Working with the Industry: Small Publishers

I met Ellen Fannon at the Blue Lake Christian Writer’s Retreat, a lovely conference directed by my friend, Marilyn Turk. Ellen had published her first book with a small publisher, eLectio Publishing. She graciously agreed to share a little about her experience with publishing ….

First, how did you find your publisher?

Ellen: I found my publisher, eLectio, online. As a new author, I’d sent queries to every Christian publisher (and agent)  I could find, hoping to get someone, anyone to publish my book. As most new authors know, there is a catch-22 when trying to get published. You can’t get published unless you are published. Keep in mind, there are a number of publishers out there who will publish anything for a hefty fee. I unknowingly sent queries to a number of these publishers, who were all too happy to publish my book. They pursued me relentlessly by email, telephone calls, etc., and everything they promised sounded too good to be true. That’s because they don’t tell you up front (or on their websites) that there’s a cost. These companies are called “vanity presses” for those who are new to the industry, as I am. I learned my lesson the hard way.

I was becoming quite discouraged and distrustful. I did not want to have to pay someone to publish my book, nor did I really want to self-publish. However, there are some advantages to self-publishing with programs like Amazon’s Create Space, so I wouldn’t rule that out as an option. Anyway, I was blessed to have an offer from eLectio,  a small, traditional Christian publishing company. About the same time, I found an agent who was willing to work with me. However, he advised me that it is becoming increasingly more difficult for unknown authors to get published, as many of the larger traditional presses are closing due to more online business, so he couldn’t promise me anything. He was wonderfully helpful. I debated about which route to take, however, there was a time limit on eLectio’s offer, so in the end, I decided to go with them. They were very patient, answering all my questions and concerns about the contract. I also had a couple other people in the business look over the contract.

Did someone at the publisher edit your book?

Ellen: No, there was no professional editing done by the publisher. I do know they at least read the book, however, because there were a couple of things they suggested might be construed as offensive, and recommended I make changes. They suggested joining a writer’s group, such as Word Weavers, and have them review and critique my work.

How long did the editing process take?

Ellen: As there was no professional editing process, I mostly self-edited, which didn’t take very long.

Did you give input in the cover design?

Ellen: Yes, I told them what I wanted for the cover design. It wasn’t done exactly as I wanted—the design was abstract, whereas I preferred something crisp, colorful, and clean. They redid it twice, but I didn’t like either of the other designs, so I went with the first design. I was still very satisfied, however, as it is my understanding that sometimes authors have no input whatsoever on the cover.

Overall, was your experience with a small publisher positive? What would you do differently, if anything?

Ellen: Yes, overall, it was very positive. Within six months of signing the contract, my book was released. Holding my book in my hand for the first time was a tremendous thrill. Again, I felt extremely blessed to have been published by a traditional company. They provide good advice on marketing and periodically send updates with helpful advice. I have contacted them several times with other questions since my book was released and they are always quick to respond. I am happy with the choice I made at that time. Now that I am published, I am working in those areas where I am weak—namely platform and marketing. I have started a website and blog (please, please sign up to follow my blog, as authors need numbers)! I am also on Facebook, and I am slowly learning other marketing strategies. I will readily admit, I really dislike the marketing aspect of this business, but it seems the days of the publisher doing the marketing for the author are over. I have two more books completed, but I am going slow on publishing until I get my platform more established. I may still try to sign with an agent, as I think an agent would give me more inside help. Meanwhile, I work with Word Weavers, whose members are a treasure trove of help and information.

As a shameless self-promotion, please consider buying my book, Other People’s Children available on Amazon and at Barnes and Noble.

Thanks so much for dropping by, Ellen. 

Click to tweet: As most new authors know, there is a catch-22 when trying to get published. You can’t get published unless you are published. (for many) #publishing #amwriting

Other People’s Children

As a mid-thirties childless woman, Robin has all the answers on proper parenting. It doesn’t take long, however, for Robin to realize that her perfect parenting ideas and reality often collide—the result being an amusing journey of finding out that God, indeed, has a sense of humor. As she deals with the baggage, idiosyncrasies, unique personalities, and special gifts of each child who crosses her path, she finds that there is no “one-size fits all” to parenting.

