How to Stay Motivated While Writing During the Holidays

How to Stay Motivated While Writing During the Holidays Outskirts Press

Most of us writers know how difficult it is to stay motivated and continue to write during the holidays.

You may have plans to travel to see family. You may be the one hosting and may have to tidy up your home. You may be experiencing colder weather that brings down your mood, maybe even to the point of seasonal affective disorder (SAD). No matter the specifics, you have a world of reasons for your writing motivation to dip to zero.

Even I am feeling the weight of December on my shoulders calling me to abandon the keyboard and instead, buy another book for my shelves or bother the cat for the seventh time today.

Yet, it’s my job to advise you—like how self-publishing is a job—even if you don’t necessarily have an office and a water cooler.

Here are my tips and tricks for staying motivated with your writing, even during the holiday.

Set a New Year’s resolution—maybe even early

With it being the start of the calendar year, January 1st is a logical time to begin a new goal.

For a self-publishing writer, a fundamental goal would be, “Write a novel.” While a good starting point, this goal by itself is vague. With little direction, your motivation may flounder.

Instead, you can choose from several different methods for goal setting. For instance, you can set a SMART goal: a goal that is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.

Under the SMART criteria, I could take “Write a novel” and rewrite it as this New Year’s resolution: “Write 4 pages of my novel every weekday until the end of April. Sit down at my writer’s desk at 9 in the morning to write for at least 2 hours.”

While SMART goals are a common method, feel free to research and find the method that most resonates for you.

Now, you don’t have to wait until January 1st, 12:00 a.m., to begin your resolution. If anything, starting a few days sooner gives you a head start for writing in 2022!

Improve your writing environment

While obvious, we often underrate the effects our surroundings have on our writing. For example, we may accept having distractions in the background would make it more challenging to work. So why do we blame a lack of willpower, yet we exonerate our unproductive work environment?

Assess your typical writing environment. Do you have a regular writing space, like a desk? If not, it’s helpful to pick one, even if it’s as informal as your kitchen table. Then look at your writing tools. Do you have all the materials you need in place? If you write digitally, how does your desktop look? After that, audit your distractions. Got loud construction outside or maybe an adorable pet like a cat?

Now, rearrange your environment to increase positive motivators and decrease demotivators. Noisy background? Put on headphones and white noise. Are you always too cold in the morning? Set out a warm sweater or coat the night before so you can put it on first thing in the morning.

But what if you’re traveling? Work with what you have and tell the other people around you that you need to get some work done and that you’d appreciate their support if they give you space to write.

Speaking of other people . . .

Find an accountability partner

It’s easier to slip when you’re the only one keeping track of your project. But what if you rope in another person to pay attention to your progress? Many productivity coaches call this an accountability partner, and a partner works for any goal, including writing.

Without a partner, the options you may face could be “work on your manuscript or spend the afternoon on Netflix.” However, when you have an accountability partner, this turns into “work on your manuscript or spend the afternoon on Netflix and tell your partner you didn’t work on your goal.” When framed like that, doesn’t Netflix sound less appealing?

Bonus points if you find another writer and you act as each other’s accountability partners! Such a partnership can transform into a lasting collaboration.

Accept you won’t always be perfect, then strive to begin again tomorrow

Despite your best intentions, you may fail to meet your word goal. When you feel unmotivated, and you’re staring at a blank screen or page, you may start questioning whether you’re meant to be a writer. After all, if you really wanted it, would you even be struggling in the first place?

In these moments, it’s pivotal to take a step back and forgive yourself. Successful authors are not perfect. If anything, the most successful authors are the ones who allow themselves to make mistakes and have those bad writing days, yet they persist and eventually succeed. It can take years for a writer to succeed, especially a self-publishing author.

So, if you have one of those days and the writing isn’t getting done, take a break, step away from your manuscript, and try something else. The holidays are a testing time for any career, including a writing career, so you won’t be alone in sputtering.

After the uncertainty wanes, come back to your desk and keep on writing. I wish you success in writing your book this holiday season. I believe in you!

* * *

Now, it’s your turn! So what are your tips and tricks for staying motivated during the holidays?

Thinking of you always. ♣︎


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.

Happy Holidays

Happy Holidays Outskirts Press

No matter what holiday you celebrate, I wish you a happy, peaceful one.

If you exchange gifts to celebrate, may there be plenty of books with bows tied around them. If you use this time for quiet contemplation, may you find some of that at your laptop, notebook, or typewriter. Best wishes for now and into the new year.

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.

The Thrill of the Physical Bookstore

The Thrill of the Physical Bookstore Outskirts Press

Last week, I took my children to a bookstore and was happy to see it so busy. During that visit, I rediscovered the thrill of the physical bookstore.

