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Who's Your #1 Fan?

Who's Your #1 Fan?

For the last couple of months I’ve been focused on newsletters, not so much the content, but how to manage your subscribers as well as how to keep costs down with the your software service.

Today, let’s talk a bit about figuring out what makes someone engage with your newsletter and what keeps them engaged.

I have more thoughts on this and we’ll get to them next month, but today’s topic is going to be VERY narrow, maybe because the remnants of a summer cold has my ears stopped up and I have tunnel vision …. uh … hearing, but a nice, simple, detailed topic seems to fit the bill today.


Who's Your #1 Fan?
Reader "A"

I bought this little ebook a few months ago called Newsletter Ninja by Tammi Labrecque. It’s an interesting read and the more I dig into managing my own list, the more some of what she says in the book makes sense, like segments and tags, and autoresponders and all that stuff. I’m slowly learning, but trying not to become so focused on the nuts and bolts of my newsletter list that I forget the purpose of my newsletter.

Which brings me to Tammi’s mailing list philosophy. She says, “First, you are not selling what you think you are. Second, if all you’re using your list for is selling, you’re doing everything wrong.”

Okay, that makes sense. For those of us who’ve been around the marketing block a few times, we understand what she’s saying, but if not books, what are we selling?


Who's Your #1 Fan?
Reader "B"

Tammi declares that we are selling ourselves. But I’ll go one better. We’re selling relationships. Or, more accurately, we’re creating relationships.

Generally, people signed up for our newsletter either because they found us through a blog tour or giveaway, as a direct contact at a festival or event, or they read one of our books.

I think about those people that I’ve met at events and we had time to chat and get to know each other a bit, and they signed up for my newsletter. I feel really good about our relationship as an author and an engaged subscriber and reader.

One lady I met at a book fair several years ago stands out. In her 70s, petite, short permed hair, twinkling blue eyes, Margaret emails me almost every time a newsletter goes out. We’ve only met that once, but I’ve never forgotten her because SHE keeps he lines of communication open. Now, isn’t that cool?

Who's Your #1 Fan?
Reader "C"

Another one of my #1 fans is Clent. Clent and his wife had a booth across the way the first year I had a print book out. It was Claiming Mariah. I was so nervous selling my ONE book that year. I had a few minutes to spare once I got my booth set up, so I chatted with Clent and his wife Reba. Clint was there for moral support for his wife who was selling homemade soaps, lotion, jewelry, etc. About the time the festival got under way, Clent walked over and bought a copy of my book. Then he spent the rest of the day reading. And he’s been reading ever since. He always makes sure to seek me out and buy a copy of my latest novel. Clent’s a truck driver, if I’m not mistaken.

Then there’s Caroline (18) and her aunt Anitrel (40s)….

Margaret: Female. In her 70s, petite, owns a printing and frame shop.

Clent: Male. Early 60s. Truck driver.

Caroline: Female. 18. Just graduated high school. Wanted ALL my books for Christmas.

Anitrel. Female. Guessing she’s in her 40s, and refuses to share he copies with her niece and vice versa.


Who's Your #1 Fan?
Reader "D"

So back to Tammi’s advice in her book Newsletter Ninja. Tammi suggests creating the ideal subscriber and write to that person. She declares it works. How do you create a relationship with 2000 or 10,000 subscribers when they’re all SO different? I just listed four who I’ve met personally and on the surface none of them (other than the aunt and her niece) have much in common with each other. 

I’ll call my perfect subscriber Tammi (fitting, since the author of Newsletter Ninja called hers Pamela!). Tammi is 39 years old and is a school teacher in rural Tennessee. Her husband works for the electric company. He works a M-F shift, but is on call during storms and bad weather, so reading keeps her mind off the danger her husband is in while working during storms. Tammi reads historical romance, and she enjoys long weekends out of school, winter breaks and the long summer break so she can relax and read as much as she wants to.

This is such a fresh concept for me that I’m not sure I can really picture my fictitious Tammi when I’m putting together my newsletter, but I sure can picture Margaret, Clint, Caroline, and Anitrel. So that might work for me.

Who's Your #1 Fan?
Reader "E"

What about you? Do you have a newsletter subscriber or a #1 fan that you picture in your head when your writing or putting together your newsletter.

For fun, pick one or more of the people in today’s post and develop a reader/newsletter subscriber around them. Give them a name, age, occupation, family (or not), where they live. The whole works. 

Make them somebody who’d be YOUR #1 FAN.



And... celebrate with me! Love is a Puzzle is here! 

Originally part of Barbour's California Gold Rush Romance Collection, it's now been re-published as part of my Calico Trails Collection.



