Thursday, May 29, 2014

My Mentor Has Feathers

My Promo Mentor: Jo-Jo the Sand Hill Crane
It happened again yesterday.

I was enjoying my early morning prayer walk through a nearby patch of woods when my thoughts were interrupted by a loud honk/squawk/clicking racket from overhead.

Glancing up, I saw the same Sand Hill Crane I'd seen every morning at precisely 8:30 a.m. for the previous three days. He flew at the same height, in the same route - toward the south, banking off eastward at the intersection of the pond and strawberry field - all the while announcing his presence to the world in the same unmistakable, unmissable, unforgettable fashion. Honking/squawking/clicking at the top of his lungs. (Sorry for the clunky description but I double-dog dare you to try to put the call of a Sand Hill Crane into English!)

The key word here? Same. 

He did the same thing at the same time everyday. And he made sure the rest of the world was aware of it.

I assumed he was off a'courting some nice ladybird since it's spring and love is in the air. Incidentally, Sand Hill Cranes, like most birds, mate for life and take their marriage vows very, very seriously. We could learn something from them.

And as an author, it occurred to me that I could learn something from this guy. He's an expert at self-promotion.

The first day I saw him, he was simply of mild passing interest. Hmm. There goes a big noisy bird.

The second day, he made more of an impression. Hey, I wonder if that's the same bird I saw yesterday. He looks the same. Wonder where he's going. Wonder why he's going. Maybe I'll watch him a while.

The third day, he burrowed under my skin. Oh my gosh, that IS the same bird. How cool is that? I'm going to follow him and see what he's up to.

And that dadgum bird stayed in my mind all morning. I even named him Jo-Jo and went home and Googled Sand Hill Cranes to learn more about my new friend. And to me, suddenly he was.

My new friend.

I cared about him. I told others about him. I actually looked forward to the next morning when I could hurry out to see him again.

Just the way we writers want people to view us.

And how do we get to the point of burrowing under people's skin so that they care about us, tell others about us, and look forward to our next book? The same way Jo-Jo did: Stay vocal and visible.

Let me say that again because it's important: Stay vocal and visible. 

What does that mean to you? Pursue speaking opportunities? Guest blog? Write online articles? Show up and comment on websites and blogs frequented by your targeted audience regularly? Tweet ten times a day? Blog daily? Snag all the media interviews you can? Maybe all of the above.

Promotional guru Michael Hyatt has his accounts set up so that he feeds a template in the morning and tweets automatically appear 13 times a day and mini-blogs twice daily while he's busy elsewhere. He constantly shares good stuff he finds on other people's blogs, giving them full credit of course - an excellent way to foster networking so that they'll return the favor and eventually their readers become your readers.      

Sure, I know. You aren't Michael Hyatt with all his experience, funds and techy resources. But I'll bet there's still something you can add to your current self-promotional arsenal to make you more vocal and visible.

Go ahead. Give it some thought. Prepare to do some serious skin-burrowing. Become a Jo-Jo.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

We All Want to be Winners

Congrats! You won the literary award!

The words every author longs to hear but seldom does.

But wait! There's more reason to hope than you might think. Don't give up yet on penning "award-winning author" after your name.There are quite a few writing contests and literary awards out there that someone will win. It might just be you!

Here is a partial list of some of the more prominent annual Christian book awards. Bear in mind that there are even more than what you see here; all it takes is a little elbow grease and research to turn them up so you can pop your entry in the mail (or online for e-books).

  • EPCA Awards (Evangelical Christian Publishers Association): Gold Medallion Book Awards are given in five categories including Bibles, Fiction, NF, Inspirational, and Bible Reference. 
  • Christianity Today Book Awards: Ten categories plus Book of the Year.
  • Christy Award: Fiction only, nine categories including contemporary romance, historical romance, contemporary series, suspense, contemporary stand alone, visionary, first novel, historical, and YA. 
  • Rita Award: Romance Fiction only (named for Rita Clay Estrada, the first president of RWA, Romance Writers of America). Ten novels are proclaimed winners from the 2000 applicants each year. 
  • Selah Awards: Blue Ridge Conference Writing Contest; winners in each of  eleven categories including romance novel, contemporary/women novel, historical novel, suspense novel, speculative fiction, novella, inspirational/gift, YA, Bible studies, children, Christian Life, plus Book of the Year. 
  • Golden Scroll Awards: sponsored by AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association) in conjunction with the CBA's International Christian Retail Show (ICRS) award Fiction Book of the Year, NF Book of the Year, and Author of the Year among others.
  • Christian Small Publisher Book of the Year
  • Illumination Awards: eighteen categories including Bible study, Christian Living, devotional, theology, self-help, children's YA, romance fiction, Ebook NF, Ebook Fiction, and more. 
  • Enduring Light Medals: rewarding exemplary Christian-themed books published since the year 2000.  Categories include Christian Thought, Devotional, Inspirational, Christian Fiction, and Christian Children's Book.

Most of these contests require less than $100 fee per entry (per category) and usually two copies of your book for the judges. All have deadline submission dates. Most are accessible to authors (as opposed to the publisher being required to submit the book) but it's a MUST to read the application instructions thoroughly so you don't defeat yourself before you're even in the running.

The Christian Writers Market Guide is a good reference for writing contests and awards and I always recommend that you Google the entrance requirements for newest developments/changes.

Go get 'em!