Beyond Boring Bookmarks

bookmarksThere’s no way around it anymore. A writer has to market. You can flail your arms and scream like a little girl all you want, but other than scoring yourself some raised eyebrows or possibly a straitjacket, you will need to market your writing. Allow me to teach you the three most important words I taught my children. No, it’s not “please” and “thank you”…it’s “Get over it!”

Now that we’re past the lecture, let’s move on with some ideas to get your book out there that don’t involve the standard lukewarm fare of Twitter and Facebook. Not that I have anything against social media, mind you. It’s just that all the authorly Who’s from Whoville are already there, shouting their little lungs out.

Create a “Night Out” Event

This is a great way to cross-promote local businesses and your book. Look for small restaurants, clothing stores, kitchen gadget shops, whatever you can possibly tie into your book. Approach them with an idea to have a Women’s Night Out or Man Cave Night wherein you’ll offer to do a reading, or demonstration, or if you’re really confident, to be the chump in a rousing round of Stump the Chump for cheap little prizes.

Meet-Up Groups

Locate some meet-up groups in your area that might be interested in your book. Does your story have a sweet little dog as a character? Find a dog walking group. In my recent release, A HEART DECEIVED, I talk about the cook’s fantastic marmalade, so I’d go for a cooking group. Offer to speak to those groups for free (with a handy dandy book table at the back for afterwards). Need help finding a group? Meetup is the place for you.

Direct Marketing

Unless you live in Podunksville, USA, you’ve probably got a local company that ships products directly to customers. Ask if you can place postcards advertising your book in with their shipments. Obviously, if your novel is a romance, you probably don’t want a card going out with an order of hedgehog vitamins (not even kidding…check this out). Make it related in some way.

Sales Parties

Yes, Tupperware ladies are still around, but they’re not the only ones who do in-home parties. Pitch an offer to some reps to come along to one of their shows and do a short reading as an icebreaker. Sales people frequently love opening a conversation with potential buyers by talking about a novel instead of trying to do an immediate hard sell. It gets your name out there, and more importantly, gets people talking about your book.

BOGOMy latest scheme involves offering a BOGO (Buy One Get One) for my recent release. Since my book is set in England, I used the Keep Calm-o-Matic site to create my own poster. For one weekend, July 12-14, I’m offering to mail a signed copy to anyone who can show me a receipt for a book they’ve purchased. Details here.

Remember: the goal of promoting your work is to entice people to buy. Whapping them upside the head with BUY ME, BUY ME not only isn’t going to work, it’s going to annoy potential buyers to swerve way around your train wreck of a marketing ploy.

After all, one can own only so many bookmarks before the recycle bin is filled to the brim.

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WordServe News: June 2013

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

TheBrotherhoodTerry Brennan’s second novel, The Brotherhood Conspiracy, has come out with Kregel.

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Too BlessedDebora Coty had her 2014 Planner based on Too Blessed to Be Stressed released through Barbour.

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QueenofShebaRoberta Kells Dorr (deceased many years ago) had another of her out of print biblical novels released. This one, Queen of Sheba (Moody).

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AHeartDeceivedMichelle Griep has her first novel released through David C. Cook, A Heart Deceived.

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New WordServe Clients

Victor Watts just signed with Sarah Freese. Victor is a great writer, and we look forward to what he will contribute to the WordServe team!

Bill Donahue, leadership and community expert writing nonfiction.

New Contracts

Arnie Cole and Michael Ross signed with Authentic Publishers to write The Worry-Free Family.

Cris Krusen signed with Baker Books to write Buried Treasure: History Makers of the Faith. A look at 12-15 little known people of faith who made an impact in the world, even though they were not known as full time ministers.

Ema McKinley signed a one-book contract with Zondervan for her miracle healing story, Jesus in My Room. Cheryl Ricker is her collaborator.

Lisa Velthouse signed on with Lauren Scruggs to collaborate with her on Believing You’re Beautiful: Choosing to Be Who God Says You Are. Tyndale will publish in 2014.

Bob Welch signed with Thomas Nelson for two books: 52 Life Lessons from Les Miserables, and 52 Life Lessons From A Christmas Carol.

What We’re Celebrating!!

IntotheFreeVery happy, proud, and honored . . . for Julie Cantrell who was awarded two Christy Awards (the Christian awards for the previous year’s novels) at last week’s ICRS convention. She not only won in the “Debut Novel” category, but the Christy’s also added a new category this year: Novel of the Year. And Into the Free, Julie’s first novel, was awarded the best novel in all of Christian publishing for 2012. Wow. A starred review in Pubisher’s Weekly, a New York Time’s bestseller…and now this. Way to go, Julie! It couldn’t happen to a nicer lady.

Jan Drexler’s The Prodigal Son Returns continues to do well. She recently received news that she is a double finalist in the TARA contest. Way to go, Jan!

Jordyn Redwood’s debut novel, Proof, became a finalist in the Carol Awards in the “Debut Novel” category. Awards will be given at this September’s ACFW in Indianapolis. As we all like to say around here, “Strong work!”

