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Seekerville: The Journey Continues

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Avoiding Sticky Book Cover Situations

 Avoiding Sticky Book Cover Situations

As queen bees of the JustRead hive (aka owners of JustRead Publicity Tours) and avid readers, we’ve learned a thing or two about sweet reads and sticky situations. We want to help you avoid common book cover blunders and ensure your readers aren’t confused or even deterred by a sticky situation. 

Generally, authors will either have DIY, outsourced, or a publisher-directed cover design process. While this article is written primarily with independently publishing (or hybrid) authors in mind, the concepts are important for all authors to consider. Whether you are creating your own cover or conveying your vision to others, the goal is for the heart of your story (or nonfiction content) to shine through the cover.

 Avoiding Sticky Book Cover Situations
Visual Vibes

Research book covers that are selling or trending in your book’s genre and subgenre, making note of images, design styles, fonts, and colors. Once you’ve identified design elements that work well for your genre, focus on reflecting the heart of your story within your author branding and genre trends. 

Stock Images

Even the pros utilize stock illustrations and images but check to see if your selections are already being used on another book cover. Layering multiple images is one way to create a more unique cover but make sure proportions and blending are natural.

Fonts

We love fonts but readability is key. Two different typefaces on a cover (sometimes three) are acceptable as long as the placement is mindful. Whimsical and script fonts are especially tricky but they pack a visual punch when used in moderation and/or paired with a simple clean font. 

 Avoiding Sticky Book Cover Situations
Good Sticky

Stick to your budget and timeline. Don’t wait too long to finalize your cover or make last-minute changes, delays could end up costing you more. Compromise is common during the cover design process but be willing to stick to it and keep the lines of communication open rather than settling for a cover that doesn’t fit.

Encouragement for DIYers

You can successfully create your own book cover with thorough research, more research, and the popper tools! Creating an appealing cover on Canva, Picmonkey, or other free or low-cost design platforms is possible. Many of these tools even provide book cover templates and it’s a great way to get the ball rolling for cover mock-ups and even final cover designs. Be sure to ask a few trusted and experienced confidantes for their opinion on your work but don’t stress over trying to please everyone.

Cover Design Pros

If your budget allows, we definitely recommend working with a cover designer. Choose a professional who has created covers you love. We love so many covers including those designed by Roseanna White, Teresa Tysinger, Hillary Lodge, Sarah Monzon, Emilie Hendryx, and more! Please feel free to give a shoutout to your favorite cover designers in the comments. Keep an eye out for a more in-depth post on working with a cover designer in the future.

“Don’t judge a book by its cover.” 

It’s a nice sentiment but the truth is that the cover is the first glimpse a reader has of the content within. Book covers set the stage just as words pull back the curtains on the wonderful experience we share through stories, devotionals, and nonfiction accounts. Readers are going to judge book covers so let’s embrace that and maximize their impact positively. 


Can you name some genre-specific design features? Does a certain cover style grab your attention? Carrie, Beth, and Rachel would love to chat about your favorite cover trends in the comments! 


 Avoiding Sticky Book Cover Situations
JustRead Publicity Tours, LLC is a full-service publicity tour company for published works in the Christian genre or books considered within the wholesome or clean reads genres. 

Check out their About page to meet the queen bees or jump right into the Authors & Publishers or Readers sections to learn more about JustRead campaigns.

Organization: What Works for Me

Organization: What Works for Me

written by Beth Erin

One of the many great things about community is learning from one another and we’re excited to bring you even more practical Seekerville posts to learn from. Carrie is spearheading a new addition to the monthly rotation featuring nuts and bolts type articles from various industry professionals sharing what works for them in hopes that y’all will find precious little nuggets that work for you too! While she officially starts those posts in March, I thought I would kick things off by sharing some organizational tips and tools that work for me.

Regardless of who you are or what you do, life is a multifaceted gig. We all allocate time for faith, finances, loved ones, home, health, and the list goes on and on and on. Some confidently refer to this balance as donning many hats, some say it feels like a juggling act, others may reference the more hazardous act of spinning plates, and then there’s one of my personal favorites, herding cats. Let’s face it, even if we manage to get our ducks in a row, those little quackers are going to waddle, swim, and fly away at times.

As I finally dive into writing this post less than 12 hours before it’s scheduled to go live, allow me to assure you that I do not have all the answers. What I do have is a commitment to flexibility, streamlining, and giving myself grace plus a few tools that help me manage life in a manner that is a little bit less stressful. So grab your hats, plates, cats, and ducks as we dive into the act of ordering our chaos!

Organization: What Works for Me
In addition to working from home (plus blogging, reading, etc.), I homeschool our four children (ages 8-15) while my husband works odd hours outside the home (in many ways creating a second family time zone). The kids and I especially tend to lose track of time while focused on a project or engrossed in a good book so daily reminders for snacks, meals, bedtime, etc. broadcast from our Google displays, speakers, and smartphone apps. We share and collaborate everything from chores and lessons to photos to shopping lists with our online calendar and cloud drive storage, keeping everyone in the loop with easy access to the same information.

Side note: While we primarily use Microsoft & Google products, Apple, Amazon, etc. have similar products with similar features. If you want to go old school, you might use a traditional kitchen timer or alarm clock, a wall calendar, and a message board to keep your daily routine rolling. Secondly, I try not to obsess over the whole “big brother is listening to/watching everything we do” factor. The way I figure, that factor came into play way before smartphones entered the picture so we might as well get all the help we can out of our nosey technology.

Professionally, we at JustRead Publicity Tours use a variety of tools to manage the four to six campaigns we organize 47 weeks out of the year. For those who aren't familiar with us, JustRead has three owners (Carrie in Georgia, Rachel in Washington, and I am in Illinois) and an entire hive of wonderful volunteer book bees! Google is again a large part of the organizational equation but for the three of us, managing multiple projects and business matters as a team calls for the addition of a task management program.

Organization: What Works for Me

While there are several options available (Monday.com, Wrike, SmartSheet, etc.), we’re currently loving Asana for its versatility, functionality, and rainbows (because we all need more rainbows). Even though we chose to go with the upgraded features of a paid plan, the free version worked well for us during our transition from the last program we used. Other tools such as Trello are also good options for managing multiple projects and even collaborating with others.


