I wear a lot of hats, can anyone else relate or commiserate? I’m a mom, I homeschool three kids, I write books, and am heading up Esther’s House Publishing. Overall, I operate three websites with various subscribers and newsletter lists. Heck, each publication from Esther’s House has its very own market and list of subscribers awaiting the release. There are days where I wish I had a few extra pairs of arms and possibly another brain to work more efficiently, but I don’t think that will happen anytime soon. Instead, I work to stay organized and have some go-to programs to help! Of course, every business need is different and changing, which is why it’s important to have master data management that can grow with you!
My favorite software to organize my email lists and communicate efficiently is MailChimp. MailChimp is an awesome, free web program which allows me to store all of my different email lists and easily craft professional emails. It’s great for small businesses allowing for promotions, coupon codes, and everything in between while tracking the sales and interaction of your e-mail campaigns. You can see what email was opened, what bounced, and what is producing a return on investment.
When it comes to fundraising on the go, Givelify provides nonprofits with the ease of using an app to collect donations. If you’re a part of a nonprofit that’s looking for easy ways to accept donations at events or door-to-door, Givelify provides a free customizable app to help make your job easy! All the data is stored conveniently for thank-yous and follow-ups!
For teaching, homeschooling, and work:
Canva is my right-hand program for graphics. I can easily craft worksheets for my French class, social media graphics for my blogs, and I use them to make custom graphs for business presentations. Currently, they’re trying out animation which means the ability to incorporate data graphs in professional looking videos. With all the unique options Canva offers, they’re giving paid programs like Adobe a strong run for their money!
If you’re looking for full-scale, data management software, check out the management system trusted by Gap, Kimberly-Clark, Ameriprise Financial, and many more. Profisee offers data management solutions for a variety of industries, from healthcare to retail. They provide a wide breadth of leadership from master data management, business intelligence and enterprise software firms. See why Gartner master data management just positioned them in their October 2017 Magic Quadrant!
What are some of your favorite systems to help you and your business stay organized?
This post was sponsored by Diamond Links!
Antibiotics are one of the most common medications I can think of. Most parents are familiar with the drill: your child gets a cold; it lingers over a week and develops into an ear or sinus infection so you head to the doctors to get an antibiotic. Within a day or two, they’re feeling much better and ready to jump back into life!
Last year, antibiotics became a part of my daily life (3x a day) for nearly 5 months and are a huge part of why I’m still alive today. My health battle started with a simple case of mastitis. I had experienced it at least four other times in my life, sometimes requiring antibiotics and other times using natural methods for relief. By the end of the first day, my body hurt, I had a fever, my brain felt foggy, and I collapsed after climbing a flight of stairs. Thankfully, three weeks before I had set up a doctor appointment for the following day, so I [literally] crawled into bed and went to sleep.
The next morning, I could barely stand up without falling; my head would pound every time I’d try to get up. I took Tylenol to help with my head and fever but I knew this wasn’t just mastitis. I called my doctor and they were able to move my appointment to earlier in the day. By the time I arrived, my heart rate was through the roof, I wasn’t making any logical sense, and my EKG (heart rhythm monitor) was showing abnormal patterns.
They prescribed antibiotics for my infection and gave me an urgent referral to see a cardiologist. I survived because they gave me antibiotics, and also struggled for 5 long months because they missed the warning signs of sepsis. Sepsis occurs when common infections (like a UTI or mastitis) travel into the blood and essentially turn your blood to poison, eventually causing organ failure and death if not treated urgently.
After the initial infection, I suffered from 6 additional infections including one which turned the whites of my eyeballs yellow. I showed symptoms of Alzheimer's (at 26 years old) and continued to have heart problems. I would start to cook a meal, and not remember that I had done that. I didn’t know how to use my computer, though I had used it every single day before becoming sick. I didn’t remember how to sort and fold laundry. And my body would shake and I’d lose circulation in my limbs because of infection in my heart. This was one heck of a battle; I needed miracles (you can read about them here) and antibiotics!
I can’t stress how fortunate we are to live in a country where antibiotics are readily available. Many of my friends and Malawi have shared about not being able to find a medication when they needed it. Imagine having a sick child, needing antibiotics, and being handed a script and told to go find it. You’d walk town to town, pharmacy to pharmacy in search of the medication and then have to figure out a way to pay for it while your loved one suffered (you can learn more about the healthcare struggles in Malawi in Birth in Blantyre).
