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Archive for January, 2012

How will you use your EXTRA DAY this year to promote your book?

When I was in fourth grade, my teacher decided to teach us history by putting on  a play with characters representing all the holidays in February. I’m not sure how every student in a class of 25  found a role and I don’t remember my lines, but I’ve never forgotten that Susan B. Anthony was born on February 15. My mom took me to Goodwill to look for a dress for the costume. Amazingly, we found a stained off-white lace dress in my size. After two runs through with packets of powered Rit Dye, we managed to turn it a ghastly shade that wanted to be Kelly green. “Better than the stain,” my mom reassured me when I complained of the hideous hue.

The play wasn’t memorable for much else, except that I was probably fonder than most of the Susan B. Anthony coins that were released a few years later. In the last 35 years, the Super Bowl has moved to February, and this year we’ve also got Leap Day two extra characters for any fourth-graders out there who might be vying for roles this year.

In addition to the obvious holidays, February also has been declared:

• Black History Month
International Expect Success Month
• Book Lovers’ Month
International Boost Self-Esteem Month

SBMs, I suggest you put on your Savvy Book Marketing hats and start thinking about how you could use one or several of these commemorations and/or holidays to promote your book. What are the obvious links? What are the less-obvious links?

Black History Month, Book Lovers’ Month, Boost Self-Esteem Month, and Expect Success Month each has a fairly wide range, meaning there are likely natural tie-ins to books on myriad topics. Likewise with the ever-popular Valentine’s Day. At the very least, apply the Expect Success thoughts to your own book marketing campaign!
Here’s what I suggest:
First, do some brainstorming. Come up with 10 or 15 ideas for promoting your book this month. Then, narrow it down to the Top 3:
  1. Make one easy and obvious.
  2. Make one a bit of a reach, but doable.
  3. And make one something that will really stretch you.

If you’ve never written a media release, let this be your debut. If you’ve been sitting idly by on your social media sites, it’s time to jump in with both feet. If you’ve never planned a big event, plan one; then write a media release and use social media to promote it!

Happy February!

Laura

__________________

We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

__________________

Visit the Write | Market | Design Facebook page to meet other authors and aspiring authors who have a sincere interest in writing, publishing, and selling the best books they can. And if you need a self-publishing consultant in your corner for anything from advice on structure to developing a marketing strategy, drop us a note at MarcieBrock@WriteMarketDesign.com or give us a call at 602.518.5376!

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Ideas for finding a QUALITY DESIGNER to build your author website

So we’ve been talking for weeks now about the importance of your author website to connecting with prospective readers and making sales. Here’s the question: Who should do your website for you? I completely understand issues around budgeting and why – if you have some natural (or learned) skill at it – you might want to build your own website. WordPress offers excellent tools for creating a pretty nice-looking DIY site.

However, there are a number of good reasons for finding money in your budget to hire a professional Web designer. Among them:

  • Hiring a professional designer can save you time.
  • The Internet changes constantly – your website should reflect that dynamism and change with it.
  • A friend/relative will never prioritize your work the way a paid designer will.
  • Some designers have good SEO knowledge and skill that can benefit you.
  • A pro will be able to optimize your site for various browsers (and mobile devices).
  • If you want a site that makes a splash of any sort, you may need the design skills of a professional.
  • One thing that will make your site look great – and work well – is a finished appearance, which a professional designer can do for you.

So, once you decide you will make the plunge and hire a Web designer, how do you find the right one for your author website? To be honest, more than any other industry I’ve encountered, this field is rife with the sketchiest of feedback in terms of the quality of service providers. I long ago lost count of how many friends, colleagues, and clients have told me they were misled, ripped off, or had otherwise bad experiences with Web designers. That is just my experience, but ask around. It seems to be an unfortunate trend in the industry. What that means is that it is up to you to do your due diligence and make sure the designer you’re hiring is worth the money before you plunk down a dime.

Here are some things to consider before making a decision about which designer to hire.