Who's Your #1 Fan?


One Thing That Works For Me with guest Roseanna M. White: Surprise and Delight

 

One Thing That Works For Me with guest Roseanna M. White: Surprise and Delight

Good Monday morning, Seekerville! I (Carrie) am here to introduce today's guest for this month's 'One Thing That Works For Me' series. Please join me in welcoming author Roseanna M. White as she shares about 'surprise and delight'!

For the last several years, my husband has been fine-tuning a marketing approach that he learned via Rob Hardy called “Identity Marketing.” It was originally created for filmmakers but was oh-so-easily adapted to the book world that he invested quite a bit of time into writing out those adaptations…and of course, sharing them with me, mwa ha ha ha. The whole system is amazing and works super well with the outlook I’ve always tried to have—that it’s not about selling, it’s about serving. And one of the tenets of this system that I especially latched onto was the principle of “Surprise and Delight.”

What is it? Very simple—whenever you can, come up with something that will surprise (in a good way, of course!) your readers. We all love plot twists in stories, right? Well, one of our goals should be delivering little twists in our marketing too. Things that our readers don’t expect, and which put big smiles on their faces.

Great in theory…but what about in practice? How do we actually come up with these things? I have a whole list of things I’ve done and tried, and many have worked quite well. But today I want to tell you about my absolute favorite.

So around two years ago, when we were just beginning to test this system, I had the idea for an online Tea Party Book Club. Now, this was before the world went virtual thanks to The Pandemic That Shall Not Be Named. The inspiration came in May of 2018; I had a book coming out…I went to a tea with the ladies from my church at a local tea house…and my husband had been running some virtual events via online meeting tech similar to Zoom. All these things swirled together in my mind and made me say, “Hey! Why couldn’t we do a tea party online?? I could put together packages, mail them out, and then get together with readers to chat about the book and have tea and treats together!”

I quickly became OBSESSED with this idea. (This is pretty typical of me, LOL.) I priced bulk tea. I priced pretty vintage teacups. Spoons. Sugar cubes. Individually wrapped treats. Candy. Mints. I weighed and priced postage. I considered how much I pay for this sort of thing at the local tea house. I came up with a package price and built it out on my website. And then… then… I presented it to my readers.

Would they love it too? Hate it? Not want to pay for that sort of thing? I didn’t know—all I knew was that I found the idea delightful, LOL, even though it would be a ton of work on my part.

I didn’t have to wait long to find out how my readers would receive it. Within a few days of announcing the idea, I had people filling the parties, ordering “starter kits” that involve tea pots and vintage cups and spoons, a lady from my church volunteered to make tea cozies for me, and I even had some people so excited that they signed up for all the extras and then realized an hour later that, oops, they were out of town that day or already had a tea set they could use.

But this was my answer—this idea, unheard of at the time, sounded so fun that my reader friends JUMPED to be a part of it. Where else did they get an hour with other fans of the book and the author and receive a hand-selected package of goodies to go along with it?

Now, granted, in the last year and a half everything has gone online, and we’re beginning to see a lot more things like this. But I’m thrilled to be able to say that I’ve been at it for over two years, that kinks have been worked out, processes have been streamlined…and that the seats keep filling up.

Best of all, relationships have been developed. I have regular attendees, and they greet each other like friends when they see a familiar face come back for this month or that month. Readers have become friends. And the conversations have been AMAZING.

Will I do these tea parties forever? Who knows. But I’m having a blast doing them now—especially because my readers are too. It’s just one thing in the many that I do to try to reach out to them, but it’s been a total success. It’s one way to Surprise and Delight them…and seeing how well it’s worked, it’s an inspiration to keep coming up with new ways to do just that in the future.

~*~*~*~*~*~

One Thing That Works For Me with guest Roseanna M. White: Surprise and Delight

Roseanna M. White is a bestselling, Christy Award nominated author who has long claimed that words are the air she breathes. When not writing fiction, she’s homeschooling her two kids, editing for WhiteFire Publishing, designing book covers, and pretending her house will clean itself. Roseanna is the author of a slew of historical novels that span several continents and thousands of years. Spies and war and mayhem always seem to find their way into her books…to offset her real life, which is blessedly ordinary. 

You can learn more about her and her stories at www.RoseannaMWhite.com.

 

Roseanna is offering a $15 credit in her online store to one commenter!

One Thing That Works For Me with guest Roseanna M. White: Surprise and Delight
 

Authors, what questions do you have for Roseanna about her tea parties or her 'surprise and delight' strategy?
Readers, what are some ways other authors have 'surprise and delight'-ed you? 

