a side of sweet potatoes, ah autumn, better together, featured, Kathy Joy, Laura Bartnick, op-ed, Thanksgiving hostess gifts, Winding thoughts of a Widow

Stepping on Nano-seconds as Stepping Stones

My house is getting colder by the moment. I think I’ll go down and turn up the heat. Just a moment. I’ll be right back.

Okay. You know how that is, adjusting the thermostat by the ups and downs in fall as winter approaches, and the warming up days of spring only to be downcast by a late winter storm? I’m sure that’s why God made us pets to hold and help us through these uncertain times.

I used to take these walks with my dog, but I myself am in a time between times now, and I have to walk by myself. So, I step onto the nano-seconds with the fallen leaves and bright sunrises and sunsets, electric rains, and bristling winds.

In these private times, I give thanks for many things past, present, and future.

Time flies over us, but leaves its shadow behind.

Nathaniel Hawthorne

Here’s a pop quiz on a Tuesday:

  1. What is free, but priceless?
  2.  What can you never own, but always use?
  3.  What can you never keep, but always spend?
  4.  Once you’ve lost this, you can never get it back; what is it?

Answers:

  1. TIME
  2. TIME
  3. TIME
  4. TIME

The Time Between Times

Have you noticed how Thanksgiving tends to get lost in the time between times?

Decorations and celebration planning hops right over Thanksgiving like we are guided to hop from the treats of Halloween right into the serious celebrations of Christmas and the duties of gift-giving.

When do we get to spontaneously pause and reflect, it’s because we’ve stolen time away from these carefully sculpted hours for a private moment.

Celebrating Thanksgiving
Ah Autumn – Breath of Joy

I’ve written a series of seasonal books for winter, spring, summer, and fall (autumn) celebrating Thanksgiving and hospitality. My books use the nano-seconds as stepping stones, pauses to reflect, similar to you’d use a labyrinth.

Sometimes, when these seconds slow down, I discover treasures and turns of phrases. I find myself reaching in, reaching out, praying.

A Nano-Second of Impulse

I’m not an independently wealthy author. I work a day job at the front desk behind glass. Today at my place of work, we got an email about burnout, which many of us are experiencing.

One of the perks of working in a glass bowl is that you get to see what’s happening outside. I’ve witnessed some interesting moments, plus a few things I’d rather un-see if that were even possible.  Outside the door to my place of work, humanity passes by on skateboards, pushing strollers, in sneakered youth and well-shod business attire. I’ve seen army recruiters, pre-med students, construction workers, and grub hub drivers; bicyclists, policemen, delivery trucks, and dog walkers.

I’ve laughed to see people leaning close to the glass to examine their teeth, fix their hair, or admire their physique; the glass is a great mirror for them and a handy camouflage for me.

Back in the before-days, it was a common delight to see small tots on a daycare outing, holding hands, or maybe grabbing onto a long cord and marching in a wiggly line.

These days, everybody is hyper-alert.

This over-stretched year of Covid is marked by caution, measured in tiny increments of care, and burdened by restraints that brush by us and tip over our natural human boundaries. Humanity is unable to cope with robotic demands for long.

Asian woman elderly soup
Ah Autumn – Breath of Joy

I want to shout, are we tripping over our own watchfulness, calculating every move; hesitating over every decision?

Whatever happened to healthy distractions, good old spontaneity?

A friend I’ve been missing tells me, “There’s simply no room for the unknown; the unplanned.

It’s been raining lately, that off and on drizzle that makes you want to stay in bed. The persistent showers are cloaking the sky in a steely gray curtain. Occasionally we get a glimpse of soft pearly clouds, like the inside of an oyster shell. It’s the kind of weather for becoming a mirror of my ceilings, becoming a well-polished pearl.

If you have to go out, the umbrella is up and the head is down. Jackets are pulled snug. That’s why, while stealing a look at the world passing by, something caught my eye.

Spontaneity kicked to the curb, my ache for one rare and splendid moment is rewarded through the mist of incessant drizzle.

Some guy stood in a puddle.

He was standing in – not avoiding – a puddle.

He stomped one foot, then the other, and watched the spray fly upward.