Enough about me, let’s get back to you!

Most importantly, I want to encourage you to find an approach to organizing that makes sense for you. The most sophisticated program can’t compete with consistent old school methods if utilizing technology isn’t your thing. If sticky notes on the refrigerator work for you, do that! A bit of organization should make your life LESS stressful, never more stressful.

Organization: What Works for Me
Be flexible. Allow yourself a little extra time for random occurrences of Murphy’s Law when setting due dates. Be brave. Try something new or tweak what you’re already doing. Successful or not, trial periods are always learning experiences.

K.I.S.S. your chaos. “Keep It Simple, Silly!” The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. If you’re like me and have a hard time switching gears between different roles, don’t try to do all the things at once. Focus on one project for an hour or even a day at a time.

Give yourself grace. Some of us may have superpowers but most of us don’t. Our chaos gets a little out of control and we roll with the punches. Don’t allow pride or shame to keep you from asking for an extension or assistance when you need to.

Share your favorite organizational tools or methods in the comments for a chance to win a book from my stash of Christian fiction.



Beth Erin is a happy wife, a busy homeschooling mama of four, an owner of JustRead Publicity Tours, and a Christian fiction enthusiast. You'll occasionally find her on Faithfully Bookish and on social media but mostly she's striving to balance all things work and home. Beth is passionate about promoting authors and their entertaining, encouraging, and redemptive stories. If none of the above was helpful in a practical way, she hopes that it at least made you smile.

The Christy Award 2020 Winners


In a year when everything feels topsy turvy, many of us are turning to stories (whether reading or writing them) to help us make sense of the world or simply cope by escaping our present reality for a few moments. Even the most contented solitary bookworm among us has felt the tremors of disaster or heard the rumblings of controversial headlines in 2020, it's inescapable. 

The world shouts at us to fear, hate, and divide... yet we, beloved friends, not only have the gift of story but we have the security of knowing and being known by the Author of all stories. Past, present, future, and eternity are in His hands and so are we. Whether you reach for a book or a pen, remember that God crafted and created each one of us for His purpose and glory. 

Be still. He's whispering to His chosen ones through His Word, through songs, through stories, through fellow believers... you were made with purpose and for a purpose. Glorify Him in fulfilling it. Be encouraged and edified, fellow believers! Love wins and Jesus is on the throne.

The Christy Award 2020 Winners

Okay, y'all it's time to let our hair down and celebrate story! I don't know who left that soapbox sitting out but I am not taking it home with me, I'll never get a moment of peace with that thing around. 

Can we just say BRAVO to The Christy Award and The Art of Writing Webinar Series organizers?! That was some tasty lemonade if you know what I'm sayin'! If you were an attendee or a participant of either event, I want to hear all your thoughts and experiences! 

I don't think I can fully express my gratitude to the 28 authors, 58 judges, The Christy Advisory Board, organizational team, sponsoring publishers, partnering booksellers, and extraordinary people behind the scenes dedicated to honoring excellence in Christian fiction. 

If it's starting to sound like I won an award, I obviously didn't but I DO get to read a lot of fabulous books and that's kind of the same thing without all the writing! Clearly, I need to wind down soon so without further ado or shenanigans, join me in congratulating The Christy Award winners of 2020!

Young Adult 
The Christy Award 2020 Winners

The Means That Make Us Strangers by Christine Kindberg (Bellflower Press)

Visionary 
The Christy Award 2020 Winners

Hidden Current by Sharon Hinck (Enclave Publishing)

Historical 
The Christy Award 2020 Winners

The Medallion by Cathy Gohlke (Tyndale House Publishers)

General Fiction
The Christy Award 2020 Winners

Whose Waves These Are by Amanda Dykes (Bethany House/ Baker Publishing Group)

Historical Romance
The Christy Award 2020 Winners

The Painted Castle
 by Kristy Cambron (Thomas Nelson)

Short Form 
The Christy Award 2020 Winners

A Christmas Haven
by Cindy Woodsmall and Erin Woodsmall (WaterBrook)

First Novel  
The Christy Award 2020 Winners

A Long Time Comin’
by Robin W. Pearson (Tyndale House Publishers)

Mystery/Suspense/Thriller 
The Christy Award 2020 Winners

The Girl Behind the Red Rope
by Ted Dekker and Rachelle Dekker (Revell/ Baker Publishing Group)

Contemporary Romance 
The Christy Award 2020 Winners

Now and Then and Always
by Melissa Tagg (Larkspur Press)

Book of the Year
The Christy Award 2020 Winners

Whose Waves These Are
 by Amanda Dykes (Bethany House/ Baker Publishing Group)


Were you watching the Winners Webcast? Did you attend the Art of Writing Webinars? Share your thoughts and experiences!


Beth Erin is a Christian fiction enthusiast who works too hard and doesn't read nearly as much as she'd like to. You'll occasionally find her on Faithfully Bookish and on social media but mostly she's happily plugging away in the back office at JustRead Publicity Tours. Beth is passionate about promoting authors and their entertaining, encouraging, and redemptive stories. Plus she's kind of goofy when it's past her bedtime.

Behind the Scenes of a Blog Tour

Behind the Scenes of a Blog Tour

Whether you’re a repeat customer or interested in partnering with JustRead Publicity Tours, LLC (lovingly referred to as JustRead or JR by those of us who refer to it daily) or simply a curious reader, I hope you’ll enjoy this behind the scenes peek at the planning and execution of one of our many campaigns. If you haven’t met us yet, JustRead provides a variety of publicity services including our example for today, tried and true blog tours. I’ll be referring to “you” as an author below and linking a few examples so if you’re a reader or publisher, it’s time to play pretend!

Hi, author friend! The first step to partnering with JustRead is filling out a Campaign Inquiry Form on our website. Once Carrie has a chance to review your information, she will send you date availability and pricing plus helpful suggestions to best meet the needs you indicate on the form. She’s such a sweetheart, she’ll even hold those dates for you for seven days while the two of you exchange any necessary emails to ensure we are all on the same page. We are big fans of open communication, it generally makes life less stressful.

