses people all the time who have no idea what they’re doing.”

Sometimes we have those frozen cloud crowding moments when our mind appears broken. God understands and desires to free us of anything the enemy may hold over our heads. All we have to do is be willing to step into Him and God will teach, grow, and strengthen us, even when we feel like we have no idea what we’re doing. God takes our offerings and uses them for His glory.

One other word of affirmation from God came when my husband, who is one of two men on Sheila Walsh’s launch team for her new book, shared a story she wrote. In her book, Sheila shares a story of one particular television interview. My mouth dropped as it mirrored mine! (But you’ll have to wait and read the story when her book comes out). As if what God shared through the television wasn’t enough, He said, “You see, Tina, even the big girls start out in similar places.”

Let me encourage you to never give up, push through those feelings of failure, and move forward with God at your side. God turns our failures into faith walks when we trust He can use every part of what we offer Him. May this year be the beginning of great things, especially allowing God to free you, and you freeing yourself, from any past failures.

A new dawn awaits.

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Writing Down Our Faith Stories

Photo/TaraRossIn the Psalms, David expresses this divine purpose for writing our faith stories.

Write down for the coming generation what the LORD has done. So that people not yet born will praise him. (Ps. 102:18 GNT)

What has the Lord done for you? Do you have stories about God’s intervention?

God expressed His love to humanity with the gift of His Son, Jesus.

This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. (John 3:16 MSG)

Have you ever considered how much God loves you? I never really did, until the birth of my only son, Adam. I cannot fathom the love that it takes to sacrifice your only son, so that others might live. I’m sure many parents of soldiers come close to knowing how that feels, and I love to read their inspiring stories.

Someone once challenged me to ask God to show me how much He loved me. I believe God can speak to us. He speaks to me every day—through His Word, prayer, worship, people, and His beautiful creation. But I had never asked God how much He loved me.

So, I shut my eyes in prayer and asked, Lord, how much do you love me?

The answer I received still seems too intimate to share, for fear of being misunderstood and judged. I did not hear an audible voice. I just caught a little glimpse of Heaven, where God promises,

He will wipe every tear from (my) eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things (would be) gone forever. (Rev. 21:4 NLT)

When I faced the death of both of my parents, this vision of heaven brought comfort to my grieving heart.

I challenge you to ask the Lord that same question, Lord, how much do you love me?

Then, listen quietly. And be sure to write down your story.

God told His Story to the world when He sent His Son—the Word of God.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. (John 1:14 NIV)

Jesus told His stories (or parables) to teach us “the way and the truth and the life” (Jn 13:6).

Jesus told them a story showing that it was necessary for them to pray consistently and never quit. (Luke 18:1 MSG)

Is there a biblical mandate for sharing our stories, especially our faith events?

In Acts 1:8, we read this charge from Christ to His followers,

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. (NLT)

What stories are you telling about your life? Or rather … what stories are you not telling? What about your faith stories? Who can write them, but you?

I hope you will consider writing down some of your faith stories as you celebrate Christmas this year.

What faith stories have you written down? I hope you’ll share one of your stories in the comment space below.


YouTube/twofiress (“I Love to Tell the Story” – Alan Jackson)

Photo/TaraRoss 

The Myth of the Crossover Book

My last post I talked all through the dilemma with book categories that bookstores expect to see when your book is finally published. You either have a clear one or your book will get lost.

BookwormBut what of the intended audience—and message–for your book? Does this also have to be perfectly obvious to get any traction in sales; to make any impact in the world?

I hope I don’t harp on this too much, but I’ve got 20 years and about 2,300 books I’ve had the privilege of representing. About 10% of my sales over the years have been through general market houses. In all of that time I’ve heard hundreds of authors and potential authors tell me they wanted to write the book for “the crossover market.” Read: I want to do some appropriate, hidden preaching so that the reader will consider faith or make a conversion.

Here’s what I know: New York editors don’t want books that surreptitiously preach or try to win anyone to faith. And they really don’t want overt Christian books unless you’re got a massive sales history and platform. “That’s why,” they infer, “our parent company bought a specific Christian publisher…so that we wouldn’t have to see/publish these books.”

So if you tell me you want me to sell a proposal to a general market publisher, saying something to the affect of “let’s be bold and take the Cross over to a secular publisher,” I’ll be sympathetic with your goal, then immediately talk you out of it. Your heart may be in the right place, but your realistic knowledge of what publishers want is lacking.

The truth: It can’t be done. General market houses care about great books that serve readers … and sales. They don’t want to hear from a Barnes and Noble manager that books were returned from angry customers who felt duped (or offended) by the content. My opinion is that those few books that do escape the religious section in B&N (perhaps 1 or 2 a year) really aren’t making a lasting impact. They’re not even planting seeds. Why? Because there likely is not another actual human to help the reader take their seeds of faith and make sure they have been placed on fertile soil.

The small percentage of adults who ultimately do come to faith do so after watching a genuine believer over time, getting their specific questions answered, and usually finding a community where they feel loved and accepted. They rarely (if ever?) stick to the faith because they bumped into a book at B&N.

People mostly buy books because of word of mouth. And they come to faith by watching a consistent imperfect life, and then likely directly interacting with God’s Word in some meaningful way.

Yes, there is the very rare exception. But so rare it borders on impossible.

So if you want to write anything that may make the life of Jesus more attractive, write it to those already in the faith, and hope that they are able to naturally hand the book off to someone they know; someone who if they do come to faith will then have a natural tie back into a community of real people helping each other through life.

Books are a powerful tool for good. People do get moved to consider faith because of them. But 99% of those books were published by a Christian publisher written primarily to Christians.

And let me say a word about the middle. If you try to hit the middle, you likely lose both audiences. The middle isn’t looking to be converted or for Christian content. If you want to write a book for the general market audience, build your platform or skills and write it without expectation you’ve taken the Cross over. If you include Christian content in your book, fiction or nonfiction, do so in a natural way that communicates a strong and obvious message.

Question: Do you know of any book that has made an impact with your friends as it relates to faith?