Anna Henke - Publishing Professional, Copywriter, and General Editor of a Devotional - AMA!

Anna Henke
Mar 2, 2018

I have worked at a traditional publishing house for six years, and last year I put together a self-published devotional, Audacious Love, from start to finish with two co-editors. I’m happy to answer questions authors have about the publishing process.

I work as a copywriter in the marketing department of an independent publisher. I write advertising copy and back cover copy for our books. I’m happy to share tips and offer advice in this area as well. You can also hire me to write your back cover copy - details are on my website.

Web: http://www.annahenke.com/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/anna-henke/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AnnaHenkeWrites

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/anna.henke.56

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/annachenke/

Litsy app: @annahenke

Anna Henke says:

This AMA will end Mar 9, 2018 12PM EST

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Conversation (98)

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About that novel you’re working on, is it a fiction novel? What is it about?
Mar 8, 3:45AM EST0

Yes, it is fiction. It’s a YA novel, but I’m not comfortable giving up plot because I’m in such early stages. Any and all details are still subject to change!

Mar 8, 9:25AM EST0
Did the Baker Publishing Group help in any way to promote your devotional?
Mar 7, 7:56PM EST0

No, not beyond putting it in the company newsletter. The devotional was not published by Baker.

Mar 8, 6:08AM EST0
Freelance writers earn a lot; would you ever consider switching to a freelance career?
Mar 5, 5:14PM EST0

I would have to have pretty steady guaranteed work for that to happen. I have chronic health problems, and being on a medical plan at a company is cheaper and more convenient than being on your own plan. It would be challenging to figure out the nuances of self-employed benefits. I would have to be very successful to make it work!

I am, however, currently working as a freelancer part-time as of very recently. Authors can hire me to write their back cover copy for them. Full details are on my website.

Last edited @ Mar 5, 5:38PM EST.
Mar 5, 5:37PM EST0

I hope everyone is have a great start to their work week! Keep those questions coming, if you have any! I'm here and ready to answer. Writing has always been something I can do no matter what else happens, and I find comfort in that truth. To read something about my unique personal journey and struggles, read this blog post.

Mar 5, 4:50PM EST0
What's a publishing house? Is it an actual house or an office name?
Mar 5, 1:38PM EST0

It's what you call a book publisher. I'm not sure why they call them houses. It's just tradition, I guess. But that's just how it is. There's Penguin Random House, Bethany House, etc. There are usually imprints or divisions (special segments that publish a certain type of book) within a publishing house as well. The terminology is a little daunting at first, but easy to grasp once you figure out what it all means!

Mar 5, 1:46PM EST0
How does a copywriter make their money?
Mar 5, 1:32PM EST0

It definitely varies by the company. Working for a book publisher, like I do, is a standard 9-5 gig. I'm a full-time employee and get paid every week for my work at an hourly rate.

I'm also just starting up a freelance writing gig, which will be a little different. I will get paid by the job at a standard rate. For more details about that, visit https://www.annahenke.com/hire-me/ 

Mar 5, 1:38PM EST0
Do writers get paid well? Would you say this is a stable job?
Mar 5, 1:14PM EST0

I would say this is a stable job. No matter what kind of copywriting you do, it's always going to be a necessary part of marketing, especially now that so many sales happen online. Someone has to create that copy on Amazon or another retailer that sells the product, whether it's books, shoes, or household goods, and that someone will be paid for their work.

The pay varies greatly depending on what type of copywriting you do and who you work for. If you work for an ad agency, you're going to make a higher salary than at an individual business, for example.

Mar 5, 1:42PM EST0
What if you were tasked to write about something you don’t believe in? Would you still do it?
Mar 5, 1:48AM EST0

It depends. If it’s something that really goes against my values, maybe not. But if it’s something I simply disagree with, I probably would. Part of being a copywriter is presenting everything in a good light even if the content is not to your taste or you didn’t love it. Your job is to market and sell it.

Mar 5, 9:28AM EST0
Do copywriters have to write fast? Or do you believe that creativity can’t be rushed?
Mar 4, 2:04PM EST0

Yes, I, at least, have to write fast. I have a lot of things to create every day, from web banner ads to landing pages to back cover copy to eblasts. I usually do a number of jobs a day, finishing one thing and continuing on to the next. I like the variety, but it is challenging at times to switch gears as each medium requires a different sort of copy.

I believe that, in an ideal world, creativity wouldn't be rushed. But we live in the real world, and I have deadlines and a job to do. The reality is, I work on multiple seasons of books at a time. I am creating blurbs for Spring 2019, and I'm in the midst of creating ad campaigns for Spring 2018, and I'm writing back cover copy for Fall 2018. It's often rushed, but sometimes pressure makes for good writing.

