Sending out a Christian Wave upon a Secular Sea

Christine Hornback to Share at CAG Meeting

Christine Hornback

Author, artist, and inspirational speaker Christine Hornback will be the featured guest at the November 17, 2014 meeting of the Christian Authors Guild

She will be sharing her unique and interesting writing journey.

Christine  has several books published which include two Juvenile Fiction books Jenny Lynn’s Secret Mission and Caleb’s Cereal.  She also has an Adult Inspirational book entitled Tell the Enemy to Scat!   Her latest book an Inspirational Romance/Suspense entitled   If Oak Trees Could Talk was recently released in July 2014.

The meeting begins at 7PM at the Prayer & Praise Christian Fellowship in Woodstock, Georgia. Visitors are welcome. Refreshments are served. Free. For directions and map, please click on “Our Meetings” tab above.

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Election Time: For Christian Authors Guild and Our Country

The next meeting of the Christian Authors Guild will be Monday, November 3 at Prayer & Praise Christian Fellowship in Woodstock, Georgia. The meeting will be held in the church sanctuary. Besides a brief business meeting, there will be an interesting writing presentation and critique groups. Visitors are welcome and refreshments are served. If any member is interested in serving on the CAG  leadership team in 2015, please let Preseident Sue Schultz know prior to this meeting. _wsb_91x140_America+Remembered+front+only

Special Guest Speaker – Dr. Casey Cochran, October 20th

casey cochranJoin us for our meeting on October 20th for special guest speaker, Dr. Casey Cochran, Professor at Emory University.

Dr. Casey Cochran is a native of Smyrna, Georgia.  He became a Christian at the age of 20 while a student at Georgia. During the 1980s, he and his wife Linda were involved in Christian schools in California, Virginia, and Hawaii.  Since 1995, Cochran has been on the faculty of Emory University, where he teaches History of American Education, Philosophy of Education, and Classics of Educational Thought.  He has also directed an academic program for home schoolers since 1998. The Cochrans reside in Woodstock; they have 5 grown children and two grandchildren.

Our meeting will begin at 6409 Bells Ferry Road, Woodstock, Georgia from 7:00 p.m. to 9:15 p.m.

The Business Side of Writing: Part II by Bryan Powell

dollar sign

Okay, you’re booked in a half dozen locations, that’s great. Congratulations!

If you’ve done your homework and built a platform, you can have a great time talking to your friends and customers.

The question now is, “How do I get compensated? After all, isn’t that the goal (at least somewhere down the list after being a blessing and having fun and getting the word out and creating a wave and all that stuff)?”

Before we discuss the compensation from the retail side, we need to understand the wholesale side. If you are published through a traditional publisher, you need to read and understand the commission split in your contract.

I know it’s hard to read all that fine print, but you need to know it or you’ll end up embarrassing yourself. The one thing you don’t want to do is call your publisher and demand to know why your royalty check didn’t come the day after the end of the first quarter.

Let’s say you completely understand your contract (not). What next?

Negotiation

Know how much you paid for your books on the wholesale side. If you paid 40% of the retail price. That means you make a whopping 60% profit, not bad. It would be better if you could wheedle out of your publisher 35%. That’s the negotiation part of this blog.

I begged my publisher, using all sort of spurious excuses such as: I’m a poor, starving artist, my kids will go hungry if I don’t get a better discount, and I’ll have to put my mother-in-law in a nursing home if you don’t give me a better discount.

To my dismay, he didn’t budge. I was crushed, but he did throw in an extra 25 books. Free I might add. Shew! That was a relief.

Retail Compensation

Some venues will charge a “consignment fee” and others won’t.

  • Let’s start with the coffee shops.
    • They are usually a free event.
    • You make the sale, you keep the money. It’s that simple.
    • Keep a log of your sales and if yours is a sales tax state, be sure to charge the tax and record it in a log book.

If you don’t charge your customers the sales tax, you’ll have to pay it and that comes out of your profit margin.

  • Next, are the independent or new and used book stores.
    • I have been in many and they all do it differently.
    • One store discounts my books 10%, but then pays me 60% of the retail price. They make a 30% profit and I make 20% (if I paid 40% to my publisher).

That’s where profit margins are so important?