However, in spite of the challenges she and her husband face, they are determined to become the children’s strongest advocates in a flawed system that often fails the very victims it is designed to protect. The journey is often heartbreaking and frustrating, but these foster parents are firmly resolved that for whatever time they have children in their care, the children will know they are safe, protected, and loved by God … and their foster parents.

Ellen Fannon has always had a keen interest in writing, starting from the time she was three years old when she would draw pictures and tell herself the stories. As a child, she wrote many short stories, including a biography on John Glenn’s first space flight, when she was six years old.

Some of her short stories were published in her high school’s literary magazine, Esprit, which she edited during her junior and senior years. Her writing took a hiatus while she got her undergraduate degree in Biology from the University of Cincinnati in 1976, graduating summa cum laude, and later her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from The Ohio State University in 1980.

In 1993, she returned to writing by originating and writing a pet care column for the local newspaper, The Playground Daily News. She wrote the column for six years until she and her husband were commissioned by the International Mission Board for a two-year assignment in Southeast Asia and Oceania. While on the mission field, she often wrote and edited news releases concerning the persecution of Christians. After the 2004 tsunami, she and her husband returned to the mission field for several weeks to work in disaster relief. During that time, she wrote a daily blog on their activities. After returning from the mission field the second time, she and her husband went through the process of becoming certified foster parents, which they did for ten years, having cared for more than forty children and adopting one.

Her first novel, Other People’s Children, a humorous, fictional account based on her and her husband’s experiences as foster parents, was released November 2017 by eLectio, a small, traditional Christian publishing company. Ellen is a practicing veterinarian, former missionary, foster parent, pastor’s wife and church pianist. She lives in Valparaiso, Florida with her husband, son, and assorted pets.

Despite Your Kicking and Screaming Protests … You ARE a Brilliant Marketer!

To work successfully within the writing industry, you need to know how to market. Judy shares some of her wisdom on that topic…

By Judy Ransom

I met Jennifer Hallmark at a Christian writers’ conference several months ago and shared my passion for marketing with her. She asked if I’d like to be a guest writer here, and never one to shy away from a new opportunity, I said, “Yes!”

After a while, it sunk in what I committed to. I agreed to teach writers how to market themselves and their work … while still a novice in the world of self-publishing! I wrote to Jennifer, asking if she really wanted me, a business marketer, to share marketing tips with writers. She assured me that you would enjoy learning more about the principles of marketing, and would be savvy enough to apply it to your industry—writing and publishing.

My Background

I’ve been a business owner with my husband for over thirty-five years in the cleaning and restoration industry. After ten years of flying by the seat of our pants and stumbling through dark hallways in the school of hard knocks, we finally found mentors in a business marketing coaching program. Over the next ten years we invested over $100,000.00 in our marketing and business education, attending quarterly conferences where we sat at the feet of highly successful entrepreneurs, such as WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg and Zappos founder Tony Hsieh, to name a few.

I am now wired for marketing and love to share it with people. And thanks to Jennifer’s encouragement, I can share with you a little about marketing in the world of writing.

Tell People About It!

As writers, we can be perfectly content introverts, seeking times of solitude to pour forth our souls in the written word. We later find out that writing isn’t enough … we also need to be marketers. “Oh no, that’s not me,” we cry. “If my writing is truly great, it will sell itself!”

We repeat the Field of Dreams mantra in our minds, “If I build it, they will come!” Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. An old myth has convinced us, “Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a pathway to your door.” The reality is, “Build a better mousetrap … and if you don’t know how to tell people about it, you’ll wind up with a warehouse full of mousetraps.”

The good news is that you’re already a better marketer than you’ve probably given yourself credit for. Think about how many times you’ve persuaded others to see a great movie, to eat at a memorable restaurant, or to read one of your favorite books. You struck an emotional chord within them, plucking at their heartstrings in the way only you can, and won them over. Yes, you are a marketer!

God filled you with unique gifts and perception and inspired you to write and impart life to others. But it doesn’t end there. He will also work within you to tell others about your work. We have not because we ask not, and conversely, we have because we ask. So ask for his help in telling people about the work He inspired you to write. And while you’re at it, ask Him for the boldness and confidence to jump all the hurdles in your mind shouting, “No!” and sprint to the triumphant cry of, “Yes, I can!” The Lord wants you to finish the work in what He called you to write, by getting it into the hands of those He inspired it to be written for. He wants you to tell people about it.

