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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

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

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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

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

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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!)

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Make Your Own Luck

Have you ever noticed how some people just seem lucky? No matter where they go or what they do, opportunity seems to favor them and they’re always getting ahead. They get the guy (or gal). They get the job. They get the client. They get the promotion. They get the raise. They win the door prize. They get the freaking parking spot!

Would it surprise you to know that these “lucky” folks probably take a lot of steps that “unlucky” people don’t take? Chances are good that every day, they’re doing something to improve their “luck” – meaning it may just look like luck to those looking in from the outside, rather than what it really is: a particular way of living their lives.

If you’d like to start bringing some more luck your way, here are some things you can do to improve your odds:

  1. Expand your horizons. Be willing to socialize, meet new people, embrace networking instead of dreading it. Remember to also keep in touch with your old friends, colleagues, vendors, and clients. Check in with them once in a while to find out what they’ve been up to lately.
  2. Know what your goal is and see yourself accomplishing it – literally, in your mind, playing out like a movie. Better still if you’re acting it out instead of watching. Give thanks for achieving that goal as if it’s already happened.
  3. Give without expectation – let it be OK if people don’t send thank you notes. Lend a hand where you can. Be a mentor. Sponsor a Little League team. Giving feels great and the rewards come back to us in amazing and often unexpected ways.
  4. Learn to be spontaneous once in a while. If you’re the type who’s got every minute planned, there’s little room in your life for luck to show up. Be open to new things and interested in the world beyond your immediate surroundings. Go out of your way to meet a stranger today!
  5. Look for opportunities. Sometimes good fortune seems to fall into your lap – but just as often, opportunity knocks because you were paying attention. You followed through on that zany idea, made that call, or asked for what you wanted.
  6. Leave your comfort zone once in a while. Luck’s probably not going to fall on you while you’re staying safely hidden away from the world. Read blogs on topics you’d never considered before. Listen to a podcast about a place you’ve never been. Join Toastmasters. Take a Zumba class. See an art film or a documentary.
  7. Work hard. Really – it’s the rare lucky person who hasn’t worked hard to get where they are. The universe will see your efforts and reward you with that “lucky break.”
  8. Don’t underrate optimism. Most lucky people have a wonderfully positive outlook on life. More importantly, they expect good things to happen to them.
  9. Take setbacks in stride. No matter how much effort you put into “being lucky,” life is life and you will invariably experience the occasional obstacle. Are you going to waste time asking, “Why me?” or get right back up, shake it off, and know that tomorrow’s a new day?
  10. Focus on the present moment. This is not to say you shouldn’t make plans, but live in the now. Relish THIS moment and leave worries about the past and concerns about tomorrow for someone other unlucky schmuck.

How lucky do you want to be? You probably have a lot more control over it than you realize.

Oh, and Happy St. Pat’s!

An abbreviated version of this story originally ran in the March issue of my newsletter, The Creative Quill. If you’d like a complimentary one-year subscription, please email SubscribeQuill@writemarketdesign.com with your snail mail address.

Laura

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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!

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Recap and marketing lessons from TFOB 2017

Although you’d be hard-pressed to prove it just yet, I am striving to post much more regularly this year. Yep – get ready for … well, if not an onslaught, at least a lot more posts than you’ve been seeing over the past 18 months. It’s time – and I’m ready. I’m learning lots every day, and want to share what I’m learning so you can be a be smarter author/marketer.

Toward the learning, I’ve spent the last three weekends in education mode – the first at the Arizona Authors’ Association “Crafting the Written Word” Conference. The following weekend found me in Tucson at the inaugural Tucson Self-Publishing Expo. And this past weekend, I made another jaunt down to Wildcat territory for the Tucson Festival of Books.

I’m starting chronologically backwards in my sharing because I promised some people I’d email them when I got this post up, so I want to get to that first.

I don’t know what kind of relationship you have with your phone, but mine is something of a casual friendship. I don’t have it on me 24/7 like a lot of people. I often have the ringer volume low or off. I’m just not as attached to Neari (you know, kind of like Siri) as some people are to their smartphones. Which is, no doubt, how I could get to the rest stop just outside Casa Grande, Ariz. before realizing I had left my phone at home in Phoenix. Ah, it took me back to the good old days when I prayed I would get there without any trouble and that my husband would see my phone on my dresser and not worry when I didn’t call or answer his texts throughout the day. (He didn’t.)

The worst part about not having my phone with me was not knowing the time – so I stopped at a truck stop and bought a very cute watch that I’ll probably never wear again. The second worst thing was being without my camera. Especially at an event like the TFOB, where there were plenty of things I wanted to remember with pictures. Thanks to the kindness of my friend Rita Goldner, award-winning author of ORANGUTAN: A Day in the Rainforest Canopy, who lent me her Canon Power Shot camera (remember the days when phones and cameras were two different devices?), I was able to capture images of the many booths and authors featured below.

Although they didn’t have a booth to themselves, Amylynn Bright and her sister Ava Bright (together, The Quill Sisters) had a gorgeous table in the Romance tent.


In the same tent, Anne Marie Becker also had a beautiful table. Someone taught those romance authors a thing about display design!


