Posts Tagged ‘book promotion’

img_20170106_175801393As the years go by, it so interesting to see what captures our grandson’s interest and imagination and what doesn’t. Last week, our Zain turned five and, right now, he has such fun pretending to be one of his two favourite ‘heroes’. Yes, as can be seen from the photo of his special birthday cake his mum made, Michael Jackson currently ranks pretty high in his estimation! Wimg_5707hile in Ghana around a year ago, visiting his father’s family, he heard lots of Michael Jackson songs—and that was that! And of course, with a beautiful Australian mum and a handsome Ghanaian dad, ‘Black or White’ is one of his favourite songs! If Zain can be enticed to sing and dance for us, we soon discover he knows only some of the lyrics—and fortunately only some of those dance moves too! But he has fun trying, especially in his glittery Michael Jackson outfit, complete with sparkly white glove, and especially with the new karaoke toy his aunty, uncle and cousins gave him.

But if you look carefully at the photo below, taken when blowing out his birthday candles, you can see Zain is quite partial to fictional superheroes too—especially Spiderman! So when we reminded him at his party that, when we saw him last, he was convinced he was actually Peter Parkeimg_20170106_194218996r, aka Spiderman, off he went and put on his Spiderman costume over the top of his glittery Michael Jackson one! His imagination is so vivid and all-encompassing that he seems to have no trouble swapping from one to the other—with a good dose of active, normal little boy Zain thrown in as well!

Now while I might laugh at Zain, I wonder at times if I am so different from him. I can easily pretend I am someone other than who I truly am. I might try to be that well-read, experienced author person when promoting my books in a bookstore. I might hope I come across as completely confident and at ease when getting up to speak somewhere. I might pretend to be more extroverted or more patient or more understanding than I am. And—dare I say it—I might pretend to be more Christian than I am at times. I might even think I am fooling God, as well as others, yet in my heart of hearts, I know I can’t. Anyway, why would I want to? After all, I am well aware God not only knows me through and through but loves and accepts me as I am. As David declares:

O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue, you know it completely, O Lord. You hem me in, behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Psalm 139:1-5

I hope one day our Zain will experience the deep comfort of these words and that amazing love of God for himself. I hope he will realise he doesn’t need to impress God by pretending to be other than he is. And I hope I realise this more and more too in the coming year.


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Jo 23Over the past few years, I have had many interesting experiences speaking at all sorts of places. As I head out to these events, I sometimes wonder what lies ahead. Often, I have never met the person who has invited me to speak, since arrangements have been made only by phone or email. If it is a large venue, will I be able to find this person easily? I comfort myself with the thought that I look pretty obvious turning up with a couple of boxes of books to display. Surely that makes me somewhat recognisable—even apart from that photo on my website.

But I have learnt from experience to ask myself a few other questions as well. Will everything I need be there as promised? Will I be able to use my power point presentation with the equipment available or will I need to get my own from the car? Will I have time to attend to this, as well as set up my book display? And will too many people come and chat to me beforehand so that I can’t think what I need to do?

Having sorted all this out, will there be enough time left in their program for me to share all of my input? Or am I just there to fill in that ‘speaker’ space they know they have to have? Will people be interested in what I have to say? Will I be able to ignore the one or two who might fall asleep and instead focus on those lovely people who are smiling back at me?

No wonder I’m glad I have a secret weapon at my disposal in all my ‘book adventures’! In fact, I would not want to undertake these at all without it. You see, I have a little email prayer team, consisting of nine women who pray for me as God enables whenever I head out to speak anywhere. With one brief email, I can let all nine women know at one and the same time all about my next exciting speaking adventure. I know not all of them might be able to pray for each particular event or exactly when I speak. In fact, all some can do is just pray as they receive my email and ask God to guide and watch over me when I do speak. But who would not want such prayer? Surely our God is big enough to hear whenever we pray and to sort it out?

The longer I continue my speaking and writing journey, the more I am thankful for these women, some of whom have tracked with me for more than seven years now. I am so grateful for their ongoing faithful support in the midst of all the other demands on their time and energies.

But how about you? Do you have those around you who will stand by you and pray God’s blessing on you as you face life’s challenges? Are there those you could ask to provide this secret weapon for you? Or could you even perhaps activate that secret weapon for someone else in the new year?

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. Eph 6:18

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It’s a funny thing. The older I get (!), the more I seem to see the potential in people I meet and appreciate their individuality. People are interesting. I love hearing their heart and recognising that image of God in them that is in each one of us. And I am thankful for the opportunities that promoting my books and speaking at so many places this past year have given me to do just that.

On the other hand, the older I get, the more introverted I have also become. It’s a puzzle—and I put it down, in some measure at least, to my writing journey of the past ten years. I love being alone. I love those times when, with the whole house to myself, I put on some music on, curl up with my laptop and write away to my heart’s content. What luxury!

