1-2-3 to Successful Self-Promotion by Andrea Boeshaar

3 Keys to Successful Self-Promotion

By Andrea Boeshaar

Although I’ve been a published author for twenty years, promotion is not my strong point and never has been. Therefore, I work extremely hard at it. In my earlier career I wrote for a mass-market romance line. The publisher promoted its line, not the authors and generally, the books did well. Then I published in the general Christian market (trade paperback). I didn’t do much in the way of promotion and felt horrified when my sales numbers were considerably less than my previous books. So when my latest series was purchased, I knew I had to hop on that proverbial band wagon and let all the world know I had a new book releasing.

But how to do that – promote?

It’s the million dollar question. Literally! Certainly writers can hire publicists and leave the dirty work to them. That option is the most effective way to publicize, but it’s not always the most affordable. For the majority of authors, it’s boots-on-the-ground publicizing and that means digging in our heels. I’m a hard-worker so no problem there, but I’m also a simple person. I need the basics before my creative juices start to flow. So, after brain-storming with several trusted friends and reading oodles of articles on promotion, I’ve boiled the whole process down to three basic keys to promotion.

  1. Web Promo
    • Get yourself a website. I’m always amazed when I hear about published authors who don’t have websites. In today’s techno-world, a website is crucial.
    • Establish yourself on social networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn. Get your name out there!
    • Invest in a Facebook Ad. This is a reasonably-priced option, as you’re charged per click and you can decide how much to spend and how long to run your ad.
    • Create a blog – and keep up with your posts. There’s nothing worse than clicking onto an author’s blog and that seeing his or her latest post is from six months ago. (Which reminds me…)
    • Guest blog on other authors’ web sites. This is great way to introduce yourself to new readers.
    • Peruse online radio programs, like those on Blog Talk Radio http://www.blogtalkradio.com/. Hosts are always looking for interesting guests (like authors!).
    • Write an e-newsletter. If you choose not to blog, a monthly or seasonal newsletter might be an option to keep in touch with readers. Even if you’re not currently contracted, it’s important to remind readers that you have novels available for purchase. I’ve learned that readers aren’t always current on our current projects. One sweet lady stopped me in church a few weeks ago and said a friend just gave her my book Wisconsin Weddings (the 3-in-1 story collection was released in 2007).

  1. Hardcopy promo
    • Write a press release, announcing your new book and fax, mail (or email) it to local magazines and newspapers. Local media enjoys write-ups about hometown talent.
    • Magazine and Newspaper Ads. These are sometimes costly, but check your local newspapers.
    • Send out postcards. I like to use VistaPrint.com. The printing is fast and affordable. What’s more, it’s user-friendly. Even I managed to upload all four book covers in my series. Then I mailed them to bookstores and readers across the country.

  1. Personal Appearances
    • Contact book clubs and writers’ groups. Schedule times when you can speak to these organizations in your area to encourage books sales.
    • Contact the producers of local morning shows. Again, the hometown talent thing goes a long way.
    • Book signings. Contact bookstores and let them know you’re available to sign copies of your novel. Sometimes bookstore owners will ask you to do a short talk about yourself and how you began your writing career.
    • Attend writers’ conferences. This is an important piece, as there’s nothing like face-to-face contact with other writers. Remember, writers are readers too – and they do things like write book reviews.

So there you have ‘em – three basic keys to promotion. They are as simple as building blocks. However, these keys are vital to opening the way to top-dollar book sales!

*     *

ANDREA BOESHAAR has been married for nearly 40 years. She and her husband have 3 wonderful sons, 1 beautiful daughter-in-law, and 5 precious grandchildren. Andrea’s publishing career began in 1994. Since then, 31 of her books have gone to press. Additionally, Andrea cofounded ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) and served on its Advisory Board for a number of years. In 2007, Andrea earned her certification in Christian Life Coaching and now owns and operates Steeple View Coaching and The Writer’s ER (divisions of Pink Ink, Inc.). For more information, log onto her website: www.andreaboeshaar.com

Follow her on Twitter: @AndreaBoeshaar.

