The Saga of a Book, by Eleanor Shepherd

Eleanor Shepherd is back at my blog this week to share with us about marketing our writing. She is a fabulous author, and really gives some great advice. Here’s what she has to say:

A Saga of a BookMarketing our Writing

by Eleanor Shepherd

When I began to work on my newly published book, More Questions than Answers, I gave no thought to the marketing of that book. I knew that I wanted to write about love as the distinguishing mark of a Christian. That was about all. Then as I picked up books and articles, I kept coming across phrases that related to listening, caring and accepting without judging. When a tragedy struck our family, I was forced to look deep within for some answers.  I had begun to develop a collection of these articles and chapters of books and when I was ready to begin writing I began to sift through them and try to organize them into consistent categories, coloured by the experiences of my pilgrimage. Slowly my book began to take shape.

The gestation of the book lasted ten years during which time its form developed during evenings at the computer where I spent hours writing and editing and rewriting and editing some more and then rewriting and editing again.  Finally, I arrived at a stage where I dared to let some trusted friends who seemed to be on the same wavelength read some of the chapters I had written.  Their comments and suggestions led me to more rewriting and editing until the manuscript was polished enough to present to publishers.

Each year I sent the manuscript for advance critique before attending a writers’ conference.  The critiques helped me to see areas that needed improvement and the positive comments that accompanied the rejections gave me enough courage to keep persisting because the material itself had merit.

Finally, an editor was ready to consider publication but assigned me the task of rewriting the whole book in a less scholarly and pedantic way, creating instead a friendlier, everyday manner of expression more consistent with the material in the book.  It was the advice my husband had given me.  The timing was precise.  It happened just at before I was laid off one job and was unable to start a new one for three months. The amount of time was sufficient to do the rewrite.

By this time, I was convinced the Lord could use what I had to say for his purposes.  I had come to a fork in the road.  I loved the material of my book, but I knew that I either had to persist, rewrite and see it through to publication or let it go forever.  I prayed what I thought was a bold prayer.  “Lord, if you want to use this book, you will have to give me the time to write.  I cannot work full-time and give it the attention that it needs. “  Two weeks later, I was laid off from my employment.

The next three months were such joy.  Every day I spent eight hours at the computer rewriting the text as a story and not as an instruction manual.  I found that my own heart was stirred as I read over what I was writing.  I sensed the presence of the Spirit with me.  I knew that I was the instrument that He was using to echo His thoughts and ideas.  They were being fashioned in His love.

When it was rewritten, I submitted it to another publisher and it was accepted.  When I first read the e-mail, I could not believe my eyes.  Signing the contract with the publisher was only the beginning of the next stage.  The book required professional copyediting and preparation for typesetting with re-readings at every step along the way.

I loved the cover that the publisher created and I sensed it was just right.  I was so excited the first time I clicked on the publisher’s website and saw the book there ready for purchase.  I did not even have my author’s copies yet.  They were in the mail to me.

By the time my copies arrived, I had begun to understand something about the next stage in the life of this newborn.  I could not just tuck her away in a corner and expect her to survive.  I had to care for her, to nourish her, to expose her to the light and take her out to be with others.  That was going to mean I had to learn about marketing.

When writers want to learn about anything, the first place they look is in books (or at least that was the case before the internet).  I went online to The Word Guild listserv and requested suggestions of good marketing books.  Off I went to the local bookstore to buy the first one.  The others I ordered online.

While the publisher is helpful, I know that they have hundreds of books to market and if I am going to get mine into the hands of those who will benefit from it, it is up to me to try and find as many markets as I can myself.  I am gleaning ideas about marketing from all kinds of sources.  Just as when I began to think about the book, I kept running into articles and stories about listening, now I am constantly finding material about marketing.

A debate that rages is particularly acute for us as Christian writers.  The key issue is whether we need to market ourselves, which is often what we are doing as we try to sell our books or whether we just leave it to the Lord to bring the people who need them to our books.  As with most debates, I expect this is not an either/or question but there are times when we need to speak out for our books as Arthur Paul Boers pointed out in an earlier post.  At other times, we will be able to stand still and see God at work using the creation that He has gifted us with for His purposes in ways we could never have imagined.  It is not all work and it is not all grace.  As it so many other areas of life, it is cooperative grace.

You can find Eleanor online at her blog: Eleanor Shepherd

She is also a contributor at Canadian Writers Who Are Christian, where this article was originally posted on April 18th, 2010.


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Great Products at Low Prices!

Are you an author that is looking to branch out into social media to gain more exposure? If so, you don’t want to miss this moving sale at! Shelley Hitz, the author of the series Book Marketing on a Shoestring Budget has moved and now you get to benefit. For a limited time only, when you purchase four of Shelley’s products, you get them for 75% off!

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The Writing Life, by Eleanor Shepherd

A few weeks ago, I asked the question “Why did you become a writer?” Well, this week, I am honored to share Eleanor Shepherd’s response to that question:

As writers, we receive encouragement from many different sources. Being raised in a home where I was surrounded by books, nurtured my love of reading.  Before I went to school, I had already learned to read. I loved the sounds of words and the magical way when they were put together they could tell a story.