Behind the Scenes of a Blog TourNote: Clearly specifying your book's genre (Christian fiction or wholesome “clean reads”), subgenre (historical, women’s fiction, romantic suspense, etc.), and ANY content warnings on the campaign inquiry form is critical for a successful campaign. 

(fair warning, I’ll be chasing rabbit trails and dropping little notes throughout this post)

Another note: If we do not have availability within your target timeframe or if we don’t think your book will be well received by our hosts or regular reader base (for whatever reason), we will refer you to another tour company that might better suit your specific needs.

Once you’re ready to go for it, Carrie will add your tour to our calendar, enter all the pertinent information in our task management software, send an invoice request to Annie and (voila!) the countdown to your blog tour begins! Annie will square away all the money math then shoot an email invoice to your inbox but be sure to read it or you’ll miss important things like payment methods and due dates as well as what we need from you and when we need it to make your blog tour a success!

Note: Send a high-resolution image of your cover to Carrie ASAP. This is task #00 for creating your tour and believe me, it feels good to check things off the ol’ to-do list.

When possible, we like to begin reader (or host) sign-ups for tours a couple of months before the start date and since 2020 has been plagued with every shipping delay imaginable, we have pushed that timeframe back even further, especially when print copies are involved (such as certain review or bookstagram tours). To kick-off sign-ups, I (Beth) will use that hi-res cover you already sent to Carrie (go, you!) and book information (from your campaign inquiry form mentioned above or email exchange with Carrie) to create your tour’s banner, host sign-up form (for reader contact information, date availability, post type preferences, etc.), host review link submission form (more about this one a bit later), and a “new tour” graphic. Either Rachel or Carrie will jump in at this point to proofread these forms before we send them out into the world.

Behind the Scenes of a Blog Tour Behind the Scenes of a Blog Tour Behind the Scenes of a Blog Tour 
Note: Creating banners is one of my favorite tasks. Sometimes I go through multiple drafts before I’m happy with the outcome (and I often drag Rachel and Carrie into the deliberations). 

Once the forms are double-checked, readers can sign up to be considered for a stop on your tour! My next task will be to spread the word by posting the new tour graphic to our Instagram (you can see them in our highlights) and Facebook stories, sending out a newsletter showcasing the banner of your tour (and other new tours for that two weeks), and featuring your tour banner (with other open tours) on the Current Sign-Ups page of our website during the sign-up period. Near the end of your sign-ups, Carrie (since we’re referring to a blog tour) will make sure we have plenty of qualified hosts for your tour.

Note: If we are short on time or would like to attract more hosts for a specific tour, we also share a “tour alert” graphic post on Instagram and Facebook, highlighting your cover, tour, and book blurb. This summer, our lovely intern Kayla has been tending to our new tour stories and tour alert posts among many other things and we so appreciate her!

Another note: Carrie also assigns our reviewer and “blind date with a book” tours and Rachel assigns our social media tours.

Behind the Scenes of a Blog Tour
When Carrie is ready to create your tour schedule, she will assign hosts to specific dates for author interview, guest post, review, and/or spotlight posts. She will check each blogger’s provided information including monthly views, preferences, and availability, plus past host performance to determine the best candidates for your tour. Carrie will then send each assigned reader a welcome email with the schedule specifying their assigned date and important reminders. Hosts assigned author interview or guest post spots on the tour have a few days to reply to the welcome email with their questions or topic suggestions and Carrie will email those to you along with any final details we need.

Note: If we have more readers than available spots, readers who are not assigned receive a “thank you for your interest” email. If you opt to include print copies for reviewers, Carrie will also send the mailing list at this time and a SHIP BY date.

Send Carrie your responses for author interview and author guest post spots and final details promptly because the last few weeks before your tour is when we will compile that information for hosts. I will build your blog landing post including giveaway graphic, Rafflecopter form, and linked tour schedule for the JustRead website plus assemble host assets such as post requirements and HTML for WordPress and Blogger. Rachel will proofread those before I send asset emails to the tour hosts and Carrie will email your author interview and guest posts to each assigned host one week before the first day of the tour.

Take a deep breath, it’s the morning of your long-awaited and highly anticipated blog tour organized by JustRead Publicity Tours! Are you excited?! We’re excited!

Note: As day breaks and the dew dries and my children and dog are pulling me in at least 5 different directions at once… I will (eventually) link your tour banner on our home page. However, if you’re an earlier riser and function-er than I am and you just can’t wait to see that post for yourself, simply click on Blog under Campaigns in the menu bar. (ta-dah!)

Your landing post on the JustRead website will go live at midnight EST (automatically be shared in JustRead’s Facebook and Twitter feeds) and that’s also when your giveaway begins! On the first morning, your book cover will be pinned to JustRead’s “Books to Read” Pinterest board and your giveaway graphic will be pinned to a “Book Giveaway” board. Hosts will have their posts published by noon EST (and shared on social media) and Rachel will visit each blog to make sure the post contains the correct information and leave a thank you (yet another task our intern Kayla has excelled in). By the conclusion of the giveaway, hosts will also submit the host review link submission form which Carrie will include along with the tour giveaway winner and link to an anonymous feedback survey in her wrap-up email to you.

Behind the Scenes of a Blog Tour
Ta-dah! That's how we do it, folks! Did you learn something new? Did I put you to sleep? 

As we draw the curtains on this exclusive sneak peek, we invite you to ask any general questions you may have in the comments below but please direct specific tour requests to the campaign inquiry form mentioned above or you may email me: beth @ justreadtours.com (with no spaces).

Let us know in the comments if you'd like to be entered in a random draw for the winner's choice of two books from the JustRead stash!

JustRead Publicity Tours, LLC is a full-service publicity tour company for published works in the Christian genre or books that are considered a “clean read”. For more information, check out our “About” page to see who we are or jump right into “Authors & Publishers” to learn more about our campaigns.

Book World Changes

Book World Changes as observed by Beth and Carrie of Seekerville

Hello, friends! Beth and Carrie here! Since our identities have frequently been mistaken for one another, and we practically live on the same brainwave to the extent that we might actually be sharing a brain, we’ve decided to join forces today and y’all can just use your imagination to figure out who says what.