  • Next are the Christian bookstores, Barnes and Nobles, Books-a-Million and other big and little box stores.
    • If they try to charge you 50%, walk away. 40% is the best you can hope for, 35% is even better, but that’s a rarity.
    • Some bookstores have a “Local Author” corner. This is great because after a signing event, some people who don’t purchase a book when you are there may come back.
    • Being a good steward is vitally important.
    • Never leave your books without making a record of how many books you’ve left, the price, the percentage split, how long they are to stay on their shelves, and when they send out checks. Be sure to get the manager’s signature and make two copies.
    • Make a follow-up call in three months to see how many books sold.
    • Along with your log of venues, create a file of “Consignment Sheets” and look over it from time to time.

Remember, they are your books. No one cares for them as much as you.

  • The next are Fairs, Festivals and Literary Events.
    • Choose your events wisely.
    • What’s it going to cost to rent a 10×10 booth? If it costs more than $150.00, you are running the risk of losing money.
    • If it’s a large event, you may take a chance on it, but it could be a wash.

So What Have We Learned?

Writing a book is only half the fun. The other half is meeting people and signing (selling) your books to an adoring crowd of happy, smiling, anxious readers. But the other side, the Business Side of Writing, is your profit margin.

Don’t back away from your price unless you have a good reason. A poor economy, they are your friends, and you’ve only sold one book today are not good enough reasons to cut your price.

You wrote it, your publisher set the price, so smile, and quote your price.

Now go sell your books!

 

 

Finding Another Person’s Voice by Bryan Powell

journal

 

Much has been written about finding your “voice.” You can attend a writer’s conference and learn how to reach deep within yourself, discover the real you and express it in cogent terms.

But how many of us have found someone else’s voice? How many of us have been charged with the responsibility of expressing another person’s thoughts without tainting them with our own?

Recently, I had the privilege of doing just that.

By divine appointment, I was given an older gentleman’s journal. As I sat and read it and later interviewed him, I discovered he had a story to tell. He had a message to give us. Like a canary, held captive within a cage of flesh and bone, his spirit yearned to be set free. However, with his limited vocabulary and lack of skill, it languished, thinking it would never take flight. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to  set it free. When that happened, his voice echoed throughout the pages of his story, and it rose to new heights.

The more I studied his life, the more I saw his motivation and message. I discovered his love and passion, his goals, his dreams and yes, his weaknesses and failures.

He taught me two important principles that guided his life. The first one; God can use a person for His glory no matter how unskilled that person is. This simple man took faith’s baby steps and soon found manly strength to run the race, keep the faith, and win the crown.

The second guiding principle was a bit harder to find, yet it was there. He said, “Find people smarter than you to do the things you don’t want to do and hire them.”

That was his message and his motivation. He spent his life finding jewels in the rough and developing them, polishing them, getting them ready to take his place. And by doing so, he built people and a fortune. 

From his humble beginning as a dirt farmer in central Georgia during the Depression years to the present day, he invested his life in helping people reach their potential.

The benefit to me was that I was privy to those formative years through his journal. I watched him grow to manhood; I grew with him, I hurt with him and even loved with him. I heard his voice, captured his thoughts, emotions, his heart. For those precious hours in which I labored over the text, I became this man. And so will you when you invest the time to get to know the person you are writing about.

So the next time you undertake a story: fiction or non-fiction, biography or historical, get to know your character. Plunge deep into the well-spring of creativity or reality and discover their voice. In so doing, you may find your own.

The Business Side of Writing – Part 1 by Bryan Powell


So, you’ve written a book. Congratulations!
book promo

Putting in the time and effort to write your thoughts is a great accomplishment. Greater still is publication.  Now you can sit back and watch the dollars come rolling in, right?

Wrong!

 

Besides the hard work of writing and editing, there is, The Business Side of Writing.

If you plan on selling your book there are several important aspects that must be taken into consideration: promotion, compensation and negotiation.

The Art of Shameless Self-Promotion

How do you get to be a New York best seller?

In a word—promotion; shameless, relentless, white-knuckled promotion.

It is a necessary part of the writing process. No matter how much you may hate public speaking, it is a necessary evil.

While much of today’s focus is on cyber marketing, good old-fashioned public appearances are another important part of the mix.

Why do some writers succeed at this and some fail? The better question is; why do some of us persevere, and others give up? The answer is simple. There are those of us who will give anything to achieve our dreams, and there are others who will give anything to stay on the couch. Okay, so I’ve convinced you. Where do you begin?