Sell Yourself

Set your sights higher than simply wanting to sell your book. If you look deeper, you’ll realize that you’re really selling yourself. There’s a group of people out there who want and need exactly what you’ve written. They are your tribe … and they want you.

How often have you loved what a book did for you, and you wanted more? I read a book last year which reverberated within my soul, and I knew I had to meet the author. So I contacted her, made travel arrangements, and now we’re dear friends. God brought us together through what He inspired her to write, and we found a kindred spirit in each other.

Through your writing, God will bring you your tribe—those who will be deeply touched, inspired, and even healed by what you’ve written. Make it easy for them to stay in touch with you. Let your book be a stepping stone to you. Have your website and contact information in your book. Offer them something free—a monthly newsletter with prizes, previews of what you’ve got in the works, etc. Let your book direct them to come into contact with you, so you can keep in touch with them, and develop a tribe of raving fans who will tell their friends about you.

The best website URL you can have is, which makes it easy for people to find you. You don’t need a catchy name other than your own. As one highly successful entrepreneur taught me, “Go with your name, go with your name, go with your name!” Your passion and direction sometimes change, but you will always be you, and you can take your tribe with you.

Keep in Touch

Once you establish a way of communicating with your people, whether it’s a newsletter or blog—hopefully both—don’t be afraid of “bothering” them, which is a fear I hear expressed by many writers. If someone gave you their name and email address, it’s because they want to hear from you. Wipe out any false notions in your mind that you’re bothering them, and write to them and for them regularly.

Be the brilliant marketer you already are. Tell people about your work, sell yourself, and keep in touch with your people. God will open doors as you pour out the words He gives you!

Click to tweet: God filled you with unique gifts and perception and inspired you to write and impart life to others. But it doesn’t end there. He will also work within you to tell others about your work. #marketing #IndieAuthor

Judy Ransom has been a business owner with her husband, Steve, since 1983 in the cleaning and restoration industry, with thirty employees. Through the years she learned the art of delegation and weaned herself from the roles of dispatcher, bookkeeper, manager, and personnel director, but held onto her one role of passion in the business as marketing director.

Now semi-retired, she is entering the world of self-publishing with her upcoming book, Thank Your Way to Wholeness … Gratitude Journaling for Greater Happiness, Health and Intimacy with God.

Judy is a freelance writer, copy editor, and speaker. For over forty years she has been teaching people in small groups and conferences how to understand the Bible and develop their relationship with God.

You can find Judy at:

Putting the Social in Social Media

by Ralene Burke

Many authors today want to sell their books on social media. They design some great graphics with their book covers, create blurbs in 140 characters or less, and schedule posts with buy links and calls-to-action. Then they sit back and wait for the sales to start rolling in.

But nothing happens.

Then said authors grumble about how social media is a waste of time and how they don’t see a lick of difference in their sales when they post to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

These authors got social media all mixed up!

Social media is about being social.

For the most part, it’s not about making sales. It’s about building a following. A tribe. It’s about forging trust and loyalty. It’s about giving readers access to authors on a personal level. How do we do that?

Define Your Target Audience

As authors, we need to define our target audience as early in our process as possible. They will influence what we post, where we post it, and when. What we post for a 17-year-old female who’s just finishing high school would be vastly different from what we post for a 42-year-old married male who’s having a mid-life crisis.

To figure out who our target audience is, we look at various factors. Most experts recommend creating an Ideal Reader Profile. If we were writing to just ONE person, who would that person be? Then answer questions like:

  • Age? Gender? Marital Status? Education?
  • Likes and dislikes? Hobbies and interests?
  • Religious and political affiliations?
  • What do they worry about? What are they afraid of? What makes them happy/excited?
  • What is their greatest need?

Once we’ve defined our target audience, we can better design or accumulate content that will interest and engage them.

Curate Appropriate Content

We’ve defined our target audience. We have a pretty good idea of who they are, what they need. Now we need to know where their needs and our story elements intersect.

For instance, I have a YA fantasy novel coming out in the fall. The main character is struggling with self-worth and accepting her calling. She’s also an orphan and a healer. In the story, she faces trials such as coming to terms with the death of her family, understanding that her worth is not based on her father’s mistakes, realizing that humans are complicated and not always all good/all bad.

These are all aspects that I can use to connect with my audience. I brainstorm ways to use these common elements in my social media. On my blog, I host a weekly “Confessions” post where people write out their confessions—some serious, some silly—and give readers a chance to see they’re not alone.

