The Power of a Word

by Patty Smith Hall, @pattywrites

It’s the first of the year, a time when people make resolutions and goals for the coming twelve months. They start exercising or eating healthier, or maybe they decide to simplify by cleaning out all the clutter in their house.

It’s also that time when people pop up on Facebook with their ‘word’ of the year. Some are about lifestyle changes while others deal with spiritual growth or personal goals. I like having a word to focus on, probably because I’m a very goal oriented person but even I was surprised by the starkness of my word.

My word for 2018 is ‘NO.’

A small word, yet so powerful if used correctly and with diligence. So how can you use a ‘no’ to reach your writing goals for this year? Here are three ways:

1) Decide what is important to you

A few years ago, I had a friend who was caught up in a whirlwind of activities. If she wasn’t doing something for her church, she was on some city committee or running a book club. Now all that’s well and good, but she was frustrated that her writing career had stalled. With all her social obligations, she didn’t have the time to give attention to her writing.

When you’re a ‘yes’ person, everything feels important and you want to help in any way you can. But the truth is you can’t, and make any kind of difference. You’ll stretch yourself so thin, there’ll be nothing left for what matters to you!

Ask yourself this question—if you had one week to do the one thing you wanted to do most in this world, what would it be? Volunteering at the kids’ school? Getting ahead in your job? Writing the first draft of your novel? Is your ministry teaching Sunday school or writing devotionals? This is your opportunity to decide what you want to do, no one’s else’s agenda but yours. Once you’ve narrowed your focus down to one or two choices, you know what you want to give your ‘yes’ too.

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2) Give up those activities that steal your time

Now that you’ve narrowed your focus down to one or two things, it’s time to cut those other activities out of your life. I’m not going to lie to you—this is difficult, not just for you but for those people that’s come to rely on your ‘yes.’ They may say things like ‘how will we ever get along without you?’ The guilt is hard to handle—I know this firsthand. Years ago, when I first started writing, I was substitute-teaching. Both my husband and I agreed that I should quit and focus on my writing, but the school where I worked pushed back on the idea. How would they get along without me? When I told my husband this, his reply was priceless—‘I don’t know, but they’re going to find out starting tomorrow!’

I love what my pastor once shared with me. We all want to be a part of good things, but God wants us to take part in the great. Are you too busy doing the good that you’re ignoring God’s great for you?

3) Say No to Time Suckers

We all can agree the internet is entertaining and intellectually stimulating and a number of other things. It’s also a black hole that eats up precious moments of our writing time. Looking up a document at the Library of Congress can turn into an hour long political discussion on Facebook! And by the time you’ve finished, you not only alienated potential readers, you’ve forgotten what you were researching in the first place!

Say no to the madness now! Guard your writing time like a bulldog with his bone. Employ apps like Liberate and Freedom which restricts your use of the web while you’re writing. Make a pact with an accountability partner. Set a word count and make it before you can check your email.

One of the most useful things I learned in school was a limerick my fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Payne taught me. It goes like this:

Sixty seconds in a minute, didn’t take it, didn’t chose it but it’s up to me to use it.

Use your time, and your ‘no’ wisely.

Seven Brides for Seven Mail-Order Husbands Romance Collection

Seven women seek husbands to help them rebuild a Kansas town.

Meet seven of Turtle Springs, Kansas’, finest women who are determined to revive their small town after the War Between the States took most of its men. . .and didn’t return them. The ladies decide to advertise for husbands and devise a plan for weeding out the riff raff. But how can they make the best practical choices when their hearts cry out to be loved?

Patty Smith-Hall is a multi-published, award-winning author with Love Inspired Historical/Heartsong and currently serves as president of the ACFW-Atlanta chapter. She currently lives in North Georgia with her husband of 30+ years, Danny; two gorgeous daughters and a future son-in-love. Her next release, New Hope Sweethearts will
be available in July on Amazon.

