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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Hangin' in Papa's Waiting Room

Stay busy in Papa God's waiting room
I recently read a blog post by an author celebrating her breakthrough into a national magazine review column that's sure to bring her wide exposure. She's hit the big time:

  • Magazine editors approach her for articles
  • # of guest blog post requests increased
  • Reviews from major media venues
  • Speaking gigs easier to find

And it only took her seven books to get there.

Seven books? you wheeze. But I'm only just now finishing my first book and it's taken me a whole year!

Yep. I feel your pain, writer buddy.

My first book, The Distant Shore, took two years to write and another year to find a publisher (a small press in South Carolina). I thought it was the crowning glory of my writerly life, but in reality, it hardly made a ripple in the publishing pond.

So I wrote another. And another. And then with three good quality small press books under my belt, I was able to find an agent to represent my fourth book, this time a different genre, women's inspirational humor.

But alas, that poor, wonderful, overlooked book - Mom NEEDS Chocolate - was destined to release during the direst time in publishing history, 2009, just after The Crash (recession) hit and before Publishing World figured out where it was going with the digital era. Newspapers were folding everywhere, respected publishing companies were going belly up, and no one was buying print books because the media proclaimed that e-books were the wave of the future and print would soon be obsolete. Since very few people owned e-readers yet (they were still a brand new concept), nobody bought any type of book, print or electronic for a period of about two years.

Just long enough to maim the success of Mom NEEDS Chocolate. In fact, not long after that, the publisher (Regal Books) was sold to another publisher who somehow had managed to stay afloat in the turbulent waters.  

While I was languishing (or so it felt) in Papa God's waiting room, I kept writing - magazine articles, a newspaper column, essays, blog posts, new manuscripts that I kept sending out. And one of them caught the eye of a traditional publishing house editor named Kelly.

It turns out Barbour Books was interested in publishing more women's humor nonfiction, and wha-da-ya know? They were willing to take a chance on my book, Too Blessed to be Stressed.  It had a slow start with only modest sales at first (readers were rediscovering books again) but after it had been out a year, sales took off.

To the surprise of the publisher and myself, it spawned a very successful Too Blessed to be Stressed line of books and book products (14 at last count) and has become my personal brand. My writing bank account is finally seeing a ray of sunshine after a decade of cloudy days.

You read that right - it took ten years. Ten years. 

So you see, I have to agree with the seven-book author and the celebrated children's book award-winning author who said, "Want to be a successful author? Give it at least six years to get off the ground."

After you pick yourself off the floor and wipe your eyes, hear me out: There's some good news hiding here. You'll be able to hone your skills and build a very sturdy platform during your time in Papa God's waiting room. As long as you don't drape yourself over the plaid settee and vegetate.

Keep writing. Keep learning. Keep growing.

Because the writer's creed is not good things come to those who wait, but good things come to those who work while waiting.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Word Power


I love Christian bookstores, don't you? 
How important are words?

There are one million words in the English language.

75% of these words are technical and not used in common speech.

25% of these one million words are in a dictionary.

20,000 words make up an average vocabulary.

20,000 words are used by an average woman daily; 7,000 words are used by the average man daily. Plus the grunt factor.

10,000 words we use on a regular basis.

12,000 words are included in the King James Version of the Holy Bible.

21 words make up John 3:16.

What if we use our relatively few words to heal and uplift each other, rather than wound and tear down?

Let's change the world word by word.




*The above comments were part of an awesome address by literary agent Steve Laube (of The Steve Lauby Agency) to the AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association) members at our 2015 conference.




Sunday, July 5, 2015

New Contest Winners!!!!

Lots of Winners!!!

Hey, hey - we've got some winners here! Ten to be exact.

Congrats to the fine folks below whose names were drawn in my "Them Babies Just Keep on Bouncing" contest.

Each will receive the Too Blessed to be Stressed Baby Blessing of their choice. To find out more about each Baby Blessing, hop on my website http://DeboraCoty.com and click on the "Books" dropbox, then Too Blessed Babies.

Some products aren't available just yet (such as the Too Blessed to be Stressed 2016 Planner, the 3-Minute Devo for Women, and the Too Blessed to be Stressed Cookbook, but as soon as they are released, I promise I'll get your prize to you).

Please don't fret if your name's not on the list this time; stay tuned for another great giveaway coming up in conjunction with the fall release of the Too Blessed to be Stressed Cookbook (and I'm talking prizes including not only free autographed books but also GROCERY STORE GIFT CARDS for buying the ingredients to try out the Cookbook's 110 terrific recipes requiring less than 20 minutes prep time ... plus a few ultra cool surprises!)

So without further ado, here are the winners of a free Baby Blessing!

Angela Holland                           Kathy Newborn
Rick Jackson                              Paulette Smallwood
Adriana Fuentes                          Kathy James
Kristen Schuettenberg                 Pamela Black
Tina Rae Collins                          Ana Raquel

Congrats!! Just e-mail or FB message me with your choice and mailing address and your prize will soon be on its way!




