Staying the Course


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.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Marketing Insider — Author Beth Vogt

, ,

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, Catch A Falling Star is currently available for pre-order on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other online booksellers.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Marketing Insider — Rob Eagar


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:

Tags: , , , , , ,

Marketing Insider — Author Becky Wade

, ,


Originally published by ACFW Colorado’s The Inkwell Blog.

We’re pleased to welcome Becky Wade, author of the inspirational romance My Stubborn Heart, released by Bethany House in May 2012.

During her childhood in California, Becky frequently produced homemade plays starring her sisters, friends, and cousins.  These plays almost always featured a heroine, a prince, and a love story with a happy ending.  She’s been a fan of all things romantic ever since.

Becky and her husband lived overseas in the Caribbean and Australia before settling in Dallas, Texas.  It was during her years abroad that Becky’s passion for reading turned into a passion for writing.  She published three historical romances for the general market, put her career on hold for several years to care for her kids, and eventually returned to writing sheerly for the love of it.

My Stubborn Heart has been all over bookstores and the web since its release. What marketing did you do in addition to the support your publisher gave?

Only the things I enjoyed!  My publisher and I both feel that it’s more worthwhile to do a few things well than to attempt to do everything.

Here’s what I didn’t do:

  • Speaking engagements.
  • Twitter.
  • A blog of my own.

Here’s what I did:

  • I visited 20+ blogs where I wrote guest blog posts or answered interview questions or simply shared the book’s prologue.  I always interacted with commenters. I offered giveaway copies of the novel whenever the blog hostess asked.
  • I built my own website.
  • I started a Facebook fan page and kept up with it daily.
  • I put together a newsletter that I write and send out quarterly.
  • I set up an author profile on reader sites like: Goodreads, Amazon, Shelfari, Librarything.  Goodreads I still check every day.
  • I visited my local bookstores and libraries.  I introduced myself to the managers, signed copies, and gave out free bookmarks.
  • I did three book signings.
  • I answered all my reader emails.

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

How tremendously busy I was during my release month!  Those early weeks after My Stubborn Heart hit shelves were physically, mentally, and emotionally intense.  Very.

My Stubborn Heart isn’t your first novel, though it is your first for the inspirational market. Have you noticed differences between marketing your general market and your CBA fiction?

The marketing differences I’ve noticed have little to do with genre and much to do with technology.  I published my general market romances in 1999, 2000, and 2001.  Back then we had rudimentary websites, sent out ARCs we made ourselves, printed bookmarks, and organized a book signing or two.  With the advent of reader-oriented websites, social media, and blogs, the marketing workload available to authors has increased tenfold.

The similarity I’ve noticed?  The best marketing is still word of mouth.

I can understand that. I’m a cheerleader for my favorite books, to the point of shoving copies into my friends’ hands. What suggestions do you have to get word of mouth going?

I don’t believe it’s all about flashy advertising.  An author who invests thousands of dollars and hours in publicizing her novel will convince some people to spend their hard-earned money and time on it.  But if her readers aren’t crazy about her book, they won’t buy her next one.  Worse, they might tell their friends not to bother.  So what’s the author accomplished, ultimately?

In my opinion, the best way for any author to get word of mouth going is to write a book that readers love. Easier said than done, amen?  Nonetheless, this should be our goal.  The quality of our books is the one thing we can control.

Personally, I give myself roomy deadlines so that I can devote a great deal of time to writing the best book I possibly can with the Lord’s help.  I don’t take on marketing commitments that will steal hours and energy away from my main thing — the writing.

Marketing can and does provide wonderful support!  But in the end, the book is the thing.

Thanks for sharing your insights with us today, Becky. We’re looking forward to your next book, Undeniably Yours, due out from Bethany House in May 2013.

You can catch up with Becky online at or at her author page on Facebook.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,