Five Ways to Survive the Publishing Jungle

by Patty Smith Hall, @pattywrites

The publishing world has changed drastically over the last ten years. When I first started attending writer’s conference, a self-published book was considered a career killer and e-books were something out of an old Jetson’s carton. Bookstores thrived with readers standing in lines for hours just to get their hands on a new release like Harry Potter or Twilight.

Then the Kindle came along, and Amazon gave readers the opportunity to buy their books instantly, and usually at a lower price. Publishers scrambled to catch up with the technology. Once prosperous bookstores closed. With Amazon publishing and Create a Space, self or indie publishing became the cool kid on the block. Writers who had languished waiting for that elusive contract found large audiences and success by marketing through social media. Editors are now as interested in your social media presences as much as your story idea.

All in ten short years.

Change is inevitable so how does a writer survive(and thrive!) in the publishing jungle. Here are five ways:

1) Be diligent.
Writing for publication is not for the meek of heart. It requires doing the work, day in and day out. You can’t be published if you never write anything to submit. And while classes, workshops and conferences are great, you can only apply what you’ve learned by putting fingers to the keyboard(or in my case, pen to paper.) Settle on a daily word count you can live with, put your backside in a chair and don’t get up until you’ve met your goal for the day. Tomorrow, repeat.

When you finish, start working on the edits. Make your work the best book you’ve written—until you start your next one!

2) Be studious
Being a great writer isn’t enough in this day and age, and publishing houses don’t finance the PR campaigns of just ten years ago. The job of marketing your book will fall mainly on your shoulders. Read articles and books on marketing—one that came highly recommended to me is 5-Minute Book Marketing for Authors by Penny C Sansevieri. Ask questions about marketing sites like BookBub and Faithful Reader. Here is a list of just a few:

  • BookBub
  • Faithful Reader
  • E-reader Café
  • The Fussy Librarian
  • Vessel Project

3) Be social

You want to sell your book? It’s up to you to market it and the best way to do that(without breaking the bank!) is social media. I know it can feel overwhelming—there are parts of social media that can make you explode. Whether you love to blog or tweet, or post on your Facebook page, find three ways you can commit to that will elevate your social media presence. Once you pick them, you can use hootsuite to schedule your post so that you can keep writing. Here are a few that I’ve used in the past:

  • Facebook Personal or Group Blog
  • Twitter Snapchat
  • Instagram Pinterrest
  • Google+ Tumblr
  • E-Newsletter(a must!)

Check into Ryan Zee if you’d like to grow your e-newsletter list—for my $50 investment, I got over a thousand emails addys from readers asking to be put on my list with a very low op-out ratio. If you love Twitter, you might want to look into Ask David who for a small fee($10-20 for thirty tweets) will tweet your new book release to his 50K following of serious readers.

4) Be fruitful
Being a novelist doesn’t mean you’re restricted to simply writing books. There are numerous ways to earn a living from the knowledge you’ve gleamed over the years. Novelist and Publisher Cynthia Hickey once told me she approaches the writing business like a stool—you need three legs to hold it up. So use the power of three—write devotionals for magazines, offer your editing skills, become a writing coach or guest speaker. Other writers offer their own writing retreats or mini-conferences. While these will bring in revenue, they also are a marketing opportunity. Remember, the more you get your name or your work in front of a new audience, the higher your sales.

5) Be open to change

The publishing world continues to evolve so it’s important to change with it. Keep an eye out for new and improved ways to meet the challenges of the ever changing market and technology in the publishing world as a whole.TWEETABLES

Five Ways to Survive the Publishing Jungle by Patty Smith Hall (Click to Tweet)

Seven Brides for Seven Mail-Order Husbands

Seven women seek husbands to help them rebuild a Kansas town.

Meet seven of Turtle Springs, Kansas’, finest women who are determined to revive their small town after the War Between the States took most of its men. . .and didn’t return them. The ladies decide to advertise for husbands and devise a plan for weeding out the riff raff. But how can they make the best practical choices when their hearts cry out to be loved?