Book World Changes
We mustache you... who is who? (see hint)
Stories have our hearts (well, Jesus AND stories but since He told stories it’s another reason to love them)! A life with books is far richer than one without them. Perhaps storytellers feel the same way about penning their tales. We’ve even read that avid fiction readers possess more empathy than the poor souls who don’t read (we truly feel awful for them, bless their hearts).

Perhaps we're feeling a bit sentimental since celebrating our blog birthdays last month on Faithfully Bookish and Reading Is My SuperPower (4 and 5 years, respectively) but now, more than ever, we realize life is always changing. We’re learning, we’re growing (older, stronger, wiser, softer, you name it), and we’re constantly, even subconsciously, adapting to the dynamics of the world around us.

We want to encourage y’all despite or perhaps because of the uncertainty surrounding us, to embrace the story. Good times, bad times, different times, make time to read (or write), and may the Holy Spirit minister to your story-loving heart no matter what season you find yourself in.

That said, we’re sharing some ways our reading/reviewing/blogging/publicity-ing worlds have changed over the last few weeks, some helpful workarounds if you’re in the same floating-aimlessly boat, and a bit of insight for authors who are wondering why certain formerly dependable readers seem to have fallen off the book planet. :)

Reading 


The world has shut down, we are staying home, we have endless reading time, right?! Unfortunately, no. Introverts have been social distancing since before it was celebrated as a life-saving act and those of us who work from home are literally professionals. Not only do we need to continue doing our work (more about that later) but we now have the added distraction of additional people or inevitable cabin fever to contend with. If you are reading more right now, we are delighted for you and if your reading time has taken a hit, know that you are not alone.

Life is Always ChangingWe recommend injecting stories into your day with audiobooks (these are also great for those “distracting other people” as well) or set aside time for a mental health break (yeah, that looks like reading for us). Need a family activity? Gather everyone around (on the couch or via video chat) and read aloud to each other!

There’s a binding of hearts and something healing about sharing stories during stressful times. Too tired for something new? Revisit a book on your “favorites shelf.” Give yourself permission to avoid certain titles due to emotional fatigue (or author pictures with poultry) or stinky binding adhesive.

Reviewing


Let’s be honest, writing reviews can be challenging under any circumstances. How do we find words to express the beauty of a reading experience? The swoofness is elusive, y’all! (btw, we’re talking about “Squeezing Words Out Of Feelings” if this is the first time y’all have heard of swoof) If a reader who shall not be named happened to be devouring books as a coping mechanism to diffuse stress caused by an inability to swoof, well… it’s a vicious cycle, friends. Heaven sakes, I’m stressing myself out just thinking about it! Talk me off the ledge, Carrie!

(Repeat after me, Beth. The swoof will return. Trust the swoof.)

Let’s all take a moment and just breathe deeply. We need to give ourselves permission to read a book and occasionally only leave a couple-sentence review on retail sites. Something like, “This book is so beautiful I can’t even put my feelings into words. Except to say, ‘Read it. You’ll thank me.’” Not every review has to be a full swoof, friends. If you’re reviewing on your blog and need to fill in more space than 2 sentences, talk about a couple of favorite quotes to flesh out a longer review. In other words, employ the Dory method - Just keep swoofing!

Blogging


We love to introduce our fellow readers to books and authors but it’s not as easy as Carrie makes it look! (Note from Carrie - ha! Not easy at all!) There’s so much to learn and consider with search engine optimization and social media promotion and giveaways and updating old posts and site navigation and newsletters and sometimes this introvert gets stuck in overload. Have you ever heard of stress paralysis? (Where are my Moms’ Night Out fans?!) It’s a thing.

Give yourself grace and permission to have fun or step back
One of the first things my big sister blogger taught me was the “my blog, my rules” principle, and years later, it’s still a good reminder. If you’re struggling, know that you’re not alone and give yourself grace and permission to have fun or step back as needed. Throw together some spotlights or quick lists if you’re all out of creativity or time but still want to show love to some authors & books.

You may find, like our book sisters Rachel (@bookwormmama14) or Annie (@justcommonly), that bookstagramming will get your creative juices flowing. A little less writing, a little more space for artistic expression, and a whole lot of cover love, Instagram is quickly becoming one of the most popular platforms for spreading the book love! Whether you bookstagram as part of your book blogging or instead of (even for a season), we think you’ll continue to benefit and bless the bookish community with your enthusiasm.

JustRead Publicity-ing


Even the world of online book promotion is not immune to Covid19. At JustRead (and I’m sure other tour groups would say the same thing), we’ve had to cope with various shipping issues & delays in getting books to our instagram hosts. There have also been several delayed release dates which means long-ago-planned tour dates have to be shifted around and squeezed in on new weeks in an already-full calendar.

Communication snafus are inevitable in a world where everybody else is now adjusting to working from home too. All of these are necessary adjustments in this ‘new-for-now normal’ on top of all the ‘still normal’ to-do tasks involved with running a publicity company. And of course, we are willing to do whatever is needed right now to support the authors & books & publishers we love so much. But if we seem more frazzled than usual (because let’s face it, we’re always a bit frazzled), that’s why!

Here are a few tips which apply now more than ever! Schedule early and keep the lines of communication open. Please meet deadlines; publicity companies must juggle several tours in various stages of planning at once in a neverending cycle so the domino effect of not having what we need when we need it impacts your tour and other tours and our sanity in unattractive ways.

Play This or That with us! 

Let’s check your reader life pulse! Share your answers in the comments.

Book World Changes
Right now I want to read…
Nearly All the Time or At Least Regularly
Lighthearted with Laughing/Swooning or Deep Pondering/Suspense
Shorter Stories or Big Books
New Release or Old Favorite
Familiar Genre or Out of the Ordinary
Pandemic Reads or Anything But


What changes or challenges have y'all faced over the last several weeks? How have you made the best of these trying circumstances?



Book World Changes
Carrie and Beth
Carrie Schmidt is an avid reader, book reviewer, story addict, KissingBooks fan, book boyfriend collector, and cool aunt. She also loves Jesus and THE Story a whole lot. Co-founder of the Christian Fiction Readers' Retreat and JustRead Publicity Tours, Carrie lives in Kentucky with her husband Eric.
She can be found lurking at various blogs and websites (because she can't stop talking about books) but her main home is the blog she started in 2015 - ReadingIsMySuperPower.org.