What can we help you celebrate?

WordServe News: April 2013

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

TestedArnie Cole and Michael Ross Tempted, Tested, True (Bethany House)

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ConfessoinsAmanda Jenkins Confessions of a Raging Perfectionist (Tyndale House)

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StressTestRichard Mabry Stress Test (Thomas Nelson)

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DiscipleshiftJim Putman with Marcus Brotherton Discipleshift (Zondervan)

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New WordServe Clients

Jennie Atkins signed with Sarah Freese. Excited to have her join our other wonderful WordServe authors!

New Contracts

Judy Morrow signed with Regal Publishing for her devotional titled Listenings.

Keith Robinson signed with Regal Publishing for his non-fiction book titled Is Anybody Out There? 

Rachel Moore signed an ebook contract with Cook Communications for her novel titled Language of Sparrows.

Barb Stoefen signed with Zondervan for her memoir titled A Very Fine House: A Mother’s Story of Love, Faith and Crystal Meth

Mike Yorkey signed with B&H Publishing to write the story of Tampa Bay Devil Ray infielder Ben Zobrist, along with his wife Julianne, who is a budding Christian singer.

Dr. Kara Powell from the Fuller Youth Institute signed with Zondervan to write The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Unique Family.

Michelle Griep signed an ebook contract with Cook Communications for her novel, A Heart Deceived.
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What We’re Celebrating!!

Julie Cantrell is a finalist in the “new author” category for this year’s Christy Awards for her debut novel Into the Free.

Jordyn Redwood for her debut novel Proof, which was a ForeWord Reviews finalist for religious adult fiction.

And Julie and Jordyn both made the Inspy Award Short List for their debut novels.

Maureen Lang’s book Bees in the Butterfly Garden hit the ECPA fiction list again, this time at #6.

A Higher Call by Adam Makos continues to stay on the New York Times hard cover nonfiction list, having made it in the top-15 every Sunday in April.

Thank you to Writer’s Digest magazine for naming the WordServe Water Cooler one of their 101 best websites for writers for 2013. We are honored!

What can we help you celebrate?

It’s All in the Details

scotland-13584Creativity isn’t just a good idea but mandatory if you want to be a writer worth your gold (way more valuable than salt nowadays). The thing about creativity, though, is that you must be careful with the details. Why?

Because there’s a fine line between creativity and believability.

Recently I received an email from a cyber buddy that read:

“I’m writing this with great grievance. I’m presently in Scotland, United Kingdom, with my family for a short vacation and we’re stuck. And really it was unannounced. We were attacked by four armed robbers on our way back to the hotel where we lodged. Not only were we robbed, but are completely embarrassed.

All our cash, credit cards, and cellphones were stolen. We’ve reported the incident to the embassy and the police, but to my dismay, they seem not bothered…their response was just too casual. Our flight leaves in a few hours but we’ve got to settle our bills before we’re allowed to leave. Now I’m freaked out.

Please, I need you to loan me some money. I promise to refund you as soon as I’m back home. All I need is $1,650. Please let me know what you can do. Write me back so I can tell you how to get it to me.”

Now then, as you’ve likely figured out, this is indeed a scam—but a scam that might’ve worked a whole lot better had they paid attention to minor details. Let’s pick it apart, shall we?

From a creative standpoint, I’ll give this a 3 out of 5 stars, mostly because whoever wrote it upped the ante by adding in the ‘armed’ in front of robbers. Nice touch. I also like how the author included a ‘ticking time bomb.’ The plane leaves in a few hours and their bills must be paid or else. Will they make it out of the country? Cue dramatic background music.

So those details totally work. What threw the story off was a single believability factor toward the beginning that instantly set off the needle on my are-you-kidding-me radar.  She’s presently in Scotland? Sheesh! Scotland implies rolling hills and kilts, not roaming bands of AK47 toting thugs. Maybe if the author had said they’d been threatened with bagpipes I’d have bought it. Nah. Even that wouldn’t have worked.

The creativity was there, but the details didn’t match. Why? Because Scotland doesn’t fit the connotation of a lawless land where desperadoes rob innocent tourists.

Next time you’re in creative mode, crafting an intense scene, make sure your details enhance the story instead of pull your reader out of the action. Losing a wallet is one thing…you can always earn more money. Regaining a disappointed reader is harder than learning the bagpipes.

Amish Aliens Stole My Baby

Not really, but sure grabbed your attention, eh? And that’s the point of this post.

Calm down. I hear you. You’re a novel writer, not a journalist. Why should you care about catchy headlines? Isn’t that a lame gimmick better left to the National Enquirer?

Actually, no.

Mastering the art of grabbing the reader’s attention is a valuable skill every writer should hone.

In case you haven’t noticed, the written word is exploding from one end of the spectrum to another, from e-books to self-published hard copies to blogs. Getting your work to stand out from the crowd is more important than ever.

