Stories of faith, life, and love

Tag: publishing

Write Stuff Wednesday: An Interview

2f8c97e9-014e-4796-9373-22b108cebe0eUsually I post a quote on Wednesday, but today I had the opportunity to participate in an interview. This interview had some really great questions, and I thought I would share them with you.

I want to thank Elisabeth Trainor for thinking of me for her 5th grade research project on becoming an author. It was my pleasure to help out. I hope your project is a success!

What are some of the responsibilities you have at your job?

My main responsibility as an author is to write, whether it’s the next book I’m working on or something for my blog. I’m also responsible for promoting my books. This includes doing interviews, being a guest on other blogs, participating in book signings, speaking to groups, and creating images to post on social media that tell others about my books.

Is this the job you went to college for?

I know several writers who went to school to get degrees in English or creative writing. While I’ve taken several courses and attended workshops to help make me a better writer and increase my knowledge about the business aspects of writing, my course of study in college was psychology. But even that aids me as a writer by giving me additional insight into personalities to help me create more realistic characters.

What are some of the best things about your job?

I love creating new people and places for the readers to connect with. I have always loved stories, and now I get to create them for others. As a Christian author, I love that God has given me a way to encourage other believers through something that I am passionate about. Plus, I can work at the time of day that is best for me. And if I want I can do the writing part of my job in comfy clothes!

What are some of the worst things about your job?

I don’t know that there is any part of being an author that I don’t like. There are parts of it that are more difficult for me. I’m not a math person, but working for myself I have to be responsible for the tax information our state requires. That is definitely not fun. To help promote my book, I have to learn new computer programs or apps. I’m not proficient with a lot of these things, and that makes using them frustrating until I get used to them. I also have to talk about myself and my writing. As a fairly introverted person, this is very uncomfortable for me. But I’m getting better at it.

Why did you choose to be an author?

Reading has always been one of my favorite hobbies. Each book introduced me to new friends and places I’d never visited. The stories I read would show me new perspectives and ideas I hadn’t thought about before. As I got older and read more faith based fiction, I found a lot of truth in the stories that I read. The people the authors created encouraged me and challenged me to grow as a person and as a Christian. I came away from the best books I read excited and wanting to create that same experience for others.

Where is the most comfortable spot you like to write at?

I have a comfy chair in my office. It faces a large window that looks out over the field behind my house and the woods beyond the field. It’s a very quiet, peaceful scene. When the weather is cool enough, I like to open the window, look out, and write with the fresh air coming into the room.

What inspires you to write?

Overall, I think the reason I wanted to be an author is what inspires me to do it. But there are people and things that continue to keep me focused and encouraged. I believe God gave me this ability and passion, and He inspires me to write in ways that will allow others to know Him more. I still find inspiration when I read a really good book. It leaves me anxious to get back to work on my own stories. When I’m feeling less motivated to write, I have a local writer’s group and friends that encourage me to get back to it. They help me work through what’s holding me back and cheer me on when things are going well.

Do you write non-fiction or fiction?

My books are fiction. They are set in the real town I grew up in, but the people and situations are all from my imagination. My blog posts are non-fiction. They are all about writing, reading, and living a life of faith. One day, I’d like to have devotional books that pair up with each fiction book I write. Those will be non-fiction as well.

Who is your favorite author and why?

My favorite non-fiction author is Sheila Walsh. Her books deal with the real issues that come up in living a life of faith, and she handles each one with honesty and openness. It’s nice to know someone isn’t just telling you something from theory but instead from a life that’s lived it out.

My favorite fiction author is Kristen Heitzmann. Her stories draw me in. She’s an amazing story-teller, and I come away feeling like I’ve been visiting with friends. The messages in her stories have helped me with things I’ve gone through in my own life. I got to meet her once, and she is also a very kind and encouraging individual.

How did your book get published?

After I completed the manuscript, I researched publishers and agents. A lot of publishers won’t take new authors without getting the material from an agent. So, I had to approach both. I sent out several query letters explaining the story and why I was qualified to write it. I also had to give them information on my writing training, accomplishments, and how I could help market my books.  I got rejection slips. Most authors do. But I kept sending it out. Authors need to learn how to persevere.

Mantle Rock Publishing accepted the manuscript, and I signed a contract with them. The book had to be sent to them for edits. As I completed them, I sent it back. Their cover designer worked on designing the perfect cover for my book while I was busy editing. Then, with the edits done and the cover design approved, the publisher sent it to the people who would make it into the actual book in time for the release date. I will never forget the first time I held my finished book in my hands. I’m blessed to have this job.

