Grabbing Our Attention for a Shift in Vision

The day I wrote this post, we mourned again the shift
that happened to us as a nation on that September 11, the lives lost and
the pain experienced by so many on that day and in the days since. We-the-people
and they-the-leaders have heard and told so many lies in the ensuing years . . . some purposeful, some hopeful, some just plain stupid.
by Zachary Staines, Unsplash
Turmoil in the heavens (titled by me)
We live in times that challenge us to ask questions of
ourselves and each other. How shall we live? How did we get here and what are we
going to do, what can we do, to climb out of the mess? I hear hopelessness from
so many, anger at the political games and the candidates, fear about tomorrow
and tomorrow’s tomorrow.
This isn’t a political post. It’s a writer’s post. It’s a
human’s post. I’ve asked these questions here before, and I’m asking them again
because I don’t think I’m the only one pondering these things. Don’t you feel a
stirring to do something different—or at least to do it differently?
I just returned from the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference in Nashville, the first ACFW gathering I’ve attended since
2010. Cost nixed any thought of ones in between, that and wondering if I fit
among CBA writers. I’m merely a Christian who writes fiction instead of a Christian
who writes fiction that’s Christian. There I go, anthropomorphizing books: our stories don’t, in themselves, have a belief system. Let’s say instead that
some Christians write fiction that does more than reveal their worldview; it
actually provides a strong and unequivocal faith message. My “Oh, I can’t
afford it” had some backbone in the thought that a conference designed for those
who write for the tribe instead of those who write across lines wasn’t
something I needed.
If you’ve read my recent posts here, such as Writing in a Time of Discontent and Writing and Reading When the Living Ain’t Easy, you will have noticed a certain angst building in me. I’ve
begun to believe this was a God-driven discontent. I had no specific reason for it, no
answers. All I knew was that I longed for a new or renewed vision.
NASA, Unsplash
Vision? Yes, please.

To attend or not to attend? I’m frugal by nature, and I
hate to inconvenience others. Attending would disrupt my husband’s life. He’d
have to man the fort here, and because my mama lives with us, he’d be in charge
of meals. (Michael doesn’t cook.) I’d already booked a flight to the Women’s
Fiction Writers Retreat in New Mexico. And now I was thinking of zipping off to
another one? It felt selfish. Greedy. The idea of seeing old friends didn’t
have the weight it needed to absolve me of guilt. Nor did the fact that on the
way home I’d be fulfilling a commitment to address a book club.

But I couldn’t rid myself of the idea that I was supposed
to be there, as if God wanted to do something in me and with me and for me,
something He could do best if I spent too much money, drove too many hours, and
got myself to Nashville.
My beloved husband said, “Go. We’ll be fine.”
I went.
And, oh, my. What an experience. Old friends, yes, and new
friends added to the blessing. But the inspirational messages from Don Maass
and Ted Dekker, the worship, the sheer joy of being among other writers at
whatever stage they found themselves, was so powerful that I wanted to do a
happy jig. The only downside to the entire experience was driving the mountain
road west of Asheville with marauding trucks for company. They didn’t like me
any more than I liked them.  
I am among the most blessed of women. I have a husband who
adores me and supports my dreams and sails with me. I have family of whom
I’m immensely proud. I have friends and tribes, and I have the most fun job in
the world, that of crafting stories and sharing love with readers. And I have a
God who pushes and prods me into action because He knows what I need.
I came away from Nashville with one answer, at least. I will continue with added zeal to cleave unto Him
with all my heart and not let the enemy distract me from my purpose. I won’t
worry about what others do. I will do—with all my might—whatever my hand finds
to do. Right now, that means loving Him and loving my readers with all I have
in me and crafting whatever story He calls me to write, hoping that His love
will pour through the words into hearts more in need of Him than ever before.