Beth Erin is a Christian fiction enthusiast, book reviewer, blogger, and JustRead Publicity Tours co-owner. She strives to edify and connect with readers and authors at Faithfully Bookish and on social media.
Beth also contributes to the Seekerville, Hoarding Books, and Diversity Between the Pages blogs. She is passionate about promoting authors and their entertaining, encouraging, and redemptive stories.

5 Bookish Love Languages

5 Bookish Love Languages

Happy Valentine’s Day, Seekervillagers! In honor of this lovey-dovey holiday, let’s discuss ways we can spread the book love and effectively convey our affections to all our bookish loved ones!

Affirm Bookishness

5 Bookish Love Languages
Use words of affirmation to convey your acceptance of and appreciation for the bookish aspect of your loved ones life.

“Your Bookstagram feed is a work of art!” – for all your favorite book-obsessed Instagram friends

“I love the way you’ve reorganized your bookshelves (again)!” – this one works in person or for shelfies!

“You are so beautiful when you’re reading!” – for your significant other (or things could get awkward and I’m an introvert, I know awkward)

“Your book touched my heart!” – for your favorite authors (they are hard on themselves and need the encouragement)

“This book is fabulous!” – for random bookish people reading your review on Goodreads, BookBub, or any retail site

“Your book blog rocks my socks off!” – for your favorite book bloggers (they work hard too, y’all)

“I love the variety of books you’re carrying lately!” – for your favorite bookseller

“Your new featured books display is lovely!” – for your local librarian

Enable Bookishness

5 Bookish Love Languages
Free up your loved one’s schedule by performing acts of service so they can get their bookish on!

Any and all household chores are excellent candidates for freeing up a little time for story.

Taxes, bill paying, errand-running, grocery shopping… all things that you can do for a loved one who would #ratherbereading because #somanybookssolittletime or #ratherbewriting because #thevoicesarecalling

Bring your favorite bookworm a warm cuppa or yummy snack while they are reading or writing (without dragging them out of the storyworld, just set it down and back away) if the book is especially good, include something more substantial like a meal

Protect their reading time from interruptions (children, phone calls, needy pets, endless cellphone notifications… it’s a lot, just do your best and your reader or writer will appreciate the effort)

Bookish Gifts

5 Bookish Love Languages
Gift special bookish somethings to enhance your loved one’s reader life or writer life and they will be reminded of your love each time they use it.

Book sleeves, bookshelves, bookmarks, bookish apparel, bookish décor, fingerless gloves, office supplies, bookish candles, mugs, blankets, ereaders (and accessories like covers or screen protectors, chargers, etc.), gift cards for guilt-free ebook splurging or book hauling!

Bookish Time

5 Bookish Love LanguagesSpend quality time with your loved one while engaging in bookish activities (or just be present for the downtime).

Go to the bookstore or library or cozy coffee shop!

Travel to a favorite book setting (bonus points for excellent audiobooks during the drive).

Tag along for a reader/writer event (bonus points for carrying the book haul with a smile).

Ask your favorite bookworm to tell you all about their favorite books... then settle in because that conversation is going to take a while.

Embrace Bookish

5 Bookish Love Languages
Enhance your loved one’s bookish experience with physical touch (keep it PG, y’all!)

Whether paperback or hardcover, the weight and feel of a print book in the hands of a book lover is surpassed only by the weight and feel of a stack of books in the hands of a book lover.

Create a cozy reading environment with a comfy seat and blanket.

Cuddle up with your main squeeze and a good book!

Bonus Book Love

That’s right, I’m talking about loving your books… for a hardcore book lover, loving books is therapeutic!

Show your books a little love by dusting, reorganizing (even splurge for new shelves), rereading, apologizing for bent covers/dog eared pages/dropping into dirt or water, reclaiming from forgetful friends (or former friends depending on the condition of said book), taking your books on vacation or sending them with a friend (books deserve to get out every now and then too), telling everyone who will listen and maybe a few who won’t just how much you love your books!


5 Bookish Love Languages
This post was loads of fun to put together for y'all and in the interest of giving credit where credit is due, I must give a shoutout to the REAL deal, The Five Love Languages, just in case you haven’t heard of this fabulous series of books and its resource-filled website, it’s truly a game-changer!

Sincere thanks to my book sisters for brainstorming this post with me and providing feedback on the four different versions of graphics I created for it. That is love, my friends!


How do you spread the bookish love or how have your loved ones shown affection to your bookish side? Drop all your tips and date ideas in the comments!


The Art of Writing & The Christy Gala Recap

The Art of Writing & The Christy Gala Recap

On Wednesday, November 6, 2019, a few of us Seekers attended The Art of Writing Conference and The Christy Awards Celebration Gala held in Nashville, Tennessee! We'll be doing quite a bit of chatting in the comments about our personal experiences and perspectives over the weekend and perhaps into early next week (depending on interest) but let's start with some general information about the events and where you can learn more!


The Art of Writing & The Christy Gala Recap
Melanie Dickerson & Laura Frantz
The Art of Writing Conference

An afternoon of learning and connecting with writers and publishers featuring four workshops designed to take your writing to the next level. Sessions led by Lysa TerKeurst (Reaching the Heart of Readers); James Rubart (Next-Level Writing); Anne Bogel (Casting Novel Characters Using the Enneagram); and a panel of marketing pros that included Dave Schroeder (B&H), Michele Misiak (Revell), Steve Laube (Enclave), Anne Bogel (author/ podcaster/ blogger), and Amy Green (Bethany House).

Learn more at ChristyAwards.com/conference.html


The Art of Writing & The Christy Gala Recap
Annie, Beth, Ruthy, and Beth
The Christy Award Celebration Gala

The Christy Award Dinner Gala celebrated the art of Christian fiction, announced the 2019 winners of The Christy Award, and featured bestselling authors Patti Callahan, James Rubart, and Becky Wade.

In addition, the legacy of bestselling author and pioneer of inspirational fiction, Janette Oke, was honored in the 40th anniversary year of Love Comes Softly and the impactful lives of C.S. "Jack" Lewis and his wife, Joy.

