Monday, October 1, 2012

7 Essential Steps Toward Marketing For the Christian Author

These seven steps toward book marketing for the Christian author may seem obvious, but sometimes we need to be intentional in our thinking about what's most important. Please comment. Let me know your thoughts on this topic. Agree or disagree. Add to or subtract from this list.

1.  Pray for guidance.

Prayer for guidance has to be the first, and single most important marketing "tool" for the Christian author. 

Finding a market for our books is like finding the proverbial needle in the haystack. Unless you believe in luck, there's no way to find that needle in today's marketplace without specific guidance. Every step of the journey in the writing of my book, so far, has been taken prayerfully, and I have convincing evidence that my steps have been directed. Why would I now expect to take the marketing steps on my own, without that guidance?

Remember those times you asked the Lord to help you find something you'd lost?  Do it again. Ask Him to help you find your audience. The Bible says, "Your ears will hear a word behind you, 'This is the way, walk in it,' whenever you turn to the right or to the left." (Isaiah 30:21). Commit your way to the Lord and then tune your ear to 'the word behind you.'

2.  Proceed gently.

Proceed gently, probing patiently for that jewel of a connection that will bring your book to the attention of readers. 

Just as the writing of the book was a process--a series of small, seemingly insignificant steps down a long and dusty highway--so will be the marketing.  Think of the marketing goal you are pursuing as if it were a rare orchid, or a precious archeological find. You wouldn't go after either of these treasures with a bulldozer.  

So, too, in your marketing endeavors, don't rush headlong in every direction.  Listen for the quiet Voice and obey, even when it looks like you're going nowhere.  Even when you don't see a clear destination.  Even when you're tempted to forget that you're following an all-knowing Guide.

3.  Value every step.

Not every connection you make, through social media or personal contact, will necessarily lead to a viral presence on the internet, but every connection will be meaningful. 

Every person you connect with is an eternal being, of great value to God.  Each person is, in fact, more valuable than the piece of writing you are promoting, even when the writing has an eternal purpose. 

Never let your goal of promoting your work overshadow your goal of interacting with and loving people to the glory of God.  And remember that people can sometimes be angels unawares.

4.  Listen to advice from wise persons.

Others who have been on the journey before you are great resources.  Collect tips from successful writers and publishers and follow up on the ones that seem most relevant to your situation. 

Michael Hyatt and The Passive Voice are two blog sources of marketing/publishing information that I read constantly for help on this journey.  Michael Hyatt is helpful because he speaks from great experience as a publisher, but he never lets his experience overshadow the wisdom of the Great Communicator.

The Passive Voice is useful because The Passive Guy collects the best information from a variety of other sources and puts them in a form that is easily accessible.  I don't have to surf for the best information, particularly on self-publishing. 

Look for your own favorite sources and pay attention to them.

5.  Use your own common sense.

God anoints common sense that is attuned to the sound of His voice.  Advice from wise persons may not always be wisely applied to your own situation.  Sometimes your own instincts are better. 

Pay attention to your own inner instincts.  If you are following all of the above steps, your common sense will be a reliable source of wisdom, and a gold mine of inspiration for the journey.

6.  Trust your Guide.

Anointed common sense may or may not follow logical or worldly-wise road signs.  It might lead you on detours that take the long way around.  That's okay.  In marketing, as in writing, the journey is part of the destination.  And you have no way of knowing what time-consuming obstacles those detours might be saving you from. 

Trust your Guide to use your instincts to accomplish the right purposes.

7.  Journal your journey.

Keep track of the progress you make, the steps you take and the places those steps lead you.  Do this for two reasons: 

First, so you can look back one day and see how beautifully you have been led. 

Second, so your journey can be an encouragement to others who are coming along behind you. 
You are in the process of becoming one of those "wise persons" you are now listening to.  Record the wisdom, for your sake and for the sake of others.  For the sake of God's Kingdom.

So the gist of this advice?  Pray.  Be patient.  Listen to the right voices. Enjoy the journey.  You will never pass this way again, and this way is glorious.

Looking for more specific, practical advice?  Next post will give 7 Practical Ways to Market Your Self-Published Book.  

I'm not promising when that post will go up, but I do promise I will plod doggedly down the road toward that next little writing goal!

May God bless you as you do the same.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A Bad Choice

You don't have to watch my granddaughter's first comedy video to understand this blog post, but it will help.

Well, okay.  Watching the video won't help, but it's kind of fun, anyway.

This post is about bad choices.  Specifically, bad marketing choices.

