Thursday, February 19, 2015

Writers Helping Writers—What to Do and What NOT to Do

by Edie Melson @EdieMelson

As many of you know, I’ve frequently cautioned you that your first loyalty needs to be to your audience. Beyond that, I’ve taught that for most writers, that audience is composed of readers, not writers. That focus is tough because most of our friends are writers, and it’s only natural to want to help by promoting their books. So is there anything we can do to help our writer friends?

You better believe it!

There are several ways we can help, including following our author friends on social media and signing up for their blogs.

But the biggest bang for the buck for an author is a book review. Today I’ll teach you how to write book reviews that help.

First, let’s talk about why book reviews are helpful.
  • Book reviews, particularly on Amazon can make or break a book’s success. Buyers are making book buying decisions based on those reviews.
  • Book stores are also paying attention to reviews before stocking their physical shelves.
  • Reviews also give a book and the author credibility.
  • Although Amazon doesn’t state it explicitly, the more reviews a book receives the higher it’s ranked when a reader searches.
  • With Amazon, being popular makes you popular. And one of the main ways readers gage popularity is through reviews. 

Writing the Review
The place to begin is with Amazon. Right now, Amazon is ground zero for consumer information about books. Not sure I’m right? Current statistics show that Amazon has 55% of the e-book reading market. 'Nough said.

Go easy on the length of the review. Truthfully, really long reviews don’t get read. Beyond that, Amazon only requires a review to be twenty-five words long.

Leave the professional reviews at home. Consumers are mistrustful of reviews that sound too professional. People are looking for opinions by regular readers, not professional reviewers.

State what you liked about the book and why. Share a bit about why you like to read book(s) by that particular author. Give it a four or five star rating.

NOTE about rating books: 
I’m not telling you to lie about the rating. BUT I am suggesting that anything but a four or five star rating won’t help the author. I’ve talked to quite a few authors who think giving a book a two or three star review gives them credibility as a reviewer. There’s a lot wrong with that thinking.
  • Most readers on Amazon just don’t believe that a reviewer who gives two and three star reviews is more believable than one who awards four and five star reviews.
  • The reason for posting these types of reviews is not to increase your credibility, it’s to help your fellow authors.
  • Some people also believe that a smattering of poor ratings within the reviews of a book makes it more credible. Not so. If a book has more than about thirty reviews, it’s credible. Truthfully, very few people have that many friends and/or family willing to post a book review

Personally, if I can’t give an honest four or five star review of a book, I just don’t review it.

Although Amazon is the best place to post a review, it's not the only place out there.

Other places to post reviews (in order of importance):
  • Goodreads
  • Barnes & Noble

There are other places to post reviews, but these are the ones that will help the author the most.

Things We Should NOT Do to Help our Author Friends
1. We shouldn't compromise the trust of the audience we've built. For example, let's say I'm an author that has built an audience (on my blog and on social media) of readers who like sweet romances. Now, I have an author friend who writes science fiction and that friend asks me to share her books with my audience. What's going to happen when I start advertising her books? 
  • The best thing that could happen is that my audience (remember they love sweet romance) is going to be confused.
  • Or they're going to get irritated and stop following me.
  • Or they may even take note of the title of my friend's book and tell other friends not to buy it because they're so aggravated.
And yes, I've seen all three things mentioned above happen. 

2. We shouldn't suddenly become one long commercial on our blog or especially in social media. Don't laugh, that's easy to have happen. The longer we're in the writing community, the more author friends we'll acquire. Pretty soon, it's easy to have ten to twenty book launches in two or three weeks. Advertising all those for your friends makes you come off like a salesperson.

Think long and hard about the audience who follows you. They deserve your respect and your loyalty. Beyond that, you aren't doing any author any good by advertising her book with an audience that isn't interested.

I'd love to know your thoughts on this subject! Be sure to join the conversation in the comments section below.

Edie Melson is the author of numerous books, as well as a freelance writer and editor. Her blog, The Write Conversation, reaches thousands each month. She’s the co-director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference and the Social Media Mentor at My Book Therapy. She’s also the Military Family Blogger at Guideposts. Com, Social Media Director for Southern Writers Magazine and the Senior Editor for Connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

My Writer’s Coat of Many Colors

by Elva Cobb Martin @ElvaCobbMartin

God has given us a writers' coat of many colors.
Jacob gave Joseph a coat of many colors to show the great love he had for this son.

Contrary to branding principles we're told to follow, I believe Father God has given me (and many of you) a writers' coat of several colors.

I am writing fiction and nonfiction, articles, devotions, and contemporary and historical romance novels. I have written a number of poems and a pourquoi children's story.

 I even have a cozy romantic mystery on the back burner whistling like a tea kettle.
Power over Satan
But the latest "color" on my palette is an independently published mini-book, Power Over Satan. Publishing my brief Bible teachings and seminars, a long-time goal, is now becoming a reality. This 40-page book is a primer on the believer's authority and how to discern and overcome attacks of the enemy. It includes many stories of people who have done just that, including my law officer son who chases criminals using not only his law enforcement authority, but powerful spiritual warfare principles as well. Find the book here for Kindle or in print  

I trekked across the Alps and forded many rivers learning how to indy publish on Amazon.

