Author’s New Chapter: Advice for Self-Publishing and Promotion

Today’s guest post: What do you do when your life season changes? Award-winning Indiana newspaper journalist, Donna Cronk, decided it was time to write a novel. This inspiring author and speaker’s guest post shares her empty-nest and novel writing experiences. More importantly, the successful lady explains why she self-published and offers great advice about promoting a self-published novel.  After all, Donna’s now written two novels, Sweetland of Liberty Bed & Breakfast and the sequel, That Sweet Place: At Home in the Heartland. (available on amazon.com) 

God gave me a new life chapter

Raising our two sons was the best gig I could imagine. I loved everything about having kids at home, knowing what they were up to, attending Ben’s baseball and soccer games, and Sam’s band competitions. I shared in their shouts of joy and frustration while watching the Indianapolis Colts and in watching our sons grow into young men.

When they were ready to leave the nest, this mom wasn’t. I had been the dugout mom, the room mother, the field-trip chaperone. I didn’t suppose the boys needed my skills in college, and a stray mom might be frowned upon at first-job sites.

Once they moved on to first apartments and jobs, the only firsts on my calendar were the colonoscopy we’re all supposed to get at 50 and figuring out who I was apart from a wife and mother. I’m not proud to admit this, but I couldn’t imagine what God might have for me that could rival the job of hands-on mom.

Then one day my husband’s idea inspired a fresh outlook. He said when we retire, we should return to my hometown. I hadn’t thought of this. His comment filled me with the oddest feeling of possibility. I realized there were surprises ahead and that I didn’t need to have a prepared script. In fact, I was incapable of creating a script that only God could write.

But a question begged: If we returned to my hometown, what would we do? I imagined opening a bed and breakfast. Just for fun, I started writing a story about a woman I called Samantha. I gave her an empty nest, made her a widow, had her lose the job she adored, and in all, made a bigger mess of her life than I had going in mine. Then I moved her to her hometown, which looks a lot like mine, gave her a B & B, and still more issues. Going home didn’t solve her problems. There will always be problems, disappointments, new seasons, and new joys too.

I feel that God used this story to show me (and readers) that no matter what happens, we can trust Him. We need to let His plans for our lives unfold and to realize that no matter where we are or what happens (empty nest, feelings of sadness, loneliness, abandonment, fear of the future) He’s beside us if we ask Him to be. As I wrote and rewrote the story, I realized that I had a plot, message, and a real novel on my hands. It wasn’t just fictional scribbles to hide in a drawer.

My husband challenged me to finish the book and get it published in 2013. We recognized that as a new empty nester, the space was available to devote to the book, and then to the time-consuming promotions, and programs required to sell it. It was the right time to go for it. Tomorrow or next year might not be. This is why I self-published.

One thing I would tell a would-be author is don’t underestimate the time a book will require of your life. If you decide to move forward with the project, make sure a significant amount of free time is cleared for you to devote to marketing and doting on your book after it is published. If I had waited for an agent, deal, publisher, or some other form of magical thinking, the book might never have seen print. I had no illusions of becoming a bestselling author. But as a newspaper journalist, I had a base of readers who might be curious about what I had to say and buy copies. Two-hundred copies of Sweetland of Liberty Bed & Breakfast landed on my doorstep in January 2014. To start, I had lined up a dozen programs and library signings, women’s-club meetings, early-morning coffees, and service-club dinners in which to speak about my book and then sign copies for those who wanted them. To my delight, people responded positively, and I enjoyed the ride and the busy schedule. It wasn’t long before I ordered more books, then more, and my initial costs were soon redeemed.

Readers told me I had to do a sequel. I started writing and only after I had eight chapters did I tell my husband, “Honey, we’re expecting again.”

The sequel, That Sweet Place: At Home in the Heartland, came out last year. I got many repeat signings and programs from the first time, along with some new ones. I’m constantly looking for more. This story follows Samantha after the drama in book one has settled down. Now she is ready for a semi-permanent boarder, and maybe even a romance. The theme of the book is figuring out where God wants to plant and use us.

There are also recipes. I mention them throughout both novels and put them at the end. They are all tried and true, either from family or friends.

I’m not getting anything close to rich. But I’m in the black on both books, and I’ve had countless wonderful experiences traveling throughout Indiana giving programs on a variety of themes found in my books. I’ve sat in living rooms and answered discussion questions for book clubs. I’ve reconnected with people I never thought I’d see again. I’ve been cheered on in my hometown library by my kindergarten and fifth-grade teachers – sitting next to each other a half a century after I sat in their classrooms. I wouldn’t trade these surreal, sweet moments for anything.

As long as people book me for a May banquet or a February chili supper with their book club, I’ll go. With bells on.

The other thing I would say to writers who want to publish is to consider going for it. Google “self-publishing companies.” You’ll get bunches of names. I used CreateSpace and would do it again. If I waited, or kept going to conferences hoping to catch someone important’s eye, I think the first book would still be in the drawer and the second not even a gleam in my eye.

God gave me a new life chapter with these books. And for that, I give Him the praise and glory. This post is long enough for now, so I’ll say thank you to Christina for letting me share. And I’ll leave you with a bit more advice. From the first book: Trust God and live your dreams. From the second: Bloom where – and before – you’re planted.

Donna Cronk and her husband Brian live in Pendleton, Indiana. He’s a retired school administrator and teacher. She continues working as a community newspaper journalist in nearby New Castle, Indiana. She’s won many statewide newspaper-writing awards and is a contributor to the Indiana University Press anthology, Undeniably Indiana. Email her at newsgirl.1958@gmail.com.

