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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

"The Messiah's Sign" by Amber Schamel

The Messiah’s Sign, Volume Two from the Days of Messiah series is now available. The story brings the Bible to life in a riveting tale of redemption and reconciliation. Amber Schamel carefully weaves Scriptural accounts in her story giving it a unique flare her readers call "Historical fiction at its finest.

“Fresh, unusual, beautiful... just, different than the ordinary Christian novels market.”

"The stories in the Days of Messiah Series seem real and not Christian Fiction at all. Amber Schamel knows how to pull her readers into her stories and makes her readers feel the characters heartaches and pains. I waited forever to get the next book in the series, and The Messiah's Sign was well worth the wait!"

"I loved how she acknowledged God first and foremost, how she chose the perfect names for the characters and how she draws you into a biblical world of a time gone by."

The ebook will be available on Amazon, Kobo, Google Play & B&N. Paperbacks are available on the Helping Hands Press store for $9.99. For a limited time, Amber is running the Name-A-Character Giveaway on her website. Enter for a chance to pick the name of a main character in Amber's upcoming book The Christmas Pardon. Terms and conditions apply.

Q. Amber, why did you write this book?
A. Book one of the Days of Messiah Series started as a short story, but a lot of people told me I should expand it. I picked it up and began thinking about what the entire story would be like, and that's when the Lord drew back the curtain to show me not only Aaliyah's story at the leper colony, but also the story of her husband and son. Tyrus—as the heartless husband that banishes Aaliyah to the leper colony—is the villain of book one, so I wanted to show readers his side of the story. In book two, we see Tyrus' story and join him in his struggles which are, believe it or not, worse than Aaliyah's.

About the Book
Dreams…they shouldn’t bother him, but when Tyrus’ worst nightmare is vindicated, he has no choice but to face reality. His wife has been unfaithful, and God has punished her with the most feared disease in the land: leprosy. Banishing her to the leper colony, Tyrus struggles to raise their son alone and protect him from a merciless outlaw. But when Malon begins following the teacher from Nazareth, what remains of their business and reputation is at stake. Can Tyrus save his son from the beguiling lies of a false Messiah before he loses the only thing he has left?

About the Author
Bestselling author Amber Schamel writes riveting stories that bring HIStory to life. She has a passion for history, books and her Savior. A homeschool graduate from a family of 12 children, Amber found her calling early in life. First published at 21, she continues to hone her craft and is now the author of over half a dozen books. Between ministry, family and working in family-owned businesses, Amber loves to connect with readers. Find her on the Stitches Thru Time blog and major social media sites.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Timing Your Blog Posts for Success

If you are like many #bloggers and #email marketers, you finish writing your masterpiece and hit “publish” as soon as you’re done. But have you ever stopped to consider that those moments may not be the best time to reach the most readership for your blog? Timing your post can have a huge impact on who will read your blog and who may never see it.

How time zones affects blog readers

Since the American west coast is 3 hours behind the east, it’s safe to assume that posting a blog early morning on the east coast would mean that the people on the west are still sleeping. People are more likely to delete a blog post in their inbox early in the morning because their inboxes are full and they are in a hurry to get to work, drop the kids off to school or at the bus stop, and are thinking ahead to their morning meetings.

Another reason inboxes are cluttered in the morning, is because almost 40% of ALL email messages are sent between 6 AM and noon. By afternoon, most people are starting to wind down from the day, have ciphered through their emails, and have more time to read a blog post.

Timing posts for international readership is even more complicated and would be another post all by itself. Therefore, since most of our readership is located in America and Canada, we will concentrate on those areas.

Besides location, another consideration is the industry of your target audience. For instance, if you’re sending out an email to a list of child care professionals, the worst time to send it would be early morning between 6-8 AM or late afternoon between 4-6 PM when most parents are dropping off or picking up their kids. An industry of employees who work 2nd or 3rd shift may be best to reach when it is least appropriate for everyone else. Remember the demographics of the majority of your target audience and schedule your blog posts accordingly.

