Conferences Are Worth It!

Why invest time and money to attend a writers conference when you can just watch a webinar online? After all, many online webinars are free, or at least cheaper than the cost to attend a conference.

I believe that there is great value in attending live events. Here are three reasons why attending a writers conferences provides greater benefit than reading a book, watching a webinar, or engaging on a forum.

1. The Live Experience

There’s nothing like being in the same room with other authors. Being with others of the same ilk in a room learning together heightens your senses. Learning in a live setting with others deepens the experience and makes it more meaningful.

2. Interaction with Experts

Writers conferences give you a great chance to not only learn from experts, but to interact with them one-on-one. Many conferences allow attendees to sign up for one-on-one consultations with the instructors so that you can glean from their expertise in the area that you need the most direction. Writers conferences truly give you the best return on your dollar in terms of training and consultation from experts. In addition, the passion and energy conference presenters exhibit are catching.

3. Networking

Due to the nature of writing, being an author can be isolating. Writers conferences are a great place to meet other authors. The networking opportunities are limitless. You can find others writing in the same genre who will be willing to support you, write you an endorsement or a review, or collaborate with you on a joint marketing venture. In addition, you will be amazed at what you learn just from talking with other authors.

In a nutshell, writers conferences offer you information, encouragement and support for your journey. I guarantee that if you attend a writers conference you will come away with a renewed vision and passion for your work—like this Christian writers conference attendee:

“I want to begin by thanking you for teaching such a wonderful and enlightening class at the Christian Writer’s Conference. I was blessed immensely with all that you shared, and it was an answer to prayer. I had intended to attend another continuing session when the Lord prompted me to attend yours instead. I’m so glad He did! It was precisely what I was praying for and needing. I can honestly say that because of your class, I was able to return home with everything I had wished to glean.” ~Erin

Writers conferences are not just for aspiring authors. Many Christian writers conferences often have more attendees that are already published authors than those who are not. After all, you can always learn new skills and strategies to improve your craft.

If you live in or near the Carolinas, I invite you to join me at the Carolina Christian Writers Conference in Spartanburg, South Carolina, on March 9th and 10th. I will be teaching two workshops. You can learn more about the conference at https://www.fbs.org/christian-writers-conference-2018.

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Do You Believe in Your Book?

I recently heard about a woman who loves to write. People who read her manuscript tell her that her book would sell. The writing is phenomenal.

Because this woman does not have a platform and would be a first-time author, others encouraged her to indie publish her book. One indie publisher actually offered to publish it for her.

However, the woman declined. She did not like the idea of having to promote and market her book. She did not want to do all those activities. Instead, she wanted someone to do those for her.

She found a company that told her they would publish and market her book for $10,000. They showed her how to start a Go Fund Me account to have people give her the $10,000.

Here is the irony. It takes promotion and marketing to get people to fund a crowdfunding project. So, whether this woman wanted to admit it or not, she had already begun to promote and market her book—the very thing she was opposed to doing.

If you are like this woman and don’t like the idea of promoting or marketing your book, consider this question:

Do I believe that my book has the power to help someone change their life for eternity?

Marketing a Christian book is a lot like sharing the Gospel. How will people hear and believe unless you tell them?

It’s not “send someone else” but “Here I am, send me.”

You won’t spread the Gospel if you don’t believe it is true and has the power to change people’s lives. The same is true for your book. You have to believe in your book, that it has information that people need to improve their lives to be able to promote it.

Here is another way to look at it:

  • Would you send ten emails to turn a person away from bitterness to forgiveness?
  • Could you push yourself to do a radio interview if you knew someone listening would seek treatment for their addiction and be restored to God?
  • How many restored marriages is a book signing worth?

Here’s the deal. When God is in an activity with you, it’s not your power, your strength, your genius that is driving the results. It’s God.

Marketing your Christian book is not about promoting yourself. It’s about promoting a message that the God of the Universe entrusted you to write down and share. It’s about spreading the Gospel and bringing light to a dark world.

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Photo courtesy of Ben White.

How to Become an Indie Author

One study shows that 80% of people feel they have a book inside of them. If you have a book inside of you that is waiting to come out, now is a great time to make your dream come true.

Independent publishing is growing. The cost to produce a book is within the average person’s reach, and with the Internet, marketing opportunities are right at your fingertips.

So, becoming an independent author is as easy as 1, 2, 3. Simply write your book, publish it, and then start selling. Wait—is it really that easy?

Sadly, some new indie authors fall into this belief system. These authors fail to learn what is required to produce a quality book that resembles books published by traditional publishing houses. Then they get frustrated when their book doesn’t sell.

If you are thinking about publishing a book as an indie author, I encourage you to gain the knowledge you need to produce a quality book that meets industry standards and glorifies God. Here are two ways you can get that information:

1. Attend my “Going Indie” seminar at the upcoming Write to Impact Lives Conference.

The Write to Impact Lives Conference will be held in Lansdale, Pennsylvania, on February 9 to 10, 2018. I will teach a four-hour session on Friday afternoon that will cover everything you need to know to publish an industry-standard book. The seminar will cover:

  • Three things to do before you publish your book.
  • Preparing your manuscript for publishing including editing, interior layout and design, and your book cover design.
  • Publishing your book affordably.