Best-selling author Cathy McDavid had a creative marketing idea – a blind date with a book. Anyone who bought one of her many cowboy romances would win a secret book – wrapped in plain tissue paper. Cathy says she can’t take credit for the idea – she borrowed it from someone else. It’s clever nonetheless.


Dr. Deborah Westbury had one of the  most beautiful booth displays I saw at the entire event. She credited her friend (the blonde gal whose left arm is visible in the bottom left quadrant of the picture, behind the woman with her hand on the poster) with the design.


The first thing you saw upon approaching Elaine A. Powers’ booth were the lizard feet.

Known as the “lizard lady,” Powers writes children’s books about lizards and reptiles. Her display was eye-catching, though she did have the benefit of lots of open space next to her.


College pals (Go, Wildcats!) and authors Jay J. Falconer and M.L. Banner caught my attention with their cleverly worded banner title: AUTHORS OF DOOM, GLOOM AND BOOM! They had an excellent display, using the booth well to accommodate both authors’ books.

They also employed an interesting marketing idea, Lexy the sleuthy-looking mannequin, to entice buyers into a free book giveaway.

Lastly, M.L. Banner knows how to work a website. Whether or not you want to download his free books, visit his site to take a look at an excellent free membership enticement every author could learn from.


Fantasy author Jessica C. Feinberg knows her audience: dragon lovers. She designed her booth to capture their attention and imagination with cleverly worded signs and dragons in every corner. Even the dad accompanying these boys was entranced.


Jody Mackey also knows whose attention she’s looking to catch with her pink tulle, flowers, and all things little girls. Her Sally Loves… books are gorgeously designed – as is her fantastic website. I think that must have been the father of a daughter, don’t you?


Another stunning booth was Natalie Wright’s – complete with aliens and celestial-themed decos. She covered every corner of her booth – even making great use of the ceiling space!


Some booths used their exterior and interior wall space creatively to attract attention. The UA College of Behavioral Sciences put up a chalkboard (remember those?) that asked the question, “What would you title your story?” Bet they had a field day with those answers!

The Literacy Connects organization took advantage of the festival’s proximity to March Madness to create their own bracket, this one for iconic authors. Players chose their favorites, who were moved along through the brackets as the Festival continued.

And the Tucson Chapter of the American Handwriting Analysis Foundation put a clever twist on things by posting the signatures of famous authors on the exterior wall of their booth. Again, it helps to have an open exterior wall or extra booth space. Those authors/groups with smaller spaces had to become even more imaginative.


A big hit at last year’s LA Times Festival of Books was a “wheel of fortune” giveaway at one of the booths. And I mean BIG hit – every time I walked past that booth, people were waiting 20 deep to spin the wheel and win something – anything, it seemed. Well, the good news is that Tucson Electric Power copied the idea to great success this year at the TFOB. The bad news is that they weren’t the only one employing it, by far. I lost count after seeing a half-dozen different booths offering their own smaller, lesser versions of the WOF. Hint for next year: get a new idea.


Strangely for me, I only bought two books at the TFOB this year.

The first was from author Katherine Rambo, a book titled The World Came to Tucson, about the history of the world-famous Tucson Gem and Mineral Show. I got that for my rock-collecting mother-in-law.

The other book I bought was from author and baseball rock star, Ila Jane Borders. Making My Pitch is her memoir about becoming the first woman to play Major League Baseball, a fact that somehow didn’t make as many waves as it should have. Ila now has a baseball school for girls. I bought that one for my friend, Steve, who is both the most voracious reader and biggest baseball fan I know. But I can’t wait to read it first!


There were some bad booths, too. I took pictures, but I won’t share them here. Shaming people publicly never made anyone friends. It was hot this year in Tucson – and those with booths facing directly into the sun were at an unfair disadvantage. Nevertheless, if you commit to an event like a big book festival, make the most of it. Get a hat. Douse yourself in sun screen. Get a spray bottle and offer to wet down people as they walk past – that’ll get ’em to come on over to your booth. What you don’t do is hover in the shady corner like a vampire trying to avoid sunlight.

Get out from behind your table – or at least stand up and put your damned phone away! I wonder how many potential sales are lost at events because the vendor is sitting down or too busy on their phone to notice their booth visitor. You definitely need to find the happy medium between being overly solicitous and ignoring people – but it’s there.

At any rate, that’s my rundown. I’ll have another report at the end of April from the other side of the fence, as I and nine other authors from Phoenix Publishing and Book Promotion attempt to woo book-loving Los Angeleans at the 2017 LA Times Festival of Books. On the off chance you’ll be there, we’re in booth #025 in the Cardinal section. Want to join us – or know an author who wants to? We’ve got space for 2 more authors! Email LABookFestival@WriteMarketDesign.com for details.

In the meantime, keep doing great stuff! And watch for my avalanche, er plethora … OK, maybe increase, yes, an increase in posts in the coming weeks!

Laura

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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!

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Will your Believin’ pay off for you?

What author doesn’t – at some level – dream of fame? I think most of us harbor a secret desire, if not to be a household name, to at least sell enough books to demand some serious shelf space at the bookstores still left in the world. To be booked for signings where people wait on line for tickets. To be given the chance to tell our stories and share our messages with as many readers as possible. The reality is that there aren’t many famous authors, compared to the total number of people who actually publish books. And I’ll bet if you were to ask most of them, they worked hard and toiled into many a night to earn their fame.