Which begs the question: How does one grab a reader by the throat? There are many ways, but here are a few to toss into your writerly toolbox:

Shock and Awe

This is one of the tactics I employed with my blog post title. Think controversial. Think stunning. Think outside the box. This method is most often used by rabble-rousers who get a secret thrill out of rattling cages.

Warm Fuzzies

If you start off with something everyone can relate to on an emotional level, you’ll draw in the human side of the reader. It’s a pull that’s hard to resist. In my example, I tossed in the word baby. Emotions are what set us apart from the rest of the mammals. Well, that and opposable thumbs.

Trendy Tidbit

The ol’ People magazine approach, naming what’s hip or what’s not. Naturally this works better for contemporaries than historicals…but not always. Amish is a buzzword right now, which is why I chose it for my post title.

Opposites Attract

Jumbo shrimp. Government intelligence. Amish aliens. Put two incongruous words together, and if they’re not cliché, people will sit up and take notice.

Now then, where to employ these attention grabbing strategies? Obviously your entire manuscript can’t be outrageously intense. You’d burn out your brain and your reader would gasp for air. Nevertheless, there are key areas that require some eye-popping fancy footwork. These are:

– The first sentence of a book…better yet, make that the first sentence of every chapter.

– The last sentence of each chapter. Force your reader to turn the page.

– Back cover copy. Often this is where you reel ‘em in or break the deal.

– The one-liner that sums up your entire novel.

So go ahead. Give this a whirl. Don’t be afraid to stand out from the crowd, especially when it comes to your writing. Hopefully you’ll attract the attention of an editor, not an Amish Alien.

And if you’re brave enough, share with us your re-written stunning first line of your current project (fiction or non-fiction).

It’s A Parade!!

Welcome to WordServe Water Cooler’s Very First Blog Parade!!

Listed below are links to many of The Cooler’s authors and we are all writing on this topic: First steps we took to becoming an agented and/or published author!

The goal of today’s post is to give you some great advice and to allow you to see some of the personal blogs of our authors where they offer their ponderings. I think you’ll be amazed at the variety of helpfulness each author gives to the community.

Thank you, our faithful readers, for making the WordServe Water Cooler a great community. Enjoy the parade!

1. Anita Agers-Brooks: Anita Fresh Faith

2. Julie Cantrell: Julie’s Journal

3. Dianne Christner: …plain girl romanticizing

4. Dena Ratliff Dyer: Mother Inferior

5. Jan Dunlap: Jan Dunlap’s Blog

6. Michelle Griep: Writer Off Leash

7. Karen Jordan: BLESSED Legacy Stories

8. Sharon Lavy: Sharon Lavy’s Blogspot.

9. Gillian Marchenko: Gillian Marchenko’s Blog

10. Katy McKenna: Fallible

11. Melissa K. Norris: Inspiring Your Faith and Pioneer Roots

12. Jordyn Redwood: Redwood’s Medical Edge

13. Cheryl Ricker: Fresh Air

14. Kimberly Vargas: Kimberly Vargas’s Blog

15. Janalyn Voigt: Live Write Breath

16. Lucille Zimmerman: Lucille Zimmerman

Hope you enjoyed our parade!

Author FAQs

It doesn’t matter where I am. A party. The vet. Getting my teeth cleaned. Whenever people find out for the first time I’m an author, one of three questions pops out their mouth…

How are your sales? How much money do you make?

Really? Are plumbers asked this? Does anyone ever ask the Walmart greeter what he or she nets for pay? I’m guessing not, so why?

Why do people feel comfortable asking writers how much money they make? 

Because, doggone it, everyone has a book in them, and they’re curious how much money they can make. It’s really not about the author, to shame them or to pry. This question simply flies past the curious lips of people who have a secret hope they can pound out their story and become a millionaire.

Compassion is needed to answer this one. Sure, the Rowlings and Kings of the world do make big bucks, but most authors don’t. It’s a dream-crushing bit of information, so remember that sometimes truth stings. Be gentle.

How many chapters is your book?

This one always stumps me. Not because I’m on mind-altering drugs and don’t know how many chapters I’ve written in any given book, but mostly because chapters are subjective. Haven’t readers figured that out by now?

Apparently not. Apparently garden-variety readers award badges of honor to books with lots of chapters.

So I put on my teacher’s hat and explain in one-syllable words that publishers don’t require mandatory chapters; they look at total word count. At that point, I whip out my sunglasses because a brilliant light bulb flashes on.

I wrote a book, too. Can you help me get it published?

This is a tricky one. I love to help others. Who doesn’t? But the brutal truth is, I am a lowly writer, not an acquisitions editor.

Much care is needed in the answering of this question. The danger is you’ll get cornered for at least an hour listening to the synopsis of an entire epic saga. I’ve found the best way to handle this situation is to offer sources other than yourself. I frequently recommend joining ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) for networking purposes. I also advise author-wannabees where they can attend local writer meetings or possible critique groups they can check out.

Those are the top three questions I get asked. How about you? What’s your FAQ?