What do the stats say?

Statistics show that close to 24% of all emails are opened during the first hour of being received, but open rates rapidly decline over the next 23 hours after that. Subscribers’ highest open rate is between 8 – 10 AM, which contributes to cluttered inboxes in the morning. If that is when most people open and read email, then that is when businesses will want to send email. The second highest open rate time is between 3 – 4 PM.

The problem with hitting these timing slots, is the risk of being sandwiched between hundreds of other emails in overly cluttered inboxes. While the open rates are highest during this time, the number of deletes are elevated as well, resulting in subscribers receiving and opening a lot of emails—to glance at them, barely scanning through them, and then hitting the delete button. It is much harder to gain their attention when all your subscribers want to do is clear out their inbox so they will feel more in control of their lives. This leaves the option of sending your email at another high open rate time, to avoid some of the highest clutter. Therefore, consider early afternoon.

If you have subscribers from all over the globe, then you might want to try the Time Travel feature that GetResponse provides or Time Warp through MailChimp. They allow you to set the same time delivery for all your subscribers based on their specific time zone regardless of where they are located. Check with your current email provider to find out if they offer something similar. Most of these features are only available through a paid service.

A/B Testing

This is an email testing service that allows you to break up your subscribers into different groups. You can choose different subject lines and headers, as well as different times to send out your emails. It will allow you to figure out which settings work for your particular subscribers. What works for other businesses will not necessarily be the best fit for you, so it is a great way to test your subscribers without actually having to poll and survey them.

What other timing solutions have you tried?

Monday, August 11, 2014

Build a Platform Without Steroidal Fluff

#blogging #platform #social media
Building a platform often includes creating a blog. First time bloggers are usually overwhelmed and have no clue where to start. Let’s take a look at a few ideas that will get you successfully started on building your platform.
First, you need to ask yourself a few questions:
  • Do you have time to create a blog?
  • Are you committed to maintaining a blog?
  • Will you bring something new to an already over-saturated market?
  • Can you adapt to market trend changes?
  • Do you see blogging as a burden?

Social media is booming and everyone feels like they need a platform. Blogs and podcasts are all over the web and it seems like everyone is concerned with content. People think beyond words when it comes to blogging. Content includes videos, images, and podcasts. In order for your blog to attract interest, you must provide information that people want. Merely creating steroidal fluff will get you criticized and ignored.

Your blogging content needs:
Valued Information – Share content that you have learned and are knowledgeable. Teach others what you know. Try not to sound like everyone else. This will help establish credibility, trust and likability.

Creative Mixture – Your blog must keep visitors interested and entertained. Utilize images, photos and videos to get your points across in an exciting and creative way.

Distinction – Separate yourself from others by approaching your topic from different angles. Don’t be afraid to allow other knowledgeable colleagues to guest post on your blog. This will help you gain access to new patrons that might not otherwise visit your blog.

Consistency – Blogging once a month is unacceptable as readers will forget about you or lose interest. Most readers have a reading schedule, so post a schedule for your blog and stick to it. Blogging 2 to 3 times a week should be sufficient.

Organization – Readers who find your blog for the first time will want additional information similar to what initially landed them on your blog. Creating static web pages with your best posts in various categories is an excellent way to organize an archived system. Have a search feature in the sidebar to make it easy for readers to find what they are looking for.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – While it is important to get your pages ranked higher on a web search, steroidal fluff stuffed with multiple keywords in your titles and posts could backfire on you. Google may drop your site in the rankings and you and your site could be labeled unreliable and untrustworthy. The best SEO is creating original content that is relevant and helpful with a few select keywords.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Photoshop Tutorial - Using the Color Variation Tool to Restore Old Photos

You might have many reasons to change the color tint of a photo. In this Photoshop tutorial, I show you how to use the color variation tool to give an old photo a vintage look. This image is of one of my ancestors in the late 1800's. It's of poor quality, black and white, and has frayed edges. To clean up the white spots and frayed edges, I used the brush tool to give it a smooth background and cropped the edges. I used the color variation tool to give it a brown, faded color.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Heart Remembers by Author Michele Huey

~ The perfect Memorial Day weekend story ~
A tale of enduring love & faithfulness, blending the Vietnam era with today!