Though our health system isn’t perfect, we have so much to be thankful for. Companies like Singlecare can help you receive discounted prescriptions like a triluma discount, dental care, and eye care and even video doctor’s visits! Many parts of the world could only dream of that kind of service! The next time you’re feeling frustrated with medical bills, wait times with insurance companies, or doctors that are missing the mark- remember how fortunate we are to have first world medical care!
A special thanks to our sponsor, Diamond Links!
"Quack quack, I love you!" She yelled, hoping they'd change their mind and come back.
We all let out a giant belly laugh, and continued to assist her in her effort of convincing the gulls to return by calling, "Quack quacks, we love you, come back!!"
Weeks later, we're still talking about it and laughing.
When stories like this linger in our hearts and lips, I start to wonder if there's a deeper meaning for that moment, and I felt like, for me there was.
God put on my heart that I was doing the same thing as Genevieve. Instead of gulls, I was chasing after my dreams, but with a heart burdened by disappointment. I’d start to get close, only to scare them off by my own heavy heart.
Disappointment is part of human life. People disappoint us, circumstances disappoint us, and life can down right disappoint us. But the key to not thudding through life, scaring away all of the seagulls, is walking in the Spirit, not the flesh. Our flesh may be burdened, but as our spirits seek God, they’re renewed each day. And gradually, oh so gradually, the disappointments fade and the heavenly joy from our Spirit washes away the stains.
Have a happy weekend, with a light heart!
In my opinion, public relations (PR) has to be one of the most difficult tasks for any blossoming business. You can offer the most incredible, revolutionary product, service, or book, but if no one knows about it your efforts can be in vain. Trying to get the word out about your business can be extremely daunting when you’re stuck in the trenches of actually working. Many start-ups follow the route of seeking professional PR agencies to promote their brand. PR agencies, like Nancy Behrman, offer customized plans to take your brand to consumers and have established connections to help you flourish.
As we’ve discussed before, self-publishing becomes a business in itself. Each book needs a precise marketing plan in order to thrive. Many authors don’t have the time, ability, or connections to display their book where they’d like it to be seen. There are a plethora of PR agencies that can help authors with everything from press releases, to radio and television appearances, but authors can expect to pay $3,000-5,000 for their full range of services.
Many authors have paid for publicity and lamented it, not making back the money they invested, and others have been launched into larger exposure and the success they dreamed of. So what’s the difference between the two? It largely depends on the author and book. I connected with various PR agencies after writing Re:Birth. I needed a way to get the message out and sell books, but ultimately, I decided my project catered to such a small niche that I’d likely be disappointed by the campaign results.
So, what’s an author in a small niche or tight budget to do?
Well, start by making meaningful connections with the people who would be interested in your work… and don’t try to get them to buy your book. If you do that, you’ve already lost the “meaning connections” part. For me, this meant connecting with moms-to-be and cheering them on through social media or one-on-one time.
Next, offer free advice and encouragement from your book. When people can sample something good, they’re likely to be interested in buying more. Many authors offer free chapter download on their websites to peek reader’s interest.
Reviews and personal testimonies from people who have been inspired by your book help tremendously too. In our media-centered world, people are overloaded with information. To avoid your book becoming another image that’s scrolled past on a Facebook news feed, make sure your potential readers see the value in your work based on others positive feedback.
Then, you’ll either have new friends and customer- or simply have a friend who might be interested in purchasing your book in the future. It’s not a quick and easy process and it won’t make you a fortune overnight. But it will build bridges and influence that lasts.
If you find that your book caters to much larger audiences (for example, topics like parenting, marriage, singleness) by addressing areas that millions of people can connect with- consider reaching out to a PR agency to learn more about how they can assist you in reaching your audience.
This post was sponsored by Diamond Links. Sponsored posts help keep the blog lights and help expand the blogs reach- so we appreciate them!!
I wish I could think of the last movie that I saw in theaters... my best guess is it was the Hunger Games on Christmas Day 2013? My kids aren't at the stage where they can sit and enjoy a movie without tackling the movie theater seats like an obstacle course and eating whatever crumbs they can find from between seats. BUT, we are getting a babysitter and we are going to see Paul- thanks for the tickets flybypromotions! (Any volunteers to babysit? :)
One of my favorite parts about Paul's story is how he was the chief of all sinners, yet God used him monumentally to spread the news about Jesus and write the letters which still encourage us today! The creators of Paul, Apostle of Christ, focused on how, despite persecution and peril, Paul shared Jesus’ message of love, redemption, and forgiveness with a small community of believers who in turn, took it to the whole world.
This visually stunning movie breathes new understanding on the stories of old while filling in historical details that many of us have forgotten or never knew. It's easy to think about the early church facing persecution, but when you see what that truly means, it challenges your own faith and brings a new level of appreciation for these men and women- as well as those who still share in their sufferings today.
