Tag Archives: self-publishing

Why All It Takes Is 5 Minutes

It may come as a shock, but I’m easily distractible.

It’s not something I’m proud of. Especially knowing how much my work depends on writers showing up and keeping up despite the battering hurricane of demands and requests that fly in through every open window.

It can grow dark quickly underneath the pile of debris atop the little flame of a writer’s voice.

To be seen and heard is always a fight.

Yet maybe being seen and heard doesn’t have to be the goal. Maybe sharing what’s been given you that day in the 5 minutes you have to share it, the flame will shine a little more, and the light will reach out into the dark it’s intended to reach.

Burn, little guy. Burn.
Burn, little guy. Burn.

I know from painful experience how selfish and pointless it can seem to spend much time in a private place that brings you and only you such joy. Especially if so many people depend on you. The responsibility and duty of “real life” can sap the love and light right from you and leave you dark and cold.

But if God’s love for us burns white hot, wouldn’t he want us to forget all else but the true “real life?”

That’s the premise of the novel I’ve been writing over 10 years about a young man who sells his soul for a chance to change his past. It’s been growing in me and growing with me for ages, waiting as I figured out what to do with it and how to write it. It’s grown and shaped me unlike any book ever has, and it’s still not done. But I’m going ahead and opening up about my process now because I can’t wait to share some of the jaw-dropping lessons it’s taught me as I’ve strived to show up between school, raising 2 kids and full-time editing books for publishers.

Jaw-dropping, I tell you!
Jaw-dropping, I tell you!

Some days it’s felt so pointless. But 5 minutes a day adds up. I wouldn’t have thought it possible to write a book this way. And maybe it isn’t–no one said it was good–but for years now, I’ve gotten up and for 5 minutes (which sometimes turned to 10 and 15), I’ve forgotten everything else and reveled in my dream world. It’s changed me, and it’s continuing to as I pull the disparate pieces together and learn to slowly fight back against the crush of too-great demands and urgent life, giving it the best I have, which often isn’t enough, but it doesn’t matter.

God is in it.

Unlike anything else, my book has shown God’s love to me. And I know it’s true because it’s been simple even when it could have and should have been mind-numbingly complex. In the end, I’ve believed the premise, that he wants me to forget everything else but that knowledge of his love. And in 5 minutes a day, I’ve found writing a book can teach you plenty about that.

Every day, I’m hopeful for what it’ll reveal next. If you know what I mean, give me a witness….

For the Higher Purpose,


How Authors Get Everything They Really Want: The Death of Traditional Publishing “Success”

What is “success” as an author?

This question has more answers than Carter has pills. (My grandpa liked to say this, which always made me feel badly for whoever Carter was. Who is Carter and why does he have so many pills?)

Ah, this is great. I'm munching some popcorn Charlotte, my 5 year old, just brought me from her mid-morning snack. She’s home today for teacher’s conferences, and this is way more information than you need, but I want to set this up first, to say how glorious it is working from home, and appreciate that beauty with me, but second, how instructive it is to have a kid around who comes downstairs with her big bowl and quietly sets it near you, careful not to interrupt the typing, and say, “You can have some of my snack, if you want.”

I mean, this isn’t the way I imagined it. I had no idea. But I take a handful and she smiles and tells me to get lots of work done and leaves.

And I will. With this popcorn, I will work like a factory-assembly-line maniac. Like Carter without his pills.

Now I don’t work for her affection. She gives it to me freely. I don’t do a thing. I could even deny my affection, work so I never see her and miss out completely on a relationship with her and she’d still bring me her own food to share.

Because this is how it is with love.

And this question of how we define success has so many different answers because so many people don't feel loved. Underneath what we say we believe, "success" always has to do with whatever we're seeking most. These are words I've treasured: When you first seek to give yourself to God's way, his higher purpose, you'll be given everything you desire.

I used to think this was a cheap trick because when you do this, your desires "magically" change—and how easy is it to give me what I want when he just changes what that is first? Come on! But there's a deeper principle at work that says when you seek the higher purpose beyond yourself, you get what you really wanted all along.