Because my novels are YA (which means primary audience of 14-21, with a surprising large audience of women in their 20s and 30s), I am on both Facebook and Instagram. I share encouraging posts that are meant to build people up. I share fun posts, like graphics with “choose your favorite ________”, that allow people to connect, not just with me, but with each other. I share a lot about goal-setting just to help my readers reach their dreams a small step at a time.

Sometimes I use quotes and graphics from my novels to show how readers will relate to my stories.

Use the 80/20 Rule

With the 80/20 rule, only 20% of all our posts should be about “selling” our books, blogs, etc. The other 80% of our posts should be devoted to providing value for the readers. That means that for every 10 posts, only 2 should be about selling and the other 8 should be about something that interests your readers.

What is value? Value comes in many forms—information, entertainment, escape, help—whatever it is your target audience needs. The more value we provide, the more the readers will come back and engage.

Readers want to know us as authors. They want to know that we’re human, that we have lives, that we understand them. Sales may happen as we gain new readers, but that shouldn’t be our end goal. Social media is about being social.

Writing Prompt: Take these four word prompts and begin a story. Orphan, healer, father, evil. Please share in the comments!

Click to tweet: Author friends, “What is value? Value comes in many forms—information, entertainment, escape, help—whatever it is your target audience needs. The more value we provide, the more the readers will come back and engage.” Ralene Burke #amwriting #socialmedia

Whether she’s wielding a fantasy writer’s pen, a social media wand, or a freelance editor’s sword, Ralene Burke always has her head in some dreamer’s world. And her goal is to help people #SHINEBeyond! She has worked for a variety of groups, including Realm Makers, The Christian PEN, Kentucky Christian Writers Conference, and for several freelance clients. Her fantasy novels are available on Amazon.

When her head’s not in the publishing world, she is wife to a veteran and homeschooling mama to their three kids. Her Pinterest board would have you believe she is a master chef, excellent seamstress, and all around crafty diva. If she only had the time . . .

You can also find her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or at her website.

Research on the Road – the Hideout Guest Ranch in Shell, Wyoming

By June Foster

My husband and I have traveled in our RV off and on for the last fifteen years. Beginning in 2010, I sensed the Lord calling me to write Christian fiction. I soon discovered traveling and writing fiction are best buddies. Every destination offers a setting for a book—one where I’ve actually walked the streets or roamed the countryside.

Last summer, I had the privilege of experiencing the most intriguing research on the road ever. We parked at Shell Campground in Wyoming at the base of the Big Horn Mountains for the entire summer. And most exciting, a very expensive, upscale guest ranch only a few miles away provided ample information.

So, the setting of my WIP is a Wyoming ranch I call Sunlight Peaks. The book, A Home For Fritz, will be out in May.

The owner of the exclusive guest ranch, The Hideout, was congenial and took me around the entire ranch in his open-air Jeep. (I’m glad I didn’t have to pay for a week’s stay at $3500.) I saw fields where his horses grazed, the barns and corral, the main complex that housed the elegant dining room and ranch offices, and guest quarters. He graciously showed me inside one of the guest rooms where, of course, my heroine stays during her visit.

But my research didn’t end there. I asked permission to interview the wranglers, which the owner granted. Since my hero is a wrangler, the chats were invaluable. I asked questions like: what do you like the most about your job? The least? Does management allow you to fraternize with the guests? Can you have a dog? Lots of others that related to the story.

Really exhilarating was the opportunity to visit the Big Horn Mountains. The entrance was only a five mile drive from the campground. In one of the mountain ranges is what the locals call the eye of the needle. It’s an opening in the rock which if you are at the pull-off on the mountain road at sunset, you have an exquisite view. Thus, I called my guest ranch Sunlight Peaks Guest Ranch. My hero and heroine fall in love as they witness the eye at sunset.

While in Wyoming, we attended a church in Greybull and got to know many of the locals. This was research in the sense that I based some of the characters on these delightful people. Not to mention the owners of the Shell Campground where we stayed.

The bottom line is: research on the road is the best, most effective type for an author. I lived the Wyoming life for three amazing months in 2017.

Click to tweet: June Foster: I soon discovered traveling and writing fiction are best buddies. #research #romance

Writing Prompt: Jed kicked at the dirt clod by his boot. Crazy woman. She’d be his or…

An award-winning author, June Foster is a retired teacher with a BA in education and MA in counseling. Her characters find themselves in tough situations but overcome through God’s power and the Word.