Mar 4, 2:21PM EST0
Aside from your devotional, what would you consider your best work as a copywriter?
Mar 4, 11:56AM EST0

That's a tough one! It's a tie between my back cover copy work (samples) and the descriptive "blurbs" I write for each book my publiher publishes, which are used by the sales team and myself in creating the ad campaign. These "blurbs" are basically a couple of sentences of copy that describe and pitch the book to consumers. Creating these is one of the most challenging and rewarding things that I do, and it's essential to the marketing process. The best thing I can do to explain what they are is to show you a sample of what I'm talking about. Here are some "blurbs" that I am particularly proud of.


A Most Noble Heir by Susan Anne Mason

Stable hand Nolan Price’s life is upended when he learns that he is the heir of the Earl of Stainsby. Caught between two worlds, Nolan is soon torn between his love for kitchen maid Hannah Burnham and the expectations and chances that come with his rise in station. He longs to marry Hannah, but will his intentions survive the upstairs-downstairs divide?


Are My Kids on Track? by Sissy Goff, David Thomas, and Melissa Trevathan

From birth our children’s physical and intellectual development is carefully charted. But how do we know their hearts are on track? Filled with wisdom, research, and practical advice, this book shows how you can help your child reach 12 key emotional, social, and spiritual benchmarks that will shape the type of spouse, parent, and friend they will become.

It's a fun task that let's me stretch my creative muscles, but it's sometimes tough to condense a description into a limited number of words!

Mar 4, 12:34PM EST0
What exactly is a devotional book? Is this like a prayer book?
Mar 4, 12:41AM EST0

Good question! A devotional is a sort of guide for your daily quiet time with God if you are a believer in Christ. Typically, each chapter or “day” includes a verse from the Bible and an inspirational reading, lesson, or story. The chapters are usually pretty short - 1 to 3 pages. 

The devotional that I general edited, Audacious Love, has the following format: each chapter is centered on a verse or two from the Bible, accompanied by a personal story from a woman of faith that shares a message about God’s love.

Mar 4, 11:06AM EST0
What do you do when faced with a tight deadline? How do you handle the pressure?
Mar 3, 3:55PM EST0

Ha, I'm always on some kind of a deadline. I typically close my office door to shut out distractions and noise, hunker down, open Word, and go. My main thing is that I have to be able to think the assignment through. What is happening in this story? What's the most important thing to say about it AKA the hook? Once I figure that out, it's just word play. That's fun time for me. I can usually come up with several options for taglines or longer copy at that point. But I have to take the time to focus first.

Mar 3, 4:08PM EST0

I am in the process of self-publishing my first novel. Marketing my book is going to be my biggest challenge. I've been using social media to promote it so far. I plan on doing giveaways and contacting bloggers to do reviews. I also will be advertising on Facebook and looking into Google. Any suggestions on other areas to advertise, and what kind of key words should I make sure to include. My book is the first in a series of books, and it's a romance. 

Mar 3, 3:01PM EST0

Sure, I'm happy to give some tips! Congratulations on the publication of your first book!

Other areas to advertise might include placing some banners on some romance-focused websites. One popular site is Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. You might look into placing an ad with them or research other options (I am not affiliated with this website). You can have your banner ads direct to either your Amazon page or a landing page of your own creation, if you're tech savvy. You can also place Amazon Kindle ads now, but I'm not sure what the requirements are. This is a text-only ad, so it's nice because you don't have to worry about design. If you want to go print, you might also look into Romance Writers of America's magazine, Romance Writers Report. RWA is also just a great organization for romance writers, if you're not familiar with it. I'd check it out. It will likely lead to opportunities and new connections for you.

As for keywords, here's my secret recipe. Keywords should always include the time period of the book or the word "contemporary" if it's set now, several variations of how to say the genre it is (ex. romance, contemporary romance, second chance romance, etc.), some key elements specific to the book (if the main character is a duke, for example, I'd include "aristocracy" and "duke"), and titles or authors that are comparable to yours. Beyond that, you can get creative. Just make sure you have those base elements and think about what people might put into Google as a search that would result in your book coming up. Be specific. Words AND phrases are acceptable.

Good luck!

Mar 3, 4:01PM EST0
When do you plan on branching out your business?
Mar 3, 2:07PM EST0

I am open for business right now! My new freelance gig is up and running, just waiting for clients. All the details about pricing, my experience, sample writings, and why you should hire me are on this page of my website: http://www.annahenke.com/hire-me/

My freelance writing services at the moment are limited to writing back cover copy for authors. I have written numerous back covers before so you will not be my first rodeo! You can email me to hire me at anna@annahenke.com

At some point, maybe later this year, I may branch out the business to include freelance writing services for marketing campaigns. That is the next step for me.

