Discover New Worlds

Kid reading the Book. EducationBooks take you to new worlds. Your mind tramps through new places and situations, but your feet don’t get muddy. When you read my books you walk through some of the same fascinating cultures and sub-cultures I have encountered as I grew up in American, lived 16 years in Taiwan, and now live in New Zealand.

During my 35 years of writing for Christian publication I’ve seen the publishing world turned upside down. In Taiwan I reached out to Chinese people who knew little about Christianity with ESL Bible studies. In New Zealand I’ve needed to tailor church programs and puppet scripts to fit a small mission church in various stages. In recent years I entered a new world of cooking as I learned to cook gluten-free recipes for my celiac husband. I want to use this website to share these resources with others. I hope you’ll find them helpful.

You may also want to follow my weekly blog in which I talk about subjects of interest to writers and people in ministry. I hope these posts will bring hope and help to others in ministry.

Must-Have Homes for Authors

Letters of an old typewriterIf you are a best-selling author with an agent and a major traditional publisher who are doing big- budget promotions for you, you don’t need to read this article. You probably won’t be reading it anyway. But if you are an author with a small independent publishing company (indy publisher) or you are self-publishing your book, you might.

When I published my first book in 1994 with a traditional publisher, authors weren’t expected to promote their books much. That was the publisher’s job. Twenty years later Christian book publication has changed dramatically. Now even traditional publishers expect their authors to promote their own work. If you self-publish or publish with an indy publisher, you are completely responsible for promotion.

Let’s say you have written the best Christian fiction book ever, but your name is not well known and you are self-publishing. Face it, that book will go nowhere without promotion. But where do you begin?

Maybe you’ve gotten yourself on mailing lists that talk about book promotion that sounds impossible. They talk about making podcasts and joining Google’s Author’s Hang-out, and you’re still trying to figure out how to get your Facebook personal profile to work. Pretty soon it sounds impossible. You want to be an author, but the social media expectations make you want to give up.

I’m not suggesting that, to promote your book, you need to do everything that’s out there. But you do need a place for readers to find you. I call these four places “Must-have Homes” because they are close to essential unless you’ve found other social media to take their place. If your readers can’t find you, your book won’t sell. I hate learning to do new technological things and I resist most social media, but my author presence lives in these four homes, and if I can do it, you can too.

Amazon

Today Amazon is the one place your book must be on sale. Your book is probably already distributed through Amazon, but don’t stop there.

Amazon Reviews

Amazon’s reviews are an author’s best publicity tool. Even readers who go to a brick-and-mortar bookstore to buy books often check the Amazon reviews of a book on their phone before buying it.

Maybe you have three 5-star reviews by your friends so you think you don’t need anymore reviews. Actually the more reviews the better. Even negative ones can help. They show that people other than your friends are reviewing it. A reviewer might not like your book, for example, because she thinks there are too many Bible references in it. Another reader might say, “That doesn’t bother me. I like books that are deeper and make reference to the Bible.” So the negative review makes you want to buy it because you feel the review is unbiased, but the reason the reviewer didn’t like it won’t extend to you.

Also, Amazon operates on algorithms. When your book has more than twenty reviews, for example, Amazon starts to suggest your book to readers who look at similar books. So having a good number of Amazon reviews is really helpful for your book.

Author Central

Amazon’s Author Central is also a great place to promote your book. It’s free and easy to put up an Author Central profile, so why wouldn’t you do it? It allows readers  who only come to Amazon for books to find out about you. You can find Author Central here.

Other distributors like Christian Book Distributors and Barnes and Noble can be good too, but Amazon is a must-have.

Website/Blog

Next to Amazon, I believe the most important home for an author is his or her own website or blog. Even a simple blog will give a place for readers to find you and contact you.

Feature Your Books

At the top of my website I have almost all of my books displayed. Each book cover links to a page that tells more about the book, where to order it, gives discussion questions, etc. My website is the best place to find almost all my books and get detailed information about them.

Develop an Email List

A website or blog also gives a place for you to develop the all-important email list. Authors talk a lot about this today, because if readers sign up for your email list, they have given you permission to keep in contact and tell them when your future books come out. Actually, if you have people following your blog or Facebook Page, this will do the same thing.

Offer Helpful Content

If you want people to follow you, it’s important to post helpful information that people will find through search engines when they are looking for information. What content can you give that will actually help readers, not just give them another thing to read?

