3 Questions to find your “value added”

Value-added describes the enhancement a company gives its product or service before offering the product to customers. Value-added applies to instances where a firm takes a product that may be considered a homogeneous product, with few differences (if any) from that of a competitor, and provides potential customers with a feature or add-on that gives it a greater sense of value….Investopedia.com

There you have it, folks – a clear definition of “value added,” a key concept in today’s marketing strategies. If you’re a hotel, your “value added” may be a free breakfast, or bonus loyalty points. If you’re a tire dealership, your “value added” may be a discounted  fourth tire after the purchase of three. If you’re a writer…..ah….if you’re a writer….what if you’re a writer?

I’ve been grappling for years with the idea of my “added value,” and I’ve finally come up with a few guidelines that might help you work on your own. As the definition above points out, we writers offer a fairly homogeneous product – writing – so our challenge is to distinguish ourselves from other writers by offering readers something in our work that makes it stand out as having more ‘value’ than other similar products of writing. To identify your “added value”, consider these questions:

  1. What do my readers want from me that they won’t get from someone else? In the case of my murder mysteries, I relied on detailed accurate information about birds to appeal to my readers, so that reading my novels was like a virtual birding trip. Readers often told me they knew the restaurants where my characters ate, or that they had actually visited the real locations named in my books. That familiarity made the books personal for readers, and even inspired a few vacations for readers who wanted to add bird sightings to their life lists. That’s added value.
  2. Do I provide unique extras along with my book? A common extra is a Reader’s Guide at the end of your book for book club discussion. If you are tech-savvy, you can even offer to “attend” book clubs via Skype or other online meeting platforms. That’s a valuable benefit for many readers! Other extras include links to online journaling or videos that supplement your text. Even questions for personal reflection (and the space to answer them) is a nice extra used by many nonfiction writers in their books.
  3. What does my reader need? Ultimately, “value added” is about giving your readers more of what they value. To do that, you have to know your audience and consider what they would regard as additional benefit from reading your work. When I wrote my memoir about overcoming anxiety thanks to our adopted rescue dog, I included endnotes to refer readers to research into depression and anxiety; I’d found those resources helpful in my own recovery and wanted to share that with readers. I also invited readers to email me about their own healing experiences with adopted pets to broaden the conversation about the therapeutic effects of animals (and three years after the book’s publication, I still get wonderful emails from readers about it).

Have you identified your “value added” yet?



Navigating Your Negative Self-Talk and Overwhelming Anxiety

Is59 19How do you respond to overwhelming emotions? Positive or negative self-talk?

Fearful thoughts escalated into a full-blown panic attack as I faced a crisis with my mother over a decade ago. As I waited for the doctors to diagnose her medical condition, I began to do some research of my own. And everywhere I turned, the facts were grim.

I knew my mother was facing a battle for her life. And my emotional red flags were rippling high overhead. I had many questions but very few answers.

But I remembered seemingly impossible situations where God had intervened. And I knew who I needed to turn to in a battle. I also knew my emotions and logic are always unreliable in a tough situation.

Jesus warned his disciples that there would be a day coming when they would endure difficult times. “In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world” (John 16:33 The Message).

What is Jesus saying here? I believe he’s reminding his disciples to turn to him when they find themselves in trouble. But how do we seek the Lord during difficult days? I believe the answer lies in prayer and meditating on God’s Word.


How do you respond to overwhelming emotions? What are you worried about today? Are you anxious about something beyond your control? How would you describe your emotional reactions when you are worried?

  • Past. List some of your past worries. How did you deal with them?
  • Present. List the issues that worry you today. Are you anxious, fearful, or in a panic about them now? How are you responding to them?
  • Future. What fears do you have about the future? Are you worried about things that you have no control over right now?


Which scriptures help you seek God in a crisis? Which verses help you manage your emotional reactions?


Do you recall some of the struggles you’ve been through involving your faith?

This excerpt taken from my eBook, RESTNotes. Be sure to get your FREE copy today!

Impossible Writing Projects


I sensed the Lord’s direction to share a particular story from my family’s life, and I began to write about it when we were still in the heat of the crisis.

Impossible journey. Every time I attempted to move forward with submitting this project for publication, something major would happen to prevent my progress.

By major, I don’t mean a little bump in the road. I’m referring to some impossible situations—like my mother’s terminal illness, my daughter’s two major surgeries and several difficult pregnancies, my father-in-law’s lengthy terminal illness, and more.

And I haven’t even mentioned the journey to publication. Oh, my! Where do I begin with that one?

