Friday, November 21, 2014

A Writer's "Brand" (or lack thereof) with Guest AMY MATAYO

In the past six years I’ve written eight books, and I’m currently working on the ninth. That number
doesn’t include the four books I’ve stopped and abandoned for one reason or another, the main reason
being my extremely short attention span. For the finished books, their titles and genres are as follows, in the order they were written:

Walking in Circles (YA)
The History of Me (YA)
Don’t Ask Why (YA)
The Wedding Game (Contemp Romance)
Love Gone Wild (Contemp Romance)
Sway (NA)
In Tune with Love (Contemp Romance)
The End of the World (NA)
Title not yet public (NA)

So far only three books have been published. Next year, four more will follow—two of which are
complete and two others in varying stages of nowhere near complete. But this is what I do.

So why am I telling you this?

Because I love to write. And because I hate to write. Because I need to write. And because I often wish I didn’t need to write. And this is how the cycle goes for me. Every single time. Each time I open up a blank document to start a new manuscript. Every time I begin a new chapter or sit in wide-eyed panic as I face the dreaded kissing scene/fight scene/turning point/end of the book.

I love it.

I hate it.

And as you can tell by my very inconsistent genres, my moods often flip back and forth.
Just like my real-life moods. Sometimes I’m happy and feeling a bit on the snarky side (The Wedding Game, Love Gone Wild, In Tune with Love, Title not yet public).

Sometimes I’m feeling a bit reflective (Walking in Circles, The History of Me). Sometimes I read a local newspaper headline and write a story about it (Don’t Ask Why). Sometimes I’m wondering what the world would be like if we could all just get along a little better (Sway). Sometimes I’m feeling a bit sad and trying to find the hope in life (The End of the World). And sometimes (always) I’m feeling a little scatterbrained (all the books I haven’t completed).

Again, why am I telling you this? Because in the writing world, there’s a little term often thrown around calling “branding.” Authors are often encouraged to find their brand (funny, serious, reflective, etc.) and stick to it. And that’s a good thing. A great thing actually, because it makes you very dependable to a reader who wants to know that if they spend hard-earned money on your book, they’ll enjoy it. I’m just not very good at branding.

Kind of like a songwriter who has a plethora of subject matters on a single album, my books sort of
follow the same format. I’m never sure what I’m going to write about next—whether it will be happy or sad or somewhere in between—but my hope is that whatever I write, I do it well. At least marginally so. My next book, The End of the Word, (out Feb. 10) is a bit different than my other books. But I hope that’s okay, because sometimes I need different. A different place, a different mood, a different kind of story that will pull me in and show me something new. And that’s my hope for The End of the World. That you will be pulled in, and that no matter what mood you’re in when you read it, it will be a halfway pleasant way to escape for a few hours.

But in the meantime, I hope you’ll read Sway. Because that would make me really, really happy.

Amy Matayo

Amy here (the other one!): I for one, LOVED Sway. Anyone else read it? Having read Amy's other books I suppose I went into this with some expectations, but Sway threw me, and that is precisely why it was so spectacular. The story was layered just right, the dialogue witty and perfectly tuned, the story poignant and complex and again, just so unexpected I was riveted. I loved how the precisely frayed edges in this story were woven back together with a message of grace. This story will challenge you like only the best stories do. You will not walk away unmoved. Thank you, Amy (Matayo---sheesh! That's confusing, right?) for this refreshing change of pace. Can't wait to see what you come up with next!

So tell me, Alley Pals... Do you have a brand? Do you write one specific genre or do you change with your mood? Leave a comment... tell us a little bit about what you are writing now and I'll giveaway a kindle copy of Sway! Happy Friday! Now go write something fabulous!