  

Moving With Books - A Survivor's Tale

 

Moving With Books - A Survivor's Tale

by Carrie Schmidt

At the end of 2020, my husband and I moved from Kentucky to Georgia. Yes, yes that does mean we sold our house in one state and bought a house in another - in a pandemic. I don't recommend it. It's certainly not for the faint of heart. Something else that isn't for the faint of heart... moving when you hoard* collect books! Nevertheless, I survived to tell the tale, and because I care for all of you and want to save you some stress when the time comes for you to move your book collection from one residence to another, I have some tips to help you survive it as well.

*It's not hoarding if it's books. The internet says so. 

My perspective is that of an avid reader & reviewer & book marketer who reads mostly on her Kindle these days but needs to have the paperbacks around to hug on occasion too. But I also know that authors have copious author copies laying (lying?) around - and the more books you've published, the more author copies you have. Hopefully, all of us can relate on some level to my survival tale, even if just with empathy :)

Boxes, Boxes Everywhere

Moving With Books - A Survivor's Tale
The first thing you need to know about moving with books is how to select the right boxes in which to pack them. Now you might be tempted to go for the bigger boxes to pile in as many books as possible and make quick work of your task. Beware of that temptation, dear reader, and arm yourself against it. The more books per box, the heavier those boxes be. While this seems like a basic concept, when you're neck deep in boxes and to-do lists and sleepless nights, it can be more difficult to think logically. 

The moving experts I consulted (aka Google) said the best boxes for moving books are the 10x10 or 12x12 sizes. I ordered one hundred 12x12 boxes*, and they seemed to be pretty much perfect for the job. I also tried to limit myself to packing only about 20 books per box (and filling in the rest of the space with packing paper or towels or pillows, etc. as another safeguard to keep the weight down. To protect the books in case the movers dumped the boxes in a puddle or, you know, something equally horrific, I lined the bottom and sides with sheets of newsprint and made sure that the spines were up against the sides of the box, rather than the pages. 

*I had to order 25 more... if you want to do the math, about 20 books per box, 125 boxes... you'll have a good idea of how many books i own.

You Did Not Just Say That

Finding the right box size and getting all those tomes packed is but one hurdle to moving with books. Another hill you must climb is the perhaps-well-meaning-but-still-painful comments you'll get from your realtor, your father-in-law, and other misguided people. You'll hear audacious things like:

  • You can only keep about twelve books out for the pictures,
  • Are you really taking all those books with you?,
  • and the (closely related) Can't you get rid of some of those books so you don't have to move them all?
Dear reader, when you inevitably hear one of these statements, do not panic! It merely makes the situation worse. I found it helpful instead to smile as sweetly as I could muster and say, "Yes of course I'm taking all of my books. They are my friends." I mean, they already think I'm a little kooky for reading so much (it used to be an offense worthy of committing someone to a mental hospital, after all) so I figure calling books my friends can't damage their opinion of me much further lol.

Let Them Go, Let Them Go 

And no, I don't mean donating them or giving them away - we've already put that idea from our minds. I mean, once they are packed, there are some things to adjust to. 

  • Be prepared to get a little twitchy when you don't have easy access to your books for an undetermined amount of time. This comes and goes so keep your ereader handy to take a bit of the edge off. 
  • Moving With Books - A Survivor's Tale
    If you hire movers (and when you have as many books as I do, I highly encourage you to do so), there will come a time - brace yourself - when the book boxes get loaded into the truck and taken away from you. In our case, since it was a multi-state move and we weren't closing in Georgia for a few days after we had to vacate the house in Kentucky, our moving truck was locked away in the company's storage warehouse. (Cue those twitches I mentioned above)
  • Once you and your books are reunited* they may stay in boxes for a while. I mean, you don't want to put them all in bookcases and on shelves and then realize you really need to arrange the room setup again. That's a lot of unnecessary work, and moving is enough work on its own, so I give you the freedom to let them stay comfy & cozy in their boxes for a little longer if needed. 

*When we got back to our hotel the day we closed on our house in Georgia, our moving truck was parked there too! You know what means, right? My books knew where I was & they found me!! 

Sort-of a Problem

This last thing isn't really a problem, per se - but it is something you'll want to think about at least a little bit ahead of time. Currently my books are in sorted piles all over my dining room/library floor (yes, still) but before I could even get that far, I had to decide HOW I wanted to sort them for shelving purposes. There are about as many ways to sort books as there are genres (which is one way to sort them). You could sort them by:

  • author, alphabetically
  • genre
  • topic
  • read status (i.e. TBR, for review, read, re-readable faves, etc.) 
  • title
  • color
  • trivial pursuit category (Anne Bogel - aka Modern Mrs. Darcy - says this is how her assistant sorts her own books and I thought that was ingenious!) 