Arnel today

Such was the actual case with Arnel Pineda. He worked hard and toiled for years. But he had a magical experience – a fairytale, not-in-most-people’s-lifetimes kind of occurrence – when he was lifted from obscurity and near poverty to become the lead singer of one of the most famous rock bands in the world. His journey is chronicled in the documentary film, Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey (available on Netflix). I had the joy and the privilege to see him perform live at a sold-out show at Ak-Chin Pavilion in Phoenix last weekend.

When Pineda lost his mom as a boy, he and his siblings were forced out onto the streets of Manila to join hordes of other homeless children. He was fortunate he had a skill, and often was seen singing on street corners, literally for his supper. By age 12, he made his way into a band, and began performing and improving his vocal skills. Fast-forward MANY years, after decades of travel and performing throughout Asia, to 2007, where he and his band, The Zoo, were performing in clubs several nights a week at clubs in Manila and Olongapo, Philippines.

Fortunately for Pineda, he had a raving fan in Noel Gomez, who would go to the shows and record Pineda and his band performing. Next, Gomez would head to an Internet café where he would sit for hours, uploading the videos he’d shot to YouTube, all told about 60 of them. “It was slow – sometimes four, six, maybe even eight hours to upload one video,” Gomez says during an interview for the documentary. The thing is, he believed in Pineda for a reason: the guy is really that good.

“He kept believing in me, like a fairytale dream,” Pineda says in an interview for the movie, “that one day I would be famous.” He admits he shrugged it off as a silly pipe dream.

Then, one day, the email arrived that would change Pineda’s life forever. Neal Schon, guitarist and founding member of the band Journey, had come across Gomez’s videos of Pineda’s performances. At a crisis moment after having lost their second lead singer to illness*, the band was scheduled to release a new album and had no one singing lead. After days and weeks of watching demos and reviewing YouTube videos of Journey tribute bands and singers of every stripe, Schon was about ready to give up and cancel the album because the singer they needed just wasn’t showing up. Before shutting down his computer, Schon clicked one last link, and Noel Gomez’s fairytale beliefs paid off. “Oh my God,” Schon said, “this is the guy!”

Schon emailed Gomez for Pineda’s contact info. When he called, Pineda thought it was a joke and all but hung up on him. Schon confirmed with an email to Gomez – and it took some prodding, but Pineda became convinced that Journey was knocking on his door and inviting him to an audition. He got the gig. Pineda debuted as the lead singer of Journey on February 21, 2008, at the Viña del Mar International Song Festival in Viña del Mar, Chile, and has been touring with them ever since.

Arnel & the band

Of this famous image of him with the band, Pineda says during an interview for the documentary, “It looks like someone just Photoshopped me into the picture. I’m very short and so Asian, and now I’m the lead singer of Journey.”

Pineda’s role in the band was not well accepted by all Journey fans – in fact, he received some pretty hateful anti-fan mail, at least in the beginning. But he was so philosophical, even about the racist comments. “Steve Perry was the voice of Journey. I was a huge fan, too. Without him, I could not be here. I know why they worry I could not do this music justice.”

Pineda more than does the music justice.

After Perry sang two Journey songs in a surprise 2014 appearance with a band called The Eels, Pineda was quoted as saying, “[Perry] should come back. His voice is still there. He can take over, too. It’s his righteous place, anyway.” The Filipino singer received a lot of pushback for the comments, with people doubting his desire to continue with the band. According to UltimateClassicRock.com, Pineda later tweeted: “Let me be clear. I took Journey’s leap of faith coz they generously gave it to me. Yet, I’ll never be addicted to fame.”

Arnel then

That was so incredibly apparent in his Phoenix performance. It would be understandable if the rocket ship that catapulted Pineda from obscurity to worldwide fame had gone to his head even a little bit. But it hasn’t. Except for the new tatted up look and shorter hair, the nearly 49-year-old singer still has his feet figuratively planted on the ground. He demonstrated this by laying down on the floor of the stage to reach across the barricade and slap the hands of about a dozen fans in the front row. What lead singer does that?

Pineda has embraced his role as the new frontman for this legendary band, dedicating everything he’s got to the job. The band’s grueling tour schedule, often three shows in four days, as was the case when they visited Phoenix, doesn’t allow much downtime or time for Pineda to rest his enormous voice. Couple that with the thought of how big the burden really is to carry a band like Journey from the brink of collapse back to one sell-out stadium tour after another. It’s not just the band that’s counting on him. Look down the line to the people employed to create and sell Journey merchandise, all the people employed by the band’s road crews, stadium employees from ticketsellers to security. Wow!

Before and during his stint with The Zoo, Pineda wrote some of his own songs, but it’s always been his renditions of other bands’ well-known classics – from Journey to the Police to Heart to Guns ‘N Roses – that have gotten people’s attention. This year, after signing a record deal with Imagen Records, he is finally poised to release his first solo album.

What’s the point of the whole story for you, an author or would-be author who may be reading this post? Am I suggesting that you might one day find your own rocket ship to fame? Eh, that’s pretty unlikely – but hey, I’m pretty sure Arnel Pineda never quite expected it would one day happen to him, so who knows?

