Archive for April, 2010

One of my friends in the wedding industry says that her job is 10% event professional and 90% counselor—providing wisdom, perspective, and mediation as needed.  This is often true of work in literary publicity, too, and one of the reasons my job’s both challenging and rewarding.  I love to seek and observe context and help counsel authors on what should (and shouldn’t!) consume their focus.

As of late I’m fielding a lot more questions on reviews and their value in influencing potential buyers, especially as we’re actively pursuing opportunities to place that control in hands of readers.  Reader reviews—both on retail sites or personal blogs—are here to stay, and research is proving that peer feedback is at the top of consumers’ trusted lists for helping to make purchase decisions.

So here’s the number one question: how do you respond to a negative review?  In addition to some thoughts of my own here, I conducted an informal survey weave in advice from authors and other industry pros:

  1. DO sleep on it. There’s no denying the sting, but just like a first draft of a novel, you need time to process what’s been said before you decide if it’s worth reading.
  2. DON’T melt down in social media settings. It’s tempting to call out an ill-informed reader or someone who’s downright nasty, but think of yourself and your brand as professional and above that groveling.  As much as that review hurts, it’s probably nothing like what might have been said about an entity like the @%*$ cable company that can’t seem to keep my internet connection stable…and you don’t see them cursing the unsatisfied customer.
  3. DO share with your publicist. Give me a call or drop me an email and tell me what you’re thinking.  Our marketing team can be one protective little coop of mother hens, but we’re also used to examining feedback for an entire roster of authors and can provide some needed perspective, in addition to an ear to sound off in if you need.
  4. DON’T forget that a reader’s review is just that: one reader’s review, even if that reader reviews under a publication’s title. When we round up feedback to highlight in our continued promotional efforts, we get to choose what’s featured and what’s forgotten.  Few potential readers follow and remember ALL of your reviews as closely as you do.
  5. DO examine for truth. Rachel Hauck says, “After the initial hit, go back and reread the review and see if there is any tidbit of truth. Learn from it and move on.” Is there an expressed reader need there that if addressed, could change your writing for the better and perhaps help you to grow your tribe?  We know better than to try to please everyone, but if enough would-be readers come up with the same request, it’s worth considering.
  6. DON’T question your career. Our team celebrated a real milestone this year with our being named the #1 Christian Fiction supplier.  We’d like to think we’ve done a few things right as an internal team, but the bottom line is the quality of our roster and stories is the reason for this success.
  7. DO treasure the good reviews, especially the ones that come in the form of personal notes.  I have a file in my email archives called Character Builders.  I used to shove in the snarky notes, too, but now it’s mostly the kudos that I save.  A reminder from Phil 4:8 (NKJV, of course, Nelson friends): “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”  Respond to those readers and thank them for the encouragement—personal connection is the best way to develop loyal fans and never has it been easier for an author to reach his readers.

Cheering you on,



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A post in honor of National Poetry Month

“If I read a book [and] it makes my whole body so cold no fire can warm me I know THAT is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know THAT is poetry. Is there any other way?” — Emily Dickinson

For much of my life, I didn’t “get” poetry. It was short but then sometimes long. It usually didn’t make sense, and it usually included a bunch of names of gods and goddesses whom I couldn’t keep straight. When I decided to be an English major, I had a feeling the day would come when poetry would stare me in the face and force me to like it, understand it, or at least appreciate it.

I managed my first three years of college with little to no such confrontation. Finally, my senior year I was forced to take the oh-so-dreaded “Poetry Workshop,” instructed by the notoriously evil writer-in-residence Al Haley. It had been said that he would crumple pages of a student’s 20-page short story, chew on it, and then spit it onto the floor to symbolize how terrible he thought the writing to be. (This is metaphorical, of course.)

After three months of Al chewing on and spitting out the poems he forced me to write for his class, I began to appreciate the complexity of the art a little more. And then a little more. Until I actually began to enjoy poems. And during our final class meeting I officially declared myself a “lover of poetry.” I had to wrestle the form and suffer though pages of good poetry from good books before this love could materialize, but man am I glad it did.

I now see poetry in all forms of writing. It does not have to rhyme or be limited to one page length as I had previously thought. Poetry can be one sentence on one page in the midst of a great novel.

I’m dying to know: What role does poetry play in your writing fiction? Is it a type of subconscious effort that flows as you write? Is it an intentional wording with key phrases or paragraphs? Are you, like me, a “lover of poetry”?

Happy poetry month to all!