A smile emerged from his face, then I was smiling, too.

He leaned down for a look at his soaked shoes. Wildly, he swept the puddle with one foot, then the other. Then he jumped.

The light changed, cars passed, and still, he stood there, sloshing in the cold rainwater.

I’d have expected this from a youngster, but this – this was a grownup; a man, roughly in his 40’s. It’s hard to tell.

Impossible to know whether he was a traveler, a vagrant, an executive who’d just lost his job, or perhaps a professor. It doesn’t matter. All speculations are off when you are splashing in puddles.

 

The world stopped for a moment.

He did not notice me watching from the office window. He did not care about ruined shoes or wet trousers. He wasn’t concerned with anything, except the lure of impulse.

The phone rang. I got back to business.

When I turned around for another look, of course, he was gone.

While the world was joining Zoom, masking up and maintaining an abundance of caution, this guy had an appointment with a mud puddle. A meeting, he honored. With reckless abandon. At the southwest corner of 9th and Sass, with St. Pete’s Cathedral towering over it all, a basic human emotion was felt: spontaneity.

And I got to see it, to feel the joy of it.

Our hearts need mending, our souls need healing, and our bodies need rest…one splendid moment at a time.

Author Kathy Joy writes The Weekly Jab to connect/encourage/remember. She also writes Coffee with Kathy and is a regular contributor to the Books For Bonding Hearts blog.

Co-contributor, Laura Bartnick manages Capture Books, a boutique publishing group.

__________________________________________

“Ah, Lord God! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you.” Jeremiah 32:17 ESV

©2020 Capture Books and its authors are happily represented by the publicity of Books for Bonding Hearts where you will find novels, memoirs, gift books, and several children’s books of high literary quality.

Advice, Author tools and hacks, featured, Laura Bartnick, op-ed, Speak Wonder

Models of Author-Speaker Income

At the Capture Books retreat (fall, 2020), the question was posed in open session, “What kind of money do you actually make when you speak on an author platform?”

Trying to filter the pointedness of this question, I diverted the authors to talk about the variety of benefits they have received through public speaking. And, there are many– were many prior to Covid-19 state rules and restrictions.

After many of these benefits were discussed, including the fact that authors have continued to make appearances even through the pandemic this past summer, the question was posed again, and to my surprise, authors in the room rose to the challenge, opening up about their choices and experiences in forms of payment for speaking engagements.

Taken aback at the variety of models used, I was impressed by the author’s willingness to discuss individual finances.

Because the models were so varied, the opportunity to cover them for an article on publicity seemed like an appropriate topic, and an important one, to offer for exploration.

Books sold at events can represent the best money an author earns apart from being underwritten by a name brand.

Since an author rarely makes more than two dollars on each book sold through a store or book selling distribution service, an author’s presentation at public events can help sway not only market sales of one’s books, without a middleman, but also provides authors with an opportunity to address topics of personal importance to them.

Authors are influencers, after all.

But, how does an newer author get booked?

One author, a media library specialist, said she was regularly offered a pretty decent flat fee for public speaking in relation to her specialty. Her presentations were given to audiences of educators, other librarians, and media-industry professionals. Being employed by a school system helps.

To this end, it may be worth it for an author to get a three year substitute certification or license in order to speak as a teacher’s substitute.

Why is this? A school system has pre-tested their employees, thus an employee asked to present at an event is regarded to be free of liability silt, overcoming the first bar of recommendations.

Additionally, a substitute teacher has already proven an ability to organize under pressure and has some ability to manage time, a message or presentation, and is able to hold the interest of an audience.

Any teacher who has learned to use hooks and gimmicks can grab the attention of an audience. A great teacher keeps a prop or two hidden up his or her sleeve in order to entertain. So, an author who also happens to be a teacher has a distinct advantage in the field of speaking at educational events.

+

Another author, a ministry founder, said that since she regularly spoke to women in retreat settings, she often requests that an honorarium or love offering be taken. She also asks that she be allowed to sell books from a book table.

