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Brainstorming and Viral Marketing Help Needed

Monday, July 14, 2008

Between some fabulous marketing brainstorming we did as a group at the Middle Tennessee Christian Writers’ meeting Saturday (which lasted almost four hours, instead of our scheduled two!), I’ve spent several hours today brainstorming the plot points for Menu for Romance.

First, I want to talk about what we were brainstorming so long at MTCW, because it’s something that everyone reading this blog can help out with, if you’re willing.

How do publishing houses get started? Well, someone who loves the written word, who has a heart for getting books in the hands of readers, decides that they want to take the risk to start a business to do that. A very dear friend of mine, Joan Shoup (that’s pronounced SHAUP not SHOOP), has done just that. If you haven’t been following her journey in starting Sheaf House, after you finish reading this post, you need to hop over to her Sheaf House blog.

But, like every new business just taking off, Sheaf House is struggling to get the word out about its products. Joan really needs to get the sales numbers for Sheaf House’s first release, One Holy Night by J.M. Hochstetler (Joan’s penname), up to the five or six thousand range. Now, don’t rush off to Amazon to order it just yet—it won’t be up and live for purchase for a few days yet (and I’ll let you know when it is). Here’s where the brainstorming part of our meeting began.

One thing we really need to do is get people talking up One Holy Night and creating a buzz about it and the two books that are coming out this fall: Michelle Sutton’s YA romance, It’s Not about Me, and A. K. Arenz’s cozy mystery, The Case of the Bouncing Grandma (which are available for preorder on Amazon). I know that most of the people reading this blog already have TBR piles that are about to create a fatal avalanche of books in your home. But these are wonderful books and a great way to support Sheaf House and our fellow writers. Please, please, consider purchasing these books—and ask your friends and family to as well!

We want to create not just a sales surge for One Holy Night when it’s “live” on Amazon again, but we also want it to be a recommended title connected with a bestseller (probably The Shack). If you’re interested in participating and don’t mind purchasing two books, let me know and once we work out all the details, I’ll e-mail you the details. Even if the bestseller is one you already own, you can donate it to your library or local literacy program or to a gift box going overseas to our soldiers.

If you are interested in featuring Sheaf House, One Holy Night, and/or Joan on your blog, or if you’re involved in a reader’s club and want recommend it as a book for your group to read, let me know, and I’ll get you in touch with Joan.

Let’s put the power of “word of mouth” (a.k.a. “viral”) marketing to work and support a fledgling publishing house that is putting out powerful, meaningful fiction the likes of which readers aren’t going to be able to get anywhere else.


Now, the other brainstorming I did this weekend is on Menu for Romance. You’ll notice that I’ve put a second counter in the widget in the right navbar. I’ve marked it my second draft, but really it’s my third, since what’s tracked in the first counter is actually a restart from what I had written last year. But I’m trying to simplify things.

Two weeks ago, I mentioned that I was going to go through and write out the basic structure based on Billy Mernit’s seven beats of the romance story. The night I got home from vacation, I started it on my whiteboard. But then I realized my mistake—when I needed to go back up in the list and fill in an earlier beat with an idea, I ended up erasing whatever was underneath my hand as I wrote. Yikes! I was losing lots of good stuff.

A while back, I purchased a flip-chart at Sam’s. I bought it to draw a map of Bonneterre (the fictional city where Stand-In Groom and its sequels are set), but then set it aside and never did anything with it, nor the set of Sharpies containing 36 colors. So I got it out and copied everything from the whiteboard onto the flip chart:

The stuff in the middle is hard to see—that’s the “rising conflict” section, and I was penciling in ideas for conflicts that could happen during that part.

Well, today, after sending the revised first three chapters to the crit partners on Saturday, before moving on with revising/rewriting what already exists (that 41,000 words on the first of the two counters up above) I decided I needed to ask/answer some questions to make sure that I’m not going to get midway through again and decide again that I don’t like the direction the conflict is going again. So I just started by writing questions, then thinking of all the possible ways I can write the conflict:

(Visually oriented me: pink is for Meredith, aqua for Major, and yes, it’s sitting on one of my extra office chairs, because I don’t have any free wall space in my office to hang it up!)

So there you have it. I think I’ve answered the pressing questions and can now move on with the new stuff I need to write for chapter four. And my goal is for that second counter over there to be moving at a pretty brisk clip right now, since I’ll be salvaging as much as I can from what’s already written as I write new stuff for the new/changed conflicts.

Don’t forget: if you’re interested in helping out with the viral marketing campaign for One Holy Night, be sure to mention that in your comment and I’ll contact you via e-mail.

  1. Monday, July 14, 2008 1:25 am

    So, this Sheaf House… is that pronounced “SHOFE HAUS”? I mean, you throw out the phonetic rules once and you throw them out for good. Who’s to say what’s right and wrong then, Kaye!? WHO? You just shattered my education.