GOALS FOR YOUR SITE. Is your site going to be mostly a brochure site where prospective readers can come and test drive a sample chapter or two? Are you looking to build a speaking career around your book? If so, that site is probably going to be somewhat different. Do you want a forum where readers can interact with each other? There’s no right or wrong, but you must know before you begin what you want your site to do. Then, go find a designer who can do it.

EXPERIENCE. The best designer may or may not have a ton of experience under their belt. Either way, you’ll want to look at sites they have already created to get a feeling for whether they synch with your goals for your author website. There may be something to be said for hiring a designer who specializes in author sites; however, you probably don’t want a cookie-cutter site that looks like a bunch of other authors’ sites, either. So make sure the designer you hire has the breadth, imagination, and listening skills to capture exactly what you want to create in your site.

As thenextweb.com puts it:

Web designers come in various shapes and sizes. Many specialize in one technology or another, and further, some specialize in specific visual styles or servicing a particular demographic. I know of a few designers who do nothing but political sites all day, every day — and they nail the style that they are known for.

While expertise in a style can be useful, and an agency or freelancer that targets your specific area might sound great, there are some who simply re-hash the same few designs over and over again. There’s a big difference between knowing a particular style of design well and innovating within that style, and trying to make a living as a one-trick pony with under-developed skills.

FREELANCE vs. COMPANY. The next thing you want to decide is whether you will hire a freelance designer or an actual Web design company. Each has its pros and cons, but in this industry neither is a sure bet – so again, do your research!

WHERE TO LOOK. The best place to begin is by asking other people (authors) whose sites you like: “Who did your site?” They will likely give you honest feedback about their experience working with their Web designers. Another place to look is on Web design galleries (a Google search can get you there). If either of those options doesn’t pan out, you can always try the freelance sites like Guru.com or eLance.com. The most important thing to remember is not to rush this process. Find a designer you feel good about, and whatever happens, go with your gut.

LOOK AT THE DESIGNER’s SITE. Make sure you visit the designers’ sites to see how they represent themselves on the Web.

Sitepoint.com recommends asking yourself the following questions, at minimum:

  • Do they tell you who they are and what they offer?
  • Do they appear to have the specific skills you need?
  • Do they have a portfolio you can view?
  • Does the designer describe their technical background?
  • How well do they use color on their own site?
  • Are their page titles appropriate and informative?
  • Is their site easy to navigate, and to get back to where you began?
  • Would your visitors/readers like a similar navigation system?
  • Are all their pages accessible, with no broken links?
  • Is the overall page design consistent?
  • Can you easily find the Contact Page and Site Map?
  • Are things on their site aligned properly?
  • Is the text on their site easy to read?
  • Do the pages load quickly?
  • Do all links open in new tabs or new windows?

PRICING & CONTRACTS. Other things to consider are pricing and the sort of contract they offer. Pricing for Web design runs the gamut from several hundred dollars to many thousands. Of course, part of that has to do with the complexity of the design, but unlike many other industries, a high fee is not always a guarantee of good work. I like how thenextweb.com puts it: “You might find that many really talented designers aren’t charging particularly expensive rates, so don’t take their previous work as an indicator of price.” And as far as a contract goes, it’s always a good idea to get someone with some legal acumen to look over any contract before you sign it.

REFERENCES. Lastly, remember to get references! Find a few people who’ve worked with the designer before and get input from them. Remember, though, consider the source. If three out of four tell you they had a great experience, there may be more to the story for the one who did not.

Yep, it’s going to take some work, but when you end up with a site you (and your readers) love, you will be glad you made the effort.

Happy hiring!

MARCIE

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Download your complimentary copy of the highly useful Website Design & Marketing worksheet from Write | Market | Design.

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

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If you’d like us to add a link to your writing/self-publishing/book marketing blog, please send us a note. If we think it’s a good fit, we’ll be happy to add you. Of course, we’d appreciate the reciprocity of the same!

Additionally, Marcie would be happy to make a guest appearance on your writing/self-publishing/book marketing blog. Just let us know the theme or your idea (preferably including a 6-panel concept), and we’ll see what we can draft for you.

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The fastest way to QUIET THE GREMLIN in your head is by acknowledging it!