Impossible project. As I approached this long-standing project about a crisis with my daughter Tara, red flags waved all around me, warning me of the impossibility of this effort. And to be honest, when I came home from her house recently, discouragement blanketed me again like a heavy, dark storm cloud. And I’ve been tempted to toss this project into the “impossible” pile once again.

Impossible calling. Then, I spent time in a study of Moses.

And I thought my task looked hopeless!

Moses faced the unimaginable tasks of his calling with great fear. He knew he didn’t have the strengths that he would need to complete the things that God had called him to.

Moses was well aware of his weaknesses and limitations. He wanted to embrace God’s promises, but everywhere he turned, he sensed the impossibility of God’s plans for his life.

Powerful Promises. Today, as I study more about Moses, I’m reminded once again of how God’s promises do not depend upon me. Even my unbelief, fear, and doubt will not change God’s plans. God will complete His work—with or without my involvement.

I know the story I need to write will be told to encourage others who might be experiencing a similar crisis. And I don’t want them to miss out on the blessing.

So, I’m choosing to go forward again, holding on to God’s promises.

Thankfully, I don’t believe God has given up on me like I’ve often given up on Him. He will forgive my complaining and blaming others for my failures. And He promises to provide all I need to complete the work that He has stirred up in me.

I pray if you are struggling over a similar circumstance, you will consider God’s promises to you again today.

“[Be] strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9 NLT)

Have you ever given up on a project because it seemed impossible?

How to write a GREAT book

What makes a book a great read?

If someone asked me to name the best books I read in 2017, four immediately come to mind: Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker, The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women by Kate Moore, Be Strong in the Lord: Praying for the Armor of God for Your Children by Betsy Duffey and Laurie Myers, and Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult.

But if you asked me why they were the best books of the year for me, I would have specific reasons for each. I choose Walker’s book because it literally changed my behavior in two ways: I now try to get more sleep to improve my health, and I refuse to drive a car if I’m in the least bit tired (yes, he scared the heck out of me with statistics!). Moore’s book impressed me deeply with its story of women who suffered terribly, yet fought industry to make it responsible for employees’ health on the job. Be Strong in the Lord deepened my faith for both my children and myself, and Picoult’s novel gave me new eyes and a new heart to confront racism in America.

These books changed my behavior and attitudes in specific, concrete ways. I am a different person because I read them.

And that is ultimately what makes a book a great read: it meets the reader where she lives, and changes her.

Book design, reviews, buzz, brilliant writing, thorough research, perfect plotting – authors dream that all those things will come together in their books to make it a bestseller, but the key to every book’s success, I believe, is in how the author connects to the reader about something important to that same reader. This means, naturally, that there exists a myriad of topics a writer can address (and they do!), which also means many – actually, probably MOST – books will never appeal to every reader, and because of that, every author needs to be mindful of the particular audience for whom they write. To best serve that audience, however, the successful author has to dig deep into his own wants and desires, unearth the most compelling, most universal, needs he can share with his readers, and then translate that into the written word.

The words “We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone” are attributed to Ronald Reagan. Likewise, every book can’t be a great read for every reader, but for some reader, some book can be a great read. As you set forth on your writing journey in 2018, I hope you write that great book for some reader.

Who knows? You might even change my life.

New Year’s resolutions…or not

Well, this is embarrassing. I thought I’d write a post about writing resolutions for a new year by reviewing my resolutions for 2017 and noting how I did.

But I can’t find my list of resolutions.


So I either 1) put it somewhere I wouldn’t forget, and I’ll find it in another six months or so, or 2) the dog ate it, along with several grocery lists and the instructions for assembling my husband’s new bike, or 3) I never made a list in the first place.

I have a suspicion it’s door #3: I never made resolutions for 2017.

And here’s why:

  1. Years ago, I realized I didn’t have to wait for a new year to begin new habits or improve on old ones. Making resolutions is really procrastination, waiting for the right moment to begin a new project or make a change. Every writer I know has learned the truth – there is no ‘right’ moment to start writing. A new year is not going to magically make it happen. You just have to sit down and write. Now.
  2. Resolutions sugarcoat tough realities. Of course, a writer resolves to write a book every year. Some years, that actually happens. Yippee! Other years, that ambitious resolution gets buried by the nuts-and-bolts of marketing the last book you wrote, preventing you from even picking a topic or plot for the new book you wanted to write this year. Or you have a family crisis that demands all your attention and energy. Experienced writers know that life happens…and when it does, writing resolutions go out the window…until those same writers are ready to process what they’ve experienced and incorporate it into their next book, which may not be the next book they thought they’d be writing.
  3. Resolutions are limiting. Again, life is full of surprises, and when a writer feels tugged in a new direction, an old resolution can be inhibiting. Why keep hammering away on that novel you’ve worked over for years, when an unexpected opportunity to write (or co-write) a self-improvement book presents itself and you find yourself drawn to it? Good writers know they need to welcome growth opportunities, sometimes even before they finish old projects.

