“I literally cannot remember a time when I didn’t want to be a writer.”- J.K. Rowling
I relate to this quote in a very real way. Like Rowling I always knew I wanted to write. And now that I am not simply a writer but also a published author, when people ask me what I do, I say without hesitation, “I’m a receptionist.”
Why do I answer this way? I’ve never aspired to be a receptionist. It was never my goal in life. It’s what I do to pay the bills. It’s not a bad job. I enjoy the people I work with. But it isn’t what I’ve always dreamed of doing.
If being a receptionist isn’t what leaves me feeling fulfilled and writing is, why does the phrase “I’m a receptionist” slip out so easily? Why wouldn’t I jump at the chance to proudly proclaim, “I am a writer”? Maybe it has something to do with paying the bills. As an author just beginning her writing journey, I don’t make a lot. My income comes from my 8-5 job. The bills I pay are done so with the money earned doing the job I never intended to do.
Or maybe it has to do with the amount of time and energy I spend as a receptionist. I don’t bring work home with me, but 10 hours a day, five days a week are spent going to and working at a doctor’s office. With 24 hours in a day and 7 of those spent in sleep, only 7 hours a day are available for writing. Those 7 hours are whittled away making meals, cleaning house, or spending time with my family and friends. A majority of my waking hours are spent doing the things a receptionist does. Maybe the old saying, “You are what you eat” translates into “you are what you do most”.
Whatever the reason for my hesitancy, it’s false. Words are my passion. My ministry, my purpose is to encourage and challenge other believers through what I write. Whether or not my income is generated through it, whether or not I spend every hour in my day but 1 doing other things, I am a writer. I am an author. I need to own that identity. It is who I am.
I’m also a Christian. Scripture says as such I’m an alien to this world. I don’t belong here. Yet the same struggles can happen in my spiritual life that happen in my writing life. I have to live in this physical world. I have to deal with the messes created by my sin and the sin of others. I need to eat, sleep, and have shelter of some kind. I have to interact with and relate to others. My life is lived 24 hours a day, 365 days a year on this earth.
But this day to day life isn’t who I am. My struggles don’t define me any more than my successes do. I do the things I do because I have to survive. Living my physical life demands a lot of my time. Sometimes, the everyday becomes so demanding I forget that scripture tells me this earth is not my home. I forget that I am more than a conqueror, victorious over sin, forgiven, a child of God, an ambassador for Christ, and every other description in scripture of those who God has redeemed. The knowledge of all these things is in my head and hidden in my heart, but I fail to live like it sometimes. I forget to be who God made me to be even living in the middle of the mess.
I don’t think I’m alone in this. I think maybe it’s a struggle for a lot of us. We find ourselves getting world focused instead of God focused. We give so much to the physical side of life that we forget to honor and grow the spiritual. Even though we’re still living according to our beliefs, we become wrapped up in who this world says we are instead of claiming the truth. It’s time to remember that we belong to God with all the truths that belonging includes. It’s time to make the truths of God the identity we cling to and proclaim every day.
By the Book: Think about your favorite description of who you are in God. I’d love it if you’d share it in the comments. Then, spend some time in scripture finding out who God says you are.
Normally, this is the day I feature a writing quote. It’s something to inspire, encourage, or challenge us to become better writers. Of course, it ties into a faith lesson. By the Book is the place where a love of God and good books meet. All of my posts from the writing focused ones on Wednesdays to the book reviews on Saturdays and the character interviews on Mondays work to bring these passions of my life together in a way that is hopefully helpful and meaningful to readers.
I try to stay consistent. Every article on blogging and writing preaches consistency. Knowing what to expect from the blogs you’re following is great. If I like a particular feature, I want to know when I can expect more of the same. But I have a confession to make.
Hello. My name is Heather Greer, and I failed at consistency this week. I didn’t read a book this week. That’s highly unusual. I have a library full of To Be Read books on my tablet. I blog book reviews. One of the requirements to do book reviews is to read books. Sure, I can grab an old favorite to write about every now and then, but I try to make sure my reviews feature fairly recent releases. Not finishing a book during the week hinders my ability to do that.