On my website/blog I have static articles on writing as well as free resources such as Christmas programs and puppet shows, ESL Bible stories, and gluten-free recipes. My blogs are targeted toward writers and people in ministry. I try to give encouragement and practical tips that will help those people. You can find my website here.

Facebook Author Page

Facebook is one of the largest social media in the world. Five hundred million people are on Facebook. Not everyone likes Facebook, but some use Facebook as their favorite form of social networking. You can make your own author Facebook Page for free. It’s not hard and you can probably find a friend to help you set up a Page if you need it.

You can make your blog feed to your Facebook Page. Then whoever “likes” your Page gets your blog on their personal profile. You can offer extra content, like short quotes, on your Page if you like. You can share things from Facebook that you think will interest target readers. I believe the secret is in offering posts that will interest your target readers but not weigh them down with a huge quantity of “junk mail” that only irritates them.

Some people actually use a creative and helpful Facebook Page instead of a website or blog, so that can work too. I figure, if you are on Facebook yourself, why wouldn’t you use this easy way for readers to find you?

You can find my Facebook Author Page here.

Goodreads

I am NOT hunting for more social media to begin using because I already struggle to keep up with what I have, but I discovered Goodreads this year and am finding it really helpful. LinkedIn may be helpful to certain professional people, but it was no help to me. Pintrest is a great place to pin recipes and some authors use it well, but I don’t use it much. Goodreads, however, is all about books and authors and connections. I can’t understand why all authors aren’t on Goodreads unless they are so well known they don’t need to do any of their own promotion.

On a personal level, Goodreads is a great place to post all the books you read or have read, write a short review on them, give them a star rating and compare books with other readers. If you only do that, Goodreads is helpful to remember details about books you’ve read long after you’ve read them. At first it can be a little hard to navigate Goodreads, but once you start clicking on anything and everything, you’ll soon find your way around.

Goodreads can also be a great home for an author. You’ll want to set up your own author page. It’s not hard and any Goodreads users who find your name and wonder who you are will be likely to go to your author page. They may even follow you.

Goodreads also has these other great features for an author.

Goodreads Giveaways

Giveaways are a good way to solicit reviews. Of course, you can ask your friends to post reviews. These are great, but often sound a little biased. You can offer your book for free on Kindle and hope that some readers will review your book, but I think Goodreads Giveaways is a better source of reviews. Readers who register for giveaways often realize that the main purpose for giving a book away is to get reviews. You aren’t guaranteed reviews from those who win your books, but you may get them. When you send the books they win, you can always mention, “If you enjoy the book I’d really appreciate an honest Amazon or Goodreads review.”

Goodreads Giveaways have several advantages over Kindle Free Books. For one thing, when your book is free on Kindle you may have thousands of people who download it for free. Many of those people will never read it, but they have it if they want it so they don’t need to buy it. With the giveaways, people who are interested in your book register for it. You only give away as many as you choose. You can even give away only one book. But every reader who has registered for the book has looked at it long enough to be interested in it. Some even mark it “to-read,” so if they don’t win the book they may see it on their book page later and decide to order it. At any rate, it allows many readers to get a glimpse of your book and decide if it looks interesting.

Groups

If you want an unbiased review of your Christian book by a Christian author, you can join the Christian Books Only Review Group. I’m one of the first members of this group. Any Christian author can join and we’re currently looking for more members. You can find this group here.

Author Page

On your author page you can:

  • post your author profile.
  • allow your blog to feed to your Goodreads author page.
  • activate the “Ask an Author” setting to allow readers to ask you questions.
  • advertise your book.
  • list giveaways.
  • upload excerpts from your book.
  • upload book trailers and videos.

Combination Approach

The great thing about all these “Must-have Homes” is that they can work together to make each other stronger. Every time you post a blog it can automatically feed to your Author Central, Facebook  Author Page, and Goodreads Author Page. Because these all link together, someone can find you on one form of social media and follow another form for more detail.

My Book Launch

I am in the process of publishing a Christian Cozy Mystery. I plan to launch Broken Windows on January 16, 2115. While the factual nature of Edges of Truth gave us an opportunity for a phenomenal book launch, this book is fiction and lacks much of that potential. I live in Invercargill, New Zealand, which isn’t the end of the world, but you can see it from here. I don’t have much of a fan base in my present location. But I plan to use these four homes to plan an exciting virtual book launch. I’ll give you a peek at these plans so you can see one way to make them work for your book.