Patty Smith-Hall is a multi-published author with Love Inspired Historical and Barbour, Patty lives in North Georgia with her husband of 30+ years, Danny; two gorgeous daughters, her son-in-love and a grandboy who has her wrapped around his tiny finger. When she’s not writing on her back porch, she’s spending time with her family or working in her garden. 

Preparing for the Writing Battle

By Patty Smith Hall

I believe a person should know what they’re walking into before they go head long into battle and make no mistake about it–getting published is a fight. It takes knowledge and strategies; knowing when to retreat and when to push the boundaries. It is a never-ending learning process–just when you think you’ve got a grasp on the industry, it evolves into something new and ever-changing.

Between 250-300 manuscripts are published annually. This doesn’t include Love Inspired who publishes 240 books per year. So we’re talking 490-540 inspirational books released by publishers every year, That’s 540 slots for both pre-pubbed and published authors to fill. When I asked two editor friends of mine how many submissions they received in a year’s time, both said about 200 unsolicited manuscripts(That means manuscripts they didn’t ask for.) So if you added the number of submissions they probably got from all the conferences they attended plus the proposals they received from published authors, you’ve got close to a thousand plus manuscripts per publishing house per year. 43K for 540 slots. What that means is that as a new writer trying to break into the market, you’ve got to be at the top of your game. Your story has to be solid from start to finish, unique yet familiar. And published writers have to continue to produce at a high level to keep getting contracts.
And the battle doesn’t end when you hold that first book in your hands. Most publishers would like at least 2 books out of an author per year which can be overwhelming if you’ve not a particularly fast writer like me. Their budgets have been cut so that you’ve also taken on the job of marketing and publicity which means a presence on social media as well as book signings and a teaching platform. Then there’s proposals you’ll need to work on so that once the book you’re working on is finished, you have another one under contract.  And don’t forget the business part of it–the royalty statements, the contracts. While you may have an agent, it’s still very important that you understand this part of the business.
Facts you need to know about the publishing world:

Publishing is always evolving

If you’ve ever been to a writing conference, there’s a list of about 5-7 classes you can chose from during your class time. Now certain classes never change–POV, plotting, the basics of writing. But you can see which direction the writing winds are blowing if you look at the classes dealing with genre and business. The first four conferences I attended might as well have been a hen party with all the chick lit classes being taught. Every editor was looking for the next ‘Bridget Jones Diary,’ and no one, I mean NO ONE, wanted to talk about historical fiction because it was as dead as a doornail. Four years later, you couldn’t find a class on Chick-lit at the ACFW national conference. You also couldn’t find classes on two other areas that had publishers quaking in their boots–social media and self-publishing.  Now, e-publishing is a huge topic at most every writing conference. 
As a writer looking toward publication, you need to keep aware of these changes. Follow:
  1. Publisher’s Weekly which gives you daily reports of what is happening in the writing world.
  2. Subscribe to Writer’s Digest
  3. Read Agent’s blogs. Chip MacGeogor and Steve Laube offer tons of information on the publishing front.
  4. Also, look at what ABA publishing houses are aquiring–Christian Fiction is generally two year behind them in ‘fad’ books like Chick Lit, so keep and eye on the ABA market to see what’s coming down the pike.

Publishing goes in cycles

Back in 2008, I entered the ACFW Genesis contest hoping to get some feedback on my first try at a historical romance but I never expected this from one of the judges:
‘You’re a good writer but you’ll never sell this.’ That judge’s argument was against the time period I wrote in which was WWII–everyone in publishing knew that WWII was extremely unpopular with editors. As the historical market was just beginning to take off again, she suggested that I concentrate on another time period or better still, woman’s fiction(that year’s Chick Lit.) But between the time I won the Genesis for that same manuscript and the day Love Inspired Historical offered me a contract, the historical market, and WWII books specifically took off.
So what did I learn through this experience? That genres go up and down in popularity. What may be on every editor’s wish list one day might not tickle their fancy the next. Just keep writing your story. Your day is coming!

