Central IL, Faith

Karitos 2019

Yes, I’m telling you about something that happened this summer, but #throwbackthursday mmkay? 🙂

For five years now, I’ve been attending the Karitos Christian creative arts conference in the greater Chicago area. This year it was in Streator IL, closer than ever to my house as it’s usually much further north.

(I’m pictured with author Olivia J. Bennett and flagger/author Kim Kouski. Check out Olivia’s book A Cactus in the Valley and Kim’s fantasy novel Hidden Secrets (those are affiliate links – I may receive a portion of sales).

I’ve written past posts about Karitos and what I’m learning there, but here’s overall what keeps bringing me back:

  • a gathering of creatives
  • creating together in all art forms
  • worshipping God and figuring out how their art fits into that

You can find that first one a number of places. The other 2 are harder to come by. If you can find a place that combines the things you love, go.

Photography by Kim Kouski on our way to the event

You can find a thousand writers conferences, but one that includes dancers and visual artists and actors and filmmakers and musicians and…. All those together feed off of each other into an amazing creative experience.

And, while I don’t write within the Christian genre, it’s beautiful to find a place where my giftings can contribute to my faith community and my worship.

And now, a couple exciting milestones of mine with this year’s event:

A couple amazing things happened for me personally this year.

The past 3 years I’ve been assisting with the Literary Arts department, and as of last year, I’m the department head for Literary Arts. This was my first Karitos that I was responsible for making Literary Arts workshops happen, and it was a delight to see it all turn out. To be able to step into ministry in a way that uses my passion and giftings is such a privilege.

And the other thing: Last year’s Karitos, I took Angel’s selfpublishing workshop. This year, my book was in the Karitos bookstore alongside hers. We got a photo to document our excitement…

Check out Angel’s devotional, Love’s Great Design (affiliate link).

So that was my experience at this year’s Karitos. And we’re already on to planning the next! Maybe Karitos 2020 will have you in it? 😉

for the Creatives

Find your own Jenn

Creators and Dreamers: 
Get you a friend as committed as you are. I say that lightly, but sincerely I know that’s not an easy thing to come by. But let me tell you: If you do, you become catalysts for each other.

Meet Jenn. I mean, she’s not here, but she’s usually in my living room about once a month as we frantically type away the day, mostly only stopping for a chitchat at lunch.

And now, she’s waking up early to get an hour of writing in before work every. single. workday. Y’all, she one-upped me!

But that’s okay, because I need someone to one-up me right now. I need that reminder of the hunger. Not that I lost it, just that it’s been laying low for a bit.

This month, I’m going to join Jenn some mornings, and we are gonna get things done. By the end of this month, I’ll have a routine more solidified and probably a selfie to share with you, so brace yourself. But until then…

Find your own Jenn. Someone with a similar goal and a similar drive. Whatever commitment level you’re at, get someone right there with you, and keep each other going. It’s powerful. 

It’s not easy to find a Jenn, so if you have one, treasure that! And, maybe tell me about your Jenn in the comments 🙂

for the Bookworms

5 things to add to your bookmarketing toolkit

  1. Enthusiasm: being passionate about your work sells. If you’re not excited about it, why should anyone else be? And if others are excited about your work – readers, friends, or even your family – even better. Because if others are excited about your work, that builds credibility as they share their enthusiasm through posts, reviews, social media interactions, and in person discussions.
  2. A catchy title: You need to get their attention before they can even consider making a purchase.
  3. A quality cover: People want to buy something that they feel good about having in their home and becoming part of the image they present to the world. Your book can be the best story in the world, but there’s more than that. “Do I want to be known as the type of person that purchases this item?” each reader will have to subconsciously answer, and the cover is more a factor for that decision than the content inside the book. Let your cover make that answer a resounding “yes”.
  4. Delight: What’s one thing that will make the purchase more than just a purchase? What will bring the reader delight?
  5. A unique experience: What sets your sale apart from buying any other book or item out there?

Overall, remember that every reader is purchasing identity and delight. If you find how your product is offering that, you’ll be 5 steps ahead in your marketing plans.

for the Creatives

On taking creative risks

The end of last year I heard 3 sermons in a row, and from different speakers, about God rewarding risk (referencing the parable of the talents). It seemed like apt timing with me taking a risk and publishing a quirky meta short story. Niche in every sense. And nearly a year later, I regret nothing. I might have chosen different marketing avenues, but that’s about it.

More recently I’ve heard a teaching about God rewarding risk, from Alex Marestaing referencing when Jonathan said “Let’s go to the camp of those foreigners. Maybe the Lord will use us to defeat them” (1 Samuel 14:6, ESV). Key word “maybe.” Jonathan didn’t know. He took a risk.

