Category: marketing (page 1 of 2)

Get Your Platform Moving!

I’ve presented a workshop on platform building and marketing several times over the past year and have refined it to its current state. GET YOUR PLATFORM MOVING discusses the how and why of building a platform step by step and is useful for any type of business, although it is geared to writers.

As my gift to you, I’d like to offer the pdf as a download.




Why I’ve Become a Hybrid

This article was originally posted on Kim Rempel’s blog on March 31, 2017 under the title

What 16 Publishing Contracts Taught Me About Ego, Publishing, and Making Money as a Hybrid Author-Preneur

I used to think finding an agent and securing a traditional publishing deal was the pinnacle of writing success. It would prove I was legit. I’d finally be able to call myself a writer without feeling like a fraud.

Since my first book came out in 2009, however, my thinking has changed. I’ve signed sixteen traditional contracts, had an agent, said good-bye to that agent, used a vanity press twice, and self-published using both Createspace and Lightning Source. I’m a hybrid – a new breed of writer trying to use the best from both worlds.

The Truth About Traditional Publishing

Before we go any further, I should set the record straight about what some of these terms actually mean. Traditional publishers do not charge any kind of fee. Period. These can be big New York firms or small boutique houses, but there is no cost to the author in a traditional contract. Instead, the writer gets paid for their work, through an advance, through royalties on books sold, or both.

There are still many pros to traditional publishing. Besides the assurance (most of the time) of a quality product, one’s books have access to the company’s distribution channels. There are none of the headaches of managing all the production and bookkeeping responsibilities. However, there are some serious downsides, too. Authors have minimal control over their own work. There can be restrictions on the cover, launch date, and promotions. Less of the profit goes to the author since he or she is also fueling the larger machine of the publishing company.

Don’t Make These Newbie Publishing Mistakes

I’ve had a few less than stellar experiences with books that were traditionally published. My first book deal was for my book, And The Beat Goes On. I later learned that this particular publisher also charged for services (a vanity press), but in my case there was no charge of any kind. I worked with multiple editors, cover designers, proofers, etc. I didn’t know much about contracts, so I signed a seven-year deal for a 6% royalty on the cost price. The book originally came out in hardcover and sold for $30. Since my royalty was on the cost price, not the list price, I ended up making about $.87 per book. Even if you’re not a mathematician, you can see that I would have to sell a lot of books to make any money! However, I was just thrilled to have signed a real book deal and I was naïve enough to think that my books would suddenly start flying off the shelves.

I had a rude awakening when I realized I was still expected to do much of my own marketing. As well, my hands were tied when it came to giveaways, pricing, or sales. Add to that, the fact that I could not make any changes of any kind for seven long years since I no longer had the rights to my own work.

Here’s another story about my agent. I will not name him here, but he was a very nice man, and again, when he agreed to represent me I was thrilled, thinking I’d finally arrived. (This was a few years after that first book deal.) The first contract he found me was for my book, Wind Over Marshdale, with a small ‘boutique’ publishing house. The deal was for a much more substantial royalty, but remember, he was entitled to a 15% cut of whatever royalties I made. After hearing from readers who wanted a sequel, I decided to write a novella length story called Lone Wolf, which basically answered the question on everyone’s mind, “What happened to Thomas?” My agent felt that pitching a novella, even to the same publisher, wasn’t a smart move. I asked him if I could pitch it myself and he said, “Go ahead.” (In my case, my agent had first rights to any subsequent work I might produce.) I pitched it to the same publisher and they wanted the book, so I signed with them without my agent – meaning more royalties for me!

The story doesn’t end there, however. He had in his possession another of my manuscripts called, Three Strand Cord. He was busy pitching it to various large houses with no success. Again I suggested trying the same boutique publisher, but he didn’t feel that the royalties or distribution channels would produce a high enough return to make it worthwhile. In the meantime, that manuscript was floating around from publisher to publisher for more than a year, totally out of my control. Finally, after much prayer and a few emails, we decided that it would be best if we parted ways. It was a very amicable parting and I have nothing against him. He did his best for me, but I was beginning to realize that the bureaucracy of the traditional system, with all its gates and red tape, was not something I was interested in pursuing anymore.