Additionally, Paul the Apostle of Christ depicts the relationship between Paul and Luke, whom at the end of Paul’s life, traveled in and out of the prison carrying Paul’s writings to the community of believers. Both men struggle to finish their races well and leave behind a book of lasting importance for the millions who will follow Jesus in the generations to come. The movie’s main theme reminds viewers that though we are surrounded by evil, love is the only answer.
Yeah, I’m putting the tissues in my purse today so I don’t forget them!
Paul the Apostle of Christ is coming to theaters March 23- and you won’t want to miss it! If you have little ones, you'll likely want to keep them home as it's rated PG-13 for some violent content.
Tickets are available at https://tickets.paulmovie.com/
“Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC, Collide Media Group and Columbia TriStar Marketing Group, Inc. for providing tickets to see this movie on its release in exchange for this promotional post. Opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation.
I was privileged to join Joanna May Chee's book launch for her premier book, Forever Loved: Eve's Story a few weeks back. I love book launches because it gives authors, bloggers, and everyone else involved in the journey, a lovely chance to connect and get to know one another on a more personal level. Getting to preview an incredible book is also a nice side perk! (You can read my review here).
From day one, I was incredibly impressed with how well Joanna organized and executed her book launch. From fun launch team contests to incorporating the team's feedback, and providing interviews and graphics for everyone, Joanna was on her A game and her book launch prep-work reflected beautifully in her sales! Forever Loved reached number one in multiple categories during its first week!
I knew I needed to start taking some book launch lessons from Joanna so I interviewed her to learn more about the behind the scenes process!
Q: When did you start planning your launch? Are there any resources that you'd recommend for writers to check out while authors are in the finishing stage?
A: I don’t think there was a definite point when I started planning the launch. I did a lot of research into self-publishing during the three years I was writing the book, so I picked up a lot of ideas, had notes all over on scrappy bits of paper, and knew that it was important to launch a book, rather than just put it out there and hope for the best!
I created a launch team page and put out invites in the two weeks leading up to my book publication. It was rather last minute. As a first-time, self-publishing author, I had so much to learn and do. I was so busy that the launch just happened as it happened without much forward planning. Thankfully, one of the gifts God’s given me is creative ideas, so I thought up most of my launch ideas on the go. Obviously if you have the time, then it is definitely good to plan as much in advance as you can!
It’s probably too late to check out resources in the finishing stages of your book’s publication. I recommend you google ‘how to launch a book’, read as widely as you can, and subscribe to self-publishing/book launch webinars and courses, as early as you can, at least at the same time as writing your book. Author entrepreneurs that I highly recommend, and who often offer free courses if you sign up to their sites, are Mark Dawson of SelfPublishingFormula.com, Dave Chesson of Kindlepreneur.com and Tim Grahl of BookLaunch.com. I highly respect these authors, and have learnt a lot from them, without having to pay for expensive courses.
Q: You had such a lovely launch team! How many people would you recommend inviting on to a team?
Yes! My launch team is wonderful!! It is incredible to have a group of ladies who are willing to actively share my book, really at very little benefit to them. I am so grateful to them.
I don’t think you can have too many people on a launch team! The more people you have actively sharing your book, the better! I had almost 60 sign up to join the team, but I’d say only about half got actively involved in the end. That’s fine. Those 30 did a great job!
Q: Do you have any thoughts on "finding your tribe" of people to join you?
Networking is key. I had built relationship with other bloggers and authors in the months and years before publishing. This is something I love to do anyway, so it wasn’t just for launching the book. I love to connect with others online by commenting on their posts, sharing their content, writing guest posts for them, participating in blog parties etc. I’ve made some lovely friends this way. It’s wonderful to be able to learn from and help each other. When it came time to launch my book, I reached out to these bloggers/authors personally, and many of them joined the team.
I also posted launch team invites in as many related Christian Facebook groups that I knew of eg women’s book clubs and Christian blogger/author groups. Again, these were groups I’d (mostly) been active in previously. I asked permission of admin before I posted invites, and several women from these groups joined the team – women I didn’t know before. It’s been lovely to get to know them. I also had several personal friends and relatives join the team.