Cover to Cover – Beyond the Cover

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.

 

Cover to Cover – Part Four

Your novel has been accepted, and the contract has been signed. The cover designer is hard at work putting together the images that will entice readers to pick your book off the shelf and at least read the back cover copy. You can breathe easy. The work is done.

Not by a long shot.

To make your book the best it can be, it will go through at least another round or two of editing. What is there to edit? I interviewed Erin Howard and Pam Harris, editors for Mantle Rock Publishing to find out what they do to help Mantle Rock authors prepare their books for launch.

Erin Howard – Developmental Editor

What exactly does a developmental editor do?

I look at the big picture of the book and then narrow in on the structure of that book. I look at the plot, themes, characterization, POV/voice, pacing/flow, dialogue, landscapes, and style. Not only do I look at the manuscript through an editor’s eyes, but I also get to look at it through a reader’s eyes.  No matter what stage you are in your writing career, everyone needs and can benefit from developmental editing.

What is your favorite part of this job?

I love getting to know my authors, and help them match their vision to a ready manuscript for editing. Think of it like a director in a movie.  They get to work with the cast and crew from the planning stages, to costumes, to the final editing in the studio.  I work with my authors, asking them questions about their thought process, where they envision the story going, and then make sure they are getting to that end goal. It’s very exciting for me. I love watching all the pieces fall into place.

Have there been times when an author is resistant to the changes you suggest? How do or would you deal with situations like this?

Everyone at MRP has been wonderful to work with. I can’t force anyone to take my suggestions, (we are talking about story content) but I look at this like a partnership and not someone dictating what has to be changed. I’m here to help and to look for areas that can be improved on. While there may be things that need to be changed, I expect my authors to ask me questions.  I truly want to know what they were thinking and their goals for that particular section of the book or scene.  I’m here to help them present the best version of their manuscript.

Has going through the publishing process with your own book given you any new insights for your job as developmental editor?

No matter how much you’ve studied or practiced, everyone needs an extra set of eyes editing their manuscript. As authors, we get too close to our “baby” and we are not always objective when it comes to our stories. It’s so much easier to see things in other people’s stories. We all benefit from each stage of the editing process, they are all crucial to the success of the book.

If you could create one class that all writers had to take before writing their manuscripts, what would you call that class?

That’s a hard one, Heather! I would probably call it “The Big Picture”. Every writer needs to know about all of the elements that I talked about earlier and how they are woven together in the story.

Pam Harris – Line Editor

Can you explain what a line editor does in the publication process?

My role is to check for grammar and spelling errors. I prefer to edit in sections. For instance, if a book contains 240 pages, I may edit the first 60, send to the author for corrections or revisions, and continue with the next 60 pages once I receive the edited pages back from the author. I think this makes it easier for the author and for me. Once the author and I have finished our edits, I do a spelling and grammar check on Word. It doesn’t always catch everything, but hopefully between the author, Word, and me, we catch most errors if not all of them.

What pushes you to be the best line editor you can be?

Two things: the desire to have a really good product and my reputation. Unfortunately, some things do get by me, but that’s why the author and I together can find what needs to be corrected. I am a certified English teacher, but there are still things I must research to see how Chicago Manual of Style recommends certain things be handled.  It is a time-consuming process.

Do you ever start to get lost in the story and struggle to keep your focus on the editing process? Do you have any tricks to keep this from happening?

At first, this was a real challenge, because as we read we often read what we expect to see instead of what is actually there. I have learned, however, to read with a critical eye, and unfortunately, that’s the way I read everything now — even cereal boxes!

What is the best part of being a line editor?

Getting to read so many really good books and working with the authors. I feel as though I get to know them through their writing and our communications.

I’ll ask you the same question I did Erin. If you could create one class that all writers had to take before writing their manuscripts, what would you call it?

The title that comes to mind is a session I once did at a writers’ retreat: “Caution, grammar bumps ahead!” The greatest problems I see with writers are the overuse and punctuation errors with “then” and the misuse of commas, colons, em dashes, and ellipses. Those punctuation errors interfere with the flow of the story. A better understanding of them would help writers produce a better book.

I want to thank Erin and Pam for telling us a little bit more about the editing processes that go into getting a book ready for publication. Erin and Pam have had experience from the editor and author side of publication. You can find both Erin’s fantasy book, The Seer, and Pam’s historical fiction, Aimee (as well as her other books) on Amazon in both paperback and e-book formats. 