It’s not different from your original desires, it's just deeper, more real. And hense, more lasting when it's fulfilled. It's always better to give than receive. It’s always better to do for another what you’d want done for you.

And I believe it. But do I? Would I act differently if I really believed? Do I give my popcorn, or do I eat it myself? What’s success: having the biggest handful or giving the most away?

Affirmation and validation are big traps for authors. Most realize it’s a fool’s errand, but the exploiters still sell it: “Are you desperate to feel appreciated and worthy? Sign with PAI-YUP Publishing today!” So many authors say they know where ultimate love is, but they don’t seem convinced. If they felt it, they’d know, and they’d figure out it’s probably dumb to try and squeeze love out of a book contract. But they don’t want to look deeper.

That’s not me. I mean, I know you can’t derive your value from a car or a job or even others’ opinions.

But we all still do it. And we close our eyes, rationalize it and make it “all right.”

Why do so many books get printed? Why do so many people work so hard when the only pay off is more attention and more work? Ask anyone “important”: more importance = more problems.

I know what I want to say with my work, and it is a way to give back, but I think I need to look harder at how what I’m writing is directly pouring into who is receiving it. This is a critical step in the process for anyone looking to share a book of true lasting value. I need to spend some more time picturing those outstretched bowls and me pouring from mine that’s been so generously filled…

So what's "success" to you, that is, what do you think is most important? Are you writing to “give back” or is it more about what you want to say?

Interview with author/editor Brandy Bruce

LooksLikeLove I've been excited for a while to have the chance to interview a friend of mine, Brandy Bruce. Her experience as an up-and-coming YA author is unique (of course) but her decision to self-publish after shopping her novel to publishers makes me extra eager to tell you about her journey. First, the bio.

Brandy Bruce holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Liberty University. She currently works as a developmental book editor for Focus on the Family. When she's not chasing after her two-year-old daughter, she spends much of her time reading, editing, working with authors, and trying to keep up with deadlines. She's the author of the newly released contemporary novel Looks Like Love. Brandy makes her home with her husband and daughter in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Me: Brandy, thanks for being brave and pioneering. I figure, despite my initial reservations with self-publishing (as a long-time publishing establishment guy), your decision is a great example for others who are debating this choice. Tell me about (1) your journey from writer to published.

BRB: I've been writing stories since the sixth grade. Reading and writing have always been my outlets for creative thought. I knew from about the time I was in high school that I really wanted to somehow work with books as my profession. I became a developmental book editor and I still love it. But writing has always remained part of that creative outlet for me.

My journey to publishing isn't exactly traditional. A few years ago I started working on a story about a girl starting over after a bad break-up. I showed my book proposal to an agent (Chip MacGregor–Google him.) who liked it and decided to sign me as one of his authors. Then came the hard part–selling it. We received some positive feedback and came close with a couple of houses, but in the end, we just didn't get a contract. That was disappointing, of course. I'd put so much work into my novel that I didn't want to give up. I started thinking about self-publishing. I talked this over with Chip, and he was really supportive. A turning point for me came when my husband reminded me that in today's world publishing is an attainable dream for anyone. I know that publishing is evolving. I know that anyone can have his or her book in an e-format in minutes. I decided to explore my options for doing it myself, and finally, I decided to self-publish with WestBow Press.

Me: So what kind of marketing are you doing?

BRB: When it comes to marketing self-published books, authors have to be even more pro-active. I talked to other authors who had self-published for creative marketing tips. I created bookmarks to send to friends and family when the book released. WestBow sent out a press release, but I also created a press release to send to bookstores and influencers. I had a friend create a book trailer for me and put it on YouTube. I promoted my book on my blog, twitter account, and facebook and recruited friends and family to also post the link to my book on Amazon.com. And I set up a blog book tour the month after my book released. I arranged some blog interviews and encouraged people to write reviews for my book on amazon.com. People don't realize how beneficial good reviews on Amazon.com are!