Start With a Smart Strategy

The phone can be your best friend or your worst enemy. When I was in real-estate, my broker challenged me to make 100 calls a day and ask two simple questions: “Do you want to sell your house?” and “Do you know someone who wants to sell a house?”

I was chasing customers I know, but it worked. The last house I sold was a $400,000 home to a woman from Brazil.

I learned to get tough skin and make the calls, but in the book business, who do you call?

Reach Out

1. Start with your niche market. If your book is about gardening – call stores that deal with gardening. If it’s a cookbook  – call restaurants and sandwich shops. Ask if you could set up a display and talk to the customers about your book.

  • Know your market – learn where your book sells best. Christian books sell better in Christian environments.
  • Talk to people – when you are at an event. Don’t just sit behind the table. Stand as much as possible, greet the customers and talk about your books.
  • Link up with a local pregnancy crisis center, or the local chapter of a Cancer Society and have an event together. This will take planning and advertising.
  • Use your social media connections to promote your event. Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, Eventful.com, Events.GSTV.com, Eventbrite.com, Goodreads.com, Oogle.com, bookmarketing.com, salesspider.com to name a few.

2. Independent bookstores

  • Have a nice display and buy push-cards. Vista Print and ColorFunmerch.com are two places where you can get quality promotional material.
  • Have a poster displaying your book cover and hook.

3. Libraries. They love authors. Ask about literary or local author events.

4. Christian book stores and big-box book stores are the last targeted phone calls for retail stores. Invariably, they will charge 40% to sell your books on consignment. We’ll discuss this in greater detail in my next blog.

5. Fairs, Festival and Literary Events.

  • There may be a cost involved in this, but it will be worth it. Try sharing the cost with other authors.
  • Have plenty of cash on hand and learn to make changes.
  • Also, you will need to have a way to process credit card payments. I use Square, but Pay-pal also has a card reader.

6. For the fun of it, call independent living facilities. (Those are the ones where the residents control their own money). Have the activities coordinator to promote you as a local author coming to do a reading.

7. Call schools and ask to speak with the English/Language Arts teacher and see if you could be scheduled to come and speak to their class.

8. Become your own competition.

  • You may even post your book on Ebay and Craig’s List in order to boost your sales on a national scale.
  • When your book is listed with Amazon, they will under-cut your price by a sizable percentage. I went to Amazon and found how much they were selling my book for and under cut them

The take away of this is simple. If you want more than the satisfaction of having your book published, and I hope you do, then you must establish goals and a marketing plan. Work within your time and finances. Step out of your comfort zone and let’s sell some books.

Our contributor, Novelist Bryan M. Powell is also a composer/arranger with over eighty choral works to his credit. He now enjoys pursuing a career as a full-time writer. Some of his fifteen Faith-based “G” rated mystery novels have found their way into publication by Tate Publishing, Kindle Direct and Vabella Publishing. His website is www.newlifepublicationsonline.com

 

 

 

 

Twitter or Tweet? by Cynthia L. Simmons

twitterI have to admit the name turned me off. Birds tweet, not something electronic, and I’m fond of birds. Nevertheless, a young man trained in publicity convinced me I should try.  He said Twitter helps you expand your influence because it connects you with others who enjoy similar interests.

So, he taught me a few basics. Following someone means you get their messages.  A tweet, or a short message, contains a hundred and forty characters. The sentence, ‘I am cold’ has ten characters; seven for letters, two for spaces, and one for a period.

First you open an account, and choose a name which has @ in front. I chose @CynthiaLSimmons, my writing name. Then you set up your home page with information on your writing and website. Make your profile interesting so people will want to get to know you. Once you complete that, you find people you know and follow them.  Often they will follow you also.

In the first few weeks, I obtained a lot of followers. I also got a number of new people following me that I never heard of. When that happens, I check out their bio and website to see if I’m compatible with them.  At times, I also read their blog. Notice who they follow and you often get introduced to new friends.

Some people put an app on their phone so they can keep track of tweets all day long. I’m not fond of my phone buzzing all the time, so I didn’t do that. Instead, I check tweets twice a day, and send out my own message when I do. My coach told me not to send out too many tweets that endorse, since people want to get to know you.  You can and should send private tweets, and I’ve also sent out a few questions to get a conversation started. Both are fun.