But that's another blog.

Stretch your wings as a writer!
What about you? Have you found a single brand, genre or type of writing that is bringing you the fulfillment you are seeking as a writer? Or do you long to stretch your wings and soar over the walls of "specific brand" to new places the Lord might be leading you to and your heart beats faster to even think about?

Joseph's coat of many colors led him into trouble and red-hot-lips testing. But, as Paul Harvey would say, "the rest of Joseph's story" included fame, fortune and being exactly in God's plan for not only himself, but for his family and a new nation being birthed during hopeless times.

May you find joy in all you write. Except for that pesky editing. I pray you find a ton of endurance and diligence for that.

Thanks for dropping by and please do leave a comment and share on Twitter and Face book if you think this article might not bore others.

Elva Cobb Martin

Elva Cobb Martin is president of the South Carolina Chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers. She is a former school teacher and a graduate of Anderson University and Erskine College. Decision, Charisma, and Home Life have published her articles. She has completed two inspirational novels, which are currently under consideration for publication - In a Pirate's Debt and Summer of Deception. A mother promoted to grandmother, Elva lives with her husband, Dwayne, and a mini-dachshund writing helper (Lucy) in Anderson, South Carolina. She and her husband are retired ministers. Connect with her on her website, on her blog here, on Facebook, or via Twitter @Elvacobbmartin. 

Saturday, February 7, 2015

For Writers: What's in Your Hand

By Andrea Merrell

“I feel called to write, but don’t know what to write about.” I hear this frequently, especially from first-timers who have a stirring in their heart to put pen to paper … but simply don’t know where to begin.

If you ever feel this way, ask yourself:
  • What am I passionate about?
  • What type of books/ stories/articles/devotions/blog posts do I like to read?
  • What am I most knowledgeable about?
  • What have I been through that might help, inspire, and encourage someone else?

Everyone is passionate about something. It might be motherhood, caring for the elderly, or helping someone through the crisis of divorce or even death. Maybe you’ve struggled with weight loss or chronic illness. Perhaps you’ve found creative ways to decorate or prepare meals on a budget. You might be someone who has a beautiful way to craft a devotion that will touch a hurting soul and bring them closer to the Lord. The opportunities are endless. Find what moves you and channel that passion into your writing.

What do you enjoy reading? What type of stories are you drawn to? This may not seem important, but several years ago my husband asked why I was writing everything except fiction—since my eyes were always glued to a novel. “First,” I explained, “my mind doesn’t work that way. Second, there is the matter of creating characters, scenes, dialogue, and plot. I can’t do it. You just don’t understand.” He raised his eyebrows, shook his head, and silently walked away.

The next day my mind was buzzing with characters, dialogue, and a story line. I sat down at the computer to prove fiction writing was totally outside my bailiwick. Within a short time, I had produced two chapters of my first novel. When I handed them to a friend so she could tell me how bad they were, she got to the end, shook the pages in my face, and said, “Where’s the rest? I want more!”

The lesson I learned was that God does not want me to underestimate myself or put Him in a box. He can do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think (Ephesians 3:20 NKJV). The Message puts it this way: God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!

Write what you know. Draw from your education, training, and life experience. This could mean anything from nursing, to gardening, to sailing. Everyone has expertise in at least one area. Don’t waste it. Infuse your knowledge into your writing so other people can benefit. Then branch out. Find things that interest you and do your research. Talk to professionals who can help you with detailed information. Let Google become your best friend.

This might be one of the most important tools for inspiration. What terrible thing have you been through that you can share with others? What have you faced and conquered that will help bring victory into the lives of your readers?

Praying for the Prodigal is a result of five long years of dealing with rebellious and ungodly behavior from both of my children. Many have asked if it was difficult to write this story, and my answer is absolutely yes. As I sorted through the details, I re-lived many of the events that brought fear, anger, frustration, tears, sleepless nights, and the hopelessness that tried to swallow me. The best part, however, was the healing that took place as I wrote. My sincere prayer is for this book to give hope and encouragement to those who are traveling the same dark path.

In God’s economy, nothing is wasted … even our pain. What the enemy means for evil and destruction, God can turn around for our good and His glory—and the edification of the body of Christ.

Ecclesiastes 9:10a (NASU) says, Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might. So, what’s in your hand? Don’t be afraid to offer it to the Lord and step out in faith. Your words may be someone’s lifeline and a direct answer to an urgent prayer.

Andrea Merrell is Associate Editor for Christian Devotions Ministries and Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. She is also a freelance editor and has been published in numerous anthologies and online venues. Andrea is the author of Murder of a Manuscript. The Gift, and Praying for the Prodigal. For more information visit or