About the Book
During her tour as an Army nurse in Vietnam, Evangeline “Vangie” Martin lost her beloved husband Seth, a Dust Off pilot, to the war when he was declared MIA. Vangie decides it’s time to move on and has Seth declared dead. She heads to a mountain resort for her fortieth high school reunion, hoping to reconnect with her high school sweetheart, but fate has other plans. The resort caretaker is none other than her husband, Seth. With no memory of his life before being shot down, he refuses to acknowledge his true identity.

Vangie must make a decision. Should she cling to the past and try to make Seth remember, or forget the past and accept Seth as he is now?

"Romance, heartbreak, laughter and suspense, all rolled up in a book that will keep you turning pages into the wee hours of the morning."

Kathleen Bolduc, Amazon Review

"I loved everything about this book, as it was true to life and showed how God intervenes in our daily lives to make everything work out for our good."
Sybil Nichol, Amazon Review 

About the Author
Michele writes an award-winning weekly newspaper column, God, Me, and a Cup of Tea, placing 2nd in the 2009 Pennsylvania Newspaper Association’s Keystone Press Awards. Her work has appeared in numerous national publications, including Guideposts, Upper Room, Home Life, Teachers in Focus, Chicken Soup for the Christian Family Soul, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Answered Prayer, God’s Abundance, and One Year Life Verse Devotional.
Her daily radio program, God, Me, and a Cup of Tea, aired on stations in Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Alabama for 10 years. Michele's debut novel, The Heart Remembers, was published by Helping Hands in March 2014 with 5-star reviews on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Goodreads. She’s since signed three contracts with HHP, so look for more fiction from this author!

In addition to her addiction to reading, she’s an avid (sometimes rabid) Pirates fan and grandmother; loves baseball, Italian food, and hiking; and makes the best homemade pizza around. Michele and her husband, Dean, live in western Pennsylvania and have three grown children and five grandchildren.

Visit Michele online at

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Photoshop Tutorial - Creating Images with Transparent Background


Below I've created a short video showing how to use Photoshop CSS to create images with transparent backgrounds. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Photoshop Tutorial - Resizing Images

Over the next few months, we will be hosting free video tutorials on how to use Photoshop CC. Our goal is to post at least one tutorial each week. While working with new authors, one of the most challenging issues many of them face is having to promote their books when they aren't marketers, graphic designers or digital marketing experts. It isn't realistic to hire someone to resize, crop, and save images in various file formats necessary for each social media upload or website update. Therefore, we are providing these simple tutorials to help your projects go more smoothly.

Friday, March 21, 2014

What You Need to Know About Digital Image Files

At one time only designers needed to know the different file types of digital images and how to use them, but times have changed. People who aren't designers are using the web, blogging and uploading images more than ever. With just a few tips, you can make your images pop and stand out among the masses. 

Image Files for the Web
There are 3 standard image files that are used on the web: 1) jpg, 2) gif, and 3) png. These files are best known for their compression ability and are recognized by most browsers. The average resolution size for a web image ranges from 72 - 150 dpi (dots per inch). The higher the number, the higher the resolution, which means the larger the file size and download ability takes longer. 

JPG or JPEG - Stands for Joint Photographic Experts Group and is the most commonly used file type on the web. It is best known for the ability to compress without losing quality. This file type cannot be used on a transparent background. Notice the basketball image to the right. On a white background it looks transparent because the background is white, but if we cut and paste it on another image, you can see the white background on the image below. The floor is the background, but with white around the ball, it looks awkward. 

PNG - Stands for Portable Network Graphics and is becoming more popular as it can be used on a transparent background. The ball without the white background on the image below was a png file that was cut and pasted onto the floor background. PNG files are better at being compressed without losing quality, unlike a gif file. If you have to choose between a gif or a png file because you need a transparent background, my advice is to go with the png file. 