Amy Matayo has a degree in Journalism from John Brown University. She worked for seven years as Senior Writer and Editor at DaySpring Cards until the birth of her first child. Amy was a freelance writer for David C. Cook before pursuing novel writing full time and focuses on edgy, contemporary books for women of all ages. She is the author of The Wedding Game, Love Gone Wild, and Sway. She lives with her husband and four children in Arkansas. Please visit her online at or @amymatayo

Click here to check out Sway

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Out of the Heart - Guarding Your Heart and Writing the Bigger Story

"But the words you speak come from the heart..." - Matthew 15:18 (NLT)

Lately, I've been feeling a bit weary when it comes to writing. I'll be honest. I still love it. It still fills me with hope and excitement and anticipation. But it feels me with other things do. Fear. Worry. Anxiety. My proposal is out there in the world right now, and while that should make my heart flitter with opportunity, it also scares me in a way I don't know that it's ever scared me before. After five years of writing and my fair share of "no's," I find myself braced for other sorts of possibilities... rejection. Even the feeling of failure. Not pretty things to talk about, but things all writers eventually deal with.

In addition to the fear that so often creeps into the writing life, our world is full of negative stories. All it takes is one glance at what's trending on your Facebook account or a few seconds of the news to hear all sorts of maddening things. Ebola. Terrorism. Kidnapping. All sorts of should-I-or-shouldn't-I scenarios begin to arise as we try to make decisions about what is safe and what is not, what is being overly cautious and what is necessary.

Too much time spent on social media can certainly exasperate this problem, can it not? I am a firm believer in standing in the gap for our friends and praying for one another's needs, let me be clear. But on the flip side, some people seem to use Facebook to exclusively share horrible news stories. After just a few minutes on Facebook, sometimes I find myself feeling burdened, depressed, or even a little panicky.

Why does this seem to happen to us so easily? And what is the answer? To go even further, how can this tendency affect our writing?

Photo by winnond, at
I believe that, as all youth pastors have at one point or another said, what goes in comes out. Put very simply, we feed our minds, hearts, and spirits every day. Some days-- perhaps most days-- we are not conscious about what we are feeding ourselves. But when we get that I-ate-too-much-ice-cream feeling after reading some shocking news story or imagining the worst possible scenario happening to our books, there is a reason for the feeling. We have fed ourselves the wrong things.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting we stick our heads in the sand and pretend the world is perfect. The world is far from perfect. We are far from perfect. People get sick and need healing. Jobs are lost sometimes. Evil people can seem to be so loud. And at times, the unexpected happens. We must be diligent and disciplined, compassionate and actively interceding for those around us.

But we were never called to fix the world. We were never called to be God. We were called to release our trust to Him.

How can we manage to do that when the world seems so very chaotic and maddening?

It's vital that we set boundaries in our lives and remain intentional about what we "feed" ourselves. Our thought lives, our imagination, and our hearts so readily stray from the goodness of God that we must pull ourselves back to Him, as a watering pail pulled from the bottom of the well. He is our living water. He is the answer, not only for our needs, but also for the needs of those in our world. But if we run 'round and 'round the well frantically with our hands atop our heads, we will never help anyone, including ourselves.

In practical terms, this may mean limiting Facebook time so you can spend more time reading the Bible, or watching only a few minutes of news per day. If you're a particularly creative person whose mind goes wild when you hear about health epidemics or terrorism, you may need to become especially diligent about cutting off your imagination before it breeds fear and panic.

Above all else, guard your heart. As Proverbs tell us, it is the wellspring of life.

The really cool part is, the mouth (or in our case, keyboard) speaks from what is in the heart. So if you're feeding your heart a bunch of awful stuff, it only makes sense you may find yourself struggling with your writing. But on the other hand, if you are filling your heart with living water, it's going to flow into your stories in a way only God can orchestrate.

If you want to write the kind of story that changes lives, first let God change your own. If you want your writing to be a ministry, recognize that means praying over your stories and future readers, and guarding your own heart. What is inside you will naturally flow out. And that's one of the coolest, highest callings of the writing life.

It is oh-so-easy to sit down at the computer drained, neglecting devotions and our prayer lives. But God has called us to so much more-- to create with Him from a pure heart.

