A Writer’s Pal in Platform Building: An Interview with Thomas Umstattd

Thomas Umstattd Jr.I met Thomas Umstattd at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. After chatting with him, I was impressed by his humility and brilliance. He actually made technology less intimidating, and even a bit more inviting.

I’ve come across many writers who cringe at the mention of platform building and marketing strategies. But, with a pal like Thomas, writers can gain the courage and confidence required to develop an effective online presence.

I’m pleased to introduce you to Thomas Umstattd, founder of Author Media and The Best Seller Society.

Thank you for joining us, Thomas. Would you please share a little bit about your background and experience?

I built my first website at age 13, taught my first web design class at age 16, and have been helping Authors online since 2007.

 

WOW! Building your first website at 13? I can barely post on my website and I’m . . . no comment. So, what made you decide to launch The Best Seller Society?

I was at a writer’s conference where the speaker encouraged us to start a blog and a website for our books. I remember thinking, no problem I do that all the time.

Then, I saw the look of panic on the faces of the other attendees and realized I had something to offer the author community.

We launched the Bestseller Society several years later. Our goal is to provide authors the resources they need to succeed year round.

 

Best Seller SocietyHow can unpublished writers and published authors benefit from your services?

Platforms are essential. And Author Media builds platforms for authors every day.

We do everything from building the website to setting up Facebook and Twitter. We show you how to use social media effectively and will even do it for you. (You can see samples here!)

 

How does Author Media and The BSS serve writers who are not tech savvy?

If you’re tech savvy, you probably don’t need our help :-). We hold each author’s hand through the scary world of technology.

 

I’m already feeling less intimidated by the process. But, what can those super-writers, who excel in all things technology, gain from partnering with your team?

The biggest thing we offer “super-writers” is time. Just because you know how to do something doesn’t mean you have the time to do it.

We work with Bestselling authors. The biggest reason they come to us is that they’re too busy writing and speaking to worry about their website.

 

In your experience, what is the greatest challenge a writer faces with platform building?

Fear.

 

Have you been reading my journal, Thomas? Just kidding. How has your team helped writers overcome that challenge?

We give authors the tools, coaching and encouragement they need to not only help them overcome their fear, but to equip them to thrive in their writing and promotion.

 

Sounds like a win-win situation, to me. What are some easy, inexpensive ways writers can begin building a platform today?

Start blogging. That is the core of good online platform building for authors because it is so similar to writing. Just avoid blogger, blogspot, typepad and WordPress.com. If you want a successful blog it needs to be on YourName.com or YourBookTitle.com.

 

Great tip! What final words of encouragement would you like to share with writers who are intimidated by platform building and marketing strategies?

The anticipation of the unknown is the hardest thing to overcome. Just get started. You’ll find it’s not as tough as you might think, especially if you have someone to help you along.

Thank you for joining us, Thomas. I look forward to seeing how God continues to use the BSS and Author Media to encourage writers as you equip them to excel in the art of platform building.
 

Xochi (so-she) E. Dixon is an writer, speaker, and Bible teacher who loves Jesus and studying God’s Word. She lives in Northern California with her husband, Alan, their teenage son, Xavier, and their doggy-daughter, Jazzy. Xochi writes contemporary fiction, articles and devotions for women. Her short stories and poetry for teens have been featured in ENCOUNTER – The Magazine, Devo ‘Zine, and on the Real Teen Faith website. Connect with Xochi on her website at www.xedixon.com or on Facebook and Twitter.

You're Invited: Book Launch & Old-Fashioned Ice Cream Social

A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, CaliforniaCome celebrate the launch of Inspire writer Keli Gwyn’s debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California.

Sunday,  July 15, 2012
2-4 p.m
Discovery Hills Church
4270 Shingle Springs Drive
Shingle Springs, California

This will be a fun event for the entire family, with  games, musicians, and the Gold Rush Barbershop Chorus performing. There will also be an old-fashioned ice cream social.

Guests are encouraged to wear Victorian costumes or Western apparel.

Keli will be signing copies of A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California. If you don’t have a copy, they will be available at the event.