The other night, I was having a hard time falling asleep because the song “Everybody Have Fun Tonight,” by the mid-80s powerhouse group Wang Chung, continuously played in my mind. You haven’t lived until you’ve danced to the lyrics, “Everybody Wang Chung tonight.” I kept waking up my husband, because as soon as I would settle down and get quiet, there came that goofy tune, tiptoeing back into my head. Finally, I decided to fight fire with fire and successfully headed off the British New Wave duo by whisper-singing my personal rendition of a song I actually like from another 80s supergroup, “Heat of the Moment,” by Asia.

Turns out, mine was one of several methods recommended for combating a stuck song, also known as an earworm. The others, according to researchers at the University of Cincinnati, are:

  1. Play another melody on an instrument.
  2. Switch to an activity that keeps you busy, such as working out.
  3. Listen to the song all the way through.
  4. Turn on other music to get your brain tuned in to a different song.
  5. Share the song with a friend (but make the caveat before you do that it’s not your fault if the earworm jumps from your brain to theirs).
  6. Picture the earworm as a real creature crawling out of your head, and imagine stomping on it.

All of this got me to thinking about the other kinds of things that get stuck in our heads – specifically the doubts and negative self-talk we can habitually repeat, particularly when we’re feeling unsuccessful, less than skillful, or otherwise dejected regarding our book projects. The thing is, we’ve all been there. No matter how much positive reinforcement we give ourselves or how many affirmations we recite, sometimes we let the gremlin run amok.

My coach, Karen Gridley, gave me a great solution for the incessant grumblings of our gremlins. First, she suggested that we recognize that the gremlin’s main job is to protect us. When we’re trying to grow, develop our skills, and push our personal boundaries, the gremlin gets freaked out and just wants everything to stay the same. So it starts jabbering to us in ways our conscious brain can understand and will buy into: “You’re silly for even trying.” “Who do you think you are to write a book?” “There are a lot better writers than you out there.” “You don’t know the first thing about marketing.” “What do you mean you want your little book to be a best-seller?” I’m pretty sure you can fill in the blank for the things your gremlin says to you.

Second, we need to understand that the gremlin is just going to keep on jabbering until we acknowledge it. I work from home, so my coach recommended I actually do this out loud. So the other day, when a particular doubt began to nag at me while I was washing my lunch dishes, I heeded Karen’s advice and talked back to the gremlin. I told it:

OK. I hear you – and I want to thank you for your input. I know you’re just trying to protect me and keep me safe, but here’s the thing. Right now, I’m OK with the progress I’m making, so while I hear what you’re saying, I’m choosing to go in a different direction today. You can either get on board with me, or you can go back to bed. Your choice.

Seriously – I said something to that effect out loud to myself in my kitchen with only the dogs to hear me.

And you know what? The gremlin left me alone after that. No more repeated refrain of the nagging doubt. Just quiet, peace, and the ability to refocus on the mantra I always pull out as soon as I remember to use it: “Everything is perfect exactly the way it is.”

Self-doubt is a real thing. And the longer you’ve been conditioned to listen to the negative self-talk, the more likely you are to buy in and believe it. But it is possible to overcome it. Write some affirmations. Create a vision board. Get a coach or an accountability partner. Just know that you are worthy and that your book contains a valuable message that needs to be shared. If you get stuck, call me up or send me an e-mail. I’m happy to listen and give you a support inoculation!

Happy gremlin busting!

Laura

__________________

We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

__________________

Visit the Write | Market | Design Facebook page to meet other authors and aspiring authors who have a sincere interest in writing, publishing, and selling the best books they can. And if you need a self-publishing consultant in your corner for anything from advice on structure to developing a marketing strategy, drop us a note at MarcieBrock@WriteMarketDesign.com or give us a call at 602.518.5376!

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How are you incorporating SOCIAL MEDIA into your book marketing strategy?

This image has perhaps been reposted several thousand times since at least as far back as February 2011, so I feel a bit late to the party in just having come across it now. It’s hard to know where it originated; the furthest back I could trace it was here. But it’s a GREAT illustration (albeit a more scatological example  than I might have used, had I been clever enough to dream it up) of the distinctions between the more popular social media outlets.

