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SUNDAY INSPIRATIONS: The pages are still blank, but…

Sunday Inspirations. Send us your favorite quote, image, poem, idea … anything that has been helpful or inspirational to your writing process. If we love it, we may use it as is, or take the inspiration and modify it in some way. Give us a link to your website or blog and we’ll be sure to give you credit! Email inspiration@writemarketdesign.com or post your suggestion in the comment section below!

Here’s today’s inspiration: “The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible.”

Nabokov quote

Laura

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

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Looking Backward Won’t Take You Forward

Leave the past

Yes – there’s a spelling error. I’m letting perfectionism go and leaving it as it is!

I was looking in the mirror this morning, and I found myself wondering how long it was going to take me to get back to how I looked in my last head shot. This should not have been a lightbulb moment, but the awareness that I’m never going to “get back” to where I was a few years ago was rather like an ice-water shower.

Over the last 16 months, I’ve been working out pretty diligently – both with my trainer and on my own – and in that time I’ve managed to lose about 30 pounds. Not a huge shift, but significant enough to be feeling better and motivated to keep exercising and eating well. That was until I saw a video about this guy who lost 140 pounds in 10 months.

Suddenly my accomplishment didn’t seem quite so accomplished.

Should I have lost more weight in that time? Probably – but that’s a value judgment. Your answer would largely depend on your own lens, perspective, and beliefs. Could I have lost more weight in that time? Now we’re on objective territory, and the answer is, without question, yes.

So what’s my next step? Agonize over the “should-haves” and “could-haves” and dissect the reasons I didn’t? Or is it to stand up tall and then pivot 180 degrees, turning myself to face forward instead of backward? I know that’s what my trainer would recommend.

How often do we get stuck – if not heading in reverse, then staring longingly down that path to yesterday? It’s a mirage, though, that path – because as hard as we might try, we’re never going to find ourselves there again. When it comes to your book marketing, are there things you could have done that would have helped you be further down the road today, a little close to your goal? If you’re like most people, of course there are. Better planning. More consistency. Automation. A stronger follow-up system. Fill in your own blank about what you could have done better.

As we head into Fall and find ourselves just weeks from the holidays (and the end of the year), it’s not too soon to start our planning for the next phase of our book marketing campaigns. But what if, instead of trying to fix everything that went wrong or underperformed or disappointed us this year, we chose to focus on one thing we were going to do well in 2018? What if we learned to embrace that empowering two-letter Get-Out-of-Overwhelm Free word, and started saying NO to anything that took us away from that singular focus? What if we turned off the TV? Got an accountability partner who would ask whether we called that bookstore or emailed that reviewer? What if instead of looking back, we looked forward with anticipation, commitment, and a determination to call perfectionism’s bluff?

You know what you have to do to write more books, sell more books, build your email list. Acknowledge where you are right now – and where you were a year ago. Then make a pledge about where you intend to be a year from now – and start taking the steps that will allow you to accomplish that goal.

Laura

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

__________________

Lead Magnet - dog

Learn the steps that will set you apart from 95% of all new authors.

(Hint: It’s NOT too late, even if you’ve already placed your first printing order for books!)

CLICK HERE TO GRAB YOUR FREE REPORT NOW!

Making Procrastination Work FOR You

Positive procrastination

Be honest: how often do you find yourself with too much to-do list at the end of your day? I think this happens to a lot of us. And, according to Jon Acuff, author of Finish, it’s one of the things that keeps us stuck, prevents us from finishing the important things – large and small – in life. We started, but we didn’t get it done – on time, perfectly, as well as our sister-in-law would do it – so we quit entirely. Throw in the towel. Well, I’ve failed again. Why even keep going?

Just in case you’re wondering – this is a bald-faced lie your ego tells you to keep you safely inside your comfort zone. Because guess what – growing is uncomfortable. Progress is challenging. Finishing stretches muscles we may not have used in a long time. And our ego is right there to reassure us that giving up this time is OK because we really didn’t want to write that book, get that speaking gig, or plant that garden anyway. We can always get overpriced organic food at the store.