GIF - Stands for Graphics Interchange Format and is used on transparent backgrounds. Unlike jpg and png files, it can also support animations. See the rotating earth below. Notice how the blue water has swirly lines in it? This because of resolution issues. Gifs supports up to 256 different colors, which makes it unsuitable in reproducing photos with continuous color, especially high-resolution. 

Print File Types

The following file types are not typically used on the web, but are preferred output file types for printing. The preferred resolution for a printable file is 300 dpi or higher. All of these files types can be converted into a web-based format using a program such as PhotoShop or some other photo editing program. 

TIFF - Stands for Tagged Image File Format and is often used by designers in laying out graphic design images. Since this file does not compress, it is usually large and takes up more storage space. Designers like using this file type while creating their design projects because it does not lose resolution no matter how many times it is saved. 

EPS - Stands for Encapsulated Postscript and is a vector file. While the other file formats I've listed are created by using pixels, an eps file is created using mathematical equations. Therefore, when the other images are enlarged or made smaller, they lose pixel quality, but a vector image never loses quality or proportion because of the mathematical percentages that it uses to calculate the size changes. EPS files can only be opened by special programs such as Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, Corel Draw, etc. These files are not viewable on the web. 

PSD - Is a Photoshop file that is only recognized by the Photoshop program and some other Adobe programs. It is great for graphic designers to use while creating their design work. The resolution is excellent, it supports layers, high quality colors, transparency, animation, etc. I often create my files in psd formats and render them in one of the other formats for publishing on the web or for printing. 

Monday, March 3, 2014

Using Hashtags to Sell Books

#hashtags #socialmedia #SMM

If you are trying to sell orand promote books, or any other product or service, you need to be using hashtags with every promotional tweet and social media post. 

What is a Hashtag?

Even if you are not on Twitter, you may have seen the little hashtag symbol with the pound sign (#) in front of a word or a combination of letters and numbers such as #ff, #news, #jobs, #icarly, #glee, etc. These hashtags are used to identify and keep up with conversations and news about specific topics. Think of hashtags like the tags used to identify articles, blog posts and Amazon products for topics or items in a search. While hashtags originated on Twitter, it is no longer the only place where hashtags are used. Hashtags are now used on Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram and LinkedIn.   

Building an online platform is hard. You have to be creative in order to be heard above the noise of your competitors and all the nonsense conversations on social media these days. Lets face it, now that people can self-publish so easily, it seems like there are more authors than readers. 

Readers only have so much time between working, raising a family, and living. No avid reader has time to read all the books on his/her TBR pile. They have to pick and choose due to finances and time. As a result, some books and authors will never be read as often as others. Therefore, you have to use every available resource and tool to increase your chances of being noticed by readers searching for books. Hashtags can help you beat out some of your competition, especially those who aren't using them. 

How to Use Hashtags
1) Put hashtags above the first line of text or in the first sentence. Do this because when the blog post is shared on social media sites, it pulls the title of the blog post and the first line of text. See the examples at the beginning of this blog post. It may seem strange, but it works. 

2) Register your personal hashtags. While you can't buy or own hashtags like a domain name, you can register it with or to better manage your personal hashtag related to you or your books. Use a term to represent your author name and/or each individual book you write or even a series. This will help you keep up with the flow of responses and discussions around your books during new book launches and/or campaigns. Here is an example of a hashtag I created for a series of books #MacGregorLegacy

3) Use common book related hashtags.While it's a wonderful idea to create and register your own hashtags, some common hashtags will also bring readers to your blogs and social media sites. For instance, bloggers who post on the CFBA Blog Tour, include hashtags such as #christianfiction and/or #christianromanceThis allows them to promote other authors' books, and at the same time, lure reads to their site to discover other books as well. For a list of book related hashtags, click here. 

