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Posts Tagged ‘book promotion’

This past weekend as I looked at my diary, I realised I will be delivering about a dozen different talks over the next three months. I am not complaining. In fact, I’m very much looking forward to giving each one and meeting so many different people along the way. I feel blessed to be able to do this—but it does of course involve a lot of preparation, which means a lot of concentrated time, effort and prayer on my part. To do that, other things need to fall by the wayside if I am not going to fall apart in the process!

I am a writer and a speaker. But sometimes the order of those occupations has to be reversed. Over the next three months, I will definitely be more of a speaker than a writer. But after that, it seems I’ll be more of a writer than a speaker again for a while. Now I love preparing talks for different audiences. I have been trained in this area and naturally enjoy teaching and sharing in a public setting. But I am an introvert at heart, so most of all, I love writing in the quietness of my study. I enjoy the whole process of immersing myself in creating a new manuscript, becoming lost in the story and finding myself in a completely different world.

So what does one do? I have come to the conclusion that I basically need to trust God more—to go with the flow, taking hold of whatever God-given speaking opportunities come to hand and making the most of each one to share God’s love. And when those speaking engagements dry up for a time, then again I go with the flow, retreating to my quiet study with a satisfied sigh as I hopefully lose myself in another storyline.

In all this, I am beginning to realise more and more that God can not only be trusted but also has lots of wonderful bonuses along the way for us! This past week, as I have thrown myself into preparing two somewhat difficult talks to get my head around, I discovered God was there right in the midst of it all, blessing me in an amazing way. As I delved into Scripture to find out more about these topics, I found myself yet again in awe of God’s heart of love for us. I needed to check many parts of the Old Testament as well as the New, from the beginning of Genesis right through to Revelation, and as I did, it opened my eyes to God’s utter grace and amazing loving-kindness to us flowing right down through the centuries to this day.

In Jeremiah 31:3, we read some words the Lord spoke to the people of Israel in past years:

I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.

This is certainly what I see as I look back over these past few days and note the way God has fed my spirit and strengthened my faith. While in my heart of hearts I might want to be writing, God simply smiles on me and blesses me right where I am.

Who wouldn’t want to go with the flow and enjoy the ride with such a loving God?

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I did not know quite what to expect with my first bookstore appearance a few weeks ago. Despite having five published novels already, I had not previously done in-store book signings. But for my new non-fiction book Soul Friend, I felt it was time for me to taste such an experience.

It was a week day and there were no great crowds around. But then I noticed my table was positioned right next to the children’s section—surely a trap for any doting grandmother! On top of that, I was slap bang on the edge of the store’s coffee shop—another equally serious temptation! Soon, however, I began to focus on the job in hand. How could I engage the attention of those young mums talking nearby? How could I encourage the few customers who passed by my table to stop and take a look?

After a few moments of thought and prayer, I decided the only way was to step out of my comfort zone and instigate some conversations myself. So I gave out my business cards, explained about my books and chatted with anyone who was willing to stop and talk. And how interesting that turned out to be! One couple even invited me to join them for lunch as they told me about the challenges they were facing. I discovered in that bookstore that, however many books I signed or didn’t sign, God had some special appointments for me along the way.

And that is the attitude I took with me into my second and third in-store book signings. At the second store, I was situated right opposite the front door—a wonderful opportunity to engage with people as soon as they entered. Again, I gave out lots of my cards and had some moving conversations with a variety of people, from those new to Australia to a cancer sufferer to some would-be authors. And in it all, I sensed the grace of God at work in my life, irrespective of how many books I signed.

My third in-store book signing was the most diverse and challenging of all, however. This time, I was in a much bigger store and soon found that many people simply walked past my table, eyes down, intent on where they were heading and too busy to stop and talk. A few times I was mistaken for a store worker, despite my ‘author’ badge, and was asked for assistance. I pointed the way to the coffee shop and the toilets. I gave my opinion about the right cards to choose and the right books to buy. I gave an old lady my chair. I even helped lost spouses find each other and children their parents. And in between, I did sign some books. But more than that, again I had some significant conversations with people—those I believe God had for me to meet that day in that bookstore.

Yes, these three events were rather tiring and challenging. And yes, I would have liked to sign more books in the process. But I did my best and tried to engage with those I sensed God had for me to engage with. And that’s all any of us can do, I believe.

May you, like me, be content with stepping out in trust and leaving the outcome of our efforts to God.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

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I wonder how you feel when you hear or see the word ‘ambition’. Is your response positive or negative? Whichever is your answer, can you figure out why that is the case?