A Warning on Self-Publishing

One of the biggest issues with the modern era of self-publishing is the glut of poor quality books out there. I’m not, by any means, saying all self-published books are poor quality. On the contrary, modern author-preneurs are becoming savvy marketers. Part of that means realizing that substandard quality may begood enough for the first book, but it will not sell future books. It’s worth the investment to outsource such things as editing and cover design.

 The Freedom of Hybrid Publishing

Authors no longer have to be bound by seven-year contracts or agent’s wishes. We have the means to take control of our own writing careers and maybe even make some money at it. While I’ve signed a fair number of traditional deals, I’ve also seen the wisdom in learning the ropes of self-publishing using Createspace and Lightning Source, two of the most well know DIY platforms.

I don’t plan to self-publish exclusively, though. All of my stage-plays have been published traditionally in the US and I do quite well on the performance royalties. In this case, these publishers have a reach I could never hope to duplicate. It wouldn’t make sense to re-publish them myself, since I would stand to lose significantly.

Similarly, at this time, I am not planning to get the rights back for a couple of my other books. Clean Reads, (formerly Astraea Press) a small press who published both Wind Over Marshdale and Lone Wolf, treats their authors very well. I’ve made some wonderful connections, and have been involved in some amazing promotional opportunities with them. Why would I want to leave?

There is no one answer, just as there is no ‘one way’ to get published. The advantages of being a hybrid are many. And a growing number of high profile authors are now also going the indie route. They’ve made a name for themselves via the traditional route, but now find they have more flexibility and control over their own work.

There’s nothing wrong with doing both; there is value and validity to each method. It is up to individual writers to choose what path makes most sense in any particular situation. Like never before, writers have truly become the authors of their own destiny.


Tis the Season…

… for sales.
Yes, many of us attend the odd craft fair, book fair, or other ‘Christmas’ sale at this time of year hoping to cash in on a few extra sales before Christmas comes and people are more conservative with their pocket books.

Here I am at a local event, ‘hocking’ my books. (The cool fur hoods are my daughter’s. She and I shared a table.) Asa member of our local chamber of commerce, the table was free, so it really only cost me my time, plus I made a few sales – always a plus.


Of course, it’s still not too late to order on line, folks! Check out the ‘Books’ tab along the top. There is a drop down with different categories like ‘Novels’, ‘Plays’, Non-fiction’, and ‘Children’s books’. My children’s book The Sleepytown Express is now in hardcover, too – a great gift for the small ones in your life.

Blessings during the season!

Take Aim

Businessman holding rocket and shooting to archery target.

Businessman holding rocket and shooting to archery target.

Knowing your target audience should be uppermost in every writer’s mind. This is just as vital for fiction authors as for writers of non-fiction, yet many fiction writers naively think their books will appeal to everyone. While it is wonderful to want to evangelize, the reality is that most non-Christians just aren’t picking up Christian fiction. To further narrow the field, not all Christian fiction is created equal. Let me explain.