In Finish, Acuff recommends making procrastination our friend. If your goal is to finish your novel by the end of the year, you’re probably going to have to give up – or put off – some stuff that you’ve been doing while you’ve been not writing your novel. They could be smallish things – like turning the TV off – or they could be bigger things like stepping back from your leadership role – or membership in – a favorite group or club.

This doesn’t mean you’ll never do these things again, just that you’re not doing them – or as much off them – right now.

Acuff’s term is bombing some things to make way for other things. I think of it as leveraging procrastination as a tool for the good! Here’s an example. Our car was a mess. Almost-rainstorms in Phoenix create a muddy muck on the exterior of any car not garaged when the mist that spits from the sky is followed by a fine dusting of desert sand. Bonus design points when your cat walks all over the car leaving a mad paw-print motif.

catprints on car

I asked my husband to take responsibility for getting the car cleaned and replacing the windshield wipers today. He told me last night that that sounded like a reasonable one-day to-do list. Then he woke up this morning not feeling well. So I offered to go get him some grapefruit juice and chicken noodle soup. It just so happens that the auto parts store and the carwash are on the way to the grocery store. So I stopped, thinking, Since John’s not going to get this done today and I’m right here, I may as well just do it myself. Mind you, the whole reason I asked him to do these chores was to take some of the load off of my plate so I could get other things done.

This is a scenario where employing procrastination would have really worked in my favor. Could I live one more day with a dirty car? Of course! Did the windshield wipers need to be replaced today? As far as I’m aware, we’re not due a torrential monsoon storm tonight – so, no. The wipers weren’t an emergency. Oh – and while I was at the carwash, I decided to vacuum out the back because I was already at the carwash, right?

I think there’s a fine line between overcoming procrastination of the lazy, “I’ll just do it tomorrow” variety – and knowing when the thing you’re taking time to do today is actually a distraction or hindrance to your progress and process and would better be put off till another day or time.

How can/do you use procrastination as a tool for the good in your life? We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

Laura

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What are 3 biggest new author mistakes?

Learn the steps that will set you apart from 95% of all new authors.

(Hint: It’s NOT too late, even if you’ve already placed your first printing order for books!)

CLICK HERE TO GRAB YOUR FREE REPORT NOW!

MonDAY INSPIRATIONS: I’m not sure a bad person can write a good book

Sunday Inspirations. Send us your favorite quote, image, poem, idea … anything that has been helpful or inspirational to your writing process. If we love it, we may use it as is, or take the inspiration and modify it in some way. Give us a link to your website or blog and we’ll be sure to give you credit! Email inspiration@writemarketdesign.com or post your suggestion in the comment section below!

Here’s today’s inspiration: “Deliver me from writers who say the way they live doesn’t matter. I’m not sure a bad person can write a good book. If art doesn’t make us better, then what on earth is it for?”

Laura

__________________

We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

__________________

What are 3 biggest new author mistakes?

Learn the steps that will set you apart from 95% of all new authors.

(Hint: It’s NOT too late, even if you’ve already placed your first printing order for books!)

CLICK HERE TO GRAB YOUR FREE REPORT NOW!

The 5 P’s of Planning a 5K – or Marketing a Book

I just completed my first 5K in more than 15 years. Actually, it was my first organized 5K ever, but once upon a time, I used to run 10 to 15 miles a week. Then life happened, and I stopped running. Or exercising. Or walking much past what the day-to-day effort called for.

In 2011, I got married – and I gained a lot of weight over the last six years. A couple years ago, my husband and I began talking about working out, getting in shape, doing things differently. And we made some minor changes that didn’t really produce much of a result.

Then, last May, I met a trainer in my marketing mastermind group. La-di-da. I’d met lots of trainers. Even had a trainer back when I was doing all that running. But something about this guy spoke to me. He seemed to know what he was doing – and I was truly ready for a real change. So we hired Miles Beccia, of Mind Muscle Memory, and it was the smartest decision we ever made. Besides being good at the physiology and psychology of training, Miles is great at meeting us right where we are. Whatever we want to achieve – or have going on in our lives – he knows just the proper exercises to get us there.