Since she views each of her speaking opportunities as a ministry event, she doesn’t want an awkward conversation about payment to delay or burden the relationships. Mixing business and ministry outside of traditional employment can cause unnecessary speculation. She doesn’t want any of this to get in the way of her greater goal. She does, however, ask for the travel expenses to be covered and the hotel accommodation if she has to stay overnight.

The point is not to go broke

When asked how this model works out financially, she said that most often, the offerings have been generous and they have covered her expenses and time. Because the woman asking for a reasonable model of payment was known to have small children, this author then added to her experience telling about a time when Capture Books had booked an name branded author for one of their retreats. This name branded author had small children. In the author’s contract, there had been a childcare line item, and it had happily been paid.

+

Another author who writes and sells gift books said that she often approaches gift and novelty shops as well as libraries for book signing events. These venues are in addition to local festivals and church events.

Since she often brings supplies for workshops such as making vision boards and life maps, her contract request includes the price of one of her books with the cost of art supplies. We call this wrapping the cost of a book into the price of her author appearance.

Bonus: In addition, she also offers a clever and quick gift wrap option for books for tips.

In most venues, authors pre-autograph stacks of their books for signing events so that they don’t have to be distracted by writing out a full dedication page while others are waiting to speak to them.

+

One author said that she felt a certain freedom and joy when she presented educational workshops on her unique process of creativity.

She speaks to creative writing classes as a substitute teacher, and group therapy counselor. In the course of her presentation, she can ask the students to look up her book on Amazon and bookmark it for purchase if they are interested. She divulged that it is mostly the booking of these opportunities that has been difficult for her.

The group discussed the possibilities of approaching the receptionist with the conversation to present for a counseling group, state run health associations, and charter schools or colleges.

With or without a hired publicist, this off-topic conversation drifted into using the contact lists provided by Capture Books to woo speaking opportunities through well-edited emails with great opening lines, a couple of endorsements, and then following up an email with a phone call to the receptionist.

During stay-at-home seasons, Zoom or Skype conferences work well for joining a classroom already set up by the teacher and school system.

At this juncture, a brainstorming process took place about who is hiring for speaker events, and included the convenience that many of these groups have a set fee with the option of hosting a book table. An author shouldn’t feel embarrassed to ask about a set fee or a book table.

It is the author’s job to bring their own tablecloth, banner, postcards or bookmarks, a sheet to collect new contacts’ emails, and books, plus a couple of different ways to accept forms of payment.

Square and PayPal were the main forms of receiving payments preferred besides cash. But, many customers do not carry cash or exact change, even when they are shopping at holiday bazaars.

Why is the productivity so much higher when an author speaks at an event?

When speaking authors sell their own stock of books at events, the middle man fee is eliminated because they don’t have to pay the brick and mortar store their hefty fifty percent cut. [Though, when speaking at a book chainstore, the store’s retail policy will demand that the books are purchased through Ingram or Amazon. sold according to the list price guaranteeing their cut.]

Otherwise, the author can choose to offer the audience a discount, or they can sell the book for what it is valued at, or they can simply wrap up the price of the book with the cost of their presentation and offer each person who comes an autographed copy.

Some authors give their books away in order to woo someone to their business or product.

Authors make money and choose to work in a variety of ways because every author is uniquely gifted and embodies unique aims for having written their book(s).

In addition to the models mentioned above, an author can find partnerships in:

  • charities
  • alma maters
  • athletics organizations
  • youth organizations
  • senior organizations
  • sales organizations
  • hobbie organizations
  • missions events
  • religious denominations
  • and corporate causes.

In the beginning, and continuing for some authors throughout their writing career since they do not have a national platform for their book topics, they must be able to borrow a platform.

Take a moment to investigate online one of the above potential partner platforms for drafting an author email to and a follow-up telephone script. Reflect on your good relationships with an organization from your past and follow the trail to where it might lead. Then, repeat and file your emails into a computer file or desk file. Begin working methodically through these contact lists.

Remember that power of familiarity

When you find an intersection of interest between yourself and a possible event partner, make sure that you put them on your email opt-in list so that your author name, press releases, and recommendations come regularly to their inbox.