I waited until I felt comfortable to tackle the hashtag. A hashtag marks a particular event or subject, like a bookmark. Websites list the most popular tweets so you can use the appropriate one.  Here’s a couple I found: http://top-hashtags.com/instagram/ and www.hashtag.org.  I started using a hashtag for my podcasts since someone can click on the hashtag and see them all. For CAG Spotlight, I took out most of the vowels to shorten the name. You’ll find it under #CAGSPLT. Check out my newest podcast at #HEARTMtr.

Nowadays you’ll find me at home counting characters while I devise a short note. Some days I condense Bible verses. I’ve gathered a following, so I guess its working. I feel a little like a bird. Tweet, tweet!

Getting Into Trouble with “Myself” by Diana J. Baker

grammar police picOne of my pet peeves when editing manuscripts is the incorrect use of the
pronoun myself and its friends, yourself, yourselves, himself, herself, themselves, and itself. It is amazing to me that words that have only three grammar rules regarding them are so often misused by writers. I would like to encourage everyone reading this article to take the time to learn the basic rules for using these pronouns and apply them. It might mean the difference between having one of your manuscripts accepted or rejected.


Rules of use for the pronoun myself:
1. Myself is used when the subject and object are the same. Examples:
a. I need to learn not to take myself so seriously.
b. I wish I could learn not to be critical of myself.
c. If I know what’s good for me, I’ll get myself out of here in a hurry!

2. Myself is used when you need to clarify that the subject has performed some action alone or unassisted. Examples:
a. I can’t possibly pick that rock up by myself.
b. I cannot tell a lie; I ate the whole pie myself.
c. I am amazed that I raked the entire yard by myself in only two hours.

3. Myself is used when the pronoun acts to emphasize another word (It is then called and intensive pronoun.) Examples:
a. I myself would never want to get caught in that situation.
b. I hate to admit it, but I myself am the guilty party.

*Please note: The word myself and the other pronouns listed should never be used as the subject of a sentence and are not used correctly if used in any setting other than those covered by the three grammar rules above. Myself should never be substituted for the pronoun me.

Examples of the incorrect use of the word myself:
1. Used as the subject of a sentence:  Incorrect: Two of my friends and myself found a lost puppy. Correct use: Two of my friends and I found a lost puppy.
2. Used in place of the pronoun me. Incorrect: My cousin Jeff went to the ball game with my son and myself. Correct use: My cousin Jeff went to the ball game with my son and me.

Rules for the use of the pronouns yourself, yourselves, herself, himself, themselves, and itself:
1. Used when the subject and object are the same. Examples:
a. You take yourself too seriously (singular). You take yourselves too seriously (plural).
b. She looked at herself critically.
c. He was stuck on himself.
d. It couldn’t get itself out of the trap.
e. They thought more highly of themselves than they should.

2. Used when the subject has performed an action alone or unassisted. Examples:
a. You need to study by yourself.
b. She did all of the decorating herself.
c. He taught the lesson himself.
d. The children went to the playground all by themselves.
e. The puppy had gotten itself lost.

3. Used when the pronoun acts to emphasize another word. Examples:
a. John himself doesn’t know how he broke his fishing rod.
b. My reputation itself was at risk.
c. We ourselves expected to be rescued.

Write right and get your work accepted and published!

Tweet, Link, Pin & Like by Frieda Dixon

Albert Einstein once said: “The same thinking that has led you to where you are is not going to lead you to where you want to go.” He was a brilliant man,  never satisfied with the scientific status quo. His original thinking enabled him to discover the Theory of Relativity.

social media icons

For some reason, his quote strikes a chord with me. I’m challenged to step out of my comfort zone and ask some questions. What is my present way of thinking? Stick with the status quo, don’t rock the boat, and remain in my comfort zone. What should be my new way of thinking? Challenge the status quo, shake things up, stay open to new ideas. The first way of thinking is very comfortable and the second quite scary.

A recent article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution lifestyle section, tells about a retirement community that is teaching its 80 and 90-year-old residents how to use computers. A 71-year-old man teaches the students how to use email and Google for information. A group of retirees called the “Geezer Squad” provides in-between class support. I predict those folks will remain mentally sharp for a long time.

For me, becoming proficient with social media requires a whole new way of thinking. I much prefer talking with folks or writing letters and emails. But I have to think differently to learn the social media language, connect with family and friends, and increase my visibility as an author and blogger. I’ve become familiar enough with Facebook to read and “Like.” I recently joined LinkedIn and several writing groups that I am navigating by trial and error. I have several requests to “Tweet” and join Twitter, so that it next on my list. To “Pin” or not to “Pin” is another issue to resolve. When will I have time to write?

