Dusting off the Cobwebs and Getting Back into the Book-Writing Game

Book Writing

ASOF tag - book writingWould you like to be shocked? Guess who’s back in the game! It is me, Amanda Socci! Remember me? I know it seems like I’ve been crying wolf for a long time, tempting you all with a book on faith that I swore would have been published by now. Please read on and you’ll get a whiff of my excuses…

But first, I’d like to express my sincere thanks for so many of you who have supported me on my nontraditional faith journey through this blog and my blog posts through A Slice of Faith. Though I have not updated this blog since May 2013, yes, I am still writing the book. So sorry to have dropped the ball on you.

The year 2013 found me very, very busy on a totally different writing project unrelated to faith. I made a commitment to a woman to create writing prompts three times a week. I did not get paid for this position and did exert an extraordinary amount of time and resources in my writing. Though I was tired, frustrated, and severely overworked due to this project, I honored my commitment.

I am a person of integrity, I kept repeating to this woman. Despite the inconveniences, I intended to keep my word. And I did. I finished up my writing project and then took a long hiatus from writing and social media altogether. Little by little, though, I started coming back into the fold with a renewed freshness, wanting to write again.

Slowly, I began writing new blog posts on faith. I’m still not exactly where I would have wanted to be, but I am not giving up on myself or this very interesting project. At this point, I honestly do not know when I will publish “A Slice of Faith” or how I will do it, but I will find a way to see this project to completion.

God put this project in my heart and has facilitated my writing in such a way allowing me to type fast and capture the essence of my problems with faith-filled solutions. I still remember my original intent and still favor it. I already have other projects starting to knock my wall, though, so I better hurry up and finish this project and publish it.

Thank you all so much for your patience as I get back in the game, insert my mouthpiece, and assume the position. I’ll get that “book” ball to touchdown. Soon.

Debbie Allen’s Stick Pushes Me to Finish Book Proposal!

ASOF tag - book proposalBook Proposal

You can definitely tell I’m an 80s girl obsessed with pop culture trivia from the 1980s when I reference a famous scene from television show Fame in the title of a blog post. I don’t mind being called an 80s girl.

Watching Fame on my parents’ t.v. was one of the most exciting times in my life in-between the kiddie stages and the adulthood stages. That whole pre-teen and teen scene was exciting. Today, Fame brings back so many pleasant thoughts, like my impermeable memory of Debbie Allen driving her stick into the dance floor as she growled words of wisdom to frightened dancers. Anyone remember that from the opening credits in Fame?

That scene may be cheesy to some, but to me, it is a classic reminder that pushes me to the next level. “Fame costs. And right here is where you start paying…” On Fame, the artistic types all wanted fame. They all wanted to go to Broadway to be the best dancers, musicians, and artists. If they wanted to be the best, there was no getting around the hard work, toil, sweat, and tears that were required to get them to the top. That meant pushing themselves hard and submitting their imperfections to Mistress Debbie Allen who guided weak bodies into rocking dancers with perfect form.

I feel the same way as the artistic types from Fame. I don’t just want to be a “writer” like thousands other so-called writers and bloggers out there. I want to be a writer of distinction who is known for standards of excellence, precision, and hard work. I want my name to be synonymous with quality writing and meaningful messages. If I am to bring “A Slice of Faith” to the masses, which I hope to do, I must push myself to achieve the highest standards of writing and storytelling, as no one else will ever push me to achieve my own dreams.

I had a chance to prove my chops recently. I had been taking a class, Author Training 101 from Nina Amir, and received an assignment that knocked me off my block. Yes, folks, I fell squarely on my bottom and was none too pleased about it. The assignment was to write a book idea in such a way that incorporated the essential elements of a book proposal.

To say that the assignment was overwhelming is almost as bad as me saying I hit rock-bottom financially, which I did, ironically. I had never heard of a book proposal and was unaware such a thing existed. Just goes to show you how naïve and “green” I am about this whole business of becoming a published book author.