If you do not live near Philadelphia, you have another option to get this great information.

2. Become a Member of Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA).

Membership in Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) is open to individuals who have published or are considering publishing a book. You do not have to have already published a book to join the association.

Members of CSPA have access to on-demand seminars covering all the information you need to publish an industry standard book. CSPA Members also have access to a Checklist for Publishing a Professional-Looking Book. Additionally, as a Member of Christian Small Publishers Association, you have access to free title setup and revisions with IngramSpark, a print-on-demand service that also provides distribution for your book.

Membership in CSPA is just $90 for the 2018 calendar year. You can join today on CSPA’s website.

Make 2018 the year you indie publish that book you have been wanting to complete!

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Are You Meeting Readers’ Expectations?

He woke me at 2:30 in the early morning hours. My teenage son said he had a stomachache and felt nauseous. After about a half-hour, we decided he had the signs of appendicitis and rushed him to the emergency room.

Four hours and one ambulance ride later, the boy was being checked into the Children’s hospital. During admission, the nurse asked him if he would like a visit by the chaplain. Scared and nervous about his upcoming appendectomy, my son said yes.

Anesthesia, surgery, recovery, and finally checkout to go home followed. On the drive home, my son remarked that he was disappointed that the chaplain never came to pray for him.

Simply by asking the child if he would like a chaplain visit, the nurse set up the expectation in my son that a chaplain would come pray for him. She didn’t state, “If available, would you like a chaplain to visit you.” She simply asked if my son if he wanted a visit.

You, too, set up expectations in your readers. You may not even be aware of the expectations you construct. Your book’s title, the cover art, your back-cover copy, and even endorsements create expectations in the reader.

A couple years ago, a member author of Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) placed his book in CSPA’s books for bloggers review program, BookCrash. The book received mediocre reviews. Most of the reviews commented that the book was not quite what the reviewer expected.

The author was unhappy about this. He told me that the 100-word description that BookCrash allowed was not enough to convey to the reader what the book was about. He stated that if he had been allowed to write a longer description, reviewers would not have had a wrong expectation about the book.

I listened to his opinion. However, I believe the real problem was the title of the book. The title of this particular book set up a wrong expectation. Upon reading the title, I believed the book would provide a certain message. However, when I carefully read the description the author had written, it did not match the expectation the title raised for me.

Authors, choose your book’s title and cover art carefully. These are the first two things a reader considers when checking your book out. Both the title and cover art set up powerful expectations of what to expect from your book. Be sure that yours reflect the actual contents of your book.

Test your title and your cover art with friends and fans. Ask them what type of book they expect from the cover art and what expectation the title of your book raises in them. Make sure the title and cover art for your next book only raise expectations that you will meet.

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Photo courtesy of CongerDesign.

Are You Staying True to Your Calling?

I have often heard it said that the church is one of the most segregated institutions in the United States. I sometimes wonder if the Christian publishing industry is helping or hurting this issue.

I recently met an author who wrote a Christian novel set in Africa. When she tried to pitch the idea to editors and literary agents for a traditional Christian publishing contract, they told her they did not think they could sell a novel set in Africa—that setting was not a popular read.

So, feeling called of God to produce the novel, the author independently published her story. Her cover art contained a picture of an African-American man and woman. This author then began showing the published book to other Christian publishing industry experts to talk about marketing the book. She got the same message from almost every expert.

She was told to not expect to sell many copies of her book due to the cover art including African-American people. The experts advised that she take off the images of the people on the cover to help the book sell better.

As this author relayed this story to me, it made me think that, for the most part, the traditional Christian publishing industry is not concerned about racial integration in the body of Christ. Rather, publishing houses are a business. As a business, their top priority is profit. The one question they ask when considering a book is, “How many copies can we sell?” If they don’t think it will sell enough copies to meet their financial requirements, they pass it up.

Traditional publishing’s mission is not about challenging the status quo and daring people to confront difficult issues within the body of Christ. After all, some of the largest Christian publishing houses are now owned by secular publishing conglomerates. Rather, traditional publishing houses are businesses. As such, they focus on the bottom line.

I am thankful for Indie publishing. While indie authors and publishers need to be wise in their publishing and marketing efforts, how many copies a book will sell does not need to be the foremost priority. Rather, indie authors and publishers can be led by their mission and what God is calling them to do.

Interestingly, a new study by the American Bible Society showed that African-Americans are more engaged with the Bible than any other group. Among this racial group, 71 percent are friendly toward or engaged with the Bible compared to just 58 percent of all Americans. If Christians of non-African heritage will be turned away by this author’s book’s cover, she may still have a vibrant audience in among African-American Christians.

What about you. Have you gotten off track? Has your attitude become one that mainly focuses on the number of books you can sell rather than on staying true to your mission and the calling that God has placed in your heart?

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Photo courtesy of John-Mark Smith.