The Writing World is very small

Writing is a very lonely business so it’s nice to connect with other writers online through Facebook or on a writing loop, and that’s great–but no matter how innocent your comment may be, THINK TWICE before posting it on any of your social media because there are agents and editors lurking out there, watching. While it’s okay to rant about the rejection letter on that book you were so sure was going to sell, it’s not okay to badmouth the editor who didn’t buy it. Think about it–would you want to work with someone who was so unprofessional and immature as to rant about you on Facebook? And if you don’t think that’s true–I had an author friend who went off on an editor from a very well-known publishing house(I actually saw this on one of my writing loops) and it took four years for her career to recover from the damage she’d done in that one little rant.
Characteristics of a Successful Writer
Perseverance –you’ve got to write even when you don’t want to, don’t feel like it, or physically can’t. You’ve got to keep at it when the rejects pile up, when everyone around you is telling you to give up, and when you’re so discouraged by it all, you wonder what you were thinking. I wrote my first two books flat on my back when I couldn’t sit up in a chair. Take Dora from Finding Nemo credo as your own–just keep swimming!
Teachable spirit–Sorry to say, but you will never learn everything there is about writing a book. Which is great because the craft keeps stretching you, keeps pushing you to write better, to be better. But if you close yourself off to the possibility of learning something new, you’re cheating yourself and your readers. 
Tough skin–not everyone is going to like your writing. Heck, not everyone is going to read your writing. And that’s okay. You can’t get your feelings hurt every time your critique partners send back your submission bathed in red ink because if you can’t handle that, you’ll never be able to handle some of the scathing reviews on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. So remember, those comments about talking heads or passive writing are not personal, it’s to help you reach your goal of being published.


Preparing for the #Writing Battle – @Pattywrites on @NovelRocket (Click to Tweet)

Make no mistake about it – getting published is a fight – @PattyWrites on @NovelRocket #writing #publishing (Click to Tweet)

Patty Smith-Hall is a multi-published, award-winning author with Love Inspired Historical/Heartsong and currently serves as president of the ACFW-Atlanta chapter. She currently lives in North Georgia with her husband of 30+ years, Danny; two gorgeous daughters and a future son-in-love. Her next release, New Hope Sweethearts will be available in July on Amazon.

Are You Ready To Publish?

The world of publishing is changing. And you know this unless you just awoke from a long 10 year nap.

