Presented at the 2018 West Coast Writers Weekend
Sponsored by the White Rock/South Surrey Word Guild Chapter
Rev Dr Ed Hird
A key to going from good to great in writing is following your heart and your gut where it leads you. If your writing doesn’t grip you, it will not grip anyone else. One of my and Janice’s passions, as expressed in our latest book For Better, for Worse: discovering the keys to a lasting relationship is for strengthening marriages. My 500+ newspaper articles found on edhird.com (with 815,000 readers) emerged out of my passion for history and biography. Many of these articles have later become chapters in my books like Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit. I am currently doing a biography series for the LightMagazine covering BC and Alberta. Lean into your passions. What wakes you up in the morning? What really matters to you? What are you willing to sacrifice for?
Nonfiction has more to do with facts and history. Many readers are women who are looking for a break from the stress of life. A high percentage of books are purchased by women as Christmas presents. How might your nonfiction book give people a break from the stress of life?
Another key to greatness in writing is the willingness to initially write badly. Turning off the inner critic for a time. Anything on the page is better than brilliance in your head. Fight your clever ways that you procrastinate.
Learn to respect your creative rhythms, your waves of inspiration. If you are a morning person, be a morning writer, or vice versa. Surf (write) when the creative waves hit. You can prepare for the wave, but you can’t control it. Our co-presenter the Rev. Jim Wilson, by the way, cut his teeth on surfing. This inspired his recent amazing novel Generation which tells a compelling story about California surfers in the 1960s. Click to watch Jim explain how to get a breakthrough in your writing.
Most ‘good’ books stay good rather than great, because of inadequate editing and inadequate marketing. Are you willing to sacrifice your time, talent and treasure in order to go for greatness? Writing is an act of Kingdom stewardship. I have been privileged to serve twice on the faculty for the TWG Write! Canada conference, teaching on marketing books. Rob Eagar’s material is an excellent resource in the marketing area.
Marketing cannot just be added after the book is written. It needs to be built into the very DNA of the book. The back cover must not be boring or self-centered. Good marketing gives the potential reader a reason to care. Readers in the internet age are suffering from information overload. Communicate clearly about how your book will benefit your readers’ lives.
What is your marketing ‘elevator speech’? Every book needs a hook. What is your hook? Build the hook into the text of your book, as well as your back cover. Try completing this ‘hook’ sentence about your book: What if I told you that….?
Learn how to maximize Amazon which is where most people buy books nowadays. Offer both eBooks and paperback. Experiment with targeted Amazon paid ads, focusing on age, education, geography, interests. Rob Eagar says that Amazon ads are more effective than Facebook ads. Experiment with both. To increase Amazon visibility, aim to have at least thirty people write brief Amazon.com book reviews. You cannot pay them, but you can ask them. Sometimes they are more likely to do a book review for you, if you have already done one for them. Think of the golden rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do for you.” I have 36 Amazon book reviews of my Restoring Health book. Later usually means never in terms of book sales. Strengthen the closing of your sale (pulling in the net) by offering on amazon and other contexts a time-limited $3.00 savings. Think FOMO (fear of missing out).
A key to great editing is developing a thick skin so that you can hear editing suggestions. Defensiveness and stonewalling keep your book in the childish stage rather than childlike excellence. CS Lewis, GK Chesterton, and JRR Tolkien had a wonderful childlikeness in their writing. 1 Corinthians 13:11 “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.” Mark 10:14-15 “Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” How childlike and playful are you in your books? As they say in Family Systems Theory, when everything is serious, urgent and important, something is out of whack.
Paying for a professional editor is worth every dollar. The Word Guild can help you connect with a good editor. On the recommendation of the Word Guild co-founder NJ Lindquist, we used Audrey Dorsch. If you can’t afford a paid editor, draw on the wisdom of other authors.
Canadian writers who are Christians face many challenges in the current market a) the dominance of the American market with most publishers being in the USA b) the collapse of many book stores in the internet age c) finding your tribe d) building your platform. Your tribe are those who share your passions and interests particularly in your book themes. Search for where they hang out on the internet and other face to face settings. Your platform consists of those who you have regular access to through social and traditional media like newspapers, radio and TV. To connect with your tribe and build your platform, offer a free eBook to those who sign up to your blog email. I have 41,000+ social media followers.
Being part of a writer’s organization, like The Word Guild, helps keep you motivated. We are active in the local Word Guild Chapter for Surrey, led by Neil Bramble. When I won a Word Guild award for the book Battle for the Soul of Canada, it helped opened many doors for newspaper, radio and TV articles and interviews. It is very easy when isolated to give in to writers’ discouragement. Sometimes we become too close to our writing and need to walk away until we can become a more objective reader of our own writing.
Establishing your credibility in the eyes of the potential reader is key. Jim Wilson our co-presenter is an example of how to do this. I encourage you to watch Jim’s ‘Writing Weekend’ videos which are posted online on Facebook and Youtube. What has Jim communicated in the videos that lead you to believe that he knows what he is talking about? What might you ‘humbly’ and ‘confidently’ say about yourself? Click to watch Rev. Jim Wilson and myself teach on writing nonfiction.
The book cover, the book title, and the back page are essential for motivating people to try out your book. How have you developed some of your book covers and book titles? Bill Glasgow of Wm. Glasgow Design in Abbotsford has done the book cover and layout for my last three books. Many book stores told me that the professionalism of the book cover and layout was why they accepted my book on consignment. Most back covers do not grab you with a compelling hook.
Conference speaking where you can promote your books from the podium is a major key to selling your books, directing people to a book table at the back that you and/or friends man. Bring a bowl and put a number of five-dollar bills in the bowl to help with change. Make up an attractive mini-poster with your book prices to put in a picture frame. Offering to personally sign your book can help improve sales. If you struggle with public speaking (the greatest fear on earth), consider attending Toastmasters and reading library books on public speaking.
Pray and soaking in God’s Word is key in writing books in Jesus’ name