Books are still sold at charitable auctions and fundraisers. One of the Capture Books authors sold her humorous housewarming book, Before Long, Let’s Move!, in a picnic basket at a State-wide realtor’s conference last year.

Authors can look at speaking events as a way to broaden their unique voice and ministry, a way to raise awareness for a cause, and as a way to offer their talents to an educational system or charity for fundraising or a church or corporation for special events.

At the very least, when an presentation is booked, the author’s book is highlighted in pre-presentation materials and in the introduction when welcoming the author to the stage.

If you want to sell books, get yourself booked!

©Laura Bartnick, 2020, is the managing partner of Capture Books, a boutique publishing group.
Laura Bartnick
Laura Bartnick is the author of Welcome to the Shivoo! a creative and inspirational guide to entering into the Creator’s great party.
G.K. Johnson, author of The Zealots, 2021, historic fiction surrounding the Passion of Christ
Tonya Jewel Blessing
Tonya Jewel Blessing, Appalachian novelist and Bible Teacher
Sue Summers, education and media, co-author of Soothing Rain
Denise Dunham, children’s author, A Perfect Tree, offered in English and a Thai-English translation
Kathy Joy, Author of the Breath of Joy seasonal event gift books
Charmayne Hafen, M.A. young adult author of the Land of Twilight Trilogy and Indebted: The Berkshire Dragon

 

 

Humorous Pug in Blanket
Advice, ah autumn, Author tools and hacks, captive audiences, improvisation, Kathy Joy, Laura Bartnick, poetry, trust, winter

Untangling the Knots

Do you ever have a day that feels like a never-ending loop of knots to be untied? You have to solve one problem in order to gain entrance to the real problem – find an outlet, silence your phone, then assist a client all comes before you can see your way clear to untangling your own problems.

I had an hour of work that turned into two weeks of work because I had to back up and do the math, then I had to learn how to complete a new task that was part of the finished product. Then, I had to get permission to buy a software program in order to implement the answer.

It was a lot easier when all I had to do was give the ball of knots to my dad to untangle.

You may hear from a doctor that self-care is the act of providing yourself a sacred space in which to quiet your jangled nerves. It’s important, yes, to schedule peace in an overwhelming world.

To this end, I’ve found some simple things will sustain you  – things such as:

  • Giving yourself time to untangle a problem
  • Sharing hopes and dreams with somebody safe
  • pausing during a busy moment for a nudge of encouragement

Take a Step Against the Flow

Take a step against the flow and look at the surroundings for a different perspective.

Life is too short to go with the flow. Have fun and be different.”

Bianca Schlappa, Everyday Matters

Look further afield.

Look over a detail up close.

Sometimes, the masses have it mostly right but the right way just needs tweaking, and that is something that a different perspective can provide.

Use Your Humor, Wry Humor Acceptable

What’s the use of feeling sorry for yourself when you just get tangled into more knots? Even the wise and wonderful Oz got himself tangled up for a time behind a curtain far outside of Kansas and his usual County Fairs. Someone came along and discovered his need.

He was a little ashamed, but he laughed at his way of bumbling things up, and that helped. A lot. Someone came along and helped him find his way back home.

Laugh at yourself as you consider the past.

Open your hand to future options.

Celebrate Even a Partial Loosening of Knot Strands.

Thoughts from Winter Whispers: Breath of Joy by Kathy Joy

It heartens me in a way to know my knots are not all born from my individual situation or my personal inadequacy. It seems to be a community problem: “Humanity is born for trouble, as sparks fly upward.” This wit, from a friend of Job’s (Job 5:7). We are all just making our way through the challenging phases of life.

Help will arrive.

Ask for help.

Laugh a little.

Be willing to accept truth.

Choose as wisely as possible.

This article is co-written by good friends: author, Kathy Joy and editor, Laura Bartnick.

©Capture Books, 2020

Kathy Joy, Author of the Breath of Joy calendarial gift books
Laura Bartnick
Laura Bartnick is the author of Welcome to the Shivoo! a creative and inspirational guide to entering into the Creator’s great party.

Ask about booking KATHY JOY, or any of our authors for a zoom session with your book club or with your employees. We specialize in creative strand untangling.