There were long lines at the checkout counter, happy kids looking at books and toys, and exciting energy buzzing within the aisles.

Over the years, though, I’ve seen so many people skip physical bookstores. Instead, they’d save a few bucks and order online. How sad.

It’s especially sad with the pandemic forcing most bookstores to close for months. However, with most stores reopened now—at least the places that survived COVID-19—I’m keen to see how many readers return to physical bookstores.

While my family was perusing the aisles, I realized that bookstores are integral to every community. Bookstores give us a safe and quiet place to look at books, read, and enjoy the company of other book lovers.

While in line to purchase another stack of books, I thought about the enormous role bookstores have played in my family’s life. My children have grown up being surrounded by books—no surprise since I work for a publishing company. When my children were younger, I would indulge in a coffee and a grown-up book while they listened to story time.

As my children have outgrown books, we filled many of our community’s Little Free Libraries. If you don’t know what it is, a Little Free Library is a small, outside bookcase, often shaped like a schoolhouse on a pole, that anyone can use to borrow or lend books freely. We know not everyone is so lucky to buy books up front, and my family is blessed to be able to give forward the gift of reading.

Beneath every cover lies the work of one of thousands of authors. Each author had an inspiration, an idea, a compulsion to write. It fascinates me how an author’s words end up in a book that then excites, inspires, or motivates a stranger.

For all of you writing and looking to publish your masterpiece soon, I can’t wait to see it the next time I’m shopping for books. So keep writing and keep being inspired. You’ve got readers out there like me waiting for you!

Now that I shared my bookstore experience, I’ll turn it to you: What do you like about bookstores? What are you looking forward to doing or seeing the next time you shop for books?

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: Getting Started With Amazon Sales Rankings (Part II: Pre-Orders)

online sales rankings ratings reviews

Last time I wrote, I sought to answer one very important question for self-publishing authors: What are online sales rankings, specifically Amazon sales rankings, and what do they mean for you, a self-publishing author? I spent some time tackling the definitions of and usefulness of sales rankings to the average indie author, and set out to debunk another question as well: What about the stuff that Amazon isn’t saying about its sales rankings? Which, as it turns out, is a lot. Pretty much everything, in fact!

In summary, Amazon is a business and its sales rankings, like its search algorithms and its “if you liked [x] you might also like [y]” algorithms, are both private and proprietary. Which means they don’t have to disclose what human and algorithmic assumptions are built into the process—what fundamental things Amazon believes about the way you, and all people, work. Quite apart from the potential for unconscious (or sometimes conscious) biases to perpetuate things like racism, sexism, and other -isms—especially if leadership and oversight isn’t constantly and thoughtfully looking out for such things—the fact remains that algorithms such as those used to determine sales rankings can be helpful, but require a significant human component in order to work in your favor.

This week, I’m going to ask (and hopefully answer) another important and related question:

What is the relationship between pre-orders and your sales ranking—and how can you make this relationship work for you?

preorder

Pre-orders can actually have a negative effect on your sales ranking—at least during the first week or so after your book launches. This is because pre-order sales are more spread out, and their dates of transaction will not be lumped together with the other books sold during your first week, even though the actual physical or digital books will be distributed at the same time as your first-week sales. And the more you sell in a short amount of time, the higher your sales ranking will be during that period. Others have written and spoken very eloquently on this first-week problem, so I won’t go into detail about it here, other than this quick summary.

There are other reasons why pre-orders are a good idea, and these deserve a little bit of your time and attention as well. Just to name a few, opening up your book for pre-orders provides you with a promotional opportunity that you wouldn’t otherwise have, and provides an actionable way for readers to purchase your book right away when they first hear about it, rather than requiring them to wait and plan to buy your book later—as we all know, instant gratification may not be a human ideal, but it is a very human reality. If readers can’t buy your book the first time they hear about it, many of them are liable to forget about it altogether. A pre-order option means that during your heaviest promotional period before your book launch, you can get your readers to commit to a purchase even though they’ll have to wait for delivery. You can then spread your pre-order link around all of your various social media platforms and digital presences, ensuring that it’s easy to find your book paired with your name everywhere it appears.

And yes, a pre-order period also allows you time to refine your promotional materials. It’s one thing to edit and edit away before your book launch, but a soft release like a pre-order allows you to test your language in the field and see how readers and potential buyers respond … and then make changes as you go to better appeal to them. This holds true for any advertising or website monetization you might run during the pre-order period, as well.

The biggest benefit to a self-publishing author of making pre-orders available is the reviews! Normally, a book can’t be reviewed on Amazon before it’s available for purchase, distribution, and arrival. (Goodreads allows reviews as soon as a book is listed.) But with pre-orders, a huge chunk of your readership will receive your book on the first day it’s out, and you’ll start getting reviews immediately. Reviews are the most powerful marketing tool of all!