Once I had my team, I felt it really important to cultivate community and friendship. I mean, here’s a group of people sacrificing their time to promote my book. That’s incredible! I wanted to give them as much as possible in return, and let them know how much I valued and appreciated them. I did this in several ways. I engaged with every comment and post in my Facebook launch group. I invited team members to share their own blogs, books and things about themselves. I offered incentives and rewards for sharing the book. I shared regular tips and ideas for sharing the book to make it as easy as possible. I also sent out daily emails, so those not on Facebook were equally included. I think we built a lovely community. We’ve made new friends, and there’s excitement already about working together on future projects, whether mine or theirs. It’s a wonderful feeling to have that kind of community to go forward with!
Q: Did you use any paid marketing (Facebook, ad words, Amazon promotions) that you would recommend?
I didn’t use any paid marketing! All my sales so far have been through my email subscribers, my own network of friends and family, and the networks of my launch team. I want to go wider now and sustain/increase sales, so I’m planning to run Facebook ads, and probably later Amazon ads too. Advertising is new to me, so it’s another learning adventure! I’ll let you know how it goes.
Q: What do you feel was most beneficial to spreading the word about the book?
Several things. One was the build up to publication. My friends, family and email subscribers knew the book was coming for a very long time. I talked about it over a period of several years! I asked for their input on titles, the blurb and cover. A lot of people felt very involved. There were many delays to the book’s publication. I had to push back the publication date several times. Frustrating as this was, it actually helped build people’s desire for the book! I had people going into shops and trying to order it before it was even out there!
I also offered a free Eve devotional on my site that included extracts from ‘Forever Loved: Eve’s Story’. This was very popular and raised interest in the book (as well as growing my email list). I ran a book giveaway just before the book launch which gave me a huge swell in email subscribers. I don’t know how that translated into book sales, but I can continue to build relationship and market to those people now over the coming months. Other than that, the efforts of my launch team have been incredible, sharing the book through email, social media and their blogs.
Q: If you could do it again (or next time), what would you change?
There will be a next time! I’ll be more prepared for sure. I’ll be able to recycle much of what I’ve used this time – my launch team emails (with some changes, of course), and many of my promotional ideas. One thing I would change, is leaving more time to prepare! The two weeks pre-launch, and one week of launch, was absolutely exhausting! I have never worked so intensely. I’m looking forward to next time!
With that lovely interview, we are concluding our three part look at self-publishing, I hope gained a few glimmers of knowledge and feel more prepared for the publishing journey! If you missed the other two parts of the series, check them out below!
I have a way of picking notoriously difficult career fields. I started with acting and landed in writing. For many, that means making pennies and periods of no income at all. Romantic, right? But thespians and writers agree- they don’t do it for the money. If they did, they’d quit long before they reached an inkling of success!
I’ve shared before about the business of self-publishing and am thrilled to be developing a series to help guide writers through self-publishing [and making a profit]. Next week, we have an interview with Joanna May Chee, a debut author whose self-published book hit number one in her first week! She’s going to share some tips and advice about hosting a successful book launch.
This week, we’re going to look at the costs of self-publishing and examine where to spend money and where to save! Many people have the notion that authors make a ton of money on books, but that’s rarely the case. Traditionally published authors may make a dollar or two per book sold (with the addition to any upfront money they received). On the other hand, self-published authors have much higher profit margins but the average book only sells around 200 copies in its lifetime.
In order to maximize profits, authors need to invest in the right areas. Here’s my breakdown of where to spend and where to save:
There are grammar Nazis everywhere. And they leave reviews on Amazon. Enough said.
But, really, find an editor who suites your style and budget. Start with software like Grammarly to keep you on task as you write and pick up those typos and then let an editor professionally polish your book!
But don’t skimp. Having custom covers, rather than templates, can really set your book apart. Adobe Illustrator is a great way to make unique covers, but subscriptions can be pricey. I personally LOVE Canva (I use it for everything)! With a little practice, you can make professional, custom graphics for your book/brand for free. You can also set custom dimensions for a cover size that you need and get to work!
Interior Files: SAVE
This can be a headache, I know. But I’ve seen interior formatting services charging upwards of $450 for their services. Use a template, customize your fonts, and follow the IBPA Guidelines and you’ll do wonderfully!
This is normally the trickiest part for authors. We do the writing part well, but selling, not so much. Know your audience, have a plan to reach them and set realistic goals along the way. Having a book it a lot like having a child. You can’t give it birth and then leave it in infancy for the next project, [which is advice coming from someone who has just adjusted their 2018 release schedule]. If your budget allows for it, hire a professional that can assist with media exposure. As “authentic” and “newsworthy” as that interview you watched on television was, know that someone shelled out some serious money for it.
Thanks for stopping in, have a great week!