Learn more at ChristyAwards.com/Gala.html


The Art of Writing & The Christy Gala RecapThe Christy Award Finalists and Winners

A complete list is available on the Christy Awards website (and check out the Hall of Fame, too) but especially be sure to congratulate our own Melanie Dickerson! The Warrior Maiden has been named as the 2019 Young Adult category Christy Award winner!!!


Seekers in attendance

Ruthy Logan Herne, Melanie Dickerson, Annie, and Beth were among the few hundred industry professionals (and a few readers, too) who participated in The Art of Writing Conference (and/or PubU, an ECPA publishers conference held just before the writers' conference) as well as The Christy Award Gala.


The Art of Writing & The Christy Gala Recap
Melanie & Mesu Andrews

The Art of Writing & The Christy Gala Recap
Beth & Morgan Busse

Please join us in the comments with your questions and personal perspectives! 
Did you (or would you like to) attend these events? We'll share some more pictures here and drop in to share our highlights and answer questions about our experiences as we return to our normal schedules!

Let us know if you'd like to enter for a chance to win your choice of one book from Beth's bookstash!

And a little addendum from Ruthy!

I was supposed to add my thoughts here, so I'm breaking in with a Public Service Announcement, LOL!
This mini-conference is a wonderful experience for authors, whether or not you're a Christy finalist. The chance to chat and talk with numerous industry professionals, to hobnob with wonderful authors, to get a glimpse of what publishers are seeking and to have a chance to visit and stay with Seekers... to talk writing and publishing and life and love...

It's an amazing and very affordable opportunity. Next year is the 20th anniversary of the Christy Award, named for the character in Catherine Marshall's award-winning, bestselling book. Am I planning on going again?

Yes, ma'am! 

Because it is an experience that does not disappoint!

Ruthy

Stranger Than Fiction

Stranger Than Fiction
with Beth Erin

Have you ever wanted to incorporate an unusual experience from your life into a story yet hesitated? As you read the following excerpt, I’d like to encourage you to be brave and honestly ask yourself, “Is my experience more unbelievable than facing off with a fearless hitchhiking mouse???” Read on then see what this author has to say about her experience…


excerpt...

Something tickled against Julia’s leg as she drove. She looked down but didn’t see anything. The cloth of her slacks must have shifted against her skin.

“What sort of house are you looking for?”

“Well, something with character and close to town.”

The tickle happened again. She shook her leg as Henry continued to talk. The tickle moved up to her knee. She glanced down, and her breath congealed into an unlocked scream in her throat.

On her knee, looking around as if it was the most normal thing to do, sat a tiny, brown field mouse.

“I’ve always loved the rock homes, or even barns people have refurbished to maintain the general appeal of Derbyshire’s countryside and architecture.”

Oh no! Henry! She had to keep him from knowing the mouse was in the car with them. After all, she’d promised to protect him. She focused her gaze forward and pushed words from her throat. “Rock houses? And…um…what do you mean exactly?”

He paused and examined her with those marble-like eyes. She forced a smile to encourage him, and with another hitch in the silence, he began explaining the beauty of the gray fieldstone homes sprinkled through the lush green hillsides the mouse moved an inch or two up her thigh. She held in a squeak but couldn’t keep her leg from jerking. Somehow, the little mouse completed a ninja move from the door handle to the edge of the dashboard nearest her window.

Stranger Than Fiction
And there it sat, staring at her with its round, black eyes, whiskers twitching as if it knew exactly who to visit next. Her stomach tensed. Her body froze. How could something so small be so unnerving?

Henry continued to talk, thankfully oblivious to the entire situation, but Julia quickly took inventory of the road ahead. One the right, the road dipped into a deep ditch. On the left, there was oncoming traffic.

Three cars.

When was there ever so much traffic on this isolated country road?

She gritted her teeth together.

When there was a mouse loose in her van and a mouse-phobic hero trapped inside, that’s when.

She examined the passing landscape. They weren’t going super fast, so maybe if she rolled down her window, she could just flick the mouse out.

Henry’s words came to a stop. She hadn’t heard one of them, but she conjured up another distracting question.

“How soon do you hope to buy a house of your own?”

He studied her again. “Like I said, as soon as possible. I’ve been saving a long time and had some solid success with my last few projects.”

“Oh, how wonderful. Which movies have been your favorite to write the music for?”

His wonderful voice filled the space again, and Julia reached over to roll down the window. Only an inch at first. The mouse didn’t move, just kept plotting.

Another inch.

His whiskers twitched.

Another car passed them on the left.

Another inch. Julia released her hold on the window button and began a stealthy ascent toward the furry rodent, but as the wind fluffed the back of the mouse’s fur, it took off…across the dashboard, stopping directly in front of Henry.

“There’s something about creating the unexpected and having others appreciate it that’s reward—”

Stranger Than Fiction
Yep. Henry saw the mouse. There was this moment of a stare-down between man and beast…well, not really. Could a little field mouse be referred to as a beast? From the expression on Henry’s face, maybe.

Julia tried to keep her gaze ahead and somehow prepare to vault in front of Henry should the little rodent decide to leap. She slowed her speed.

“In thirty seconds, I can pull over,” she whispered.

“It’s staring at me.” His voice rasped the words, his face frozen forward.

“I’ve never heard of anyone dying from a mouse attack. I promise. Twenty seconds and we’ll pull over.”

He’d gripped the armrests so hard his knuckles turned white. “I may have a heart attack in ten, because my pulse is playing a hard and fast drumroll in my ears.”

Julia accelerated. “Ten seconds.”

(shared with permission from When You Look at Me by Pepper Basham) 

author's note...

"I’d love to say this scene was fictional because the memory still causes an uncomfortable chill to move up my leg…a memory chill, I guess, but it wasn't. Thankfully, I was alone in my minivan on my way to work, but the entire scene played out pretty much like poor Julia sees it. And, of course, I’d was driving on the ONE STRETCH of country highway where I couldn’t pull over.

Needless to say, when I finally made it to work, I was still shaking…mostly with laughter, but shaking nonetheless.