by Joe Gardner, Unsplash
Opening to the Light (titled by me)
I can’t fix the times we are in and neither can you. But
perhaps we can write stories that offer hope and point readers in the direction
they need to go, in whatever way we’re called to do that.
Because I had such a spectacular time, I asked three
friends to share their thoughts about the conference. 
Robin Patchen, http://robinpatchen.com,
critique partner and friend, said this about her experience this year. “The biggest takeaway for me was the sense of community. I
love the way veterans reach out to people new to ACFW and try to make them feel
comfortable. I love the way ‘big’ authors don’t act big but sit in classes and
learn with everybody else. I love getting to share my stories and hear others’
stories—not just our books, but our lives. I love feeling like I’m part of this
great, godly, flawed, writing, editing, publishing, crying, celebrating, and
worshipping community of crazy writers.”
Sharon Srock, http://womenofvalleyview.blogspot.com wrote, “…It’s such an encouragement to sit in classes, shoulder
to shoulder with much more accomplished writers and see your own ‘Ah ha’ moment
mirrored on their faces as an instructor gives us all something new to think
about. So much of Donald Maass’s early-bird session added to what I already
had. His questions about what can make things worse for your protagonists, what
can make them feel more human, what new highs or lows can you add to the story
were exactly what I needed. I finished the conference with Susan May
Warren’s session on ways to supercharge your series… Add in the chance to put
faces to names and seeing that we all struggle with the same doubts and worship
the same way… I can’t wait till next year.”
And then there was the woman I picked up in the hall. Who
could imagine I’d do such a thing, but as I headed to my room on the sixth
floor, I noticed a porter giving directions as he wheeled a stranger’s luggage
forward. I called out, “Are you here alone?”
She looked at me in horror. A strange woman in a strange
place asking if she were alone? She finally said, “Oh, no, I’m here with ACFW.”
I grinned, realizing I’d sounded slightly mad. “Oh, good,
so am I.”
by Alex Harvey, Unsplash
Give Kathy 20 years, and she might have looked at me like this!
Can’t you imagine her lifting her cane, ready to throttle me?

Kathy Beliveau—who, it turns out, lives within an hour or
so of me—is an aspiring author and a delightful new friend. She and I spent the
afternoon and evening together, checking out the bars and singers on Broadway
(as my husband said, “What else would you do when you pick up a woman?”) until
we decided we were too old—or our ears were—to handle the volume and we
retreated to a Mexican restaurant for dinner.

by Linda Yezak of Kathy, yours truly, and Ane Mulligan

Here are Kathy’s words about the conference.

“I was in such a dark swamp before the conference. And you,
Normandie, asked if I was alone….and then… Blessings.
“I’ve been blessed meeting some wonderful folks, cheering
folks I’ve marginally met who I ‘met’ while reading and judging their
books. 
“Thank you fellow writers for the help, encouragement,
support and the lifting up that ACFW conference provides. Reminds me of how
blessed I am.  Not in a swamp of my own making but amongst others who
reach out and say ‘come.’”
So, what about you? Did you attend the ACFW conference or
another one that brought on a shift in thought and motivation? What has been
roiling in your spirit recently? Do you feel the need for change? The need to
move in some different direction? Or perhaps just the need to get busy and get
out there, to be doing the work you were called to do, whatever that is?

I’d love to hear from you.
Normandie studied sculpture in Italy before receiving a BA, summa cum laude with special honors in English. Her women’s fiction has garnered numerous awards across the country, including a recent final in the Maggie (Heavy Weather): Becalmed (2013), Sailing out of Darkness (2013), and Heavy Weather(2015). Her first romantic suspense, Two from Isaac’s House, released in November 2015 and was a Romantic Times Top Pick. From Fire into Fire is her fifth book. A lifelong sailor, she and her husband spent a number of years on board their 50-foot ketch, Sea Venture, in the Sea of Cortez, Mexico. 
@WritingOnBoard

5 Tips to Recover from #NaNoWriMo Mistakes

Author Michelle Lim is the
Brainstorming/Huddle Coach with My Book Therapy Press and the Midwest Zone
Director for American
Christian Fiction Writers
. Michelle’s Genesis winning romantic
suspense is represented with Books & Such Literary Agency. Michelle’s New
Release – Idea Sparking: 30 Idea Sparks to Write a Novel in a Month releases
October 27th. Since her nonfiction book release, Idea Sparking: How To Brainstorm Conflict In Your Novel,
through public speaking and online chats Michelle helps writers discover
the revolutionary power of brainstorming to bring new life to their stories.
Connect with Michelle as www.thoughtsonplot.wordpress.com , @MichelleLim24
on Twitter, and Facebook.
5 Tips to Recover from NaNoWriMo Mistakes

