Sunday, December 1, 2013

Wishing You "A Ruby Christmas"

A Ruby Christmas
a collaborative novella by authors of
Write Integrity Press and Pix-N-Pens Publishing
Last month I promised you we'd do something fun and different this month--put away the "all business" on this blog (although we'll do a little business below and talk about why do a collaborative novel?). But for the most part, we'll relax a little and enjoy a special treat for Christmas.

I promised you a free sample of my fiction and free chapters from other Write Integrity Press and Pix-N-Pens authors. Here are all the details.

A Ruby Christmas is...

...a collaborative novel featuring authors from Write Integrity Press and Pix-N-Pens Publishing. Earlier this year an idea for a character and a story line was batted around. The idea had to include a character who would travel the world in search of ... something.

Each author involved, then, would write one chapter.

This year, Ruby Joy Buckner travels the world in search of all the pieces needed to put together a Nativity scene for her widowed father.

The first and last chapters are written by the same author--J. A. Marx--because (I believe) the storyline was primarily her idea. Fay Lamb co-wrote the last two chapters with J.A.

Eight of the nine authors were already published by either Write Integrity Press or Pix-N-Pens Publishing. The publishers held a contest to include one addition author, and Phee Paradise won that contest and joined us with her chapter.

Participating authors received the storyline and character information last spring and wrote their chapters. Then this summer and fall the chapters were edited together to form a book published by our infamous (to us, anyway) publisher.

Read chapters free!

Here's the fun part for you: the publisher is releasing almost all of the book - 9 of the 11 chapters - for free, one chapter at a time! Don't worry. You'll be able to get the rest of the book - the last two chapters - for free too, if you act quickly enough. I'll tell you how in a minute. Even if you miss the free days you'll be able to get the entire book for a low cost later on.

So here's how it will work:

The first chapter of the book officially releases Monday, December 2, with the first chapter being posted on the Write Integrity Press blog.

Then a new chapter will release each week day on the same blog through chapter 9.

I wrote Chapter 2, so mine will be featured Tuesday, December 3.

Here's the whole world-tour schedule:

  • Monday, December 2: Texas by J.A. Marx
  • Tuesday, December 3: Colorado by Dianne E. Butts
  • Wednesday, December 4: Cocoa Beach, Florida, by Fay Lamb
  • Thursday, December 5: Virginia by Ruth O'Neil
  • Friday, December 6: New York City by Jerusha Agen
  • Monday, December 9: London by Jennifer Fromke
  • Tuesday, December 10: Paris by Marji Laine
  • Wednesday, December 11: South Africa by Debbie Roome
  • Thursday, December 12: Guatemala by Phee Paradise
  • Friday, December 13: read Ruby's return home when the entire book releases on Kindle

Over on my other blog, I'm going to post each day with a bit of information about the featured author, some links, and a direct link to her chapter. So please visit over there for more fun and information each day from December 1 through the 13th, and all the links.

Many of the authors are also guest posting on blogs on their featured days, so I'll include links to those articles as well, over on my Deliver Me Book blog.

Get the whole book for free

The final chapters will release with the entire book exclusively on Amazon's Kindle and will be free on Kindle from December 13 through the 16th.

After that, the book will be just $ .99 for the rest of the month.

Don't have a Kindle? No problem. You can get the free program to make your computer a Kindle reader. Here are the links to do that. The program is direct from Amazon and therefore should be safe to download:

I hope you won't mind, but I just might send a mid-month post as a reminder to get the free book and to give you a link to the e-book when it's released.

Get the first collaborative novella from 2012...

This isn't the first collaborative novella Write Integrity has done. The idea debuted last year with A Christmas Tree Treasure Hunt.

I didn't take part in that project, but I enjoyed the story. It's still available and is climbing the Amazon charts again this year. So if you simply can't wait for the next chapter of A Ruby Christmas, grab that one and enjoy!

One more thing...

Get in on the Contest and Prizes!

And oh yea...did I forget to mention there's a contest for prizes? Well of course there's a contest and prizes! Something about seeing a photo that has been altered on the daily featured author's blog... Then finding the same un-altered photo on the publisher's Pinterest page... Then sending the publisher an e-mail with the differences... And you're entered in a drawing for a prize?

Gosh, you'll just have to visit for those details.

Hmmm, I wonder what the prizes are going to be...

Why do a collaborative novel?

Well of course I can't let my writing blog go without talking a bit about business. That is, after all, why this blog exists: to share what I've learned (or am learning) about publishing and to help you with your writing and publishing.

So I thought you might like to ask me, "Why do a collaborative novel?" Well I'm so glad you asked.

When I first thought about jumping on board with the project this year, I was quite intimidated by the whole thing. Build a story off of someone else's idea? Would I be able to come up with a story for my chapter?

Would my fiction-writing be up to snuff compared to the other authors who have published more fiction than I have?

You know, all the usual writer-ly insecurities.

But going on faith that I would be able to overcoming all those concerns, I started to think of the benefits to being involved.

First of all, I'd be able to offer all of you who have followed my monthly e-zine for so many years, and then this blog, something free for your enjoyment... Well that sounded like fun (and maybe a bit intimidating, too).

Then I thought about the exposure. Based on how much exposure A Christmas Tree Treasure Hunt got last year, there would be a lot of people reading my one chapter.

Add to that the fact that at the end of the book, each author gets a page for a bio, photo, and links to my other books and, well, that moved the opportunity into the "it's a no-brainer" category.

Plus, with nine authors involved, all of us working to let our readers know about the project, and it seemed like a great way to earn more readers for my other books. I will be exposed to those people the other authors get to read the book, just as I'm introducing you to the other eight authors, if you don't already know them.

The whole thing just seemed like a great opportunity. So I took the plunge.

Have you ever taken part in a collaborative novel or other project? How did it turn out for you?

Please leave a comment and let us know what you think of A Ruby Christmas. And if you feel inclined, it would be great if you'd write a short, honest review on also. Thank you!

Wishing you "A Ruby Christmas"

That's my way, this year, of saying Merry Christmas. I hope A Ruby Christmas helps you kick off the holiday season with many good things and mighty blessings.

Next month we'll get back to business. But until then, I pray God blesses your Christmas and New Year with reminders of Him and His love for you and yours.


Discover "A Ruby Christmas." @BAboutWriting @DianneEButts #WIP #PNP #ARubyChristmas  Tweet it

Read free chapters "A Ruby Christmas."  @DianneEButts #WIP #PNP #ARubyChristmas  Tweet it

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At December 1 - 13, 2013

A Special Note

As if all this with A Ruby Christmas isn't enough... I also have a new book of my own releasing soon! Watch for Prophecies Fulfilled in the Life of Jesus, the third in my nonfiction "Prophecies Fulfilled" series. This new book should be out in December from Pix-N-Pens Publishing. Watch for it on Amazon and other outlets. Thank you!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Discovering Goodreads
logo used with permission
If you haven't discovered Goodreads yet, you're missing out on a golden opportunity. Whether you're an author with books to promote or a reader who loves to read, Goodreads is the premier place for book lovers to gather and discuss the books they are reading, writing, reviewing, and loving.

Goodreads currently has 20 million members. They have added 570 million books to their site and members have generated 24 million book reviews. Its a book-lover's paradise.

Goodreads used to be privately owned but in a surprise move it was bought by on March 28, 2013. The acquisition of Goodreads by Amazon shocked many business people who had previously seen Goodreads as giving some competition to Amazon's Shelfari (and winning that competition. Seriously, is anybody on Shelfari?). Perhaps some also saw it as a conflict of interest with Amazon getting rid of the competition by buying them out. But that's a fair move in business. Either way, Goodreads is alive and thriving.

