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The Next Big Thing

My friend, the wonderful and talented RJ Larson, tagged me in The Next Big Thing blog hop! If you didn’t come here from there, be sure to stop by and enter her giveaway for your choice  of three amazing books!

The rules of the blog hop:

  1. Mention who tagged you, and link to their post.
  2. Give the rules.
  3. Answer the ten questions below.
  4. Link to at least 3 other people.

So here goes nothin’…

What is the working title of your book?iStock_000002050808XSmall

The Path of the Faithful. It’s the first book in the SONG OF SEARE series, YA fantasy. I’m not sure if either title is going to stick yet.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I’ve always been a fan of Celtic fantasy, but there isn’t much of it in the inspirational market. I wanted to write something set in ancient Ireland, but without the pagan slant that most books of this type have.

What genre does your book fall under?

Traditional fantasy, I think. It’s being marketed as young adult, but it’s really more of a crossover novel.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

AlexPettyfer
Alex Pettyfer

Hmm, this is a tough one. I’m not as up on the Under-25 Hollywood set as I was when I was actually under-25 myself, so this took some digging.

I think Alex Pettyfer has the right look to play my young musician/warrior, Conor, and he’s actually quite a good actor!

AutumnReeser
Autumn Reeser

Autumn Reeser would make a beautiful Aine (pronounced Anya). She’s Conor’s soul mate, and she has some pretty awesome abilities of her own.

And just for fun, I pick Robbie Amell to play Eoghan (pronounced Owen), Conor’s best friend and mentor. Every YA novel needs two cuties, right? I loved writing this character so much I gave him a starring role in books 2 and 3.

Robbie Amell
Robbie Amell

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

I’m supposed to have a one-sentence synopsis of my book? Oops. The story is about a young man caught between his pagan clan and a Balian (Christian) warrior-brotherhood, both of whom want to use him for their own ends. The log line is “How do you find your own path when your life has been orchestrated from before your birth?”

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

This was sold by my agent. It is due out from NavPress in May 2014.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

A thousand years. No, it probably took me a year to write the first draft, considering my older son was only a few months old at the time, and we were in the middle of a cross-country move. I put it away in a drawer and started revising it four years later when my younger son was about the same age. I must find something about sleep deprivation inspirational. It took me another six months to get it from 138,000 words (which is not atypical for a general market fantasy) down to the 106,000 it is now. That was painful. Really painful.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

There are definitely some similarities in theme if not setting between this and RJ Larson’s Prophet. I think my books are most like Juliet Marillier’s, a wonderful Celtic fantasy writer who sets her books in the same time period. She is a druid, though, so she takes a pagan perspective, compared to my Christian one.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I have absolutely no idea! God is fully responsible for the fact it’s inspirational, though. I never thought I would write for the Christian market, but once I was half through the first draft, I felt like the story had no soul. God pretty clearly showed me it needed the spiritual aspect, which became the main point of the story: being faithful to your calling, no matter what others might say.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

To quote The Princess Bride, it’s got “fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles…” Okay, maybe not giants, and the monsters are more of the creepy demon faerie sort, but it’s got lots of action, romance, and magic. There’s something for everyone.

Thank you for visiting! Now hop on over to the next stops on the tour next week, three good friends and wonderful up-and-coming writers:

Jill Cooper

Eisley Jacobs

Amy Millsap Matayo

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Staying the Course

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Photo by rachaelvoorhees via Flickr.
Photo by rachaelvoorhees via Flickr.

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

–Philippians 3:14

I’ll admit it: I’m competitive. I like to win.

So when I woke up this morning to an email from a contest coordinator that essentially said, “Thank you for playing, but you didn’t make it into the finals,” I felt a twinge of disappointment. Then I opened my score sheets.

Two judges loved it. One judge said nice things about my writing but didn’t think my main character was likeable. And one judge hated it, my writing, the characters, and thought there was no place for it in the inspirational market. (I’m still not clear whether the tipping point was the fact my heroine was drinking a glass of wine in a pub or wearing bright red Jimmy Choo pumps.)

I could let those less than enthusiastic critiques shake my confidence for the novel. I could start second guessing whether my writing is good enough to be published, especially considering my contemporary style is much different than my fantasy voice, which has so far been well-received. I could begin wondering if maybe contemporary romance is even a genre I’m meant to write, at least for the inspirational market.

