Author Solutions, authors, Publishing, self publishing, Thomas Nelson, writing

From blog to book: Westbow Press author Mark Eckel tells how he did it.

I just need time to thinkI speak to bloggers all the time who generate content on a regular basis and contemplate creating a book from their blog, but they never quite seem to get the goal.  That’s why I was pleased to speak with Mark Eckel, who has turned his blog content into a book titled, I Just Need Time to Think: Reflective Study as Christian Practice, which was published by Westbow Press.

Mark (meckel@lbc.edu) is Professor of Leadership, Education, and Discipleship for Capital Seminary & Graduate School.  Indianapolis,  Dr. Eckel has written and published curricula, peer-reviewed journal articles, periodical essays, book and movie reviews, as well as his weekly blog Warp and Woof.

I was curious to find out how he accomplished a goal many bloggers talk about but never accomplish.  I think you will find his answers to my questions  very helpful and motivating.

What inspired you to start writing your blog?

Compulsion. I was induced and coerced into putting pen to paper. As a Christian I know that being compelled to write comes from The Spirit of God who lives in me. In our culture, the natural means for writing is what has come to be known as “blogging.” I was inspired from the inside to write, inspired from the outside to blog.

What have you found most enjoyable about maintaining a blog?

Everything. I enjoy all of life and revel in the whole of the world. The title for someone like me in a university setting is “interdisciplinarian.” I believe everything crisscrosses everything else creating a unity we know is there but cannot see. A blog allows me to explore everything I read, see, hear, and do. Enthusiasm about knowledge and excitement about sharing what I have discovered with others brings a smile to my face.

What made you decide to turn your blog into a book?

Credibility. The immediacy of blogging is clear: information floods our world so we can access the data instantaneously. A book has the power of physical, visible influence. Rightly or wrongly, people gauge some authority based on what a person can show they have accomplished. As an academic I wanted to have three books available for people who would demonstrate my ability in reflective study, movie review, and teaching-learning.

Why was it important to have your content as a book and not just as a blog?

Credentialing. As a teacher for over 30 years I have had to document the outcomes of my craft. As an author, I now have a record for others to assess. By writing a book I am holding myself accountable to others who can now critique my work as an academic. But I am also answering questions that everyone ponders in one way or another. A book says to people, “You cared enough to organize your thoughts about a subject so that we could read them in one whole book.”

 What advice would you give someone who wants to start a blog?

Eckel blog

Author Mark Eckel took his blog http://www.warpandwoof.org and turned into a book from his post.

 Write. Just write. Don’t wait, write. Write when you want to, write when you don’t want to. Write now, write then. Set up a time that is best for you to write, but then, write. For me, I have the most creative energy in the morning. I normally wake up by 4 a.m. or before. I stay away from email and internet. I read at least 40 to 50 pages of periodicals or books. I take notes. I write while I’m reading and note-taking. But my counsel is always the same: write, write, write.

What advice would you give someone who wants to turn his or her blog into a book?

 Plan. A book is very different from a blog. If you read my website (www.warpandwoof.org) you will see I write about a lot of different subjects. But when I’m planning to create a book I have to ask myself my purpose for my subject. For instance, when I was writing my current book When the Lights Go Down: Movie Review as Christian Practice (Westbow, September, 2014 release) I wrote weekly for six months toward the book. My plan about writing a book about movies was first generated through my blog.

 What has been most surprising to you once you published your book?

I Just Need Time to Think: Reflective Study as Christian Practice (Westbow, 2014) gave me vigor to write again. I did not expect to want to put another book together immediately but I was energized to do When the Lights Go Down and am now planning the third in the series Education is Ownership: Teaching-Learning as Christian Practice (working title, forthcoming). Instead of being tired of writing, I want to write more!

 Anything else you would want to tell readers?

Read. If you don’t read you won’t write. You can read a tablet, laptop, or hold the spine of a book in your hand—but read. Read everything you can get your hands on about your passion. Read people who disagree with you. Read authors you don’t know. Read to learn more and understand by reading, how much more you don’t know. Reading should be a humbling experience. Now I want to tell people about what I read. If I want to write, I have to read.

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Author Solutions, authors, Publishing, self publishing, writing

From idea to published book: Advice for aspiring authors from Westbow Press author Rob Wingerter

Rob Wingerter did not set out to be an author. In fact, like many first-time authors these days, he took a circuitous route to getting published.  He has spent the better part of his life and career as a partner with a global accounting firm specializing in tax matters. Along the way, he was led to open a retreat center called Mahseh.

You can read about and watch a video where he explains his journey on his blog, www.robwingerter.com. However, what I also found interesting was his advice to aspiring authors. Rob wrote his book, Regaining Your Spiritual Poise as a means to inform people on the topic of retreat and to establish his credibility on this subject.  Along the way, he learned some things about what it takes to get from idea to holding a book in your hands. In this 90 second video, he talks about his process and  provides some  tips on how to stay on task and set yourself up to keep moving toward your goal. I think you will find his perspective helpful.

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2 writing contest winners share tips for aspiring writers who want to get published.