Two years ago, almost to the day, I wrote to John Kehne, author of the official website for December 21, 2012, asking if I could place an ad for Zinovy's Journey with him.  It seemed like a great idea at the time.  His site was about the-end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it and so was my book.  People interested in that topic were already flocking to his website, even though the fateful end-of-time date was over two years away.  He confirmed, in our e-mail correspondence, that his site was receiving, at that time, over 6,000,000 page hits a month!

That's a huge target audience. 

Even considering that only a few of those six million readers would notice an ad, and not all of them would hit the view button, and even fewer would actually choose to buy the book, that's still a sizable market of potential buyers.  I was excited about the possibilities.

I gave John Kehne my elevator pitch, and he seemed to think Zinovy would fit in with other products he was selling, so I stashed the idea away in my file of marketing ideas and plunged on with the publication process.

Now, two years later, the book is published and ready to sell.  A few days ago, when I decided the time was right, I clicked into the 12/21/12 website and applied for a $150 banner ad. I'd already created a banner to the specs he required.  I was ready to go.

But the timing was not so right after all. 
The end of the world is now three months away. 
The topic is hot, and getting hotter all the time. 
And all the ad spaces in the website have been sold.

Now you might think, at this point, that my bad choice was to wait so long to place the ad.  That was my first thought.  But deeper in my consciousness an uncomfortable idea had been squirming around for quite some time.  

Almost from the beginning, I'd wondered about the wisdom of advertising a book set at the time of the coming of God's rule on earth on a website that said the world would end on December 21, 2012, just because the Mayan calendar ended on that date.

In my author's notes in the book I say that anyone who predicts a specific time for the end of the world is either deceived or deceiving. Strange bedfellows, my book and the December 21, 2012 website.

Sometimes what looks like a good idea, from a human perspective, is not a good idea from God's.  I believe my book has a future.  I believe it will find readers.  But I'm actually relieved this marketing door has slammed shut.  There will be other ways to get the word out.

I suspect every writer is confronted with the temptation to prostitute her work, or herself, at some point in the process of writing, publishing and marketing a book.  Perhaps at many points.  What that looks like will be different for every person.  What I might feel is prostitution might simply be good sense to someone else.  But the issue needs to be considered, for every honest writer.  

How much personal integrity am I willing to sacrifice to make my book a success? 

We need to consider that what appears to be a very sensible idea could end up being a bad choice.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Thinking Like a Publisher: Hot Button Topics

Self-publishing authors need to think like traditional publishers. 


A couple of years ago I met a writer at the ACFW conference who had just finished a novel set in the time of the American Civil War.  We talked about the book, and it sounded interesting enough that I asked if I could read the manuscript.  He graciously consented and gave me a copy. 

The story idea was intriguing, about two soldiers, strangers on opposite sides of the war, meeting just before one of them dies at the hands of the other.  In his last moments, the dying man asks his killer to deliver a Bible to his loved ones back home. 

The story sounded like a winner, but I could tell from even the little I knew about fiction writing at that time that the manuscript would need some major revisions. I sent it back to my friend with suggestions about how he should change it and wished him well, but, in my great wisdom, I didn't think he'd succeed in his search for a publisher.

Within a few weeks he sent me word that the Zondervan editor he'd met at the conference had loved the manuscript and had offered him a contract.  Two years later, in 2011, An Eye for Glory came out and sold well.

The manuscript did need major revision.  I'm sure both Karl and his editor worked hard to make it publishable.  So why was the traditional publisher so keen to go with the book?

Because the Zondervan editor was alert to hot topics.


In January, 1861, the south seceded from the Union and the American Civil War began. January 2011 was the 150th anniversary of that historical event.  Small towns all over the southern U.S. would be putting on pageants to celebrate the battles; museums would be setting up special book displays on the topic; and tourists would be streaming into the area all year.

Sue Brower, the savvy Zondervan editor who loved my friend's book, was looking ahead.  She knew, back in 2009, that by 2011, when the book would be published, they'd have a specific target audience big enough to make publication profitable.

Traditional publishers think into the future.  They have to, because publishing takes time.  At least two years if it's done right.  This is true for both traditional and self-publishing.  Though the actual publishing process can happen in days if you do it yourself, the editing, manuscript preparation, and marketing plans--all essential elements of a marketable product--take time. 

Zondervan's timing was perfect.  So was the editor's visionary eye.


Such perfection doesn't always happen.  It's hard to predict trends and future events accurately.  But looking ahead is useful if you're wanting to produce a book that will appeal to enough readers to make your efforts worthwhile.  And gearing both your story and your marketing strategy toward that predicted trend or event can pay good dividends.  

Sometimes the marriage of story and hot topic happens without planning.  When I started writing Zinovy's Journey over 35 years ago, I had no idea what environment the book would be birthed into.  I wasn't even thinking ahead to publication.  I just knew I had to write this story about life on earth after the-end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it. 