And then of course, you can use combinations of the above. For instance, I sort by author but I also have a separate bookcase for books I've been asked to review/launch teams, etc. and a china hutch that I've repurposed into a home for our most cherished books. 

My book sisters (and partners at JustRead Tours) have done beautiful jobs sorting their books by color and gave me permission to share their shelves as examples of how pretty it can turn out!

Beth's bookcase

Moving With Books - A Survivor's Tale

Rachel's book nook

Moving With Books - A Survivor's Tale

And of course there is the ol' tried and true method of just putting them on the nearest shelf in whichever order they come out of the box because you know you'll be double and triple stacking them before too long anyway ;)

Have you moved with books before?
Do you have any helpful tips for rookies?
How do YOU sort your books?

Chat with me in the comments to be entered to win a book from my stash (US only) or a book of choice from Book Depository if international

~*~*~*~*~*~

Moving With Books - A Survivor's Tale

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 Georgia 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.

 


Let's Hear from Our Readers

 Good morning, Seekerville.  

As I started to type that, I couldn't help it. My brain burst out with this.


We really are our own wonderful neighborhood here. 


So today I was hoping we could grab a mug of coffee or tea, maybe share some donuts, and just hang out and chat about reading. 

I have a couple of reasons why I've chosen to do this post today.

1) Criminal Minds  - I will come back to this.

2) Pandemic Reading

3) A question from a workshop I attended.


I'm going to do these backwards because #3 is the most recent. In a workshop I attended, we were asked to write about things we enjoyed from our childhood. Honestly, the first thing I came up with - and the only one I didn't have to think hard about - was READ.

There were other questions, but my first answer to all of them was either a book title or READ.

I've always known reading was a major factor in my life and development, but answering these questions just emphasized for me how dominant a role books and reading have played throughout my life.

Which brings me to #2 - pandemic reading. 

This has been a mixed bag. There have been books that have totally consumed me for days at a time, and then there have been dozens that (through no fault of their own) couldn't wrangle my skittish attention span. But the ones that did capture me - oh they reminded me of why I love books so much. They allowed me to step out of a pandemic-ridden world into a place of magic.

I guess my daughter knew what she was doing when she gave me this mug for Christmas.


So that brings me to Point #1 - Criminal Minds.

I've spent a lot of days this summer with day-long marathons of Criminal Minds playing in the background as I wrote my next suspense novel. I have sort of a love-hate relationship with this show. Years ago, when it was running, I couldn't watch it because frankly I found it terrifying. But I happened to stumble upon the final episode when it aired back in February, and I was captivated by the personal relationships between the characters and the very believable camaraderie.

I discovered my cable station running marathons, and I learned that I could skip the first five minutes with the bloody criminal introduction, and just focus on the profilers - their relationships and their methodology for solving the crimes. Sure I still had to cover my eyes from time to time, but I found myself feeling like I was hanging out with a group of friends.

{For anyone who may not know, Criminal Minds follows the BAU (Behavioral Analysis Unit) of the FBI as they profile unsubs and solve crimes - usually serial killers and always gory. I cover my eyes A LOT.}

Jan and Mary may never forgive me for this comparison, but it reminded me of how I used to feel as a child when I hung out with The Happy Hollisters in their books - me with a group of fictional friends. Hopefully that doesn't sound as pathetic as it sounded to me when I wrote it. 😍

So now, in my roundabout way, I've gotten to the point of this post. Because of my fascination with the characters of Criminal Minds, I read an article about it called "Criminal Minds is ending after 15 years - here's why we're OK with that." There were a lot of of interesting points raised in the article, (and some I disagreed with), but the gist of it was that the world is very different now than it was in 2005 when the show premiered, and that audience tastes have changed. Themes that were popular back then, are not tolerated now. That article really stuck in my head, and I've thought of it often when people talk about likes and dislikes with books or shows.

THAT is what I wanted to talk about today. Have your tastes as readers/viewers changed over the years? If so, is there anything you enjoyed in the past that you wouldn't want to read now? Or vice-versa. Are there topics, themes, locations that you never were interested in before but now want?

And the followup question - what stories would you like to read that you are just not seeing out there?

I know we're talking about books here, but feel free to extend the discussion to your taste in film or TV shows as well.


And if you'd like to talk about your pandemic reading or childhood pleasures, please do. Were books important to you when you were growing up? What role does reading play in your life now?


Let's chat. I'll bring the coffee and donuts.



