In Your Corner: How to Become a Future-Thinker

Last week, I started this series on the subject of visions and visionaries, and what it means to be a future-thinker as an author. I teased at the close of that post that I’d be returning to the subject this week with some key pointers on how to become one of these people who manages to “think different” (as Steve Jobs might say) and change the world, or at least the publishing industry as we know it, while at it. I’m here to deliver on that tease!

If you go out and Google “how to become a visionary,” you’re liable to run up against a wall of more clickbait than you’ll know what to do with. I know that did. And worst of all, very little of the advice doled out by heavyweight publications IncPsychology TodayForbesand Business Insider apply to us, as overextended self-publishing authors (often exhausted, or limited in terms of emotional, energetic, and financial budgets to boot), in ways that are both tangible and possible to achieve. Either that, or the points just don’t make sense.

Some of their points, however, we like. I’ve condensed down a list of my top 6 suggestions for steps any self-publishing author can take (or leave, depending on schedule and other constraints). Mix and match to your heart’s content, and know that even if you just make gains on one or two of these points, you’re still making progress towards becoming that great and majestic thing: a visionary.

  1. Examine your routines. Often habits of the mind reflect habits of the body, and while some things simply can’t or shouldn’t be disputed (such as school drop-off or pick-up times, doctor’s visits, mealtimes), quite a lot of the average person’s schedule is occupied by arbitrary space. And the first step to becoming a visionary is being willing to examine the way things have always been … and take steps to break out of that. Maybe your schedule works … but it doesn’t empower you to write as much as you like. Consider what all can go, and lay out some ideas for new routines. Start with some ideas for what you can do next week, some others for next month, and so on.
  2. Take a minute for mindfulness. This can look different for every person, but it’s a consistent component of every breakout author success story that they have found times to sit for a moment each day and think. Just think. Maybe you need to clear your mind. Maybe you need to just focus on one thing for a while—like your book. Maybe you need to work through some steps. If you don’t know what works for you yet, then I have good news: there are plenty of mindfulness strategies to try! I personally prefer to do mine at the end of a day, but I can definitely see the value to switching that up and doing it in the morning, before things get started. I use a mindfulness app, like Headspace, because it’s easy and came as a built-in app on my phone. But YouTube is packed with resources for people looking for guided meditations or mindfulness activities.
  3. Keep nothing sacred. That is, when someone says or suggests something new, and your first reaction is to think “no way!” or “that won’t work for me,” consider why you think that. And keep nothing sacred—because nothing is, not really, except for of course certain cultural or religious things to which I’m not referring here. I’m thinking more about habits, and ways of thinking, and so forth. And reconsidering one’s assumptions is incredibly difficult, since they’re very often, well, assumed. And implicit, under the skin. Drawing out what you assume to be true about yourself and the world—and your book!—is vital to becoming one of those people who can “think different.”
  4. Think of an ecosystem, not individual “things.” Nothing exists in a vacuum, right? Including your work-in-progress. Including this or that writing habit which you’ve picked up somewhere along the line, or this or that routine you’ve decided to follow. Including the publishing industry! When looking to cultivate some of those future-thinking or visionary possibilities, remember that every “thing” or behavior or system exists as part of a network or relationships, like an ecosystem of plants and animals. Take away the top-order predators and the system collapses. Take away the simple single-celled organisms at the bottom of the food chain and the system collapses. But it also works in reverse: tweaking the little fiddly bits of how you think and how you write and how we publish can strengthen the ecosystem as a whole. The key is to boost the vitality and flexibility of every part of that ecosystem, not just to look at the “top” (big decisions, like where to publish) or the “bottom” (little decisions, like what pens to buy).
  5. Expand your list of futures. What will the future look like? I mean, to you specifically. Well, it can look like a lot of different things, and the list keeps growing and shifting with each and every passing day. I recommend exposing your mind to the voices of as many future-thinkers as possible, either by seeking them out on web forums or in podcasts or in the science fiction section of your library. Publishing, especially self-publishing, is tied up with all sorts of cultural, societal, historical, and technological trends. Read up, listen up, and absorb. It will enrich your idea of what’s possible, and possibly even encourage you to dream up some of your own ideas—ideas you can act on. I recommend the “Future Thinkers” podcast, BBC Future, and the “Ideas” page on FastCompany.com—just to start. There are loads of other resources out there!
  6. Do the leading thing. Becoming a future-thinker means becoming a leader, although there are so many kinds and varieties of leaders that it doesn’t mean you have to become a CEO or a General in the Air Force (though those would be cool things and you should go for them, if you want to). But what is it that all leaders do? They share and guide others. Find a way to share your ideas that fits with who you are and what you already want to do as an author. Whether that’s starting a Twitter account or a blog dedicated to sharing tips and tricks to writing, or signing up to start a writer’s group in your local area, or volunteering at the library to help develop programming for authors and speakers in your area—there are ways you can be a leader.