Cover to Cover – Part One

Usually you find a book review/devotion or a writer’s life/devotion on By the Book each Wednesday and Saturday. For the Cover to Cover series, we’re going a deeper into the process that takes an author’s manuscript and turns it into the book you purchase. Of course, we aren’t going to neglect the spiritual either. So, you’ll come away with a greater appreciation for the publishing world and some spiritual encouragement too.

Diane-headshot

Today we welcome Diane Turpin.

Diane Turpin is the cover designer for Mantle Rock Publishing and her own company, Diane Turpin Designs. Since 2014, she has created book covers in the genres of historical romance, contemporary romance, suspense and most recently, fantasy. She is the wife of a professional Boy Scout and mom of a musical daughter. In her spare time, she sharpens her crafty skills with watercolor painting and sewing.

 

  1. What prompted you to get involved in designing book covers?

My mother. Doesn’t it always start with your mother? Mom formed Mantle Rock Publishing and had published a couple of books before asking me to design covers for her. I was very active in the digital scrapbook world and had all the skills needed to create covers. I had used Photoshop extensively with digital scrapbooking and also at a previous job in a printing shop.

  1. How do you decide the best way to portray a book in its cover design?

Actually, it comes mostly from questions I ask the author. I want the author to have a cover they are proud of, so I ask them what book covers they are most attracted to. I match those responses to what genre they have written in and start from there.

  1. What do you feel a well-designed cover does for a book? How important is the cover to the book?

A well-designed cover says, “This book is worth your time investment to read it.” It should look intriguing enough to make the reader want to read it without telling the whole story. It sets up the framework for the reader to know what they are reading, whether it’s location, mood, era, romance, mystery, and so on. I think, next to a well-written book, it’s the most important thing…wink!

  1. Writers get writer’s block. Do you get cover designer’s block? How do you get over it?

YES! Especially when it’s the first cover I’ve done for an author. It’s hard for me to judge you from a questionnaire and a few emails. So, I worry that the direction I’m headed may not suit your style. After all, I want the cover to portray your writing, not necessarily my design style. Sometimes I get stumped. What do I do to get over it…usually, I do watercolor painting. It helps me get my creative juices flowing in a different direction to get the spark I need to finish up a cover.

  1. Authors have compared writing to childbirth and the finished product to their children. Do you feel that kind of connection to the books you’ve designed for?

Sure, but it’s more like kids I’m adopting out. LOL. I do have covers that I’m prouder of than others, mostly first covers or covers where I really stepped it up a notch.

  1. Is there one cover that stands out to you as a favorite?

Irish Encounter by Hope Dougherty is one that stands out because I worried about it so much. I don’t remember if she wanted her main character featured or not, but I couldn’t find anything that resembled her character in clothing that was appropriate – she’s a middle-aged lady traveling in Ireland. I stepped out and went with my gut and the cover turned out great. It was one of my first covers, and I’m still proud of it.

Not What He Ordered by Laurean Brooks for a totally different reason. I met Laurean in person before I did her cover. In fact, we were at two retreats together, so I knew how funny and silly she was. We had so much fun creating her cover just because of our friendship. I also went out and photographed a historic train depot or two to add to her cover. After I got the depot on the cover, I realized I had to remove all the electrical conduit and light fixtures from the building. I had thought about the light fixtures when I took the picture, but the conduit was painted to match the siding and didn’t really jump out at me until I started working with the picture in Photoshop. All that hard work really endeared that cover to me.

When people ask, what my favorite cover is, it’s usually the last one I created. And just like your kids, I love them all.

  1. Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about your designing process?

I work primarily from stock photographs. I enjoy hunting for the perfect images to combine into a cover. Some covers, like the cover of Faith’s Journey, only take a couple of images to portray the right mood. Other covers, like Aimee by Pam Harris or Keeper of the Flame by Mary Kay Tuberty, take multiple photos in layers to get the perfect final image. My goal is for it to look so natural that you have a hard time picking out the individual photos that created the image. A Light At Bailey’s Harbor by Bethany Baker has clothing from one model, face from a second model and hair from a third. Not to mention that I created the sign for the title. It truly is more than just finding the right photo and adding some text. It’s setting a mood or evoking a feeling that gets you ready to read the story.

Special thanks to Diane Turpin for taking time out of her busy schedule to give us insight into the process of designing book covers. You can find out more about Diane at dianeturpindesigns.com.

By the Book: I love what Diane said, “It’s setting a mood or evoking a feeling that gets you ready to read the story.” Comment below on some of your favorite cover designs. While you’re at it, I’ve included some of my favorite Diane Turpin designs and pictures of the two she mentioned. Which of these are your favorites?My Favorite

Diane's Favorites

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