Sherry Kyle pic Sherry Kyle here to encourage you from my laptop in Central California. 

Here’s a quote we all can identify with as writers:

"Real courage is when you know you're licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what." 
-Harper Lee (To Kill A Mockingbird, 1960)

If you’re anything like me, you feel this way daily. When I place my hands on the keyboard, I wonder if the words I’m going to write will be any good, if they’ll have meaning or if I’m wasting my time. That’s when courage comes into play. It takes courage to be a writer, to see your work through NO MATTER WHAT.  There have been times when I’m ready to throw in the towel—on a project or writing as a whole. But I can’t give up. I won’t. I want real courage.

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Aloha from Karen Karen2009, treasurer of CAN,

There’s synergy when people come together and connect, especially when they share ideas or brainstorm. CAN is all about sharing ideas and connecting authors to authors and readers. I love networking and making lots of connections as well as building on connections I’ve already made. For me, writing conferences are the perfect place for connecting with writers. And things happen at conferences–that’s where many of my books originated.

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Headshot-Small How to Reinvent Your Merchandising

Postcards, bookmarks, business cards and flyers have all been consistent elements in book promotion for several years. Together they make a standard part of a publisher’s marketing plan and an asset to an author’s promotion toolbox. And yet, they are just so… old.

Marketing is about creating a splash and catching someone’s attention. More than that, our industry requires marketing campaigns to build relationships with readers. Merchandising pieces have traditionally offered a take-away that not only catch attention but also give the reader something to look at later to remind them of a book’s title, an author’s name, or a character description. But once that reference has been made, what happens to the postcard? Inevitably, it will be discarded.

It will be discarded unless you make it something worth keeping. But how do you do that? How do you reinvent something so basic? How do you move from a traditional mass-marketing approach (printing hundreds or thousands of recyclable pieces) to a unique and targeted promotion that has lasting impact? How do you prevent the tried-and-true from becoming the same-old, same-old?

Here’s one idea: Instead of printing large quantities of one design, ask your publisher to print smaller quantities with unique designs.

  1. Design your merchandising pieces around a theme. It’s really easy to put the cover on the front and a book description on the back and call it a day. But what would happen if you featured elements of your book instead of the book itself? If you’re a nonfiction author, choose different quotes from throughout your book and feature a different quote on different cards. For fiction, maybe you can focus your theme around your characters. Offer a behind-the-scenes profile of each character, giving readers a deeper look at the people who move your story.
  2. Place the different cards and bookmarks strategically. Ask your local library and book stores to offer them near their cash register or even as bag stuffers. One of my authors got permission from the bookstore manager to place one of her cards in other novels that were stocked on the same shelf in that store—a little cross-merchandising, if you will.
  3. Position the merchandising pieces as trading cards, letting readers know their card is one of a set. Tease them with clues to the other cards and where they could find them (maybe you offer different cards to different stores so readers can go on a “scavenger hunt”). Maybe you’re at a writing workshop or conference and every time you hand out a card you encourage the reader to talk to other attendees and find the rest of the set. If you’re interacting with your fans online, consider hosting online book discussions where readers share the behind the scenes notes they have on their cards.
  4. Use the design of the pieces is other ways. One of the novelists I work with kept the designs of each of 6 postcards she used and turned them into web graphics that were then formatted into an animated introduction into her website.
  5. Offer specials or giveaways to people who promise to pass our cards for you. Have then email or Facebook you with details of how they distributed your cards and then award a prize (could be as simple as an Amazon gift card) to the most creative. Your readers aren’t just readers. They can be great marketers too!
  6. Be creative in your messaging. A business card doesn’t have to be boring. Communicating your basic contact info is one thing, but what if the card could provoke further interaction on your website? Think of a catchy line that begs people to look at your site for more information. Kregel novelist Patti Lacy’s bio starts with the line “I was born in the front seat of a Buick. I guess you can say my entrance into this world sparked a love for travel and the unpredictable.” How’s THAT for catchy? Offer a statement like that on the business card, followed by a URL, and your website unique visitors will skyrocket.

What else? How do you use postcards, bookmarks, business cards and flyers in unique and exciting ways? Share your ideas! We’d love to hear them!

Cat Hoort has worked with Kregel, Abingdon Press, and Worthy. She wasn’t born in the front seat of a car but still considers herself lucky to be able to work with fabulous authors who have such amazing stories to share.

Sundin #D70 ©2008 Linda Johnson Photography web (2)

Hello from Sarah Sundin on a blustery day in northern California. Today I have the honor of interviewing a veteran writing professional, Susan Titus Osborn, author of over thirty books, Susan Titus Osborn including several on the craft and business of writing. Susan is also director of the Christian Communicator Manuscript Critique Service, and offers many on-line writing courses on her website.

Susan, how did you get into writing?

In 1978 while I was teaching Sunday school, I decided to write some stories for the kids. They loved my stories, so I thought I would sell them to church school take-home paper markets. A friend introduced me to a published writer, Karen Wojahn, who offered to mentor me if I promised to go on and mentor others, which I have done.

Osborn Book Cover How many books do you have published? What are a few of your latest titles?

Today, by the grace of God, I have published 30 books and am the director of the largest Christian critique service in the country, The Christian Communicator Manuscript Critique Service. My latest book is Too Soon to Say Goodbye: Hope and Healing for Victims and Survivors of Suicide, published in 2010 by New Hope Publishers. It is co-authored with Karen Kosman and Jeenie Gordon. Wounded by Words was published in 2008, by the same publisher and with the same co-authors. A Special Kind of Love: For Those Who Love Children with Special Needs was published by B&H Publishing Group and co-published by Focus on the Family. Focus has done an excellent job of promoting this book. I’ve also written and/or compiled three books on Christian writing and seven pamphlets.

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Unshakeable Faith smaller
Title: Unshakeable Faith: 8 Traits for Rock-Solid Living
Author: Kathy Howard
Publisher: New Hope Publishers
ISBN: 978-1596692978

Women are usually prepared for everything from patching scraped knees to managing a huge work load to whipping up dinner at a moment’s notice. We keep ourselves and our families together and running smoothly. But is our faith prepared to withstand difficult trials or even persecution? Unshakeable Faith, an eight-week Bible study for women, explores the life of Peter to help you build a rock-solid faith that is strong enough to weather the harshest storms of life.

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