In those times, I am never lonely. I agree with actor and screenwriter Dirk Bogarde who once wrote: ‘I have always been told that writing is a lonely, solitary, reclusive job. … But even as a novice writer I have not found that to be true at all. It is neither lonely nor reclusive, and it is solitary only by virtue of the fact that one has to be alone and in silence in order to hear the voices that fill one’s head. It is impossible to be lonely with so much conversation going on. But, apart from the voices of those characters in my head, I know I am not alone. God is always there, already aware of the words I am about to write and so much a part of the whole creative act.

Nevertheless, at times I have found I also need the encouragement of others—friends who value my writing journey and want to see me fulfilled in using my God-given gifts. And this is where contact with other Christian authors, either face to face or via the net, can become so important. We speak the same language. We understand the issues involved in writing and publishing and promotion. We recognise our mutual desire to bring God glory in some way through our writing. And we want to see all our books out there and selling well.

cmas_a5_flierThat’s why I’ve chosen to join together with some other local Christian authors here in Sydney this Thursday 5th December between 4.00pm and 8.00pm to stage our second ‘Meet the Author Christmas Book Market’ At Ryde Presbyterian Church, Cnr Bowden and Squires Sts, Ryde. This is a co-operative effort where we make not only our books but ourselves available so that people can chat with us in a relaxed environment. We have each agreed to promote this event as much as possible through our own networks. And we will all be there, encouraging one another at a variety of levels as we promote our books.

It’s all about encouragement, particularly in the Body of Christ, don’t you think?

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24-25

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I had arrived early to speak to a community group and proceeded to convey my three boxes of books, briefcase, laptop and data projector up the steep stairs into the large function room. Once there, I discovered the projector screen was at one end, which would necessitate everyone turning around awkwardly. With no blank wall to use instead, I decided to ditch my power point presentation. And, since all available tables were in use, I fetched my own from the car.

I was still arranging my books when several ladies began checking them out. I explained how all of them contain strong faith themes, which did not seem to deter them. One lady bought three, just like that, then began sharing some sad snippets from her life story with me. Next, she bought me a drink. We then discovered we had some contacts in common—and I felt, for those brief moments, that our hearts had touched.

I was seated at the committee’s table for dinner, where everyone seemed curious to hear about my writing journey. These were intelligent, professional women and I enjoyed myself immensely. But then I was asked to begin my talk—at the same time as all the women headed, table by table, to the buffet to help themselves to dessert! I tried to keep going over the resultant chatter, paused once or twice, then decided to plough on regardless.

Eventually, they were all seated and listening. I relaxed and allowed the words to flow. At one stage, I found myself explaining how important it is for me as an author to see God’s creativity in nature and to be inspired by that. I went on to talk about how God has given us the gifts we have and how it’s important to do what God has called us to do in this world. But then I wondered if I should be saying such things. I had spoken at a church earlier that day—it was fine to say such things there. But at a community group?

Later, I discovered my talk had been well received, as several women chatted with me and bought books. Then the club secretary came to say goodbye.

‘I hope you were happy with my input,’ I commented. ‘Sometimes I forget where I am and think I’m at a church group …’

‘No, it was fine,’ she assured me earnestly. ‘After all, that’s who you are.’

Yes, that is who I am, I thought, as I drove home. And if others can talk about things that are important to them, then why shouldn’t I do the same? Of course I need to be sensitive in each situation and honour the wishes of those who have asked me to speak. But I still need to be me. After all, God created my inmost being and knit me together in my mother’s womb, as Psalm 139 tells us. God purposed me to be who I am, so I have a responsibility to be me. As Rob Bell states, ‘We don’t need a second anybody. We need the first you.

It was an interesting evening. And, despite the difficulties encountered, I believe it was so worth it, just being me for God.

How about you? Are you being a second somebody else—or the first you?

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TIL035Just over a week ago, I held my own personal launch for my latest novel The Inheritance. We decided to keep it low key and opted for a simple celebration of coffee and cake in our own home. I invited only a small number of family and friends because our house isn’t large and I knew I would see other friends wider afield when I spoke at their church or group.

I hesitated about having a launch at all this time, mainly because I was too busy preparing to head interstate to speak soon after. But as I reflected on the evening, I’m so glad I went ahead, because God used it to remind me of several things for which I need to be so thankful.

I realised, for example, that some friends present have actually attended all my launches over the years since my first novel was released in 2007. Some have tracked with me even before that, from the time I first began writing in 2003. Another friend who was there on the evening emailed later and used the term ‘champions’ about these faithful friends and supporters of mine—and that is exactly what they have been. They have wanted to see my books published and for people to enjoy reading them. And they have wanted me to be happy and fulfilled in what I believe God has called me to do at this stage of my life.

I also realised later that three women from my little prayer team of nine who pray for me whenever I am asked to speak somewhere were also among those able to be present. I value them and all the women on this team so much—it is wonderful to be able to email this group before I speak anywhere to let them know where I am going. Afterwards, I always email a little report of my latest ‘adventure’ to them too, as I am aware they like to know how it went. How blessed am I to have such excellent prayer support wherever I go!