Kathy Joy writes for Coffee with Kathy, and Pennsylvania’s Daily Jab.

Author tools and hacks, book excerpt, featured, improvisation, Laura Bartnick, op-ed

EMBRACING IMPERFECTIONS IN OUR STORY

By Laura Bartnick

“Improvisation. That’s why we call creativity art, isn’t it?

I’m an author and also an author coach. Part of what I do is help an author grow personally in order to deepen the author’s storyline or character drawn inside the pages of their manuscript.

We writers embrace imperfections in our written characters’ thought patterns or behaviors so that the story can twist and turn just as much as real life does.

Like jazz, the development of a good story means the endings are kept strategically hidden in misunderstandings, physical barriers, or something in the past. I’ve discovered a group, Teaching Tolerance, which has developed a test for discovering anyone’s own historical or cultural bias, implicit bias. You can see here how you might use a character’s natural bias to direct his or her communications or meditation or self-talk.

Proverbs 20:5 alludes that the purposes of a heart run like deep waters, but someone with insight can draw them out. What is your character’s point of view?

Can a writer love the antagonist?A writer should learn to love the enemy of the protagonist. Did Jesus love Judas Iscariot? How could He?

Learning about your antagonist’s unique place of belonging or setting helps you shape his or her believable thoughts, recognizable appearances or dialogue with the accompanying accents and activities that would be true to the character.

From an unlikely source or through an accident that turns out well, insight emerges. Imperfections make your characters relatable. They string you along. When you love them through their story, you emulate God’s love for our imperfect selves born into an imperfect world.

Even settings can wrestle for hope.

Developing a setting can help hide or reveal your plot or your characters. The light we cast onto the flaws of our story characters is an act of kindness, though sometimes it is severe mercy.

Did Hagar run to the desert to escape, only to be visited by the God of her hated mistress, Sarah? “I see you,” God said. “Eat. Drink,” and, “Go back to your hated mistress. I have a plan for you. Your own son will make a great nation because I have ordained it.” “Me?” Hagar said. “Yes, Hagar, I see your need and your mistreatment. Yes, you,” God said. So, Hagar dragged herself back to Abraham and Sarah. In faith. And, God blessed her walk of faith.

When you draw on your own experience with fear or temptations, or from experiences of those close to you, you will understand that it is not impossible for the antagonist to be redeemed. If you determine to defeat the antagonist when thwarting the antagonist’s purposes, you must feel that grief. It was written that Jesus loved the rich, young ruler who turned away.

Imagine a master chef who creates a gourmet menu for a special entourage. She selects the best cuts of meat, the freshest organic grains to grind, the salad and herbs from her garden, and the cream from her cow. Someone sells her a tropical fruit, unknown to her, promising it will provide the hit. She shreds the fruit and tops the salad with it, only to discover that the fruit is poison.

“But everything I used was of the finest quality,” she argues to the police.

“Everything except that shred of poison you added.”

Use a shock point to hook the reader into how or why the poison was added, and by whom.

Empathetically draw the audience into the truth but do not dilute consequences. Make them meaningful.

A writer can find the image of God originally shaped in the arch-type enemy. This, a starting point for where a character departs, helps the writer make choices for the character. A writer can have the character diverge from her image of origin and from her calling by refusing to be rescued. When you know your bad character’s history and psyche, you will draw her story accurately.”

This excerpt is from Chapter 3, pages 65-67, Welcome to the Shivoo! (Bartnick)

Laura Bartnick
Laura Bartnick is the author of Welcome to the Shivoo! a creative and inspirational guide to entering into the Creator’s great party.
adaption, analysis, Author tools and hacks, Back Covers, Book Blurbs, Laura Bartnick, Tonya Jewel Blessing

When My Book Blurb Bustled and Bounced

Click to discover more about Tonya Blessing’s books

A Conversation with Tonya Jewel Blessing and Laura Bartnick

Tonya Jewel Blessing

Tonya Jewel Blessing: I recently learned in two quick minutes how a blurb on the back of a book cover can sell books or dissuade potential readers from choosing a book.