Iron Sharpening ~ Tamara Alexander

Iron Sharpening Iron
by Tamera Alexander

“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” 
Proverbs 27:17
Having a writing critique partner has made all the difference in my writing and in my writing journey. Deborah Raney and I have been writing critique partners for more than twelve years, ever since we met at the first American Christian Fiction Writers conference. And while not all critique partners become friends, friendship has been a natural outgrowth of our working relationship, and I’m so grateful. 
Over the course of critiquing twenty-plus manuscripts between us, we have learned a lot about what to look for in a critique partner, what works, what doesn’t, how to handle conflict and competition, and how to “agree to disagree” with grace.
Here are a few quick things we’ve gleaned through our working partnership.
Why have a critique partner?

  • A critique partner (CP) offers fresh perspective. We’re often too close to our own story to read it as an unbiased reader, let alone evaluate it critically. CPs can see not only technical glitches in each other’s work but also story strengths and weaknesses, and ways to potentially deepen the layers of the story and characters.
  • We bring only one opinion or viewpoint to the reading of our own work—and it’s obviously biased. A CP can view our work from a different point of view since they’ve likely had a different upbringing and life experiences.
  • Since a CP isn’t as close to your story as you are, they often come up with ideas or plot directions that you never would have dreamed of.
  • Two people bring two sets of strengths to the table, and can offset each other’s weaknesses.
  • When one of you is down, the other is there to build up! Deb and I are tough on each other, but we’re also huge fans of each other’s work.
  • It’s much easier to see “mistakes/room for growth” in someone else’s writing. Deb and I learn from critiquing each other’s manuscripts, and then apply those principles to our own writing.
  • Brainstorming! With SKYPE and FaceTime, CPs can “video brainstorm” any time, day or night.
Where and how do I find a critique partner?
  • Connect with someone at a writer’s conference or local writers group. And remember, you don’t have to write in the same genre. 
  • One-on-one partnerships often develop naturally out of larger critique groups; so join a group with an eye to eventually working with one other writer as a CP.
  • Ask a well-read non-writing friend to critique your manuscript. A non-writer who loves to read your genre can be an invaluable source for clarity and pacing of story.
  • If feasible, consider paying a professional editor for a critique. Numerous well-qualified freelance editors are available and can add depth and clarity to your manuscript.
  • Sign up for a paid critique at a conference you’re attending. Worth every penny!
  • As you’re looking for a CP, become your own. Read books on self-editing, such as Revision & Self-Editing by James Scott Bell (Writer’s Digest Books) and Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne & Dave King (HarperCollins).
Do you have someone sharpening your writing skills? If yes, what’s something you’ve learned from that relationship? 
Tamera Alexander is the USA Today bestselling author of numerous books, including A Lasting Impression, A Beauty So Rare, To Whisper Her Name and From a Distance. Her richly drawn characters and thought-provoking plots have earned her devoted readers worldwide, as well as multiple industry awards.
After living in Colorado for 17 years, Alexander has returned to her Southern roots. She and her husband now make their home in Nashville where they enjoy life with their two adult children who live nearby and Jack, a precocious terrier.

To keep up with Tamera Alexander, visit www.tameraalexander.com, become a fan on Facebook (tamera.alexander) or follow her on Twitter (@tameraalexander) or Pinterest (tameraauthor).

Don’t Let Research Run off with Your Story ~ Suzanne Woods Fisher

Don’t Let Research Run off with Your Story
by Suzanne Woods Fisher
Research is powerful for a writer of fiction. The right amount can set your story apart, give it a realistic tone, convince your readers to have confidence in your due diligence. But too much detail can bog down your novel (just ask my editor). The goal is to provide just enough information to reveal your expertise on the subject…and stop there. Never forget you’re writing a story. 
Here’s an example: As I was starting to construct the plot and theme of Anna’s Crossing, I studied the 1737 ocean crossing of the first Amish to the New World on the Charming Nancy ship. I discovered horrific, stomach turning facts. Out of 312 passengers, twenty-four died on the journey. Mostly children—four from one family. Before it reached Port Philadelphia, the Charming Nancy ship lost one out of every nine passengers. 
The condition of passenger life in the lower decks of an 18th century ship was truly pitiful. It was a miracle they survived at all. A child of seven years stood only a 50 percent chance of surviving the ocean journey, while those under a year of age rarely survived. How could I possibly write a novel that included the death of twenty-four children? Frankly, I wouldn’t want to read such a story. 
So next I considered the 1738 ocean crossing of the Charming Nancy ship, captained by Charles Stedman, the same ship’s officer who had led the 1737 crossing. That year brought the largest year of German immigration…and the highest ship mortality. It became known as “The Year of the Destroying Angels.” To increase their profits, greedy captains and shipping agents allowed serious overcrowding in the ships. The Charming Nancy was among the most seriously overcrowded, with at least thirty-three more passengers than the previous year. It was thought that the ship might have been contaminated with disease from the previous year’s crossing. In 1738, the Charming Nancy lost half of its passengers before reaching Port Philadelphia. 
Back I went to the 1737 crossing. Instead of wiping out a large amount of passengers, I concentrated on two significant deaths—one of a sailor, one of a young Amish woman—that were carefully paced so the reader wouldn’t get overloaded with tragedy. 
My end goal was to create a story that didn’t hide the dangers my characters faced, but to celebrate the determination of these courageous pioneers. There was a bigger story to write about than the perils of an 18th century ocean crossing: Why the Amish left Europe, what they were hoping to find in the New World, and what gave these brave believers the inner steel to endure the journey. 
But I’ll let you decide if I delivered a satisfying, credible novel, without letting the research run off with the story.