There are takeaways, however.

(1) Show up. And do a great job when you show up.

(2) Trust your friends who believe in you. If you have a Noel Gomez in your life, thank them, as soon as you finish reading this!

(3) Believe in yourself, too. Noel Gomez couldn’t have willed this to happen for his friend if Pineda hadn’t had some measure of belief in himself.

(4) Never forget where you came from. The biggest concerts of his life happen when Pineda returns to his hometown of Manila. There, he’s not just a rock star, he’s the local boy made good.

Never stop believin’!

Laura

* Journey’s original frontman, Steve Perry, was forced to leave the band after experiencing a debilitating hip injury. He was replaced in 1998 by Steve Augeri, who was eventually dropped in 2006 because of a vocal chord injury that left him unable to perform.

__________________

SOURCES:

http://ultimateclassicrock.com/arnel-pineda-steve-perry-journey

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/steve-perry-returns-to-stage-performs-journey-songs

http://www.blabbermouth.net/news/journey-singer-arnel-pineda-signs-solo-deal-with-imagen-records

__________________

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!

__________________

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On baby blankets and book marketing plans

When you publish your book, you welcome it like the treasure it is. You cradle the new baby, maybe send out announcements about its arrival. You may plan a party to officially launch your marketing campaign.

But what comes next? Do you know? Do you have a plan?

Starting a marketing campaign without a plan is like trying to monogram a baby blanket before you know the child’s baby blanketname. It doesn’t make sense because it defies logical order.

Never fear if you don’t yet have a plan – many new authors find themselves in this position. But, if you intend to sell books to anyone besides your mom and your best friend, you’re going to need to make a plan – PRONTO!

The challenge is that there’s no one-size-fits-all book marketing plan – and anyone who tells you there is, is more than likely trying to con you … into buying their program, hiring them to help you out, listing with their service, etc. The reason is that pretty much every book is different – so in order to sell yours, you need to know who your readers are and how to get in touch with them.

BUT … there’s one other thing you need to know: YOUR END GOAL. What do you want to achieve with your book? The answer to this question will determine where you start and how you pursue those readers, now that you know who they are. You really can’t develop a book marketing plan until you know why you’re marketing your book.

QUESTIONS YOU NEED TO ANSWER

  • What’s your genre – beyond just fiction/nonfiction?
  • Who is your primary audience? Be as specific as you can.
  • What do you want your book to do for your readers? Entertain them, inform them, challenge them?
  • What do you want your readers to do after they’ve finished reading your book? The answer to this could run the gamut…
    • Write you a review on Goodreads.
    • Visit your website to sign up for your coaching program.
    • Buy your next book.
    • Book you to speak at their company’s annual meeting.
    • Recommend your book to their Facebook friends and Twitter followers.
    • Call you to schedule a personal consultation.
    • Choose your book for their book club and invite you to attend via Skype.
  • Where/how will you connect with your audience?

book marketing plan

Once you know what you want your book to do for you – as much as you know what you want it to do for your readers – you can begin crafting your marketing plan. But not a second before that. Why? Well, if your ultimate goal is to create a membership site that brings your readers together in a supportive community, it probably isn’t in your best interest to spend a whole lot of time, energy, and money booking in-person signings. But wait – couldn’t live events help me meet that goal? Sure – but on a much smaller scale than focusing on an effective website that converts visitors into subscribers.

What do you want your book to do for your readers – and what action do you want your readers to take once they are finished reading it?

The answers to these questions will lead you to the natural next step in building your book marketing plan.

Here’s to the research that will lead you to the perfect plan!

Laura

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Planning a short-term launch or a long-term book marketing campaign?

There’s definitely something to be said for celebrating the publication of your book – especially your FIRST book – with a big gala launch party to-do celebration. If … you have the time, budget, energy, skills, and/or team to put it together. And celebrate you should! A book is still a big deal. You took the time to write it, design it, create an attractive cover. You paid to have it edited, typeset, proofread, and perhaps printed. You want to share your success with your friends, family, clients, neighbors – pretty much everyone you know.

To do a launch up right takes an investment of time and, depending on your goals, probably some money. The amount can be large or small, depending on whether you charter a yacht, as one of my prospective clients was thinking about doing, or hold it at a local coffeehouse where the shop owner agrees to give everyone who buys a book a free cuppa joe, as another pair of clients did.

evergreen sapling and tree

The thing about putting an enormous amount of effort into planning a launch is that it’s usually short-term thinking. For a book with an evergreen subject matter or theme, a single launch event should be the first item on the list of a long-term marketing campaign. To be clear, your brand new book about the latest wedding fashion trends is not timeless – so this idea may not apply. A job search book you wrote 10 years ago needs updating to include LinkedIn and online apps to become relevant – and it likely will need updating again in the next couple years, so it’s not evergreen, either. A YA coming-of-age novel? More timeless, unless it’s weighted down by too many references to modern details like Snapchat and Dylan O’Brien.

The point is, if your book will remain relevant past its first six months in print (or you can routinely update it to keep it relevant), you want to plan a long-term marketing campaign that includes building a decent social media following; securing reviews; participating in local, regional, and national book events; blogging; writing news releases; and keeping in regular touch with your most loyal readers.