Both books are on Amazon in print or for Kindle. Or, invite Donna Cronk to your church banquet, women’s group or book club to give a program and buy them from her! Contact Donna and she will tell you about her topics. Or she invites you to visit her website at www.donnacronk.com.

Donna, I appreciate your guest post. This is wonderful advice. God bless you, dear sister. Until the next time …On the Road Less Traveled – take good care, Christina

Christina Ryan Claypool  www.christinaryanclaypool.com 

 

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Losing a loved one to suicide or sudden death

This is a guest post by Emily Boller who lost her 21-year-old son to suicide. She shares this advice for those who want to help when a family experiences the devastation of suicide. Although one reader suggests that it applies to helping loved ones going through any kind of “tragic death.”  

When Someone Dies by Suicide,  What Does One Immediately Do or Say?

First of all, the family is in intense shock. They may not totally understand or grasp the news of what just happened. Initially, in those first few hours, they are in this perpetual state of shock–just surviving–and scrambling to get the news delivered to other family members.Their brains are on overload.

At this point they can’t process a lot of phone calls or texts, except a few from very close friends and family members. If you know details about the death, don’t post anything on Facebook or send emails out to contact lists until the family is talking openly and publicly about it. Give the family time and space to process what just happened.Sit tight for a day or two. Do nothing but pray at this point. Close friends and clergy should come by the house during this time, of course, because their comforting presence is invaluable. (A nearby neighbor brought over warm soup and fresh fruit that first day. Another close friend brought a large salad–and another gave us a wad of cash.)

After a day or two, food in disposable containers, and practical items such as paper plates, toilet paper, tissues, and bottles of water are welcome and appreciated. The family is consumed with funeral and burial decisions, and the last thing on their mind is life’s basic necessities. If you are bringing food, consider foods that promote healing instead of foods that induce additional stress to their already fragile state of being. Examples would be vegetable or fruit platters, bean dips, and hearty vegetable and bean soups.

Monetary gifts, gift cards, and cards of sympathy are also greatly appreciated. (They are also suddenly inundated with an avalanche of unplanned expenses; everything from funeral and burial expenses to crisis-intervention counseling. And especially, if a child was involved, I can’t think of any parents who financially budget for the death of a child!)

Practical helps such as mowing the lawn or taking out the trash are also appreciated. The family is mentally and emotionally overwhelmed and distraught. They may not have the mental capacity to even know what needs to be done. Don’t be afraid to take initiative and just do practical tasks for them–whether they are a close friend or not.

Try not to say, “Call me if you need anything.” Although the kind intention is much appreciated, they don’t have the mental fortitude yet to take the initiative to reach out.

In that first week/month, the family’s routine is completely out-of-sync. Sleep habits are severely disrupted. Everything is upside down in their world. They may not even be able to comprehend or remember anything that is spoken to them. Wounds are profound. Emotions are raw.

Eventually, after the funeral is over and life is a bit quieter for them, visit in-person–but call first. If they don’t answer the phone, take no offense. They may just need space at that moment . . . or they may be embarrassed how messy their house has become in the aftermath of the tragedy. They may want company on-down-the-road. Try again a week or two later. Extend a listening ear without asking a lot of questions. Silence is okay. Just sit with them in their grief. Your presence is invaluable.

And whatever you do, please don’t tell them your grief story. They may act interested, but on the inside they may be falling apart and can’t handle it.

Younger children appreciate getting breaks away from the chaos and sorrow at home. Offer to involve them in your family’s happenings for a welcome distraction–but not for long periods of time–home is still a place of comfort for them. Teens oftentimes are uncomfortable with receiving hugs from adults they don’t know; be sensitive.

Most of all, know that they may suffer for weeks, months, and for many, possibly years to come. Suicide is very complicated to process. It’s not normal grief. Don’t expect a normal grieving pattern.

Most of all, never stop reaching out to the family, even if it feels awkward — and never stop praying for them — even months after the funeral. (The funeral was just the beginning of the long, healing journey ahead.)

Dayspring Greeting Cards

And if you don’t know what to do or say, send a thoughtful card or brief note that expresses you are thinking of and praying for them.

Always remember, love never fails.

Love is what heals a broken heart.

If you have experienced a sudden death, please feel free to share in the comments what helped you the most through those first days and weeks. It is beneficial information for those who don’t know what to do or say–but want to be supportive. (You can do this by going to Emily Boller’s blog here http://emilyboller.com/?p=1840

If a child has died, “The Compassionate Friends” is a wonderful support group for grieving parents. Almost every city in the US has a local chapter.

Emily Boller is a well-known Indiana artist and public speaker whose life was transformed when she lost more than 100 pounds. Please visit her blog at http://emilyboller.com/ to learn more about this inspiring woman. Emily requests that readers feel free to share this post on Facebook or with anyone who might benefit from the message. 

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On another note, if you or someone you love is contemplating suicide, please remember the devastation for those who love you is incomprehensible, instead please speak your a clergy or counselor or call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at at 1-800-273-TALK or visit their website at www.suicidepreventiolifeline.org

 

Thank you, Emily, for your bravery and compassion in being willing to share the wisdom you learned from your own heartbreak to comfort others. It is powerful advice! Emily and I recently reconnected at the 2017 Taylor University’s Professional Writing Conference.  

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