I didn’t post a review on Saturday. Friends from church came and laid my living room floor, which looks great by the way. They were done by early evening, and I had plenty of time to write a review. But I didn’t. Ten hours of cleaning, helping lay floor (even though my contribution was only helping pull staples out of the floor), and having people in my house wore me out. I didn’t have it in me to write a review.
I also didn’t post on Monday. It was a holiday from my nine to five job. I spent the morning grilling my family’s meals for the rest of the week, after all it would be a shame to waste good, hot charcoal once you’ve got the grill lit. I spent time with my elderly grandmother who was having trouble remembering why my parents weren’t home. It helped her to have someone to eat lunch with and to take her to buy orange juice and bread. Oh, and I wrote about 5,000 words on Grasping Hope. I thought about stopping to do my post, but I have a deadline with the publisher if the book is going to be ready for its March release date.
Being inconsistent wasn’t easy. Every time I thought about my missing posts, I suffered blogger’s guilt. Is that a thing? If not, it should be. Saturday I consoled myself with the idea that I would post on Sunday. I didn’t, but I did tell myself I would do it on Monday. We know how that turned out. I felt the same guilt on Monday, but my progress on my book eased my conscience.
As I considered my posting failures, the idea that I had become a slacker nagged in the back of my mind. I don’t want to be a slacker. I want to be productive. Today, as I considered what my post should cover, I knew my focus should be my blogging struggle. But it should do more than chronicle my failures. I needed to encourage too.
I don’t think I’m the only one who occasionally struggles with being productive. Maybe you’ve had an off week and feel a little bit like a slacker yourself. For me, these slacking tendencies affect my writing because it’s my ministry. I don’t know what ministries you’re involved in, but I’d be willing to bet whatever they are, that’s where your slacker tendencies show up. Ministry takes a lot of mental, emotional, and spiritual energy. Throw life into the mix (especially if you’re dealing with outside work, kids, or family issues), and it seems like you’re on a never-ending roller coaster ride suffering from motion sickness without the help of Dramamine. It’s exhausting.
I know I said I was going to encourage. Hang in there. It’s coming. The good news is God didn’t intend us to go 24/7 without a chance to care for our own needs. He didn’t rest on the seventh day of creation because He was tired. He rested to set an example. When Jesus was on earth ministering to the masses, scripture says there were times He needed to get away by Himself to pray. He was taking time to make sure He stayed strong spiritually, and He, too, was setting an example for us. It points to the wisdom in Ecclesiastes 3. “There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven”. I think passage could include something like a time to review books and a time to lay floors with friends, a time to post and a time to write on your book, a time to minister to others and a time to minister to your family.
It’s not an excuse to stay in a place of slacking off. It’s not downplaying the importance of staying consistent. But it is an escape from ministry guilt (also not a term, but I think it should be), when it’s time for that much needed rest and recharging of our emotions, minds, and spirits. Sometimes, other things need to come first for a short time. We need to take care of ourselves to continue doing what God is calling us to do. So, take your break when needed, and then return to your ministry with a fresh energy and focus. It’s okay. A brief respite doesn’t make you a slacker.
By the Book: When was the last time you were proactive about taking care of own emotional, spiritual, and physical needs?
I didn’t make this one part five, because the step in the process takes place before, beside, and after the publishing of your book. It is marketing. And it isn’t as easy as one might think. To find out more, I turned to a person who has taught me a lot in the last few months, Linda Fulkerson. The most recent lesson she’s taught me? It’s that when you ask her for an interview be prepared for a thorough interview! Her interview follows, and though it is longer than my usual posts, I think you’ll come away with a new appreciation of marketing and maybe even some good ideas for marketing your own book!
Thank you for interviewing me!
Can you tell us little about how you got into offering marketing services and the services your company offers to authors?
It’s kind of a long story, lol.
