Archive for the 'Publishing and Marketing' Category



A Compelling Product AND a Platform?

So says Michael Hyatt, author of Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World, a recent book I’ve acquired, and part of the cause for my recent toe-dipping into the sea of marketing gurus.

Early in the book, he quotes from “an aspiring author trying to make a name for herself amidst her literally millions of competitors,” who asks,

“Doesn’t a good book stand on its own anymore? Are writers now doomed to spend the bulk of our workdays trawling for blog subscribers?”

His answer is no, it’s not enough to simply write a good book, and yes, “you will need to be proactive about creating the who part of the equation.” By equation, he refers to the time-honored saying, “success isn’t so much about what you know as who.” And that “who” is your platform.

He’s not alone in this assessment. I’m coming to the end of my reading of Merchants of Culture, a book describing the recent history and resultant status of the publishing world, and it also paints a discouraging picture of just how much writers need to stop focusing on writing and start focusing on courting readers.

I’ve said before that I am not comfortable with that, nor suited for it (it seems vaguely hypocritical to be trying to make friends with people just so they’ll buy your book… but maybe that’s not what everyone means). I also don’t t have the mental and emotional space for it. Nor do I have the time, not if I’m actually going to write this next book.

I wrote all that almost three weeks ago, and got derailed in part because I didn’t know what I wanted to say after the fragment above. Or, if we get right down to it, what I really thought about it.

I think I’ve mentioned that I attended a webinar on all this, presented in fact, by the same Michael Hyatt mentioned above. In fact,that’s when I bought his book. (And I have to admit it was pretty clear that he was probably doing the webinar in part to have that exact effect.)

In any case, that was back in June, and was what started the chain of events that led to last Monday’s crazy-makers post. According to Hyatt, blogging, done right, is the means by which you build your platform of “who’s.” He advised us to start blogging if we didn’t and if we already had a blog, to commit to a certain number of blogs a week, then rigorously stick to that commitment.

At the same time, we were getting messages from the pulpit of Lighthouse Bible Church encouraging us to step out in expanding the ministry associated with our spiritual gifts. The confluence of the two events caused me to pay a bit more attention to Hyatt’s advice than I might otherwise, and thus I allowed myself to at least consider the notion of doing things that might expand my readership.

After all, as many Christian writers have said, if it’s the word of God you are proclaiming and promoting, why wouldn’t you want to find ways to expand the reach of your ministry?  Paul didn’t just hang out in Antioch waiting for people to come to Him. Jesus didn’t operate that way either.

So… I decided to see what would happen if I took a few tiny steps in that direction, if in fact, I would even be able to do so. I already had a blog, and had been doing about 4 posts a week, so why not see if I could add one more and commit to being consistent about it?

Yes, yes, I know: here we are with some more Rules again!  Am I just putting myself into some other kind of bondage?

That’s a strong possibility. It certainly was what happened at the start of this.

But still, I know our God is not against routine, because He’s set up the world that way… day and night,  full moon and new, season and season, sowing and harvesting, year and year.

I guess, what I’m seeing more clearly is that it’s not the having of goals or routines or guidelines for your work that’s the problem, it’s making everything hinge upon them. You can develop them, but the fulfillment of them isn’t to be the source of your happiness or misery. My flesh just has a very strong tendency to abuse them. Maybe it’s the organizational version of drug addiction.

Having rules and order and systems have always spurred me to me think I’m finally  going to be in control, able to do whatever I am wanting to do, and having done it, feeling good about myself and thus happy. Not one word of which is true!

If I can remember that, then as I go forward with the guidelines as tools instead of Master and keep my eyes on my true Master, perhaps they could do what they were designed to do.

Besides, it seems you must have at least some sort of guidelines by which to operate or there’ll just be chaos and confusion, and you’ll never get the thing done you’ve been called to do.

So. Guidelines, then.  Being always ready to dump them should the Spirit lead otherwise, or God just reach in and change things. But not afraid to use them should the situation warrant.

Thus I implemented the objective of trying to get in 5 posts a week.

It was bumpy at first, and though I haven’t succeeded 100% of the time,  there’ve been a number of weeks that I have succeeded and that’s cool.  And more and more I’m getting accustomed to the routine…

The questions that remain unanswered thus far are… can I keep it up long-term? And can I actually write the book while doing it?

If I can’t… well, then I guess the posts will have to be pared back.  I have to say, though, that for the moment, Sky seems to be coming back alive where for so long it’s just been dead, and so far, so good…

How To Drive Yourself Crazy

You start out having a contracted book that you are supposed to be writing and having so many different difficulties, intrusions, interruptions, distractions and delusions that you are proceeding at a snail’s pace, seemingly no matter what you do.