And speaking of the book, here’s a little teaser:

Widow Elenora Watkins looks forward to meeting her new business partner, Miles Rutledge, who owns a shop in 1870s El Dorado. But Miles is shocked to see a woman step off the stagecoach. His rude behavior forces Elenora to reconsider—so she becomes his competition across the street. Can Miles win her heart while destroying her business?

You can read more about A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California on Keli Gwyn’s website.

Unveiling Inspire Press

Photo by Flickr.com member Alijava

Inspire Press, a non-profit ministry of Inspire Christian Writers, serves our members in two ways—first, by publishing the yearly anthology, and second, by partnering with member authors to publish one or two additional titles each year.

To submit an article for the Inspire Faith anthology, please read the guidelines at Submission Guidelines and use the online Anthology Submission Form  Deadline is August 15, 2012.

Beginning with the Write to Inspire Conference (July 20-21), Inspire Press will welcome inquiries from authors who wish to self-publish using our services. To insure quality, we only consider manuscripts that have benefited from a month-by-month critique during the writing process, as attested by one of our Inspire critique group leaders. You must be a dues-paying member of Inspire to take advantage of this service.

As a partnership press, Inspire offers you two advantages—economy and encouragement.

We offer economy because Inspire Press is non-profit and charges only nominal fees for editing and layout, and because we print through Lightning Source, whose quality, speed, and prices cannot be beat. We offer encouragement because your critique group partners will help you improve your writing and choose the right avenue to publication.

But there are disadvantages, too. As a small, new arm of Inspire Christian Writers, Inspire Press cannot launch more than one or two titles per year. And, while we get your title listed on Amazon and suggest ways for you to publicize it, including through Inspire member reviews, the marketing is entirely up to you. As any professional can tell you, self-publishing is not for everyone.

Dana Sudboro serves as the Managing Editor for Inspire Press. He is the Vice President of Inspire Christian Writers and leads Inspire Rocklin/Roseville. He has published three novels including his latest,  Continents Apart, which recently released from White Rose Publishing. His zeal for writing romance stems from his passion for revealing the love of our Heavenly Bridegroom.

Behind the scenes with Keli Gwyn

Keli GwynFirst off let me say, Keli holds a very special place in my heart. She’s one of those rare friends that genuinely wants to help and support other people. I feel very blessed to know her, not only as an author, but as my friend. She’s been a true cheerleader…which is one of the reasons I’m thrilled to share with everyone about her debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado!

Today we get to go behind the scenes and peek into Keli’s life. I think you’ll find from her answers that she’s as good as it gets!

LN: How would you describe yourself? How would Gwynly describe you?

KG: Wow! Talk about starting with a challenging question, Lace. Lemme see. I could tell you what others say about me. They use words like sweet, encouraging, and organized, but I’m guessing you want me to answer for myself. In that case, I’d say short, detail-oriented, tenacious, generous, and—I’m being honest here—a bit high maintenance.

I asked Gwynly, and this is exactly what he said, “Energetic, caring, creative, and a bit OC.” Not to worry. Since my guy is also a bit OC, he can get away with pointing out that I am, too.

LN: You blog about your real-life romance with your husband. How do you find ideas to keep the spark alive?

KG: Hmm. I’d say I put my creativity to work. My marriage is very important to me, so I’m always on the lookout for things that will add a special spark and be fun for my guy.

For example, I know Gwynly wants to see the new Spiderman movie because he replied to a mutual friend’s Facebook update about it. Guess who’s going to pop by the theater on her way home from Curves and snag two tickets to a matinee as a surprise for her fellow? And, yes, you can look forward to a blog post about “Romance Super Hero Style.”

A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, CaliforniaLN: You write historical romance novels. Tell us what you find so appealing about that genre?

KG: There are those who might think historicals are appealing because things were simpler in the “olden days.” I think the opposite is true. We have so many modern conveniences we take for granted. They didn’t.