National Novel Writing Month is
a challenge for any writer who chooses to embark on the journey to a novel in a
month. As with any challenge there are setbacks along the way. How we deal with
those setbacks will determine whether or not we recover from our mistakes.
Are you part way into NaNoWriMo
and far behind on your goals?
It isn’t too late to change the
outlook of your thirty-day novel journey. Here are a few Idea Sparking
Strategies to get you started.
5 Tips to Recover from NaNoWriMo Mistakes:
  • Let go of guilt.
    Everyone makes mistakes and everyone fails sometimes. The trick is picking
    yourself up and continuing on the road to success. Guilt only stymies progress
    and takes the focus off of reaching our goals to look at our failings. Set
    guilt aside and push past your mistakes.
  • Spend time to self-reflect on your writing habits that
    interfered with your goals.
    If you plan
    to get back on track, it is helpful to identify what stood in the way of
    previous success. Then modify your plans to overcome these issues.
  • Continue to look forward, not back. Whatever goals you have made and failed to reach are in the
    past. Look forward to what can be accomplished in the following three weeks of
    NaNoWriMo and keep pressing toward weekly goals.
  • Set bonus goals in small chunks for previously missed goals. They are something that can be added if you choose once
    your regular word count is done. Look at these as no obligation challenges to
    take on if you feel inspired.
  • Celebrate each snapshot in time. Celebrate the moments as they come, each moment being its
    own entity to enjoy. Find many ways to celebrate throughout NaNoWriMo.
Looking for more tips to help you on your thirty-day novel
journey?
My New Release is just $0.99 on Amazon.

an author on
a thirty-day novel journey. Daily idea prompts assist
authors in finding the inspiration to write. With personal
experience insights and goal setting reflections, this book is the
perfect resource for the writer who wants to write a novel in a month, or the
author looking for a resource for their everyday writing
journey. What you will find in this incredible resource:

A
weekly inspirational focus to get you ready to write
Daily
Idea Sparks to spark your creativity and get you writing
Mini writing craft
tips that enhance your writing
Daily
Mid-day Milestones with thought-provoking questions to improve writing
habits
Weekly
Check-Ups to retune your process to set you up for success
Now, join the conversation! What helps you get back on track when your writing goals
derail?

You Gotta Know When to Hold ‘Em: Marketing & Advertising for the Indie Author, Part Two

   

By: Heather Day Gilbert

Last month, we looked at social media and personal ways to reach readers. This month, we’re focusing more on paid advertisements and no-cost ways to get the word out on your novel.

As we did last time, I’ll link to the contributing authors and their sites/books. Hopefully these posts will help as you make decisions on when to spend your bills…and when to “hold ’em.” This series is by no means exhaustive, so if you’ve tried alternate ways of marketing/advertising, please comment below!




 PAID ADVERTISEMENTS

The consensus seemed to be to do as much or as little as you can afford.
Bookbub was consistently mentioned as being worth the advertising cost, but you have to make sure your book is at a competitively low price (say, 99 cents; or even better, FREE, which can seriously bump sales/reviews afterward), and you’ve categorized it in the right genre. ENT (E-reader News Today) is another site like this. Just know that these sites generally require a minimum number of Amazon reviews and are more selective about what they will pick up.
—Authors also said that although you might not get fast returns from paid ads, the result of consistent exposure to a book ad might pay off later. I have mixed feelings on Facebook ads, since in the interests of experimentation, I paid $30 to boost a Facebook post advertising a radio show I did with blogtalkradio. I was able to target it to the US, Iceland, and Norway (Viking haunts). I will say I might’ve gotten a couple new followers and a couple book sales, but I don’t think I boosted the right post. It’s probably better to boost one when your book is on sale for 99 cents or free. If you’ve done a paid Facebook ad, please comment below with YOUR results and suggestions.
      ONLINE CONTESTS AND AWARDS
This idea brought mixed responses; namely, that judges are quite subjective and feedback can run all over the board. If you’re only looking for exposure and not feedback, I’d recommend free online contests, such as reader’s choice awards or e-cover art awards. With these contests, you gain some exposure but don’t have to pay to enter. As an indie, I have to ask myself why I am entering award contests, when my readers really don’t care if I have awards in my bio or not. For me, it’s not worth it to pay to enter contests at this point.

However, as of March 6, ACFW has announced that indies can be eligible for Fiction Finder and the Carol Awards (in 2015). Although there will be minimum requirements to meet, I feel this is a huge step forward for Christian authors as a group. I hope more contests open doors to self-published novels and novels produced by smaller houses. I think this will bring a wealth of previously undiscovered gems onto readers’ radar. I could definitely see the benefits of entering a contest like that.

I think the key with contests is entering ones you know will reach your demographic/readership. For example, enter mysteries in a mystery contest, Christian fiction in a Christian contest, etc.