Image by Skyler H. from Pixabay 


Image by Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabay 


Best of the Archives: Giving Readers What They Want...Consistently (aka: What I learned from being a cosmetics junkie.)

Happy Friday, everyone. I wanted to re-share a post from the original Seekerville blog from August 2017. And yes, I will be doing the giveaway again! 


My name is Missy Tippens, and I am a cosmetics and skincare product addict. I love face creams and foundation. Primer and powder. Cleansers and concealer. I’m a sucker for just about anything that declares itself anti-aging. :) (Please bear with me. I WILL tie this in to writing and books.)

Best of the Archives: Giving Readers What They Want...Consistently (aka: What I learned from being a cosmetics junkie.)


My husband has always called me a marketer’s dream. Sales and advertisements draw me in. I love to discover new products, and once I love something, I’m a loyal user. For the last year, I’ve been a big fan of an up-and-coming cosmetics company. I’ve tried many new-to-me products, but have also experienced the release of new items. I have enjoyed the samples that come with every purchase. Very often, I use those samples and then buy the products, discovering new favorites. When I go to their website to shop, I always read the reviews before I buy. They seem to have a crazily loyal customer base, women who heartily share their love of the products with others. I found myself spoiled by the company’s business model and by those new product releases—the samples, the build-up, the special promotions.

But recently, when it had been a while since a new product, I found myself losing interest a bit. I started looking around, clicking on links in newsletters from other companies, checking out products by other brands. Then,

In that moment, it hit me… Oh, my goodness, what if books are the same? I suspect voracious readers are the same way I am with my cosmetics. If so, we authors need to stay in contact with our readers. We need to give them new products to sample and buy. We need to keep them excited about our product so they stay loyal. :)

Best of the Archives: Giving Readers What They Want...Consistently (aka: What I learned from being a cosmetics junkie.)

How can we give our readers more books and keep them interested when some of us are slow writers? Or when some of us are at a place in our lives where we have family or other commitments taking us away from our writing? What about those authors facing illness or grief? It got me thinking…wondering…feeling a bit overwhelmed…

And then I got a promotional email from Nick Stephenson of the blog
They key thing to remember is that 'overwhelm' isn't an inherent personality flaw. It's not genetic. It's not communicable. It's not a fault with you. Overwhelm is a by-product of 'not having a plan'.”
That was another
No more saying, “When I finish x, I think I’m going to work on y…or maybe z.” No more being anxious or indecisive. I need to fully commit no matter what. I need to make decisions about the order to work on projects and then set deadlines.
Best of the Archives: Giving Readers What They Want...Consistently (aka: What I learned from being a cosmetics junkie.)
I mentioned in the comments section not long back that I have a new Panda Planner. But I haven’t been using it regularly. I’m now reminded of how important it is to have a plan and to stay on track. Organization is key to keep from getting overwhelmed, which is key to producing more books, which keeps our readers faithful and excited about our work!
So, while planners can be fun and even artistic ventures (some use stickers and artwork!), and while I love my planner because it includes space for recording gratitude as well as a place to list successes, the calendar area should be a priority.
Best of the Archives: Giving Readers What They Want...Consistently (aka: What I learned from being a cosmetics junkie.)

Today, I want to share some ideas I’ve had (inspired by my cosmetics addict lightbulb moment) for keeping readers interested and loyal:

--Focus on our newsletter, and try to keep a regular schedule (whatever that frequency is for you).
--Be generous with samples (first chapter or free prequel, etc.) on our website or wherever we connect with readers.
--Don’t let big gaps of time pass without offering a product, even if it’s something short or just a freebie. Work toward being more prolific so readers will remain excited about new releases. I think several of the Seekers have a good handle on this by just sticking to a daily word count goal. Consistently writing 500 or 1000 or 2000 words a day (or whatever number works for you) can make all the difference.
--Get readers involved in our work. I’ve recently read authors who recommend keeping readers engaged on social media. One author asks them questions and lets them give input on his books while writing them. And he always responds to comments. This is something I know I can improve on. I have tended to think I’m boring so haven’t posted much on my Facebook author page. But in the future, I want to reach out more often.
--Don’t overdo the promotion. The last thing we want to do is shout, “Buy my book!!” over and over until our fans get so sick of our pleas they want to run the other direction. We don’t want to shove our books down their throats. We want to keep them excited and looking forward to hearing from us. Finding this ideal frequency may take a little trial and error, but I think we’d be safe looking at how often we like hearing from our favorite authors (or from our favorite products outside of books).
--Finally, I think we should move beyond thinking of ourselves simply as creatives and try thinking of ourselves as a brand. We should be savvy business owners. Consider who our customers are and what they want. Come up with a plan, and schedule those product releases on our calendar. Break down those projects into manageable steps. Plan well ahead, especially for promotion. And always be learning from other authors who are successful.
I hope you found this helpful! I’d love to hear your input, as I’m still in the process of shoring up my plan.
Best of the Archives: Giving Readers What They Want...Consistently (aka: What I learned from being a cosmetics junkie.)Today, I’ll be doing a fun giveaway! I’m giving away a hanging travel bag that’ll be great for cosmetics (you knew I had to go there :)) or other toiletries or shaving items. It can even be used for packing electronics (for the many chargers you have to haul everywhere). Please let me know in the comments if you’d like to be entered! (Giveaway item will be similar to this photo but may not be exact depending on what’s available when I order it. U.S. entries only this time please.)