So you won’t find me writing resolutions for 2018 in the next week. Instead, I’m going to rejoice in all the satisfying things my writing life brought me in 2017: learning how to build my own website, hearing from a growing number of readers how much they enjoy my books, an unexpected nomination for a Christy Award from my publisher, invitations to speak to groups, returning to writing a blog, sharing my faith with published devotionals, and mentoring new writers.

Wait a minute. I am going to write one resolution after all. And here it is: Thank God every day for the gift of writing.

I know I can remember that. And I’ll never have to worry about the dog eating it, either…

Happy New Year, writers!

How about you? Do you make resolutions?

Promises for the Writing Process

WordSwag/KarenJordanAs I worked on my first book project, I struggled with all kinds of self-doubt and fear. I wondered why I had even bothered with writing a book proposal.

I had faced several rejections in the past. And I had been unable to follow through on other book projects earlier for a myriad of reasons.

Yet I couldn’t seem to let go of my desire to share the spiritual lessons I had learned, applying God’s principles and promises to my life.

Peace. I had been praying about finding spiritual rest and peace. And I had struggled with the thought of compiling the truths I had discovered while helping others in their struggle with fear—especially with worry, anxiety, and depression.

Prayer. I had voiced a question to God as I wrestled with fear, doubt, and unbelief concerning direction for my book: How can I write a book about finding spiritual rest, when I’m still one of the most anxious people I know?

Promises. I discovered powerful promises in the Bible as I sought God’s direction and moved forward with my book. I hope they will encourage you as you work on your next writing project.

  • God will complete the work that He began in me. “[Being] confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion . . . ” (Phil. 4:6 NLT).
  • The Holy Spirit will teach me all things and remind me of everything that the Lord has taught me. “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit—the Father will send Him in My name—will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you” (John 14:26 HCSB).
  • Christ promises to give me the strength I need. “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength” (Phil. 4:13 NLT).

What promises from scripture have meant the most to you while you labored over your writing projects?


5 reasons to be thankful you’re a writer

‘Tis the season to be thankful! As every writer knows, the writing life is filled with ups and downs, yet it’s a blessing to claim writing as a career/passion. So while this is too long a list of items to share in a Thanksgiving prayer before digging into the holiday turkey, you might want to take a few minutes on your own to make these observations food for thought and thanks!

  1. You’re your own boss! Or at least, you are until you have a publisher who gives you deadlines. At that point, you’re thrilled to NOT be your own boss, because it means you’ve achieved your dream of finding a publisher who thinks your work should be published! Affirmation is a marvelous thing, isn’t it?
  2. You get to play with words. Writers are weird that way – we like the way words fit together to make sentences, or we hear music in our heads from the rhythm of well-crafted phrases. Also, words are free, so you don’t have to spend a ton of money to get started with your passion, unlike people who want to take up scuba diving or landscaping. If you don’t like the words you have, you can always find new ones; if you don’t like scuba diving after a few trips, you’re stuck with expensive equipment you have to donate to a rummage sale or sell on eBay…
  3. You get to tell stories. Whether you write fiction or non-fiction, you get to enjoy putting together a ‘story’ – something with a beginning, middle and end. You can spend weeks, months, years, mining your imagination and doing research to create your writing, and you learn cool stuff about things you hadn’t paid attention to until you started composing your story. There’s so much in the world to learn, and you get to pick and choose what interests you.
  4. You get to connect with people. No matter where you publish your words – online on social networks, in magazines, in books, in blogs, in community newsletters – you have an audience, and your words will touch them. Some of those audience members will respond back to you, and then you suddenly realize that words truly are powerful and as a writer, you are privileged to wield that power, along with the responsibility that power brings with it.
  5. Your words can make a positive impact on a reader. At some point in your writing career, a reader is going to thank you for sharing what you have written, because it helped/healed/enlightened/entertained/connected that reader with something important in life. That point is when you, in turn, thank God for giving you the ability to write, because your words have served someone, and ultimately, that’s why you felt called to write in the first place! When you see your writing as ministry, it’s awesome motivation to keep at it. Blessing and being blessed by writing – that’s something to be thankful for!