Back in 2002, my then-agent had been shopping my manuscript for The Prodigal Daughter: Hope for Runaway Christians and Those Who Await Their Return (my first book – a nonfiction memoir-style self-help book). Editors liked it, but wouldn’t offer a contract because I wasn’t well known, and unless you’re a celebrity, memoirs don’t sell. My agent’s advice was, “Go get famous. Then resubmit.” Because I was naïve, I asked him, “How does one get famous?” He told me to start a speaking ministry and start blogging. Very few people were blogging back in 2002. I didn’t know much about it, so I started taking online courses from professional bloggers and learned a lot.
Fast forward a few years to 2009. By this point, blogging had become a big deal for authors, but still, not many had a blog or knew what to do with it if they did have one. Word got out among my author friends – Linda knows how to blog! I was literally spending at least an hour (sometimes more) on the phone, explaining to different authors how to blog and use digital marketing, (including SEO, social media, email marketing, etc.) effectively. My husband suggested to save time, I should start a blog about blogging. (I married a wise man.) I don’t update it anymore, but all the content is still available online at OnBloggingWell.com, named after the old book, On Writing Well. During this time, I was conducting a popular workshop in several states titled, “Marketing with a Blog.” (Although some things have changed, most of those same principles I taught then still work today.)
In 2011, I moved to Texas and was hired as the online editor for a daily newspaper. The day after I started, the general manager called me into his office. He told me after reviewing my résumé further, he wanted me to move out of editorial and launch a digital services company for area small businesses. So, after being an editor-for-a-day, I became the Director of Digital Services. We conducted small business training seminars and sold website/digital marketing packages that included print advertising options (it was a newspaper, after all, lol). It was a fast-paced, exciting job, and our client base grew quickly. Plus, I learned SO much!
I moved back to Arkansas in late 2013. My husband suggested that, instead of getting a job, I begin my own digital marketing company, which I did. I started off by doing cold calls to local mom & pop brick and mortar companies, but quickly the word got out among my author friends that I was building websites now and offering marketing services/consulting. God has blessed my business tremendously. For well over three years, all my clients have come to me via referral. No more begging for business! I still have most of my original small business clients, but today, I offer my services exclusively to authors and speakers. I’m so blessed. J
Why is it important for authors to have access to these kinds of services?
When an author pitches a book idea to an editor or agent, one of the first questions asked will be, “How big is your platform?” Just like a physical platform enables a speaker to be seen by a crowd, an author’s platform gives him or her “visibility” in a crowded marketplace. An author’s platform includes a variety of elements – blog subscribers, email list subscribers, social media followers, author networks, friends & family, local community, and “marketing evangelists,” such as a street team or even reader-fans the author may not even know. Growing such a platform takes a lot of work – persistency and consistency. Like anything, it all starts with a solid foundation – a properly structured website. I call it the author’s “Marketing Machine.”
The problem is, many authors either (a) don’t have the technical skillset to develop such a platform, or (b) don’t have the time to do so. That’s where people like me can help. Many times, someone will hire me short-term, just to get everything set up, structured properly, and offer training on how to use the system effectively. Then, they take it from there. Others hire me to do ongoing marketing tasks, such as search engine optimization and/or social media management.
Which service that your company provides is the most enjoyable for you?
I enjoy making video book trailers. The turnaround time is quicker than websites, plus, most authors get super excited when they see their book premise in video form.
What is the most difficult part of your job?
That little four-letter-word: TIME. Sometimes my to-do list can be overwhelming. I have a lot of clients, and frankly, I do my best to spoil them. But sometimes I get bogged down Somedays, when I check my email, every subject line has the word “HELP!” in it, lol. I am blessed in the fact that my kids are grown, so I no longer have the day-to-day duties of a mom thrown in with work. I would like to write more, but I put my paying clients’ work ahead of my personal writing goals.
At first, that really bothered me. I feel God has given me the gift of words, and I should share them. Today I try to look at it like this – God has also given my clients words to share, and by helping them spread their words, I’m perhaps in a small way helping spread His. (But I still want to write, lol!)