And here are your prize options:

Too Blessed to be Stressed (original book)
Muy Bendecida Para Estar Estrasada (Spanish version of original book)
Too Blessed to be Stressed Journal
The Bible Promise Book: Too Blessed to be Stressed Edition
Too Blessed to be Stressed Cookbook (releasing Nov 1)
Too Blessed to be Stressed Wall Calendar
Too Blessed to be Stressed: 3-Minute Devotions for Women (releasing this winter)
Too Blessed to be Stressed 2016 Planner (releasing Sept 1)


A whopping THANK YOU to all my BBFF (Best Blog Friends Forever) for entering - you're always a winner with me!

Hugs,
Deb

Friday, July 3, 2015

State of the Publishing Industry Update

Deb chatting about her books
I always look forward to hearing literary agent Steve Laube of the Steve Laube Agency give his State of the Industry speech at our annual AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association) conference.

Steve is knowledgeable. Steve is wise. Steve is funny.

It's great to be informed from someone in the know about the publishing industry's newest news, whether it's good, bad, or ugly.

This year (last week) we heard a bit of all three. Here are the highlights:

  • Fiction e-books make up 50% of all book sales.
  • General e-books make up 30% of all book sales.
  • Novels are considered throw-aways after 1 read.
  • Nonfiction books are keeps on your shelf as bookmarks of your life. 
  • The publishing industry is like a labyrinth; the walls move every day ... meaning editorial departments and publishing house staff shift constantly. Some disappear completely. Personalities drive publishing companies.
  • Amazon holds the keys to publishing sales, even though their own effort at publishing failed dramatically. Amazon sells books only to get you in to their "store," collect your data and sell you other stuff (they make their most money off other goods, not books). For example, Amazon is the #1 diaper seller in the world; they also make huge shoe and electronics sales. 
  • Amazon print and digital (Kindle) sales make up half the business of many Christian publishers.
  • In bookstore retail news, the recent Family Christian Stores declaration of bankruptcy (26 stores in 34 states) lost some publishers up to one million dollars in February, 2015, although Family Christian was probably doing only about 5% of all Christian book sale business. This story is not over yet. As you know, Family Christian still has its doors open. 
  • Even if Family Christian goes under, it will not sink the industry. Christian book sales in general are strong, steady, and stable.
  • Newsletters are now considered the #1 marketing tool for authors because the author is in total control (unlike social media outlets such as Twitter or FaceBook who make and change their rules whenever they please). 

Our audience of people who look to the Christian Book industry to feed our families left encouraged and ready to press our noses back to the grindstones.

I did hear mutterings among my peers of professional speakers that speaking invitations from distant churches (requiring paid cross country travel and accommodations) had declined somewhat this year, but we could only speculate that the financial crunch of '08-09 had caused residual tightening of belts and budgets.

I'd love to hear your take on the health of publishing. What has been your recent experience?








Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Lots of Winners!

Lots of Winners!!!

Hey, hey - we've got some winners here! Ten to be exact.

Congrats to the fine folks below whose names were drawn in my "Them Babies Just Keep on Bouncing" contest.

Each will receive the Too Blessed to be Stressed Baby Blessing of their choice. To find out more about each Baby Blessing, hop on my website http://DeboraCoty.com and click on the "Books" dropbox, then Too Blessed Babies.

Some products aren't available just yet (such as the Too Blessed to be Stressed 2016 Planner, the 3-Minute Devo for Women, and the Too Blessed to be Stressed Cookbook, but as soon as they are released, I promise I'll get your prize to you).

Please don't fret if your name's not on the list this time; stay tuned for another great giveaway coming up in conjunction with the fall release of the Too Blessed to be Stressed Cookbook (and I'm talking prizes including not only free autographed books but also GROCERY STORE GIFT CARDS for buying the ingredients to try out the Cookbook's 110 terrific recipes requiring less than 20 minutes prep time ... plus a few ultra cool surprises!)

So without further ado, here are the winners of a free Baby Blessing!

Angela Holland                           Kathy Newborn
Rick Jackson                              Paulette Smallwood
Adriana Fuentes                          Kathy James
Kristen Schuettenberg                 Pamela Black
Tina Rae Collins                          Ana Raquel

Congrats!! Just e-mail or FB message me with your choice and mailing address and your prize will soon be on its way!




And here are your prize options:

Too Blessed to be Stressed (original book)
Muy Bendecida Para Estar Estrasada (Spanish version of original book)
Too Blessed to be Stressed Journal
The Bible Promise Book: Too Blessed to be Stressed Edition
Too Blessed to be Stressed Cookbook (releasing Nov 1)
Too Blessed to be Stressed Wall Calendar
Too Blessed to be Stressed: 3-Minute Devotions for Women (releasing this winter)
Too Blessed to be Stressed 2016 Planner (releasing Sept 1)


A whopping THANK YOU to all my BBFF (Best Blog Friends Forever) for entering - you're always a winner with me!

Hugs,
Deb

Monday, June 22, 2015

What is Truth, Really?

Spouse and I were rewatching an old fave movie the other night - A Knight's Tale - and I noticed something interesting I'd not caught the last ten times I watched it.

