Writer’s Life: A Funny Thing Happened

Does God have a sense of humor? Of course he does! But always in a kind way and for our good. Here’s the true story from an earlier writing year where the Lord played …

A Joke on Me!

“You called me to write, Lord, but nobody wants my stuff. I guess I’m just not good enough.” Releasing a heavy sigh, I pushed my manuscripts aside and grabbed my car keys. Maybe hanging out at the Christian Book Nook would cheer me up.

read-ing-a-bookUnfortunately, my downcast mood followed me to the store and dampened my usual enthusiasm. I drifted wistfully past the novels and began picking half-heartedly through the devotional books before one pierced my blue funk. I read the first devotional, sampled one in the middle, and turned to the end of the book. The last piece quickly pulled me in. I devoured it.

“Wow, Lord, if only I could write as well as this author, I’d really be getting somewhere!”

I flipped back a page to the byline. My eyes widened. I began to chuckle. The joke was on me. I had been admiring my own piece!

Yes, I still have a lot to learn about writing and marketing manuscripts. However, these days when I’m tempted to feel depressed about my progress, I remember how God once encouraged me with—of all things—my own writing. After all, if the God who called us to write believes in us, who are we to doubt?

Lord, thank you that you are the God who encourages us, who has great plans for us, who leads and guides us to success as we trust and obey you.

“Those who trust in the Lord will never lack any good thing” ~ Psalm 34:10, TLB

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Dear Reader, maybe you, too, are guilty of being discouraged from time to time. About your.writing. About something else. Please know that as we trust in the Lord and continue to persevere, the God who called us also believes in us.

~ Beth

“A Joke on Me” first appeared in The Christian Communicator (August 2012).

he devotional book referred to in this piece is Sing a New Song complied by Mary Beckwith (Evergreen Publications, 1991–now out of print).

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Debut Author: 5 Basics for a Successful Book Launch

dsc04050No matter how well prepared, you can easily be overwhelmed when your debut novel releases to the public. Suddenly you’re swimming in the deep, exciting, and unfamiliar waters of promotion. Not sure you can sustain the frantic pace. But absolutely certain you must keep up if your book is to succeed in a highly competitive marketplace.

Over time, I noticed the following had the greatest impact on the launch of Her Deadly Inheritance.

5 Basics for a Successful First Book Launch

Blog Tour: When my novel debuted on January 2 last year, the usual week-long blog tour had already been scheduled with a guest blog or review and book giveaway appearing each day. Either you ask or volunteer to be a guest on someone’s blog, or they ask you. The blogger gives you a topic to write on or interview dsc04063questions to answer. It’s fun, but be prepared. You may find, as I did, more and more requests and opportunities coming in.

Guest blogs have a big impact on sales and are a great way to connect with readers and fans. You not only write these blogs but follow up with any responses to them left on your host’s site. Though a lot of work, I didn’t refuse any and was astonished to find my first blog tour continue into February and beyond–every one a blessing. So I encourage you to “go for it.”

Facebook Book Launch Party: Just as Paige Boggs (assigned to me by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas) helped me with setting up the blog tour, she set up and oversaw and advised me with this online launch party. She also ran the prize giveaway portion. bubbles-fbGuests accrued points to win prizes. I couldn’t have done it without her.

My job was to:

  • invite the guests
  • come up with several fun discussion questions
  • set up the prizes for participation
  • and emcee the event.

The party became so lively that Facebook kicked me out three times, thinking I was spam. The last time I couldn’t get back in, so Paige took over and awarded the prizes while I stayed tuned in by e-mail. The 3-hour party went on without me for another hour-and-a-half–well after the prizes had been awarded. SO … make sure you have help and be prepared for surprises.

dsc04058dsc04053Local Book Launch Party: What an amazing event. This time family and friends pitched in to make it a success. My friend Deb Zarter helped me brainstorm the theme (“Fourth of July in January” because of the novel’s setting), and gather door prizes and decorations. I picked up ideas on how to run a party and what refreshments to serve by participating in one. Another friend, Susan Baganz, held a party six months earlier to launch Pesto & Potholes.

I designed and purchased a large poster for our church foyer, sent out announcements in my annual Christmas letter, posted info on Facebook, and let all my friends and family know.

Five days before the party, I fell horribly ill for three days, but the Lord provided. My dear friend Jackie Kotloski drove me around on Friday to order the cake and pick up other items I needed. On Saturday, flowers arrived from Sue Marlene Kinney and Becky McLafferty. I received them not only as love from these two dear and thoughtful friends, but as if the flowers were also a gift from the Lord & Jim in heaven. I cried for joy all the way to my hair dresser.

dsc04075Back home with the last of the needed refreshments purchased, I wondered how I would ever get the 100 star cookies frosted, the fruit and veggies cut … and again the Lord provided. The phone rang. My sister Shelly Zraik and her daughter Nicole had driven from the Toledo, Ohio area to surprise me. Before we went to bed that night, everything was ready.