But that would be a diversion from what I believe I’ve been called to do. While my fantasy books are much more conventionally Christian, my contemporaries are aimed to a different audience. Women who can’t relate to heroines with unshakable faith. Those who prefer Paris, France to Paris, Texas. Those who struggle to live a spirit-filled life in work environments, heck, in a world where being a Christian is seen as intellectual suicide, a sign of an untrustworthy mind, or just plain strange.

Yes, my characters are moral but not very Christian at the opening of the book. Just as Paul was a persecutor of Christians before his conversion. God’s work through him is all the more amazing because of where he started. I’ve been called to show what God can do through the least spiritual– maybe just like you and me– rather than the most. And if I let criticism divert me from my path, make me water down my message to please a subsection of readers that probably wouldn’t like the story no matter what I did, I’m not being faithful to that call.

So, I will take the helpful advice those judges gave me and use it to make my writing better. I’m grateful for the time they took to score my entry honestly, and for the sneak peek of the kind of response that I’ll get if and when it’s published. As for the rest, I will write it off as opinion and use it as a reminder that I write the stories I’ve been given for a reason, not for the acclaim of man, but for the glory of God.

I will stay the course.

Though I’ll admit, I may have pulled out my favorite red patent leather stiletto pumps today. Because if you’re going to face criticism, you might as well do it while wearing great shoes.

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Marketing Insider — Author Beth Vogt

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laughingBeth1-2012Originally published by ACFW Colorado’s The Inkwell Blog.

We’re finishing off our Marketing Insider series with Colorado author, Beth K. Vogt. Beth believes God’s best often waits behind the doors marked “Never.” Wish You Were Here, her debut novel from Howard Books, released May 2012. Her sophomore effort, Catch a Falling Star, releases May 2013. Beth is an established magazine writer and former editor of Connections, MOPS International’s leadership magazine. Today she talks to us about the process of working with a publisher on a marketing a novel.

Thanks for joining us today, Beth! We’ve been talking about all aspects of fiction marketing for the last few weeks. Since Wish You Were Here released, I’ve seen all sorts of fun marketing efforts on the net. What kinds of activities did Howard do to promote your debut novel?

Howard Books has a wonderful author site on their website that I love directing readers to. They also developed creative questions for book clubs to use Wish You Were Here  (May 2012) and Catch a Falling Star (May 2013), as well as Author Q&A, which I think is terrific for readers to learn more about me as a person – you know, the gal behind the author name. Besides things like that, they worked with GoodReads and NetGalley to get Wish You Were Here into readers’ and reviewers’ hands. Howard also provides support and training for authors to help us increase our marketing savvy.

You make this easy on me. That’s my next question: what did you do to support your publisher’s marketing efforts?

I helped my publisher compile my list of endorsers and influencers. (My recommendation: start early!) Two major things I did:

  • I joined forces with three other debut authors (Katie Ganshert, Olivia Newport and Dani Pettrey) and we all helped one another and encouraged one another as we prepared to launch our books. And then Rel Mollet of Relz Reviewz and Kelli Standish helped us put on this a-ma-zing online book launch. It was live –real time video with giveaways and fun interaction with online friends.
  • I enlisted Litfuse Publicity to organize a blog tour for me. Amy Lathrop and her team are the best at helping to create a buzz for an author!

What was your biggest (marketing-related) surprise as a first time CBA fiction author?

No matter how much I do, there’s always something else, something more to be done. And there’s always something new to try. Google+. Pinterest. Rebelmouse. (Really … Rebelmouse.)

That’s understandable… new things seem to be popping up every day! What do you wish you’d known about marketing as a first time CBA author?

I wish I’d discovered the “magic button” to push to make Wish You Were Here an instant best-seller. Doesn’t every author wish that? But then author Susan May Warren told me: It’s a marathon, not a sprint. I remind myself of that truth often.

And here’s what I learned: I can only do so much to market my book. At some point, I have to step back and start writing the next book. But I can always celebrate another author’s success. Always.

Here’s the overall lesson I’ve learned this past year: In God’s economy, it’s not about my book being a best-seller or not being a best-seller. It’s about how he is using all of this process to scrape off my rough edges and transform me into who he wants me to be—so I look less like me and more like him.