Me: So true. One idea I've seen an author use recently is offering signed "book plates" for those who write a review for you. Contests are another good idea–offer a chance at a gift bag for people who post a review. What are you hoping for from this publishing venture? What’s something surprising you’ve learned?

BRB: Before I ever self-published I really examined the why behind moving forward with it. For me, having a book of my own was something I'd wanted for a long time. I never felt the deep desire to be a famous author or the need to sell scores of books. I will say that now that my book is out, every time I receive good feedback, I'm just so thrilled to hear that someone read my story and loved it. That's enough for me. Publishing my book was a goal in my life that I wanted to fulfill. I'm proud of every book I edit and I find a lot of fulfillment in helping others create books that made a difference. I know people self-publish for lots of different reasons. But for myself, I just had a story that I loved and wanted to see in print. I've been lucky with how supportive people have been. I had authors I greatly respect come alongside me and offer endorsements. I had fellow editors help polish my novel before I sent it to press. And I've had my wonderful family and friends help get the word out about Looks Like Love. 

Me: So one last question: What played into your decision most? Did feedback from publishers play a role? Did your insider publishing knowledge convince you you could do it better than your average writer just starting out? If you could, help people differentiate the real pros and cons about this really complex decision.  

BRB: Publishers' feedback did play a role in my decision to self-publish this one. I was in touch with other editor friends so I knew when places like Bethany and Kregel and Cook took the book to pub board. I had editors give me positive feedback (Tyndale for example, I met with the editor who reviewed my proposal while we were at a conference). Chip sent me a response from another editor who said the book wouldn't work for them but she loved my voice and would like to see something else. If I'd been hearing mostly negative responses from editors I respect, I doubt I would have felt it was worth it to publish it. I assume Chip probably shielded me from negative feedback anyway, but I told him I wanted to hear what editors had to say about it. And like I said, most was pretty encouraging. And I took what I heard seriously. When an editor made recommendations, I definitely listened and made changes.

And of course, my being an editor helped me feel a little more confident as I moved forward. Also the fact that I'm a consistent reader. I read so much Christian fiction that I felt I knew my genre well. I'm comfortable checking proofs; I know what to look for. Writing back cover copy is something I do all the time. I knew that getting endorsements could really help me. Anyone can self-publish, of course. There are people there to guide you every step of the way. But my personal experience made me more comfortable throughout the process.  

Also, I'm not planning for this to be a series. I am hoping to shop the YA fantasy series once it's ready. I'd love for that to get picked up since it's meant to be a 4-book series.

Me: Is that what you're working on next? What's keeping you busy (besides marketing and publicity on this)?

BRB: Well, I've got a toddler running around, and I'm editing two books so that keeps me pretty busy. I haven't stopped writing though. My sister and I are working together on a fantasy YA series that I'm super excited about.


The Book: Looks Like Love by Brandy Bruce

The awesome book trailer.

The author.

Why the New Books Want to Be Free


Moving toward union or uniformity; especially coordinated movement of the two eyes so that the image of a single point is formed.

We might hold such truth to be self-evident, but convergence, the merging of distinct ideas, people, industries, and technologies into a unified whole balanced in equality, is the basis of our government, healthy relationships, of spiritual lives, and many things in between. It’s in the ying and yang of the ancients, predating our understanding of the perfect balance of love and justice found in God.

And this concept is just as operational in our world today. The synthesis of ideas, is happening at a faster rate today than it ever has before. So the ability to “hold to one without letting go of the other” is becoming increasingly difficult as well.

Maybe you feel this in your own life, this pull toward the “comfort” of extremes. Too often we’re attracted like magnets to the poles, wowed by the height the pendulum swings. These are the extremes. The world is full of them and they’re unbalancing factors and should be ignored. The unbalanced wants to be heard. But it also wants to be ignored as it argues for its own irrelevance (to pick on political talk show hosts: if they got what they “wanted” they’d go extinct).