I've been a Goodreads member for a few years now, but honestly I'm still learning a lot about it and how to use it. For example, just a few weeks ago, via their newsletter, I learned I could send a "status update" to all my followers and fans. Who knew?! I sure didn't know I could do that.

Whether you've been on Goodreads for a while yourself or you're new to Goodreads, let me share what I've learned and discovered about what we can do there. There is so much, surely there's something here that's new for you.
logo used with permission

Join for free

Goodreads is free to join, and you can sign in with your Facebook which makes it easy.

Connect with Friends

Similar to Facebook, you send Friend Requests and the person on the other end can accept your request or not. I found a lot of friends by reviewing the Friend lists of others and sending requests from there. But beware, Goodreads frowns on sending mass Friend requests and you can reach a daily limit.

Since I joined in January 2008, I had accumulated 466 friends...until a few weeks ago when I realized I had never used their link to send Friend invitations to my Twitter Followers. I clicked that and the Friends started coming! In less than two weeks, I added over 200 new Friends to my list.

I have yet to send invitations to my Facebook friends or e-mail lists, although those options are there, too. Find them on your Friends page. (Click the little people icon at the top right by your photo and you'll see it on the right: "Find Friends From.")


What you can do as a Reader

Here are just some of the activities Readers find and can take part in on Goodreads that I've discovered. But I don't think I've listed everything:

Friend others.

Follow people and get followers.
The difference between Friends and Followers is that you send or receive a Friend request and accept it or not. It's a two-way relationship. A Follower doesn't need your permission to follow you and read your reviews. (I think I got that right. It's confusing.) You can be Friend, a Follower, or both.

See which books our Friends are reading.

Read reviews. Write reviews.

Challenge yourself to read a certain number of books and keep track.

Shelve books, including books you want to read, books you are reading, books you own, and more.

Track the books you are reading, want to read, etc.

Enter a Goodreads Giveaway. There are tons of them and you might win a free book. These are often newly released books. If you win a giveaway, a review is appreciated but not required.

Join a group. There are tons of these too -- for every genre you can think of, for reviewers, for Christian books, and so much more. There are discussions and networking opportunities and more.

Get book recommendations. Based on what you've read and reviewed, Goodreads will recommend other books you might like.

What you can do as an Author

Sign up for the free Author Program Goodreads has an author program where you can set up your own Author Page. You can add a photo, a bio, links to your other sites, and more. Fans can follow you.

Goodreads says, "The Goodreads Author Program is a completely free feature designed to help authors reach their target audience — passionate readers. This is the perfect place for new and established authors to promote their books."

There are guidelines for authors you should read when you set up your page. If you don't find your book(s) already on their site, they will add them for you. Self-published books are welcome here. (Although I think they need to be available online somewhere, not just from your garage. But if that's your situation, check it out.)

Connect your blog, so it appears on your author page.

Add a video or trailer for your book.

Host a Goodreads Giveaway. You set it up and choose the dates it will run (maximum 90 days),  how many books to give away, and where in the world the giveaway will be available. You'll add a description of the book. People can enter to win a copy of your book. Goodreads will randomly choose the winners and send you the list with addresses. You are responsible for getting the book to the winners in a timely manner. (If you choose to make your giveaway available outside the U.S., such as in Canada and the U.K., you can deliver the book by buying it as a gift and having it delivered through Amazon.) Goodreads Giveaway are for print books only, not e-books.

Goodreads Giveaways generate fantastic exposure for your book. Not only can members enter to win, many more of them mark it as "want to read," which generates more exposure for you, getting your book title and cover in front of more potential readers and book buyers.

List your Events. Similar to Facebook, Goodreads has an "Events” function. I use it to list every upcoming author event and appearance I'm planning. To list an Event, click on the “Explore” menu, then on “Events,” then on “Add an Event.”

List some Quotes. On my Author Page I can add both "Dianne's Quotes" and "Quotes from Dianne." I guess the first would be my favorites from other sources and the latter from myself? I want to find some interesting quotes from my books and add them here.

Click "quotes" on the Explore menu, then click "Add A Quote."

Send a General Update. I just learned about this! As an author, I'm now trying to send an update about once a week. Here's quoting from the Goodreads newsletter:

Want to let people know that giveaway winners have been selected or that you're in the process of reviewing the edits on your manuscript? Tell them in a status update!

Status updates are a quick way to broadcast a short message -- up to 420 characters -- to your followers on Goodreads. Updates appear in the news feed, where you friends and followers can like them and comment on them.

Create a status update from the "Currently Reading" section of your home page when logged into Goodreads.

You'll find it in the upper right corner of the "Currently Reading" box. It's a link called "add a general update."

Put a Goodreads widget on your blogs and sites. They give you the code to copy and paste into your html so people can Friend you or enter your Goodreads Giveaway. To see mine, look in the right hand column (you may have to scroll up to see it), or click this link: "Giveaway" or click on the "Giveaway" tab at the top of this page. But come right back because we're not quite done!

What Authors and Readers can do

At least I think both Authors and general members can do these next three things. It's hard for me to tell because as a Goodreads Author, certain things show up on my pages that general members don't see and I can't tell whether some of these things are available to general members or not. If you discover they're not available to everyone, please leave a comment and let us all know.

Find these next three under the Explore menu.

I've also seen links to these next three on other pages, but I can't tell you where because I can't find them again! (Which is one of the drawbacks of Goodreads. I've seen interesting things but then later have no idea how to find them again. But I'm learning...)

Listopia. Great fun for general members.But Authors can also make good use of these to add their own books, so make a list of your favorite books or genre then include your own books!

Trivia. If you're a general member (meaning not a Goodreads Author), can you see this one? I'm working on finding some interesting trivia in my Prophecies Fulfilled books to post here. 

Click "trivia" on the Explore menu, then click "Add a question" on the Trivia Question bar.

Quizzes.  Again, if you're a general member I believe you can see this one. I'm working to figure out some good but challenging questions from both the Christmas story in the Bible and the Easter story. It will be fun to see if my quizzes bring more attention to my Prophecies Fulfilled books.

Click "quizzes" on the Explore menu, then click "create a quiz." Also take a few of the quizzes. They are fun and they'll spark some ideas for creating your own.

Please enter my Goodreads Giveaway

If you're already a member of Goodreads, you're all set to enter my Goodreads Giveaway. You can click to enter from this page.

If you're not yet a Goodreads member, now that you're familiar with it, why not give it a go? Once you join or login, look me up here:

Send me a Friend request and I'll be your first friend. Or Follow my author page as a Fan if you want.

After you join, don't forget to enter my Goodreads Giveaway. You can come back here to enter, or you can find my Giveaway in the many other Giveaways. Go to the Giveaways from the Explore menu. Then find "Browse by Tag" on the right-hand side. Click "More..." at the bottom and then choose "Christian" and you'll find my book in there somewhere. I think they put the newest on top, so you'll have to scroll down to find mine and maybe even go to the next page. I hope you win!

Related Goodreads Article

Thinking you don't need one more social network to keep up with? This article by literary agent Janet Kobobel Grant gives great advice for authors to make the most of Goodreads in only one visit per week: 5 Ways To Increase Visibility Through Goodreads

Here's a short video with Otis Chandler, CEO and Co-founder of Goodreads:


December: Something fun and different coming next month

For December, we're going to do something a little different. Call it a special Christmas treat, my Christmas gift to you.