      FREE ADVERTISING
Sites such as The Fussy Librarian and eBooksoda deliver book recommendations to readers directly via email. Both are just getting off the ground, but I’ve already gotten feedback that one reader found my book through eBooksoda. They are choosy about genres they accept, but it’s worth checking into.
Radio interviews and vlogs are another great way to gain exposure and connect with your readers. It’s easy to set up a YouTube channel, so your vlogs can be centralized in one place.
      REVIEW SITES/FREE DAYS ON E-READERS
I quickly learned that only certain book review sites will accept indie novels. Most larger sites work directly with publishers. But if you poke around the internet and watch who’s reviewing authors in your genre, you can find individuals or sometimes larger groups willing to exchange a review for a free book. There are a couple Facebook review sites for Christian authors to connect with reviewers: Crossreads Reviewers and the recently established Christian Fiction Reviewers. An excellent post I recently discovered on all the ins and outs of finding reviewers was here at The E-Book Author’s Corner 

There are also author co-ops that utilize NetGalley. I paid an author friend to use her slot for the month of February. I would just give the caveat that if you go with a co-op, make sure your genre matches what your group usually distributes to readers. I didn’t garner large numbers of reviews, but I learned that one library might purchase it, so that was a win for me. I’ll probably try this route again.

I have mixed feelings on authors doing freebies. I know it can generate early release buzz, but then again, you run into readers who aren’t in your target audience and might give lower than average reviews. I’d love your thoughts below on freebies (as a reader OR an author). I have found some favorite authors via free Kindle downloads, but that generated no income for said authors. However, it did generate a loyal influencer who will spread the word and buy all the author’s future books. Therefore, I am planning to do this at some point, if I choose to go with Kindle Select.


GIVEAWAYS
Nowadays, you don’t have to look far to find the latest book giveaway, often complete with a free Kindle/ipad/mp3/Amazon gift card. I wonder about the effectiveness of these costly prizes. Yes, they draw a lot of attention and plenty of entries. But do they pay off in the end? 
Staci Stallings, co-founder of CrossReads, shares that CrossReads offers a $50 Amazon gift card with their Book Blasts twice a month, which links readers back to author sites and social media outlets, resulting in solid increases in an author’s audience. However, an uptick in sales on featured books tends to correlate closely to the book’s price point, with 99-cent and free books getting the most boost.
I’ve had mixed success with book giveaways on blogs…I would say 8 out of 10 winners will review my book and spread the word. But much of this just depends on how your particular book resonates with that particular winner. I’ve decided not to spend my profits on electronic incentives for giveaways. 

I’d also like to point out the importance of following through on your giveaways. I think many of us have had experiences where we’ve won a book and the author never made good on sending it to us, or finally it showed up five months later when you’d forgotten all about it. Now, maybe I’m just a gal indoctrinated with Southern ideas on courtesy, but I believe if you promise something and don’t make good on it, you look like a liar. In other words, it’ll reflect very badly on you as an author. If there is a good reason why you can’t get that book out, offer a gift card or alternate gift. But at the very least, contact the winner and apologize.

As I’ve said in previous posts, Goodreads giveaways are a great way to get many people to add your book to their To-Read list, thus increasing your visibility on Goodreads. Some of those people will eventually buy your book, even if they don’t win. But I’d just advise to offer at least three copies of the book and let your giveaway run a month so it will reach more people who might potentially share it with others and review.

Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t share this link to an older Author Media post on this very topic: 89 Book Marketing Ideas That will Change your Life. I have a feeling I’ll be reading over and pondering each one of these options.

A huge thanks to the authors below, who contributed to this series. Names link to their author sites, titles link to their most recent books on Amazon. Thank you!

***Would love your thoughts/experience with advertising hits and misses. This is a place where we can help each other get ahead and make the most of our advertising budgets!***


Heather Day
Gilbert
enjoys writing stories about authentic, believable marriages. Sixteen
years of marriage to her sweet Yankee husband have given her some perspective,
as well as ten years spent homeschooling.
You can find Heather at her website, Heather Day Gilbert–Author, and at her Facebook Author Page, as well as TwitterPinterestYouTube, and Goodreads. Her Viking novel, God’s Daughter, is an Amazon bestseller. She plans to release her contemporary Appalachian mystery, Miranda Warning, on West Virginia Day: June 20, 2014.