While reading became a passion while I was still quite young, it was in the sixth grade that the possibility that I might also be able to write began to dawn upon me.  That year we had a teacher who required from us an essay every Friday.  She assigned us a different topic each week.  This first exposure to deadlines, also called forth my creative capacities. The adrenalin pumped as my pen flew across the page hardly able to keep up with the thoughts tumbling over one another that I tried to capture before they fled.  What fueled my passion was the commendation of this teacher who really believed I had some writing ability.

Throughout the rest of my schooling, the curriculum often offered opportunities for creative writing. I enjoyed these and knew that I could anticipate a decent mark for such endeavors.  With the confidence this success engendered, I had no hesitation in signing up for a creative writing course my first year at university.  I still am not quite certain what happened that year, but the professor and I were on entirely different wavelengths.  I learned some valuable lessons about developing journalistic and writing skills, but I barely passed the course and concluded I was not cut out to be a writer after all.  The experience was so devastating that I even doubted by ability to write a research paper, a problem that dogged me for the rest of my university career.

Although I still loved to read, my writing was limited to the prayer journals that I kept. They mostly recorded names and prayer requests.

In my early thirties, I needed to take an elective course to complete my requirements for ministry in our denomination.  I gathered up my courage and enrolled in a journalism course that was being offered by correspondence.  Though I doubted my ability, the desire to write persisted.  I was amazed when each of my lessons was returned with such positive comments and good grades.  Maybe I could write after all.

The clincher came when the editor of the women’s magazine for our denomination came to lead a women’s’ ministry Sunday service for our congregation.  As we visited together over lunch, she asked about my interests; I mentioned the journalism course I was taking.  She asked to see something I had written.  I showed her a couple of articles.  She requested that I send them to her for publication in our denominational women’s magazine.  That was the beginning of my writing for publication and I have not looked back.

I still struggle with my fears.  I write and rewrite and rewrite, and wonder if what I have written will be helpful to anyone; yet, I sense that to write is to exercise a God-given ability.  Currently my book about listening is on its way to publication.  The typeset proofs were sent to me last week, so I could check for errors and get them back to the publisher again by the end of the month.

This past weekend, I attended a conference in Phoenix related to my work.  On the flight west, I began to read over the proofs and mark any corrections needing to be made.   My goal was to finish this task on the flight home.  I really wished someone else could also read it. I feared there were things I would miss since I am so familiar with the manuscript.  I have been working on this project for ten years.

When we boarded the plane in Phoenix, I began chatting with the woman next to me.  She had been in Phoenix to receive her PhD that weekend.  When she saw the manuscript and pencil in my hand, she said, “It looks like you have some work to do.”  I explained what I was doing.

To my surprise, she asked if I would like her help.  She enjoyed doing that kind of thing and would be glad to read it over for me.  I was delighted and handed her the first section of the book.  This included the table of contents, forward, acknowledgments, endorsements and introduction, along with the first chapters.  She began to read and put her markings on the pages.  I figured she would soon tire of this, but I was glad she was willing to help.

When she completed the first section, she handed it back to me and asked for some more.  By this time, she was beginning to ask me the odd question about the book.  She seemed intrigued by some things I say about listening.  I handed her another bunch of pages and thought that I would be fortunate if she was willing to do even that much.  By the time we arrived in Chicago, where we both were changing flights, she had read and marked about sixty pages.  I thanked her and offered her one of my daughter’s CDs as a token of my gratitude.

Our connecting flights to Montreal and Syracuse were leaving from adjoining gates at O’Hare airport.  Instead of taking the shuttle, between terminals we walked together and chatted about the book.  When we got to my gate, we still had about an hour and a half before our flights.  My new friend sat down beside me and offered to proofread the next section of the book.   Her interest in the book affirmed for me it is now ready to touch the lives of people in the way that the Lord intends.  That is why I write.

You can find Eleanor online at her blog: Eleanor Shepherd

*Please note that Eleanor’s post was originally posted at Canadian Writers Who Are Christian on March 27th, 2010.

This is the first of two guest posts by Eleanor Shepherd. Check back in next Friday to read what she has to say about marketing our writing.

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Press Release Tips

Press Releases are a great way to market books and draw potential buyers to your website. During my time writing press releases I have learned quite a bit, but I know that I still have TONS to learn. While I know I am no expert, I wanted to share a few things with you. 1st, there are so many free press release distribution sites. These are great if you are on a tight budget, but not quite as effective as some of the other ones. Still, I have seen over 200 hits on some press releases through them. If you choose to go through a site that charges, I encourage you to know what you are paying for. Find out what kind of visibility will be available to you, and the benefits that come along with that membership.

When using free press release distributors, make sure you know what is free. They might ask if you want to upload a photo, but photos are only available for paid releases, or something along those lines. Many also have a limit on how many you can post per day or per week. Some sites also allow you to set up free accounts, but charge per press release once you are signed up.

