Devotion Writing: Journeying to Publication

By Martin Wiles

Every writer wants their name in the publication light—and better yet, to get paid for it. I was no different.

Prior to 2009, I had written little, and published even less. Just a few poems here and there, and only one that I remember getting paid for. Then my father unexpectedly died, and things changed. What connection his death had to my seriousness about writing, I’ve never been able to determine. I only know my attitude changed. The genre I chose was devotions. Not as popular as fiction, but read by many just the same. And I had enough experiences under my belt to write them.

But merely writing them wasn’t enough. If no one else read them, what was the purpose of doing what I felt God leading me to do? I began looking for places to submit my devotions, hoping to get a few published. If I got paid a little along the way, that would be great too.

Of course, I began with what I call the little g, Google. One of the first hits was a place named Christian Devotions. They didn’t pay, but pay didn’t concern me so much. I just wanted to do what God told me to do—and see my name in print somewhere as an added bonus.

Cindy Sproles was the executive editor of Christian Devotions, and, at the time, the ministry was small and she was helping writers develop their skills. Like most inexperienced writers, I thought my devotion was perfect as written the first time. She thought differently. I recall the gist of her response: “Martin, the heart of your devotion is good, but it needs work before it’s ready for publication.”

The work entailed more than I imagined. For one, I had to stop preaching. (At the time, I was a preacher.) I also had to avoid the “that” trap and stop using so much passive voice. After several revisions—revisions I thought I’d never finish—she finally accepted my devotion.

I continued to write for Christian Devotions and also to search for other places to submit my devotions. I had a few published along the way, and was even paid for some. I also became a member of the five o’clock club—the a.m. one. Six days each week, I wrote a devotion. Before I knew it, I had several years’ worth of devotions.

I need to write a book of devotions, I thought. Unfortunately, I knew little about the publishing industry or about the scams that circulate within it. I suppose the company I settled with for three books—two devotionals and one commentary—was close to what I now know as a vanity press. Although they didn’t charge me anything to publish my books—and they did design my covers and list my books on Amazon—they didn’t edit my work or do any marketing for me. I later discovered they accept almost any manuscript sent to them and publish it as is. Since the books were so large, the price was prohibitive. Apart from those I sold to individuals, only a couple were sold on Amazon. I needed another avenue.

Shortly after this fiasco, I attended Writer’s Boot Camp (now Asheville Christian Writer’s Conference), directed by Cindy Sproles and Eddie Jones, co-founders of Christian Devotions website. Eddie had also begun a new adventure: Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. His heart’s desire was to help authors get started and to produce quality books from a small publishing house.

Having met Eddie at the conferences a couple of times, I decided to send him a manuscript—365 days’ worth of devotions. By this time, my writing had improved, and, amazingly, he accepted my manuscript … with limitations. A years’ worth of devotions was too much, the book would be too large and costly, and very few would buy it. He suggested we split it up into smaller portions, perhaps as many as three books. Then, he proffered a Southern theme that became Grits, Grace, and God in 2013 and Grits, Gumbo, and Going to Church in 2016.

I was excited, to say the least, because I knew he didn’t accept every manuscript sent his way. I also knew they assigned each contracted writer an editor to work with, that they designed nice covers, and that they performed a fair amount of marketing at no cost to the author.

My editor, and now a good friend, was ruthless, but kind. Together, we produced two books I was proud to put on the market.

While I’m proud of my list of publication credits—and thank God for each one—not everything I’ve written has been accepted. My rejection scroll rolls out much longer than my acceptance one does. Such as the historical novel I spent months writing and rewriting. No publisher will touch it. It now rests lovingly on one of my book shelves where it may never see the light of the publishing world.

I recently signed another devotional book contract with Ambassador International. I look forward to what God will do through this book and to the long process that will precede publication. One thing publication has taught me is patience.

Because I believe God wants us to channel His grace and mercy, I now use what I’ve learned about the writing and publication process to help other writers and authors who are just beginning the journey.

And that editor who bled all over the first devotion I sent her? I’m now her Managing Editor and helping other writers the same way she once helped me. And the CEO of the publishing company who published my first book? I’m now one of his assistant editors also. God surely works in mysterious ways.

Click to tweet: I believe God wants us to channel His grace and mercy, and now use what I’ve learned about the writing and publication process to help other writers and authors who are just beginning the journey. #devotions #amwriting


Martin Wiles lives in Greenwood, SC, and is the founder of Love Lines from God. (www.lovelinesfromgod.com). He is a freelance editor, English teacher, and author. He serves as Managing Editor for Christian Devotions and as an assistant editor for Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. He is the author of five books and has been published in numerous publications.