Remember, dear author, that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to marketing a book. It’s up to you to know who your reader is, where he/she spends time on and offline, and how you can begin to interact with him/her. Word of mouth is important, so who are the most influential of your ideal readers? Focus on them, engage them, and tempt them to get the buzz rolling. This is a delicate balance that first recognizes the social aspect of engagement; secondly acknowledges that this person is likely busy; and thirdly offers something of value (e.g., copies of your book, access to your mailing list, the possibility of partnership) in exchange for their assistance, as opposed to coming at them with your hand out.

Other ideas include creating an inner circle for superfans and building a membership site that offers more tools, grander insights, or deeper access to you and your creative well.

The most important aspect of a long-term campaign is the plan.

  • What are the tasks?
  • Who will perform them?
  • When will they perform them?
  • Who will manage quality control to be sure all the tasks are completed on time?
  • What is your plan for amending the plan when it’s not working for any reason?
  • Who will hold you accountable if you fall into analysis paralysis or procrastination?

GS - pencil ruler book

Clever launches occasionally catapult authors to bigger successes. More often, they’re just short-lived photo ops. Long-term plans with consistent application is where the true success thrives. Hold the launch. Celebrate your book’s first bloom. Then, nurture it and cultivate it so it can keep on growing and thriving.

Here’s to planning for the short AND long term!

Laura

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The most important moment in life is NOW!

Over the weekend, my husband and I were in Kingman for the KABAM (Kingman Area Books Are Magic) Festival. That odd experience is for another post. While we were there, though, we took advantage of our proximity to GB

Laughlin and went to see George Benson perform at the Edgewater Hotel and Casino. Whoo-hoo! We were fortunate to score front-row seats that had been released the day of the show!

You hear that George Benson’s playing and you think (OK, I thought…): Yeah, I probably know one or two of his songs. And then he plays his guitar and it’s hit after hit after hit. Songs like “Breezin’,” “Turn Your Love Around,” “Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love for You,” “Give Me the Night,” and “On Broadway.”

So the concert venue is odd. One of those makeshift-looking buildings that’s more tent than permanent structure. And in an effort to cram in as many seats as possible, every folding chair in the place is zip-tied into its row, so there’s no wiggle room. It literally felt like we were sitting on top of the people on either side of us – and vice-versa. That led to conversation because, well, our butts were nudging each other, so how could you not talk to a person?

The little man sitting next to me was Benny (not his real name). He wore a beige golf cap, a yellow polo shirt, and had a well-groomed Van Dyke. He told me, rather proudly it seemed, that he had grown up with George Benson in Pittsburgh. “I’m 73 now. So’s he,” he said, pointing to the empty stage. “I knew him all the way back in third grade.” Benny recalled the times when Benson would go to the corner store and buy a quarter’s worth of penny candy. Then, he’d sit in the back of the classroom, eating one after another. He’d occasionally get caught by the teacher, who would hear the wrappers rattling. I asked Benny if George ever shared his candy. “Never!” came the quick reply. “He’d say, ‘You want candy? Go get your own.’” He seemed lost in thought for a moment.

“We played a little music together,” Benny said nostalgically. “I was on the drums a bit.”

I asked Benny if the men had stayed in touch over the years. They hadn’t – but it wasn’t for Benny’s lack of trying. He’d call up the hotel when he’d learn that Benson was in town. “I haven’t known that guy for a long time,” was the comment he’d hear right before the line went dead.

I asked if Benny still played music. “No. I went into the army. Did 20 years. When I came out, I worked for the post office and then the VA. That’s where I met her,” he said, jabbing his thumb toward a woman I assumed was his wife. “We met at the VA in California. I’m retired now.”

“So what do you do with yourself to keep busy?”

“Nothin’. I just stay home and collect my checks.”

“Certainly you must do something,” I suggested.

“Not really.”

Then the show started, and Benny spent the next 90 minutes trying to get his old friend’s attention. Never once did George Benson acknowledge him – not even when, during the finalé, he invited the audience to come forward and they obliged, turning the area between the first row and the stage into an impromptu dancefloor. My husband went right up to the stage, Benny right behind him. I stayed safely in my (now roomy) seat. George Benson reached out to shake the hands of his fans. He shook my husband’s hand – and everyone else’s in his immediate vicinity – except for poor Benny’s. Snubbed, it seemed. “Maybe he just didn’t recognize him after all those years,” said my husband, ever the optimist and trying to think well of the über-talented performer we had just watched, mesmerized.

“I don’t know,” I said. “I mean, he got everyone else. Maybe it was an oversight, but it looked intentional from where I was sitting.”

Here’s the thing. As I watched George Benson finish his energetic performance of “On Broadway,” backed by a truly gifted band, something occurred to me: It didn’t matter that Benny had known George Benson all those years ago. And it didn’t matter that George Benson had snubbed him – if that is, in fact, what had happened. All that mattered was that moment, when Benson was living his passion, up on that stage, using his considerable talents to entertain his equally exuberant audience. He was doing it – right now. Same as he had been for many, many years. Benny, as nice a guy as he might be, had spent those same years attempting to get his validation through someone else’s fame, instead of going out and creating something special of his own.

