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Writing and Publishing

The Power of Saying No

I have a tendency to be a people pleaser. I like to help others, and I especially enjoy doing things for writers: to encourage them, support them, provide feedback, buy their book, and read their writing.

Helping other writers is why I have my blog and a newsletter about writing and publishing. Both my blog and newsletter are ways of helping writers and doing so on a bigger scale. Helping people in these ways, that is one-to-many, may not be as personal as one-on-one, but it’s certainly more effective and multiplies my reach.

But aside from blogging and my newsletter, I don’t have much extra time to help people. This season has been especially busy, jam-packed with writing. It seems I write, work, eat, and sleep. I often lose track of what day it is.

I’m certainly not complaining about having too many writing assignments and projects. It’s just that I’ve found myself saying “no” a lot more often. Even though this is necessary, I still feel a small pang of guilt each time I do.

When an email showed up a few days ago from an author asking if I would review her book, I wanted to say “yes.” Her request was respectful and not demanding as some are. She was humble, yet hopeful. But I knew I had to decline. I barely even had time to read her email, let alone her book.

I paused, took a deep breath, and said “no” as nicely as I could. It went something like this: “Your book sounds interesting, and I’d really like to review it, but I just don’t have the time. Sorry.”

A smidgen of guilt poked me in my gut. I paused and reread my words. I was nice but firm. My words were not evasive or imply I might do so later. I had closed the door without slamming it shut. Then I hit send.

I felt good about my decision. There’s power in saying “no.” Declining secondary things allows me to better meet my current commitments; it also provides the space to say “yes” to something even better later on.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of PublishingGet your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

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Writing and Publishing

Dealing with Critics and Reviews

Last week we talked about how to maximize the value of a critique, with the goal of carefully considering each person’s opinion. This, however, does not apply to critics and reviews.

Critics usually do not have the author’s best interest in mind, but instead their own. They write to call attention to themselves, their writing, and their mastery of words. They see discussing another person’s work as merely a vehicle to promote their own cleverness.

Even more suspect are social media reviews, where the apparent goal is often dogmatic, hurtful, or divisive proclamations—the louder the better. Too often, these reviewers seek not to inform others, as much as to call attention to themselves.

Given this, here are some thoughts about dealing with critics and reviews:

Ignore Them: My recommendation is don’t read reviews. Although tempting, there’s little to gain and much to lose. If we bask in their praise, don’t we have an equal obligation to consider their criticism? By reading them we’ll either be falsely puffed up or detrimentally pulled down.

Don’t Respond: If you do read reviews, resist the urge to react to negative comments. Responding merely gives reviewers credibility and emboldens them to be even more snarky. Things can quickly escalate out of control. By saying nothing, we may say the most.

Have Someone Screen Them: If you have a need to know what reviewers are saying, have someone else read them and summarize the key information you seek.

See Their Value: There’s a saying in marketing that the only thing worse than bad publicity is no publicity. Regardless of what’s written, accept each review as a promotion for your book or writing. People may disagree with the reviewer and buy your book anyway. Or they may forget the review and remember only the title.

Reviews are part of writing; they have value but shouldn’t influence our self-esteem or future work.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of PublishingGet your copy today.


Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

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Writing and Publishing

Book Review: Are You There Blog?

Are You There Blog? It’s Me, Writer

By Kristen Lamb (reviewed by Peter DeHaan)

Are You There Blog? It’s Me, Writer is the result of Kristen Lamb’s journey down the blogging path, from a struggling novice to successful blogger – with the following to prove it. And she specifically focuses on writers. Kristen avows that as a beginning blogger she made every conceivable mistake, many of which she shares with us so that we can avoid repeating them.

Are You There Blog? It is divided into three sections. The first is a social media primer, specifically as it relates to writers. Although it is seemingly a long introduction to the book’s main theme of blogging, it’s also most valuable, worth the price of the book by itself. Most of the commonly advocated social media practices, while great for businesses and corporations, don’t help writers and authors and in many cases are actually counterproductive.