For example, Gwynly Skyped with a friend from Germany just the other day. A person in the Victorian Era would have had to send a letter by ship that could have taken weeks to arrive. I throw a load of clothes in the washing machine, and half an hour later they’re ready for me to toss in the dryer. A Victorian housewife would have spent an entire day doing her laundry. Computers make modern engineers’ calculations quick and easy. Those who built the Transcontinental Railroad did so with nothing but slide rules, pencils, and paper.

I marvel at how hardworking, determined, resilient, and strong our forebears were. Reading stories that showcase them and their many strengths encourages me to be more grateful for what I have today—and to appreciate those who made what I have now possible.

LN: Tell us about the agented/contracted part of your life. What’s it like? Do you just get to sit every day in your forested backyard with a cup of tea and a laptop writing the stories of your heart?

KG: The words that come to mind are full and fulfilling.

My plate is full, even more so than it was in my pre-contracted days. I’m no longer able to write only when I feel like it or to write just what I want. At any point in time, my agent is eagerly awaiting another story to shop. But I can’t write just any story that captures my mind. I have to get Rachelle’s nod before beginning so I don’t waste time on stories she doesn’t think will be marketable.

Being contracted and having a book out is every bit as fulfilling as I thought it would be—and then some. The outpouring of support from my family and friends has been incredible. I’m hard-pressed to keep up with the well wishes and offers from those eager to help spread the word about my book. And I must say, it’s pretty neat to hear from readers who loved the story and my characters.

LN: You’ve spent a lot of years building your online tribe. How have they made a difference in your personal and professional life?

KG: For starters, I don’t think of myself as having a “tribe.” That term strikes me as impersonal and kinda self-focused. I don’t want to interact with “the masses.” I much prefer one-on-one interactions that enable me to get to know people and what is going on in their lives. I have oodles of awesome friends who bless me in countless ways, just as you have, Lacie. I treasure each one and wish I had more time to cultivate the relationships the way I did in my pre-writing days.

LN: The video of you seeing your book for the first time was worth a thousand words, but can you describe what was going through your head as you held A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California for the first time?

KG: I was doing a lot more feeling than thinking, but I do remember wondering if I’d been wise to have Gwynly tape the moment. Why? Because I’m a charter member of the Weepy Women’s Club who was sure to shed some tears of joy, and when I cry, my face tends to get all splotchy. LOL

Seeing my book for the first time made everything real. That was way cool!

(Want to see Keli’s reaction to seeing her book in print for the first time, here it is: Keli Gwyn’s Debut Novel Delivery.)

LN: Give us some information about your upcoming book launch party. Where? When? What can visitors expect to experience?

KG: I know the party is billed as a book launch, but I prefer to think of it as a celebration. It’s not as much about the book as it is about sharing my joy with the many wonderful people who have been there for me and helped me reach this milestone.

I’m very excited about the party, which is an Old-fashioned Ice Cream Social that just so happens to be taking place on National Ice Cream Day. There will be gallons and gallons of Dreyer’s cream and oodles of tasty toppings, along with some awesome entertainment.

The Gold Rush Barbershop Chorus, a talented group of 18+ men, will be singing some love songs. Music is an important element in A Bride Opens Shop, so I’m delighted to have a string quartet performing some of the classical pieces from the story and my very own Gwynly and some of our friends adding a few of the folk tunes.

I’ll be dressed in my Victorian gown, and Gwynly will be sporting his frock coat, brocade waistcoat, top hat, and more. The El Dorado Chamber Senior Ambassadors are planning to wear their Victorian finery as well. Guests are invited to come in Victorian costume or Western attire if they’d like.

LN: Thank you so much, Keli, for taking the time to share with us! I hope you all have a chance to attend Keli’s book celebration this weekend! See you there!

Keli Gwyn's LaunchHere are the details…

Book Launch and Old-fashioned Ice Cream Social
Sunday, July 15, 2012
2-4 p.m
Discovery Hills Church
4270 Shingle Springs Drive
Shingle Springs, California

The church is easy to find. Take Exit 39 on Highway 50, head south, cross the railroad tracks, and you’ll see the church on your right. It’s only half a mile from the highway. For those who know the area, Discovery Hills is the church next to Buckeye Elementary School.