To make matters worse, I had fallen behind in my coursework for Author Training 101 and was simply not able to read everything I was supposed to read, participate in the webinars, and read drafts of the book by the same name. It was just too much for me, my motherhood duties, and my current writing obligations. Nina Amir was very unhappy with me and did not realize I had fallen so behind. She kept telling me that I was not getting the full value of the class and that I should go back and reread the class materials before submitting the book idea assignment.

Well, let’s just say that I didn’t have time to do all that. I was on deadline with this assignment and if I was going to have my work read by acquisitions editors who would provide real feedback on my book idea, I had to pummel through this exercise like a scorching knife through butter. In other words, I had to bring Debbie Allen and her ominous stick into my life so that she could shake some sense into my head and push me to that next level.

No small feat, ladies and gentlemen. The book idea assignment was hard. It forced me to provide an overview of “A Slice of Faith” before finishing writing the book itself! Good Lord, how is that even possible? Well, it wasn’t easy, but I ended up using a nonfiction book proposal template that laid out the essential elements of my book idea. The template made it easy for me to incorporate the relevant information in a properly formatted manner.

Working on my book idea on a daily basis, sometimes for two hours at a stretch, I finally managed to finish my assignment, which turned into a full-fledged book proposal. It took me two solid weeks of concentrated research, writing, and soul-searching to rise above my head and see my book idea from the perspective of an overview. It was a great deal of hard work and perhaps the most arduous assignment I had done since law school, but I am so happy I completed and submitted it.

Keeping Debbie Allen and her menacing stick of determination and drive at bay pushed me to the next level, just as I had hoped. It pushed me to finish my work and I was so proud of myself with that accomplishment. My stubborn, willful mindset helped me focus and achieve something that none of my other classmates did – - the writing of a full-fledged comprehensive document known as a book proposal, which was way more than the original book idea assignment.

Because I went ahead and completed the whole book proposal, I was prepared for the next step. In all honesty, after finishing the assignment, I just wanted a break so that I could sit down for five minutes in peace while I rested on my laurels and drank a cup of coffee in celebration. Nope. A rest period was not in the cards for me. Why? Because opportunity came knocking on my door right away.

Shortly after I turned in my book proposal assignment to Nina Amir, I received a timely e-mail from Writer’s Digest announcing the names of literary agents who were open to submissions. I read everything from Writer’s Digest anyway, so it was no extra effort on my part to scan through the list of literary agents just to see if by chance, one of them was interested in inspirational nonfiction. By George, there was.

Would you believe, ladies and gentlemen, that I took my finished book proposal and submitted its relevant sections to a literary agent? I’m still surprised at myself for having the guts to do that, but I did it. Sometimes, the cerebral, logical part of me gets trampled by the fiery enthusiasm in my soul, and this was one of those moments. Why should I wait until every single last piece of the puzzle is in precise, exact order and formation before submitting it? I don’t have another five years to squander opportunities and wait for perfection. I did enough of that in my life already.

The time is right for me now. My heart has told me. Debbie Allen has told me (in her own special way). And most importantly, God is telling me that my time is now. I believe it. I always act on my beliefs.

Imagine Paying $4,300 to be a Part of a Book Signing Event!

ASOF tag - book signingsBook Signings

I have to say, I’m a little irritated, if not dismayed at the efforts of some book publishers that seek to thwart the success of book authors by sending them to the poorhouse without a legitimate reason. Imagine an aspiring book author like me who is working diligently and thoughtfully on writing a book about faith. That author, me, finds a terrific publisher with outstanding credentials. I click to learn more information and my jaw drops when hit with a gigantic price tag. What gives?

Sadly, it’s true! WestBow Press Publishing, a subsidiary of Christian book publisher Thomas Nelson Publishing, has been sending me e-newsletters to provide me with “discounts” for their publishing packages. The most recent e-newsletter clicked through to a special “opportunity” for book authors to purchase a “Women of Faith Washington D.C. 2013 – Book Signing” and add it to their online shopping cart for a mere $4,299. Yikes! Don’t believe me? See the image below.

The astounding $4,299 price tag for a 1-hour book signing!!!

The astounding $4,299 price tag for a 1-hour book signing!!!