4) Use the #SampleSunday or #TeaserTuseday hashtags to post short excerpts to introduce your work to new readers. The Sample Sunday idea originally came from David Wisehart, but it took off with other authors. Since then Sharon Rose created a Sample Sunday Facebook page. You can read more about the idea here. Some authors post first chapters to promote their books. Why not take it a step further and post sentences or paragraphs each Sunday or Tuesday, leading up to and through a book launch for the first chapter? 

Are you using hashtags? Have you ever registered a hashtag? 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Best Social Media Site for Authors

#goodreads, #reviews #authors

Without a doubt is one of the best social media sites for readers and authors to connect on the Internet. The site has over 5.6 million visitors each month and 20 million total readers overall. Unlike most reading and book communities, there are readers than authors. With more than 100,000 authors participating on Goodreads, the ratio is still 1,000 readers per author. You won't find a better site that will give you that kind of access to avid readers. 

Most Goodread readers are addicted to reading. They love to talk about books and share what they've read and are currently reading. This means reviews for authors--and lots of them. Goodreads users create favorite lists by years, topic, genre and quotes using Listopia and readers' actions are published on a newsfeed to their friends and connections. Modern readers are savvy at using social media. They upload book covers and link them to Amazon and auto post reviews to all their other social media accounts.  

Goodreads uses an algorithm similar to Netflix to recommend books to readers who have read and liked specific genres. Books can only be put on the recommendation list after receiving a few hundred ratings. After your book has been out for a while, offer the ebook version at a discount or for free or for a discounted price for a couple of days and those ratings will start rolling in on Goodreads. 

Everyone on Goodreads must first create a free basic reader account. Once you have done this, you can then contact Goodreads and ask to be listed as a Goodreads Author. Using the Author features on Goodreads provides so much more. Upon the Rock Publicist includes Goodreads as part of our social media package because we believe it is imperative to authors who are building their online platform to sell books. 

Create an Author Page
Join the Goodreads Author program to get a dedicated author page and link all your books, connect your blog to auto post on your Goodreads Author page, create giveaways, create reader groups, advertise, publicize upcoming events, post videos, post quotes from your books, list a quiz, and get a widget for your personal blog or website to showcase reviews for your books. Goodreads provides a detailed instruction page that will walk you step by step through the setup process. 
List Your Books on Goodreads Listopia
Search through the Listopia section on Goodreads and find appropriate lists for your book genre. Click the “add books to this list” tab and do a search for your book. You can also add other books to the list. Be sure to vote for your books and ask your friends and readers vote for your books on the lists. Often the difference between 30th and 10th on these lists is only a few votes. 
List Your Printed Books on Giveaway Campaigns
List your print books for a giveaway on Goodreads for a limited time. Be aware that ebooks are not allowed. On average, 825 people enter each Goodreads giveaway and over 40,000 enter book giveaways daily. This will expose your book to a huge number of readers that may otherwise not hear about your book and some of them will go ahead and list your book on their "to read" list. 
Schedule Book Discussions
Goodreads allows you to host discussions about your book. Readers can ask questions and talk with each other about your book, and authors can be as involved as they choose to be. For the steps on how to start a book discussion, visit Goodread’s Featured Books.
Link Your Blog to Goodreads

If you choose to connect your blog to the newsfeed on your Goodreads Author page, Goodreads will email your fans once a week of all your new blog posts. This is a great way to reach other readers that may not have subscribed to your regular newsletter and will remind them about your work and keep your name in front of them. This is part of the Goodreads Author Program.
Ask Readers for Reviews
Since Goodreads features books based on the number of reviews, you will want to get as many reviews as possible. While it's natural to want a higher number of positive reviews than bad reviews, even the bad ones increase your overall number of reviews, which is all the algorithm takes into consideration when promoting your book on the Goodreads system. 
Advertising is optional, but has its advantages if you can swing the budget for it. Be sure to target people who read your genre, give high ratings and reviews in your genre, and target the fans of other authors whose books compete with yours. Don't forget the reviewers who have rated your books in the past. Ads cost a minimum of $0.10 per click with a default rate of $0.50 per click, which is more affordable for those with lower budgets. 


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