The book was published in October of 2011, sliding neatly into the hot button atmosphere of end-of-the-world, doom-and-gloom predictions.  Two years ago, there were over 6,000,000 page hits a month on the official December 21, 2012 website.  I'm sure there are more today.  I'm preparing a strategic marketing blitz on that target audience between now and December 21st. 


If you're planning to publish a book it makes sense to spend some time researching genre and reader market trends.  If you've got a manuscript ready to publish, even a few editorial tweaks could steer the story into more marketable directions.  

Google makes it easy to do this research, as usual.  In just a few minutes I found the following two websites.  There must be many more.  If you find some let me know.  I'll re-post any good sites you comment on.


We writers have to tell the story that's in us.  But if we want the story to resonate with readers, we need to spend a bit of time hot on their trail.  Hot button topics will help us find pathways that will benefit both ourselves and our readers. 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Repenting and Reforming!

DUST AND ASHES~~I'm returning to the world of blogging here after a long hiatus, determined to become more disciplined and regular about posting.  I don't know if you care that much, but I feel obligated to those of you who have expressed an interest in reading my posts, and I'm sorry I haven't given you much benefit so far.
Is it wrong not to blog? Seems like it shouldn't be. Blogging is a voluntary act, after all. So why do I feel guilty for starting a blog and not doing something with it?  ;-(  Is this a usual problem with writers who feel the urge to write but don't have enough discipline to follow through? I'm not sure where the guilt comes from.  

In any case, I thank you for your grace.  I repent in dust and ashes.  And I'll try to follow up on my resolve to put some words down, on a regular basis, that will be of interest to you.

MY AUDIENCE~~I'll be posting in this writing blog about both Zinovy's Journey, the novel I've self-published, and the process of writing and self-publishing, so the blog is intended to be of interest to both readers of the novel and writers. I hope each of you benefit in some way from my random thoughts. 

If you've read the novel and are interested in hearing more about the story, the characters, or the ideas expressed in the book, you'll find that kind of information here in the weeks to come.  

If you're a writer with an interest in the growing, and rapidly changing, phenomenon of self-publishing, you'll also find posts about the writing/publishing process. 

I elected to self-publish on my own, without help from self-publishing presses, so my experiences will be of special interest to writers who are considering going in that direction.  Going the total self-pub route has its drawbacks, for sure.  But since my book came out last October I have had no regrets about doing it this way. I'll try to give you an insider's view of the process.  

YOUR COMMENTS~~Whether you're a Zinovy reader or a writer, I would love it if you would comment on posts that interest you, giving thoughts on your own reading/writing experiences, or asking questions about specific things you'd like to hear about mine.

One of the first rules of blogging is to keep posts short, so this one will end here.  If you're reading this blog for the first time and would like to read more, please sign up on Feedblitz to be notified each time I post.  I promise your mailbox will not spill over with notices that I've said something new!  But I also promise I will try to make the sign-up worth your while.

And please don't forget to comment!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Journey, Zinovy's and Mine

A friend just did a great video interview with me about Zinovy's Journey. If you'd like to learn more about the process and the motivation behind the writing of the book, you're welcome to view the interview at "Going Home."

I miss the opportunity to post more to this blog, but life is consuming me right now. I don't even have time to write about it. It's a good (God) thing, but limits what I have time to do on the side.

Please keep being my friend on this blog. I intend to post more one of these days, if you have the patience to wait.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Kicking the Camel Out of the Tent

Or, "Ten Steps Toward Taming the Technology Tiger."

Yes, I mixed my metaphors. You may take your choice of the two images. If your use of technology is starting to feel more like a bothersome nuisance than a useful tool, choose the camel analogy. If the beast is more like a dangerous wild animal that threatens to devour you, choose the tiger.

My new Mac computer is a camel that encroached into my personal space so gradually I didn’t notice until my bum started to get a little chilly in the cold Canadian winter air outside the tent door. So, during this reflective time of the New Year, I’m making plans to kick the camel out of the tent, or at least to push her over into a smaller corner.

I’m going to become more disciplined and deliberate in my use of this wonderful technology. My goal is to make sure the tail quits swinging the tiger in 2012. (Arrggg. Internal critic is cringing at that irrational expansion of the mixed metaphor, but I’m ignoring her.)

So here are my plans. They are NOT resolutions, or regulations. They are simply steps I plan to take toward the goal of harnessing this wondrous beast so he will find out who is boss, and will get down to the important business of carrying my stuff to the market.