I recently came across a blog post by MaryPat Kavanagh in which she explains quite well that social media is not a marketing strategy unto itself as much as it is a tool you can (and SHOULD) apply to your marketing efforts. That said, how are you applying your involvement in the different social networks to your book marketing campaign?

  • Are you posting excerpts from your book? Some authors get antsy about this idea, fearing they might give too much away. Dump that thinking in a hurry! And go read Seth Godin’s blog, where he frequently notes how essential it is to give away free information before you can cultivate buyers who will turn into long-term fans.
  • Are you creating events and inviting your friends/followers/contacts to your book signings and readings? If you’re not inviting your social media peeps to these events, one might wonder what you’re doing on these sites at all.
  • Are you holding contests? Mike Michalowicz, author of The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur, has held contests that included being the first respondent to tell him the last word on a given page in his book and having readers post pictures of themselves holding copies of his book in various locations.
  • Have you made a book trailer or video series related to your book?
  • Have you joined groups and begun interacting with others in industries that might have a use for your book?
  • Are you making connections to begin forging joint ventures, finding outlets for bulk sales, or soliciting speaking opportunities? Social media is a great avenue for thinking bigger than individual readers and really leveraging your contacts to grow your brand as an author.

Marketing your book is not rocket science. But it does require willingness to learn, an investment of time, and consistent effort. You can do it – you just have to get started.

Happy social networking!

Laura

__________________

We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

__________________

Visit the Write | Market | Design Facebook page to meet other authors and aspiring authors who have a sincere interest in writing, publishing, and selling the best books they can. And if you need a self-publishing consultant in your corner for anything from advice on structure to developing a marketing strategy, drop us a note at MarcieBrock@WriteMarketDesign.com or give us a call at 602.518.5376!

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Self-publishing author? You don’t have to go it alone!

from U2’s song, “Sometimes You Can’t Make It on Your Own”

OK, so it’s not really a song about a self-publishing author.  As I understand it, Bono had a difficult relationship with his father, and this song was dedicated to him. Nevertheless, these words came to mind when I started thinking about drafting this post.

Earlier this week, I posted an article on my Facebook page about Hazel Edwards, an Australian authorpreneur. As the caption on the photo indicates, the gist of the article was how many new skills authors must learn to juggle in the digital age. “Marketing, publicity, technology, legal skills … to succeed in a digital world, authors need to master more than the keyboard, writes Linda Morris.”

Then today I saw an article from the Harvard Business Review titled “Are You Learning as Fast as the World Is Changing?” about the changing requirements for leadership in our fast-moving (largely digital) world. The last point in this article struck me in stark contrast to the story of Hazel Edwards: Successful learners work hard not to be loners.

And that’s the point I’m focusing on here. It’s quite common for a new author to take that precipitous dive into self-publishing only to realize, even after a fair amount of research, that there’s a LOT involved. And it’s really easy to get overwhelmed. I think a good part of the overwhelm comes from the erroneous belief that you’ve got to “go it alone.” It’s not much of a stretch to make the analogy between a self-publishing author and a general contractor, if, as careers.stateuniverity.com explains, a general contractor’s job is to “coordinate and supervise the work at construction sites from early development to final product.”

As a self-publishing author, it’s your responsibility to perform the jobs below, or hire/enlist others to help you. Either way, you are supervising the work of building your book, from early development to final product, even if that final product is an eBook.

Book side:

Author
Editor
Book designer
Typesetter
Proofreader
Printer
Distributor
Agent
Publisher

Marketing side:

Web designer
Copywriter
Graphic designer
SEO specialist
Publicist/booking agent
Printer
Social media expert

Well, if there are so many people involved, how can you possibly be going it alone? Ask any leader who feels that it truly is lonely at the top. Hiring people – or contracting for their services – doesn’t mean you necessarily view these individuals as members of your team, and that’s a key component to not going it alone. Sure you’re in charge – but are the folks tasked with components of your book making and marketing simply people you’re paying, or are they members of your team who are equally invested in your success?