I posted this image on my Facebook page the morning of the concert:

Those who died this morning

Then I posted this one yesterday.

space between

A friend of mine once expressed the wish that he had studied architecture instead of economics in college. “Go back,” I told him. “Study it now.”

“It’s too late,” he moaned. “Architecture is a 6-year degree. What if I try it and I find out I hate it?” He was probably 33 or 34 at the time.

“You might hate it – but you might try it and find out you love it. And those six years are going to pass, whether you take that risk or stay stuck in the job you hate.” My friend was like Benny. It’s now 10 years since that conversation, and he never went back to school.

Rather than sitting around and stewing about the unfairness of life, envying those who’ve written their books, or criticizing from the safety of the sidelines, take THIS moment to jump into life with both feet. Make an outline. Use your phone to record your stories while you’re driving or folding laundry. Ask your neighbor’s kid to help you build a website. Just do it. Stop making excuses about why everyone else – especially that guy or girl you knew when – is succeeding and you’re just watching life pass you by.

Do it now.

Seagull walking on the beach on a sunny day

Laura

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Lessons every author can take from Prince’s accomplishments

Damn, does it seem like Planet Earth is losing a lot of vastly talented artists lately! The most recent, of  princecourse, came with the shocking news that music legend Prince died today at his home in Minneapolis. One of the best comments I heard in the immediate aftermath of the announcement came from CNN’s Don Lemon, who said – and I’m paraphrasing here, “As sad as his loss is for everyone, I want to take this time to celebrate his immense accomplishments and all he gave to the world through his art.”

To that end, I’d like to celebrate Prince by reminding us all of the lessons we, as authors, can take from his accomplishments.

1. Prince was a champion of indie, through and through. “He was also fiercely protective of his independence, battling his record company over control of his material and even his name. Prince once wrote ‘slave’ on his face in protest of not owning his work and famously battled and then departed his label, Warner Bros., before returning a few years ago.”(1) I learned today that Prince accomplished what few musical artists do by finally taking ownership of his entire music catalogue.

2. He did it himself. “Prince recorded the great majority of his music entirely on his own, playing every instrument and singing every vocal line.”(2) This only works, of course, if you have the skills to do it all yourself. If you need help, definitely hire the right people!

3. Prince was “a wildly prolific songwriter”(2) – releasing four albums just in the last 18 months, alone.Prince symbol

4. He branded himself well. He often incorporated the color purple; for a while changed his name to a symbol; and used the letter U in place of “you” and an eye icon in place of “I” long before texting came into vogue.(2)

5. Prince was deliberately controversial. “He embraced controversy, presenting himself as an androgynous sex fiend in his album art and lyrics, and challenged conservative music ideals in his first decade on albums like 1999, Purple Rain and Sign O’ the Times.”(3)

6. He gave people value for their money. “He distributed albums to concertgoers along with their tickets when that was a novel concept, and he planned other tours at the spur of the moment, dubbing them ‘hit and run’ shows.”(3)

7. He supported other artists. “During the particularly productive time surrounding 1999, Prince also began writing and producing songs under the pseudonym Jamie Starr for two other groups, the local group the Time and a trio of women he assembled, Vanity 6.”(3)

8. He knew how important it was to be himself. “‘The most important thing is to be true to yourself, but I also like danger,’ Prince told [Los Angeles Times critic, Robert] Hilburn… . ‘That’s what is missing from pop music today. There’s no excitement and mystery – people sneaking out and going to these forbidden concerts by Elvis Presley or Jimi Hendrix.’”(4)

9. He used his own life as source material for his music and acting. “Prince’s music was steeped in the contradictions of his background – a black artist who toyed with his racial background in the casting of Purple Rain, sexually flamboyant and gender playful, with a Midwestern self-reliance that created space for his idiosyncrasies.”(4)

Life can be short. Don’t miss the opportunity to write your books, connect with your readers, support other authors, and share your personal story or message with the world!

Here’s to you, Prince Rogers Nelson!

Laura

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SOURCES:
  1. http://abc13.com/news/publicist-pop-superstar-prince-dies-at-his-minnesota-home/1302598/
  2. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/22/arts/music/prince-dead.html?_r=0
  3. http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/prince-dead-at-57-20160421#ixzz46VJhB7Sn
  4. http://www.latimes.com/local/obituaries/la-me-prince-20160421-story.html

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Is a vendor booth at an event a good idea? Depends on your goals and the event!

So a couple weeks ago, my husband and I happened to be passing through Coolidge, Arizona, a tiny town about 60 miles southeast of Phoenix. By luck or happenstance, the weekend we were there, the town was holding Coolidge Days. After the fact, I looked it up and found this flyer:

Coolidge Days

Since we were there on Sunday, it seems we missed the exciting things … like the pancake breakfast, the horseshoe tournament, and the PARADE! We didn’t see many cars of any sort, let alone of the car show variety, and we were gone well before the volleyball tournament got underway. What we saw was, well, somewhat sad.

We had good frybread – again, more by luck than planning, I think. And there was live music that wasn’t bad – especially if you like (or don’t mind) the “here’s how Jesus saved my life” commentary between each song.

I bought an incense holder, a birdhouse Christmas tree ornament, and a pair of earrings for $5 at one booth, and we were pretty much ready to leave Coolidge Days behind us. Then, a man approached us and asked a simple question: “Are you book readers?”