So, while your pre-orders can negatively affect your Amazon sales ranking, it’s only for a few days, and it will only truly make a difference if you don’t make use of the pre-order period for the aforementioned optimization. Pre-orders can in many ways prove a useful training ground for promotion and marketing, meaning that your book launches to higher acclaim and attention than it would otherwise. It’s wise to see the larger relationship in context.

Next time, I’m going to look at what we know about Amazon’s other algorithms—so check back in two weeks for more on this fascinating and important subject!

online sales shopping cart

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: Getting Started With Amazon Sales Rankings

online sales rankings ratings reviews

What are online sales rankings, specifically Amazon sales rankings, and what do they mean for you, a self-publishing author?

This is the question I’m going to set out to answer, at least in part, for you today.

Amazon, of course, has their own page and definition dedicated to sales rankings:

Best Seller and Category Ranks are based on customer activity – sales and borrows – of your book relative to the activity of other books. A book ranking #1 in Mystery & Thrillers is the book with the most activity in Amazon’s Mystery & Thrillers category. Books can appear in up to three categories. The book’s rank in each category will show under the Product Details section. Activities that may not be an accurate reflection of customer demand, including promotional Amazon Giveaway sales and purchases that are later returned, are not counted towards sales rank.

Rankings are updated hourly but may take 24-48 hours to appear. Rankings reflect recent and historical activity, with recent activity weighted more heavily. Rankings are relative, so your sales rank can change even when your book’s level of activity stays the same. For example, even if your book’s level of activity stays the same, your rank may improve if other books see a decrease in activity, or your rank may drop if other books see an increase in activity.

When we calculate Best Sellers Rank, we consider the entire history of a book’s activity. Monitoring your book’s Amazon sales rank may be helpful in gaining general insight into the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns and other initiatives to drive book activity, but it is not an accurate way to track your book’s activity or compare its activity in relation to books in other categories.

The ranking for books with consistent activity histories that have been available on Amazon for a long time may fluctuate less than the ranking of new books, or books whose histories aren’t as stable. One sale of a very popular book may not influence its rank much at all, but one sale of a lower volume book may significantly improve that book’s rank.

Note: Each available format of your book (eBook, paperback) has its own independent Amazon Best Sellers Rank.

This is a lot to parse, but the main points to remember are these:

  • Your sales ranking is essentially an attempt to quantify your book’s popularity;
  • The release of new books, awards announcements, and book club recommendations (among many other factors) means that new books are always climbing the rankings, while others are dropping in the rankings at the same time—it’s a constant balancing act, and sales rankings are relative;
  • Even if you sell the same number of copies each month, your sales ranking will rise and fall dependent on factors outside of your control. As I mentioned in my last post, there are yearly rhythms to book sales that mean you need to sell more books at certain times just to maintain the same ranking relative to other months when book sales are lower for everyone;
  • Blockbuster books are constantly battling it out for the upper sales rankings in every category, and rankings mean less to popular books because they have other avenues to selling a lot of books. But for new books, indie publications, and self-published books? Sales rankings mean a lot more, because even one or two sales can boost an author’s sales ranking, and as a result, boost their visibility, which will itself boost sales. It’s a feedback loop that can work to your advantage.

Amazon also has a page dedicated to giving its sellers a larger-picture idea of what their sales figures represent, and that’s worth checking out as well if you sell on the website.

But what about the stuff that Amazon isn’t saying about its sales rankings?

Any number of websites out there at any point in time are happy to claim that they’ve “cracked the code” or “tamed the algorithm” or can help you “game the system,” but the fact of the matter is, most of them are offering something more along the lines of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) advice, which is totally well and good, but not quite the same thing as delivering on a promise to make Amazon’s system work for you.

At its core, Amazon is a business which is driven by its bottom line, which is to say, eking every possible profit out of both its customers and its third-party sellers. Their algorithm code is not fully public, and while we can speculate about ways to improve sales rankings, it’s entirely Amazon’s right to code their algorithm to ignore the little sales and boost the visibility of popular items, including those blockbuster book sales that I mentioned earlier. It’s not actually in their best profit-driven interest to be fair, even though it’s certainly in their profit-driven interest to discover new niche markets—which they often do by measuring how many readers access titles through their Kindle Unlimited offering—a service which rarely profits the authors themselves, as authors themselves often point out. All this is to say, we don’t actually know how sales rankings work, other than what Amazon itself has told us, and Amazon has more than one horse in the race to make money.

Next time, I’m going to look at what we know about preorders and how they affect sales rankings—so check back in two weeks for more on this fascinating and important subject!

online sales shopping cart

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.