We picked up shells, dug in the sand, and threw rocks into the ocean. After about 20 minutes, I felt like we'd had enough of the beach and told the kids it was time to go. To no surprise, I was met with a cohesive "Whyyyyyyyy?" from three little voices.
Well, the truth was, there was no reason why we had to leave right then. It would probably be a few more months until we could enjoy this site again, so why was I in such a hurry?
I sat down in the sand and let the uninterrupted playing continue all around me. Two were building sandcastles, and one was demolishing them. The laughter was contagiously freeing. The beach had little cell phone service, so I sat alone with my thoughts. A luxury few moms are able to experience.
Maybe, as moms, we become so pre-conditioned with parenting adrenaline running through our veins that rushing becomes a way of life. I rush through the grocery store with a screaming toddler, or hurry home from the library to avoid a dreaded car nap. I rush from activity to activity, rush through the house cleaning, rush through meals, and rush to get my tired head to a pillow.
And I had stopped searching for moments to rest in.
As life would have it, this beach adventure was my last dose vitamin D for a while. My Aunt passed away shortly after, Birth in Blantyre was released, and Esther's House Publishing took flight. My days swirl around me, but not without searching for moments to rest in.
Sometimes, my rest comes before sleep when I study the Bible. Some days, it comes through family worship time (we put on music and dance and sing). But everyday, I'm striving to rest for one minute per year that I am (which is nice way of saying I'm not sharing my age). When my kids need a timeout, they sit one minute for every year that they are- and this mama needs her timeout just as much!
I hope you're having a restful week, take a deep breath busy mom!
While writing Birth in Blantyre, I was able to connect with so many wonderful people and hear their stories, concerns, and victories. One mom took the time to share her three birth stories with me after learning about Re:Birth and felt that God had given her miraculously short labors. I love her birth stories because they break a "birth stereotype," where women feel like labor will be long... because it's labor!
That simply doesn't have to be the case. I've shared before about praying for a three hour labor with my first baby, and being 9 1/2 cm dilated after three hours! During my last birth, I only experienced 40 minutes of regular, peaceful, contractions!
Martha shared: On my first birth it took me about 6 hours after signs of labour. And the other 2 just within 5 minutes of going to the hospital.
"[In Malawi,] whenever we are at home we feel that we are in labour pains. We go to the maternity ward reception whereby the midwife gets our details and checks on the cervix. If they see that you are in the first level of your labour they admit you and they keep on checking you till you get to stage number 8 whereby they know that you are in the last stage of your labour. That is if you find a good midwife. Sometimes you find a midwife who is inconsiderate when she sees that you are on the early stages of your labour she can even ask you to go back home and come back when you are going to the last stage of labour.
I don't know what actually happened to me. It just happened that these two kids I feel it was by God's grace. I just felt my back sore around 7am and when I went to the toilet only to see that I am in labour. I told my husband that i was not feeling alright and he said ok as.he was getting prepared I could feel that It started to be very painful By the time he finished it was around 7:30am he took me to the hospital and while I was in the car I felt that the baby was already on its way.
I remembered the moment he stopped the car I was the first person to.get out of the car and I run to the maternity ward and get straight to bed. The midwife asked me to go.to the reception I told her that I feel the baby is on its way. She immediately got her gloves and checked me only to see that the bay was coming. And she just asked me to push then the baby was born by 8am.
And my last born daughters birth was also a very quick one. It was also in the morning around past 7 when my husband was getting ready to drop my boy at creche. I told him that I could feel a slight pain and he asked me if he could drop me to the hospital first I said no he can drop the boy to school. The moment he left I felt the pain was unbearable. I asked my sister to go to my neighbours house and ask if the neighbour can take me to the hospital. By then I was expecting my husband to come back from creche after an hour. The neighbour came and take me in his car. That time I couldn't sit upright because I could feel the baby was very close. When my husband came back he was told that we already left for the hospital. He just followed us to the hospital When we get to the hospital the hospital attendants run with the stretcher and let me lay there. The midwife asked me to sit upright when we got in the hospital i told her that I lt won't be possible since the baby is close Then she rushed to get the gloves to check only to see that the baby was really coming. She asked me to push again and immediately the baby was born. Thats how I experienced the labour. "
I love how Martha knew her births were "by Gods grace." Her words remind me of Eve's when she remarks, "With the help of the LORD I have brought forth a man." (Gen. 4:1). God is with us at every moment during labor and delivery. He already knows the next moment- so there's no reason to fear!
If you're looking for more positive birth stories of God's goodness, check out Re:Birth!
Blessings, my friends!
is an author, blogger, and homeschooling mom of four, giving her excellent credentials to run her own circus one day!