Recently I read an excellent blog and also a two part article that both touch on the topic of women and ambition—in particular, Christian women and ambition. I am not about to attempt to emulate or repeat the excellent material in these writings, but if you are interested in reading them, please check out the following links:

http://rachelheldevans.com/is-ambition-sin

http://www.giftedforleadership.com/2012/09/how_pride_destroys_leadership.html

http://www.giftedforleadership.com/2012/09/how_pride_destroys_leadership_1.html

Instead, I wanted to share with you something of the dilemma I myself face at times in the process of trying to promote both my novels and my newly released non-fiction book, Soul Friend. Earlier in my writing journey, I found it hard to contact places where I might be able to speak and hopefully sell my books—I still do, to some extent. To put it bluntly, at times I felt I had tickets on myself and was being far too pushy for my own comfort. Where was the humility in what I was doing? How come I thought I had the right to be heard by the people, churches or groups I was approaching?

At the same time, I felt God was with me as I wrote those emails and made those calls. I still do. Even as I write this, I can sense God’s Spirit saying, ‘It’s okay to put yourself out there, Jo-Anne! I gifted you to write and speak. I have given you things to say and write. This is part of the task I have entrusted to you—to find those places where you can pass on the things I have given you and to reach those people who need to hear what you have to say!

It stands to reason too that if I believe in my books and in the strong Christian faith themes contained in them, why would I not want to follow through and share them with the world out there? What sort of an author—and Christian—would I be if I spent months and even years writing my books, only to let them sit there because I couldn’t be bothered or couldn’t find the courage to get out there and try to promote them?

I have come to the conclusion that there are two different sorts of ambition—godly ambition and selfish ambition. If I am ambitious to live fully for God, to do the best I can to use my gifts, to write the things that honour God and to want to speak about these to people as well, then I feel I am going about things with the right attitude. But if I am doing it all to fulfil some need in me, to boost my own ego and bolster my pride, then I don’t want to be a part of it at all. This to me is indeed ambition with attitude—the wrong attitude. As John says (1 John 2:16-17 The Message version):

Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out—but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity.

I have an ambition to do what God wants. Do you have that ambition too?

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This past week, I received an email from an old friend in which she described beginning a new year as being like looking at a huge, blank canvas and not having a clue what kind of picture will emerge on it. Do you relate to that image as you look ahead to 2012?

I certainly do—as do many of my author friends in particular, I expect. We may have spent the past year writing our novels or works of non-fiction, but what will happen to them in 2012? Will they end up being published? Or will they still be sitting there in a year’s time—along with a pile of rejection letters? Perhaps we had a book published this past year, but will it continue to sell well? Are we even with the right publisher? And what speaking engagements and promotional opportunities lie ahead for us?

In the eight years I have been writing, if nothing else, I have learnt that no one year is the same as another. I have had five novels published in that time, some of which have sold more than others. And at the beginning of each year, I have tried my best to line up as many speaking engagements as possible. Some years I have been almost overwhelmed with speaking opportunities, whereas in other years, for no apparent reason, I have suffered a dearth of them.

So as I stand on the brink of yet another year of writing and speaking, what can I do? Well, I can hope my sixth novel will be accepted for publication. And I can also hope my very first work of non-fiction will be too. I hope both these things fill part of that blank canvas for me in the coming year—but I can’t bank on it. I hope too that many speaking engagements will be scattered along the way, but I can’t be sure of these yet either. Some people are to get back to me in the new year, while others have yet to respond to my emails. And of course, I plan to keep writing—perhaps another work of non-fiction or one of those other novels I have outlined on my computer. But I’m not sure any of them will ‘work’—I’ll simply have to begin writing and see.

All this uncertainty can be very off-putting. But this past week, I was reminded clearly from Isaiah 2 that there is only one way for us to travel such an uncertain road. In verse 5, God says to the children of Israel through Isaiah, but surely to us too:

Come, O house of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord.

Then in verse 22 at the end of that same chapter, I read the following:

Stop trusting in man, who has but a breath in his nostrils. Of what account is he?

My dear friend finished her email I mentioned above with the thought that God knows already what that finished picture on the blank canvas before us for 2012 will look like. I don’t know about you, but I find that hugely reassuring. How privileged we are to know we can trust the Lord and walk in his light rather than bank on mere human beings in the year ahead! God knows. God sees. And God will undertake for me and for you.