After more than 10 years of pursuing her dream of publication, Missy Tippens, a pastor’s wife and mom of three from near Atlanta, Georgia, made her first sale to Harlequin Love Inspired in 2007. Her books have since been nominated for the Booksellers Best, Holt Medallion, American Christian Fiction Writers Carol Award, Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, Maggie Award, Beacon Contest, RT Reviewer’s Choice Award, and the Romance Writers of America RITA® Award. Visit Missy at www.missytippens.comhttps://twitter.com/MissyTippens andhttp://www.facebook.com/missy.tippens.readers.



Fabulous First Lines in Fiction

Fabulous First Lines in Fiction

Happy Friday, Seeker villagers! Every third month, when my Friday rolls around, I suffer from a serious case of imposter syndrome. Panic sets in over the dreaded questions - What will I write about? Do I HAVE anything to contribute that anyone will care about? Will this be the month that I turn in my Seekerville badge and slink off to the 'I'm not a writer' corner? 

As predicted, I talked myself off that same ledge this month too. I came up with - and rejected - several ideas and finally remembered this little tidbit: on my own blog, I recently celebrated completing 200 'First Line Friday' posts. That's 200 posts of potential Seekerville post material! Eureka! I'm saved to survive on Seekerville for another three months!

Now, I am admittedly not an author. So I can't talk a lot about the technique and craft of first lines, but I can share some of my favorite first lines in fiction and look at what they have in common. (And fortunately for me, Debby Giusti talked about first lines/chapters last year!)

Let's start out with a little game! Can you match these classic first lines to their books? (I'll post the answers in the comments) 

Fabulous First Lines in Fiction

The books you have to choose from for the above first lines are: 
  • The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston 
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  • Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • Moby Dick by Herman Melville

And here are some recent faves I've loved from the 200 'First Line Friday' posts I've done on my blog: 

Fabulous First Lines in Fiction Fabulous First Lines in Fiction


Fabulous First Lines in FictionFabulous First Lines in Fiction

Fabulous First Lines in Fiction    Fabulous First Lines in Fiction 

Aren't they great? What are some things they have in common (including the classic first lines in our little game)?

  • They immediately grab your attention. Maybe you're chuckling at some poor soul being voluntold for horrors unknown, unfortunate Eustace Clarence Scrubb of the almost-deserved name, or a crime-committing mama raccoon. Maybe you're captivated by the clever (or poetic) wordsmithing. Maybe you're just plain intrigued by what comes after that first line - where could it go from here? Regardless, each of these twelve first lines definitely (and immediately) has you committed to discovering the rest of the book. 
  • They are a bit vague. By that, I mean that a captivating first line raises more questions than it answers. Who was voluntold for what? Who is Ishmael & why do we care? (spoiler alert - we don't.) Why did poor Eustace almost deserve his name, and why only almost? What caused that 'swell of instant silence and intense heat'? This immediate need for more information again engages the reader's full attention & keeps them reading. 
  • They can be poetic. The first line from Pepper Basham's The Thorn Keeper is one of my very fave first lines because it's so beautiful and wistful and a bit sad, too. Reading a first line like that - or the one from Beth Troy's Lu or quote #5 in the game list above - tells me I must keep reading to discover what other poetically beautiful gems are tucked inside this book!
  • But they don't have to be. Lines like the ones from The Cupcake Dilemma by Jennifer Rodewald or More Than We Remember by Christina Suzann Nelson (and even #4 from our guessing game) are more humorous and maybe a little bit snarky. That doesn't necessarily mean the rest of the book is written in that tone - though it might - but yet again it keeps me reading to find out. 

