Are You Stuck? Here’s the Antidote!

Stymied. Stuck. Stalled. Stopped.

Ever feel this way? Maybe you have run out of steam or ideas. Or maybe you are just discouraged. Or maybe you just aren’t sure what the next best course of action is.

You are not alone.

In John 21, the disciples know that Jesus is alive after his crucifixion. They have seen him twice. Yet, they are not sure what they should do. Jesus has not given them any specific instructions and they are no longer “traveling” with him.

Peter says, “I’m going fishing.” The other disciples tell him, “We’re coming with you.”

They all don’t know what to do next. Peter has an idea. It sounds good. They know how to fish. It’s comfortable. So fishing they go.

Then Jesus shows up. He gives Peter instructions. Jesus tells Peter to “feed my sheep.”

The same can be true for you.

Are you unsure of what to do next? Wondering which marketing endeavor you should undertake? Unsure of which book you should write or publish next?

Here is an old poem that addresses this issue. It is titled “Do the Next Thing”  and Elisabeth Elliot re-popularized years ago.

From an old English parsonage down by the sea
There came in the twilight a message to me;
Its quaint Saxon legend, deeply engraven,
Hath, it seems to me, teaching from Heaven.
And on through the doors the quiet words ring
Like a low inspiration: “DO THE NEXT THING.”

Many a questioning, many a fear,
Many a doubt, hath its quieting here.
Moment by moment, let down from Heaven,
Time, opportunity, and guidance are given.
Fear not tomorrows, child of the King,
Trust them with Jesus, do the next thing

Do it immediately, do it with prayer;
Do it reliantly, casting all care;
Do it with reverence, tracing His hand
Who placed it before thee with earnest command.
Stayed on Omnipotence, safe ‘neath His wing,
Leave all results, do the next thing.

Looking for Jesus, ever serener,
Working or suffering, be thy demeanor;
In His dear presence, the rest of His calm,
The light of His countenance be thy psalm,
Strong in His faithfulness, praise and sing.
Then, as He beckons thee, do the next thing.

Today, just do the next thing that is before you. Trust that God will show up. He will either tell you to do something else or confirm what you are doing.

By the way, today, April 26, is Poem in My Pocket Day!

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Are You Using AIDA to Hook Buyers?

So tell me quick and tell me true, or else, my love, to hell with you!
Less – How this product came to be.
More – What the damn thing does for me!

So ends a poem on advertising by Victor Schwab titled “Tell Me Quick and Tell Me True”.

Poor language aside, these lines sum up some good advice on marketing and advertising copy. Providing more information does not guarantee that the recipient will get your message. Sometimes using fewer words has a greater impact. Keeping your words lean makes them clearer and more memorable.

One model widely used in marketing and advertising can help you be more direct and clear in your marketing communication. The model covers the four steps consumers move through in making a purchase decision. The model is:

AIDA:  Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action.

AIDA represents the four areas your marketing messages need to cover to move a customer to action. Here is a breakdown of the process:

  • Attention: Grab potential reader’s attention by using words that are important to them.
  • Interest: After you have their attention, then you want to build their curiosity. The goal is to keep them engaged to move them to the next step.
  • Desire: Tell your potential readers what is in it for them. Whet their appetite so that you fan desire to read your book. Convince them they want to read your book.
  • Action: Finish with a call to action. Tell the interested reader what to do next—buy the book, read the first chapter free, etc.

Any marketing graphic you create about your book for your website, social media, catalog, magazine, etc., should contain all four of these elements. Consider this Coca-Cola ad.

The picture of a young happy couple grabs your attention. The term happiness grows your interest. Then #openhappiness grows desire. The idea that you might be able to actually drink a bottle of coke and feel happy creates a strong desire. An explicit call to action is missing in this advertisement, but it definitely is implied: “Buy Coke, drink it, and you will feel happy.”

You can easily implement AIDA in your marketing materials starting with your book cover. Make sure that your book’s cover (your #one marketing tool) draws people’s attention and creates interest and desire.

Photo courtesy of Bruce Mars.

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Grow Your Writing and Marketing to the Next Level

Mahatma Gandhi said, “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”

There is always more to learn. There is always room for improvement. As an author or publisher, to stay relevant and up-to-date, you must continually learn. Publishing standards change. Technology changes. With these changes, you must learn and adapt what you do to be effective in reaching your target audience.

I recently served as a faculty member at the Carolina Christian Writers Conference. One of the events at the conference was called “Lightning Learning”. For this event, the conference attendees were broken up into groups. Then each group met for five minutes with each faculty member to discuss a “learning tip” that the faculty had prepared in advance for attendees.

When you have a group of experts offering advice, the learning opportunity is incredibly rich. I think some of the advice that the faculty shared is worth sharing with you. So, here are a few “Lightning Learning” tips from that event.

“What do you need to do before you start writing? Pray. Then pray some more! Just as you followed the call, seek God’s wisdom in every area of your writing.”
Gloria Penwell, www.boldvisionbooks.com

 

“Before you write your book or article, know your target audience. Keep them in mind as you write and write in a way that speaks and resonates with them. Doing this will increase the effectiveness of your writing and any marketing activities you do for your book or article.”
Sarah Bolme, www.christianpublishers.net

 “To write is to sacrifice, as professional writing requires a commitment of time away from people and activities. Take time to determine what level of time requirement you need to schedule for yourself, and specifically what things you are currently doing that you need to sacrifice in order to have the time to write.”
Craig von Buseck, www.inspiration.org

“Be recognizable online. This means having a professional picture for all social media/online sites that is recognizable from one platform to another. Keep your bio consistent. Make sure no one will ever be surprised when they meet you in person because you represent yourself differently online.
Edie Melson, www.thewriteconversation.blogspot.com

“What would happen to your work in progress if you spilled your morning coffee into the computer keyboard or downloaded a virus that ate your hard drive and destroyed your files? Writers need an automatic computer backup system.”
Lori Hatcher, www.reachoutcolumbia.com

 

If you have your own writing or marketing tip you want to share with other authors, please do so in the comment section. Share your wisdom so we call can learn.