My husband wanted to get fit enough to hike again – so that became a large part of our early training focus. Now John hikes four or five times a week. I do a lot of festivals and events with authors that require lifting and hefting and standing. Never came out of one of those events without feeling major stress to my lower back and needing to take a handful of ibuprofen. Until Miles helped me train to lift and heft and stand. The last event I did (in  December 2016) was the first one where I wasn’t sore after.

So a few weeks ago, my husband signed us up to take part in this 5K race. He’s been pushing the training pretty hard and got to where he could run part of it. I’m still just six weeks clear of a very severe bout of pneumonia. So although I’m just about back to full lung capacity, I didn’t want to push as hard as I might down the road, and I walked the 5K. But we both did it and we both completed it in what, for us, were record times, particularly given that even participating would have been a pipe dream just a year ago.

So what goes into planning a 5K?
Turns out, it’s the same things that go into marketing a book.

PEOPLE. If you want to hold a 5K, you’ve got to figure out who the players are. Who’s the team that will help you organize the race? Where do you find the people who will take part in the race? Same with marketing a book. You can try to do it all on your own, but you won’t have nearly the success that you could if you were to get some others involved to help you (e.g., web designer, book launch expert, ad words expert, etc.). By the way – I posted that picture of John and me on my FB page after the race, and so far, more than 80 people have liked and/or commented on it. Those are my people. Who are yours?

PRODUCT. When it comes to the 5K, your product is the race itself. That’s what you’re selling – to the sponsoring organization, to the community, to the participants. When it comes to publishing, your book is the product. So you want to make the best book you can. The best way to do that is to budget for a professional cover/interior designer, a professional editor, and pros to do the typesetting and proofreading.

PLACE. The place for the race is where you will hold it. A community college track? A path through your city or town? What kinds of permits and fees will be involved? The place, in terms of your book, is where you will find your readers. You can’t know this unless and until you know who your readers are. That’s the crux of book marketing – identifying your ideal reader and then reaching them with information about your really amazing book.

PRICE. Maybe you didn’t know this, but the participants pay to run (or walk) in a 5K, 10K, or marathon. How much? Depends on the race. If it’s a new event, hosted by an unknown sponsor that is using the race to create awareness in the community, it will cost a lot less to participate than, say, it would to run in the Boston or NYC marathons. Pricing for your book should work similarly. If you’re a brand new author with no track record to speak of, readers are understandably going to be hesitant to pay a premium for your book – particularly fiction – if there are other similar books available in your genre. Price your book realistically. Pricing it lower may sound counterintuitive – you want to get compensated for all your hard work! But studies are showing that lower pricing amounts to notably increased sales and, as a result, more income for the author.

PROMOTION. Whether it’s a race or a book – no one will buy in if they don’t know about it. So you’ve got to have a marketing and promotion plan. Winging your marketing might help you sign up a few runners – or make a handful of book sales. But if you really want to go places, you’ve got to be strategic. What kind of resources do you have, in terms of your email list, your social media contacts, and the influencers in your inner circle? How much money can you afford to put into your launch? How informed are you about online ads and paid promotions? How big is your blog following? How good are you at writing copy? These are just a few of the things to consider when planning a promotion for a new book.

If you’ve been sitting on the sidelines for a while now – whether in terms of writing/finishing your book or ramping up your book marketing efforts – the good news is that it’s never too late to get started. Put your Savvy Book Marketer hat on, and start thinking about YOUR 5P’s: People, Product, Place, Price, Promotion.

People are waiting for your book. What are YOU waiting for?

Laura

__________________

We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

__________________

What are 3 biggest new author mistakes?

Learn the steps that will set you apart from 95% of all new authors.

(Hint: It’s NOT too late, even if you’ve already placed your first printing order for books!)

CLICK HERE TO GRAB YOUR FREE REPORT NOW!