I challenge you today to do something bold. Consider yourself a minister to your readers, even if you don't have any yet. Imagine what they'd look like if they were standing in your living room, in need of advice, encouragement, and maybe even a laugh. Would you offer them more than what you're doing now? Would it be worth protecting your heart for them?


Ashley Clark writes romance with southern grace. She's dreamed of being a writer ever since the thumbprint-cookie-days of library story hour. Ashley has an M.A. in English and enjoys teaching literature courses at her local university. She's an active member of ACFW and runs their newcomer's loop. When she's not writing, Ashley's usually busy rescuing stray animals and finding charming new towns. You can find Ashley on her personal blog, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. She is represented by Karen Solem.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

How to Grow your Blog Platform: Guerrilla Facebook marketing

I kicked off this series by sharing the story of how I started my personal blog from scratch one year ago and have since grown it to 150,000 page views a month. In my previous post, I shared some key fundamentals that you will need to put in place FIRST, before you do anything else:
  • Identify your readership
  • Invest time to study blogging
  • Create shareable content
Those things are huge and can't be overstated. Why? Because:
  • Until you know who you are writing for, your efforts will lack focus and clarity. 
  • Until you're willing to invest time into studying a new area, you can't expect the same results as people who've put in the hard yards. It takes four years of study to get a university degree, and years of practice to master an instrument, but most people seem to think they can succeed at blogging without any applied learning whatsoever. The truth is, you can't expect a return in any area of life without an investment. And believe me - there is a LOT to learn. 
  • Until you are consistently creating WOW content with a clear takeaway for the reader, your marketing efforts will fall flat. I've heard it said that good marketing only makes a bad product fail faster. Quality content is the cornerstone of everything else you do.
Need to get caught up on those points? You can read the first post here.

For the rest of this blogging series, I'll be focussing on the fourth point: 

Become your own best marketer.

You'll need to start by setting up social media accounts and linking them to your blog. If you're not promoting your blog for free on social media, you need to be. You should have a Facebook page, a Twitter account, a Pinterest account, and a Google+ account. There are others, but these are the ones I consider essential to your success.

Each of these areas is a whole study in itself, so I'm going to break it down for you step by step.

Keep this in mind: in the early days, you're going to have to hustle. You'll spend a lot of time working strategically to grow your following and promote your posts to that following. This is what I think of as Phase One of blogging: the guerrilla tactics that anyone can use, if you have the patience and determination to apply them. It's a hard slog, and there are no quick pay-offs here. You have to do your time to see the results. 

Let's start by talking about Facebook.

So you have a brand new page to promote your blog. How do you get people to "like" it so they see what you post?

1. Put out the welcome mat.
Create an inviting cover banner that echoes the theme of your blog, and a bio that clearly states what the page is about. Get a couple of quality posts up there so people know what to expect from your page.

2. Invite your friends. Sounds obvious, but some people skip this step because they're too shy to ask. People get a LOT of requests to "like" a new page now, so also consider sending a personal message to all your friends explaining what you're doing and asking for their support.

3. Have a Facebook posting schedule, and stick to it. You need to consistently share quality content to grow your following - the sort of content that people "like", comment on, and share.

4. Join groups. 
To find groups in your interest area, type a descriptor into the search bar at the top of your personal Facebook profile. In the example below, I typed "Writers". A list will pop up. Click down the bottom where it says "See more results for 'Writers'".

When the next page pops up, select "Groups". From here, you can scroll through to find any groups marked as "Public", and if they seem relevant, you can join them. Ensure you read the guidelines carefully and adhere to them. If it's okay to share your blog posts, make sure you also take the time to "Like" and comment on others' posts as well. 

Some groups are also okay with you pasting your page URL into a status update, which will cause a "Like box" to pop up in the stream. If the group is relevant to what you're posting about, this is a great way to get some more likes for your page. 

5. Link prominently to your Facebook page from your blog. Display your social media icons at the top of your sidebar and at the bottom of every post. Install a Facebook "like" box widget in your sidebar so a casual visitor can easily like your page without leaving your site. Consider installing a Facebook like box pop-up to maximise conversions.