You're going to get treated to a free sample of my fiction ... as well as free chapters by other Pix-N-Pens / Write Integrity Press authors. Then we're going to put all these chapters together to make one e-book and, if you're paying attention, you'll be able to get the whole e-book for free for a limited time. So please tune in on the first of December for all the details. You'll know:
  • where to find the free chapters
  • when and where my chapter will appear
  • and when and how to get the whole book for free (and later for a great discount)
It's going to be fun. Instead of being all business, we're going to take some time to relax and enjoy the holiday season. It will be a great way to kick off your Christmas season. We hope you'll be blessed!


Discovering #Goodreads @DianneEButts   Click to Tweet

How to promote your #book through Goodreads   @DianneEButts   Click to Tweet

#Authors discover all the ways to #promoteyourbook at #Goodreads!  @DianneEButts Click to Tweet

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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

How I Changed My Facebook Book's Page to an Author Page

Sometimes I'm amazed at the things I just "happen" to catch on Facebook. Not long ago I saw a post on Facebook that helped me solve a dilemma I'd been wrestling with. An author posted on Facebook that she was changing her book's Facebook page to an author page--the exact thing that I'd been wanting to do but didn't think was possible! Here's the story:

I was playing with Twitter and I Followed another author under my Twitter handle for my Grandparenting Through Obstacles book, @GParentObstacle. The Twitter handle I followed is @ppmint777. Well, @ppmint777 sent me a thank you for Following her with this message:
@pprmint777:  Appreciate the follow! Find me on Facebook! 
I clicked the link to check out her Facebook page, and there I just happened to see her latest post informing her fans that her page would be changing its name soon and they should see that change taking effect in a few weeks. Her name is Linda W. Yezak and her book is Give the Lady a Ride.

Her post caught my eye because this was the same thing I had been wanting to do but didn't think it could be done. I opened a Facebook Page a few years ago specifically for my book (about 2011, I think, when I was publishing my book Deliver Me). The best advice I was hearing back then was that we writers/authors should create Facebook Pages to connect with our readers.

Well... I remember thinking at the time that I didn't know exactly what would be the best way to do this. Name the page for my book? Create an author page? I already had a personal account under my name, so should I open another one under my name as an author? That didn't make sense. I wasn't sure, but I knew I needed to do something. So I decided to create a page for my most recent book. (My first book, Dear America, had been published ten years earlier and I wasn't quite sure what to do with that either. Create a page for it too?)

And then last August my book with co-author Renee Gray-Wilburn released and, together, we opened a Facebook page for it here: Grandparenting Through Obstacles on Facebook.

Since then I've had two more new books come out. And I have more on the way! What am I supposed to do? Open a new page for each new book?

That's just too overwhelming to keep up with. Plus, it's not a wise use of those contacts because they are all on separate pages. Doesn't it make more sense to cross-market all these books in one place, on one page? Sure it does.

Meanwhile I noticed a lot of my author friends were opening "Author Pages." I'd already started building "Likes" on my Deliver Me Book page and had over a hundred Likes. I hated to loose all that work and start over with a new Author page. But what else could I do?

That's why Linda Yezak's comment on her Facebook page so caught my attention. Turns out she had the same dilemma. Her Facebook page was for her book Give the Lady a Ride but she also has new books coming. She, too, wanted to convert her book's Facebook Page to an Author page.

So after I "Liked" her Facebook page, I returned to Twitter and wrote her this note. (Hope u can read my Twitter shorthand.):
@GParentObstacle: Liked your fb page. If u want to like mine it’s Deliver Me Book. Noticed ur changing to ur author name. Didn’t know we cud. Iwant 2 do same!
She responded to my note.
@pprmint777:  TY! Go here to change your name: Be sure to follow up with the email they send you.  
So I said:
@GParentObstacle:  THANK YOU!!! That is fantastic. Had no idea that was possible. I want to make it my author’s page instead of one book’s page!
And she said:
@pprmint777:  Me too. They wanted proof of business, and I told them an author page instead of a book page and didn't have proof. They let me change it.

After I did a little research on Facebook's Help page, I learned:
  • You can edit your Page's name by clicking on "Edit Page," then "Update Page Info."
  • If you have more than 200 Likes, you have to request the change (on the same "Edit Page").
  • I didn't get an e-mail like Linda did because I had fewer than 200 Likes and could make the change myself. I didn't get asked to prove I was a business.
  • If you have over 200 Likes, you can only request a change once, so think it through and make sure you choose a new name wisely because once you change it, it's set in stone.

The new name of my now-Author Page is

For once I left out my middle initial.

I recently heard a tip for doing radio interviews: be sure to give a website that is easy to remember. That's because a lot of people are driving or doing other things while listening to the radio and they can't write down your URL. So make it easy to remember! Boy that makes sense, doesn't it?

The problem is, when you have an usually spelled name and your website is your name, that can be hard. Frankly I'm just a bit weary of always having to explain that my name is spelled with two n's and an e. And then my middle initial is e. So this time I went with what I hope is an easier URL to give out and for people to remember. Because I want them to find me! And if they find me once, then they can find my websites and blogs, too.

But remember: if you change the URL to your Facebook Page, then any links you've put elsewhere won't work anymore. Which reminds me, I think I have a link at the right of this page for you to connect to my Facebook Page. I guess I'd better change that!

I've also posted a link to my (old) Facebook page in some Facebook Groups. I can't go back and change those since they're posts on the wall. So I hope savvy Facebookers will know what happened there. Just think, now you're a savvy-er Facebooker too!

If you don't have a Facebook Author Page yet, it's easy to set up. First you must have a personal Facebook account, so if you don't yet have one you have to do that first. Then you can create a Page here:

Pages are different than your personal account (called your Timeline). Your personal timeline is for individuals and each person can have only one. Then you can have multiple Pages on that account. Pages are not separate accounts but are connected to your personal account and use the same login information. On Personal Timelines you get Friends and you Friend other people. On Pages you get Likes. There are other differences. See Facebook's Help section (click on the "gear" icon in the upper right of your homepage and you'll see "Help" on the dropdown menu). Then ask Help, "How are Pages different from personal timelines?" and you'll learn more.

If you're interested in seeing my "new" Facebook Author Page, please stop by here:  I also put a new header on my Page which was fun. Tell me what you think of it in a comment either here on the blog or on the FB Page. I'd love it if you'd give me a "Like" too! Thanks.

Just this week I talked with another author who asked me what I planned to write about on the e-zine blog this month. When I told her what I had planned, she said she was excited because she, too, had been wanting to change her Facebook Page and didn't know how. So I hope this month's blog is helpful to you too in changing or creating your Facebook Author Page.

[CORRECTION: October 2, 2013 at 11:29: I mistakenly put the link to my regular Facebook account instead of my new Author Page so that link has been corrected. Thank you to reader Susan who informed me of my mistake!]


@DianneEButts - How I Changed My Facebook Book Page to an Author Page  Click to Tweet

@DianneEButts - How to Create a Facebook Author Page  Click to Tweet

Related Articles:
5 Ways to Get the Word Out About Your Author Event - Learn how to create a Facebook event.

Hey guess what! I've joined Pinterest. (I'm still trying to figure out how to use that one.) If you're on Pinterest, you can now Pin my posts! (I hope this Pin It button works! If it doesn't work, please let me know in a comment.)

Sunday, September 1, 2013

What To Do at Your In-Store Author Event (AKA "Author Book Signing") and How To Make It a Success - Part 2

Me at my "Author Event" at my church in June 2013.
Want a cookie?
Last month we talked about how to get an in-store author event (also known as an "author book signing") set up in a bookstore, whether it is independently owned or a chain store. Now that we have an event set up with a store, let's talk about what to do when you get there, while you're there, and how to make your author event/book signing a success.