__________________

Are your branding and marketing message cohesive?

A client recently forwarded me information about a relatively new book distribution company he was thinking about checking out. I did a cursory scan of the website and noticed an odd thing right off the bat: its use of this decorative font that, while pretty, is very difficult to read.

Coupled with the busy picture backdrop and the text that gets lost in that picture, it makes for a pretty unsuccessful sales page. That seems to be a preferred headline font throughout the site. Red Flag No. 1.

With that, I send this response to my client:

This may sound really peculiar, but I would doubt this company’s ability to deliver, just based on that crazy font they used for their headlines. It may be pretty, but it’s really difficult to read, which means it’s impractical. If that’s the choice for their own marketing, it causes me to question the rest of their planning and strategies.

That was when I decided to write this post. But first, I went back and delved a little deeper into IndieReader.

Among other things, it offers a service that promises to get books “in front of [as many as] 37,000 industry professionals.” Yes – that’s what that tiny line in the super curly fancy font says. No word on who the professionals are. Truly, the gal who answers the phone or the intern who reads the slush pile could be classified as an industry professional. Red Flag No. 2.

The third line on their service description page smartly plays to the author’s ego: Sure your friend may have downloaded the Kindle version of your book, but you know what you really want is to see your book in bookstores!

If you know anything about what it takes to get into a bookstore, one of your first questions should be about the return policy. When you sell books to a bookstore, they are essentially bought on consignment. That is, most bookstores require authors to accept the return of unsold books – meaning the authors have to buy them back from the store. Imagine how careful you’d be when sending your books off to the store – or how nicely they’d be packaged if they were being drop-shipped straight from the printer. The idea being that they’d arrive in pristine shape, ready to go on the shelf.

Now imagine a $10/hour college student pulling your unsold books off the same shelf – assuming they ever actually made it onto the shelf in the first place – and throwing them, willy-nilly, into a box that gets shipped back to you. Covers bent, pages torn – do they care? Not a whit. This is what is often involved in agreeing to a store’s return policy.

But when I clicked the link to See IR In-Store FAQs to learn more about how IndieReader deals with stores’ return policies, I was greeted with the following 404 error screen. Red Flag No. 3.

Now I don’t know anything more about this company than what I’ve written here. But based on what I’ve seen, I would not advise my client – or anyone, for that matter – to use them. At least not without a huge amount of due diligence, including insisting on talking to a half-dozen of their previous clients.

Most people think of branding as a logo – but it goes much further than that. Branding does involve your logo, but it also involves your tagline, your color scheme, the look and feel of your website, blog, social media, and marketing collateral. And most importantly, it is comprised of your promised deliverables – and then how you execute on that promise.

Are your branding decisions cohesive? Are they communicating the message you want them to convey to your readers, fans, visitors, and prospective buyers? If you’re known for writing paranormal thrillers today, but you direct people to an old website designed to sell your erotic poetry, they won’t stick around long enough to dig through and find the new books. If you’re promising to deliver excellent info about helping folks overcome addictions, you need to make sure nothing in your branding gives prospective readers/clients a reason to doubt you.

Whatever you’re writing, make sure that all of your marketing materials – both on- and offline – are coherent and represent you as well as possible.

Happy marketing!

Laura

__________________

We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

__________________

What are 3 biggest new author mistakes?

Learn the steps that will set you apart from 95% of all new authors.

(Hint: It’s NOT too late, even if you’ve already placed your first printing order for books!)

CLICK HERE TO GRAB YOUR FREE REPORT NOW!

__________________

Did your editor actually deliver what they promised?