Combine with a previous book repackaged and on the market again, and generating  feelings of responsibility in the author for doing something to let the world know.

Add an invitation to join a website that will provide much information and help on how to market your books in a world that is rapidly becoming a continuous, never-ending, deluge of advertising.

Accept the invitation because… um… well, it sounds good, and maybe I’ll learn something.

Attend the first seminar. Take ten pages of notes and end up with TONS of things to do to have a profitable web presence.

[Yes, yes, I know — I’ve said in the past that I’m relying on God to promote my books and what in the world am I doing falling for this? Well… what can I say? I’m weak. Frail. Easily led astray. Rethinking that stand. Maybe it was good for then, but this is now and perhaps I could do some of that now. Not a lot. But some… Maybe this would be a form of stepping out in new ways of using my gift of encouragement.]

Here are some of those things you can do to build your “platform”:

Integrate your website with your blog. Redo both blog and website so that it’s more professional looking, maybe hire someone to do that, which means shop around for various web designers. Or figure out how to do it all yourself.

Write more blog posts. Write better blog posts. Answer every comment.

Go to other blogs and read them. Comment there. Answer any responses to the comment you left. Maybe quote from someone else’s blog and then write about how you disagree. Maybe they’ll link to you and rebut. Then you can rebut the rebuttal and get into an argument. That’s great for getting links to your blog and the attention of the world, which likes controversy and argument.

Learn what Google Analytics is.  Get on Google+.

Learn to write better titles/headlines. Study other headlines. Keep a headline file. Spend as much time writing your headline/title as you do writing your post.

Take a bunch of photographs to use on the blog, because They say that you must have images on your blog. Guest blog as much as possible. Get in as many discussions as possible.

Learn how to start a Facebook Author page and then do that. Find out what a Landing Page is. Maybe set one up.

Interact daily with those who come to your Facebook Author Page.

Make an author page for Amazon.

Learn how to optimize your website/blog and do that .

Get on Twitter. Learn how to write good tweets…  And don’t forget to come up with your own daily blog posts…

Oh yeah. And get that contracted book written. The sooner the better. (That would be The Other Side of the Sky…)

And thus we get to crazy. Too much to do even aside from all that. And with that I am over the top. Which of all those things should I do? For how long? When? How can I balance that with working on the book and the work I have to do around the house?  Where’s the peace in all this? Not there. Maybe I’m just weak… Well, yes. I am weak. But His power is manifest in my weakness, so that’s a good thing.

He’ll do what needs doing. I just have to turn it over to Him and let Him.

And so I’ve taken a little trip without even leaving home these last few weeks. I’ve learned a few things.

Like “A Tomato, A Coin and A Die” is a really bad title. (I should have called it “Two Techniques That Helped Me Get Past Writer’s Block”. Actually I might go back and retitle it just to see what will happen.)

I’ve learned that there are a lot of blogs out there that are highly “successful” (in that they have hundreds of thousands of visitors) in telling other people how they can be successful on their own blogs. Which seems mildly ironic, even a bit disingenuous.

I’ve been praying for direction in all this from the start. And I am pretty sure that I have come full circle on this crazy ride yet again, and am getting off at the platform now, ready to go back home and just focus on writing Sky.

Because the thing it’s all shown me — once again —  is that, yes, indeed,  all that other stuff takes up not only time but mental space.  At least for me. I tend to want to focus deeply on things when they engage me, and when I try to do all that stuff, well, the focus gets fragmented and I get farther away from the world of Sky than ever.

I won’t say I won’t do any of that, but for now I do know that the focus has to be on my WIP.

Self-Disicipline is a Boxing Match

A couple of weeks ago, on the advice of my agent, I attended an online Webinar by Michael Hyatt, former CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, and its present chairman. He’s a “professional blogger, author and speaker whose blog is consistently ranked in the top three for Productivity, Leadership, Publishing and Social Media Marketing.”  This last from the jacket copy of his latest book Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World.

The webinar was very informative, and I took a lot of notes, though I have yet to go back through them. I ordered his book, as well, though I have yet to officially read it. I have sampled here and there, and it looks good.

My lack of reading notes or book, however, is due to one of the first pieces of advice Mr. Hyatt offered during his webinar, which was that if you’re going to blog, commit to doing it regularly. He has himself committed to posting five days a week for some years now (though he invites guest bloggers to present material on Fridays). 

Since I’ve been anything but consistent with my own blogging  for the last few months … years?… I thought maybe I’d make a change. I know I had a schedule of four posts a week for some time, so I’m pretty sure that’s doable. For the last  couple of weeks though, I thought I’d try out five days a week and see if that might work, reserving Fridays for something fun and easy, like pics of Quigley.