I can announce the release of my book in my Cozy Mystery Group and my Christian Fiction Group with Goodreads. I’ll update my Amazon Central Page, my website, Facebook Page, and Goodreads Author Page, and offer a free download of the first chapter in several places. I’ll start a Goodreads Giveaway on that day and give away three copies of my new book. I’ll also activate the Ask an Author Setting  on Goodreads. I have a fun, interactive activity planned for my Facebook Page. Anyone who leaves a comment on that will go into the draw to win a free copy. And I hope that some of those readers will begin to follow my blog on my website, Facebook Page, or in Goodreads. You can follow me on my blog here.

This is a very long article. Congratulations if you have persevered to the end. If you are an author working to promote your own book, I hope you’ve found something helpful here. May the Lord encourage you during this holiday season as you seek his will in communicating his message!

[Image courtesy of Vladislav-Mitic/Deposit Photos.]

People in Ministry and Low Cost Gifts They’ll Value

Christmas tree and group gift box.It’s almost Christmas. You want to use the holiday as a time to thank your pastor, youth pastor, church pianist, child’s Sunday School teacher, missionary, or other Christian worker. What meaningful gift can you give that doesn’t push you past your budget?

First of all, let me say that this is NOT a plea for presents for myself.  I happen to fill many of those positions in our small mission church, but I’m not writing to get presents. The fact that I have been in ministry for many years, however, does help me understand the kind of gifts that people in ministry appreciate. I want to give you some tips for giving Christmas gifts to those in ministry.

One Size Fits All: Words of Affirmation

Almost anyone who leads or serves people will appreciate this gift—words of affirmation. This gift is so simple, but can be more encouraging than almost anything else.

It’s nice to tell your pastor and other Christian workers that you love them and thank them for serving. But when you thank them for something they do that has specifically helped you, your words suddenly extend beyond polite duty and become true encouragement. Tell your pastor how a particular series of sermons helped you this year.  Thank the youth pastor for the time he took your teen with him to chop wood and the relationship he’s built by engaging each teen in meaningful conversation. Thank the pianist for all the extra hours she spent practicing for the choir cantata or tell the music leader that the song he’s introduced lately has helped you remember God’s faithfulness. Show appreciation for the patience your child’s Sunday School teacher shows when he’s faced with some particularly rowdy kids. Tell your missionary family the specific prayer requests you’ve been praying for and thank them for remaining faithful in a difficult ministry.

  1. The traditional Christmas card.

Due to postage rates and the easy availability of email letters, people send far fewer Christmas cards than they used to. A newsletter about your family can be nice for those you want to keep in touch with now and then. But words of affirmation can make the difference between a card or letter that soon hits the trash and words that they’ll remember for a long time.

We don’t send cards to our family, but we hand a card to everyone who comes regularly to our church.  This is not about wishing them a merry Christmas or expecting a card in return. This is a way of thanking each family for the part they play in our church. We thank them for the capacity in which they serve or for faithful attendance or any way they help our church. The absolute key to making this effective, in my humble opinion, is being specific.

  1. Paper chain

For my husband’s 60th birthday my adult daughters organized a paper chain. Each wrote out 30 memories, verses, or quotes and sent the files to me. I copied them on colored paper and cut each one into a rectangular strip. Then I made a chain out of the strips. Each day my husband unstapled one link and read the memory. For 60 days he shared a memory or thought that our daughters had sent. This postage-free gift brought a lot of joy to him. You could do a similar chain to tell others different things that you appreciate about them.

  1. Emails

To me an email is as good as a card. When you show affirmation for someone by email it’s easy for them to reply. In fact, if you send a card or letter by mail to a missionary, I suggest you include your email address to make a reply easy.

I guess by now you’ve guessed my love language, but don’t overlook the fact that a simple, sincere, specific thank you may be more appreciated than any other gift you give.

Other Gifts

But maybe you want to do more than that. What else can you give people who are busy in ministry?

The busy pastor or ministry leader

Offer to help them with things they will have to do anyway. At times it’s easier for them to do these things themselves than explain to others how to do it. Give a sincere offer to help, and be willing to be flexible to help in the time and way that is most helpful. The wrong help at the wrong time can just make things more difficult so it’s best to ask ahead of time how and when to help. It’s great to say, “I would be really glad to do this particular thing for you. Would it be helpful at this particular time? Is there another time it might be more helpful?”  It’s better to offer to help and find something that works than surprise them with something that isn’t helpful.