One artist trope is that we have to quit our dayjob to build a successful artist career. That’s the only way we have adequate time to get our business off the ground…right? A few weeks ago I was reading “Originals” (affiliate link) about how nonconformists move the world, and studies actually show that businesses tend to be more successful when the entrepreneur kept their dayjob for awhile. (Read the book for exact details and figures and such.) Because the pressure was off, they could take the time to build something solid. Adam Grant, author of Originals, talked about how instead of taking a risk in every area of life, taking one great risk (like launching an artistic career) while playing it extra cautious in other areas to balance it all out. One great calculated risk.

Back to Alex Marestaing’s teaching. (I know, I’m all over the place, you love it 😛 ). I don’t remember the words he used, but he talked about how Jonathan didn’t know the outcome, but he knew God’s character, so it was a calculated risk.

Calculated risk. I like that. Because taking a risk sounds brave and daring and adventurous, but this little homebody wants to think through all the minute details and move ahead with caution. I like hearing that I can have both. But it still comes back to taking a risk. Artists still gotta jump at some point – or, more like at multiple points – in building their creative life.

This whole “risk” message coming back into my life right now, I’ll be honest, I don’t have a big booklaunch or a big anything in my plans. So what does the “big risk” messaging mean this time? I don’t know. But I’m making myself ready for when it shows itself.

Tell me: Are you more on the calculated side, or more of the risk taker? Which do you tend toward and which do you need to grow in today? Stepping out in risk, or taking a moment to calculate?

for the Creatives

The one thing that makes or breaks my marketing

Almost a year of selling “I Know You Like a Murder”. I’m no marketing expert by any means. But I googled and read books & articles and experimented. And thought I’d share the results so you can learn from them.

In my last post for patrons I gave my most successful marketing tactic. But there’s another strategy that makes those tactics possible in the first place, a strategy that I first learned from Ksenia Anske.

But first, let me tell you what marketing I tried, and I’ll also speculate as to why it helped or didn’t (although I could be off in my guesses):

  • Facebook/Twitter ads: I think for these to be successful, you have to actually know how to use them. Take a class or something. I tried a bit of money in both without learning how to use them first, so I got 0 sales.
  • Blog Tour: I hired a recommended successful blog tour company. Got hundreds of posts from book bloggers across the web. And got few sales. I think because my book was too niche, and it may have been more successful if it was a more widely read genre.
  • Book reviewers: I love book reviewers. Their service to the book community – readers and authors alike – is so appreciated and so valued. I sent books out (upon request, don’t just send them haphazardly) and received positive & negative reviews. Both positive and negative reviews are so important, because honest reviews are important. While I did not see tangible results, reviews in general are a book’s lifeline, so indirectly I am sure these pushed interested readers into buying readers (and let’s be honest, into non-buying readers if the book wasn’t for them, that’s important too. No one wants to waste time reading a book that isn’t for them.)
  • Book booths at area events: This has been one of my more successful, when I’m at the right place with the right people.
  • Preorders: Lots of posts about launch and lots of hype about finally publishing. This was very successful for a first-time author learning the ropes.
  • Book launch party: This was my most successful event so far. I sold in one day the same I’d sold through the entire preorder season.

But these aren’t strategies. These are just tools.

Can you spot the difference? What’s the difference between the items in that list that made the first half less successful than the last half?

You. Readers. Fans. Fans of my writing, or even just fans of my existence (I think they’d rather be called friends, but ya know…)

The book launch party was a success because of you. The crime scene tape idea came from one of you. Your fanart inspired and brought about the collectors cards.

Online preorders were a success because of you. Seriously, I calculated and most strangers’ purchases have come from your excitement. So what if the author is excited about their own work, I want to know if somebody else is, right? (I exaggerate, because an author’s excitement also sells btw.) Your attendance, your facebook likes, comments, shares, posts, your purchases – those drove sales more than any work I put in.

Your voice makes a difference to my creative career. So thank you. Thank you for celebrating with me and being with me in this journey.

In your creative pursuits, don’t discount the excitement of those around you. Count it a privilege and an honor, because not every artist gets that. And count it more valuable than anything you can purchase, because you can’t purchase enthusiasm and that’s what sells.

Sure, I learned a lot from studying Lady Gaga’s marketing (become a patron to read more about Lady Gaga marketing). But no matter what, remember it still all starts with you.