Having  begun my publishing career as a professional editor, I’ve written a number of posts about how important editing is to your success as an author. Whether it’s your first book or your twenty-first, you’ve got to pay for editing if you intend to make the best book you can. I realize that many authors are struggling to budget time and money to get their books published. Sure, 3 cents a word sounds like a LOT of money, especially when you’re talking about a 100,000-word novel. But you get what you pay for – and if you want a book that’s not only error free, but that makes sense, follows a logical story arc, and is eminently readable, you will spend the money.

money with red pen

Editing fees vary wildly, but the pros I know (myself included) run from about 2.5 cents/word to 8 cents/word. And depending on your work, you may need several rounds of editing: content editing (developing the story); line editing (making sure you’re using the right tenses, word choices, syntax); and proofreading (eliminating typos and misspellings). Most authors go with one editor for everything – and this can be a mistake. You need someone other than yourself – even if they’re not a professional – to read the final proof after it has been typeset.

Typesetting means moving the document out of Microsoft Word or Pages into a book design program like InDesign. When the text is pasted into the design program, all formatting is lost and must be re-created. Things like bold, italics, and all caps must be reformatted in the design program. Additionally, the cut-and-paste operation likely happens in pieces, leaving open the possibility for dropped words or phrases. If you’re going to publish a professional book, you will have a proofreader go over the book after it’s been laid out – not while it’s still a Word doc that has many iterations still to go.

So here’s the million dollar question: How do you know you’ve received your money’s worth from your editor/proofreader?

I recently read two books by local authors I know personally. One was a magnificent story told with lyrical writing that literally took my breath away at times. And I was unable to give it a 5-star review because it had enough typos in it that it wasn’t a perfect read. They were small things, like inconsistent use of the Oxford comma (either use it or don’t – just be consistent about it) and occasional use of the nonexistent word alright – things many a reader might have missed or overlooked. Still, it was enough to stop me at times. The other one may be a good story, but it has so many typos, misspellings, omitted words, and wrong words (e.g., sequenced when the word should have been sequined) that it is virtually unreadable. I am unable to get past the mistakes long enough to see the story or care what happens to the characters. I headed to Amazon to see what others thought about the book. There are only two reviews so far, and both are 5-start reviews – which makes me think those reviewers must be friends of the author.

Both authors paid for alleged professional editing. And, I presume, they thought they were getting an even exchange – quality work in exchange for whatever fees they paid. Not knowing how much each paid, I can’t say who took the bigger hit – but I have a guess. One used an editor “who came highly recommended through Bay Area Independent Publishers group.” The other used a local guy who is known for being fast and inexpensive. Surprise that the BAIP-recommended gal didn’t deliver – not so much with the guy who promises to beat anyone else’s prices.

I contacted each author and gave them my feedback – and explained my hesitancy to write reviews of their books as I had read them. I wouldn’t typically have said anything to the authors, but both of them personally asked me to review their books. That means they opened themselves up to my professional advice, so I provided it honestly. I made suggestions to the first author about simple ways to nudge my review of his book from 4 stars to 5. I told the second author I recommended he pay for another professional edit/proofing (with a different editor/proofreader) before sending his book out for any further reviews.

So back to our question: How do you know you’ve received your money’s worth from your editor/proofreader?

This is something of a troubling conundrum. One would expect professional writers to recognize mistakes like tense and subject/verb incongruities, but some don’t. And it’s reading out loudparticularly difficult to see errors in your own work – in large part because you’ve spent so much time with it and are so close to it that it’s easy to read over the mistakes, to add in the missing word and just keep going. So one thing I would advise is that an author read their work out loud, after the final proofreading has occurred. That’s when you notice everything, because you’re reading to speak, not skimming or assuming. So missing words jump off the page at you. Wrong tenses catch your ear. Of course, this won’t help if you don’t already know that the correct spelling is always all right.

Secondly, you’ve paid a professional to edit your work – but now you need to find a trusted friend, track down your high school English teacher, or locate someone in your circle who earned an English degree prior to the turn of the century and have them read your book. If they don’t have the time (or want to be paid for the task) to read the whole book, have them spot-check different chapters and sections. Make sure your editor didn’t go gangbusters at the start, and then rush to finish and do a shoddy job on the last three chapters.

Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, editing will probably be the most expensive aspect of your publishing process. Make sure you budget well – and then, double-check to be certain the editor/proofreader delivered as promised.

Laura

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

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