Besides the sheer complexity of knowing all the steps that go into making a successful book is the crucial detail of finding the right people. Don’t know how to find a good book designer? OK – you could head to Google and punch in “book designer + your city” and roll the dice. Or you could do what you’d do when hiring a mechanic or a real estate agent or a dentist: ask others who they use.

Connect with other aspiring authors: Facebook, LinkedIn, and Meetup are excellent resources. Join one of the dozens of available groups, make a friend or two, and ask who they use and recommend for their book projects. (One caveat: Not every group will be for you, so do your research and don’t feel pressured to join or remain a member if it doesn’t feel right.)

You’ve already taken a great step toward getting educated and garnering support by subscribing to this blog and/or reading this post. Other ideas:

  • Get yourself one of the 30,000+ books available on the subject of self-publishing.
  • Find a coach, consultant, or accountability partner to guide, support, and motivate you.
  • Attend a book fair, writing seminar, or self-publishing conference – even if you have to invest some money in it and … travel to get there. Sure, there are loads of online options, but there’s something invaluable about meeting other living, breathing authors and would-be authors who are in the same position, or who’ve already come out on the other side and are willing to share the secrets to their success.

Writing may be an isolated activity. Getting your book published shouldn’t be.

Happy team-building!

Laura

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

__________________

Visit the Write | Market | Design Facebook page to meet other authors and aspiring authors who have a sincere interest in writing, publishing, and selling the best books they can. And if you need a self-publishing consultant in your corner for anything from advice on structure to developing a marketing strategy, drop us a note at MarcieBrock@WriteMarketDesign.com or give us a call at 602.518.5376!

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Tips for optimizing your author website for mobile users

In one of our earliest posts, we explored the idea of knowing your reader, particularly as it pertains to marketing your books to them. We talked about the well known demographics and lesser-known psychographics. In her new book, relationship marketing expert Mari Smith reveals a new one: technographics: “Technograpchs is a composite picture of the type of people you’re trying to reach, which networks they hang out on, and — perhaps most importantly — how you’re going to reach them.” One of an author’s keys to technographics is knowing how people purchase your books, because the number who are purchasing — and reading — via mobile devices is growing.

Last time, we talked about how these mobile users need to factor into your web design. Today, I’d like to point you in the direction of some help for formatting your site so that mobile users can easily read, navigate, and use it.

PracticalCommerce.com offers some good questions to get you started:

  • Have you ever seen your website on a mobile device?
  • Are you confident your customers can find the information they are looking for?
  • Can they make a purchase from your website on their handheld device?

Depending on your level of skill as a Web designer, you may simply want to pass on this info to your webmaster. PracticalCommerce.com also recommends checking the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) specifications for mobile devices. Issues they tackle include:

  • Is your site using tables?
  • Does your site use a lot of images or multi-media files?
  • Does your site take a long time to download on a web browser?

Something to think about when assigning styles for mobile devices is to keep it very simple. Mobile devices are still a bit slower, so you want to avoid using lots of images and graphics. In addition, there are varying screen sizes and resolutions with handheld devices, so it’s a good idea to scale page elements by screen size, rather than setting fixed pixel widths for page elements.

You can also find a 60-item list of Mobile Web Best Practices at WC3. I won’t list all of them here, but they include things like:

  1. Thematic Consistency. Ensure that content provided by accessing a URL yields a thematically coherent experience when accessed from different devices.
  2. Navbar. Provide only minimal navigation at the top of the page.
  3. Balance. Take into account the trade-off between having too many links on a page and asking the user to follow too many links to reach what they are looking for.
  4. Pop-Ups. Do not cause pop-ups or other windows to appear and do not change the current window without informing the user.
  5. Auto Refresh. Do not create periodically auto-refreshing pages, unless you have informed the user and provided a means of stopping it.
  6. Clarity. Use clear and simple language.
  7. Page Size Usable. Divide pages into usable but limited size portions.
  8. Large Graphics. Do not use images that cannot be rendered by the device.
  9. Use of Color. Ensure that information conveyed with color is also available without color.
  10. Page Title. Provide a short but descriptive page title.

Note that some of these are good advice for ANY website.

According to Pelfusion.com, you can easily set up your WordPress blog for mobile users with the WPTouch plugin.