 


Grits, Grace, and God

Grace & Grits & God offers personal insights and practical tips for dealing with life’s challenges, loses, and setbacks. As a pastor, Martin Wiles knows about tough times. He’s seen it in the faces of his parishioners—and his own. Find God’s spiritual truths in your daily challenges. Turn loses and setbacks into step-ups. Dish out blessings to others from your scraps. Show grit, love with grace, and trust God through the hard times and at all times.

Grits, Gumbo, and Going to Church

If you’re struggling with the real meaning of going to church and following Christ, then Grits, Gumbo, and Going to Church is for you. Martin Wiles has been in the pew or the pulpit his whole life. He has experienced the best and the worst in the church. He knows it can be a place of pain or a place of blessing.

Copywriting 101

By Cammi Woodall

Think about your day so far. Have you seen a television commercial? Listened to an ad on the radio? Picked up a brochure for a new travel destination? Looked at a billboard? Logged on to a website for the newest restaurant in town?

Did you answer yes to any of these questions? Then you already have experience with copywriting.

So, what is copywriting? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a copywriter is a writer of advertising or publicity copy. As a copywriter, you are responsible for hooking the consumer with your words. How often do you skim advertising material without a second thought? Occasionally, though, something will catch your eye. A certain phrase or slogan can pull a consumer in, and a good copywriter will keep them there by using persuasive text. You as a copywriter want to make sure that customer feels they can’t live without your product!

What does this mean for you as a freelance writer? Don’t most businesses have a staff that does this for them? Not necessarily. Business today is very different from twenty years ago. There are thousands of companies that conduct business strictly online and more small businesses than ever before. Most cannot afford to have their own advertising department. That’s where you and your unique perspective come in.Writer journaling in a book

Copywriting jobs can range in size from writing the script for a 20 second radio spot to handling all media material for a new product launch. This could include brochures, media copy, social media content, television or radio script, educational material, demonstration videos, product packaging, and more! Every piece of advertising ephemera for a campaign or product is the result of a copywriter’s work.   

How do you get one of these jobs? There are several different ways.

–                      Network. Ask your family and friends. Dear Aunt Irma might know just the person you need to know!

–                      Apply for a job at a physical business. Go to your local newspaper office, radio station, or advertising agency. This could result in freelance work, but you might also become a staff member!

–                      Online job boards – I have never used one of these boards (I am learning about copywriting along with you), so I cannot give any personal advice. The ones that came up most in my research are Problogger, Contena, All Indie Writers, Blogging Pro, and Writers Weekly. My advice is to look at each board and see which one fits your style. On most, companies post freelance positions. You probably won’t get a large job right away, but the smaller jobs are a great way to build your portfolio.

–                      Social media. Does anybody remember when getting in touch with other people meant a phone call or a letter? Twitter and Facebook are both good sources of information. Look for boards that posts jobs, but also advertise yourself.

–                      Newspaper Classifieds. Yes, there are still paper newspapers out there.

–                      Pitch directly to a business. Is there a new store or boutique opening near you? Make a friendly call. New business owners might be more interested in stocking and construction. They might not be thinking about newspaper ads, business cards, Facebook pages, radio spots, or promotional brochures.

This article only covers a small portion of the expanse of copywriting. The internet has dozens of websites and thousands of articles on how to get started, how to create effective prose, how much to expect to earn, and more. Copywriting might not have been something you’ve thought about before, but I recommend you do some research. You could create the next ‘Where’s the beef?’ campaign!

 

Prompt – She squared her shoulders and took a deep breath. This was one meeting she never wanted to attend. She opened the door and entered the room.

Working with the Industry: Editor Interview with Karin Beery

This month’s “Working with the Industry” posts are a real eye opener for me. I just love to learn. And when the lesson has anything to do with improving my writing skills, I’m all ears.

All of us need a helping hand every once in a while. Your critique partners and Beta readers may think your story is the next best thing to hit the market. However, once you expose it to someone who is working in the writing industry it may still need work.

For my editor interview, I asked a few questions of my editor friend Karin Beery. I first met Karin while we commiserated in the same critique group for about a year. She is a champion of helping others achieve a quality product they can be proud to present for publication.

Be teachable. If you’re unwilling to take an editor’s advice, there’s no point in hiring an editor.

What is the best advice you can give to an established writer and newbie alike on the writing craft?
Be teachable. Even if you’ve been in the industry for a while, things change. Editors should be aware of those changes. If you’re unwilling to take an editor’s advice, there’s no point in hiring an editor.

What book have you read that you would have loved to edit, and how would you have changed it to your liking?
I don’t necessarily want to name the book because I don’t want to embarrass anyone, but several years ago I read a fantasy book that “everyone” was talking about. It was simultaneously the most interesting and most boring book I’ve ever read! Since then I’ve ready many books with the same three common issues:

  • stereotypical characters
  • spending too much time describing unnecessary details (such as exactly what each character is wearing in every scene) while failing to describe necessary components (like establishing scene setting)
  • not enough conflict.