And again I was reminded on the evening how much various family members and friends have helped me in practical ways in my writing journey, as I watched my husband and a friend washing up afterwards and our daughters, who had both baked wonderful cakes for the launch, sorting out the food. Another friend had lent us an urn for the evening, two others gave me flowers, while several more offered to bring food. Some other authors present later reported about the launch on Facebook, complete with an image of my new novel, which helps so much promotion-wise. And, of course, a good number bought a copy of The Inheritance on the night, while some who had already bought it still came to support me.

How thankful I am for God’s grace shown to me via these wonderful friends and family! May I never ever take them for granted—or God’s amazing and abundant grace to me, for that matter.

Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits … Ps 103:1-2

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Are you the sort of person who thinks and plans ahead for weeks, even months, before tackling some important task or undertaking a new course of action? Or are you a little more ‘laid back’, trusting things to unfold naturally in their own good time and in just the right way?

In fiction writing circles, authors sometimes use the terms ‘plotter’ or ‘pantster’ to describe how they go about writing a new novel. Some plan out the entire novel beforehand, even using elaborate diagrams and advanced plotting techniques, while others opt for flying by the seat of their pants, preferring to let the story take its own course—hence the term ‘pantsters’! As far as writing is concerned, I am somewhere in the middle of these two extremes, perhaps even tending towards being a ‘pantster’. But in other parts of my life, it’s a different matter.

This week, we are setting off on a road trip to Queensland. Within a period of sixteen days, I will be speaking nine times—plus I also have two interviews and three author appearances at bookstores scheduled. So I have definitely needed to be in my best planning mode in recent weeks and months to ensure those nine talks are ready to go. But many other things also need to be arranged for such a trip to run smoothly. While I have been busy contacting people and preparing talks, my husband has been equally busy planning our route, arranging accommodation and working out how long it will take to get from one place to another—not to mention how he will fit all my books and other paraphernalia into our car! And of course we have to ensure things we normally do when home are taken care of, such as minding our grandchildren.

All this planning can become quite trying and exhausting. But I see another danger in it as well and that is that God can be left right out of the picture! In all the busyness of getting ready to go, unless I’m careful, I can easily lose sight of who is really in charge of the whole trip, as James 4:13-15 reminds us:

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”

More than that, I can lose sight of what this trip really is all about. It’s not to ‘carry on business and make money’, as James mentions. If that were the case, I’d be doing something other than writing books! Rather, it’s to do what God wants me to do and say what God wants me to say to those people to whom I’ll be speaking. And it’s to make sure I do my best to get my books out there because I want more people to be drawn closer to God in the process.

In all my planning and preparing, that’s the perspective I want to hold onto with all my heart. How about you?

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If it wasn’t so serious, it would be funny how often what I say when speaking at the various groups or churches where I am invited applies first and foremost to me. There I am, merrily encouraging others to take heed of the things God is saying when a gentle voice somewhere inside me pulls me up short and says, ‘So Jo-Anne, where are you on this matter? What are you going to do about this?’

Last week was an almost too perfect example of one such time, to my shame. I had been invited by a particular group of women to share something of how God has guided and encouraged me in my writing journey. As I prepared my input, I kept coming back to a story from the gospels I have often spoken on in the past—the account from Matthew 14 of Peter walking on water. I love so many things about this story. First off, I love Jesus’ words in verse 27, where, as soon as he notes how terrified his disciples are when they see him walking on the water, he says to them, ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’ Many times in my writing journey, I have drawn on these words of Jesus in order to keep going.

I love it how Peter then finds the courage to suggest that Jesus actually should invite him to walk on that water too. And as soon as he hears that little word ‘Come’, he takes the risk of stepping out of that boat—and off he trots towards Jesus (29)! But when he notices how the wind is buffeting the waves and begins to sink, Jesus is immediately there, reaching out his hand to rescue him. Yet it is what Jesus says to Peter next that spoke to me the most this past week.

You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt? (31)

You see, I was sharing how, given the fact that I now have five novels published and one non-fiction work, there was no need for me ever to have doubted God’s call to write and the fact that God would bring it about. Likewise, I was urging these women to do all God was calling and had gifted them to do and to trust God in the process. Yet, that very day, I myself had doubted. Not believing I would sell many books at this particular venue, I had brought with me only a small number of my earlier novels in particular. Imagine my surprise then when, before my eyes, every available copy of my first two novels speedily disappeared from my book table—along with a large number of my later books! All up, I sold more than double what I had expected.

It was time to eat my words. I had doubted God big-time. I knew God had given me this speaking engagement—yet that did not translate into having the faith to pack a good number of books in the car to sell afterwards. When it came to showing my trust in a concrete way, I was definitely found wanting on this occasion.

How humbling it was to hear God’s gentle question ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ yet again in my life! Is this a question God often seems to have to ask you too?

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