What happened to the mouse? Well, you’ll have to read the rest of the scene to find out. Needless to say, the whole purse whomping incident was not exaggerated…and I’m sure there were some worried passersby who witnessed my madness too!" - Pepper Basham

further encouragement...

Just in case y'all might still be feeling a bit apprehensive about sharing your own experiences, you don't have to rely on only one example… I’ve collected several for your consideration!

“When the peacocks go on the attack in one of my books....yep, that happened to me at the zoo. Who would have thought..." (In Good Company) - Jen Turano

“A late-night skinny-dipping adventure off the coast of Akumal, Mexico, which turned into an unsettling experience when some guy walking along the beach spotted our swimsuits ... & sat down to wait until we came out, became an even more intense scene in my third novel, Altared." - Sharyn Kopf

“The family story that my grandfather ignored the rattlesnake under the table until he finished his fried chicken! Totally retold it in Still Waters!” - Lindsey P. Brackett

Stranger Than Fiction
“When my dad was in the army his troop was under attack so he and his friends jumped out a second-story window, landed and ran to safety. My dad landed on his feet (which is horrible for your body) and ended up with knees swelling to the size of volleyballs and damage there for the rest of his life. I gave the hero of my debut novel the same injury/cause.” - Jessica Keller

“In my first novel, Like There's No Tomorrow, with Ian the Scot and Emily the American... the part when Ian was nudged to pray for the person he hated, and how, after doing it and begrudgingly at first, over time, he felt a release from the hate and felt only compassion for the person. Based on a real-life experience of mine.” - Camille Eide

“This happened to me, and I wrote it into one of my contemporary novels.

I drove up to the drive-through window at the bank, removed the canister, put my transaction inside, and returned the canister to the Pneumatic Tube...then sat back and waited for the inside teller to greet me. She did not. In the meantime, cars on either side of me kept moving, which I thought was highly unfair. A couple cars pulled up behind me, and the third car back even honked, trying to “wake up” the teller I presumed. The longer I waited, the more impatient I grew. I even glanced back at one point and threw up my arms at the guy behind me. The grumpy driver did not respond.

After another minute or two, the speaker crackled and the teller said, “Are you just about done out there?” What? I imagine I gave her a dumb look, and that’s when it dawned on me! I had not hit the ‘send’ button. My canister had not even moved! Quick as a fly, I hit the button, shrunk down in my seat, and waited another minute. When the canister came back, I didn’t even bother to count the money. I just skedaddled out of the bank parking lot, hitting a curb on my way to the road. Halfway home, I glanced at the seat next to me. There was the canister!!! That poor, poor man who had been waiting behind me - not to mention the other customers!” - Sharlene Baker MacLaren


Whether your experience is hilarious or miraculous, scenes inspired by your life season stories with something precious and unique, YOU! Stranger than fiction moments are also a great opportunity to connect with your readers by sharing the real story in an author note or your newsletter or on social media! Embrace the outrageous story fodder God has blessed you with, writer friends! 



Have you used (or are you considering using) real-life stranger than fiction experiences in your stories? We'd love to hear them and your thoughts on the topic!


Stranger Than Fiction
Beth Erin is a Christian fiction enthusiast, book reviewer, and blogger. She strives to edify and connect with readers and authors at Faithfully Bookish and on social media. 


Beth also contributes to the Seekerville, Hoarding Books, and Diversity Between the Pages blogs. She is passionate about promoting authors and their entertaining, encouraging, and redemptive stories.

Size Up Your Reading Habits (or Your Readers)

by Beth Erin
Size Up Your Reading Habits (or Your Readers)

I’m starting to think there’s something in the Seekerville water because I always feel compelled to make some sort of confession or engage in deep introspection when I post here. What happens in Seekerville stays in… oh, wait, that’s an entirely different town’s motto. Okay, enough awkward beating around the bush already!

A few phrases which I often repeat in regard to my reading life are:
I’d rather be reading.
Variety is the spice of life.
I like big books... 
(and I cannot lie, I am a reformed secular 90s child, saved by grace! Praise the Lord!)

So, that last one got me thinking (about myself, cue introspection) … when it comes to books, does size matter? Like the dutiful overthinker I can often be, I reached the complex conclusion of yes and no. As I expound on just a few of the many points I have pondered, I want to encourage my fellow readers to examine why we gravitate towards certain sweet spots or shy away from others (and for my author friends, think about your writing habits or your readers). It's a thinking party and you're invited!

Size Up Your Reading Habits (or Your Readers)
Photo by Maciej Ostrowski on Unsplash

Mass Market versus Trade 

Issues of physical thickness and height and width and story length are elementary considerations here. For those of us who dearly love ink and paper and the reading experience they create, this comparison is far from simple. Due to the difference in price/cost, these two sizes vary widely when it comes to paper and cover texture, spine integrity, and adhesive scent (yes, I am a book sniffer and no, I’m not trying to quit). Trade books look so pretty on my shelves but oh those mass markets fit so nicely in my purse!

Standalone Novellas versus Novella Collections 

How much can an author accomplish in less than a hundred pages?! Quite a lot when done right! Standalone novellas are a wonderful medium for series prequels, sequels, and spinoffs. There’s no denying, I love it when several of these quick reads are combined in collections by genre, troupe, setting, or as intricate pieces of a larger multi-author story. No matter where you find them, novellas are especially suited for seasons when life cuts into your reading time!

Standalone Novels versus Series 

(Duology vs Trilogy vs Four or more book series vs Interrelated series)

With the one-stop story shopping of standalone novels, you get the whole shebang in one fell swoop. No waiting for future installments, no cliffhanger endings, no wondering what happens next. The commitment required of series readers yields rich benefits in building a connection to the characters and setting. Most authors keep the overall series arc subtle enough to spark curiosity yet allow each individual installment to shine on its own. If you’re especially hardcore or find an author you adore, a series or four or more books or even a collection of interrelated series is a storied paradise!

Size Up Your Reading Habits (or Your Readers)
Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash
I hope I gave y’all a little food for thought and while my initial statement about big books will always be true (400+ pages of story thrills me!), the first and second reading life phrases always take priority! Our experiences and mood and season of life can greatly influence what size book we pick up but if you’re a reader who is stuck in a rut, step up and try something new!