Okay, so I’m reading through the details of what book authors get for shelling out almost five thousand dollars. Basically, they get a “privilege” of being affiliated with WestBow Press and Thomas Nelson. Think of it as a hefty license for a similar privilege of putting a massive Disney banner on your house for an entire month. The privilege does not correlate to the price. It doesn’t make any sense!

Any book author who would commit to WestBow’s Women in Faith book signings will likely be one of several book authors who are seated in the WestBow Press booth during the two-day Women in Faith event, so it’s not as exclusive as they make it out to be. Unless the attendees of the Women in Faith event actually purchase your book, I doubt the book signing portion of the event will be much of a success!

As I continue doing research on prospective book publishers for my book, A Slice of Faith, I keep reading about the benefits of going with one versus another. Although I was initially enamored by the promise of Christian affiliation with WestBow Press, now, I’m quickly changing my mind. Now, I’m just plain disappointed with the $4,000 price tag for the absurd privilege of sitting in a crowded booth with other book authors just for a chance to sell and sign my books during a two-day event in Washington, D.C. It is hardly a bargain!

When people say that book authors have barriers to overcome as they seek publication of their book, they aren’t kidding! These are just my opinions and my perspectives, though. What do you think of shelling out a little over four grand just for an event with a possibility, without any guarantees of book sales?

Competitive Analysis of Faith Books in the Marketplace

Competitive Analysis - A Slice of Faith, the Book

Competitive Analysis – A Slice of Faith, the Book

Competitive Analysis

I am in the process of writing a book proposal for A Slice of Faith. This is for an assignment given by Nina Amir as part of her Author Training 101 class. One of the things I’ve had to do is make a competitive analysis of my book versus other books that are similar.

To do a competitive analysis, I had to write a clear and concise description of my book. A description is something that is factual, as distinguished by a book pitch, which is edgy and provocative like a commercial you’d see on t.v.

I’ve written and rewritten a summary of my book so many times. I’m always changing my mind, but here is where things stand today. See below for my most current version of the book description.

What is A Slice of Faith about? A Slice of Faith is a collection of personal essays written by Amanda M. Socci in an introspective point of view. Amanda offers real, first-person accounts of her difficult life moments along with faith-based reflections. A Slice of Faith hopes to inspire by encouraging people to activate the switch of faith in their own lives by eating “a slice of faith” each day.

Okay, so based on that description, it is clear that my book is based on personal stories, but doesn’t quite fit into the memoir category. There are lots of books that are written in the first person voice. Mine fits in there somewhere.

“Faith” Has Many Cool Categories!

As I was doing research on the competitive analysis, I learned that there were several other interesting subcategories within the overall faith category: historical faith, biblical faith, biographies, and devotionals.

Historical faith books are, as you might guess, based on historical facts and an interpretation of how the church evolved. Biblical faith books discuss faith in relation to the scripture and are slightly different than devotionals, which are intended as reflections on the word of God (biblical passages). Biographies are typically life stories – - complete pictures of a person’s life. Yay, my book is unrelated to either of those categories! That means that none of these other categories of books are my competitors.

My understanding is that my competitors to A Slice of Faith are those books that most closely parallel what I am trying to do, which is to share personal stories of problems with lessons on faith.

I am learning that it is helpful to do a competitive analysis on a book you’re writing because it helps close off categories to which your book clearly does not belong. That exercise alone will help you further refine your book goals. So in essence, I have found this exercise to be of great value.

I do not feel intimidated that there are other faith books out there that wrote about the resolution of problems with faith because I believe my perspective is unique. I’m not a religious worker and I’m not capturing someone else’s true story. I am writing about my own problems using my own creative analogies – - that helps distinguish my work.

To my knowledge, no one before me has created the idea of eating “a slice of faith” each day as a means of resolving problems. Technically, that means I would have ZERO competition in the marketplace, because my book is that unique!