One of the major problems is that the audience and the author just aren’t speaking the same language. Many people within the Christian community don’t realize that they speak with idioms that are only understandable to others within their faith. (‘Christian-ese’ I like to call it.) Another issue is that the average Christian reader has an expectation about the content. Coarse language, sexuality, and violence are usually smoothed over so as not to offend. In contrast, secular fiction – along with its motion picture counterpart – is becoming more and more sexualized, violent, crude and shocking.
When a book is labeled ‘Christian’ the assumption is often made that it will be squeaky-clean. There will be no sex outside marriage, no violence, no language warnings… nothing to make anyone uncomfortable. Some readers argue that they don’t want to be surprised by these elements and if a book is labelled ‘Christian’, they have a certain expectation, kind of like a ‘G’ movie rating. I’m NOT saying there is anything wrong with this. Story is ‘king, (or queen) and if a book can’t stand up on its own without these elements, then it’s really not a very good book in the first place. Gratuitous violence, sex, or bad language won’t improve a bad story. End of story.
But there are readers who want something with a little more ‘grit’. Real life isn’t perfect. Bad people do bad things. Adding non-gratuitous ‘edgy’ elements to a book makes the story more believable and can have a huge impact on the message. For a few wonderful examples, check out the Bible. There are plenty of stories in there that are pretty graphic – no sugar coating added.
That there is a market for such books is a fact. The problem for authors of so called ‘edgy’ Christian fiction is that they have a harder time finding their audience. To avoid a backlash from readers who expect all books labelled ‘Christian’ to contain zero worldly elements, some authors avoid mentioning the ‘Christian’ part. This inevitably creates another set of problems when non-Christian readers get offended by ‘too much religion’.
My own experience with this dilemma is quite extensive. I try not to sugar coat my characters or their circumstances. I want my characters to sound like real people in their natural setting, and let’s face it. Life sucks sometimes. Of course, I have certain standards – I don’t write explicit sex scenes, grotesque violence, and I will never use the F-bomb or take the Lord’s name in vain.
Still, my characters might have sex outside of marriage, get caught up in violent situations, and may use the occasional mild curse. This last one seems to be the stickler for many Christians. One lady wrote me to say she had to stop reading when a character used the word “hell.” Interestingly, many other readers expressed the opposite opinion, saying the authenticity of the dialogue added to the believability of the story. It’s an anything but clear case of ‘you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.’ (I apologize to those who may be offended by the use of the word ‘damn’…)
Some Christian authors state that their goal is to evangelize, and therein lies another paradox. In all honesty, non-Christians just aren’t reading their books. Books written from a Christian worldview are being read by people who are already familiar with the gospel. When my second book MY MOTHER THE MAN-EATER came out, I was asked at a library reading if I would prefer my book in the regular stacks or in the religious section. My immediate reply was in the regular stacks. A few months later I got an email from a reader who told me they didn’t like my book because it was too religious. (By the way, amazon isn’t the only way authors get feedback…) On the other hand, I have had more than one reader contact me to say that this same story impacted them on a deep level and they were sharing a copy with a friend. This kind of encouragement convinces me that my message has value. Even if I only affect a few people along the way, it’s worth it.

I am beginning to see that trying to be ‘all things to all people’ is not the best strategy. The debate actually comes down to one thing: AUDIENCE. I believe there is a niche – even a need – for fiction that isn’t squeaky-clean, but that tells an uncompromising yet compelling story from a Christian worldview. Perhaps the demographic is different from the stereotypic Christian reader. It may include people who were not raised in the church, who came to salvation through difficult circumstances, or who are of a more liberal mindset. If this is your audience, then write for them. They will thank you for it.

This article was originally published in the 2015 fall edition of ‘Fellowscript Magazine’.

Hard Work vs. Effective Work

I am quoting from an email I received not long ago from author Nick Stephenson. (If you’ve never heard of Nick, check out his website here. he is literally a marketing guru.)

“How many times have you spent HOURS on something that brought you ZERO results?

But because it felt like “work” you thought you were doing something productive?

It happens all the time. And it happens because people lose sight of what’s important – and confuse hard work with effective work

The truth is, there are three goals you need to focus on if you want to grow your business.

So, next time you’re planning on doing some work… ask yourself:

  1. Does this help me create new products to sell (ie, “writing more books”)?
  2. Does this help me build my email list?
  3. Does this bring me more sales?

If the answer is “no” to any of those things, move on. I promise you will find yourself less ‘busy’ and more successful as a result – and you’ll be better placed to listen to what your readers really want.”

– Nick Stephenson

Great advice!

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