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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Dangerous Business: Social Media Posting and Electronic Multitasking

Hand on KeyboardSocial media can be a lot like a family gathering gone wrong when a meltdown in communication occurs. Yet, like many people, I enjoy the ability to connect and share information, especially on Facebook. But then I am a Baby Boomer.

Teens don’t seem to be that impressed by Facebook, and are never signing up or leaving the site “at an estimated rate of up to a million a year.” This according to a recent article in The Washington Post by Nico Lang, “…for new [social media] friends like Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter.” Lang says that Facebook boasts one billion users, but that it is “highly popular” among Gen Xers, those born from the early 1960s to 1980s, and Baby Boomers (1946-1964). So, we can’t blame adolescents for all the drama that Facebook can elicit.

The site’s purpose can also seem rather ambiguous, since the lines of personal, professional, and even political communication sometimes intersect. I’ve noticed that occasionally connections misinterpret a comment’s intent, or express their opinion without reading it in its entirety too. There are also those acquaintances who are at work, who often comment or “like” a post. How can a person get their job done and still have time to keep updated on Facebook? Of course, you can legitimately justify professional networking sites like LinkedIn.

Still, multitasking might be a potential professional landmine according to an article by Travis Bradberry in Forbes last fall, “Multitasking Damages Your Brain and Career, New Studies Suggest.” Bradberry wrote, “Research conducted at Stanford University found that multitasking is less productive…people who are regularly bombarded with several streams of electronic information cannot pay attention, recall information, or switch from one job to another as well as those who complete one task at a time.”

This research debunks the myth that some people excel at multitasking. “The frequent multitaskers performed worse because they had more trouble organizing their thoughts and filtering out irrelevant information, and they were slower at switching from one task to another,” noted Bradberry. Another study conducted at the University of London cited in the Forbes feature says that “multitasking lowers your IQ” as well.

The Best YesNew York Times best-selling author, Lysa Terkeurst agrees. In her 2014 book, “The Best Yes,” Terkeurst writes, “Checking your email in the middle of creative work momentarily knocks your IQ down 10 points, according to the British Institute of Psychiatry.” Personally, I doubt if checking Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, etc. are going to be much different. In an ethical sense, isn’t this also a form of employee time theft?

As for expressing an online viewpoint, some individuals appear to believe they are skilled writers, despite being oblivious to grammar, punctuation, or correct spelling even with spell check. More importantly, these fast-fingered folks don’t contemplate how their careless words could possibly affect the lives of others like a seasoned journalist would.

After all, it’s easy to hastily pound out an opinion on a keypad and instantly share on social media. Even if you are on your personal time, please think before you post, because it could cost you your job, or negatively impact the life of someone else.

6353664 - CopyChristina Ryan Claypool is an AP/Amy Award winning freelance journalist and former interpersonal communications instructor for Mount Vernon Nazarene University. Contact her through her Website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com

 

 

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‘HOPE’ Update: My One Word for 2014

As the  calendar turned to January 1, I felt the gentle nudge of God’s Spirit encouraging me to choose, ‘Hope,’ as my word for 2014. It was no coincidence, that while ringing in the new year, hope was something I desperately needed myself, since I was battling depression resulting from a health crisis. Circumstances, which I initially had no intention of sharing with others. However, our Heavenly Father’s plans for us are often very different from our own.Jeremiah 29:11 & 13

This was the first time, I had ever participated in selecting a word  for the year.  Picking it was easy though, as it seemed like God had chosen it for me. I tell the story of how this came about in my blog titled, “A Postcard’s Reminder of Hope.” Here’s the link if you’d like to read the post: http://christinaryanclaypool.com/blog1/2013/12/31/a-postcards-reminder-of-hope-for-the-future-by-christina-ryan-claypool/

It was this Godwink of a postcard with a rainbow and the verse, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future,” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV), that began to restore my own expectancy in God’s good plan. Since then, it seems like I see the word, ‘hope’ everywhere.

It almost jumps off the page, sometimes, when I’m reading the Bible. At other moments, I hear the promise of hope coming through song lyrics. An example would be for King & Country’s tune, “Crave.” One line of the song says, “Hope is what we crave, that will never change.” What has changed for me, has been the renewed vision in our Creator’s desire to do good on our behalf, along with His ability to bless our lives and to use us despite physical limitations, aging, or our own inadequacies. This was a catalyst for the depression I was experiencing, falsely believing that I was no longer of any value to God’s dynamic kingdom.

 One Perfect WordThere was another gentle nudge of the Spirit, which resulted in me finding the book, One Perfect Word  by Debbie Macomber in a thrift store recently. Out of the thousands of books there, it just stood out as something I needed to purchase. When I got home and began to read it, I found out that Mrs. Macomber had chosen ‘hope’ for her word of the year in 2006. It was such a joy to glean wisdom from this talented writer’s insights, not only about hope, but also about the importance of selecting a word for each new year. Something she has been doing for a very long time.

I’m just starting my own journey of finding significance through a word for the year. It’s only April, and already, I’ve learned more about ‘hope’ than I could have believed possible. I’m optimistic about the future again, and busy finishing a new book. For now, I would like to close with another line from ‘Crave,’ “It’s written on my soul hopes what we crave.”

Here’s the complete song: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=GrXLXVL_0AE

6353664 - CopyChristina Ryan Claypool is the 2011 First place national Amy award winning freelance journalist and a Christian speaker. She has been featured on Joyce Meyer’s Enjoying Everyday Life TV show, and on CBN’s 700 Club. Her website is www.christinaryanclaypool.com.  

 

 

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Circles of Faith, Founder and Executive Editor, Elise Daly Parker, posted “My One Word for the New Year Update and LinkUp”. Go to their website at www.CirclesOfFaith.org to read Elise’s blog post and to hear an update from other women about their inspiring One Word journeys including: Kimberly Amici, http://kimberlyamici.com/ who is the Circles of Faith Co-Founder and Managing Editor, Holly Barrett whose Website is http://hollybarrett.org/, and Laura Roth who blogs at:  http://www.laurarath.blogspot.com/  This Circles of Faith post encouraged me to write my own update.

 

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