There are more options available to writers today than ever before. 
The e-publishing entrepreneurs have changed the way we see book publishing. 
Writers around the world rejoice. Authors with no platform, or with a stack of rejections can publish their books on their own.
Long time authors holding rights revisions can now do something affordable and effective to revitalize their out-of-print books.
And the publishers can do the same. There’s new life to backlists. I recently had a four year old title, The Wedding Dress, hit the New York Times Bestseller list.
If you’re not published yet, traditionally or independently, you have all kinds of options. But you must ask yourself, “Am I ready?”
Just because you can be published doesn’t mean you should be published.
I know, I know, it’s so hard to wait when you’ve been working on a book for months or perhaps years. 
You’ve edited that thing to death and your crit partners have read ad nauseam and refuse to read it “one more time.” 
You are ready to get your book out there. After all, you love your story. It’s your baby. But traditional publishers have failed to see it’s merits. So, you sneak over to Amazon’s CreateSpace and think, “Hmm.. I could just publish it myself.”
I love your entrepreneurial thinking. Going outside the box and finding a way to tell your story is key to being a great author. 
I did something similar back in ’02 when I sold my little romance, This Time, to an e-publisher. No one had ever heard of a Nook or Kindle back then but I thought, “Even if one person reads it and enjoys it, one person outside my circle of friends, then it’s worth it.” 
While it’s a sweet story, it’s not my best writing. It was only the second book I’d ever written. I’ve learned so much since then.
There are more things to consider about writing than “being published.” Or that the publishers just don’t “get” or like your story.
Publishers have to consider their market. They must give something to the sales team that they can pitch to a bookseller in a few short minutes. If that.
Publishers have to consider their own business goals and brands. Your story might be fantastic in every way but not a product that fits the vision and goals of a publisher. 
There are times I’m not sure I can come up with a high concept, pitchable story idea that will fire-up a sales team. So I consult with my writing partner, my agent, my editor and on occasion, my dog. She’s a good listener.
For every indie success story such as J. A. Konrath and Amanda Hocking there are a hundred Noname Jones and WhoAreYou Smith with books languishing in e-publishing la-la land.
Indie books, above all books, it could be argued, need to be a cut above. Why? Because the competition to be seen is incredible. 
If you are considering independent publishing, or even going with a small publishing house, consider these things:
  1. Rewrite your book. Serious. Don’t just edit and “fix.” Rewrite. Books need to be crafted. And they are not written, they are rewritten. Fork out the money for a substantive edit. Then for a line edit. What’s the difference? A substantive edit is also called a macro edit. It’s a wide review of the story and characters from a trained eye to see if all the components work. You need more than advance readers in order to craft a good story. Readers often don’t have a critical eye. They overlook inconsistencies. They don’t understand craft. A skilled editor can help with characterization, plot, symbols and metaphors. But again, a macro edit is a sweeping, top-down view of your story.  I once worked with a private client who’d been through many professional “editors.” While they helped her with grammar and perhaps some minor elements of the story, they provided no services to her with story crafting. Her story and premise were riddled with holes. So find someone to help you craft your book. 
  2. Hire a good line editor. Also called a micro editor. I love line editors. They really get into the “weeds” of the story. They focus on sentences and words where a substantive editor focuses on scenes, chapters, story and characters. Line editors can really help shore up a story and fine tune minute details.
  3. Hire a good cover artist. Unless you’re a skilled artist, don’t try to do the cover yourself.   I hate when I see a poor quality cover on an indie book. It makes me not want to read it. There are a lot of skilled artist who will create a cover for a reasonable price. Also, research components of a good cover. Writers usually want way too much detail. But covers are really visual concepts of what the story is about. Covers should convey a feeling. It’s true, books are judged by the cover.
  4. Pricing. The free verses cheap debate. Should authors give their work away for free? Aren’t we worthy to be paid for our labor? But free often gets the consumer’s attention. But so does cheap. Latest news I’ve heard is $.99 and $1.99 are fair and solid prices for new indie authors. But do your research. 
  5. Build your tribe and social media platforms. Build relationships with other writers, with readers, with publishers. Be a friend. Be a fan. Be a supporter. Talk about others as much as you talk about yourself. I know when readers or other writers shout out to their social media venues about my books, I’m more than happy to do it for them in return. If I like a book, I post about it. I write a good review. Get involved in the writing community. Networking is the key to just about everything. Publishing, especially indie publishing, is no exception.
  6. Set aside at least $1,000 to $3,000 for promotion. You just have to do it. Network with indie authors who have experience with promotion. Consider Book Bub and other indie promotional sites.
  7. Pray. Be patient. Trust the Lord’s timing is perfect for you.
I hope these help to help. Remember, no book on Amazon or Barnes & Noble is better than a bad book. 🙂


New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author Rachel Hauck lives in sunny central Florida.

A graduate of Ohio State University with a degree in Journalism, she worked in the corporate software world before planting her backside in uncomfortable chair to write full time eight years ago.
Rachel serves on the Executive Board for American Christian Fiction Writers. She is a mentor and book therapist at My Book Therapy, a conference speaker and worship leader.
Rachel writes from her two-story tower in an exceedingly more comfy chair. She is a huge Buckeyes football fan.

Here latest novel, The Wedding Chapel landed on Booklist’s Top Ten Inspirationals for 2015.
Visit her web site: