Thursday, September 28, 2017

What to Do When You're Just Adding to the Noise

No matter what stage of the journey we're on, writers are taught to create a readership on the internet as part of our platform building. But sometimes when everyone is blogging, writing articles, or penning engaging Facebook posts, it can feel like we're just contributing to the noise -- especially with the current social media climate.

Or at least that's the place I (Laurie) found myself this summer. After my book launch, which involved lots of social media exposure and new content (for which I am VERY grateful), I cringed a little inside when I opened a new post screen. Tired of the sound of my own voice, if we're really being honest here. 

If you find yourself with this self-perception as you navigate the publishing waters, then please! Feel free to learn from my trial and error with these tips:
  • Define the message you want to say to your audience and the tones/voice you want your content to convey. Every time I teach on branding, my number one guideline is staying cohesive across your entire platform 1) so your audience knows what to expect from you and 2) so your content reflects what you're passionate about. Establishing your message, tone, and voice up front helps you decide what story your words will tell.
  • Pick a reasonable schedule. Figure out what works best to avoid burnout and keep your content fresh. You don't need to post every day (or even every week) to keep your audience engaged, as long as you're consistent with what you choose so your audience knows what to expect. If that's twice-monthly blog posts or a monthly newsletter, then good! But when inspiration strikes, feel free to deviate from the schedule as long as you stay consistent.
  • Focus more on stewarding your current audience instead of wishing for a bigger platform. I could write a whole blog post about this, y'all. Don't wait until X number of followers to begin. Even if your only follower is your mom right now, this is so much more than a trial run. Learning to take care of the people who have opted to stick with you ensures you can build and keep a reader's trust. The best way to learn that is to start small and grow organically, so don't be discouraged!
  • Amplify others' voices. Seriously, friend. Once you've figured out what you're all about, you do you. Part of the internet comparison trap is the temptation to tie our content to a hot-button topic because everyone else is doing so. But if someone is saying it well or is more qualified to tell that story, point others their way, especially when that topic is outside of your sphere.
If, on the other hand, you feel like you've lost your voice in all of the noise, I highly recommend creative nonfiction. Write for yourself, process it in a space no one else will see, and then find the common denominators that spell what you're truly passionate about and what your audience can gain from your unique experience. 

Instead of posting something for the sake of posting something, wait until you're ready. 

And then begin again.

When have you felt like you're contributing to the noise? What do you do to combat that feeling?


Laurie Tomlinson is an award-winning contemporary romance author and cheerleader for creatives. She believes that God's love is unfailing, anything can be accomplished with a good to-do list, and that life should be celebrated with cupcakes and extra sprinkles. 

Previously a full-time book publicist, Laurie now serves as a virtual assistant and runs a freelance editing and PR consulting business called 1624 Communications

She lives with her husband and two small children in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Her novella, That's When I Knew, released with the Love at First Laugh rom-com collection this spring, and her debut contemporary romance novel, With No Reservations, is now available wherever books are sold from Harlequin Heartwarming.

You can connect with Laurie on her website, Facebook page, and Twitter

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Preparing for a Writers' Conference

ACFW is just around the corner--am I the only one this only recently dawned upon?-- and some of you may be attending for the very first time. Including our own and very beloved Sherrinda! So as the pre-conference jitters begin to rise, you may be wondering how to prepare. And do you REALLY need a full proposal and all those sample chapters?

Let me start with the biggest thing.

You need to get your head wrapped around your story, and you need to ask the Lord where He is leading you. If you see your writing as a calling rather than a hobby (and it certainly doesn't have to be, but be honest with yourself and seek God's heart for your story) then you need to surrender it. Because you were never in charge of it to begin with. Preaching to the choir here... man, why is that so hard to do? I think it's because our passion stirs a desire for control. But if God called you and God equipped you and God saw you through countless hours staring at your computer screen, God is certainly not going to fail you on the follow-through. Which means selling the book is not up to you.

Let that sink in a minute.

Selling your book is not up to you.

I've given some pretty stellar pitches in my day. Not one of them has turned into a book contract. Why? Because I wasn't ready. My stories weren't ready. And then the market wasn't ready. And you know what? I'm thankful. The last thing I want to do is begin what I hope will be a lifelong career, a lifelong dream, on a shaky foundation.

Maybe you're the one who thinks you aren't ready (hello, Moses) and God is saying you are.

Either way, the God who breathed your life into existence is more than capable of orchestrating your steps if you'll just let him.

So be flexible. Seek Him. Trust Him. And marvel at what He does.

Now, let's get down to the nitty gritty.

You'll need...

  • One sheets. If you don't bring anything else, bring a one sheet. This just needs to have a blurb hitting the most compelling points of your book (in other words, we don't need to know about Great Aunt Sally's lifelong dream of candy striping), a short bio about you and your credentials, and your contact info. Most people enjoy making these visually pretty, but it's not necessary. 
  • Business cards. Consider putting a photo of yourself on these so people remember what you look like.
  • Sample chapters. Just bring a couple, and don't expect anyone to actually take these with them. But they may want to see how you write, so come prepared.
  • An outline of your story. No, you don't need this in writing. But make sure you're able to tell someone your characters' struggles and growth, as well as your hook, on the spot.
  • A pitch ready. You can find SO many resources on this, but just know you're looking for your hook-- what brings the characters together in a unique way? Make this conversational and short. You don't have to be awkward about it or hit everything. The goal here is just to have an answer when someone asks, "What's your story about?"
  • To do your research! Pardon my teacher voice for a moment. But these editors and agents are SO encouraging to all of us writers, and truly want to find good stories. It's how they make a living. Do not waste their time by going into an appointment unprepared. Know a little about what kinds of books each house publishes, and know what they're acquiring. Treat it like a job interview because that's exactly what it is. Do not pitch an Amish romance to someone who's clearly expressed they only want to see suspense. It wastes their time, and it basically tells them you aren't invested in the field. I'm always baffled how many people treat editors as if an editor should bend over backwards to figure out their story or to make conversation. No. The industry professionals in ACFW are so generous, but we need to honor that by coming ready. Ready does not mean perfect or that you're not nervous. Ready means you're not ignorant. 😂 If there's one thing you should know in and out, it's your own story. If you can't answer questions about it, that's a huge red flag.
  • To plan some down time. Skip a breakfast and sleep in. Go back to your room in the afternoon. Swing by the prayer room and have Brandilyn pray for you. Find ways to seek out and guard some time for reflection to recharge your spirit. Otherwise, you're in danger of overwhelming yourself.

Above all, just be you. No one cares if you stumble over your pitch. Laugh and start over. No one cares if you forget the main character's name. They know you're nervous. Written proposals can remedy all these things. What a written prooosal can never emulate is the enthusiasm on your face when you share the story on your heart. So get giddy. Find your joy.

And make a few friends along the way. :)

See you all next week!


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.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Reading Quotes for You

Today I thought I'd do something a little different.

I love writing. If you've been around the Alley long you know that. I love talking about writing, but right now I'm doing a lot of writing. So much that I'm dreaming of reading again.

I adore's not as much work as writing. Today I thought I'd share some fun reading quotes and images. Feel free to post these wherever you like. :-) Consider these my gift to you!

What's your favorite reading or bookish quote?

An award-winning author of twenty books, Cara is a lecturer on business and employment law to graduate students at Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management. Putman also practices law and is a second-generation homeschooling mom. She lives with her husband and four children in Indiana.