We all know how important spelling and punctuation are in a book. But, I don’t think I realized that English basics are just the beginning of what matters in a book blurb until two media professionals picked up my novels. Each of my books have a professionally written, third-person description on the back cover. I realize this is paramount to converting book browsers to buyers.

At a recent media convention, a man connected with a film production company selected my first historic Appalachian novel, The Whispering of the Willows based on the book blurb on the back cover. The verbiage ‘similar to modern sex trafficking issues’ also sparked a conversation about the plot of the book. He promised to buy it for consideration.

Another reader-influencer looking for compelling stories at this media convention passed over my second novel The Melody of the Mulberries based on its book blurb. The reactions of both people, who visited the author booth, initially surprised me. Then, as I perused the  other author stations, I found myself doing the same – picking up a book, reading the back cover, and making a purchase decision based on a couple of paragraphs about the story.

Laura Bartnick

Laura Bartnick: Capture Books began to market The Whispering of the Willows in earnest to the Amish/Mennonite sector and to the West Virginia readership when the publisher could show that:

a) women’s issues were creatively handled, and

b) significant community involvement absolutely changes the course of a girl’s life after she is a victim of rape.

c) timing matters. Reverberating southerners became passionate readers of The Whispering of the Willows after National Public Radio broke the news about the West Virginia opioid crises. After the report featuring the opioid documentary by filmmaker Elaine McMillion Sheldon, produced in part by the Center for Investigative Reporting, where a female judge, a church social worker, and a policewoman joined forces to creatively alleviate the crisis in the hardest-hit county, Capture Books decided to offer BLESSING’s novel to this community.

d) the women in the novel did not wear pants.

While BLESSING’s exquisitely clever sequel, released in the fall of 2019, is marketable to a lover of Americana and to a Christian romance-loving readership, the acquisitions gentleman seeking a modern hook with a correlation to a “cause” failed to find that kind of subject matter on the sequel’s cover.

The lesson learned is that listing a cause as a keyword or subject-matter can reach potential cross-over markets.

Book blurbs are also written for librarians, advertisements, flyers, and online bookstore platforms. Each of these has a variety of required words, suggested keywords and phrases, and are written specifically to hook certain types of readers.

I spoke with a very frustrated author last week who reported that she wasn’t earning royalties from her publisher on her book and wanted my opinion. I looked up her title and discovered there was not a single word of book description, and her book was only listed in one category. It simply wasn’t selling because there were no keywords alerting people to the existence of her book. Even if potential readers looked up the exact title, there was no book description to explain what it was about.

Tonya Jewel Blessing: My first novel was picked up by Tantor Audio Books because of its record sales in late 2018 after we marketed directly to the opioid epidemic on Amazon. Subsequently, my sequel has been steadily picking up new readers and finding its own voice with historical romance and Americana lovers. Since I didn’t know I could write a sequel in the beginning, my publisher did not market to sequel readers. Consequently, many who read the first book think it is a stand-alone novel.

I agree with E.A. Bucchianerif in that, “There is much to discover that’s not on the back cover!” YET, if the book cover doesn’t spark interest, the book won’t be read. Listed below are some tips for writing a book blurb. 

10 Tips to Write a Book Blurb That Sells

Laura Bartnick: Yes, and here are some more clues to what works and what doesn’t on the back cover:

  1. “I wrote this because…” or “My character is based on…” is better placed inside the book as a prologue or author’s note.
  2. Larger fonts with less copy will catch a reader’s attention.
  3. Aim for a description of keywords written to the interests of a reading group.
  4. Getting an editorial endorsement printed on the cover will garner immediate interest and give the author borrowed authority.
  5. You may also want to put the name of the publisher, the logo, the subject matter or genre, and the price of the book onto the back cover.
Book Poster for Christian Colleges, Theology of Creativity, Academia
Book Cover by Tracy Fagan. Read the Book Description by clicking on the title.
Book Cover by Tracy Fagan. Read the Book Description by clicking on the title.

Book Cover with Readers’ Favorite award and marketing blurb to romance readers.
Book Cover by Chloe Belle Arts for The Melody of the Mulberries by Tonya Jewel Blessing
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