See for yourself. Here is what my comparative book title research yielded. What do you think? (See below…)

Comparative Book Titles

  1. Your Choice: Fear or Faith by Dr. Joe Vitale (The author encourages readers to handle increasing stresses, fears and uncertainties of life by choosing to live in faith instead of fear.)
  2. Faith: Trusting Your Own Deepest Experience by Sharon Salzberg (A Buddhist teacher discusses wisdom on understanding faith as a healing quality. The author provides a roadmap to help readers cultivate a feeling of peace that can be practiced by anyone of any tradition.)
  3. Faith (From Apostolic Into True Hope) by Keith Shephard (The author discusses how life is full of challenges, but the spirit of God allows positive changes and healing to occur. Scriptures, strong personal examples and touching songs connect the content to the reader and teach ways to stay spiritually grounded during various tribulations.)
  4. From Faith to Faith: A Daily Guide to Victory by Kenneth and Gloria Copeland (This book contains daily devotionals that deal with real living. The Copelands write about their own experience and note that the fight of faith isn’t won overnight. It’s won little by little in the practical territory of everyday life. This book discusses the struggles people face every day, such as weariness, irritation, children, finances, and overeating.)
  5. Fresh Faith by Pastor Jim Cymbala (This book contains true stories of men and women whose lives have been changed through the power of faith.)
  6. Inspired Faith: 365 Days a Year: Daily Motivation in God’s Word by Thomas Nelson (This book is a devotional that is divided by motivational themes. It inspires readers to embrace a life of inspired faith by giving daily attention to one’s spiritual life.)
  7. Faith by Fire: Finding God on His Terms by Nelson Thomas (This biography is the story of how one man found God’s purpose for his life through personal tribulations. Nelson Thomas experienced many different depictions of tragedy. In 2006, Nelson experienced overwhelming unfortunate events that would shake his already frail foundation. By embracing the insanity which had become his life, Nelson realized that all things are possible through God alone. This is a true story of triumph over tragedy, and finding God on his terms.)

About the Author

Amanda M. Socci is an aspiring book author, blogging a book on faith. A Slice of Faith hopes to encourage others to handle problems in their lives by eating a slice of faith each day. Please follow along Amanda’s journey to publication at A Slice of Faith, the blog.

Thoughts and Frustrations on Social Media Efforts

A Slice of Faith Blog - Social Media

A Slice of Faith Blog – Social Media

Social Media

I’ve recently had an opportunity to respond to a fellow writer friend who was so surprised to see me on Facebook all the time. I felt that I was forced to troll Facebook all the time in order to peddle my other blog, Creative Idea Gal blog. My constant participation in the Facebook “game” felt as if I was selling widgets and was happy collecting $10 after 10 hours of work. I didn’t struggle with my answer. It came out naturally.

I’ve experimented with social media on and off since 2006 and chose to really rev things up to dramatic heights around February 2012, which was coincidentally the same time I experienced that awful thing that led me to start writing A Slice of Faith in the first place.

In that year of burning the midnight oil posting like crazy, retweeting, friending people all over the place, and being kind-hearted by leaving detailed, thoughtful comments all over peoples’ blogs just like a good little obedient child, I find that I’m not any better off than I was when I first started with my social media efforts.

Don’t get me wrong – social media is terrific. It’s fun, a dynamic research tool, and a great place to meet fascinating people. It is not, however, the ideal place to engage people or attempt to influence them into buying your services or your products, despite what everybody else says. Trust me, the marketplace is crowded!

Everybody else has a story to tell – theirs. They might “like” your story by retweeting it, posting an URL on their site, or liking your Facebook page, but that stuff, as I’ve learned the hard way, is artificial. Social media “likes” do not convert to faithful readership or purchases, despite my constant, varied, dedicated efforts! Believe me, I’ve tried! I am the poster child of social media experiments!

I am no Wayne Dyer, Jeff Goins, Carol Tice, or Joanna Penn, to name a few of the people I perceive to be top guns in writing. Everybody else has like a zillion followers. I am happy to be me. And that’s where faith comes in, right? Why rely on man through my artificial social media efforts to spread the word about A Slice of Faith when God will automatically push open the doors of opportunity to my success when he deems the time to be right?

I am prayerfully awaiting that day. In the meantime, I continue to take my own advice and have a slice of faith each day.

About the Author

Amanda M. Socci is an aspiring book author, blogging a book on faith. A Slice of Faith hopes to encourage others to handle problems in their lives by eating a slice of faith each day. Please follow along Amanda’s journey to publication at A Slice of Faith, the blog.