Here’s some ideas to get you started:

  1. Make a meal for their family to be used on a busy day and deliver it at a time that works with their schedule.

  2. Do holiday baking for them or provide a dish or treat that they can use for an occasion at church rather than making one themselves.

  3. Sew costumes for the church Christmas program. Or work on the program set or other program needs.

  4. Babysit over the holidays.

  5. Pump up the balls at church or offer to fix or clean the sports equipment.

  6. Offer to help with church maintenance.

  7. Make a small Christmas gift for a teacher to give to her students. This year I needed to have a simple gift to give about 25 students in my Bible-in-schools class. I made these simple star ornaments.xmas ornament

  8. Buy a musician a songbook they’ve been wanting.

The missionary

  1. Offer to make baptismal gowns for a missionary.

(Our church is planning to set up a new baptistry in 2015 and we’d be glad for someone who would make new gowns for us.)

  1. Make puppets.

If you have someone with experience in making puppets, offer to make some for missionaries who are interested in puppet ministry.

  1. Send a Kindle or Nook book.

If your missionary doesn’t have an ereader, offer to buy one for his family. That makes it simple to gift books from that time on. Don’t know what they like? Give a Kindle or Nook gift card.

  1. Think of special furlough needs.

During furlough time for a missionary family purchase a scrapbook for each MK to keep pictures of all the cool places they travel. Or provide books for them to read in the car.

  1. Send their college kids care packages.

Don’t forget coins for the laundry. If they don’t have a place to spend the holidays, invite them to visit you. Take them clothes shopping and take along someone of their age who has good fashion sense to help them know what’s appropriate and in style. If there’s one thing your missionaries will appreciate the most, it’s probably caring for their college kids in your country while their parents are on the field.

Author

  1. Post a book review.

If you know an author, post a review of his book on Amazon and other review sites. Few non-authors realize how important reviews, especially Amazon reviews, are to an author. All you have to do is write what you liked about the book. Having more than a few reviews help authors in many ways. Seriously, if you know an author, this is the best gift you can give him, and it costs you nothing.

  1. Choose a gift related to writing.

If you have an author in your family and really want to treat her, find out what writing book, resource, or conference she’s really wanting and make that possible.

My Blog Reader

And now let me practice what I preach by saying, “Thank you for reading my blog.” I especially want to thank readers who follow my blog week by week. Today everyone seems to have so much to read they end up scanning much of it. I hope you find at least some of what I write helpful.

[image courtesy of Gennadiy Poznyakov/Deposit Photos.]

 

 

Celebrating a Milestone

zEdges cover with awardToday I want to celebrate the first anniversary of an amazing work of God. On November 22, 2013 we launched our book Edges of Truth: The Mary Weaver Story in Marshalltown, Iowa. Technical reasons have delayed this blog by nearly a week, but we want to celebrate God’s goodness to us with several offers for our readers.

How can we see God’s goodness in the release of this book?

The initial book launch

A year ago God gave us a perfect venue in Marshalltown, Iowa at a very reasonable price, along with free radio promotion during the day. Well over one hundred people packed the auditorium, many coming four hours or more for the book launch, and most staying for the entire evening. Mary, Steve, and I were in the same room together for the first time ever. Paul Rosenberg, Mary’s appeal lawyer, was there; along with Frank Santiago, the reporter who championed her case; witnesses for her defense; one of the jurors; and Mary and Steve’s family. We not only sold a lot of books, we were able to recognize people who played a key role in Mary’s defense. Most of all, we were able to give a clear testimony about God’s goodness in Mary’s story.

Since the launch

Our book continues to sell. One of the chapters has featured in Power for Living and Horizons, two different take-home papers. Mary has been able to speak to a number of different groups, both secular and Christian, and give her testimony. The book has been accepted as a library book in the prison in Mitchellville.

5-star rating

Reader’s Favorite awarded our book a 5-star rating. We’ve added their seal to the current cover of our book. It has been entered in three other contests and is eligible for awards that will be awarded in 2015. Any awards the book earns will help us to continue to promote the book. We need God’s help and leading as we continue to sell the book, and are thankful for any of this kind of help.

New release on Nook

Just last week we released the ebook edition of Edges of Truth on Nook. I’m looking for a few Nook readers to give an honest Barnes and Nobel or Amazon review in exchange for a free Nook version of it. If you’re interested, please send your email address to: brammers@vodafone.co.nz.

Goodreads Giveaway

Right now we’re running a Goodreads Giveaway of Edges of Truth. You can enter here. Three blessed readers will receive the book for free.