And we’ll always be here to support you while at it.

You are not alone. ♣︎


Elizabeth

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Director of Sales and Marketing for Outskirts Press. The Sales and Marketing departments are composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

In Your Corner: Future-Thinking

When I last blogged three weeks ago, I spent some time looking at the evolution of self-publishing from where (and what) it was when I first got started in the business well over a decade ago to where it is now, in 2017. And the history of self-publishing is, in many ways, a history of self-reflection writ large into the future. One might even say that the self-publishing author is, always has been, and likely always will be, a visionary. But what does that actually mean?

visionary future thinker horizon

A visionary sees things differently.

On a fundamental level, I mean. A visionary thinks in terms, not of what is possible, but what could be possible. And that’s a big difference. When someone is limited by what is versus what could be, the future narrows to predictable outcomes rooted in measurables that exist today. Meanwhile, visionaries have no such restrictions–they’re more interested in creating altogether new systems of thought, of measurement, of ambition. It’s not that the measurables don’t matter at all, or that visionaries are necessarily detached from real-world and present-day concerns, but they do have a dash of something a little bit extra, and the capacity to think outside of the box. To build a new box from scratch–from materials that didn’t even exist when the idea was first born.

Think of Steve Jobs:

In his biography of this tech titan, Walter Isaacson repeatedly mentions Jobs’ predilection for creating devices and inventions for which no infrastructure yet existed. He always had the iPhone constantly in mind, but he had to invent (or reinvent, depending on who you ask) cloud storage–the iCloud–and the software–iTunes and more–to make the iPhone possible. And in the meantime, the hardware itself didn’t exist–he wanted a good camera, a good battery, and a surface that didn’t exist yet.

He made it from scratch, from materials that didn’t yet exist.

That’s future thinking. And this isn’t to reinforce some mythology of Steve Jobs which ignores the other future-thinkers necessary to his enterprise. The iPhone, like everything else at Apple, was a group effort. Jobs first had to recognize a need for, then go looking for, talented engineers and technicians and managers and so on to infinity who could create these as-yet-nonexistent materials and systems. They deserve every bit as much praise.

And together, they made something new.

Self-publishers do this all the time, and they do it in what often comes across as a vacuum. They conceive of a book, but there’s no one on hand–no editors, no agents, no publishers, no marketing team–to make that book come into being. Self-publishers are talent scouts, like Steve Jobs, only on a much tighter budget. They have to be able to construct new ways of getting the job done, using systems and procedures and materials they may never even have heard of. When you think about it that way, it’s clearer than ever that self-publishers are visionaries. Are future-thinkers.

So, what do we do with this information? We find ways to support each other, first of all. We will always have to create some of our own resources, it’s true, but also we ought to support each other in this enterprise. By creating shared resources, by offering support and guidance, and by empowering the individual author to go after that ambiguous, often frightening future.

In my upcoming posts, I’ll be looking at ways we can both become and support future-thinking in self-publishing. Watch this spot!

You are not alone. ♣︎


Elizabeth

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Director of Sales and Marketing for Outskirts Press. The Sales and Marketing departments are composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

In Your Corner: What Happens … After?

what's next

There’s a lot that goes into bringing a book to the point of publication … but there’s a lot that comes after, too–as you likely already know, since you’re here and reading this post.

So … where to start? Planning out what you’re going to do now that your book has been published–or if you’re one of the more prescient among us and are looking ahead, when your book has been published–is almost as important as writing your book. Not quite, maybe. You wouldn’t have a book to market if you didn’t actually write the thing, so there’s that. But it’s undeniable that a careful, thoughtful, and strategic plan for what comes after–after the writing, after the publication–is vital to making sure your book actually sells.