Writing Contests – What’s In It For You if You Enter?

by Pamela S. Meyers
Wanda Writer signed on to the ACFW eloop and scanned the
list of posts. She kept her finger poised over the delete key, clicking on it
every so often, picking and choosing which posts to keep and which ones to banish. She paused at a reminder from the
Genesis Head Coordinator that there was still time to enter the Genesis Writing
Contest.
A nudge poked its way into her mind to click on the message, but why bother? She’d
entered the writing contest a couple years ago, and what did she have to show for her time but a lost entry fee and a
judge’s comment that all but said she didn’t know how to write and should find
another way to pass her time. It had taken her almost a year to get over that
and start writing again. Her finger hit delete and the reminder disappeared
from her computer screen and from her thoughts.
But, the next time Wanda opened her WIP to work on it, the nudge returned. She
had taken those workshops at conference last year and joined a good
critique group since that last contest. Maybe it was time to enter Genesis again. But what if that
same judge or another like him or her got her entry? She never wanted to go through that again. She
pushed all thoughts of entering out of her head and never considered entering the contest
again. Weeks later when one of her crit partners shared how a contest judge’s hard criticism woke her up to a weakness in her writing and how grateful she was for receiving the judge’s input, Wanda questioned if she’d been too hasty in deciding not to enter the contest.
Genesis Logo
Does that scenario sound remotely similar to your experience
with writing contests? Or perhaps you’ve never entered a contest before and get
a case of jitters just thinking about it?
This is the time of year that writing contests for
unpublished writers seem to be everywhere. Currently, ACFW’s Genesis (of which I
am head coordinator) is in the middle of its first round, and Novel Rocket has just
kicked off its Launch Pad contest. There are other contests also going on for
unpublished writers you may want to look into by Googling.
Here are three great reasons that you should consider entering
a
Novel Rocket Launch Pad Award

contest or two this year.

  1. Experience—no matter how
    many contests you enter, each one gives you more experience in preparing a
    manuscript for submission, following guidelines, and becoming more comfortable
    with strangers seeing and evaluating your work.
  1. Feedback from
    Judges
    —Contest judges can vary from veteran writers or published authors to
    editors and agents (usually in the later rounds). Yes, some judges can be
    blunt, and judging is always subjective. But, entrants can often times learn more
    from a candid judge than from a gentle judge. I experienced this when a
    Genesis  judge gave me a low score for POV when my story was in first person. Of course, I wondered how she could give me such a low score when there was no POV shift or head hopping? I later learned the reason was
    that I hadn’t made my POV deep enough. That is where I first learned about
    deep POV and have incorporated it in my writing ever since.
  1. A Chance of Winning—Most
    contests don’t hold a promise of a book contract for the first place
    winner or even a monetary award. But, winning does give you bragging rights
    and something great to add to your writing resume. Placing in a contest
    shows you can follow writer’s guidelines and your writing is good enough
    to win. It says a lot about your character traits that appeal to
    publishers and agents.
You may be saying, “Okay this all sounds good on paper, but
I never want to experience the hurt I felt when that judge said . . . ”  
Yes, it does hurt. But if you decide ahead of time that you
are going to put on your rhino skin and not fall apart if you do receive a few
bad comments, you’ll be better able to ignore them.
The best way I’ve found to deal with disappointing judge
remarks is to put the score sheets away for a while and not look at them for at
least a week or maybe a month. I then go to the Lord and pray through my bad
feelings. It’s especially therapeutic to journal about my feelings and get them
out on paper. Sometimes it has taken many pages of notepaper to get them all
out, but it really does help.
I always save any positive remarks I’ve received from my
crit partners that I can go back to and read during my moments of despair over
a bad judge remark. And you can be assured that such experiences don’t end once
you’re published. One bad review can send an author into a tailspin. That’s
when many will go to the positive reviews and fan letters they’ve received and reread them.
I hope by now, if you’ve been on the fence about entering a
writing contest this year, I’ve convinced you to take the plunge. For more
information about the ACFW Genesis contest you can go to www.acfw.com/genesis. For the Novel
Rocket Launch Pad contest, you can read about it at http://www.novelrocket.com/p/launch-pad-contest.html.
Just remember that no matter where you place in the contest, all entrants are winners in one form or another. So what are you waiting for? 
 

A
native of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, author Pamela S. Meyers lives in suburban
Chicago, an hour’s drive away from her hometown which she visits often to dig
into its historical legacy. Her novels include Thyme for Love, and Love
Will Find a Way
,  contemporary romantic mysteries and her 1933
historical romance, Love Finds You in Lake Geneva,Wisconsin, released in
April, 2013. She can often be found speaking at events around Lake Geneva or
nosing in microfilms and historical records about Wisconsin and other Midwestern
spots for new story ideas.