Increase your reach

Facebook has a complex algorithm that it uses to filter the content in your news feed. With all the friends you have and all the hundreds of pages you've liked, statistics indicate there are about 1500 status updates vying for a place in your news feed at any one time. No one has time to read that far, so in the interests of supplying the content users are most interested in, Facebook gives greater reach to pages that you have previously liked or commented on, and restricts the reach of those you don't interact with - because they are considered less relevant to you.

What does this mean for you? You could get frustrated that Facebook is cramping your reach so significantly. (Believe me, I have been there!) Or, you can work smarter to conquer that algorithm.

Some steps:

1.  Encourage interaction. 
Likes and comments on your post will significantly increase your reach. Ask questions and make sure you respond to anyone who comments. Let your friends know how helpful it is when they comment on your post - many times, they just don't know. Often the most basic rule of marketing is to simply ask for the result you want.

2. Tag your friends in your post. This massively increases your post's visibility, as it will then show up in your friends' feed as well. Of course, don't be obnoxious about it - only tag people if they've previously indicated an interest in a particular subject, or it's something you're genuinely excited to share with certain friends, or if you've asked their permission in advance. Many of the biggest Facebook pages such as Ann Voskamp (author of "One thousand gifts"; 215,000+ page likes) have a circle of friends who she tags by turn in almost all her posts. She most likely asked those friends if they'd be willing to help her out in this manner.

It's not as simple tagging people from a Facebook page as it is on your personal profile, so if you're not sure how to do it, here's the steps:

Go to Settings -> Post attribution. Here, select "Post as yourself" instead of your page name. You're now in your personal profile mode and so have access to your friends' list. Go to the post -> Click on the image you shared to enlarge it -> Select "Tag Photo" -> Click on the image and type a friend's name to tag them.

3. Pay for Facebook ads
I won't go into this in detail, because it's not something I've personally used yet. My preference so far has been to grow my page organically, but I do plan to experiment with paid ads at some point. The biggest benefit of ads is that you can hone your target audience very accurately, in order to reach your ideal demographic. For instance, you can choose to target your ads toward people who've already liked a page similar to yours.

If you want in-depth training on this method, I'd recommend Amy Porterfield. I've done a couple of her webinars and found them detailed and helpful.

4. Network in blogging communities
As you get to know other bloggers and really work to develop relationships with them, chances are more opportunities to network will present themselves. You'll find all sorts of helpful blogging groups on Facebook - re-pinning groups, post sharing groups, round-up groups and more, all designed for bloggers to help each other grow. Many are private and you will only be able to find out about them if someone invites you. The more you put yourself out there and focus on developing relationships, the more opportunities will come your way.

If an opportunity doesn't present itself, why not start your own Facebook group? Gather a bunch of like-minded bloggers and start a daily thread where you all share a recent post. Then you can each comment on each others' posts and share them on social media.

That's it for today for your Guerrilla Facebook marketing tactics. 

I hope you've learned something new and helpful. Stay tuned - I have heaps more actionable tips to come in the weeks ahead.

Karen Schravemade lives in Australia, where she mothers by day and transforms into a fearless blogger by night. Her popular creative home-making blog, A house full of sunshine, reaches over 150,000 readers a month. She's a Genesis finalist for women's fiction and is represented by Rachel Kent of Books & Such. Find her on TwitterGoogle+Facebook and Pinterest.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

When God Hits Pause: L.O.O.K. U.P.

"But this is what I’m finding, in glimpses and flashes: this is it. This is it, in the best possible way. That thing I’m waiting for, that adventure, that move-score-worthy experience unfolding gracefully. This is it.” -Shauna Niequeist, from Cold Tangerines

Chances are you're waiting on something in your life at this very moment.

Waiting for your Prince Handsome to come sweep you away to your "diamond sunbursts and marble halls" as my favorite Ann-with-an-ew would say.

