Seasons of Writing

I used to really love summer: 4th of July, barbeques, fireworks, my birthday, swimming, and relaxing with family and friends. However, now that I am older (and no longer get summers off–soak it up while you can, kids!), I have really come to appreciate fall. My husband watching football on Saturdays while I read or work, pumpkin spiced lattes, baking, crunching through leaves, Thanksgiving, and the upcoming excitement of Christmas all make me smile.

Just as each year has seasons and each time in our lives has seasons so, too, should our writing have seasons. Your writing seasons may not look the same as someone else’s writing seasons; however, everyone should be purposeful about their seasons.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 “There’s an opportune time to do things, a right time for everything on the earth” (The Message).

When I was in graduate school, a professor told me that summer should be for reading (fiction, nonfiction, and craft books) and writing. The last month of summer should be set aside for editing, but most of your writing should be new. Read, create, write, exercise. Refresh yourself. Lucille Zimmerman’s book Renewed offers some wonderful ideas for how you might employ those breaks that are so necessary for our creative spirits. Consider going on a writing retreat. Summer is the time to allow yourself to be as creative as possible with your writing.

Fall, then, should be about “the offensive.” In other words, submit, submit, submit. What you wrote during the summer is probably not read yet, so consider sending out a previously edited manuscript. You want to make sure that your manuscripts are ready to be seen by an agent or an editor. Don’t forget to track all of your submissions and responses. You can also edit what you wrote during the summer and attend a few writing classes or a conference or two.

During the winter months, you might take a short reading break again and follow up on your submissions. During the winter, especially, you should concentrate on editing. Allow yourself time to work through your manuscript at least two, if not three or four, different times. Consider hiring an outside editor. If you cannot afford a professional editor, you might want to look into hiring a college student who would be happy to read through your manuscript for a few hundred dollars and a letter of recommendation.

In the spring, start something new and begin lining up the books that you are going to read over the summer. You might also use this time to take care of the business side of writing: double check editor/agent contact information, complete your taxes, and straighten up your paper and digital filing system.

Again, while everyone’s seasons will look different, determining what your seasons will look like allows you to be prepared and to have an intentionally-focused writing life.

Have you ever thought about having writing seasons? If so, what do they look like? If not, how might you fashion your writing seasons? Also, what’s your favorite season?

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Why Asking For Help Is Not A Sign Of Weakness

“Strong people ask for help.” As a counselor, I often teach my clients this mantra.

Person under crumpled pile of papers with hand holding a help siSo when I found myself discouraged last week, I sent an email to another WordServe author, asking for help.

An hour later we were talking on the phone. She reaffirmed how much she liked my book, she told me she would commit to praying, and she gave me a handful of marketing ideas.

That short phone call changed my day in three ways.

  1. I got an emotional release. I even cried a little.
  2. I got encouragement.
  3. I got inspired with new marketing ideas. In fact, I spent six hours the next day working on marketing ideas.

Most authors, by their nature, are Type A personalities. We are self-motivated, hard working, and perfectionist. As we seek to promote our books, it makes sense that we would try to put the best light on ourselves. But have you ever noticed how lonely driven perfectionists really are? If you’ve ever spent time watching Brene Brown’s TED talks, you understand that it’s our vulnerability and imperfections that draw others to us.

All authors need to ask for help. Here’s why:

When you ask for help usually you’ll likely find ways to reciprocate. Authors don’t know all the same people or have the same ideas. During my phone call I was able to connect my author friend with some influential people who will help expand her books’ reach.

Almost everyone loves to help. I think it’s part of the way God wired us. Think about it: if someone trips and falls, we instinctively rush towards the person in order to help. I’m pretty sure the only ones who don’t feel that pull are people who lack the ability to have empathy (sociopaths).

When people help others, they’ll be reminded of their own success. As my friend was giving me marketing ideas, it affirmed all the hard work she had done. She was able to share her success stories and tell me how proud her publisher was. Reliving your successes feels good.

Accepting help can feel like a reward for all the times you helped someone. At all times I am in the process of reading and reviewing two to five books for other authors. I know how hard I work to promote my author friends; it’s nice to be on the other side once in a while.

Asking for help can build bonds. Before last week’s phone call, I only knew the other author by name. Just one more person person from Facebook. But now, I feel like we’ve become friends.