I have a couple of questions to help you get started, questions which might just shape how you go forward after publication:

  1. Do you plan on selling your book on your own at a local event or book signing? If yes, make sure to watch what your publisher charges you for book copies. There’s quite a lot of legalese and fine print to parse, especially when we’re talking about vanity presses and self-publishing companies which privilege profit over people. If you don’t understand immediately how much your author copies will cost, both now and in the future, it’s probably a sign that the company in question is trying to make it hard to understand. And that’s never a good sign. Go with a company which goes out of its way to make the author copy situation and pricing transparent and easy to understand! And one which offers you a consistent discount. No matter who you go with as your publisher, you’ll want some physical copies on hand. They’re amongst the best marketing tools you have!
  2. Are you planning on selling your book online? Watch out for the prices of other books in the same genre or content area; pricing your book correctly will go a long way toward making sure it sells. Don’t trust Google to answer the pricing question for you, either … thousands upon thousands of blog posts and pieces have been written in the past to explain the intricacies of the Amazon marketplace, but the situation with online retailers like Amazon and B&N is always fluid and changing, so even if we’re talking about an article written this year, the information may already be out of date. There’s a fine line between overvaluing and undervaluing your book; the former will cut into your sales figures, and the latter will make it hard to turn a profit, no matter how many copies you sell! The best policy is to do your own market research–and this is doubly useful, since you will learn a lot about how books similar to yours make use of the digital sales space–with giveaways, sales copy, and linkages across social media.

And look, it’s okay if you’re not yet through the publishing process. It’s always a good time to plan ahead. In fact, knowing what you’re going to do after your book is published will help you select the right publisher to fit you and your book in the first place! Before you open your pocketbook and give someone your money, you absolutely should consider all of the fine print and the advantages available to you … both during the publishing process itself, and during the marketing and support periods which come after.

Luckily, you and I both live in a day and age when there are plenty of options available, so you rather have your pick of the buffet. Some publishing companies are long on publishing assistance and short on marketing, and others are the opposite. Some offer stellar services across the board … but at a price which is too high for the average self-publishing author. And others … others walk the tight rope between quality services and affordability, and walk it well. The key to making the most of your money is to have a good sense of what has to come after publication, what you want to come after, and how your existing resources and skill sets fit into the picture. Your priorities are paramount, and have everything to do with crafting a solid plan for your book’s future.

You are not alone. ♣︎


Elizabeth

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 18 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, pre-production specialists, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

In Your Corner: Start Thinking About Holiday Marketing … NOW!

Remember our “Ringing in the Holidays” post series from late last year? Wouldn’t it have been oh-so-much easier to execute the perfect holiday book sales plan if you’d started just that little bit earlier in the year? Well, I’m here today with a reminder as you start to look down the barrel of yet another end-of-year holiday frenzy: it’s time now! If you want to put your holidays in order, you have to start thinking about your marketing plan today. Yes, in August. If not July!

So let’s make a plan!

First stop: Who’s your audience? You’ll be able to plan an effective strategy only if you know who your ideal readers are–or who their parents with the pocketbooks and credit cards are, in the case of children’s books–and where to reach them, either online and in terms of raising awareness about your book, or in person through events and a campaign that they can conveniently connect to.

Second stop: What’s your format? If your book is digital, then giveaways are a must. An absolute must! There are also some great freebies–free chapters, free peeks, etc–that you can do by integrating your material into your website, social media, and so on. Make sure you give your website a facelift if you haven’t in a while–you want to be ready for the holidays, not just responding to them when they happen!

If your book is print, then yes–giveaways are still a must! But also book signings, book readings, and perhaps even workshops and teaching opportunities. The more ways–and the more creative ways–you can put your book into the hand of a potential buyer, the higher your chances of actually getting that buyer to pull out the pocketbook! Print books offer a great opportunity to distribute shiny merch like bookmarks, postcards, and so on to readers–even when your book may not be present or being sold! Think of the places people pick up their merch–banks, hotels, libraries, restaurant waiting areas–and partner with local businesses to see about featuring your book in these places.

Third stop: Get a move on! By the time those holidays roll around–whether Labor Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, or Christmas–it’s already too late to put together a comprehensive plan to reach new readers at that time. You really have to think ahead! Which is why we’re here. We’ve been there. If we’re honest with ourselves, we still are there. We know what it’s like–but here’s a guarantee: if you plan ahead, you will sell more books than if you don’t.