Pinching pennies to buy your picket-fence house in the perfect cul-de-sac neighborhood that will fit the perfect quiver of a family you have planned.

Perhaps its that job promotion that was promised, the paycheck that never came, the change in title, position, some other change.

Then there's the writing life. A pleasant diversion when the rest of your world feels dumped upside down and sideways all at once. At least that's what it was...until...

It became another waiting game...

Waiting for the perfect agent for you....the house that is right for you...waiting for that contract that would enable you to quit your 9-to-5 drudgery...

Longing to hear back from the editor who has been holding your proposal since get those contest results back...

Some waits are for a season...and sometimes that season is indefinite. Maybe you are called to take a break from writing altogether as several of us here have done in the past or are doing now.

“Wait on the Lord" is a constant refrain in the Psalms, and it is a necessary word, for God often keeps us waiting. He is not in such a hurry as we are, and it is not his way to give more light on the future than we need for action in the present, or to guide us more than one step at a time. When in doubt, do nothing, but continue to wait on God. When action is needed, light will come.”  -J.I. Packer from Knowing God

Continue to wait on God...when action is needed, light will come....

How can you continue to wait on God? Here are some things that have helped me in my waiting times:

Waiting leaves us in a good place, with nothing to do but to seek God's face with desperate accord until he wants us to move. Sometimes when we are most "abuzz" with plans and excitement we take far less time to sit at his feet. 

When we're waiting, let's make a point to L.O.O.K. U.P.:

1)Let God search your heart.

What is the specific sin struggle in your heart with regards to waiting? And what might God want to do in you...perhaps it is something you are resisting and he is using a pause to get your attention.

Is it a lack of perseverance? Are you ready to give up because the wait seems too hard?

Is it a lack of trust in God's way? God's timing?

Perhaps you're trusting too much in other people: an agent, an editor, someone to give you positive feedback?

Is it pride, perhaps thinking that your work is better than others you see that are published? Thinking that your own writing will further his kingdom?

Confess all these things before your heavenly Father. He knows your heart.

2) Own your struggle.

We don't need to pretend with God, He knows all. No matter what our "wait" struggle is, come to Him daily asking for His help. You can't do it on your own. If this wait can produce in us further dependence on God then it is a small price to pay. 

3) Order your days.

Sometimes we spend too much time thinking about waiting and it can cause a bit of chaos in our days. Plan for the times when you struggle most with anxiety or overthinking about the waiting. For instance, a time I struggle with worry is bedtime. So I am now trying to play Christian sermons when I can't sleep to feast on the word and fill my mind with these things leaving little room for the anxieties of waiting.

What calms you and can keep your mind orderly during a time of struggle. Playing soft hymns helps me to get my focus on God. Also reciting favorite scripture verses. If you plan something to occupy your time with during the time those worries or bothersome thoughts crop up, you will feel better prepared.

4) Keep accountable.

Let a friend or spouse know that you are struggling to keep faith during the wait. Ask them to pray for and with you. During hard or long waits you may need to lean on them. Though facebook and online are great, I think it is best to have a friend you plan to meet for coffee or a lady you pray with at church. Waiting is a common human experience and maybe you'll find you can also pray for your friend who might be struggling with a wait in another area of her life.

5) Understand that he may be preparing you for another wait.

And no, I'm not telling you you will be published or you will find your dream agent...or be able to quit your job.

I'm talking about a different perspective. The one that truly matters and putting our life in line for that. Because even what's happening in our writing life is something God is using on a spiritual level.

I really think he uses what can be smaller waits to help us with larger waits. Waiting for a terminally ill spouse or parent to die. Waiting to deliver a stillborn months after her death. Waiting for the CAT scan on the brain to show all clear. God wants to teach us to wait in these moments, preparing us for the waits that will be present for our whole lives.

In the same way as Christians we are waiting and panting with longing like the deer for our eternal life:

But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.-Romans 8:25

Let God use these times to stir up longing for our heavenly homes.

6)  Prepare and persevere.

