Clarice James

Smart, Fun, Relatable Fiction


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Humbled by Response to Meet & Greet Christian Authors Event

A few days before the first Meet & Greet Christian Authors event was to be held on Saturday, November 1, 2014, I had my doubts. Will we have a good turnout? Will our authors sell books? Will dead air reign in the midst of strangers? Will the buttercream frosting slide off my cupcakes and leave them bare? Will we get to the venue to find it packed with mourners from a funeral? [Yup, I thought that.]

BonhoeffersBonhoeffer’s Café & Espresso in Nashua, New Hampshire was our venue. The Café, located in a two-story, converted factory, is owned and operated by Gate City Church. All profits go to help feed needy children around the world.

My husband and I attend Gate City Church. We feel blessed that they allowed us the use of their beautiful facility for this event.

The minute we walked in the door, my doubts about how the afternoon would go were blown away like pesky dust bunnies in a Nor’easter. The Cafe’s brick walls, golden maple floors, wood ceiling with steel beams, all exuded warmth and charm. The bright fire burning in the huge stone fireplace made it easy to forget the rain and wind outside.

01People—all ages, shapes, and colors—came from Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine. We had a good turnout— eighty-five in all. They represented a multitude of congregations from a dozen different denominations. As guests mingled, chatted, and even prayed for one another, the sweet scent of Jesus permeated the space. (I wasn’t the only one who noticed; others said the same.)

Our seven local authors sold 119 books. There wasn’t one moment of silence from the beginning to end. My cupcakes stayed clothed. The venue was packed with friends, old and new, celebrating the achievements of our authors, our common faith, and the faithfulness of God.

02The plan for this event started back in June 2014 when I offered to help Jeremiah Peters, author of A Message to Deliver with his book launch. Then Teresa Santoski, author of Prayers for Oppa: From K-pop to J-pop, A Devotional for Performers & their Fans, joined us. Both were in my writers’ critique group, so finding them was easy.

Then, I reached out to my fellow Hartline Literary Agency clients who live in the area: Eleanor Gustafson, author of  The Stones and Dynamo; and Susan Call, author of A Search for Purple Cows: A True Story of Hope. I googled and snooped around Facebook and found John A. Theo Jr., author of The Grotto Under the Tree.  When I contacted the manager of my local Christian bookstore, she told me about Nancy Ferrin and Darin Michael Shaw.  Nancy’s books are When a Prodigal Breaks Your Heart: … the Search for Understanding and Hope and Where Is My Baby?  Shaw’s books are Big Buts of the Bible – A Revealing Look at Jesus Christ and Chronicles of War.

03We started with eight authors and ended up with seven. Well, you know what they say about that perfect number.

In the midst of all this, my co-coordinator Cindy Saab joined me. We’re not sure exactly how we met, but we’re sure we know Who was in charge of the introduction.  Cindy is a natural-born promoter. Not the pushy kind, but the kind whose excitement is contagious. She shared her enthusiasm with the many people she knows. I like to say, while I was in charge of administration and online promotion, Cindy was in charge of building momentum in person. We made a good team. Of course, God knew we would.

We were blessed to have a number of our friends volunteer to greet guests and handle the refreshments. And Kathy Marotta of Visionare Photography of Londonderry was there to take headshots of the authors and candids during the event. (Most of the photos you see here are her work.)

There were a few things we’d change. Like the detailed author introductions I’d written out and rehearsed. We didn’t need them because the authors and guests took charge of introducing themselves. And next time we’ll remember to bring bags for customers venturing out in inclement weather with their book purchases. We’ll also put the registration table in a spot less apt to get bottlenecked.  And I’ll make brownies, so I don’t have to worry about buttercream landslides.

All in all, good problems to have.

04 CJ at FireplaceCindy and I had enormous fun planning and executing the Meet & Greet Christian Authors event. We’re glad we had each other. Who else would have listened to us go on and on about paper goods, colors schemes, door prizes, and flag placement on cupcakes?

When the event was over, we were humbled by the response of the guests and the gratitude of the authors. But we shouldn’t have been surprised. The event had been bathed in prayer for months, and it showed.

Special Note: We’re planning our next Meet & Greet Christian Authors New England event for April 2015. A dozen authors have already signed up. If you’re a published author with print copies and are interested in being featured at one of our upcoming events, you can submit an application here.  After our Editorial Review Board approves your book(s), we’ll send you additional information. Keep writing!

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Author Marketing Campaign: It’s Not All About You

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. ~ Luke 6:38 (NIV)

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Marketing. Branding. Promoting. Platform. These are all important considerations for those in the business of writing and selling books. However, as Christian authors, the foundation you build on is not all about you, is it? Here are a few tips to help you develop a balanced and spiritual marketing plan.

BE ENGAGING: Engage others in conversation in person and through email and social media. And not just to get them to buy your book, support your cause, or attend your event. Try sending a handwritten note or card to encourage someone. You know, on real paper with a real pen; it’s not done often nowadays, so it means that much more.

GET PERSONAL: People respond positively when they feel that someone cares about them. Keep it simple: 

  • Learn their name and use it.
  • Ask about their family.
  • Show interest in their job.
  • Praise their achievement.
  • Address their concerns. 

Who knows, some of the people you engage may be potential friends, others potential readers, and a few could be angels. Start now. What are you waiting for?

PRACTICAL APPLICATION:

  • First don’t avoid people in the grocery store or post office or hurry to the parking lot right after church. (Gotcha, didn’t I?)
  • Spend maybe 10-15 minutes a day to see what your Facebook friends are up to and comment when appropriate. Keep it light, be honest, and use your own voice. For instance, “Sounds like fun!”  “Great idea!” “What a cute grandchild!”  Please, if someone posts that their grandmother just died, do NOT click “Like.”
  • Unless you write books about politics, try to stay away from political posts. True, some may agree with you, but your political rants won’t change the mind of those who don’t.

Mona Lisa SelfieLIMIT SELFIES: And I’m not just talking about the pictures you post of yourself on Facebook. (But, really, do I need to see your duck face for the umpteenth time?) By selfie, I mean “it’s all about me” posts—your book, your problem, your success, your kids, your awards, your cat, your dog (no matter how cute or cleaver you believe they are). More people will listen to you once you listen to them.

PAY IT FORWARD: Point out the good that someone else is doing. Recommend a book you’ve enjoyed. Post information about an interesting event totally unrelated to you. Boast about the good work of a certain ministry. Brag how God has blessed you with a particular friend. Do all this and don’t expect one thing in return.

PRAY ABOUT THIS: If you’re sincere in your efforts to reach out to others, I believe God will honor the desire of your heart.

What’s that you say? You’re afraid all this do-gooding will give you a big head? I’ve got a fix for that. Try doing something for someone anonymously. And don’t tell a soul, not one soul, about it.