Mar 3, 2:25PM EST0

Since you worked at a traditional publishing house, what role(s) does an agent play on behalf of an author? Or does the author reach out first? Basically, the whole concept of hiring an agent versus not is still very unclear to me. Can you help clarify?

Mar 3, 1:59PM EST0

Great question! A lot of new authors wonder about the role of agents. Do you really need one? How do you get one?

First things first, once your book is FINISHED, send out query letters to agents. You can research how to write a query letter online and what it should contain; I won't get into that here. But who do you send the letters to? How do you even find agents, you ask? 1. Take a look at the acknowledgements section of some books that you like that may be similar in feel or genre to your own. It's likely they'll mention their agent. Dream big and send a query letter to that person! 2. Ask around. Who are your writer friends represented by? Who are the top authors in your genre or topic (if nonfiction) represented by? 3. Research online. Find some agencies that look professional, have reputable client lists, and proven histories. Take some names and send your queries!

Most publishers, mine included (in fact, mine does not accept manuscripts without an agent), prefer to be contacted by an agent. Having an agent will give you your best shot at a traditionally published novel. If you don't have an agent, you will end up in what is referred to in the biz as "the slush pile." (Not sure if I'm allowed to share that trade secret, but oh well.) There is typically someone assigned to reading this pile and picking out any promising works, but the people who get published from this pile are kind of purple unicorns. I highly recommend you get an agent if you want to go the traditionally published route.

Mar 3, 2:39PM EST1
Show all 3 replies

I'm in the process of revising my novel and will be looking at either self-publishing or traditional publishing. Do you recommend trying one route first and then the other, or..?

Mar 3, 1:58PM EST0

Well, there are benefits to both. You can scroll down to see some of my pros and cons comparisons of traditional vs. self publishing in previous questions. However, if you want my honest advice, I recommend trying traditional publishing first. Get an agent, shop your manuscript around. It's worth it. The connections publishers have will open doors for you. They will be able to position your book in the marketplace in a way that you won't. They are in a position to pitch your books to major and indie bookstores, which is an opportunity most self-published authors don't get. In addition, your manuscript will receive the star treatment in terms of editing, marketing, and design. All those things are still necessary if you self-publish well. You just have to find people to do them for you on your own dime. The main benefit to self-publishing is the control you have over your book. But the fact is that sometimes too much control isn't such a good thing. Other eyes are beneficial, and other hands are helpful to have. That's my take on it, anyway. When I publish my own novel, I will go the traditional route if I can. The devotional I was general editor for was self-published, and we did all the right things. It's a beautiful book from a design standpoint, the content is good, the concept is solid. But it didn't find a big audience. That's pretty typical. You hear about the success stories of those who make it big in self-publishing. They reality is there are thousands of authors whose books fall into oblivion that we never hear about.

Mar 3, 2:19PM EST0
How do you react to negative criticisms about your writings?
Mar 3, 1:10PM EST0

It takes a bit of a tough skin to do what I do. You can’t be too easily offended. Just the other day I write a piece of copy that I was really proud of, thinking I nailed it. But every piece of copy I write for work goes to at least three people for feedback/approval. In this case, one of those people didn’t like it at all. Luckily, my coworkers are typically very kind in the way they give criticisms. Still, it stings a bit. However, I’ve learned to take it in stride. Ultimately, they are the customer in this scenario and they have to be satisfied with the copy. They may also know something I don’t about the book or the author, and I recognize that. I’ve definitely come a long way in the way I react to criticism. It used to be a lot harder for me, because I am a pretty sensitive person.

I think I would have to avoid reviews if, for example, I was an author of a book and the criticism was not constructive. I don’t see how that could benefit me in any way. But I can handle criticism that makes me a better writer.

Mar 3, 1:27PM EST0

Good morning! I’m loving your questions so far! Keep them coming!

Mar 3, 10:10AM EST0
What do you do when a client asks for way too many revisions? When do you know if it’s time to just stop already? Or do you ever stop until the client is satisfied?
Mar 3, 4:19AM EST0

Well, ultimately they are the client. So I make changes until they are satisfied. I will occasionally fight for a piece I feel strongly about, but usually I go with the flow. At the end of the day, it’s not my book, and, since the client right now is usually my boss, I bow to their experience.

Mar 3, 9:56AM EST0
Would you ever consider quitting your copywriter job to become a full-time author?
Mar 3, 3:43AM EST0

Yes! This is the dream, but I have a long way to go yet.

Mar 3, 9:37AM EST0
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