Completing a manuscript can be a lonely journey filled with self-doubt, but these two videos from the winners of two writing contests serve as an inspiration to all writers that persevering to complete the work is worth the effort.  Laurie Norlander entered the Women of Faith writing contest last year and is now a published author. Her book, Mirrored Images and her story is featured in this video.

Another first time author, Stacey Navarro, shares her story in this video.  As a stay-at-home mom,  she wanted to write a book that was something her daughters  would want to read. That motivation was enough to get her to finish her manuscript and enter the Crossbooks writing contest. Her description of what happened when she learned she won is worth watching the video. As with Laurie, her words will be an encouragement to any one working on a book.

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self publishing

Book from self-published Westbow Press author leads to job offer.

Abide in Me coverOne of the points I always make when I have an opportunity to speak at author conferences is you never know what can happen when you publish a book. So don’t let that manuscript sit in your drawer. Get it published and in the hands of readers. You won’t be sorry.

Recently, I came across the story of author Joel Trenkle, who published the book Abide in Me through Westbow Press. This is a great example of what can happen when you take the step to get published. His story first appeared on the Westbow Press blog.

With permission, I have republished the blog post here.  Now clearly, job offers do not come for every author who self-publishes, but it did for Joel. Perhaps his story will inspire and motivate you if you have doubts about self publishing. Enjoy.

In our book, AIM, Abide in Me, I used areas of my own life to demonstrate how a person can walk through their own personal journey and see how God has been with them through the good times and the tragedies. At the end of each chapter, there is a section for personal reflection and meditation on the key point of each chapter, whether it be forgiveness, repentance, or celebration. A person in Denver, Colorado, gave a copy of the book to her parents and to her in-laws who live in Montana for a Christmas gift. I received a message from her mother-in-law, stating that her pastor was trying to retire and that they had not found a replacement for him.  She said after reading the book, she thought I would be a good fit. My wife and co-author Doni and I prayed about this.  We told her we would not want to have to explain to our Lord why we would selfishly not do something He asked us to do.  We came to Montana and met the congregation. This was a forty-year-old church which had no ministries, no outreach; not even an e-mail address.  I preached on two Sundays, and we returned to Colorado. We received a call asking us to come and shepherd this beautiful congregation.  We sold our home and left Colorado, six children, and twelve grandchildren. We are happily serving our Lord and Savior, Jesus, at Dayspring Mission in Sheridan, Montana.

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The 2nd Gutenberg Effect: Examples of how it is helping Christian self-published authors

In my most recent post, I published the text of the closing address I gave at the Blue Ridge Christian Writers Conference titled, The 2nd Gutenberg Effect: How self-publishing is creating exciting new opportunities for Christian authors.

The main point I tried to make was that self-publishing is providing Christian authors the opportunity to spread their message in a way that hasn’t presented itself in such a significant manner since Mr Gutenberg invented his press.  Take Annie Downs for example.

I do not know how many people you will impact with your writing if you publish, but do I know how many you will if you don’t.

Annie Downs has used self publishing to impact young people with her self published book and obtain a contract with Zondervan.

Annie Downs has used self publishing to impact young people with her self published book and obtain a contract with Zondervan.

She is a blogger and speaker who focused on young women and their need to really understand their identity and significance. After many of her talks, she realized she had nothing to leave to with people. So she pursued self-publishing and published her book with the title, From Head to Foot. As she continued to blog and speak, her platform grew, sales increased and an agent took notice. He shopped the book and Zondervan offered a contract and republished the book with the new title, Perfectly Unique, praising God from head to foot.   I featured Annie in a blog post I almost a year ago. If you want to know more about her story, you can read the post and see a video interview by clicking here.

The second example comes from my own experience. I never set out to be an author, but years ago, I was working on a curriculum and writing some material to support lessons in that curriculum. As people started to use the material, they started asking for copies of the readings I had written for the lessons. So I would run to Kinkos and make copies. Frankly, it got to be expensive and tiring so I explored how to get published. It was really a niche book because it addresses the issue of how a person’s worldview is formed. I did not think it had wide commercial appeal so I decided to self-publish.  And this was all before I worked for Author Solutions.

The book has been available for a few years, but about three years ago, I got an email from a gentlemen in Italy. He explained he had been using the book at the Institute where he teaches. When I asked him how he got the book, he told me an associate of his was given the book at a conference he had attended the year before. He went on to explain they now had interest from an Italian publisher and wanted to get it translated and publish it in Italy. He was writing for permission, which I gladly gave. Then some months later a box arrived at my house with multiple copies of the Italian version of my book, A Clear View.

Clear view and italian version groupNow the royalties from this book will never be life changing, but the thought that someone in another country was willing to invest the time and money to translate and publish it, is very satisfying.

I suspect if you are reading this, you have a manuscript in the works or ready to go and you may be pondering your options. You may also be overwhelmed by the options you have today as an author.  But you should investigate self publishing as an option.

Because while I do not know how many books you will sell if you publish, I do know how many you will if you don’t.