1.) Being ready for anything

When you arrive at the store for your event, view it as an adventure. It's going to be exciting and fun, and truly anything can happen. Again, put on your very best business manners and determine that no matter what happens, you're going to meet the challenge with a smile, patience, abundant grace, and good humor when appropriate.

Be ready for customers to ask you anything, including "Where's the bathroom?" (you should know the answer to this one) or "Do you carry those little thingies I see people clipping to their car's sun visors?" (No kidding. I got that question. Luckily a store employee was nearby, heard the question, and knew exactly what the customer was talking about. Go figure.)

Also be ready for anything while working with the manager and the store staff. Not too long ago I arrived at a store and, when the manager saw me pulling my crate on wheels filled with my books, table decorations, and cookies in the door, she asked if she could help me as if I were a customer. I had stopped in and talked with her a few weeks earlier to make these arrangements. I realized right away she had completely forgotten I was coming. After a few minutes, she recognized me and began to remember. But she apparently had not only forgotten I had scheduled an event, she didn't remember that she was supplying me with a table and that we had discussed a location near the door.

Needless to say there was no table set up ready and waiting for me. I had to exercise patience as I watched customers come in and walk right past me while she got an employee to find a table, bring it to the front, and set it up for me.

2.) Setting up Your Space 

Here are some tips I've learned for setting up your author event space:

Table Location

You need to be near the entrance to the store where people can see you when they come in and where you can greet customers as they enter the store. This usually isn't a problem.

However... Remember that event when the manager forgot I was coming? She had wanted to set up my table at the back of her (very large) store. We had talked about that when I was in and had agreed I could be at the front of the store. But she had forgotten that discussion and again said she would set up the table at the back of the store. I immediately said, "I need to be at the front of the store or else no one will know I'm here."

Remember when I said you need to be ready for anything? This manager actually got a little testy and sarcastic. She asked if I really expected her to move an entire display to make room for me? I was actually surprised. And I could have responded with equal testiness and sarcasm, but since I had put on my very best business manners before I came in the store, I simply and softly said, "No ma'am. I don't expect you to move one of your displays to make room for me." And then I kept my mouth shut.

After a long moment, she softened and said, "What about over there?" The spot was in the center aisle behind a tall display (so no one coming in the door could see the table, or even me standing up) and was squished between the back of another display and a large post support post. I said okay (because I knew what I could do with that spot near the front of the store).

Do you think I stayed behind that display? After I set up my table, with cookies, I took one of my books to the front entrance of the store and endeavored to greet every single customer that came in that door for the rest of the day--and it was a very busy day. I ended up selling more than twenty books and I impressed the manager. At the end of the day, she said so. What could have been a disaster turned into a great event and sales day.

If you're ever put at the back of the store, you don't have to stay at your table. (Don't leave any valuables on it unattended.) Honestly, if she had put the table at the back of the store, I still would have been standing with my book at the front of the store. (Regardless of where you are, you need to walk around the store and talk to people.) For me, that just would have meant more walking back and forth to get another book from the table. Be polite. Don't go against what the manager tells you that you may do in her store. Don't burn any bridges. But do what you need to do to make your event a success.

Create an eye-appealing display

Bring a pretty table cloth and a table, but leave them in your car until you know if you need them.

You can bring decorations, like a vase of flowers (I use fake ones to eliminate an accidental spilling of vase water on my books, ruining them) or a bouquet of balloons. You can get a stand-up acrylic flyer holder to display a poster showing the award(s) your book has won. If you're artistic, you might get a small chalk board with colored chalks to give a message such as "Meet the Author" or which book you're featuring that day. To create an eye-appealing display, think of height as well as color that compliment your book.

Display your book(s)

Bring one or more book easels for your book(s). People see a book better and more are likely to buy when it is sitting up and visible rather than laying flat on the table. Don't lean your display book on a stack of books. And definitely don't display a book on top of a stack of books because it make it hard for someone to pick one up to look at it.

More you can put on your table

A plate of cookies, a bowl of chocolates, or some other goodie attracts people to your table.

You might want to offer your business cards, especially if you're a speaker or have another ministry where you would like people to contact you.

Offer small fliers or bookmarks with information on your other books. Tuck one into each book you sell. I often make these myself, four across on regular sized paper turn out about the size of a bookmark. Use both sides to list your book titles, web sites, blogs, Twitter, or a helpful list or informative quote from your book. Make two-sided copies on colorful paper at an office supply store and use their paper cutter to cut them. In your fliers and bookmarks be careful not to mention that customers can purchase your books at the store's biggest competitor,, or that your books are available on e-readers such as Kindle or Nook (unless you're at a Barnes & Noble store). In other words don't advertise for the store's competition while you're a guest in this store.

Also be careful not to make your table too full or busy-looking. As we discussed last month about "choice fatigue," too many different books can be overwhelming to customers. You don't want too many titles competing against each other. As mentioned before, it's better to hold more events featuring different books at each than to have your titles competing against each other.

3.) What to do now that your Author Event has begun... 

What is the first and most important thing do during your author event? Get up! Don't sit on your butt behind a table. Maybe if you're famous and the line for your book is stretching out the door and around the block, you need to sit behind the table and sign. But I don't tend to have that problem.

The days of an author sitting behind a table waiting for people to come are over, if they ever existed anywhere but in the movies or on TV, are over and long gone.

You must get up, get out from behind that table, and go greet your guests.

Most people will not approach you. Some are shy and intimidated. Most are busy and come in with a list of what they need and no time to spare.

A table between you and the store's guests creates a barrier. This barrier subconsciously communicates that you are unapproachable. If you sit behind a table, don't expect anyone to come up to you except possibly the kids who only really want a cookie.

Listen to me: you are working. You are like an employee in the store (though you are not an employee). You are serving your guests, your readers and potential readers. In my opinion, it is rude for you to expect them to come to you. They don't know you have that expectation. You need to go to them. For those of you who are Christians, this is like taking the Gospel to the people. You can sit in a church and hope or expect they'll to come to you, but in reality that ain't happenin'. Or you can get off your butt and take it to them. Servants take it to the people. Servants don't expect the people to come to them. Got it?

So what do you do ? How do you "take it to the people"? Answer: you "work the crowd."

4.) Working the crowd

Like it or not,  you must "work the crowd." How? You take a copy of your book and go talk to the people.

You develop your spiel. Have you ever heard about an "elevator pitch," that short pitch authors are told they need to develop to tell agents and publishers about their book in a short time, like on an elevator ride? Do you know how you develop one of those? Don't worry, I'll tell you how right now: You tell someone about your book. The first time you do it, you stumble and talk all around the topic and finally, maybe, get it said. You do that a dozen times and you start figuring out how to get it said. You do that another dozen times and you find it's getting shorter, you're honing it down. After another dozen or so, you've finally got it down to perfection. So get out there and get started!

"Hi! I'm Dianne and we're doing an in-store author event today. We're featuring this book right here: Prophecies Fulfilled in the Birth of Jesus. As I read through the Christmas story in the Bible, I discovered 35 prophecies that were written in the Old Testament and then were fulfilled in every detail in the birth of Jesus. I wrote 35 short chapters, one on each of those 35 prophecies."

At this point, you can tell whether or not they are interested in hearing more...or not. If they are looking past you and still moving, in a hurry, they are not interested. Let them go. Simply say, "Thanks for your time. Please take a cookie before you leave the store." Smile and move your eyes to the next customer coming in the door.