In 2012, I will:

1. Honor my personal priorities: I’ve been practicing this discipline for a while now and it has saved my sanity. I will not turn on my computer in the morning until I’ve spent some quality time with my Lord and Master. Every morning, I need to yank on the anchor chain—to make sure I’m properly attached to my fixed point of reference—before I’m ready to begin sorting through all the flotsam and jetsam the culture has washed up on the internet shore during the night. If I oversleep and don’t have time to spend reading my Bible and talking to Jesus, then I don’t have time for the internet.

2. Write every day: This is a new one for me. I’ve resisted it for a while, because it sounds like a New Year’s resolution with a built in crash mechanism. I suspected it wouldn’t work because it clashes with my lofty ideal of not writing unless I have something worthwhile to say. I’m deathly afraid of spewing out more flotsam and jetsam. But I’ve decided it might work if I connect this step with the previous one. If I make my daily writing assignment a simple entry in my personal devotional journal, I will benefit in several ways: I will become more disciplined about writing; I will become more practiced as a writer; and if the journal entry ends up having some nugget of truth or beauty in it, I can incorporate it into a blog post later. If it’s jetsam and flotsam, it can just float around in my personal eddy pool without bothering anyone else.

3. Manage my computer work time well: I have decided I need to be deliberate about how I use my computer for marketing my book. I’ve collected a huge list of things I could do to increase the exposure of Zinovy’s Journey on the internet. I need to sort out the useful items on that random list and make a plan—a daily, weekly and monthly plan—for traveling down this uncharted road toward worldwide marketing and distribution of ZJ. This planning step will be the first thing on my list of things to do.

4. Blog more consistently: I know. I’ve made this commitment before and not followed through. So I will try again. I will work out a schedule that keeps my two blogs going at a steady pace. I’m not saying I will post often. I will aim for more regular submissions, rather than more frequent ones. I will start out with the intention of posting one blog a week, to one or the other of the two blogs. My goal for the year is to work up to one post for each of the blogs every week. Without posting flotsam or jetsam!

5. Be deliberate about the blogs I follow: I’m discovering so many good blogs out there—writing ones, devotional ones, entertaining ones. I could spend hours every day reading them all. But I’m going to have to discriminate. I will pick the best, most useful ones, and subscribe to them. I may have to choose a number--ten or twelve--and subtract one blog on my list for every new one I find that I want to add. Ouch. This one will be hard to live up to.

6. Develop my social network carefully: I’m making so many new “friends.” I want to “like” them all, but I can’t keep expanding my list of friends forever. I’m going to have to define some parameters. My “friends” should be people I’d like to sit down and have coffee with. And each social networking community needs to be treated a little differently. It took me a while to figure out that LinkedIn connections should only be people I actually know, and I’m still grappling with how to add networking “friends” to my personal community on Facebook. Twitter is a complete mystery to me, but I’m already deciding I only want to follow birdies I can respect and learn from.

7. Interact with, and make a positive contribution to my internet community: I want to give as well as take in this social network exchange. I will not only read my chosen blogs, I will comment, and contribute often to other sites that are worthwhile. I will always give credit for material that is not original, linking to sources of information so the creators can gain internet exposure. When I communicate on Facebook, I will link to friends who are trying to expand their networks, and contribute in ways that will be helpful to them. I will pass on useful information, rather than shallow personal comments.

8. Limit my social chatter: I spend way too much time during the day checking my social networks for no apparent reason. I will set a schedule for checking them, and resist gravitating to the computer, just to see what’s up, when I’m bored or trying to procrastinate.

9. Play Games for the right reasons: Those reasons are: 1) personal refreshment; 2) healthy entertainment; 3) social interaction. I have to confess I’ve got a weakness for Spider Solitaire, but I honestly feel I am not able to play that game any more. It’s too addicting for me. So I have decided to delete that game completely from my roster of potential computer entertainments. I will play other computer games—ones that satisfy without creating an inner vacuum that only gets bigger when I try to fill it. I will play games that involve other people, and I will play them for the connection with my friends as well as for entertainment. Any entertainment activity that does not allow me to walk away feeling refreshed and ready to get back to work will be off limits to me.

10. Exercise spiritual disciplines in regard to overall computer use: My plan, this year, is to fast one day a month from both food and technology. I took a personal retreat day last week, and was amazed at how it clarified my focus and recharged my spiritual and emotional batteries. I’ve already scheduled my next one, and they will be slotted into my calendar every month for the rest of the year. One day out of every thirty, I will abandon my tent to the camel and find a solitary place where there are no backlit screensavers, no “you have mail” dings, no way to comment or reply with my fingers alone. I will check heaven’s mailbox, and read, comment or reply with my heart instead.

So those are my plans. We’ll see how it goes. Until this time next year.

The images in this blog post are from the delightful children's book, Humphrey's First Christmas, Written and illustrated by Carol Heyer.