Sure, we can take it easy on ourselves, and feed ourselves the same line we did last year: “Oh, but there’s always next year.” And it’s true, for most of us. There will be more time to perfect our methods. But for this book, and this year, there isn’t a moment to waste–and it really would be a shame to push back our perfect holiday season another year simply because we let ourselves off of the hook today. Because for as many wonderful and eloquent “New Year’s Resolutions” posts we put up here on Self Publishing Advisor that we really do intend to keep, there’s always something that gets away from us. So we keep at it. Better todays mean better tomorrows mean a strategically stress-free Fall and Winter 2017!

But don’t worry, I’m not saying I’m anywhere near perfect. All we can ask is that we get a little bit better every go-around, right?

You are not alone. ♣︎


Elizabeth

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 18 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, pre-production specialists, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

In Your Corner: Choosing a Quality Publisher

You’ve spent absolutely ages writing your book, and now it’s as perfect as it gets! Why choose a sub-par publisher who’s just going to mess it up—or worse, betray your trust—by providing a sub-par final product?

Here’s the thing: no one in their right minds does make that choice—at least, not knowingly. And there’s the rub! Sub-par publishers sometimes give off a very real impression that they’re anything but. Sometimes, they’re more convincing than the bonafide deal, the companies which are legitimate and will treat you right, but struggle to stand out in a marketplace crowded by phones, vanity presses, and other publishers who’re like as not prepared to milk you for every dollar you have, and satisfy their obligations by producing the bare minimum in terms of quality product.

In a sense, you’re in a double-bind as a self-publishing company! The onus should be on the publisher to provide the best possible product they can with the funds available … but because it’s difficult for regulators to enforce this—and because publishing, especially self-publishing remains ahead of the curve in regards to legislative oversight*—the reality is that you, the author, are ultimately the one person you can trust to make sure you get the best deal possible.

* One day legislation may in fact catch up to the ever-evolving products and services which have risen along with the Internet, but that day is not today.

decision making

You want a quality publisher who will give your book the attention that it deserves.  How to ensure this happens?

  1. Spend time researching your publishing options.
  2. Learn what your publisher will do for you before your book is published, while your book is published and after your book is published.
  3. Think through what’s important to you and what you need (as opposed to those nice things you really, really want but can get by without).
  4. If you need someone available to help you, be sure you choose a publisher that offers help and support.
  5. If you know you need an amazing cover design, choose a publisher that offers a custom-designed cover. Same goes for marketing services, formatting, and everything else. Do you have the necessary skills? No? Make sure your publisher does—and for a reasonable price.
  6. Don’t turn your book over to just anyone. Your book is your book, not something you can afford to let anyone else ruin.

You’ve spent the time getting it just right … and now it’s time to find that company which will treat your book with the dignity and respect it deserves. Not to mention, which will treat you the same way.

You are not alone. ♣︎


Elizabeth

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 18 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, pre-production specialists, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

In Your Corner: Libraries, the book-lover’s paradise!

public library

Let’s face it, if there’s one place we go to find out information about books, it’s our local public library. Bookstores just feel like such a commitment sometimes, you know? But at a library, the art of browsing is elevated to an art form, and you can feel free to study the shelving arrangement, the genres, the popular nooks and crannies, the competition, and the various ways and means librarians use to “sell” their books to the public–all without feeling guilty for not buying something! In fact, if you’re “caught” browsing in a library and the librarians find our you’re a local author, you’re far more likely to get hooked into giving a book reading than you are to get shushed or to get side-eye from booksellers who really need to sell a certain number of books a day.

Libraries mean unlimited books and unlimited resources for free. And one of the best resources is the librarians themselves. Your local librarian can provide help with, yes, possibly setting up a book reading event to help you market your book, as well as finding answers to questions on how to have your book stocked in that library and much more. Librarians are an amazing source of help and information!

What are some other ways you can promote your book by using the library?

  • Donate a copy (or several copies) of your book to the library. Be sure to go through the proper donation channels.
  • If your book is geared towards children, give a school library presentation on your book’s subject. School libraries are always looking for new books! Just make sure to reach out through the proper channels (i.e. through the principal and administration, as well as the librarian).
  • Connect with librarians via social networks. Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn are powerful ways to network!
  • Stock promotional materials such as flyers and letters at local libraries. Be sure to include of the essential information about your book such as subject, genre, audience and purchasing information. It’s best to ask if they’d be willing to stock these supplies on their “freebies” counter or in their brochure pocket wall first, just in case they need to check their policies.
  • Ask a librarian to review your book in a local publication. This will bring positive attention to your book and encourage other locals to buy it! You might even be able to get a librarian to review it in your library’s state or regional newsletter, which would encourage other librarians to buy it.