If they stop, look in your eyes waiting for more, or look at your book, maybe take it from your hands to thumb through, they are interested. Give them more. "In each of those 35 chapters," I say, opening the book, "I gave a key verse with the prophecy. Then I tell you where this prophecy was first given in the Bible, who said it, when, and in what context. Then we talk about how it was fulfilled in the events surrounding the birth of Jesus. At the end of every chapter there are three application questions, a Final Thought from me, a prayer, and where you can read more in the Bible on similar topics if you want to."

By now they are either taking the book from my hands to look at it or saying "No thank you," and moving on. If they want more, keep going...

"This is a great resource for individual study, family devotions, a small group Bible study, or a book club."

If they're still standing there listening, they want more. So keep going: "One of my favorite chapters in the book is about the Star of Bethlehem. You know, that prophecy that the Magi found that caused them to follow the star to Jesus..."

Your Author Event is not so much about selling books as it is about meeting your readers or potential readers, getting to know them, and helping them get to know you and your books. It's about serving them by showing them you have something that will help them or entertain them or add joy to their busy, tired, troubled life. Remember that principle and you'll do fine.

Also remember that every person you talk to, even those who say they are not interested, have heard about your book and may seek it out later. The seed has been planted. None of your efforts are wasted.

5.) Use a sharpie.

Now guess what? You've made a sale! Someone wants your book. Now what do you do?!
  • First, ask if they want the book signed. Most people will. A few will not.
  • Then ask if you want it signed to them personally? Some people definitely want their name in the book. If they don't, you can sign it "generically," just putting your cute saying and your signature. Some people want to read the book and then pass it on to a friend, and so they don't want their name in it. A few are buying it for someone else and want you to sign it to that person, so be sure to ask. Also ask for the spelling of the name and get it right. Write it first on a scratch paper if you need to.
  • Do not sign with a ball point pen. I'm told they fade. Instead, bring a Sharpie. They come in colors and I like to choose a color that goes well with my book's cover.
  • You might like to make up a saying to write before you sign your name, but it's not required. You can say something like, "I'll meet you in the pages" or a statement tied to the message of your book. 
  • Sign the Title page. I've noticed a lot of authors these days sign arbitrary pages. Some insist on signing the inside of the cover. Traditionally, the author signs the Title page.
  • If the book is a compilation I've contributed to, and if I'm not rushed, I will also sign the page(s) where my contribution appears. I put my cute message and signature on the Title page, then just sign my name on my story in the book.

6.) Expectations of sales and how a store pays

Most of the time it is true that we don't sell many books at a book signing. By using the techniques I've listed above like working the room and developing a spiel, I've increased my sales. But still, don't expect to sell hundreds or even dozens of books unless you're famous. Still, hosting in-store Author Events is valuable for your career, a lot of fun, and a great way to get out of your writing office for a day. So I encourage you to do it. Go out and bless the stores that sell our books.

Most of the time I bring the books. If the store carries my books on their shelves, I sell theirs first (because I've already been paid when the store purchased them). This isn't an issue with my new books, but might be if they still have previous books on their shelves. At my most recent event, I brought my new book and we agreed the owner would pull my other books off her shelves and put them on the table. We sold some of my books that had been on her shelves (one for ten years) and sold all but one of my most recent book (which she had already paid me for). After the event she ended up buying four more of those from me to put back on her shelves, plus her usual half dozen of my newest book. See? You don't lose out by helping them sell what is on their shelves. Always keep track of your inventory--what you bring into the store.

Rarely the store will order the books in advance and then you would get only the usual royalties from your publisher, but you're increasing your sales/royalties and gaining more readers. Some stores will not allow you to bring in books if they already carry it.

Stores pay you in different ways, and you should have discussed what you'll be paid and how you'll be paid before your event. Some of them pay me on the spot at the end of the event. Some stores can tell how many sales there were from their electronic cash registers and they will check your number. You will share the sales with the store--usually a percentage. Some pay me 60% of cover price. Some have me figure the profits, meaning subtracting my cost of the book, and then we split the remaining profits 50/50. Some pay me in cash while others write me a check. Some stores have me fill out a form, figuring what I will be paid. The form is then sent to corporate headquarters and I receive a check in four to six weeks.

A few stores take books on consignment. I've grown reluctant to sell on consignment except for special cases such as stores nearby my home. My reason is that I've seen few sales from consignments, which means my books are sitting on a shelf in a store in another state and I never hear from them again. So I no longer have the books in my inventory and I don't have the money either. I've just decided I need to have either the books or the money.

I hope these two posts on in-store author events have been helpful to you. Make yourself a checklist for your event prep as well as what to take with you for the event. Take some snacks and water. While I told you to get out from behind the table, do take time to sit and rest. Take care of yourself. Some stores have me in for a few hours, some for all day. Either way you'll be tired at the end. But it's a good tired.

Have you held author events? Do you have other tips? Or do you have questions? Post them in the comments section. And let us know about your events when you set them up!


@DianneEButts How to Make Your In-Store Author Event (AKA "Author Book Signing") a Success - Part 2:   Click to Tweet

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Friday, August 30, 2013

Saturday, August 31, I will be at The Greatest Gift & Scripture Supply Store showing off my newest book Prophecies Fulfilled in the Death & Resurrection of Jesus.

This is the sequel to my book that released last Christmas, Prophecies Fulfilled in the Birth of Jesus.

If you're in the area, please stop by! I'll be there from 12:00 noon to 5:00.

If you're looking for a great resource to lead a Bible study, or family devotions, a discussion for a nonfiction book club, or your own individual study, this book will give you plenty of good, solid information and questions that apply the information to our lives today.

In Prophecies Fulfilled in the Death & Resurrection of Jesus, you'll rediscover 52 prophecies that were foretold -- sometimes hundreds of years earlier -- and then fulfilled in the events surrounding Jesus' arrest, crucifixion, death, and resurrection.

Each of the 52 short chapters in the book explores one prophecy fulfilled, including:
  • Why Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey
  • The significance of the fact Judas was paid thirty silver coins
  • The prophecy of the Potter’s Field
  • The prediction of Peter’s three denials
  • Caiaphas’ words “it is better for one man to die than a whole nation perish”
  • The meaning of the crown of thorns
  • The prophecy in the scapegoat
  • Why Jesus was led outside of the city to be crucified
  • The prophecy in the snake on the pole
  • The prophecy that the soldiers would divide up His clothes
  • The prophecy that not one of Jesus' bones would be broken
  • Where it was prophesied hundreds of years earlier that He would be pierced
  • The significance of the myrrh given at His birth.
  • The two signs of Jonah
  • Why Jesus claimed He could rebuild the Temple in three days
  • Where it was prophesied that Jesus' body would not see decay
  • And many more...
Discover where these prophecies were first given, in what context, how they came to be fulfilled in every detail, and much more. Each chapter includes application and discussion questions, Bible readings, suggested prayers, and so much more.

This book will strengthen your faith. When we see God's promises and then see them fulfilled perfectly, we gain confidence that He is in complete control -- no matter what we see going on in the world. And we know that He will also bring to perfect completion the remaining prophecies that are yet to be fulfilled...but will be fulfilled very soon, and some are already being fulfilled right before our very eyes.

In our troubled times, what do we need most? We need our faith in God strong enough to carry us through. That's what you'll gain from this book: it will strengthen your faith for the future.

Looking for a great read or study to get you ready for Christmas? Consider the first book in this series:  Prophecies Fulfilled in the Birth of Jesus. Also great for individual study, small group Bible studies, family devotions, and nonfiction book clubs.