From one poet’s heart to the next (that’s poetic, right?),

Andrea Lucado

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I don’t know about you, but these are some trying times—financially, spiritually, emotionally, physically. Here are a few recent personal events, some almost laughable…my cat got bitten by a snake and his arm swelled to twice the size. My dog’s hind legs are going lame. The microwave broke. A man in a truck hit the back of my car. I had an acute case of pancreatitis and endured a two day hospital stay…just after we’d switched to THE WRONG health insurance.

But you know what’s right? So much more. My family. Our health. Our love. Our faith. God doesn’t forsake us.

It’s in times like these that I look to the ground in the grocery store and see a handwritten note with this on it:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Phil 4:6-7

Or I turn on the car radio and hear Casting Crowns singing this:
”… once again, I say amen
and it’s still raining
as the thunder rolls
I barely hear You whisper through the rain,
“I’m with you”
and as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise
the God who gives and takes away. “

”And I’ll praise you in this storm
and I will lift my hands
for You are who You are
no matter where I am
and every tear I’ve cried
You hold in your hand
You never left my side
and though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm”

Now, this doesn’t make me forget about the good friend who passed away before Christmas or the uncle who is dying now of cancer, the family members who are losing their homes, the people in Haiti who are suffering from the quake…but I tell you what. We, as committed followers of Christ are not guaranteed to have NO troubles. After all, we live in this world. We do, however, have a faith this is not of this world. Not at all. We have access to an amazing PEACE even in the storms. I don’t know about you, but in these trying times, my faith allows me to remember all the things the Lord has delivered me from. He will deliver me, too, from these storms, and oh, when he does, how much more can I testify! What a blessing to be able to write and share hope and faith with those who have none. Aren’t we blessed?? Here’s a little story I wrote that says just that. Enjoy.

By Nicole Seitz

There once was a boy who lived in a box. All he saw was black. All he heard was the grumble of his belly. Loneliness was crisp and cool like frost in his bones.

One day, he awoke to find a small hole in the side of his box. A thin stripe of light fell across his knee. He moved closer to the hole. He pressed his eye up to it and couldn’t believe what he could see.

There were colors—red, pink, yellow, white, blue, green, purple—his mind sparkled. He saw chairs in a room and suddenly felt uncomfortable on the hard ground. He saw food on a table, and the grumbling in his belly grew louder. His mind whirled with all he saw, and suddenly he longed to be out there. Outside of his box.

But he didn’t know how.

So he sat, and sat. Another two days he sat. He studied the room outside his box, the floor, the chairs, the table with food. Then he watched a boy walk in a door. Later, he watched him walk out again. In and out. The boy in the box studied how the door worked. It was just a large hole in a very large wall.

The next morning, the boy in the box knew what he had to do. He started at the small hole and used his finger to tear, slowly at first, then faster until light spilled all over him, and he smiled with warm delight.

The boy crawled out of his box and for the first time, stood tall. His legs and back were sore and stiff, but he was free from his box, free from the darkness. At the table, he sat in a real chair and filled his belly until it didn’t grumble anymore. He moved about, stretched his legs, and learned everything he could about his colorful new room.

After a few days, the boy stood in front of a door. Something stirred inside him. He wanted to open it, but he was afraid. What would he find out there? Didn’t he have everything he needed here in this room? It was certainly more comfortable than his box had been.

The boy looked at it now, the box, squat in the corner, and couldn’t believe he’d ever fit inside. He knew he could never return—he’d grown too much, seen too much, learned too much. So he turned, gathered his courage, and opened the door.

The smell of green grass and the song of birds beckoned. He set one foot out and held his hand up to shield his eyes from the sun. The glorious light! And white puffy clouds in a lavender sky, and houses with people in them, and streets, and cars, and trees, and flowers, and squirrels, and cats, and barking dogs. The boy wondered why he hadn’t stepped outside sooner.

He walked along the sidewalk, passing house after house, until he came to one with the door cracked open. He knocked, but no one answered. He walked inside and saw a very nice room with colors and chairs and a table with food.

And in the corner, he saw a box.

The boy crept closer and knocked on the cardboard.

“Hello?” said a voice from inside the box.

“You okay in there?”

“Yes, I think so.”

“But you’re in a box.”

“I am? Well, I live here.”

“There’s more to life than the black of your box.”

“There is? I didn’t know.”

“Here.” And the boy poked a stick in the side of the cardboard. He heard the box-dweller rustle inside.

“Wow. There’s a stripe of light across my knee.”

“I know. It’s wonderful. And that’s just the beginning.”

The boy who had once lived in a box was smiling now, and holding his stick, he walked out of the house and down the sidewalk to find other children living in houses, living in rooms, living in boxes, in darkness. He knew they were out there. Just as he had been.

They were all over the world.

Suddenly, the boy had a new longing.


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