We can’t be an influence on the younger generation unless we learn to speak their language, and dare I say, “Like” their music – at least some of it!! Jesus challenged his followers to think in a new way and not be bound by the legalism of the past. For all of us, a new way of thinking is the key to a happier life.

 

Writing Short Stories by Cynthia L. Simmons

Woman writing

What’s Your Story?

 

How would you like to be able to say that you’re an award winning author? It’s a great testament to your writing ability. This year CAG offers a nonfiction article contest and a short story contest at our Coffee & Quill mini-conference.

How do you write a short story? First you need an idea. You might take your idea from something that happened to you or something you wish for. Either way, you must develop a plot, which is a sequence of events in which the characters experience a serious problem.

Start by introducing your characters. For instance, you could have an overworked mother and an active toddler. Describe them a little so your audience gets interested and then present a problem. Show just how frazzled mom is in light of the child’s energy.

Next add rising action. Make something happen that creates tension. Your mom could get a phone call from an old friend that absorbs her attention. While she talks, the curious child waddles out of the room exploring. Even the thought makes my skin prickle.

Make sure your level of anxiety rises as you relate each event in the story. Your readers will yawn and wander off if your toddler climbs into his crib. Should your toddler probe an electrical outlet with his fingers and then discover a nail file, your readers wouldn’t put the story down. Think of ideas to keep tension rising.

The climax of the story will be the moment of highest tension. For instance, imagine a damp nail file moving closer to the outlet. Hearts will be pounding.

The resolution comes at the end of the story when you resolve the problem. Your mother could scream and dash into the room, pulling the child away just in time.

Here’s a sample story using my illustration:

Unable to Rest

Bridget sank onto the bench in the kitchen and sat Benjamin down. Her back ached, and her legs wobbled like jelly. All afternoon she had shopped with her sister for wedding clothes. It was the least she could do since their mom died several years ago. A girl shouldn’t do that alone.

Her son’s energy got the better of them both. If only her two-year-old couldn’t move so fast and so constantly.

“Woo-toot. TOOT. TOOT.” Benjamin held up a pretend pipe to his mouth as he marched about the kitchen.

His mother winced and reached for him. “Not so loud, son.”

He side stepped her arms and headed for the stool, which stood by the cabinet. “Wanna cookie.”

“No. No cookies before dinner. Benjamin Charles Fox, stop climbing now.” She hauled her body up to grab the squirming child off the counter top. “You’re going to fall.”

Once back on the floor, the youngster ran in circles flapping his arms. “I be a bird, momma.”

“What a nice bird you are.” She ran a hand along her neck and angled her head to release tight muscles.

The phone rang, and Bridget grabbed it. “Sophie! I haven’t heard from you in ages. Sh-Sh. Mommie’s on the phone talking. Quiet, Benjamin!”

The energetic child barely escaped her grasp. But the room grew quiet in his absence.

“What? You’re dating someone?” She leaned against the cabinets. “Wonderful. And you said you could never marry. Pshaw! I knew that was silly. Tell me what he’s like.”

Ten minutes later she put down the phone and glanced about. Her heart slammed against her chest. “Benjamin?”

Her eyes darted under the table, by back door. Nothing. She hurried into the living room and her whole chest threatened to explode. There, by the couch, sat Benjamin. He held a nail file in his mouth and pulled it out, as if showing it to her. It was dripping with saliva. He leaned forward and slammed it on an electrical outlet, getting closer and closer to the pair of holes she knew carried electrical current.

“No! Don’t!”

Her legs flew across the floor toward him. She grabbed his body and pulled him away, just before he got the file into the outlet.

He screamed.

Her heart racing, she collapsed on the floor, clutching her son, who wailed in protest. ‘No, no! Never touch those. They will burn. Bad.”

She closed her eyes and sang softly in his ear. How could he have gotten into trouble so fast? I can’t rest for a moment.

 

In summary, as you prepare to write, be sure to add the elements of a story: introduction, problem, rising action, climax, resolution.

 

CAG Spotlight Podcast

Member Cynthia L. Simmons spotlights David Fessenden - Literary Agent
Literary Agent with Word Wise Media, David Fessenden shares about the writing world.