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Are You Overlooking This Powerful Marketing Tool?

“I’m not tech savvy. Are there other ways to market a book besides social media?”

This is a question I frequently encounter, mostly from mature authors, but once in a while from younger authors who feel that social media has not been productive for them. My standard answer is always, “Yes, there are many ways to market a book, and no author should put all of their eggs in one basket.”

Social media is just one tool in an author’s marketing toolbox. There are numerous tools in that toolbox. Over reliance on one tool is not good. After all, not all situations need a screwdriver.

One often overlooked marketing tool is using articles to promote your book. Articles are an excellent means of spreading your message and introducing readers to your books. Sadly, many authors are either unaware of the power of articles for promotion or they simply omit this influential tool.

In her book Articles, Articles, Articles, Linda Gilden walks authors and potential authors through everything they need to know to write and publish articles. From information on brainstorming ideas to formatting and writing an article to submitting an article for publication, Linda’s book is a comprehensive guide on writing articles. The book covers writing articles for print magazines, e-zines, and blogs.

This book includes some wise advice from author DiAnn Mills. She says, “When I finish and send in the first draft to the editor, the next thing I do I make a list of all the blogs and articles I can write that would help and assist a reader, but it is also woven in with the theme of my book.” Linda’s chapter on brainstorming ideas for articles expounds on this idea.

Linda reminds authors that you don’t have to limit yourself to just the area of the subject matter in your book. Linda encourages you to think outside the box. Once you have exhausted the specific area of your book’s coverage for articles, go wider. Is your book your own story of overcoming depression? Then you can also interview experts on the subject for articles. You can write a piece on rehab centers for Christians experiencing depression. You might even go niche and write an article on the special issues pastors face when struggling with depression.

The great thing about articles is that most publications allow you an author byline that lets you tell the publication’s readers a little about yourself. You can use your author byline to introduce people to your book. Linda points out in her book that articles can help you build your author platform by introducing you (and your book) to thousands upon thousands of readers.

If you are interested in using articles to promote your books, I suggest that you head on over to your favorite bookstore and purchase a copy of Linda Gilden’s book Articles, Articles, Articles. It gives you all the information you need to use this influential marketing tool to introduce more readers to your books.

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Photo courtesy of Hunter Haley.

Market Your Christian Novel Like a Pro

According to Publishers Weekly, sales of Christian fiction books is healthy. The number of indie authors publishing fiction books appears to be growing. In 2016, 17% of overall books purchased were indie published—but 30% of fiction books purchased were indie published. That number has since grown. This year, one-third of the books nominated for the 2018 Christian Indie Awards were fiction books.

One of the trends in fiction books is that a higher percentage of these books are being purchased as ebooks rather than print books. According to Author Earnings, fiction books make up the lion’s share of ebook purchases with 70% of all fiction sales occurring as ebooks and 90% of all romance book purchased as ebooks.

If you write and publish Christian fiction, you know that marketing a fiction book is difficult. If your fiction book sales are slow, then you might want to take a lesson from traditional Christian book publishers and imitate their marketing strategies for novels by new authors. Following are a number of marketing strategies traditional Christian publishing houses use to promote novels by authors who do not already have a built-in fan base.

  1. Mailings to bookstore managers about the new novel.
  2. Mailings to libraries.
  3. Mailings to book clubs.
  4. Placement in distributor’s catalogs (Ingram/Spring Arbor and Anchor catalogs).
  5. Strategic ad placement for print and online media.
  6. Eblasts to readers, retailers, and media.
  7. Advance copies to publications that review books.
  8. Advance copies to influencers.
  9. Placement of ARC on NetGalley for reviews.
  10. Securing media interviews.
  11. Host author events and book signings.
  12. Cross-promotion with other authors with similar titles.
  13. Special promotions with coupons and discounts to drive sales.
  14. Free novella ebook prequel that includes the first few chapters to the full-length novel.

I believe all these strategies are valuable. They work together to create synergy and exposure that drive the most sales. However, I am also aware that many indie authors do not have the resources to engage in all 14 of these activities. Therefore, if you have to choose just one of these activities, I suggest that you practice number 14. Provide a free novella ebook prequel to your novel.

Offer your novella for free on all the ebook platforms (Amazon, Barnes&Noble, Apple Book Store, Kobo, Smashwords, etc.) and on your website (in exchange for an email to help build your email list). Traditional publishers report that this strategy has led to stronger ebook sales for their authors who do this over authors who do not use this technique. Smashwords, the largest self-publishing ebook platform, reports that authors that offer the first ebook free for a fiction series earn 55% more on average than series that don’t offer the first ebook free.

Maybe you are a fiction author who wants to do a number of the above strategies but are unsure of how to go about these marketing activities. Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) can help you with that. We offer our members access to eblasts for Christian readers, retailers, and media, we provide information each month on podcasts and radio shows seeking guests in our newsletter, we offer cooperative print and digital advertising, and many other resources for spreading the word on your books.

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