Libraries are a powerful part of your book promotion strategy. Creative marketing tactics can increase your chances of a library stocking your book. They can also lead to great relationships with librarians and readers. The best way to find out what your local library wants is to talk to the librarians. Work on building an honest relationship, and you may just find one your book’s best promoters.

Not sure where to find your local library? Hop on www.publiclibraries.com and search by city, state, or zip code–or you can visit the American Library Association (ALA) at www.ala.org, where you’ll find loads of information on the current state of libraries and how you can get involved, both as a self-publishing author and a lover of books!

You are not alone. ♣︎


Elizabeth

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 18 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Manager of Author SeLibraries are a book-lovers paradise.  Unlimited books and resources everywhere.  One of the best resources is the librarian itself.  Your local librarian can provide help with possibly setting up a book reading event to help you market your book, answers to questions on how to have your book stocked in the library and much more.  Librarians are an amazing source of help and information.rvices for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, pre-production specialists, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

In Your Corner: Put Your Vacation to Work!

laptop flowers

Oh, I know–turning a vacation into a working vacation isn’t necessarily what you had in mind for your summer, but the fact remains: books aren’t going to sell themselves, and when it comes to being an indie author, there’s not a moment to be wasted.

Even … vacation hours.

Maybe even especially vacation hours!

Luckily for everyone, there are some easy ways to boost your sales and make your vacations work for you rather than against your book sales!

Vacations and the reunions that go with them can be the absolutely most ideal time to market your book and gather some new readers. Or maybe old readers. Age doesn’t matter. Everybody reads, especially when they have a personal connection to the author–you! Reunions are a fantastic place to tell family members, friends, and other personal connections about your book and where they can buy it.

Then there’s the most magical of all summer vacation destinations: the gift shop, the ultimate place to display and present your book for shoppers and readers on their various road trips. And while you travel, too–any stranger you meet on a trip is only a stranger until you break the ice by sharing your book!

Of course, if you’re going to make the most of your vacation, there are some things to keep in mind. You’ll need to:

Keep up with your social media.

Before you take off for the beach of the mountains, schedule. Schedule, schedule, schedule. Facebook has a lovely, easy tool built-in to make this possible–simply put your posts together, and click the drop-down arrow next to the ‘post’ button and input the date and time of your intended schedule.

But what about the others? There are quite a few tools out there to manage all of your media at once. Hootsuite is one, Later.com another, Buffer yet a third. Do your due diligence and pick a service that fits your needs, and be aware that there are free options, so you should theoretically be able to take care of your scheduling needs affordably. Once you have an account, all you have to do is preload your tweets, your posts to Google+ and Instagram and so on.

And of course, be safe! Play up your travels as much as you like as a kind of promotion, but don’t make a point of mentioning how long you’ll be away from home, or other personal details that the disingenuous might exploit. Take pictures and make plenty of memories to share later!

Network!

Take full advantage of your trip to plan for the future. Is there a writing conference taking place in one of your destination cities? Get on the list. Are there book readings? Could you plan a book reading at one of the libraries near your beach or mountain idyll? Local writing groups are another great option. Plenty of people might be interested in having you speak about the process of self-publishing.

And of course, come prepared. Keep a pack of business cards, bookmarks, postcards, posters, and a couple of promotional copies of your book on hand, and practice your elevator pitch thoroughly before hand. If you haven’t yet invested in some merch, go ahead and start down that glorious road. Think outside the box, too: is there a way to promote a giveaway while traveling, guerrilla style?

Make it a GRAND tour!

Some of the items on your agenda are a given, no matter what kind of vacation we’re talking about. But it’s well worth your effort to look into the libraries, museums, gift shops, bookstores, civic spaces, and other places that might serve as a spot for a reading, signing, or other promotional event. If your book somehow relates to local history or events—even better! Marketing your self-published book shouldn’t take up all of your precious vacation time, but spending even just a handful of minutes each day checking Twitter or arranging a couple of book readings will help support the marketing and sales momentum you’ve worked so hard to build–not to mention pay for an even better vacation next year!

You are not alone. ♣︎


Elizabeth

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 18 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, pre-production specialists, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.