Even more importantly, I do not know how many people you will impact with your writing if you publish, but do I know how many you will if you don’t.

Writing is a talent you have been given, but publishing is part of your stewardship.

So I hope you will seize the opportunity that is before you to get your work into the hands of readers and spread the story and message God has given you.

Writing is a talent you have been given, but publishing is part of your stewardship.

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Author Solutions, authors, Indie book publishing, Publishing, self publishing, Thomas Nelson

Former Colts punter Hunter Smith publishes book about the negative and positive impact of wearing an NFL Jersey

It is football season so it seemed appropriate to have at least one blog post that recogonizes the impact the pig skin has in America. Hunter Smith, former punter in the NFL has written an interesting book titled, The Jersey Effect, which includes a forward by Tony Dungy and interviews with numerous players. Smith wrote the book to bring to light the allure and potential downfall wearing an NFL jersey can bring in an athlete’s life who is not prepared for life after football.  It is worth a read even if you are not involved in football because it points out some key principles that are applicable in other areas of life. Hunter is a man of faith and published with Westbow Press, a division of Thomas Nelson, so the message is clearly written from a Christian world view, but it is not overly religious. I have included a couple of videos where Hunter talks about topics from the book.

 

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4 things every writer needs to know if they are planning on publishing today

The world has changed for authors which means they have new opportunities and consequently responsibilities.

As you can imagine, with the announcement a few weeks ago about Author Solutions being acquired by the world’s largest publisher, there has been an enormous amount of media interest. This is both a thrilling and confusing time for authors, so I think it is more important than ever for authors to be informed and choose the best option for getting published based on their goals, skills, patience, and budget. My last post suggested there were four paths authors could pursue today, and I laid out the differences among them. But recently, at the end of a very thoughtful and comprehensive interview, I was asked the question, “Is there anything else you would like to say to authors today?” What follows is my response to that question.

Gone are the days of walking to the mailbox and pulling out a pile of rejection letters and wondering if you would ever get published. Today, every author can get publishedand get his or her book into the hands of readers—whether you use a DIY method, assisted self-publishing, or sign with an agent and try to acquire a traditional publishing contract

That means authors have more opportunity than ever before, but they also have more responsibility. And that is not something anyone seems to be talking much about. Whereas before it was the publisher, now it is the author who has the responsibility to set clear goals and a budget. Having clarity about these two areas will help authors make the best decision about which publishing path is best for them. In addition, they also need to have a realistic assessment of the skill and time they have to put to the project.

You can absolutely change your brakes and wash your car for less money if you do it yourself, rather than paying someone to do it for you.  But if you don’t know how to change brakes or you don’t have time to wash your car, you should pay someone to do it for you.  I think the same type of decision-making should be applied to making a publishing decision.

In addition, authors should:

  1. Make sure you have a clear picture of who the audience is for your book.  Saying your goal is to sell to every man, woman, and child on the planet (I had an author tell me that) is not realistic.
  2. Understand your options. DIY, assisted, and traditional publishing all have advantages and drawbacks. Inform yourself. There is plenty of information out there. In fact, that is why we created the Author Learning Center (www.authorlearningcenter.com) and why I published 7 Secrets of Successful Self Published Authors. It’s an ebook on booktango.com  for 99 cents.  We have been told by many authors that both the ALC and the 7 Secrets are very helpful.
  3. Think about your marketing while you are writing your manuscript, and know there are no guarantees with marketing. Just ask any marketing director at any company in the world. You do some things that you think will work and they don’t, but you also do some things that far exceed your expectations. The key is to be consistent and experiment. Not everything is going to work, but if you do nothing, you don’t stand a chance.
  4. This industry-changing shift in publishing does not mean everyone will be successful, but it does mean everyone will have the opportunity to be successful. Honestly, I think that is the most exciting thing about the time in which we live. At ASI, we are simply providing the opportunity, whether you want to publish for free with Booktango or use an assisted self-publishing imprint like AuthorHouse or iUniverse or publish with an imprint tied to a traditional publisher like Westbow Press and Thomas Nelson or Balboa Press and Hay House. Not that long ago, authors only had one choice: find an agent and pray they could sell the manuscript. That has all changed, and I think that is amazingly exciting.

Too many authors publish a book with the expectation that the world is just sitting, waiting for their manuscript to get finished, and once they make it available for sale, the world will come to them. The reality is, being an author takes an informed, consistent effort, but when you get those e-mails from readers that tell you how much they enjoyed your book or found it helpful, it is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have.

Certainly, there are economic considerations when it comes to publishing, but I think the one common goal that unites all authors is they want to impact people with their writing. That’s why those motivations I mentioned on our call are so key. Writing to help others or telling a story that has to be told or supporting a business or ministry are worthy pursuits because they impact people.

As I say to authors all the time, I don’t know how many books you will sell if you publish, but I know how many you will sell if you don’t. I don’t know how many people you will impact with your book if you publish, but I know how many you will impact if you don’t. And to all the naysayers and fearmongers, I would like say: quit bickering about methods, and let’s encourage authors to seize the opportunity.

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