Lastly, I’m not making a recommendation for this, but Google offers a simple way to optimize your site for mobile devices. Enter the URL of the website and indicate whether or not you want to include images. Click “Go” to create a mobile-optimized version of the site.

Happy optimizing!

MARCIE

*Savvy Book Marketer

__________________

Download your complimentary copy of the highly useful Website Design & Marketing worksheet from Write | Market | Design.

__________________

We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

__________________

If you’d like us to add a link to your writing/self-publishing/book marketing blog, please send us a note. If we think it’s a good fit, we’ll be happy to add you. Of course, we’d appreciate the reciprocity of the same!

Additionally, Marcie would be happy to make a guest appearance on your writing/self-publishing/book marketing blog. Just let us know the theme or your idea (preferably including a 6-panel concept), and we’ll see what we can draft for you.

__________________

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Lucky for you  it’s the Year of the Dragon!

If the Year of the Dragon is the luckiest of the Chinese lunar years – so much so that “some Chinese and Chinese-Americans are … getting fertility treatments to boost their chances” of having a baby this year, it stands to reason this is a great year to birth your book!

To give you an idea of who the Dragon is:

Dragon personalities are the free spirits of the Zodiac; conformation is a Dragon’s curse because rules and regulations are made for other people. Dragons see restrictions as blowing out the creative spark. The Dragon is a colorful, flamboyant creature. They possess an extroverted bundle of energy and do everything is on a grand scale. Confident and fearless in the face of challenge, Dragons are almost inevitably successful, usually making it to the top. However, Dragons must be aware of their natures: too much enthusiasm can leave them tired and unfulfilled. Always willing to aid others when necessary, their pride can impede them from accepting the same kind of assistance when they need it. Dragons’ exuberant personalities mean they make friends easily, but their self-sufficiency can mean they have few close bonds with other people.

CHARACTERISTICS of DRAGONS

  • Innovative
  • Enterprising
  • Flexible
  • Self-assured
  • Brave
  • Passionate
  • Conceited
  • Tactless
  • Scrutinizing
  • Unanticipated
  • Quick-tempered
Sources: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203806504577177011519558088.html and http://www.usbridalguide.com/special/chinesehoroscopes/Dragon.htm

Reasons/Ways to Promote Your Book for the Year of the Dragon

  • If your book has a dragon in it anywhere, hold a dragon contest! Have your readers/fans incorporate a dragon into writing, song, visual art, video, etc and use the winner in a promo for your book.
  • If your book in any way includes the mention of Chinese culture or beliefs, write a media release about your book that incorporates the Year of the Dragon.
  • If your main character has any Dragon traits, write a media release explaining why your character is a “dragon!”
  • Hold a book release party at your favorite Chinese restaurant – ask them to share the cost of the PR with you or give you a discount.
  • Buy or make a dragon kite and fly it in a popular park near you. Hand out sample chapters of your book to those who come over to chat.
  • If your book is still in process, make a dragon vision board with colorful images that indicate the success you see for your book and hang it over your writing space to inspire you.
  • If your book is an eBook, put a tiny picture of a dragon (or the word dragon) on a random page and hold a Facebook treasure hunt. Whoever finds it first wins a free copy of your next book (or whatever other prize you dream up).
  • Post dragon quotes on Twitter for a week or two – with a link to your webpage.

I always wanted to ride a dragon myself,
so I decided to do this for a year in my imagination.

CORNELIA FUNKE

  • Create a Dragon Discount. It could be a percentage off the cost of your book; two books for the price of one; a discount on one of your seminars or other products – anything your mind can envision, really.
  • Many cities are holding Year of the Dragon parades this coming weekend. Get out there and take your bookmarks, business cards, sample chapters, books, etc. with you! And if your city has no celebration scheduled, be a dragon yourself and host your own impromptu party! Invite your social media friends – and ask them to re-post details of your event.

Happy dragoning!

Laura

__________________

We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

__________________

Visit Write | Market | Design to download your Marketing Skills Evaluation. This will help you determine how close you are to SBM* status, and where you may need a little extra boost.


*Savvy Book Marketer

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