Like I said, I don't claim to be an author. I don't know all the technical craft speak to tell you why these twelve first lines are so captivating. All I can tell you as an avid reader is 1) they are captivating and 2) they all kept me reading. Your first line doesn't have to look like these; it should reflect your style and your story. But a great question to ask as you re-read during edits or at some other point in your writing process is: "Would I want to keep reading this book if this is all I had to go on?" No cover. No back cover copy. No author interview. Just that first line. Would it intrigue you enough to want to know 'the rest of the story'?

If so, you've found your own fabulous first line! Go forth & write, dear authors. I am cheering you on! 

What do you find the most difficult about writing a first line?
What is one of your fave first lines? (either your own or another author's)
What intrigued you most about it?


 ~*~*~*~*~


Fabulous First Lines in Fiction
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, LLC, 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.
 


Back to Basics: Relatable Heroines To Draw Your Reader

 Darlings, this is a "Back to Basics" post that works for new and not-so-new authors alike! How to write the kind of heroine you want to read, one you can love, admire and embrace.


Back to Basics: Relatable Heroines To Draw Your Reader


There is no simple way to say this. No simple words to address it. And no long-winded advice on methods, manners and modes.

Writers need to find "their" readers. The readers who love their voice, their mindset, their characters. The readers who identify with that author's point of view, with the settings, with the slant. And the best way to do this is to write books.

Some readers love the long-suffering type heroines who finally find some level of peace and satisfaction in life.

Other readers gravitate toward kick-butt heroines, the Kate Becketts (Castle: CBS) or the Elizabeth Bennets or the Princess Leias... the women who stand charge and don't stand down.

And an author can combine the two to make their characters sympathetic to Reading Group 1... and beloved by Reading Group 2 by having the long-suffering person stand up for herself and fly in the face of fear and transgression with a sense of overcoming.


Back to Basics: Relatable Heroines To Draw Your Reader

I used that combination in two of my bestselling indie books "Running on Empty" and "Refuge of the Heart", using women who had to overcome a tragic, traumatic past to grab a firm hold on the future they wanted. But they couldn't have that future without the growth it took to get from point A (fear, self-doubt and guilt) to point B (realizing that their strength comes from faith in God and faith in themselves.)


Back to Basics: Relatable Heroines To Draw Your Reader


Some readers identify with overcomers. So many of us have had to overcome a multitude of things in life from poverty, abuse, loneliness, death, divorce, loss of a child, addiction, mental illness, loss of job, loss of income and those are only a few of the things that can tip us into mental overdrive.

My Wishing Bridge series deals with three women who met in a foster care group home and their gripping and beautiful stories have put them on the Amazon.com bestseller list for the past two years... These are small town/rural setting stories of three overcomers and God's perfect timing.... and folks relate to it because almost all of us, if not all, have had to overcome something.


Back to Basics: Relatable Heroines To Draw Your Reader


Some readers want complete relaxation and only buy books that are funny or funny/poignant.

They want the humor to soften the curves of life, and there's nothing wrong with that! Those curves could use bumper guards, for certain! 

But other readers want what my buddy Vince refers to as "Romance Realism": stories of victory over adversity, like what happens in real life.

Each author tackles into his/her heroines differently, so here are ideas from some of the marvelous Seekers:



Back to Basics: Relatable Heroines To Draw Your Reader


Missy Tippens says she particularly loves reading heroines who are funny--not necessarily on the page interacting with other characters, but more in their thoughts. She can really relate to heroines who sometimes think or say the things Missy wishes she had the nerve to say in real life! She also relates well to heroines who are flawed, who don't have their act together, yet who fight through, grow, and come out a better human being by the end of the story.


Back to Basics: Relatable Heroines To Draw Your Reader



From Jan Drexler:

But favorite heroines? I can weigh in on that. My favorite heroine is someone who impacts someone else's life for the better. So she's the daughter who cares for her aging parents, or the young professional who puts friendship above advancement, or the high school senior who puts her dreams on hold to raise her younger siblings when their parents are killed (that's Jackie Layton's heroine in her cozy mystery series.) Give me the woman who can put someone else's interests ahead of her own, and you have a heroine I can root for.


From Erica Vetsch:

As for relatable heroines, I try to give my heroines a quirk, like a gesture or a phrase or a tendency. In The Lost Lieutenant, my heroine Diana is a list-maker. She has little control in her life, so the areas in which she can exert control, she's all in. Lists, organization, plans.

I also like to give them a special gift. For Diana, it is design. She has a flair for creating beautiful spaces.

I also like to give my heroines a bit of a moral dilemma where they have to choose between two hard things. In this case, Diana wonders if it is every okay to lie to someone, if your motives are good.


Back to Basics: Relatable Heroines To Draw Your Reader

Wishing you-- and all heroines, fictional and real!!!!-- the very best of health and happiness: Keep Writing! 