The charming story takes place in the olden days of Knights and Ladies, nobility and peasants, with the late great Heath Ledger looking his most dapper in the lead role. (I highly recommend it as a clean and clever Friday night fam flick.)

Near the beginning of the movie, Heath's character and his two adorable peasant sidekicks encounter a naked Geoffrey Chaucer trudging down the road. Paul Bettany, who plays a hilariously high-wordy, immensely likable Chaucer, apparently suffers from a gambling addiction and when he loses everything on a bad run, including his clothes, it's not unusual for him to be gallivanting around in his birthday suit (don't worry, we only see his backside).

So on yet another occasion when he again is reduced to stark buffidity (not a word but should be), Chaucer defends a bold-faced lie he has just laid on an angry Heath with this little gem: "I'm a writer! I give the truth scope."

Oh the marvel of that magnificent statement! Let me repeat it so we writers can roll it around together on our collective tongue:

"I'm a writer! I give the truth scope."

Well said, Geoff, ole boy.

I am often asked by writers-in-the-making at my writing workshops how much literary license is allowable in constructing nonfiction ... say, memoirs for example. (Obviously the sky's the limit in fiction, so I will focus on nonfiction here.)

My answer? More than you might think.

Consider the bestselling mega-hit memoir, Angela's Ashes. It's highly unlikely that author Frank McCourt, an adult recording true events of his long past childhood, could recall word-for-word conversations that took place every day for the numerous years covered in the book.

Yet chapter after chapter is ripe with detailed conversations that expertly expose character traits and move story lines along toward a gripping climax, more showing than telling (every writer's ultimate goal).

I've never had the opportunity to ask Frank if he was compelled to use literary license in creating all that dialogue, but my educated guess is that it was necessary for him to elaborate on basic elements of truth in order to reconstruct scenes that led to events as he remembered them.

Every memoir and creative nonfiction workshop I've ever attended confirms and condones this.There really is no other logical way to record conversations that occurred long ago, or that occurred without the author present. You work with what you DO know to be true, staying loyal to the character and events, and do the best you can to fill in the holes.

So stop stressing over that memoir chapter depicting the well deserved nosebleed you gave your pesky cousin when you were eight. When he appears at your door snorting fire after reading about it as a 45-year-old, simply smile and quote the Prince of Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer, "I'm a writer! I give the truth scope."

     





 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Repackaging

Out with the old and in with the new
As usual, I'm in a hurry as I fly down the frozen food aisle, jerking my grocery buggy to a halt in front of the familiar glass case from which I've plucked my low-calorie lunch of choice a thousand times before.

Intending to grab a few of my favorite flavors and run, my hand freezes in mid-air.

Wait. Whoa, Nellie. What's this? In place of the white boxes with the orange curly-cue logo I've been purchasing for the past few years, there's a stack of strange brown logo-less boxes I don't recognize.

Grrrr. Who moved my cheese?

But upon further inspection, I see that this is, after all, the very same product I'm seeking. Same only different.

The food looks the same and has the same nutritional listings. But it's in a new box. With a completely new look. About 180 degrees from the way it used to look.

So why do companies repackage products? Even tried and true products?

A few obvious reasons include a desire to:
  • Revamp their image
  • Attract a new or wider audience
  • Update their look 

A recent example is the Motorola cell phone, which after years on the market was redesigned to appear more like a fashion statement. Indeed, sort of like a  piece of jewelry. Why? Because women are their proven primary market and women, as you know, are interested in fashion.

(Hey, why don't they think chocolate here? I'd buy a new cell phone if it looked and smelled like a Cadbury bar.)

Similarly, Johnson & Johnson felt that Rembrandt toothpaste needed a cleaner, fresher look, so they simplified, using the same tube but changing the packaging from a word-cluttered, color-splashed spectacle to a plain white box that opens from the top like a gift. A gift to yourself.

Have these changes made a difference in sales? The jury's still out, but early indicators are quite positive.

Books do the same thing for the same reasons. 

I've made a game out of  looking up a certain historical romance each time I've enter a bookstore for the past few years because the gal on the book cover has on a different colored dress every time I see her. That chick has the most extensive wardrobe of any one-dimensional woman I know.

Because of a simple change - same dress, different color - that book has had as many lives as a Manx. Other books may come and go from bookstore shelves within three months, six months, one year, but that one's taken up residence and doesn't appear to be going anywhere any time soon.

I understand the red dress has been the hands-down bestselller. Hmm. Not really hard to guess why.

Last year the publisher of three of my early books decided on repackaging for the same reasons listed above. You  may have already seen the remakes of my historical novels, The Distant Shore and Billowing Sails, but the finalized cover for Grit for the Oyster: 250 Pearls of Wisdom for Aspiring Writers has recently been released.

I'd love to share it with you now (see above).

I think repackaging is generally a good idea and an effective marketing tool, but some argue that occasionally it causes confusion and consumer irritation ("Why change a good thing?" "If it ain't broke, don't fix it.")

So what do you think? I'd love to hear your feedback.