And so I have done that. 

In addition to that, using a technique I discovered through Hyatt’s website, I’ve been working steadily on Sky. Well, until last Thursday when I sort of wandered off the track. Sometimes things come into my life that get my flesh going… it can be anything from worry, frustration, self-pity, guilt… and it’s hard to turn that off and get to work.

I also got caught up in the blog posts and the comments and… just never seemed to get around to Sky again. I don’t really know why.

Sometimes at the end of the day I can’t recall how I ended up doing the things that I did. I wonder… am I getting dementia?

Or might it be…

lack of self-discipline?

Oooooh nooooo!  Not THAT again! I thought I’d put all that to bed. I thought I was done wrestling with all that. Self-discipline is a fruit of the Spirit. I’ve learned well and truly that I can’t do much with it apart from Him.

But… have I consistently asked Him to help me in this area? Have I confessed my sin of self-indulgence when I wandered off? Or maybe not self-indulgence, because often  it’s more… mindless distraction. Sometimes I feel like the dog in one of Koontz’s books (I think it was Dragon Tears) who had been given an assignment but on the way kept getting distracted:

“Ooh! An old shoe! What a lovely smell. must stop and investigate this … and what’s this? a puddle of water… and a bee… ooh, chase the bee…. now the smell of cat… there it is!  Off!  After it! “

That was all a paraphrase. I no longer have the book to quote from, but it was something like that. I particularly remember the bee. And the whole portrayal was so spot on….

But I digress. The fact is, this bugaboo of self-discipline has returned for another round. And why not? The last time I wrestled with it, I ended defeated, not really understanding how it was to be implemented.

If it’s a fruit of the Spirit, are we to TRY to have it? But then might we not run the risk of doing it in the flesh? It’s clearly something those who aren’t saved can exercise, like the very athletes that Paul references in 1 Corinthians 9:25 – 27

Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.

Strong’s definition of hupopiazo, which is the Greek word for “discipline,” means “to hit under the eye (buffet or disable an antagonist as a pugilist), that is, (figuratively) to tease or annoy (into compliance), subdue (one’s passions), to keep under, to weary.

That is not at all the notion I had of “disciplining the body”. My notion was of one who ALWAYS ate the right amount of food, got up at dawn to exercise, went down the gym on schedule every day to train… whether you felt like it or not. The above definition gives quite a different image.  One of a battle.

A boxing match where you’re hitting your opponent again and again with a lot of effort while he keeps hitting you back. Paul’s seeking to make his body a slave, and slaves don’t want to be enslaved. They rebel. They fight. They run away. Especially arrogant and willful slaves like our flesh, determined as it is to set itself against the Spirit.

This metaphor implies a lot of effort and tenacity. A lot of sweat and blood and bruising. The opponent is not going to go down easily.  And in fact, the only way it’s going to go down is if you are boxing under the power of the Spirit.

So that would mean confession of sins, so as to be under His control,  and bringing the word of God to bear upon the situation. Not necessarily in recalling this verse where Paul talks about what he’s doing, so much as the part about why he’s doing it. So that he won’t be disqualified for reward — that imperishable crown he mentions first. 

Wow. I never thought of it like this. It definitely warrants further consideration…

What Do You Think of the New Cover?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just thought I’d do a bit of an informal poll today — what do you all think of the new cover?

Looking at them side by side, I can see that the original cover was aimed much more at women — with the pink and light blue and purple (on the back). And the woman walking  in the middle, of course!

On the other hand, it says “adventure” to me very clearly. I especially like the multiple arches, though when I first saw it, I  was somewhat alarmed. I hadn’t written the original description of the scene with multiple arches, seeing as  passing through it was to represent the one-time decision of believing in Christ.

But then my editor (who is now my agent) told me about his discussions with the art director and how the multiple arch design worked much better artistically than the single arch and did I think I could rewrite the scene to include it?

Well that threw me a bit, but I went to the Lord, asked for guidance and He provided it through a friend who pointed out that the verb tense for believing is the one where you make the decision once but the results go on forever.

Loved that. So I rewrote the scene, and the arches stayed.

The new cover is more mysterious and science fiction-y and definitely has a more masculine feel than the first. Which I think might have been the intention. Ten years ago, the primary buyers and readers of Christian fiction were women. And although typically it’s the men who go for science fiction, it made no sense in the marketers’ opinion to try to appeal to them even if Arena was science fiction. And so they did not. It’s one of the reasons why Christian science fiction and fantasy has had such a difficult time getting going in this field.

With their reprints, Bethany House is trying for a simpler, more … generic? … look than the first releases and I think this one’s quite intriguing.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on it, whatever they might be.


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