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Do you ever have those days or weeks when you wonder if all the effort you’re putting into something is worth it? I’m sure this could apply in so many situations other than writing – we all get tired and discouraged at times, don’t we? But often authors seem to be a prime target in this regard. We pour ourselves into some novel or work of non-fiction, editing and rewriting and searching for a publisher. Yet even then, the journey is not over by a long shot. In Australia at least, and in Christian circles in particular, the author has to expend a lot of energy on promotional work and speaking. Publishers are too small and too under-resourced to help greatly in this regard. Book promotion can be a fascinating and fulfilling experience – but it can also contain considerable challenges and discouragement. After all, not everyone might be as enthusiastic about your book as you are and, in particular, grasp how it might be relevant or helpful or challenging for the kingdom of God.

Recently, someone asked me straight out whether my books were ‘selling well’. I smiled but stifled a sigh. Over the four years since my first novel was published, I have never been able to find a satisfactory answer to this question – and now my fifth novel Heléna’s Legacy has just been released, I am still no wiser. After all, where is the benchmark with which to compare my sales? I know how many I have sold myself of each title and have at least some idea how many the bookstores have purchased. But can I really compare those figures with sales of other Christian novels here in Australia, even if I knew them? After all, I write general fiction, while others might write romantic or historical fiction or both – one genre might well be more popular than another.

Now I understand such questions might be asked with my wellbeing in mind. Yet I wondered from this person’s facial expression and her slightly incredulous tone of voice whether she might not be such a fan of my books and was at a loss to know who could possibly enjoy them enough to continue buying them! Or was she coming from the same place as someone else who told me recently she was in the process of reading one of my novels and was enjoying it. However, she was having difficulty, she said, in reconciling herself to the fact that I had written it! Hmm.

But for all this, I know I’m doing what God wants me to at this stage of my life. And if I was in any doubt about that, some words of Jesus I read this morning in John 15:16 soon fixed that:

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last.

By God’s grace, these words reminded me yet again that this whole crazy writing journey isn’t just my idea. I know God clearly called me to begin writing almost eight years ago now and challenged me to ‘bear fruit’ through both writing and speaking. And I can still rest in that fact – even on days when I am a little low on energy. I can approach my current writing project at peace with God, myself and the world, knowing the ‘success’ or otherwise of my books is ultimately in God’s hands.

And that’s the best antidote for discouragement any author can have, don’t you think?

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Our granddaughters seem to own lots of things that need batteries to keep going. Just before Christmas, our Olivia lined up an interesting array of Santa and Rudolf toys they own and began to demonstrate to me how these only half worked because they ostensibly needed new batteries. They looked a sorry lot, with glowing noses that didn’t quite glow, heads and hands that kind of half moved and voices that sounded very strange and tended to peter out miserably. Then there are the toys that don’t run across the floor anymore because they need new batteries or the cute puppy that no longer wags its tail or the fluffy kitten that has forgotten how to purr – not to mention the camera that won’t click or the keyboard that won’t play. And so the list goes on.

Well, I think I know how these toys feel! I related very well to that poor, tired Santa my granddaughter showed me who just couldn’t sing and dance around. But that was a few weeks ago now. Here I am today on the ‘other side’ of Christmas and heading through much quieter territory, momentarily at least. I have discovered, as I have let myself relax a lot more than normal, the joy of doing nothing for once – of putting aside speaking engagements, book promotion and yes, even writing, and letting those batteries run down completely. And again, I have been reminded that life is not a matter of always having to be productive – and certainly not a matter of ‘doing’ things to impress God or anyone else. God loves us completely and utterly. God understands and in fact has made us so that we need to rest at regular intervals and be renewed. In fact, I suspect God is delighted when we take time out to sit or lie back and just ‘be’, for a change. And as we put everything aside and choose to live ‘in the moment’, simply letting God hold us and ‘be’ with us, then that is when we can best hear not only God’s heart for us but our own hearts as well.

And that’s exactly what happened to me this morning as I took time to read Isaiah 40, forgetting at first that this is the chapter that talks about weariness and renewal! So it was a joy to find and read again what God has said on the subject:

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40:28-31)

What an encouragement as we prepare to step into 2011! As we take time to focus on God, who never grows weary, and continue to ‘hope in the Lord’, then we will be strengthened and empowered to do the things God has put in our hearts to do.

Now that’s what I call a total battery recharge – don’t you?

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