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Thursday, August 1, 2013

How to Set Up an In-Store Author Event (AKA "Author Book Signing") - Part 1

Dianne with store owner, Ginny, at The Lighthouse, La Junta, CO
Featuring my new Christmas book,
Prophecies Fulfilled in the Birth of Jesus, and other books.
Some authors have asked me how to go about setting up an author's book signing in a bookstore. I've set up many of these--both in independently-owned bookstores and in national chains. I've learned a ton through my personal experiences about the how-tos and the what-to-dos and what-NOT-to-dos. So let me share what I've learned with you.

I have so much information to share that I'm going to spend two posts on this topic--this month's and next month's. This month we'll talk about how to set it up. Next month we'll talk about what to do when you get there for and during your book signing.

By the way, I'm terribly conscious that I've been talking mostly to book writers in this blog lately. That simply reflects where my career is right now. But my e-zine (which turned into this blog) started out talking mostly to article writers. (That reflected where my career was then.) My desire is to write for both and make this blog useful for both. The problem is, when I have my head to into writing books (like I do right now since I have book contracts I'm writing to fulfill), I can't think of article-writing topics or what you article-writers might need to know. So if you are an article writer and have a question or topic you'd like me to address, please put it in a comment to this blog and I'll see it. Plus, I've discovered some new writing opportunities so click on the menu tab above to check those out.

Now, let's talk about how an author can set up an "in-store author event" (also known as an "Author Book Signing"). I've stopped calling my events a "book signing" because that term seems not only to not excite anybody anymore, but actually seems to turn people off--both bookstore managers and potential customers. Think about it. A book signing pictures an author sitting behind a table signing books. It's all sedentary. There's no action. Boooorrrring. Make your signing an Event. Practice calling it that and put it on your posters and fliers, and you'll do much better.

1.) How to approach a store manager

First, make a list of the bookstores in your area. You can add to your list by moving outwardly to nearby towns and cities. Or if you're planning a trip, you might want to see if you can hold an author event in distant cities when you're traveling.

I get far better results if I stop in and talk to the store manager in person than if I call on the phone. But for those stores that are not nearby, you can contact them by phone.

If you're working by phone I strongly suggest you check out the store before you call. I once asked a friend if there was a bookstore in her small town. She said there was one, but she gave me a very skeptical look. She told me where it was. The next time I passed through that town, I checked it out. It was in an old house in the middle of the block. I parked in front and climbed the steps to the front door. I could see shelves of books through the front window. When I stepped inside there was no one in the front room, but a musty smell met me. I could hear voices coming from a back room but no one came. Books were stacked in dusty piles everywhere along with old boxes of magazines. It was awful. I would have been embarrassed to hold an author event there, but I wouldn't have known that if I had only called on the phone and had never seen the place before arriving for my event. I turned and left and as far as I know the owner of that store never knew I was there.

So when you stop by a store (or call), what should you do and say? First, you should be dressed for a business meeting, probably office-casual. (No frumpy t-shirts, ragged blue jeans, or ugly shorts or sandals.) Make a good first impression.

When you arrive, tell a store employee you'd like to ask about hosting an author event and ask who you should talk to. Usually it's the store manager. Sometimes there is an event coordinator.

Take a copy of your book(s) with you. Tell manager you're an author and you'd like to talk to her (or him) about hosting an author event in her store. Ask, "Do you have time to talk now or should I schedule a time to come back?" Be flexible, professional, and respectful of her time. Store managers will drop anything to talk to a customer, but you are not a customer--you are a fellow business person and she is on the clock. If she needs to schedule time later to talk to you, do so. If the store is not close to you and it would be hard for you to wait around or come back, ask if you can call her and have that meeting by phone. She has already seen you, sized you up, and has seen you are a professional, so doing the rest of your business by phone is not a problem.

Whether you have the discussion right then or later, here's what to do...

2.) What to expect and what you need

The first thing you need to know is that, from my experience, the store manager will most likely not be happy that you are approaching her about an in-store author event. Most managers I've met with see author signings as an imposition rather than a way to gain more sales or draw in more customers. No doubt this attitude comes from their past experiences with authors: they've done this before and it did nothing positive for their store. I'm out to change that. I hope you're with me.

When you tell her face to face that you'll like to host an author event, you'll be able to judge her attitude toward author signings in her reaction. Do her eyes light up with excitement? Or...not? She may come out and tell you that author book signings don't sell many books or don't draw in many customers. Many times I've heard, "They don't do any good." Don't let that discourage you.

You can acknowledge her concerns and past experiences. Tell her it is your aim to make your presence in her store as much of a blessing to the store as the event will be to you as an author. Tell her you will take care of everything and it won't cost her anything, other than arranging for her cashiers to be able to sell your book(s) through her check-out system. (This won't be a problem. She'll enter your book's bar code info in her system and you're set.) The one thing you need from her is a location near the front of the store where you can greet customers as they come in. Tell her you can even bring your own table if need be.

Talk with her. Work with her. By the time you finish reading this and next month's posts, you'll know what to plan and what to do, so you can speak to her with confidence that you have a plan to make your event successful.* You can talk with her about the details of what you plan--what you'll have on your table, which book(s) you'll feature, what hours you can be there. Make adjustments if she doesn't like an idea or has a better one. See what you can work out. Put on your very best office/professional manners (but don't be gushy and don't over-promise what you can't or don't want to provide). Be respectful. Remember that you are asking to be a guest in her store.

*You can even discuss what "success" would look like. Maybe it's not selling a lot of books. Maybe "success" that day will be for you to make a few more potential readers aware of your book(s) and, through your pre-event publicity and inviting your friends, draw a few new potential customers into her store. And then if you happen to sell a few books too, that's icing on the cake.

I've approached both independently-owned stores and large chains, and I've received permission to hold an event every time I've asked except for once. (And I decided that one turn-down was probably a good thing after all.)

3.) What about those large chain stores like Barnes & Noble, Mardel, and Family Christian?

Yes, it's possible for you to hold a signing in a large chain. I've heard other authors say that the chain bookstores don't let little-known authors hold author events/book signings. That's not my experience. I have held author events in all the chains listed above as well as Borders before they went out of business. How did I get in? Just like I explained above in #1.

I've never gone through the national headquarters of a chain to set up an event. I've learned most stores have leeway for each manager to make their own decisions about what goes on in a store, to a certain extent. I've even heard statements like, "Well, headquarters doesn't like us to, but I do it anyway."

I will admit that my first time in one of these stores a fellow author got me in the door. More about that next...

4.) Strategic Planning

The adage "a crowd draws a crowd" is true for book signings. If you can draw (or create) a crowd at your book table, other people will come to see what's going on. That's a great reason to ask your friends to come to your signing, and a terrific reason to welcome them even if they don't buy a book. However if you have friends stopping by just to chat, guide them to the side of your table and chat there. Often friends stand right in front of the table and stay there. Other prospective customers will not elbow their way past them to get to your book; they'll crane their neck to see what's up, but then will pass on by. You need to keep the way to your book clear unless there is actually a line. Then people will know to get in line.

Another way to create a crowd is to have an event with multiple authors. I've done several events where multiple authors were in attendance. There are pros and cons. There is a time for group signings. And there are times when you do not want to invite your author friends. Let's talk about it:

When to hold a group event:

  • When you've all contributed to the same compilation book. I've held author events with contributors to the same book on several occasions. It's fun to meet other authors and customers usually enjoy meeting them too. Plus you're only marketing one book and the same book. The crowd of authors helps draw a crowd of customers.
  • Sometimes special occasion make great opportunities for a group signing. If you have a Father's Day book and so does another local author, you might use that occasion to do an event together.
  • Other authors have invited me to join them at a store for a signing. As mentioned above, this has helped me get into a store for the first time and I'm very appreciative to the authors who have done this for me. Since I've now met the manager and shown them I am a professional to work with and do a good job at my author events, I feel confident I can go back ask to have a signing of my own. One signing has also led to another event in another store in the same chain. I have also invited authors to join me in a signing. If you plan to add authors to your event, be sure to make sure this is okay with the store manager! (See below.)  