She writes edgy topics wrapped in a good story. To date, she’s seen sixteen contemporary romances and several short stories published. Find June online at

June’s newest novel, A Home For Fritz, won’t release until May so she agreed to share with us a few of her newer books. 🙂

Letting Go

When Pastor Zack Lawrence loses his wife and unborn child, he can’t find the motivation to minister at his church in Oak Mountain, Alabama. Though Ell Russell has loved Zack since they were kids, she must abandon any hope for a life with him. Can Zack find love again or will he shred Ella’s heart once more?

Buy link:


Prescription for Romance

Though Scott Townsend made a commitment to the Lord, he can’t relinquish bitterness toward his younger brother after he squanders their parents’ money. When a beautiful, young pharmacist seeks affirmation and challenges Scott’s values, he must uphold his upbringing.   

Buy link: 

For Such a Time as This: Write to Inspire

by Tracy Ruckman

When Betty invited me to write a post for this month, I was going through yet another challenging time in our lives, and I originally wrote a post that was pure pity party. I even had the gall to send it to Betty, and she graciously scheduled it.

But that night, the Lord convicted me. My own challenges pale in comparison (more like they’re invisible in comparison) to the world’s current challenges. Most of the people I know can only bear to watch or listen to the news in short spells – every moment seems to be fraught with horrific details of disasters, evil acts, hate-filled opinions. The images burn into our brains, and the fear and doubt mounts.

So I decided to rewrite this post, and Betty has allowed me to get rid of the pity party and offer these words of encouragement instead.

The last 20 years have been filled with so many changes, so much horror and destruction. What do we do with all this news? What do we do as we watch friends suffer through floods and fires or become victims to the latest maniac bombing or shooting spree? What do we do as we watch politicians play war games with our countries like we’re all pawns in a child’s board game? What do we do when loved ones go through one health crisis after another? Or when our child suffers from mental illness?

Many of us pray and give, and somehow manage to get through each day, yet we long to do something more.

I’m going to assume that most of you reading this blog are writers, so my following comments are directed specifically to the writers, but even if you’re not one, I hope my comments will encourage and inspire you just the same.

Writers – we have a task in the midst of all this turmoil and tragedy! We are WRITERS. We must record these events, write about them.

No, we’re not all reporters, and we’re not all on the front lines. But we can still write from our own perspective.

I’m not saying we all need to start shouting our opinions to the world. There’s too much of that going on now, and I honestly feel like that aspect leads to our overwhelmed feelings at times.

The kind of writing I’m talking about now is this: our words, our stories, our experiences MATTER, because we can be a light in the darkness. We can offer hope and encouragement, we can offer sympathy and comfort, right when the world needs it most. Our words, our attitudes, our actions, our beliefs can point people to Jesus when they’re desperately seeking a lifeline.

Even if you don’t have a blog or Facebook page, you can still use your writing. Keep a journal. It will not only help you process everything, it could serve as an encouragement or inspiration to the next generation of your family (or as a good reminder for you later in life.)

Send letters, or even short notes, to friends, loved ones, even the local news editor or a politician. Offer words of encouragement, or special insights the Lord has given you about these times.

If you do have a blog, website, or Facebook page, could you use them in some way to offer hope or encouragement specifically for these trying times? What have you experienced that has strengthened your faith? Was there some event in your life that brought you to Jesus? Think on those things and figure out a way to convey your story to the world.

Don’t worry about the audience for your writing. Let God handle that. Just pray, then write the story God lays on your heart. He’ll put your words in front of the person who needs them most, and you may never know it.

If you have a blog, website, and Facebook page, and are already using them for this purpose, is it time for you to write a book? Or the next book? Your story matters. Your words matter.

We’re right here, right now, for a reason. For such a time as this. Ask the Lord to use you for His purposes, and you’ll be amazed at how He will change your perspective. You’ll still be burdened for the world, but from His viewpoint, not your own.

Here’s a great song to remind us:

Click to Tweet: Writers have a task in the midst of turmoil and tragedy. #Write to #Inspire.

Tracy Ruckman owns TMP Books, a subsidy press, and is currently accepting new clients. TMP publishes fiction and nonfiction, and children’s books.