Another challenge is sometime the technology itself. Things change so rapidly in the digital world. It can be frustrating at times. For instance, there may be a WordPress plugin I’ve used to enhance a website’s functionality that worked fine for months (or even longer), but if the developer doesn’t keep it updated, a new WordPress version may render the plugin useless, or worse, crash a website. Some of these issues are unforeseeable, but can be hard to explain to clients. My motto is, “Technology is great – when it works.” (This is why it’s vital to have a website backup system in place!)
Do you have a project that stands out as a favorite?
I really enjoy book cover design. I’ve done a few for clients, but I haven’t really put myself out there as far as a graphic designer yet. Most people think of me as a website builder or marketing consultant, which is fine. It may be selfish, but so far, my favorite thing I’ve created is the cover for my own book, DEAD BROKE. I’ve had so many compliments on that cover – mostly from people who didn’t even realize I’d designed it. Now I wish I’d entered it in some cover-design contests, but it’s been out for two years now, so probably a little late for that.
If you could give authors one piece of advice what would it be?
Okay, but I have to share two. Sorry.
First, realize that marketing is not about you. It’s about the audience. What they want. What they need. The sad truth is, other than your close friends and family, people don’t care about you or your books. People are selfish. Human nature is “what’s in it for me?” If you can (1) discover the dreads/desires of your audience (through effective market research) and (2) help them avoid those dreads/attain those desires, you will become a best-seller. (See the last paragraph for how to do this.)
Second, understand the various components of marketing and the purpose each one serves. I teach relationship marketing – it’s called the “Know-Like-Trust” system. Basically, it goes like this: If people feel they know you, they will like you. If they like you, they will begin to trust you. Once they trust you, they will buy from you.
A lot of people attempt to use social media to sell books. That rarely works. The best use of social media is to build brand awareness (name recognition) and develop relationships. Social media is included in the “KNOW” and “LIKE” part of the KNOW-LIKE-TRUST principle.
Blogging is a great way to improve upon your audience’s like for you, plus, it builds trust. When people see you are knowledgeable about a topic, they believe you are an “author”ity on that topic. Blogging is one of the best ways to set yourself apart from the crowd. There’s a trend now in the publishing industry where agents and editors are telling authors that blogging isn’t important for fiction writers. I’m not sure where they got that information, but I disagree. I study blogging trends from professional bloggers, not from editors or agents. They know the publishing industry, but pro bloggers know digital marketing. That’s where I’ve learned most of what I know. Those who are most well-known and respected in the blogosphere say blogging is not dead. But, most people just don’t know how to blog effectively, so they’ve made an assumption it doesn’t work. From my experience, blogging can be one of your best marketing tools.
One of the most vital elements in your marketing toolbox is your email list. The value of an effective lead capture/email marketing system can’t be stressed enough. Most authors don’t know how to build an email list and if they have one, they don’t know how to use it properly. An email list is hands-down your NUMBER ONE sales tool.
Summing it up: Use social media to build that KNOW/LIKE – getting your name out there. Use blogging and/or podcasting to build LIKE/gain TRUST. Learn how to build and email list effectively as a sales tool.
Here’s a practical system on how put it all together:
Use your blog to provide solutions to your readers’ problems. First, know who your audience is. Then, do some market research and make a list of 20-25 fears/problems your audiences faces. Make a list of 20-25 dreams/desires they long to attain.
Write one blog post per fear/problem and one blog post per dream/desire. Now you’ve got about a year’s worth of blog content. Do keyword research so you’ll know what exact-match phrases to optimize for in each post, then optimize your post content for search.
Include a call-to-action within each post to join your email list. When someone joins your list, give them something valuable to entice them to join. Then nurture those leads by providing even more useful, relevant information. Useful and relevant are two of the most important words in marketing. Finally, pitch your books via email. But be sure to provide more useful content than pitches. So, every email won’t include a book pitch. A good ratio is somewhere between 4:1 and 7:1, depending upon your audience.
Use social media as teasers to lead people to your blog posts.
Thank you Linda for participating in this interview! You can find Linda at lindafulkerson.com. And to see a little bit of what she does, you can click below to watch the book trailer Linda created for Faith’s Journey.