It is actually quite arrogant to think we can help others and yet have no need to accept it in return. Is there something you’re struggling with? Why not take a risk and ask someone for help.

Can you think of a time when someone helped you on your book-publishing journey? 

The Surprising Thing About Book Influencers

My first book is almost a reality. In fact, a box could show up on my doorstep any day.

This stage of the process is humbling because I have to rely on busy people to read and help promote my book. At this point, I reminded myself that I’m not only working to promote myself, but I’m also working for the publisher who put so much faith into my project. That makes it a little easier to do the asking.

Two weeks ago, my publisher’s marketing gal, Cat, asked me make a list of all the media people and influencers who would read and promote my book. Media people? I only know the PR guy at Focus on the Family and a baseball sports announcer.

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Cat said media and influencers can be anyone who has a large audience. That means bloggers, authors, and speakers.  With that being the case, it turns out I know a lot of influencer and media peeps.  So, I collected names and addresses and passed them on to my publisher. Now hard copies are on the way to their doorsteps, too.

So what have I learned that I can share with you? Authors shouldn’t just ask for help from friends. They should ask for help from strangers, and big-time famous people.

Why?

You will be amazed at who says yes (and who says no). When I put out the word, I had some interesting responses: Some of my friends said they were too busy but if I passed along a copy, they’d try to get to it. Another friend hasn’t responded at all. Conversely, famous people I never thought I’d hear back from said, “Sure, I’d be honored.” Others went above and beyond: “You bet, and why don’t you let me put your book in a giveaway at my retreat and I’ll write a special feature about you” or “Hey, I’ll mention you at this event.”

Even strangers can have a powerful impact on your sales. I read a few articles that said if you can find top reviewers from Amazon to read and review your book, it can boost your sales. Finding someone within the top 500 is considered a coup. So yesterday I sent out four inquiries to reviewers who are interested in my genre. Two top-50 reviewers responded, “Sure, send the book.”

Feel free to read the articles about Amazon Top Reviewers here:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/richpub/syltguides/fullview/RNCWTLEMV71VM

http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2012/09/16/get-amazon-book-reviews/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/16/amazon-top-customer-reviewers_n_878262.html

http://www.amarketingexpert.com/easy-tips-for-getting-more-amazon-reviews-now/

I guess the moral of the story is reach out to everyone, pray for the best, and don’t get hurt or upset when people say no. Lots of people will come out to support you.

If you’re a published author, how did you find people to promote your book? 

WordServe News: March 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

FinallytheBrideSandra Bricker, Always the Baker, Finally the Bride
(Abingdon Press)

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TheProdigalJan Drexler, The Prodigal Son Returns
(Love Inspired)

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UnburdenedSuzanne Eller, The Unburdened Heart (Regal)

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RealValorSteve Farrar, Real Valor (David C. Cook)

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AnsweringtheCallKen Gire, Answering the Call: The Story of Albert Schweitzer (Thomas Nelson)

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ANobleGroomJody Hedlund, A Noble Groom (Bethany House)

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TheEasyBurdenPatty Kirk, The Easy Burden of Pleasing God (IVP Books)

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AllinGoodTimeMaureen Lang, All in Good Time (Tyndale House)

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VoicesofthePacificAdam Makos, with Marcus Brotherton, Voices of the Pacific (Berkley Hardcover)

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RenewedLucille Zimmerman, Renewed
(Abingdon Press)

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New WordServe Clients

None…we’re standing pat with our great group of authors for now!

New Contracts

Tracie Miles signed with Bethany House Publishers for a book titled Your Life Still Counts: How Your Past Has Equipped You for Your Purpose.

Susie Shellenberger and Kristen Weber signed with Barbour Publishers for A Girl’s Guide: Guys, God and the Galaxy.

Gillian Marchenko signed a contract with T.S. Poetry Press for her memoir. Yay, Gillian!

What We’re Celebrating!!

A Higher Call by Adam Makos continues to hit the New York Times list. On March 31, it will be #6 (again) on the Hard Cover nonfiction list. It’s been in the top-15 for 9 weeks!

Bees in the Butterfly Garden by Maureen Lang, hit the March CBA list at #5 on the fiction list and the #40 on the top-50 in sales list.

What thing on your writing journey are you celebrating today?