Another important thing that I have learned is that different sites have different standards. It’s important to read the guidelines for each site and tailor your release to meet their satisfaction. I have submitted the same press release to multiple sites, only to have some accept it and others reject it. It’s usually because I missed something in the guidelines. Here is a list of things that vary from site to site:

  • The use of exclamation marks – Some sites will not publish press releases with exclamation marks, others don’t give them a second glance.
  • The title – While some sites insist that the company name is included in the title, others prefer the title is more descriptive. Most sites are pretty standard about title formatting. ALL CAPS is forbidden, but they expect the first letter in each word to be capitalized.
  • Noun usage – Press releases should be written in third person, however whether or not they allow the use of the word “you” depends on the site.
  •  Advertisements – There is a fine line between a news release and an advertisement in the press release world. While you might be writing to advertise, different companies can see the same press release different ways. While one says it’s news worthy, another might declare it ‘too pitchy” and ask you to change it or reject it all together.
The above listed are things that vary from site to site, but a few things remain the same:
  • It has to be newsworthy
  • It should be properly spaced and formatted
  • It should be a news release, not an article
  • It should only be submitted once, and needs to be recent news
  • It needs to be professionally written
  • Nothing illegal

So there you have it. Press release tips from me 😀 for whatever they’re worth anyway. Do you use press releases to market your book, or author events? Got any tips to share?


My favorite press release writing resource is “Get Your Press Release Done!” by Self Publishing Coach, Shelley Hitz . I must admit that there is a ton of information available online, but this is my favorite resource because it is so well laid out! It took me from knowing nothing, to successfully writing press releases in no time!


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Guest Blogging Etiquette

During November I have been hosting guest bloggers on Fridays. I have learned quite a few things during this time, and I wanted to share a few things with you.

If you are ever asked to be a guest blogger:

1. Stay on topic – If they ask you to write about something (no matter how broad or narrow the category) stay on topic! Don’t agree if you can’t write about what they are asking. It’s that simple.

2. Know your definitions – If you are asked to be a guest blogger, know what they want from you. A guest blogger writes a post to be posted on someone elses blog. A blog interview is where you answer questions to be posted on someones blog, and a feature is when they blog about you. Know the differences!

3. Mind the details – If they ask for a 500 word post, get as close as possible without being insanely shorter or longer. If they don’t specify, you may want to check if it matters. If they ask for a picture, be sure to send one. If they ask for an author bio, include one. If you want to be invited back, following instructions is key!

4. Be on time – No one likes a no-show! If you commit to getting them a blog, do so. If something does comes up where you wont be able to meet the deadline, be courteous enough to let them know and offer an apology.

If you are hosting guest bloggers:

1. Be specific – Let them know what you want. Topic, length, author bios, photos vs. no photos, language restrictions, anything that you can do to make it easier for there not to be problems later on is great! Then if the guidelines aren’t followed you will have a leg to stand on when you ask for a re-write or decide not to post what they have sent you.

2. Follow up – If your setting up a schedule, give them a deadline and follow-up if it isn’t met. You may even want to send them a reminder a week in advance. After the blog is posted, send them the link incase they want to share it with friends or see how it turned out.

For more great tips on helping you be a successful guest blogger, check out “A Step-by-Step Guide to Guest Blogging” by Shelley Hitz.

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Tweet Tweet

Well, it’s official. I finally broke down and signed up for twitter. One of my freelance jobs includes writing twitter posts for others to use. I have been finding this extremely difficult considering that I didn’t use twitter personally. I didn’t understand how it differed from Facebook, along with just a whole slew of other things, but I’m learning. Anyone have any tips for me?

Since it’s the day before Thanksgiving, I’m going to keep this short and sweet, but I still need to learn how to tweet! 😀

You can find me on twitter: @_HeatherHart

Happy Thanksgiving!!!!

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Where do you write?

Most authors write in a certain spot most of the time. I use to argue this point because I did the majority of my writing on my laptop and I took it everywhere. However, when at home, I did the majority of my writing at the kitchen table. Sure, I wrote other places in the house, but that was my default place.

While I still do the majority of my writing on my laptop, I now have an office at home that I try to do my work in. The reason I made the switch, was because I wanted someplace where I could organize all of the things I use for writing. All of my books, notebooks, computer accessories, just all of it. Also, as a stay-at-home, work-at-home, homeschooling mom, and housewife, I needed a place where I could go to let my family know that i was working. They know that when I am in my office I’m working and need to be able to concentrate. Since my kids are still young, I obviously don’t get uninterrupted work time unless they are all in bed, but it has certainly reduced the number of distractions.

When I was putting together my small office, there were a number of things that I put into consideration. Which side of my desk to put my monitor on. It’s hard for me to write if it’s on the right side (don’t ask why). I needed enough desk space to keep my laptop, notes, and other resources (I’m still looking for the perfect shelf to replace the one I currently have). I needed room for reference books, and I had to have all of the right supplies.

Here’s a current photo of my office:

What about you? Do you have an office? What were some key things that you needed to account for or include when setting it up?

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