How can you help?

We’re always looking for more reviews. Maybe you look and see twenty one Amazon reviews and feel that everything that needs to be said about the book has been said. Why would we need more reviews? When a reader posted the twenty first review, that allowed this book to be suggested to Amazon readers when they order a similar book. Amazon works through algorithms, and having more reviews helps promote the book. Even negative reviews can help at times. If a book only has 5-star reviews, it’s easy to assume that only the author’s friends have reviewed it. The best reviews tell what the reader liked or didn’t like about the book.

Mary, Steve, and I all look back and see how God has led us through this long process and how God continues to use this story and are amazed at his goodness. May you also catch a glimpse of God’s goodness in your life today.

Wise Man Hats

wise men 006This year I have a problem. Five kids and teens want to be wise men for our Christmas program. It’s a great problem to have. I love to see kids willing and eager to dress up, learn lines, and play a part. We don’t know how many wise men worshiped the Lord Jesus. We only know that they gave him three presents. So why not have all of them be wise men?

We need a simple program this year so we are doing a part of a program we’ve used before. Christmas Disaster if a full hour program with many parts, but inside that program is a nice little part done by three wise men. I’ve pulled that part out to use this year. I’ll be redistributing the parts so that all five of my wise men have something to say. And they can all sing the song.

That left me with a costume problem. I had three nice wise men costumes that we had used before. I found I could also use costumes we had used for Joseph and Mary if I added fancy collars and jewelry. Most of our costumes come from this one easy, flexible pattern. (McCall’s Easy-to-Sew Christmas Costume Patter #2339.)

This worked well, but I needed hats and wanted something different from the crowns on the pattern. I used an idea I’d come up with from another year and then added a new one that I figured out by glancing at hats on the internet. These two style of hats, the Band Hat and the Tube Hat, are easy to make. When you use different fabrics and accessories you can come up with many different looks. If you need wise men hats for your program this year, check out these simple instructions.

Whatever you using as an outreach in your ministry this year, may all the glory go to God. And may he guide your preparations to use Christmas to share the message of salvation.

Thanks to my husband, Art Brammer, for modeling the hats. They look great on the kids with the costumes, but I don’t post pictures of kids on my website without parental permission as unbalanced people have been known to use internet pictures in perverted ways.

Sneak Peek at My Upcoming Mystery

Broken Windows cover thumbnailToday you get to be the first people to get a sneak peek at the cover of Book 1 of my upcoming Keyhole Mystery Series.  Today is the cover reveal.  What do you think?

Each of the Keyhole Mysteries will unlock new worlds. Broken Windows will allow you to peep through the keyhole of the art community as well as the world of wheelchairs and disability.

Q: When will Broken Windows be released?

A: Early in 2015.

 Q: What are you working on now?

A: The book is entirely finished. I’ve had several people pre-read it and give input. Based on that, I’m making some minor changes. I’m also working on the sequel. Waiting until 2015 to release the book will allow me to link it better to the sequel. Today my husband is working on some of the images that will be included in the book. I’ve also received permission to include pictures of several of the statues that are part of the artwork featured in the book. Then come the various publication issues: uploading, formatting, printing, Kindle conversion, proofreading, and approving galleys.

 Q: What burning issues do you have yet to resolve?

A: Should I call it a cozy mystery or just a mystery? I know this seems like a small matter, but if I choose a category that doesn’t fit it well, readers could be disappointed. It does have many of the characteristics of a cozy: amateur sleuth, quirky characters, minimal violence and gore, no sex or profanity. It also emphasizes the mystery puzzle and character development more than danger and chase scenes. On the other hand, though much of it is lighthearted, it does deal with some weighty spiritual issues like why God allows bad things to happen and how to define success.  My pre-readers seem to like this aspect of the book, but they, and I, wonder if this takes it away from the cozy mystery classification.

Q: What kind of reaction have you gotten from your pre-readers?

A: My pre-readers have given me good input that helps me to know changes I need to make. I appreciate that so much.  They’ve also responded with encouragement and enthusiasm for the project. Here’s an example of some of their comments:

 “Having a special needs grandson, I really appreciated the way you brought to life the struggles and feelings of special needs folks, as well as helped us see their side of interaction with “normal” people.” 

 “The struggles of the main characters seemed too weighty to me to be in keeping with the “cozy” mystery category. This book was much more thought-provoking [than cozy mysteries], but in a very good way.”