This involves paradox and paradox is everywhere. If you’ve seen it and dealt with it honestly, you know that convergence is the answer.

Does God still speak today? And would he speak through prophets who are paid no heed? What if we’re missing his words because we don’t have ears to hear? Would God choose to have a prophet speak through publishing a book? My question to the traditional publishers, most now owned by conglomerates: Can you hear above the other master’s voice? And if you can, what special measures are you taking to ensure your readers reckon with it?

What needs to happen now? Chris Anderson reminds us in Free, “information wants to be free, it also wants to be expensive because it’s so valuable.” (Stewart Brand)

Paradox. Convergence.

I believe we’re entering a new age where the ideas of freedom that were relegated to the control of gatekeepers can no longer tolerate the restriction. Publishing is a game of “rights management,” a euphemism for ownership and control, but the information wants to be free. And despite their “purchase” price and devoted resources, the publishers do not own it. Not even the authors own the ideas, any more than they created their own brains and the life that sustains them. We can’t even control the influences that go into shaping the new ideas. And as for who “owns” wisdom and understanding, let alone the capacities for such things, we can all agree, it isn’t us.

Why shouldn’t everyone benefit from the current convergence of an idea surplus and the unlimited access to publishing it?

It’s time to hack in. To circumnavigate. To rethink and rebuild the new system.

Democratization of publishing is underway. I don’t believe my job is to help someone control the information. I’d rather make it easier to distribute. And that means convincing people to share their ideas for free. If enough innovative authors agree, publishers will be forced to change.

I think it’s relatively inevitable, but that doesn’t change the hard truth. Some will ask why this should happen. And it’s simple: the idea of controlling someone’s message, idea, or intellectual property, is profoundly connected to the control of those people themselves, and ultimately leads to a no-win for everyone involved. Author becomes indentured servant, publisher becomes greedier, and end consumer is charged increasingly more for a decreasing quality product.

It may not always bear out in every instance, but tending toward entropy is the natural cycle. New opportunities overthrow existing paradigms. Revolutions and tyrannies are cyclical. This is simply a current one. Or maybe, as Anderson says, it’s simply the most recent part of the continuing revolution that bits (computers) have made possible.

And something in me is encouraged to think it’s all outside my control.


The All-Time Top Reasons to Pursue Big Publishing, Part 1

So this is a quick, rather spurious post full of some rambling thoughts. But this is where my brain is and I'm hoping for some feedback from folks on this. It's an intriguing topic…

What are the arguments for pursuing traditional royalty-paying publishing? Some I know of are professional editing, design, & production. And these are usually great b/c corporate publishers tend to have some top-notch professionals. Of course, they're also overworked and understaffed these days, and they are working on dozens of books a year, so it's usually the most expensive projects that get the most attention. This holds all the way down the line too: sales and marketing, publicity and promotion. And with these, there's also the growing public disinterest in traditional advertising and selling methods. Big authors can do better on their own, why not small ones? Same principles for each.

Maybe a key is distribution. I know this can be a big one for mid-list authors who've maxed out what they can fulfill on their own. But with PDQ (check out Dan Poynter on this) and some great partnerships with self-publishers by the top distributors now, I'm not sure even this reason holds much anymore.

Advances can be nice, but they're really just loans and you pay them back out of your own royalties. And usually, you won't make it back as a new author, so you're out for any future deals. And if you do make it back, your royalty rate is lower than it would have been with a smaller or self publisher, so are you really better off with an advance? Most of the time, I'd have to say I've seen it being more of a liability to authors than a help.

Being on the shelves at B&N is a big draw. This is the cache reason. And I get it. It's not fun to have a book out no one can go and get at a bookstore. But just because it isn't stocked on the shelf doesn't mean they can't get it, and if people go in asking for your book, how many times do you think it takes for them to realize they may need to stock it? Maybe you can have friends in strategic places around the country help you out with this and save the hassle of hiring a publisher with a sales force.

What are some others I'm forgetting?