How does an author know when the time is right to engage an editor before publication?
Ask! Almost every editor I know will provide a free sample edit/review of at least the first few pages. I’ve told several authors that they aren’t ready for editing yet, then offered suggestions for how they can strengthen their writing. If you’re afraid to ask an editor, then find someone in the publishing industry for their honest input (and be ready for honesty!).

What should a writer expect when entering into a contract with an editor?
 Regardless of what kind of an edit a writer needs, there are a few things they should expect from any competent, professional editor:

  • Edits/Comments – if you get a clean manuscript back, that’s not actually a good sign. No one’s perfect (even published books have typos!). If your editor can’t find anything wrong with your story, he/she might not know what to be looking for.
  • Proper Edits/Comments – proofreads are the last step in the editorial process. If your proofread includes rewrites and restructuring, that’s not really a proofread. Make sure you know the difference between the services so you’re getting the right edit.
  • Industry Standards – an editor’s job is to help you clean up your manuscript, not to rewrite it to his/her personal beliefs or preferences.
About Karin Beery

Editor. Teacher. Novelist.

A passionate lover of fiction, Karin doesn’t just write novels, she helps others write their best stories! A certified substantive editor with the Christian Editor Connection, her goal is to help authors to put her out of business by equipping them with the tools they need to become better writers.

Want to know more about Karin?

Connect with her at: KarinBerry.com, FaceBook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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 YourName.com, 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: http://judyransom.com

https://twitter.com/judyransom

What’s the Best Way for an Indie Author to Promote Their Book?

By Jennifer Hallmark

Maybe we should start with why authors want to sell their books.

Don’t give me that blank stare. I know it seems like a given but many writers go to all the trouble to put a book together then only do a little marketing. Either they are fearful of what people will think or they lack the skills to market, or maybe they wonder if they even should laud the praises of their own work.

Authors should not skimp on marketing.

If a person goes to the trouble of completing a book and then publishing it, whether traditional or Indie, it seems they should get it in front of readers. And at least that gives people a chance to decide whether they want to read it or not.  

Now that the why is settled, let’s look at what ways are best. Here are some positive steps to take in the promotion of your work:

  • Start by building a blog or website or having one built for you. You need a landing page for your readers to find you. Yes, it’s good to create an author page on Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes and Noble, and other places but make sure if a reader Googles your name, they can find you.
  • Email list. You need to have an email list of your readers and potential readers so you can reach them with news. Not spam them with constant bombardment. My favorite way to accomplish this is with my email newsletter. And people love presents so be sure to include a gift for the sign-up: a recipe, chapter of a book, short story, etc.  (You can subscribe to mine here for an example plus get a gift of ten of my favorite recipes. 😊Just look for the pop-up.)
  • Social media. There are all kinds of social media you can market your book through. I’d pick two or three and build a presence. Remember to build relationships with people and your books will sell. I use Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest as my main three. Experiement and find what works for you.
  • Speaking/book signings. You’ll want to have a few events to allow the people in your area or areas you’re visiting to meet with the author. You can arrange to speak at a church, social club, library, or school. Make sure to set up a book table and sign books. Also have something set up to show people how to order the e-book if they’d rather read on the Kindle or Nook. Book stores are great places to have a book signing since your potential readers are already there.

Here’s our own Betty Thomason Owens at a book signing.

I also have four tips to speed up marketing:

    1. Be reliable and ready. Set up a pattern in the beginning and keep your name out there. You want people to know that you’re serious.
    2. Book links. Make sure you have book links on your blog/website, all social media, your signature in emails, and any guest posting you may do. If someone is curious, you want them to have a link to click on.
    3. Everyone loves a sale. I once bought a mystery e-book for 99 cents and liked it so much that I paid regular price for the next five just to see what happened. It really works.
    4. And finally, the most important tip of all: The Golden Rule. “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 7:12 NLT) Be good to people. Sow seeds of kindness and I believe at some point you will reap a return. Build a network with other authors and promote them the way you would like to be promoted. It will bring a positive investment before it’s all over and you’re sure to make some lifelong friends.

Start today to put some of these principles in practice. Find what works best for you, then be consistent. The readers are out there and waiting for the next author to follow.

Show them where you are.


Writing Prompt: Jillian reached into the mail box and snatched the book-shaped package, clutching it tightly as she ran toward the house. She’d finally get to see…

Click to tweet: What’s the best way for an Indie author to promote their book? You might be surprised. #marketing #IndieAuthors