What are your struggle points? Look for scriptures that will speak to those and print up the verses. Carry them with you in your purse. Post them next to your writing desk. Post them on your refrigerator. Ruth Graham placed Bibles all around her house so that she could read a verse here, a verse there as a busy mom.

Let God use your wait as a time of preparation for your own heart. Sometimes when we are in the throes of the good life we spend less time sitting at his feet. The perfect balm for your troubled heart is at his feet.

Bible Hub, and Blue Letter Bible are great online sites for finding verses to speak to your need and digging into all sorts of study resources for free. If God has called you to take a break from writing or seeking publication why not use that extra time to dig into his word even more than usual. 

Don't take your eyes off your source of hope. If you get a "no" don't let that discourage you from God's calling. God didn't call you to be published right now perhaps, but He did call you to write. Be obedient in that calling even if your feelings make you want to stop.

Maybe take a break and write something different, but write. Persevere in your calling.

Life and writing contain all sorts of waits. Let's use them as a reminder to L.O.O.K. U.P. and remember our Father is there with us through whatever we are facing today.

Julia enjoys writing women's fiction whenever she can find a chair free of smushed peanut butter sandwiches and lego blocks. She is a wife and homeschooling mama of two littles. She also enjoys writing for Library Journal magazine and the blog Wonderfully Woven.


Monday, November 17, 2014

The Story Gardener and Character Motives

I have gotten in a groove with writing. And it's like a supple garden box that is taking in all the elements needed to yield intriguing produce!

Praise the Lord!

As I grow my characters from the deep soil of their back story, amidst the elements of their present climate, and toward the sunshine of their future (um...well, my story is a little less sunshiny in the happy dance kind of way), I have discovered how to nurture each person with the right balance of give them the best chance to contribute to the

Yeah, I love analogy!

The Soil: Or the back story. There must be something in the character's past to motivate them to either move forward, or pull back...usually it is all wrapped up in the seed of the lie, sprouting it's ugly roots and hindering the character like an overgrown weed. But it can also be the values, morals, personality of the character know, all those nutrients that
that contribute to the wellness, or lack thereof, the plant!

The Potential/Sunshine-y future?  You know when you first plant that baby tomato plant, and you dream of plump red fruit hanging from its delicate stems? Well, same with your character, there has to be a dream or potential to drive their motives...and you must remember this throughout the story because it will keep you, the author, and your character going toward the goal...reaching for the sunshine...growing!

The Present Climate: Once the story is going, you'll start nurturing and weeding the character to escape the lie and grow toward the abundance of harvest. Now, storms may come, and you must remember that with each storm, their is a shift in the motive--not the overall motive--but a new motive to survive that present climate. These become little sprigs of new growth that hint of the underlying potential (or dream), and keep the reader asking the question, "what happen's next?" Every time you write, you should remember, what's the immediate motive my character?

Once those motives overcome the present climate, and the character pushes toward its potential, you'll have a mouth-watering story that has your reader pulling up to the table ready to harvest the produce. You as the author might feel more like a juggler than a story gardner at times, but if you remember to give your character plenty of sunshine, those motives will shine through and tempt the reader forward!


Angie Dicken is a full-time mom and lives in the Midwest with her Texas Aggie sweetheart. An ACFW member since 2010, she has written five Historical Romance novels, has a Historical underway, and is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of The Steve Laube Agency. Angie also spends her time designing one-sheets, selling Jamberry Nail Wraps, and drinking good coffee with great friends. Check out her author page at and her personal blog at 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Writer's Alley Weekend Round-Up

Mid-November, people! It's almost time to thaw the turkey, make a dozen pies, and put the Christmas lights on the house. Is anyone as panicky as me? Nah...I'm not really panicking. I'm pretty good about going with the flow, but the last few months have just flown by and I need to get organized. I don't want to procrastinate and be harried this Christmas. I want to enjoy the season between Thanksgiving and the New Year. So who's with me? You? Okay, great! Now that we have that settled, let's find out what's up the street this next week.