When NOT to hold a group event:

  • When I was scheduling an event for one of my own compilation books, I thought it would be great to invite the local contributors to join me. A crowd draws a crowd, right? I was thinking of the extended reach of each of them inviting their friends and family. I was also thinking it would be a good experience for them, since most of them had never done such an event. But when I ask the store manager if this would be okay, she said, "More than three authors at the same time makes it too crazy." I had more local contributors than that, so I decided I couldn't invite them. I did invite them to come to the signing as customers, however. Make sure you ask the store manager before you extend invitations for other authors to join you as part of your event.
  • Earlier I mentioned authors with books on similar themes might get together for a group signing. There are times, however, when I simply don't want the competition. I want the customers' attention focused on my book. Do the math. You have a certain number of customers walking in the door on any given day. A certain percentage of them will buy a book. You can split that number between two or more authors, or not. Doesn't it make more sense to set up your own even, and let the other author set up another event at another time? You're reaching twice the customers and marketing a different book to 100% of the customers who come in that day.
  • Another time when I may not want the competition is when I'm selling a seasonal book. Last year when my Christmas book launched, I didn't even put my other books on the table. It was Christmas season and I wanted all the attention on my new Christmas book. I did well with sales. And that's another point...
  • Too many books equals too much confusion. I call it "choice fatigue." Have you ever stood at the pickle section or the cereal aisle in the grocery store and just stared because there are so many different kinds you can't figure out which to choose? Too many books (and authors) creates too many choices and too much eye-confusion on your table. Take it down a notch and you'll make more sales. (Schedule another event for other books.)
  • Finally, another time I do not invite my author friends to join me is when I'm in a store for the first time. Face it, what other authors do reflects on you. When I don't know a store manager well, I want to do an event by myself. I want to establish myself as a professional and build a relationship with that store manager. I've had some challenges working with managers. I have also had some challenges working with other authors. If I'm setting up the event, anything the other authors do (even unintentionally) reflects on me also. I remember one particular occasion when I had a challenging situation with a manager I was working with for the first time and I was so glad I hadn't invited another author to join me because if they had responded even slightly negatively, even with a facial expression, it would have escalated the situation. By myself, I was able to handle the situation to a satisfactory outcome. The bottom line is, I refuse to put myself in a position where my business reputation might be damaged by someone else. (You should too.) 

5.) How to get the word out about your Author Event

Now that you have an event scheduled at a store, you need to get the word out. How? Here are some ideas:
  • Ask the store if you can supply some "bag stuffers," which are small fliers the employees put in each customer's bag in the days and weeks previous to your event. Ask how many you should provide. I usually get these to the store two weeks before the event. Check back a week later to see if the store needs more.
  • Ask if the manager will make a poster to put in her store or if she'd like you to do that. A simple poster in MS Word can be printed and delivered or mailed or e-mailed if you've already asked if the manager would be willing to print and hang it. Put your book cover on it and the standard who, what, when, and where information. Save it on your computer as a template and next time you'll just need to change the details and you'll have it  done.
  • Of course you can hand fliers to your friends.
  • Hang fliers in other business also, with their permission.
  • Find out if the store has an events calendar on their web site or Facebook page and make sure you'll get posted there.
  • Finally, post the event online. I listed five places you can do that in my January 2013 post "5 Ways to Get the Word Out About Your Author Event."
Now that you have your event set up, next time we'll talk about what to do while you're there and how to make it a success.

If you're anxious to get going on setting up your in-store author event (AKA "author book signing) and are impatient for next month's post, don't worry. I recently learned the hard way (the way I usually learn things) that summer is not the best time to hold an author event. The store is slow! Sales, like customers, are few. Better to wait for a busier sales season, like the fall or Christmas season (starts in October) to schedule your event.


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Friday, July 26, 2013

In-Store Author Event in La Junta, Colorado

For those of you in the La Junta, Colorado, area, I will be at The Lighthouse on Friday, July 26, with my newest book, Prophecies Fulfilled in the Death & Resurrection of Jesus.

This is the sequel to my first in the series, Prophecies Fulfilled in the Birth of Jesus.

I'll be at the store today from 10:00 to 5:00. Please stop by for a snack and to say hello!

The Lighthouse is at 215 Colorado Ave.

Monday, July 1, 2013

What is AWSA and the International Christian Retail Show (ICRS)?

Signing my book at ICRS 6/24/2013.
Publisher Tracy Ruckman helping me.

I know this question has been burning in your soul: What is AWSA and the International Christian Retail Show (ICRS)?

Some of you know. Some of you have no clue. Since I recently returned from both, let's talk about these two events. Even if you haven't heard about these events and would never attend, I hope learning about them and how they work might be enlightening for you in your own circles. And if you know what they are and have attended or want to some day, I hope learning how they work will be helpful to you also.

I'll start with AWSA since it come first on the calendar, followed by ICRS. These are two separate events and are in no way officially related at this point.


What is AWSA?

AWSA stands for the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. Founded by author Linda Evans Shepherd, this is an organization for women who are experienced speakers and writers in Christian publishing.

To be a member of AWSA, members must be active in at least two forms of communication including having at least two books published. So one form of communication is in book publishing. The second is often speaking to a certain number of people in multiple states each year, but could also be hosting a radio or TV show or another type of communication. In my case, my second form of communication is my work in the screenwriting industry.

AWSA holds an annual conference, and it is always on the weekend preceding ICRS and in the same location as ICRS. This year, we were in St. Louis, Missouri. At the end of the AWSA conference, AWSA holds the Golden Scroll Banquet where awards are given for books of the year, editor of the year, and more. (You may recall that last year my book Deliver Me was one of four finalists for the Golden Scroll Nonfiction Book of the Year.)

This year a new feature for the conference was that we could invite our "mentees" to attend. These are women who are starting out in publishing or otherwise don't yet meet the requirements to join. We had several mentees attend and I found that very exciting because I believe they are future members of AWSA.

One more note: I am now on the board of directors of Right to the Heart Ministries, which is the umbrella organization over the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association.

If you think you might be interested in applying for membership in AWSA, you can find information here.

What is ICRS?

ICRS is short for the International Christian Retail Show. (One literary agent calls it "ickers," but I don't think that name is catching on.) This is a closed trade show that was formerly known as "CBA" or the Christian Booksellers Association. They changed the name several years ago to reflect changes in Christian retail stores: that they are selling much more than books nowadays!

The reason I emphasized the word "closed " above is because that's probably the most crucial part of this discussion that you need to know, if you don't already. By "closed" I mean that you can't go. Well, probably. What I mean is, not just anyone can go. In order to attend, you must be a member of the CBA (Christian Booksellers Association). To be a member of CBA, you must own a Christian bookstore or be a Christian publisher or a company that produces goods for sale in Christian retail outlets. Besides Christian publishers that create and publish books, other companies includes those that produce music, movies, greeting cards, jewelry, artwork, trinkets, and so much more. (Sometimes you'll even see various other goods, such as "Christian" breath mints and golf balls.)

The best way I know how to describe ICRS is to say it is a meeting of the Christian publishing companies and other producers "wining and dining" owners of Christian retail stores in order to get them to carry their products.

I'm certain other industries have similar "closed" conventions that not just anyone can attend--or would want to. So whatever your primary industry is, a convention probably just came to your mind. I've never been to BEA ("Book Expo of America") but I think it's the same thing for all the publishers (not just Christian ones).