    Teasing people I don’t know just because they’re a friend of my cousin aside, I have no extra money and sadly can’t help with that particular viral campaign, but it certainly sounds like a good idea. I hope that works out for Ms. Hochstetler (can’t even imagine what the proper pronunciation for that might be – I’ve got like seven possibilities running through my mind). I do wish I could help. Let me know if you figure out something that doesn’t involve money.

    Barely related, but I also don’t understand how you can use giant white pads over multiple Word documents. The latter are so much more easily edited. And easier to write in whilst reclining in bed.

    My laziness is unmatched.


  2. Monday, July 14, 2008 7:08 am

    Since the new MFR draft is called “A New Hope,” I think you should call the old draft “The Phantom Menace.” (It’s amazing what’s funny to me this early in the morning. LOL)


  3. Monday, July 14, 2008 7:41 am

    I would like to know how you get a counter on your blog page so I could get one up on mine. Also, I hate I missed the meeting on Saturday. I had another one at 10. I have a local bookclub that meets at Cool Springs Borders in Franklin. I don’t have a CHristmas read picked yet so if I could get a copy of the book it might be a good one. Does Hochsteler live in Nashville. I have authors coming to the store to do a book signing and then discuss the book with the club so it might be an option. Email her my information and website.
    Also, I am wondering if I want to change the name of my blog site do I have to completely shut it down and start another one? I just started the one I have playing around one night and didn’t realize I would actually be able to do it, hence, the long address. So I would like to change the address to 2 shorter one if possible.


  4. Monday, July 14, 2008 7:44 am

    PS–Kaye is their a book that has the information in it about the type of storyboarding you are doing. I am really more a reader then a writer but occasionally have a story idea and think maybe I could write that.
    I have enjoyed being part of MCTW even though not a writer because of how it has helped me with leading my book club. It helps to know authors and where they are coming from when discussing books.


  5. Monday, July 14, 2008 8:44 am

    @ Ruth–actually, I should probably call it THX-1138, since it came before the draft subtitled “A New Hope” 🙂


  6. Monday, July 14, 2008 8:47 am

    @ Shellie–
    I’ve sent Joan your e-mail address for her to get in touch with you about the book club.

    To get a counter like that, all you have to do is click on my counter, which will take you to the StoryToolz site. There you can set up a counter. Once you do that, it’ll give you the HTML code (I think there’s a link you have to click on, like “Get HTML Code” or something similar). The code can then be copied and pasted into a widget in the design section of your blog’s dashboard.

    It’s been a couple of years since I’ve used Blogger, but there should be something on your dashboard in blogger that will allow you to make changes to your blog. If there’s the possibility of changing the name, it should be in that area.


  7. Monday, July 14, 2008 8:50 am

    @ Caleb–
    I’m all for laziness. But this is a time when sitting at the computer typing wasn’t going to work for me. Because I was just brainstorming and writing down possibilities, it was easier and more mentally freeing to get away from the computer where I could just let the ideas flow.

    Plus, since I can now stick them on the office door (just to the right of my desk—the flip-chart is really a giant Post-it Note pad), they’re right there for immediate reference when I sit down tonight to start working on the next chapter.


  8. Monday, July 14, 2008 9:32 am

    Good morning, Kaye.

    I’d be happy to host Joan on my blog. 🙂 When Amazon goes live for One Holy Night, let me know. Amazon is always happy to take some money off me. 🙂

    I sent 1-3 of MFR-ANH to G. You got some more for me?


  9. Emilie permalink
    Monday, July 14, 2008 9:44 am

    Good luck with your second/third draft of MFR! It’s great that you’ve been doing charts and visual aids to help with your plotting–sometimes that sort of thing makes all the difference.


  10. Monday, July 14, 2008 9:48 am

    You let a box of 36 Sharpies sit? I love the flip chart idea, and have used it myself. It’s nice and big, allowing for pencil-ins that need to be added later, etc. Excited to read/crit MFR 🙂


  11. Monday, July 14, 2008 9:50 am

    @Kaye – Good point.


  12. Monday, July 14, 2008 12:48 pm

    Actually, a BETTER point would be to call it American Graffiti. The draft before that would be THX-1138.

    Come on, guys, learn your Lucas history.


  13. Monday, July 14, 2008 12:54 pm

    I have been praying for Shealf House to do well at ICRS after Joan posted on the ACFW loop, but never thought of this idea to purchase the book along with a bestseller from Amazon to get it more hits. Thanks for the inspiration!


  14. Monday, July 14, 2008 1:20 pm

    @Caleb–I thought about American Graffiti, but I actually liked that one.