The Weekly Line-Up

Monday - Angie will be talking about Past, Present, Future...Motives of Your Characters.

Tuesday- Julia's post is entitled Dealing With The Waits of the Writing Life

Wednesday - Karen  is sharing Part 2 of How to Grow Your Blog Platform.

Thursday - Ashley has something up her sleeve and it will be something worth stopping by for.

Friday - Amy is hosting the fabulous Amy Matayo!

The Awesome Link Round-Up

This Simple Trip Can Will Help You Overcome the Inertia of Perfectionism (Copyblogger)

4 Piece of Well-Meaning Advice to Beware Of (Positive Writer)

7 Ways to Keep Writing When You Feel Like Giving Up (Write to Done)

The Great Twitter Debate: Should You Follow Back? (Writer unBoxed)

Beyond Fancy Clothes and Funny Foods - Creating the Culture of Your Story (Go Teen Writer)

#NaNo Tips: "Stealing" Writing Time (Kaye Dacus)

36 Writing Tips to Put Your Butt in the Chair (Positive Writer)

Is "Finding Your Voice" As A Writer Just Plain Laughable? (Write to Done)

Losing One's Marbles (Writer unBoxed)

Have A Great Week!

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Future of Publishing

Publishing is far from being a consistent landscape. We have always known this. But it’s often when we get down into the trenches that we see just what is changing about it. From a reader’s standpoint, we’ve always had books to read, will always have books to read and in many cases too many to grab our attention.

Employed in a well established literary agency, spending time with writers and working as an author’s virtual assistant have gleaned me a fair bit of insight over the last few months.

It’s no longer about breaking into publishing. In fact, in comparison breaking in is actually relatively easy. It’s staying published that is proving to be the challenging position. Because no longer are publishers looking at your platform and how well you can write, they are looking at sales. And sales—or lack thereof—can truly make or break a writer.

Publishing seems very much to be stuck in an old paradigm, with a shifting viewpoint. There aren’t just the big houses anymore. We have smaller presses, print on demand, and ebook only houses that for the fact that they don’t have many marketing dollars, don’t move a lot of copies of books.

Their authors are fantastic writers. Their readers love them. Books are being sold. Word is trickling out to other readers. The author earns out their advance, but not a lot of copies were moved.

Publishers look at sales. They like the writing. It’s an author they want to work with. But if sales aren’t there…sorry. No dice.

I recently had a lunch with a handful of established, upcoming and previously published authors. There was a definite tone and understanding throughout the entire crowd: publishing is changing. Traditional publishing isn’t what it used to be. Authors are expected to do more—if not all—of their own marketing. And established authors from smaller houses can’t get picked up because of their sales numbers.

We can have ideas for how we’d like publishers to look at the numbers, to want to invest and grow an author, but the truth is that’s not really happening. So what can authors and newbie writers do to adapt?

You can’t go into publishing expecting it to be all done for you anymore. What are the benefits of going with traditional publishing? You don’t put all the costs into the cover, editing and interior design—to name a few. You will however play a huge part in your own marketing, which many writers don’t relish or enjoy. 

Publishers aren’t paying a lot of money for a book anymore, but you’ll have the backing and reputation of a publisher behind you—which is important to a lot of readers.

You have to expect change in the journey. Or your publisher doing—or not doing—something the way you would like or expect.

We can wish publishers would look at things differently. That they just wouldn’t look at sales, but see the history and the track record the author has in the industry. But publishers have to protect their bottom line too—often to the frustration of authors.

The exciting prospect of publishing for writers right now? There are so many different options. We’re not just restricted to what traditional publishing can do for us.  We have that choice for the direction we’d like to go for a quality product in either respect—something we haven’t really had before. It’s a decision we have to make with eyes wide open and an open knowledge of what this changing landscape looks like now and what it could look like.

Would you consider indie publishing? Or traditional publishing? Why or why not?

Casey Herringshaw is a homeschool graduate and has been writing since high school. She is a total country girl, now living in a metropolis of Denver, Colorado.