Giving away free copies, tribes and sovereignty

On Sunday I listened to some amazing podcasts about the music industry and how it had to morph and change in light of Napster and the digital sharing age. I’d recommend you listen to it, seeking parallels in the publishing industry. You can access them here: Of particular interest was this podcast about musician Amanda Palmer: She typifies the savvy marketer in today’s crazy world. She is creating a following, something Seth Godin calls a tribe.

I tend to gravitate toward the idea of tribes, of creating a unique community. That takes time, but what happens is that you gain fans gathered around a cause, folks who are zealous to promote your books for you. To me, it typifies this verse: “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; A stranger, and not your own lips” (see Proverbs 27:2).

Giving things away free, in light of creating a tribe, then, makes sense. You are offering a bit of yourself, your heart, for a potential tribe member.

Another strategy to consider is this: the kingdom of God. I love what Randy Alcorn says. He gives away his books as God leads. He keeps several with him when he travels, giving books away to clerks, hotel employees, cab drivers, housekeepers. He sees it as his way of expanding God’s message to a hurting world.

In light of all that, I’ve navigated “free” by praying, asking God to situationally guide me as I give away books. Sometimes He says not to do it. Sometimes He prompts me to give sacrificially. I am learning to let the pieces rest in His sovereign hands.

Aside: My novel, Daisy Chain (like several other authors on this loop) was offered free on the Kindle store last month. The result is hard to measure, though I have seen a spike in actual book sales. The negative is that folks who get the book for free aren’t thinking as they read it that it will have a Christian worldview, so I got some pretty awful, mean-spirited reviews out of the deal. But, on the whole, I think the experiment did give me exposure to a wider audience. I’ve had correspondence with new fans who found me that way.

In this marketing world, I tend to think in terms of one little decision at a time, and that those little decisions, though they take forever, add up to something bigger over time. The key is to continue to be faithful in little things, not get discouraged, hold everything loosely, and rest in God’s sovereignty.

The Writer’s Baggage

Maryfrance The baggage I’ll write about today isn’t that negative psychological baggage we all carry with us: regrets, guilt, shame, and the like. I’m referring to the things we actually need to lug with us if we are to succeed on this publishing journey. So, pack your bags, writers, and don’t forget to strap on some humor as you do.

The Ten Pieces of Baggage Every Writer Needs:

  1. Chocolate. Preferably dark. I keep mine in the lower right hand drawer of my desk. The current picking? Trader Joe’s dark chocolate goodness. Keeps my mind clear. Makes me smile even after reading my “royalty” statements (which feel more like pauper statements!).
  2. Grit-spitting tenacity. The kind a cowboy would have after wrestling cows, wrangling snakes, and eating Hormel chili over an open, smoky fire. You have to come at this business like a spider monkey (wearing chaps, to keep the cowboy metaphor alive). When rejection slaps you upside the face, you gotta prepare for more rodeo, more bucking, more angry bulls. The trick to cowboy grit? Keep getting back in the saddle. Every day. Write those words as your act of defiance! Each word written is like a notch in your belt.
  3. Another hobby just as successful as writing: Hummingbird training. With hummingbird training, you experience the same sort of whiplash, the same frenetic activity. The same flying feathers. Succeed at Hummingbird training (particularly two birds performing a synchronized dance) and you’ll succeed at writing. Besides, you may need to fall back on it in your later years.
  4. Cheerleaders. I don’t mean this metaphorically. Actual high school cheerleaders clad in orange and purple, your name blazed like an alma mater across their fronts. Have at least five show up at your desk every day to say this cheer: “A-W-E-S-O-M-E, Awesome, are Thee!” (Mixing a cheer with King James English will accomplish two things: The Shakespearean rhythm will inform your prose, and the cheering will lighten your rejected spirit.)
  5. Stickers. Steal these from your kids’ teachers in a clandestine overthrow of the sticker drawer. Stickers like 100% A+, or “Great Job!” or “You’re a great kid” (which you are!). Print off your latest piece, the one you think is drivel personified, and adhere one of these babies on it. Suddenly, you’re terrific! Wonderful! Unbelievably talented!
  6. A dog, not a cat. A dog will lay (oh shoot, or is it lie?) by your feet as you compose deeply significant words that will impact the planet. When you’re drained, feeling blue, old Rover will roll over, loll his eyes your way, and slobber a smile. Such unconditional love is hard to find in this business, so securing a dog is essential. A cat, however, doesn’t shower you with fuzzy love. She types gibberish on your keyboard when you’re not looking and spills tea on your computer. If you can’t afford a dog, buy a hamster in a habitrail. His constant spinning on that “wheel of life” will be the impetus you need to keep going. Make it a point to write when he wheels, and you’ll be guaranteed to be prolific.
  7. A snuggie.Everyone needs one, but writers especially do. Because our income doesn’t bring in enough to pay our heat bills! And of course, our hands and can’t be bothered or inconvenienced by a mere blanket that wrestles our fingers into blind submission.
  8. And for that matter, a Huggie. Not the diapering kind, the real embracing hug from a fellow author who understands your plight. You receive and impart these “huggies” at conferences, where other writers parade around in designer snuggies.
  9. A New Christmas List. To maintain proper sanity, every author needs to update his/her Christmas list with certain items emphatically CROSSED OUT. No more JOURNALS! We have thousands of them. No more PENS! Or PLAQUES with catchy slogans about writing being like opening up a vein (ew). Replace said list with: A MAC COMPUTER (Sorry PC fans). A TRIP TO A REMOTE SPA ISLAND. THE GENES OF J.K. ROWLING. And a JET SKI.
  10. A weird disguise. Preferably a toupe, some ugly thick glasses, a mustache, and a hood. Why? To shield you from all that paparazzi when you become famously famous, bigger than Hannah Montana when she breaks up or adds a boyfriend. And while you’re at it, add some Peeps. Not an entourage that follows you around and tells you how cool you are (that’s what your family is for, right?) But actual marshmallow peeps. They will cheer you on when your fame fades and no one thinks you’re the it girl/guy. A peep is eternal. Just look at the shelf life.

So, there you have it. A writer’s necessary baggage. I’d love to know if I’ve possibly missed anything. If I have, please enlighten me in the comments section. I will say that Night Vision Goggles did vie for the number ten spot. So you can’t say those.

What is a book mentor?

Someone asked me today what a book mentor does. I answered, “A book mentor is someone who shepherds you through the book writing and publishing process.” Basically, I help new writers polish their writing, understand the publishing business, mentor them through the process of submitting proposals and manuscripts, and applaud their successes. I am passionate about helping writers realize their publishing dreams.

One way I do this is give away my services every day on Wannabepublished. I also mentor clients for pay through the Writing Spa.

I’m the author of seven traditionally published books (parenting, novels and one memoir upcoming). You can find out more about my books here.

Click on this page to upload Queries Now–a free tutorial that’s been really helpful to those seeking publication. Enjoy!


Mary DeMuth