Comment before 11:59 p.m. on March 31st for a chance to win a free copy of Anna’s Crossing. We will randomly choose on April 1st. (Open to United States residents only) Make sure you leave contact information so we can get in touch with you.    


Suzanne Woods Fisher is the bestselling author of ‘The Stoney Ridge Seasons’ and ‘The Lancaster County Secrets’ series, as well as nonfiction books about the Amish, including Amish Peace. She is a Christy award finalist and a Carol award winner. Her interest in the Anabaptist culture can be directly traced to her grandfather, who was raised in the Old German Baptist Brethren Church in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Suzanne hosts the blog Amish Wisdom, and has a free downloadable app, Amish Wisdom, that delivers a daily Penn Dutch proverb to your smart phone. She lives with her family in the San Francisco Bay Area. You can find Suzanne on-line at www.suzannewoodsfisher.com. She loves to hear from readers!  

Terri Blackstock on Self-Publishing. Should You or Shouldn’t You?

Is Self-Publishing Worth The Investment?

By Terri Blackstock
“You must have invested a fortune in all these titles!” That’s what more and more people say to me when they see that I’ve had over seventy books published. Some of them are shocked to learn that for thirty years, I didn’t invest a penny in getting my books published. My publishers paid me, and I’ve made a nice living.
So many of my letters from aspiring writers ask the question, “How can I get published without going broke?” Others ask, “Can you tell me your secret for marketing your books? I published with a self-publishing service, and they’re not marketing my books at all.” There’s a basic misunderstanding about publishing these days, and I hope to correct some of that here, so that fewer new writers are lured into using self-publishing services because they’ve been given deceptive sales pitches. I hate it when decent, hard-working people are financially wounded and woefully disappointed.
Before I go on, let me say that there is a place for self-publishing, and there are print-on-demand companies who provide honest services. (To find those companies, talk to lots of people who have self-published, and learn from their mistakes and successes. There are also lots of bloggers who blog about the right way to self-publish.) Did you know it’s possible to publish ebooks to Kindle, Nook, iBooks, and other digital retailers for free? Moreover, you can publish your print books through Create Space (part of Amazon) and other print on demand services, again for free. There are hundreds of books and YouTube videos that will teach you how to do it. I’ve reprinted two of my out of print books that way—Seaside and Soul Restoration.
Many of my multi-published friends are self-publishing now because they’re able to keep more of the money (up to 70% of sales), so it’s a viable option now for those who have invested the time to do it right. Their only investment is in what they hire others to do—cover design, editing, interior design and formatting. But that’s a minimal investment, and is easy to earn back in sales. However, the vast majority of self-published people pay thousands of dollars to self-publishing services (what we used to call vanity publishers), and complain bitterly about the lack of marketing and distribution, the impossibility of getting those books into physical stores, and the impossibility of earning back the money they’ve invested.
In the old traditional model of publishing (and the way I do it), writers work for years to learn the craft (take college courses, attend writers conferences, join writers’ groups). They submit it to a publisher or agent, and often get rejected. But with each rejection they learn something. Eventually, if they get published, it’s because they’ve invested years in honing their craft and making their book the best it can be. When that traditional, paying publisher decides to buy the book, they negotiate an advance (up-front money that the publisher pays the author). The book is edited and polished to the point that the publisher feels comfortable having their imprint on it. They hope it will make them a profit so they can keep their jobs and stay in business. They have their art department create a cover. The book will be placed in that publisher’s catalog. The sales force at that publishing house will meet with buyers of stores and major chains, and try to convince them to carry the book. The booksellers only have so much space, so they pick out the ones they think they can sell. The author will get royalties on the copies that are sold (minus the advance money they’ve already been paid). But if the publisher’s risk doesn’t pay off, the publisher will lose a substantial amount of money. (The author doesn’t.) That’s a risk the publisher takes with every title it releases.