Back to Basics: Relatable Heroines To Draw Your Reader
Multi-published, bestselling author Ruth Logan Herne loves writing great stories, working with kids, baking amazing goodies and working in gardens, but mostly she loves God... and her family... and thanks God for the graces she's known throughout her life. Visit her at ruthloganherne.com or visit her here on Seekerville or Yankee Belle Cafe on Thursdays, or friend Ruthy on Facebook! 

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!


Be an Influential Reader

By Guest Beth Vogt



Be an Influential Reader



Most authors I know like to connect with readers.

Oh, I know how authors are portrayed at times: 

1.     We’re introverted to the point of being hermits. 
2.     We protect our creative time beyond all reason, like Gollum treasures the One Ring to Rule Them All. 
3.     When we do engage in conversations, we like to talk about books—our books, other writers’ books—and anything book-related, like plots, characters, and dialogue. 

To which I say, well, yes, sometimes we are pensive. And protective. And preoccupied. And authors are #1 and #2 especially when we’re on deadline. And #3? All. The. Time. 

But even so, most authors like to connect with readers. 

It’s fun to hear what readers enjoy about a book we’ve written. Or how readers connect with a particular character. Or when a reader is encouraged by a book we’ve written—when the spiritual truth we’ve woven through our novels ministers to them or gives them hope. That’s gold.

Negative reviews . . . um . . . yeah, those are harder on us. And that’s another blog post.

Be an Influential ReaderDuring the early stages of plotting my new release, Moments We Forget, I had a casual interaction with a reader. However, our brief conversation caused me to rethink how I was writing one of the plotlines of the story. This reader asked a simple “What’s going to happen next?” kind of question, and I realized she wasn’t the only reader who would want an answer to the question.

As the author, I needed to ask the “What’s going to happen?” question if I wanted to write a novel that would satisfy my readers. By asking myself the question—and ensuring I answered it—I added deeper emotional and spiritual layers to the story. 


In writing the Thatcher Sisters series, I didn’t tie up all the loose ends at the end of book one, Things I Never Told You, which meant there would be several “What’s going to happen?” story lines continuing in book two, Moments We Forget. I didn’t do that to frustrate readers—really, I didn’t. 

I left some loose ends because life is like that. Relationships, decisions, and questions don’t always get tied up with a nice neat bow because we want them to be resolved by a certain time. And reaching the end of a book doesn’t mean that everything should be completely decided, either. Yes, there needs to be a sense of closure, of character arc—meaning the main characters have changed and discovered truth. There also should be a sense of hope. But, since one of my goals as an author is to write realistic books, I don’t believe everything has to be perfect because, well, that’s not true to life. 

Be an Influential Reader


I’ll be forever grateful to my reader (waving at you, Gail!) for asking me, “What’s going to happen next?” because that simple question helped me make Moments We Forget a better book. Never doubt the influence of a reader on an author! 

******

Missy here. Let's chat today about how we authors have been influenced by readers. And readers, tell us what you think it's important that we know!



Be an Influential Reader


Beth K. Vogt believes God’s best often waits behind doors marked Never. Beth is a 2016 Christy Award winner, as well as a 2016 ACFW Carol Award winner and a 2015 RITA Award finalist. Beth’s latest novel, Moments We Forget, book two in the Thatcher Sisters Series, releases from Tyndale House Publishers in May 2019. Visit Beth at bethvogt.com.



Jillian Thatcher has spent most of her life playing the family peacemaker, caught in the middle between her driven, talented older sister and her younger, spotlight-stealing twin sisters. Then on the night of her engagement party, a cancer diagnosis threatens to once again steal her chance to shine.

Now, Jillian’s on the road to recovery after finally finishing chemo and radiation, but residual effects of the treatment keep her from reclaiming her life as she’d hoped. And just when her dreams might be falling into place, a life-altering revelation from her husband sends her reeling again.

Will Jillian ever achieve her own dreams, or will she always be “just Jillian,” the less-than Thatcher sister? Can she count on her sisters as she tries to step into a stronger place, or are they stuck in their childhood roles forever?


Who's Your #1 Fan?One Thing That Works For Me with guest Roseanna M. White: Surprise and DelightMoving With Books - A Survivor's TaleLet's Hear from Our ReadersBest of the Archives: Giving Readers What They Want...Consistently (aka: What I learned from being a cosmetics junkie.)Fabulous First Lines in FictionBack to Basics: Relatable Heroines To Draw Your ReaderBook World Changes5 Bookish Love LanguagesBe an Influential Reader

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