Continuing Education 5: The Hero’s Path
A team of three Super Friends—Allen Arnold (right), publisher and senior vice president of Thomas Nelson; Julie Gwinn, fiction manager for B&H Publishing Group, and award-winning author, James L. Rubart, unmasked the villains that can derail your brand and described the secret powers we can use to defeat them.
The seven villains of a superhero author
The Time Thief
- “You can get better at it yourself or hire someone to do it.” Gwinn (right) suggested time management systems and helps for things we can’t hire out: GTD—Getting Things Done, OmniFocus, TypingMaster, PersonalBrain, RockMelt, and Pomodoro Technique.
The Ebook Banshee
- Arnold urged playing down fear of the future of publishing formats and reminded the class that we will succeed as authors based on content. “Let readers and publishers worry about format.”
The Solitary Shadow
- The enemy tries to isolate us. Rubart (right) challenged writers to build a community of two or three 2 a.m. friends and stay connected through email, phone calls, or Skype.
The Marketing Shrink-a-Nator
- The top motivators for buyers are store displays and word of mouth. Begin marketing with your own tribe: tart a book club or get involved in one. Talk to program directors of civic groups. Be available to local media, schools, libraries, and bookstores.
The Invisible Publisher
- Arnold said it is critical to get to know your publisher and find out his or her vision for your current book and your career. When you receive an award or a good review, email that news and thank them for believing in you.
The Solo Siphon
- There is a trend toward authors self-publishing their backlist, but the time and effort may take us away from our primary calling. Consider talking to your publisher about your backlist with the hope of jumpstarting them to take on the project.
- In a changing economy and unpredictable industry, authors worry about many things: Will I be re-signed? Will my advance be lower? Arnold advised finding a publishing house that lives and breathes fiction.
At the close of the first session, the three super friends shared tips on connecting with your tribe: Use LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter to make personal connections. Ask readers to pray about specific concerns—and ask how you can pray for them.
What you can control
The next day, the Superfriends reconvened to cover things we can control. Like Superman, how do we break out of our own chains of kryptonite?
- Arnold’s statement, “There should be no fear and no worry for a writer,” evoked laughter. He explained the only holy fear is fear of God. “Bring your fears to God. There is no reason for fear when we’re writing for the Kingdom.”
- We start out writing knowing we have been called, but subtle shifts can turn our stories or careers into idols. Arnold reminded us not to base our worth on book sales.
No secret identity
- Know who you are and stay true to your identity. Make sure there is no contrast between who you are publicly and who you are in personal interaction.
- If writing is your call, run with it. To doubt and question is like Superman pondering whether or not he should really be a superhero.
- Entertain people. Bring out the fascinating things about you that will inspire.
- Don’t break your promise. Give readers what they have come to expect from you.
- If you’re not first, forget it. People recognize names like Lindbergh and Armstrong. Few remember who came second. Discover your uniqueness. What can you be first in?
- Brand is not what you think. Brand is what other people think of you. Ask friends, family, and readers: What is the phrase that comes to mind when you read my books? What do you think is fascinating about me? What are my strengths? Use the answers to brand yourself.
The super powers of marketing
- Creativity: Brainstorm ideas for reaching affinity groups beyond typical CBA markets.
- Content: Post information you gather during research on your blog. This moves readers beyond just story. Serialize cut scenes or dropped chapters on your website.
- Fans: Put effort into finding them and moving them to care about you. Answer their comments and letters. If you are accessible enough to allow them to invest in you, they will tell others.
- Unmask your invisibility: Take off your mask and be visible through blogs, appearances, chats, and social media.
- If you want to build a brand with traction, stay constant and run hard.
- Your calling is the passion God gave you. Things get tangled when you put too much focus on the end product.
- Begin your day with God. You can’t write about Him if you don’t know Him.
- Get out there. You have a story to tell that is worth hearing. If you are invisible, people will not hear the ministry of your words. Be loud and proud about being a published author.
James L. Rubart
- Jesus looks at your heart, not your awards. But the honors you receive give you a platform and put you in positions to speak into hearts. “We want to get to eternity and say, ‘Wow, Lord. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to love on people.’”