Before we go, I asked a few of my book blogger friends, who each read a variety of book sizes, “What’s your book size sweet spot?”

Carrie: "300 or so is my sweet spot. Snack books (Love Inspired and novellas) also make me happy because I knock a few out in an evening but when I DO get a longer book, I curl up and get all cozy to read it. My sweet spot is really genre, no matter the size."

Annie: "I read any size. Depending on time, I would choose novellas."

Katie of Fiction Aficionado: "The bigger the better? In all seriousness, probably 350-400 pages is a good average."

Rachel of Bookworm Mama: "Honestly, size depends on my mood...and the time of year. I am a sucker for short and sweet novellas, especially around Christmas time. But novellas are great for when I'm in between books and just need a different direction/genre. However, bigger is definitely better. "


Giveaway!


Size Up Your Reading Habits (or Your Readers)
contents may vary (pic compliments of Annie)

One commenter will win a Christian Fiction Readers Retreat swag bag full of books and all kinds of delightful bookish swag! (US only) 
Let us know if you'd like your name tossed in the hat!



Winner will be announced in next week's Weekend Edition so y'all have time to tell your friends! Maybe there's a little voice in your head saying not to tell anyone because there go your chances of winning... BUT we'll have more giveaway opportunities for CFRR swag bags on Just Commonly, Reading Is My SuperPower, and Faithfully Bookish in the near future. Sharing is caring and I'll even give you bonus entries in my future giveaway for sharing this post now!


Tell us, what is YOUR story sweet spot?


Readers, are you drawn to a certain story size or length? Do you find yourself reaching for a particular format in different situations?

Authors, are you more comfortable or popular in a specific book size or format? Is there a story size you've not yet tried but would like to?


I feel obligated to leave this here, just in case...
Size Up Your Reading Habits (or Your Readers)
Beth Erin is a Christian fiction enthusiast, book reviewer, and blogger. She strives to edify and connect with readers and authors at Faithfully Bookish and on social media. 

Beth also contributes to the Seekerville, Hoarding Books, and Diversity Between the Pages blogs. She is passionate about promoting authors and their entertaining, encouraging, and redemptive stories.

Every Reader is a Cover Judge

by Beth Erin

Every Reader is a Cover Judge

We've all heard the saying:
"Don't judge a book by its cover."
Well, we all do it, I'm judging, they're judging, and even if you think you aren't, you're judging too! Thank you to Heidi for suggesting today's topic by the way, it is much appreciated. Covers are so important (even if you're in judging denial, you must admit this)!

Some of the many possible objectives for a cover are to capture the reader's attention, reveal the setting, character(s), mood or genre, and basically nudge them to at least learn more about the story. Let's take a look at a few observations and chat about why and to whom they appeal.

Natural Beauties

Since one of the tasks covers can have is revealing the setting, taking advantage of a beautiful landscape or intriguing angle of man's ingenuity is a great way to draw readers in. Many of these covers are pretty enough to hang on your wall (even if you aren't the author).

Every Reader is a Cover Judge

Color Punch

I love seeing bright or contrasting colors and elements that pop right off the cover, not only does this catch the eye but bright and cheerful colors make me smile too (okay, most books make me smile anyway but don't try to distract me with trivial facts)!

Every Reader is a Cover Judge

Emotion Evoking

Here's a reader confession for y'all (I know y'all love it when I hop on here and spill my guts, we're all friends here), I'm a big ol' reader scaredy cat. Thrillers, gothic novels, murder mysteries... not my idea of fun. Covers that hint to whether I'm going to laugh, cry, or sleep with the lights on are appreciated!

Every Reader is a Cover Judge

Split Scenes

"A picture is worth a thousand words," or so the saying goes but books I read are much more than one thousand words... I believe this warrants tasteful split scenes! Character and landscape seems to be the most popular combination but as you'll see below, two characters or even two settings can share cover real estate.

Every Reader is a Cover Judge

Darling Doodles

The illustrated cover trend seems to have exploded recently and since y'all know how much I enjoy bright, happy colors, I don't have to tell you how happy this makes me (but I will anyway because it's late and I spent a way too long assembling all the covers and they make me very happy, I love all the colors).

Every Reader is a Cover Judge

Creative Edge

Ah, here are the brave, bold covers. The ones who we think of as the first to take the leap into something new, breaking the mold, combining cover trends (for example, Karen Barnett's Vintage National Park series recreates natural wonders with illustrations), or highlighting a unique story element.

Every Reader is a Cover Judge


As in nearly all things readerly, cover appeal is subjective. I want bearded men, maybe you want a barefoot Amish widow, it all boils down to knowing your readers and connecting them to your story from the first moment.

If you’re fishing for new readers, the cover is the hook but not if they don’t take the bait. In my humble reader opinion, a professionally designed cover is a second priority only to an experienced editor. Readers will not only be more likely to pick up a book with a beautiful cover, but they'll also be willing to spend more on it.

Make sure to hop back over to yesterday's post by Jolina Petersheim if you missed it!

Let's chat! Share some of the elements you most love seeing on book covers.
Let me know if you find yourself leaning towards any of the categories above.
What else do you expect a cover to tell you about a story? 


Join me tomorrow as I spotlight 10+ of my favorite covers on Faithfully Bookish! Susan May Warren will be sponsoring a two winner giveaway of her new release, Knox, to celebrate.

I feel obligated to leave this here, just in case...
Every Reader is a Cover Judge
Beth Erin is a Christian fiction enthusiast, book reviewer, and blogger. She strives to edify and connect with readers and authors at Faithfully Bookish and on social media. 

Beth also contributes to the Seekerville, Christian Fiction Readers RetreatHoarding Books, and Diversity Between the Pages blogs. She is passionate about promoting authors and their entertaining, encouraging, and redemptive stories.

 Avoiding Sticky Book Cover SituationsOrganization: What Works for MeThe Christy Award 2020 WinnersBehind the Scenes of a Blog TourBook World Changes5 Bookish Love LanguagesThe Art of Writing & The Christy Gala RecapStranger Than FictionSize Up Your Reading Habits (or Your Readers)Every Reader is a Cover Judge

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