Um – yes. Yes, we are.

I indicated as much and asked him why. He’s an author, and he had a booth we had completely ignored because it had no signage and nothing to indicate what it was or why we should visit. Now, in this man’s defense, Sunday was a W-I-N-D-Y day. The tarps on every booth were flapping and flailing like crazed Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons. So Dustin – it turns out the man’s name is Dustin Hall – explained that he was a new author and had his book, Waking the Beast, for sale. His partner also informed us that their booth had been well appointed the prior two days of the festival – the wind on Sunday had just made it impossible to keep the banner secured or anything on the table upright on the day we happened by.

Dustin Hall, author

Dustin’s really well done banner includes his website (I might suggest omitting the www), QR code, where to buy his book, and the forms of payment he accepts. The accompanying poster has his head shot and cover image.

So, we bought the book. It still sits on my side table, right where I left it when I walked in the door that evening. I’m reading another local author’s book right now, but may give Dustin’s a crack when I finish that one. No promises, because it’s really not my genre – but it is my husband’s! Here’s the most amazing part, though. I asked Dustin how he’d done, in terms of sales, and he told me he’d sold about 50 copies over the course of the weekend. I don’t know what his printing cost was, but at $15/book, he still did pretty well, especially since the booth rental was only $75 for the entire weekend.

Waking the Beast

So here’s the takeaway. A 10’x10′ booth at the 2016 Tucson Festival of the Books is $710. Yep, there are 100,000+ in attendance, but you’re one author trying to make even a small splash inside a very big pond. From my perspective, an investment in an event like that has to be more about exposure and networking within the industry than about book sales. Will your budget support such a thing?

On the other hand, you can do what Dustin did and be the only author at a small event. And be willing to get out and talk with people. Not only did he sell 50 books, but he met me and I’m blogging about him and his book. And this blog post is going to get shared on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+. Will it generate even one more sale? Possibly. Will it help with his exposure? Of course. And it may help his SEO because it will create a link back to his site.

One last thought: The Power of the Group. With whom can you partner to share an event booth and cut costs while you increase your exposure? Good partners might be other authors, musicians, speakers, coaches, or people with products in which your readers would have an interest. And while you’re partnering there, why not keep looking for other ways to leverage your connection? Events, PR, promo products, videos … the opportunities are only limited by your imagination.

Here’s to finding the great opportunities and capitalizing on them!

Laura

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Best writing instruction? Write every day!

So we’re at Day 3 of the 5-Week Author Blog Challenge. Since I’m committed to writing every day, the least you can do is commit to reading every day, doncha think? OK, OK. No pressure. Read if it interests you; “like” it if you really like it; and “share” this post if you think other people will like it, too. This is the third of 35 consecutive days’ posts, all on the topic of writing, publishing, and book marketing. I hope you’ll stick around through all 35 posts. And if you want to take part, come on in – the water is great! You can register here.

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Day 3 writing prompt:

What kinds of classes, programs, or workshops have you taken to hone your skill as a writer? What sorts of exercises did/do you use to improve? Have you ever taught a writing class or workshop?

One might infer a certain arrogance from the fact that I’ve taken very few writing classes since majoring in Nonfiction Creative Writing in college. It’s less the fact that I think that I know it all than it is that I believe the best way to hone one’s skill as a writer is to write. Regularly. And I do a lot of writing.

bradbury for ABC

I was fortunate to hear Ray Bradbury speak to a packed auditorium at the University of Arizona, back in the late 80s. The one thing I still remember him saying – and something he repeated again and again throughout his life – is that a writer must write EVERY day.

Yes, there is definitely something to be said for getting technical training. I highly advise it. And I seek it, in small doses, through blogs and YouTubes created by other authors of varying skill and experience. That’s one place where I differ from many: I believe I can learn something from just about anyone, whether they’re a first-time novelist or a veteran, published author. It’s also why I love running the Phoenix Publishing & Book Promotion Meetup. I facilitate two meetings a month where I teach seminars on – well duh, right? – many aspects of publishing and book marketing. I teach the things I know and feel confident teaching, from book production to creating an author one sheet. But I bring in local experts to cover the things I don’t know as well: legal issues for writers, designing a website, video book trailers, ebook production, etc. Of most fun, though, is the spontaneous conversation that erupts wherein the authors share their various experiences.

What I don’t teach is writing. I’m not sure why, but I find teaching writing boring, so I don’t think I’m the person for the job. Not to mention that there are myriad other places an aspiring writer can go – from online courses to Meetups to critique groups to community colleges to writers’ conferences and workshops. Opportunities abound for writing instruction. One reason I think our Meetup does so well, however, is that there don’t seem to be too many people teaching self-publishing authors how to put together high-quality books and how to market those books to their ideal readers. That’s what we focus on, as well as networking and author opportunities.