Keli will be happy to sign previously purchased copies of her book, but there will be books available for $12, sales tax included. Cash or check only please.

From her earliest years, Lacie Nezbeth knew two things—she longed to be a stay at home mom, and stories, in any form, captivated her. Those two passions have culminated into a fairy tale life that points her to God’s overflowing goodness. Her love of history, traveling and research made her decision to write Historical Romances an obvious and fitting choice. When Lacie isn’t writing or tackling the unending mountain of laundry produced by her three small kids, she’s chauffeuring her children to their various activities, talking to herself in the grocery store or plotting ways to get her entire family on another Caribbean cruise.

How to Chat on Twitter

Tomorrow evening (July 10th) I will be hosting Inspire’s first Tweet Chat, an interview with literary agent Chip MacGregor. The chat will begin at 6pm (PDT) and run for an hour. I’ll begin by welcoming Chip and then asking him a few introductory questions.

Next (and this is where you come in) I’ll invite you to ask your questions. Start thinking of what you’d like to know from Chip.

I realize many of our writers are new to Twitter, so I thought I’d post some basics to help you navigate the Tweet Chat.

How to Chat on Twitter:

On twitter I am @InspireWriters and plan to host future chats on all aspects of Christian Writing.

Here are the simple steps.
1. Enter “#WritetoInspire” into the search box at the top of the Twitter page. When you hit search, you will find the tweet stream.

2. To comment and interact you must include #WritetoInspire (our hashtag) with EVERY tweet. If you copy and paste the hashtag, it will be really easy.

3. Try to stay on subject and follow the stream of the conversation. Use times outside chats to ask other important and relevant questions.

4. Be courteous. This is a time for open discussion.

5. Connect: chats provide a great opportunity to follow and develop followers among the writers who participate.

6. Pray for the chat and those who take part in it.

7. Invite others. We are growing and will offer more chats as part of our mission to equip writers to inspire the world.

Here is a schedule for our current chats on #WritetoInspire:

Tuesday, July 10th 6-7pm PDT. Interview Chip MacGregor

Tuesday, July 17th 6-7pm PDT. Interview Susy Flory

 

Thanks to Cheri Douglas for sharing his wisdom about Tweet Chats. You can find Cheri here: @CheriDouglas

Are you ready to Chat with Chip? Do you have any questions about Tweet Chats or need any help getting on Twitter?

Elizabeth M. Thompson leads Inspire Christian Writers. When she’s not writing devotionals or planning the next Write to Inspire conference, she’s learning to write more transparently with her Inspire Elk Grove group. She enjoys connecting with other writers via Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

She has an active home which she shares with her fabulous husband Mike, three children, two dogs and a few errant dust bunnies.

 

The Harvest of Faithfulness: A Prayer of Endurance

By Xochi E. Dixon

Pear Fruit

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go bear fruit−fruit that will last.” John 15:16a, NIV

 

Thank You for reminding us that we can do nothing apart from You, Lord (John 15:5).

 

Give us the desire to acknowledge Your presence and dig into the treasure of Your Word daily.

 

As we come to know You more intimately, help us bend to Your pruning and trust You to grow the seeds You have called us to plant and water.

 

Bless us with the wisdom and courage we need to serve in faithfulness and endurance, even when we don’t see the results we expect.

 

Lord, please help us remember our job is obedience in love for Your glory alone.

 

Your Word says: “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:10).

 

Encourage our hearts as we hone our craft in excellence, Lord. Guide our steps and our words and help us make spending time with You a top priority in our lives.

 

Inject us with Your peace and joy and help us embrace our writer’s journey as an opportunity to see You more clearly and serve You with the gifts You’ve given us.

 

Thank You, Lord, for this writing community that challenges us to grow as writers and as Your devoted children. Please help every member realize they make a difference and are valuable to this body of believers.

 

Please, Lord, continue to work through us to equip and encourage writers to inspire the world.

 

We are wholeheartedly Yours, Lord. Do what You will.

 

In Jesus’ name, Amen