ICRS has many events going on, such as holding seminars to help retailers become more efficient and profitable. You will also see industry celebrities, such as popular authors or musicians. Hal went with me this year and while there we got to hear well-known Christian author Max Lucado speak and recording artist Steven Curtis Chapman sing.

Signing Prophecies Fulfilled in the Birth of Jesus for a
Christian book retailer at the Christian Small Publishers
Association (CSPA) booth. Publisher Tracy Ruckman is
helping me. Sarah Bolme, director of CSPA in background.

In what many authors see as quite ironic, in the past ICRS has not been friendly to authors. The authors, those of us who write and create the very books the publishers publish, were not allowed to attend ICRS -- unless your publisher brought you to do a personality event (such as a book signing). Sounds strange doesn't it? Well that is because this trade show was intended for the sales people of publishing companies to meet with the retailers who put their goods on the shelves in their stores. Authors aren't in that equation. For those who think authors should be included, the openness to authors attending has improved in the past years.

Many authors want to attend because they want to meet with the retailers who are carrying our products, too, and we want them to love us, love our books, and carry them in their stores. Many authors also want to attend with a different agenda: they want to meet with acquisition editors to pitch them ideas for their books in hopes of getting new publishing contracts. This didn't use to be the purpose of the CBA convention, but it seems that is changing as more and more of this is happening.

I remember the first time I attended CBA/ICRS. I can't remember what year it was, but it was held in Denver. I went through a friend who owns a bookstore to get my entrance badge. And when the folks at CBA got my request for an entrance badge, I had to talk with someone on the telephone and felt like I was given the third degree. I wanted to go so I could go to "the big show" while it was in my home state, in Denver, Colorado, and see what it was like and experience it. This is, after all, my industry. The folks at CBA apparently thought I had a different agenda. I was asked if I was going to pitch book ideas to publishing company dignitaries? No, I tried to convince them. Because that is not allowed, I was informed. And if I was caught doing so, my entrance badge would be taken away and I would be shown the door, made to leave, and not allowed back in. No matter what I said I felt they did not believe that I was not an author trying to sneak in to be a pest to the publishing company people. It was not a pleasant conversation and left me with a very negative impression of the Christian Booksellers Association. I am not the only one this happened to. Thankfully, things have changed some since then and, while authors still don't seem to be very welcome unless they are doing personality events and signing their books, the are doors opening for authors at ICRS. There was even an "Author's Alley" area this year. (Unfortunately I didn't get there. Why? I'll explain later.)

Interestingly, the books that authors do sign at their personality events are not sold, but are given away for free. These are the "free samples" given away at the publisher's booths at this convention. So if your publisher takes you as their author, let's you sign your books in their booth, and pays for the give-away books, you're very fortunate. If you're on your own (and there are ways to take yourself, but that's probably a length conversation for another time), it's quite an expensive endeavor to pay for all that yourself.

Helping Vicki Tiede at her signing. Hal, my loyal helper,
is behind me in line, holding our yummy
fresh-squeezed lemonade.

This year I attended with my new publisher, Pix-N-Pens Publishing. Five PNP authors banded together with our publisher to make it possible for us to attend this year. We each had book signings. I signed my book Prophecies Fulfilled in the Birth of Jesus, because the retailers are ordering for the Christmas season at this time.

PNP did not have its own booth. We signed in the Christian Small Publishers Association booth (as I did two years ago with my Deliver Me book). Part of our agreement with the CSPA booth is that we volunteer to work the booth for a couple hours. We do this by talking with retailers walking past about the book that is being signed that hour and giving out CSPA catalogs, which our books are included in.

Helping with Vicki Tiede's signing of Parenting On Your Knees
and handing out CSPA catalogs to passersby.
Doing this kind of volunteer work involves taking off the "creative, author" hat and putting on the "sales person" hat. Like it or not, this is a good experience for any author.

While all those books are given away, a lot of authors and publishers hope to see a bounce in sales to retailers after the show. We hope they will see the brilliance of our books and order a slew of them to sell in their stores, especially for the Christmas season which many of the retailers are now buying for. From my experience and also from talking with others, that doesn't really happen. (Often what seems to happen to those free books is they are taken back to the retailers' stores and are put on the shelf and sold--meaning no income for the publishing company and no royalties for the author--but the retailer keeps the profit. I guess it helps pay for their trip to ICRS.)

Even so, we still go. Authors and publishers alike attend ICRS because we must make the retailers aware of what we have to offer. And we're always hopeful that letting them know will pay off with increased sales in the long run.

ICRS now rotates between three cities. This year we were in St. Louis. Next year, in 2014, it will be in Atlanta. In 2015 it will be in Orlando. The following year it will be back in St. Louis. Denver has been taken out of the rotation because attendance declines steeply when the show is west of the Mississippi. Apparently most of the Christian retailers are east of the Mississippi and don't want to travel this far west (which sounds just a tad crazy to those of us who love it here and think others would love to visit the beautiful western U.S.).

If you ever get the opportunity to go to the International Christian Retail Show, of course I recommend that you should go. That's because I'm always in favor of experiencing what we can of our industries. But go with a realistic understanding of what the show is for, who will be there, and what you hope to gain from attending so you're not disappointed.

Here are three other articles you may enjoy written by others about their experiences at ICRS:

Highlights of ICRS at my publisher's blog.

Thursdays with Amanda: ICRS Recap at literary agent Chip MacGregor's blog

Is ICRS Still Important? by Mary Keeley, Books & Such Literary Agency

Just a Note...

You may note that the article by my publisher mentions that I was involved in an accident prior to ICRS. On June 9th I was riding my motorcycle when my front tire went flat and I went tumbling down Interstate 25 at about 60 mph. I was wearing a full-face helmet, which no doubt saved me. Gratefully I have no major injuries. I have a chipped bone in my ankle, deep bruises, two swelled ankles, some pretty severe road rash, and had some stitches in my elbow. It has been three weeks since the accident and I'm still recovering, but I'm going to be okay. This is why Hal drove me to ICRS and he was able to attend with me and help me get where I needed to go. I had to cancel some of my plans, and I couldn't walk the entire convention floor or visit Author Alley as I would have liked to do, but I'm so glad I was still able to attend for my book signing, although signing my books with a pretty severely bruised hand was challenging. (If you look closely at all the photos, you might see bandages covering the road rash on my arms. Swollen ankles are out of sight, I think.)
PNP Authors and husbands out to dinner at Bailey's Range in St. Louis.
L-R: Hal, Me (Dianne E. Butts), Vicki Tiede, helper and AWSA mentee Suzy Moore,
publisher Tracy Ruckman, Peggy Cunningham, Marie Wells Coutu and Ed Coutu,
and Peggy's husband Chuck Cunningham.
Not pictured: Fay Lamb (behind the camera).

In closing, let my accident spur you on to good things. The unexpected can happen at any time. What do you want to do that you haven't accomplished yet? What steps to do you need to take to get there? List them. Plan when to accomplish each and get on the road to making your dreams come true.


I'm adding a new feature to my blog posts, which I hope to remember to include from now on. These links below are called "Tweetables" and if you like what you read here in this blog post and would like to share it on Twitter (which I hope you will!), all you need to do is click one of these:

What is AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association)?

What is #ICRS? Why go to Interna'l #Christian Retail Show?

Photos from #ICRS.

If you want to add this feature to your own blog, find it here:

Next month(s):

I've had some people ask so let's talk about how to go about setting up a book signing at a local bookstore and how to make your signing a success.

What are your thoughts about the International Christian Retail Show? Have you been there? Leave a comment and let us know.