Thank you so much for those inspiring words: that’s the perfect note to sign off our interview series. We loved having you, Beth, and wish you the best with your next book!

You can catch up with Beth online at her website, www.bethvogt.com. Catch A Falling Star is currently available for pre-order on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other online booksellers.

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Marketing Insider — Rob Eagar

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sell_your_book_like_wildfire_coverToday, we’re fortunate to have Rob Eagar, founder of Wildfire Marketing, a consulting practice that helps authors and publishers sell books like wildfire. He has trained over 400 authors and worked with numerous New York Times bestselling authors. Rob’s new book, Sell Your Book Like Wildfire, is considered the bible of book marketing. I’m currently reading his book, and already I’ve taken away a list of “must-do’s” to be incorporated into my own marketing plan.

Thanks for joining us today, Rob! I know one topic on all of our authors’ minds is platform. What one thing should every author know about building a platform?
As a novelist, you must become an object of interest who can make people feel deep emotions. For example, Stephen King is the master of horror. John Grisham is the master of legal-based thrillers. Wanda Brunstetter is the master of simple living Amish stories. All three are multiple New York Times bestsellers, because they’re adept at making the reader feel. Logic makes people think, but emotion makes them act. And, this principle is especially true for fiction readers. If you want to sell more fiction, you must attract people from an emotional standpoint and build that emotion into your marketing (website, media hooks, free resources, social media, etc.)

That makes sense. As writers, we’re used to building an emotional connection through our fiction, but often it doesn’t translate into our marketing efforts. With so many marketing activities pulling us in different directions, where should we place our focus?
First, define your kindling readers (see Chapter 2 in “Sell Your Book Like Wildfire” for details) and then concentrate your marketing on where the largest groups of those kindling readers congregate, whether that’s online or offline. For example, Garth Stein, bestselling author “The Art of Racing in the Rain,” found that getting in front of readers at racing events was a great strategy. Bestselling novelist, Wanda Brunstetter, goes on regular tours to conduct book signings in Amish areas around America. Other writers might stay home and find that writing articles for popular blogs connects with their kindling readers. There is no one-size-fits-all strategy for all authors. You have to customize your approach to your own audience.
What one tool or activity do you think is underutilized for fiction and why?
Probably email newsletters and contests. I’ve seen those tools work well for several of my fiction clients. But, I don’t see other authors sending good newsletters on a consistent and professional basis. And, I don’t see many novelists having fun with their readers through fun contests that spread word of mouth. You can’t just give away a free copy of your book and expect people to get excited…that’s boring. Be creative and make the contest something that readers would want to share with friends.
I know I enjoy contests and activities that allow me to interact with my favorite authors in a fun way. On the other side of the coin, what one activity do you think is overrated?
Probably social media. Everybody talks about Facebook and Twitter, and I’m fine with those tools. But, they haven’t proven to bring that much more value than a great author website, newsletters, speaking tour, and media interviews. In fact, I find that social media gives novelists a poor excuse to sit in their office and think they’re marketing. When, in reality, they’re hiding from conducting more effective promotional tactics. Marketing is work, just like writing.
Marketing is definitely work, and sometimes it requires a specialized set of skills. When should an author hire outside help rather than oversee her marketing herself?
If you don’t know what you’re doing, you should get outside help. I hired an editor when I wrote my books, because I don’t pretend to know everything about writing. If you want to be a professional author who makes a living from your novels, you’d be wise to get instruction from a marketing expert who can help you take your platform to a higher level. However, be sure to take instruction from an expert who has actually succeeded in what you’re trying to accomplish. There are too many so-called “coaches” out there who have never written a book or never sold many copies. As the old adage says, “Don’t take financial advice from a broke person.” The same idea applies to marketing.

What’s the difference between a marketing firm like WildFire and a publicist? I’m not a publicist. Instead, I’m a consultant and coach. For example, I don’t line up radio and TV interviews for my author clients. Instead, I teach authors how to get radio and TV interviews on their own for free. More importantly, I teach my clients how to master a media interview so that it turns into lots of book sales.

Thank you for your wonderful insights today, Rob. I think we’ve all taken away some surprising information… and some of us are breathing a sigh of relief that we don’t need to be spending every waking hour on Facebook.
You can find out more about Rob’s free advice, instructional resources, and coaching services for authors at: www.startawildfire.com.

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