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My most successful marketing strategy

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for the Creatives

Not everyone has the time all the time

Saying “I don’t have the time” is most of the time and for most people an excuse, not an actuality. It’s simply a matter of reprioritizing.

But, that is not true for everyone. That is not true all of the time.

You have to be honest with yourself for yourself: Is saying “I don’t have the time” right now an excuse or a legitimate reason? I have to ask myself this question semi-regularly. Only you can decide.

But I’m learning one thing: Time to create is a privilege. When I have it, I try to honor it. I try to proceed with grace and gratitude for the moments and space that I have. I don’t always succeed.

And there are legitimate times where we don’t have the time and the space to create. I try to honor that too. To not guilt-trip or push. I don’t always succeed.

I try to be honest with where I’m at each moment. I don’t always succeed. It’s a process. It’s this attempt at that elusive thing called “balance”. And it’s okay to not get it right all the time. At least, so I remind myself. And today is a day that I wanted to remind myself, and I thought maybe I’d remind you too while I’m at it.

for the Creatives

An artist’s call to serve

Last month I wrote a blogpost about what artists have a responsibility to in their art. The trend right now is generally toward the artist’s role in the social justice movement or to using their platform to speak out.

Which is important. But a coworker reminded me that another big part of an artist’s calling is the call to serve. I think of the work of an artist throughout history, of commissions and patronage, of crafting for practical purposes and for communal areas.

Sometimes I see serving and chores synonymously, which is of course a piece of serving. But it’s important to remember the work of service in the artistic field too.

A quick note on valuing your work:

I think there’s a bit of a backlash to that thought sometimes, swinging too far the other direction trying to avoid the “starving artist” mentality and trying to remember our own worth as an artist. But it’s not one or the other: it’s both.

It certainly isn’t becoming a doormat and saying “yes” to every request for free labor that gets thrown your way. And it certainly isn’t throwing out halfhearted work without considering how it’s meeting the needs of the fanbase and how to give back to your community and to the artistic community.

I’m still learning to grasp both concepts tightly instead of leaning on one over the other. Placing value on the work of an artist while also finding ways to serve. That can include both volunteering free labor and also doing the work you’re paid to do with excellence.

Steps to take towards serving through your art:

  1. How are we serving our customers, our communities, our family/friends, and other artists?
  2. What value do we provide?
  3. How do we go above and beyond to care for them?
  4. Where do we sacrifice pieces of ourselves through our craft?

Some of it will be practical chore-like service: preparing a snack for a writers gathering or cleaning up after a paint night or organizing a conference.

Some of it will be serving through art: posting a timely word of encouragement, volunteering to proofread a cousin’s college application, or spending that extra time on worldbuilding for your novel to better entertain the readers who catch tiny details.

Serving comes in many forms, but overflows from a heart set on others. I’m spending time reflecting on that, how I’m currently serving others through art, and how I can continue to serve.

Tell me: In what ways have you seen artists (yourself or others) serving?

for the Creatives

Bloggers to add to your list

My friend was looking to expand her bloggerly reading list and asked who I follow. And I thought this was worth sharing with you all, too.

Honestly sometimes I feel like life has veered more toward Twitter threads and email newsletters…? Anyone else? It’s great to remind myself that my favorite online space, the bloggerly world, is still out there and still valued.

So here are some I’m reading. They’re all currently blogging, and though this list features a variety of styles with differing artistic outlets, it’s all beautiful.

When I’m not blogging, here’s some favorites I’m reading:

Abby Norman: abbynorman.net

Hannah Brencher: hannah-brencher.squarespace.com/diary
(and while you’re at it, be sure to sign up for her Monday Morning email club to start your week off right)

Juni’s Journal: junisjournal.wordpress.com

Jami Fowler: jamifowler.wordpress.com

Tara Sparling: tarasparlingwrites.com

iwannabealady: iwannabealady.com

NicoleSundays: nicolesundays.wordpress.com

And writerly-specific ones:

Kristen Lamb: authorkristenlamb.com

Blonde Write More: blondewritemore.com

Any others to add?

Comment below some of your favorite bloggers to expand the list even more.

for the Creatives

Studying the Greats: Who do you wanna be?

Who do you wanna be when you grow up? Not “grow up” as a person, but grow as an artist. Deciding that is a starting point. Then studying them, that’s one of the greatest keys to growth. If you can’t envision where you’re headed, it’s a little more difficult to get there.

You don’t have to personally know them. There are four super simple steps I’m posting for patrons on how to learn from the greats. Come join that discussion!

And tell me by commenting below: Who are you aspiring to be? Which creative souls are out there doing some piece of what you are wanting to do? and most importantly, what are you learning from them?