The party itself was a great success. Even with 30 degrees below zero windchill factor, about 100 people showed up to celebrate and buy books. Everyone who received a door prize was delighted with it, and I was blessed to have someone from each of my family and friend groups represented. God is good. Expect him to help you prepare and celebrate, to bless and even surprise you

Social Media Scramble: In the midst of all this, I scrambled to answer every Facebook and e-mail message. Each of those who sent them was excited and encouraging. Acknowledging them was a privilege.

dsc04056Speaking & Book Signing: Not everyone enjoys speaking but it is a great way to connect in person with readers and fans. Yes, I get nervous before each event. Ask Deb Zarter or whoever else acts as my helper. But once I start sharing my heart with my audience I’m fine. I think it helps, too, to arrive about an hour ahead to set up my book table, freshen up, and then reserve the last half hour to greet guests as they arrive.

I usually speak and answer questions for 45-60 minutes and then Deb or another helper sells the books while I visit with guests as I sign their books. A helper can also act as a traveling companion–much nicer and more fun than driving alone.

***

Dear Reader, what fun, huh? And what a lot of work! But every bit of it is worth the time and effort invested. I hope I didn’t overwhelm you, and if you have any questions, I’d be glad to answer them if I can. God bless you all.

~ Beth

Debut Novel: Preparing for Launch

Congratulations! You’ve sold your first (debut) novel to a publisher who loves it. But wait! Your work has only just begun. A long–and sometimes bewildering–road looms ahead as you and your managing editor and other staff prepare to present your novel to highwaythe public!

It’s sort of like the biblical story of Esther. Chosen along with other beautiful maidens in the empire, she endured a whole year of preparations–beauty treatments, etc.–before the person in charge considered her fit to present to King Ahasuerus. And that year was time well-spent.

Just as a year or preparation for your novel will be time well spent. May I share my story?

Preparing Her Deadly Inheritance for Publication

With the contract signed and a projected release date in place, I was suddenly thrust into edits. My managing editor, Rowena Kuo, assigned me to another editor, J. Christine Richards, to help professionally polish my novel. For the next three months, we sent my novel’s manuscript back and forth between us by e-mail. Chris pointed out problems and made suggestions. Then I reviewed them and decided which would work. I was smart enough to realize that at least 99% of them were necessary. I made the needed changes, and every one improved the book.

Next came the proofreader–another editor hired to help catch as many grammar mistakes as possible. Again the manuscript came back to me to approve each of those changes.

In the meantime, I also worked hard on improving my Internet presence–web site, Facebook, blog, and many others. How else would readers get to know me and realize I had a book coming out? Lots of study, trial and error, but I made steady progress. Though, actually, I’m still working on that. Well, and having fun because contact with readers is one of the best things about being an author.social-media

Back to the preparations. Every book needs a cover, and toward the end of summer cover design began in earnest. When asked, I suggested using my heroine and her house on the cover, and after a tweak or two, the design team came up with the most marvelous cover. I will always be grateful for their dedication and skill.

Next came the back cover copy. Color me totally embarrassed because my every try was a bust. Finally, my publisher threw it open to other LPC authors. Fortunately, one of them came up with the exciting copy we needed, I only had to tweak it a tiny bit to more nearly natch the story..

Another need for the back cover cropped up. I hired a local photographer, and we held a photo shoot in my backyard. Crystal did an amazing job, but then she photographs models. What a blessing to have a friend whose daughter has such talent.

Next came the beta readers. Friends–both writers and readers–agreed to read advance e-copies of my novel. They kindly pointed out other trouble spots. Some wrote endorsements while others wrote reviews ready to post  on my novel’s release date.

The pre-launch sale on Amazon opened in December–one month before the novel’s January 2 release date and the race was on to be ready for my novel’s debut to the public.

Crunch time during that last month. I scrambled to set up a blog tour, an online book launch party, and a local book launch party for January. My publisher gave me a lot of help through another staff member. Without my publisher’s help I don’t know what I would have done.

Preparations for a book’s release can overwhelm, but a good and caring publishing house like Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas can make all the difference.in your books success. As the old saying goes …

Many hands make light work!

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Dear Reader, I hope you enjoyed this behind-the-scenes look at book publishing. Next week I’ll share the tumult and excitement of releasing your first novel. Until then, may the Lord bless you!