As a follow-up to our incredibly successful Influence Women Webinar, How to Publish a Book: What You Need to Know to Write and Launch Your Book Successfully, we are revisiting some questions that we ran out of time to answer!
If you haven’t been joining our monthly Influence Women webinars, you need to! Each month we chat with a leading woman of influence who can inspire and bring clarity to your career path. Beyond the webinars, we also offer 6-week mentorships with many of these professional women to help grow your career and life. We encourage you to keep an eye on our website as new webinars and mentorships are being offered regularly each month. Take advantage of the resources and knowledge these women can give you!
Hope Lyda is an author, writing coach and companion, spiritual director, and senior development editor. She’s worked in faith-based publishing for more than 25 years and has accompanied more than 120 writers through the process of finding their voices and expressing their hearts on the page.
Hope considers it an honor to help writers shape their messages with engaging structure, tone, and pace. She also companions them with spiritual insight and inquiry, so they draw from their experiences and beliefs to deepen those messages. She has authored more than 35 books (combined sales of over 1.5 million copies), including the bestselling One-Minute Prayers® for Women and more than 15 other books in the One-Minute Prayers® series. Hope has penned a few novels as well as several devotionals such as What Do You Need Today? and Life as a Prayer. Her book My Unedited Writing Year—a gathering of 365 prompts—combines her passions for writing and spiritual direction to invite others to explore life, faith, and creativity.
Hope lives in Eugene, Oregon, with her husband, Marc, and dog, Bodie (his breed is Attention Hound). When not writing or guiding another writer, she’s taking walks, going to independent films, brainstorming, listening to podcasts, buying MORE books, or planning her next retreat to the coast or desert. She is delighted and grateful when she can take in the gifts of a landscape to feed her spirit and refresh her creativity.
Kathleen Cooke: Devotionals are everywhere. Will people buy them? What’s the secret to writing one that will be chosen by a publisher and purchased by shoppers?
Hope Lyda: Devotionals are everywhere. Even after having several published, I am pausing as I craft some new proposals because I want to think through a few things:
1. Does the devo topic meet a heart need that might not be addressed in the market right now?
2. I ask myself the same questions I ask writers I companion: Why me and why this book? Follow-up questions for this…Can I bring wisdom and depth and offer the right tone for this particular devotional? And do I, as a reader, see and feel the lack of books embracing and exploring this topic in the marketplace?
3. Is there a special structure, format, and voice that gives this devo concept an edge for a publisher who might be interested in the topic but also unsure about one more devotional? The way a message is presented can become the star quality that shines brighter than other factors and give a publisher a reason to look twice at a concept.
Kathleen: If your manuscript is 35 pages, would you publish it as a short story, novella, or essay?
Hope: A short 35-page fiction manuscript could be a novella. That is probably at the long end for parameters, but doable. If you had an interest in a novella publisher or an online marketplace, or e-zine that publishes them, that could work. If this is a topical exploration…non-fiction, then it could be used as a supplemental resource or an online book offering that you use as part of a course you create, a bonus offering for sign-ups, or simply as a short book you are selling yourself from your site.
Before any of those decisions, however, sit with the material. If fiction, is this actually a story arc you would love to dig into for a full-length book? If non-fiction, is there a lot more you’d have to offer on this topic or aspects of it that could be fleshed out to create a 12+ chapter manuscript of 176 pages or more?
If you keep it as a novella, you might watch for contests or calls for submissions from groups online or publishers that are focusing on this category. See what their word/page count requirements are. This could help you to see what the “norm” is or at least what the most sought-after format is. There are lots of flash fiction contests and challenges. Those are much shorter (typically 300-1000 words!) and are great as writing exercises to work those story creation muscles! You might end up with a concept for a full length novel from doing those.
Kathleen: Lots of books today have quotes in them. Are they needed? Do they help in keeping the readers’ attention? Are they good to have them highlighted in the middle of the pages as a creative insert?
Hope: Quotes! I personally love them. They can be very useful to create a structure/design that has standout appeal. They do draw readers in and help highlight the heart of a message one is presenting in a typical Christian living book or a devotional/prayer book. There are different ways quotes are used.
1. A quote from another resource (other than your own brilliant mind) can be used as an epigraph (kicks off a chapter/section at the top). If you are using quotes in this way, be sure you are accurately quoting the original material and crediting the writer. Also, there are copyright rules to follow. A joke where I work is that for gift books and some other project, we are always looking for great quotes by long-dead people. Material that is in the public domain allows your usage without concern for copyright restrictions. I get way too excited when I find a book of quotes at an estate sale or a fabulous topical read that is based on writings from the 1800s or early 1900s. Anyway, contrary to popular practices on social media…you need to credit the source and do it properly. And if the quote is used in the flow of content and is over a certain length, then permission from the source publisher is also required. Keep in mind, all the writers who have gone before (or who published a great article last week) worked hard to craft the lines we find worth sharing and repeating…they deserve the recognition legally and ethically. This may require endnotes to cite sources, so keep that in mind. I will say that I like the idea of honoring the voices that have impacted my faith and writing journey and promoting those when it serves the book concept as a whole and the end reader.
2. Quotes FROM your genius mind that are IN the flow of your book’s content can be duplicated and echoed in the design. This is a call-out and may be what the webinar inquiry is related to. These are very popular, and I do think they have value. Choose quotes that are easily read and absorbed. Those a-ha thoughts are the best. They also reinforce the message of that particular chapter and can become those stepping stones (or breadcrumbs) I love so much that help to gently guide a reader through the arc of the message.
3. Quotes that come from your amazing mind but are NOT in the flow of content can be designed and placed in the book as enhancements to the message. Some call these sticky statements, I believe. I think of them as a sort of friendly “Hey, get this…” to point the reader to an insight or maybe even a question/prompt that deepens their engagement with the content. It isn’t in the chapter or offering and is only in that set-apart form.
For both of these last two kinds of quotes, there is value on the marketing end. For example, if these are full-page designs or easy to capture, readers will take a pic and post them. You can encourage that in your book’s intro and suggest a hashtag even. The publisher may also want to use them for A+ pages on Amazon (these are publishers paid for more elaborate descriptions and photos for a book) or for their promotional posts. We have even created bonus offerings for a few books using such quotes and printing them on frame-worthy cardstock.
Don’t overuse call-outs or set-apart quotes. They can become a distraction and not an enhancement. Choose wisely. As you write, think about crafting short, powerful lines that could be good for such highlighting.