Over the years, I have learned a few things from various teachers that have stuck with me:

  • One of my college professors abhorred the word lifestyle. “There’s no such thing as a ‘lifestyle,’” he used to rant. “It’s just LIFE!” You’ll probably never see the word lifestyle in my writing, other than this paragraph.
  • An early editor of my book, 1001 Real Life Questions for Women, insisted that on be used only for an object laying atop another object and, similarly, that over/under be used only with regard to spatial placement. So she corrected any instances of “over age 10” to “older than age 10.” Although our language has evolved to allow for these less precise uses of prepositions (how could it not, if nu-kyuh-ler is now an accepted pronunciation for nuclear?!), I nearly always correct these uses when I see them.

oxford comma

  • And the bedrock of grammar battles around the world: to use or omit the Oxford comma. At a business writing class I took in NYC, the instructor cured me of ever desiring to leave out the comma before and or but.

EXAMPLE: Chris, Dana, and Kelly can be either men’s or women’s names.

The instructor cited an example where Chris, Dana, and Kelly were siblings who inherited a large sum of money from a wealthy relative. However, the Oxford comma was omitted in the will, so they went to COURT over it, and the judge determined that Chris would inherit half of the money, while Dana and Kelly would split the other half. All because of one missing comma.

  • Most recently, I’ve learned – and am now trying to master – the concept of single-perspective narration. My novel, Stan Finds Himself on the Other Side of the World, is told in alternating present and past-tense third person. One section is told from Stan’s present-tense perspective; the next is from Paula’s. The flashbacks work similarly. For consistency’s sake, however, when the story is told from Stan’s perspective, we can know what Stan’s thinking, but we cannot know what Paula is thinking. She must speak anything she thinks, or otherwise convey it through body language or some external means that Stan can infer and comment on or describe to us. Just as Stan can’t be in Paula’s head, neither can the reader who is reading a third-person description told from Stan’s perspective. I’m now in the process of re-reading the manuscript to make sure I observe this common-sense writing rule.

Interestingly, the more I write anything, the more I can see improvement in my fiction writing. One of the benefits of this Challenge is the chance to practice for 35 days in a row. If I keep writing, as planned, I hope you’ll keep reading! Tune in tomorrow when I’ll be discussing my writing mentors.

And for the record, I’d love your feedback on my Author Blog Challenge posts! And, of course, would really love to have you support all of the bloggers in the Challenge. Find their links here.

Here’s to continuing to hone and improve your writing skills!

Laura

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If you’re getting ready to launch your book and would like help to put together a successful event, download my free special report: Anatomy of a Book Launch. Then CALL me at 602.518.5376 to schedule your complimentary 15-minute consultation. It’s never too early to begin planning!

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Getting a late start at your writing career? Take heart!

Well, if you’ve been reading along for the last week or so, you’re aware that I’m hosting a new Author Blog Challenge. This is the second of 35 consecutive days’ posts, all on the topic of writing, publishing, and book marketing. I hope you’ll stick around through all 35 posts. And if you want to take part, come on in – the water is great! You can register here.

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Day 2 writing prompt:

When did you begin writing? Describe your earliest memory of writing. Are you formally trained, or did your writing begin as a hobby? How did your writing habit/process/career develop?

As one of the few people I know who is using my degree (BA in Creative Writing – Nonfiction from the University of Arizona), I am fortunate to have been making my living with words since 2002. My editing experience extends back quite some time before that, when I was the go-to wordsmith at a corporate job in NYC. Prior to that, I learned a lot by watching the pros at work in my part-time position as a researcher and v-e-r-y part-time features writer at the Arizona Daily Star in Tucson.

For many years, I hung on to the encouragement from Nancy Mairs, one of my college professors and a very accomplished author in her own right, who reassured me that some people just get a late start (her late start came at 27). Now that I’m nearing 50 and find myself still working on the novel I began 11 years ago, I’m more encouraged by this post I recently came across (and reposted) on Facebook:

going to be ok

Of course, I’m very grateful for the early start I got, writing my first report on the great white shark at the tender age of 7. That was back in the OLDEN days when I first had to learn to navigate a card catalogue at the public library. Thanks, Dad, for your patience and encouragement! Then, I co-wrote my first short story with my across-the-street neighbor, Steve. Something about a witch and a forest. I plagiarized that for a contest in third grade, for which I won a little set of note cards.

Writing – it’s always been easy for me. And mostly enjoyable. I’ve never related to quotes like the one from Hemingway: “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” This fiction stuff, though? It has not been my bailiwick – yet. I took some fiction classes for my degree, coaxing the wordsand at 19, my writing was clunky and utterly without lyricism. Thank goodness that I’ve managed to learn something over the last 25+ years, so that I can at least write believable dialogue and set a scene. As I believe is the case for many a writer, I’ve got more ideas than I have time. But I won’t let myself start a new story until I finish. The. One. I’m. Working. On.

Did I mention that it’s about a guy who travels around the world, learning to embrace life? He’s in Singapore right now. I know where he goes from there … just need to get him to the next place.

So tune in tomorrow when I’ll be discussing writing classes and the like…

And for the record, I’d love your feedback on my Author Blog Challenge posts! And, of course, would really love to have you support all of the bloggers in the Challenge. Find their links here.

Here’s to 40 more years of writing!

Laura

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

__________________Anatomy of a Book Launch

If you’re getting ready to launch your book and would like help to put together a successful event, download my free special report: Anatomy of a Book Launch. Then CALL me at 602.518.5376 to schedule your complimentary 15-minute consultation. It’s never too early to begin planning!

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