  15. Monday, July 14, 2008 1:30 pm

    @Kaye – ROFLOL! Even better point. 😉


  16. Monday, July 14, 2008 1:37 pm

    Oh, was that the whole standard for the naming system? I just thought the chronological naming was tossed in favor of a historical pattern.


  17. Monday, July 14, 2008 1:39 pm

    It’s both chronological and based on whether or not I liked the preceding film.


  18. Monday, July 14, 2008 2:16 pm

    This might be the most complicated labeling process I’ve ever come across.

    Don’t own a library once you get rich and stuff. Nobody will ever find anything.


  19. Monday, July 14, 2008 2:21 pm

    Don’t worry. That won’t happen.

    Would it surprise you to know that I have my entire DVD collection alphabetized? Well, except for the series, which I have shelved separately (as in, the three extended-edition LOTR boxes, the LOST boxes, the Hornblower boxed sets, and so on). Oh, and all of my Jane Austen films are shelved separately, along with Cranford and Bleak House.


  20. Monday, July 14, 2008 2:40 pm

    As a writer, I would be disappointed if I found out you DIDN’T alphabetize your DVD collection.

    All of my movies are alphabetical, then the TV show DVD’s are organized by genre or style (cartoons/drama/sitcom/etc). Disney and Pixar animated features are also alphabetized separately.

    That picture is probably missing about 20 DVD’s I’ve already boxed up, plus the entire Ultimate James Bond collection (20 movies) and about 10 other DVD’s I haven’t watched all the special features on yet (I keep those on my dresser to remind me I need to watch the extras).


  21. Monday, July 14, 2008 3:07 pm

    My DVD collection was alphabetized until my brother and his girlfriend came by and decimated it.

    Thank goodness for your blog, Kaye. It’s helping me through the never-ending day.


  22. Monday, July 14, 2008 3:25 pm

    I get mad at people when they mess up my DVD organization.

    Hey, Ruth, you know what you should do to celebrate today finally being over (in about 2 hours, I assume)?



  23. Monday, July 14, 2008 3:30 pm

    See, Ruth? I told you he’s been bugging me about going to see that movie.


  24. Monday, July 14, 2008 6:56 pm

    @ Kaye – He found me on Facebook & has been bugging me about Wall-E too!!!


  25. Monday, July 14, 2008 8:10 pm

    What is this “bugging” you speak of? Try selflessly trying to help you bestow upon yourself the greatest gift the cinema currently has to offer.

    If you guys haven’t seen this by next week, I’ll be forced to resort to the “o” word and I really don’t want to have to stoop to that level. You don’t deserve it, but you’re certainly on your way to earning it!


  26. Monday, July 14, 2008 8:19 pm

    Kaye, I’m scared…what is the “o” word?!


  27. Monday, July 14, 2008 8:29 pm

    “Twenty-one year-old elitism.”

    Wait, that doesn’t start with an “o”. It must be something else.

    Kaye knows. Don’t you, Kaye?


  28. Monday, July 14, 2008 8:33 pm

    Ummm . . . obstinancy?


  29. Monday, July 14, 2008 8:41 pm

    Maybe if that was actually a word. 😉

    My obstinance is matched only by my laziness, but no, that’s not the word I’m thinking of. It ends with a “d” and has an “l” somewhere in there. And that’s about it, actually.


  30. Monday, July 14, 2008 9:00 pm

    Okay that’s just not called for. 😛


  31. Monday, July 14, 2008 9:35 pm

    What? I didn’t say anything.



  32. Amy permalink
    Tuesday, July 15, 2008 6:32 am

    Is One Holy Night the type of book that could be donated, say tucked into a Christmas package for a care package to a soldier or a homeless child? Why don’t you see if some organizations may want to buy a number of them? Wholesale might give better financial returns, but if bought on amazon that will serve to solidy Sheaf House’s place there.

    I’m begging though, PLEASE don’t link this book with The Shack. I know many Christians love The Shack, but I believe it has some serious theological flaws and don’t wish to encourage it. If you disagree, I’d love to engage in a civilized discussion on this; please write to me.

    I’ve written a blog on The Shack with some links at



  33. Tuesday, July 15, 2008 9:46 am

    I might be interested in helping, but I’d need to read more up on the story first 😀


  34. Tuesday, July 15, 2008 4:55 pm

    I’m all for helping with my blog too. I’m not even halfway through the first American Patriot book and I’m already dying for the third one!! Sheaf House has to take off and do really well for the third one to come out on schedule in January.


  35. Wednesday, July 16, 2008 1:05 pm

    I was wondering about how new publishers get started recently.

    Two of these books were already on my TBR list.

    I pray for much success for Sheaf House.


  36. Wednesday, July 16, 2008 5:12 pm

    First, I say you need an easel for your flip chart if you have no wall space. Then it can stare you right in the face in front of your desk.

    Second, I’d love to hear more about One Holy Night. Can you lead to me a back cover blurb, or something?


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