The second section, the meat of the book, is entitled “Eighteen Lessons to Blogging Awesomeness,” which Kristen Lamb shares with both humor and authority. Implementing her recommendations will help writers construct a successful blog and aid in establishing their platform, doing so with a minimum of distraction and anxiety. Throughout this Kristen frequently references her own blog, not as annoying self-promotion, but as an actual example and to show that she really does follow her own advice.

The final section, the shortest of the three, offers a trio of testimonies from others who followed and affirm Kristin’s recommendations. This is a fitting conclusion to Are You There Blog? and a confirmation she’s not laying out a theoretical treatise but instead sharing a practical, workable, and proven plan to help writers blog.

Are You There Blog? It’s Me, Writer is a stand-alone book. However, readers may benefit by first reading Kristen’s previous book, We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media, which she frequently references by the acronym WANA.

Regardless, Are You There Blog? is a good beginning resource for any writer who blogs or wants to blog.

[Are You There Blog? It’s Me, Writer, by Kristen Lamb. Published by Who Dares Wins Publishing, 2011; ISBN: 978-1-935712-48-0; 187 pages.]

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Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of PublishingGet your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

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Book Review: We Are Not Alone

We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media

By Kristen Lamb (reviewed by Peter DeHaan)

We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media, Kristen Lamb shares from her own experience how writers can master social media, using it to build their platform. While much has been written about social media, this generic information, she asserts, is not helpful to writers and is often counter-productive.

We Are Not Alone (which Kristen affectionately refers to by its acronym, WANA) is presented in three acts. Act one is “The Big Picture,” effectively introducing the topic. It is a social media primer, providing the basics and presenting a compelling argument as to why writers need to embrace it.

The second act, the meat of the book, covers the practical aspect of building a social media platform; it’s subdivided into two stages. The first part offers instructions on understanding and gathering content, while the second section addresses the technology and websites that can be tapped to share this information.

The final act is the shortest of the three; it addresses time management. Succinctly, social media can be a huge time suck, as well as a distraction from the more important job of actually writing. Kristen shares her strategy to address this, encouraging readers to do the same.

We Are Not Alone was written in 2010 and with social media rapidly changing, some parts are already out of date (though happily most of the book is still nicely applicable). For example, not too many people are on My Space anymore, but Kristen advocates it as an essential part of a writer’s social media presence. While her argument is strong, I wonder if she still advises that today.

Regardless, the underlying basis of We Is Not Alone remains useful. I recommend the book as a basic tutorial for any writer not using social media and for those just starting to use it, as well as writers already socially active who desire to use it more effectively.

[We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media, by Kristen Lamb. Published by Who Dares Wins Publishing, 2010; ISBN: 978-1-935712-17-6; 197 pages.]

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Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of PublishingGet your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

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Writing and Publishing

Book Review: The Making of a Christian Bestseller

The Making of a Christian Bestseller: An Insider’s Guide to Christian Publishing

Book Review: The Making of a Christian Bestseller

By Ann Byle (reviewed by Peter DeHaan)

The Making of a Christian Bestseller: An Insider’s Guide to Christian Publishing is a valuable handbook of practical advice for writers in the Christian book market. Additionally, most of the insights are equally applicable to the general book market as well.

The Making of a Christian Bestseller is the result of Ann Byle’s interviews with successful, published writers who share their stories: what they did right – and wrong, the hard lessons learned the provisions from God, and their advice gained through personal experience. Each author’s account is self-contained in its own chapter, which is thematically arranged. The result is a pleasing progression of instruction and a helpful text on all things writing.

Regardless of the genre, The Making of a Christian Bestseller has a relevant chapter to address it. In total, 40 authors were consulted, which resulted in 40 concise chapters, smartly grouped into seven topics. As a bonus, each chapter starts with a quote from the author on the craft of writing and ends with a “best seller tip” summarizing key points. The book concludes with a valuable resource section and a helpful index for quick reference of key concepts and words.

Read The Making of a Christian Bestseller as a primer on Christian writing. Then use it as a personal handbook to refine your craft and advance your career. This book is a nice resource for every Christian author’s library.

[The Making of a Christian Bestseller: An Insider’s Guide to Christian Publishing, by Ann Byle. Published by FaithWalk Publishing, 2006, ISDN: 978-1-932902-57-0, 237 pages.]

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Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of PublishingGet your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.