With self-publishing, the risk is only for the author. Though some of these self-publishing services will lure writers with the promise of getting the books into Barnes & Noble and other bookstore chains, the truth is that they won’t get one copy into the actual, physical stores. They will get it in the online stores, but it won’t sell many copies, because no one will know it’s there. (Again, you can get it into the online stores for free without those services.) If the author has a prolific speaking career and can sell the books at speaking engagements, this model might work well. But if you’re an unknown writer, and you’re out there on your own, you’re lucky to sell 100 copies.
Yes, there’s instant gratification in self-publishing. You will see your name on a book, guaranteed. It will all happen faster than with traditional publishers. But a writer who skips the steps of learning his craft, particularly in fiction, isn’t doing himself any favors. Self-publishing services may want you to think that they’re discriminating about what they publish, that they picked you because you were so talented. But the truth is, they don’t often turn people away. I challenge you to find someone who was rejected by one of these companies. Their claims that they only publish twenty percent of their submissions (or whatever number they offer) doesn’t disclose the fact that most people walk away when they learn that it will cost them money to publish with them. The ones who follow their emotions and pay the money will likely get published no matter how bad their book is. They want you to think they turned down eighty percent, but it’s just the opposite. That’s the number of writers who walked away before slapping down a check.
I have no problem with self-publishing services who are honest about what they do. I have no problem with writers who understand what they’re getting, and after due diligence, make a business decision to self-publish. They hire professionals to do their cover designs, their interior formatting, their editing, and their books wind up looking as professional as any put out by traditional publishers. But I hate when new, uninformed writers are deceived.
If you seriously want a career as a writer, then learn the craft. Take college classes, join writers’ groups, attend writers’ conferences, read, read, read, write, write, write, and then rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. You learn by doing it, and every failure is a step to success. Develop enough patience to learn the business, then get your work vetted by true professionals—whether you go the traditional publishing route or self-publish. It’s easy to find freelance editors who used to work at publishing houses. Just email any published writer and ask for names. While you may choose to invest some money in your book to hire those professionals, most of your investment should be in the time you take to make your books excellent. Then you’ll really have a shot at a career.
Terri Blackstock’s Latest Book is Truth Stained Lies, Book 3 in her award-winning Moonlighters Series, published by Zondervan. 
Holly Cramer’s past choices have finally caught up to her, but she never expected them to endanger her baby. Though Holly’s stumbled through most of her adult life as a party girl, she longs to live a more stable life for her daughter. Then police show up to question her on the whereabouts of Creed Kershaw, Lily’s father. She has kept his identity a secret from friends and family—she never even told him about the pregnancy. Now he’s a person of interest in a drug-related murder case.
Terri Blackstock is a New York Times best-seller, with over six million copies sold worldwide. She is the winner of two Carol Awards, a Christian Retailers Choice Award, and a Romantic Times Book Reviews Career Achievement Award, among others. She has had over twenty-five years of success as a novelist. Terri spent the first twelve years of her life traveling in an Air Force family. She lived in nine states and attended the first four years of school in The Netherlands. Because she was a perpetual “new kid,” her imagination became her closest friend. That, she believes, was the biggest factor in her becoming a novelist. She sold her first novel at the age of twenty-five, and has had a successful career ever since.
In 1994, Terri was writing romance novels under two pseudonyms for publishers such as HarperCollins, Harlequin, Dell and Silhouette, when a spiritual awakening prompted her to switch gears. At the time, she was reading more suspense than romance, and felt drawn to write thrillers about ordinary people in grave danger. Her newly awakened faith wove its way into the tapestry of her suspense novels, offering hope instead of despair. Her goal is to entertain with page-turning plots, while challenging her readers to think and grow. She hopes to remind them that they’re not alone, and that their trials have a purpose.

To keep up with Terri Blackstock, visit www.terriblackstock.com, become a fan on Facebook (tblackstock) or follow her on Twitter (@TerriBlackstock).